Close up at an angle of a modern building. There is wood over three of the windows. A dark street sign is in the foreground.
A shooting in February damaged several windows, which are still boarded up, at the 17th & Broadway building. Credit: Amir Aziz

Rain, hail, and even snow have fallen on Oakland this winter, but residents in a downtown highrise say their block has been showered with an even more unusual substance: glass.

Tenants of 17th & Broadway report seeing shards of glass on their balconies and window sills, and blanketing the sidewalk below. The glass has appeared over the past few months, according to reports from tenants and messages from building management.

“I’ve had three separate sightings of glass on my balcony,” said one of the renters in the 34-story building. “And it’s still happening.”

Another tenant recalled a rainy and windy day in December when she began hearing a “plink, plink, plink” on her window pane. “I thought it was hail,” she said. “Later on that night, I look out the window and I see shards of glass.” 

The Oaklandside agreed not to name the tenants who spoke to us for this story, because two said they were concerned about potential retaliation from management for speaking out.

The Oaklandside went by the property last week and found handfuls of large glass chunks scattered along the Broadway side of the building, which opened in 2019, advertising 254 luxury apartments. The property is managed by national company Quarterra, formerly called LMC, which has one other building in Oakland.

Then came the gunfire. On Feb. 13, just after midnight, bullets from a shoot-out on Telegraph Avenue struck the building, breaking several windows as high as 18 floors up on Broadway. Nobody appears to have been injured in the shooting, according to Oakland police.

“Some windows at our community were damaged last night after a firearm discharge that took place more than a block away,” the building’s community manager emailed residents the next day. “The 17th and Broadway team is working diligently to repair the windows as quickly as possible.”

Nearly two months later, windows are still visibly boarded up. 

Tenants say that since then, they’ve received one more email from the company, offering a “complimentary balcony clean” on March 3, for “balconies affected by the debris.” 

17th & Broadway Apartments 3
On Monday, large shards of glass were scattered along the ground on Broadway below the apartment building. Credit: Amir Aziz

Renters who spoke with The Oaklandside say they’re concerned for the safety of the building occupants as well as people and pets walking on the busy thoroughfare below the building. 

After the shooting that damaged the building, Quarterra installed a scaffolding tunnel on Broadway to protect people using the sidewalk below the building. The structure appears to be protecting the main part of the sidewalk, but glass seems to still be falling onto the rest of the sidewalk and the street. There is no protection on the 17th Street side, where tenants say they’ve seen and reported glass “showering down” there both before and after the shooting, too. (Only a few small pieces were noticeable on that side when we visited last week.)

“Let’s be real—nobody’s going to die,” said a renter at 17th and Broadway. “But what if people are walking down there?” 

“People walk through there every day,” said another tenant. “There’s a bus stop right outside the building on Broadway.” And for people who are hanging out on their balconies, “all it takes is a gust of wind and some glass may fall down and cut them,” he said.

“It’s a continuing problem, so you have to put continuing effort into cleaning it up,” he said.

“We share the concern about damaged windows at 17th and Broadway,” said the general manager for that building as well as another Quarterra property in Emeryville, in a statement emailed to The Oaklandside.

She said the company is trying to repair the windows broken in the shooting as quickly as possible, but “the repairs require a complete replacement of some of the panes, and the lead time for glass manufacturing is 5-7 weeks.”

Asked about the reports of issues before the shooting, the manager said, “no glass was falling before the shooting. Not to our knowledge.”

However, messages that management sent to the building’s online portal indicate they were aware of the issue. In a message dated “4 months ago,” and referencing the new year, the same manager said she got a report of a “shattered” window pane, explaining that a “projectile” struck the exterior pane and assuring residents that all windows in the building are double-paned. In a message dated “3 months ago,” she wrote, “High winds and the storm is releasing remainder of a glass repair we have on going.” 

17th & Broadway one of many new buildings downtown

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Management company Quarterra installed a scaffolding tunnel on Broadway after a shoot-out broke several windows. Credit: Amir Aziz

The multiple atmospheric rivers and bomb cyclones that have pummeled the Bay Area this year are putting infrastructure to the test. Trees have smashed houses. Garages have flooded

In San Francisco, there have been multiple cases this year of wind shattering windows and glass falling from highrises, at both old and new buildings. There, officials have proposed mandating engineering reports for all buildings downtown, and the city issued notices requiring property owners of damaged buildings to have all their windows inspected by an engineer within 14 days and fixed quickly, ABC 7 reported.

The Oaklandside asked the city of Oakland whether it responded to the glass issues at 17th and Broadway or elsewhere and did not receive a response by publication time. A city database shows that no tenants have filed an official complaint with the city about the glass issues on Broadway.

The building at 17th and Broadway is just one product of what’s frequently been described as a recent “building boom” in Oakland. Thousands of apartments have been built in the city over the past five or so years. The vast majority are market-rate rentals, and many are located in sleek towers downtown.

What’s not new in downtown Oakland is gunfire. OPD’s weekly gunfire summary reports, which the department started producing in 2020, show that firearms are discharged downtown on a nearly weekly basis. In fact, the area has experienced regular shooting incidents for decades, some causing injuries and fatalities along with property damage. 

With an influx of new residents into the center of the city, new tensions around safety have arisen. One of the tenants said that the February gunfire that broke several windows left “half the building living in fear.”

But renters said they’re confused about why their building has been raining glass while similar highrises nearby seem unscathed by the storms. (The Oaklandside is unaware of any other reports of buildings with broken windows above the first floor.) 

Renters said the glass is just one of several issues they’ve experienced at 17th and Broadway, including stolen bicycles from the bike room, vehicle break-ins both in the garage and on the street, inoperable amenities like an unheated pool and hot tub, broken garage doors, and more.

One of the tenants said he believes many of the issues would go away if the management company was more hands-on and responsive. When he first moved in under a year ago, the on-site office was typically staffed and open, he said. 

Now, “you’re lucky if you can catch somebody there,” he said. “I’ve had urgent situations where the building does not answer the phone. The office door is shut, with the lights off. Often there’s a feeling of helplessness. Half the problems could be solved simply by management welcoming residents in to discuss it and openly communicating with them.”

He said it’s frustrating to pay a premium to live in a luxury building and still experience challenges. The one-bedroom apartments currently listed for the building start at $2,630 and can cost as much as $8,992 a month.

“You have people paying thousands of dollars. It’s already sickening that you have to pay that to live in the Bay Area and survive,” he said.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie lives in Oakland, grew up in Berkeley, and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.