Oakland officers crackdown on giant weekend crowds at Lake Merritt – CBS San Francisco

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – As the weather turned warm and COVID-19 restrictions relaxed, crowds and illegal vendors continued to flock to Lake Merritt in Oakland over the weekend.

Local officials fear the gatherings could lead to new COVID-19 cases. They also have mounting security concerns. So this weekend they put in new restrictions to keep the crowds out.

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The popular Lakeshore Ave. has been converted into a one-way street. They also removed parking spaces on one side of the street.

But while traffic measures prevented illegal parking, they didn’t stop the dozen of vendors from settling at Lake Merritt on Saturday. The sellers had no permits or licenses. The city reported that some vendors were even selling alcohol and marijuana.

Neighbors said the illegal sellers returned in January after the rainy season.

“It just got worse until last weekend, the worst weekend ever,” said neighbor Scott Bodarky.

In addition to the sellers, Bodarky said, the warm weather brought thousands of people to partying along Lakeshore Ave. Some drivers double, even triple parked on the street, blocking access to emergency vehicles. Neighbors couldn’t get in or out either.

“People play music at 100 (decibels) or higher. And you also get the muscle cars and the motorcycles that pop wheelies and make donuts, ”said Bodarky.

A city spokeswoman told KPIX 5 that the new traffic measures will last until November.

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Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas represents the Lake Merritt area.

“The solutions will be difficult,” said Fortunato. “It will take a while. But I’m out here talking to people so I can work with other people in town to find solutions that work. “

The city is setting up a designated sales area. But many of the sellers refused to go there, complaining that they had to pay and the rules were too strict.

“We don’t ask for handouts. We’re out here trying to survive, fend for ourselves, ”said salesman James Watkins.

“We’re not trying to be illegal. We’re just trying to survive, ”said another vendor who went to Drea. “I lost my job a whole year ago and couldn’t find a job that would pay the rent.”

Neighbors said it’s not just about quality of life. The crowds at the lake can sometimes lead to dangerous problems.

At around 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, someone fired multiple shots at a car near the seller. We have no motive and we are not sure if someone has been hurt. And at 3 p.m., police reported to KPIX that someone crashed a stolen SUV into two parked cars and hit it near Lakeshore Ave.

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City workers warned vendors that if they come back on Sunday they will be given a ticket. It is unclear whether the city will pull through.

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