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Life on the Bay Bridge’s ‘Trash Beach,’ where rent is free and the view is worth millions

A person in a beige cap looks out over a rocky shoreline with calm waters, distant bridges, a tall red tower, and a clear blue sky in the background.
Robert Simpson has lived in an encampment at Oakland’s Radio Beach for years. Now, he is being forced out by the city. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

Robert Simpson watches thousands of commuters cross the Bay Bridge every day from his beachfront R.V. encampment next to the toll plaza on Interstate 80.

From his backyard tiki bar and volleyball court, Simpson has a view of Angel Island and the Marin Headlands. A Mercedes, a Lexus, a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle and a Range Rover are parked in his dirt driveway. 

“I wake up and see the Golden Gate Bridge,” Simpson told The Standard. “There’s people who pay millions of dollars for a view not nearly as bomb as this one.”

A man in a white shirt and cap is sitting outside near miscellaneous items like a barbecue grill and bikes, with the ocean and a "BAR" sign in the background.
Simpson's encampment is outfitted with a volleyball court, kayak storage and a tiki bar. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

The only issue is that his beautiful little perch is illegal.

Simpson said he stumbled on the spot over three years ago when the beach was abandoned and neglected. Officially, the beach is called Toll Plaza Beach or Radio Beach for its several radio towers. But to Simpson and other residents, it’s known as Trash Beach or Dead Baby Beach, he said, due to an unsubstantiated rumor that an unborn fetus once washed up on its shore.

Believing he was sent by God to care for the beach, Simpson said he began daily cleanups. He said he would offer cold refreshments to kiteboarders and windsurfers and even rescue people who broke down on the freeway. After spending most of his life dealing drugs, working in strip clubs, and eventually going to prison, living at the beach gave him a higher purpose, he said. 

However, despite his efforts to spruce up the place, Simpson will soon have to leave. On June 26, Oakland’s Public Works Department gave him and a dozen or so other people living on the beach two weeks’ notice to move their encampments.

“The Public Works Department has deemed this site uninhabitable,” the notice reads. “All persons are directed to vacate this site and remove any personal belongings.” 

Contrary to Simpson’s version of events, the San Francisco Boardsailing Association says his encampment has contributed to the degradation of the beach, which they say is “one of the best secret spots” for kiteboarding in the Bay Area.

“The large encampment has created an epicenter for car break-ins while increased trash and direct sewage runoff have been flowing directly into the waters there,” the association’s website reads.

The image shows a muddy dirt road lined with utility poles. There are scattered vehicles and various items, leading to a bridge seen in the distance under a clear sky.
Around a dozen people live on Radio Beach in Oakland. But the city is now forcing them to move. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

But Simpson, who claims he was once an aspiring boxer, said he’s not leaving without a fight. He plans to hire a lawyer to fight the eviction because he believes he has a legal right to the land after living there for over three years. His lawyer didn’t respond to a request for further information.

During a recent visit by The Standard, Simpson was sitting inside his R.V. with his cat Wodie as CBS’s “King of Queens” played on a mounted flat-screen TV. His 70-year-old father, who suffers from dementia, slept in the Lexus parked outside. He said he survives using settlement money he won after a car crash left him with a brain injury, several broken discs in his spine and a broken arm in 2017.

He swatted at flies and smoked cigarettes as he told of a fire on April 2 that almost killed him and nearly destroyed everything he owned.

“I was getting ready to get in the shower,” Simpson recalled. “I took my Rolex and my gold chain off, but then I looked in the living room and there’s sparks coming out. … I grabbed a fire extinguisher, and the roof caved in.” 

Three years of work building up his R.V. were gone in just moments, he said. His sister raised $1,285 via GoFundMe to help restore the encampment. By late May, he purchased another used R.V. and was rebuilding his hot tub tiki bar. He said the experience prepared him mentally for whatever comes next. 

“I’ll lose this all again, bro, it’s nothing to me. I’ll get it all back,” he said. “My bounce-back game is so strong.”

A man in a white shirt and beige cap stands on a cluttered sandy shore beside a makeshift shelter. The background shows a bay, towers, and distant hills.
Simpson says he's grateful to have a view that people would pay millions of dollars for. | Source: David Sjostedt/The Standard

Simpson said if the city offers him housing, he plans to accept and use his R.V. for vacations. When The Standard visited the encampment on Monday, representatives from the Operation Dignity homeless outreach nonprofit were working to connect Simpson’s father to services. The Oakland City Administrator’s Office didn’t respond to questions about whether Simpson and others will be offered shelter or housing. 

Simpson said regardless of the outcome, he’s proud of the three years he spent taking care of Trash Beach. Once he’s gone, it’s unclear who will clean the detritus that washes ashore.

“Who’s going to walk the beach every day and clean up the debris?” he said. “All I know is, it ain’t up to me anymore.”

David Sjostedt can be reached at