By Mike Kinney
A story about blight, can quite easily become one about a community coming together to solve problems.
On Monday, as I was leaving a community meeting, I noticed next to the Richmond Hand Car Wash building that large broken branches of a tree had fallen onto the sidewalk on McBryde Avenue at 23rd Street, right next to the Richmond Hand Car Wash business. It blocked the sidewalk and attracted illegal dumpers and possibly other criminal activity. I also saw a few rats enjoying the blighted sidewalk.
I don’t know how long it had been there. Marcos Padilla, the manager for Richmond Hand Car Wash, believed the trees had been down for two weeks, and noted that a city worker had been out to see the extent of the damage.
Diego Garcia, owner of Leftside Printing, commented on the difficulty facing property owners and the city in identifying and clearing hotpots for illegal dumping. While the city can’t get to it all, property owners could be issued citations for blight, including overgrown weeds, bushes and vegetation, he said.
Richmond police Capt. Al Walle said such problems “need to be addressed,” as they impact the environment and attract crime.
I wanted to do something about it. And what I learned, in doing so, is that while the city is overwhelmed with calls for service, citizens still have the power to make a difference, starting with reporting these issues when we see them.
I contacted city officials on Tuesday. Today, a friendly crew came out to clear the site.
I later spoke with Tim Higares, director of Infrastructure and Maintenance Operations, hoping to shine a light on how the city handles such calls.
He told me the city aims to address illegal dumping and graffiti within 48 hours of receiving a complaint. That can be difficult to achieve, however, given the amount of calls the city receives on a daily basis. As service calls are increasing, resources are dwindling, Higares said.
Higares said the best way to address blight in your neighborhood is to report incidents to the illegal dumping hotline at (510) 965-4905, or to use the City of Richmond App.
“We will continue to work diligently to address these issues as they come in. Unfortunately due to the volume of complaints that are received we are forced to be more reactive than proactive,” Higares said.
Despite the struggle, city crews were not only effective today, but also good spirited.