Oakland neighbors fear growing homeless encampments, trash could cause more flooding

Several East Oakland neighbors say their streets have been overtaken by sprawling homeless encampments, increasing the likelihood trash could cause major flooding for a third year in a row if the city doesn’t take action.

RVs, stripped-down cars, excessive trash and blight line both sides of East 9th Street in East Oakland covering storm drains on most corners from 33rd Avenue to 37th Avenue.

"It’s out of control. It’s a mess," said business owner Celeste King. "People come to check out the gym, and they don’t want to visit it because of the homelessness."

King owns King’s Boxing Gym, which has been open nearly 40 years on 35th Avenue. She said she’s lost revenue because of the state of the streets.

"We’ve taken this for over a year, and it’s out of control," King said. "We don’t deserve this. We pay taxes like everybody else."

For the first time, the gym was vandalized earlier this month. Residents say the crime and homelessness is escalating as other Oakland encampments are closed and cleared.  

"This neighborhood used to be a really good neighborhood, really quiet," resident David Garcia said. "Now, it’s the Wild West."

Several neighbors have submitted nearly a dozen 311 complaints in recent weeks and made a handful of calls to 911 to report crime. They also said they’ve met with city leaders, but their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

"It’s so frustrating," said Brittanyana Pierro. "Honestly, it’s heartbreaking because there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re being ignored when you’re in a desperate situation."

That’s especially true during rainy season when trash from encampments has clogged storm drains.

Two years in a row homes and businesses have flooded causing damage, neighbors said.

"It was a mess, and it depleted me of every single penny I had of my savings," said Randy Scalzitti who saved his dogs from the rising water. "We actually paddle-boarded out down 9th Street."

Since it happened the first time in 2021, neighbors have taken matters into their own hands as seen in their cell phone videos showing high flood water. Neighbors used dog fences to block trash from flowing into the drains and used shovels to dig out dirt and other debris to keep the water flowing.

"The damage in my home could have been prevented by keeping these storm drains clear," Scalzitti said. "Oakland 311 needs to be paid attention to and [issues] need to be responded to quickly."

For now, neighbors have been meeting to discuss action plans they can take to address the blocked drains.

"That is not our responsibility," Pierro said. "We pay money in taxes to have those maintained, and they are not maintained."

Now there are fears it could happen again if the city doesn’t take action.

"I want to see this area cleared out," Garcia said. "Bring back the community."

The city of Oakland did not officially respond to KTVU’s request for comment. But Councilmember Noel Gallo said the neighborhood is on the priority list for cleanup. Still, it could be several weeks before crews start clearing the streets and the drains.

"It’s not okay," said Pierro. "You’re not prioritizing everybody’s best interest. It has made the problem worse."

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