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“One Block at a Time” wins statewide award

on September 13, 2011

The California Association of Code Enforcement Officers has awarded Richmond’s “One Block at a Time” project with the title of Innovative Code Enforcement Program of the Year.

OBAT partners local residents with the Richmond Police Department’s Code Enforcement Unit to target neighborhood blight. The CACEO chose the initiative from a competitive pool of other code enforcement programs throughout the state.

Code Enforcement Unit Manager Tim Higares, who has worked in Richmond with OBAT for three of its five years, said this award is the first of its kind to be awarded to the department.

“Richmond is becoming recognized for code enforcement,” he said. “We’ve had other jurisdictions [such as Oakland] contact us wanting to model their programs after ours.”

OBAT focuses its projects on one to two-square-block areas with serious blight problems. In addition to beautifying the location, the vicinity is inspected for municipal code violations, broken streetlights and other issues.

Program leaders organize “abatement days” where the community comes together to trim trees, dispose of trash, remove graffiti and eliminate any other existing or potential code violations. The Richmond Fire Dept. and Veolia Waters are among the groups that regularly assist in upgrading the blighted areas.

Nearly 80 volunteers participated in most recent OBAT event.

Although the award does not secure additional grant money for OBAT, Higares said the title is considered a huge accomplishment for the city.

“It’s just a kudos,” he said. “It makes me proud to have a program as innovative and effective [as OBAT]. Richmond needs some more positive press.”

In the future, Higares said the group may focus on particular areas for lengthier periods of time in order to “sustain the beautification.”

“We want to keep on being innovative,” he said.

Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus commended OBAT and Higares Monday at the Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council meeting and also looked to the future of the program.

“We plan to continue doing [clean-ups] and we continue to learn as we go,” Magnus said.

The CACEO Board of Directors will present the award to the City of Richmond at the Sept. 27 City Council meeting.

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