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Oakland Fresh: Program aims to tackle blight in city's most troubled areas

Oakland city crews have been working for months targeting graffiti, illegal dumping, trash, potholes, and clearing overgrown brush.

The coordinated clean-up effort between multiple departments is part of the “Oakland Fresh” pilot program aimed at sending a message in the city’s most troubled areas.

“As long as we are coming back, we can take back our spots, the area completely,” said Gerald Bradley, the city’s supervisor of public works. “They get discouraged.”

The initiative is focused on cleaning up the San Pablo corridor, central East Oakland, and deep East Oakland.

“What we are hoping is that by aligning all the services in a sustained way over time, you see a gradual reduction in the issues arising in the first place,” said Oakland city spokesperson Sean Maher.

Bradley, who has a crew working on 32nd and Market streets, said graffiti has been the hardest to tackle with taggers coming back nearly everyday. However, Bradley said after months he has started to see a change.

“We probably need to do more of this with everybody, all efforts working together,” Bradley said.

The city said the pogram targetd the most underserved communities and areas with the most reported complaints. Neighbors said blight is a problem that is out of control.

“There are two things that I really detest in this city. One is the graffiti, it tears down the structure of the city,” resident Lance Nelson said. “The second thing is the illegal trash dumping. If we can get those two things taken care of right there that would mean a lot to the city.”

The future of the program depends on its effectiveness and if the city can expand it while addressing other needs. While represtatives said it is a priority, they note the city is facing a $175 million budget deficit.

“As we are concentrating services in these three neighborhoods, we also want to maintain responsiveness and proactive service delivery throughout Oakland where everyone is feeling the impacts of these issues,” Maher said.

While crews push to clean one area up, new issues are arising in another.

At Lake Merrit, around 50 curb boxes have been broken and 10 light poles vandalized in the last month by thieves targeting copper wires.

City crews were out on Wednesday trying to mitigate the damage and expect immediate repairs will take at least another week, while long-term solutions could take months.

The city is also asking residents to step up and be part of the solution and urge people to “adopt a spot” online and become part of the community clean up.

“The city is doing it, the city is out here, the crews are out here everyday,” said Francis Zamora, the mayor’s chief of communications. “But this is a whole community approach. We need everyone to be involved in this effort.”

Source: NBC Bay Area

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