OAKLAND (UKTN SF) – As the weather turned warm and COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed, weekend crowds and illegal vendors continued to flock to Lake Merritt from Oakland.
Local officials fear the gatherings could lead to new cases of COVID-19. They also have growing security concerns. So this weekend, they put in new restrictions to keep the crowds out.
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The popular Lakeshore Avenue has been converted to a one-way and one-way street. They also removed parking on one side of the street.
But while the traffic measures prevented illegal parking, they did not prevent dozens of vendors from setting up shop along Lake Merritt on Saturday. The vendors had neither permits nor licenses. The city reported that some vendors were even selling alcohol and marijuana.
Neighbors said after the rainy season, the illegal vendors returned in January.
“It deteriorated steadily until last weekend, which was the worst weekend yet,” neighbor Scott Bodarky said.
In addition to the vendors, Bodarky said, the hot weather has brought thousands of people to party along Lakeshore Avenue. Some drivers parked twice or even three times on the street, blocking access to emergency vehicles. Neighbors could not enter or exit either.
“People play music at 100 (decibels) or more. And you also get the muscle cars and motorcycles that do wheelies and donuts, ”Bodarky said.
A city spokeswoman told KPIX 5 that the new traffic measures will last until November.
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Oakland City Council Chairman Nikki Fortunato Bas represents the Lake Merritt region.
“The solutions are going to be difficult,” Fortunato said. “It’s going to take a little while. But I’m here to talk to people so that I can work with other people inside the city to find solutions that will work.
The city is setting up a designated sales area. But many vendors refused to attend, complaining that they had to pay and that the rules were too strict.
“We are not asking for documents. We’re trying here to survive, to support ourselves, ”said salesman James Watkins.
“We are not trying to be illegal. We’re just trying to survive, ”said another supplier who came through Drea. “I lost my job a year ago and couldn’t find a job that pays rent.”
Neighbors said it was not just a question of quality of life. The large crowds by the lake can sometimes lead to dangerous problems.
At around 6:30 a.m. Saturday evening, someone fired several shots at a car near the vendors. We don’t have a motive and we don’t know if anyone was hurt. And at 3 p.m., police told KPIX someone crashed a stolen SUV into two parked cars and fled near Lakeshore Avenue.
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City workers warned vendors that if they returned on Sunday they would receive a ticket. It is not known if the city will follow.