WEST OAKLAND BUSINESS ALERT
Minutes from Meeting Held August 17, 2011 at SF Enterprises
Business Community Attendees
George Burtt (WOCA), Michelle Cassens (Audit Oakland CEDA), Roberto Costa (CEDA), Debbie
Hauser (BusinessAlert staff), Michael Herling (Consolidated Cleaning Service, WO BusinessAlert
Chair), Marcus Johnson (Amstutz Associates), Ray Kidd (WON), Mark Mahoney (Union Pacific),
Tim Morse (Bay Alarm), Ellen Parkinson (Parkinson Enterprises), Andy Perez (Union Pacific), Bob
Tuck (Atlas Heating), Andrew Vincent (Electrical Contractor)
Approval of Minutes
July 2011 meeting minutes were approved.
Area 1 Safety & Security
Crime statistics for the West Oakland Redevelopment Area, for each 56-day period beginning
December 21, 2010 and ending August 17, 2011, were distributed. For the period June 23,
2011 to August 17, 2011, stats are as follows: 45 aggravated assaults; 4 alcohol-related
incident; 4 arsons; 38 burglaries; 16 occurrences of disturbing the peace; one murder; 74
narcotics-related incidents; 12 occurrences of prostitution; 31 robberies; 68 simple assaults; 71
thefts; 36 incidents of vandalism; 42 vehicle thefts. Total incidents of crime were 442 over the
past 56 days, an increase of 53 over previous period.
Status of the Illegal Dumping Deterrent System Deployment
Tim Morse of Bay Alarm described “Bay Guard,” the wireless intrusion system being used in West
Oakland to protect the private property of business owners. The system has motion detectors
and cameras that are monitored 24/7 out of Bay Alarm’s central station. It is being typically
deployed within fenced areas where an individual would be trespassing should he or she be
caught on camera. OPD, Bay Alarm agents, or other responders are dispatched once detection
trips an alarm and it is determined a crime is occurring. Using grant funding routed through
Oakland Public Works, Bay Alarm’s system has been deployed in four West Oakland locations.
The system can be set on silent mode, which is a passive means of catching trespassers, or in
deter mode, which sounds sirens and flashes lights to scare off intruders or dumpers. Tim
worked with Cookie Robles-Wong to choose four appropriate locations for system installation, and
monitoring will begin September 1. Locations will be tested for effectiveness, i.e. the possibility
exists that excess traffic could trip false alarms and/or wind blowing debris into detection zones.
The four locations were chosen carefully for their strategic value. Ultimately, 22 sites will be
chosen throughout West Oakland. Cameras will be armed at sundown and deactivated at sunup.
Catching illegal dumping activities will be the initial goal of the program.
Several sites were noted as having potential for system installation, including 35th and Chestnut
and Hannah, each dumping hot spots. Tim expressed his desire to meet separately with
Committee members to discuss appropriate sites for camera installation and the merits of each.
Publicizing the camera system, before or after installation, would be a good idea to both deter
dumping and put dumpers on notice that the activity will not be tolerated in West Oakland.
Union Pacific staff noted use of a portable alarm system employed on some of its properties.
Motion triggers a photo and an audible response: “You have been detected and authorities have
been called.” The system was expensive but not always effective since it does not feature
continuous monitoring. Tim noted West Oakland’s new pilot system is both compact and simple.
Andy Perez expressed a willingness to consider exploring the installation of additional cameras on
UP property, as a potential partnership between UP and West Oakland BusinessAlert. A beta test
might be conducted at some point in the future. Andy stated UP can assist the West Oakland
program by running the license plates of vehicles used for dumping and caught on camera.
George Burtt reported on plans to meet with new city attorney Barbara Parker soon, to establish a
working relationship with her office, now that John Russo has left Oakland and Reve Bautista is
no longer with the DA’s office.
Status of Railroads (BNSF and UP) Code Compliance Issues
George Burtt discussed the need to work with each rail company to patch potholes and problems
presented by crumbled roadway around tracks that has become a danger to vehicles traveling
the area. UP representative Andy Perez stated a willingness to repair crossings on UP-owned
property, however even the rail companies each have difficulty determining their property lines
since the 1989 earthquake, as some rail was rebuilt after this incident and ownership records
are old and complex. UP staff cited an example where jurisdiction of ownership is unclear, the
question open as to whether responsibility for repairs lies with the business owner or with UP.
The rail company maintains it is committed to repairing pavement at crossings if it is determined
to be owned by UP. Andy Perez asked for the Committee’s top five priority sites where rail
crossings present a safety problem for vehicular travel. A DOT number should be included. If a
property is jointly-owned by both rail companies, UP will work with BNSF to resolve the issue. If a
pavement problem occurs mid-block, however, UP cannot make the repair and would need to
instead block access to the rail by using barriers.
There was disagreement amongst attendees as to whether West Oakland possesses rail that is
still utilized, whether particular portions of track are considered spurs or rail lines.
UP was commended on its willingness to work with West Oakland on pavement repairs to make
the area safer for navigation. Andy stated the company’s commitment to maintaining its track in
Oakland and cited UP’s recently-completed $13 million crossing upgrade project in Jack London
Square. UP expends approximately 50 times more in Oakland than any other city on clean-up’s
The Committee looks forward to an update from UP staff at its next meeting. In the meantime, a
list that includes five priority sights will be assembled for follow-up by UP.
Tough on Blight Program Implementation for West Oakland
George Burtt distributed a City of Oakland memorandum dated August 10, 2011, addressed to
members of WOPAC in regards to funding a West Oakland Tough on Blight (TOB) program, a
response to questions posed by WOPAC of the City in explanation of planned program parameters
and a requested scope of work. WOPAC was asked to allocate $75,000 to fund the TOB
program, a request that has since been denied. The proposed implementation of TOB has
engendered a strong response from business owners due to recent negative media coverage of
the City’s Building Inspection Services division as well as its unwillingness to disseminate
advance courtesy notices that would allow owners the opportunity to clean up their properties to
prevent possible fines.
Michelle Cassens discussed the recent findings of and report issued by an Alameda County
Grand Jury in regards to the City of Oakland’s Building Inspection Services division and her work
on behalf of Audit Oakland CEDA. Michelle is a property inspector and West Oakland property
owner. She provided background on her reasons for launching Audit Oakland CEDA. Michelle
conveyed the grand jury report was an outcome of her efforts to call attention Building Inspection
Services after she was approached for a bribe by a division inspector in 2009, after which she
began an investigation. Michelle stated her intention to dismantle Building Inspection Services
as it exists today. Her contention is that the division is corrupt, collusive and conducting illegal
activities in that it issued $24 million in fines from 2,000 Oakland property owners without cause.
Some property owners are targeted for fines while others are passed over in an unfair system
that has led well-intentioned homeowners into bankruptcy. Proper notification is not given to
property owners in advance to repair perceived deficiencies. Fines are issued without due cause
and escalated at will without a realistic appeals process. Audit Oakland CEDA is in the process of
creating a searchable and comprehensive database of inspection cases from the past 30 years.
The database will be publically accessible on the website auditoaklandceda.com. Michelle stated
her opinion that blight is a problem city government cannot solve, that resolution will come when
neighbors work together as a cohesive group to clean up Oakland.
It was noted that many property owners live outside of Oakland and do not maintain their
properties, as they should be maintained, here.
It was recommended that West Oakland BusinessAlert notify owners on its own, without City of
Oakland permission, that building inspections may be coming, in order to be prepared in advance
for possible fines.