Last night, I attended a community meeting about improvements to Snow Park, 20th Street, Lakeside Drive, and Harrison Street.
Where is Snow Park?
If you spend a lot of time around downtown, you’re probably familiar with Snow Park. If not, here’s the area we’re talking about.
It starts on 20th street, between Harrison and Lakeside Drive. Across 20th Street is the Kaiser Center, and across Lakeside is Lake Merritt. If you walk in this area much, you are well aware of what a tremendous pain this intersection is for pedestrians.
Basically, that chunk of 20th Street between Harrison (on one side of Snow Park) and Lakeside (on the other side of Snow Park) would be removed, and the extra space from where the street used to be as well as the pointless triangle of land on the other side would become part of Snow Park. Lakeside Drive would be narrowed and moved a little farther away from the Lake in order to create more park area along Lake Merritt.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from last night’s meeting. The flyer I had seen advertising the meeting did a poor job of previewing the planned changes. I went in with a vague sense that I disliked the plan already, although not for any good reason.
It turned out to be pretty cool.
Right now, the project is in the community input stage. So if you want to provide feedback, now is the time to do it. Some elements of the plan are not negotiable (bike lanes, the closure of 20th Street). But others aspects may still change, such as the amenities included in the refurbished Snow Park.
As it stands now, the plan is to retain the Snow Park putting green along Harrison Street, add some walking paths, and put in a tot lot. I am super in favor of walking paths! It is impossible to cut through Snow Park right now if you’re wearing heels. They just sink right into the mud. The concept also includes playground equipment for the tot lot themed like animals, a nod to the park’s history. It was the original home of the Oakland Zoo, founded in 1922 by naturalist Henry A. Snow. I thought that was a cute idea.
Where 20th Street sits now, the design concept places a wide tree-lined promenade to guide pedestrians from downtown to the Lake.
On the other side of Lakeside Drive, the plan is to take the new park space and terrace it with seating and planting areas. I think that was probably my favorite aspect of the plan. Lake Merritt is just so pretty, and such a nice place to take a lunch or grab a cup of coffee and sit and read, but there is a terrible shortage of benches on that part of the Lake, and they are always full!
Altogether, the removal of that strip of 20th Street and expansion of Snow Park would create a 70,000 square foot increase in contiguous open space in the area. 60 new trees would be planted, and 10 existing trees would be removed. There would also be a minor loss of parking. The project is expected to start construction sometime around the end of 2012 or beginning of 2013, and take somewhere between eight months to one year to complete.
The meeting last night wasn’t particularly well attended, but did generate some interesting suggestions. Attendees were given little dots to place on boards parking the aspects of the proposal they were most excited about. The tree-lined promenade seemed particularly popular on the dot boards. I was a little disappointed with the lack of enthusiasm for the putting green.
During the Q&A period, a couple of other suggestions for use of the space came up. One person suggested a volleyball or basketball court, someone else asked about a community garden, and a couple expressed a desire to be able to take their dogs to the park, even if it was on-leash. A friend I was talking to after the meeting said that he thought the tot lot had no place in the park, and that programmed space should be reserved for adults, since that’s most of the people in the area. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
There was a fairly lengthy discussion about the placement of the jogging path along the Lake (should it be on the inside or the outside of the walking path), and what the ideal material for the jogging path would be. I kind of tuned out of that part, because I really have no idea about the difference in all these types of materials.
New, pretty things are all well and good, but of course then you’re left with the task of keeping them pretty, which Measure DD does not pay for. I live three blocks from Snow Park, and walk past it most days on my way to work, and the state of it right now is deplorable. It is just nasty and overgrown and like this giant mud pit. It would be a shame to put all this money into making it nice only to have it fall apart again right away due to continuing cuts to park maintenance staff.
So I asked if the City had a plan for park maintenance. It turns out that they don’t have much of one, but assured the audience that they would figure it out. I did not find that particularly comforting. Volunteers were referenced, as well as the CBD. If the CBD were able to take care of park maintenance there, I think that would be awesome. But my understanding was that the City has been unwilling to let them do so because of union issues. Last I heard, that issue had not been resolved, but of course hope springs eternal.
Learn more and give your feedback
If you want to learn more about this project, want to ask questions, or have strong opinions about what should be included, but weren’t able to make it last night, you’re in luck! The plan will be presented to Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee at their meeting next Thursday, April 21st. BPAC meetings are held in City Hall Hearing Room 4 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.
Those who can’t make it to BPAC are encouraged to send their comments to Ali Schwarz of the Public Works Agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help guide your input, here are the questions that were provided on the feedback form:
- Which improvements do you want to see along Lake Merritt in this project area? Answer choices: seating, lighting, public art, separate jogging trail, landscaping, other
- Where do you prefer to locate the separate jogging trail around Lake Merritt? Answer choices: lakeside, roadside
- What material do you prefer to jog on? Answer choices: decomposed granite, mulch, concrete, asphalt, dirt
- What types of improvements do you want to see along Lakeside Drive? Answer choices: bike lanes, stormwater treatment, pedestrian safety/crossings, other
- What improvements to Snow Park would you like to see? Answer choices: children’s playground, walking path, putting green, restroom facilities
- Rank the design elements presented in order of priority: Snow Park Playground; Snow Park Putting Green; Snow Park Walkways; Snow Park Restroom upgrades; Lake Merritt Separate Jogging Trail; Lake Merritt Landscape Improvements; Benches, Lighting, Furniture