- Creating safer walking environments by providing distinct edges to sidewalks
- Shading pedestrians and protecting them from the rain, sun and heat
- Giving interest and scale to pedestrian environments thereby encouraging walking
- Reducing the heat of asphalt and its contributions to global warming
- Lowering urban air temperatures and reducing energy costs to cool homes and businesses
- Capturing and filtering rainwater and urban runoff
- Calming traffic by framing streets
- Providing more attractive shopping environments
- Absorbing pollutants and emitting oxygen
- Reducing the appearance of blight by softening hard urban edges
As the morning wore on, I looked online for the City of Oakland Tree Services Program and attempted to contact Robert Zahn, the Tree Supervisor II. When that failed because he was out of the office, I tried to contact Herbert Flores, Tree Supervisor I. Mr. Flores did not answer his phone, so I left him a message indicating it was urgent that he contact me. I made repeated calls to Mr. Flores to no avail. I also left a message with Gay Luster, Administrative Assistant I, that the matter was urgent as the trees were scheduled to be cut that day and I needed to speak to Mr. Flores.
When Mr. Flores came to the job site I asked him several questions including: (1) who owns the trees; (2) what is the appropriate public noticing; (3) does the city follow the requirements of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; (4) why is the city using outdated "No Parking" signs; and (5) who conducted the tree hazards analysis to justify the removal of the trees? Mr. Flores would not answer the questions and refused to discuss the details of the tree removals. He informed me that I would need to submit a Public Records Act request to the City Attorney if I wanted any information.
Without any prompting, Mr. Flores walked up my driveway and began to view the tree at 776 65th Street, which is visible from the street and sidewalk. I informed him that he was trespassing on my property and requested that he and his work crew not use my property to evaluate, trim or remove the tree. I told him that it was illegal and inappropriate, unless he had the permission of the property owner, for him or his work crew to access private property. Mr. Flores shrugged his shoulders and said "We don't know where the property lines are."
The tree at 794 65th Street was partially cut and remains unbalanced. The adjacent homeowner reports that he has contacted the City Public Works multiple times to find out about the status of the tree removal and informed me the city refuses to discuss the tree removals and refuses to return his calls. While Ms. Levin and Ms. Lin did eventually meet with me to further discuss the tree removals, they have yet to answer the most basic questions: "Who owns the trees?"
This residents' frustrating experience with the Public Works Tree Services Program highlights the mismanagement of city staff and programs, and the lack of transparency and responsiveness by city management to address resident's concerns. In this case, there were many procedural and substantive failures by the Public Works Division. The question is whether two highly paid managers, Brooke Levin, Assistant Public Works Director, and Margaret Lin, Deputy City Administrator, are willing to face up to the failures and address them in ways that actually restore faith in our local government. Their current track record, which largely involves ignoring the problems, is not very impressive.
We Fight Blight will continue to deconstruct this incident and the breakdowns in an attempt to highlight just one example of how mismanaged our local government really is.