'It's absolutely deplorable': East Oakland businesses fed up with repeat blight, homelessness and crime

Frustration and fear over constant blight, homelessness and crime on a street in East Oakland has business owners and residents calling for the city to be held accountable.

Pearmain Street is lined with RVs and encampments alongside piles of trash seen around every corner, and crimes are regularly caught on surveillance cameras.

"We’ve witnessed everything from exploding meth labs to gunfights in the streets," said Bennett Hall who runs a nearby custom framing and art business. "Stripping of vehicles of catalytic converters, resale of stolen goods, weapons and drugs without any abatement."

For months, the business community said they have emailed, called and pleaded with city officials to investigate crimes and clean up the streets.

While some stripped-down cars and trash piles have been cleaned up in recent days, the cycle of problems persists.

"It’s sort of in effect a game of whack a mole as opposed to a concerted effort to strategically improve the area," said Hall. "I’ve somewhat given up."

Community members gathered at one of the businesses on Thursday to share stories and plan for how they could better get the city's attention.

The city tells KTVU the location is one of more than 1,300 encampments it’s continuing to manage.

"The City recognizes and respects the community’s frustrations and concerns with the conditions at this location," said Jean Walsh, Oakland public information officer.

The trouble on Pearmain Street isn’t new. Surveillance cameras have captured dirty deeds for years including a pick-up truck’s camper getting dumped, gunfire erupting in the middle of the street, armed robberies and attempted carjackings.

"Nowadays, I wouldn’t even allow my grandkids to go around the block on their bikes," said Angelica who lives nearby. "They just can’t…this never used to be like this."

Several neighbors told KTVU they’re living in fear with drug use in plain sight, bullets flying in broad daylight and lots of trash and blight.

The Encampment Management team deep cleaned the area last year and put in large cement barricades to prevent camps. But officials said the barriers were moved and a new encampment emerged.

"I have to park blocks away," said Luisa Alvarenga who works at a construction business on Pearmain Street. "Then making myself walk in the dark because there’s no parking because of cinder blocks or encampments."

In the name of safety and security, community members said they want to see sweeping, permanent changes to prevent gun crimes, illegal dumping and stolen vehicles from showing up outside of their homes and businesses.

"It's absolutely deplorable. Figure out a way to help your homeless," said Melrose Metal Finishing business manager Christopher Fine. "It can’t be this because the business owners and the resident are being pushed out."

Oakland said it is trying to keep up with the cleaning and clearing and admitted crews can't always respond with immediacy.

"While we are not always able to respond as timely as we would like with so many locations to prioritize, we still encourage residents to report maintenance issues to us by contacting OAK311," Walsh said in the statement.

The city has not provided a timeline of when the area may get abated.

"They need to find a solution now," Angelica said. "We’re fed up. Enough is enough."

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at  brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and X @BrooksKTVU