'Equity is a goal:' Low-income neighborhoods in Oakland to receive more money to pave over potholes

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Oakland finally has money to take care of its pothole problem, but the city is already facing roadblocks as some residents in wealthier areas are unhappy that their streets will receive less money to fix up their bumpy streets.

The good  news is that Oakland now has $600 million in Measure KK bond money to launch an unprecedented paving plan to smooth over roads and streets. And in the next three years, the city plans to spend $100 million of that -- tripling its annual spending average -- to repave more than 100 miles of road starting this summer. The department will start by fixing the streets in the worst condition and closest to schools.

But the funds will not be distributed evenly: Wealthier neighborhoods will be getting less money and traditionally underprivileged neighborhoods will be getting about $10 million more.

“Equity is a goal,” according to the city’s presentation, which specifically notes that the focus on this topic is a major change. “To achieve equity, we prioritize the needs of underserved populations.” 

Of the $75 million earmarked for local streets, roughly $37 million will go toward low-income communities and $26 million will go toward the more affluent areas, according to a graph on the city's website. To highlight a few examples, the low-income neighborhoods of Central East Oakland  and Fruitvale and Eastlake will get $15.1 million and $14.5 million; while residents in the wealthier East Oakland hills and North Oakland hills will get $5 million and $5.7 million respectively. 

 According to the East Bay Times, some residents in the affluent Oakland hills neighborhoods have complained to the Department of Transportation, noting how little funding is going toward paving streets in their areas where they pay more property taxes. 

City leaders counter that the population is more dense in the flatlands with more people affected by bumps in the road, and that spending more money in low-income neighborhoods is addressing long-neglected equity issues.

“The good news is that everyone is getting more,” Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Wednesday in an interview with Mornings on 2. “It’s just that the communities that have been traditionally uninvested in are getting more more.” 

Schaaf acknowledged that the city has prioritized the underserved areas where “fixing your car axle could mean making your rent payment that month.”

Breakout of pothole spending plan by neighborhood and income level: 

$15.1 million Central (55 percent low income) 
$.9 million Coliseum (50 percent)
$2.8 million Downtown (46 percent) 
$14.5 million Eastlake/Fruitvale (49 percent)
$4.6 million West Oakland (55 percent) 

Total: $37.9 million

$5 million East Oakland Hills (22 percent low income)
$4.6 million Glenview/Redwood Heights (16 percent)
$5.7 million North Oakland Hills (6 percent)
$10.7 million North Oakland/Adams Point (27 percent) 

Total: $26 million

Source: Department of Transportation 

KTVU's Gasia Mikaelian contributed to this report.