Sunday, August 24, 2008

Making Progress in North Oakland

The We Fight Blight Campaign is seeing the fruits of its labor in North Oakland. As we drive around the neighborhood, we can see abandoned and inoperable vehicles being towed and properties being cleaned up and repainted. The Vehicle Abatement Unit of Oakland has been nothing but stellar. We have provided them with many, many locations for abandoned and inoperable vehicles. They are steadily working through the list, tagging the vehicles and towing them. As well, the Oakland Public Works Call Center and the online reporting system has been working quite well. We had doubts about the online reporting system being a black hole. Although, we have rarely gotten a call back from the Building Inspectors, we have noticed that several of the problem properties that were reported by residents using the online reporting system are being cleaned up. In following up with the Call Center, residents have gotten updates indicating that the property owners have been notified and given a certain amount of time to remedy the blight problems. One problem house that has been a source of blight and crime for the neighborhood for years is finally being cleaned up. We credit this both to the recent good work of the Oakland City Staff and to the persistence of residents in making multiple calls and sending emails. Fighting blight must be a partnership with the local government.

Berkeley on the other hand has been a bit of a disappointment. As a test, we notified the Environmental Health Services of several abandoned and inoperable vehicles one month ago. In that time we have had no indication that the property owners have been notified, the vehicles tagged and certainly none of the vehicles have been towed. In a month, Oakland has removed at more than 30 abandoned and inoperable vehicles in North Oakland as a result of the We Fight Blight Campaign.

Apparently, the East Lorin Neighborhood Association also reported ten South Berkeley properties to the City Manager's Office for investigation earlier this summer and met with the City staff on July 11, 2008. That effort has gotten mixed results. The City apparently notified the property owners of the blight issues and some have already voluntarily remedied the problems by removing abandoned and inoperable vehicles. However, with other properties there seems to be little or no improvement. Part of this stems from the City's weak blight ordinance that exempts owner occupied, single family dwellings and part stems from the City's lack of organizational structure and well-defined roles and responsibilities to address blight. We will continue to monitor the efficacy of the Berkeley Blight Ordinance and the organizational structure of the City to deal with blight. It is clear that revisions to the Berkeley Blight Ordinance are necessary to address these failings. Such changes can come either through the introduction of proposed changes by a City Councilman or through a ballot initiative.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

IF you want the houses to be cleaned up or painted. Is the city going to help out since many don't have the financial funds at this moment to repaint.