The big building on the left is 715 Peralta St. in West Oakland.
The little house next to it used to be owned by a family who creatively purchased it for 561 thousand dollars in 2005. Some time in 2007 they moved away and the house — bank-owned at this point — was vacant for a long time, over a year. Zillow says it sold for $358,000 in June of 2008.
To the right of the little house there is a church parking lot, followed by the church.
Every Sunday for three years we heard thunderous sermons and singing, saw people congregate afterward around the table with food, and watched large American cars empty the parking lot and slowly depart in various directions. The church was pink.
In late 2009 the church was sold to people whose ancestors came from somewhere in Asia (real Asia, not this one). They painted the church yellowish green, fixed the windows, kicked out the guy with dreadlocks who lived in a VW Bus in the parking lot, and while it is possible that they started singing, we've never heard a sound coming from the church again. I've seen one American car in the parking lot — a Chevy van which carried the workers who came to install a hood over the back door.
The two people standing against the fence did something that attracted a measurable part of the Oakland police force to come check it out. My wife says they hauled someone away.
The white Buick behind the police car will not be here long. It was used as a getaway vehicle in a shooting that happened a few weeks ago — they left before the cops showed up. Just a few days ago one could witness a very probable drug deal conducted through the driver's side window of the Buick.
I can't tell you how many such Buicks have been parked on our block over the last several years. They come, do their thing, and then they vanish. Usually via a city-sponsored tow truck.
I'm sure that most residents of 715 Peralta aren't criminals. It is safe to say that every single one of them has been somewhat unlucky in life, to end up living at a place like that, but very likely most of them, and probably even the overwhelming majority, aren't surviving by committing crimes.
So, maybe there are three, four active criminals in that building. They have guns, sell drugs, rape women, don't pay child support. They conduct street business, naturally, on the street where they live. With people who live elsewhere, but come here, to 715 Peralta.
I want to know who owns this building. They pay property taxes. They put up ads on Craigslist. They fix up the apartments after the fires. This building is somebody's business, a business that turns an otherwise low key part of the hood into a cradle of crime.
There is a parking lot to the left of the building. Every night a beige GMC truck parks in its entrance and several men sleep in it. You can tell by the fogged up windshield.