Catching up on the Central Estuary Specifc Plan

I always wish more activists, policy wonks, and planning geeks would start blogs about Oakland. There’s just so many fascinating things going on with the City and I just do not have time to write about them all. One of these completely fascinating things that I have completely dropped the ball on covering is the Central Estuary Specific Plan. I’m hoping to remedy that a little bit over the next week or so. Better late than never, right?

Old posts will get you caught up on specific plans in general, and the Estuary Specific Plan in particular. First, let’s look quickly at what’s happening so far.

The process began last March, with a visioning workshop (PDF), covered here by Tom Thurston and also by Crimson at the (sadly) now-defunct blog Oakland Streets. This was followed in April by another meeting where attendees worked to refine the plan’s vision statement (PDF). June brought an open house style meeting (PDF), where a variety of display boards (PDF) offered information about existing conditions in the plan area.

July’s workshop invited residents to play Sim City with a hands-on mapping exercise (PDF), which was used to develop a set of draft alternatives (PDF), presented at another meeting (PDF) in October. Last month, at the Specific Plan’s sixth community meeting (PDF), community members got another opportunity to play with maps, picking and choosing their favorites among the proposed alternatives.

As you can see, if you haven’t been following the Estuary Specific Plan up to this point, you’ve missed out on a lot. But it isn’t too late to have your say. In the coming months, there will be a number of opportunities for comment on the draft preferred alternative (PDF). On December 9th (PDF), the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will review the open space aspects of the plan. This will be followed by a Planning Commission review on December 16th (PDF), and then consideration by the City Council in January. And if you’re thinking that with more pages than I care to count right now of plan-related presentations and documents informing this draft alternative, there’s just no possible way you could ever even hope to make sense of how this all came about, don’t worry. I read every single one of them, and I’m going to spend the next week and a half getting you all caught up.

So let’s start at the beginning. The Central Estuary Specific Plan (CESP) concerns a 416 acre area between I-880 and the Estuary, from 19th Avenue to 54th Avenue. See the map below.

If that map means nothing to you, no worries. For the purposes of the CESP, the space has been divided into four separate sub-areas, and in the coming days, I’ll be giving you guys a little photo tour of each of them to get you up to speed. But today, we’re gonna stick to a broader kind of background and take a look at the existing conditions report.

If I had to describe the Central Estuary Specific Plan area in two words, they would be pedestrian nightmare. If I had to describe the Central Estuary Specific Plan area in three words, they would be pedestrian fucking nightmare. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Overall, the Existing Conditions report is really interesting. It’s quite long, and takes a while to go through, but enjoyable if you can find the time, and easy enough to break up into pieces. The only complaint I have about it is that the map images are really low-res. That probably sounds really nitpicky and maybe a little bit silly, but after a while, all the squinting gets really tiring. Anyway, let’s get started.

Because waterfront access (and later, the addition of railroad tracks) provided such excellent access to regional supply and distribution networks, the land along Oakland’s estuary originally developed as an industrial area, specifically marine-related and agricultural industry. This process is spelled out in the historical context chapter (PDF) of the Existing Conditions Report, which probably goes back a little further than strictly necessary (it begins “European explorers first encountered the San Francisco Bay in 1769…”), but is actually pretty interesting and worth reading if you have some time. Also, it features some pretty cool old maps and photos.

The area’s industrial legacy remains visible today, in the form of existing uses, building stock, and of course, zoning. The CESP area is mostly zoned industrial. Oakland’s 1999 Estuary Policy Plan recommended a complicated mix of zoning designations (PDF) for the area – light industrial, planned waterfront development, residential mixed use, heavy industrial, and general commercial. That might seem like kind of a lot for a relatively small space, but when you spend some time inside the Plan area, you see how it makes sense.

The biggest problem with the CESP area is transportation. Transportation in the area is kind of odd. You’ve got all sorts of major arterial streets and regional connection points within and very nearby the plan area (I-880, International Boulevard, East 12th St., and the Fruitvale BART Station just outside; Fruitvale Avenue, High Street, 23rd and 29th Avenues within), yet when you’re inside, it is very difficult to get around. As the transportation chapter (PDF) explains:

Despite the close proximity of the Plan Area to these major transportation facilities, the access to these facilities and their overall quality of service is poor. In particular, I-880 and the freight rail tracks serve as a major physical barrier between the study area and adjacent neighborhoods, BART, the International Boulevard transit corridor, and the local Oakland street grid. The design and alignment of I-880 utilizes a system of local interchanges with confusing and inefficient ramps. The substandard nature of the interchange and ramp designs translates into an inefficient local street network.

Specific problems noted in the plan include a crowded and often bottlenecked freeway, a poorly planned and inappropriately closely space freeway on and off ramp system, an inconsistent and confusing local street good with a number of ludicrous intersections, poor waterfront access, an incontinuous Bay Trail, and just the whole area in general being a complete pedestrian nightmare. And not much better for bicycles.

Furthermore, access to public transit in the area is extremely poor. Although eight different bus lines (19, 50, 53, OX, 356, S, SA, SB) run through the area, only the first four stop inside and the whole place has only five bus stops. Unsurprisingly, almost nobody here uses the bus (AC Transit estimates a daily grand total of 63 boardings and alightings in the whole area.) You might not think this is a problem, since the 1/1R on International Boulevard and BART plus the many buses serving the Fruitvale BART station are so close. But good luck trying to get there. The map below highlights the bike/ped problems in the area.

Click on the map for a larger image or click here to download a PDF version.

Anyway, we will get into the difficulty of walking around this place a little more during the photo tour, but the bicycle & pedestrian issues section (PDF) of the Existing Conditions report handily outlines the following problems: freeway ramps, uncontrolled right turns, missing sidewalks, large blocks, wide roads, few crosswalks, prohibited pedestrian problems, unsafe connections to East 12th, BART, and International Boulevard, and a lack of bike lanes.

Moving on, let’s take a look at what people do around here. I’m going to kind of skip over the resident profile section (PDF) because there just really is not good data on this sort of thing anywhere right now, since we’re at the very end of a Census cycle. You can read it yourself (PDF) if you like. Anyway, in 2000, there were 916 people living inside the CESP area boundaries, mostly renters, mostly in the Jingletown area, many in overcrowded conditions, and almost half Hispanic.

Regarding industry (PDF), the CESP area has been losing employment over the past several years. As of 2007, 4,796 people were employed within the plan area, and the industry breakdown looks like this:

10 percent of the total employment in the area and nearly a third of the service industry employment comes from Alameda County Behavioral Health Services, which relocated to the area in 2002. Even with that influx of County jobs, the area’s total employment shrunk by 18% between 2001 and 2007. The number of businesses, on the other hand, grew a little bit over the same period, indicating a trend towards smaller businesses. Specifically, there has been a notable growth in small specialty food production firms. Of the businesses that left the area, most of them just closed outright rather than moving elsewhere

As the chart above indicates, the biggest chunk of jobs are in service. Within that industry, the distribution of jobs (and employment trends over the past twenty years) breaks down like this:

In interviews, service industry businesses indicated that they like the area because of its central location, ample location, relative proximity to amenities in Jack London Square and downtown Oakland, and the unique ambiance of the waterfront location. They complain about the poor public transit access, lack of immediately proximate amenities like restaurants, bad traffic, high rents, and vandalism.

Manufacturing represents the second biggest group of jobs. CESP area employment within that industry are illustrated in the chart below:

These business say they like this location because it makes it easy to deliver products to their customers, most of whom are in the Bay Area, due to the strong access to highways, the Port, and rail lines. Plus, it’s just a nicer place than most industrial areas. Their concerns include the poor condition of the roads, too much vandalism, and fear of displacement due to the increasing amount of housing.

The final section of the Existing Conditions report is devoted to the Public Health (PDF) conditions in the area. This section sounded really interesting when they talked about it at the second community meeting back in April, but I don’t know what really happened to that. It’s kind of a letdown. At the time, I thought it sounded pretty interesting, but the chapter is just, like, I don’t know, just lame. I don’t know if there was just not that enough data available to do what they wanted, but it is much less in depth than the rest of the report, and just kind of poorly written overall, with a lot of typos. I don’t know, it clearly just did not work out, and I don’t think it adds much to the report.

So that’s kind of an overview of what the CESP area has going on now. The idea behind the Specific Plan is to think about what it’s going to look like in the future. Light industrial? Heavy industrial? Open space? Residential? Commercial? Keep checking in over the next week to see what kind of future vision this planning process has developed so far.

116 thoughts on “Catching up on the Central Estuary Specifc Plan

  1. Chris Kidd

    ’bout time!

    But seriously, thanks for the writeup. I’m looking forward to going more in-depth on this when I’m done with finals.

    People may not be familiar with this area, but this process is *extremely* important. The city is devoting a huge amount of attention to the CESP, and we should devote our attention to it as well. There are a bunch of problems and conflicting interests within the specific plan area, but if we do this right it will open up our waterfront and revitalize a huge area of Oakland.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Sorry it took too long for you! I would have had better coverage of the Specific Plan process if someone hadn’t just up and left for Los Angeles.

  3. Robert

    It would have been nice to see a breakout of the marine related industries in the area, as this is a unique aspect to the character of the area. Other business can exist in many areas in Oakland, but marine industry needs to be near the water. A special effort should be made to preserve it.

  4. Dave C.

    When do we get to demolish I-880? I have my chisel ready.

    “And not much better for bicycles.” This is actually my favorite part of Oakland to bike through. I commute via Embarcadero from Park Blvd to Alameda all the time, and less frequently I commute to San Leandro via High Street and MLK Regional Shoreline, and both rides are a real pleasure. Even the 880 crossings at 5th Ave., 16th Ave., Fruitvale Ave. and High St. are okay. Maybe I just have low expectations, but I’d rather bike around this area than any other part of Oakland. I can see how it would be a nightmare for pedestrians or people reliant on mass transit, though.

  5. Dave C.

    I meant to add that the link for “bicycle & pedestrian issues section (PDF)” leads to a “Page not found.” That was the only part I actually wanted to read!

    Also, I’ve been glad to see that they’ve been working on the plot of land between Union Point Park and the bridge to Government Island for the past month or two. It used to be a weedy, fenced-in vacant lot next to an empty wooden warehouse, but it looks like it’s going to be an expansion of the park. Anyone know what’s going to happen to that building? I have a lot of fondness for it, so I hope it gets reused somehow.

  6. Dave C.

    That link leads to a larger copy of the map that you printed above that paragraph. Is that right? Sorry for being so troublesome. (That’s the danger in being so responsive to your readers–it just makes us even more demanding.)

  7. Dave C.

    Thanks! It seems like a pretty well written report. (It also provided a partial answer to my question about the site adjacent to Union Point Park.)

  8. Born in Oakland

    Nice to see healthy proliferation of social services in the CESP Zone, kind of a one stop shopping for all the Bay Area’s ills. Don’t forget , in close proximity, we have Highland Hospital (free medical), 12 free food distribution points, methadone maintenance (E. 14th St. Clinic), alcohol recovery storefronts, regional State Employment Office (get those unemployment checks), OUSD service center for dysfunctinal families, half way house for ex-cons and parolees, OHA rental units and section 8, boarding houses for the mentally incompetent, storefront churches, zillions of liquor stores, some cheap motels and plenty of hookers, drug dealers and AC Transient bus stops. With all these services, most provided with our tax dollars, residents in the area still put up high fences and cautiously walk their family members to the car day or night lest they get hammered by the predators roaming the streets. Any Uptowners shopped in this area lately? Tough, no coffee shops, book stores or fine eateries. Not the kind of economic development to guide Oakland into the future. Or is this area our future?

  9. James Robinson

    Oakland has lots of well-intentioned compassion, which is a good thing. However, we also need some good old fashioned development, which includes bringing in educated middle class residents (preferably homebuyers) as well as businesses. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the city of Oakland really understands capitalism or how to make money, as opposed to how to spend money. Am i just being cynical?

  10. Carlos Plazola

    V, thanks for this. I look forward to engaging in some good dialogue and discussion on this issue as I consider this to be THE most important process happening in Oakland right now (except for maybe Chief Batts’ reorganization of the OPD).

    Why? Because it represents an opportunity for Oakland’s various interests, and interest groups, to work collaboratively (hopefully) toward a common vision, and more importantly, toward figuring out how to pay for, and implement, the vision, which will cause many in Oakland to challenge some of their underlying assumptions and sacred cows for our city. For example: “industrial and residential can’t co-exist”. Really? They do in other city’s and already co-exist within the CESP. Or “we need to open up our waterfront to the public”. Really? Are we willing to go all the way with this, or will we back away the moment the first landowner tells us “no!”, as pretty much happened in the last community meeting.

    Full disclosure: I am part of a group of landowners that represent about 30 acres along the waterfront who want a higher and better uses (which can and should include job producing uses), and who recognize that it is in everyone’s interest to open up the waterfront, improve accessibility, bring in more bikers, pedestrians, residents, and employers. We have been proposing our own plan, which we can share if people are interested. We think it makes more sense than any of the plans presented thus far because it is a much finer grained plan, but we’re comfortable with the process thus far. Eric Angstadt and his staff have done a great job.

    I can go on and on, but perhaps most important to note about our group right now is that some of our landowners have held their land in Oakland for over 50 years, and have tried to bring in industry and commercial uses allowed under the current zoning, and have been unable to find interest. So, they have resorted to low intensity uses that create very few jobs per acre, while they sit on land that has a very low tax base. In one case, one owner that has 7 acres pays $14,000 per year in property taxes. So regardless of what one’s opinion about what should go on our lands, I hope we can all agree that 1 job per acre, and $2,000 in property taxes per acre per year on some of our most beautiful land is not a good deal for Oakland, particular when the existing uses on these lands prevent public access to our waterfront.

    (Additional disclosure to get this out of the way up front: I am also working on building a 14 unit building in the Jingletown waterfront area, and my office is in Embarcadero Cove).


  11. Carlos Plazola

    James Robinson: I don’t think you’re being cynical. I agree, to an extent, with you, but I think it’s more complicated than that. Jerry Brown certainly understood capitalism and the need to bring in wealth and jobs in order to pay for social needs. As does Councilmember Larry Reid, De La Fuente, and now even Councilmember Kaplan.

    After my time behind the scenes in city hall, and now out in the private sector, my conclusion is that Oakland’s challenge is for our leaders to figure out how to manage so many passionate interests and keep them grounded in the middle, in the realm of real data, transparency, and best practices.

    The effect of Jerry Brown’s relentless push for bringing in capital was to galvanize the “far left” for lack of a better term. This complex network of non-profits, unions, and long-time activists in Oakland came in with a clear agenda, under Dellums, that was the anti-thesis of Brown’s. They represented a strong coalition of affordable housing activists, unions, and preservationists that had long been ignored or disenfranchised under Brown (though their agenda was thwarted by a ravaged economy and the poor leadership of Dellums–which creates an opportunity for Oakland to become a town of moderation).

    The solution, in my opinion, is that Oakland leaders have to figure out how to stop playing to the extremes and show real leadership in forcing the interests into the middle, where sound policy and decisions can be made. No more cow-towing to the unions, or big business. No more making policy based on how many people get turned out to council. I think (hope) that the CESP can be the first real effort in decades in Oakland where land use decisions are made based on sound best practices from around the world, and real data and evidence. And that the city leadership is honest with everyone that we need to pay for all this good stuff with development.

    To date, our community meetings have been cordial and well-facilitated where divergent interests all found a place to land. My concern is that now that the plan will move forward to the decision makers, our long-time activists and professional organizers will start making their move to pack the rooms and push their own agenda despite the strong community involvement up to now. I hope I’m wrong. Maybe I’m too cynical now.

  12. Livegreen

    I like the spirit of compromise and combining mixed usage, residential, commercial and industrial. One thing I’d like to know is for businesses that are zoned out or forced to move, will the City work to retain them by helping them move elsewhere within the City? It seems a shame to lose he business tax base and employment in hopes, and with the promise, of finding new ones…

  13. Daniel Schulman

    @Carlos “… the ‘far left’ for lack of a better term … a strong coalition of affordable housing activists, unions, and preservationists that had long been ignored or disenfranchised under Brown”

    I have a lot of issues with these sentiments.

    1) While the unions may have grumbled, they did quite well during the Brown years.

    2) These three groups are not even really unified groups within themselves let alone in coalition with one another. Sure, people who self-identify as one of these groups sometimes work with others who do likewise. They also at times work with developers. You are merely tacking the tactic of the Republicans who disparagingly label everyone who is sometimes in opposition to them as “liberals.”

    3) In particular, preservationists are typically not characterized as the “far-left.” While individual members vary, I believe the usual stereotype is that they are at the higher end of the socio-economic spectrum (e.g. the Garden Club or Country Club set) and little more conservative than other members of their community. In Oakland, though, I think we have a really wide variety of people interested in historical resources.

    4) Of the four groups – adding in developers – the biggest dividing line I see is who lobbies for material self-interests and who lobbies for community interests. While there are often community benefits as by-products, unions and developers are most often pushing for what benefits them financially. Affordable housing advocates are a mixed bunch — some are nonprofits engaged in institution building, some are concerned citizens. Preservationists, on the other hand, spend and a lot of time and energy working for their causes and win or lose typically wind up poorer at the end.

    I think one of the problems with lack of capital development in Oakland is the absence of a crucial fifth group – Capitalists. As far as I know, there is no representation on City Council with a business background. The Chamber of Commerce has ridiculous positions and largely seems interested in building the Chamber instead of Oakland. Nobody who speaks for Oakland seems to understand financial accountability, marketing, or return on investment.

  14. Carlos Plazola

    Daniel, by the end of Mayor Brown’s tenure, the unions had grown increasingly frustrated with the Oakland leadership because of some proposals brought forth at city council (GPS systems, time clocks), a major blow they took on trying to organize the businesses at the port under a PLA-type arrangement, among other things. The new leader at the CLC had close ties with the broader “activist” community in Oakland including affordable housing advocates, social justice organizers, and thus began, at the end of Brown’s tenure, a broad coalition of interests that lined-up behind Dellums. You don’t have to agree with me. I’m telling you what I saw first-hand as they organized against Ignacio’s run for mayor.

    When I use the word preservationist, I don’t mean historic preservationists, necessarily. I include industrial preservationist. I use the term generally to mean those who fought to preserve things in Oakland they saw coming under significant change via Brown.

    Finally, re likening my assessment to tacking the Republicans, I hope, in the interest of having good debate and discussion, we don’t resort to these kinds of Ad Hominem, under-handed attacks. If you disagree with my assessments, great. Let’s talk about it. But when we start attacking each other personally, however covertly, we inhibit the kind of open debate and discussion Oakland desperately needs.

    But bringing this back home, my purpose for going here in the first place, was to encourage open dialogue and transparency in the CESP process so we don’t all start entrenching ourselves on polemic issues, and then resort to the dogma-driven mobilization efforts that continuously hurt this town. I’m also challenging the business community here in saying that they, too, have to be ready to sit at the table and talk, and not entrench themselves, and certainly not push things that may be good for the bottom line, but bad for Oakland.



  15. Daniel Schulman

    @Carlos, I believe you are misusing the term Ad Hominem.

    Your statement where you sought to discredit the positions of a bunch of individuals by characterizing them as the “‘far left’ for lack of a better term” was an Ad Hominem attack.

    My statement likening your tactics (e.g. making Ad Hominem attacks) had nothing to do with you personally but merely strove to illustrate my point. As such, it was not an Ad Hominem attack.

    I fully agree with you that it would be great to business interests involved with the CESP – I just wonder if those people exist as a coherent voice.

  16. Carlos Plazola

    Daniel, I will agree to disagree with your assessment of the use of term Ad Hominem.

    This said, I stand by my general assessment, even within the context of the inadequacy of existing words to describe modern-day political dynamics. The “far-right” and the “far-left” are used extensively by folks on all sides, but you’re right, they are too blunt.

  17. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you, Daniel, for pointing out that preservationists (whatever is meant by that) are not inherently “far-left” although I personally don’t think of “far-left” as a bad thing, just part of a normal range of political discourse.

    As to Oakland Heritage Alliance at least, I’d say our members run the entire gamut of political views, from right-wing-antitax-antigovernment-and-crotchety-as-heck through moderate-in-all-things to left-wing-outraged-and-ready-for-the-revolution. We certainly have a wide age range: we appear to have as many low-income members as high-income ones (as much as a nonprofit can tell without actually demanding data). Our members are architects and realtors and builders and city planners. We also have government employee members, students, craftspeople, professors, gardeners, history buffs, neighborhood improvers, homeowners, retirees, renters, walking tour addicts and just plain people who grew up in Oakland and love it.

    Something that people often talk about in our discussions is “sense of place”–the aspects unique to our town which can be threatened by banal development design, ill-considered demolitions, and uninspired planning, of which one could easily cite examples.

    Another thing that comes up as people discuss Oakland is the importance of preserving employment and establishing new jobs, not all of which can be service industry or white collar web economy jobs. We need a manufacturing sector, and I think there is some consensus that we should not zone industrial enterprises out of the city. Residential will only work if there are ways for people to earn an income.

    In my view, Jerry Brown was pretty focused on building for a boom-era increase in numbers of young office workers of fairly narrow age and income range. It wasn’t necessarily wrong to do so, but it sometimes missed the longer view of building a healthy community which is diverse in all ways–culturally, racially, economically, and with a wide age range that includes children.

    The nature of developing new buildings is that it tends to focus the developers on their potential buyers or tenants. This isn’t bad, but it does mean that we need the broadening influence of other opinions and viewpoints.

  18. Livegreen

    Carlos, Please clarify what u mean by Industrial Preservationists? Is this anybody who says we need some blue collar industrial jobs in Oakland, and the preservation of at least a portion of the industrial, light industrial, and mixed use businesses that employ them?

    Or anybody who opposed variances to industrial rezoning that was regularly granted by the Planning Commission?

    I’m confused by this phrase and how it relates to “forcing the interests into the middle, where sound policy and decisions can be made. No more cow-towing to the unions, or big business.”, especially as you leave small and medium residential developers like yourself and those you represent out of this equation.

    I’m not being critical just asking for clarification. Historically this has been a loaded issue with a lot of strong feelings on different sides. I agree with the sentiments about coming to the middle, especially as I feel both residential real estate (RRE) for the middle class and industrial companies (heavy, light and mixed use) all play a role in Oakland, both as emplyers and taxpayers…

  19. Carlos Plazola

    Livegreen, in the last round of debates (2005 to 2008) about “industrial preservation” vs “residential development” on Oakland’s industrially-zoned land, the question was poised as an either-or. Either you want jobs or you want residential. What this meant for the potential rezoning of our industrial lands was that if you supported allowing residential in previously industrial only areas, then you were against jobs. And vice versa. This was the result of the polarization of the issue by groups on both sides. This was during a time when big national housing developers were interested in seeing the full scale conversion of industrial lands to residential, and the industrial preservationists wanted the lands preserved as they were, for industrial uses.

    This is a dumbed-down debate and we need to get beyond this. The question should be more in the spirit of: “What are some leading examples world-wide where other city’s are figuring out how to have good, mixed use communities where industrial, retail, residential, and commercial can co-exist (or some variation of degree of a combination of these)?”

    We never got to this point because it became an either-or discussion, with supposed good guys and bad guys on both sides, as alleged by the other, unfortunately.

    The council and the planning commission, for example, were never able to get beyond this either-or debate and ended up having to pick one or the other. I, and others, did, and continue to, advocate for exploring an array of mixed use options, not necessarily all of them containing residential. But we have to make the debate more intelligent, and bring in more people who have successfully answered the more sophisticated question in other cities.

    Forcing the interests to the middle means that neither side gets to dominate the other, and therefore, reasoned debate is allowed to occur. For example, I have children. The tendency is for children, when in an argument, to immediately couch their grievance in the extreme to try to make a point, because they fear the other child will do likewise. As a parent (or leader), your role is to calm the situation, and allow a discussion to ensue that enables facts to emerge, and then to find the solution that best solves all sides’ grievances. This is finding the middle, as I am using it. In our case, it might mean Mayor Dellums sitting with developers, planners, etc and industrial land owners and having a series of meetings to discuss the realities in Oakland.

    To clarify, a small minority of the members of the Oakland Builders Alliance are residential developers. We represent industrial, commercial, retail, and residential developers and contractors. We advocate sound, reasonable decision making based on best practices that support and foster smart growth.

    We see ourselves as a “Double-bottom-line” organization: we need to think about the industry, but we also need to think, and do, about what is good for Oakland. Thanks for asking. Check out our website at :

  20. livegreen

    Carlos, Thank you for this clarification. I agree with your assessment. I’d been a little bit concerned that we were reverting to the old-arguments you mention, as I saw the industrial preservation but no mention of the developers on the other side (maybe this is what you meant before by big business).

    Maybe you can help me with a separate but related concern: what will happen with industrial (light, medium or heavy) businesses that are forced to relocate from the CE when plans are finalized? Will they be forced out of Oakland entirely, or will CEDA try to retain and relocate them (through incentives, etc.) so we retain both the businesses and the jobs they represent?

    I realize this isn’t your job, but we seldom here from CEDA on these issues, and you might be knowledgeable on the subject. & answers that address these concerns might also contribute (and help previous “opponents” buy-in) to this move-to-the-center.


  21. Robert

    Carlos, I believe you meant ‘kowtowing’ from the Chinese word, not cow-towing, because I can’t think of any reason somebody might want to tow a cow, or how unions might be involved in the process.

    It’s going to take a while to read through all the rest of this thread.

  22. Robert

    I think Carlos’ depiction of the groups supporting Dellums as ‘left’ is reasonably correct, in the sense that most of these groups want more government control or intervention in their particular area of concern. To Daniel’s point about preservationists, just because you are ‘left’ on one issue, preservation, doesn’t have anything to do with whether you would be perceived as ‘left’ on another issue such as economics. I think that those of us who are left on one issue and right on another issue tend to get called moderates. Yes, I would consider preservationists as ‘left’ on that issue, because they favor more government control of the development of historic resources.

    Although I have never heard Jerry Brown speak to it, I would be very surprised if he though that the 10K goal was the end of development planning in Oakland. He spent several years getting it started, and it clearly has benefits at this point. But there needs to be a vision for the next step, Dellums did not bring that vision, and nobody else in the city has really stepped up yet.

    Naomi, “…new jobs…not all of which can be service industry or white collar web economy jobs. We need a manufacturing sector…”. This actually strikes me as socialist, in the sense that you think that somehow government can control the economy, and what types of activities actually take place. I am not sure that anyone is advocating rezoning industry out of Oakland, but yes, I think some are trying to allow other activities to also take place on what formally was industrial land. Heavy industry has fled the cities and later the country, and trying to keep our zoning exclusive for industry will not somehow bring it back.

  23. Robert

    Carlos, let me know the next time you see some cow towing going on. I have heard of cow tipping back in my Midwest days, but this is new to me. It seems like some strange city thing. :-)

  24. Carlos Plazola

    Livegreen, I’ll give specific examples so we can get a bit more fine-grained here.

    In most, if not all cases, accommodations are being made to any and all industrial business that want to stay, from the conversations I’ve heard, or plans I’ve seen.

    ConAgra: our table, and every other table in the community meetings has said if ConAgra wants to stay, then they should stay. However, the question becomes, if they want to move, what should come next?

    Hansen Aggregate/Gallagher and Burke: Initially, the discussions focused around where to relocate them, but when that proved difficult, the discussions focused on how to buffer between uses so that we could have mixed use in the area that didn’t “push” G and B and Hansen out. I think they’re OK with the proposal as discusses and our landholders group (that wants mixed use) and the rep from G and H actually advocated for the same plan. Victory.

    Lesser Street Industrial Park: Our group actually came up with the idea of preserving this area as industrial long-term with buffers between the Tidewater peninsula and their business park, and working with PGandE to develop an R and D area that would feed business/light manufacturing incubators into the Lesser Street area.

    Owens/Illinois: Again, as far as I know, the discussions have focused around letting them stay as long as they want, but being prepared with a plan in case they want to leave. This is important so we, as a city, don’t get caught by surprise and then have to play defense against a plan.

    Ce/Mex: this one seemed to be a little sticky since they recently got some bad PR for polluting the JIngletown, so I’m not sure what the consensus on this one was.

    Food Manufacturers on Livingston area: All seemed to agree that they should stay and represent a critical source of jobs for Oakland.

    Mixed use of Embarcadero Cove: Generally allow mixed use but explore buffering opportunities.

    So, again, in none of these examples, is it an either-or scenario.

  25. Livegreen

    Robert, Naomi didn’t say the government should choose, she said we need it. This is both personal opinion (having one of those is not socialist, it’s a foundation of democracy) and it’s a statement of fact (the U.S. has roughly the same # of people employed as 20 years ago. That’s a lower % of the population of course).

    Zoning out manufacturing is just as socialist as zoning in manufacturing. And industrial is not just manufacturing. There’s light, medium and heavy industry, as well as mixed use. What are you going to replace all those blue collar jobs and business taxes with? The unemployed and criminals?

  26. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, thank you, LG. “We” meant we who are discussing the Central Estuary Plan and other planning efforts around the city. This “we” includes the folks on this blog, the city staff, neighborhood folks, property owners, business owners and their customers, employees, as well as sundry politicos and labor unions and other interested parties.

    In my experience, if a potential project or idea or a general trend looms up, the city often changes course, no matter what plan may be in place. Central planning on the soviet model doesn’t really succeed here. What these kinds of conceptual plans do accomplish, though, is to get people thinking about what they’d like to see happen before it occurs. That seems like a good thing, and not a draconian form of top-down control. I agree with Carlos that envisioning future uses is worthwhile. I think the whole exercise began with general vague agreement that planning to keep some space available for industry is important, at the same time that we have to provide for housing and retail. If anything has gotten short shrift in the central estuary planning thus far, I think it is public services and amenities. Not quite enough attention to schools and things like that.

  27. Robert

    lg, I didn’t indicate that I thought Naomi was a socialist, but that the idea was socialist, as you yourself acknowledge in your next paragraph. Socialism and democracy are not antithetical. Socialism is an economic theory while democracy is a means of governance. Both can largely coexist, as is demonstrated in many countries around the world. All I can say about Naomi based on her comment is that she is most likely not a believer in unfettered capitalism.

    Naomi, I am fine with however you meant ‘we’. My comment relates to the term ‘need’, which seems to imply that somebody (presumably government) should do something to ensure that these jobs continue to exist in Oakland. If you are using ‘need’ in some other sense, such as “government shouldn’t get in the way of these jobs coming to Oakland”, then you and I are in agreement, as long as you also agree that government shouldn’t get in the way of other types of economic activity. Zoning that allows industry is one thing, zoning that requires industry is something else.

    lg, ‘What are you going to replace all those blue collar jobs and business taxes with?’ That is a question that Oakland has been unsuccessfully struggling with for 60 years now. But restricting land to industrial uses does not seem to have been a very successful economic development strategy.

  28. livegreen

    Robert, Re. your last statement, it is patently false that Oakland has restricted land to industrial usage. During the economic boom the Planning Commission voted to pass tons of zoning variances for Residential Real Estate, as Carlos said, mostly be large out of town developers.

    The City of Oakland has neglected it’s Industrial base, not promoted or protected it.

  29. Born in Oakland

    Look at water front areas of Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco ….they have transformed themselves from nasty, toxic, declining industrial base to people friendly, water view, bike and jogging areas. We get cheap motels, empty industrial lots and underutilized warehouses with a smattering of businesses that don’t employ any of the people I live with in the flats. Give me the vision thing, I want to believe our 26 miles of bay front propery is an asset and can be transformed into a beautiful and lively site for business and recreation. The Port gets their cranes and containers, downtown gets to fool around with Jack London Square and the central estuary area and environs gets little. People in the San Antonio District had to fight like you know what to get the 16th Ave overpass built anew after the Loma Prieta Quake. Cal Trans was just going to tear it down. Seems many people who know so much about development and engineering don’t want a lot of real Oakland people wandering into the Estuary waterfront area.

  30. Carlos Plazola

    Born in Oakland: I do!! Bring the people. Lots of them. Of all ages, sizes, and colors. Let’s build an outdoor water fountain like in Stockton where hundreds of kids of all colors play together on hot days. How about an outdoor amphitheater for concerts like in Stockton? Skateboard park? Lots of resting areas for seniors. Lots of public art for the poets among us. How about waterfront retail scattered throughout?

    And then let’s figure out how to pay for it.

    In Vancouver, the principal master planner designed the waterfront by designing the best possible public realms and public amenities first, and then he focused on the type of private and public development needed to complement and pay for this. Not a bad approach. Designing with people in mind, first.

  31. Robert

    lg, the very fact that they developers need variances shows that Oakland has tried to restrict land use to industrial through the zoning process.

    Oakland still has large amounts of land zoned for industrial, which tends to have low intensity activities taking place on it. So when a higher value activity comes along, the planning commission and the council frequently do see that as a better use for the land, with more benefits to Oakland. Industrially zoned land in Oakland tends to have lower value because there is not a high demand for it. If there actually was a high demand, we would be seeing the opposite effect, with industrial uses trying to push into other zoning areas.

    Oakland was an industrial powerhouse at the end of WWII, but has been passed by as the economy has shifted from heavy industry to other commercial activities; finance, retail, high tech, etc. To me it just seems sad that some continue to focus on how to ensure the survival of industry in Oakland, rather than on how to improve Oakland’s economic viability.

  32. Robert

    What I see missing in the CSEP is a lack of connection between the Oakland and Alameda sides of the estuary. My guess is that this is due to a lack of interest from both Oakland and Alameda in coming up with a joint development plan for the area. The two sides are close together, and could be developed into a regional attraction, perhaps along the lines of the harbor in Baltimore (15 years ago) or the harbor in Victoria, BC. There are artist studios already on both sides of the Park St. bridge, but the connections between them are poor. It just seems to me that this is an opportunity lost to create something that could be a very special use for an area that is unique to the Bay Area.

  33. dbackman

    @Robert – Artists on both sides of the Estuary recently came together to organize the Estuary Art Attack, a monthly art walk on 2nd Fridays that attempts to bridge the gap between the diverse art communities in these areas. Perhaps the cities of Oakland and Alameda are not doing enough to foster this connection, but the artists in Jingletown and Park St. seem to be making it happen anyways.

  34. Robert

    sorry, didn’t mean to suggest that the artists weren’t interested, but only that the physical connection between the two cities is limited by the poor ped/bike access across the bridge. (The art attack is actually why I know that there are artists on both sides)

    I would think that there are other possibilities for cooperation between the cities to foster improved opportunity, and it would be helpful if the cities could get involved with each other.

  35. Dave C.

    It seems possible that the city of Alameda is not interested in increasing ped/bike access between the cities in that area. There’s a perception in Alameda that “bad elements” are lurking just over the bridges, and come over the water from Oakland to commit crimes in Alameda. I don’t know whether or not Alameda’s crime/arrest stats back up that perception, but incidents such as the Halloween night shooting of an Alameda teen by an Oakland teen a few years ago add to their fears. I wonder if those concerns make Alameda (both the citizens and the government) wary of putting out more of a welcome mat to pedestrians or bikers from Oakland.

    I personally don’t think ped/bike access between Oakland and Alameda is so bad in that area. The streets leading to the bridges need a lot of improvements for peds on the Oakland side, but the bridges themselves are great, and peds/bikes seem to co-exist fine on the walkways. If the cities should be working together to improve ped/bike access, it’s at the Western end of Alameda, where a surprising number of people walk (and bike) through the exhaust-filled Posey tube on a single incredibly narrow sidewalk right next to the traffic lanes. I have to bike to the Naval Air Station occasionally, and the Posey tube would be the most direct route, but going through the tube is so unpleasant that I always ride down to the Park Street bridge instead, doubling the length of my trip but also doubling its quality.

    You would think that Alameda might have more of an incentive to increase access in the Webster street area, since a closer connection to Jack London/Chinatown/Downtown might help the long-suffering Webster Street commercial district. I have the feeling that a lot of people in Alameda want to protect Park Street from the Oakland masses, but they might be more amenable to welcoming the Oakland masses to Webster street, which is struggling more. Or maybe not—Alameda seems to be too consumed with worry about SunCal and Alameda Point to pay attention to much else at the moment.

  36. Born in Oakland

    Very thoughtful analysis of Alameda-Oakland disconnect Dave; you have obviously been around the block. What is interesting about Alameda is some folks tell me proudly they never have to leave the island, that all their needs are met there and (subtext) they don’t have to go to Oakland. My thought was “Do they have a job?” Because Alameda could not sustain itself if their population only pulled up the bridges and became a true island. Even if Alamedans don”t work, their retail customers and work force are significantly Oakland I am sure, as well as social services, medical care and education. Both Oakland and Alameda need each other and it would be nice to see the perceived barriers come down. I think improved access through infrastructure would help with a particular emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle access.

  37. len raphael

    Most of the people I know who live in Alameda, moved there from Oakland because they couldn’t afford Piedmont, and for all the usual reasons didn’t want to live in the burbs. None of them work in Oakland. (now that i think of it, in middle class sections of oakland its rare to find residents who work in oakland unless its for a government or a non profit.). they liked oakland diversity but were unwilling to pay the price in crime and uneven school quality.

    I would assume they have similar work location patterns to middle class oakland residents. They probably shop in the San Leandro big box stores before they’d go to Oakland’s.

    They accept the awful transportation bottlenecks as the cost of their shangra la and have not the slightest interest in making it easier for oaklanders to zip in and out Alameda.

  38. James Robinson

    Oakland has big box stores? And are there middle-class people who both live and work in Oakland? And why aren’t there more big box stores and middle-class jobs?

    Back on topic, could someone please explain to me if there is a way for Oakland to zone a parcel of land of both light-industrial and office or office and retail? Wouldn’t that increase flexibility?

  39. Naomi Schiff

    Len: “(now that i think of it, in middle class sections of oakland its rare to find residents who work in oakland unless its for a government or a non profit.).”

    I don’t think this is particularly accurate!

    My privately-owned company (admittedly a small company, but still) has one employee from Berkeley, and the rest of us all live in Oakland, trying to remain middle-class and living in pleasant neighborhoods.

    As I walk to work in the morning, each day, I encounter a lot of other walk-and-bike to work people and of the ones I have talked to, it certainly is not the case that they all work for govt or nonprofits. Where are you getting your information, or is this just a guess?

    James, the answer is yes. And yes. Why there aren’t more is a worthwhile investigation, but let’s start from real known facts.

    I think (someone will correct me if wrong) that in general you can put office in a light-ind. area but it is harder to do the reverse. Yes, I believe flexibility on these kinds of things is good. Where parcels abut or are surrounded by residential, there is some interest in making sure that commercial use doesn’t impinge on residential use. Office is considered less of a conflict, although in some ways that is not necessarily true.

  40. Kevin Cook

    The only reason to go to Alameda is for ammunition at the Big 5 or to have Bernie Mikkelsen make you steel frame or fix your old one.

  41. James Robinson

    Very good information, thanks!

    I remember in Northern VA they had developments where offices were built right on top of retail and residential was next to it. Do we have any similar mixed-use developments in Oakland? Also, I look at the Bay Street retail in Emeryville which has housing on top of retail. Is there anything similar in Oakland or any plans for such?

  42. Naomi Schiff

    There is a preliminary proposal by local developer Peter Wang to build a 50-ish-story high rise on Broadway betw. 19th and 20th, mixed office and housing. Elaborate design was shown, and he would incorporate rehab of a historic building at 19th St. He is serious, but I suppose will wait for economic good timing.

  43. Livegreen

    Robert, Saying the value of land is based only on $ terms is both false and liberterian. It also runs against the notion of Compromise that Carlos mentioned.

    –Zoning doesn’t only protect industrial land, it also protects residential and many others;
    –You said earlier that industrial has fled the cities, except the area you’re discussing still has it. So you’re example doesn’t support you’re argument.
    –Basing an economy mostly on housing is not healthy as we’ve seen in recent history. We’re not even through it and you’ve already forgotten?
    –SF could afford to displace it’s poor. Why? They moved here. After u and others displace the rest of the Blue Collar job base (including those who work in the building trade and building supplies) where are they going to go? Nowhere. There’s nowhere else for them to go. So all you’re doing is promoting increased unemployment.
    –I also question this “build it and they will come” attitude, both because there’s a housing recession and because Oakland attracts a lot of fear from the pool of potential buyers in SF.

    Obviously there is a potential pool of buyers, as demonstrated by the solid # of residents in the hills, foothills, Lake Merritt, Uptown, etc. by that is still limited compared to what it could b. And the largest obstacle to attracting more buyers is not the amount of housing sights here but high perceived and real crime.

    Moving out existing business that employ blue collar workers will not make that better, but worse. You’re RRE development policy has already been tested and failed in the recent recession. Instead a balanced approach like the one advocated by Carlos and the CSEP represent the most economically and socially beneficial approach. (As it now stands, anyway).

    Unless, of course, that balance and a well diversified economic policy, is not what u really care about.

  44. len raphael

    Naomi, I think it is accurate if you agree with my big assumption that in Oakland most of the jobs that pay middle class wages and benefits are with larger (over 500 employees). That assumption is based purely on personal experience as a cpa around here that even though small businesses probably employee the majority of employees, they tend to pay much lower wages and benefits than large employers. (The relatively few small biz owners tend to earn higher than average compensation, but most small business owners would earn more money working for a big biz than for themselves, but chose not to.)

    The annual city of oakland financial report gives a list of the top employers. (

    In the report for june 30 2009, non profit and government employers accounted for 20% of all jobs in oakland. The top three employers were Alameda County 4.4%, Kaiser 3.7%, OUSD 3.2% , and our own City of Oakland itself 2.6%.

    I don’t know where to find more directly the employers of Oakland residents, and compensation paid by them.

    -len raphael

    btw, did any of the car haters here second your hurrah for the arrival of the new Toyota dealership? it’s gonna take a lot of restaurants and nail salons to make up for the loss of high paying union jobs, sales taxes, biz tax, unsecured property taxes paid by the ungreen auto dealers.

  45. len raphael

    Re. Alameda residents resistance to better foot and bike access. This evening asked an Alameda aquaintence who lives in the Fernside district what her sense of the situation and her immediate response was that there has been a big increase in burglaries in the area of Alameda close to the Fruitvale and High Street bridges over the last two years. She knew of two houses that had been hit twice in the last year. When arrests are made, they’re usually of kids from Oakland. Part of the increase had something to do with the makeover of the shopping center also.

    She pointed out that other than the Gold Coast section, most of Alameda was middle class less affluent than the Oakland hills or Rockridge.

    At this point, the people in Alameda who might be most in favor of improving foot and bike access, are involved in battles over the development of the Naval Airstation. Apparently the Navy refused to cure the significant contamination and the city/developers’ proposing deed restrictions that after construction no digging permitted below 8 inches of new soil.

    So that’s one good thing about an Army base, don’t use as many chemicals and petroleum products as a Naval base.

  46. Naomi Schiff

    Len: nobody picked up my remark on the Toyota dealership. Even though I too have my anti-car moments it is obviously a great thing for a vacant brand-new commercial property to get leased to a dealer who will presumably contribute some hefty sales taxes. Maybe they can sell a lot of hybrids.

    Everyone, especially the Broadway-Valdez specific plan watchers. I propose that some chunk of upper Broadway real estate–perhaps in one of the cuter historic storefronts–be devoted to co-located green-oriented businesses. For the moment let’s call it Used-to-be-AutoRow. Couldn’t we get some mileage out of a progressive, greener, re-use of part of a former auto sales strip? Seems like it would be a good marketing move, and we could try for businesses like this:

    bike repair & sales
    sports clothing and shoes for human-powered activities
    roller skates, razrs, scooters, wheelchairs, strollers
    for fun, maybe a roller skating venue in one of the now-vacant large one-story buildings?
    Everything with wheels: grocery baskets on wheels, little red wagons, wheelbarrows, unmotorized lawnmowers, golf carts, Smart Cars, electrically-powered vehicles of any type, and repair services for such
    Green home-repair equipment and cleaning supplies
    Gardening supplies for the home farmer, pots-on-balconies folks, and backyard gardener (Remember: Long’s Pleasant Valley is fading) (Only benign pesticides, please)
    A home for the vegetable oil car conversion business, with a fuel stop
    A plug in lot for the electric cars, with shuttle service to downtown and BART

    You get the idea. The public process is batting around ideas like Target etc. That’s fine. There is a lot of vacant space. I hope we can carve out a beachhead for progressive green-oriented but profitable business.

  47. James Robinson

    I think Naomi has some good ideas. As anyone done any studies to see what the level of demand is for such businesses? Also, is there a way to let businesses grow “organically” in the Auto Row area, meaning with sensible (minimal?) government involvement? For example, is it possible that there are so many nail shops in Oakland in part because those are the easiest to set up with minimal city government regulations? Is there a way that we can promote retail businesses that customers in the surrounding area actually want and will actually use, the way it is done in normal cities?

  48. Naomi Schiff

    James, a good point: we need to set aside some areas within redevelopment zones that are available for entrepreneurial efforts that are not necessarily tied up with big planning schemes. Especially since the big schemes often either don’t happen or take decades.

  49. Ralph

    I’d be interested to know what big schemes haven’t happened. i’ve lived in Baltimore and DC. Both of these cities underwent major redevelopment in some seriously depressed areas. Yes, it took time, but there was a plan in place. From what I have heard Oakland has a lot of talk but very little in terms of planning and execution.

    I can point to a demand for a business like Target. I have a hard time identifying a demand for a standalone green home repair. I can identify a demand for a jeans store not so much for a veggie oil car conversion.

    The big issue I see with green business, it comes with a premium. So on one hand, people want to make sure that Oakland’s poor can live in Oakland and at the same time people want to introduce businesses that are going to charge a premium for stuff that people could get at a lower price.

  50. Naomi Schiff

    City Center was supposed to be a mall with huge dept. stores, an idea that later moved uptown and failed there. Note that it is not yet built out, after 30 or 40 years. Verdict is open on uptown development. Quite a bit of vacant space still standing there. Along with the numerous parking lots along Webster.

    Then there was the Chinatown Redevelopment project which did happen, after a fashion, but required a huge public building (not taxable!)–EBMUD hq–to make it fly.

    Ever hear of the Coliseum redevelopment area?

    Then there’s the army base. And multitudinous fits and starts at the Port and Jack London Sq.

    Please note that in my suggestion above, I was assuming a relatively small Used-to-be-auto-row area, coexisting with Target or whatever they manage to induce to locate there. I think these things can and should develop side by side. We should market to a broad range of income and lifestyles, to reflect our broad range of ditto.

  51. Born in Oakland

    We have waited decades for zero retail development Ralph. We drove Broadway and Telegraph today and the only retail store open was Sear’s and we saw no one entering or leaving. There was more pedestrian traffic on the two block section of Lakeshore than in ALL of the downtown/uptown area of Oakland and it sits on a BART line and a convergence of AC Transit! Pitiful and depressing. When I was a kid Broadway was booming and people from outlying small towns took the train in to shop and go to the dentist etc. I would love to be able to buy necessary items like a raincoat in my town.

  52. Patrick

    Set aside areas for entrepreneurial efforts? Oakland has about 52 square miles of area available for all these budding entrepreneurs – where are they?

  53. Ralph

    DC revitalized Chinatown which did not lack for its share of professional women and vagrants, and U Street, which was destroyed by riots. Baltimore took a rundown Inner Harbor sold houses for a buck, built stadiums, built a national aquarium, built hotels, developed a downtown shopping district area, etc…Both cities have huge black populations, poor residents, and crime problems. You can not tell me that the people of Baltimore and DC are so much smarter than the people in Oakland and that is why they have been able to develop their cities.

    Best I can tell Oakland’s far left liberal base has inhibited any sort of real development; Oakland lacks any real leadership. Dellums has no balls and lacks any ability to put forth a concrete vision. Development in Oakland does not happen because we have leadership, it happens in spite of it.

    I am willing to bet that you will see a Toys R Us on Market in SF before you see a Target on Broadway because people in Oakland are pretty much anti-development. if it isn’t run by mom and pop, we don’t want it. if it is going to make it harder for Oakland’s poorer, we don’t want it. You know what makes it hard for Oakland’s poor lack of revenues. And where do revenues come from? Taxes. Where do Oakland residents buy jeans, clothes, household good? Everywhere except Oakland. So where are Oakland tax dollars – SF, WC, E-ville…

    I refuse to believe it can not be done. The council and the mayor need to show some leadership and the residents needs to recognize that development is not bad.

  54. James Robinson


    As you know, I also lived in the DC area. Here are some differences between DC and Oakland.

    1. As “liberal” as the DC city council is, they don’t let their leanings get in the way of getting paid (and neither does San Francisco). You mention the revitalization of DC Chinatown. DC did that by getting rid of the actual Chinese people (“Chinatown” is better called “Gallery Place” now). There is no way you can do that in Oakland without somebody screaming racism.

    2. DC (and especially Northern VA) let the developers do their jobs instead of thinking that retail can be government planned. Notice how past Oakland retail efforts focused on department stores, which are the very stores that have been slowly dying nationwide for decades. If the city of Oakland had let actual businesspeople plan business development, some useful retail might exist in Oakland. By the way, why the hell is there no Target in Oakland? I’m sure somebody in the Oakland city government has something to do with it.

    3. It seems most local progress happens despite local government. Referring yet again to the book, “Comeback Cities: A Blueprint for Urban Neighborhood Revival,” the South Bronx didn’t improve because of the New York City government. It improved from the ground up because of a coalition of local churches, activists, and entrepreneurs. City governments tend to make big plans that don’t come to fruition, mainly because people in city governments usually don’t know squat about business (and no, a little cookie business doesn’t count).

    4. In northern VA (and to a lesser extent, DC) they don’t wait for the “people” to approve of development. There will always be naysayers of any kind of development. If you wait to get buy-in from them, you don’t get things built. This is especially true of stereotypical liberals who can be anything but progressive.

    5. It isn’t that Dellums has inadequate genitals, he either doesn’t know or care about capitalism — unless it comes to lining his own pockets. He has NO credibility in the business community and is the last person you need if you are going to reach out to local and national businesses. People voted of Dellums because they though he could get some federal money. But Oakland needs private capital investment more than it needs dollars from DC.

  55. Naomi Schiff

    Folks, it is not liberals or neighborhood activists that are inhibiting retail development! We all have to buy socks somewhere. And it isn’t Dellums’ fault, either. The situation long, long predates his administration. People have been worrying about retail decline since Mayor Reading at least. As you might have noticed, Jerry B. couldn’t solve it (“his” Gap store closed the instant he left), and neither could the previous various government folks. It just isn’t a right vs left thing. You think liberals don’t buy clothes? I have not heard of many people objecting to retail, although some DO have a reasonable suspicion of city-subsidized chain development that may not be very committed to making it work in Oakland.

    This conversation could be productive but I am not going to engage in it if it degenerates into some sort of attempt to score points by insulting various civic leaders.

  56. len raphael

    James and Ralph, i don’t see the smoking guns to blame our 50 year depressed local economy on anti development preservationists, nimbys, or left wing whatevers.

    There just was’t a big long line of investors wanting to plunk their money down here when silicon valley, the nearby burbs, berkeley, south of market etc were booming.

    There hasn’t been enough investor interest in Oakland to keep anti development people busy.

    Maybe not so much in the post dot com real estate boom, but in the prior boom of the late 90′s Oakland was the last urban area to boom and probably the first to bust.

    eg. Bway between 40th and 51 looks like an urban version of the Last Picture show. all it needs is tumbleweed. At least one developer i talked to fought and won every battle with the residents over height and design about three years ago, but his buyer backed out and no one took his place.

    DC is a unique animal. Maybe the demographics have some parallels but there is so much federal money sloshing around there to lift up every ship.

    I have a customer who moved his biz from downtown oakland to dc and is thriving there compared to oakland. (funny, he kept oakland as part of his biz name.)

    Slop over from DC might even be a key factor in Baltimore. 40 miles apart?

    Yes we’ve had a string of mediocre or poorly executing mayors, but oakland has had that since the late 40′s. Surely Elihu was no worse than Marion, or maybe he was?

    -len raphael

  57. Naomi Schiff

    Elihu was way way better than Marion. He was not corrupt; he made many excellent appointments, and although he longed for a strong mayor system, he worked within the former, city manager type of government and basically was the chair of the city council. I think the city was better off under the city manager system.

  58. len raphael

    Yeah, Elihu was better than Marion. As far as honest, after Elihu’s tawdry tenure at Peralta, we should re examine his time as mayor. But then in the pre strong mayor days, he probably had less fiscal power as mayor than he did as head of Peralta.

    Strong mayor change failed because the mayors don’t know how to manage large organizations. They’re big on vision and weak on execution.

    The bureaucracy just patiently waits for them to leave office.

    So, I suppose we will have to go back to weak mayor, city manager govt. That puts more power into CC hands. Hmm, then we lose all chance of vision/leadership unless we get the exceptional city manager who wants to risk getting fired by the cc.

  59. Born in Oakland

    I should shut up; it’s getting a little rough in here and I don’t want to add much. Elihu was a decent man and a local product. The fact we are the 3rd most dangerous city in the U.S. does not help our business climate. Some pols in this town are too value neutral on crime lest they stigmatize criminals and diminish their chances for rehab.

  60. Naomi Schiff

    If I start counting the number of people I know who have moved TO Oakland in recent years, I’m not so sure it is a tough sell. Each of my immediate neighbors moved here from elsewhere in the Bay Area. Close friends have just bought a house after years in SF. I don’t pretend there are no problems, but let’s not overstate the case either. I have found it a pretty good place, warts and all, although I have both lived in other places and had the occasional opportunity to move elsewhere.

  61. Livegreen

    Yes Naoimi, it’s getting better ever so slowly. But here I agree with BIO, crime is a major factor that his inhibiting more rapid progress and keeps Oakland from being as attractive as it could be…

  62. Carlos Plazola

    As someone who does development services in at least 6 different cities, I can tell you that Oakland’s development bureaucracy is notoriously poor. To be sure, Oakland has some great people in planning and building, and the next statements are not meant to take anything away from them. They know who they are because they’re the ones working hard and effectively day in and day out, without anyone taking much notice.

    But the development and investment community in general has pegged Oakland’s bureaucracy as a horrible place to do business. There are too many people who are quick to say “no!”, few who are willing to take risks, and way too many who have learned how to get by while doing the most minimal amount of work.

    Jerry Brown and Claudia Cappio changed this culture a bit by sending a clear message that they wanted projects to move forward, and staff understood. But when Dellums came in and pushed out Claudia, and Lindheim sank a few key projects, staff got the message: Stay low, keep your head in the trench, and stay out of the line of fire. So, now we’re back to where we were. I have about 10 active projects in Oakland right now, and if I’m lucky to get a good planner who wants to push things forward, it’s golden. But otherwise, it’s rough-going.

    I’m actually actively trying to move my work out of Oakland more and more because it’s so much easier to do business in other cities. The rules are clear, they want to see development, for the most part, and they approach challenges sensibly and with a “solve-it” mentality. We need more of that here in Oakland if we’re going to turn the corner permanently and see more good development not necessarily tied to any politicians agenda.


  63. Naomi Schiff

    Hmmm well there are quite a number of projects, on the other hand, that sailed through but have yet to start or which stalled halfway through. I don’t think it is just city hall making a problem. I think the development climate is pretty tough all over right now. And there are some projects that are ill-conceived. I don’t think Oakland asks a lot more of developments than other cities. My impression is that compared to cities with big impact fees, we ask less.

  64. Carlos Plazola

    Naomi, I’m not speaking of fees. I’m speaking of procedures, protocols, leadership, and the expectations they set. The question is where on the scale of professionalism, efficiency, transparency, clear rules, creativity, and the tendency to approach problems with a problem-solving mentality rather than a “we can’t” mentality does Oakland’s bureaucracy sit? On too many of these, the answer is not good. At the end of the day, investors and developers care less about impact fees than they do about predictability and “can-do” attitude of city staff.

    And it begins with the leadership of the city, and of each individual department. And in my opinion, the three most important positions in the city are: Mayor, Director of Economic Development, and Police Chief. All three have to show strong leadership in all of these categories for their city or respective departments for Oakland to get beyond its past reputation or current problems.

  65. len raphael

    Carlos, lets say we still had Jerry Brown as mayor but after a brain transplant he became a great manager so his development ideas got implemented. How much more and what quality development would we have gotten here before the bubble burst?

    (i’d like to ask how much would have been foreclosed, but lets take the long term view)

    Question how would you compare oakland’s direct impact fees and indirect fees in the form of concessions to various surrounding cities?

    -len raphael

  66. Ralph

    I don’t do development work in Oakland so I defer to Carlos. His assessment has always been my impression. Leadership and expectations, is that too much to ask? Again in Baltimore, Mayor William Donald Shaffer was clear that he wanted stadiums downtown, he wanted to make the harbor a draw and he did. I’ve heard someone describe Ron Dellums as being stuck in 1967. Too many in our city are stuck in 1967.

    Federal money does not always mean that the horse will stay alive. For at least 30 years following the ’68 riots, U Street was a ghost town, but the fed gov was still in DC. Gallery Place was littered with needles, bums, and prof women. Someone had a vision and implemented the vision.

    The area around AT&T Park (Giants home) used to be nothing but someone had a vision. In my opn., Oakland leadership is running our city like a publicly traded corp only focused on the next quarter. They need to start focusing on the long-term which may mean making some unpopular decisions.

    The Gap is a bad example of failed retail. I give The Gap props for being out there, but a store like The Gap is not going to survive in isolation. For the most part, the foot traffic at that store came from workers. If I want to shop there are few other stores for me to buy similar goods. I am better off going to Union Square or Lakeshore. Then there is the tax factor. If people from low tax areas are coming to Oakland to work, what incentive do they have to buy in Oakland? I don’t think you can fill in retail in available space and make it work. You need to have a plan.

    I am a person who moved to Oakland because of JB. He had a vision. I was a bit disappointed that the numbnuts who voted for Dellums, but I also had the benefit of living in DC when those numbnuts re-elected Berry. On the positive side, since I had no expectations of Dellums, I am not disappointed in his performance. I still believe Oakland can and will be better but it takes someone who can exhibit some leadership and not just when it comes to development. For example, Dellums should have been front and center when Chris R was hit by a stray bullet. That is a prime example of where he should have stepped up to the plate but did not.

  67. Naomi Schiff

    I do not believe that mayors have that much power. I have little faith in single charismatic leadership. That is some kind of philsopher-king fantasy, and it didn’t work with Jerry and it won’t work with Dellums, and pardon my saying so, but don’t count on Perata or Quan for that either. We should look for an honest person who will hire excellent administrative people and make good commission appointments, will work humbly and hard, and is not beholden to any one interest. Then we need to work together to fix our city.

    Once in a while a great mayor may show up somewhere, but mostly, one gets medium-competent people doing a mediumish job. Here’s the important point: if the citizens lead, the officeholders will have no choice but to run around to the front of the march, and try to help.

    I could cite examples of how this has worked. I hope we can get enough consensus going that we can make some progress no matter who is in office.

    We should and can make Oakland work with or without mayoral brilliance.

  68. Ralph

    Most businesses succeed because someone at the top sets the tone. Without one person setting the tone it is possible for the many headed hydra with its varied interests to take shape and accomplish little.

    Oakland, like any government, is a business, and someone needs to set the tone. If the tone at the top doesn’t matter, why let Tucker resign, why does Jordan not become chief? Someone needs to set the tone and send a clear message. Tone and leadership matter. If tone and leadership don’t matter, why are we upset when parents fail to act like parents. Tone and leadership matter. If tone and leadership don’t matter, why is McCain not President? Tone and leadership matter. Is Obama still a Nobel Peace Prize Awardee? Tone and leadership matter.

    Sadly, neither Quan nor Perata fill the bill. Maybe it is possible to make Oakland work without mayoral brilliance but from what I have seen individual council members do a very good job fighting for their little piece of pie while ignoring what is in the best interest of Oakland. The many headed hydra is not moving Oakland forward.

  69. Naomi Schiff

    I’m not saying it does not matter. I’m saying that I am not waiting for great leadership to attempt to make good things happen. Of course I want good leadership. But we should forge ahead anyhow. And of course we should continue to search for really good candidates who are willing to take on what at present is a somewhat thankless task.

  70. Born in Oakland

    I love that Ralph! “Stuck in 1967.” I was here then, 1967 was the Summer of Love, LSD was still legal. the Berkeley Barb was still being published, Ron Dellums was supported by the CNP in Berkeley (Center for New Politics), the Black Panthers and the Hells Angels and Ken Kesey were all popular heroes and what a strange mix of heroes there were. We rode motorcycles without helmets….hell some rode motorcycles without clothes on those Sonoma and Mendocino County roads. I remember the weather being beautiful every single day. The problems of the day were somewhere else but not here. We could “wear a flower in our hair” one day and storm the Oakland Draft Board the next. Those days ended for most of us but they were glorious days….sort of like the endless summer. Never really thought about RD being “stuck in 1967″ but it fits. We were all dreamers. The biggest risk for any of us was the draft. There was nothing one could catch that Penicillin couldn’t fix. Nostalgic reflections of the Bay Area here…pardon me.

  71. len raphael

    BIO, I’m still looking for a photo of the scene where Huey Newton was going up the steps of the state capitol armed to the teeth, as my future spouse and her 7th grade class were coming down the steps after bagged lunches with Ronnie. It was all down hill for Huey after that.

  72. len raphael

    Naomi, agree w you that this hoping for a mayor to take us out of the wilderness, is not a good long term solution. remember all the reasons for a strong mayor? why would you think that the cc would be any better at hiring and firing a good city manager, than the electorate is at picking a good mayor?

  73. Daniel Schulman

    Back to the topic of the Central Estuary Specific Plan … I thought I would mention that staff will present reports on it tomorrow night at the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board (LPAB) as regards to historic resources. You can attend in person and make comments or watch on KTOP. The written report is located here:

    If you are not really excited by historic resources, staff and consultants in addition to the community meetings are beginning a round of board meetings that also will include Parks and Rec, Planning Commission, Community & Econ Dev, and City Council.

    In addition to the Central Estuary reports, rumor has it that the Landmark of the Month presentation on the Quinn House will rock!

  74. James Robinson

    Geez, I take a day off and Ralph goes on the rampage! Down, Ralphie-boy!

    Anyway, I would not have bought a home in Oakland (East Oakland, no less) if I didn’t see potential in this town. The reason why I compare Oakland to DC, Baltimore and other cities is to show everyone that although Oakland is a unique city, its problems are NOT unique. What sometimes frustrates me is the provincial mindset of a small group of “born and raised in Oakland” folks. If that minority would just look past Oakland and see how other cities tackled similar problems, maybe we could all help this town reach its potential.

    Speaking of people, I think people might be one of Oakland’s biggest problems. Oakland had a strong economy from the 1940s to the 1990s. Why is that? The ports, the factories, and the military. The factories started fading out gradually in the 1970s and the military packed up and left in the 1990s. Add crack cocaine to the mix and Oakland has been in a tailspin that it didn’t start climbing out of until the 21st century. However, those old industrial jobs drew a certain type of person with a certain type of skill-set and possibly values. By “values,” I don’t mean morals or religions, I literally mean what is important to a group, what they literally value. So there are people and their descendants who have a skill-set for industrial labor and value industrial labor. The problem is that most of those jobs are gone and NOT coming back. For example, I don’t think it is practical for Toyota or any other auto manufacturer to put any kind of plant anywhere in the state of California, not when they can put one in Kentucky for substantially less in a non-union (“right to work”) state. As a result, you have a demographic that is stuck. They were not able to capitalize on the dot-com boom of the 1990s or the real-estate bubble of the 2000s. Sadly, the will also be unable to capitalize on greentech, cleantech, biotech, or any other boom yet to come. Teaching that demographic how to install solar panels could help, but the reality is that the future will require more PHDs than GEDs. Period.

    So how can Oakland share in the prosperity that the rest of the Bay Area has enjoyed for decades? Oakland MUST bring in new people. I don’t care if those new people are white, black, green, or purple with polka dots (like some of the suits I see on Sunday in East Oakland), but there must be an infusion of folks with different set of skills and values. And yes, some folks are going to have to leave.

    Let me put it bluntly: Oakland didn’t have much of a black population until blacks migrated here from the South to work industrial jobs (mostly during and after WWII). It is time for the some descendants of those intrepid African Americans to move back South. This is already happening in other industrial cities like Detroit and Chicago. There is a reverse migration of black people to places like Houston, Charlotte, DC, and of course Atlanta. Oakland will probably join that trend.

    One more thing: I’m tired of hearing about the “Oakland has the 3rd worst crime” myth. The CQ Press puts out its list of “Most Dangerous Cities” and “Safest Cities” every year. Their list is derived from FBI data, yet the FBI has discontinued use of these rankings because they feel the rankings are no longer applicable. In addition, the American Society of Criminology dissed the rankings, calling such studies “invalid, damaging and irresponsible.” (

    So one thing we can all do on this site is to fight the mythology. As Flavor Flav said, “Don’t believe the hype.” Violent crime has actually decreased in Oakland this year, despite the tough economic times. Progress is being made, and there is a new police chief who might help that progress to continue.

    For more information, check here:


  75. Ralph

    I only go on a rampage so that James can come by with the sensible approach. And like James, and most of my neighbors, we would not have bought here if we did not believe in Oakland.

    At the time, I could have gone anywhere and by anywhere I was exploring options in Portland, Denver, Chicago, and DC. But I saw the potential in Oakland – Market Square, the Estuary Plan, Retail on Broadway, Uptown, 10K, Whole Foods – it was all good. I still believe. But I believe in some basic guidelines, without them we have a city that will fall for anything because it generates revenue. That is a bad way to run a business.

  76. James Robinson

    I tell ya, Ralph, what a pal!

    P.S. I see Broadway in Oakland as becoming the new U Street. It reminds me of U Street in the mid 1990′s, around the time Republic Gardens was opening. Mua is much cooler, though!

  77. len raphael

    James, careful what you wish for. Much of the reverse migration of blacks from here are the young people with college degrees or the retired people with high disposable income from paid off houses and good pensions. we’re left with the drug zombies and the grandkids living in grandma’s house.

    i assume that’s why the new building at grand and bway, broadened its sales pitch away from buppies.

  78. Ralph

    Ah, I miss me some Republic Gardens.

    do you have evidence to support the income and young college degreed claims of the reverse migrators? assuming that there are recent college degreed black living Oakland, I see plenty of non-natives coming to the area.

    what bldg are you referring to that pitched to buppies? there are bldgs further down b-way near 8th that pitched to a specific mkt but none that I am aware further up the road.

  79. James Robinson

    So Oakland will lose its black best and brightest, but hopefully non-black best and brightest will move in. I think that’s what Jerry Brown’s 10K plan was really about: bringing some yuppies downtown regardless of their ethnicity.

    I believe that 2 things will happen once the job market really returns: 1) fuel prices will increase, 2) rent will increase. Both factors will bode well for Oakland. Oakland’s proximity to SF, Berkeley, etc. will draw people who won’t be willing or able to spend more money or time on transportation. And higher rent might price out some people, but perhaps bring in a different set of people. If the black elite wants to take advantage of that and buy homes in Oakland, great! If they want to retreat to the South, that’s fine too. Cities evolve, albeit gradually. For example, Asians (mostly Chinese) were the predominant minority in Oakland once upon a time, then blacks were, and may Latinos will be in the future. So be it, change can be a good thing.

  80. len raphael

    Ralph, my overreaching generalization is strictly based on knowledge of a dozen or so black kids my sons knew from oakland tech. first off, they all tried to get out of the bay area to go to college. second, when they graduated, be from spelman or yale, not one moved back to the bay area.

    my other highly reliable sources of info are the older comcast techs and my local parking enforcement guy (whose son went to georgetown law).

    another guy we stay in contact with who didn’t go to college but got out of oakland, explained it as if you don’t get out of oakland, you get dragged down into bad stuff.

    marketed to buppies: “isn’t it grand” above the japanese place had a huge ad on sign of building. or maybe it was ineffective because it looked like a parody of a corvosier ad in ebony.

  81. Ralph

    There are at least two good explanations for why the Yalies and Spelman et. al. did not return to Oakland.

    First, I give credence to the pull you down explanation. If they had friends who were up to no good, those friends are probably still up to no good. Those kids probably want a new positive set of friends. It is the type of advice Mike Vick could have used.

    Second, few west coast companies recruit at east coast schools.

    The ad you refer to was one of 3 used to market downtown properties to potential buyers. Unlike the ads for the Chinatown properties, these ads cut across race lines. I could be wrong but a bldg that is 100% occupied does not need to adevertise as such. The ads are now used at The Grand and probably at The Ellington.

    I think those ads work on a number of levels. First, they present Oakland in a good light. Second, those buppies that you are worried about leaving may reconsider. Third, often when I hear people speak of diversity in Oakland, it comes across as poor black and brown people. These ads let people know that black people are more than just poor people.

    can’t say i’ve seen the corvosier ads in ebony, my barber carries Fortune

  82. Carlos Plazola

    James Robinson: I think it’s possible, presuming our city could correct its course, that if we grow our economy, reduce crime, train and hire locally, use our increased revenues wisely to improve our eduction system and city service delivery, we could have a city with flatlands full of strong, safe, middle-class communities that reflect the current ethic diversity. It’s about investing in our own infrastructure–human and non-human–from revenues we create. This is why economic growth in our city is so critical. Our needs run so deep that without economic growth, we’re just shouting at the wind. We may not be able to save many young adults in this generation, but we can start preparing to rescue the next.

    Len, one has to appreciate what Jerry Brown did for what it was: he harnessed and directed a new energy in the city toward a very specific task of building the downtown. This wasn’t the end-all but it represented, instead, an opportunity for Oakland to point at a major success and build on it. The party wouldn’t, and didn’t, last forever. They never do, unfortunately.

    But the opportunity at the end of his tenure, and at the beginning of the recession, wasn’t to keep building like days past. It was to build on the recent positive achievements and to ride the train of optimism to continue reforms in the various departments to just make the city departments work (something that the budget shortfalls could have also helped push) and to send the message to the investment/building community that Oakland is still moving in the right direction, despite the recession. And to plan for the future. (The big high note is that Eric Angstadt is doing a great job in the strategic planning department at helping move the future planning of our city forward.)

    In other words, the best we could probably do in the midst of a recession, besides getting an occasional success of announcing a new business or development coming to Oakland, would be to make our departments function well, bringing in a new culture of high-functionality, and to plan for our future when the economy rebounds. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of the latter, and a very poor job of the former.

  83. David

    re: buppies, and James….

    The obvious reason a lot of ‘buppies’ or college-educated black folks have left is simple economics and social factors. More than one conversation I’ve had goes along this route: “my folks left (New Orleans, Atlanta, Kansas City, Chicago etc) in the ’50′s to come here. Granny’s still in (New Orleans, Atlanta, KC, Chicago. My parents’ house is paid off, and still worth $300Kish. I could buy a MANSION in (New Orleans, Atlanta, KC, Chicago) that’s not in an East Oakland-style neighborhood (i.e. ghetto) in any one of those cities. Why would I live in Oakland, when the rest of my folks are in (New Orleans, Atlanta, KC, Chicago) and I could live better there?” Where’s the buppie ‘hood in Oakland? There isn’t one…not like Hyde Park/Kenwood in Chicago, not heck, almost all of Atlanta, etc etc.

    The Chinese don’t leave because this area is the most Chinese of any area in the country, and there are often 5 generations of one family who have lived here. The whites stick around (in the hills) because they hit it big, inherited money, or are in love with the area for whatever reason. Black folks…well…like James said, there are really only 2 generations of black folks here–the roots are in the South or industrial Midwest. It’s easier to pull up and go back, which is possibly why it happens with the black population here vs. Chinese or whites. Seriously, California itself is barely 6% black–there’s not even a big in-state population to keep folks around. South Carolina is what, 30-40% black, as are many southern states and industrial midwestern cities…

    Difference with me is that my greats’ moved here in the ’20′s.

  84. Patrick

    Agreed. There are many compelling reasons to stay here but there are also many compelling reasons to leave. My place in Atlanta was a palace and in a nicer ‘hood compared to my home in Oakland, and they are both the same price. Everything is more expensive here: housing, taxes, gas, food, insurance, tolls etc. However, I love my job and the climate is wonderful, of course. But if the job goes, so will I.

    I work for a wine distributor. I do all of the import work for both private and commercial entities. We also provide locker storage. Obviously, our clients are generallypretty well off. It has been interesting to see how many of our clients are moving out of state. Texas, Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington seem to be the recipients of our escapees. I’m thinking New Mexico…

  85. James Robinson

    Yeah, blacks really do make up only 6.7% of the California population, according to Wikipedia. That’s too bad, because it means we are missing out on industries like computer technology (Silicon Valley) and biotechnology (San Diego and San Francisco). Regarding Atlanta, I personally think that town is overrated (I guess a dozen years in DC spoiled me). Sure, lots of people are going there, but can Atlanta’s economy support the influx of new residents?

    Like Patrick said, there are many reasons to leave the Bay Area in particular and California in general. I guess the reasons to stay are both personal and financial. I got tired of supporting federal government clients and there weren’t many areas were I could do Business Intelligence or Data Warehousing. I still get an occasional call to work gigs in Atlanta and the South, but the salaries are surprisingly low.

    Culturally, Charlotte and Atlanta are great places if you want to buy a big house — and then never leave the house. In order to get those lovely large Atlanta houses, you have to live a good 15 miles away with no BART or other rapid mass-transit into downtown Atlanta. And don’t get me started on politics or diversity in the South! Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but I’ll take the Bay Area for now. I’d rather get my Chinese food in Chinatown than P.F. Chang’s. I’d rather go to Buddhist meditation class on Sunday instead of a mega-church. And I’d rather not have people look at me funny if I happen to hold hands with a woman who doesn’t look just like me.

    Back to crime, Atlanta’s crime is much worse than it is perceived to be. It’s just that they have better PR than any city I’ve ever seen.

    Anyway, I’ve read projections that there will be 20,000 additional people in Oakland by 2020. That’s not too bad. Oakland might not be growing by leaps and bounds, but its population isn’t shrinking, either.

  86. David

    All that you write may be true James, but your preferences make you an outlier, QED, by the black population of California. You might like Chinese food, but a buppie moving to Atlanta or wherever probably prefers something a little closer to home-style cooking. etc etc. As an aside, you might have to live 15 miles from downtown Atlanta, but so what? I’ve been there a lot and 15 miles from downtown=15 minute drive on those oh-so-large and empty freeways. Whereas a 15 mile ride on BART, say from the Coliseum to Ashby can take 25 minutes (and cost more too). This isn’t a debate about your or my personal preferences, but of those preferences of an aggregate population, and it’s pretty clear what those are–it ain’t livin in the DEO or West Oakland for a college-educated black person. It might not even be living in the hills, the Laurel, or Temescal either when equally ‘nice’ areas exist elsewhere for less money and with more local family.


  87. len raphael

    David, unless something has changed dramatically in the last 5 years (and it might have), there were sections of the Oakland hills that were mostly upper class middle black.


  88. David

    There is maybe one or two “mostly” black upper/ upper middle class neighborhood in Oakland (Maxwell Park and Sequoyah hills area). Browse around the Census’s web page if you need confirmation.

    I’m not sure if this map will come through, but here it is

    You’ll notice that only Maxwell Park and the Sequoyah hills area come in at over 50% black for areas that might be considered middle class or above.

    You can overlay this with income

    Again, you’ll notice that the Sequoyahish area is really the only high income area that’s majority black. I mean, I guess that’s something, but in comparison to upper middle/upper class majority black sections in Chicago, DC, Atlanta, it’s nothing.

  89. Ralph

    wonderful i have officially reached outlier status. you may call us outliers, but us outliers are pretty much the core of the black CA people i know

  90. Patrick

    Just to pipe in, Atlanta is pro-growth at all costs. Traffic, pollution, insufficient water supply – doesn’t matter. Atlanta sits atop the Piedmont ridge and the surrounding (eroded clay) land is good for only two things – trees and people. So, people it is. Atlanta’s public transit system (MARTA) is actually pretty good. The problem is that the areas it serves have mostly gentrified, so the population it targeted has been pushed further afield. Currently, MARTA is a white-folk way to get to the airport – sound familiar??

  91. Patrick

    Not at all. Gentrification is a wonderful thing – unless it destroys all in its path. I went to Costco in San Leandro today. San Leandro may have a better tax base, but it’s pretty generic and depressing. You may be able to purchase 400 pound sacks o’ cheese for $1.25, but you won’t find the best Banh Mi, Tortas and Dim Sum. So, it’s a trade-off. My point is that currently, Oakland is too much of a trade-off. We need a little bit more for those who have invested here, even if it means a little bit less for the transients who are sucking off the public teat. Sorry, but I need a little more value. I’m selfish, I guess. It was such a pleasure to drive on roads that were not riddled with potholes. And nobody accosted me for a donation – which was a refreshing change of pace.

  92. James Robinson

    David, you’re probably right. I am an outlier, which is probably why the buppies chased me out of DC.

    And last time I checked, Atlanta traffic during rush hours is worse than Oakland traffic during rush hours. And BART in Oakland might cost more than driving in the ATL, but which puts more milage on your car and which is worse for the environment? And does MARTA extend as far out from downtown Atlanta as BART does from downtown San Francisco?

    I think Oakland can gentrify without the whole city turning into San Leandro. Let East Oakland have the big box stores. There is a general consensus among retail businesses that it is preferable to be near an interstate. So put the big box stores (hello, Target!) near 880 in East Oakland. While you’re at it, move the car dealerships down that way, too. Then let the area soon to be formerly known as Broadway Auto Row be filled with cool, local, and environmentally friendly businesses and stores. Big wins for Oakland!

  93. David

    Like I said, not judging, just pointing out what the evidence shows. You’re in the minority in more ways than one.

    I find it amusing when people knock San Leandro. Costco is depressing because, intelligently, SL located the big boxes in an area right by 880. You can have big box stores abutting the freeway (or industrial etc) or you can have ghettoized housing (re: Sobrante Park). Which would you prefer?

    You get out of the big box blandness in SL, and you find pleasant Craftsman & Tudor houses just like Berkeley and Rockridge (but on bigger lots) in the Broadmoor and Estudillo Estates sections. There aren’t as many local cafes etc, but there are a few (and certainly more than DEO). As you go toward Hayward, it gets bleaker unless you love ranchers, but a good chunk of SL is pretty pleasant, and just as pleasant (and probably more walkable, since it’s flat) as, say, the upper Laurel or Montclair. But as an added bonus, just a couple miles away, you have 400 lb boxes of cheese for $1, instead of driving down congested 880 for 10 miles.

  94. Livegreen

    The SL Costco and other big boxes are in SL’s industrial and light industrial area, as you say David, right along 880. Just as it is for Hayward, Fremont, North San Jose, etc., basically the entire East Bay.

    However in Oakland some developers (not all) and their supporters want to get rid of all industrial areas and replace them with residential. I ask: what does the entire East Bay outside of Oakland see with having these clear-cut areas & economic diversification, that some Oakland developers (and their supporters on the Planning Commission) do not?

    A healthy balance is good for the economy. The challenge Oakland has is with the oldest industrial buildings that probably don’t suit anything, including industry. If it’s part of a well designed plan, Redevelopment money should not b spent only on replacing industry with residential real estate (RRE) but also with retail and more modern industrial & light industrial units to appeal to a maximum # of businesses.

    And helping any dispaced industry relocate INSIDE Oakland, instead of just relocate to SL, Alameda, SJ, etc. And the expecting CEDA to spend at least twice he effort bringing them back or recruiting new ones. As has been happening on a regular basis for a long time now.

    I really do not understand why CEDA is not focussed on business retention . “A Bird in Hand is worth two in the bush.”

    Especially as they also aren’t good at business recruitment. In fact, other than getting DTO and RRE developers in, what IS CEDA good at?

  95. Patrick

    Costco et al would never be interested in East Oakland. Why? Because San Leandro is so close. Now, west Oakland is a prize. Easy access from SF, Berkeley, Oakland, etc. Yeah. Costco needs to go in to WO. EO has already been marginalized by SL. Too Late. Sorry.

  96. len raphael

    so you don’t think a costco in west oakland wouldn’t be a zero sum thing for costco?

    has anything gone into the former home expo/kmart building in emeryville? maybe a bit small for costco or target, but hecka more attractive than west oakland. plus wouldn’t have the pressure from unions to protect safeway jobs.

  97. Jenn

    Len – Pak-n-Save is Safeway, so you do have union jobs right next to that Emeryville location, for what it’s worth.

  98. len raphael

    then you get the middle and upper class residents who want small locally owned retail stores with the selection of big box stores, the prices of the internet, and the quality of a farmer’s market. and don’t forget complete medical, dental, and retirement benefits plus decent wages.

    eg. after years of people complaining there was no green grocer in temescal, one opens up just across from the library but it’s on life support. It won’t last 6 mos unless it gets hecka more customers.

    the quality is higher than safeway but below farmers markets; prices maybe 5% lower than safeway. excellent ped and bike access, decent car access.

    -len raphael

  99. livegreen

    Yeah, but then it has to compete with Berkeley Bowl, which isn’t all that far away. Now that’s hard for Farmer Joe’s to do, and they’re far away.

    The “locally owned” has to be on higher end products. Many union members are apparently boycotting Farmer Joe’s still. If they want organic and/or pesticide free, instead they go shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Who’s kidding who? (Liberal hypocrisy?)

    If Safeway were smart they’d capitalize on the labor-natural foods nexus, and do an add campaign backing it up vs. non-union shops like Trader Joe’s, Wal-Mart, etc. But we seem to be digressing…

  100. Ralph

    as long as you are digressing, where is this green grocer in temescal? and can we just do away with unions?

  101. David

    As long as we start with public sector unions, Ralph, yes, please. Private sector unions are so small (8% of private labor force) as to not matter anymore. However, with the public sector gobbling up 30%+ of the economy, the public unions matter.

  102. len raphael

    Ralph, the new temescal greengrocer is in the mini strip mall, on west side of Tele, just north of 51st Street. ie. just across small street from the library.

  103. Jenn

    The green grocer is in the mall with La Calaca Loca and Bare Naked Burgers. It’s across the parking lot from them.

  104. David

    PS. if Safeway were smart, they’d upgrade the quality of ‘food’ they try to sell there–the produce and meat are generally of disturbingly low quality and priced higher than competition. I don’t think unions are responsible for that, as Food Maxx is unionized and sells higher quality produce, especially (the meat is usually higher quality, but not always).

  105. Jingletown resident

    It may interest to you to inquire why De La Fuente is quietly pressuring the city’s planning department to change the preferred plan selected by the community so that the Owens Brockway site doesn’t change.

  106. Livegreen

    This is confusing because above Carlos said: “Owens/Illinois: Again, as far as I know, the discussions have focused around letting them stay as long as they want, but being prepared with a plan in case they want to leave.”

    I have to read through the various options again, but Carlos seems to say the plan is for them to stay. Also since IDLF has supported the Redevelopment of this ares from the beginning, some variation to it does not mean he’s trying to change the whole thing…

    This includes businesses that are job producing and active. Will they b pushed out? If so how will those jobs b replaced? You can’t just fire people and kill business with the hope of recruiting new potential ones which, as we’ve discussed, the City does nit do a good job at.

    A bird in hand, or a business or a job, is worth two in the bush. In a down Job and Real Estate market especially…