Monday, April 10, 2017

Town Business: Strengthening Code Enforcement

By Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Apr 10, 2017 at 7:22 AM

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Strengthening Code Enforcement: Many Oakland tenants are afraid to report unsafe housing conditions because they fear their landlord or the city might evict them. And because the city's current code inspection program is complaint-driven, this means that a lot of serious violations are hidden. In lots of cases, problems fester, and landlords aren't ordered to fix their buildings. This leads to kids getting lead poisoning and asthma, or people getting sick from mold and rodents. And it causes fire hazards to go unabated.

A possible solution to this problem is a proactive rental housing inspection program that would subject most the city's rental housing stock to inspection on a rotating basis, regardless of whether anyone files a complaint. That way, virtually all housing in the city would get inspected every few years. Combined with strong anti-displacement protections, such a program could result in improved housing and health.

At least that's what various official reports have stated over the years. But Oakland officials have been slow to implement this kind of more aggressive inspection program.

A little history:

The Building Services Improvement Advisory Task Force, a citizen's panel set up in the wake of the scathing 2011 Grand Jury investigation of Oakland's Building Services Division, recommended starting a proactive rental inspection program. But no action was taken.

It then ended up as one of the recommendations published in the "Housing Equity Roadmap" of 2015. But nothing happened.

It was recommended again last year in Mayor Schaaf's "Oakland at Home" report. Still, not much traction.

Then, last July, Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney proposed that the city administrator draft a detailed plan for how a proactive rental inspection program would work. McElhaney wanted the full city council to then vote on the program by January, with implementation by July 2017.

But Councilmembers Larry Reid, Anne Campbell Washington, and Rebecca Kaplan had the item continued in committee, where it virtually died. They didn't think McElhaney's version was ready for prime time, and they didn't bring back any proposal of their own.

Now, an informational report about possibly creating a proactive rental housing inspection program is coming back before the council at Tuesday's community and economic development committee meeting.

Maybe they'll pass something this time?

Department of Violence Prevention: Councilmembers Reid and McElhaney want to create a department to guide all of Oakland's violence prevention efforts. The two claim that the city's existing violence prevention efforts are spread between the department of human services and OPD and that there's no single person who's in charge who reports directly to the mayor.

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