Lakeshore under seige – from frozen yogurt!

I never cease to be amazed by the hostility people in some of Oakland’s commercial districts have towards shops. The most stunning example of this would undoubtedly have to be the activists in the Grand Lake neighborhood, who, with the support of District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan, succeeded in preventing Out of the Closet opening on Lakeshore and also stopped a Fatburger from opening up in the abandoned Kwikway just a few years ago. And is the neighborhood better for it? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that one.

Anyway, with this history in mind, it didn’t surprise me at all when I started hearing complaints a few months ago about a proposed new frozen yogurt shop wanting to open in an empty space on Lakeshore (between Arizmendi and the Lakeshore Cafe). There are already too many frozen dessert shops! Nobody in the Grand Lake survey from 2 years ago said they wanted to see a yogurt shop! The competition could put the gelato shop out of business! A new yogurt shop will destroy all the businesses on Lakeshore! They should open an adorable butcher shop that sells only the highest quality organic meat but has super cheap prices instead!

I just rolled my eyes, and figured it would go away. After all, as best as I could tell, there were only a handful of people on the anti-yogurt shop bandwagon, and it didn’t seem like the rest of the neighborhood was finding their arguments particularly persuasive. So then I stopped hearing about it and I kind of figured it was all over.

Not yet! At tomorrow’s meeting (PDF), the Oakland Planning Commission will hear an appeal of the yogurt shop’s approval (PDF). Why can anyone appeal a yogurt shop to the City in the first place, you ask? It’s because businesses of the type “limited service restaurant and cafe” require a minor conditional use permit to open in this type of retail district.

Anyway, the appeal, as it turns out, is not being filed by random angry neighbors because they’d rather have a fantasy butcher. It has been filed by the owner of another frozen yogurt shop in the neighborhood. But he’s not appealing because he wants to shut out the competition. No, he’s objecting to the new yogurt shop on public safety and public health grounds:

I disagree with your decision for the new yogurt shop. The space to open the self-service, do-it-yourself frozen yogurt store at 3261 Lakeshore Ave between Arizmendi Bakery and Lakeshore Cafe within that compact area would not generate a large enough span for pedestrians to safely cross that active space without accidental incidents that could incite. Especially in the weekend, the Pedestrians would feel crowded, uncomfortable, and possibly cause some sort of conflict to arise. An elderly, handicap or a mom with a stroller would have a difficult time passing and could have the likelihood of being knocked over, shoved into others, or a car.

The self-service, do-it-yourself frozen yogurt store design to open in this small space is not big enough for tables and chairs for the costumers to sit comfortable. As customers eat on and go, the street waste and trash rates would also increase because of the higher concentration of inhabitants which would lead to foul odors and possible health hazards. This will not serve Lakeshore community as it claims under Attachment A. Please review this appeal.

Unsurprisingly, staff does not find the objections persuasive, and recommends that the Planning Commission deny the appeal. I’m guessing the Commission will agree. So watch out, Lakeshore! Frozen yogurt and the accompanying foul odors are on the way! Hold onto your strollers! You don’t want to get knocked into a car.

61 thoughts on “Lakeshore under seige – from frozen yogurt!

  1. Karen Smulevitz

    Holy sprinkle toppings! What a lame-brained argument to posit against competition. Hordes of pushing, shoving yogurt-jonesing hooligans will form a critical mass in front of a new shop, blocking mothers with strollers and knocking handicapped persons into traffic while brawling with passers-by and dripping melting dairy product all over the sidewalk and filling the gutters with unrecycled waste! The horror of it all! I’ve been in the established yogurt store a few times, and the owner has something to worry about. It’s a nondescript, boring place.

  2. Max Allstadt

    The city’s micromanagement of commerce has got to stop.

    The only reason we require planning permits for so many things, particularly in retail districts, is that there is an oral minority of control freaks in this city, and our politicians don’t have the guts to say “enough it enough”.

    On top of that, the fee to appeal planning department decisions is too low. The yogurt-slinging douchebag who appealed the permits of his new competitor wouldn’t be doing this if it was a more expensive process.

    When this permit is granted, and when this yogurt shop opens up, I hope you’ll all join me in getting a cup to go. Then we can go eat it in front of the shop that belongs to the obstructionist jackass who filed the appeal.

  3. Mary Hollis


    Permits and licenses exist to placate megalomaniac petty bureaucrats, of course.

    But they also exist to provide the City with revenue.

    Aside from maybe law and medicine, I see very little reason to license or have permits for any business venture. But of course every city is on this bandwagon. It’s easy money.

    If a yogurt shop wants to open, let it open.

  4. Max Allstadt


    I don’t think this is about the bureaucrats alone. And it certainly isn’t about the ones dealing with this particular yogurt shop – they’ve pretty clearly said the shop should be there.

    What’s happened is that over decades, short sighted politicians have added a little regulation every time a small group of citizens had some sort of grievance.

    The problem that happens in planning and zoning is that the Council’s first instinct is to try to solve any sort of issue about geography by directing the Planning Department to study the issue and suggest a solution.

    While I value our planning department, they often are tasked with solving problems that somebody else should deal with. Planners only empowered to solve problems with codes and zones and permits and such. But in many cases, those are the wrong tools for the job.

    For instance, on College Avenue, there’s a problem where an oral minority of neighbors are complaining that there are too many restaurants. Planning and permits and zoning are the wrong tool to solve this problem. The problem isn’t the restaurants anyway. It’s the oral minority. The solution is to ignore them.

  5. Ken O

    Stupid oral minority.

    Maybe they are annoyed that lots of people not from their neighborhood, socio-economic-ethnic background, etc are coming into their neighborhood to eat and park cars/bikes by these restaurants.

    I think the plus side outweighs the negative side. Residents there do not have to drive dementedly long distances to buy milk or show friends a good time. The amenities contribute to their own property values.

    The only exception might be noise at night, but one should expect that when moving into a mixed use district. (residential + commercial + industrial) The other negative might be the apparent lack of a public square… such that the street only offers commercial opportunities, and less to do that is free (such as jogging around lake merritt). But there is no free lunch in nature.

    Thank you Max for creating the term oral minority. It makes them sound dirty!

    How much is the fee anyway, to file an appeal against a business?

  6. Max Allstadt

    I don’t know what the fee is to appeal a staff ruling, but to appeal a planning commission ruling to the Council it’s a mere 1200 bucks.

    And I didn’t create the term “Oral Minority”. I think Frank Zappa did when he was debating the Moral Majority in the 80s.

  7. annoyed

    These are probably the same people bitching about parking meter enforcement and parking meter fees. I wasn’t kidding whenI said I was through patronizing stores in the Grand Lake area, incuding the Grand Lake Theater. They have no problem blowing off revenues at every opportunity. Forget about them and they horse they rode in on.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    1200 bucks isn’t so mere when you feel strongly that you want to appeal something. Businesses and property owners appeal too, not just neighborhood groups. I would say the fee is quite a deterrent, except to large entitities. The yogurt thing sounds silly to me, too, but don’t be too sure you won’t find yourself in the “oral minority” sometime. It happens to many people of perfectly fine intentions.

  9. Aaron Priven

    I think there’s some truth to the idea that an area will be better off if there are many different kinds of businesses. I’m not sympathetic to the yogurt shop owner who wants to shut down competition, but I am more so to someone who finds a zillion restaurants but nothing else they might want for life on their street. (I recall V complaining about the lack of stockings in downtown Oakland some time back…)

    But sadly, so many businesses have been killed off by big boxes and Internet sales that businesses that aren’t subject to that competition — nail shops, beauty salons, coffee shops, ice cream shops, restaurants — are probably too good to give up, even if we don’t have as diverse a set of businesses as we’d like. If people want something else, write a business plan, or find somebody who can.

    As for the Kwik Way, it ought to be condemned by the city as a blight and some real building put up there. Probably four or five stories.

  10. Ralph

    there is another yogurt place on lakeshore. who knew. i hit up lakeshore once every 3 weeks; i have been patiently waiting for this place to open. I can see why no one wants an out of the closet on lakeshore, but a yogurt shop.

    ken, are you referring to lakeshore. that seems like one of the most diverse neighborhoods in oakland and despite the bars, nighttime noise seems to be less than that coming from a cemetary.

  11. Daniel Schulman

    @Max “I don’t know what the fee is to appeal a staff ruling”

    Is there a fee to appeal a staff ruling? I don’t think there should be, or maybe a very nominal one.

    Why the claim in this post sounds silly, I think the process is working pretty well – the Planning Commission is likely to turn it down. People should have the right to appeal city rulings to volunteer citizen boards without placing hurdles in their way. If your fellow citizens don’t think your case has merit, that’s when it should start getting more difficult to continue your claims.

    Several years back the City Business Tax office erroneously categorized my business. I had to face several bureaucrats who wouldn’t spend any time to understand the materials I had spent hours preparing. I finally worked my way up to a staff member who resolved the matter, but I was only a single step away from taking my case to one of the boards (forget which one I was supposed to appeal to). I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to pay any fee in that situation.

  12. dto510

    I agree with you Dan. Many people would have appreciated the opportunity to appeal the administrative approval of Pican’s permit allowing them to permanently block off 2/3s of the sidewalk on Broadway without any public review. In fact, it’s exactly the lack of public review over major decisions affecting the public that people are calling for a Transportation Commission: from the Lake Chalet’s cars on the sidewalk to Kaiser Hospital’s light-controlled driveway (which I think is straight-up illegal by CA law), pedestrians are being stripped of their access to the public right-of-way without the opportunity for independent review. Bully to the yogurt shop owner’s diligence in finding the chance to appeal this CUP, even though I disagree with his position and hope his appeal will be rejected.

  13. Mary Hollis


    Whether there are too many restaurants or too few yogurt stores is something for the free market to determine. Too many bakeries and at least one will close.

    The mix of retail in any given area is not something I want either the City or a few well-meaning locals determining. Now, I understand the need to keep some big box and chain stores out of areas not suited to them. But when it comes ti little mom-and-pop stores the city should just butt out and let the market decide.

    A strange American concept, I realize.

  14. David

    I concur. For how Grand/Lake is supposedly one of the most “vibrant” commercial strips in Oakland, it’s dead.

    you want noise? Hang out in my old house off of Lincoln Ave in Chicago. 2 blocks from 2 different train stations (where the “L” runs nearly 24 hours/day…), 3/4 corners on the end of my block was occupied by bars (actually open, really open until 2 am), and the 4th corner was a parking lot where the patrons leaving the bars would often engage in not-so-quiet conversation. And that wasn’t even anywhere close to downtown.

    Grand/Lake isn’t a cemetery, Grand/Lake is the INSIDE of a tomb compared to that.

  15. Andy K

    The Pican sidewalk situation is crazy. I don’t think that they are in compliance with ADA requirements, as some places their fence comes right up to the trees wells in the sidewalk, and it looks like there is less than 5 feet of clear sidewalk.

  16. Pamela Drake

    I know you guys are off on a tangent by now and no longer interested in the actual topic and one of the reasons I rarely post on this site any longer (besides that it devolves into a long conversation between 2 to4 people). Things are not usually as simple as snarkiness alone can explain.
    I admit the appeal is weak and not well thought out but the problem is real. The owner of Yogurt Deluxe runs a family business and is not a naysayer but a contributor to the life of the Avenue. (BTW, I’m proud of the diversity by age, race,class, ethnicity, gender ID, and style of Lakeshore.) Unfortunately for this small business owner and not due to him, his end of the street has been kept quiet because of other landlords who either prefer not to rent or are going through ownership changes. So his family’s business has suffered as a result.
    Keeping a balance of retail in a small district like Lakeshore is difficult but important. We can only support so many snack stores. We need businesses useful to our residents and those that bring folks from far and wide. Probably another yogurt shop is not the thing that will make or break Lakeshore, but I doubt it will help. It could put this little guy out of business and then we will have another empty. I can’t see how that will help . It seems strange to think that another yogurt would do well either.
    I don’t really have a dog in this race. I just work hard to keep some balance between corporate, momn’pop, local-oriented, and destination businesses.
    Couple more things:
    Max, Steve is not a douchebag, and I’m really sorry you chose to use that term. And, for those who want to know why the KwikWay site is not now a fully-occupied condo (4 stories) building with new retail in new digs downstairs, please go back and read some of the articles on it in the old Grand Lake Guardian. Somerset from Rockridge is trying to move in and hopefully will soon. Nobody wants a successful, clean business there more than the folks who live around here. The owners of that area have made it very difficult, but we hope, not impossible.

  17. Ralph

    not sure if you are referring to me or a different ralph. but i am fairly certain i never said there were too many yogurt shops on lakeshore. heck, i did not even know there was one. and i’ve been waiting for the new one to open.

    far as i can tell starbucks and peets can live side by side. maybe the 2nd yogurt survives and the 1st one doesn’t, maybe they both survive – but that is something the market will determine. given that dude is trying to open a frozen yogurt stand i assume there is some unmet demand. i just want it to open.

  18. Ralph

    I guess the question I have is, if the owner of Yogurt Deluxe is not offering a product people want what difference does it make if a new yogurt shop moves in down the street or even next door.

  19. Pamela Drake

    Don’t know yet what the new owner will offer and I’m not a connoisseur, but I suspect that it’s more an issue of street placement that flavors of yogurt. But we will see. BTW, Lakeshore is not hurting for businesses which want to come but a very few property owners who want to wait and wait, maybe, wait some more. We have active property owners who really work to keep the street clean and interesting but we are not a mall.

  20. Daniel Schulman

    There’s a lot of middle ground between laissez-faire capitalism and micro-managing planning policy. It is not as simple as maybe both yogurt shops will survive or the old will go out of business.

    My best guess is that in a few years neither will be in business and we might be stuck with more empty storefronts. I think there are two double-failure scenarios that are both fairly likely. First, they both slowly lose money and close up about the same time. Even more likely, the new one drives the old one out of business and then in a couple of years when the do-it-yourself popcorn-sized bucket of mediocre frozen yogurt fad is over, it also closes.

    Even tough my outlook is pretty dismal I don’t think planning should stop the new store from opening. If they want to invest their money and dreams, they should be allowed to.

    What would have been better would have been for PK, other city leaders, community leaders, etc. to recruit the type of business that would have flourished in that location. I believe the community recruited the much beloved Arizmendi. Alas, this method of economic development is difficult which is why it needs the energies that all to often go to stopping things.

  21. Pamela Drake

    At the risk of making this a two-way conversation (yikes, my last post on this), you may be right. I doubt that Planning will stop it and I agree that it’s not really their call. However, we do have a community group actively involved in recruiting businesses. Check out and, yes, sometimes the projections are just fantasies, but local folk do volunteer their time to make them come true. I’m done, thanks for maybe listening-

  22. Mary Hollis


    Yeah, sorry, maybe a different Ralph or I misunderstood you.


    I’m sticking to my position that we don’t need to micro-manage the mix of stores. The market will take care of that for us. Will that area support 2 yogurt stores, 1 yogurt store or none?

    I don’t know but, much more importantly, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks will flourish. Adam Smith’s invisible hand is a lot smarter than a room full of City bureaucrats.

  23. livegreen

    Well, Grandlake/Lakeshore could always make a proposal to swap for A Cote II in Glenview. Some members of the oral minority there don’t want it, but would prefer a Kwik Way, yogurt store, or something that closes early and doesn’t require parking on neighborhood streets.

    Come to think of it, because any business will take up parking, they might prefer an empty, blighted property covered in graffiti.

    It’s easy to figure out what people are against, but what solutions are they for?

  24. Max Allstadt

    As far as appeal fees go, appealing something to the city council should be expensive, because the cost to the city is expensive. The other reason it should be expensive is that we have a planning commission for a reason – to make planning decisions. If the fee to appeal their decisions is too low, the Council ends up making planning decisions too often.

    They’re too busy for that. And they’re too political. We delegate certain tasks to specialists because they’re better equipped to do those tasks.

  25. Born in Oakland

    Somehow I just knew a Lakeshore maven and proponent of class warfare was underneath this yogurt flap. Lord have mercy, why must these issues clog the machinery of government and glaze the eyes of our hard working and tax paying citizens? I do notice quite a few empty store fronts on Lakeshore as well as Grand. I am afraid there will be more, given the strong anti-business stance taken be the “People’s Advocate.”

  26. livegreen

    BIO, we all know it is better to have an empty store front than a store you don’t want.
    & since my neighbor wants different stores than I do, and the next neighbor wants even different stores, and so on, well, nothing makes everybody happy.

    & then, with empty store fronts, the nail shops and liquor stores make their move…

  27. Jim Ratliff

    Mary Hollis opineth:

    “Aside from maybe law and medicine, I see very little reason to license or have permits for any business venture.”

    Go, Mary, go!

    I’ve been waiting to open my high-level radioactive-waste depository on Lakeshore, complete with drive-thru window!

  28. Mary Hollis


    Federal and State laws already take care of that.

    Anyone wishing to do that much harm is not going to be dissuaded by a municipal permit process.

  29. Jim Ratliff

    Oh, darn! The Feds will block my my high-level radioactive-waste depository. : (

    I’ll have to go back to my fall-back, plan B: A hog-rendering plant on Lakeshore, complete with drive-thru window.

  30. Born in Oakland

    How about having some store front churches, needle exchange programs, methadone maintenance facilities, alcohol treatment centers, Yusef Bey bakeries, parole offices and some groovy non-profits for the homeless and for abused women? Could be the future for Lakeshore and for Grand.

  31. DontBotherDelores

    Ms. Drake,

    Like my councilmember I’ve avoided this blog too, but now I’m back and I agree with her and you. In fact why don’t you come sit with me near my house in West Oakland. Over here we have a lot of retail spots, there all empty and some lovely warehouses employing jack shit nobody. That’s what all your harpy reactionary behavior is gonna bring to the future of Lakeshore and Grand.


    Born in Oakland? really? you sound like LIT, Live in Tracy with your mocking of the many needs that lots of folks in Oakland have.

  32. Pat Kernighan

    Weighing in to correct the record in V’s original post: I did not oppose the Fatburger at the old Kwikway site. I facilitated neighborhood dialogue on it in hopes that it would work out. It would have been a great improvement over the continuing blight. The owner withdrew because he didn’t want to risk the time and money of possibly losing to neighborhood opponents at the Planning Commission. The good news is that there is a new lessee for the Kwikway and if his financing comes through, he will start to rehab the blighted building within a month.

  33. Dave C.

    Sad that the GapKids space on Lakeshore is still vacant, six months after I wrote the blog post that V Smoothe linked to in this post, and more than two years after the activists and Councilmember Kernighan fought Out of the Closet’s efforts to take over the space, on the grounds that it would not be a “good fit” for the neighborhood. Apparently an empty storefront is considered a “better fit” than a thrift store.

    As for Pamela Drake’s comment that, “It could put this little guy out of business and then we will have another empty. I can’t see how that will help . It seems strange to think that another yogurt would do well either,” it may seem strange, but strange things sometimes happen. For instance, I’ve noticed that within a block of the corner of Park St. and Central Ave. in Alameda, there are at least five fro-yo or ice cream places: Yogafina, FruittiYogi, Tuttimelon, Tucker’s, and Fudgelato. I expected at least one or two of them to die off last fall when the weather turned colder and the economy failed to turn hotter, but they all seem to be hanging in there. You just never know what’s going to work or not work (I noticed that so-called “good fits” on Lakeshore, such as Vine wine bar and the clothing boutique Kimistry, have both disappeared), which is one more reason for the Councilmembers and other city officials not to excessively micromanage retail.

  34. Ralph

    Out of the Closet would have been a bad fit for the neighborhood. Next thing you know a pawn shop is moving in and the residents are leaving. As much as I hate the empty storefront, it is better than a store that subtracts value. Was Kimistry that really cheesy junior store that carried overpriced clothing?

    I looked at the list on the link that PD offered and if anything I think that area could really go for a meat/poultry/seafood store. From where I am I could either BART to Rockridge and hit the store there or I could just as easily walk to a store on Lakeshore when I go to the Farmers Market. So PD & PK, if you are still reading I would kill for some fresh meat.

  35. Dave C.

    Kimistry sold women’s clothing in the storefront where Glow used to be, near Easy Lounge and Arizmendi. That’s about all I knew about it, since I don’t buy women’s clothing. I think it’s actually the same storefront that the yogurt shop plans to move into. Personally, I’d rather have a women’s clothing boutique than a chain yogurt shop, so it’s unfortunate that Kimistry didn’t survive. (That said, I hope that the owner of Yogurt Deluxe is correct about the enormous crowds that Yogafina will bring to Lakeshore—the more foot traffic, the better for almost everyone, including, possibly, Yogurt Deluxe.)

  36. V Smoothe Post author

    Not sure how that’s a correction, Pat, since the post doesn’t say you opposed Fatburger. But since you bring it up, I didn’t seem to me at the time that you were particularly supportive of the Fatburger proposal either. This item from your March 2007 newsletter isn’t exactly what I would call a ringing endorsement:

    Thank you to everyone who voted or wrote in a comment for the poll on the Kitchen Democracy website about a possible new Fatburger at the Kwikway location. The final results were 190 No, 167 Yes, 36 Maybe, and 3 Neutral. That is a pretty even balance, but If you look at the results by those who live within 1 mile, 3 miles, or 5 miles of the Kwikway, the percentage of Noes was considerably higher the closer the person lived to the site. To read the results, go here.

    The written comments were a lot of fun to read and revealed a very lively debate on many aspects of the question: the downsides of drive-through traffic, “healthy” versus “unhealthy” foods, the rights of property owners versus community desires, personal opinions on favorite or hated burger joints, and idealism versus pragmatism on urban planning issues, among others. The one point of consensus was that the current establishment is filthy, attracts bad activities in the parking lot, and is a blight to the neighborhood. Most folks believed Fatburger would be an improvement over the Kwikway, but as evidenced by the votes, more than half were not willing to settle for that given the long lease it would require.

    So what now? The situation is still unresolved. The Fatburger franchisee read the comments and is still talking with the Hahns about several options. I believe the poll results had an effect on his thinking. Because I believe that most residents would prefer a mixed used development to a stand alone restaurant with big parking lot, I am seeking out people in the development community to see if anyone is able and interested in doing such a development. Of course, that would require the Hahn’s cooperation, either in partnering in the deal or selling the property altogether. So far, no proposals have been forthcoming.

  37. Mary Hollis


    Nimby’ism like you are both suggesting is just a way for the more affluent parts of the town to dump all the undesirable and toxic establishments in poor areas that don’t complain so much.

    Why is Alliance Metals in West Oakland and not in Rockridge? Well, you know the answer. Because the affluent white liberals know how to play the permit system while the poor blacks in WO don’t.

    Again, if an area is zoned for commercial that doesn’t mean you can open a rendering plant or an asbestos factory there. It just means that you get either a yoghurt store or a lingerie store. And which, frankly, is none of your business, nor the City’s.

    With all Oakland’s problems, I’m amazed at this controversy over whether there should be one yogurt store or two on a particular street.

  38. Born in Oakland

    Thank you Mary for putting your finger on my take of the whole discussion here. Living in the flats for many years, I see what kind of over concentration and unregulated activities are placed here without any neighborhood input. If the same care and concern about placement of social services for the many needs of Oakland residents were reviewed as Lakeshore mavens do for Yogurt shops, we might get some business activity in our blighted commercial districts. Go to Kelly Moore Paint past High St. on International Blvd to get some paint. Across the street is a line of people waiting for service at the Catholic Worker center; up the street as an abused women’s program; in between them you can get gold teeth or tattoos. Next to Kelly Moore, you can get prostitutes and homeless folks. If a middle class, thin skinned lady from the hills wants Kelly Moore Paint, she goes there as an innocent – -just wants to paint her kitchen. Maybe she just moved into her mother’s house from Tracy. Does anyone think she will be back to that district?

  39. len raphael

    Mary, i personally think the residents and the city are going overboard regulating the number of yogurt shops or nail salons per block, and yes that power is exercised mostly by residents of middle class and above areas of town.

    But that micromanaging nimbyism is not a significant factor creating and continuing the economic depression of this town. Look at long stretches of once thriving retail sections on all the major streets and you’ll see a malaise that started 40/50 years ago well before any nimby’s complained about transfatty food stores.

    if anything, nimbyism in Oakland is more an effect than a cause of the problems of this town. Many residents feel that if they have to put up with crime, bad schools, and broken streets, they can at least flex their political muscles to keep their micro neighborhoods as pleasant as possible despite the bigger problems that drive people out of here who can afford to leave.

    A zillion more yogurt shops and hamburger stops is not going to provide the additional city revenue net of city costs to make a dent in bringing Oakland muni services up to the level needed to attract and sustain a vibrant economic base.

    Yes the result of Rockridge people not allowing scrap metal centers or low income housing, pushes those into poor areas of town where the residents are not as organized and politically saavy. The residents of those areas have to organize and exert their political power to decide how they want their area to develop.

    -len raphael

  40. Jenn

    Sounds to me like Lakeshore has an embarrassment of riches if retailers of any kind want to locate there (second hand store, yogurt shop, whatever). The people there should be grateful that they have this to bitch about. And it is hilarious that people were opposed to Fat Burger for its name and food. They should go protest The Fat Lady and the size of its entrees.

  41. livegreen

    Maybe true but that doesn’t mean Mary, BIO & V are wrong about the situation on Lakeshore. The problem with micro-managing situations is it ends up blighted. & that’s exactly what Lakeshore is encountering now with empty store-fronts. Do you need a few more to come to the same conclusion?

    The Lakeshore/Grand NIMBY’s are creating a reputation for saying “no” to everything except an “ideal” business (whatever that is). This micro-managing combined with the bad reputation Oakland already has for small businesses or even “boutique” chains is certainly not producing the desired results.

    High-lease costs + NIMBYism IS a deterrent to business. Otherwise why would restaurants be looking at lower volume areas like Glenview or more transitional /risky areas like Dimond?

    The Lakeshore Business District and surrounding wealthy areas like Trestle Glen and Crocker Highlands should be careful what they asked for. If they’re going to be super-picky & against everything, and are not going to start the businesses they want themselves, they might just end up with nothing.

  42. len raphael

    LG, high lease costs, parking, existing competetion vs proximity to potential customers would have a much bigger impact on decision of a high end restaurant to open in one neighborhood vs another, then concern over nimby opposition.

    Of course there will be vacancies on highly desirable retail streets like Lakeshore or College during the worst economic downturn since the 30′s. That’s nothing to do w evil nimbys.

  43. Jim

    I don’t see why we need more restaurants.
    Much of this food is unhealthy and is leading people into unhealthy lives. I think it also shows how skewed our priorities are. When I was growing up we ate at home all but one night a week. Now people eat out all the time. Look at how much money they spend on the trivial. The same people complain about the high cost of education, bad infrastructure, etc. Yet there is money for the fleeting meal and retail junk.

    I think a better thing is to consider rebuilding a fair tax and industrial base.
    For that I would go over to and check out Pat’s criticism of everything from NAFTA to globalisation.

    Other countries in Europe have similar labor costs. They maintain a high value labor force. We should be able to do it too.

  44. livegreen

    Len, I agree with the things you mention, but it’s not either/or. It’s ‘AND’ nimby.
    As many or more restaurants have moved into Glenview recently, when Lakeshore would seem to have many of the advantages you mention (& with comparable lease rates). Why is that?

    I’m sorry but Lakeshore is creating a bad image for business, even though it has all the advantages you mention. Though A Cote 2′s recent experiences with a vocal minority could help Glenview share that reputation. Waiting to be seen…

  45. James Robinson

    Maybe all of this NIMBY activity in Lakeshore, Glenview, etc. will encourage businesses to move into East Oakland. I can only hope.

  46. Mary Hollis


    It doesn’t matter whether anyone thinks that “we don’t need any more restaurants”. That’s not an argument to not allow one that wants to open and “take its chances”. As Len said, it’s a business decision and not a political decision.

    But, anecdotally, a block I used to live on started getting more and more Asian restaurants. “Surely there are too many”, I thought. But no, in fact, eventually almost every store in a 3-black stretch was an Asian restaurant. And you know what? They all prospered. The area became known as “the place to go to” for Asian food in that city.

    Was it diverse? No. Does that matter? Also, no. You build what works and the market decides what works. The last thing we want is a petty bureaucrat deciding what you can eat for dinner.

    Or whether you’re allowed a choice of yogurt or not.

  47. livegreen

    James, Just to be clear, Glenview has not yet joined Lakeshore in becoming NIMBY over it’s merchants. The whole experience is new there and so yet to be decided.

    West Oakland might be to far to be affected by the discussion on Lakeshore. The areas that will be more directly affected will probably be Dimond and Lake Merritt/Parkway District (between lower Park Blvd. & the Lake).

  48. Mary Hollis


    West Oakland doesn’t have any restaurants apart from the uber-trendy Brown Sugar much liked by Oakland politico’s. Nor any yogurt places, brewpubs, wine bars, designer boutiques. It doesn’t even have a place to buy fresh produce.

    There are, however, 56 licquor stores (I didn’t count them; there was a sign on West grand telling me that). Oh, and a decent coffee joint on 7th.

    West Oakland probably needs the diversity that the NIMBY’s so crave. But of course they’re not getting it. The market is deciding there too.

  49. Robert

    The yogurt shop appeal appears to be the work of a single individual misusing the planning process to stifle competition for his own business, not what you really consider NIMBYism. I will say that I don’t see how we can support another yogurt shop, since the existing yogurt/gelato shops never seem to have much business, but not my problem.

    While I guess you could classify the FAT Burger issue as NIMBY, a drive through, fast-food restaurant does represent very different problems compared to a traditional restaurant, and for that very reason needs different regulations. As far as I am concerned, drive through, fast-food restaurants should not be a by right development anywhere (in Oakland). The old Kwik-Way site is a blight, but properly developed could be valuable as a connection between Lakeshore and Grand. In its present state it doesn’t do that. But a drive through restaurant there would change that from being neutral to being an active agent to divide the two streets. I think it interesting that some people here who have opposed parking lots in their own neighborhood because they would be a bigger blight than a vacant lot, have no problem suggesting that Lakeshore-Grand should have accepted an enterprise that would be detrimental to the further development of the area.

    While I didn’t agree with the second-hand store decision, any retail operation in a commercial zone like Lakeshore needs to have good interactions with the neighborhood. And if the opposition to the store convinced the various parties it wouldn’t be successful, then so be it, that is part of the capitalist process.

    In general, Lakeshore-Grand have done pretty well for restaurants over the last year or so: Camino, Grand Tavern, Pizzaiolo lite, and the the Ethiopian place. And I am sure the neighborhood would be supportive of A Cote 2. From my understanding, the old Baby Gap store front is not very suitable for a restaurant of that size, otherwise it too might have been converted to restaurant use.

  50. len raphael

    James, lol depending on those selfish lakeshore nimbys making east o more attractive to retailers. but then, La Farine did open near Farmer Joes (how’s La Farine doing btw?). That’s relatively east to us north oakland nimby snobs.

    Jim, back in the 80′s we accountants used to joke that the economy of the bay area was turing into a service economy dominated by lawyers, accountants, and message therapists. Now I would add restaurants and nail salons to that.

    LG, when Glenview reaches a much higher saturation level of restaurants, the parking impacts neighborhoods, and our ever adaptable local criminals flock to the walking atms, you too will be happy to have latent nimbyism rise up to curb the excesses of free market forces operating in a town that can’t even protect the patrons of restaurants from takeovers and muggings.

  51. James Robinson

    I think if market forces were really allowed to rule, Oakland would be a MUCH different place. Oakland’s land is very centrally located with excellent weather. If market forces were really allowed to rule, most of this town with be gentrified by now, just like the city formerly known as Chocolate City has been gentrified and just like San Francisco has been gentrified. I feel that city government, unions, and well-meaning citizens are inadvertently helping to keep Oakland poor.

    Affordable housing advocates seem to want Oakland to be the place for poor people to live, even though they mean well, although it seems to take court orders for affordable housing to be allowed in other cities. Meanwhile, NIMBY residents of certain neighborhoods make it less convenient for businesses to be established in Oakland. Finally, the city government can’t seem to hire enough police to keep the Oakland safe, even though they seem to have enough money for various “community outreach” programs.

    I believe that if we really had a “free market” in Oakland, West Oakland would already be an urban suburb or San Francisco and everything between MacArthur and 580 would essentially be the hills extended. We would have more small businesses because we would have people with the income and inclination to support those businesses. It is hard to support an organic butcher shop if all you can afford is Popeye’s and McDonald’s.

    I’m not a fan or Republicans and moderate Democrats can annoy me sometimes, but I admire their ability to make that money.

  52. Mike Spencer

    There’s a well-known correlation between street crime and street yogurt. Rival gangs will square off, some siding with Pinkberry and others wearing the colors of Red Mango. Winos will be fortifying smoothies with malt liquor. Some cars might get sticky substances on them in collateral damage type incidents. Oakland needs more vacant store fronts, not jobs and tax-paying businesses.

  53. Mary Hollis


    You have only to look at Emeryville to see what West Oakland could have become. The two areas were (apparently, I wasn’t here then) very similar back in the day i.e. both run down areas close to the docks.

    Emeryville became a retail mecca and now enjoys both lower crime and taxes, and a vibrant economy. While West Oakland has turned into an unmitigated ghetto with a murder rate almost unequalled in the nation.

    You’re right, with excellent water, BART, rail and freeway links, and downtown and the airport just a few minutes away, West Oakland should be booming.

    Oakland, at the epicenter of the Bay Area, should be booming.

    But instead it’s got all of the problems of San Francisco, without being the “world’s favorite city”.

    It’s got all of the problem of Berkeley, without having a world-class University, (or even any University).

    It’s got all the problems of San Jose, without being the center of a major global industry.

    It’s got a port, an airport, three passable pro sports teams. And I’m already running out of major assets.

    Nobody even talks about making Oakland world class. The talk is about how best to manage the inevitable decline.

    Funny how a little topic like a second yogurt store (who cares?) can lead to such ruminations. But it’s the broken window syndrome. Rant over.

  54. len raphael

    Mary, emeryville was somewhat similar to City of Industry within LA. It had scads of tax revenue and very low costs because it had extremely low density (few fulltime residents)

    he politics and money situation were drastically different from West Oakland.

    Most of them were either ignored because they were poor and black. My understanding is that there were a few hundred white residents there who were treated by city govt like pre Mandela South Africa.

    The town was run by a small group who answTered to the big industries located there.

    When the city decided to reinvent itself as a big box, hotel locus, it brushed off any community concerns as so much noise.

  55. James Robinson

    I hope that someday West Oakland will be a suburb of Emeryville and San Francisco. In order to do that, new people will have to displace long-time West Oakland residents. That might sound cold-hearted to some, especially people who really mean well. However, there are many people in Oakland who are plain old obsolete, in my opinion. And Oakland had tried for decades to try to get them up to speed with the post-Industrial age. Just bring in new folks.

  56. livegreen

    Oakland has too many people to be like Emeryville. It had them before, and with the Affordable Housing recruitment, it has even more. Even if we absorbed all of Emeryville’s retail there would still be large tracts of poor areas and industrial space here.

    & Emeryville can afford to displace the poor. They just move next door to Oakland.
    Where else are they going if Oakland displaces them? SF or Pleasanton?

    BTW, It’s nice to hear Pleasanton is finally getting sued for violating ABAG quota for Affordable Housing. Wealthy cities shouldn’t be able to violate state law by outsourcing their poor to Oakland…

  57. James Robinson

    Oakland shouldn’t be overly concerned with where the poor people go. I don’t see Walnut Creek wondering where their poor folks go whenever there a new department store opens.

    Maybe it is time for the Oakland City Council to stop acting like social workers and start acting like business people.

  58. len raphael

    for a comparison of oakland and emeryville development politics, ask sanjiv h. i thought he started out about 15 years ago doing a for fee faxed newsletter on emeryville city politics. (could have him mixed up with someone else.)

    to this day, emeryville has a news blackhole, 0, zilch, nada, news coverage of its city government. makes the oakland trib coverage of oakland look like the nyt’s metro edition. a true paradise for urban planners and developers.

    -len raphael

  59. livegreen

    That’s because Walnut Creek doesn’t have as many poor people. Like SF or Pleasanton. & if they displace them, they’ll go to Oakland. So no worries there for them.

    Worrying about the poor in my view doesn’t mean we should build more AH, or adjust policy that just suits them. It does means we need to have an economic policy that helps keep/get them employed and with prospects for upward mobility.

    It’s in their interests & ours: They have hope & get jobs. We get contributing citizens who pay taxes & are less likely to commit crime than those who are disenfranchised.

    Instead Oakland has a policy of AH housing & social welfare, while deterring businesses/employment (that would give them jobs) or Medium Income housing for the middle class (that would help pay for costs)…