If you managed to read my whole monster post yesterday about the Central Estuary Specific Plan, good for you. You deserve some sort of prize. If not, that’s okay. We’ll get you caught up anyway.
For the purposes of the Central Estuary Specific Plan, the specific plan area has been divided into four subareas, creatively named West Subarea, Central-West Subarea, Central-East Subarea, and East Subarea. Talking about the whole plan area at once is very difficult because it’s so big, so I’m going to follow this division and do separate posts over the next week about each subarea.
And since I find that photos are a much better way for people to get a sense of what a place is like than text, we’re going to start our exploration of each subarea with a photo tour. So let’s get started. Meet the West Subarea.
This is the area of that has the most going on. Or, more accurately, I guess, that has the biggest number of different sorts of things going on.
Our tour (and pedestrian nightmare) starts at the western end of the Specific Plan area. Physically, it’s actually not far at all from the East 14th, where the 1 bus line runs. Of course, try taking the 1 to get there, and you will quickly notice that there’s a big ass freeway and a bunch of train tracks between you and where you are trying to go. Hmm.
No worries, we’ll take the 16th Street overpass. The overpass is curved, making the visibility for pedestrians and bicyclists quite poor. Cars and trucks drive along it extremely fast while pedestrians stick to the very narrow sidewalk on one side and cling to the fence for protection. Although the overpass features a “bike lane,” all the bicyclists I have seen whenever I use this overpass (which isn’t all that often, so it’s probably not the greatest sample) are also riding on the narrow sidewalk. Normally, I’m against this and think bicyclists should stay in the street where they belong, but I totally do not blame them here.
While you’re up there, you may want to pause and take in the lovely overhead view of Oakland. Charming.
The overpass puts you down at the beginning of the Specific Plan area, at Embarcadero Cove, a small commercial center with a sign featuring a tackle shop and not much else.
Also right around here is the Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary that offers a very impressive menu of holistic healing services, and is the sort of place anti-dispensary types should take a look at before rushing so quickly to judgement.
Across Embarcadero, looking towards downtown, you’ve got motels, and next to them, boats.
As you continue walking down Embarcadero, it’s pretty much boats on one side and bland office buildings on the other. The sidewalk here, at the beginning of the CESP area, is pretty good once you brave the scary overpass and find your way in.
The pedestrian crossings, however, leave a lot to be desired. You just have to kind of stand there for a while until you see a gap in traffic and then dash across. Once you manage to cross the street to the water side, the walk along Embarcadero is really pleasant. It features some placques about the history of the area, and plenty of benches.
Then you get to this adorable little collection of old houses that were moved there and are now used as offices. With the exception of the rent-a-car place, which I have no idea what its doing there, it’s all like, sickeningly cute, and if you don’t mind the accessibility issue, I’ve gotta say, it beats the pants off of Preservation Park (which is sort of the same idea) any day.
Wouldn’t you just love to get to eat your lunch outside looking at this every day?
And get after work drinks at Quinn’s Lighthouse? Where do I sign up?
Okay, moving on. We’ll continue walking along Embarcadero until we reach Livingston Street. As we turn, we see Beacon Day School.
Across from the school is a charming little area full of cute brick warehouses. There’s some live/work space and a bunch of boutique food processing companies. Also, if the signs on the parking spaces are true, apparently some sort of office or something for Chevy’s.
Anyway, this section is really very charming. This is where Numi Tea is.
Also, there’s a winery (Irish Monkey Cellars). There isn’t much in the way of sidewalks here, and the streets are in quite the state of disrepair, but there’s also not a ton of traffic, so it doesn’t feel like much of a problem when you’re walking around.
As charming as it may be, this area features little in the way of amenities. There’s the Buttercup Grill & Bar (which will charge you a damn near-criminal two dollars and forty cents for a eight ounce to-go cup of weak coffee), a tiny cafe I never got the chance to go to and can’t remember the name of in the Beacon School parking lot, and the Rainbo Bread outlet store.
Also, the neighborhood’s charm is somewhat mitigated by proximity to the freeway.
Moving on, we enter a decidedly less charming, but seemingly pretty active industrial area. Lots of trucks and indistinguished one-story buildings.
It isn’t what you would call exactly pleasant to walk through because of all the trucks, but there’s also not really any reason to be walking there, so this section gets a pass. All the baking going on makes it smell like bread everywhere, which I like because it reminds me of downtown Portland before the brewery shut down, when it smelled like hops everywhere all the time.
The sidewalks here are okay. Mostly, there’s just a lot of trucks everywhere.
If you head back towards Embarcadero and manage to cross without getting run over by a car, you’ll get to the lovely, if underused (and soon to be expanded), Union Point Park.
This park features lovely vistas of the Estuary, plenty of benches, a cute, boat-themed play structure for children. Unfortunately, it also features this terrifying Frankenwoman statue that used to sit outside of City Hall. Man, was I glad when they took that away. It celebrates notable women from Oakland by combining parts of their bodies into one tall, multicolored superwoman who has like, Isadora Duncan’s leg and Ina Coolbrith’s hand or something. I think it’s supposed to be inspiring, but honestly, I find it terrifying. Someone told me there’s going to be a much bigger version of it on Treasure Island, and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, I feel sorry for the people who live there.
Other than that, the park really is lovely.
Except, of course, for the giant ConAgra facility looming in the background.
If you’re trying to leave the park on foot from the end (where the parking lot is), getting out and across the street alive is an issue, what with no crosswalks and busy, curvy road and the always ominous railroad tracks. Once you can manage it, you’ll walk past some more bland buildings, with like a ballroom and party supply on one side, and ConAgra and a cement plant on the other. The sidewalks here suck and are falling apart.
And with that, we end our West Subarea photo tour. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the West Subarea existing conditions (PDF) and proposed alternatives.