Time was when, Oakland was able to properly, and promptly, maintain its infrastructure … or not:


Before there were potholes, there was dust. In 1887 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Oakland lacked the funds to deal with its dusty city streets:

”The streets of Oakland are beginning to get dusty, and there is no money in the treasury to pay for sprinkling. After making allowance for the usual expenses of the city for salaries and general expenses, there only remains $514 for the street fund, so that the new City Council has before it the problem of keeping things going on short allowance. The same thing happened once before several years ago, when the police force and some of the other officers were put on half-pay. The city was without street lights for months, and the streets were deep with dust for lack of sprinkling.” 1

But times change, and now potholes, the asphalt kind, have become an Oakland trademark; our local version of a big-fish story. In commemoration, Oaklandish has created a merit badge for the “mastery of local pothole geography, including knowledge of just when and where to swerve on at least three main thoroughfares.”

Pothole Blitz

2014 Pothole Blitz for Oakland Streets

In 2014, 3037 pot holes were filled.

Oakland Public Works will conducted a seven-week Pothole Blitz this year.  Potholes continue to plague our streets and they require this annual special effort by the Oakland Public Works’ Streets & Sidewalks Maintenance crews.

Pothole Blitz commenced on May 12, 2014 in East Oakland’s City Council District 7. The week of May 19th crews concentrated on District 6; May 26th crews were in District 5; and the Streets & Sidewalks Maintenance crews spent one week in each respective Council district, progressing east to west across the City. The Blitz ended June 27th in District 1 in North Oakland.

“One of the issues we get the most calls about is residents wanting to see potholes fixed on the roads they drive the most, and this is one of our biggest efforts each year to answer those requests,” Mayor Jean Quan said. “I want to thank our dedicated Public Works crews for all their work year round to fix potholes and other driving hazards, and this annual blitz is a great opportunity to take a before-and-after look at the impact of the work they do,” said Mayor Jean Quan.

The public is encouraged to Report a Problem utilizing any one of these methods:

The public’s assistance in slowing down when they see our crews working on the roadways is greatly appreciated! Watch for their cones and flaggers.


Every year, the city Department of Public Works tackles the potholes in a "Pothole Blitz" in late spring/early summer. (Ever heard the phrase: "There are only two seasons: winter and road repair?") In 2013, this happened from April 29 – June 26, 2013. The city claimed that their 2013 effort would attempt to improve efficiency and provide a longer lasting solution to temporary pothole repairs: "In addition to filling individual potholes, deteriorated street sections that cannot be preserved with pothole filling, Streets and Sidewalks staff will mill (two-inch grind) and fill with new asphalt. This process is a longer lasting solution to filling potholes that reoccur and require repetitive repairs." Full release here.

Potholes the Rest of the Year

If it makes you feel better, you can report a pothole to the City via SeeClickFix or by calling the Public Works Agency at (510) 615-5566. Don’t expect immediate action, however. The City’s budget for pothole repair is only $4-6 million, not even close to what the Agency estimates to be a $435 million road repair project.

During the special City Council Meeting on budgets on April 2nd 2013, Councilmember Dan Kalb said that the number 1 complaint that came into SeeClick Fix was illegal dumping, and that this would be his priority if he had a choice. While normally I agree with the man, Councilmember Libby Schaaf said that she would prioritize our very own pothole as studies have shown that deferring road maintenance only make it more costly. My tires thank her.

Oakland Streets blog tell us why his street looks like Beirut, and links us to the City of Oakland’s official “Fact Sheet” (PDF) on Oakland streets.

In the meantime, contribute photos of your potholes (and related injuries) to the Pothole Album.

Pothole Album

At least there’s a danger cone… Jayne and Perkins, January 2013.

User Mike notes: “Don’t be fooled! This is no City of Oakland traffic cone, but the work of my curmudgeonly neighbor Sam, who for some years now has gone around spraypainting the worst holes and even putting out cones at his own expense. He’s trying to warn motorists, of course, but also hoping to shame (or inspire) the City to take any kind of action!”

Optimism restored at Jayne and Perkins, February 2013.

Update from Katmo: Looks like we’ll need a new mascot for the Potholes page. I walked outside this afternoon just as three city workers were filling this beauty with cold-patch. It’s just a temporary fix, though—the crew suspects an underground sewer leak is wearing away the base rock below the surface. A metaphor for Oakland, perhaps?

Northgate, 31 Mar 13. photo by greenkozi

Been to Kim’s Backyard lately? Be careful not to drown! This pothole is pretty monstrous!

Whoa! Looks like a collapsed storm drain. How many unwary axles will it claim, one wonders? Dat’s … gotta … hoit …!

News Links

Links and References

  1. S. F. Chronicle: Mar 23, 1887