As reported in the Minutes of the Grand Lake Neighbors October meeting, OPD has assigned two Walking Beat Officers who will be working from Noon to 10:00pm Tuesdays through Fridays One of them — Officer Cooper — will divide his time among the Montclair shopping district, College Avenue, and the Grand Lake district.” While this is great news, tens days in, according to my sources, Officer Cooper has yet to make an appearance on Grand or Lakeshore. That said, I’m confident that’s going to be resolved and even a few hours each week will definitely make a difference during daylight hours.
Late night/early morning hours are entirely a different story. Businesses throughout the district have been plagued with burglaries that have led individual businesses to respond with boarded-up windows and doors, stronger gates or bars, and sometimes in a more creative fashion. For example, Lynn & Lu’s plaintive note saying they’ve been burglarized three times and have no money inside; the Main Squeeze’s empty cash drawer in the front window; and the three planters and seven bike racks installed in front of The Gap to prevent a repeat of the night a car (most likely stolen) was driven over the double curb and through a plate-glass window.
Efforts to respond to the ubiquitous car break-ins have also materialized in the past couple of months. A security system has been installed in the Trader Joe’s/Walgreens parking lot that periodically announces its presence. I’m not sure of the details, but I’m assuming this is being paid for by the property management team and, according to one source, the monthly fee is substantial. Time will tell whether this system is effective or not. The same can be said for the security system in the Walker Avenue parking lot that was activated a couple of weeks ago and is being funded by the City of Oakland. This system is monitored — any individual whose behavior seems questionable is alerted that they are being watched and videotaped. Early indications are that this has made a difference, but we’re hoping for a more definitive answer by next month. The best news on this front, however, comes from a business owner on Grand whom I spoke with on Friday. The day before, she watched as a car directly in front of her shop was broken into. That wasn’t a surprise, since ths had become a regular occurrence. The surprise was that two officers in plain clothes in an unmarked car had identified the culprits as suspicious and had been following them. They were able to arrest the two individuals. With a video and community eye-witness, expectations are that the charges will stick.
I took the above photos a few days apart. The image on the left, taken in front of Ikaros, was a scene that has become all too familiar as trash can liners have been constantly disappearing up and down both Grand and Lakeshore, allowing the contents to spill onto the sidewalk or street. This effectively negates any and all efforts to keep both blocks relatively clean. As for the second image, the heavy smoke billowing across the park was offensive in its own right, but seeing that the missing trash cans were being utilized as makeshift barbecues was beyond belief. When I talked to Debra Israel (Community Liaison in Nikki Bas’s office) a few days later, I told her that because of these issues, combined with the unseemly encampment under the freeway and the massive damage to the California Native Garden over the past several months, I was joining the folks who have been bombarding the Call Center with demands to have the encampment cleared. Debra informed me that Nikki was fully aware of the problem and had been lobbying for approval.
On September 28, a Public Works crew, accompanied by OPD officers, implemented the clearance order. By the time I arrived around noon, only one of the dozen or more unhoused individuals who had occupied the space remained. As I sat in my car, gazing at him morosely surrounded by books, a woman stopped to console him and handed him a sandwich. Shortly thereafter, someone else stopped, talked to him for a long time, and then apparently began arranging makeshift transport for the book collection. Two long-time friends moseyed over and we agreed that, although the clearance was a tragic situation, it was absolutely necessary. The challenge is that one way or the other the city has to come up with more funding for affordable housing as well as suitable accommodations for anyone living outdoors.
Simultaneously, the County Health Department has to do its part coping with those individuals who are mentally ill. Ironically, of all the unhoused individuals who were “evicted” last week, the one most in need of eviction and mental health services still remains stretched out on the pavement in the parking lot surrounded by a huge ring of trash. Over the years, we’ve failed to connect adequately with the county’s Mental Health Services, but that may be changing. Currently, one clinician has been meeting weekly with a long-time denizen of Grand and Lakeshore who is clearly mentally ill but has never been problematic. In fact, the only reason the County was contacted was because multiple community members were concerned about his physical health. Hopefully, over the sixteen weeks that the clinician is allotted, he’ll be able to get him healthy, on meds, and off the street. The situation is far worse with Ashley, a young woman whose territory mainly covers the west side of Lakeshore between Noah’s and Mandana. Complaints range from scattering trash to public urination to stripping off her clothes and lying on the sidewalk. Thus far, attempts by two different County Social Workers to start a conversation have been rejected and they say their hands are tied.
That should change once Governor Newsom’s Care Court program goes into effect in Alameda County. According to this CalMatters article, seven counties statewide (including San Francisco) have to have their implementation plans in place by October 1. The hope/assumption is that Alameda will be included early next year. Additional changes will be possible if voters also pass a proposition on the 2024 ballot that will provide additional funding for housing the homeless and for treatment beds as outlined in another CalMatters article. As we’ve mentioned previously, supportive housing is absolutely essential; shorter-term solutions become a revolving door with folks being hospitalized, stabilized, and then released back onto the streets.
Just a quick reminder that this year’s Autumn Lights Festival is scheduled for October 12-14. It’s a fabulous event with all proceeds benefitting the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Tickets are available through this Gardens at Lake Merritt link.
And, if by chance, you’re interested in organizing a special event, the City of Oakland is offering grants of up to $10,000. Detail and an application form are available here.