Sunday, August 10, 2008
We Fight Blight--Geographic Scope and Focus
Several people interested in fighting blight have asked me to clarify the geographic scope and focus of the Fight Blight in South Berkeley-North Oakland effort. Understandably, the terms South Berkeley and North Oakland are a bit amorphous. To start, we have limited our geographic focus as follows: (1) Ashby to the north; (2) Telegraph to the east; (3) Sacramento/Market to the west; and (4) 52nd Street to the south. We picked this area for several reasons. The most important being that we live and travel within this area and became increasingly dissatisfied with the blighted conditions that were affecting the quality of life in our community and the apparent lack of community knowledge or interest in fighting blight. Because of our desire to create a safer community, we also wanted to address the connection between crime and blight, something that did not appear to be actively and comprehensively addressed by any of the existing community groups or neighborhood associations.
Within this geographic area of South Berkeley-North Oakland, we want to provide resources and tools for residents to address blight themselves. Essentially, by arming residents with information on the city processes and giving them an understanding of the laws governing blight, residents will be able to solve blight issues on a block by block basis. Importantly though, this requires an interested citizenry. In addition, we have several people who are actively identifying and reporting blight issues within this geographic area.
Our primary focus at the moment is to identify all the abandoned and inoperable vehicles within South Berkeley-North Oakland and have them removed by the owners or the Cities of Berkeley and Oakland. We are also identifying the most blighted single family dwellings and apartments. This mostly includes those residences with peeling paint, deteriorated siding, large amounts of debris/litter in their yards and on their porches, and overgrown weeds. Next, we will work on commercial properties with deteriorated facades. Of particular interest are the large number of liquor stores/markets that serve as a magnet for loitering, littering, public drunkenness and drugs. BAPAC, the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advisory Coalition, has been working tirelessly to address the oversaturation of alcohol outlets in South and West Berkeley and to provide the City of Berkeley with the tools that will allow it to systematically and quickly address alcohol-related public nuisance problems before they get out of hand. Our efforts are not intended to supplant those of BAPAC, but to be complementary by actively monitoring and reporting code and blight violations. This will help BAPAC and others develop the evidence for shutting down nuisance alcohol outlets.
In our efforts, we are always trying to partner with neighborhood associations and crime prevention councils. Naturally, these organizations are a great way to help educate the community on the existing tools for fighting blight as well as the necessary policy reforms to assure fair, efficient, and effective reduction of blighted properties.