Monday, October 20, 2008

Update on Targeting Blighted Houses

We have made significant progress in working with the Oakland Vehicle Abatement Unit to remove abandoned and inoperable vehicles in our target area. Over 80 vehicles have been removed by the property owners, made operable or towed by the Oakland Vehicle Abatement Unit. Since we now have less than ten vehicles that are waiting for resolution, we are beginning to focus our attention on blighted residential and commercial properties.

In our target area, over 71 properties have been identified as having elements of blight as defined in the Blight Ordinance for the City of Oakland. The majority of these properties have already been reported online to the Public Works Call Center (PWCC). The PWCC logs in the complaints and forwards them to the appropriate City Department, most often Code Enforcement. Many of the problem properties have already been assigned to Code Enforcement Officers who have verified or are in the process of verifying the complaints and are making contact with the property owners, requesting that they remedy the blighted conditions. In many cases, the blighted conditions consist of peeling paint, debris/litter, broken windows, or overgrown weeds.

Clearly, spot checks are showing that the Code Enforcement Officers for the City of Oakland have been busy. We have noticed that a number of property owners have already remedied the blighted conditions and that many more properties are undergoing renovations/repairs and painting. The earliest complaints date back to August of 2008. Within two short months, the Code Enforcement Officers have gotten a number of property owners to voluntarily comply. We are excited to see the progress and commend the Code Enforcement Officers for their quick assessments and enforcement actions. However, we are reminded that enforcement of the Blight Ordinance is a complaint driven process. The City will not get involved unless residents step up and make the complaint. We can only begin to imagine the transformation of the City of Oakland if residents in all neighborhoods were to undertake similar efforts at identifying and reporting blighted properties. Certainly, our experience with the City of Oakland in addressing blighted conditions has been far more fruitful than with the City of Berkeley.

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