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Safety Concerns Lead to Street Closures at Oakland's Lake Merritt Over July 4 Weekend

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- With big crowds expected at Lake Merritt in Oakland this holiday weekend, city officials will be closing some streets in the neighborhood due to safety concerns.

City leaders put the new measures in place to try to reduce crowd sizes during the holiday weekend. But some neighbors are still concerned about safety and plan to leave town to avoid any problems.

Oakland officials believe the street closures will provide better access for first responders and result in a safe celebration.

It was a beautiful and relatively quiet Friday afternoon at the lake, quite the contrast from what city leaders anticipate over the coming July 4th weekend with several thousand people expected to gather at Lake Merritt to celebrate the holiday.

"I don't think we'll get 10,000 people like they did on Juneteenth. But people will come to the lake," said neighbor Renee Dyer.

"My concern is the lake will be flooded. The warm weather will draw a large crowd," said Parks and Recreation Advisory Commissioner Princess Allen.

The fear is the bigger the crowd, the greater the potential for more conflict.

The closures come in the wake of a mass shooting in the Lake Merritt area during Juneteenth festivities last month. The June 19th shooting left one person dead and injured seven others.

Oakland authorities said two warring gangs from San Francisco appeared to be responsible for the deadly incident on the 2200 block of Lakeshore Drive.

The sheriff's office said the young man killed, identified as 22-year-old Dashawn Rhoades, was a resident of Oakland and San Francisco.

On Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 4 a.m. and continuing until 12 midnight, the following roadways will be closed:

Lakeshore Avenue

  • Closed between MacArthur Boulevard and East 18th Street
  • Lakeshore Ave. Exit from 580 West will be closed. The Grand Ave. Exit will remain open.
  • No parking permitted
  • The following streets will be closed at Lakeshore Ave: Beacon St., Boden Way, Brooklyn Ave., Wayne Ave., and Hanover Ave.

El Embarcadero—Closed

Grand Avenue

  • Closed between Macarthur Blvd. and Bellevue Ave. (east) Open only to Children's Fairyland ticketholders and local residents
  • No parking permitted
  • Bellevue Ave. Loop and its cross streets will be closed except to residents and Fairyland ticketholders.

These closures and restrictions will improve traffic safety and allow for greater access for park visitors, bicyclists, and pedestrians around this narrow section of Lake Merritt. They will also allow for emergency vehicle access when needed.

"With an increased number of people, we have increased medical calls. Also that is a high population district and the potential for fire is there too, especially with fireworks," said Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Heather Mozadean.

Oakland artist and educator Simone Nia Rae said she is worried and won't be returning to the lake this weekend as a vendor due to the expected crowd sizes.

"Bigger crowds could lead to problems if there's no system in place," she said.

Long-time neighborhood resident Renee Dyer is also leaving for the weekend. Her neighbor was hit by gunfire in the Juneteenth shooting.

"I will be heading to the hotel. On Juneteenth I also took a hotel. I am dipping into my savings to remain safe, said Dyer. "I just don't feel safe on so many levels."

"There is a balance that we're trying to strike, protecting public safety and making sure access to the lake for everyone," said Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas.

There are mixed feelings about the street closures. Rae believes the city should come up with a better system for crowd control.

"It's suppression of the people. You can't come when you can't park," said Rae.

Many neighbors believe the closures aren't enough. They want more police presence.

"We've got to have more uniforms. Or maybe we rework it so we have people that are skilled at this but not wearing uniforms," said Dwyer.

A full-size map of the closure is available online.

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