Planning staff seems to think so.
We went over this, already, of course, after a meeting way back in March about the proposed CBD height limits, where a handout (PDF!) was distributed to help illustrate for the audience what these height limits would mean. That is, what does a 300 foot tall building look like, a 200 foot tall building, and so on. The heights on the handout were off, not just a little, but by measures of as much as 170 feet!
Another handout listed existing building heights downtown (PDF!), and the numbers there were wildly off as well. Here’s the breakdown:
Although staff denied at the first Zoning Update Committee meeting on the subject that their heights were wrong, they have since admitted the error of their initial estimates. From the staff report (PDF!) for this Wednesday’s meeting:
The height maximums previously recommended by staff for these areas were based on an estimated floor height of 15 feet for the ground floor of a building and ten feet for each floor above. GPS analysis of existing downtown high-rise buildings performed since the original regulations were proposed indicates that, on average, each story above the ground floor is about 13 feet in height.
Don’t even get me started on how those estimates got made in the first place. Guessing building heights based on 10 feet per story is understandable if it’s coming from the random, uninformed person on the street, but totally incomprehensible from anyone who knows anything about commercial building. From a planner? Just completely inexcusable! I just don’t get it.
Anyway, in a previous meeting, the Zoning Update Committee requested a panorama of the downtown skyline from Lake Merritt, to help them visualize what the proposed regulations would mean. An on Wednesday, they’ll get one (PDF!).
Here’s an excerpt:
So…notice anything? Like, maybe how everything about this entire graphic is just completely wrong? It’s bad enough that they’re knocking 100 or more feet off these buildings, but beyond that, the buildings they choose to label aren’t even labeled right! The tallest building in Oakland, the Ordway, is not even identified on the map. The Essex is identified as the Kaiser Center. And I think that’s 1330 Broadway, drawn together with a nearby building, that they marked as Lake Merritt Plaza, although the image is too low quality for me to be certain. It’s something in that part of downtown, anyway. That isn’t Park Plaza, and Park Plaza is totally more than 90 feet tall. If you click on the pdf and view the whole image, you’ll see that while they manage to correctly identify the Alameda County Courthouse (although not the Oakland Public Library), they assert that the 12 story building is only 80 feet tall.
These aren’t minor errors. They are huge, completely inexcusable screw-ups. How can the Zoning Update Committee possibly expect to have an informed conversation about downtown heights when the information staff is providing them is 100% inaccurate? Anyway, what I can’t figure out is whether staff is providing egregiously false information on purpose to mislead the Planning Commissioners into supporting a downzoning agenda, or if they’re just completely inept. Also, I can’t decide which is more frightening.