Dear Mayor Schaaf and Oakland City Council Members,
Oakland’s voters this November could have an historic opportunity to repave the City’s crumbling streets, to protect and expand affordable housing, and to upgrade community-serving facilities. But the people of Oakland will only get the chance to fix our city if the City Council agrees to put a $600 million infrastructure bond on the ballot.
The Infrastructure Bond, created together with City staff and community leaders, would dedicate $350 million to repairing our streets and sidewalks throughout Oakland, add $100 million for the restoration and preservation of long-term affordable housing across the City, and provide $150 million for long-overdue repairs to parks, community centers, libraries, and fire stations. We are urging the City Council to approve the infrastructure bond at their July 19th meeting for the benefit of all Oaklanders.
Any Oaklander knows that our streets are in terrible condition, with the worst of our streets bearing closer resemblance to gravel than pavement. Oakland ranks 89th out of 106 Bay Area cities for pavement quality, has a whopping $443 million paving backlog, and the 85-year paving cycle means that you’d be lucky to have the street you live on paved once in your lifetime. Residents spend hundreds of dollars on car repairs because of the poor state of our roads and the City pays out more than $2 million in settlements every year to people who have been injured in falls caused by our cracked and broken sidewalks, streets, and crosswalks.
Our paving backlog is so big, and the costs of repairing our worst streets are so prohibitively expensive, that the City’s paving program is unable to even tread water. The City currently uses 80 percent of its limited paving funds to extend the life of major streets that are already in fair-to-good condition, meaning that local residential streets and the streets in the worst condition fight over the remaining 20 percent of funding. Given that rebuilding a failed street is 10-20 times more expensive than maintaining a street in good condition, very few of Oakland’s worst streets get rebuilt each year.
The proposed infrastructure bond represents a transformative opportunity to wipe out the backlog over the next ten years, repave Oakland’s worst streets, and finally put the City in a position to keep all of our streets in good repair for decades to come.
The infrastructure bond will be transformative other ways, too. The bond will, for the first time, require investments be evaluated on the basis of social equity – prioritizing streets in Oakland’s most disadvantaged and historically disinvested neighborhoods.
A dramatic increase in paving also creates an opportunity to address crucial safety and mobility issues across the city, improving streets so that residents are safe and comfortable whether they are driving, walking, bicycling, or taking transit.
The bond will also provide desperately needed funding to expand the amount of protected affordable housing in Oakland. The $100 million allocated to affordable housing, per the recommendations of the Oakland Housing Cabinet Report, will be used to acquire, restore, and preserve affordable housing stock throughout the city. This will ensure that housing which is affordable today stays affordable permanently, as well as fix-up vacant apartment to bring them back into the pool of available long-term affordable housing.
Finally, $150 million for seismic, energy efficiency, and basic repair to local libraries, community centers, parks and fire stations keeps our community facilities operable, open, and safe for all Oaklanders.
While there are likely to be a lot of proposed bond measures on the ballot this fall, only one of them will be exclusively for the benefit of Oaklanders – with a strong and independent oversight committee to provide transparency, ensuring funds are spent quickly and responsibly.
The undersigned individuals and organizations join us in calling on every Oakland City Councilmember to put the Infrastructure Bond on the November ballot, giving Oaklanders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in our streets, our housing, our city, and our future.
Dave Campbell, Policy Director, Bike East Bay
Chris Hwang, President, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland
Ryan Chan, Chair of Oakland Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission (private citizen)
Victoria Fierce, Co-Founder, East Bay Forward