Progress made clearing Oakland's Wood Street homeless encampment

Major changes have been made along Wood Street, one week since cleanup crews began clearing Oakland’s largest homeless encampment.

Caltrans contractors have removed an overwhelming amount of trash, tents, cars and RVs to reduce what the state calls "unnecessary danger" and risks to residents, highways and railways.

The evictions of unhoused residents and massive cleanup is happening in phases, with the first phase nearing completion. An estimated 80 unhoused residents have been relocated.

"They’re just displacing us all, even the animals," said Ramona Choyce who has lived at the encampment for six years. "They’re taking everything from me."

The state has provided $4.7 million in grants to the City of Oakland to rehouse those living along Wood Street, according to Caltrans.

But an attorney representing the homeless in an ongoing legal battle with the City of Oakland, Alameda County and the state said adequate shelter was not offered to residents, forcing many to stick it out and stay at the encampment.

"Residents have just been scrambling to try to figure out what to do," Attorney Brigitte Nicoletti said. "We’ve seen a lot of people moving further into Wood Street, which means the next phase is going to be even more difficult that this one was."

The sprawling encampment is located underneath the MacArthur Maze in West Oakland and has experienced 195 fires between March 2020 and March 2022. Then in April, a deadly fire occurred.

In July, a large fire destroyed several motorhomes and damaged a portion of I-880, resulting in highway lane closures and causing traffic tie-ups.

Despite attempts to clear the encampment, it wasn’t until a judge gave the go-ahead last month, allowing the evictions and cleanup to occur.

"Caltrans is responsible for ensuring the safety of the state’s transportation network for all Californians," a spokesperson said in a statement. "The ruling to dissolve the temporary restraining order allows Caltrans to maintain the state’s roadway infrastructure and to make sure people experiencing homelessness are not in unsafe and unhealthy encampments."

Contractors tell KTVU barricades will be setup to prevent unhoused residents from coming back to the cleared out areas where parts of the encampment once stood.

Phase two of the cleanup is scheduled for late September. That may involve evicting more than 150 people.

"Basically, we need to find a place to go ASAP before they start taking our stuff," Kristy Urdanata said. "Most of us don’t have anywhere to go."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU