OAKLAND -- Nearly 200 residents of the Piedmont Pines community gathered on Monday at the Chabot Space and Science Center for the Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association's annual meeting to air their concerns with city officials.
Panelists for the event included District 4 Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, Public Works Director Vitaly Troyan, City Manager Deanna Santana and Police Chief Howard Jordan. Mayor Jean Quan also spoke.
Residents were polled in advance about their chief concerns regarding their neighborhood and Oakland. Crime was many residents' foremost concern, followed by the undergrounding of electrical utility lines and the overall fiscal health of the city.
"Crime has become intolerable throughout the Bay Area, but particularly in Oakland," Quan said. "We are finding semi-automatic weapons in the hands of teens. We need a national solution."
While California has stricter gun-control laws than many states, guns are being purchased online and brought in from other states such as Nevada.
The Piedmont Pines neighborhood experienced a 16 percent increase in crime in the past year, the majority of which were property crimes, statistics showed. While the process of adding more police officers is under way, this process will take years. The hiring of 21 civilians will be particularly beneficial to the hills, where property crimes constitute the majority of criminal activity. Civilian staff can collect and process evidence, easing the demands on sworn officers.
The department is reorganizing, dividing the city into five geographical regions, instead of two. This should help keep officers closer to their beats, Schaaf said. In the meantime, Schaaf urged residents to rely on technology, such as security cameras and the formation of neighborhoods watch groups to aid police.
Piedmont Pines is well into phase one -- along Ascot Drive -- of the long awaited undergrounding of electrical cables. The first of three phases should be completed by December 2014, according to PG&E project manager Linda Swartz. The entire project may take as many as 15 years to complete.
The repaving of Ascot after the undergrounding is completed will probably not happen, Troyan said. The failure of Measure B1, the county's transportation sales tax, has resulted in reducing funding for such projects. On the brighter side, public works filled 10,000 potholes in 2012, "but we're not going to pothole our way out of this," Troyan said. If a street has more than 30 potholes, it is supposed to be repaved.
The city's budget was discussed. The demise of the redevelopment agency affects funding. A number of services, from funding police officers to graffiti abatement have been threatened, forcing the city to cut services or look for funding sources elsewhere, Santana said.
The fallout from the closure of the redevelopment agency is not over, Santana warned. She said that $35 million of land transactions and $104 million of service contracts that were under the auspices of the agency are under review and may be reversed, reverting money back to the state.
Furthermore, "we need to stimulate economic development so that public safety concerns can to be addressed," Santana said.
The status of the Oakland A's and the Oakland Raiders was discussed. The Raiders are working with the city to explore construction of a new stadium at Coliseum City. Santana reported that a revenue feasibility study to explore this possibility is under way.
"I'm cautious around this issue," Schaaf said. "I don't want to spend any general fund money on sports stadiums. I just want to hire more police. I'm simple that way."