"The Village" homeless encampment, Oakland

Holly Quan, KCBS Radio

There Goes the Neighborhood

Small Business Frustration About Homeless Camps

KCBS Radio Morning News
November 05, 2018 - 4:30 am

OAKLAND (KCBS Radio) -- A homeless encampment that was the scene of a recent fire  is frustrating nearby business owners. "All the businesses around here, they're complaining," said Juan Chavez, co-owner of an auto repair shop on East 12th Street.

Chavez' shop is across the street from the sprawling encampment known as "The Village". He blames denizens of the encampment for a variety of crimes targeting his business and his customers' cars parked on the street. "They steal gas, they steal parts off cars," Chavez told KCBS Radio reporter Holly Quan.

He showed a bill for a repair required after the catalytic converter was stolen from a customer's car. It added up to more than $3,800--a cost Chavez had to bear.

Looking across East 12th Street at "The Village", Chavez said, "They just randomly show up. They want to take your tools, they want to take your stuff. What can you do?"

It's not just Chavez and nearby small business owners who are bearing the cost of bad behavior at "The Village". Oakland taxpayers are furnishing unauthorized electrical service. "Village" residents regularly tap into power from streetlamps and underground vaults, snaking lengthy extension cords across the busy street.

Illegal electrical tap of Oakland streetlamp
Stan Bunger/KCBS Radio
The wires, in plain sight, cross four traffic lanes, two bike lanes, parking spaces and a median beneath the BART tracks. 

"It's a live wire," said Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo, who represents the neighborhood. "and you'll see them sitting there watching TV inside."

Gallo said the wires are regularly removed during Sunday neighborhood cleanup efforts by volunteers, but quickly return.

On a recent morning, a string of decorative lights could be seen adorning one shanty in the homeless encampment. The lights were on.