Oakland’s Lake Merritt area has certainly seen better days. Residents in need of money because of Pandemic-related economic damage, particularly African American Oaklanders, have taken to setting up retail tables along the Lake, initially on Lakeshore. Because of the color of the skin of the people setting up, some white Oakland residents have complained, rather than understand and, well, go down and buy something to help out the vendors. You know?
But that’s not the only problem: homeless encampments (said to be 140 of them in Oakland and seven around Lake Merritt) and lack of City of Oakland funds to pickup trash in a timely way have only made the situation worse. And then there’s the night-time noise issue. A band plays just off Grand Avenue and Staten, and at midnight, on occasion – and loudly.
And now, the City of Oakland’s new “crackdown” on the Lakeshore retailers has resulted in the entire activity moving to Grand Avenue. I wonder when the City of Oakland will figure out that all of this is based on lack of money – and then get money to those residents who need it the most? And when I say City of Oakland, I mean not just Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, but Oakland District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife (who seems to ignore the problem) and Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, who’s well-meaning but stops short of seeing that this is, at it’s baser level, a problem of lack of money getting to, once again, those who need it the most.
So we get exchanges like this one over at the Nextdoor Social Media Platform, a place known in Oakland (and other cities) for harboring some people who can’t help constant expressions of institutional racism, or just plain racism. Not that such a point of view dominates this conversation you’re about to see. There are sensible dwellers, too.
And before you read the exchange, here’s a video look to help you get a real view of what’s going on at Lake Merritt:
Now, here you go, names removed:
SE: After 10 months of the weekend partying on lakeshore ave, the city finally came in and stopped all of the unregistered vendors and street chaos.
The result is that the party moved to Grand Ave. Same thing, unregistered vendors, motorcycles, dirt bikes, traffic jam, and overflowing trash.
So now it’s our turn to deal with it every weekend, probably until 2022.(edited)
NR to SE: we wondered why Grand Avenue was clogged with vehicles in the turn lanes along Grand Avenue last night. I wish the city and vendors could find a better place. Would Jack London work? When they have events there there seems to be enough space and parking.
AW: Is there a group of Adams Point neighbors where we can discuss this?
SE: Yes, the Adams point community group meets on odd numbered months and the meetings are now on zoom. The AP leadership meets on the even months.
NR: The Adams Point Neighborhood Group
MN: I feel for you. I thought the city might actually deal with the problem but they’re not.
JG: I couldn’t believe how many hundreds of people were there clustered in groups without masks. Apparently people think the pandemic is over already. Also, there was the smashed car in the middle of the road near Bellevue and Grand. Go karts on the sidewalk, and motorcycles driving up and down the street like a sideshow revving and producing plumes of smoke. It’s ridiculous! I don’t mind the vendors so much but geez, it’s like this area has become the nightclub party zone and sideshow act, and street fair all in one. It would be exciting if it weren’t for the fact that we’re in a pandemic, and all the excessive vehicular noise and smoke.
PF: The city council is not supportive to lake residents. We are considered privileged and should not have moved here if we don’t like the noise, trash, polluted lake, loud music, our driveways blocked or pooped in, sideshows, fireworks till 3 am, and general lawlessness. This is oakland culture and if you don’t like it, leave. That’s the general attitude. Wait for it…..
MN: You’re correct. The city council is bending over backwards for these vendors. Sickening (My note: the vendors are African Americans AKA Blacks. So take vendors out and put Black in and we get “The city council is bending over backwards for these Blacks”. Just saying.)
KZ: Welcome to our world.
PF: I don’t mind so much the vendors. I think they should have a place to do business. Much like the farmers market.
SE: I dont either, it would be nice to have vendors at all corners of the lake. Get your tacos here, get your ice cream there, get a mixed drink here.
RR: Everyone wants the culture, but just cant bring themselves to actually support it when it comes time to live in it. Oakland has been like this forever, and only feels abnormal to those who have decided they dictate the norm.
PF: I have lived here 24 years. The lake has never been like it has been these past two years. Your statement is not true. (My note: he just missed Festival At The Lake, from 1993 to 1995, but, details, right?)
MN to PF: every time I see the “it’s always been like this” retort, it’s an automatic flag that they don’t actually live at the lake.
RR to PF: PF, yes, that is true. But I just don’t understand how we can all forget we are in the middle of a pandemic, and maybe the result of the changes you are seeing at the lake are a result of that. These businesses and people you are seeing have always been here, just like you. maybe not on the lake, but in your neighborhood all the same. And I do live at the Lake.
CT: When the City moved The Festival by The Lake to City Center 20+ years ago, it was in response to identical complaints. Many of us were sad to see it go. As a little old lady, I find the weekends by the Lake intimidating, but that’s my issue, not the exuberant young people’s who have different expectations for “fun”
JJF to CT: With all due respect ma’am, the festival was moved in 1994 after a full on riot with gunfire, unwitting pedestrians being horribly beaten, wide ranging property damage, and several participants being arrested with guns. I don’t know how “fun” that could have been.
MC: RR, I have been in the Bay Area since 1991 and Oakland since 2008. My partner has lived in Oakland since 1997… your comment is simply not true. The lake hasn’t been like this since the last few years of Festival at the Lake… which got shutdown over abuse of the park and negative impacts on lake area residents.
NM to PF: agreed I’ve been living in the area for 20yrs and I share your sentiments.
KX: I’ve walked through these events two or three t times and while there are a lot of people, I haven’t seen a lot of actual *buying and selling*, so maybe this problem will go away on its own. The city is surely charging them a fee to be there, so I hope most vendors will find better, more profitable events somewhere else.
NM: No, they’re not. These vendors are just setting it up and it’s a free for all. (My note: once again, take “vendors” out and put “Blacks” in, and you get “These Blacks are just setting it up and it’s a free for all.” Wow, what a racist! And in Oakland. Why can’t we outlaw these people?)
WM: Haha..there it is….”Welcome to The Town” Colonizers! Oakland has not always been like this. I’ve lived here for longer than the last few years, and I can say with confidence and truth that this is a new phenomenon. If people love “The Town” so much, why do they want to destroy it with trash, fires, unmitigated smoke, dozens of super loud music being played from competing, low quality speakers that honestly could use an amplifier, bad behavior, and people driving so drunk they pass out in their cars, blocking peoples driveways. Its a complete disrespect for “The Town”. Own it people.
RR: yeah. crazy phenomenon. I wonder what could have happened to the world in the past few years to cause such a shift. and where have all of these “new” people come from!?
JF: How about on every corner in Oakland? Make it a free for all! Get your salmonella here. Get your clostridium perfringens there. A spot of campylobacter at the next corner. Since the city isn’t charging a fee like they do at the farmer’s market the garbage can just be left any old place to help attract rats who can bring the gift of tularemia.
JM: I heard that the City of Oakland recently resumed their collection of trash from the ground that they paused during the pandemic. Let’s hope that makes a difference. http://www2.oaklandnet.com/government/o/PWA/o/FE/o/KOCB/index.htm
PF: Hi Robbie. I have no real issues with the vendors. But there is no control at the lake. It has become a free for all. What most of us are seeking is a solution that minimizes the mayem caused by the few people that have decided anything goes while disrespecting the neighborhood and Oakland in general.
EK: We have lived here since 1999. It has never been like this. We were lucky enough to get an apartment after 30 years of very difficult work. We live on a fixed income. What is happening at the Lake, especially since Lakeshore moved to Grand and BelleVue is uncontrollable chaos. We are elderly. On weekends, the amplified music is so loud we can’t do anything in our apartment. The motorcycles etc that are revving and revving and revving are intolerable and so disrespectful. This is a park and wildlife refuge. Park noise, of course, but not a concert venue or a raceway. The lack of respect for the residential community is so discouraging! We are so disheartened by the total lack of leadership and accountability.
BD: Why don’t we just work on finding them a place to do this instead of kicking the can down the road and continuing to complain about it?
JB: To the complainers,
What did you do this weekend? If you were here enough to be aware of it, why did you not join, and enjoy it? What held you back from being part of the life of your city? Did you have something cooler to do? Something really important you were distracted from? Were you afraid of something specific? Please enlighten why you want guys with guns and badges to intervene because that is what every single law comes down to, and why the fundamental existence of our system in its current state is under scrutiny.
CM: As a complainer and official hater of litter and annoying noises – I don’t join in because the vibe kinda sucks and the vendors don’t sell anything I want or need. I spent the weekend painting, having dinner with good friends, watching a movie with my girlfriend, and finishing a book and starting another. All of which are way cooler than standing around Lake Merritt getting drunk and high while listening to motorcycles and cars endlessly revving all day long. Aside from a repeat of the ‘let’s all block the firetruck’ incident that occurred last summer, the main thing I’m afraid of is being hit by a car or a dirt bike while walking to TJs. Lots of reckless driving with little regard for the safety of others; wouldn’t mind cops intervening to issue citations for that.
MC: Hi J, Sunday a friend, me and my partner walked the residential area of Grand-Lake. Around 6pm we took Grand Ave hoping to get in some late day sun and air… but after seeing the circus going on turned around and went home. For a decade I’ve gone to the lake on weekends to get away from the freeway noise and pollution outside my home. Now it’s just the same at the lake, so there’s no point.
JF: Hey J, I thought I’d weigh in too given your earnest need for enlightenment. I walked down to Ruth Stroup’s free shredding event. I had some of my mother’s sensitive paperwork that needed to be disposed of properly. You see, my mother died many years ago and I was the only sober person in my family to deal with her affairs. Shredding that paperwork sort of brought up a lot of emotions for me. I guess I could have stuck around the lake and got totally wasted on everclear and some high end bammer to deal with those feelings but that didn’t seem like a healthy response. Instead, I spent time with an elderly aunt who is feeling lonely and unsettled by the isolation caused by the pandemic. Yeah, I know, that hardly seems “really important”.
I guess what really stopped me from joining in the festivities is the fact that I’m just not as cool as you. Maybe you should set up a booth where you provide cool guy/gal courses. You could harangue folks for YOUR perception, whether or not accurate, of their implicit bias. When you’re done with that you could humiliate them for wanting their police department to enforce safety laws.
Fear not J, I’m sure the whole lot of us will get to enjoy a boatload of “being part of the life of [our] city” in the coming days. I’m guessing it will be an epic party.
SE: I’m at the lake 4 times a week on average. I’ve been through the partying probably twice a month since June. I’ve bought stuff from the vendors. It’s not a bad vibe at all, it’s great people are really using the lake, it’s just the accessory nonsense which creates the chaos and the lack of support or response from the city that encourages it. I joke that Oakland’s motto should be changed from ‘Love Life’ to ‘Do whatever you want’.(edited)
LK: I spent the weekend too afraid to go out!!!!!!!!!!!
MN: I spent my weekend at home trying to relax with all of my
Windows closed to due to noise and blinds closed because I don’t care to see the litter on the street. Shame on me for living where I do, right? Oakland has always been a noisy dump and I should embrace it or leave
JH: I believe that on the first night I went to Grand Avenue I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited — they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Lake Merritt, and somehow they ended up at Grand Avenue. Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Sean Eyler, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met SE at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission.
GC: Here is the text of a letter she sent to District 2 residents on March 30th:
We did it!
Thanks to your advocacy and support, the City Council approved my proposal to immediately implement my plan for health, safety and equity at Lake Merritt.
Here are the key steps in our efforts at the Lake. Our plan:
Starts this weekend and will continue until at least Labor Day (September 6th). Operations include: street closures and traffic controls, parking enforcement, municipal code enforcement, additional litter/trash collection, additional porta potties and handwashing stations
Permits the Black Solidarity Market to encourage voluntary compliance of vendors with our Park and City rules (the market will be self funded, without city funds)
Approves development of a Parks Ambassadors pilot for the Lake providing a community-led alternative to policing to address concerns, such as amplified noise, littering, and other priorities
Convenes the Life Enrichment Committee (LEC), Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) and Cultural Affairs Commission to develop community agreements and programming at public spaces citywide, including Lake Merritt.
Our collective goal is to reset the tone at the Lake to address health and safety concerns, while supporting responsible parks usage and equitable access. This immediate plan starts with a stronger enforcement/compliance presence now, with parking enforcement technicians and municipal code enforcement officers addressing parking, traffic, vending and other issues together with OPD. We plan to review OPD time/costs weekly to assess needs and eventually transition to Parks Ambassadors and civilian staff to lead compliance efforts as a community-led and cost effective measure, which will allow OPD to prioritize violent crime.
We are working in partnership with the Oakland Black Vendors Association (OBVA) and Community Ready Corps (CRC) leading the Black Solidarity Market who are aligned and helped co-develop our plans outlined above, including our goal of resetting the tone at the Lake with City staff’s involvement from OakDOT, OPD, OPW and the City Administration.
We look forward to engaging with you as these plans are implemented.
If you have any questions, please contact our D2 lead Lia Azul Salaverry at [email protected]
Nikki Fortunato Bas
Council President + District 2, City of Oakland
JM to GC: Yes! Thank you! This sound great
WM: I don’t think it is anybody’s job to find vendors a place to do business. It is their job to figure out how to run their own business. I live a block from the Brooklyn and Lakeshore area and I participate in the lake almost daily. I tried to buy some things from a few vendors but with the t-shirts, they have one or two sizes….XXS or XXXL. The “drink” vendors are selling everclear and kooaid, which is disgusting. I think they are more interested in partying and being able to be lawless outside of their own neighborhoods that really gets them to come there and set up a tent and pretend to be a vendor. The real problem is a lack of self regulation. When you can’t self regulate, then someone else ends up having to regulate you. In my opinion, this is a reflection of sick and injured souls. How can we expect people to care about cleaning up their immediate environment, take care of their community space, and respect space that is shared by all of Oakland when they cannot even take care of their own lives, for many reasons. Cops are not the only solution, but they are one of them. Another would be restrooms scattered here and there. Another would be code enforcers who write tickets for breaking city code. Another would be enforcing speed laws and adding speed barriers on Lakeshore and nearby streets. Not the 1 inch high “speak humps”, but real speed barriers. My house shakes every few minutes when a car drives by playing music so loud the actual car is vibrating apart as it drives down the road. It’s a pretty unsavory situation in all. But I still claim my space at the lake and do not let the “I dare you to fuck with me” energy stop me.
GA: I have lived in the Cleveland/Wesley/Capital street area for 54 years…we have had other ossues through the years, but Nothing like we have experience in the last 5 years.
There are rules and laws in place already governing conduct…
Why aren’t they being enforced???
LK: They should build a traffic roundabout at that Cleveland/Wesley/Capital intersection to stop those cars doing donuts!!
JR: It is not the color of anyone’s skin that is the issue, it is the behavior. I believe every person who is having difficulty dealing with the weekend environment at what used to be a bird sanctuary and wildlife refuge would have that difficulty no matter the skin color, race or ethnicity of the vendors or entertainers. It is the behavior of the people that is disturbing and disruptive.
TK: Yea JR!
I wonder if the city has thought about having the food trucks move under the overpass? They could have tables or chairs, have lights and make it a whole thing.
Again, the problem is lack of money, neighbors of Adams Point. Memories are way, way too short. in 2019, when there was no Pandemic and the economy was working, we didn’t have this problem at Lake Merritt. Remember?
It’s the Pandemic and the economy. How about helping the vendors, AKA Black folks, by purchasing something – even if the shirt size is wrong. Give the shirt to a homeless person!
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