OAKLAND -- Some Oakland hills residents who use the Moraga Avenue exits off Highway 13 to get to their homes say the offramps -- especially in the southbound direction -- are an eyesore.
"The southbound Moraga Avenue exit is filled with debris and overgrowth," said local resident Warren "Chip" Brown, the Hills Newspapers group's former owner. "The vegetation hasn't been cut back in years. Grass is growing through the cement, and other materials are overtaking the off-ramp. It looks awful."
He said his neighbors are angry and frustrated about the situation and have contacted the city to see if the offramps can be cleaned up.
"I know the city has bigger fish to fry, but it wouldn't take much effort to clean it up -- a day's labor every three or four months is all it would take," Brown said. "It makes the neighbors feel lousy -- they've invested a lot of money in these houses."
He said the city acknowledged their concerns via email but that nothing has been done. Kristine Shaff, public information officer for the city's Public Works Department, said residents with concerns about such problems as garbage, trees, lights or graffiti should contact the department's call center by phone, email or a free "app" called SeeClickFix (http://en.seeclickfix.com/Oakland).
The call center acts as a clearinghouse for citizens' concerns. Complaints to the call center are either handled by the city if the problem is on city property or forwarded to the responsible agency.
"All service requests go through the call center system and are assigned a work order number," Shaff said. "We get about 50,000 service requests per year and respond to 85 percent of them within two days. We also work with 20 or 30 different agencies including Caltrans. When the issue is not the city's responsibility, it is referred to the appropriate agency."
RocQuel Johnson, District 4 branch chief for Caltrans, said she was not familiar with the city of Oakland's clearinghouse system and urged residents with concerns about highways to contact Caltrans. She said Caltrans is responsible for maintaining the property along state highways and offramps -- including the off-ramp at Moraga Avenue.
"I recommend that people with concerns about trash or other issues go online and fill out a maintenance request form, which will go directly to our maintenance crews," Johnson said. "Crews will usually respond within a couple of days."
She said that Caltrans has a cleanup schedule for state highways, but that crews don't "patrol" areas.
"If people have something they'd like to have done, they should go to www.dot.ca.gov/dist4 and find 'Contact Maintenance' under 'How Do I?' on the right-hand side of the page," Johnson said. "Once they submit a maintenance request, they will receive a return receipt with a reference number, which they can track."
Johnson said anyone who is having difficulty accessing the site or the form can call her at 510-286-4948.
Pam Litke, who lives in Upper Rockridge, said she sees trash all the time at the northbound Moraga Avenue off-ramp -- and all along Highway 13.
"I always see piles of trash when I'm stopped at the traffic light at the intersection -- coffee cups, McDonald's wrappers -- I even saw about 10 paint cans one day that somebody had just dumped," Litke said. "People don't look at the big picture of preserving their city. There's a lot of talk about Oakland pride, so why aren't they keeping the city clean?"
Litke said if the city had a conveniently located place to dump trash, it might help alleviate the citywide problem. She'd even support a litter tax if it would help curb the problem.
"People throwing trash out the window just kills me," Litke said. "My mom always taught me, 'Don't litter,' so it's a pet peeve of mine."
Residents can report concerns about garbage, trees, lights or graffiti by contacting:
Oakland Public Works Call Center: 510-615-5566, email firstname.lastname@example.org or going to www.oaklandpw.com;
Caltrans District 4 maintenance request form: www.dot.ca.gov/dist4 or contacting RocQuel Johnson at 510-286-4948