Props. Or not.

Props to the city and the APD for being responsive and cleaning up blight within 2 weeks of my reporting it to CM Russo’s office: a broken down truck with a camper shell and a tarp over it parked in someone’s yard (not even in a driveway). It’d been there for at least 5 years.  So I’m wondering why, if this is illegal—to have broken down cars on a property in front of the house forever—, that the APD doesn’t regularly initiate these sorts of clean-ups on their own?  If they did, we’d know the city cares about the conditions we live next to, right?  So why hasn’t the city cared until now?  Evidence: in my neighborhood there have been several broken down cars for years with tarps over them and they have never been required to be moved, until now. Until I complained.

Maybe it’s all the blighted front yards we all have to view in our West End neighborhoods and that everyone drives past.  That’s right: far too many West Enders really don’t care….the evidence is in the number of front yards left to overgrown weeds, trash, and trash containers.

Now, I’m not asking for upscale landscaping, just a neat clean yard, litter-free, ... with hidden trash containers with working vehicles parked in driveways (not yards). Failing this—and in some West End neighborhoods most of the properties do in one or more ways—conveys to the city that we simply don’t care; so why should they?

The city’s behavior towards the West End is consistent with West Enders’ own behavior. That’s right: West Enders themselves—-homeowners and rental property owners alike—have created a city-wide tolerance for blight in the West End.

It’s our responsibility as residents to change this.


Daily: clean up your front yard, sidewalks, and street-tree strip from trash and cigarette butts that the night time denizens tossed into your space the night before (you know they do this regularly). Be sure to call the APD if you wake up to find drug paraphernalia or gang tags (non-emergency APD line is 510-337-8340).

Weekly: keep your front yard swept, trimmed, and mowed, or whatever it takes to keep it neat. Show the city we care and we want them to too.

Change your behavior: if you have off-street parking spaces and/or garages, use them. This might even save a life: it makes it easier for the APD to do their job and for ambulances to arrive on scene when needed.

Report blight: Call the non-emergency APD line (510-337-8340) and ask them to do what they can to clean it up the problems that you’re seeing in your neighborhood. Send the message that we want them to prioritize this too. And contact a landlord or property management firm and demand better property maintenance; then follow up in writing, restating your complaint(s).


1. It will lower crime rates: neater front yards and fewer cars parked on the streets lowers crime…and might even save a life: it makes it far easier for the APD to do their work and the ambulances to arrive on scene when needed.

2. The city will start paying attention and help by enforcing laws that will cause those contributing to blight, to stop doing so.  This is an interdependent two-way street between the city government and the residents to effect our own improved quality of living.

3. Maintaining a nice front yard is simply better for ourselves and for everyone around us.

If we keep our own front yards neat and report egregious problems we are seeing in our own neighborhoods, then the city and the APD will know this matters to us.

One neat front yard leads to two, which leads to four, and so forth. Pretty soon we have an entire West End with neat front yards and lower crime rates. And those few minutes every weekend?  Well, getting out into the front yard makes a difference: you’d be amazed the interesting conversations that transpire. I learn a lot about my neighbors, what’s important to them and their communities, and our city as a whole. It’s the kind of relationships and information that can lead to better knowledge about one’s city, informed voting, and improved government.

Note to APD: it’d be awesome if our nighttime patrol cars could have a lookout for cars parked overnight on front yards/lawns/dirt and ticket them. Thanks!


About Denise Lai

Alive. Swim (fly is the best). Walking with my dog (weims are the best). Life is good. Would prefer people understood negative externalities and prevented themselves from creating them. Feeling the love anyway. View all posts by Denise Lai

13 responses to “Props. Or not.

  • Mike Noonan

    Hi Denise, I will make sure the night time supervisors are aware and ask for extra beat attention. Mike Noonan

  • Blanche Knott

    Q.:How do you know if your Alameda neighbors are dead or in the hospital?
    A.:APD puts orange tags on the windshields of their cars.

  • T

    I loved this post. I couldn’t applause you more, but I think what you say belongs to all of Alameda and perhaps the East Bay. Ironic thing is that I live in the Gold Coast area and there are even cars (and homes) like that here. I see a lot of homes in Alameda that look like fire hazards, badly maintained with tall grass, trash in the yards, cluttered porches, boarded up windows, and lead paint peeling from the homes getting in the air. Speaking of ugliness, I wish Alameda would put a cap on the plethora of junky liquor/cigarette stores, we don’t need them, as they just attract bad news and drunk drivers, and seems like there are an over-abundance of them in Alameda. Also, see a lot of bleeding over of East Oakland type gang looking kids/people on Lincoln Avenue and Webster Street that frequent these places. I don’t understand why the police just let these kids hang out on the street wearing gang-like clothing, obviously up to no good. A good lot of them look like they are dealing drugs and a lot of them drink from paper bags. It is pretty blatant. This isn’t E. Oakland or the Tenderloin. We should scare them out of town. I have a friend from the Oakland Hills who recently told me that Alameda seemed scary to him, I laughed and told him I was insulted. Then just yesterday, I almost got robbed on Park Street in broad daylight, so times are a’changing, I have never in danger in Alameda, ever, so a bit ironic. One of my pet peeves in Alameda is this junky house that should be condemned on the way out of town through the Tube, on Sherman Street, right before the U-haul rental, before you get on Atlantic on the left. It is the biggest eyesore and reeks of black mold and rats. You can’t miss it.

  • Denise Lai

    Hi T:

    First, I know the house on Sherman. Used to be a woman lived there who regularly held yard sales. She was quite a character. I don’t know if she rented or owned. Either way, and clearly, she’s no longer there. Rats and mold? I used to walk past there but I’ve stopped because it’s unpleasant and the car fumes get to me in that section a there’s no pleasant or protected pedestrian walkway.

    Regarding tall weeds, I have neighbors who let their front and back yards both go to 3′ and 4′ tall in the spring; let them dry (huge fire hazard), then weed-whack or mow them, I’m guessing so they only have to do a job once a year, hoping everything will just be dry and dead during summer. But then the dandelions spring up and it’s another kind of mess all over again.

    Regarding liquor stores: yes, I was SHOCKED when I discovered several schools have a liquor store on the same block or within the block! Most cities outlaw this proximity, and for good reason. There’s something very wrong with Alameda’s social culture that the city allows this. We should write City Manager Russo and ask him to prioritize changing this as it changes everything for our kids; just like changing our front yard maintenance and our parking habits can change everything.

    Fewer liquor stores would benefit our city. As would fewer vanity shops too (nail salons). But I’m guessing these may be a steady source of tax revenue for the city and a sacred cow… It always comes back to residents changing our own behavior in order to change our city and our governments priorities.

    Alameda is scary. There have been two murders and one attempted murder in my neighborhood in the last 3 years; one was crime-related, the other were domestic disputes inside homes. People walk at night in my neighborhood down the middle of the street. I’ve even been out walking my dog at night and come across some good old boys with their car trunk open, their rifles out, checking their sights, in the middle of an intersection! And drug dealing is rife at night. From my regular walks, I figure there’s a drug-dealing house about 1 per block in the West End.

    We live in a big city (74,000 people) with insufficient off-street parking but think like we live in a town. That’s the biggest issue, IMO, here. If we want to live in Hometown USA, then we have to change some of our rules for this city. For instance, I’d love to see overnight street parking permits. This way, the APD would know if/when a car from another city is parking on the streets overnight (great crime deterrent) and those parcels with unused off-street parking would start using them. It’d be great if we would each leave the street-parking in front of others’ houses left empty for their own use, so we’d have our house’s street parking respected too. I park my car off-street, but I rarely have the space in front of my house free for my guests or my use. It’s frustrating as others have spaces at the end of the block that are free against parcel sideyards, but no one cares to walk that far. One neighbor, if she comes home and her space in front of her house is not available, will park on her lawn. And THAT drives me nuts. But I get it: wouldn’t it be nice if people respected the spot in front of our homes like people do in the suburbs? Again with the confusion between our reality (city) and desired reality (Hometown USA).

    Four years ago, I began guerrilla gardening street-tree strips. At first I went out at night, with headlamps, but then became bolder and work during daylight hours. I remove ivy from street trees, cut and bundle the ivy, leaving it in the gutter for the city to pick up. I weed around street-trees. And in my neighborhood, in the winter, I plant drought tolerant plants. I cart water around to trees and plants to keep them alive during summer sometimes. The effect? Several neighbors have removed their lawn, er, crabgrass and dandelions, and put in drought-tolerant gardens in their front yards. One fellow even put in a succulent garden in his street-tree strip. Change over time requires perseverance, but it does cause change. That and engaging the city in doing their job of cleaning up blight: the fire department is responsible for fire hazards (tall, dry weeds), the APD for defunct and improperly parked cars. I think for houses that should be condemned, we also begin with the police and they engage the building department. So make those calls!

    Here’s the local message board for Guerrilla Gardening in Alameda:

  • Blanche

    Public Works is responsible for planting street trees, & I don’t know why they keep planting acacias as strip trees w/o consulting neighbors. When these trees blossom, the petals fall off en masse & stick to car paint. Volunteer trees start up all over (my) lawn & b/c they have 3 inch thorns, the local Latino gardeners won’t dig ’em out of the ground. I have a 5″ scar on my arm from the last time I cut one back. Todd Wms of Public Works once came & took out a few, but then argued w/me over the rest. I’m disabled & life is too short for me to be concerned w/what my neighbors think. We have a live & let live attitude here in Alameda. B4 U self-righteous yokels criticize someone else’s property, be sure the owner can run, jump, & swim just like you! Or is employed so they can afford a real gardener.

  • Denise Lai

    Blanche: to my disabled neighbors, I offer to help them with their yards; all of us do here on my block. It’s the abled neighbors, property owners, and property management firms that are showing disregard for the rest of us that really irks me. It has a deleterious effect on everyone and everything.

  • notmayberry

    Denise, I know you mean well, but please don’t encourage the Police to do this, b/c THEY NEVER CHECK ON THE STATUS of the OWNER first. Or worse, if they do, they deal more aggressively w/those who can’t fight back. Be sure you have actually made contact w/the property owner. The day after my dad had a stroke & landed in Alameda Hospital, APD started red-tagging his cars(another reason not to use that hospital!). He wasn’t dead yet so they weren’t “abandoned”. I was @UCLA, 6 months from my graduation, & when I called APD to inform them & ask for some Slack, APD said I’d have to come north from LA & find a place to store the cars or they’d be destroyed. This is a Town Without Pity–beware!

  • Denise Lai

    notmayberry: Maybe Chief Noonan can weigh in here? Can we expect different from the APD under his leadership?

  • Mike Noonan, Chief of Police

    Hi notmayberry, I am very sorry if things happened the way you explain. I always tell my folks to use common sense when dealing with these types of issues. These ordinances are not created to cause headaches for homeowners but to truly combat blight in neighborhoods. I can only guess that we were receiving calls from the neighbors at that time. I am hopeful that you never face these issues again, but never hesitate to speak with a supervisor or command officer if you do not think your issue is being resolved.

  • Denise Lai

    Thanks Chief. I think it would be helpful for residents to be more familiar with our laws, our rights when we want the laws to work for us or feel like they are working against us. I’m guessing those laws are not in one tidy file somewhere…

  • Denise Lai

    notmayberry: I agree with you about reaching out to fellow neighbors first to inquire if they are okay and how we can help. Calling the APD in, is appropriate for landlords and homeowners committed to ignoring the condition of their property. I think they think they are saving money, but in fact they are losing money by providing substandard housing and degrading the neighborhood.

  • notmayberry

    My father had lived in that house since 1949, when my parents bought it, older than any other neighbor It’s a dirty secret, but many people, usu newbies, just aren’t that neighborly. And the policy of APD, to never tell you who has called in your car as “abandoned”, just makes things worse. Anyone who doesn’t like you or your car can call it in. This should stop. i speak from 50 years of experience.. .

%d bloggers like this: