Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Letter to Caltrans

Messieurs Kempton, Sartipi and Eshqipour:

We wish to bring to your attention several significant conditions with the highway and overpasses in North Oakland that create safety problems for the traveling public and contribute to the appearance of blight in our community. We understand that some, but not all, of the ongoing conditions were brought to your attention by the City of Oakland's lawsuit alleging poor maintenance practices in the Caltrans right-of-way located in the City of Oakland.

These conditions of concern focus on the Highway 24 on-ramp starting at 52nd Street (near Children's Hospital), and the Highway 24 overpasses at 52nd Street, 54th Street and Shattuck Avenue, 55th Street, and 56th Street and Telegraph Avenue.

Highway 24 On-ramp at 52nd Street

  1. Uneven/failed pavement: There are several significant areas of uneven or failed pavement on the Highway 24 on-ramp at 52nd Street that create safety concerns. This on-ramp was not part of the scope of work when Highway 24 was recently repaved. As you enter the on-ramp off 52nd Street you pass over the 52nd Street overpass. At this juncture, there is an uneven and jolting transition between the roadway and the 52nd Street overpass. Proceeding in a southerly direction, as you transition to the right lanes towards downtown Oakland from the 52nd Street overpass until you merge with 24/980, the pavement is failing with large cracks in the roadway. As you cross the 40th Street overpass, MacArthur Boulevard overpass and then under the San Francisco bound overpass to merge onto Highway 24/980, this section of the on-ramp has significantly failed causing areas to be severely uneven and very rough particularly at the transitions between the overpasses and the roadway. In addition, an area around one of the footings under the San Francisco bound overpass has settled causing the square footing to jut upwards several inches into the roadway. We are requesting that the roadway from the 52nd Street on-ramp to Highway 24/980 transition be repaved as necessary to achieve a safe and smooth ride for the traveling public.
  2. Damaged guardrails: After accessing the Highway 24 on-ramp at 52nd Street and crossing the 52nd Street overpass, immediately to ones right the metal beam guardrail has been damaged and several of the posts have been pulled out of the ground causing an unsafe condition for the traveling public. We are requesting that this metal beam guardrail be repaired or replaced to current design standards. We are also requesting that all guard rails in north Oakland be evaluated for safety and replaced as necessary.
  3. Graffiti: From the 52nd Street on-ramp until the transition to Highway 24/980 and the 27th Street off-ramp, this corridor has been the subject of multiple ongoing graffiti hits. While Caltrans has attempted periodically to cover the graffiti, the response itself has been unsatisfying as Caltrans has used several colors of mismatched paint. It is not clear why the Caltrans Maintenance staff cannot find or have paint mixed that actually matches the existing columns/structures rather than using a myriad of shades. While we appreciate the attempts to cover the graffiti, the response is aesthetically unpleasing and contributes to an appearance of blight. We request that Caltrans step up its graffiti abatement in North Oakland and use matching paint to cover the various shades of gray.
  4. Litter: From the 52nd Street on-ramp until the transition to Highway 24/980 and the 27th Street off-ramp, this corridor has been the subject of ongoing litter and debris accumulation.We request that Caltrans implement a more frequent litter pickup response in North Oakland.
  5. Landscaping: From the 52nd Street on-ramp until the transition to Highway 24/980 and the 27th Street off-ramp, the landscaping is either dead, dying, missing or overgrown. The lack of well-maintained landscaping contributes to an appearance of blight and my encourage graffiti and litter. We request that Caltrans maintain the existing landscaping and replace dead or dying landscaping in this North Oakland corridor with appropriate drought tolerant landscaping that can survice in the harsh urban conditions.

Highway 24 Overpasses at 52nd Street, 54th Street and Shattuck Avenue, 55th Street, and 56th Street and Telegraph Avenue.

  1. Overgrown vegetation: The landscaping at each of these overpasses is often overgrown, creating areas for homeless encampments and potential hiding spots for criminals. We are requesting Caltrans implement a more frequent vegetation control program as the current vegetation management efforts do not appear to be adequate.
  2. Litter/debris/refuse: These overpasses are subject to ongoing litter, refuse and illegal dumping. We are requesting that Caltrans implement a more frequent and comprehensive litter pickup response as the current litter removal is not adequate.
  3. Graffiti: These overpasses are subject to ongoing graffiti tags. We are requesting that Caltrans implement a more frequent graffiti abatement response using matching paint as the current graffiti abatement efforts are not adequate.
  4. Homeless encampments: Various homeless people have taken up residence in the landscaping under the overpasses, contributing to crime, graffiti and litter in the area. This is a significant concern as they use the concrete ledge/bench just at the top of the slope under the overpasses as areas to camp. We are requesting that Caltrans secure the concrete ledge/bench with fencing or other materials on each overpass that will for allow maintenance activities, but prevent the homeless from camping on the concrete ledge/bench. We believe the concrete ledges/benches provide an attractive nuisance. Should someone attempting to access these areas fall and hurt themselves, Caltrans could be held liable. We also request that Caltrans work with the California Highway Patrol and/or the Oakland Police Department to ensure that the areas are properly patrolled to enforce trespassing laws.
  5. Barriers to Pedestrians: When originally built, the overpasses created significant physical and psychological barriers for pedestrians moving under the overpasses on local roads and sidewalks. The current conditions of the areas under the overpasses contribute to an appearance of blight and crime, and create a "no mans land". We believe that many of the maintenance problems/issues associated with the overpasses could be remedied with some strategic investments/improvements that involve creative lighting, security cameras, new landscaping, a dog park, basketball courts and/or public art. By engaging the community to take ownership of these areas through the development and implementation of overpass improvement projects, a relatively small investment could significantly minimize Caltrans' future maintenance costs. We would like Caltrans to identify funding for such projects and work with local community leaders on appropriate improvements.
Members of the North Oakland community have expressed concerns about the conditions of the Caltrans right-of-way as they greatly affect the quality of life in North Oakland by creating safety problems and contributing to an appearance of blight. Crime and blight are inextricably linked. We do not believe that each of you would knowingly tolerate these kinds of ongoing conditions in your communities. While we are unclear why Caltrans can spend billions of dollars in new highway improvements for congestion relief, but cannot seem to maintain its existing highways and structures, we are confident that you will address our concerns because of the potential safety implications to the traveling public.

We request that the specific problems be remedied in a reasonable time frame and look forward to sharing you proposed plan and schedule for resolution with the rest of the community.

Executive Director
We Fight Blight


Fight Blight said...

We Fight Blight got a quick acknowledgment from Caltrans' Executive Director Will Kempton (see below).

Thank you for your communication and for outlining some of the concerns about conditions adjacent to State Route 24 and some of the overpasses in the City of Oakland. By copy of this email, I am asking our District Director, Bijan Sartipi, to respond to your message and to work with your
group to resolve these concerns where feasible. Thanks for bringing this matter to our attention.

bushrod blogger said...

Thanks for addressing this issue with Caltrans. I've been thinking about how to respond to this myself for the last six months as the daily drive to work on this route is somewhat depressing because of all the problems you mentioned. Let us know what if anything else we can do to get these problems addressed.

Abe said...

Notice the same things re: the 52nd St. on-ramp. I thought it was a little funny that each of the things you mentioned were within a few blocks of the dog painting/garage door you have posted on the site =)

Makes we want Bakesale Betty's fried chicken, jalepeno coleslaw sandwiches ... [drool]

Fight Blight said... are really pushing me to the limit...a Bakesale Betty's fried chicken sandwich is sounding mighty fine right now. It would render all forms of blight without merit if only I could sink my teeth into one fried chicken sandwich with just enough jalapeno cole slaw...

bootlvr said...

Well, it's now January 26th and nothing has been done about the homeless encampments along Telegraph. It was discussed at the last NCPC meeting, I have spoken to 2 Oaklamd Police officers parked at Casper's (guess they can't afford Bakesale Betty's), and still nothing has been done.
The safety issue with this will hit home if you've ever come off 24 westbound and been agressively panhandled while waiting for the Telegraph signal to change.
How do we get this solved?

donkey said...

At around 11:20am on Friday January 23rd, 2009 upon entering this onramp my truck hit the uneven road and hydroplaned. My Truck fishtailed and I lost control of my vehicle causing the front end to crash into the gaurd rail which fortunately saved me from going over. I was going below the speed limit, this is a seriously dangerous onramp! Luckily no other cars were involved, but I will incure financial expenses to have my vehicle repaired and risk increased insurance rates and a point on my driving record. IF anyone wants to contact me about this please e-mail me at

Fight Blight said...

I urge you to contact Caltrans District 4 Executive Director, Bijan Sartipi, at and express your concerns regarding the status of the Caltrans right of way. You should reference the We Fight Blight email to Director Kempton. This would help to put pressure on Caltrans to address these problems.

Jocelyn Combs said...

Oakland and Caltrans signed a Letter of Understanding in 2005 after the lawsuit you mentioned. Since then we have met monthly to discuss maintenance issues. I will add your letter to the next agenda. Please send any future concerns to me at

Jocelyn Combs
City of Oakland
Public Works Agency

Anonymous said...

How can I contact you? When are your meetings?

Anonymous said...

How about working into cleaning Lowell Street.