Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Make Oakland Better Now

We Fight Blight has been working hard to make North Oakland and South Berkeley a better place to live by focusing on blight, crime, and infrastructure improvements. So it was with much glee that we recently learned about another grassroots effort to Make Oakland Better Now.

Make Oakland better now is committed to improving Oakland by targeting three key areas: (1) public Safety; (2) public infrastructure; and (3) transparency and accountability of Oakland City Government.

These are three key areas that We Fight Blight has advocated for in various forums, public and private. We appreciate the focused and targeted effort--Oakland cannot be all things to all people, particularly in times of limited resources. We would encourage the Make Oakland Better Now effort to include one more item in their platform: Economic development to support the creation and retention of small businesses and revenue generating enterprises.

MOBN is meeting on August 27 at their kickoff meeting at 7:00 pm at St. Theresa's Church, 30 Mandalay Road in Oakland.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Caltrans Begins Repaving Deteriorated Ramps In North Oakland

At the beginning of this year, we reported that Caltrans had allowed several of its on-ramps and off-ramps in North Oakland to significantly deteriorate to the point of creating safety hazards as well as a very, very bumpy ride for motorists and commuters. These ramps included the southbound on-ramp at MLK and 52nd St. to Highway 24 and the northbound off-ramp from Highway 24 to MLK and 52nd St.. Surprisingly, these ramps were not resurfaced when Highway 24 was resurfaced several years ago. In addition to pointing out the terrible pavement conditions and significant potholes, we noted other deplorable conditions such as graffiti, dead landscaping, overgrown landscaping, litter, and homeless encampments in the Caltrans right-of-way that are contributing to blight in North Oakland. In February, Caltrans came out and removed overgrown vegetation from some, but not all, of its right-of-way and promised that the repaving work would occur this summer.

True to their word, Caltrans has begun to repave portions of the ramps. Grinding has started on both the northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp at MLK and 52nd St. It appears Caltrans is also beginning to stage the work for the southbound on-ramp at MLK and 52nd St. While we are not happy with the ongoing conditions in the Caltrans right-of-way and believe Caltrans needs to demonstrate a greater leadership role in graffiti control, landscape improvement and maintenance and litter containment, we are happy to see them finally resolving the deteriorated pavement issue. We would like to think our reporting on these issues and our inquiries to former Director, Will Kempton, played a role in getting the Oakland District Office moving on the pavement job.

If more residents felt empowered to take action and lobby government officials and elected legislators, perhaps we could get better service and infrastructure improvements in North Oakland and South Berkeley. The City of Oakland sued Caltrans because of the lack of maintenance in its right-of-way within the Oakland City limits. Caltrans and Oakland signed a Letter of Understanding in 2005 after the lawsuit in which Caltrans agreed to some minimum maintenance standards. Since then Caltrans and the Oakland Department of Public Works have met monthly to discuss maintenance issues. With this process in place you can let Caltrans and the City of Oakland know your concerns regarding the Caltrans right-of-way and maintenance.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the maintenance of Caltrans right-of-way in the City of Oakland please contact Jocelyn Combs, City of Oakland, Public Works Agency at 510-615-5583 or You can also contact the Caltrans, District 4, Deputy District Director for Maintenance, Nader Eshghipour, at 510-286-5893 or Mike Marcum, Caltrans, East Bay Regional Manager for Maintenance, at 510-614-5942