Help plan the future of Auto Row this Thursday!

How do you envision the future of Auto Row? The City is looking to find out on Thursday, at the first in a series of public workshops for the Broadway Retail Corridor Specific Plan.

Funded by a grant from the MTC, and guided by the Conley report’s (PDF) vision of a destination retail hub, the specific plan (one of three specific plans the City is currently conducting) will guide future development along the Broadway corridor between West Grand and 580.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in the future of this neighborhood or attracting retail to Oakland attend Thursday’s meeting. It will be from 6:00 to 8:00 on May 7th at the First Presbyterian Church at 2619 Broadway. Afterwards, you may want to stick around and enjoy meal at one of the area’s exciting new restaurants – Mua, Ozumo, Pican, Vo’s, that place I can’t remember the name of. Or the less new, but no less exciting to have around Luka’s, Franklin Square Wine Bar, Shashamane, and Z Café. The neighborhood’s got dinner down. Now if only there were a place to buy a pair of stockings.

69 thoughts on “Help plan the future of Auto Row this Thursday!

  1. V Smoothe

    Sears, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t sell stockings, only pantyhose. And in general their hoisery, like all their other clothing, is of very poor quality.

  2. KenO

    Sears’ clothing is a joke. Their goods are not very good. It’s basically Mervyns, just higher prices for the same stuff.

    I’d rather shop BR sales in Emeryville or on Grant in SF (haven’t been in ages), Crossroads/RRRags/Jeremy’s on College or Uniqlo (NYC) and get higher quality for less money. I rarely ever see people shopping inside Sears, similar to “j.j.malnick” on 19th.

    Sears should become a mini-mall with multiple independent shops inside, including repair shops. Like Bloomingdales but with normal prices.

    Maybe one of the independent “shops” inside this “sears space” could be a weekly DJ-led wine-and-beer “clothing swap shop.”

    I want to eat my cake and have it too! ;)

  3. Max Allstadt

    I’d like to see:

    height limits brought up to 80+ feet along broadway all the way up the the 980

    preservation of the multiple streetside plazas on auto row, with an eye toward creating a live street performance district like the one in Harvard Square

    BRT lanes accomodated in the plan.

    Incentives/regulations crated which mandate keeping the most attractive building facades, but which allow developers to add stories above, for a hybrid new/old look.

    A goal to redevelop the car lot at 27th and Broadway to include a building that creates a V shaped sheltered courtyard facing broadway.

    Zoning/Planning/Building code relaxations for buildings with cabarets on the ground floor: Allow a higher noise threshold in apartments above. Why? If you move in above a bar, you should accept that you’re MOVING IN ABOVE A BAR. Plus it would help keep the district entertainment-friendly.

    Some sort of incentive for a live theatrical/dramatic/dance performance space. We don’t have enough of this in Oakland.

    An accomodation/incentive to keep some of the old neon signs, and/or allow for new ones. How about if you redevelop a lot with an existing illuminated sign, you can keep it, or you can replace it with your own? Not ads or billboards, but identity signs for the business or the property.

  4. amy.leblanc

    to be clear: i am not an advocate for big-box stores. i just find it interesting that Sears is on the attack for having “low quality” goods when they’re the only department store anywhere near downtown oakland that i am aware of that sells everything from washing machines to camping gear to underwear and caters to working class people. you’d really rather people go up the street to E-ville to buy those things?

    obviously “uptown” is renovating itself to cater to another class (even i can’t afford those new lofts they’ve built, and i’m not poor by any standard), so maybe Sears should go away too? i wish i could come to this meeting on thursday to hear people’s opinions on the “upscaling” of downtown.

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    Yes, the goal for the Auto Row area is to create a destination retail shopping district. The City’s retail study (PDF) shows that Oakland’s market for convenience goods is well-served, but we are losing roughly $1 billion annually in potential comparison goods sales (more upscale retail). The study (which was based on market analysis as well as a citywide retail survey and a series of well-attended public input meetings) identified Auto Row as the location with the most potential to capture that market.

    Personally, I would be thrilled if Sears went away. It adds nothing to the neighborhood.

  6. dto510

    Hey V, there’s no reason to hate on Sears. Sears is great for hardware and appliances, and it’s nice to have at least one department store around. It’s just that it doesn’t fulfill anybody’s needs by itself, and is not an option for most people for many department store goods like clothing. We need more than Sears, but Sears is good too.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    When was the last time you tried shopping at Sears, dto510? It is simply a bad store. In addition to their poor quality goods, limited selection, mostly bare shelves, permanently shuttered entrances, and multiple empty windows, the store has so little staff that it is a serious chore to even find someone from whom to make a purchase.

  8. Art

    Big boxes on Broadway is actually one of my biggest concerns (and one of the many reasons I’ll be at Thursday’s meeting). When this came up a couple of years back, Nancy Nadel threw out Target and Costco as some potential uses for Auto Row given all the surface parking and large lots. In my mind, that’s about the worst thing that could possibly happen along that corridor. (I could maybe—MAYBE—support something like Target if there were a way to site it so that cars could access it directly from the freeway somehow rather than from Broadway, and if it were built straight up with integrated housing and underground parking, as they’ve been willing to do in a few cities….and even then I think it’s a sea of trouble. But Costco?? Seriously?!?)

    I’m okay with Sears, though—they’ve been downtown for generations, and I do think they get some props for not leaving when every other department store in America did. Their clothing and such may not be stellar quality, but someone told me at one point that the Uptown location sells more appliances than any other Sears store in the Bay Area (which may or may not be true since I can’t for the life of me remember who told me that—but if it’s even remotely close, that’s a lot of tax revenue for the city). Honestly, though, a large part of their problem is that half the city thinks that location closed 15 years ago, and if you compare it to a Sears store in a higher end location, it’s pretty clear that Sears isn’t investing much in this one. With enough pressure from the city, that could be fixed.

  9. V Smoothe Post author

    FYI, Sears has only been in that location since 1996. They opened there three years after closing their old Oakland location at 27th and Telegraph.

    I’ve been told the same thing about appliance sales at the Uptown Sears, but the person who I’ve heard that from (they make this claim frequently, it’s possible you heard it from the same individual) has never been able to produce any evidence to back up this claim. And it’s just really apparent when you go there that it can’t possibly be true. For one thing, there are virtually no salespeople, unlike pretty much every other department store appliance section I’ve ever visited.

  10. Art

    Yah, we had pretty much the same experience in store when we went appliance hunting there. But I do have to say that I see their appliance truck out in our neighborhood more often than any other company’s (or even all the other companies’ combined); it’s conceivable that all those sales aren’t made in person, but are made online and somehow defer to the closest physical location (in which case they might win simply because they’re the closest store for much of the inner East Bay). Curious to know the source of that info, though.

  11. Robert

    It’s hard to see how department stores are going to be enticed to build in Oakland given the surrounding clusters in Richmond, San Leandro, Walnut Creek and San Francisco.

    Sears is a struggling chain, and all of their stores I have been to are unattractive and unpleasant to shop at. Likely will go the way of Monky Wards.

  12. Ralph

    i would kill for a ballpark, but i can neither wear nor eat a baseball. I would love a concentration of clothing stores, a Panera Bread, a Buffalo Wild Wings and a few other things.

    Did not know people still shopped for appliances at Sears. Granted 10 yrs ago, I bought my w/d from Sears, but most recently, I went direct to Lowes after browsing HD.

    Today, Sears held their annual s/h mtg. It appears Eddie is trying to get more money from the web and services. If 40% of Oakland is web-challenged and the city has decided that library hours are not necessary, I am speculating Oakland won’t be part of the web revolution. And this location does not have an auto bay so it won’t be making up revenue on services. A few years ago, Sears’ value shot thru the roof b/c it was sitting on some very desirable real estate. The mkt being what it is has made some of these properties less valuable.

    Does Eddie own the land on B-way? Has it been in the Sears family a long time or is it a recent acquisition.?

  13. Max Allstadt


    As a professional carpenter, I can tell you that I wouldn’t shop for ANYTHING at sears. It’s a worthless hardware store. It’s more of a showroom for their catalog sales than anything. That’s why it’s always empty. The whole store is always empty.

    If and when they go under, an ideal use of the space would be an Asian style multi-level stall-mall. Imagine lots of little stalls and mini-shops, with minimal separation. Blow a few holes in the streetside walls, put in some glass and insert some restaurants, cafes, food courts. Keep it local by mandating a tiny unit size. With little units, you can have rents so affordable that an entrepreneur with a dream can start up something quick. And with little units, failures and turnover will be easier to absorb. A local business incubator, close to transit and entertainment.

    Sears is ugly, empty, and an anachronism. Out with it.

  14. Luke

    I’m just gonna say it. I wish at least there was a Target. Sorry, but I do. My wife and I head to Albany quite a bit just for the Target. They just got the stuff we use. I think there has to be a mix of local and chain if the area is to sustain itself. I’m all for Local first, but I just think there has to be mixed use to be economically viable. Don’t get me wrong. If there’s a local entrepenuer who can do it first and better then I’m all for it, but I think it’s shooting the city in the foot if you are to not allow for mixed business. Neighborhoods in SF have fought tooth and nail for this and it’s a mixed bag, imo. I personally would rather have a freakin Starbucks then a graffitti’s boarded up shop…but I would BY FAR rather have a Farley’s or Awaken then Starbucks.

  15. Colleen

    I would be supportive of our Sears store if it was a good store. In every other Sears store, there is more merchandise, more selection, better service. Oakland Sears is the worst. I’ve tried to support it but don’t bother anymore.

    I’d take a Target anyday over our local Sears store–I often travel to the Target in Albany or San Leandro. Target is very convenient, they have a good variety of goods, fairly priced, and of reasonable quality.

  16. Ralph

    Luke, I agree with you….mixed use is probably a more viable option if the area is going to make it…quite frankly, I am tired of traveling to eternity and back to get stuff which should be in my neighborhood (my kids would definitely welcome a local Target)…on the plus side, in just under a month we will have our Farley’s :)

  17. Naomi Schiff

    Under its ugly post-earthquake exterior there may still be vestiges of a very handsome historic brick building, which was HC Capwell, then Emporium, now the underfunded Sears. It had more windows then.

    When I called the current manager about a long-broken window, he told me he had a total budget of $1000 a month for repairs. On a building that size??? Amazing. It made money as Emporium, and only died because the whole national chain of which it was part went under. Don’t know why it is so dismal and underpowered, as it could make some money for those bozos. Mismanagement.

    I hope people will take a look at some of the unique buildings along upper Broadway; there are some interesting deco-era storefronts (Firestone! with art nouveau Fs), and the remnants of the fabulous LA-style round coffee shop at 27th. These could be reused as parts of new development, and help stave off Walnut Creekishness.

    One problem with a ballpark there is that it is a major hospital zone now, with huge new construction at Kaiser and Summit. Traffic issues, alas, my least favorite thing to think about.

  18. californio

    I had my eye on that round building behind the car lot at 27th and Broadway (used to be a 1960s restaurant) to start a club. It’s far away from any residence and the owner (a year ago) was totally willing to deal. Needs about $500,000 put into renovation but once that’s done it could be a real draw for the neighborhood.

    In my opinion that building ought not to be torn down–it does have some architectural value in a sort of Jetsons way. Restore it, update it, make it into something.

    A larger performing arts venue of some sort would be nice to complement the Fox. I could see that area becoming like the Shattuck Ave. performing arts area of Berkeley.

    Target, Costco, no thanks. Bad vibes, too institutional to put any neat clubs or cafes nearby. Who wants to eat at a high end restaurant across from a Costco?

  19. Almer Mabalot

    Having Auto Row being in high development next to the Kaiser Remodeling would really spruce up Downtown Oakland. Also since the new zoning codes, I’m sure it encourages more retail to come in after that. I would really love to have clothing retails, and some of the other types as well.

  20. David

    if you’re looking to draw higher-end retail, you need to cut the crime.

    I have a feeling that undesirable elements will wander across the freeway and make upscale shopping unpleasant, or hazardous.

    Big boxes won’t work. Again, why slum it in Oakland, when you can go to E-ville, Whitebread Creek or San Leandro, depending on where you live in the ‘Town. You’ll have parking aplenty and won’t get mugged on your way to your car. And you need lots of parking because people don’t go to big boxes to browse, they go to stock up on underwear, bookshelves (IKEA), or buy a lawnmower (try getting that on BART). And people won’t want to drive there anyway, it’s faster to get on the freeway and go to E-ville, etc than to sit through 22 untimed stop lights down Broadway. Getting to Whole Foods or TJ’s is a pain in a car, for example; I just go to TJ’s in Alameda.

    The only thing that will work in that location is something funky, independent and small, and perhaps a few restaurants/cafes thrown in. Like Lakeshore/Grand, maybe with one somewhat funky larger box, but not big big box. Like TJ’s but with clothes and stuff or something. Where you can go to buy one outfit or a watch or sandwich or something that you can take with you on your bike/BART/bus/walk home.

  21. Dave B.

    A big box store like Target or Costco will absolutely not fit in the Broadway corridor. Maybe a better idea over by the old Army base? They could also put in a much needed Fry’s over there too ;-)

    Broadway seems to work well with entertainment and restaurants. Mua is a good example of a restaurant using the warehouse like, large building spaces. The new Café Noir next door is gorgeous – go check it out!

    Too bad TJ’s doesn’t replace the awful Grocery Outlet and it’s garbage food. Big parking lot and an existing structure.

    Maybe, the city should butt out of this one?

  22. gem s.

    “A big box store like Target or Costco will absolutely not fit in the Broadway corridor.”
    Hmm, aesthetically or philosophically? Target has been making a big effort over the last few years to design stores that fit in urban environments, with multiple stories, underground parking, and good pedestrian access. The corollary to high density urban housing is providing services and jobs in the same place- otherwise you have people living downtown and driving out to Albany or whatever to shop. That makes no sense; you just have high density suburbia in that case.
    Philosophically, Target has some good stuff going for it: according to WP it gives 3 million a week to the communities in which it operates, developing programs to recycle all the detritus associated with retail goods, putting green roofs on stores, and oddly enough, offer pro-bono forensic services to law enforcement agencies (OK, that last one is pretty strange, but probably something Oakland could really use).

  23. Luke

    I agree with Gem S. We need to look at the business individually rather then showing prejudice towards whether it’s global or local. All Local businesses are not saints and all global businesses are not devils. I’d say that as the Broadway corridor builds it should be first and foremost adaptable. We should create spaces and buildings that continue the great tradiation of building in Oakland to maintain the aesthetic and functional enough to change for businesses over time. We are seeing a great example of this already with many great businesses opening and using the great old structures here.

  24. Max Allstadt

    As correct as you may be luke, I think a significant part of people’s objection to big-box retail is simply the scale. Creating planning or zoning which encourages or mandates a diverse array of sizes of retail units could help.

    Also, we need to bear in mind that the big-boxes in the East Bay have already been syphoned off by Emeryville. Competing to bring them here is an uphill battle, so perhaps we should try to invest some of our energy in attracting different types of retail. Besides, the model that big boxes love: a box in a huge lot, won’t work well in the density of the broadway corridor. It is also decidedly an anti-urban model.

    I’ve only seen successful urban Big Boxes in a handful of places. Manhattan, Singapore, Tokyo, and one or two in downtown Boston. All of these places are able to support urban Big Boxes because of assets they have and which Oakland lacks. Namely: Population density, population wealth, middle class density, and superior public transit. That’s a lot of hurdles for us to jump before we’re ready.

  25. dbackman

    By the way, the Albany Target is one the more attractive big box stores you will find. It has a bold facades, interesting massing and a cool industrial feel that is both modern and contextual. Given the scale of the Broadway Corridor, I see no reason why stores of this size and quality could not fit in here. If you have a philosophical problem with these sort of businesses, that is another issue.

    Big boxes do have innumerable problems from a design perspective. But most of them the result of cultural factors that have dominated the retail landscape for the past 30 years or so. Big boxes are not inherently ugly, or generic or unsustainable, they have just been designed that way because the concept of a “box” has been coopted by developers to be cheapest/quickest mode of development. Nevertheless this form provides for flexible, generous and dynamic spaces. There are great opportunities for employing sustainable strategies, creating exciting urban experiences and generating economic growth from this sort of structure. We just have to think creatively about it.

  26. dbackman

    Just to drive the point home, you need look no further than the Broadway Corridor itself. Auto-dealerships are in many ways proto-big-boxes. Large and flexible open spaces with constantly changing displays, in which the merchandise, in this case automobiles, could literally be driven right onto the floor. While a street full of automobile dealerships is rather undesirable, a street of well-built and well lit showrooms that could be adapted for retail, grocery stores, nightclubs, performance spaces is more or less exactly what folks are looking for. See the nearby Whole Foods for example, refashioned from a massive former car dealership. The problem is not the scale of the spaces, it is the way that the scale interacts with the street and the environment around it.

  27. Luke

    dbackman, I agree with you about creatively thinking about it. Max, I’ve also lived in NY and Chicago and have seen good integration of bigger stores into urban areas. I think the main thing is to build buildings that can house various sized businesses and are adaptable. The business should fit into the area and not the other way around. I don’t want another Walnut Creek or E’ville by any means AT ALL, which is why I’d rather see good local business with priority and maintaining an Oakland sensibility, but I also think we can’t be blind to fundemental economics of the area. When we have millions (or billions) of dollars going to our neighbors for goods and services that we could very well have here, that’s not helping anyone in the city. It’s not helping the tax burden on home owners, not helping our schools, parks, roads, etc. We have to be realistic in how we approach viable business. I think it should be about creating a functional, safe, and aethetically beautiful place and getting a mix of businesses that can find sustainability and profitability.

  28. gem s.

    “Besides, the model that big boxes love: a box in a huge lot, won’t work well in the density of the broadway corridor. It is also decidedly an anti-urban model.”

    As I pointed out in my comment, over the last several years Target has been building urban friendly stores in *actual* urban environments such as Harlem, Brooklyn (a store with NO dedicated parking, as it is in a train station), the Chicago Loop, and Minneapolis. Frankly, Broadway is not urban-scale density at the moment, but even if it was, that’s exactly the reason why big-box stores should be built here and not the suburbs. The whole point of a city is that is has the biggest buildings and the most people- that’s why all the department stores used to be located in downtown areas. It’s car-based design that has caused them to be fixtures of sprawl.

  29. lrd1rocha

    I have to agree with other users in supporting having a Target on Broadway. In fact, I have morbidly desired for Sears to move out of its location or go bankrupt so Target could move into the old Emporium building. Part of this is based on my disregard for Sears as a dying brand and the need to drive to Albany, but also because I always thought Target was better fitting to the new “urbanites” the city wants to attract to uptown.

  30. Ken O

    Luke: could it be that Oakland is too big a city to administer?
    Oaktown is very walkable in places but most of it is 1-2 story.

    Max: your idea of an “Asian-style shopping mall” with many mini stores inside is exactly what I envisioned. This is how it’s done in China, Japan, Thailand, NY, SF Bloomingdales, 99Ranch Richmond, 99 Ranch Newark, SF J-town Kintetsu Mall.

    My household shops here for furniture:
    * Albany – Target (drawers)
    * Evill – IKEA (clothes dressers)
    * Oaktown – forget the name of it, but it’s on College and he repaints old estate sale furniture made of solid wood and puts on fancy plastic knobs; Ohmega Salvage on San Pablo
    * Alameda – 1st Sunday Antique Fairs
    * SF – DWR sample sales (only)
    * Craigslist – sometimes?

    Berkeley – durant food ghetto, restaurants, 4th street shops
    Evill – B&N, Borders, TJs(until they opened in Oakland)
    Oaktown – Bittersweet, Bakesale, Tootsies, 22shoes (closed), RShack @city hall, WFoods, 24hour Longs Drugs, TJs (rarely), restaurants on Piedmont Ave/Tele/ChiTown/Lake/DTO, farmers’ markets (Tem/Lake), Pegasus, 24hour McDonalds (yuck) on Tele, GiantBrgr on Tele, Koreatown restaurants on Tele, Marc49, Lukas, FSquare.

    What’s noticeable about Bway is the city can’t AFFORD to maintain the eight lanes of asphalt and concrete pavement properly. Bway needs a __Road__Diet__. Slim it down!

    How many? Maybe ban cars from it altogether. Put in cheap light rail in two lanes to run from Rockridge to Jack London. Keep two utility truck lanes. Make the rest into: a jogging trail, fountains, plazas, cafes. Like SF Embarcadero meets Shanghai’s french quarter meets the Bund meets NY Central Park.

    I have an old postcard in my apartment which shows Oakland in the early 1900s. There’s a light rail streetcar line that goes up and down Bway. One branch stops right in front of city hall, literally in front of the steps. Another probably goes to the bay along one of the “Xth” streets.
    There are Model T Fords jam packing the sidewalk parking along both sides of Bway.

    The era of cars is over. We are in a lull before the next gas price/availability storm of pain. Make Broadway reflect the future. With each passing year, Bway would become more of an economic asset to the city and its citizens.

    Sort of like how Apple removed non-USB ports and floppy drive from the 1st iMac and everyone in the PC world howled, in May 1998. Look where we are now.

  31. amy.leblanc

    the original response, “Sears, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t sell stockings, only pantyhose. And in general their hoisery, like all their other clothing, is of very poor quality.”

    in my opinion, the exact same thing can be said for Target.

    i am surprised at the number of people supporting an “upscale” shopping district. isn’t that what Piedmont is, jutting right off Broadway, and then Rockridge, at the upper end? so the plan is to develop it so that everything from downtown, up broadway, connecting piedmont and rockridge is all one huge “upscale shopping district”? is it supportable in this economy to add even more of that? (and i am so refraining from using the G-word!!)

    i’m not against it, just seriously wondering.

  32. Max Allstadt

    Ken O:

    Rockridge to JLS transit is a fantastic idea. Wealth at either end would move to the in between. But not light rail. BRT. How many times do we have to say “BRT is the future.”

  33. Luke

    dbackman, WOW, those clips on SITE are amazing. I’ve never seen them before. Thanks.
    Ken O. – I personally hate the design of indoor mini-malls, especially those like 99 Ranch…although I like the 99 Ranch. Oakland is much more akin in style and layout to a mini soho. It should adhere closer to it’s established styles that work and define the city, particularly with the magnificant art deco treasures we have here. You couldn’t ask for a better design foundation then what was built here at the begining of the 1900′s. We should take advantage of the great CA weather and make things as walkable and outdoor as possible.

  34. Luke

    I also think the JLS to Rockridge transit Idea is cool. JLS Market to the New Safeway?

  35. Joyce Roy

    In response to californio on May 4: Hurrah! you spotted the round Jettison style coffee house at 27th & Broadway! It is very special! I can tell you all about it. It was built by Chevron in the ’60′s as Biff’s then later as JJ’s. It was a very popular 24-hr coffee shop but Chevron closed it in 1995 because they wanted to demolish it and build a McChevron, an off-ramp McDonald’s with a gas station. I am one of two architects that lead the effort by the community which defeated Chevron’s plan by getting it eligible for Landmark status. Chevron had to do an EIR but finally threw up its hands when it saw how adamantly the community opposed their plans. We defeated California’s largest corporation!

    californio, we need to talk. I am listed.

  36. Max Allstadt


    That Home Despot store is a few blocks from my aunt Mary’s apartment. That part of Manhattan has an income level that is likely an order of magnitude higher than most parts of Oakland. The same goes for the population density in the area. Additionally, I believe that Home Despot went out of their way to create a highly specialized store to serve a dense, carless population.

    I do believe we can get good retail along Auto Row. But I hesitate to latch onto dreams of any sort of fast transition. We have a lot of groundwork to do. Any development must encourage residential density to increase at the start of the next market upcycle. We have to get transit running there more effectively. And we need to create situations that make people not just want to drive in, buy and leave, but to stick around and relax and enjoy themselves.

    I believe that one important way to do this is to take steps to encourage high quality street-life and street entertainment. Cart before the horse? Perhaps. I’m still having a tough time here deciding what is the cart and what is the horse in this metaphor. What exactly is the step by step game plan in a situation as unique as ours?

  37. Art

    It’s also important to remember that while Broadway itself doesn’t currently have much density along it, just behind the corridor sits the densest residential neighborhood in the city. It’s not a reach to presume that those folks (and I’m one of them!) would come to Broadway in a heartbeat if it offered compelling retail and community uses—the closest retail districts today are Grand Lake and Piedmont Avenue, which are still a haul. Add some mixed use and housing along the corridor itself, supplement with some stronger transit options (Broadway is currently served primarily by the 51 bus, and any regular rider can attest to the challenges that line has—it’s a trunk line, and ought to have much better service), and you’ve got a very viable commercial district. Not Manhattan, sure, but certainly on par with Oakland’s other commercial corridors.

  38. Max Allstadt


    I think you’ve really hit on something here, and it should be an essential part of this plan when it comes together:

    Creating comfortable and attractive pedestrian routes from Adams Point and Westlake is a critical part of making Auto Row work as a retail hub.

  39. Chip

    californio, I like what you were saying about the big mid-60′s building at 27th and B’Way. I’ve been obsessed with taking that thing over and turning it into a restaurant; preserving the architecture.

    I’m going to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate by saying we might look at Vegas for an example. Broadway is all about the car; let’s have some businesses that acknowledge that with box+large neon sign and pizazz. Make the district a real entry into Oakland, a mix of walking biking and neon/art deco leading to the grand Paramount and the Uptown scene. The problem with a lot of Oakland’s neighborhoods is the lack of linking in design. Up on Piedmont: great. Up on College: great. The Art Murmur areas from about Mua to the Paramount/Fox, getting there. It’s the connections that need work. Broadway could be a real introduction to what this town is all about; like the prelude to a wonderful piece of music, or a film. A mix of small chains (not Target) and indies. Wide wide sidewalks. Carefully landscaped, and maintained, median. Greater height-density.

    I wish I could come to the meeting! Hope it goes well.

  40. Joyce Roy

    So the 60s round diner at 27th & Broadway has two new fans, Chip & californio. We need to stratigize, now that we know the power of the blogoaksphere! Unfortunately, I can’t come to tomorrow’s mtg.

  41. Patrick

    Love LOVE L O V E that round diner! It’s so “California-in-its-heyday” I can’t stand it. I’ve walked around the place a couple of times. Unfortunately, it seems to have some serious foundation issues but, hey – what Oakland structure built before 1989 doesn’t? It kind of reminds me of the Golden Gate Bridge gift shop on steroids. Personally, I think it should be a Tiki Bar – it would blow Forbidden Island out of the water.

  42. Patrick

    I’m sorry, but all this ridiculous talk about just exactly what kind of stores on Broadway (and Oakland in general) would be appropriate for our oh-so-precious sensibilities makes me want to scream. It’s got to be local, but even if local can’t be a chain, and no Target for heaven’s sake much less a Costco.

    Has anyone writing here actually driven, or better yet walked on Broadway from Grand to the freeway? There nuthin’ much goin’ on I tell you – and if Wal-Mart wanted to go in I’d say PLEASE DO! Does anyone here shooting down Target realize that you literally cannot buy a pair of pants, or dishes outside of Sears or the Longs at Pleasant Valley? What a selection! And when I think that Antioch has a Macy’s I want to do more than just scream.

    Workshops! BS! It’s why no business is going to waste their time and money on Oakland because they’ll be a thousand whiners just like the comments above saying NO to everything. And nothing is what Oakland will end up with again.

  43. Patrick

    For the record, the above comment is by some “other” Patrick. Although I, too, am in favor of a Target or Kohl’s or etc. in Oakland, I disagree with the interloper’s comments regarding placement on Broadway.

  44. Patrick Emmert

    Hey “Patrick” exactly who is an “interloper?” I thought this was an open forum. Do you think you own it?

    And thanks for proving my point exactly. Target has wanted to come to Oakland for ages, but not until we discern just how many angels fit on the head of a pin will just everything be in the exact right spot for a freaking store to open.

  45. californio

    Those who are interested in the round diner building, I’d like to talk with you. My partner is a restaurateur in San Francisco. We had our eye on the old ribs place in the Broadway/Pleasant Valley center to make a club but the building is tied up in litigation over almost $1M in back rent. (Now that would be an excellent place–CCAC up the hill so plenty of young hipsters, view of the water and its lovely green organic surface (maybe a new meal sensation!), deck, retro-1960′s architecture, shopping center location with great parking….unfortunately it will probably become a Denny’s…) but anyway, yes, if you’re interested in this 27th/Broadway building, let’s talk. But how?

  46. Art

    For whatever it’s worth, Safeway has (or at least had, unless it’s gotten totally mired in the College Ave politics!) plans to do a wholesale renovation of the shopping center at Broadway and Pleasant Valley at some point in the near-enough future that they already set up the website; they apparently control most if not all of the site, including the Longs. (The project website used to have actual images of the site and now oddly has pictures of Safeway gas stations, which hopefully is not their new vision….) So I’d probably wait to see what’s happening there before jumping in on a project in that center. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a huge change there, given its prime location for mixed use and potentially a transit hub. I imagine (hope?) the city will want to see the buildings there shift towards the street, too, as opposed to the current suburbanesque parking lot model.

  47. Joyce Roy

    Those interested in the round diner can call me at 510-655-7508. We can arrange a mtg time & place. I’m usually at that # but I often go into SF in the afternoon to work. Unfortunately I can’t go to tonight’s mtg.

  48. Patrick

    Hey, Patrick Emmert – YOU are the interloper. It would seem to me that not posting under a name used by another person would be a matter of common courtesy, if not common sense. I could understand if you were posting for the first time and on a thread in which my name didn’t appear, but you posted immediately under a post of mine FGS.

  49. Chip

    Joyce, californio-I would love to meet with you guys about the 27th round bldg. Drop me a line at…easier than the phone for some reason. I’ve been wanting to get some interest together around opening a tiki bar there for a while now.

    Joyce, do you still have an office in SF? I ‘did a google’ and couldn’t find your listing.


  50. californio


    That’s kind of why we abandoned the site ourselves–too much trouble and who knows what the city has in mind. I’d bet money that a new architectural fad will soon be “strip mall chic” and this place could capitalize on that. Also, how many restaurants are there in Oakland with a deck looking out on a lake? It has potential for somebody, that’s certain. I just hope they don’t demolish it and put up more post-modern condos in ochre and plum with stainless steel doors.

  51. zach

    are there minutes from the meeting?

    i just spent the day wandering around that neighborhood, looking at buildings and landscape, came home started doing research and discovered this forum literally as the meeting was taking place. such is life. it seems that chip, joyce and californio have a bit of a coalition on that circular building. did any of you have a chance to attend the meeting? how do we make the unrealized oakland of our dreams a reality? I am interested in starting a contemporary art/performance institution to anchor the nascent arts community around the art murmur. something off in the direction of the YBCA but a little more experimental and diverse a la oakland itself. perhaps we could all meet and discuss the possibility of cross pollination among our projects. or, as it sounds like you were all discussing that possibility, i could ask to be included in what conversations you have. i can be reached at thanks and glad to have found this blog.

  52. James Robinson

    Don’t big box stores tend to be close to interstate highway exits? If that’s the case, is the Broadway corridor really an ideal location? Wouldn’t it be more practical to put a big box store along 880 or in Foothill Square, near 580?

    Perhaps the Broadway corridor could have smaller, more upscale stores similar to some of the stores at Bay Street in Emeryville?

  53. das88

    I was able to attend the meeting. I would guess there were about 150 people there including about 12 consultants working on some aspect of the project.

    This was the first of seven planned meeting and covered Visions and Goals. All meetings will be at the First Presbyterian and next will be July 9th on Existing Conditions and Market Demand report. There is a website that will supposedly be active by next Friday (May 15th), and I presume it will have lots of materials like presentations, agendas, reports, etc.

    There was a fairly length introduction by Stephen Hammond of WRT Consulting. There was nothing new, but it was well-organized. He started with the problems of Oakland’s retail leakage (loss of ~$10MM tax revenue, $1B sales, 10,400 jobs, inconvenience). He than touted the area for its centrality and transportation access. Towards the end, he spoke of things the planning would need to address such as historical preservation, transit, mix of shops, art, green spaces, environment, etc. etc. etc.

    Then we broke into facilitator lead discussions for about an hour. Two of the discussion groups were conducted in Mandarin with seniors from some nearby center. At the end of the discussions the facilitators made brief reports to the room.

    Discussion were guided by answering three questions (the third with many sub-parts).

    Q1: What do you value most most about the area and thinks need to be preserved?

    Answers included things like historic buildings (the church and Biff’s singled out the most), openness (light), centrality (access to UpTown and Downtown), walkability, grocery stores

    Q2: What about the area would you like changed by the Plan?

    Answers like better transit, public art, more pedestrian friendly especially in area between 27th and the freeway, better bike lanes, less crime more police, one person at my table was particularly persistent on professional jobs by hospitals instead of retail, more green spaces with rec (apparently Mosswood is really crowded). Despite the introductory claims, people seemed really strongly of mind that transit connections need to be MUCH better. This area really needs to connect all of the surrounding areas.

    Q3a: What kind of stores would you like to see in the area?
    Answers were all over the place, mostly a mix of big box retailers and smaller stores. The desire for a Target was voiced many times. People also spent a lot time on destination goods (pharmacy, produce market, dry cleaner, barber).

    Q3b: Would you like to see residential and/or office in addition to retail? If so, how much?
    People pretty much liked the idea of residential especially above groundfloor retail. Some people voiced the idea for larger residential to accommodate families. Also the words affordable and moderate were mentioned frequently with housing. For the most part,people were less favoring of commercial with a few professional offices here and there.

    Q3c: What other kinds of activities, facilities, services, etc. would you like to see in the area?
    Recreation, family activities (kids birthday place, etc.), barber, dry cleaning, one table wanted social services (aid to homeless, drug treatment –welcome to Oakland), entertainment for adults like dancing/bowling/senior center, small scale market, barber.

    Q3d: What is your vision for what the Broadway/Valdez District should be?
    Most people seemed to look at as destination with some splitting between a small village and a suburban big box commercial street. Some people seemed to think both these visions could be accommodated in different areas of the plan. A smaller group wanted to see it less as a destination and more of a connector from the hospitals and residential areas to UpTown, DownTown and JLS.

    Q4e: What retail area that you re familiar with most closely matches your vision for the Broadway/Valdez district?
    This basically became a free-for-all with people just randomly naming any retail area from throughout the world. From 4th street Berkeley, to Las Ramblas, Barcelona, to Pleasant Hill, to some place in Boston, and about 15 others. The only one that really came up multiple times was Walnut Creek.

  54. Patrick

    I’ve changed my mind. I wanted to get something at Target earlier today, so of course that meant schlepping to San Leandro down I-880, the world’s longest parking lot. Anyway, while in San Leandro, I went into 3 other stores that I had not planned on, just because I could. My quick trip for a few basics ended up a nearly $500 shopping spree (including a BEAUTIFUL japanses maple I’ve been looking for at OSH). That’s nearly $50 in sales tax money, a portion of which could have been Oakland’s – except we don’t have any of the stores I visited here.

    If Target would agree to build on Broadway, I wouldn’t oppose it. Hell, they could build a store next door to me and I wouldn’t oppose it. We’d all like to see more “upscale” shopping on Broadway but let’s face it: in Oakland, Target IS upscale.

  55. Aud

    I agree. When I lived in Hollywood a new Target was tastefully built into an urban area where there was a very diverse population. Seriously, you could be shopping next to Justin Timberlake or the lady that cleans his toilets. Target has broad appeal to many income levels. I’d say that they underestimated the parking and congestion in Hollywood, but I am sure that they’ve learned lessons since then.

    I also agree about someone’s earlier comments on an Asian-style center (like in in San Gabriel, CA). It would be fantastic to have access to cosmetics counters and if they divided the spaces small enough then entrepreneurs could rent space as well. There are so many talented locals who can’t afford to open up a whole shop. it could be a great draw and add some local flair.

  56. Eileen

    Just an FYI if anyone is interested—–Farley’s in SF is opening an Oakland location!!! I saw them post a job opening on Craiglist this past week.

    As for what to do with Auto Row—I certainly do not want a Walnut Creek or Emeryville scenario—if that is what you want—go to the Creek or Emeryville. Oakland is more hip, creative and funky than that. An eccectitc mix of smaller or specialty grocery stores or markets, restaurants, lounges/bars, live music venues, spaces for creative businesses such as graphic arts, architecture firms, etc. Downtown Oakland could be open til 3/4am —Chinatown’s got the food and there are several places near Uptown and Broadway/Grand that could stay open if the traffic was there—but the traffic isn’t there because places decide to close at night —catch 22.

    Anyhoo, I do agree that there should be some type of anchor on Auto Row. Whole Foods is down the street so a Target, Trader Joe’s or something cooler might not be a bad idea—-the area needs more amenities. With Target, the only problem is that it would need to be a fairly large one since it would be the only one between here and Albany—basically the only one to serve Oakland exclusively.

    I’ve always envisioned Auto Row to be a fusion of the Filmore and the Mission in SF, Harlem and Soho NY, Austin TX and New Orleans, but with the cool, quirky, diverse, conscious and creative vibe that makes Oakland so unique.

  57. Nate Bellino

    das88, thanks for summarizing the meeting for those of us who couldn’t make it. A couple observations:

    Urban vs. Suburban desires: Oakland is a second tier city that’s ideal for City dwellers looking for a bit more peace and quiet as well as Suburbanites looking to sample the urban hustle and bustle. It seems that these two factions have different visions for Upper Broadway Retail (big box vs. boutiques). At the heart of this debate is how we view Oakland in general – is it more of a city or a suburb of SF? If we come to consensus on this question we should be able to clarify our vision for Upper Broadway. As stated, I personally feel that Oakland is more of a city with a distinct and separate character from SF and neighboring suburbs, yet carries some suburban qualities. As a result, I’m of the mind that *a* big box/department store could work, however the bulk of shopping should not be big box or even chains. Besides creating a city feel, this strategy also recognizes that most big box / chain stores can be found less than a mile away in Emeryville and limit cannibalization. Also, creating residences in the neighborhood is a must to generate the foot traffic needed for these stores to succeed.

    Significant retail infrastructure already exists on Broadway – from Grand to 17th: While it seems that the city has already bet on the Grand to 580 stretch, there is incredible potential for bringing new tenants the opposite direction, without building new buildings or moving auto dealerships. Regardless of whether Sears is the right store or not, that building is in incredible shape and could be made into something uniquely Oakland (I like KenO’s idea). Same with I Magnin and a number of other buildings on the Grand-17th stretch. There are thousands of people who go to work via 19th and 12th street stations and a number of new housing developments (including the Uptown) nearby. Why not bring stores to them and include this redevelopment into the Upper Broadway plan?

    If we ignore this Broadway stretch on the other side of Grand, we risk having Gold Teeth Master (on 22nd and Broadway) a block from PotteryBarn (or some other upscale retail store). While this may help bring the disparity that exists within Oakland to light and potentially help address social issues (and hey, something has to at some point), it’s not going to help this new development succeed.

  58. Navigator

    Broadway needs to become Oakland’s grand boulevard. Broadway takes us from our scenic hillside neighborhoods all the way to our shimmering waterfront. Broadway needs to be Oakland’s Avenida Da Liberdade or even Oakland’s Wilshire Blvd.

    We need high density, multi-storied, residential housing, set far back in those large auto lots. The first two floors of the residential towers would be used for high-end retail, restaurants, and coffee houses, while the setbacks would be used as landscaped plazas with fountains extending to wide tree lined sidewalks featuring intricate patterns, wrought iron benches, classical clocks, and outdoor dining areas.

    We could also incorporate an arch way of some sort at Pleasant View and Broadway, with another at the formal entrance to Downtown at around 27th & Broadway.

    Oakland has an opportunity to do something very special here. This area of Broadway is perfect for high density residential development given the great climate, the tame topography, the proximity to all of the emerging downtown neighborhoods, along with the proximity and walking distance to Oakland’s established neighborhoods like Rockridge, Piedmont Ave, Lake Merritt, Adams Point, Lake Shore/Grand etc.

    The Upper Broadway area is ideally situated as a possible walkers paradise. All the City of Oakland needs is a vision to turn Broadway into a magnificent, tree lined boulevard, full of outdoor dining, plazas, green spaces, etc.

    BTW, that “Biff’s” restaurant would have made a great Oakland A’s Hall of Fame directly behind “Kaiser Yards” at 27th &; Broadway. Oh well!

  59. gem s.

    I’ll take Gold Teeth Master over Pottery Barn and classical clocks any day.

    I don’t live here because I secretly want to live in Walnut Creek but can’t afford it.

  60. das88

    Well if the Encinal Tower gets built we will all lose the Gold Teeth Master. I can’t see them affording space in such a ritzy building.

    Never fear, though, there are a couple of grillz shops on International just the other side of the lake.

  61. Luke

    Navigator – RIGHT ON! We need more people with your ideas leading this city. Great stuff.

    Gem S. – I can see your point, but most of me is like…Gold Teeth Master?? Of all the examples. I could back the old hat shops and book stores, but how is the area gonna attract and maintain a solid retail and resident base if that’s around….for that matter I also have a problem with, sorry…. the Cannabis College/Oaksterdam (the issue is not pot per se, either). What is it saying about what the city and Oaklanders value? Are we gonna stay in a college and high school mentality or are we gonna grow up and value productive and constructive enterprises? I’m not for a second gonna say Pottery Barn is an answer either. I just think that the examples set forth lately by the great restaurants, bars, theaters, galleries and companies are much more the direction the city should be heading. They are positive, creative, beneficial to people of all ages and races, constructive and not destructive…I just want to be able to bring my friends and family of all ages and from all places and feel safe and proud of this beautiful place.

  62. gem s.

    The tallest building in Oakland won’t be homogeneous Walnut Creek style either, so that’s fine. I’m merely opposed to all the life being sucked out of Oakland with tedious development solely designed to attract “upscale” consumers to Oakland, rather than putting the needs of Oaklanders who live here first. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a fantastic mix of cultures and incomes Downtown that is extremely hard to generate any way but organically, and extremely easy to destroy by developing with only an eye to one type of consumer.

    I’d argue that diversity is the Downtown area’s greatest asset- just look at all the people who walk around the Lake, for starters. You’ll see nearly every type of Oaklander imaginable. San Francisco doesn’t have that diversity, nor does Berkeley, nor many other parts of Oakland. Why don’t they have it? Or perhaps a better question is: how does Downtown Oakland maintain it? I think that’s where any city planning should begin and end, because natural diversity like that is a rare and fragile thing. You can’t just build mixed income units and call it good. Unfortunately, that’s the deepest thinking you’re going to get out of the average developer/government entity/pol.

    Um, and if you want to know why diversity is important, it’s because thriving cities rely on all types of income and economic status to stay viable and flexible. It’s silly to import all your low income workers from suburbs to bus tables, and it’s important to have people who will spend money at the local cafe or newsstand. You need all sorts of cultures to be interesting and creative, and have good things to eat and buy and barter for. You want people riding transit, walking, riding bikes, pushing strollers, and probably driving a few cars, too. You want kids going to schools, and teachers able to afford to live a block from where they work, and grandparents able to walk around the Lake. Surprisingly, a lot of that is already happening here in Downtown/Uptown/Chinatown/Lakeside; if you pay attention to city planning issues, you know there are cities all over the US that are striving for something Oakland already has. It would be good to avoid screwing it up with dreams of upscale makeovers that have a flat profile of the sorts of people they cater to and who can afford to shop there, and phantom future consumers (of housing, goods, food, and amenities) that may not exist.

    I’ve never had a problem with Gold Teeth Masters or Oaksterdam, or any of their customers; if they are putting money in city coffers and being good neighbors, that’s good enough for me. I’m not going to pick and choose who deserves to stay and who deserves to go based on my personal needs. If someone else that lives here is served by that business, they deserve to operate. If no one shops there, they will go away.

  63. Ralph

    As much as I value diversity, we need to bring more high income individuals to the downtown/uptown area. And by high income I do not mean Pac Heights. We need to add more professionals. This city is not going to survive on taxes from poor people. Further, it would be an asset when business think about locating here. The depth of engineers in SV makes it a no brainer to locate a hi-tech company in SV. It would be nice in Oakland had that type of depth. It would also go a long way to improving the API of many of Oakland’s long suffering schools.

    I can have both a Panera Bread and Target. But no one should have Gold Teeth Masters and Oaksterdam. GTM does more to separate poor black people from their money than the lottery could ever hope to do. I don’t care what taxes Oaksterdam may bring to the city, it is not worth the trouble of the sidestreet MJ clubs. Further, its continued presence will undoubtedly inhibit real business from coming to the area. And call me crazy but I would think that real business would bring a greater amount in taxes and generate more jobs.

    Before the new restaurants came along most of downtown Oakland catered to the poor. When I am having a drink at 2022 or Somar, the one consistent word we need more businesses in the downtown area that cater to professionals.