Summary of Oakland Firesafe Council Survey Highlights Challenges That Still Remain with Inspections of Private/Public Properties in Oakland Hills

This unofficial sampling revealed that between 10% and 53% of the properties observed between the Claremont Canyon and Shepherd Canyon Roads were still out of compliance with the City’s fire code concerning defensible space as of the end of July and the first week of September—just at the start of high fire season.

Issues observed included:

• invasive ivy is widespread and hides a lot of dead debris; Dead grass, thistle, broom, low lying and dead branches on trees and/or on the ground

• Parked cars on narrow streets are a problem

• Intersections are often overgrown corners, not buildable lots

• Tree limbs touch structures or the ground

• Substantial quantities of fire-prone vegetation on many of the public open space properties that have not been effectively maintained this year and often not been maintained for a number of years.

• Some active homeless encampments on Caltrans properties near the PG&E substation and also west of Tunnel Road on Hwy. 13 near the Oakland/Berkeley line.

Recommendations

1. Survey other jurisdictions in the area for best practices on how they organize their vegetation management inspections (within Fire Department, Code Compliance or other), how they manage their inspections and their city-owned property clearance, and how they recover clearance costs when the property owner isn’t taking responsibility for clearing the property.

2. Initiate a Classification Study for Vegetation Management Inspectors, and/or revamp the entire Inspection Unit for OFD to make commercial and vegetation management inspectors interchangeable in duties with the same salaries to stem the ongoing turnaround in staffing among Vegetation Management Inspectors.

3. Fill the full time Vegetation Management Inspector positions as quickly as possible— certainly before the start of the New Year so that the unit is trained and ready to roll before the start of the 2018 Fire Season.

4. Develop an alternative system for staffing the Vegetation Management Unit when workload is at its highest.

5. Review the City’s due process schedule for holding property owners accountable. Take best practices from other jurisdictions and adapt to Oakland.

6. Develop and Fund an ongoing public education, outreach and incentive program to reinforce property owner’s understanding of their responsibilities to maintain defensible space 365 days a year.

We request the Public Safety Committee ask for a report from OFD and City Administrator to respond to these issues and to recommend how Oakland can improve its wildfire inspection process and implementation.

2017 OFSC Inspection Survey

Scheduled for Tuesday, December 5 Public Safety Committee Meeting, Oakland City Hall, 6 pm.