OAKLAND — They mysteriously appeared about a year ago — dozens of logs the length of cars, plopped in front of industrial businesses in a two-block stretch along West Oakland’s Poplar Street, between West Grand Avenue and 18th Street.
If the purpose behind the logs was to drive away the homeless who parked their RVs and other vehicles there, the strategy worked for the most part.
City officials say the logs have prevented crews from cleaning up the two blocks, yet they’ve done little to get them removed:
Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney said she reached out to local business owners to find out who put the logs there, but no one would tell.Yes, it's the multi-purpose Log! And...It's big! It's heavy! It's wood!
The city’s Public Works Department considers the logs an “intentional obstruction of the public right of way,” which is illegal, spokesman Sean Maher said. But Public Works has not reached out to the local business owners who may be responsible.
East Bay Community Law Center attorney Osha Neumann, who represents and advocates for homeless people, wonders if the city would treat RV dwellers with the same indifference as it does the logs.
“There are all kinds of rules and city ordinances about illegal dumping, but I guess it’s OK to dump and obstruct if you’re doing it to obstruct homeless people from being there,” Neumann said.
The number of people living in cars, vans and RVs in Oakland has grown dramatically, from 618 in 2017 to 1,430 in 2019, according to the city’s biennial homeless count. Many have flocked to industrial areas like Poplar after being pushed out of other parts of the city.
McElhaney said the lack of complaints about the logs has made them a low priority for her office.
Most of the logs — they appear to be from oak trees — had their branches trimmed, and some have been tagged with graffiti. At about 2 feet in diameter and 8-10 feet long, they’re big enough to require a forklift or bulldozer to move.