By John Ramos

OAKLAND (KPIX) — Some Oakland residents are voicing complaints about crowds attracted by a group of outdoor vendors operating along Lake Merritt. The residents want them gone but the vendors say they’re just trying to survive.

The row of vendors set up under canopies along Lakeshore Avenue has been operating for several years without a permit but the city seems to accommodate them, even blocking off traffic on the street on weekends.

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“They made it like a sellers row, you know?” said clothing vendor Damon Drew. “I don’t know who started it, who invented it, but they started it off and this place is positive.”

Some say the vendors’ row grew out of a protest back in 2018 after a resident called police about someone barbecuing at the lake.

Today, people here say it’s giving folks a way to earn money during hard times. The Williams brothers made $79 on Saturday selling cookies.

“Yeah, I really had fun on my first day when we got hecka money,” said 7-year old Apollo.

People living across the street say there’s another side to the story. After hours, when the sun goes down and police leave vendors row, the street can descend into bedlam.

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A video taken from an upstairs apartment shows a huge crowd filling the street with music blaring, cars honking and fireworks going off. It’s what Scott Bodarky and his neighbors say they’ve been enduring since 2018. Bodarky says the noise, crowds and open alcohol sales are being ignored by the city. In fact, the neighbors have been told the city is considering a pilot program to make the vendors area permanent.

“The city has not managed to get a handle on this situation, period. All of the problems continue,” Bodarky said. “So why would you then create a pilot program for people who are — if not all of them — some of them are creating those problems and give them your blessing to continue doing what they’re doing?”

Oakland performing artist Dame Drummer, singing at the vendor site on Sunday, said people are just trying to provide for their families however they can.

“That’s the American dream, right? We all want that, right?” he said.

Those who live next to it say this particular American Dream can become a nightmare without some kind of rules and they’re demanding the city do something about it.

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“Enforcement has become a dirty word here,” Bodarky said. “But we’re not asking for tear gas and rubber bullets. We’re just asking for the maintenance of civilized behavior.”