23rd Street alley cleanup effort part of long-term strategy

Community members are encouraged to volunteer a few hours of their time — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7 — to help clean up a long-blighted alley near 23rd Street in Richmond.

The alley between 22nd and 23rd streets and Grant and Burbeck avenues “has suffered from crime, prostitution, illegal dumping, etc., for far too long,” says community advocate Cesar Zepeda, who is working in partnership with Urban Transformation and Calle 23 on the cleanup event.

Volunteers are asked to meet at 10 a.m. at the Portumex restaurant at 721 23rd St.

The event is part of a longterm 23rd Street Revitalization strategy for both the alley and the 23rd Street corridor, according to Darlene Rios Drapkin of Urban Transformation, who was tapped about a year ago to lead the revitalization effort.

Drapkin is working to convince property owners and merchants to invest in sensor lighting and other security features in the alley to ward off illegal activity at night. There are also efforts to pave and introduce landscaping to the path.

Urban Transformation has far greater plans for the area surrounding the alley. It is working with city officials on a 23rd Street streetscape plan and vision that aims to position the city for future grant funding for physical improvements.

At 5:30 p.m. tonight at Portumex, her organization is holding a Merchants Watch meeting in partnership with the Richmond Police Department to discuss public safety issues and strategies. The meetings occur the first Monday of every other month.

Also, the Richmond Rotary is contributing funds for trees and other greenery in the immediate area. Adding a parklet to that square-block area is another idea in the works, Drapkin said.

And good news for Portumex: as part of the Bay Area Mural Festival, the restaurant wall is about to get a new mural to brighten up the neighborhood.

Such improvements would further enliven the upcoming 23rd Street Trick-or-Treat event, a fun community gathering that Urban Transformation launched last year.

“It’s not just about cleaning it up,” Drapkin said. “There’s a whole strategy component to try to prevent activities that are occurring there.”

Drapkin aims to get everyone involved in the revitalization efforts — merchants, residents, civic leaders, students, educators, bankers, real estate agents, associations.

In the past, she has employed similar corridor revitalization strategies with success in cities such Oakland. Along with physical improvements, economic development and business retention and attraction are part of the longterm strategies, Drapkin said.