Oakland business owners upset with city's response to May Day protests

OAKLAND, Calif (KTVU) -- Some Oakland business owners are speaking out against the mayor and police chief in the wake of those violent May Day protests.

Merchants say they were promised help to repair the damage done by vandals but that hasn't happened yet.Erich Horat owner of Precision Auto Repair is showing his disdain for everyone to see. 

Vandals smashed his windows, so he boarded them up and painted them. Last week the boarded up windows read "OPD you failed the city again." 

This week, they said "Riot Tourism. Visit Oakland: Schaaf and Whent will show you which block to trash."

Across the street from Horat's business vandals destroyed 70-80 cars at a Hyundai dealership. Several businesses downtown still have their windows boarded up. 

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf promised that the city would help since the police response fell short. 

The city held a meeting Thursday night where officials talked about low-interest loans, but so far merchants say there has been nothing concrete, only empty promises. 

"I didn't hear from the mayor that they are cracking down on the riots," Horat said. "I haven't heard a commitment that anything is going to change."

Horat is encouraging his neighbors to pick up a paintbrush to express their opinions.

Owner of Auto Row Smog Brian Amble said he is not upset with the mayor, just the vandals. He feels Schaaf genuinely wants to see change, but the Oakland Police Department's staffing levels provides a constant struggle.

"There are all sorts of ways that people can protest and make their point that would get national attention and all this does is make Oakland look bad and make it look like a place where people can get away with reckless trashing of the community," Amble said.

The City of Oakland's Communication Director Karen Boyd said officials do understand the frustration on the part of business owners. She released this statement in regards to what is being done to help businesses.

The City of Oakland is focused on doing as much as possible to quickly make the impacted businesses whole again. Beginning on the night the vandalism occurred, the effort started with making sure public works crews were out to help clean up, board up and remove graffiti. In addition the City's Business Assistance team began their outreach that same evening so owners would be able to engage the city as they worked to recover.

Since then, the City of Oakland has identified a single point of contact for each business and taken the following steps:

1) Defer all permit fees associated with repairs. In addition, the City Council will be asked to modify the City's Master Fee Schedule so the City Administrator has the ability to permanently waive these particular fees and the discretion to waive them in the future if needed.

2) Allow impacted businesses to apply for grant funding to repair their facades. The funding is limited, and while all city businesses may apply, priority is being given to independent and small businesses. Eligible expenses include: insurance deductibles and out-of-pocket costs related to repairs.

While not currently in place, the City of Oakland is also exploring how to fast-track the creation of a Business Restoration Fund that would offer zero or low-interest loans to impacted businesses.

Still, Horat feels there is not a long term solution to stop damage from happening in the future.

"The bottom line is they're trying to put a band aid on, but what are they going to do to make sure it doesn't happen again.. that's what I'm waiting for," he said.