Future of Oakland's First Fridays Up in the Air Over Police Fees

NBC Universal, Inc.

A popular street festival in the East Bay that typically draws thousands of people may not come back, but not because of the pandemic.

Organizers of Oakland’s First Fridays say the future of the festival is in jeopardy because of police fees.

Pre-pandemic, on every first Friday of the month, Telegraph Avenue was closed off and packed with people and row after row of food vendors and artists selling their crafts.

"We just love doing first Fridays," said Mierra Marah, owner of Mi Granny’s Kitchen. "We haven’t missed a First Friday since we started doing it."

On a typical First Friday, Marah's food stand would rake in $3,000.

"That was our money maker," she said. "It really gave us a platform."

Then came the pandemic, which shut down the festival. Organizers of the festival submitted a special event permit to bring the festival back this summer.

"We were told that the city of Oakland will no longer cover the police and fire costs for this event, which they have done from the beginning," said Shari Godinez, executive director of the Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District.

That’s because the city of Oakland uses taxes from hotels and motels to help cover special events costs. The pandemic sucked all of that funding dry.

Godinez, the festival's organizer, says in order to receive a permit, the festival has to come up with $24,000 to pay for the 45 police officers needed to secure the event.

"$24,000 just for one Friday is just, I feel like it’s ridiculous," Marah said.

The city’s marketing coordinator says more money for outdoor festivals is on the way, but a committee in October has to come up with a detailed and equitable plan on how to spend that money.

"It would only make sense for the city to invest in something that would help after coming out of a pandemic, to help these businesses get back on their feet," Godinez said.

Contact Us