Build a fence, not a parking lot

I hope by now that you have all read the two excellent posts on Living in the O about the new surface parking lot the City wants to stick on 19th and Telegraph in Uptown. If you haven’t, here’s the story.

Forest City, developer of the Uptown Apartments, has a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) (PDF) with the City that says the City is supposed to sell them the big lot at the corner of 19th and Telegraph for $6.9 million so they can build 220 units of housing and some commercial space on it. According to the DDA, this was supposed to happen by July of 2008. Forest City, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t get it together to buy the lot by that deadline, so now the City is moving the date back three years, to July 2011 (PDF). The new schedule includes performance milestones such as a building permit being issued by June of 2011 and construction beginning in October of 2011.

Nobody wants to look at ugly green construction fencing for the next two years, so the question becomes, what do we do with that big empty space sitting there on Telegraph? The City has decided that the best thing we can do with a large parcel on Telegraph Avenue across the street from the Fox Theater and Flora is to turn it into a surface parking lot that will hold 120 cars.

Here is how that would play out. We would lease the parcel (PDF) to Forest City, who would then be responsible for paying to turn it into a surface parking lot (probably $400,000-$500,000). Then, Forest City would get to keep the revenue generated from the parking fees to help cover the cost of building the parking lot. The City estimates that the parking lot could generate $125,000-$150,000 per year. After Forest City earns $300,000 from the parking lot, the rest of the revenue would go to the City. If the Community and Economic Development Committee approves the lease for the parking lot at their meeting on Tuesday (PDF), the proposal will then move on for approval by the full City Council at their next meeting. If they approve it, then Forest City will have to go get building permits and apply for a conditional use permit to turn the parcel into a parking lot, which will have to be approved by the Planning Commission (a body which, just last week, voted to prohibit all new surface parking downtown, BTW).

So, the staff report (PDF) on this item suggests that this will generate around $100,000 for the City. Maybe one of you can explain to me how the math on that one works, because I can’t figure how this parking lot could feasibly get approved, constructed, and opened before October, at which point there are only two years left before the lot will have to be closed because construction on the new building is starting, and according to staff’s numbers, Forest City will not have earned over $300,000 by then.

I live less than 500 feet from this intersection, and I can walk out my door and identify open street parking within my immediate sight lines pretty much any night of the week no matter who is playing at the Fox. (I tried to take photos to document all this parking, but, idiot that I am, I managed to lose my camera battery charger and therefore now cannot use my camera, so I just fell back on taking pictures with my cell phone, none of which, I discovered this morning as I was preparing this blog, came out visible at all. Alas.) Anyway, if the City really believes there is a parking shortage in Uptown, they should change the street sweeping hours to free up spaces.

Or, hey, they could keep their garages open later! It’s really hard for me to stomach the idea that the City is claiming we need more car storage in this area at night when there are already floors of parking spaces like a block away that they control and choose to shut down at night. (At last month’s meeting, we were told that not enough people use the garages at night to make it financially feasible to keep open. How that supports the argument that the area desperately needs more parking is completely beyond me.)

I’m always saying that the biggest thing standing in the way of Oakland’s success is the City of Oakland, and this is just a perfect example. After years of everyone talking about how downtown is going to take off soon and how nightlife and vibrancy and restaurants and bars and crowds are coming just around the corner, it is all finally happening. We managed to get ourselves one successful, crowded, busy street downtown and how does the City respond? By trying to stick a giant parking lot right smack in the middle of it all.

I got really sad thinking about this on Tuesday night, when I was enjoying a drink at The Den. I was sitting by the window, and had ample opportunity to observe the behavior of the post concert crowd, since my date had to abandon me right as that night’s show was letting out, to go move his car, which he had left in a City parking garage that was about to close. It was sooo exciting to watch all the people just filling up all the sidewalks, lingering outside in the neighborhood after the show, and I just could not help but wonder how that behavior would change if a field of cars, constantly reminding you of driving away, suddenly became the dominant feature of the street. It was so disheartening.

The staff report (PDF) argues that we should go ahead with the parking lot because we can’t afford to do anything else with the property. Pat Kernighan was really worked up over this the last time the Committee discussed the parking lot, saying that if people don’t want it, then they have to come up with some other way to use the parcel because nobody wants to look at ugly construction fencing for two years. Which is, frankly, ridiculous. If there’s no economically viable short-term use for the lot, then why do we have to do anything with it? Just put up a nice looking fence and call it a day. Do you guys remember that fence they put up by the new Uptown park while it was being built, where they had the kids from the School for the Arts decorate it?

Just do that. It sure as hell can’t cost as much to build a pretty fence as it would to build and operate a parking lot, and I doubt it would require a Planning Commission hearing. Also, unlike a parking lot, it would visually enhance the intersection and make the pedestrian experience more interesting, rather than more horrifying.

147 thoughts on “Build a fence, not a parking lot

  1. dbackman

    How about building subterranean parking that will also serve as the foundation for the future development there? Keeps the parking out of site and avoids the waste of a temporary structure.

  2. Jim T

    Wait a minute…I thought the new zoning rules for downtown outright barred surface parking lots, no? Are they still really planning to go ahead with this? This is entirely unacceptable.

    As “Living in the O” suggested, I’ve already written the council. Hopefully readers here will do the same:

    Council President Jane Brunner, District 1 or 510-238-7001

    Patricia Kernighan, District 2 or 510-238-7002

    Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5 or 510-238-7005

    Larry Reid, District 7 or 510-238-7007

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    The new zoning does ban surface parking lots, but the new zoning is not yet law. The Planning Commission approved the proposal last week, but now it will have to go before the Community and Economic Development Committee and then the full City Council before it is finalized.

  4. Ralph

    i would much rather that green fence than a god forsaken parking lot. even on what was the busiest nite in the uptown capacity outstripped need. my gut tells me that cc wants a parking lot b/c it is playing to fears. if council can live the giant condom at 14th &jackson, the shrink wrap on Jefferson, among others, then we can make do for some rotating public art on telegraph.

  5. Andy K

    How about a grass field? Community garden? Not

    The economics for the parking lot seem to not work out. Why would Forest City do this given the cost/benefit?

  6. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you for contacting councilmembers. Please keep it up! There are indeed 400 spaces 1.5 blocks from the Fox Oakland Theater, which could be held open late on show nights, and another thing to suggest is that they put some good signs on that structure so people will know it is there. And they could advertise it on the Fox Oakland website and information, too!

    The hearing is on Tuesday, 4/28 at 2 pm, and it is the first thing on the CEDA committee agenda. Come on down if you can get away from work.

  7. livegreen

    Yeah, the timeline for this whole project doesn’t make much sense. Factoring in the costs of planning, disposing of any equipment, and prepping again for building in two years?

    Looks to me like it’s a place-holder so they don’t lose the rights for building on it, when the lending and market conditions improve. And if it takes them longer then they’re squatting on it, which ensures them first dibs whenever the project finally happens…

  8. V Smoothe

    The Redevelopment Agency is the one pushing this parking lot. I didn’t get the impression at the last meeting that Forest City cared much either way, although I can’t imagine they’re terribly thrilled about the idea of building a parking lot they lose money on.

  9. Navigator

    No one knows for sure, when, or if, Forrest City will end up building anything on that site considering the current economic conditions.. They may scale back the project. Who knows. Why not roll out some sod and call it a day. What’s the big deal?

    Temporarily extend the park with the understanding that it will revert back to Forrest City when they’re ready to build. This will create an inviting space which beats the heck out of a dirt lot, a parking lot, or a fence. What’s wrong with having a green space there for two or three years? Put it in legal form. I don’t see a problem.

  10. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with navigator.

    Another approach is to make sure that renewing parking lot use permit is NOT automatic, and that any time they try to renew, they have to add another ten feet on each edge as temporary green space. Let’s at least supply a disincentive to keeping it forever. But overall, I prefer the green now idea. Drought tolerant low maintenance, of course.

  11. nfalls75

    The location in question is exactly where homeplate should have been. Thanks for nothing Jerry!

  12. Max Allstadt


    I actually think that’s a good idea. So crazy it might work. Why?

    1. It’s surrounded by an entertainment district that could benefit from day and afternoon use as well as late night tipsy put-put shenanigans.

    2. It’s in a city that’s home to the people who build Burning Man. The best people in that talent pool do quality work, far more artistic than the campy. tacky reputation Burning Man has acquired. They also know everything there is to know about building creative, durable, outdoor structures on a tight budget. Windmills are cute, but what this town’s artists could cook up for mini-golf obstacle would be astounding.

    3. Something this silly has a sense of impermanence built in. No freak-outs when it’s dismantled. You could even put up a sign with a countdown to the end of the fun.

    Ok, so I realize this will never happen, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

    How about we move the Old Oakland Farmer’s market up there for a while? It would make it more accessible to West Oakland, Uptown, and Old Oaklanders can still walk there or to JLS…

    We can do better than a fence. Drive in movies? Roller rink? Basketball Courts?

  13. Jim Trenkle

    The best idea I have heard (Living in the O discussion) is a community garden. I like this because it doesn’t really cost the city money (and is therefore plausible), as it gets maintained by the garden “owners” (and they could be renters, paying small fees for the rights to plant in their parcel). This could of course look great, and contribute to street life, as people tend their gardens.

  14. Max Allstadt

    The catch with all of this is that people forget that temporary community space is temporary, and freak out when the time is up. If you want to do anything in this space, I say, put up a countdown sign, with a sort of “enjoy this while it lasts” message. Someone more gifted at PR than I am can probably come up with a better slogan to go with the countdown.

  15. Steve

    I vaguely remember that years ago, prior to the Forest City stuff, this lot and most of its surroundings were a big parking lot, quite ironically. Or am I wrong?

  16. das88

    I would like a bandstand, beer garden, and food vendors. It would probably only be active for 5 months out of the year and then probably only 5-10pm on Friday and Saturday nights, but it would be fun.

  17. Frankie D

    Slap some asphalt on it and park cars for the next 20 years, what a lack of imagination. This is so typical of Oakland’s unending progress of never completing a city subsidized development project. This mess has been going on since the 1960′s and 70′s, from the original City Center proposal to Hong Kong USA anybody out there remember what those projects were originally supposed to be? Or how long they stayed surface parking lots? The minimal income that might come from a parking lot, and that’s assuming it can even turn a profit, isnt worth the detriment it will cause to the areas current pedestrian flow. A lot of the people making these recommendations and decisions cant take part in the pedestrian experience unless they get out of their cars and actually walk around downtown. So in their eyes the best solution is to be able to park as close to your venue as possible and have as many spaces available as possible. There currently is no shortage of parking in DTO more people need to be looking at other alternatives to driving and less parking might actually encourage this and give your streets some needed vibrancy. But what’s to be expected from a city that still subsidizes auto purchases for its top managers. We dream of becoming Manhattan but instead reach for Bakersfield.

  18. V Smoothe

    The Committee has made it very clear that turning the lot into a park or any kind of public open space is not an option. If you decide to contact the Committee about this, please do not say you want a park instead of a parking lot – comments like that will be counterproductive.

  19. Steve Carney

    V- Yes, the Committee has stated it does not consider turning the entire site into a temporary park to be a financially viable option. However, the CC has publically stated aversions to certain ideas, only to reverse course as a result of strong public disagreement in the past. If people want a park there, I don’t think people should be discouraged from voicing this opinion to CC members.

    A compromise option that some people might want to consider is a park AND a parking lot – so that parking revenue could subsidize the maintenance of a park. The site is over 1-acre. If the entire site is parking, there would be enough room for 120 parking spaces (according to site plan provided by Forest City). With a compromise option, there’s enough room for say 60 parking spaces and a 1/2-acre park. The park/greenspace portion should be on the Telegraph portion of the site so that pedestrains see an aesthetic public space adjacent to the sidewalk instead of a sea of asphalt and cars. Public art and a community garden could be integrated into this park area.

  20. Ralph

    maybe i lack imagination, but what is something that the public will derive some benefit but will not miss when it is gone?

    right now the best thing that I can of is some type of rotating art that highlights the area and could possibly be incorpoarted into the new bldg

    Steve, the park is a non-starter. To use my new favorite phrase, you know where council is going with this…council is against anything that is going to result in a public outcry when the structure is eventually removed. We really need to present the best alternative that fit within their stated goals

  21. V Smoothe

    Steve, I wholeheartedly disagree. The Councilmembers were all extremely clear at the last meeting that they are not open to the idea of using the space as a park, not because of financial issues (although that is also a huge barrier – I mean, forget construction costs, the City can’t even maintain properly the parks we already have), but because of the long-term intended use for the site.

    I repeat, if you do not want the site turned into a parking lot, do not write asking for the parcel to become a park. This will not be helpful to the cause.

  22. dto510

    A parking lot would be disastrous, not matter how dolled up in flowers. That is not a compromise – any parking on that huge and prominent site would ruin the streetscape, endanger pedestrians, and induce driving. That’s the bottom line. I am very unhappy that some people appear to be trying to use objections to the parking lot to bolster the goal of preventing high-rise development on this site. Pedestrians advocates simply want to stop a temporary, money-losing (ie, subsidized) parking lot, not change the course of future development on this site. Conflating this debate with a debate over the future use of this parcel is extremely counterproductive, as V said, and will could lead the Council to dismiss our objections as NIMBYism.

  23. Steve Carney

    V- You say the Councilmembers are not open to the idea of using the space as a park “because of the long-term intended use for the site.”

    What do you mean? Grass is more conducive to a temporary use than asphalt.

  24. V Smoothe Post author

    The site is intent for a building, not a park. The Committee was emphatic that they are not willing to consider a “temporary” park, because we all know that it will not be temporary, and that putting a park or any kind of recreational open space will create a barrier for future development.

  25. Frankie D

    Here’s my suggestion since it appears this is becoming a done deal. Determine that the new building will have at least a 50′ front setback along Telegraph Avenue so as not to obstruct the views of the Fox when seen from the north end of Telegraph Ave. Most likely the building will have ground floor retail with a grade level entrance and residential above. Then in the area that will become the building’s footprint develop the parking lot keeping the number of spaces to a minimum and put in a low (3 foot) cyclone fence and plenty of sod landscaping around the perimeter and within, similar to what was done at entrances to the city center garage across from the Convention Center on 11th Street. Then in the Telegraph front setback put in some hardscape, benches and planter boxes that could become permenant and serve as the entry to the new building. Plenty of buildings have huge entry plazas in most cases plazas that are only used to access the building rather than serve as open space such as at the Ask building on 12th Street between Clay and Jefferson. Doing this shouldn’t be cost prohibative. This way you get a little plaza that can stay that might actually be functional, softening of the parking lot with greenscape that no one will miss when it goes, and a reduction in the 120 spaces so as not to deter the growing pedestrian flow. Also at the least, double the amount of ADA required spaces in the lot.

  26. dto510

    Frankie D, the new downtown zoning sets the maximum setback in pedestrian oriented areas to 5 ft, which is better for retail (per the city’s retail study) and creates a more urban street wall. Oakland is already building a public plaza on Telegraph, at 16th (well, they’re supposed to). We should not build poor pedestrian design downtown to provide views from North Oakland.

  27. Naomi Schiff

    When the tall building was proposed before, some of us advocated for an angled corner at 19th and Telegraph, echoing the shapes in the Fox Oakland Building and Flora. I think we could name whatever-it-is there the “Temporary …” so that people go in knowing it is indeed a short-term thing. The idea that because people would become fond of something therefore we shouldn’t do it seems ridiculous to me, having watched the forty-year surface parking lots at Kaiser Center for most of their history. If only they HAD done something nice with it, it would have really helped the neighborhood a lot, even if eventually slated for demolition.

    We have many examples of such uses, including open space at Jack London Square now occupied by buildings, but which served usefully for many years.

  28. Frankie D

    This downtown has tons of those temporary only sites they’re all called surface parking lots. Yes dto510 I’m aware of the new zoning requiring a maximum 5 foot setback in this area. It was just a suggested exception. How about putting the Wooz there.

  29. Steve Carney

    So you don’t support advocating for a park here because too many people may grow to use and enjoy it? Creating a popular urban greenspace destination should be a goal, not something to avoid! If this scenario does play out, there are several solutions to this ”problem” that could be looked at down the road. For example, Forest City could reconfigure the footprint of their building to preserve a portion of the park space, which could then be used as outdoor seating for the ground floor retail that’s part of their project. Remember, this site in over 1-acre. A continuous row of building frontage right up to the sidewalk is great for creating a pedestrian friendly retail corridor – but some attractive public space adjacent to the sidewalk is not going to deter – in fact, it will encourage – people from walking and shopping and eating.

    And your and Pat Kernighan and Forest City’s fear that a vocal group will want to preserve 100% of the space for a park and passionately oppose the construction of the already-entitled building once Forest City is ready to build it? Let’s fight that battle when that happens. Letting a hypothetical group of people from the future stymie what is the best option for this space RIGHT NOW is bad policy and bad planning. Remember, no one knows how long this “temporary” use is going to last – nobody knows if Forest City will be ready in 3 years – so lets advocate for what makes the most sense on this site for the time-being.

    So i say, if you do not want the site turned into a parking lot, a park (or half park/half parking lot, which might be more financially viable) is a good suggestion for your councilmembers.

  30. V Smoothe Post author

    My fear is that we are going to end up with a surface parking lot right in the middle of an emerging successful pedestrian destination in my neighborhood.

    If you want to tell the Committee to turn the lot into a park, Steve, go right ahead. But, I want to make sure that everyone else understands that if they write and ask for a park there, we are more likely to end up with a parking lot right on Telegraph. That is the reality. People can run around listing their pie in the sky fantasies all they want, but the Council is not going to budge on their position regarding the park, so I want to make sure everyone is aware of the consequences of such advocacy.

  31. Steve Carney

    I hear you V. I really understand where you’re coming from and what your feared outcome is. I think a parking lot there sucks too. I just think a significant park space there (incorporating community garden, public art) with SOME icky surface parking is better than A) a surface parking lot taking up the entire 1-acre site or B) your idea of leaving the entire space completely unused and inaccessible and surrounding it with a fence that kids could paint on.

    I also don’t think advocating for some park space here makes it more likely we will “end up with a parking lot right on Telegraph” versus advocating for your fence idea. If we get park space, it would be located adjacent to the sidewalk and the parking would be tucked away behind it. The park would be right up on the Telegraph sidewalk, not the parking lot. The fence you advocate for would be great as a screen between to park and parking lot behind it.

  32. das88

    A good solution is one that will not involve either asphalt or grass. I think people should focus on uses that let the lot stay in in its current basic condition of compacted dirt.

    V’s proposal of an attractive wall meets that requirement.

    My earlier suggestion of mobile food vendors and light entertainment for part of the year meets this requirement either with or without a wall.

    Other suggestions that people have made that entail some type of ephemeral art show or installation meet the requirement.

    Anything that grows there will be literally and figuratively rooted to the ground, so council won’t allow.

  33. Ken O

    Jim/V Smoothe:

    I’ve already written an email to the four CED planning committee council members. NO ONE WROTE ME BACK about the parking lot sham.

    At least Nancy Nadel writes me back.

    So the city has no money to do anything with this lot?

    I bet a lot of people in Oakland have money for that spot!!

    We could do TONS of other good things with this space!!!

    I live at Uptown and emailed them about it as well. Since ForestCity seems to be broke, I doubt they will do anything.

    I would help start AND maintain a community garden there. I’ve already started the process on my balcony which faces the lot (I have photos I’ll post later).

    And Oakland can always follow City of LA’s lead: bulldoze down the community garden later. Easy peasy. Right??

    And by the way, I vote for ROBERT BOBB for MAYOR.

  34. Ken O

    Why not have a Thursday night farmers market there? Sort of like Pike’s Place market in Seattle, but with more Chinatown like merchants and sensibilities.

    And, it’s a rent-paying feature.

    Nothing planted besides a few “temporary” trees.

    And if it’s dirt, so what. I’ve played plenty of soccer on dirt. Let us use that PUBLIC space!!!

  35. publicadministrator

    As Seattle resident who recently lived in Oakland for 18 months, a temporary, weekly occurring farmer’s market is completely different from Pike Place Market in terms of infrastruture, potential merchants, profitability, fit with the streetscape etc., etc.

  36. dto510

    I wish people would bug the Redevelopment Agency to build their already-funded, permanent plaza at 16th and Telegraph/Broadway (Latham Square). Forget the lot, let’s have our plaza now and forever!

  37. dto510

    I think it’s because the RDA wants to do the whole project at once (including widening the sidewalks along Telegraph and restriping the street to accommodate bikes), and it’s being held up because the basements under the sidewalks cannot structurally support the new construction (and probably the existing sidewalk as well – scary!). Apparently it took several years for the RDA to figure out there were sidewalks there. I do not know what the status is of encouraging the building owners to fill in their basements. I will ask on Tuesday.

  38. Frankie D

    dto510 I’ll agree if the plaza is already planned and paid for at Latham Square then we should be bugging Redev. to build it. However, a huge surface parking lot up the street is still a bad idea and it will remain a parking lot for a very long time.

  39. Navigator

    Let’s just roll some sod out and NOT call it a park. The Oakland City Council needs to listen to its constituents. An open green space is the only solution for abating the current blight and eyesore of an empty lot. A fence will only be a magnet for vandals. As of today, one of our urban “artists” has already done his handy work and it looks real ugly.

    I have a feeling that this parking lot idea is being pushed by the local business community. After all, where do the customers for SEARS park right now? How does SEARS stay in business with no parking? Also, a parking lot would be convenient to patrons at Flora and the new restaurant in the FOX Theater.

    Having said that, I think a sit alone asphalt parking lot would be terrible for the long-term growth of Uptown. I like the ideas proposed by Frankie and Steve. A 50′ foot set back creating a landscaped plaza on Telegraph would open up the area and create a perfect flow with the small existing plaza directly in front of the Fox. Why not landscape that 50′ ft setback as Steve suggested and put a smaller lot behind it? This way, the businesses in the area get some parking without desecrating the Telegraph street scape.

    Also, I don’t see how a high rise building set right on top of Telegraph, as proposed by Forest City, does anything to improve the pedestrian street scape of the area. We need to keep an open mind while using a little creativity. The City Council needs to make sure they get this right and not screw up the progress and the momentum that Uptown is currently experiencing. Everything should be on the table. Including green space.

  40. Patrick

    I still like the miniature gold idea, even though I originally proposed a community garden on another blog.

  41. Ralph

    nav, there is plenty of parking for Sears customers. i think the handful customers are either green by choice or green out of necessity. i would not be surprised if that Sears is not profitable. It is my guess that the land is more valuable.

  42. r kaplan

    Yes – mini golf! I love it. Does anybody have cost estimates or other helpful data – to support this option? If it can be financially viable I think we can get it done.
    And I like the idea of putting up a sign explaining the future development and that it is temporary. Maybe it would end up moving to a new location afterwards.
    -R Kaplan

  43. V Smoothe Post author

    Wait, the same City that can’t afford to provide trash cans in its parks is going to construct and operate a mini-golf course? How does that work?

  44. Max Allstadt

    How does it work? You close the mini-golf to people under 21 after 8pm on weekends and SELL BEER to the grownups. That’s how it works.

  45. Naomi Schiff

    Reading these posts, my reaction is that we really should look at this parcel and exercise creativity, brainstorming ideas for what could work short term until Forest City or whomever decides it is time to build something more permanent.

    I suggested minigolf as an example, without knowing much about it. If you want to contemplate it, below is a link to some company that describes the economics, and while you are at it you can consider bumper boats and paintball, too. Art, parks, amusements, sports, coffee stands, stall-based business, open space, gardens, markets: these ideas have in common that they might be some effort, might require thought, but also could provide more reasons to come to the area and spend time, could improve the sense of vibrancy everyone talks about. One of these draws might be a lot more helpful than another surface parking lot on a critical corner of a newly awakening neighborhood. And that surface parking lot is not free of construction and operating cost.

    (I think their hoped-for rate of usage is way overblown, though.)

  46. V Smoothe Post author

    Can someone explain to me how the construction of this mini-golf course or whatever would be financed? And who is going to operate it?

  47. Max Allstadt

    I said it wasn’t going to happen. But it would be cool.

    A beer garden, not so tough to pull off. A farmers market site, also not so tough.

    I’m particularly uninterested in a fence. If you build a fence, I’ll have to hop it, like I’ve hopped the existing one, and my knees are starting to give in my old age.

  48. r kaplan

    it won’t involve the city spending moNey. The way it might work is only if the minigolf could earn enough money to cover all the cost – so this will need more research…

  49. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, if the City wants to put out an RFP for someone to lease the lot until July 2011 and within that time period, build and operate a mini-golf course on it, I suppose I have no objection to that. Can’t imagine who would respond, but I guess that isn’t my problem.

  50. John Klein

    The mini-golf course idea seems more a solution based on the “anything but a parking lot” perspective. I don’t think a mini-golf course will work, either – it just wouldn’t be a parking lot. I am not aware of any particularly great clamor or public demand for a mini-golf course. Nor I do think that if we build one, that the demand will suddenly appear. I prefer making it a large patch of green grass open space until FC feels it can build there.

    Politicians be damned regarding their phobia about how the public might want open space there. Does anyone see the irony in council members saying they don’t want open space there because the public will want to stay that way? Isn’t it public property and shouldn’t the public have some say about it? Yes and yes.

  51. das88

    I agree with the skeptics about the mini-golf course. I think the only way it might work is to reconceptualize it as 18 art installations. For each hole you might get corporate sponsorship or maybe a youth group with some Kids First type money. You need more people to come interested in seeing the course than actually playing golf. The ephemeral nature of the project could be reinforced by a set auction date to sell off the art-structures similar to those have lots of artists paint garbage can or something else projects.

    Even as an art installation, I think I still prefer the bandstand idea. I would love to see school bands and choirs, church gospels, youth poetry, etc. have more venue for performance. Heck, the Oakland School for the Arts could probably provide an almost steady stream of entertainment on its own.

  52. Max Allstadt

    There is a huge difference between mini-golf, green space, or a beer garden, and the current proposal.

    All of our suggestions would have a positive impact. A parking lot would have a negative impact. It would create a logjam on telegraph during rush hour and at peak entertainment times. Did anybody see the traffic on telegraph on the Fox’s opening night? I did, I was playing a show at the uptown that night and it took us half an hour to move our van 2 blocks to load in our gear. If you add an inlet to a surface lot to this mess, you’ll make it much worse.

    Surface lots are anti-urban, and ugly to boot. If you don’t police the hell out of this lot, there will be break ins, and people smoking meth between SUVs. That many cars to hide between is not what Uptown needs. I imagine that if it’s kept open late that the foot traffic will make for easy pickins for muggers too.

  53. Ralph

    The more I read these posts the more I think I see why the city wants a surface parking lot. I suppose though that some of the problems could be solved by posting parking here signs. Does someone know the economics of running the city parking lot?

    Max, you bring up an interesting point, I certainly don’t think crime is as bad as you describe, but I would agree that you need to add more lighting to that area. In addition, I would probably add security cameras to the lot. With that said, I wonder how the residents of the Uptown will feel about that extra light outside their windows.

  54. Max Allstadt

    Ralph, I live 6 blocks from where this lot would be, and I’ve seen street crime and general aggression escalate at steady pace recently.

    Some folks might not thing that an economic downturn would affect the poor in Oakland, because they’re already poor. Wrong. For every four or five down-and-out, unemployed people in West Oakland, there’s a supporting family member who holds a real job, and who helps keep their less fortunate family and friends off the street. These people are losing their jobs in the downturn, and the impact may end up being exponential.

    During last weeks heat wave, I saw a preview of what I expect this summer to be like in West Oakland and Downtown. It wasn’t pretty. A friend was assaulted, a business owner I know was bullied out of tip money and decorations, a shanty started forming under the 980, and I saw pimps slapping their girls around twice. That was in four days of warm weather. We have four months of it coming up.

    Extra light outside the windows may be a concern, but I wonder how the residents of the Uptown will feel about an easy place to prowl outside their front doors.

  55. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    I still think putting the big people sculptures up from last year’s Fire Art’s Festival – they’re currently in a lot off Mandela – would be cool. Bring art to the art district. You’d probably have to put a fence around it, but that’s okay. There’s a fence there now (ugly though it is) and you’d still be able to see the art.

    “Manu” & “Epiphany”

    If not those pieces, I’m sure we can come up with some art. Maybe local artist Bruce Beasley has something he’d be willing to share.

    Or maybe the Oakland Museum could put an installation there to let people know more about themselves.

    I do love the mini-golf idea, especially das88′s idea of making it art based. Unfortunately I think it would take until 2011 to pull it all together. The numbers don’t work out very well for a mini-golf biz.

  56. Ralph

    I guess 6 blks west is different than 6 blks NE. In general, I do think there should be more street light in that area and I believe the impact of lights on the lot can and will be minimized by angling the lights towards the lot – see the Douglass lot on W. Grand.

    can we hang cottontop or the elected official of your choosing in effigy? maybe add a countdown sign until the next election.

  57. Naomi Schiff

    The above is an unpleasant and unwise comment and I don’t think helps civic discourse.

  58. Ralph

    i use the ma test for boundaries; she does not object; so i am not sure how it is either unpleasant or unwise, could you elaborate…

  59. Steve

    Ralph, what’s the “ma test?” I agree with Naomi, although I think she meant “civil discourse.” Hanging? “Cottontop?” Oakland is not in Texas; that’s not cool in any sense.

  60. Ken

    i think he was just trying to add color.

    I’m already annoyed by the EXISTING lights outside my window.

    We need to come up with good alternatives, and press CED members to open up a 2-month design competition, to commence mid-may.

    Parking?? Parking?

    I know it would make money…

    but so would bike parking.

    anyway, more ideas and PHOTOS OF THE SITE are up now at my site, minus graffitti on existing fence. click here.

    make your own designs of what YOU’D like to see!

  61. Max Allstadt


    I think he was just trying to add spite. Ralph does this sometimes, but in this case the spite is tainted with racial overtones that are really icky.

    I also don’t get why anyone would put that much energy into advocating for a parking lot. Ralph, would you even use the thing?

    This lot will generate revenue for local auto glass companies because it will be a magnet for break-ins. Other than that, I don’t see who benefits.

  62. Ralph

    I was going to wait on a responding to one give Naomi a chance to explain what she meant and two to give another reader an unbiased take, but I am up so I will do this now.

    On civic discourse, I thought it an interesting phrase given our discussions are all about making a better oakland.

    The ma test goes as follows, “would my mother mother disown me, would it bring shame upon the family name?” Mom was cool with it. She is of the mindset that people see race where race is not part of the equation. As a result, simple idiomatic expressions are seen to carry racial overtones. This country will continue to have a problem with race because hypersensitive Caucasians will ask you to check your language at the door. African-Americans and Caucasians will see matters of race differently, but it is hard for me to be upset when the sons and daughters of former slaves don’t have an issue with idiomatic expressions.

    So for the record, there were no allusions to strange fruit, and if it were not clear before, allow me to make clear now, I am and always will be African-American.

    And, Max, Ken was correct – levity. And are you referring to me advocating for a parking lot because for the record I am for rotating public art but I get why the city wants a parking lot.

  63. Navigator

    This is a bit off topic, however it does speak to the vitality and openness of Telegraph and the Uptown neighborhood.

    The new restaurant inside the Fox Theater put up a very attractive new hedge enclosure for an outdoor dining area. Although I like the green scape to go along with the palm trees and the contrast against the beautiful Fox building, do we really need to hide outdoor diners behind a hedge? I was under the impression that we wanted more vitality on Telegraph. Lets bring out more outdoor dining. Downtown Oakland desperately needs more people on the streets. As it stands now, the place is a ghost town during the evening.

    The city widens the sidewalks to accommodate outdoor dining, and the first thing we do is appropriate the space and hide people behind a hedge? Linking the current small Fox Plaza at an angle, with a possible larger setback for the proposed Forrest City residential high rise, would create an aesthetically pleasing open area for more outdoor dining. Let’s set the footprint for the Forrest City future residential building further back on the lot, and use only that portion for parking. The rest of the lot should be left as landscaped open space used for dining and socializing. Let’s create an aesthetically pleasing public space which will encourage people to socialize outdoors.

    It’s disheartening to go to Jack London Square at 7:00 PM on a Saturday evening and see a virtual ghost town. It’s sad to drive through Old Oakland at 6: 45 PM and see hardly anyone on the street. Even Uptown seems deserted on a Saturday evening. Meanwhile a place like Walnut Creek is packed with people on a Friday or Saturday night. The garages in downtown Walnut Creek are packed, people are walking all over Main Street and Locust Street. The outdoor dining plazas are full with diners. Families are walking everywhere.

    Keep in mind that Walnut Creek is a city of 65,000 residents. Meanwhile, a city of 400, 000 residents like Oakland can’t even fill a small parking lot in a beautiful waterfront location like Jack London Square. What’s wrong with this picture? The main problem here is that not enough Oaklanders are supporting their town. I have a feeling that too many Oaklanders are taking their entertainment money to places like Walnut Creek, while their city terribly under performs.

    Oakland needs more public communal open spaces downtown, along with a public relations campaign to let people in Oakland, and in the region, know about downtown’s recent transformation. It’s embarrassing to watch a small city like Walnut Creek constantly cleaning Oakland’s clock in just about every way.

  64. Ralph

    Nav, is that a perm hedge? I thought it was there for the special event last night. Patience. Our day is coming.

  65. Joanna

    I haven’t seen the hedge at The Den, so I can’t speak for that.

    I can sort of explain the deadness of JLS on a Saturday night. The movie theater doesn’t play many movies that the local neighborhood wants to see and some incidents have caused many a local res to decide not to return there. I’ve seen several fights between patrons at the movies there, and quite often people will be on their cellphone with no sensitivity to those who are actually trying to watch a movie. Maybe if they had more indie films?

    The Square itself is dead because they have so few tenants. This is going to change, but not overnight, and not this summer. Maybe next year, but I think it will take two years to become a thriving spot again.

    Also keep in mind that we are in a recession, so with money tight people aren’t going out as much. When I ask friends what they’re cutting back on, going out to eat is the number one thing.

    We will continue to see big nights that show the potential – nights where you have multiple events at the Fox and Paramount; Art Murmur; etc. But other nights are not going to be so great because there’s not an event to pull people out. I just hope all the restaurants and bars can make it based on the great nights through the dismal ones.

    My own biz has been that way. Xmas-like frenzy days mixed with days where only 9 paying customers come in. It’s enough to make you crazy because you never know what you’re going to get and whether the good days will return.

    I can’t imagine that Walnut Creek streets are buzzing every single night. Think about what makes them busy when you’re there. Was there an event to pull you in? Better weather over the hill? A shopping need? Do you go there because you might feel safer walking around? I haven’t been to WC in the evening and only shopped there once or twice. I suspect that we’re losing more Oaklanders to SF visits than WC visits, but that’s based on my friends and where they’re going.

  66. V Smoothe Post author

    I don’t know about Jack London Square, but Uptown is thriving pretty much every night of the week (except Sundays and Mondays, when all the restaurants are closed), whether or not there’s a show at the Fox or a big event at the Paramount.

  67. James Robinson

    I was near the Fox last night. Could someone please explain to me where the current parking is? How much does it cost?

    What is wrong with having more parking? Wouldn’t that bring more people into the Uptown area on weekend nights? Not everyone is going to take BART, especially when it stops at midnight.

  68. dbackman

    It’s a reasonable question. Is the problem really more parking? Or is it surface parking at that particular location? Can’t it be a park and a parking lot? Look at Underhill Parking and Field on College Ave. Just a few blocks from the Cal campus. They fit two levels or parking, an expansive playing field and good landscaping on three sides.

  69. V Smoothe Post author

    As I explained in the post, and has been repeated several times in the comments, there are literally hundreds of parking spaces available in a City-owned garage two blocks from the Fox Theater. If the City really believes we need more parking in the area, they could open the garage at night. Even if the goal is to encourage people to drive downtown rather than using other methods of transportation, that end can be achieved easily without ruining the street with a surface parking lot.

  70. Max Allstadt


    It was a total brain twister to learn that you’re black. Since you sent me that facebook message, I’ve been wrapping my head around all sorts of different permutations of how language can be considered racial or not racial depending entirely on the race of the speaker.

    So that covers race. I made an assumption that you were white based on your choice of sarcastic nicknames for Dellums.

    As far as levity goes, again, lack of information made me misread you. On the web, the fact that text has no tone of voice is problematic. I read you as sincerely radical and venomous, but it was meant as sarcastic or as hyperbole, right?

    OK. tangent over.

    Yeah. Parking lot: BAD IDEA. Public space? Good for the city, but likely unworkable.

    As for the condos that are supposed to cover the lot in the future, I think the city should force them to redesign with a footprint that provides for making the park visible and inviting from telegraph ave. That could easily be done by taking a little wedge out of the north side of the building, tapering from 10 feet wide at telegraph ave to 30 feet wide at the park. A visual invitation. I really don’t think the existing park should be set up as a glorified courtyard.

  71. Navigator

    Thanks V and Joanna. It could have been that I was in the area too early and things pick up later on. However, if only a fraction of Oakland’s 400,000 residents supported the downtown neighborhoods including Jack London Square, things would be much more vibrant.

    I think part of the problem is that Oaklanders seem to be more neighborhood oriented than they are downtown oriented. That’s a shame because with great entertainment venues like the Fox , the Paramount, the Uptown, etc, along with the recent addition of some great restaurants, downtown has a lot to offer.

    Maybe part of the problem as Joanna mentioned, is running into inconsiderate people, although, having been to San Francisco many times, that’s not a problem unique to Oakland. My gut feeling is that the perception of downtown not having much to offer and being unsafe lingers both within Oakland, and in the region in general, despite the great progress which has been made in recent years. Downtown Oakland is not considered a high crime area based on what I’ve seen via the Oakland Police Department Crime Map. Also, Downtown is being kept up much better since the new private patrols have been policing and maintaining the area. So, I think it comes down to informing people about downtown.

    I have friends and family living in Contra Costa, and I can tell you that Oakland doesn’t even register on their radar screen. Even the Contra Costa Times which is the sister paper of the Oakland Tribune and has the same writers, tailors their coverage specifically for Contra Costa County. The only thing regarding Oakland that gets any mention in the Contra Costa Times are high profile crimes. I’m pretty sure this is the same regarding all of the other ANG sister papers to the Tribune. Oakland is basically a city without a voice or reach to the outlying areas. This type of media non coverage marginalizes the city as only a crime hot bed.

    Oakland needs to take matters in its own hands, and start promoting the city in general, and downtown in particular. Oakland doesn’t have the luxury of San Francisco, which has a paper and other media entities which project what’s happening in San Francisco, other than crime, into the suburbs.

    Also, based on what I saw Saturday evening, parking in downtown Oakland is not an issue. Let’s bring people to downtown before we start worrying about building more parking lots. Get the PR going, bring people in , and THEN start worrying about parking if that becomes a problem. Right now the City needs to make the area as attractive as possible in order to be in a position to have “parking problems” in the future. Let’s not put the cart ahead of the horse.

  72. das88

    Last Friday I was at Flora from about 4:30-5:30 then moved across the street to the Fox’s Den until about 8:45. I realize this is fairly early for a Friday, and there were some people about, but I do not think I would have characterized the area as “thriving.”

    Van Cleef’s gets a lot of afterwork crowd, but I do not see too much up it edging up the street without a show. I think some of this might change as days get longer and word gets out.

  73. Naomi Schiff

    I hope some of the creative thinking here will be forwarded on to councilmembers before Tuesday at 2 pm. Let’s be sure they focus on

    a) better signs for the 400-space parking lot at Franklin and 19th, and keeping it open on show nights. (It could use a bit of sprucing up too.)

    b) if they plan an interim use for the parcel, consider a wider range of options that might serve as a draw to the neighborhood and might even incorporate some uniqueness, fun, art, beauty, innovation or distinction.

    c) if they insist on a parking lot, design a wide margin around it, making sure the park beyond it is visually accessible from Telegraph, that the auto area has a good-looking fence, that there is some kind of greenery or other pedestrian amenities screening the parking, and that there is good security

    d) and if they insist on a parking lot, include secure bike parking

    Add any other critical points!

    I am so grateful for everyone’s engagement in what is a small yet significant issue in the larger weirdness that is planning in Oakland!

  74. Patrick

    Very interesting. When I read Ralph’s comment regarding “ole cottontop”, race never entered my mind. It wasn’t until reading Naomi’s comment the next day that I viewed it differently upon a second reading.

    Re: parking: we all know the idea sucks. But as V et al have pointed out, it seems like a foregone conclusion. I suggest we all show up at the meeting, like the Measure OO supporters did, and insist on a compromise: “half public space, half parking lot”. Or we’ll all turn to a life of crime.

    Hey, it worked for them.

  75. V Smoothe Post author

    It is not a foregone conclusion! You can help stop the parking lot by e-mailing the Committee and/or attending Tuesday’s meeting and saying that you do not want a parking lot!

    Suggestions that the percent of space devoted to parking and/or that the lot should be given over to other recreational uses are not helpful. The staff report is very clear that any reduction in the number of spaces is infeasible, as is any alternate use of the lot. Just tell them not to approve the parking lot!

  76. Patrick

    I’ve already e-mailed everyone on the committee with my suggestion for a community garden, just as I originally proposed on Living in the O. It provides revenue, street interest, community involvement and, most importantly, does not involve on a paved surface. Unfortunately, as is true of 99% of the e-mails I’ve sent to city employees, I received no response whatsoever.

    If the staff report makes it “very clear that any reduction in the number of spaces is infeasible, as is any alternate use of the lot”, how does that differ from a foregone conclusion? And, you state: “Suggestions…that the lot should be given over to other recreational uses are NOT HELPFUL”. HUH? I thought that was the point of this discussion.

    Sorry, but a fence, regardless of how attractive it is, simply doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. Right now, our City Council is interested in one thing and one thing only: REVENUE. And other than legalizing prostitution behind a fence on that lot, I haven’t seen a single suggestion that could provide better revenue. Do I like it? Of course not. But there comes a time when you must compromise and try to at least minimize the negative impact. This is especially true when the people who run the show won’t even respond to you.

  77. Patrick

    Ralph: although I instinctively knew what the “ma test” was, I need a little enlightenment on “soln” – even though you chickened out and edited your comment to “no comment”.

  78. V Smoothe Post author

    A community garden costs money, it does not generate revenue. A parking lot will not cost the City money (Forest City will be made to subsidize it), but it will not generate revenue for the City either. The Committee will choose on Tuesday either to approve a surface parking lot for the parcel or to not approve a parking lot and leave the site in an unimproved state.

  79. Ralph

    i discovered v posted while i was typing; so, i went to edit my post and ran out of time. apparently, you must post words. i abbreviate solution as soln. i’ve pretty much resigned myself to a parking lot so if council goes in any other direction i will be happy.

  80. Patrick

    Your post states that any revenue generated after a certain threshold ($300K) would go to the city. Anyone who thinks Forest City – or anyone else – will be building on that lot in two years is delusional. Therefore, the lot-as-parking-lot will generate revenue, eventually.

    We should have just held Forest City to the original schedule and, when they couldn’t produce, invoked eminent domain or whatever and gotten on with it. Or, we could make Forest City pay to move the current park forward towards Telegraph, with the promise that they may build on the current park grounds when they are financially able to do so. That way, we still have a park (where it should have been in the first place), and they still have land to build on.

  81. V Smoothe Post author

    Um, you can’t use eminent domain to take something you already own. Whether people like it or not, they need to understand that we have a legally binding agreement with Forest City about the use of this parcel – that isn’t something that’s going to change, no matter what you personally think should or will happen (based on zero information, of course).

  82. V Smoothe Post author

    Sigh. Yes, the City has extended the date of Forest City’s purchase/start of construction based on Forest City’s current timeline for the project, which goes like this:

    • Design review by Planning Commission: May 2010
    • Completion of construction documents: April 2011
    • Building permit issuance: June 2011
    • Close of escrow: July 2011

    What about this is so difficult for people to understand?

  83. Patrick

    Sigh, back. The City was not obligated to extend the terms – they chose to do so. What about this is so difficult for people to understand?

  84. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, if you didn’t want the Council to approve amending the DDA, you could have shown up and asked them not to. At this point, whether they should have or should not have is completely irrelevant to the discussion. And eminent domain doesn’t have the faintest thing to do with it in either case, since we own the land in question.

  85. Patrick

    That’s why I said “or whatever”, after the eminent domain comment. Please excuse me, I’m not an attorney, just an interested citizen.

  86. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    The City will almost always extends development agreements… I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t. And if they didn’t, they would have to have a good reason since they do it so often for others.

    Keeping in mind that revenue is king with this City, I suggested that Council put out an RFP for the lot rather than just accepting the idea of a parking lot. I also mentioned that with so many pedestrians walking in that area, a surface lot was more dangerous for cars to cross a walk area than in parking garage situations where people come out at corners and rarely have to walk in front of cars in uncontrolled (lighted) situations. I recently experienced this parking in SF in the Richmond District in a surface lot and in the space of 15 minutes saw three people almost eat it from cars pulling out of the surface lot.

    If the City has an RFP, they can at least see if there are other ideas that make sense. Personally, I don’t think revenue should be the key, but that’s not reality. I agree that it’s probably not likely that Forest City will build there on time – they’ll probably get another extension or walk away from that particular spot. That’s what I would do if I were a developer based on the current economic conditions and their current project.

    I’m all for people submitting ideas to see what else people can come up with. As I mentioned in my email, there have certainly been a lot of interesting ideas posted here and on other Oakland blogs, including Living in the O.

  87. SF2OAK

    Another idiotic idea by CC.
    I parked for the Paramount every night of the Leonard Cohen concerts on the street not more than 4 blocks away (and I heard there was a Green Day concert at the Fox one of those nights.) OAK should clearly open up the parking structure And not turn the surface lot into parking. I do love the mini golf idea!

  88. Frankie D

    So the powers that be want to approve a surface parking lot on a prime high visibility building site in an up and coming downtown neigbhorhood. Not because more parking is needed (its not) but because its the easiet use that they can then get rid of when its time to construct a new buiding on the site two years from now. But its very possible that the site could remain a surface parking lot 20 years from now.

    Say Sears moves out across the street and another reatailer decides to take their building and their only contigent to agree to come to Oakland is that the parking lot remain across the street. What does the city do then?

    Decisions like this one are why Oakland remains a second tier city at best. This is said by someone who has lived most of his life in this city, and loves this place, and also been fortunate enough to travel and work in cities that really know how to create dynamic urban experiences. Oakland demand more from yourself.

  89. Brian

    Any update on what happened this afternoon? I was at work the whole day and couldn’t make it there.

  90. Becks

    They voted unanimously (IDLF was absent) to approve the surface parking lot. I’ll have a full write up on the hearing tomorrow morning.

  91. Naomi Schiff

    They were bound to cave when Mr. Perloff from Another Planet said he needed the lot! The councilmembers did not see or didn’t want to see that if you sell 5500 tickets (fox plus paramount) then 120 spaces (that have no doubt been filled since 10 a.m. by staff, riggers, roadies, and daytime business people) aren’t really going to make any difference, other than to provide a false hope that will keep people cruising around the block (getting further from the available parking in city lots and surface lots further east).

    However, if we keep pushing we may be able to mitigate the damage some. (Does anybody know a minigolf operator?) If someone showed up with a better idea that would actually generate income we could probably still get them to change course, but the CED staff is not going to bother to work to develop anything visionary or original. However the “design” for the lot is going to have to get past the planning commission. While they might not stop it entirely, they could perhaps be persuaded to require that it look halfway decent.

    I did hear at the end of the meeting that it will NOT be on consent calendar. So there will be a hearing on the agenda at the full council. If anybody wants to put in any more energy maybe we can wrest a small concession here or there.

    In order to do this, might have to get everybody together to harp on one feasible aspect, and coordinate message, though.

    Thanks all for weighing in and showing up. We should keep combatting the stupid blight that is surface parking.

  92. Ralph

    Again, I am now firmly camped in neutral on the usage of this parcel. As a property owner in the long haul, I do not want a parking lot, but as a property owner in for the long haul, when people come to the dto, I want them to have a good experience, which may result in them considering the dto for ownership.

    Now on the minigolf course. I suppose the first thing you will want is someone who actually wants to run the golf course. Courses have been built on as little as qtr acre but they exclude amenities such as a clubhouse. For an 18 hole course you will probably need 50K sq ft and this will include a clubhouse and parking. Some owner operators like a 36 hole course b/c it minimizes waits at peak times and it gives people another option after playing the 1st 18. Course options typically range from landscape, themed and adventure. I believe there are fewer new themed parks. When parking is included it is typically 1 space to hole.

    By adding the golf course, it could be that we are further adding to the parking problem.

    What would be most helpful is if patrons had signs directing them to parking. If you are a person coming from out of town, you are most likely going to get directions to the venue not the parking. Two, we must acknowledge that some people have fears. The city can provide more lighting and signage to the parking east of Broadway as well as some on the darker sides west of Telegraph. Still not sure how late the ambassadors run, but they only cover the east side of telegraph north to thomas berkley.

    Does anyone have stats on the number of break-ins on that lot next to 2022.

    As to using unused space at FC, you typically want to provide separate access for tenants versus temporary parking leasees. Finally, when the city does go live with the ultimate construction, including some public parking with spaces for car share would be a good idea.

    PS: assume about 1 1/2 to 3 mos to build, not sure how long you are going to get to design, but you really need an investor. Not sure if mentioned above assume $240K initial investment.

  93. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Ralph, I think the costs are considerably higher. You’d have to get planning commission approval, you’d probably have to add some drainage to the lot, and even Jane Brunner mentioned whether anyone would want to invest in something that would just get torn down in three years.

    I think large scale public art should go there. Can’t Chimah be moved there? Maybe Bruce Beasley has something that could go there.

    The argument that more parking was needed failed for me. Mostly because the Franklin Street Garage didn’t warrant opening. If they can’t fill that, then why are they saying that there are no other options?

    I think that it says that our Transit First Policy is working! People don’t need to drive in because of BART, buses, and WALKING. And Max hit the nail on the head when he mentioned that the last thing we need is someone getting into their car after a night of club hopping.

    Better signage in the area for all of the transit and parking options would definitely be a good thing, but that has nothing to do with the surface lot.

    They’d already decided that something was better than the status quo, which I can’t agree.

    As for the Farmer’s Market situation, someone should ask what the Jack London, Downtown, and Grand Lake Farmer’s Markets think about adding yet another one to the mix… while I would love it if I lived at the Uptown, I don’t think I would love it if I was a farmer. Just like the mini-golf idea, it’s great in theory, but in reality I’m not so convinced.

  94. Ralph

    OTGJ, on the $240K you are probably correct. I didn’t verify what was included in the $240K but I think it is just the build and not some of the other costs. I am with you it is something that sounds great in theory but the reality is completely different.

    But it would be nice if we can build a structure that includes mini-golf, a climbing wall, tennis courts…a place to eat etc in dto.

    As much as I like walking and public transit, we need to acknowledge that dto attracts people from outside the BART and walkable regions. The FF show brought in peeps from Sacramento and the Jeff Beck show was drawing from the peninsula. So in one case, pt is not an option and in the other you would be on it all night and still need to get to work the next day.

    Do we really want to be so parochial in our thinking?

    PS: My bldg would kill for a sunday farmers mkt. Many of us shop either CG or The Ferry Bldg b/c we work in the city. I personally hit up Grand/Lakeshore once every 3 weeks when I get my haircut. But I don’t want to make the 30 minute roundtrip walk weekly.

  95. Joyce Roy

    There are some GREAT ideas here. I particularly like Navgator’s idea of bringing outdoor dining Uptown. It works at Ogawa Plaza but that is at lunchtime. The future building on Parcel 4 must encourage that by having a 60-ft setback from Telegraph. We, the public, must lay claim to that public space by convincing the city to make that 60 foot a temporary plaza surfaced with removable materials like large concrete tiles and removable seating and even some planting in boxes, including a tree! (I call it “temporary” altho it should become a permanent plaza because it will have to serve for staging when the new edifice is constructed.) To make it active, it would need some mobile food vendors and some wandering minstrels. It would be a public square where students at the School for the Arts could try out their stuff.

    Remember, there is no approved project for Parcel 4. The Planning Commission turned thumbs down on their previous proposal, a straight-up 14 story building with no set backs. It would have hidden and overwhelmed the Fox and, possibly, taken it off the National Register because context counts.

    Forest City has always been fearful of Oaklanders. Their first proposal in 1999 was designed like a gated community without the gates. At the time of the more recent proposal for Parcel 4, the PC questioned why the public park was not located on Telegraph and the landscape architect said Forest City thought it would then be used by the general public! The Parks & Rec Commission tried to convince them to include a tot lot but FC was adamantly against it.

    A temporary 60-ft plaza that can give a sense of place and bring more life Uptown can show FC that the Oakland public is not to be feared. We can make Uptown a more desirable place to live. And imagine the premium rents FC can get from a restaurant, coffee and gelato shops on this little plaza! I have proposed that it be 60-ft so that a restaurant that serves outside can demarcate some space and there will still be plenty of space for others.

    And I like the idea proposed by Joanna for the rest of Parcel 4, a sculpture garden with the big people sculptures from last year’s Fire Art’s Festival. This is the portion that would be the footprint of the new building. It would just need gravel on the ground, maybe raked Zen style, and see thru fencing. I think that, and the plaza, with some good publicity could attract some more people to check out Uptown! (I don’t think you can say, “Come Uptown and check put our lovely new surface parking lot!”)

    And all this would cost FC a pittance compared to the $400.000 – $500,000 surface parking lot that would add nothing to the desirability of living Uptown.

    For a great website on Public Places check out:

  96. Navigator

    I completely agree with Joyce. We have an opportunity to make the Uptown area into a real pleasant lively pedestrian outdoor experience. Can you imagine the plaza planned for 16th & Telegraph connected by wide sidewalks with outdoor dinning to a smaller plaza in front of the new 60 ft setback for the proposed Forest City building? I would angle that small plaza with the new 60ft setback to conform with the angle at the small plaza in front of the Fox Theater. Think of this as an amphitheater of outdoor dining and entertainment with the new plaza at 16th & Telegraph as the stage.

    In Europe it’s common to have one public square flow directly into another via pedestrian only walkways.

    We’re at a crossroads at this point. Will Oakland decide that an asphalt parking lot, which may be harder to reverse than a green space once nearby businesses grow dependent on it, is the answer to future growth in Uptown? Or, will Oakland capitalize on the current success of Uptown and strive for something amazing and creative, which will in turn encourage people to stroll, dine, sit, play, and create, in an attractive pedestrian friendly urban environment?

  97. Max Allstadt

    Here’s another option for how to make that space work as a non-parking spot.

    To the south of that plot, across a narrow street, is vacant restaurant space.
    To the north is the Den at the Fox
    Across Telegraph is Flora.

    Surely one, two or three of these local businesses would be interested in an outdoor dining/beer garden situation, even a temporary one.

    Imagine a sort of elevated bandstand, wood-construction, on the north corner, holding a temporary bar and barbecue. Call it the Recession Bustin’ Blues Bar. When the recession’s done, it’s done, and it gets buried under a new building.

  98. Robert

    Joanna, Transit to the Fox is not an option for everyone, even those of us who live in Oakland. In my case, there is no public transit availability from where I live to the neighborhood of the Fox in the evening, so I need to drive. And the only time I tried to go to Flora on the night of a Fox show there was no street parking, so I took my business elsewhere.

    Is this lot the best place for parking? Probably not. But as a temporary solution, it seems acceptable.

  99. V Smoothe Post author

    Robert, there is a parking garage less than two blocks from Flora with 400 parking spaces. This garage has never had more than 48 cars parking in it on a given evening. You could park there. The City should not be in the business of ruining vibrant neighborhoods to accommodate people who are unwilling to walk 500 feet from their car to their destination.

  100. Robert

    Where? Maybe there is simply a need for better signage for parking.

    As I said, a surface parking lot doesn’t seem like a good long term solution, but personally I think it is better than the current fence.

  101. dto510

    There is definitely a need for better signage; Oakland can’t expect people to drive down Telegraph and know that there is a parking lot on Franklin less than two blocks away with no signage. There’s also no sign directing people from BART to the Fox, which can’t actually be seen from Broadway by pedestrians. Signage is a mess, but that’s an easy problem to fix. Much cheaper than a parking lot that would need $100,000 to $200,000 of subsidy, and would create a permanent traffic jam on 19th.

  102. Ken O

    The city’s many transportation-related organizations, the parking garages and BART need to work together on putting up signs to direct people toward Public Parking [P] as SF does well, and advertise BART better.

    When I am going around downtown I don’t see ANY parking direction signage.

    Weak sauce. Easy to fix, too.

    Aren’t a few signs cheaper than repaving even one street?

  103. Ken O

    19th or some other street (part of telegraph?) as a pedestrian zone would be nice. I was in Tiburon yesterday and they shut down their main street every friday night for over three months starting in June, and it takes people almost two hours to get into the popular bars there…

    It feels like we are dealing with a chicken-and-egg issue here of people coming, residents moving in, and businesses starting up.


  104. Robert

    I’m sorry, is the Franklin street garage the same one that everyone is sayng is closed at night? In which case there really aren’t 400 spots available?

    Signage is bad for everything in Oakland, not just parking. If you don’t already know how to get to something in Oakland, you will not be able to figure it out from the posted signs.

  105. Max Allstadt

    Robert, the point is that if you staffed the garage and provided adequate signage pointing people to it, you wouldn’t have to build an entirely new lot.

    Because we already have plenty of parking that we aren’t using, building a new surface lot is wasteful, inefficient, and an unnecessary blight on a district that is just beginning to grow out of blight.

  106. dto510

    Yes, Robert, we’re saying that the city should keep its garage open later instead of building a surface parking lot. I agree that Oakland has terrible wayfinding in general. It took public objections to the parking lot for the Redevelopment Agency to look at improving signage in Uptown – not a good sign.

  107. V Smoothe Post author

    For the past month, the garage has been open at night, but it has not been getting used much. The garage needs 100 cars/night to cover the costs of keeping it open, but according to staff at last Tuesday’s meeting, has not had more than 48 cars on any one night. Those who oppose the creation of a new surface parking lot on Telegraph Avenue would like the City to improve signage so people know the garage is available.

    Councilmember Pat Kernighan, last Tuesday, argued that the parking lot was necessary even with the garage open, because many people would not want to walk the block and a half from the parking garage to the Fox. I find this assertion ridiculous. The City cannot make land use decisions to accommodate people unwilling to walk 500 feet from their car to their destination.

  108. das88

    The thing I find particularly irritating is that one of the main rationales for developing restaurants and entrainment in downtown areas in general is that in addition to being at the nexus for transportation, they have parking facilities designed for day time peaks that are underutilized at night. Clearly, we should be using existing parking capacity before creating new capacity.

    People complaining about walking a block and half is crazy. I frequently have to walk far longer distances when I go out to eat in Rockridge or Piedmont Ave areas.

  109. Robert

    My point long ago was that there needs to be more available parking in the area, and if you want that can be amended to be more KNOWN available parking. I don’t personally care where it is, but if it is not apparent, then it might as well not exist.

    With apologies to you V, in case you were not the one who suggested this, but are you and others saying that you would rather have the current ugly fence than a parking lot? Because the current situation does nothing for the area. A parking lot, while also being unattractive, would provide a benefit to the area, and in spite of comments to the contrary, would not cost the city anything. And it appears to be a parking lot or nothing at this point.

  110. Robert

    To clarify the preceeding, what I heard was that FC is going to pay for constructing the parking lot, take the first $300,000 to cover expenses, and then anything after that would go to the city.

  111. Ralph

    Saying that people won’t cross Broadway in not giving up downtown. It is a reality, which needs to be addressed. The later into the night it gets, the darker it gets along Broadway (issue of consistently functioning street lights) not to mention there is less and less foot traffic. People want to be safe in their environs.

    If I were a parent of a teenage child, I would tell them to park in a well lit and well travelled area. You are kidding yourself if you think that at this time the eastside of Broadway is that spot. Even if we directed all parking to that side, you still have the issue of varying departure times.

    As a property owner, I want the lot utilized on Telegraph for the most value, but that is not going to happen for a few years. In the meantime, a good use of that space would be parking which while not a desired use does provide a benefit to those people who visit our dto. Parking will certainly not provide parking for all patrons but if it can enhance the experience of 260 visitors / night then we should go forth and park.

    Would I kill for an outdoor bar operated by the current and coming bar and entertainment venue owners, you darn skippy, I would even said as much in an earlier post. But since none of the establishment owners are out promoting this idea, I don’t see it working to well, same for a mini-golf course, and I wonder how many people would purchase if that area were converted to b-ball courts.

    A number of you will say that in providing parking so close to the venue that it will discourage people from walking around the area. I disagree. It is somewhat counterintuitive but as I stated earlier there is safety in numbers. 1911 Telegraph sits on a well travelled and well lit path. Safety.

    The first thing about solving a problem is acknowledging that a problem exist. Whether we like it or believe there is a perception that Oakland’s downtown is not safe. Until we have adequate density we need to provide solutions that give people some assurance that dto is a safeplace. It is not a question of walking 500ft versus 50ft. It is about safety.

    das88, there is a huge difference between the areas you described and dto.

    I have been subtle but do I need to call a spade a spade?

    As to the current parking near Fox, the city needs to add street signs directing people to parking. One could reach the city parking lot coming from San Pablo but most of what I see is people coming down Telegraph. When Telegraph become the hub, someone in the city will need to revisit the traffic patterns.

  112. Becks

    I did some research before emailing the council about this issue and found this out:

    The CED committee expressed concern that the public will latch on to any use besides a parking lot and would complain once the art was removed. However, San Francisco and several other cities have successfully hosted temporary large scale arts installations. The public greatly appreciated these art pieces, but there was no revolt when they were taken away. Here are some examples, with photos, of these successful projects:

    Passage, Pier 14, San Francisco:
    Hayes Green Temple, Hayes Green, San Francisco:
    The Dreamer, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco:
    Homouroboros, San Jose:
    The Mangrove, Reno, NV:
    Detroit Temple, Detroit, MI:

    Wouldn’t you rather look at beautiful art like this, rather than a bunch of cars on pavement?

  113. Ralph

    Art is not a bad use of the space. Will FC still make the land usable if they don’t have a potential for profit? If not, who will pay to make the land usable; according to Ms Nadel, the city does not have any money to make the land usable.

    Realistically, when is the earliest one could expect to see a temporary installation?

  114. V Smoothe Post author

    Forest City is not going to make any profit on the parking lot. They will be subsidizing the parking lot at a cost of $100,000-$200,000.

  115. Max Allstadt

    It’s kind of crazy that the council, five of whom will still be serving their current terms in 2011, is concerned about a public revolt on this issue. They will have the five votes to hand over the lot to be built.

    They have a deal signed already, no? So how exactly do they think that a NIMBY brigade will manage to commandeer the site in 2011 and prevent construction. It’s just weird. This council has been around long enough to know that irrational citizen activism doesn’t prevent construction projects in Oakland, especially ones with signed deals.

  116. das88

    As art installations, I like the idea of auctioning off the pieces at some point. That way you have the advantages of a) a known termination time and b) the city can take a cut for a little revenue to offset any costs.

    Art installations would probably allow for room for food vendors paying some type of permit fee. Maybe I am showing off my Southern California roots, but Uptown will not be in the big time until you can get a burrito while bar-hopping or before a show.

    Permitting for a beer garden amongst the art installations would probably bring in even more revenue.

  117. Robert

    Yes, art would be much nicer, but here is my take based on what I have heard.

    Any public use, e.g. art installation, would require financial input from the city for some type of ‘landscaping’ treatment, if for no other reason than to turn it from bare dirt into something more suitable for pedestrians. And for minimum installation and maintenance that may mean asphalt anyway. In this fiscal environment it is hard to see how this would happen.

    A commercial use, e.g. minigolf, would need somebody to step forward and take the financial risk. And so far only the parking lot has that support.

    So unless the pedestrian mall advocates are going to raise the $ to do something else, I don’t see it happening.

  118. V Smoothe Post author

    Nobody has asked the City of Oakland to spend a penny! Forest City is paying for the improvements to the site. An art installation would cost less than a parking lot.

  119. Ralph

    the profit piece was a bit facetious. but from fc’s perspective by owning the lot i have the potential to break-even. the art installation gives me zero, zilch, nada – not sure how that helps shareholder value.

    maybe they try out demand/yield pricing and net significantly more than

    robert, now there is an idea. the one thing the city has made clear in addition to not wanting a park, any alternative idea needs either some science or business person willing to make it a go.

  120. Robert

    Has anybody (from this forum) bothered to get on the phone and see if FC is willing to consider an art installation?

  121. Robert

    V, the city owns the lot, so they are on the hook for doing someting with it. FC is willing to pick up the cost if it is turned into a parking lot, but any other use would require the city to pay, unless FC could be talked in to picking up that cost.

  122. Max Allstadt

    What I don’t get is:

    Why doesn’t the city just put out an RFP for a lease and interim use until 2011?
    What wins based on the lease offer and the idea, wins. Give it a 6 week deadline, and another 6 weeks to begin the project or forfeit a deposit.

    Councilmembers asked the public for creative proposals but dismissed them all for being unfeasible….
    Perhaps they should invert their thinking and ask the business community for feasible proposals, and accept one of them for being creative.

  123. V Smoothe Post author

    Okay, I really wish people would read the post, because I explain all this very clearly and provide links to all the relevant documents, and I’ve explained it over and over and over again in the comments here and I’m really getting tired of having to spell it out. It is not a complicated situation, and the way people keep making these wildly inaccurate assertions even though all the facts are right there in front of them is exceedingly irritating.

    • The City owns the land.
    • The City has a legally binding agreement with Forest City that they will sell them this land in July 2011.
    • As a condition of delaying the date by which Forest City has to buy the land, the Redevelopment Agency wants Forest City to lease it for free until July 2011 and build and operate a parking lot on it. The Redevelopment Agency can ask for anything they want as a condition of extending that date, and they choose to ask for a parking lot. They can make Forest City pay for an art installation or anything else just as easily as they can make them pay for a parking lot.
    • Forest City will not, under any possible circumstances, make money on the parking lot. They will be subsidizing the parking lot between $100,000 and $200,000.
    • The City will not make any money on the parking lot unless it remains a parking lot long past the date at which it is supposed to be removed.
    • There has been no public demand for a new parking lot. The only two people who have come to any public meetings in support of the parking lot are both tenants of the Redevelopment Agency.
  124. Ralph

    An RFP with a short turnaround time sounds good on paper…but the leassee only has a fixed period to recoup expenses. in the meantime they need to make the land usable, build structure yada yada yada.

    what happens if funding falls through or they get half way and then the condom goes up? another rfp?

  125. Becks

    Thanks V for reiterating all of that. I want to clarify that a large scale arts installation would be much cheaper to Forest City than a parking lot would be. From what we’ve heard from artists, there will be two major costs: putting up a nicer fence around the lot and paying for the the art to be relocated to the site. This would likely cost significantly less than $100,000. There would be no need to put in grass or asphalt or anything like that – the art could be placed on the unaltered dirt lot. It is such a simple solution and would make Uptown even more of an arts destination, instead of blighting the area with surface parking.

  126. Max Allstadt

    Max’s 3 point plan for a public art space:

    Step one:
    Call the Black Rock Arts Foundation

    Step two:
    Buy insurance.

    Step three:
    Pour pea gravel.

    This is probably the majority of what it would take to set this up.

  127. Naomi Schiff

    Hear, Hear, Max! I hope you will print your three-step plan out and distribute it at the council meeting. Did you email city councilmembers? And V, thanks for reiterating so patiently that this is OUR land. Actually held in trust for us by the lovely redevelopment agency until transferred to FC for whatever is next, no actual date known.

    I believe that proposing smallish parking lots is the result of being tired and not wanting to expend any creative energy. This goes for staff, FC, and city decisionmakers who are busy worrying about other things. This is a small issue. It does seem that putting out a short-term RFP could make sense too: Obviously we can’t find out if something is feasible if everyone is busy telling us it can’t happen and they won’t allow it etc. etc. Who would do the research under such conditions?

    Another art project: I’d like to ask Peter Wang of the someday-56-story-building-on Broadway at 19th if he would consider some kind of art or photos or decorations and LIGHTING in the old manivest bldg. windows, on the corner of Broadway and 19th St. That way we get a lit path to the city-owned 19th/Franklin garage, AND improve a temporary-for-who-knows-how-long eyesore of abandoned display space.

    As long as we are doing an arts and entertainment district, let’s have some art!

  128. Josh C

    For those of you considering speaking at tonight’s City Council hearing about the proposed parking lot, I want to post this message that was posted on an email group listserv:

    An RFP for a recreational use operator, i.e. a miniature golf course, is one proposal that meets the criteria that the City spend no money to do something on this site other than a parking lot. Redevelopment Agency staff should not be left off the hook. Have they contacted any miniature golf operators? A simple Google search turn up 17 in the Bay Area. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that an operator could turn a profit in 36 months if they are leased this valuable 1.2 acre piece of land FOR FREE. This option would cost the City virtually nothing.

    Furthermore, it is disingenuous for City Council members to state that the City’s Redevelopment Agency cannot afford to contribute any money to a simple public space with grass and trees. Our current budget situation means that the City cannot pour millions of dollars into this space – it does not mean it cannot spend a single dime. It is a matter of the City Council not recognizing the importance of this site to the renaissance of the Uptown area. It is a matter of priorities. In the past five weeks between March 31-May 5, the City Council has voted or is set to vote to approve spending the following Redevelopment Agency and General Funds:

    $60,000 grant from City of Oakland to sponsor the annual concert at Arroyo Park and the 3 On 3 basketball tournament.

    $100,000 for improvements to Fitzgerald and Union Plaza Parks in West Oakland.

    $90,000 to purchase a Zamboni Ice Resurfacing Machine for The Oakland Ice Center (the Ice Center is advocating for the surface parking lot).

    $85,000 for rehabilitation of the Defremery House and Tennis Courts at 1651 Adeline Street in West Oakland.

    $434,791 in redevelopment funds for staffing, operations, leasing, equipment and marketing for the Oakland Business Assistance Center (funding this business center is completely discretionary) .

    $180,000 to provide armed security patrol services in East Oakland.

    All travel expenses to be paid from City of Oakland General Fund for Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid to attend the International Council Of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Conference in Las Vegas from May 17 – May 21, 2009.

    $50,000 for a Professional Services Agreement with Purple Lynx to conduct business surveys.

    $15,000 for a Professional Services Agreement with BAWP For the Business Alert Program.

    $10,000 grant from City of Oakland to the Cypress Mandela Training Center for purchase of tools and equipment For the Green Jobs For Youth Training Program.

    $100,000 grant from City of Oakland to Rebuilding Together Oakland to subsidize the rehabilitatation of homes in East and West Oakland.

    Readers: please attend tonight’s City Council hearing at 7:00pm (the more public speakers the better). Whether or not you can attend, please send an email to City Council members expressing your opposition to a surface parking lot on this site. Please include a possible alternative proposal: a no-frills public open space is one idea. Miniature golf is another. Public art or a community garden are also options. Please send them an email ASAP:

    RKaplan@oaklandnet. com, JBrunner@oaklandnet .com, PKernighan@oaklandn, NNadel@oaklandnet. com, JQuan@oaklandnet. com, IDeLaFuente@ oaklandnet. com, DBrooks@oaklandnet. com, LReid@oaklandnet. com

  129. das88

    Last night’s city council went really well. Kudos to all of the speakers and the people who laid the ground work for council’s motion to allow two weeks to flesh out a community plan. I think in order to seal the deal we now need three things:

    1) This is the most crucial, I’m sure we can get more time on all other planning issues if we get this. We need to get Forrest City to state, preferably in writing, that they will provide funding by such-and-such a date to support a community project in lieu of their obligation to build a parking lot. This should be a no-brainier for them — they would be committing to something like $100k up-front instead of $400-$500k that they hope to recoup sometime in the future $300k.

    Without this commitment for setup and operating funds, though, I do not think council will buy that the project is revenue-neutral (or producing).

    Does anyone have contacts at Forrest City?

    2) We need to identify a project manager to oversee all of the day-to-day issues such as selecting insurance, ground covering, fencing, art pieces, installation timeline, etc. Maybe this should be run by the city public art staff, or by Dan Dosman’s group, or some nonprofit art collective. I am not sure on the specifics, but someone needs to “own” this.

    3) We need to identify some mechanism for city oversight. Amazingly with our ~30 commissions there is not one that should obviously have oversight on such a project but maybe it could be housed under a Planning Commission sub-committee or BPAC.

  130. Naomi Schiff

    Abigail Friedland, (415) 836-5980
    Is the Forest City project person in charge. She would be the one to contact, I believe.

  131. V Smoothe

    das88 –

    Actually, we’ve already taken care of all of that. The proposal put forth by the community as an alternative included providing the art and using of existing funding for installation/insurance costs (it does not require any contribution from Forest City). And it has already been vetted by appropriate City staff, who support and would be responsible for implementation of the alternative proposal. Said staff was at the meeting last night, available to answer any logistical questions the Council may have had.

  132. das88

    V. that is *most* excellent.

    Now we can move on to solving paving issues, crime, and budget shortfalls.

  133. Joyce Roy

    I think what is particularly needed now is a public process to create a master plan for parking and open space. There has never been a master plan for Uptown. Stuff just happens, without looking at the whole picture. There is probably enough parking space at this transit rich site but it needs to be debited out and publicized better. There certainly needs to be some outdoor recreation and sports space. The School for the Arts is now reduced to sending students to Snow Park to play frisbee! And there is no tot-lot for small kids.