Is there no limit to the DTO’s appetite for the world’s most tasteless sandwich?

Seriously! How many Subways can downtown support? There’s already three I can think of, and I believe another one coming in the retail space at the new Madison Lofts building in the Lake Merrit apartment district, and then today I was just innocently walking along San Pablo, and I see this!

Really? Look, I’m not one of those people who gets all upset about stores I don’t plan to shop at or restaurants I don’t want to eat at, so if Subway thinks they need a spot across from the Uptown Apartments, then that’s fine for them, I guess. I mean, I suppose it’s better than having a vacant storefront there.

But here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t want to sound like some kind elitist food snob or something, but – do people really like Subway that much? Why is Subway sooo successful that the DTO can support one every five blocks? It doesn’t taste like anything! You might as well just take your food in pill form. Make a sandwich at home and bring it with you to work, people. It takes like, five minutes. This new development makes me feel very depressed about the taste level of downtown’s population.

In happier news, this strip of San Pablo, in spite of the forthcoming Subway, is no longer a complete culinary wasteland. The 19th Street corner now hosts the utterly charming El Senor Burrito.

There’s nothing particularly special about this place, except, of course, that it’s there, which is good enough for me. The menu is pretty basic, but it’s clean and cute and usually pretty crowded. Their guacamole is real and made out of actual avocados, unlike, um, certain other restaurants downtown, where they give you, like, big globs of green-colored mayonnaise or something. El Senor Burrito has totally filled the void that was left in my life when Khana Kazana closed (SOB!), and I’m thrilled to once again be able to buy an edible lunch around here on those days where time doesn’t allow me to make one myself. They’re open Monday-Friday until 7:30, and right now everything on the menu is 40% off (I don’t know how long that’s going to last). Check it out if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

61 thoughts on “Is there no limit to the DTO’s appetite for the world’s most tasteless sandwich?

  1. Max Allstadt

    “Why is Subway sooo successful that the DTO can support one every five blocks?”

    It’s cheap! Really freakin cheap! …And in a paranoid economy, perhaps franchises and chains are the only ones with the available capital to risk opening new stores. Plus the branding is powerful stuff.

    Unfortunately, it does taste like mulch. For those on a budget, recommend getting a (huge) sandwich at (locally owned) Colonial Donuts and splitting it with a friend.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Is Subway really that cheap? I can’t remember the last time I actually went into one, but I see their ads on the windows. It never struck me as costing any less than the food at any of the edible sandwich places downtown.

  3. Max Allstadt

    It’s their daily specials. Dirt cheap. Quizznos does it too. The problem is, the specials are really crappy food. I used to eat Quiznos specials almost every day when I worked in Manhattan. I lost 25 pounds in the first year after I moved here. Can you imagine me at 190 lbs, V?

  4. Tony Koo

    $5 for a 12 inch…pretty cheap. But c’mon, Oakland needs as much business as it can get remember, more biz=more taxes. Bring them all in, I say. Costco, Target, Burger King….anything and everything.

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    The Burger King at 13th and Broadway is the worst thing in the entire DTO. That place is a blight on the neighborhood and should be shut down.

  6. dto510

    Um, V, you totally are an elitist food snob.* However, I’ll give you the fact that Subway makes a very bland sandwich. Most downtowns are chock-full of Subways, it’s not some weird Oakland problem. It’s just glaring to us DTOers because of the lack of other restaurants (which isn’t really true but after living here for a few years you get tired of everything, and of course most folks don’t have the budget to eat at Flora regularly). Good thing anti-restaurant activist Ada Chan isn’t on the Planning Commission, so we can get some more options!

    I think there’s a new Subway in the JLS residential neighborhood too.

    * V had goat for dinner on Monday, the foodie food of the moment! Oh, and let’s not forget her strident criticism of Flora’s vinagrette, memorably recalled on the late, lamented SF Covers.

  7. dto510

    That Burger King IS a blight. I swear, somebody drops dead while waiting in line at least once a week. And notice how every place for a block around has a big “no public restrooms” sign?

  8. V Smoothe Post author

    Wait – now it’s “elitist” to expect a reasonable balance of acid and oil in salad dressing? I can’t wait to tell my mom! She’ll be thrilled to learn she’s such a “foodie.”

    And while I can’t speak to what’s the “foodie food of the moment” (I let my subscription to Saveur lapse last year), I would like to clarify that I didn’t eat “goat” for dinner on Monday. It was shell beans in goat sugo.

  9. Max Allstadt

    WTF is “sugo”? Presumably only an “elitist” would know!

    And are you the “snide local hipster” referred to by SF Covers, or is that Kevin Cook?

    Man, insults flying all over the place, and the source of the strife is our opinions on lunch?

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    Kevin would be the “snide local hipster” in question. God, I miss Covers.

    As for sugo. Paul Bertolli can describe it better than me. From Cooking by Hand:

    Sugo has the same root as succulent and it is synonymous with succo, the word for freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juice. The term sugo applies equally to the simple pan drippings of roasted meat, braised fish, or vegetables, and to the more complex liquid amalgam that results from the long, moist cooking of meat or fowl with or without aromatic components.

    The savory flavor of sugo is due to the preliminary browning of the meat and the resulting residues that are released in the process and concentrated to a browned, sticky essence on the bottom of the pot. These residues are then repeatedly loosened with broth, wine, or simply water in a process called deglazing. Sugo can be the pure extraction of a single meat or of several in combination.

  11. Tony Koo

    Hey, why is it that we don’t have a Cosco or Target in Oakland? What are we doing wrong that Emeryville is doing right?

  12. Max Allstadt

    Thanks. Now I’m half way to being a food snob. Once I know what a “shell bean” is…

  13. Max Allstadt

    Tony, there is no target or Cosco in Emeryville. Cosco is in Richmond. Target is in Berkeley. And we have a Wal-Mart. Unfortunately.

    Emeryville’s wild success is probably due to the fact that they cut people’s balls off for running stop signs.

  14. Tony Koo

    Costco in San Leandro, Richmond, Hayward….everywhere BUT Oakland. Same with Target…San Leandro, Richmond…Trader Joe’s in Emeryville…Theatres, shops…Pixar HQ….

    Oakland??? We’ve got Kaiser and Clorox…but probably only because they’ve been there for decades…many many decades.

    Other cities are doing something better than Oakland. Anybody that can figure out what it is and impliment it in Oakland has my vote.

  15. oaklandhappenings

    Tony, there are two Trader Joe’s in Oakland: one on Lakeshore north of 580 (the former Albertsons) and there is one in Rockridge, which I think is now complete. I just wanted to bring that up, in case you were not aware(?).

  16. Navigator

    Tony, Emeryville is a small city of about 8,000 residents which allows developers to run the show. It’s not a safety question since Emeryville is less than a mile away from the poorest neighborhood in Oakland. Emeryville is basically Oakland with no business taxes. Think of Emeryville as a duty free zone. Think of Emeryville as a place where retail businesses locate and suck the life of Oakland’s and Berkeley’s sales tax base. Think of Emeryville as a place where many of the 400,000 residents of Oakland,along with the 100,000 residents of Berkeley, deposit their sales tax contributions. Oakland should annex Emeryville since the place has been cut out of Oakland as a way for businesses to draw Oakland retail customers without Oakland benefiting from the sales taxes. Those businesses in Emeryville are there to rip off Oakland and Berkeley. The 8,000 residents of Emeryville can’t support all of that retail.

  17. Navigator

    Oakland has no shortage of restaurants or places to buy healthy food. Whole Foods near Lake Merritt is another place.

  18. Kevin Cook

    DTO, I continue to admire your propensity to make claims about arenas in which you generally do not participate or know little about. In this case, I think you are right about the goat.

    V, how did you like the beans?

    Max, you only begin to enter the foodie realm when August starts and you begin anticipating the arrival of shell beans with the same impatient delight with which a 7 year old begins thinking about Santa when December begins. You can call yourself a foodie when you have definite preferences about which farmers at which markets have the best beans. (La Tercera at the Saturday Berkeley market) Is that Colonial sandwich any good? The donuts suck. Why are there no good donuts downtown?

    If I remember correctly, I believe Subway has one of the lowest start-up costs of any franchise. I’m resigned to letting the market determine which type of food establishments open, but the apparent demand for Subway only reinforces my snide dismissal of most of my fellow citizens taste in food.

    Speaking of sandwiches, when am I going to be able to get fried chicken sandwich downtown? I’m completely prepared to wait in line.

    Oh, and the troll is dragging the site down.

  19. Jennifer

    Subway is cheap compared to other sandwich shops, and if you get all veggies, no cheese, it’s healthy compared to other chains. There is a Subway on Madison at 3rd in the JLS area. Oh, it got held up one evening a few weeks ago — I think in the daylight hours.

    I go there sometimes for lunch, even thought the sandwiches at the Sierra Deli on the same block are better — but I don’t have time to wait 40 minutes for a sandwich to be made. Yes, it’s that long a wait. I timed it once because I was trying not to gnaw off my arm I was so hungry.

  20. Max Allstadt


    The colonial sandwich is life sustaining, and protein rich. Good? At least as good as Subway. A local-minded compromise. I only get them because I work on houses over by Grand/Lake and I need the calories.

    The troll gets short answers if any from here on out.


    Unfortunately, there is no legal way to annex E’ville (or Piedmont!). DTO510 explained this to me many months ago, much to my disappointment. We couldn’t even set up toll roads all around E’ville, ’cause they have two freeway entrances. The best we can do is boycott. Show a little Oakland pride! Let’s make stickers: “Shop in Oakland, Mug in Emeryville.” Put’em up all over Dogtown…

  21. Max Allstadt

    Increase local business revenue, decrease crime! Isn’t that everybody’s stump speech?

  22. Aaron Priven

    Subway is so widespread in general because they have low franchise fees.

    I actually went to one in Paris — it was across the street from the Gare du Nord and it was the only place around we could manage to take our luggage with us. I can’t express how sad that was.

  23. TonyWKoo

    Someone comes in with balls to actually disagree with the mainstream viewpoint, and of course, they call him a troll. Pathetic…just like the ignorant left wing “liberals” of my alma mater, Berkeley High. They were so closed minded and so brainwashed to accept and follow what everyone else was doing that they had no idea of how similar they were to their ingorant ultra right wing counterparts on the flip side. It’s really sad that I would find something so similar here. I’ll be honest with everyone here. I live in San Leandro. After living in Oakland for 23 years, I’ve already moved out, and I have no intention of EVER returning.

    Face it folks, Oakland is NOT getting any better. It’s only hope is to get some folks who are actually educated enough to find out what’s really going on and fix it. All of this moronic chanting of “Get Rid of Big Business!”, “Fuck the Police!”, or “The Rich has to Give to the Poor” will only take you one more step towards more ignorance and close mindedness that has kept you down in the first place.

    I’ve never said that I’ve got all the answers. I really don’t know the details to any of the issues at hand. However, what I do know is this: Whoever’s in charge needs to really find out what’s going on. I mean REALLY find out what’s going on. Whether that’s the Budget, or Business in Oakland, or the Oakland Police Dept’s efficient use of funds, or Crime…whatever. Get some smart and tenacious people out there and really find out 1) What the hell is really going on, 2) Figure out what are the best options, and 3) Do it.

    A LOT of toes WILL be stepped on in the process, and whoever that’s doing the stepping will become VERY unpopular, and may have a hard time getting re-elected or getting ANY kind of support from other branches of the government. However, that’s what it’s going to take.

    You want me to give you specific course of action? Sorry, can’t do it. I don’t have access to enough information to tell you how much to pay each patrolman, or what his retirement benefit package should look like. That’s not what I get paid for.

  24. Chris Horvath

    I’m an Oakland native and, believe me, anything with a light on is welcome in downtown Oakland. It’s different in the neighborhoods. On Piedmont Ave we can poo-poo the chain stores but, at San Pablo and 19th, our values change.

  25. Max Allstadt

    San Pablo south of Grand will clean right up over the next few years, if we can avoid a second Great Depression. It’s from 23rd on up to 34th where we really need a light on.

    Oakland has concentrated multiple high impact social services just north of Grand, and continuing up San Pablo into E’ville. They’re needed, but if we don’t find ways to mitigate their impact, the neighborhood is stuck.

  26. Becks

    Thanks to everyone for making me laugh this morning.

    I’m a bit shocked that nobody’s brought up the clear, much cheaper alternative to Subway in the DTO – Cam Huong. I know that when I’m low on cash, that’s where I go. You just cannot beat $2.50 for a huge sandwich that actually tastes good.

  27. Becks

    Thanks to everyone for making me laugh this morning.

    I’m a bit shocked that nobody has mentioned the clear, cheaper, tastier alternative in the DTO – Cam Huong. When I’m low on cash, that’s where I go. You just can’t beat $2.50 for a sandwich that actually tastes good.

  28. Tony Koo

    I totally agree. Cam Huong is amazingly good. Although I do notice that I tend to get hungry pretty fast after eating one of their sandwiches. I guess should just buy two instead.

  29. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    We have two Subway’s in the Jack London District – Jennifer mentioned the one in the Sierra building (if they don’t keep up with their rent, they might become a Gazal lunch buffet spot, which one could only dream of!). The other is next to Ben & Jerry’s in Jack London Square.

    Their franchise fees and start-up costs are amazingly low compared to other businesses. It’s also the franchise of choice for immigrants coming to America. Typically the owners make money only when they sell it to someone else…

    It does seem like the Starbucks oversaturation, though.

    Luckily we have so many other great places to eat. :)

    Ratto’s is still my favorite sandwich spot, but it is darn expense. “Overpriced Sandwiches” = YUM!!! (sorry, that’s a play on my personal overpriced stamps themed small business ownership saga.)

    Yia-yia’s is the other lunch spot in the resi part of the Jack London District. Just don’t look at the ceiling. It will gross you out. Their sandwiches are good, though, and the service pretty speedy. Cheap is just the icing on the cake. That they will deliver to me (and only me?) after 2pm, is priceless.

  30. len raphael

    best part of subway is that even in rural Utah, an ex brooklyn guy like me can look up his childhood Newkirk Avenue BMT subway stop on the wall while waiting for a forgetable sandwich.

    goat is good. anywhere one get goat bbq now that Doug’s on San Pablo is closed?

    What’s wrong w the Hegenberger Walmart? I shop there for household and cheap computer stuff. Employees courteous and seemed grateful to have a job.

    Emeryville. I moved my biz there for the same reason so many others do: Oakland’s business tax is confiscatory unless you’re a manufacturer or a non-profit (0 for ngo’s).

    And yes, safety and cleanliness of Emeryville shopping areas is zillion times better than DTO or even Piedmont Ave.

    A big chunk of the credit for pushing thru Emeryville redevelopment was Koffe Aman it’s former city planning czar. It was damn the traffic studies and EIR’s full speed ahead. His vision proved correct.

    -len raphael

  31. Gary Pohl

    So, from my perspective Subways offer a relatively healthy alternative to burritos and other high fat lunches. Not the greatest, by any means, but quick and low cost. When I want a really good meal, I cook at home or go to the Wood Tavern or Olivetos.

  32. Tony T

    Just ’cause Emeryville has all the stores doesn’t mean the city is kowtowing to developers. Like other cities they have business taxes on yearly gross income. The have design standards for new buildings. They’re not like San Pablo or other suburbs with ugly ass strip malls. Have you seen Bay Street or the Public Market?

    Little known fact: the Best Buy is in Oakland due to the funky city limits. It follows the fence at the edge of the parking lot.

    I wanna see a Togo’s in the DTO.

  33. Navigator

    Tony T, then why does a city with fewer than 8,000 residents have more retail than a city of 400,000 residents. Please don’t tell me that it has to do with crime because Emeryville is less than half a mile from some of the highest crime areas of Oakland and there is no shortage of crime in Emeryville. Oakland has so many old warehouses near the waterfront just like Emeryville once did. Why can’t Oakland get any retail? Is it because it’s surrounded by Emeryville, San Leandro, Walnut Creek, and San Francisco? Is it because the well-to-do in Oakland actually prefer to take their sales tax dollars to Walnut Creek and San Francisco? Just asking.

  34. Max Allstadt

    I’d really like to see exactly what kind of development incentives Emeryville is offering. They’re building condos pretty rapidly too. One of the more depressing illustrations of their ability to build and our ability to stagnate is along San Pablo Ave. north of 40th Street… Drive by there some time and watch in horror at the difference between the west side and the east side of the street.

  35. Max Allstadt

    Len, EIRs might have been OK to set aside for Emeryville, but as for the traffic studies, please…. have you ever tried to walk through Emeryville? Particularly to and from points with railway in between them? Their pedestrian infrastructure is pathetic.

  36. David Oertel

    For some of us the condos look like a kind of blight. And the car-oriented retail scene of Emeryville has no future. It was based on cheap energy, cheap goods imported from sweatshops, American affluence, heavy foreign investment in our bogus financial instruments, a stable climate, etc. All of these things are going away, my friend. Survival in the future will be based on strong communities and social relationships, not financial and material wealth. Retail will go the way of the drive-in movie theater.

  37. Max Allstadt


    I tend to agree about a lot of that. Some of those condos are ugly as sin. Some are kind of interesting. But as for blight, there’s a lot more on the east side of San Pablo than on the west.

    Emeryville has utterly screwed up their pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. They’ve also overemphasized (and that’s an understatement) retail, true. But building density is not a mistake. As a matter of fact, density fits into fixing the dystopia you just described. The lack of density in North Oakland, the car oriented, single family detached, sprawlish mess, that’s just as much a representation of “american affluence” as Emeryville’s condo explosion.

    If retail collapses, if most of your dire predictions come true… all Emeryville has to do to adapt is to repurpose it’s dense building stock for new use and fix it’s bike and walkability issues, and they’ll be well ahead of Oakland.

  38. TonyWKoo

    David, while I agree with you that overall happiness is always based on interpersonal and sociological relationships between individuals and communities, the economy is still an extrememly integral part of the sucess of a society.

    Every great nation in history has been built on strong economies. That is to say, they were all able to utilize their resources for the maximum productivty/efficiency. A city like Oakland has a lot of resources…from its people, its location, its weather, its history, etc.. It just needs to be able to use all of that in the most efficient and productive way possible.

  39. David Oertel


    As for blight, I didn’t mean to advocate for what we all agree is blight: dumping, litter, buildings needing paint and falling down, graffiti, etc. I’ll leave that position of defending conventional blight for the really hardcore contrarians.

    Everybody agrees that suburban sprawl in not sustainable and a huge waste of energy and resources. But does that mean that urban density is the answer? You are assuming the continuance of an industrial society, which is questionable. Are you assuming that the people living in this density will have office jobs or factory jobs to go to? Post cheap-fossil-fuel culture is said to support only one billion or so of the current 6 1/2 billion people on the planet. This is a huge state change in the order of things. Who knows what will come out of it. Maybe history will go into reverse and the future belongs to small villages with ready access to vegetable plots and fruit trees. Or maybe somebody will come up with a carbon-free, cheap source of energy and then urban density will make sense.


    Efficient in what way? The most efficient way to get around is by bicycle. (Defining efficiency in terms of cost, dollars per mile spent). Walking is somewhat less efficient than riding a bicycle but the car is dramatically more expensive per mile than walking. The car is far-and-away less efficient than the three, yet if is the preferred mode. And what should we be producing? African music? Cars? Hospice care? Starbucks coffee? Is it more productive to let people die in neglect and loneliness and to produce a mountain of consumer products in sweatshops? People seem to not be thinking about these broader issues and we are all marching lemming-like off of a cliff.

  40. Patrick

    Actually, the most efficient way to get around is an electric bicycle, from what I’ve read online. It seems that the calories required to replace the human energy expended while riding a traditional bicycle require more energy inputs, overall, than the energy input required to ride an electric bike. Now, if you were a hunter/gatherer or dry-farmed all of your own food, this may not be true. But if you eat anything remotely resembling a “modern” diet, that food represents a whole lot of fossil fuel energy. And an electric bicycle can propel you for up to 30 miles on 1 KwH of electric power.

  41. Max Allstadt


    The industrial society doesn’t necessarily have to persist for urban density to be a continuing trend. Rural to urban migration has been a trend for longer than written history.

    As long as we’re going with pie in the sky futuristic scenarios, consider that increased use of energy and the search for new forms of energy has also been the trend for thousands of years. Firelight, Coal Gas Light, Electric Light powered by coal, powered by oil… There is always a bit of mayhem in the transition, but the energy consumption continues to go up. It also has trended towards cleaner and more efficient energy production. Woodfired kitchens and firelight, at the beginning of the chain, are horribly horribly dirty and inefficient, even compared to coal. So following both trends, the likely future is something cleaner, more efficient, and an order of magnitude more intense in terms of raw power.

    Also, small village utopia assumes a population decline, which simply isn’t in any demographers’ predictions. Barring a catastrophe, the US population is supposed to ramp up 1% a year for the next 30. Also, urban farming and urban greening, with density, is totally feasible. As a matter of fact until the advent of rail and truck freight, urban farming was a necessity and a reality. The cleaner our energy and transportation are, the more feasible urban farming becomes.

    So there’s my counter prediction against a sandalfooted villagy eco-topia. I see opportunities for a high energy, high tech urban eco-topia. Unless the martians really do show up in 2012, and initiate “childhood’s end”…

  42. Patrick

    I appreciate your comments, Max. It is very compelling. However, where is this “urban farming and urban greening” supposed to take place? The physical landscape of the “urban” environment has changed dramatically, even recently. In the 50s, San Mateo was largely rural… And, as it becomes more expensive for people to commute, it will become even worse.

  43. Mike Spencer

    I have a solution: Tacos Sinaloa franchised and moved to DTO. (I had dinner for two there last winter, including ceviche, for about $5.00.) Max, I am still laughing about your “tastes like mulch” line because it’s so true. Oakland could also use more and better BBQ places…..The little sandwich place at 15th and Webster is killer, half the price of Ratto’s. Damn, this is making me hungry!

  44. Max Allstadt


    Green roofs, garden roofs, window gardens, green walls, greenhouse roofs, etc. etc. etc. There are all sorts of opportunities. All sorts of possibilities. Might happen, might not. But the muddy footed collection of villages scenario is just preposterous dreaming.

  45. len raphael

    MA, North Oakland lack of densitiy, sprawlish mess.

    i realize it’s not pc to live in a single family detached residence, but compared to say north berkeley, or concord or walnut creek, or pleasanton, would you say North Oakland is low density sprawling. a high percentage of north oakland lots have at least a second house on same lot hidden from the street. many of those are at least duplexes. those italian immigrants did not waste urban land they could collect rent from. for that matter, there are vast stretches of East Oakland with one home per lot, and quite a few ranch style single story houses. and probably more park acreage per person than north oakland (but that might not be true because many east o sfr’s have large or extended families).

    you can encourage an exciting, dense city but unless its filled with rich people and struggling artists, it will be closer to a bladerunner kinda place than an Upper West Side or Dumbo. me, i’d put more energy into world wide population control.

    -len raphael

  46. Max Allstadt


    You’re absolutely right about sprawl in North Oakland being minimal compared to most of what’s on the other side of the tunnel.

    Why, I was driving my girlfriend’s car down Mount Diablo just yesterday, and towards the bottom I almost drove over the edge because I was gawking in horror at a gated community development. I could see the headlines in “the Onion” flashing before my eyes: “Urbanist, Distracted by McMansions, Drives of Cliff”.

  47. David Oertel

    Max, we have reached the end of the line with peak oil. There is nothing waiting in the wings to take its place. You seem like a very sophisticated urban guy so you should know this. True that energy has gotten cheaper over a long period of time and that population growth tracks that, but energy consumption cannot continue to go up. It is going down now and must continue to go down. There was a program on PBS-NOW last night about how the x-urbs (or the really distant suburbs) are no longer financially viable because of the high cost of gas. There is a crash in the oil price now because of the financial turmoil, but because of scarcity, it will go up in the future. Airlines are also becoming less viable because of fuel shortages. There are probably many other examples. I hope that waging absurd and monstrous foreign wars becomes one of them. These changes are permanent.

    There are some noble but tiny efforts to create local foods: City Slicker Farms and People’s Grocery. I hope that people support these efforts in West Oakland. They seem very dedicated to local health and social justice.

    Max, I agree with your urban greening. Richard Register has described and illustrated this. But you missed one obvious point. People take all of the road surface for granted, but if you eliminate the private car, wouldn’t that open up massive acearage for farming? There are already a few communities that have done this. One is near Davis, and it is a lot more people friendly than the standard asphalt-uber-alles setup. No doubt it is better for wildlife, watershed health, noise pollution, child safety and mental health, etc, etc, etc. And picking fruit from in front of your house makes a lot more sense than flying it in from Peru. Especially when there are plenty of hungry people in Peru.

  48. len raphael

    people who moved to the burbs aren’t going to flock back to the cities in vast numbers because we build relatively affordable attractive high density residences with great restaurants and shopping. they moved to the burbs because they couldn’t afford private schools, and somewhat irrational fears of getting mugged. and yes, they wanted a backyard, even a small one townhouse sized one.

    affordable high density exciting cities will attract empty nesters, young professionals but you’ll probably need to provide the mass transit for the people who service those folks to get here from the burbs where they prefer to raise their families. pushing the state to encourage higher density suburbs would make a much bigger impact on sprawl and carbon footprints than any infill changes to inner cities.

    and even if you did succeed in getting those people to move back here for whatever motivation, to get the carbon footprint efficiences we need, we’re talking Manhattan densities, not Brooklyn. Difference between 4 story infill vs 8 stories, ain’t gonna save the earth.

    -len raphael (aka temescal nimby :) )

  49. David Oertel

    len, I never understood why the planners and developers thought that condos would fly as a mass solution and not remain a nitch solution like you describe. It seems to be the manifestation of autocratic, oxygen-starved decision making. I spent much of my life in the suburbs near silicon valley and I can’t imagine any marketing survey revealing a strong demand for condo living. I hope that somebody enlightens me why the politicians bet so much money on what looks like a lame decision.

    And why isn’t there more conversation on tweeking the suburbs since that is where many people want to be. Move more office space to the suburbs, promote dublexes, create super efficient transportation, etc. People could try to share more things to decrease the huge redundancy of suburban living (which might be an economic necessity the way things are going), etc.

  50. Max Allstadt


    Peak Oil does not equate to all energy sources peaking out. At every transition to a new source of energy has historically been accompanied by a run up in the price of the source being replaced. This is followed by a boom in exploiting producing and consuming the new source. The downside to this process, historically, has to do with the uneven process of the three sciences. Biology lags behind physics and chemistry, and always has. This the consequences of the byproducts of energy production were not predicted in the coal, coal gas, oil, and nuclear eras. The great change in the current moment is that humanity’s understanding of its own biology is finally making significant leaps.

    So, we still want more computer power. We still want more transportation power. We still want more bandwidth. We still want more social conact. We still want more peace. But we now are better able to understand the ecological ramifications of pursuing our wants. To me that adds up to the starter pistol in a race for green energy, efficiency, technology, and yes, urban density.

    Urban areas and people in general may be able to become less reliant on centralized industry, governance, and farming. But (pie in the sky warning)…
    Density will keep increasing until information tech reaches a level where telepresence becomes on par with physical presence, in terms of physical experience. We’re a long way from there.

  51. David Oertel


    Obviously different kinds of fuel extraction will peak at different times. Even the concept of peak may not be that important. What if we are producing more of an energy type, which is to say that we are before the peak, but the price of production of that kind of energy is skyrocketing? That might be worse then reaching the production peak. The point is that the cost of energy production of whatever type that you can imagine, is skyrocketing. And that has profound consequences for society, especially consumerism and war and other forms of madness, which mindlessly waste energy. You seem to imply that there is some silver bullet energy source waiting in the wings to replace oil, gas, and coal. What would that be? Is this a matter of faith?

    I’m with you on technology. I ditched cars in order to finance a solar roof which way oversupplies my power — you might be reading this using electrons that are coming from my roof. Enjoy my electrons! As for density, it’s time to agree to disagree. It might be a deep psychological difference between us that we can never transcend.

    BTW, I was doing software engineering when the internet started becoming popular in the late eighties. Laptops with graphical interfaces were widely available in 95. However, business “culture” still required that engineers commute often long distances, and work alone in their office cubes. Maybe that will change, but back then managers were stuck in hierarchical social patterns that go back to the Roman empire. So I’m cynical about your telepresence idea too. Business is more interested in power than sanity, planetary survival, human happiness, etc. I hope that your experience is different.

  52. avis

    I agree with Tony KWoo. In the mid-80′s Emeryville looked just like Oakland, lots of blight and no retail at all. They changed and personally I am glad. At least now I can hit Williams Sonoma without driving all the way to WC or SF. Why does Oakland have to be so anti business and so anti cop? Buying wedding gifts, birthday gifts, etc for my friends and family does not make me a despicable person.

  53. Tony T


    Emeryville’s population is more like 10,000 now with the new condos going up. I’m just nitpicking.

    Your’re right that Emeryville used to be alot of industrial and warehouses. How did the city get all the retail? Good question. I can only repeat the official city line: that it was a concerted effort by the city council to purge the then reputation that it had of being a stinky pit of a town, and a bunch of redevelopment $.

    Being an Oakland resident I would be thrilled to be able to shop for socks or a nice shirt in the Dimond or Laurel.

  54. Tony T (yes another Tony)


    Emeryville’s population is more like 10,000 with the new condos going up.

    You’re right the the city used to be industrial and warehouses. How did the city get all the retail? Good question. I can only repeat the official city line: That it was a concerted effort by the city council to purge the city’s reputation in the early 1900′s of being a rotten pit of a town, and loads of redevelopment $.

    I would be thrilled to be able to shop for socks or a nice shirt in the Dimond or Laurel.

  55. Navigator

    Tony T, Oakland’s retail hopes may be in the auto row area once the dealerships move to the former Oakland Army Base. However, it would be great to have retail downtown around the 19th Street BART station. There’s no reason why Oakland can’t develop vertical retail in that area. The new 700 ft building proposed for 20th & Broadway would be perfect for a vertical shopping center. If Oakland had Macy’s Nordstrom’s & Sack’s, I guarantee that there would be no shortage of shoppers. If East Bay shoppers currently flock to the San Francisco Shopping Center despite a horrendous crime rate in the area, they certainly would feel much safer in a much lower crime area like downtown Oakland. Yes, despite the perception, there is far less crime in Oakland’s downtown.

    Downtown Oakland should be a retail mecca considering it’s linked to the entire region by three BART stations. There’s no reason why Oakland can’t go vertical along the Broadway spine and develop first rate retail. The area is already upgrading very nicely. Believe it or not, people do come to Oakland from other regions, states, and countries, if we give them a reason to do so. As an example, the new Christ the Light Cathedral at the shores of Lake Merritt seems to be attracting tourists. I was there yesterday and there were many people speaking foreign languages and taking lots of pictures. At the same time, on a beautiful day by Lake Merritt, an Italian Gondola came by and spent a few minutes directly across the Cathedral to allow their passengers a good look at the magnificent edifice.

    Oakland needs to think big and stop with the unwarranted inferiority complex..

  56. annoyed

    Thanks to Chris K for the reality check. I don’t know why anyone would be offended by too many Subway shops. Is someone forcing you to eat there? Or is it just the mere sight of one that is so awful? This reminds me of the snobs who were besides themselves when Walgreens was included in the 51st and Telegraph project. Their attitude was let poor people go somewhere else to buy a loaf of bread. This is similar to the stupidity in SF where NO chains are welcome (unless they are part of the overpriced high end frou frou market like Starbucks).

    There are many people who live and/or work in this town who don’t have a lot. They eat at cheap places like Subway. It’s a teensy bit boorish that people who will spend $15 on a burger would need to comment on someone who eats a $5 (or less) sandwich.

    As for Whole Foods, I have to feel truly sorry for anyone who needs to spend a lot of money to feel they are getting the “best.” Between Farmer and Trader Joes, I get quality organic produce and other products. When I want good meat, I go to Piedmont market. I go to Whole Foods for a slice of pizza and that’s it.

    No one mentioned Alameda, which has managed to rebuild the shopping center next to the beach that has a lot of chain and specialty stores. Old Navy, Borders, TJ Max, Kohl’s to replace Mervyn’s, Bed Bath, Office Max, Safeway, Trader Joes, Radio Shack, Sees, Massage Envy, Petco, and several specialty shops. In fact, there are a lot of good places to shop and dine all over Alameda. It’s safer, parking is available, even along Park St.

    I know that everyone thinks that buidling housing in downtown was a great idea but it has done nothing to bring retail to downtown (not there are any decent places left for major retail) and I still have to drive or BART to another city to shop.