Friday, December 19, 2008

Blight in Downtown Oakland

Blight is a significant problem in Oakland creating an impression of a run down community that is rife with crime. First impressions are everything. It is no wonder that Oakland loses out on so many opportunities when it comes to business investment, tourism and shopping. If the local government cannot get a handle on blight, a very basic issue, why would businesses want to invest in the community, why would tourists want to spend time in the community and why would anyone want to shop and recreate in the City?

While there have been many improvements in Downtown Oakland, due largely to the Brown Administration, significant blight issues remain to be addressed. Mayor Dellums has provided little to no leadership when it comes to revitalizing Downtown. Several basic actions by the local government could help to revitalize Downtown Oakland. These include:

  1. Increasing the number of foot and bicycle patrols. Residents and visitors need to feel safe. Seeing police patrolling the area on foot and bicycle increases ones comfort level about being in Downtown Oakland especially at night. If people are more comfortable visiting the area they are more likely to support local businesses. More patrols in the Downtown area would also serve as a deterrent to those engaging in criminal and anti-social behavior;
  2. Increasing graffiti control. The City should be more pro-active in eliminating graffiti as soon as it appears on public property or within the public right of way and charging private property owners for the cost of graffiti removal on private property if property owners do not immediately remove graffiti. While some may argue that graffiti is art and we need to allow people to express themselves, placing graffiti on public or private property without the property owners permission is called a crime--vandalism--and for the average person creates an uncomfortable and unsightly experience;
  3. Conducting periodic code enforcement and blight sweeps in Downtown Oakland. The City needs to ensure that property owners are aware of the Blight Ordinance and are promptly notified to remedy the problems in a limited amount of time before fines kick in;
  4. Increasing trash collection and trash pick-up. This is self-evident;
  5. Instituting and enforcing a 10 pm curfew. A curfew for those under 18 would be helpful to prevent marauding teenagers from trashing the Downtown. If the City of Long Beach can do this why not Oakland; and
  6. Planting more trees. Trees are needed to soften the harshness of the urban environment. Downtown is so void of trees it feels like an urban prison and contributes to the appearance of blight.
At a very basic level we need to make people feel safe and we need to make them feel like the streetscape is clean and inviting in order for them to visit Downtown and to spend money. Why can't our career politicians and career bureaucrats step up and create a simple Downtown revitalization program aimed at keeping the Downtown from looking like a blighted crime infested Skid Row?

1 comment:

BMac said...

I'm just catching up on these local issues, but it sure does seem that our city government and police force, at least in the current incarnation, are pretty dang incompetent and lazy. So much of this is such a little investment for such a big reward. Was Jerry Brown better? Did he leave the cupboard stocked at all for the 'do?