Illegal Dumping/Trash | Kaplan for Oakland

Solving illegal dumping/Trash

Oakland has been facing rising amounts of trash and illegal dumping on our underpasses, streets, and sidewalks.  This problem has been growing substantially in recent years, and is attracting rats and other vectors of disease, and creating an expanding public health hazard and blight.  Debris and dumping undermine and impede  our community, and  blocks access for pedestrians and more, 

My plan of improvements to remedy this, includes:

Change from complaint-based to primarily zone-based trash removal, target hot spots, pro-active response (longer explanation of why this is needed, below)
– Improve and expand Reward/incentive program, for public to help identify and send in license plates of illegal dumping vehicles, and have adequate city personnel assigned to follow up and issue notices of violation/fines.
– Hauler Registry to prevent hiring dumpers (in partnership with Alameda County)
– Tenant right-to-bulky-pickup, ensure right of access. The contract with Waste Management includes the right to an annual bulky waste pickup for all households – both homeowners and tenants. Many tenants are not currently receiving this mandates service.  Needs to be enforced and provided. 
– Mattress recycling – there is a State-authorized and funded program for mattress recycling, which is not being adewuately provided in Oakland and Alameda County.  Have met with and worked with Mattress Recycling Council, Beautification Council, County Officials and more to seek and obtain increased funding for picking up mattresses that have been illegally dumped here, and have them transported to mattress recycling.  Also seeking improvements in program to collect used mattrresses to prevent them becoming illegal dumping.
– Enforcement to catch and deter illegal dumping, expand and strengthen the reward/incentive program, work with public also, to collect information/license plates of vehicles illgally dumping, and have adequate personnel assigned to review information collected and issue notices of violation/fines.
– Trash cleanup, litter removal, sanitation, expansion of crews, adequate hours, including timelines to maximize deterring and catching illegal dumping.
– Working with job-training programs, the homeless, and community-based organizations to incorporate their efforts into these strategies.

 Pro-active cleanup of trash/dumping in Oakland – Why This is a Vital Part of the Solution

Although more personnel and enforcement are required, as well,  the current complaint-based system significantly contributes to the accumulation of garbage on our streets and must be replaced by a pro-active system to effectively utilize our resources.

I and others have been asking for a change in Oakland’s strategy of dealing with the growing problems of trash and illegal dumping to switch away from the current complaint-based system, and instead focus primarily on geographic zone-based assignments to clean up everything in that zone, without waiting for members of the public to call it in.

As the city administration has been documenting, the trash problem has been getting worse and worse, and it is long past time to admit that the complaint-based strategy isn’t working.

illegal dumping is on the rise

That is why, during last year’s budget debate, I proposed not only additional crews to pick up illegally dumped garbage, but also proposed that the crews be assigned to areas of need, to pro-actively clean up, without waiting for complaints. Recently, at a large community gathering with the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, the community made this request again. And, I have included it again in my list of budget requests for Oakland’s next budget hearing, which will be held on May 29th (Click here to view my budget request)

When I made this request two years ago during the discussion at Public Works Committee, the Administration insisted that the complaint-based system was one they were invested in using. We now have two more years of worsening trash on our streets, and growing problems of rats and other public health hazards. And so, it seems important to reiterate the importance of moving to a pro-active system of dealing with trash and blight, and to explain why the complaint-based system is so ineffective and must be changed.

1) Waiting for complaints means that trash sits out for longer during which time it attracts more trash (because people see it and think its okay to dump there), and can rot and blow around, thus becoming harder to clean, and attracts rats and other vectors of disease.

2) Time, money, staff and energy is wasted on making and processing complaints, and dispatching crews to respond to a list of complaints, thus leaving many areas still trashed as crews are assigned to pick up complaints on their list, often passing by lots of other trash/dumping on their way.

3) A complaint-based system promotes inequity, because the most privileged communities have the most people with the time and ability to file complaints (e.g. with online apps), and so the clean up crew is dispatched based on who complains the most, rather than where the greatest need is.

4) It perpetuates a cycle of negativity and distrust of government, as the public sees that the trash problem keeps getting worse, and neighborhoods are forced to compete against each other for who can file the most complaints, rather than effort going into positive work.

5) It is irrational. The illegal dumping/trash is often in the same place repeatedly, and so waiting for the public to call it in, as if the administration didn’t already know where it is and needed someone to tell them, makes no sense.

6) The complaint list obscures reality, as management mistakenly refers to the list of complaints as the list of where illegal dumping is taking place. However, in some of the hardest-hit communities, people have come to feel hopeless about the endless cycle of complaints, and so the measure of complaints does not correctly approximate the amount of dumping.

Recently, a small area within a subset of one council district has received a “pilot” program of pro-active cleanup which has demonstrated that it is a better and more effective system. Some in management have been surprised to learn that there is so much trash out there that wasn’t on the complaint list. This should not surprise us, as this same problem has been found for all complaint-based systems. For example, some in OPD management for years had assumed that 9-1-1 calls about shootings represented a reasonable estimate of where and how many shootings were taking place. However, when gunshot detection technology was used, it was shown that there were many shootings taking place for which there were NO 9-1-1 calls, and some of the areas with the most shootings were calling them in the least. A pro-active system, based on facts and data, is more effective and more equitable than a system based on complaints.

And so, instead of encouraging a culture of complaining, and leaving trash on the street, we should promote a system of accountability that assigns crews to zones, including targeting known hot-spots, for both enforcement and cleanup. Litter officer’s assignments should include enforcement and ticketing, and personnel should be assigned to times of day and locations to maximize their ability to deter illegal dumping and catch the people who trash our community, and also to clean heavily-impacted areas. This will help put a stop to the cycle of illegal dumping, trash, and blight.

We should pro-actively provide for basic needs throughout our community.