OAKLAND — It’s a new twist and a new tune to Oakland’s homeless problem. The High Street Home Depot store is blasting classical music in the parking lot. Some believe it’s to push out the nearby homeless population.
The store, located at 4000 Alameda Avenue, is surrounded by RVs and a large illegal encampment.
“The music is very loud and annoying,” said Kaitlyn Ferguson, who lives in an RV.
“To me, it’s good,” said Home Depot customer Fidel Gutierrez. “You can hear it all the way to (the Shell gas station,) which is a block and a half away.”
“I enjoy classical music but I’m surprised to hear it here at the Home Depot parking lot,” said Oakland councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the area.
Store workers said they started playing classical music in the front and back parking lots about three weeks ago. Customers and neighbors say it’s one way to make it uncomfortable for the people who are unhoused.
“All day, all night. I can certainly hear it and I know it’s wearing on my nerves,” said neighborhood watch captain Deb, who asked KPIX not to use her last name due to safety concerns. “Doing nothing is not the right solution either. So, I think, playing classical music is the kindest solution I’ve heard.”
While Deb supports the solution, she wants Home Depot to lower the speaker to street level. She said the speaker is placed too high and the music is travelling to nearby homes. Deb and about a dozen families live behind the store.
After she spoke with the store manager recently, the store shut down the speaker in the back parking lot. The speaker in the front lot is still blasting classical music.
“To make us feel like we’re less than anybody else is not cool. With the people around here, I think it would kind of eventually backfire. It’s going to get broken or sabotaged,” Ferguson said.
The music is getting mixed reviews from customers.
“I will not come to buy from Home Depot. It’s too loud,” complained customer Amed Segarra.
“It’s relaxing music. I love it,” Gutierrez countered.
Councilman Gallo understands why Home Depot is doing it. Each time, after the city cleared the RV’s and the encampment, they came back within a week and neighbors complained the stolen and stripped cars are linked to the encampments.
“Certainly, it’s a creative way to maybe get some other people frustrated to move out but I don’t think that’s going to be the solution,” said councilman Gallo.
A Home Depot spokeswoman declined to comment but, at a city hall press conference in Oct. 2022, a regional director of operations pleaded for city enforcement and more resources to clear the nearby encampment.
“Out of our 2,200 stores throughout the country, Oakland is our biggest pressure when it comes to malicious thefts, along with other incidents as well.” said Adriana Martins-Gregus speaking for Home Depot.
Many neighbors like Deb want the city to do more so the store doesn’t leave town. She believes the best solution is if the city can provide more housing and mental health services.
“We support (Home Depot), we support them. It needs to be cleaned out. Doing nothing is not the solution,” she said.