Lake Merritt Station Area Plan community meeting tonight

Apologies for the short notice, but I wanted to bring your attention to a community meeting tonight on the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan.

What is the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, you ask? Well, it’s a joint effort between the City, MTC, BART, and the Peralta Colleges to plan for future development of this area:

Lake Merritt Station Area Plan map

Lord knows the neighborhood around this BART station needs a lot of help. There really is just, like, nothing going on around here. (Except for Madison Square Park, which is quite nice.) I mean, once you get up into Chinatown (much of which is within the planning area), it’s great — you’ve got activity everywhere, and people, and stores, and so on. But seriously, the immediate area surrounding the Lake Merritt BART Station is hella depressing and it is totally embarrassing for Oakland. I work just a few blocks away, but somehow the only time I ever find myself anywhere near there is when I have to go to an MTC meeting (which is almost never a fun experience). And then, the only place around to get anything to eat or even a cup of coffee is the MTC cafeteria! It’s just awful.

A couple of months back, I was looking for a new apartment and having trouble finding anything in my price range, and dto510 found an ad on Craigslist for a place across the street from the Lake Meritt BART station that looked pretty in the photo, and kept harassing me for like a week to go look at it. And I kept insisting that it was not an option because I have no interest in moving to the middle of nowhere. He, in turn, insisted that calling the Lake Merritt BART Station, or anywhere downtown, the “middle of nowhere” was ridiculous, and eventually I broke down and went to look at it.

It was horrible! The building was disgusting and covered with graffiti. Across the street on one side of the apartment was the BART Station, and then across the street on the other side was a vacant lot filled with shipping containers! Besides Laney College and the soon-to-be-reopened Oakland Museum, the neighborhood is a wasteland, and a stunning example of Oakland’s abject failure to take any advantage whatsoever of our assets and resources.

Anyway, so the idea behind this Station Area Plan, which is being paid for by an MTC grant, is to figure out how to deal with this area so that it is no longer a wasteland. Or, as the City puts it:

The City of Oakland, BART and the Peralta Community College District, through a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, have come together to prepare a Station Area Plan for the area around the Lake Merritt BART Station. The Plan will consider land use, buildings, design, circulation, BART improvements, streetscape improvements, parks and public spaces. It will identify actions the City and the other public agencies should take to improve the area, and it will establish regulations for development projects on private property. The project also involves the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report for the Station Area Plan.

The planning area is a one-half mile radius around the Lake Merritt BART Station, which encompasses Chinatown, Laney College, civic buildings of Alameda County and Oakland and the channel connecting Lake Merritt to the estuary. Many diverse residents, businesses and students make up the community of this area, and Chinatown functions as a citywide center for the Asian community. The Station Area Plan must address the needs of the community, as well as the needs of BART related to ridership, and the needs of the College District related to education and maximizing the use of their land. BART has stated that it envisions the area transitioning from its current status as an “Urban Neighborhood Station” to a “Regional Center” station type. Completing the environmental review process is also a critical component of the project, so that issues are resolved and development can proceed by tiering off the environmental analysis.

Some of the key objectives of the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan, which will continue to be developed and refined throughout the planning process, include:

  • Increase use of non-automobile modes of transportation, including walking, bicycling, bus, BART, carpooling, ridesharing and other options; and reduce auto use.
  • Increase the housing supply, especially affordable housing for low-income residents. Specifically increase the amount of housing around the BART station.
  • Increase jobs and improve access to jobs along the transit corridor.
  • Provide services and retail options in the station area.
  • Identify additional recreation and open space opportunities

Finally, the Lake Merritt Station Area Plan must provide an impetus for real development projects and specific public improvements. The plan should generate interest, enthusiasm and consensus about new development in the area and establish priorities for public improvement projects.

Tonight is the first of a series of community meetings on the plan, and will be focused on identifying “community goals and key issues of concern.” As with any planning effort, there are a lot of different interest groups with a stake in the final plan. Smart growth advocates want density, affordable housing advocates want affordable housing, preservationists want to make sure that none of the horrible, rotting Victorians in the area are ever replaced with something better, and so on.

Perhaps you find yourself in agreement with some of the more organized advocacy groups. Perhaps you have your own ideas of what should happen in this part of town. Either way, it’s good to get your thoughts in as early in the process as possible. So if you’re not doing anything tonight, you may want to head on down to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission Auditorium at 101 8th Street at 6 PM and share your thoughts. And I promise I’ll do a better job giving notice of future meetings.

93 thoughts on “Lake Merritt Station Area Plan community meeting tonight

  1. Navigator

    I have to agree with V on this one. That area is the one big donut hole for downtown Oakland. We need to keep the synergy which exists between City Center, Old Oakland, Uptown, Jack London Square, Chinatown and take it all the way to the shores of Lake Merritt.

    A new Oakland A’s ballpark on Victory Court, adjacent to the Lake Merritt Channel, would energize the area and force infrastructure and beautification improvements of the Oak Street corridor heading towards Lake Merritt.

    Also, before the Real Estate bust there were plans for residential high rises in that area. I think that’s the eventual answer for the area. We need high density housing which in turn will gives the small shops and cafes which will energize the currently dreary street scape. A ballpark for the Oakland A’s would also go along way into creating a vibrant neighborhood in that area.

  2. David

    If only there were a major attraction in that area where people could walk to from the BART station, maybe stopping for a burger and a beer, or buying a wind breaker, say maybe one with a A’s logo…hmmm. Maybe a baseball stadium?

  3. Naomi Schiff

    I think there might be a slightly more positive way to phrase that historic preservation part. Some parts of this area are quite important historically. By the way, see the last OHA News for an interesting article about the Japanese Buddhist Church, moved up Jackson Street to its present location, to make way for Route 880 after WWII.

  4. Chris Kidd

    I think the western area of the specific plan deserves an up-zoning. Having a visual progression of building forms going downward as you move east will nicely complement the opening up of the Lake Merritt channel with Measure DD funds. It would also create a node of activity that could serve as a bookend to Chinatown, the other one being Broadway. Additionally, it would help give the area definition and identity, both of which the specific plan area currently lack.

  5. Max Allstadt

    There is a long stretch on the north side of 880 which should be radically upzoned. Currently, much of that area are old houses which have effectively been zombified by the highway.

    Essentially because those houses have front doors which face a 50 foot+ tall concrete monstrosity which belches diesel fumes at them day in and day out, they will never be anything other than a slum. Most are in poor condition and will stay that way. Better to level them and start over. One of the biggest mistake of the highway construction era was to ignore the areas immediately adjacent to the highways. It’s up to us to fix this.

    The best solution is to upzone every block abutting the highway to 200 feet. Over time, highrise residential and mixed use buildings will form a buffer along the highway, reducing sound pollution, and also creating places near highway crossings where lots of people will be night and day, thus creating motivation to improve the crossings themselves.

    Also, I don’t know how many damn times I have to say this:

    Any planning exercise that includes a highway should ALWAYS include both sides of the highway within the area of consideration. If we think of highways of lines to define space, they will to that. If we think of them as boundaries we must bridge, we can do that. Staff needs to take the line that marks the southern boundary of this area and move it to one block south of the highway all the way east to Franklin street.

    Also, why do we need two entrances to the Webster tube? The one on Broadway screws up traffic entering Jack London Square. Kill it!

  6. Livegreen

    Just out of curiosity, how does a plan like this deal with property owners located where planning and building will take place? Voluntary buy out, eminent domain, etc.?

    I assume Oakland has some experience with this from other redevelopment projects, so I’m curious how this works…

  7. matt


    I agree with you with exception to your idea to simply level the old Vics. The old homes along 24 in Rockridge are not slums and so there’s a hole in your slum theory. I understand what you’re saying though -”progress” would come faster with the old Vics out of the way. It would be more responsible to pick out the good ones and move them to nearby vacant lots.

    Don’t ignore lessons of the past. If many of the old decrepit buildings in Downtown were still there you’d have more Bakesale Betty, Hibiscus and Flora popping up today. Not many small retailers or restaurateurs see parking lots or expensive new mixed use developments as likely places to get their feet wet. They need undervalued buildings that are usually old and decrepit for which to build sweat equity in.

  8. Max Allstadt


    Moving them is totally acceptable if they’re wanted elsewhere. And I wouldn’t begin with seizing them. Upzoning would be enough of an incentive. I honestly don’t think that anything adjacent to a highway should have a height limit under 60 feet. Even in Rockridge.

    Also, there’s a difference between old houses next to the 24 in Rockridge and the ones I’m talking about.

    Most houses abutting the 24 have their backs facing the highway. The 24 is not anywhere near as full of big rigs. The 24 is shorter, and has sound walls in places. The 24 has very few lots beneath it that directly abut residential neighborhoods.

    In Chinatown and in Fruitvale there are whole blocks that have houses with front doors facing the highway. These blocks also face CalTrans owned parking lots or other messes. In Fruitvale, north of the 880 and east of Fruitvale Ave, there are three blocks pinned between the railroad and 880, all of which are Cul-de-Sacs facing 880.

    I don’t support the wholesale leveling of old buildings. But the areas I’m describing are what I like to call “Zombie Zones”. In essence, in their current form, they’re already like the walking dead. They are unmaintained, they aren’t healthy places to live as-is. Air quality is an issue, and so is pedestrian safety, because their main drag is a highway access road where people are prone to driving unsafely.

    If we build tall there, the air-handling requirements of a tall building will protect residents, and also if we build tall, there’s a strong chance that CalTrans will see it in their interest to lease under-highway space as residential parking. If highrise residents are parking there, we can expect them to demand blight abatement and security too.

  9. Naomi Schiff

    The city’s redevelopment efforts have in the past included eminent domain, rezoning, subsidizing land acquisition (Forest City uptown for example) and sometimes, just hoping for private development. I have become somewhat skeptical over the years, because it has seemed as though some redevelopment efforts have dragged on for many more years than private infill and rehab development would have taken.

    Some redevelopment schemes have been badly planned, others much better. The worst ones, it seems to me, are the ones which have overambitiously condemned multiple blocks and replaced them with monolithic and uninspired structures. Better ones are more limited in scope and allow areas around them to improve themselves. It is a very mixed bag. (One wonders how long it will take for the city to make back the 60+-million-dollar subsidy at Forest City.)

    Near 880 in western Chinatown there may indeed be some opportunities for relocation of small picturesque buildings to produce some preservation-park-like results, perhaps housing more commercial enterprises. I also think some really creative thinking needs to be applied to the many vast under-freeway areas, as Max has suggested. I am in continuous despair over one near where I live, that seems to be nothing but a pigeon-infested weedy dark unpleasant obstacle to pedestrians crossing through, and the world’s most unlikely-to-be-used bus bench.

  10. William H.

    I’m very interested to see how this turns out. I am a resident of this particular area for seven years and I sure hope something practical can come of this meeting. They’ve cleared off that big B.A.R.T. building and the area could be a nice community center. We could use a nice coffee shop of some sort.

  11. Naomi Schiff

    Painted by the wonderful Dan Fontes! And funded by community development block grant funds (I was on the committee: Dan gave the all time great pitch!) in the early 1980s I guess. After the quake when Caltrans had to rebuild all the pillars with those steel jackets, they were willing to commission him again to replace the now-covered giraffes, so we have a few newer fresher ones. Tomorrow for earth day, I plan to whack weeds over there where Caltrans has allowed six-foot-plus-high weeds to grow.

  12. Navigator

    If we really want to energize that area to it’s full potential, and as quickly as possible, then a ballpark on Victory Court is the obvious answer.

    The Lake Merritt Bart Station would be the station of choice for a good percentage of the 34,000 fans for a sold out game. We need to think big. If the A’s were to average 30,000 fans per game at a Victory Court ballpark, this would have the same effect on downtown Oakland as ten sold out Paramount Theaters,.or 12 sold out Fox Theaters. Let’s think about this for a minute. Everything else is small potatoes if the idea is to bring as many people to downtown Oakland as possible and in the process change this city’s distorted image.

    All of a sudden Oak Street would be full of people along with the additional possibilities for transforming the Produce District on 2nd Street into an entertainment area featuring restaurants, pubs, jazz clubs, souvenir shops, etc,.for people using the Jack London parking garages along with fans coming from the West Bay on the Ferry.

    China Basin in San Francisco was a dilapidated area full of old warehouses and homeless encampments. Now, the area is a thriving urban neighborhood. Oakland is way ahead of the game in this respect because much of the infrastructure as far as parking garages, restaurants, and entertainment venues are already in place within I/2 a mile to 3/4 of a mile of the proposed Victory Court site. A new ballpark will just infuse more energy into the area. Struggling Jack London Square would get a tremendous jolt. All of a sudden new hotels on the waterfront become a viable proposition.

    There is no other answer to fill the donut hole in that area of downtown. A Lake Merritt Station TOD and a walkable Victory Court ballpark next to the Lake Merritt Channel, would solidify and bring together the various downtown Oakland neighborhoods into a dynamic and vibrant downtown which would be the envy of the West Coast. Oakland has no other choice. This is an opportunity we can not waste. Let’s do it!

  13. Ralph

    If we build a ballpark at Victory Court, I will buy a Sunday season ticket package. I hope this does not cut into my season package at Berkeley Rep – hint Oakland build me a downtown theatre and performing arts complex.

  14. Livegreen

    I agree with both of u Nav and Ralph. A stadium and TOD would her would bring together Jack London, Lake Merritt and Chinatown. Essentially expanding and densifying (bush-ism?) DT. With he Museum and College already there it would b very attractive.

    Finally it would make the development of Kaiser very attractive. Perhaps into the skating rink of yesteryear and the Arts Complex Ralph so desires?

  15. Navigator

    The Kaiser Convention Center could be used as a skating rink, an Oakland Athlethics hall of fame, and a performing arts complex. I really like the skating rink idea. Can you imagine the romantic views of Lake Merritt from that vantage point?

    The main thing is to get those 30,000 fans to downtown Oakland for 81 dates per year. The skating rink, the performing arts center, the coffee houses, the pubs and the restaurants, will be the byproduct of the foot traffic generated by these 30,000 fans walking from the Lake Merritt Bart Station, from the Amtrak station, from the Jack London Ferry, and from the Jack London parking garages.

  16. Jim Fox

    I think that a ballpark as an economic development idea is terrible. There is a boatload of data on stadia as municipal rip-offs, with unfulfilled promises of tax revenue and jobs. No giveaway of prime land to a baseball team, and definitely no 80 nights of ridiculous traffic and lowered air quality.

    This area can become great with the right mix of residential and commercial buildings. You want a ball park? Fine, go build it on a fringe site, with zero public dollars, maybe abutting the freeway. No prime land giveaways to the sports industrial complex.

  17. livegreen

    Jim, That depends on the nature of the deal. If Public Money is used to build the stadium, you are probably right. But if it’s unused or little used land, then there’s no such cost.

    Also, location matters. DT stadiums have fared a lot better in locations like Baltimore, Houston & SF than they have on remote “fringe sites” a la 1950′s-1970′s.

  18. Max Allstadt

    The best use of the Kaiser Convention Center, and the most viable option, in my opinion, is a joint-use library shared by Laney College and the City.

    With the upcoming improvements to the southern end of the lake, all you would have to do to the outside of the KCC would be to eliminate the north parking lot completely.

    Then, we could have uninterrupted plaza and green space between the lake and the building. Because we’re an outdoor city 7 months a year, we could have an outdoor reading lounge at the foot of the lake.

    Add a library cafe to serve the area, and add three or four free wifi hubs covering the whole lawn, and you’d really have something. A plaza filled with students, a sunny place with an amazing view where people can lounge and eat. And most important, by having the library open directly out onto a pedestrian plaza instead of a parking lot, we create an invitation to use a great public resource.

  19. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with you Max, it could be great. There are two large spaces in the building. I have heard that the Oakland Symphony and other classical music groups would love to be able to use the excellent theater in the west end of the building, as would various Laney performance groups. But that leaves the whole arena area, which is larger. There are also some meeting rooms and such in the western part of the building.

    There are nice postcard views of what the Oakland Auditorium looked like before the roadway was put in. These helped inspire the effort to reconfigure the roads over there.

    To me it is critical that whoever owns it, it remain publicly used and accessible in some way. It is a fine building, paid for by a public bond measure.

  20. Max Allstadt

    I don’t think it’s necessary to completely preserve the interior structure of the Kaiser Convention Center as-is. There could be a very sensitive renovation of the arena to create interior library space.

    About the only demolition you’d have to do to turn an arena into library space would be to flatten floors and perhaps add some large skylights. If we want to split the interior space into multiple stories, we could leave all the existing walls intact and build a second floor in the form of a detached mezzanine: a building within a building, so to speak.

    In my opinion, since the building has been dormant for so long, we aren’t restoring or reviving it. We’re resurrecting it. And with resurrection comes transformation.

    Transformation and hybrids of historic and modern architecture can be done very tastefully, and it can be dazzling. It also provides a greater sense of history by creating space which itself documents the passage of time and the progress of design.

    Check this out:

  21. Navigator

    Those are some spectacular shots of the Kaiser Convention Center. It looks absolutely beautiful without any asphalt between the building and Lake Merritt. It’s a shame we have to have at least six lanes of traffic between KCC and the Lake.

    Jim, as far as a ballpark not doing anything economically for an area, take a look at China Basin in San Francisco. Before AT&T Park was built the area was filled with dilapidated warehouses and homeless encampments. If housing alone were the answer, Jack London Square would be a vibrant and bustling attraction. Despite the hundreds of new housing units in the Jack London Warehouse District, the area is a virtual ghost town most of the time. There is little foot traffic at the Square or on the surrounding streets. Something needs to be done to energize that area. Housing alone isn’t doing it.

  22. livegreen

    I still like Ralph’s & Nav’s vision for a Performing Arts Center. + it would encourage a lot more use & interaction with the community than just a library. & it would stand to better pay for itself than a library, and without yet another library Property Tax.

    Unless the Library be included without crowding out such a center?

    Whatever project is done, I agree with Max about redesigning the interior, within the historical elements. Projects that come to mind are BAM in Brooklyn, the Ferry Building in SF, and the stunning Musee D’Orsay in Paris.

    But how to pay for it? Are there enough Redevelopment Funds to do all these projects, after the City used up a lot of those selling to the RF?

  23. Max Allstadt

    There’s a fund that the Peralta Colleges have access to that I hear is rather flush and can only be used for joint projects with other agencies. Hence the concept of a jointly operated City/Peralta library.

    A library would of course include books and reading areas, but a modern library often also includes lecture and performance space. I haven’t spent enough time inside the Kaiser Center to think through exactly how I’d envision adapting it to become a modern library.

    But yeah, the existence of the joint projects fund is why I prefer this option over a pure performance space. This is fundable. I also prefer it because the location makes much more sense if it includes daytime use.

    It also would be a massive foot traffic magnet, even more so than the reconstruction and green space that’s already on the boards. If we have performances in the small space at night, and have a library drawing daytime foot traffic, we have the potential to tie the east and west sides of the lake together.

    The collateral benefits of that kind of all day intensity of use are promising. Small businesses within a half mile radius will benefit greatly. A plaza at the foot of the lake becomes a potential meeting place for tenants in class A office space.

    And creating a facility where college students share resources with the general public will help keep our city young at heard, and help community college students stay connected to their community.

  24. Naomi Schiff

    Of course, there were some plans drawn up at the time of Measure N. They showed retention of the theater, and reconfig of the arena space into library. But yes, there are other ways to reuse the interior if not enough funding for a library.

  25. livegreen

    Thanks Naomi for being open to compromise. If there were enough RD funds for a library along with the A&E, Galleries & Peralta, I’m open for it. But not Property Taxes, given City and Union mismanagement.

    + given the recession, incomes & the tightness of credit. Home ownership is already under stress if not outright attack.

  26. Max Allstadt

    Again. There is a great gigantic mound of money in the joint projects fund.

    Also, if we move the Oakland Main Library to the KCC, we can sell the main library. Or better yet, sell it to someone who’ll knock it down within X years and build luxury condos for rich people who we can tax.

  27. Livegreen

    Max, Is the CC or CEDA aware of this? If not, when will u inform them?

    & when are u or V going to run?

  28. Max Allstadt

    I don’t know the full details of it, but my understanding is that it’s been under consideration for a while, and yes, people know it’s possible.

    It’s also an election year. Nothing big will get done, because half of our council and our Mayor’s seats are up for election. They’ll be too busy jockeying for position to tackle something so enormous. Peralta’s got it’s own house cleaning to do too.

  29. livegreen

    & the deficit is consuming a lot of their time. But you only answered 1/2 my question…

  30. Max Allstadt

    Exactly, Len. They’re consuming as much time as possible with anything but serious budget decisions. They’re going to procrastinate and then cut half what they need to cut and fill the remaining gap with spurious accounting.

  31. len raphael

    I’m the last person to know or use sports metaphors, but isn’t the cc behavior called “running out the clock” so that each of them can avoid making unpopular decisions before November election?

    except for rk, this is the same cc and mayor who assured us before last cc election that the city’s finances were healthy, and our police chief had matters well in hand.

  32. Robert

    Max, Wouldn’t the current Main Library be eligible for landmark status if the library moved to KCC, ensuring that the building would be saved? It was built back in the 50s.

  33. livegreen

    Has there been any coverage of this non-action in the press? I don’t recall anything. Or will V have time for an update? Your comments, Len & Max, ticked me off.

  34. Naomi Schiff

    The current main opened in 1951, architects quite well-known Miller & Warnecke. I have heard that it was constructed in such a way that it could be enlarged, but I don’t know the details of that. It very likely would be eligible for some level of historic protection. It was built with bond money and stands on public land, of course.
    All this does not mean that it could not be re-used. The green thing to do, as well as the historically and architecturally sensitive thing, is to reuse substantial older buildings. The current building is in the moderne style, and makes an excellent companion to the county courthouse (the older one, not the hideous newer one) diagonally across Oak Street. As the Measure DD 12th St. project moves forward, it would be great to have a community discussion about ideas and visions for the area, including its collection of important civic buildings.

  35. Max Allstadt

    The only thing the library does for the courthouse is provide contrast. We should not preserve shitty architecture just because it makes nice architecture nearby look like great architecture.

    Does anybody actually like that thing for aesthetics, rather than for ideological reasons?

    Incidentally, it isn’t green to keep inner urban areas short and refuse to demolish buildings simply because they’re old. A short old building is energy inefficient because it’s old, and because it’s short. You’d probably break even on energy use within a decade if you leveled that library and replaced it with an 18 story tower built to LEED standards.

  36. annalee allen

    I absolutely agree with Daniel re: the main library. This is a wonderful albeit under appreciated building. I realize it is not to everybody’s taste, but architectural historians consider it an excellent example of post-war Moderne style. It does compliment, very favorably, its neighbor, the county courthouse, which also is known nationally as one of the most architecturally significent buildings of its type. Under no circumstances should the library be replaced with some sort of tower. Thank you for sharing the link w/the image of the library, those twin entry murals are iconic, maybe folks will start looking at it with new eyes, I hope so.

  37. Max Allstadt

    If everything that is an example of a particular movement is going to be eligible for preservation the day it turns 50, this city is going to stagnate. Perhaps there’s viable reuse for the library, but seriously, calling it beautiful is a stretch. When people want to clad a building that size in nothing but plain flat stucco today, the planning commission doesn’t sign off on the project.

    Everything looks beautiful in wide angle photographs taken on a sunny day. The building linked to bellow, in Temescal, is an excellent example of late 70s, early 80s Post Modern californian design. If it doesn’t get torn down by 2030, I’m sure there will be people clamoring to preserve it, because it’ll be 50 years old.,+Oakland,+Alameda,+California+94612&ll=37.837908,-122.263635&spn=0,0.0012&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=37.837908,-122.263635&panoid=Vqkc8gDykaE-LZxQvKZ9dA&cbp=12,3.22,,0,-7.77

  38. Daniel Levy


    I think there is a big difference between the building you linked to and the Oakland library. I am not one to think a building is great just because it is an excellent example of a particular style. Certain styles are just bad. Instead, I am just looking at the building itself outside of its context of art history and I have a nice reaction to it.

    Have you ever been inside? There is a sense of warmth and a feeling of use that is hard to come by in many newer and more sterile buildings.

    If the library is not that great then what would you envision being there?

  39. Max Allstadt

    Anyway, the point I was making is that there is a viable option available to reuse the Kaiser Center. I’m far more interested in that than demolishing anything.

    I do think that the Lake Merritt Area plan is a great opportunity to undo some of the braindead downzoning in the area that was supported by Jean Quan and Nancy Nadel (They call themselves green: density is green, ladies.).

    Quan even has an op-ed out for Earth Day, singing the praises of california’s SB375, which mandates a lot of urban density. If Quan loves urban density so much, let’s hope she’ll vote for more height near the lake and downtown.

  40. Max Allstadt

    Maybe it’s just a generational thing. I’m 34. My associations and childhood memories 50′s institutional buildings is generally dull and, well, institutionally oriented.

    Again, I invite folks to look at the main libraries of Seattle, Vancouver, and Salt Lake City. That’s my idea of inviting space.

    As for what to do with that location? It’ll be a while before we have to decide. There could be a civic use for it. Or it might also be an easy sell to a corporation for office space. But really, the best use for most of the area along the lake is high density residential.

    Certainly that use needs other services within it, but I really hope we can undo the anti-environmental height limits that the council was pressured into signing off on by selfish neighbors who already have nice places to live near the lake. If it’s such a nice place to live, we should put a lot more people there.

  41. livegreen

    Common guys, we can’t do everything. U can’t say ‘the current library is falling apart & we need to move it over to beautiful HJK”, and then say you want to fix the old library up! If that’s the case, leave it there & save us a bunch of money.

    This is the recipe for not getting anything done. Besides the RF are already being raided for the current GPF so where’s the money going to come from? Living on earth and, more exactly in Oakland, we simply can’t do everything. & the city needs to both bring in more revenue (residential & commercial real estate & more retail) AND retain/relocate light industrial/mixed use businesses (for both tax # & our employment base) being developed for other projects.

    You’ve got to have a specific use for a mediocre building to preserve it, or it will stay empty, unused & wasted for even longer than a beautiful building like HJK has. UNLESS the building were planned to be built ON TOP OF (like Grand Central) but just never was…

  42. Daniel Levy

    I agree that we do need some more density, but I think you can be green and not super dense. You can have small towns that are not dense at all, but yet they can be very green places to live. In my mind, there is a huge difference between low density and sprawl. Oakland can be green while maintaining its laid back character. I prefer Oakland to San Francisco because it is not overwhelming and dense. There is room for me to breath.

    I think greenness is more of a lifestyle thing, the way you do things – not polluting, not always needing something new, not wasting. If you have all of those things, it doesn’t matter of you have a bunch of people living close together, or people living farther apart. People living farther apart might have space for urban farming, where as dense communities might need to import their produce from farther away. But I do agree that in our world where people don’t really stay in their small towns, but daily travel all around the region, some level of density would be good as we can provide higher quality services to people.

    I think that before we knock anything down, we should look at all those empty lots and surface parking lots we have sitting around and fill those in. There is no reason to knock anything down when we have extra unused space basically next door. Infill is the way to go!

    I think it would also be great instead of trying to make the land adjacent to freeways more pleasant we just got rid of the freeways in our inner city altogether. Sure it is fine to have freeways between cities, but inside of cities freeways are horrible. The freeways in Oakland are not so much for Oakland residents as they are mostly for people coming in from the burbs in Contra Costa and out by Livermore. In Oakland, you would not have to sacrifice much if we got rid of 13, 580 and 24 and put in housing/services and some good public transit on those corridors instead.

    Plus, getting rid of the freeways would prompt more people to live in the city (as it would be closer) and thus would help provide demand to fill in some of those vacant lots.

  43. Naomi Schiff

    The statistics are that re-using a building is often more efficient than demolishing and replacing (I can provide citations if desired, but won’t bulk up this post here). New buildings take from 40 to 60 (!) years to make back their energy cost in LEED savings, according to a range of statistics, depending upon which you prefer to believe. The Green Building Ordinance forwarded uanimously last night (Yay!) by the Planning Commission uses the 40-year figure.

    (Plus, given our recent experience, there’s no guarantee that we’ll be making big bucks on new luxury high rises in the short-term future, so one might want to think about re-uses or expanded uses that would avoid blight. It might be nice to think of a public use (a children’s library?) or a private one (convert to office or residential units rather than demolish and rebuild? There are a lot of lawyers who work in that part of town!)

    It might be smart for proponents to again investigate the cost to convert the Henry J. K. to library use; I recall that one reason some opposed Measure N was its expense. But there may be new approaches that might be less costly to accomplish, in the revised building environment we are now experiencing. Construction costs on the 12th St. project went down due to the economic fluctuations.

    I am not sure what “downzoning” you are blaming Nadel and Quan for. The old general plan called for civic uses in the area from the library over to the Henry J. K. auditorium. More recently, the planning dept. proposed and city council passed a temporary UPzoning of much of the Chinatown area. Now the Lake Merritt Plan is supposed to be taking all this up, with an eye to including local residents more fully in the discussion.

  44. livegreen

    Note: We are not talking here about the “laid back” part of Oakland, we’re talking about the most dense part of it. We need both. Also, the freeways aren’t our choice so why bother going so far afield? Maybe we can start talking now about re-planning the whole region while we’re at it.

    Look, I agree if we can re-use it CAN be more environmentally friendly. (Less energy and materials that have to be trashed, retrofitting, etc.). But we can’t just blanket say “its an old building, lets save it”, even & esp when there’s no existing plan. Saving for the sake of saving.

    We have much higher needs, and the City already can’t take care of the HJK building which is much more beautiful. We just don’t have the money.

  45. Naomi Schiff

    PS: Max, about the building on 51st near Temescal Library. No problem about that one. We can already see that it will not be a landmark. It is very badly constructed out of mediocre materials, and won’t likely last. The garage that the same builder built at the exact same time, next door to my house, had to be entirely reconstructed after very few years, due to terrible construction, leakage, rot, and deteriorating stucco. The date is late 1980s or early 1990s, I believe. It is simple woodframe construction with elements stuck on to yer basic box to get that quasi-postmodern look. There’s a similar t hing on MacArthur below Telegraph. I don’t think you will find anyone claiming it as a good example of its style, and because of its inferior materials, it has nowhere near the quality of the main library building. (I am not sure it had the attentions of an architect; it may be a design-build thing.) This was at the time that Ace Architects was getting started. While some vernacular buildings do rise to a high level of excellence, your example is not one of them.

  46. Max Allstadt

    I’m talking about the areas within the Lake Merritt Area which were downzoned to 55 feet as part of the zoning update. It was a more general comment.

    As for the building climate in the short-term, you always bring up the short term. Everybody knows that the short term outlook for highrise construction is bleak. But things like area plans and specific plans and zoning updates have impacts that last for decades.

    When I think about planning, I prefer to consider the consequences and precedents we set in terms of what they might mean in the 50 year range. Barring any unforseen falling pianos or tiger attacks, I expect to be alive in 2060, and I want my city to be much taller and much greener by then.

    As for the old general plan, SB375 is likely to trigger a major revamp of our general plan. I’m looking forward to it. We will have a state mandate for density, height, and innovations like BRT. We already have a state mandate requiring us to add 15,000 units of housing in the coming decade.

    All of this adds up to a lot of growth. And because SB375 also aims to curb sprawl, that means a lot of growth within the CBD. It also means that it will be harder for groups like STAND to demand EIRs for everything they hate.

    In short, the no-growth “I got here first, go away” attitude towards new housing construction that we’ve seen from many neighborhood groups will soon be in direct conflict with a powerful new state law. That attitude has been pandered to repeatedly by Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan, and I’m really glad that they’ll soon have their hands tied by SB375.

    SB375 is fantastic news. It’s great news to hear on Earth Day too.

  47. Naomi Schiff

    I’m interested in a liveable community, Max, and that includes retaining historic buildings, making sure there is open space within cities as well as around them, and having a realistic approach to building new housing. Many luxury condos are less dense than the smaller buildings with smaller units that they replace. We should preserve economic and social diversity, not just turn downtown into a gentrification zone with no soul and no arts community. We should be building on those surface parking lots rather than demolishing serviceable and reusable buildings, many of which already provide housing to thousands of people.

  48. Ralph

    I believe all that needs to be said has been said by Max.

    You know a library is designed well when you never want to leave it. The link Max provided is an excellent example of what a library can be. The current rotting main library is a disgrace.

    We need more height around the lake. And I really wish people would stop with this crap about high-rises not bringing us any revenue in the next few years. We get it. The housing market collapsed and people are unemployed. But we are not building for the next few years, we are developing for the long run. So building something just to build something is a waste of resources.

  49. Andrew

    I walked through this area Monday and again yesterday. Victory Court would be a splendid place for a stadium, because otherwise it’s a wasteland and a seismic disaster waiting to happen. The few blocks east of 880, Oak and Fallon, are packed with funky old houses, which I adore, but the noise and grit make it a hellhole. High-rise residences would help. I wish the little Civic Center Lodge (Fallon and 6th) and its tall, tall palm trees could be whisked up and set down somewhere better.

  50. Naomi Schiff

    It is arguable whether we “need” more height around the lake. Many would disagree with that. We could argue it, but it has little to do with the original topic here, which is the Lake Merritt BART area plan.

    I don’t think anybody on this list or anywhere else is proposing “building something just to build something” or maybe I missed it?

    I supported Measure N as did 64% of voters, so I think you have agreement that the main library needs improvement either in a renovation on the present site, or elsewhere, or something. But there may be several paths to that. The library commissioned a study of alternatives, at the time, and you might find it interesting. What I think Max and I agree on here is that combining efforts with Peralta Colleges might be a way to get the funding needed for a major construction project, possibly at the HJK building.

  51. livegreen

    & not building something for the sake of not building something is also a waste of resources.

  52. Ralph

    Naomi, what is the social diversity that is lost with the high rises?

    As is the current DTO lacks a real arts scene, I would appreciate more. I think developing DTO will help.

  53. livegreen

    So when will the CC get on with this? I know they’re not on the same timeline as this discussion, but they’ve been sitting on their butts long enough with HJK. If this Paralta fund has been there then why hasn’t this been looked at yet?

    Even better, how does this discussion get taken to them now so we can action started?

  54. J

    Im just going to throw this out there and you all call tell me if it sounds good or not. I feel it would be a good idea to build a new modern Library on the surface lot of the post office not that far from the present library. Maybe put housing over the library to increase its use or possibly office space, ether or. Then we could reuse the current library building an make it into a museum of some sort. Modern art, classical art, ect. Remodel the HJK center in to a science and arts museum similar to, lets say, the palace of fine arts exploritoruim or something. We could use the stage in the HJK center as a supplement to the Fox and the Paramount. This would greatly increase the cities cultural stock all at once. Adding a new modern main library, 2 new large museums, and an additional performance venue. Does this sound good Yay or Nay.

  55. Naomi Schiff

    There is already a discussion going on, in the background. My guess is that until the administration changeover at Peralta Colleges, it may be that they won’t make a decision. Folks could enquire with the Peralta Board if interested.

    Re: economic diversity–Highrise construction is very expensive, and tends to yield very expensive units as a result.

    Re: developing/not developing. As stated above, I think we should build on some of our many empty or car-filled lots before contemplating demolishing re-usable buildings.There are approved projects for some CBD sites, and no proposals at all for some of the others.

    Livegreen, I don’t oppose all construction, and have never said that. In fact, I have supported quite a few new construction projects, and Oakland Heritage Alliance has too. OHA has worked productively and cooperatively with many developers, both of new and rehabbed projects, and we have quite a number of members who are in the development and real estate professions.

  56. Max Allstadt

    I never said we should build something just to build something.

    The reasons we need to allow tall buildings near the lake are very clear:

    1. Tall is green. No really it is. Because NYC is dense and tall, if it was a state, it would be #1 in energy efficiency.

    2. The area near the lake is the most desirable spot for highrise residential development in the entire city. It will be the first place to recover from the building bust.

    3. If we don’t build dense luxury units, over time, the flatlands of Oakland will gentrify because the rich and the upper middle class will spread out. Our city is one of the poorest in the region. Bringing ourselves up the area average income will require attracting more people with incomes above Oakland’s average income.

    We can attract them to an area that is already fairly well to do, or we can watch them slowly displace people in poorer areas like Prescott Point and North Oakland. Take a look at Rich St. in Temescal. If we There are a lot of blocks in North Oakland that will start to look like that, full of manicured lawns and BMWs. NIMBYism in wealthier area leads to gentrification in poorer areas. We must force the better off neighborhoods grow if we want to avoid this.

    4. The amount of tax revenue that the city can generate from a single highrise is astounding. It’s also efficient. One project, one or two planners, a dozen hearings, and great piles of fees. Done. At 55 feet, we only generate a quarter of the revenue that we get from a 200 foot tall building, but we use the same amount of staff time, and the same amount of land.

  57. Annalee Allen

    the rotting main library is a disgrace? I don’t know how you can support such a statement. I use it all the time and find it a) pleasant to be in b)helpful as far as staff goes and c)extremely useful as far as finding what I need (usually history topics). I couldn’t disagree more with that statement! Since it is very unlikely that Oakland will be able to construct a new library in our lifetime, I think we should focus on appreciating what we have, and start supporting it as much as possible. Believe me, we could have far worse.

  58. Max Allstadt Post author

    Again. There is a joint project fund with lots of money in it, and existing planning documents with preliminary outlines of what a KCC transformed into a library would look like. It is very very possible. I disagree with Naomi many subjects, but frankly if this project has a snowballs chance in hell, I expect to be loudly cooperating with Naomi and others on it.

    I don’t know about rotting, but seriously, check out what other cities have, compared to us:

    Salt Lake City:
    Kansas City:
    Ballard, WA:

  59. gem s

    “1. Tall is green. No really it is. Because NYC is dense and tall, if it was a state, it would be #1 in energy efficiency. ”

    I’m a fan of appropriate high density. But saying buildings are green just because they are tall is not even remotely correct. Nor does “green” start and end at a building’s boundary. The things that make NYC more energy efficient as a region are: high density plus local jobs plus transit You don’t get that just by building a high rise, particularly if everyone that lives in it drives their car to their job in Emeryville. Any building around the Lake is going to be higher than it ought to be, because the high water table prevents building underground parking at a reasonable cost, if a all. (Naturally it would be far more “green” to not have auto parking, but developers can’t make all the money they want without it. ) That means more resources used just because of less ideal conditions (such as a low water table), which is an immediate strike against “green”. Another problem with development around the Lake is that there is no mitigation for runoff. Pollutants in runoff are much, much higher in urban areas than in places with less concrete. Lake Merritt already has a severe pollution problem, and even if your skyscraper is LEED Platinum, if you create more auto traffic around the Lake you are contributing to its degradation, and that is not “green”.

    Of course, if you’re doing things properly, you’re going to be weighting all the variables for each individual site and proposal. Sure, it’s a little more costly and time consuming to gather and evaluate data, but there are programs that do this. So I would never say that you can’t build tall buildings next to the Lake EVER- it’s just a completely baloney argument to say tall buildings are automatically green, and that makes building them here OK.

    My main point is, there is nothing simple about sustainable planning and building. If you’re doing it right, you’re evaluating every site for development on a case-by-case basis. If you just stick a tall, LEED certified building on a lot and call it “green” without examining traffic, transit, shade, wind, livability, neighborhood scale, and street interface, you’re just continuing the same old 20th century practices gilded with a bright green brush.

  60. Ralph

    “build to build” explained – I thought I read somewhere above that even if after analysis the best use of a space is high density high rises, that it would be preferred that something still be done with the space today….only thing i do know it was not in response to something max wrote; so, if I misread someone’s stmt, my bad – i only read with one eye.

    rotting may be an exaggeration but the library is a disgrace… the church library made me just a little moist, while our library makes me want to puke…we should have far better and i will do everything that i can to see that my dream for a state of the art, curl up in the stacks and make your eyes swell with tears of joy library comes to fruition.

    Naomi, don’t most developer’s build a housing community knowing what they need to make it profitable. And buyers aren’t going to buy one or two $600K homes in a development where a majority of the homes sell for <$250K. As a result, you end up in a situation where most incomes fall within a predictable range. So it would seem that by definition most developments are economically segregated?

    I don't think high rises limit social diversity, in whatever manner you define it. 90 – 95% of Oakland residents already drink from the same fountain.

  61. elmanogonsalves

    The great cities of the World generally are not known for high rises. No one goes to Paris, Rome, Lisbon, or London to look at the high rises in those cities. People go to those cities to look at the old stuff. Frankly, as someone whose been to Europe, they know how to create inviting cities with plazas and pedestrians only zones with plenty of interesting architecture and plenty of sunshine. American cities with their cold high rises aren’t even close. Lisbon and Madrid are great examples of great cities which preserve their architecture. In the United States we have the taller is better mentality. We have so many soulless cities like Dallas and Houston full of huge high rises and no character.

  62. J

    Europe isn’t the only place in the world with cities. Asia and South East Asia have a number of grand cities build around large skyscrapers and yet still mange to maintain their character. Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong very much so cities. Im not saying that high rises are the only way, but high rises don’t necessarily destroy the character of a city. Further more London has several high rises.

  63. J

    The building i the center of that picture is actually a proposed building and not part of the actual skyline.

  64. livegreen

    Elma, Are you saying San Francisco & NY are not great cities of the world? They & Chicago to have both great DT’s AND great neighborhoods.

    Re. Europe, just because Americans go there mostly to see old, doesn’t mean their own citizens don’t appreciate new. They just don’t have as much of a choice because it is much older than we are. They simply have more constraints. (&, BTW, that’s why they like to come to NY & SF).

    So while we might not go to London or Paris for their sky scrapers, some Europeans live there exactly because they have that variety. London has lots of sky scrapers, and Paris has La Defense. Originally poorly conceived, it was much improved a decade ago and is now a center of modern living & business:

    I was very surprised when I went a couple years ago, thinking how awful it had been 20 years ago. My french hosts assured me it was much improved. They were right.

    The key is good design, modern or historical. Not simply modern vs. old (or architectural “you’re either for us or against us”).

  65. Ralph

    LG is right. It is not this or that. It is this and that. And it is easy to make a case against skyscrapers if you use Dallas and Houston, but you can make an equally compelling for case when you consider NYC, Chicago, Denver, nad Baltimore to name a few.

  66. Ralph

    Max, OMG – that is indeed the finest in library porn, ever! We definitely need to raise the roof and take advantage of our natural beauty.

  67. Max Allstadt

    One more thing about where to build.

    I agree with Naomi, we should make it a priority to build on vacant lots. Sometimes we should level unremarkable one story buildings that aren’t on the cultural heritage survey.

    Guess what? The reason the proposed View Corridors in that neighborhood exist is precisely because there are vacant lots and one story buildings underneath the line of sight to the Trib tower and City Hall. If we want to build on vacant lots in the area, we’re going to have to abandon the view corridor proposal.

  68. Naomi Schiff

    Luckily the view corridors can be narrow and they have a rising height line which would allow buildings to step up as you get further away from the viewpoint origin.

    There are relatively few dvelopers actually constructing very tall buildings. Most recent construction and some of the approved-but-not-yet-built projects are medium tall, not very tall. It seems that often the economics are that Forest City-like size, staying 8 stories or less. Less construction cost. Less risky.

    There were two proposed projects that were taller, along 13th Street–one on the above-mentioned lot across from the main library and the 13th st. post office–but they didn’t happen. It was the two approximately 6-story ones on 14th that actually got built.

    Seems like the more modest projects are more likely to be completed. Now if City Walk would just walk (or skip or run or something)! I do so dislike that white plastic look.

    I would like to see some infill around the many bank buildings in the Webster St. area and over toward Broadway, so that more density would accrue to the massive city investment in Uptown.

  69. Max Allstadt

    Again, you’re talking about now, and planning is about the next decade or so. Using the current housing slump as a justification for policy that will hold for ten or fifteen years isn’t a valid argument. It’s a spurious argument, and you’ve been using it a lot.

    The view corridors would yield maximum heights between Broadway and Franklin of around 12 stories, and it goes down about one story for every block you move toward the lake. There are 7 or 8 blocks between the lake and the view targets. By contrast, if we considered views from West Oakland parks, we’d be dealing with only 4 blocks, many of which already have highly protected historic structures like the Unitarian Church and the African American History Museum.

    12 stories is a wildly inappropriate maximum for the heart of downtown. It directly contradicts the general plan. The process, which has involved very little outreach compared to the City Wide Zoning Update, may also be illegal. It is certainly improper. What’s happening is that Historic Preservation is being used as an excuse for an end-run around the proper process for re-zoning. And much of the east side of downtown has already been downzoned once.

    Forest City, incidentally, is 5 stories, concrete podium and wood frame above. To go any taller in residential construction, you have to use steel, and steel rarely pencils out until you get well over 12 stories. The failure of CityWalk is a great example of steel’s cost being unbearable. They had to cut corners, and that got them in trouble.

    So effectively, the corridors create 5 story residential buildings in the CORE of downtown. Commercial Buildings are more variable, but still, mandating that buildings on Broadway or on Webster be less than half the height of the Tribune Tower (which is 300ft, about)… it’s crazy.

    And again, not just crazy, but potentially a huge liability for the city. On top of that, we have planners coming up with suggestions that clearly contradict the General Plan. And we’ll also have to do parcel by parcel zoning, which is also illegal. That means that the only way you can legally downzone and create view corridors is to downzone whole blocks, which is an even greater insult to the general plan.

    The corridors, can’t be narrow, by the way, or their targets end up in shadows as soon as anything gets built near the corridor. All corridors would have to be between 200 and 300 feet wide. Combined, they amount to 64 acres and scores of parcels. Some parcels are entitled already. Some are highly developable and have already been designated as opportunity sites.

    In short: The whole plan is nuts. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some 3d flyovers to create.

  70. Naomi Schiff

    Perhaps part of the difference is that I have seen how long, start to finish, some of these things take. I am exactly thinking of ten-15 years as the likely time horizon of what we can plan for and execute before the next general plan revision. Of course we also need to look at the longer term.

    But it is a mistake to be overly concerned with high-rise. It is possible to stall projects by advocating for and zoning for high rise, just as much as it is to advocate for too-low heights.

    We need incentives to build at various scales, and we should be sure to allow for all of them. Even in Manhattan there are more low buildings than skyscrapers.

  71. livegreen

    Naomi, True except Manhattan’s low apartment buildings (often 15-30 stories) are our sky scrapers…

  72. Max Allstadt

    Yeah. Technically, Oakland doesn’t have a single building that’s tall enough to be considered a skyscraper.

    And the Manhattan comment is misleading. Manhattan is over 20 miles long and 3 miles wide. That’s more land area than all of Oakland. Our CBD is about one square mile.

    So when you say that Manhattan has more lowrise than highrise, that’s true. But Manhattan includes all sorts of lowrise neighborhoods like Morningside Heights, Harlem, Chelsea and others. At the same time, Midtown is wall to wall tall, as is most of lower Manhattan.

  73. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, there are two areas with most of the high concentrations of towers in Manhattan. The rest is lower, and ranges in height from considerable areas of three-story brownstones, on up. There are some one and two-story buildings too.

    My gut feeling was that Oakland has way more territory than stated above, so just for the record, I checked wikipedia:

    Manhattan land area: 23 sq miles (wikipedia, crediting us census bureau)

    Oakland land area: 56 sq miles

    Now, just to get back to the main point, here, which I think is that some accuse me of opposing all useful development, and I maintain that some are overly excited about building highrises, though some highrises are just fine, here are a couple of points where we do seem to agree:

    1) economic development is a good thing.
    2) we have empty lots and underutilized lots where it may make good sense to build
    3) some of us like historic buildings
    4) some of us like views and the concept of view corridors, some of us don’t or question which ones are important
    5) many if not most of us seem to question the need for myriad surface parking lots
    6) the relative merits of high rise construction, midrise, and lowrise are worth talking about, but no one form needs to be the only type under discussion.

    Within these points, I think we’ll find there is lots and lots of common ground, and that if someone has the money, a pro forma that works, and the desire to try to construct a project, perhaps they should build on some of it. My personal hope is that that can happen without diminishing Oakland’s pretty wonderful stock of varied and interesting, reusable already-constructed buildings.

  74. Max Allstadt

    Manhattan = 1/2 land area of Oakland. Oops. My bad. I multiplied the longest and widest points, and over estimated.

    Manhattan = 4 times the population of Oakland.

    You don’t get to use a place with 8 times our population density to make the case for short buildings.

  75. Naomi Schiff

    I wasn’t making a case. I was stating the land area. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

    Just walked through the strange midurban desolation that is the abandoned central “bus plaza” of long bygone times in the no-man’s land in the middle of 12th St. near the auditorium. On May 6 at 2 pm is the groundbreaking for the long-awaited biggest Measure DD project. We are going to get a big new park area, a more pleasant and comprehensible roadway (which will accommodate the BRT route), terrific pedestrian and bike access around the lake, at-grade 12th st. crossings, and walking access to the channel. Even the birds will benefit. I am so excited that I plan to document the deteriorated Frikstad maze a bit more completely, just so I can remember that strange superannuated urban ruin when it is gone. Sometimes Oakland gets it right. I am thrilled that after years of citizen advocacy, endless discussion, a ballot campaign, and major planning efforts of several kinds, it is really happening. Thank you fellow citizens!

  76. annalee allen

    Not to beat a dead horse, but the current library complex has a sunken courtyard next to the West Auditorium, and if better cared for, it could be used for out door activities, perhaps with a coffee cart, chairs, etc. BTW NYTimes obit today for Carl Warneke, who was the son of the Warneke (of Miller & Warneke) firm that designed Oak library. Carl was responsible for Kennedy Memorial in Arlington, as well as many other projects in 50s and 60s.

  77. Daniel Levy

    Re: the 12th Street Dam project, what is going to happen to the cool old black and white signs? I think they are really cool and should not be thrown away.

    Maybe they can be put somewhere as art or given to the Oakland museum?

  78. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, I love it. It saves you from the dreadfulness of arriving at 14th Street instead of 12th Street, perish the thought! Almost as bad as arriving in Malibu instead of Hollywood!

  79. Elmano


    I’ll have to say that in my opinion San Francisco is not “a great city.” I know that we in the Bay Area are told over and over how “great” San Francisco is , but frankly the interior of San Francisco is cold, impersonal, intimidating, dirty, congested, full of wind tunnels, etc..

    By contrast, Lisbon, Portugal has a bridge designed by the same company which built the Golden Gate Bridge which is identical to the Golden Gate, along with having a historic downtown full of amazing low rise historic architecture, grand public squares, cable cars, trolley’s, and funiculars climbing steep hills.

    Madrid is also an amazing city full of open sunny plazas and pedestrian zones surrounded by magnificent low rise architecture.

    My favorite city in the United States is Boston because of the tremendous architecture in the city’s North End Italian neighborhood. Although, Boston has also done a good job with their modern downtown architecture. The building of the “Big Dig” under downtown Boston has allowed for a wonderful park between downtown, the North End and the waterfront.

  80. Livegreen

    Elmano, Thank u for the beautiful pictures of Lisbon! I have heard many great things about Lisbon & Portugal. (Besides the British who are often talking about the golf :) Re San Francisco, my point was that many do, and it is a higher rise City than Oakland. Many mor multiple story appartment buildings (and even houses). Come to think of it even centuries old Lisbon seemed to have that.

    Many of the new apartment buildings here are only 5-15 stories. Sounds like low rise to me, yet they still go opposed in Oakland in part for being too tall. Low rise in Oakland means one story to many.

  81. Daniel Levy

    This is a bit off topic, but:

    I would hardly describe the bridge in Lisbon as identical to the GG Bridge. The GG Bridge is waaaaaay more spectacular. Compare its setting, design, everything. I think the Bay Bridge is also more stunning than the bridge in Lisbon, especially from the Embarcadero.

    As one who tries to downplay San Francisco’s qualities in favor of Oakland’s, I still think San Francisco is “a great city.” I would hardly call it cold, impersonal, congested, dirty, etc. SF is those things in many places, but there are so many great parts of the city that run counter to what you say. How are the streetcars on Market, the entire Embarcadero with the piers and views of the water, Haight Street, Union sq, 24th Street, GG park, the Museums and so much more. They are not cold, or impersonal. And this is not to mention the region outside of San Francisco at all: there are so many gems like the EB Parks which are so close, Marin, and all the outdoor stuff that are basically next door.

    I do agree that Lisbon is very intact historically, and wouldn’t it be nice if SF and OAK had all of their historic buildings too, but I think that would make SF/OAK boring. Lisbon, although historic, looks monotonous. Although we have made horrible decisions in terms of what we have torn down in the past (aka the Fox Theater, the Key System, and soon to be gone Transbay terminal and East Span, building surface parking lots), it is cool that our cities have different styles mixed in all together.

    Look at City Center in Oakland or the big green building at 14th and Broadway in Oakland. Sure we could have old buildings there, which would be great, but those buildings are cool, and add to the diversity and variety of the area, which makes it more interesting. And they, as bad as they are, maybe surface parking lots make me appreciate the parts of the city that weren’t turned into parking lots even more. In Lisbon, everything looks the same, static and unlike the US where are very dynamic, which I like.

  82. Elmano


    I agree, San Francisco has beautiful views and the waterfront is open and beautiful. I just don’t find the interior of San Francisco very appealing. Frankly, I like Oakland better.

    I posted those pictures so that we can see both sides of the argument as far as high rises vs low and mid rise architecture. Personally, I love open central public squares with pedestrian zones, statues, and fountains.

    Oakland has an interesting plaza similar to what a European city might have, except that it’s empty during the weekends and after office workers go home. Frank Ogawa Plaza would be an interesting and vibrant area if it were surrounded by beautiful five to ten story apartment buildings instead of government buildings which empty out after 5:00 PM.

    However, I do like the look of the plaza because of the older buildings which were preserved in the area. We have that interesting red brick facade building along with City Hall, the Rotunda, and the other older mid rise buildings near the San Pablo triangle.

    Just something to think about while we debate height limits.

  83. Ralph

    I like Lisbon as much as the next person, but it is a city built on hills. And while they are mostly low rises, they are visually pleasing as they rise up from the water. I also like the walkabililty of Lisbon, one feels close to everything, but there are some in Oakland who would strike you down for even thinking of that type of density.

    And a minor correction – the bridge to which you refer was built by the same company that built the Bay Bridge (note the similiarities) but it has the color of the Golden Gate.