Pay More For Your Sewage Services

Someone has to pay for city sewage services, and  Oakland homeowners are about to get hit with increases.  To comply with EPA standards, Oakland Public Works has proposed 16 percent annual hikes – for the next four years!

Although the dollars are far from huge, the proposal is making its way through approval processes.  As a single-family homeowner, you currently pay $267 and would fork over $483 by 2014.  Increases would get pegged to CPI thereafter.

To put this in context, take a look at this summary of the operations and maintenance budget.

Our aging infrastructure isn’t a city secret.  Like most Oaklanders, we can share rainy-day stories about neighborhood sewer overflows and pipe bursts. Even if you are sick of paying more for city services, check out this section of the California Constitution:  “revenues derived from the sewer service charge shall not be used for any purpose other than that for which the charge was imposed.”

Recently, the City Council approved this latest round of sewage fees through 2014.  If we understand what happens next, then there will be a “majority protest hearing” and you’ll be notified by mail.  In addition, the public is invited to a special City Hall hearing – pencil in July 6th at 7pm.  To learn more, please read this Sewage Charge report.

The Pothole Chronicles

In this episode of The Pothole Chronicles, you will learn whether the lowly potholes get ignored, pointed out, wait-listed, or emergency treatment.

Poor road conditions are a fact of life in Oaktown.  We know there aren’t sufficient Public Works resources to maintain the city thoroughfares, and certain stretches of the city get roundly ignored.

In Montclair, the roads regularly suffer due to rain, mud, stream culverts and shifting sands known as the Hayward Fault.  The arrival of potholes is a seasonal thing, and generally the biggest and baddest bullies get filled at some point.

With very-real budget cuts, neighbors are erupting over this year’s potholes lately.  There’s no true consensus on the Montclair SIC chat board, but the discussion’s lively and worth quoting:

Do It Yourself: Here is what I did! I found some dirt on the hill plus a few decent sized rocks and filled up the pot hole. The weight of the cars going over the hole have compacted the rocks and dirt and wahlaw, no more car damage!  In the one near my home, I filled it with some left over granite pieces from an art project.

Wait For Sunny Skies: The Call Center has been advising the public that the Agency is currently funded for pot hole repair only and that this service  will begin as soon as the weather conditions change (spring, summer & fall – pot hole blitz in addition to routine maintenance) .

Get ‘Em Marked: If we are going to appropriately wait until the weather conditions are good for asphalting, then the crews should be sent out right now to mark the big pot holes with orange paint.

Ask Council Rep For Help: Jean – If there’s anything you can do to get Telegraph Ave repaved between 45th and 55th St and the 2000 block of Mountain Blvd. in Montclair repaved (near Pet Food Express/Union 76), it would be appreciated. There are a lot of streets in Oakland that are extremely bumpy and these are just a few.  Thank you.

Give A Shout Out: Just a note to say thanks for all the noise about potholes.  I was coming up Mtn. to Ascot at 1:30 pm and the crew was out filling some of the HOLES.  So, thanks to all of you and to the crews!

Act Cynical, Always: We should all light our candles and do our part.  And stop cursing the dark.  I guess we get what we get and shouldn’t speak up or become frustrated.  I’m going to light my candle tonight and in the morning go out and spray paint all the pot holes pink, then [Do It Yourself] can go fill them in with granite.

Near my home, there’s a big hole with a lovely orange spray-painted marking.  Everyone slows down and passes by gingerly.  We all think that Public Works will make it there sometime, and ultimately fill the worst gashes.  Hang tight.

The Rains And Floods Report

Today’s official rains and floods report is…no disasters yet.

However we traveled due east today, and discovered the Caldecott Tunnel traffic was backed up.  One of the three bores closed by midday, due to flooding problems.  Caltrans workers are still fixing things, and expect to re-open the third bore by tomorrow’s commute.

Back in Oakland, the Public Works department experienced a tsunami of calls today.  They decided to issue a release, which says we need to chill out a little bit.

A heavier than usual call volume has been received by the Public Works Call Center, and while no major issues have been encountered so far, some neighborhoods have experienced flooding and  tree damage which crews are responding to.  There have been no reports of mudslides or trees blocking streets, however Public Works is keeping a close eye on the continuing storm movements and the accompanying winds.

Remember the biggest storm round is forecast for tomorrow, so keep your fingers crossed.  If you do experience storm-related damage, then make sure to call Oakland’s Public Works Call Center at (510) 615-5566.

Fingers Crossed On Winter Storms

Keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best this long weekend.  The good news is that winter-like storms have finally arrived and we desperately need the rains.  The bad news is that Oakland’s city services are effectively closed through next Monday – and we may need help responding to Mother Nature’s wrath.

After The Rain

Montclarions know that torrential rains can translate into downed trees, mudslides, floods and general mayhem.  We’re already hearing about backed-up storm drains around town, and the weather’s supposed to get more severe tomorrow.

Each year, there seems to be a calamity or two around here.  Most recent messes include the Skyline slide, which blocked the ridge line and took months to fix; and the Shepherd Canyon sinkholes, which caused severe flooding from culverts that needed replacement.

Yesterday there were no grand-scale problems, but many neighbors reported storm drain blockages around the Village.  We think the biggest problem was street flooding near Taurus/Valley View, in the Merriewood area.

It’s a busy time for Oakland Public Works, although the department is now closed.  Locals are advised to call 510-615-5566 to report problems, and calls will be picked up by the Fire Department dispatch.  If the problem is considered an emergency, Public Works will send a crew to the scene.

Montclarion Barry Klezmer sought help for a storm drain yesterday.  “Our area does not have gutters or sidewalks,” he explained.  “The storm drain that is backed-up to the street level was to due the recent excessive rain that triggered a flow of mud and tree/leaf debris.”  City workers are scheduled to arrive next Tuesday.

Over the long weekend, Public Works simply can’t handle non-emergency storm drainage or tree matters.  It seems like you are on your own, so please check nearby drains and try to clear out debris.  You can also pick up free sandbags as well, at your nearby Fire Station.

With the additional stormy weather ahead, we’re wondering whether these minor problems will turn into emergencies.  We’re also wondering if there are enough emergency crews available now.  Just keep those fingers crossed this time.

Local Public Works Almost Done

We’re racing to the finish, to complete several road and park construction projects before the official rainy season.  Oakland Public Works has been doing surprisingly well, finishing work at Shepherd Canyon Park, Montclair Park and Skyline Boulevard.

At Shepherd Canyon Park, the parking lot has been completed already.  This lot should improve safety for everyone driving by the park.  It’s built with water-permeable materials, since the canyon has flooding issues.  There will be a dedication sometime soon.

On the other hand, the Shepherd Canyon Road sink holes may re-appear this season.  Nearly $1 million had been approved to replace the ancient storm drainage pipes that cause the problem.  However the fixes have not been funded or scheduled yet, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed about future floods.

Down the hill, the improvements to Montclair Park paths will be done this month.  The remaining tasks include pouring concrete as well as installing fencing, drainage and handrails.  Montclair SIC plans several beautification efforts ahead, including daffodil plantings on November 15th.

Since late September, Skyline Boulevard has been shuttered to make permanent repairs caused by last winter’s storms.  We’ve been blocked from Berkeley, the parks and tunnel detour since then, waiting for Oakland Public Works to re-open the road by early December.

It turns out Public Works has made rapid progress on Skyline.  This weekend, local realtor Laurel Strand declared “whoopee!” in the Montclair Yahoo group, sharing that “Skyline Blvd at Snake to Grizzly Peak Road repair is finished!  We can now travel over the tunnel to Orinda.”

Even with the city’s budget crunch, we seem to be plowing through the projects scheduled before the winter storms.  That’s important because Oakland Public Works will undoubtedly be responding to the storms, floods and other winter travails soon.

Ready For Winter Storms?

Well, the rains really kicked us hard yesterday.  When you drove around town, you could see the flooding beyond the culverts.  The rivers were particularly strong as you headed down the steeper streets.

Last night, some 4,100 households experienced a power outage too.  This happened around 11:00pm, which disrupted key TV viewing – no worries, since you can view the Saturday Night Live clips on Hulu.

With this wake-up call, it’s time to get ready for the winter storms and protect your castles.  Oakland Public Works is providing materiel for local residents, before the floods arrive.

Come with proof of residency and your household is entitled to pick up 20 sandbags and plastic sheeting free from Public Works, on Shepherd Canyon Rd (map).  You may also stop by local fire stations for five sandbags, when there’s bad weather ahead.  All these locations are open weekdays from 8:00am – 9:00pm, and weekends from 8:00am – 4:30pm.

According to Public Works, residents can help prevent floods by keeping drainages clear.  They recommend that you:  check and clean private drainage systems; do not place leaves, debris or lawn clippings near storm drains; and place leaves and green trimming in your green cart for weekly recycling pickup.

Oaklanders have been making strides to keep the creeks and drainages cleared out.  On the Creek to Bay Day, in September, some 1364 volunteers showed up city-wide to collect garbage and green waste.  There’s another program to Maintain-A-Drain, where volunteers lay claim to their very own drains and help prevent flooding as well.

Still, we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.  If you do see any flooding or storm drain problems, please reach Public Works at (510)-615-5566.  Public Works staff picks up the phone weekdays from 8:00am – 4:30pm, while the line is forwarded to Fire Dispatch after hours.

Big Miss Tree Contest

Enter your favorite big tree in this beauty contest!  Oakland has begun a Big Tree Registry to honor the largest and oldest specimens in the City.  This is a celebration of more than our venerated Oak – any native or imported species can qualify for this registry.

Only one tree per species will be glorified and awarded protected status.  Currently there are seven trees which have made the grade.  They reside at Joaquin Miller Park, Dunsmuir, Oakland Zoo and outside a few private residences.

To add to the list or beat the ones there, take a look around for some contestants.  Now the fun begins because you will need to measure them, and here’s a little help.  You ultimately calculate “total points” by adding:  trunk circumference in inches + height in feet + 1/4 of the crown spread in feet.

All done?  Then take a picture of your favorite contestant and complete this application.  If you have any questions, contact Dan Gallagher ( in the Public Works department.