Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Oakland Tree Services Program and No Parking Signs--Can They Get It Right?

As we have reported before, the Oakland Tree Services Program, which is headed by Brooke Levin, Assistant Public Works Director is poorly  managed and in a bit of disarray. We are highlighting an experience one of our readers had with Public Works over the attempted removal of trees on 65th Street in North Oakland.

When the Tree Services Program comes out to the neighborhoods to either trim, cut down, or evaluate a tree it places "No Parking" signs at the location where it will be working to ensure they have adequate and safe access. Fair enough. However, the manner in which the Tree Services Program has been using the signs and the signs themselves are highly problematic.  The signs say "Tow Away No Parking This Block", provides a space to hand write information and then at the bottom says "Sec. 57 O.T.C. For Towed Car Call 238-3021".

The problem with this sign is that it is outdated. If you attempt to find Section 57 of the Oakland Traffic Code, you will find that it no longer exists, having been replaced and then repealed. According to documents obtained from the City by a Public Records Act request, the Prior Traffic Code Table shows that Section 57 was amended by Ordinance 8610 C.M.S on 7-11-72 and then was Repealed by 12607. Review of the Prior Traffic Code and other Oakland Ordinances posted online lead to a dead-end. Frustratingly, there is little ability to determine what is the applicable City ordinance that regulates this issue.

If the Public Works Department is using outdated "No Parking" signs that reference an Oakland Traffic Code that no longer exists, it places the City in a position of liability. If the Public Works Department, through the Oakland Police Department, attempts to enforce the "No Parking" signage and tows a vehicle that it believes is illegally parked, but does so using outdated signs, the City would be liable and would be forced to compensate those whose cars have been improperly towed. Why on earth would the Public Works Department continue to use outdated paper "No Parking" signs? Are they trying to save money? Or do they just not know that the Ordinance was changed years ago?

The other issue with the signage is that the Public Works Department fails to provide any contact information such as a phone number and a specific person for those who want more information on the tree removals or tree trimming.

Why would the Public Works Department fail to provide any contact information except for the Police Records Department to retrieve a towed vehicle? It appears the Tree Services Program does not want to interact with the public and address public inquiries about the removal or trimming of trees. In this case, the signage was posted on 65th Street in North Oakland late in the day on May 17, 2010 with tree removals slated early the next morning on May 18, 2010. There was no contact information, or any information for that matter, to inform concerned neighbors that tree removals were to occur under the direction of the Tree Services Program. It appears that the Tree Services Program wants to come in under the radar, remove trees on a stealth basis, and get out without any effort to inform affected residents. No public noticing occurred as required under the tree ordinance. This was compounded by the posting of "No Parking" signs. This does not appear to be a very transparent City department under the direction of Brooke Levin. If the trees are removed without informing the public there is little to no remedy to get a felled tree back. Is this how Ms. Levin is directing her staff ?

After Brooke Levin, Deputy Public Works Director, and Margaret Lin, Deputy City Administrator, were informed of the problems with the "No Parking" signage by our reader, We Fight Blight noticed the old signage still being used in Rockridge. You gotta be kidding us? Are Oakland Executive Staff so hard-headed they cannot take constructive criticism from our reader and respond to the identified problem? Can they not get it right? Isn't that how government is supposed to work?

The question we have is that now that Brooke Levin and Margaret Lin have been personally informed of the problems with the signage by our reader and publicly informed through this Blog, are you two going to actually right the ship? Accountability and responsibility of public servants, especially Executive Management, is a key part of restoring the public's faith in local government. This is particularly important given the high salaries each of you draw from public tax dollars.

Ms. Levin and Ms. Lin any response here?


ldmksldy said...

I'm sorry but this is unbelievably petty. No one is perfect, starting with you. You have misspelled her name several times for instance.

Fight Blight said...

Thanks ldmksldy. We will correct our errors in spelling. For some reason we are having problems as to where to put the E. End of Brook or Levin?

Regarding the pettiness of it all, you are right that no one is perfect including us. It just so happens that the Tree Services Program has a significant number of problems indicative of poor management and poor oversight. As taxpayers, we believe the public deserves more accountability and more value for our tax dollars considering how highly compensated managers and employees are at the City of Oakland. If the Public Works Department cannot get something as simple as signs right, can we expect them to perform on larger more significant issues? How low do you want to set the performance expectations for employees?

Anonymous said...

So nice to see lmdksldy or whatever they call themselves, is okay with random trees being chopped down and random signs being used to support those activities. Seriously? You think this us "petty"? What exactly would it take for the incompetence of Public Works to get your attention and earn your disapproval? These fools soak the taxpayer for thousands upon thousands per year and they can't be troubled to even get the no-parking signs right? What about the abysmal timing (bird nesting time!) of the tree cutting? How about their failure to replace what they destroy? How about the negative impact on our city, our city's carbon footprint? Cal Fish & game says this city is horrible to work with and acts as if they are above the rules. I for one, would be VERY interested in reading Levin's justification, or any sort of a response actually. But I know that is wishful thinking. Responding to te citizenry is ultra low priority. I hope We Fight Blight continues to hold their feet to the fire until this is hashed out.