Mark your calendars – Zoning Update meeting next Saturday

So I went to like, the best meeting ever last night. Well, not quite. The meeting actually kind of sucked and I was really bored most of the time. But it was also totally great.

Okay, this isn’t making any sense. Let me start over.

So last night I went to the “Introduction to the Zoning Update” community meeting in North Oakland. The meeting was pretty much exactly what the name says – an introduction to the Zoning Update process. But it was totally awesome! Planning staff stood up and explained, very clearly and with pretty solid visual aids, the following:

  • what is a General Plan?
  • what does our General Plan say?
  • what is zoning?
  • what do zoning regulations govern?
  • why are we updating the zoning?
  • what are the existing zoning classifications and what are the new classifications?
  • what does Hillside Residential, Detached Unit Residential, Mixed Housing Type, and Urban Residential (new General Plan zoning classifications) mean?
  • what does Neighborhood Center Mixed Use, Community Commercial, Regional Commercial (again, new General Plan zoning classifications) mean?

So, since I’ve read the LUTE like, a dozen times, and am basically just like, a huge geek about this stuff in general, none of this was new information for me, and yes, it was a little bit boring. But I find myself talking to random people about zoning – well, not like, every day or anything, but a lot more often than you’d probably guess, and most people don’t have the first clue what they’re talking about. The presentation at the meeting was a perfect primer for anyone who wants to participate seriously in the discussion about the zoning update, or even who just wants to be able to follow along while watching meetings about it from home and understand what’s going on. And so in that sense, the meeting was just really, really great. Because everyone should know this stuff.

Unfortunately, in spite of the very clear and easy to understand presentation, most of the people who showed up at the meeting seemed to completely miss the point, seeing the meeting as yet another opportunity to just complain about how they hate four story buildings, regardless of whether such comment was in any way relevant to the discussion. (It wasn’t.)

Sitting there, I felt bad for Eric Angstadt, who was just trying to explain something really important to the like, 50 people who showed up, and having nobody listen to a word he said. Instead, people basically squirmed impatiently throughout the presentations, barely able to stand to contain themselves until another opportunity arose to frantically wave their hands in the air so they could ask inane questions like “So, is it fair to say that everyone who lives near these so-called ‘arterials’ don’t want any buildings over two stories and that the only people who do want greater heights are developers who are trying to make lots of money off the land and don’t care about the neighborhood?” Angstadt was far more politic with his responses to the dozens of such questions that I could have found it in myself to be, but just watching it all drove me completely bonkers. I left the meeting frustrated, feeling like there was a lot of really quality and necessary information presented, but like none of it got through to most of the people attending.

There’s going to be another meeting with the exact same presentation next Saturday. It will be held from 10 AM to Noon at the Coliseum College Prep Academy at 1390 66th Avenue (@ International Blvd), and I highly recommend attending if you’re at all interested in the zoning update process, or just want to gain a better understanding of what the zoning code and the General Plan actually mean. But if you do attend, I urge people to just sit patiently and listen. There will be many, many opportunities to complain about how buildings are too tall or buildings are too short or how you hate development or how you love it, but this is not the appropriate venue for such comments. Just sit there and listen, and if something that gets said is confusing to you, by all means, ask for clarification. You really will learn a lot.

One thought on “Mark your calendars – Zoning Update meeting next Saturday

  1. Chris Kidd

    It really was shocking last night how few people in attendance were interested in learning anything. I felt like most people were treating it as a chance to back the planning staff into a “gotcha” moment with leading non-questions, but I’m not sure what they were hoping to achieve by doing that. Do you think that if you catch Eric Angstadt in a logical fallacy that he’ll admit that he’s really been a cipher for developers all along? And he’s one of the Crab People, too!!

    What disturbed me the most was how people just tried to rip Barry Miller when he was trying to explain the process of aligning the general plan map to the reality of the current city zoning. No one bothered to listen to what he was saying: part of the project is correcting the general plan map so that analysis of zoning vs. the general plan will better reflect what’s actually on the ground. People took that opportunity to yell at him about 40-story buildings on San Pablo or claiming the city was changing zoning without approval. Grrr, just listen people!

    I mean I empathize with the development issues that these people face, but this clearly was not the purpose of the meeting. The meeting was all about the future of Oakland, not about opposing a project on Telegraph that’s going before the planning commission in 2 months.

    That being said, it was a pretty awesome meeting. Everyone should go to the one near the Colliseum next weekend.