Greg McConnell: Oakland wants city leaders to attract new business to Oakland

In a poll conducted this October a whopping 96% of Oakland voters say Oakland leaders should attract new companies and businesses. This comes from residents in every district in Oakland. It includes every demographic – every age group, ethnicity, party affiliation, sex and sexual preference; in short, everybody. This is the highest approval for a single concept that we have seen in our polls since 2005.

The Jobs and Housing Coalition takes regular polls of Oakland residents to gauge their perceptions of what is right and wrong with the city. These polls are eye openers. In 2005, when we heard complaints from a small but very vocal group of people at city hall that it was foolish to try to bring 10,000 new residents to town, our polls told us that this was exactly what more than 70% percent of the residents wanted.

Fortunately, city leadership was undeterred. It focused razor sharp attention on the 10K plan and it is now beyond speculation that the city has improved tremendously. The new residents have revitalized Uptown, Jack London Square and other parts of the city. Following the new residents, came a major infusion of restaurants, entertainment venues and new businesses and jobs.

Today, Oakland gets glowing press reports and recognition as the culinary ground zero for the Bay Area. In the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have flocked to the opening of the Fox, the Unveiling of Uptown, Eat Real in Jack London Square, and other grand Oakland events. Specialty food and beverage producers are flocking to the city bringing new jobs and revenues. Soon, Oakland will have a new free shuttle service that will link Broadway Grand and Jack London Square and help fill in the area in between. None of this would have happened without city leadership’s commitment to the 10K plan.

This fall we did another poll to see what are the top concerns of Oakland residents. Reeling from the recession and the city’s $144 Million budget deficit, we asked respondents to tell us how they wanted to see the city move forward. Should we increase taxes? No, said 52% of the respondents. Should we cut city staff? Yes, said 53% of the respondents. Should we increase parking fees and fines? Hell NO, said 78% of the respondents. With the exception of parking, these numbers suggest that a lot of Oaklanders have mixed opinions on whether new taxes and spending cuts will solve our problems.

So what should be the focus of city leader’s efforts? Oaklanders are nearly unanimous on the need for economic development.

These results tell us in no uncertain terms that Oakland residents want growth; they want our leaders to institute bold policy initiatives that encourage economic development.

It is time for Oakland leaders to send the clear and unmistakable message that the city is open for business. The business community will respond just as surely as home builders flocked to the city when they were assured that they were welcomed.

Send out the word city leaders. Encourage businesses, residents and consumers to bring your dollars to Oakland!

In our next report we will talk about the kinds of businesses residents want attracted to Oakland. Hint – think of Oakland, one of the top five green cities in the nation, with more retail, office workers, restaurants, residents, and more green dollars.

Greg McConnell is the CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, a nonprofit association of major employers and commercial and residential developers and property managers dedicated to growing Oakland.

75 thoughts on “Greg McConnell: Oakland wants city leaders to attract new business to Oakland

  1. Mike d'Ocla

    The crime thing will probably have to be dealt with before hordes of new businesses will want to move to Oakland.

  2. Ralph

    How do we get more business? My sixfold solution 1) continue with the infill -more condos in the downtown core will bring individuals with more income which should make Oakland more attractive to the retail set and we need retail, 2) show demonstrated improvement in the schools – this should make us more attractive to those who want to bring professional offices and professional workers to the city – pesky professional types tend to be family oriented, 3) increase the arts venues professional people with money like the arts – it is a crying shame that Oakland has so few centers for performing arts, 4) focus on one profession where we have a competitive advantage, 6) do the small things street and sidewalk improvement things that just make a city look and feel more attractive, and 6) reduce crime.

  3. Mike d'Ocla

    All your suggestions Ralph are right on. I mentioned only crime because it’s right there and can’t help but be primary in any prospective businessperson’s mind. That said, your #6 (the first one; crime should be your #7) is critically important–improve streets and sidewalks. I would change this somewhat to emphasize what is known in the planning trade as “traffic calming.” This means making streets safe for pedestrians and nonmotorized transportation (bicycles, wheelchairs, roller skates, push scooters, etc.). Traffic calming is at the heart of making dense urban cities much more liveable and attractive. It reduces noise and air pollution. It allows people to walk to shop or make social visits, it allows kids to walk or bicycle to school, it encourages residents to look at front yards and sidewalks as living spaces to be enjoyed and shared with neighbors rather than buffer zones between the front door and the war zone of the SUV- and truck- and hot-car-dominated street scape.

    The best Bay Area examples of successful downtown traffic calming efforts are University Ave. in Palo Alto and Old First St. in Livermore. These efforts have brought the old downtown shopping districts back to life after they were killed by malls. If every Oakland neighborhood shopping district were traffic-calmed, Oakland could become one of the Bay Area’s most desireable cities. If International Blvd. were traffic-calmed and a streetcar installed down the center, why Oakland could become the new Portland. But that’s really a dream.

  4. livegreen

    I agree with all Ralph’s & Mike’s comments except:
    –I put Crime at #1 or #2, and education close behind (note: Education and Crime is already better in the Foothills & Hills and Oakland needs to PR this);
    –I agree only in part with #4, but have a variation:

    Oakland should focus on SEVERAL core businesses where it has competitive advantages. One business sector is too narrow, esp. if a downturn happen in that 1 industry. And also because Cities and Public Servants perform AWFULLY at predicting successful business sectors.

    Instead the City should focus CEDA’s recruitment efforts in a four-fold strategy:

    –Target 3 to 5 business sectors where it has the Competitive Advantage that Ralph mentions (& in which the Port should play an important role);

    –Target industries where we might not have a competitive advantage but which are nascent industries where early entry could make us a leader (like Green Industries, from distribution to light manufacturing or assembly);

    –Maintain current profitably, job employing businesses until the marketplace or CEDA efforts actually replace them with more advantageous businesses (not replace them just because Redevelopment Surveys say so).

    –Create Mix-Use developments that can be used for everything from Offices to Light Manufacturing. (This is the kind of space that Solyndra is moving into in Fremont and that are abundant from south Hayward, Union City, Fremont & NE San Jose. Even the SF Herb Co. has an enormous warehouse there).

    In this manner with multi-use facilities businesses can come & go as they please, according to the wishes of the marketplace. That way targeted business sectors can be recruited with tax-breaks, etc., but if one of them is a bad bet other industries can help take their places.

  5. Ralph

    I am trying to go with a new approach to crime. I am not convinced that more cops on the street is going to solve the problem. If we could put more feet on the street and educate pumpkinhead maybe we could reduce crime. Also time for us to look at longer school days and a longer year.

  6. Matt

    Crime is a symptom of bad economic conditions. Treating a symptom and not the root cause is really stupid. I support the city in doing what it should always be doing which is creating an environment for businesses to thrive.

  7. Mike d'Ocla

    “Crime is a symptom of bad economic conditions.”

    And much more.

    Economic policies, like the ones that started in the Clinton years, which have led to the upper few percentiles getting enormously more wealthy and the bottom 50% getting significantly less wealthy, for example.

    The persistence of “redevelopment” projects which deny poor folks cheap and functional housing in favor of developers making lots of money and wealthy young urbans with no kids having trendy places to hang out.

    The persistence of redlining and other institutionalized sorts of economic racism.

    The tie between the legal system, the lawn ordure crowd and the prison-industrial complex which arrests and jails black and brown people way out of proportion to the ethnic mix in the whole population.

    Clinton-era welfare “reform” which helps break up families and insures that kids have a harder time growing up.

    Just a few little things to think about.

    “Bad economic conditions” needs a lot of spelling out of details.

  8. navigator

    Crime is completely overstated. If crime were such a big factor why do people from the far more populous East Bay get on a bridge by the hundreds of thousands each day just so that they can work in downtown San Francisco? In 2008 the various neighborhoods of downtown SF had 20 homicides compared to two in downtown Oakland. Downtown SF consists of neighborhoods like the Tenderloin, Civic Center, Broadway, South of Market etc.

    People endure these endless Bay Bridge hassles while Oakland sits on the mainland with plenty of room to grow. During these times, Oakland should be promoting itself as the logical alternative to this problem. There is no reason that hundreds of thousands of workers bypass Oakland in oder to get on a dangerous bridge in earthquake country just so that they can have the pleasure of paying exorbitant parking fees in order to work next to the Tenderloin. Oakland has a great opportunity here. Oakland needs to stand up, jump up and down, and wave its hands in the air. I haven’t seen anything written in stone that says corporations in the Bay Area need to be in San Francisco when most of their employees reside in the Oakland Metro Area.

  9. MEL

    As someone in the midst of deciding whether to produce an entertainment project in either Oakland or L.A., I have to say that crime is the number one reason for my hesitation in choosing Oakland. Crime even beats out cost differential, i.e. if Oakland’s crime rate was the same as L.A.’s I’d be willing to spend slightly more to produce in Oakland. However, as it stands, with much of the personnel needed for this project currently being L.A.-based and needing to move to/live in Oakland at least temporarily, I have serious reservations about having them leave relatively safe L.A. to come to the less safe Oakland.

    The irony and catch 22 is that one of the reasons I’d like to produce in Oakland is to provide much needed jobs and revenue for the city; I’d like mine to be a proactively socially responsible venture. Having lived in Oakland for several years, I’ve had a soft spot for the city and I’d like to see it succeed and help it succeed if at all possible. Yet even with that in mind I have to ask myself “at what cost?” (not financial cost, but in terms of personnel safety)

    Most businesses don’t even get to this level of consideration. They just see or hear of Oakland’s crime and say “no thanks” without hesitation.

    This is all more complex than what I’ve presented (for instance I obviously have other concerns about doing business in Oakland), but the crime concern is definitely an issue.

  10. Matt

    Mike, I study urban planning and anything related to economics. I certainly understand the thousand little cuts that turned most US cities from jewels in the 1920s into economic disasters by the 1970s. I believe you’re framing the situation in such a complex way that no solution can possibly seem to be worthy of action. More opportunity and development in Oakland will reduce crime. This is not rocket science.

    MEL, Oakland is a very large geographic area and LA is enormous. Could you please site the area of Oakland and area of LA you were planning to start your project?

  11. navigator

    Mel, to say that you’re safer in LA than in Oakland is not completely accurate. It depends where in Oakland and where in LA. Cities aren’t dangerous, neighborhoods are dangerous. I’m sure companies from LA wouldn’t have a problem shooting in downtown SF but would hesitate in shooting in downtown Oakland. Well, downtown SF is one of the most crime riddled downtowns in the country with 20 homicides last year in its various neighborhoods. Meanwhile, Oakland experienced 2 homicides last year in its downtown neighborhoods. I’m sorry but generalizations like “Oakland is unsafe” are unfair to the city. Certain neighborhoods in deep East Oakland and parts of West Oakland maybe unsafe after dark, but that doesn’t mean that the entire city where people socialize, dine and entertain, is unsafe. Oakland has come a long way in the last ten years. Oakland has a burgeoning restaurant scene, wonderful world class theaters in the Fox Oakland, Paramount, Grand Lake theaters, wonderful walking neighborhoods like Rockridge, Piedmont Ave., Temescal, Lake Shore/Grand, Uptown, Old Oakland, Chinatown, Jack London Square, etc.

    I’m sorry that word about what has taken place in Oakland in recent years (other than sensationalized crime news) hasn’t yet reached LA.

  12. Mike d'Ocla

    “Mike, I study urban planning and anything related to economics. I certainly understand…This is not rocket science.”

    I’ve studied urban and transportation planning and worked for many years in the field. The problems themselves are very many and, it must be noted, the political obstacles to innovation are equally multitudinous.

    It makes rocket science seem pretty straightforward in comparison.

  13. Matt

    Mike, please illuminate me about the political obstacles in the way of bringing more businesses to Oakland.

  14. MEL

    Nav / Matt:

    I have lived both in Oakland and L.A. for several years so I’m very familiar with the different areas of both.

    Metro L.A. already has several facilities that could serve as the location base for this project. I’ve considered locations in Burbank, Culver City, Hollywood, Inglewood, Long Beach, North Hollywood, Sylmar, Santa Clarita, Sherman Oaks, Van Nuys, downtown L.A., etc. From that list, the area with the biggest crime/crime perception problem is Inglewood – a city that, according to the latest stats I’ve seen, has a lower violent crime rate than San Francisco. Nevertheless, the two L.A. area locations I settled on were/are southwest L.A. right at the Culver City border and northeast L.A. just south of Glendale.

    Oakland does not have the facilities that L.A. does, so I’d have to find commercial space or other available space to mimic what I could find in L.A. The spaces I’ve found in Oakland are mainly south and west of 880, from the Hegenberger area to south of Jack London, or in West Oakland. I’ve also looked at other Alameda County cities but I’d prefer Oakland for previously stated reasons (in addition to its amenities). The two spaces I’ve honed in on are (1) in downtown/Lake Merritt and (2) in the Edgewater area. One big caveat for the DT/LM location is that there’s a big chance it won’t be available or even ultimately desirable for use.

    As you can see I’ve already vetted for the “areas’” safety issues. One main difference is that most of the spaces in LA have infrastructure in place for security. Many of the Oakland spaces don’t. If Oakland was safer I wouldn’t worry about that as much.

    Also, for those personnel who need accommodations in Oakland, the options are more limited. There are only a few areas where I feel comfortable guiding people to: Adams Point, Uptown, Oakland Hills, or cities other than Oakland. Thus far, I’ve found many options provide logistical or financial challenges.

    Lastly, I also have concerns for morale. That is, I don’t want personnel to be overly distracted, concerned, saddened, etc. by what they see or hear going on around them. Having lived here, I can put it all into context, but those who are not from here or familiar with the area might not be able to do so as easily.

    LA is no utopia by any means, but it’s different when someone has already chosen to live someplace versus when he/she moves to another place solely based on one employment opportunity (there’s not much other comparable industry-related employment in this region).

    Note: It might be obvious, but I’m trying not to give up too much detail so forgive me if I appear to be withholding or overly euphemistic.

  15. Bob

    MEL,
    I’ve lived the majority of my 48 years in the Los Angeles County areas of South Bay (Torrance, Redondo Beach, Lawndale) and Long Beach, and I worked in areas throughout the county, including the Wilshire corridor, Imperial and Western, Sherman Oaks and Culver City (among others). For the past 15 years I’ve been living in the Waterfront Warehouse (or Jack London Square) District of Oakland and my work has taken me to all stretches of the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and San Francisco. So, I’m curious why you believe it’s more dangerous here than in Inglewood, Culver City/La Cienega or L.A. south of Glendale. Of these, in my estimation, there is no area more dangerous than “The Jungle” just south of Olympic and very near the Culver City/L.A. border, which has no comparison in all of the S.F Bay Area.

    Sensationalized news stories aside, I have always felt perfectly safe walking unaccompanied in my neighborhood and along the Estuary at any hour of day or night – something that I would not be willing to do in any neighborhood where I have lived or worked in L.A. County. Do you?

    FYI: With the recent lack of progress on the “Oak to Ninth” project, there are a quite a few buildings standing unused and empty which hold great possibilities for temporary entertainment use just south of Jack London Square. In addition, on the island of Alameda, there is a 3+ acre parcel of land, formerly part of an amusement park of historical interest (“Neptune Beach” is where the Popsicle was first introduced to the public http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popsicle), which is currently held by the U.S. Government, soon to be offered at auction by the G.S.A.

  16. navigator

    Mel,

    As far as residential options in Oakland, don’t forget to also consider including Rockridge, Temescal, Piedmont Avenue, Crocker Highlands, Glenview, Redwood Heights, etc.

  17. navigator

    Oakland needs to do a better job of aggressively marketing and promoting itself as a great location for new businesses. Oakland needs to get the facts out as far as the perception of crime goes. Let’s face it, if someone is shot by a stray bullet
    inside their home anywhere in Oakland, this will make headline news. If the same exact scenario happens in SF, it won’t necessarily make front page news. I mentioned this scenario as an example of two identical shootings which happened within weeks in the two cities. In the much publicized crime in Oakland a young mother was shot and killed by a stray bullet which entered her home on Macarthur Blvd near the Eastmont Mall. I’m referring to the tragic killing of 22 year old Shaniece Davis which garnered countless articles and commentary.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/11/BAGCD103VG.DTL

    Meanwhile, the same type of crime in San Francisco was downplayed and generated hardly any interest from the media.

    “M. Liri Lesku, 34, shot while sleeping in house at 407 Kansas Street, on 02/13, at 2:30 p.m. in potrero Hill. Another woman was critically injured, and a man paralyzed in the shooting. (died at SFGH on 02/26)”

    This is what Oakland is up against. It’s the perception of crime fostered and taken out of context by a biased San Francisco media which keeps people scared of Oakland. Business people like Mel are influenced by this type of media coverage. Oakland needs to get the facts out regarding safety in its business,entertainment, and dining centers compared to areas in San Francisco where people are encouraged to work and play.

  18. V Smoothe

    We are not starting this again, Navigator. You were banned from this topic for a reason. I do not want to have to warn you again. If this continues, you will be blocked from commenting permanently.

  19. navigator

    I’ll ban myself. I don’t need to comment on a censored blog. You know darn well that perception of crime is a huge issue for businesses locating in Oakland. For you to blindly turn your eyes and pretend that Oakland plays on a level playing field is ridiculous. Don’t treat my like a child. I’m done, Good luck!

  20. Matt

    Mel,

    Your comparisons have been completely unfair. Oakland has a population of a little over 400k and is at best 79 sq mi in size. LA proper has a population of about 3.8million and is just under 500 sq mi in size. Now, including all of metro LA (Thousand Oaks, Long Beach are not part of LA proper) in your comparison makes things even more unfair.

    Please take this from our interaction. Oakland has dozens of neighborhoods all with varying degrees of safety. As some have already discovered Oakland also has dozens of areas perfect for film production. Last we have great weather, a well educated population as well as excellent transportation systems.

    I wish you the best of luck in south Culver City.

    Getting back to the topic. I support our city council in attracting more businesses because it will lower crime and increase the desirability our little diamond in the rough.

  21. livegreen

    While I think that crime is a broader problem in Oakland than in SF, occurring at a higher rate per capita, I do agree with Navigator that it is over-publicized by a SF based and biased media. This is probably a combination of ignorance and deliberate bias.

    Nav, thank you for improving your documentation of this, vs. the earlier more rant styled arguments.

  22. Mike d'Ocla

    “Mike, please illuminate me about the political obstacles in the way of bringing more businesses to Oakland.”

    One small example typical in Oakland and essentially anywhere in the U.S. (And I won’t attempt to “illuminate” you but rather the topic. That’s what we’re trying to look at.)

    Several years ago many millions of dollars were spent in an attempt to make my Oakland shopping district, the Laurel, along MacArthur from 35th Ave. south to HIgh St., more attractive. To shoppers, people on foot, eaters, etc., thus leading to more and better business(es).

    It didn’t happen. The money that was available was poorly spent, essentially wasted, because of long-standing, traditional political conflicts. And to do an effective job significantly more money would have been required. Money is the stuff of politics and political conflict. It’s much more likely for money to be frittered away along traditional channels on projects which continue the status quo ante than for it to be used for real change.

    The pattern for successful transformation would be University Ave. in Palo Alto. When I was a student at Stanford in the 1960s, University Ave. was absolutely dead. Only an occasional storefront contained a working business. It was 1930s-style and hadn’t changed a bit over 30 years as the automobile came to dominance on urban streets and decimated old shopping districts. Shoppers and cafe-sitters left for nearby mall-type developments like Town and Country Village. Lots and lots of parking. The more parking the better. Parking is king.

    University Ave. was much like MacArthur is. Three lanes of traffic in each direction, the outside lane used for parallel parking. A bus line ran down University as does AC Transit along MacArthur.

    University Ave. by the 1970s was completely transformed and revitalized into a lively, economically-thriving shopping, dining and walking area. What was done was this: sidewalks were at least doubled in width so that cafes could use the sidewalk for tables and so that street furniture (benches and plantings) could be installed and still allow room for lots of pedestrians. Through traffic was reduced to one lane in each direction. On-street parking was reduced. Off street parking was emphasized in lots behind the storefronts. Curbs at intersections were bulbed out so that pedestrians would need to cross only two lanes of traffic rather than six. I don’t know the changes in the bus system that occurred, but they would have had to accommodate the new streetscape in some way, by using an alternative route or adjusting schedules.

    In the Laurel more recently, fancy metalwork gates were installed above the intersections bordering the shopping district on MacArthur. Attractive and expensive but non-functional. Broken sidewalk pavement was replaced and some trees planted. Again, expensive but no net benefit since sidewalks were kept the same size. On narrowed streets, traffic slows, noise diminishes and non-motorized life can thrive. MacArthur remains the same noisy, unpleasant shopping district completely dominated by cars and trucks. Needless to say there were no revisions of parking in the shopping district and AC Transit made no changes in its route to accommodate a new streetscape.

    The political actors-against-change in the Laurel: 1. Local business owners afraid that changes in parking will harm their businesses. 2. Drivers who never go anywhere without their cars. 3. Construction companies who love tearing up streets and putting them back together again just as before. 4. AC Transit which cares not at all for innovation. 5. Oakland’s City Councilmembers who prefer to go-with-the-flow rather than take on the tough challenges of really doing something new. 6. Etc.

    Political actors potentially in favor of change: 1. Informed business owners who have seen what informed planning can do: University Ave. in Palo Alto and Old First Street in Livermore are two good local examples. 2. Young people, mostly, who are into exercise and enjoy bicycling and walking. This includes some older people like me. 3. Children and their parents who would like to be able to get around on their own without fear of being run-over when they are on foot or on a bicycle. 4. Etc.

  23. Mike d'Ocla

    I forgot to add that this pattern of poorly-informed entrenched interests vs. those devoted to doing something new is nearly universal in U.S. cities.

    An exception, perhaps the most notable in the U.S., is Portland, Oregon which has renovated and revitalized whole sections of town by investing in new streetcar lines which run along pedestrian- and bicycle- friendly streets which formerly were ugly, economically-stagnant arterial streets dominated by cars and trucks.

    To learn more about this topic, consult any of the works of Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy, a couple of Australian professors who have studied cities worldwide and who clearly illuminate what works and what does not.

  24. Ralph

    MEL doesn’t have a problem. It is the people MEL works with who perceive Oakland to have a crime problem. I have this same problem when I talk to some of my friends and family. You can list any number of decent neighborhoods but the reality of the negative overshadows any of the good. We can defend our city to the hilt but if we do not acknowledge and address the fears and perceptions of those on the outside, we will continue to be a red-headed stepchild. The powers that be need to shape the image of Oakland in the press instead of letting the press shape the image of Oakland.

    I might also add that we need to change the name of the Raiders. When I lived in DC, I was against the Bullets becoming the Wizards. But even though the Bullets and bullets were not related, individuals applied pressure on the ownership to change the name and minimize the image of Washington being a city of bullets. We need to do something similar with the Raiders because the image the team projects is one of a lawless city.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    The funny thing is that many of our too-wide streets did once have streetcars running down their middles, and that some of the rest were declared highways before the freeways were built, such that somehow CalTrans has something to say about narrowing them. I believe Broadway is one of these. I agree that narrowing some of them might be a good move.

    In general I don’t put all that much stock in some of the improvements that the city keeps trying, such as those banners everywhere. They may make people feel good, but in the end are just temporary signage, and seem more Potemkin than functional.

    It’s interesting what you are saying about parking lots behind businesses instead of in front. Handled correctly and landscaped right with trees and screening they could also serve as buffers between residential and commercial uses.

    I hope everyone will contribute to the citywide zoning workshops coming up on November 7th and 12th. We could use some advocacy for pedestrian, bike, and neighborhood focus, and for wise re-use of existing structures.

    I’m concerned about a 35-foot height MINIMUM being proposed by staff in some areas. It seems to me that if somebody wants to build a new structure that is two stories where there is now some empty lot or single-story building, we ought not to discourage them in the name of density. While I understand the density argument, we have miles and miles of available street frontage along the main traffic corridors. I recently drove all of International, 12th St., Foothill, and MacArthur. There is no way we will build this huge frontage solid with tall buildings within the next ten years (the period of the current general plan update); we should remove the minimum height, or make it low enough to include two-story, in case some modest investor would like to build something like housing above a storefront, or a simple apartment building.

  26. Robert

    MdO, you left out a couple of other changes in PA that are important to the revitalization. First is that they reconfigured the parallel streets to being one way, so that traffic could be diverted from University to parallel streets. This has served to provide an alternative path for the cars. Second is that they have provide ample amounts of free parking in the downtown in parking structures that allow the area to continue to attract customers. They also have a pretty high reliance on high end and large format chain retail.

    I would agree that PA has done a great job of re-imagining their downtown core area. But it is the entire package that works well for them. In Oakland it seems that various interest groups will vocally support those parts that agree with their philosophy, while just as vehemently oppose anything that does not agree with their preferences. As a consequence, compromise is difficult to come by, and a unifying vision seems at times impossible to arrive at.

  27. Robert

    Naomi, if you look at the downtown areas of most of the towns on the peninsula, which were originally suburbs of SF, most of them have stores with fairly extensive parking behind the stores. And that model seems to work very well for small scale retail that exists there, and that many seem to want to encourage in areas such as the Laurel, or Rockridge.

    Although it obviously depends on exactly where, I think that the 35 foot height minimum can make a lot of sense. If you allow 1 or 2 story buildings, you end up with a very suburban or small town feel to the street, or worse, a street that doesn’t know what it is. While it may be more expensive to develop, the city does need to establish a clear vision of what it wants in the various commercial areas. I think an argument can also be made that with some of our wider streets, a too short building facade is just as inhibitory to a comfortable pedestrian environment as a too tall building.

  28. Naomi Schiff

    Robert, I would rather see something built within ten years than wait 25. It doesn’t keep someone with more ambitious plans from building something taller. We have MILES of “corridor” to deal with, and some of it is really not going to attract intense development any time soon.

  29. livegreen

    PA has something else going for it, which is a ton of money & a University. Both came first. Oakland has neither. As such they probably have some but only partial baring for the Laurel, but probably more for downtown Oakland, and the potential redevelopment that will radiate from DT & UT Oakland via Broadway, Telegraph, etc.

    Another example for Broadway, Tel, etc. is what NYC has done with Broadway between Times Square & 34th St.: adding bike lanes and tables/chairs for pedestrians, cafe & restaurant customers, or brown bag lunchers to use. It slows everything down and brings a much more agreeable atmosphere to one of the busiest parts of midtown.

    Back to Laurel, although I would agree this was done only partially right, I think they and Dimond will start getting the restaurants that have nowhere else to go. Esp. as Redwood Heights is directly above and their nearest cluster of good restaurants is either Montclair or Glenview (the latter is smaller but the food is superior).

    Dimond is well on it’s way with a # of new, decent restaurants. Both have a lot of potential. But I agree, Laurel could have been made much more friendly and one lane each way, with additional, diagonal street parking, bike lanes, wider sidewalks, etc. would have encouraged and sped up what is happening so slowly…

  30. MEL

    Bob,
    My safety assessments are not based purely on anecdote. They are based on FBI stats, city police department stats, and crimespotting maps that allow me to see exactly what crimes are happening in particular neighborhoods at what frequency. If you haven’t been living in the LA area since 1994 then you’ve missed the dramatic changes that have occurred with regards to crime. There’s a reason some people are exited about Tony Batts coming up here from SoCal. There’s a reason Bratton’s upcoming departure from LA – and his tenure in LA – is receiving some much attention. Compared to the 90s, crime is down significantly not only in LA, but in cities like Long Beach, Inglewood, and practically every other city in the 14-million person region with perhaps the exception of San Bernardino. Bay Area crime is about the same as it was in the 90s; actually worse than it was in the late 90s.

    I’m familiar with The Jungle(s) and it does remain a crime hot spot, though again, not as bad as the 90s. Regardless, the Jungle(s) is a small area north of Baldwin Hills, and is no way the same as the area I was referring to, which is the business park area adjacent to Ladera Heights and Fox Hills/Westfield Center mall. That’s akin to comparing San Antonio/Fruitvale to Lakeshore or Piedmont. And I beg to differ on the “no Bay Area comparison” contention. Bayview/HP is as bad if not worse.

    I agree about the walking point. However, I don’t walk as much in LA as the Bay Area mainly because it is not pedestrian-friendly. Also because the crime that does occur in LA is often random gang stuff. That being said, there are a number of places in the region where I walked: downtown LA (many changes there), Hollywood (here also), Venice, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Sunset Strip, Melrose, etc. You just have to drive to all those spots. Awful public transit in LA. Point for Oakland/Bay Area.

    The “Oak to Ninth” area sounds interesting but I hesitate focusing on a space that has an uncertain future. For instance, what if they decided suddenly to proceed with development there? I have also looked into space at Alameda, as Alameda is close enough for Oakland to enjoy proxy benefits. Alameda doesn’t have enough compatible space and the space it does have (like that found at Alameda Point) also has uncertain future.

    Thank you for the suggestions.

  31. dave o

    Is it just me, or does the lead article read like a very warped bit of propaganda? Are so many Oaklanders so pleased about 10K? Are they so pleased with the city for focusing on providing upscale housing for some distant group of middle-class people who never showed up? All while housing opportunities suitable for locals are non-existent? How reliable are these surveys done by entities with obvious self-interest in the results? Why try to ennoble the obviously greedy, hysterical, short-sighted, housing debacle?

  32. MEL

    Matt, my comparisons would be unfair perhaps if this was simply a rhetorical argument, but it isn’t. It is a real life, practical situation. I’ve established my parameters. By default, it would only make sense for me to do this project in the LA area. That would be a purely business decision and thus I would select the most logistically and financially feasible available location without regard to city limits (within the region).

    As I stated, I have a soft spot for Oakland. I’m considering Oakland because I’m familiar with Oakland, Oakland has some attractive amenities, and most importantly I’d like to see Oakland receive the jobs and revenue benefits this project might bring. That might explain why I’m on a blog entitled “A Better Oakland.” If you want me to do an apples-to-apples comparison simply for population purposes, I could rope San Fran, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties in the mix simply to say both areas have about the crime rate, but then don’t be surprised if I set up shop in San Jose. Of course, that would negate one of my main priorities. Is that fair or unfair? Neither. It just is what it is.

    LA is like the seasoned vet with a long résumé and tons of references. Oakland is the younger, inexperienced chap with heart, spunk, and potential but not much to show. As an “employer” I have a right to evaluate both prospects based on the criteria and priorities I choose to and need to establish. I might want someone “fresh” and give a kid a break, or I might be more comfortable with the proven knowledge of the elder. The young chap can either learn what he’s up against and sell himself accordingly, or he can cower at the slightest hint of obstacle and say “I don’t like this process, it’s too hard, he doesn’t like me, so I don’t want this work anyway.” What do Oaklanders typically do …

    “I wish you the best of luck in south Culver City.”

    Gee, thank you! You must work for Oakland Chamber of Commerce. Your brand of facetiousness and dismissiveness is exactly what makes Oakland so attractive. I wish other cities and Chambers would learn that perseverance and salesmanship are just a waste of time. Please pardon my distraction and, yes, get “back to the topic.”

  33. Ralph

    MEL, I think you made a reasonable argument for why LA makes good business sense. Natives and acolytes can be too parochial and ignore the issues smacking them upside the head. Your situation illustrated in dollars and cents a real issue that until now had previously only been described in theoreticals. We can only hope that the powers that be take note.

    dave o, if it weren’t for the JB and 10K, I would never be in Oakland. it was JBs vision and commitment that made Oakland a viable alternative. Quite frankly, on the scale that I used to evaluate cities Oakland came up short but I was impressed with 10K. It was a needed move to get Oakland out of SF’s shadow.

    Jack London is growing. The Uptown district is attracting people who might have otherwise moved to Emeryville. Older people are moving to the Uptown to be near the nightlife. Young couples with kids like the Uptown. People from San Ramon are moving to the area. People want to be in Oakland and to be honest Oakland’s poor people need 10K.

  34. livegreen

    I was thinking about Emeryville too. Now the CC during the boom years was trying to promote turning warehouses into condo units. Everything was about residential.
    Those efforts were misplaced as it destroys the employment base in the City. JB & the CC made no distinction from their efforts downtown. That’s the negative.

    However the positive is, as Ralph mentions, the 10,000 people coming downtown, the active Uptown area as an alternative to Emeryville, and the investments entrepreneurs have made in all the wonderful Restaurants downtown & uptown.

    So, can Oakland CEDA now start to attract the start-ups that have historically been flocking to Emeryville, and start leasing Downtown & Uptown? (& not the industrial-zoned areas like before).

    Emeryville has been the one town in the North-East Bay that has been able to attract masses of start-ups. What incentives have they offered? How were they able to do so? What can Oakland do take the lead, esp. with greater availability of space for Offices vs. Emeryville? What is in the works as Downtown zoning gets the building heights settled?

  35. Ralph

    Only guessing here but Emeryville has the zoned space that makes the area attractive to the Bayers, Chirons, etc of the world. Oakland’s downtown is more like SF downtown, but businesses seem to think that an San Francisco address sounds better than Oakland address. Filling in the downtown with people is not bad. In fact if it keeps the downtown from being the ghost town that the FiDi is after hours and weekends, then I would say that it is a net positive. Still, we need to fill the empty class A space.

  36. MEL

    There’s no reason that Oakland can’t attract the retail that its residents want. South Central LA had its share of problems in the 80s yet then-Mayor Tom Bradley pushed hard to get an enclosed shopping mall opened in the Crenshaw area in 1988 (while Eastmont was on the decline). It was the first enclosed mall to open in a predominately minority area. The mall is still open today and thriving as much as any other mall can in this economy. Current anchors include Macy’s (formerly an Emporium-Capwell’s), Sears, and Wal-Mart. There are over 100 other shops and restaurants, many independently owned, and a police substation was included in the mall at its opening – a smart move to assuage crime concerns.

    In 1993, Magic Johnson opened the first of his multi-screen theatres at this mall’s location, also bucking the usual conventions about business in urban communities. Incidentally, Oakland is one of the few urban areas that Magic Johnson has not invested in (to my knowledge).

    Inglewood has had its problems, yet it opened The Village at Century and Hollywood Marketplace in 2006. Current tenants include Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Bally’s, Marshall’s, Ross, Office Depot, Staples, Staples, Starbuck’s, Gigante, three bank branches and over 50 other stores and restaurants: http://www.inglewoodnow.com/pCentGuide-v5web.pdf. Obviously Oakland has some of this retail already, but it is 3.5 times as big as Inglewood and has either less or none of that retail. Incidentally, while the city of Inglewood was opening Village @ Century, it also FOUGHT Wal-Mart’s attempt to open a store in the city, so the city can’t be accused of whoring itself to big corporate retail at any cost.

    Inglewood was named a 2009 All American City. Below is an excerpt from the press release explaining the city’s recent accomplishments, specifically in retail:

    “When one of the most unpleasant areas in the state previously known as “The Bottoms” was envisioned as a retail destination, little chance was given for success. Today, Inglewood’s transformed commercial corridor – The Village at Century – boasts sales in the top 5 and10 percent for landmark retailers nationally. The Village was created to revitalize the community, redevelop economically stagnate properties, provide jobs, expand public/private sector investment and convert residential properties for commercial use. Approximately 50 percent of the project’s 600-person workforce is comprised of local residents and total crime in the surrounding area decreased by 43 percent. With a future tax increment revenue stream of approximately $10 million, the development will make whole on its investment in just four years.”

    Oakland has no excuses. I’ve lived in all 3 cities (LA, Oakland, Inglewood). All three have generally bad schools. All three have heavily “minority” populations – Inglewood being 45% Black, 50% Latino. Gangs are more prevalent in SoCal and all 3 cities have had some recent police shootings, yet while all 3 had similarly high crime in the 90s, crime has declined significantly in LA and Inglewood over the last 10 – 15 years, yet it has gotten worse in Oakland. And Oakland hasn’t seen the level of retail development as Inglewood and LA, including South LA.

    It takes will, resolve, focus, and persistence in order to attract these types of developments. The main difference between Oakland and the other 2 is Oakland’s general malaise and “can’t do” attitude, lack of political consensus on the need for diverse service and retail options, political myopia, and a political hostility towards – and stereotyping of – anything deemed “corporate” or “big business”.

    Most retail at developments in underserved, urban communities performs high above national average in sales. These major retailers know that. But again, like with a potential employer sometimes a prospective employee needs to assuredly sell himself well – without all the excuses and insecurity, and without unnecessary/unreasonable ‘demands’; effectively state why he is right for the job; and just as importantly, convey that he really WANTS the job. Oakland usually doesn’t do a good job of any of those, especially the latter.

    Also, Oakland really needs to figure out how to reconcile its “progressive ideals” with the real life, day-to-day needs and wants of its poor, working, and middle classes and families. Not everyone can or wants to shop at Whole Foods, co-ops, boutique stores. Not everyone will dine solely at hip, upscale restaurants. And not everyone wants their retail options restricted by someone else’s “green” standards.

    Things like “Alternative Transportation and Green Living Retail Zones” can be an essential part of the urban mosaic, but that doesn’t stop the fact that people still want or need to shop at Safeway, Staples, Office Max, Macy’s, Walmart, Border’s, Kohl’s, Target, Best Buy, etc.; that these large retailers provide jobs for young people and the non-professional workforce; that they provide sales tax revenue; and that people will still hop in their cars and drive to wherever these stores are located whether for shopping or employment despite all the grumbling from “green” advocates.

    Big box, chains, and franchises are not an economic panacea, but neither are they necessarily evil detriments to the environment, worker’s rights, mom-and-pop businesses, etc., as many people will portray them. Big box, mom-and-pops, chains, boutiques, franchises, independents, green retail, and alternative commerce can all coexist and provide necessary diversity of choice, goods, and services for a large, diverse population.

    Note: I hate sounding like LA’s or Inglewood’s #1 city booster, but Oakland needs a dash of reality; this is all in the spirit of help. Oakland has so many advantages over these SoCal cities that it shouldn’t be lagging in many vital indicators. I know the traditional NorCal vs SoCal rivalry leads the different regions to look down on each other, but if Place A is doing better than Place B on a certain issue, then perhaps Place B should put its pride aside for a bit and take notes.

  37. MEL

    Ralph, you’re right about the perception issue. Most people I’ve spoken to in LA perceive Oakland to be “hood” and crime-ridden … that includes people from all ethnicities. Granted, I have also encountered people in LA who are aware of Oakland’s nascent hip, up-and-coming nature, so all is not lost. And thank you for reiterating that I was simply providing a real life consideration in progress, and that Oaklanders should take heed.

    Some here were acting as if I had already closed the door on Oakland. I haven’t, but accounting for safety and related logistics concerns can impact bottom line security, housing, transportation, and other costs. I have budgetary constraints. Also I’m sure at least half – likely more – of personnel would be coming from outside the Bay Area – mainly LA. Their perceptions matter to the extent of me being able to attract/retain motivated talent. And I’d be irresponsible to ignore these issues just because Oakland’s nice and I like the city.

  38. livegreen

    I would like to point out that all the Oakland Hills schools are good, and the slope schools are not far behind. Some of these have significant minority % (though it’s true that many do not).

    That is a significant # of schools. Generalizations should not be made.

  39. James Robinson

    Remember the saying “perception is reality?” I believe that perception is NOT reality but it is important to many gullible people. Oakland’s crime rate has been on the decline for some time now, but people don’t perceive that. So it is up to Oakland itself (either through government, quasi-government, or the private sector) to change the perception. I just wonder if Oakland city council or agencies have the expertise to pull it off.

  40. Rebecca Kaplan

    Good morning MEL — please feel free to drop me a line, me and my office would be happy to help you if necessary to make arrangements to have this project in Oakland.

    rkaplan [at] oaklandnet [dot] com

    Also, some thoughts on this topic: I think it is clear that we need to do more not only about crime, but also about perception of crime. For example, while crime in Oakland has been dropping, “blight” has not been dropping. Quite a few studies show that where there is blight, there will be a perception of high crime. (And, eventually, blight actually attracts crime by sending a message that the area is not being cared for). So, we need to do more in terms of graffiti removal, general cleaning, and blight abatement, if we want to reduce the perception of crime.

    Lastly, MEL noted the inadequate number of hotels and other good places to stay as potential impediments to bringing projects to Oakland. One of the changes I’d like to help make to Oakland’s zoning, as part of our vision for business attraction (and growth in the hospitality and entertainment/restaurant industries) is to change the zoning to make it easier to add more options in terms of accomodations. (Hotels, “boutique hotels”, mid-size options, etc). So, bringing this up for the other zoning fans and “hospitality industry” fans out there, I plan to be working on this, and welcome suggestions on specifics.

  41. livegreen

    The two logical places for Hotels are downtown & by the airport.

    –Downtown: This should play into the City’s overall plan for new buildings.
    They should flexibly allow this to be one of the new options for investors and
    allow the zoning as Rebecca mentions;

    –Airport: The City needs to focus on this but within a reasonable distance from the airport so that customers actually want to actually stay there.

    For example, there are cheap motels next to the Hegenburger exit on N. bound 880. Far away from the airport in a crappy, unattractive area. One of them looks abandoned. Obviously potential customers have not made any connection to the Airport. In the meantime some other type of business could have used the space for other commercial, job-creating uses.

    The use of zoning should be logical, closer to the airport and not at such a distance that it makes no sense…

  42. Max Allstadt

    livegreen

    The city already has mandated that hotels exist exactly where you want them… by banning hotels everywhere else. This is no good at all.

    There could easily be a bed and breakfast or small boutique hotel on College or Piedmont Avenue, and possibly on Lakeshore or on Telegraph in Temescal.

    _________________

    Another way to incentivize business in this town would be to run BART Directors Carole Ward-Allen and Lynette Sweet out of office and replace them with people dedicated to improving BART’s blighted properties.

    All through the city, BART owned properties are obstructing growth and creating problems. Look at the corner of Telegraph and West Grand. The Taco Bell lot and the Chevron lot are BART owned, and during the building boom three years ago, BART did nothing to improve either property. There are dozens of other examples.

    We need BART directors who will stand up for this city and work with developers to create neighborhood oriented growth on all of BART’s neglected property. Right now we have BART directors who give lucrative contracts to people like Nadir Bey, who’s already ripped of this city enough. Oh and he’s a torturer.

    Tell everybody you know to vote for new BART reps in 2010. The ones we have are awful.

  43. livegreen

    Max, I was only outlying where they’re needed most. If by coincidence the city banned them everywhere else it has nothing to do with my post.

    I agree with your suggestions for other hotel locations, esp. for boutique hotels, etc.

    However the City will have to be cautious that it doesn’t encourage blighted motels that encourage drug dealing and prostitution. My guess is if there’s a ban on hotels in certain location that’s part of the reason.

  44. Max Allstadt

    That is part of the reason indeed, but the ban needs to be lifted in all neighborhood retail / community commercial areas. If it’s economically viable to start a new hotel in any of these areas, the odds of it attracting dangerous prostitution or drug dealing are slim.

  45. livegreen

    Remember this topic started off on the subject of Oakland wanting to attract new businesses. Zoning is only the foundation. Then what will Oakland do to actually market itself to businesses?

    For Hotels, at least they can tap into the current City Tours for RE Developers. Since that’s already in place it would put Hotels on CEDA’s fast track for marketing.

    For other businesses they should look at doing the same. Both Downtown for Office (multi-use including Tech, Green, Start-Up, etc), and the Airport Business Park & other areas for Mixed-Use, light industrial, etc.

    Oakland needs to promote and market itself. If the Tours for Developers have been effective they need to look at expanding this cost-effective program (supplemented with the usual marketing PR).

  46. Max Allstadt

    Zoning is important. Incentives are important too. But that stuff is usually used by city governments to attract large employers, and right now, particularly as far as incentives go, we will have a hard time shelling out the cash.

    That’s why I think deregulation and simplification are more important than anything. There are a lot of catch 22s in urban revitalization. For example, you need to increase density in order to let neighborhood businesses have a viable customer base, but you can’t attract residents without good neighborhoods. Deregulation and simplification are a cheap way to chip away at this problem.

    If somebody wants to start a business in a vacant neighborhood storefront, we should find ways to shorten their permit process. Right now, we can’t really make it cheaper, but I’m sure we can make it easier. I realize we have an assistance center and a business attraction staff, but all the paperwork headaches I hear about from small businesses can surely be alleviated by getting the council to simply rescind and/or simplify regulation.

  47. livegreen

    Zoning, incentives and focussed deregulation all are good.

    But Marketing is key. Otherwise nobody knows about the changes, except the people involved.

    The key is where to start marketing to be focussed & within budget. That means tapping into what the City is already doing. Expanding the Tours for Developers to attract Hotels & Light Industrial/Mixed Use Developers would be cost-efficient and logical.

    Supported by well developed marketing material, when the economy and City Budget improve, it could then be expanded on.

    This City does not market itself. Besides Zoning for Hotels, lets set the groundwork now for expansion. If we start only after the economy has improved by the time CEDA’s geared up, the economy will be on the downturn again. We’re not talking about anything expensive. We’re talking about a minimal expansion of what CEDA’s already doing…

  48. Ralph

    Actually, with a solid plan it is possible to attract residents and increase the density needed to attract business. Uptown is a good example. People are buying and moving in on the promise that Oakland will commit to a development plan. Farley’s etc are setting up shop on that promise.

  49. Steve Lowe

    Max, I think your call for ousting BART Directors (or any other policymaker) doesn’t quite do enough to solve the actual problem, as witness the many efforts that have been made before to throw out this or that bum, only to find kater on that he or she has been replaced by someone just as bad – or, more accurately, so imperfect as to have no real idea of what to do or how to effect real change once in office. Champions are perhaps mostly a thing of the past, their wooden lances shattered eons ago in long forgotten tournaments, while, for us, in this day and age, the steady buildup of bureaucracy has become the real challenge, leaving us to face it alone without a decent or even half-decent king, queen or knight in sight.

    All that’s really left is the undeniable commonsense of the huddled masses who, though consistently buffaloed by the folks we’ve too often mistakenly voted into office, still have lots of good solutions – but no really meaningful way of communicating directly with the legions of policymakers out there. Suprisingly, many of those individuals, whether elected or appointed, can frequently make good decisions when exposed to a broader realm of discourse than that with which they are spoonfed by staff or, more often, their various political allies. If you stack up your arguments, no matter how persuasive, against those of the individuals who have greater access to this or that policymaker, guess who comes out not being heard when the vote on your item is called? Not even your ideal replacement doppelganger can successfully withstand the uses of adversity for very long in our current system of drawbridge politics.

    So let’s make some adjustments here and there so that more consideration is given to public testimony. This can actually happen via direct interaction with the poloicymakers themselves: no more speakers cards in certain forums so that the kind of cryptowonk logic that surfaced in the Airport Connector debate can be shot down in full view of the cameras and not allowed to thrive in the corridors of BART or MTC like some sort of out-of-control crudball gathering momentum, iniquity and slime as it rolls merrily along. Otherwise, no matter who’s on first – your guy or mine – the mountain of unreadable (and therefore mostly unread) paperwork that gets plopped down in front of him or her just before the meeting starts will, after being deciphered by staff, most likely be voted as per preagreement.

    The only way you can really make your point is to be in real dialogue, a process we’ve actually seen happen here and there around town, and then most usually in small fact-finding committees where two or three Councilmembers, Supervisors, Commissioners, etc., are in attendance and not yet overwhelmed by staff reports that are unduly “informed” by developers, NIMBY’s, doofuses, etc. I like it that the Mayor’s Task Forces really went over a lot of issues and came to a number of quite reasonable official Recommendations that got accepted as City policy; however, the process began to lose momentum in some important areas when faced with stiff resistance from those who favor what’s most political over what’s most logical. How could nearly a thousand people be off the mark after working their way through the various issues they were most concerned with and stepped forward to help correct?

    I think there’s some change happening already in various committees around town, but obviously not enough to prevent Airport Connectors and the like (more to come in a District near you!). The next step, it seems to me, is to form a coalition of citizens seeking a more Wellstonian, accountable democratic process that can be put into effect – if focused enough on changing the current process from non to max interactivity.

    – S

  50. V Smoothe

    Policy in Oakland is driven too much by public input. The absolute last thing we need is more. Replacing poorly performing incumbents with fresh blood can be incredibly effective when replacement candidates have been properly vetted, and not chosen because someone finds them an inspiring speaker, or some other similarly inane reason.

  51. V Smoothe

    I think a lot of people greatly overestimate the value of campaign contributions. Over and over again, I see people (usually anti-development types) blaming campaign money and crying about corruption every time they don’t get what they want. Donations make a convenient scapegoat for people who are unwilling to face the reality that they’re just plain wrong about policy and nobody agrees with them.

  52. Livegreen

    And I think both things are happening. Let’s not degenerate into
    the mass generalizations of the traditional news media.

  53. Naomi Schiff

    V, here’s an example: let’s think about that airport connector deal. Why did the city council wimp out and support a pretty clearly too-expensive and inadequately useful project, in the face of facts and BART’s haplessness, and many riled-up citizens?

    Because of those funding heavy-hitters. Future and past campaign contributors spoke up for the OAC (because they stand to make money from it), an implicit threat to future campaigns, from the various chamber types to the construction trades unions. There was no way a rational argument was going to sway the vote under those circumstances.

  54. V Smoothe

    Naomi, the Airport Connector is a perfect example of how campaign contributions are not the problem. The Council supported the project because of pressure from BART and ACTIA staff. Last I checked, ACTIA wasn’t making a bunch of big donations to re-election campaigns.

  55. Ralph

    I don’t know if the OAC went through because of big spenders, but it was apparent to me that Oakland was not in a position to not support. Today it is the Oakland Airport in due time it will be renamed East Bay Regional or something totally disconnecting it from Oakland. Money for these type of projects only comes around every so often. They take considerable amts of planning. Was the project on the table the best? No. But it was on the table.

  56. livegreen

    Touche, Ralph. OAC made it clear -The money was 1x because of stimulus & it would be gone; -They were going to do it anyway. Now who knows if they would have or not, but the leverage for these negotiations was on OAC’s side.

    Sometimes (I repeat sometimes) its neither the public input or the behind-the-scenes lobbying (even if these played tertiary roles).

  57. Matt

    We should all take note of the disturbing similarities between the OAC and the development of the interstate highway system.

    In building the interstate highway system state and local governments were given matching federal funds to entice them to not think and just say yes to interstate construction. Justification was always jobs, jobs, jobs! Construction disproportionately impacted lower income and minority neighborhoods. These same neighborhoods never benefited from the new highways and more times than not these neighborhoods continued to experience increased poverty and blight. Worse, sometimes construction was rammed through so fast, in the name of jobs, jobs, jobs the results were the Cypress Structure.

    This is like the OAC playbook!

    Now, have all our avenues to prevent this from happening been exhausted?

    Do we have to accept that in our lifetime Hegenberger will only ever be an amusement park ride themed around Southern California landscape architecture?

  58. Mike d'Ocla

    “We should all take note of the disturbing similarities between the OAC and the development of the interstate highway system.”

    A great point to make. It’s a reason government entities make lots of lousy decisions which few members of the public really want and which serve marginal numbers of people. And just try to guess which BART executive or director will get his or her name attached to the line. Or which Oakland official.

  59. Max Allstadt

    I have to agree with V on this one. I don’t see how a $600 donation or even a $1200 donation is going to seriously sway the conscience of a politician who takes home about $2000 a week in salary. It just isn’t worth it.

    At the MOBNow meeting a while back, I was sitting next to Rebecca Kaplan when Bill Nye said that he thought that what got things done in Oakland were, in the following order:

    Money
    (Something Else I Forget)
    and Turnout

    Rebecca and I had a “Jinx” moment when we turned to each other and whispered that turnout and money should be swapped in the order.

    I’ve given Rebecca’s campaign fund a total of $120 in the past year, incidentally, and I’ve donated no money to anybody else (sorry Sean, I was broke at the time).

    Guess what? Rebecca is NOT of the three Oakland elected officials who’ve given me their cell numbers. One would think my campaign contribution would have gotten me some special treatment, but it hasn’t, and I respect that. Those other three politicians, by the way, gave me their numbers primarily because of my activism. My completely unfunded activism.

    In this town, money doesn’t rule. If it did, the merchants would have gotten their meter free city, the development community would have gotten downtown zoned without height limits too.

    People often complain about being trumped by money when they lose a political fight. But when they win, we here nothing. What big money lobby kept height limits close to the lake? What big money interest group passed a hotel tax?

    I just don’t see it.

  60. Robert

    While I agree with V also, I think it is somewhat ironic that one of the more outspoken members of the public thinks that there is too much public input. :-)

  61. Ralph

    I would also like to add that in my time going before council and committee I have noticed that it is not money but a well thought out alternative with the means to achieve a desirable end that often changes the minds of members.

  62. Steve Lowe

    What I fear most is the weirdo notion that we can find someone who will be the ideal leader, and it’s therefore worth the four or so years of waiting until the next election to replace the interim, less-than-adequate seat-holder. The fact is, the perfect candidate is rarely there and almost always has a fatal flaw (or three) that leads eventually to some sort of calamity or other. And those who we think should be given the power to rise above “too much public input” so that we can get things done expeditiously almost always fall into the trap that all those Caesars found themselves caught in: living demigods surrounded by sycophants, psychos and sickies, and nothing – least of all public input – to check or balance their excesses.

    Had it not been for public input (and plenty of it), Mandela Parkway today would look almost exactly like the previous freeway, except maybe at grade. That’s pretty much what the agencies and all their hotshot, well-salaried Directors wanted, and it took a huge, community-wide fight (and a hard-won consensus) to bring it to its current state, the obvious wellspring of West Oakland’s revitalization. Please don’t go down the road of savior worship, because it’ll only lead to unchecked egos the size of Nebraska: all our policymakers need to be in constant touch with the citizens of this country, lest they be allowed to conveniently forget what democracy is all about.

    Now, if public input is too discordant, divisive and dorky, then what’s wrong is the process by which that input is allowed to inform our noble policymakers. And my contention is that the current scenario of big meetings with one-minute speakers cards just doesn’t work because it’s so obviously counterproductive in terms of building any kind of logic-driven consensus. Would board meetings at any business be run this way: no interaction, just already-agreed-upon cloakroom deals? That’s what’s wrong with most everything here in Oakland, and it’s hardly due to too much public input, but rather not hardly enough.

    If the Airport Connector could have been fully flushed out in a Council-sanctioned Oakland Transportation Roundtable, imagine the difference. Hell, imagine the difference in MTC’s vote to have High Speed Rail bypass Oakland altogether. No public input = arrogance of power.

    – S

  63. Chris Kidd

    Steve,
    While you’ve got some very salient points, it’s a little big on theory and little short on the realities of implementation. Were said Roundtable to occur, who would sit on it? Who would determine who sits on it? How many would sit? If we gave a seat to everyone who filled out a 1 minute speaker card, we’d have a roundtable as big as a city block.
    We need to be able to balance strong public input with the time constraints that city government is placed under. Not to suggest it would ever happen, but you could ramp up public input to the point where that’s all you have time for and nothing would ever get done. The process, needless to say, needs some work.

    Public input does need a facelift in Oakland. But “more of it” isn’t the solution by itself. In a perfect world we could give our officials the breathing room to get things done, but be able to hold them brutally accountable at the ballot box. In reality, we’re somewhat in the reverse.

  64. Livegreen

    It depends on the topic. Transportation seems to generate more interest than some other topics. I don’t think all issues gain enough interest to fill up said City Block.

    It’s been said here before that most citizens of Oakland don’t participate as much as they probably should. Since there can’t be too much participation
    and not enough participation at the same time then it must depend
    on the specific topic. The same can be assumed for the moneyed
    interests. Just because they don’t line up on one side on all topics
    doesn’t mean they never line up, and the reverse.

  65. Livegreen

    V, what are “anti-development” types that “are just plain wrong
    about policy”? Do they include anybody who has opposed any
    kind of development, or do you mean something more specific?

  66. Steve Lowe

    Well, it ought to work best as with any Roundtable (Nate Miley created two when he was District 6 Counclimember: one Transportation, the other Waterfront), a bunch of transportation-oriented folks come to the meetings and sit around for as long as they feel that the dialogue is worth pursuing. And then, like anything, a core group emerges, consolidates and keeps chewing through the issues, giving the convening policymaker (in that instance, Nate; in any new Roundtable, Rebecca?) an in-depth background and rock-solid platform for moving Oakland’s agenda forward into the regional arena. Nate carried the Transportation Roundtable over to the County when he was elected Supervisor, and the forum continued but became perhaps too diverse when he began to invite other municipalities to the table, as befit his new role as District 4 Supervisor. Had there been someone politically connected enough and interested enough to continue the Oakland-specific dialogue, we might have had enough of a coalition to bring reasonability to the AC debate, but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way.

    So I don’t think it’s so much a theory, as you suggest, but a process that, for any number of different reasons, lost its basic momentum, So if we really want it to work better in its next incarnation, we’ll have to determine how it might function as a real advisory that is valued for its expertise – not some sort of plaything that other Councilmembers can disregard at will when it suits their interests. Let’s face it, the legitimacy of MTC comes from members who are often mere representatives of various municipalities and who may have no transportation expertise whatever, folks who are utterly reliant on staff and mostly just happy to be sitting on an important Commission that helps build a resume blurb for when their next election rolls around.

    Does any one of the MTC Commissioners really give a damn about Oakland? Do we have an individual Commissioner who is so passionate about transportation that one or another of the Commissioners might wake up and see what’s actually at stake here with the High Speed Rail debacle? Not really. And in the event that such an individual Commissioner, whenever he or she steps forward, needs to have a privy council at the ready to help with all the sneaky pete stuff that’s going on out there with respect (or lack of same) to Oakland, let’s be that. This is our last chance to do something about MTC’s obvious enmity towards Oakland (as expressed by its utter rejection of any initiative that might help this city off its knees), and if we don’t take action, we’ll likely be mired in the same situation we have before us right now: no real transformative projects her in town, and only flops like the Airport Connector as the putative catalyst of our future economy.

    We need the Roundtable, even if it’s imperfect at first, so we can make it into what it needs to be; the (strong) voice of Oakland in the regional dialogue.

    Thanks.

    – S

  67. MEL

    Rebecca, thank you for your response and offer of assistance. I’ve been busy for the past few days and had not revisited ABO until today. I’ll be contacting your office in the near future.

  68. KenO

    @dave o on November 1st, 2009 (4 weeks ago) 7:24 pm

    “Is it just me, or does the lead article read like a very warped bit of propaganda? Are so many Oaklanders so pleased about 10K? Are they so pleased with the city for focusing on providing upscale housing for some distant group of middle-class people who never showed up? ”

    Come to 500 William Street, Oakland CA 94612. Take a look around you during commute hours (am or pm) and count how many “middle-class people who never showed up” have shown up. I’m one of them. Cheers.

    Ken

  69. KenO

    @Matt who said “This is like the OAC playbook!
    “Now, have all our avenues to prevent this from happening been exhausted?
    “Do we have to accept that in our lifetime Hegenberger will only ever be an amusement park ride themed around Southern California landscape architecture?”

    No. We can chain ourselves to the construction equipment to prevent the OAC from being built.

    We can at the same time have a bunch of activists led by residents and TransForm continue providing sketches and concepts of what would be better. Streetcar system like Phoenix, Charlotte, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta (planned), Detroit (planned) …….

    So that’s that.

    With the future domestic energy situation and lower consuming standard of Americans followed by far fewer OAK plane flights, a streetcar project would do MUCH MORE to lift more of us in Oakland out of mediocrity and into better living than a Vegas-style “air bart to nowhere.”

    (The vegas monorail really DOESN’T GO ANYWHERE)

  70. Livegreen

    I have to say I like the Streetcar model, both what i’ve seen in Pirtland and in Houston (believe it or not). Have any cost comparisons been done of Streetcars?

  71. Robert

    10K brought a lot of people into the downtown area, and that is in part responsible for the surge in entertainment venues we have seen over the last few years. 10K was the first step in an overall revitalization, but unfortunately, the next mayor Oakland elected never had much of a vision on how to continue that process. 10K only failed because Oakland has generally lacked for leaders with a vision of the future.

  72. Ralph

    10K has not failed. b/c of the downturn, some of the bldgs did not come on line and some came on at a really bad time. overall you are correct, w/o the 10K there would be no FSWB, SOMAR, 2022, Pican, Ozumo, Fox etc… indeed the next mayor needs to reignite the 10K program. our current mayor is good at addressing a narrow set of problems for a specific set of people and even then I have serious doubts about his ability to address these issues in any meaningful and impactful way.

  73. Chris Kidd

    Yeah, 10K has had some serious issues and it has got some nasty black eyes to currently work out.

    But at the same time, is downtown/uptown the better for the 10K initiative? I say yes. Remember downtown in the late 80s? Tumbleweeds.