OAKLAND, Calif. — For a state where the car is king, California’s roads are in pretty terrible shape. This is particularly true in Oakland where tens of thousands of unfilled potholes wreak havoc on Bay Area drivers every day.
“You can't can't go one block without hitting a massive pothole and having your coffee jump out of the coffee holder,” Brian, who asked that his last name be withheld, told VICE News. “After so many years, we just decided to do something about it.”
At the end of April, Brian and his friend Eric bought a tamper and some asphalt, watched a few YouTube videos, and went out in the middle of the night and filled a particularly bad pothole. They kept at it over the following weeks, documenting their exploits on Instagram and getting a lot of likes. Calling themselves the Pothole Vigilantes, the duo struck a chord in this scarred city.
With donations rolling in on GoFundMe, the vigilantes have now filled over 50 potholes. They’ve also hosted two meet-up’s where they handed out asphalt and instructed people on how to do it themselves. These “franchisees,” as one volunteer jokingly referred to herself, have filled an additional 30 to 50 potholes.
The city is not pleased.
Repeatedly on Twitter, city officials urged the vigilantes to stand down, primarily as a matter of safety. Yet at the same time — a fact not lost on the vigilantes or their supporters — the city announced a $100 million paving program, including crews working twelve hours a day, seven days a week, specifically to fill potholes.
In the month of May alone, according to Ryan Russo, the director of the Oakland Department of Transportation, their crews filled over 5,000 potholes, dwarfing by orders of magnitude the vigilantes’ small tally.
“We're cautiously optimistic,” Brian says. “But we're going to continue going out there until every pothole is filled.”