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Holiday Street Fair Takes a Bite Out of South Side Crime: Or Does It?

by Ted Friedman
Tuesday December 14, 2010 - 07:17:00 PM

Sweeping into town on the mist of a warm London fog, the 27th Telegraph Ave. Holiday Street Fair may have taken a bite out of south side crime. 

Or was it just a shift from hustle to bustle—early bay area holiday shoppers transforming the troubled area into a souped up street vendor's wet dream. 

The famous event's opening weekend coincided with the Berkeley Police 

Department’s re-instituted nightly weekend foot patrols. The patrols ended formally Saturday night, but may continue under different sponsorship. 

Shoppers on Kettle Corn would never have guessed they were traversing a crime scene. That is if you accept Teley businessmen's latest complaints that street people were hurting their bottoms—bottom line that is. 

Although the Daily Cal reported the businessmen’s gloom, not everyone is buying the businessmen's complaints, which sound suspiciously like the boy who has cried wolf once too often. Scuttlebutt from the street offers another view of reported fisticuffs. “Shit happens; no big deal." 

Yet in late August I wrote in the East-Bay Express that: "menacing, sidewalk-blocking 'scenes' have been developing for months, after dusk, on the Ave; and the hangers-on seem to have established beach heads outside Blake's, Raleigh's, Amoeba, and the Caffe Mediterraneum." 

One of these "beach heads," city-installed benches outside Raleigh's, are now finally removed, after months of complaints to the city. The Med has removed its outside tables indefinitely. 

But not before a near riot outside Raleigh's caused bloody injuries to two Raleigh's bouncers and a female bartender, Aug. 28, as witnessed by this reporter. 

Does the street fair and renewed police foot patrols signal an end to the Ave's woes or just a holiday lull? Only time will tell; but the Avenue's violent past often repeats. 

Several merchants perceive improved conditions on Teley. One store security guard noted that not as many drunks are stumbling into her store. 

Meanwhile, after a successful weekend opening, the fair will run two more weekends, ending Dec. 24. 

Eddie Monroe, 63, the founder of the fair returned to his roots as a street vendor with his own booth, featuring nostalgic paintings of the Ave of the 70's and his Great American Novel (sci-fi). The fair has been run for the past seven years by Janet Klein, 65, and Yolanda Castillo, 55. Both are veteran street vendors. 

Cliff Seely, 76 a jewelry designer who hasn't missed a fair since its founding, was having a good day. "They're buying," he said. "If only the weather holds up." 

Some recent fairs have not fared well, weather-wise. 

Crime, while in the background, still has its say. Police responded Friday night when a women complained of being run out of the women's room of the city restrooms by a drunken male below the Channing parking lot. 

But crime is far from the mind of vendors with visions of sugar plums and previous rained out fairs before them. 

The Ave. has had its ups and downs. This is an up. Maybe this will change the vibe. 



Ted Friedman has lived a hop skip and a jump from Telegraph Avenue for 30 years. He has attended the fair since its founding. He writes regularly for the Planet about his neighborhood.