Sears criticized for not replacing store windows in Oakland

The Sears in Oakland hasn't replaced many of its broken windows months after vandals broke them in a demonstration in July.
December 5, 2013 6:37:54 PM PST
At a rally last July in Oakland people took to the streets after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. While many of the protesters were peaceful, other demonstrators turned violent and many city businesses had to board up broken windows. A number of those windows are still covered with plywood at the Sears store on Broadway. Many residents are wondering why a big retailer has yet to fix their windows, when smaller businesses did so within a few weeks.

"This used to be the place to come to see the decorations," recalled one woman.

That was another time, long before graffiti became commonplace. Sears in Downtown Oakland has been punched and kicked by vandals. Demonstrators in the past have targeted the retailer repeatedly, making repairs costly. So, months later, the building sits boarded up with large pieces of plywood.

Sears said in a statement to ABC7 News, "We don't have a definitive time frame for replacing the windows. The custom windows date back to the 1930's and replacing them is more complicated than those in a typical building."

Sears isn't the only owner of a building needing a little TLC, but the city can't do anything about it until they're made aware of the issue.

"We take that very seriously," said Rachel Flynn, the director of Oakland's Department of Planning. She says the retailer has been cited under the city's municipal code for blight. "We are now talking to them about when they can really get this fixed. They know it's important to us and I think it's important to them."

She says other small businesses also damaged during the demonstrations last July, made many of their repairs within a week.

"Small organizations can do it and we see that we're in the neighborhood and we're trying hard to really take pride in Oakland, we feel like the big companies should take pride in it too," said Marquelle Lee, the manager of the Kapor Center.

Instead of using blank wood to cover the broken windows left by vandals, the non-profit commissioned the work of artist Jessica Sabogal.

Her mural will wrap the building, covering every broken window.

"We have a fist for social justice, we have a hammer for like breaking down barriers, breaking down the glass ceiling," said Sabogal.

It's painting a different picture of the community and those who live and do business here.

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