Monthly Archives: September 2011

Celebrate 100 years of suffrage on Sunday

There is way too much crazy fun stuff going on in Oakland this weekend! Tonight, we’ve got grown-ups night at Fairyland plus The Coup is playing at the Oakland Museum. Saturday is the Black Cowboy Parade and Oaktoberfest.

But don’t party too much on Friday and Saturday, because the best weekend event is on Sunday!

The Oakland Suffrage Parade

October 10th marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in California. And we’re celebrating the centennial a week early with a parade!

I’m not sure how much you guys know about the suffrage movement, in general or in California specifically, I did a lot of reading about it this summer, and it is all a really interesting story.

The 1911 referendum was actually a second try for California women — there had been a vote on suffrage in 1896, but it lost pretty badly, largely due to extremely strong anti-suffrage turnouts in San Francisco, thanks to aggressive opposition from the liquor industry, and partly to a not-so-great campaign on the part of the suffragists.

For a while it looked like suffrage was a lost cause for the women of California. After suffrage got crushed at the ballot, the cause lost much of its support. Most people who had been active in the campaign just gave up. But a couple dozen women, mostly in the Bay Area, kept pushing. A glimmer of hope arrived in 1906, when a reform movement sprung up within the Republican party aimed at eliminating political corruption, and suffragists realized they had found themselves some natural allies.

With effort, they managed to get another referendum on suffrage through the State Assembly in 1907, but it failed in the Senate and the dream of women’s votes had once again, as the suffrage newsletter The Yellow Ribbon put it, been “trampled in the dust by our politicians at Sacramento.” Rather than giving up, California suffragists decided to look to the model of their English counterparts shift to more aggressive tactics.

The original Oakland parade

The next year, the California Republican party held their convention in downtown Oakland. Determined to show their strength, the suffragists organized a march to convention site, the first suffrage parade ever in California! They arrived to demand the party adopt suffrage as part of their platform. And they made quite the spectacle. The San Francisco Call reported that when the chair moved to thank them for their attendance, he was met with hissing and booing, and angry cries of “We don’t want thanks — give us the ballot.”

Once again, they lost. And once again, they didn’t give up. It only just increased their resolve. After the failure at the Republican convention, suffragist leader Lillian Coffin proclaimed:

From now on our tactics will change. We will make an open war for our rights. The women were passive before, they are aroused now, and the campaign will be renewed in January in spite of this.

Although the marchers failed to achieve their goal that day, the event really energized the movement and marked a shift towards more militant and aggressive tactics. Shortly afterwards, a similar stunt at the Democratic Convention in Stockton did convince that party to endorse.

The next couple of years continued to be full of frustration for the suffragists. Suffrage amendments got introduced in the legislature a couple of times, but didn’t go anywhere (or even come remotely close to passage).

Their tactics may not have helped them much with Assemblymembers, but it did help grow the movement’s visibility, and the list of organizations supporting the suffrage movement started growing.

The Referendum

Finally, in January 1911, the State Legislature agreed to place a Constitutional Amendment giving women the vote on an October ballot, but only after a rather vigorous debate. A couple of my favorite quotes from the floor:

A suffragette is a woman who wants to raise Hell, but no children – Senator Sanford of Ukiah

You will soon hear these women lecturing their husbands instead of cooking their meals. They will yell at them as they return from work at night. – Assemblyman W.A. McDonald, San Francisco

After years of effort, the suffragists were on the ballot again. The movement had to shift their efforts from lobbying to campaigning, something they hadn’t done such a great job of the last time around.

Reading about the campaign this summer, I was so impressed with how organized and clever the whole thing was. They studied the results of the 1896 referendum to figure out where they could and couldn’t expect support, and where they had opportunities to turn votes.

Seeing that they had lost virtually the entire immigrant vote in 1896, they printed pamphlets and other materials in multiple languages to do focused outreach. They knew the liquor industry was too powerful in the cities to hope to win those votes, so they organized a really strong campaign in rural areas.

One of my favorite parts of the campaign was that they got a car and drove it all around the rural areas and farm towns of the State. They would roll up to a town, park it on a corner, and of course all the men in the town, many of whom had never seen a car before, would all come to gawk and check out the cool toy. While the men stood around admiring the car, the suffragists use the opportunity to educate them about the importance of women having the vote. Don’t you just love that?

In the end, the suffragists lost the cities, as expected. Oakland and San Francisco voted against suffrage by a wide margin. The day after the vote, headlines in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner proclaimed suffrage defeated again. But all that outreach in the rural counties paid off. Once all the small-town votes came in, the women of California had won the vote by a 1% margin. The New York Times headline about the final outcome reads “California Farmers Give Vote to Women.”

Parade on Sunday!

So to celebrate the suffrage centennial, we’re having a parade!

It’s on Sunday, October 2nd, starting at 11am at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. It will start with brief remarks from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the women of the Oakland City Council, and then we’ll march (with the League of Women Voters leading the way, of course) a roughly 1 mile route up to the Pergola and then down Bellevue back to the bandstand, where the Montclair Women’s Big Band will be playing. Afterwards, we’ll head to the Veterans Memorial Building for an ice cream social.

The parade is being co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Oakland, American Association of University Women, National Women’s History Project, Coalition of Labor Union Women, American Civil Liberties Union, Girl Scouts of the USA, Cinnamon Girl, Emerge California, Piedmont Area Republican Women, Jean Quan, and all the women Councilmembers. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner is co-sponsoring the ice cream social afterwards, along with Fentons and Trader Joes.

At their last meeting, the City Council had a really nice ceremonial item celebrating the parade and the 100th anniversary of suffrage in California:

Costumes are not required for the parade, but they are encouraged. If you don’t feel like pulling together a costume, at least consider wearing the traditional suffragist colors: purple for courage and justice, white for purity of purpose, and yellow for hope.

Celebrating the suffragists

One of the things that happens when you’re involved in any kind of activism is that you lose a lot. You win sometimes too, and some people win more often than others. But no matter who you are, if you continue being involved with issues and elections for any real length of time, you’re going to lose eventually.

And the truth is that sometimes that can feel really discouraging, especially when you get a streak of losses, or you win on a lot of things but just keep hitting a wall when it comes to one particular issue you care a lot about.

I started reading about the California suffrage movement this summer in anticipation of the parade. And the more I read, the more inspired I felt by these women. Obviously, I am thankful I have the ability to vote, and I’m thrilled to celebrate Oakland’s place in the movement’s history, but it was all so long ago that I think a lot of people can’t really imagine women not having the vote or at least don’t attach much meaning to the specific date the vote was won, figuring it would have happened eventually.

But this parade isn’t just about being able to vote, at least for me. The long battle of the suffragists is a really wonderful testament what you can achieve through dedication and persistence. They fought for so long, and failed to get what they want over and over and over again, and they just kept going. And that’s what makes this for me more than just an interesting bit of history. Not just the outcome, but the relentless persistence of the suffragists is worth celebrating and remembering, and should be an inspiration for any modern activist.

You can get more information about the festivities on the suffrage parade website and also the parade Facebook page. If you want to learn more about the suffrage movement in California, a good starting point is the League of Women Voters California 100 Years of Voting page. The Bancroft Library has also put together a neat online exhibit featuring newspaper clippings and campaign materials from both sides of the 1911 campaign, which is pretty fun to look at.

So if you’re not booked on Sunday, I hope you’ll consider coming down to Lakeside Park for the parade and join me in saying “Well done, Sister Suffragette!”

Greg McConnell: Oakland Shines at Jobs and Housing Coalition Legacy Event

This guest post was written by Gregory McConnell, President and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, which represents major businesses in Oakland.

Oakland shined at the September 21st Jobs and Housing Coalition’s Legacy Event at the beautiful grounds of the Oakland Museum of California. A “who’s who” of five hundred Bay Area leaders honored Oakland icons, Jim Falaschi, CEO of Transbay and co-developer of Jack London Square, Shirley Nelson, Chairman of Summit Bank, and John Woolard, CEO of BrightSource Energy.

Remarkably, Don Perata, former California Senate President pro Tem, and Mayor Jean Quan shared the stage as award presenters. They were joined by Nicole Taylor, CEO, of the East Bay Community Foundation, and Fong Wan, Senior Vice President for Energy Procurement at PG&E. The caliber of these people reveals the great drawing power of the remarkable Legacy Award recipients.

With the help of Michael La Blanc of Pican Restaurant and Mark Everton of the Waterfront Hotel, JHC showcased many of the great restaurants that have brought national acclaim to Oakland’s culinary scene. Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars, Rockwall, and Linden Street Breweries poured fine wines and great beers. The Oakland Youth Chorus and Terrence Brewer provided entertainment. And, as the evening wound down, Oaklanders were treated to a special bourbon tasting. As Michael La Blanc says “we added just a touch of flair.”

Many people have dubbed the Legacy Event the event of the year and surely it was a huge success. But something else happened that night that topped it off and says something special and unique about Oakland.

On this special night, recently homeless people, recovering addicts, and ex cons who participate in the St Vincent de Paul Kitchen of Champions Culinary Program mingled with Fortune 500 business leaders.

JHC invited Gary Bonney to share the stage with the above-mentioned luminaries. Everyone listened intently as he said: “I ain’t no Mayor or important guy. I am an ex con who got out of jail four months ago, and joined the Kitchen of Champions program. They taught me about food, but that is not the only thing, they gave me a chance to turn my life around. Now, I have skills, hope, and a job.” The audience gave him a long, warm, and sincere response.

This was a very special evening for Oakland and the Jobs and Housing Coalition. We are very thankful to all who attended and honored that they gave their time to help us celebrate our fifth anniversary, honor three icons, and support the St Vincent de Paul Kitchen of Champions program.

Once again we showed the Bay Area the real Oakland. It is hip, raw, powerful and compassionate. Most important, Oakland has heart!

Special thanks to our Event Committee, Becca Perata, Chairperson, Tom Guarino, Brendan Heafey, Doris Carlick, and JR McConnell, as well as, Silvia Morita Patel, event manager, and Kimberley McConnell Sharper of Kim Sharper Studio for graphic artistry. See our website for more details, www.jobsandhousing.com

Marathon headaches for bus riders during the Oakland Running Festival

At tonight’s meeting, the AC Transit Board of Directors will continue their ongoing discussions about hiring a permanent General Manager (PDF), adopt a timeline and plan for their redistricting process (PDF), and consider adopting a fueling hedging program (PDF) to help mitigate uncertainty in their budget process.

As important as all of these subjects are, the agenda item I’m most interested in sounds, at first glance, considerably less exciting — a report on the bus transit service impacts associated with the Oakland Running Festival (PDF).

Bus service disruptions during the Marathon

This report came to the Board as an informational item at their meeting two weeks ago (PDF), and I was really glad it did.

Habitual bus riders surely remember all the notices at the stops and on buses in the weeks leading up to this year’s Oakland Running Festival about the MAJOR SERVICE DISRUPTIONS they should expect on March 27th. For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure of trying to plan out trips on transit that day from the closures list, hopefully this map will give you a little sense of what it was like:

AC Transit Service Disruptions Oakland Marathon

I ended up taking a cab.

If that image isn’t enough to make the point, here’s the numbers breakdown:

  • For 11 hours, there were service shutdowns on 28 routes
  • Those routes represent 74% of Sunday ridership
  • That’s about 52,000 people impacted by the service disruption

You get the idea. It’s bad.

AC Directors unhappy

Director Elsa Ortiz was concerned about the District getting compensated by the City for the expenses incurred during the service shutdowns (overtime for extra staff on the day of the event, cost of running shuttles in areas totally cut off). Director Greg Harper said he was happy they were addressing the issue, and then made a joke about Rosie Ruiz.

Director Joe Wallace found the whole thing pretty outrageous, offering:

To me, I’m a bus rider. I’ve been a bus rider all my life. And this list lets me know if I lived in Oakland when they ran this marathon not only could they not get to church, not only could they not buy food, but they couldn’t even get to work. This is just totally unacceptable. I don’t know, they have to run around the buses or something because our buses have got to run.

Director Chris Peeples, who had originally requested the report, bemoaned the “extreme” nature of the shutdowns and suggested the Board direct AC Transit staff to start negotiating “aggressively” with Oakland about getting some cooperation, and further suggested that the Board Members themselves get a little more aggressive with Oakland decision-makers:

It’s up to policy makers to go up there and stand in front of the City Council and say “You can’t treat our customers this way.” [Our staff can't] go and yell at City Councilmembers, but we certainly can.

Why was it so bad?

So. Obviously, any time you have an event that requires many miles of street closures, that’s going to create some issues for transit service. Understood.

But service shutdowns to the point where most people basically cannot get anywhere on a bus, that can’t be normal for marathons, right?

I did spend some time (a kind of ridiculous amount of time, actually) trying to figure out how major the bus service disruptions in other cities are during their marathons. I probably shouldn’t even have bothered, because even once you manage to find the list of route reroutings, and then take it and try to compare them to a standard route map, you’re still left with the problem that when you don’t know a city’s geography, you really have no way to evaluate what the changes mean for the person who has to accomplish kind of everyday tasks or reach major destinations.

In general, I couldn’t find any marathon-related service disruptions that looked at all comparable to what happened with AC Transit in Oakland this year, but like I said, it really just is so hard to tell when you don’t know what you’re looking at. The only other city where I’m familiar enough with the bus system and the routes to make any kind of reliable judgement is Portland. And comparing their rerouting and delays to what happened in Oakland last spring, it is like night and day. They had delays on tons of routes, but the City let buses run on some roads that were otherwise closed to traffic, and in general, it looked like, yeah, maybe you would have farther to walk and it would take longer than usual, but you could get to where you needed to go.

So what made this year in Oakland so terrible for bus riders? Well, it was the route. As AC Transit Service Development and Planning Director Corey LaVigne gently put it:

The routing was set up from kind of a particular perspective but not necessarily from a transit perspective.

The staff report elaborates (PDF):

The marathon route encircled the entire city from downtown Oakland, to West Oakland, the Montclair District, Fruitvale District, and Jack London Square around Lake Merritt to the finish line at Oakland’s City Hall. The half marathon course circulated within Downtown Oakland. Both routes resulted in the closure of several major arterials including International Blvd. Broadway, College Ave., Lincoln Blvd., Martin Luther King Way and 19th Ave.

Both running events occurred simultaneously with an unyielding route that did not permit bus crossings over the 26 mile span for the planned 11 hour period. The overall effect was a nearly complete disruption of District lines operating within and between the City of Oakland and the rest of AC Transit service area that led to rider inconveniences.

Transit-last Oakland

I couldn’t even venture a guess about how many times I have pointed out over the years that Oakland is a “transit-first city” in name only.

I mean, when I learned that the City did not even involve AC Transit in the route-planning process, my first thought was basically “OMG that is so terrible! What could they have been thinking?” But pretty quickly that switched to “Oh, of course they didn’t. Why would they have? Oakland never thinks about transit. Why would the marathon be any different?”

I think part of it is also that the City of Oakland gets so excited anytime anything good happens here that there’s a tendency to kind of just focus on that one thing and just ignore everything else. So when it comes to something like the Running Festival, it’s all “Oh boy! Something cool is happening in Oakland! All sorts of people are going to be here. How can we best showcase the city?” And when that’s all you’re focused on, questions like “How are people who don’t care about the marathon supposed to go about their lives on this day” just don’t seem so important.

In the hopes of making things go a little more smoothly next year, staff is recommending (PDF):

  • AC Transit Board of Directors to advocate for continuity of the existing transit service during public events that result in service disruptions. This includes requiring event organizers to plan and coordinate with District staff, and provide compensation for additional staffing, marketing and impacts on service changes requiring additional buses.
  • Require the City of Oakland and the event organizers to include AC Transit as a key stakeholder in the process related to the planning of the marathon course.
  • A recommendation for the marathon course to allow bus routes to safely permeate the marathon route to continue to operate unimpeded to and from Downtown Oakland.
  • Require the event organizers to include AC Transit service changes in its marketing materials, website and social media.

Seems like a solid plan. Let’s hope the City is receptive!

Is Good Vibrations a good fit for Lakeshore?

Remember the fireworks last December when an application for an adult entertainment shop in Uptown came before the Oakland Planning Commission? KTOP viewers have a sequel in store tomorrow!

At their meeting tomorrow night, the Oakland Planning Commission will consider a conditional use permit to allow a Good Vibrations to open up on Lakeshore.

The store would have the same conditions of approval (PDF) as Feelmore510 received — adults-only entry, no massage, booths, or clothing-optional activities, and windows displays that do not contain explicitly sexual materials. You might think that, since the style and operations of Good Vibration stores are pretty well known, it would be less stress-provoking that Uptown’s Feelmore was, where all anyone had to go on was good faith in the owner’s intentions. (For the record, I live down the street, and Feelmore has proved to be a good neighbor and an excellent addition to the area.)

You might also think that a neighborhood that manages to produce so many children wouldn’t be particularly puritanical about sex. But you would be very wrong.

Staff has recommended approval of the permit (PDF):

In addition, the Lakeshore/Grand Lake Theater district has transformed into a specialty shopping and lifestyle area for educated singles and families. Thus it is not unreasonable to introduce a low-key retail establishment catering to adult items and sensuality, although restrained in presentation since more families use these sidewalks. The business model, along with conditions of approval as accepted by the applicant, this Adult retail activity should not have adverse impacts at this location.

Many Grand Lake residents, however, disagree.

What about the property values?

Objections generally seem to focus on the idea that Lakeshore is a family-oriented street, what with all the children’s clothing stores and yogurt shops and such, and therefore has no room for adult-oriented retail.

The City received a number of letters on the subject, mostly opposing the store. Here are some excerpts from the letters included in Wednesday’s Planning Commission report (PDF):

The sidewalk in front of the proposed location is very narrow and it’s impractical and wrong to expect parents to avoid this area or distract their children each time they walk by.

Furthermore, the addition of an adult bookstore changes the character of the neighborhood and I’m concerned about its effect on our community, property values and the image of Oakland.

…a good portion, if not a majority, of the foot traffic at this location is families walking with their children. I, as a local home owner and the Father of two young children, will be more hesitant to walk this street knowing that an adult-only sexual accessories shop is at this location.

In short, our neighborhood is not a good fit for Good Vibrations. They should consider Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, near the piercing and tattoo shops abuzz with college students. But a family-centric neighborhood is not a good idea…I am already cringing at the questions I will get from my daughter about what they sell at the store.

This is to register total OPPOSITION to Good Vibrations on Lakeshore — are you kidding me??

I know we’re all supposed to be as sexually liberated as those good people at GV but the fact is who wants to bump into their neighbor inside a sex shop let alone be seen by hundreds of other locals.

Not everyone objects

For my part, I don’t particularly care much either way. I think the Grand Lake neighborhood in general is a little ridiculous about rejecting businesses that don’t meet their narrow ideas of what belongs in a neighborhood retail district. (The rejection of Out of the Closet springs to mind, as does the successful effort to block a proposal to put a upscale quick service burger and fries restaurant in the shuttered Kwik Way, only to have the spot sit hideously blighted for several years until everyone rejoiced when a upscale quick service burger and fries restaurant eventually opened.)

I also think the people objecting could stand to take a deep breath and chill out a little over the whole “what about the children” thing. Kids aren’t idiots, and if you’re letting them watch basically any TV or movies, they understand already that adults sometimes do things that they don’t, stuff that involves touching and removing clothing. In the town we lived when I was younger, where the zoning codes were less restrictive/non-existent, we had a adult store right next door to a restaurant our family frequented, and not a classy one like Good Vibrations either. Somehow, my sisters and I survived.

Still, I don’t live in the neighborhood, and picking and choosing the stores they want seems to be a Grand Lake thing. If they’d prefer empty storefronts, well — that’s really their decision.

Comments on the question over at the Grand Lake Neighbors website are more evenly divided — plenty of people in favor of Good Vibrations and plenty against. (And pretty much nobody in favor of a potential new Wingstop, which is apparently some sort of chain that sells lots of different flavors of chicken wings?)

Comments on the website in opposition to the store overall are a little less restrained than the letters submitted to the City:

Not to mention, how many of us want to be seen frequenting the store in our own’hood only to bump into your neighbor, vibrating dildo in one hand, frozen yogurt in the other!

Good Vibrations on Lakeshore? How tacky! Ummmm…”upscale sex shop” is an oxymoron. I think their presence would really downgrade our neighborhood. They are located “across from Bloomingdales” on the Mission Street side on the wrong side of Mission, which is where they belong. I think another neighborhood would be more appropriate — perhaps International Blvd? West MacArthur?

Of course, those in favor of Good Vibrations opening aren’t holding back either:

Yes to both! As a father of a four year old who freqeunts the farmers market, Yogafina, the baby clothes store, Arizmendi and Monkey Shala. I am completely for GV moving in. Welcome. A great store, with wonderful products that enhance peoples lives beautifully. If you’re worried that people may think you’re sexual than don’t go in. If you happen to see someone go in who you know and you feel embarrassed than I’m afraid you probably have a few problems needing attention.

…I am a firm supporter of Good Vibrations erecting their store on Lakeshore. We already have other stores that cause children to ask questions about sex, “Daddy, where do the children that wear Baby Gap clothes come from?” Personally, I am still shocked that there is a store selling bedding on Lakeshore without covering up their windows. I blush every time I walk by and see the clean sheets on display.

As for the other businesses, Lakeshore BID Director Pamela Drake chimed in to note that the neighborhood merchants are “for the most part” in favor, and later indicated in a message to the City that the BID had voted to support Good Vibrations but had some concerns about the specifics of the exterior design.

What will the Planning Commission say?

We’ll find out tomorrow. The Good Vibrations permit is on the Planning Commission agenda for Wednesday, September 21st (PDF). The meeting starts at 6pm in Sgnt. Mark Dunakin Hearing Room 1 at Oakland City Hall. If you’re not going in person but want to see the excitement, tune in to KTOP, Comcast Channel 10, U-verse Channel 99, and also available streaming online.

Rethinking Parking this week in Oakland

So, as I mentioned yesterday, the most interesting item on the City Council Committee agendas was the Community and Economic Development Committee’s discussion of the City’s follow-up to the aggressively unflattering Alameda County Grand Jury report about Oakland’s Building Services division.

I wasn’t able to attend the meeting in person, but I rushed to download the video the second I got home last night because I had heard a rumor that some reporter had tried to attack Jane Brunner during the meeting and had to be dragged out in handcuffs or something. Not often you see that kind of excitement in City Council meetings!

I have to confess that I was a tiny bit disappointed when I got to watch the video, since it turned out that I had gotten a somewhat exaggerated account of the event, and the fireworks weren’t quite as dramatic as I had been led to believe. Still, I’m sure that if you were in the room, it would have felt pretty intense.

Other than that, the discussion was…well, for now I’ll just leave it at unsatisfying. I’ll write more later in the week, but for those who just can’t wait, you can view all the video from the Building Services item at yesterday’s meeting here.

In other news, as you may have read on Living in the O yesterday, this is an exciting week for Oaklanders interested in parking issues. Which is everyone, right?

Parking! Workshop on Thursday

If you are on any kind of City email list or neighborhood listserv, you have probably gotten like six thousand copies of this message in the last month:

The City of Oakland is updating its off-street parking regulations. The City’s off-street parking regulations have not been comprehensively updated since 1965 and need to be updated to be consistent with current City policies. This introductory workshop is the first step in the process of updating the City’s off-street parking regulations.

Come and learn about off-street parking and provide feedback on what should be considered during the parking update process. The City will not be presenting any new regulations at this community workshop. Proposed new regulations will be presented at future public meetings.

What will be discussed?

  • Overview of off-street parking update project
  • Parking in Oakland
  • Break out stations to discuss and get feedback on specific issues
  • Open question and comment period at the end of the meeting

The Community Workshop will focus on parking that is located on private or public property off City streets. Parking that is on public streets will not be the focus of this process.

Here’s the flyer for the meeting (PDF).

And if you’re anything like most of the people who’ve asked me about this message, you don’t have the faintest idea what it means, why it is happening, or if this is some evil conspiracy on the part of the Planning Department to stick parking lots on every available surface in the city.

You might have looked for information on the City’s website, which does offer a page on devoted to the parking regulations update, but if you did that, you were most likely disappointed, since the page doesn’t actually contain any information. Presumably that will be remedied at some point in the future.

And if you pay even a little bit of attention to planning issues in Oakland, you might have thought “Wait, didn’t we just update our zoning code? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to deal with parking requirements during that process?” A cynical person might answer that yes, it would have made sense to do it then and by dragging it out into a whole separate process staff is just creating make-work to justify the continued existence of their jobs.

Off-Street Parking

So, what is off-street parking? Basically, it’s parking that isn’t on the street. So, not the metered spaces you pull into in front of a store or whatever. It’s surface lots and garages.

The City’s off-street parking requirements are the portion of the Planning Code that tells you how many parking spaces you need to provide for any specific use. This is where you would look to learn that you need to provide, for example, one parking space for every 300 square feet of floor area at your fast food restaurant in one zone, or one space for every 450 square feet in some other zone. Or that you need one parking space for every three employees at your car dealership, or one parking space per unit in your new condo building.

You can read the city’s current off-street parking regulations here (PDF).

The off-street parking portion of the Planning Code also explains things like how big off-street parking spaces need to be, where they can be located, how you know when the parking requirements apply to your building or business, and how to know when your parking requirements change. Well, “explains” might be a little generous:

If any facility, or portion thereof, which is in existence on the effective date of the zoning regulations, or of a subsequent rezoning or other amendment thereto establishing or increasing parking or loading requirements for an activity therein, is altered or changed in occupancy so as to result in an increase in the number of residential living units therein, new off-street parking as prescribed hereafter shall be provided for the added units. However, such new parking need be provided only in the amount by which the requirement prescribed hereafter for the facility after said alteration or change exceeds the requirement prescribed hereafter for the facility as it existed prior to such alteration or change; and such new parking need not be provided to the extent that existing parking exceeds the latter requirement.

So now you might be thinking that this all sounds really boring. But I’m promise it isn’t! It is actually really important. Reductions in the required number of parking spaces in multi-unit development can help lower the cost of construction, and encouraging more (and also more transit-oriented) development. Off-street parking regulations also specify requirements for things like screening and lighting off-street parking lots, both of which have public safety implications.

It’s really easy to forget sometimes just how much space parking spaces take up. And every space used for storing cars is space that is not being used for housing or for recreation or for a patio or for open space or for a water fountain or a shop or any of all the things in the world you can do with a space besides sometimes putting a car there. For a pretty striking example of other ways some of this space might be used, take a trip over to The Trappist in Old Oakland and check out their awesome outdoor patio. Three parking spaces had to be removed to make it. Was it worth it?

Sensible parking requirements don’t mandate the creation of any more spaces than are necessary. You want enough not to cause terrible problems, but not so many that you’re wasting space on parking spots that sit perpetually empty. Sometimes, parking requirements will include a maximum number of spaces you can build for any specific use. Rules like these help to encourage more transit-sensitive development and also encourages us to use the limited amount space we have in more productive ways.

So if you weren’t planning on attending because you didn’t really understand what it was about, or because you thought it sounding boring or whatever, I hope you’ll reconsider. The meeting will take place tomorrow, Thursday, September 15th at the Oakland Main Library in the Bradley Walters Community Room (downstairs in the basement) from 6 to 8 pm.

I look forward to seeing a good crowd there! And hey, since you’ll be at the library anyway, why not arrive a little early and head upstairs to the Oakland History Room, where they will be holding a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 highlighting the new History Room exhibit, Remembering and Rebuilding: A Commemoration of the Oakland-Berkeley Firestorm.

Park(ing) Day on Friday

So even if you aren’t going to the meeting, I hope you’ve at least started thinking about how much space we devote to parking. Conveniently, this Friday offers another opportunity to consider the subject.

On Park(ing) Day, held once a year, people rent on-street parking spaces, but instead of using them to store cars all day, they use them for more pleasant and inviting activities. For some examples, check out these photos Becks posted on Living in the O on Park(ing) Day a few years ago.

I was thrilled when I heard how many different locations will be participating in Park(ing) Day in Oakland this year. WOBO has a map of all of them on their website, and you can hit six of them with just a quick stroll downtown. Start at Farley’s on Grand, just off Broadway, then head straight down Broadway where there will be another one at 21st. Take a little detour onto Telegraph to hit the Marquee Lofts at 18th St, then once you hit 17th, go back to Broadway where PGA Design will be offering s’mores! Walk down Broadway a couple block more to see parklet in front of the new Oaklandish store, and then finish your tour at the Transform parklet, on 14th just off Broadway.

Oakland City Council returns from summer break

Wow. I can’t believe how fast summer went by! It feels like recess just started a week ago.

Alas, in reality, it’s been quite a bit more than one week. Recess is over, and starting today, the Oakland City Council is back to their normal business of infuriating any resident misguided enough to watch them in action.

So I hope everybody had lots of fun this summer! I had a great time. I rode the BRT in Cleveland, hiked beautiful mountains in Colorado, and relaxed along the shore of Lake Champlain in Vermont. I was actually kind of sad last week to have to come back to Oakland. It didn’t help that my regular weekend morning coffee-and-a-good-book park has been ruined by a horrifying monument to the inflated egos over at the Chamber of Commerce.

Remember Them

I did try visiting the other morning, hoping I’d be able to tune out the statue and just concentrate on my book. No dice. My poor neighborhood park is just totally ruined. But hey, it’s going to bring us tourism, right?

There were a handful other people in the park with me the other morning. A couple of the faces were familiar. As smokers living in non-smoking buildings, they’re in the park a lot. I noticed they were all sitting kind of towards the far edge of the park, whereas normally people tend to be pretty evenly distributed. I rarely talk to them, since they’re obviously not going to the park for socializing, and well, neither am I.

Photo of Remember Them monument

But I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt about the “largest cast bronze representational sculpture West of the Mississippi” (hint: if you need that many modifiers to make something sound special, that means it isn’t that special). So I asked. I was met with grimaces and exaggerated eye rolls. I suppose that’s to be expected, though, since the monument isn’t there for residents.

I haven’t seen any droves of tourists around the monument yet, although there were a few visitors when I was there the other morning. Two older gentlemen spent a long time standing in front of the monument and talking about it. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they seemed enthusiastic, so I’m guessing they didn’t find it anywhere near as off-putting as I do.

Photo of Remember Them Monument

And then there was a couple with two small children. It was one of those moments, like riding on an airplane with a screaming child, that makes you never want kids. This poor couple was clearly trying to impress their children with the monument, maybe use it as an education opportunity, which I think is sweet, even if I personally do not like the sculpture. But the kids of course were having none of it.

The little boy had somehow procured a handful of small rocks and kept throwing them at the statues every time his parents took their eyes off him for even a moment. This happened quite a few times, since the little girl kept crying and wailing hysterically. I couldn’t help but think she was crying because she was terrified of the sculptures (I think they’re scary), but of course maybe she was upset because her parents had refused to buy her ice cream for breakfast or whatever it is that kids flip out about it. Who knows. In any case, it didn’t seem like a particularly successful outing.

It’s not all bad news in my neighborhood, though. At least we have the long awaited sculpture garden at 19th and Telegraph to look forward to!

Photo of coming soon sign for Uptown Art Space

Just think. It could have been a parking lot!

Council Committee Meetings

I had actually been planning on using my return from summer post to write a little roundup of the items coming up at today’s Committee meetings. Unfortunately, the agendas are kind of a snoozefest.

The issues of selling golf courses (PDF) and municipal IDs (PDF) are back at Finance & Management Committee (which starts at noon), for what seems like the five thousandth time in the past three years. I’m sure the actual number is probably in the single digits, but these discussions always just seem to be a repeat of what happened the last time around, and never go anywhere. If it turns out it’s more interesting this time, I’ll write about it later in the week.

The big item at the Community and Economic Development Committee (2pm) is a report on the City’s follow-up to the Grand Jury report (PDF) blasting Oakland’s Building Services division, which was released back in June. That one isn’t actually boring, but frankly, I am reluctant to write about it in spite of its importance because of the bad behavior the subject seems to prompt in the comments. Still, I’m sure that’s going to be an interesting discussion. So if you’re interested, you can either head over to City Hall this afternoon or catch it on KTOP — Comcast Channel 10, Uverse Channel 99 (I think, someone correct me if that’s wrong), or of course, streaming online.