Eyes on the Street: First “Paint the Town” Mural Hits the Streets of Oakland

An overhead look at the first "Paint the Town" street painting. Photos: City of Oakland
An overhead look at the first "Paint the Town" street painting. Photos: City of Oakland

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Oakland is a city known for its beautiful murals. But what about painting a “mural” not on a wall–but on the street itself?

Head to Dashwood Ave and Arthur Street, a couple of blocks from the Arroyo Viejo Recreation Center, to see the first results of Oakland’s “Paint the Town” program, as seen in the images above and below. That street mural was created a couple of weeks ago by the “Earth Team” group, a nonprofit that encourages students to pursue environmental causes. The mural doesn’t have a name yet, but is tentatively called the “zero litter inspired street mural.” It was designed by artist Thomás Jones and painted by students at Leadership Public Schools (LPS) in Oakland.

It depicts “…the Arroyo Viejo creek as it runs underground through a culvert and the way it acts as a transport line for litter created in the city to flow to the Bay,” explained Jordan DeSilva, Program Associate, Alhambra, and Oakland LPS Project Lead Earth Team. “Our goal is to raise awareness about the many ways litter can harm the Bay and how litter from the city is easily transported to the Bay.”

For the City of Oakland, “Paint the Town” is intended to create a sense of community, by getting neighbors to coalesce around these paint projects. It’s “kind of the first step in re-envisioning how we’re interacting with our streets,” explained Lily Brown, Transportation Planner for the Great Streets Division of the City of Oakland’s relatively new Department of Transportation.

Expect to see more street murals in Oakland. “Thirty got approved through the application process,” said Brown.

The murals must be painted on low-volume streets and there are a few other criteria: promotional signs are not permitted, nor is anything that contains images that look like traffic control markings (yield signs, anything that looks like a crosswalk or road directions). There’s also a ban on profanity. Other than that, things are pretty straightforward–the city just requires some rough drawings of what the painting will look like. Groups that get approved just have to apply to close the street with a block party permit (the fee is waived) and they have to supply their own paint, although the city can connect applicants with various charity groups that can help with that.

On a related note, San Francisco is also looking at ways to use streets for more community activities. It formally approved its ‘Play Streets‘ program, which lets neighborhoods temporarily close streets “…to provide a safe place for children, families, and neighbors to come together, play and get active,” wrote the SFMTA in its release.

If you’re interested in checking out Oakland’s next “Paint the Town” project, it will be painted by and near the Ascend School, on 39th Avenue, four blocks from the Fruitvale BART station, on June 2. If you want to paint a street in your neighborhood, the pilot program has closed. But they’ll announce future opportunities on the city’s website.

A couple more pics below.

The crew busy working on the mural.
The crew busy working on the mural.
Drones away!
Drones away!

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