Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bringing in Spring

During the long, wet winter season our fight against blight slows down. Many of the repairs and improvements that are required to remedy blight are often difficult for property owners to undertake during the winter season. Consequently, we also go into hibernation. However, this winter much of our time has been taken up with a determined fight against the Nic Nak Liquor Store.

Our strategy for addressing blight in North Oakland and South Berkely has been to focus on a limited geographic area that is bounded roughly by Ashby Avenue, Shattuck Avenue, 51st Street and Sacramento/Market Street. However, at times we have pushed all the way west to Emeryville and south to the McArthur Freeway. Our core area encompasses both South Berkeley and North Oakland. Admittedly, we have focused much of our energy on North Oakland as the City of Berkely has been incredibly difficult to work with and unwilling to provide basic services to remedy blighted properties in South Berkeley. The challenge in Berkeley will be to push for a ballot measure to change the definitions of blight and the remedies for addressing blighted properties.

Our first step has been to focus on the removal of abandoned vehicles. We got over 100 vehicles removed from North Oakland. We then moved on to blighted properties. We have been in the process for the last year or so of identifying all blighted properties and reporting them to the City of Oakland. All the properties have been identified and reported to the City and are in various stages of remediation or further prodding of the City Code Enforcement to take further action. Currently we have 47 active properties with blight that are under investigation by the City of Oakland. Many properties have already been cleaned up. A total of 72 blighted properties have been reported and remediated. Some of the 47 outstanding properties have been intractable and need further work not just by We Fight Blight but by the North Oakland Community and the Crime Prevention Council.

Once We Fight Blight adequately addresses and resolves the remaining blighted properties, our next step is to focus on public infrastructure by cataloging all failed and deteriorated streets, sidewalks, benches, parks, bus stops, streetlights and any other public infrastructure and requesting the City repair and remediate the blight pursuant to their own Blight Ordinance. Understandably this may be challenging under the current budget crisis as this requires an investment in public infrastructure by the City itself and it will likely not have any money. Our final step will be a push for major street tree planting and median planting through a public private partnership, property owner investment and donations.

Despite the recent economic downturn, we have witnessed many positive changes in North Oakland and South Berkeley. Houses are being refurbished and remodeled, new restaurants and cafes are opening, the Ed Roberts Campus is almost done, homes are selling at a brisk pace, more families are moving into the community, and crime seems to be down. We like to think our efforts have helped in some small way to bring about some of these changes though we recognize many of these changes are subject to larger macro-economic forces and the cumulative decisions of many individuals. In the short-term we will continue the fight against liquor sales at the Nic Nak. Spring brings renewed hope in our community and marks an opportunity for positive changes in North Oakland and South Berkeley. We hope you join our efforts in making North Oakland and South Berkeley a better, safer place to live.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is Spring!

I want to thank the We Fight Blight group for all their efforts. IMHO you've all been a big part of keeping the community focused on improving a truly wonderful part of the East Bay.