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Oakland Sideshows

Sideshow promoters face stiff penalties under new Oakland law

on June 7, 2023

Oakland City Council passed an ordinance Tuesday making it a crime to organize, facilitate or promote sideshows. 

The ordinance passed with six votes — councilmembers Kevin Jenkins and Janani Ramachandran were absent. Councilmember Noel Gallo originally proposed a stricter ordinance in December that would also have made it a crime to watch a sideshow, but that proposal was rejected and revised. 

The revisions remove any mention of spectators and “bystander participants.” 

The city has sought to deter people from participating in sideshows for years because of the damage the car shows cause to city property and danger to people in the vicinity. In May, videos on social media showed a number of violent incidents at sideshows. In one, a man is beaten unconscious after throwing a plastic bucket at a car performing doughnuts at 34th and Adeline streets. In another, a car is set on fire and rammed by another vehicle that then also is set on fire. 

For some, the ordinance does not go far enough to address the problem. 

“After this has been in place for some time, if nothing has been abated, you have to look elsewhere, specifically to those that are supporting by standing around and encouraging,” Carolyn Burgess, with the North Hills Community Association, told the council. 

The only other public comment came from a resident who objected to the city criminalizing youth for participating in sideshows, saying they have  “nothing else to do.” 

Sideshows have been part of Oakland culture since the 1980s and were essential to the creation of the Bay Area’s unique hyphy culture.  

No council member commented on the ordinance, which had been discussed at length in a committee meeting. All eight council members voted for the revisions when the ordinance was presented for a first reading last month. It required a second reading before becoming law.

“Public Safety is and must be a top priority for me and all of us in City Hall,” Councilmember Dan Kalb said in a May 17 statement. “This law will give the City of Oakland the additional tools it needs to protect Oaklanders from the dangers of these ridiculous and destructive sideshows.”

A violation of the ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by criminal prosecution and civil penalties. People who organize, facilitate or promote sideshows could be sentenced to up to six months in the county jail or fined $1,000 to $5,000, with increased fines for repeat violations. 

The ordinance says anyone who impedes the public from a street or highway, assists in preparing a sideshow or acts as a race starter could be considered a sideshow organizer, facilitator or promoter. A city staff report to the council in December offered more insight, saying, “Identifying promoters is generally performed through intelligence gathering via open-source media. It is commonplace for promoters to post a flyer via various open-source media accounts that then gains traction amongst that promoters’ followers or friends’ groups.”

The Oakland Police Department and Oakland Transportation Department have launched an inter-departmental program to discourage sideshows by installing speed bumps, plastic curbs and delineators on top of street centerlines. They identified 12 locations heavily impacted by sideshows, most of them along MacArthur and Foothill boulevards, with the goal to eliminate sideshows at those intersections. There is no established best practice of engineering to prevent stunt driving. 

Under the California Vehicle Code, sideshow drivers may be charged with reckless driving. The law allows an officer to arrest a driver and seize their vehicle. In May, Oakland police said they seized 80 cars during a sideshow involving about 250 vehicles.


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  3. […] June, Oakland City Council made it a crime to promote, facilitate or organize a side show. The action was taken after 100 cars were involved […]

  4. […] June, Oakland City Council made it a crime to promote, facilitate or organize a side show. The action was taken after 100 cars were involved […]

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