The War on Bunker Hill

By Sean Serrano , CONTRIBUTOR
Carlos Bee Boulevard is a long, four-way street leading to Cal State East Bay for many students. Going up the hill is a gas-consuming commute that ends in a big electronic sign and a four-way street on Hayward’s college campus. A breathtaking view on the horizon as trees pass either side of the car is a sight to see when going back down. Carlos Bee could just be another regular street for those who live on the Hayward Hills. But before the long ascent or before reaching Mission Boulevard on the way down, there’s a tucked-away neighborhood that has faced the wrath from the California Department of Transportation and city of Hayward over the last 50 years.
Bunker Hill is a street just below the Hayward campus of Cal State East Bay that has a beautiful view of the East Bay area. The narrow, battered two-way streets and potholes let you know of its history before stepping afoot. It requires a narrow turn before finally reaching the long and grassy street. Bunker Hill was occupied with low-income homes that are owned by The streets today are filled with rubble where homes used to reside, but a couple of houses still remain.
This was home to Matt Astruias. He was a lifelong resident of this street. He went to Hayward High School and started working full time when he graduated to help ease some financial burden on his family. He was forced to move out by 2018 along with many other families that lived on that street. The emptiness of Bunker Hill is something he is accustomed to.
“The state of abandonment is the way it often was as I remember it growing up”, Astruias describes. The street’s landlord is California Department of Transportation or CalTrans, and it has been this way since the 1960s.
CalTrans had a plan, called the 238 Bypass Freeway, to run a freeway through Bunker Hill and many other parcels in the East Bay area before a lawsuit filed by residents stopped construction in 1971. Legislation for Local Alternative Transportation Improvement Program projects was passed in 1982 which allowed proceeds from the sales of properties to fund the freeway. This was the agreement up until 2009 when things were ramped up.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger directed negotiations between CalTrans and its tenants that residents would receive a lump sum settlement for relocation services depending on tenancy, household size, and income. In 2018 tenants were sent notices of impending 90-day evictions. Tenants who moved out earlier received a payment than those who decided to use the whole 90 days.
These times were stressful for Astruias and his family. Moving in December 2018 was not easy. Astruias has been working full time in the summer since 5th grade to help financially as much as he could. After graduating from Hayward High School, he went straight into a full-time job. The displacement separated himself from his family, he now lives with friends from high school.
“I miss my neighborhood because it’s my home”, Astruias says as he reminisces Bunker Hill.
The Bay Area has been facing a housing crisis for quite some time and it isn’t just in populous areas such as San Francisco and Oakland. Hayward has plans to create 74 two-story, single-family homes over the 10,000 square feet of land. These homes are likely to exceed $1 million each with their estates and views of the bay. As this fight goes on, there are still two homes that still remain on Bunker Hill while families like Matt Astruias have to struggle and find another home elsewhere.