Picnicking in the park? BYOTrash Can.

So I was totally going to write for today about Jean Quan’s parcel tax for trees, which passed the Council’s Finance & Management Committee on Tuesday, but while I was putting together my draft last night, I was reading one of the attachments (PDF) to the staff report (PDF) on the proposal that describes our current park and landscaping maintenance levels, and I found myself extremely disturbed. I had skimmed the list previously, but it wasn’t until yesterday that the totally abysmal state of our expected service levels totally clicked for me. So I’ll go into the tax itself tomorrow, but today I just want to highlight some of the information in this document, because it’s just so wretched.

I haven’t copied the entire list below, just the things I thought were the worst. You can read the whole thing starting on page 7 in this document (PDF). “Before” indicates the levels of service pre-October of last year when a significant number of staff were cut due to the mid-year budget deficit. “After” indicates current maintenance levels.

  • Before: All parks, open spaces, medians and streetscapes are maintained on a routine schedule.

  • After: A number of locations (30-40 acres) will no longer receive routine services. Instead, maintenance will be provided on an as-needed basis. Signage will be placed informing the public that the location will no longer receive routine services and asking for community commitment to adopt the given location.

  • Before: Most parks receive twice a week liter removal service.

  • After: Litter removal at some locations will be reduced to once a week or once every 2 weeks. Reduced litter service could generate public complaints about unclean park conditions.

  • Before: All parks have litter receptacles.

  • After: Some parks will not have litter receptacles. Some may have curbside litter receptacles only. All containers at City parking lots will be removed.

  • Before: New parks, medians and streetscapes are absorbed by mainttenance staff without additional funding.

  • After: All new capital projects including Measure DD, Redevelopment Agency and grant funded, etc. will require additional staffing and operation and maintenance funding. New capital projects with a landscaping component will decline quickly due to a lack of landscape maintenance.

  • Before: Mowing – once every 10-14 days on average.

  • After: Mowing – once every 12-18 days…The longer grass height could impede sports on athletic fields.

  • Before: Park volunteers supplement staff efforts.

  • After: Park volunteers are needed for basic maintenance.

  • Before: Repair of the City’s 36,000 streetlights averages 72 hours to 7 days.

  • After: Repair of the City’s streetlights will average 7 to 15 days.

  • Before: Knocked down poles are replaced within 7 days.

  • After: Knocked down poles are replaced as scheduling permits.

It is simply not acceptable to not have trash cans in the park.

13 thoughts on “Picnicking in the park? BYOTrash Can.

  1. Jennifer

    This is the city abdicating basic services. I think that repairing streetlights is a basic service — for safety for g-d’s sake! I’m sorry, I think that is more important that arts programs. I will not support an increase in the hotel tax for what it is going to if the city is not planning to repair streetlights on a regular basis. I will not use any public transit if streetlights are broken — that is unsafe and just nuts. This rest of this list, including the trash can issue, is also nuts. I have long been disgusted by the cardboard trash receptacles in this city. They deteriorate quickly, especially after a rain, and are poorly maintained. It’s a joke, just like the council.

  2. Max Allstadt

    Part of me wonders, like Len Raphael, if a collapse into total anarchy will provide what we’ve needed for a long time: a lesson in how much to save, how much to spend, and how much you can screw yourself with a decade’s worth of reckless budgeting.

  3. hella bike

    Regarding the second bullet point:
    “Signage will be placed informing the public that the location will no longer receive routine services and asking for community commitment to adopt the given location.”

    This is like puting up an invitation trash our parks even more. Litter and graffiti are already problems. It’ll just get worse. How can they expect people to take their trash with them? Union Point Park on Embarcadero has been looking pretty shabby lately. I’ll be happy to pitch in, but volunteers can’t replace paid staff for maintenance and repairs.

  4. Paulette Hogan

    Hi V and Everyone Else:

    I just fax and e-mailed the Mayor’s Office a copy of a program called “Build A Block Club” A television show where each block will work toward doing simple things like 1. Addressing the truancy level in their neighborhood 2. Developing a Neighborhood Commander in Ever Station. “Service Is Any City’s Live’s-blood; Everthing flows from it and is nourshised by it…Welcome Back to the City Of Oakland, where we Still Beleieve Customer Service Is Not A Department But An Attitude!

    We have got to put public safety, clean streets and other recycling opportunities in the hands of the public and other City Organizations.

  5. Ken O

    Hi All:

    If you ever visited Cambodia, you’d know that most people fend nearly completely for themselves. Yes, there are mafia/gangs/political structures in places at local and national levels. Otherwise, you’re on your own… with your community, neighbors and family.

    If we don’t have the money, we have to cut back somewhere. Politically easy items will be cut first. Park trash cans. How many Oaklanders actually use our parks?

    Especially non-marquee parks – the ones which aren’t in rich areas (frog park in RR) or downtown (lake merritt).

    So expect this to be a trend, because our 20th century economy is going to continue contracting — with more budget cuts to follow. You ain’t seen nothing yet!

    And yet, this isn’t all a bad thing. Can a given neighborhood take better care of itself than the City of Oakland?

  6. We Fight Blight

    So, when did the City ever really start maintaining medians and streetscapes? Routine schedules? You have got to be kidding me. I doubt the budget problems are going to result in a significant difference in the appearance of the medians and streetscapes. They aren’t maintained now and they won’t be maintained with reduced services.

  7. BrettT

    This week new trash receptacles appeared in the center park area at the end of each block of Mandela Parkway! They have a place for recyclables and trash.

    This is a very good thing and much appreciated.

    For years the area has only had 2 extremely inconvenient trash bins that I’m not sure all the dog walkers even knew existed since they were leaving their poop bags scattered on the ground.

  8. Californio

    Two unpaid volunteers have been collecting trash, scrubbing graffiti, and removing stickers and posters in my neighborhood near Piedmont Ave. for the last 15 years. One gets up before dawn to make his rounds. It makes a huge difference in the cleanliness of the area, yet almost no one knows that they do this.

    This is Oakland, and given the more pressing problems that result from its large, impoverished community, its level of non-essential public service is not going to change anytime soon.

    Seen in a larger context, the scaling back of these services derives from reduced state and federal funding, not from ill will on the part of the city council.

    Naomi Klein in “The Shock Doctrine” describes suburbs of Atlanta which have eliminated the public sector altogether in favor of privatizing the entirety of their upper-income municipalities, including police, fire, landscape maintenance, and everything else. This is the solution of the future for the haves. We in Oakland are the have nots.

    So we volunteer. Or we live with trash. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

  9. V Smoothe

    This is the problem with people in Oakland – their priorities are completely backwards. Having trash cans available in the park and having someone empty them – that’s what cities are supposed to do. It is an essential service.. What’s non-essential is all the stuff the Council wants to spend money on instead – Fairyland, grants to artists, grants to non-profits, etc.

  10. Ken O

    I walked thru Mosswood park (sp? it’s at broadway and west macarthur by kaiser north) this past Sunday and it was pretty dead. Only three adult “users.”

    A couple of dads playing with their girls on the swing set, and in the main grassy area one lone young dude. A homeless and dirty-looking guy with long hair and a backpack and a dog carrier with little dog.

    There are still trash cans in abundance. Or rather, cardboard trash boxes.

    It is commonplace in Japan for there to be no trash cans anywhere in public, so everyone brings it home to throw into their own personal trash. (of course, there is plenty of litter there too in places–you just don’t see it in touristy areas because of ubiquitous “cleaner gnomes” – old women paid to clean up. similar to SF’s touristy areas.)

  11. Chris G

    Pack it in, pack it out. Just like in the wilderness. If you had the ability to bring it there, then you have the ability to bring it away. I think this will actually save money AND clean up the parks. Many people use the cans at the park near my house to throw away their personal garbage which is not the intention. As commented above, Japan is much cleaner than the US and much of this is cultural but some of it is probably the lack of unattended trash cans.

  12. Ken O

    @Chris there are place in Japan I’ve seen where people threw away old TVs and bicycles into a creek, and household crap and trash is dumped by the Itami airport. Jp isn’t as clean as you’d think, but def. cleaner than most US cities.

    In Nigeria (see, Shadow Cities) people don’t have toilets or sewer lines and live in 10×10 mud huts, so they have “flying toilets.” Feces go in plastic bag, tied, get tossed “away” up over on some other lane.

  13. Ben D

    So, services are cut due to a lack of funds. and everybody is whining. But who is willing to pay higher taxes to cover the costs of these services? and who is willing to insist that the corporations and high-rollers in the hills pay higher taxes to support the society on which they base their wealth?

    poor park maintenance is a drag. but a lack of food, education and healthcare is a bigger problem. get your priorities straight,, folks. and if you care so much, put some money where your mouth is.

    a city is a collection of opposed interests. but we need consensus and we need real leadership. these are both areas in which our city councilers and mayor have failed. I urge you to do what i did in the last election — vote for NO incumbents. they have all failed, or worse, sucumbed to subtle extortion and payoffs..