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Oakland to fence off dead-end street behind Fruitvale Home Depot

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People living in RVs will be forced to move when the city of Oakland closes a dead-end street behind the Home Depot store in Oakland’s Fruitvale District.

The Oakland City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to close the 600 and 700 block of 37th Avenue for eight months in an effort to alleviate crime and illegal dumping in the area.

Home Depot has agreed to pay for the fence to block the street. The store has been urging the city to remove homeless encampments from the area. While there are more people camping in a vacant city-owned parcel on the front side of the store, RVs park on the dead-end street and would need to relocate.

The sole business owner on the block objected but the council did not respond to his concerns.

Michael Yu, who said he operates a business at 721 37th Ave., said:

“We are the only business on that section they are closing down, so it would be a great inconvenience for us. … We believe if there’s more vehicle traffic around our business it would deter crime but if it’s all closed off it would be a sanctuary for crime.”

Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries said he has been in touch with another representative of the business and the property owner. He said he introduced himself to Yu during the meeting and planned to meet with everyone involved on Monday to come up with a plan that works for everyone.

DeVries said:

“Certainly we don’t want to disrupt business, the whole point is to make things better and not worse.”

The city says that the secluded area has attracted substantial crime.

A Department of Public Works report said it has responded to the area for illegal dumping 18 times over the last year. The Oakland Police Department said it has responded to 18 crimes there in the last two years, mainly recovering stolen vehicles but also assaults, thefts and reckless driving.

Much of the illegal dumping is from homeless people living there in RVs, according to the city. A city report said that large amounts of debris sometimes block the roadway completely. According to the city, Home Depot reports thefts from delivery trucks in the back of the store and harassment of employees working on the loading docks.

DeVries said that before closing the street, the city would make it a tow-away zone and give the people living in RVs ample time to leave. Council President Rebecca Kaplan asked for assurances that the RVs would not be seized, and DeVries responded that it is not the city’s policy to tow RVs people are living in.

Kaplan said:

“To the extent that we do encounter homeless persons who are living in their RVs, I just hope that we wouldn’t be taking away their RVs. … That they would be moved somewhere else but they wouldn’t be taken away.”

The plan to close the block was brought by Councilmember Noel Gallo, who represents the area and has been vocal about Home Depot’s complaints. He has suggested Home Depot may close its store over the issues but Home Depot officials said they have not threatened to leave Oakland.

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