More International Boulevard TOD workshops this week

As I mentioned a couple of months ago, the City of Oakland is currently in the process of creating a plan that identifies opportunities for Transit Oriented Development along the International Boulevard corridor. With the assistance of consultants Raimi + Associates, the City is exploring the potential for creating successful Transit Oriented Development projects along International Boulevard in in the following areas: San Antonio (PDF) (14th to 19th Avenues), Fruitvale (PDF) (23rd to 42nd Avenues), Havenscourt (PDF) (57th to 61st Avenues), Hegenburger (PDF) (71st to 77th Avenues), Elmhurst (PDF) (89th to 101st Avenues), and Elmhurst South (PDF) (102nd Avenue to Durant).

Two workshops this week will mark the third and final series of public workshops regarding this plan. The first round was held in September. For those who weren’t able to attend, slides from that community meeting (PDF) and a presentation about the project to the Community Advisory Committee (PDF) are available on the City’s website. The second set of public workshops was held in November. Slides from the presentation at that meeting (PDF) are also available online.

The first of this week’s workshops will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, January 11th from 6 to 8 PM at Arise High School, located at 3508 E. 12th Street (on the 2nd floor, above Citibank). That meeting will focus on the portion of the planning area from 14th Avenue to 51st Avenue.

The second workshop will be held on Wednesday, January 12th from 6 to 8 PM at Greenleaf Elementary School, located at 6328 E. 17th Street. That meeting will focus on the portion of the planning area between 51st Avenue and Durant Avenue.

I won’t be able to attend either of the meetings, but if anyone manages to make it to one of them, I’d love to hear back about what you thought in the comments here.

67 thoughts on “More International Boulevard TOD workshops this week

  1. Chris Kidd

    Will any of the opportunity sites, and the plans they develop for them, supersede the new zoning that’s currently wending its way through City Council?

    Because if it doesn’t, they need to be satisfied with TOD that is one block deep. I understand that the City is committed to following the “transit corridors” model set down by the 1998 LUTE (which, in some ways, is pretty outdated compared to current planning best practices), but successful TOD is not linear. TOD is, by its very nature, pedestrian oriented. They need to develop TOD plotted in a half-mile “walking radius” around each opportunity site, meaning how far can you walk on sidewalks in all directions. Rather than a circular area, you instead get an amoeba looking shape that is determined by how far apart intersecting blocks are and how deeply you can penetrate into the surrounding neighborhoods on foot before you’ve walked half a mile. This is the area in which you can reasonably expect new residents to use transit in greater levels than residents in the surrounding neighborhood, and is thus the area in which you should try to concentrate increased density to minimize congestion effects of increasing populations.

    Unfortunately, the majority of the current zoning update comes in block-deep strips of density with strictly single-family homes behind them. In many places, the new zoning significantly curtails the possible development along these transit corridors in order to accommodate the single family homes behind them. By mandating block-deep density, we are essentially knee-capping the possible success of future TOD, forcing public transit to be less efficient than it could be and pushing new residential development along the corridors farther away from possible TODs, raising the probability that these new residents will be forced to use an automobile to live their lives, increasing local and regional congestion as well as contributing further to pollution, air quality degradation, and obesity rates.

    Rather than having the zoning along our transit corridors scaled down to meet the single family home neighborhoods behind them, the blocks abutting our transit corridors should be incrementally zoned up in order to create a smooth transition from transit corridors with true density down to the traditional neighborhoods of Oakland that have supplied the civic building blocks of our City in decades past. Taking this approach would allow a land-use pattern that would give the opportunity to have truly successful TOD rather than block-deep faux-density along the infinitesimally small percentage of Oakland that was designated for “growth and change” in the 1998 LUTE.

    But then again, the time for that type of change is essentially past. Only the City Council can make significant changes to the zoning update, and they will be more likely to continue the years-long march of downzoning the update process rather than take a stand for successful TOD. I mean, I understand why they take that position, being that neighbors, preservationists, and NIMBYs are the loudest voices in the room when it comes to the zoning update, but it certainly doesn’t make me any happier to come to that realization.

  2. Oakland Space Academy

    Great points Chris. From my limited knowledge, the zoning update has been a huge disappointment for this very reason. My block is a 10 minute walk from BART, and most of it will continue to be zoned as single-family residential. That’s crazy!

    It also appears the zoning code will not recognize the difference between the interior of blocks and corners – also crazy! Most every block in Oakland would benefit from a small apartment building and or green market being legally located on the corner.

  3. Chris Kidd

    Early in the zoning update, staff tried to float a “reverse wedding cake” idea where greater massing would be allowed on street corners to create appropriate context at intersections. Sadly, it created a general freak-out among certain parties and was left on the cutting-room floor.

  4. oakie

    And how are they planning on paying for this? I guess I was mistaken that the city is broke and far far into the hole on pensions, soon to come due.

    When the city and “activists” talk about “development” hold onto your wallets.

  5. len raphael

    Chris, didn’t realize how happy we nimbys in temescal should have been that the city lowered the max height at 51st and bway down to 60 from 70 feet. You’d be happy to know they wouldn’t lower the heighs between the corners except for the west side of Bway between 42nd and 47th to “protect the views” of the residences East of Bway.

    All this time we thought there was a requirement for appropriate transition between lower density residential and TOD, and you’re explaining to me we have it all backwards. Low density residents should simply realize they’re the high carbon footprint dinosaurs.

    In a small compact neighborhood like temescal the domino effect of your ideal zoning would result in shrinking the low density residential by 25% or maybe 33% ?

    Even under the proposed rezoning, the effect on many adjacent lower density neighborhoods will be that of a being behind the medieval castle walls of the TOD, listening to the garbage trucks and commuters coming and going.

    Different topic: was it zoning that drove out the many corner groceries in North Oakland?

    Putting a small green grocer at the end of many residential blocks is one thing. Putting a FarmerTrader Joes in a resdential area is different.

  6. Naomi Schiff

    Len, I did wonder what Chris was on about: while he may be thinking of an ideal world where he could plan an area with no existing residents, right now our tax base, our employers, employees, our citizens are largely living in the neighborhoods he’d like to replace with higher density. Yet, Oakland is not growing quickly (if at all) at present. We can’t even fill the units we have. Last time I checked there were more than 300 condos for sale. And we have a lot of vacant parcels that are pretty large. Take a second look at Broadway in the Auto Row area, and tell me if we couldn’t fit in a couple thousand more units on presently vacant parcels, were there any demand. Without demolishing any neighborhood residential areas. I believe in transit-oriented development, but I also do not believe that speculative upzoning for the residential boom that just ended makes any sense at all. In looking forward we need to think about organic incremental growth that fits into the extant urban fabric, not the redevelopment monolith model of the past.

  7. Chris Kidd

    “replacing neighborhoods” HA!

    Thanks for putting some extremely pejorative words in my mouth, Naomi. This zoning, and the General Plan it is supposed to reflect, are supposed to represent a long-range vision, and does not represent slapping thousands of buildings up in the next 5 years. While it’s always important to plan with the needs of current residents in mind, its is equally important to think about the needs of those who will have to live with our decisions. To have a timid, backwards-looking, appeasement-based approach to our zoning update is a disservice to both current and future residents. To suggest that I’m just caught up in some “ideal” blank slate world without pre-existing communities and built environment gives extreme offense to my sensibilities as a progressive planner. What’s more, a zoning update *is* organic incremental growth; it’s a suggestion, not a command. Considering how intelligent and informed you are, Naomi, I can only see such a charged comment like that from you as purely disingenuous.

    Len, having 1 additional block appropriately transition in the form of duplex/triplex and SFR from true TOD to “maintain and enhance” neighborhoods is not the “neighborhood removal” that your brush so broadly paints. Additionally, zoning is not a command to build to the height limit. You will see sporadic development fill in over time along our transit corridors, hardly creating the “medieval castle wall” that you so flippantly suggest.

    MacArthur BART is the only area, to my knowledge, that has TOD zoning (S-17, I think?). The workshops in this post refer to TOD … on International. Why we’re quibbling over an imaginary TOD in the heart of the Temescal that has never been discussed by anyone is beyond me.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    I sincerely apologize if I offended you, Chris. The principles of TOD came up a lot in the hearings. (Although I myself am so despairing at declining transit funds and services that I get pessimistic, even as a transit user, about assuming that we’ll achieve large increases in transit ridership.) Note that the city’s general plan is intended to be updated; this zoning update is not for all time, it is a ten-year-late attempt to get zoning and general plan in sync to avoid the constant and confusing dependence on conditional use permits and variances. The guidelines put out by the state assume that the overall general plan should be reviewed and updated periodically. So while we should think of the long term, it is not true that we are planning for the very long term with no hope of revisions. We just can’t see so far ahead.

    From the 2003 general plan guidelines (state rules for counties and cities):

    “By statute, the housing element must be updated every five years.”

    “If a city or county has not revised its general plan within ten years, OPR must also notify the Attorney General. This notification does not necessarily mean the plan is out of date, but may serve as a reminder to comprehensively review the general plan if the city or county has not already done so.”

  9. Chris Kidd

    Some of the City’s zoning hasn’t been updated since 1964. I’m simply taking a practical viewpoint regarding the impact this zoning update will probably have for the next 40-50 years.

    And despite the regularity with which the general plan is supposed to be updated, it doesn’t absolve us from crafting a comprehensive, long-term vision. Taking such an incremental approach is often called “muddling through” in planning, and it is a reactionary form of planning that too easily loses sight of any real vision or goals, if there even were any with which to begin.

  10. Livegreen

    In it’s reliance on Conditional Use Permits, does the Planning Commission often discuss the existing General Plan and statutes?

    I have to say I was seriously unimpressed by the lack of discussion about existing regulations and distances around schools by the Planning Commission when it gave the permanent variance to Feelmore.

    Again, this is not about the business itself or even about the variance. It’s that, at least in the video clips, the Planning Commission ignores addressing in any substantive way the regulations and their “raison d’être”.

  11. Oakland Space Academy

    I never understand arguments made about planning initiatives that reference the existing state of the economy, as if it were going to last in perpetuity. Nor do I understand arguments made using existing vacancies. Just because we have 300 condos for sale doesn’t necessarily mean we couldn’t use more, it also could mean their prices are too high to clear the market.

    Of course we could fit thousands more housing units in and around Broadway Auto Row, and we should. But we should fit more housing into all of our neighborhoods as well. This doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) take the form of medieval castle walls, but rather at appropriate urban high street densities of 3-6 stories, with parcels just behind for the kind of gracious small apartment buildings found all over Oakland, allowing the bulk of the parcels beyond to remain as detached single-family residences, with perhaps additional opportunities for in-law units behind, and slightly higher densities again at interior corners.

    The great thing about this approach is that it would allow neighborhoods to capture the benefits of increased densities (more transit, better services closer) without significant change to their existing character.

    One of the reasons Oakland is not growing very quickly is that housing is so expensive, mostly because our land use paradigm is so restrictive. Lots of people want to live in Oakland, but we push them away by making the entitlement process so burdensome. Now it’s true that this is good for the property values of homeowners such as myself (and presumably Len and Naomi), but it’s just terrible for the young and poor to middle class.

  12. Navigator

    What’s Oakland’s population as of 2010? Wikipedia says 446,000. If that’s correct Oakland has grown quite a bit in the last few years.

    Oakland has the potential of being a much larger city. If SF can squeeze 800,000 residents into 49 square miles,Oakland should have at least 600,000 residents in its 56 square miles. Oakland does have 8 Bart stations and very walkable neighborhoods. Adam’s Point is probably the densest neighborhood in Oakland and has a nice mix of interesting apartments of varying heights.

    The auto row area of upper Broadway is the next area for high density housing. The area between the 580 underpass and 28th Street should become an extension of another high density housing area, Piedmont Avenue. However, Broadway needs to be much denser and taller. Something similar to Wilshire Blvd in LA would go a long way in making Oakland into the dense exciting and vibrant city it should be.

  13. Chris Kidd

    We’ll have to wait until February for the US Census to release their American Fact Finder for the 2010 census, but if we go by the ACS
    2002: 370,736
    2005: 373,910
    Also keep in mind that the imputations in the ACS traditionally under-count poor and minority communities, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something closer to Wikipedia’s projection for the 2010 census.

  14. David

    For those who think that Oakland could fill higher density housing, here’s a modest proposal. Pick a place that’s “too low” density for you, eliminate all, and I mean all, residential zoning, have a one-stop shop for a permit that merely covers inspection expenses, instead of making it a profit source (and bribery source) for the city, and see what sprouts. No bellyaching if blocks of Craftsmen or Victorians are bulldozed along with decrepit warehouses & liquor stores. Let’s just have a free-enterprise zone. Otherwise, all of this is just another excuse for trying to force housing people don’t want on them (namely high-density apartments).

  15. Naomi Schiff

    David, we have such an area: it is called the central business district, and includes many empty lots (some of them used for parking) and quite a few buildings that could be used for high-density housing. We (Oakland Heritage Alliance) calculated the vacant parcels in 2009, and we have at least as much area as the entire acreage of high-rise zoned parcels in San Francisco!) This area needs people, has lots of amenities, great transit, entertainment, bars, and restaurants, good access to the lake and other parks, and would benefit from increased density. Zoned heights allow for substantial height on a big portion of the area.

    Los Angeles added more than 10,000 units by reusing old buildings in its central core, and turned what was skid row into a dense residential community with upgraded housing stock, both rental and for sale. These projects received expedited permitting procedures, and can make use of federal historic and local property tax credits (whether in a redevelopment zone or not).

    Here’s info on the L.A. adaptive reuse projects, doesn’t include new construction.

  16. David

    And since the central business district does not have a new influx of people, buildings (especially apartments/condos) etc, it stands to reason that less attractive areas like, say, the Hegenberger area around E. 14th, er, International, will not attract new apartments or residents either, even if we increased the density etc. Again, it puts to lie the assertion that “a lot of people want to come to Oakland” (I got a real laugh on that one) or even that restrictive zoning is a major cause. It’s not. The issues for residents are: costs relative to income and crime and schools; for owners, taxes, crime and schools; for commercial, crime and residential income; for “job centers,” local employees’ skill levels/productivity, costs and regulations.

  17. Naomi Schiff

    A lot of people do want to come to Oakland, such as my next-door neighbors, priced out of SF, and my neighbor on the other side, sick of suburban Fremont. However, what these folks wanted is to live in an urban, but improving neighborhood, convenient to downtown and BART, with good community feeling. They may or may not be seeking high density. Some such people are families with kids who have decided to cast their lot with Oakland instead of going out to the far burbs. Some of these people may consider older homes, newer lofts, condos, what have you, but are less likely to be shopping for smallish new apartments in large buildings. Yes we need to accommodate young single members of the workforce, but that is only one segment of the incoming residents we need to attract.

  18. ralph

    I disagree with your assertion that people do not want to come to Oakland. Ask any of the leasing agents in the downtown buildings. People from the burbs are coming to Oakland and for a number of reasons – nightlife, reduce commute time to SF, affordability.

  19. David

    You can disagree with my assertion all you want, but the vacant downtown units and census figures tell the story. Perhaps there is still a demand for “desirable” neighborhoods as always, but there is not (QED) demand for downtown or “undesirable” areas, like the aforementioned Hegenberger/E. 14th area. And, more importantly, the “desirable” areas don’t appear to be growing as they had been, again as witnessed by empty buildings on the borders.

  20. ralph

    Have you been downtown in the past 5 years? You are going to be hard pressed to find a significant number of vacant residential units. Just about all residential buildings enjoy an over 95% occupancy.

    I can’t remember a period when there has ever been a demand for “undesirable” areas.

  21. Matt C.

    David. Did the latest census show an increase or decrease in Oakland’s population. I believe it showed an increase. There is a lot of interest in our city as many areas are continuing to see a lot of new investment. Take Downtown in 1999 and today -it’s just not the same place. There are thousands of new residence and droves of new businesses. Commercial Class A and B occupancy rates were up over the last decade right up until the global economy went into a tail spin in ’08. As we speak it’s still at +80% occupancy downtown. That’s not bad for a Great Recession. Oakland landlords are not having a hard time finding renters. From what I can tell prices are down, but they are virtually everywhere else, too.

    I just don’t see what you see in the facts or in my observations. I moved from SF and so have two more people I know. My friends, from all over the Bay, now come to Oakland for the night life. The idea of moving to Oakland is not a laughable proposition to them, they actually think it makes sense. Live here and you can work in almost any job market in the Bay Area, have a good meal at dozens of great restaurants, and see good entertainment or enjoy a fun bar. I like it here.

    (Also why would there be demand for undesirable areas wherever they are? Otherwise wouldn’t they be called something else?)

  22. Chris Kidd

    If we were to create a true “free enterprise zone” to find out what the market would create, we’d need to do other things like remove Prop 13 tax protection, remove mortgage interest deductions, remove infrastructure subsidies that make it cheaper to drive a car, remove building standards that prioritize certain types of buildings and construction methods over others, etc.

    In short, it’s impossible. Things are far too interconnected in our society to create some magical petri dish where the invisible hand of the market would make itself felt. It’s a reductionist argument that fails to make an ounce of sense in the real world.

    And as for falling population numbers, please refer to the ACS numbers provided above.

  23. Chris Kidd


    Adaptive reuse has done really great things for downtown Los Angeles. It has been nothing short of a complete resurrection. Still, there are two enormous black eyes to consider:
    (1) Since the adaptive reuse ordinance was passed for downtown LA, not a single unit of affordable housing has been created under the ordinance while large sections of previously affordable housing (albeit in skid-row conditions) were eaten up. I know affordable housing is near and dear to you (as it should be), so that should give some pause.
    (2) One reason adaption didn’t pencil out before the ordinance was the buildings couldn’t meet City zoning’s parking requirements. (I have my own beef with LA’s parking requirements – they’re too high. Still, Oakland’s parking requirements are a lot closer to LA than they are to SF) The adaptive reuse ordinance stripped out the requirement, allowing extremely reduced parking requirements and/or parking off-site. With the way Oaklanders love to moan over parking (and the riotous backlash against meter increases), an adaptive reuse ordinance in Oakland modeled on Los Angeles would meet some stiff opposition.

    Even so, I think an adaptive reuse ordinance in Oakland could work wonders, and I would fully support one.

  24. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with you, Chris, and I too worry about affordable housing, particularly if the new governor succeeds in getting rid of redevelopment without replacing affordable housing set-asides in some way. I’ve noticed that most recently the affordable developments are the ones that have been going forward. A new one broke ground at Harrison and 17th last week, and will occupy one of those vacant downtown lots. There are also some adaptive-reuse projects proceeding (at varying rates of speed) anyway, notably Madison Park’s old Mazda Light Bulb factory in West O.

  25. livegreen

    Why are you all concerned about Affordable Housing (AH) in Oakland, when we build far more of it than our allocated middle income housing?

  26. ralph

    Just out of curiosity how are “you’ defining Affordable Housing?

    I haven’t looked at numbers but I would assume that given the crash, there is far more affordable housing in Oakland today than there is has been in years.

  27. livegreen

    The State, ABAG & the City of Oakland use 4 different categories of income to base the housing built for each:

    Up to 50 percent of Median Income

    Between 50 and 80 percent of Median Income

    Between 80 and 120 percent of Median Income

    Above 120 percent of Median Income

    Moderate housing is clearly different from Low or Very Low. “Affordable” to me is housing for Low and Very Low income, while Moderate income housing is just that.

    Perhaps we should use the same terminology as the State, ABAG & the City to be talking apples-to-apples instead of apples-to-oranges.

    Any way you look at it, Oakland builds plenty of it’s Low & Very Low income housing, and very little of it’s Moderate income housing. That is the crux of my concern.

  28. V Smoothe Post author

    Livegreen –

    Every one of those categories you refer to is, by definition “Affordable Housing.” That’s what they give allocations for.

  29. ralph

    Actually, LG, as V states, housing for moderate income is by definition affordable housing.

    So what price point to you think is appropriate for moderate, low and very low?

  30. livegreen

    Anything “Above 120% of Median Income” is Affordable Housing?

    The State & ABAG don’t give allocations only for the construction of Affordable Housing. They give Housing Allocations to make sure there’s enough housing for ALL incomes, and to make sure all Cities build their share of each.

    From the City of Oakland Housing Element Update:

    “What is the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) and how much housing is Oakland Required to Plan for?
    The RHNA is a requirement that all California cities provide their fair share of the regional housing need for all income levels and special needs populations. RHNA “assignments” are determined by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).”

  31. V Smoothe Post author

    Livegreen –

    I think you have misunderstood the these terms. When you read about “above moderate” or “moderate” housing units, that is referring to those levels of affordable housing.

  32. Livegreen

    Sorry but I’m missing u. Nowhere does it use the words Affordable Housing. It uses the income levels for ALL incomes, as per the income breakdowns from ABAG I listed above (which also didn’t say “Affordable Housing”).

    Since I don’t see “Affordable Housing” used in either the RHNA or ABAG documents, I wanted to use their categories. R u using a definition they use from somewhere else? Or r u simply saying all housing is “Affordable” to someone?

    I’m missing u somewhere, so you’re going to have to break it down some more for me…

  33. ralph

    Affordable housing is based off the area median income. Now different agencies may classify low and very low differently, but the median is always the median and all agencies use the median as the starting point.

    A single person should be able to afford a 300K home.

  34. Matt C.

    I’m gonna jump in and probably get beat up, but isn’t Oakland already out of whack in terms of percentage of the population that contributes to the tax base vs the percentage that receives benefits from the tax base?

  35. David

    1) yes, we’ll see with the new Census. A likely less than 10% increase is both in-line with California’s increase in population and less than the USA’s increase in population (never mind business, tax-friendly states like Utah and Texas). In other words, no big deal, and if lower, well, that much lower.
    2) Commercial/office vacancy is still significant. “Not too bad” for the Great(er) Depression is a great comp. Or we could note that it sucks as much as the rest of the country, which again, doesn’t say much for the relative desirability of Oakland, especially given all the other merits, i.e. proximity to San Francisco, the Port, etc etc.
    3) Chris, let’s start with things under local control, mkay. Oakland doesn’t control the mortgage tax deduction, but it does control stupid set-asides for welfare, er, I mean, “affordable” housing (that makes housing UNaffordable for the rest of us working fools), along with zoning etc.

    The fundamental point is that downtown is the best Oakland has to offer in terms of potential for higher density/TOD development. And guess what? It’s likely to have not done any better than the general state (which lagged the country) in terms of population growth, i.e. “attractiveness.” Now you think you’re going to get a bunch of yuppies or even “working folks” down at a TOD in Hegenberger? At least the stuff you’re smoking is locally grown. It’ll happen, when the budget is balanced with the addition of 1500 cops (which would bring Oakland up to the national median cop/per capita) etc etc. IN other words, never.

  36. Chris Kidd

    TOD is not meant to be built out in the next 5 years. Or probably even the next 10-15 years, for that matter. To use current conditions to ridicule long-range planning is just bizzaro-world. We cannot, with utter conviction, say what different areas of Oakland will look like in the future. 20 years ago, I don’t think anyone would have put money on Emeryville being the retail powerhouse of the east bay; and yet, here we are.

    What we can say is that Oakland needs to find ways to adequately house any new growth it might experience in the future. This growth cannot, and will not, look the same as the growth Oakland experienced in the past, mainly due to the fact that we don’t have any land left for SFR. Larger populations will put new and different demands upon our City, and we need to find ways to deal with that too. We also need to consider the failings of our city in the past, and how long-range planning can help to address them (that isn’t to say that changes to the built environment solve all ills; I’m certainly not an environmental determinist. It’s just one of many facets to improving a city). We also need to think about how regional, state, national, and global conditions might impact the way our city will work in the future (I’m looking at you, peak oil).

    TOD, when executed properly, is just one of a number of current best practices used in attempting to meet these challenges, largely through at least trying to provide alternative transportation modes to new residents paired with efficient land uses to reduce VMT.

    Will this work? Who knows! There’s plenty of data for either side of the argument. But we owe it to ourselves to at least try. I don’t know if the current slate of planning best practices will actually improve things (all the transportation planning in the world probably won’t ever make traffic better – what it does is keep traffic from getting even worse). But with these problems, it’s our responsibility to look forward. We can’t stick our heads in the sand, and we can’t insist on suspending our obligations until we’re back on our feet (hey there, prop 23). It’s our responsibility to try.

  37. David

    We don’t have any land left for SFR. Until we end up as Detroit.

    It would be illuminating to take a look at how E’ville became the retail powerhouse with no port, no BART, no schools etc. How E’ville got Chiron/Novartis, Pixar, etc etc. for companies while Oakland was left in the dust. How did E’ville ever get off the ground without a TOD??

    The fetishization of mass transit has got to stop. Most of us outgrew trains around 6-10 years old. Sorry, but they’re not appropriate for how actual human beings travel for the most part.

    F’ “Progress.” Where are we progressing to? Bankruptcy, insolvency, “liberal” rule by credentialed “elite.” No thanks. What’s the point of building utopia if it only lasts for one generation (and it’s not ours)? Nothing about the welfare state is sustainable. Nothing about a few people telling the masses how to live is “liberal,” or even workable. It’s done. Sorry to burst your worldview.

  38. Chris Kidd

    Wait, when was I talking about a welfare state? When was I proposing liberal rule by credentialed elite? When did I suggest we had to switch only to train travel? When did I suggest TOD was the only planning tool to improve things? (sidenote on E’ville: a huge part of their success came from their redevelopment agency helping to remediate brownfields for retail development and their CIERRA revolving loan fund. Oh noes! Planning solutions!) When did I suggest mortgaging our future to build a “utopia”?

    That’s a lot of words to put in my mouth, David. I’m not sure whose worldview you just burst, but it sure isn’t mine.

  39. David

    Oh, and by the way, the census numbers for Oakland:
    2009 (est): 398,793

    So, with 1000 people or so leaving Oakland, net, how does that support higher density housing again?

  40. Chris Kidd

    That’s why it’s incumbent upon us as concerned citizens to insert ourselves into the planning process and become as educated as possible about how to improve our built environment and prepare as best we can for the future while protecting that which works best right now.

  41. Naomi Schiff

    David, I think it is a good idea when discussing specific things like planning issues and TOD and housing and whatnot, to try to separate that conversation from a generally incensed worldview and random excoriation of people you’ve decided must be liberals or leftwing or some other thing you don’t approve of. Not everything comes down clearly into one of two categories. We have more interesting discourse if we admit nuances, shades of grey, and can listen to each other with respect.

  42. Naomi Schiff

    David, for example, on many issues you and I might agree. And yet, you might find that I am just one of those hopeless liberals you’d like to lambaste, on some issues. And I might think you were unhinged on some other thing. Exasperation is not the answer.

  43. David

    Yep. Sure. As I stated before, TOD is a waste. If there’s a market for apartments near BRT, well, approve them. I don’t see developers dying to get in there though. Part of that is no market, i.e. no people moving to lovely 56th Ave. and E. 14th or wherever, and part of that is rent control/red tape/taxes/crime/zoning. As I wrote, by all means, allow for multi-unit zoning all kinds of places, but don’t force it, don’t use my taxes to subsidize it, and don’t set up Cabrini Greens throughout Oakland, which doesn’t need more.

  44. Chris Kidd

    2009 US Census estimate: 409,189

    2009 ACS 1 year estimates: 409,151 (scroll to “place of birth”)

    The 3 year ACS estimate is at 403,000. And then, of course, you took the lowball 5 year estimate at 398,000 to bolster your argument. I see what you did there.

  45. Oakland Space Academy

    David: You really need to leave the house more. Human beings travel on trains all the time in Japan, Italy, and Holland, even right here in the Bay Area. Well, not all the time, BART shuts down from 12:30 to 5ish.

    As CK pointed out subsequently, the reason Emeryville got all those companies is because they had better planning policies than Oakland. Which is why it is so important that Oakland begin to plan better. TODs along International Avenue are a small but significant step in that direction.

  46. Oakland Space Academy

    David: Slow down for a moment, try to catch your breath. Nobody is forcing anything, or using ‘your’ taxes to subsidize it, or building Cabrini Greens, the proposal is basically simply to approve of apartments near BRT. So it’s all good!

  47. Oakland Space Academy

    Naomi: Great points back there at 48 & 49. One of the odd paradoxes emerging in planning & land development discourse is that left-leaners (like presumably CK and I, probably less so you) are beginning to argue for a more “market-based” approach to land regulation (less restrictions on where you can build what), while those who lean more right (David, Len) seem to favor the current, more heavily-regulated land use paradigm.

    It is an odd disjunction, and one I think is too little explored. Though I admit to being a few years out of academic planning circles, where perhaps it is more widely discussed.

  48. len raphael

    OSA, re “As CK pointed out subsequently, the reason Emeryville got all those companies is because they had better planning policies than Oakland” (darn, i couldn’t find CK’s post on that).

    Emeryville retail succeeded despite lack of planning. Recalling my brief conversation with Kofi B. who 14 years or so ago was head of Planning or Economic Development for Emeryville, when i found myself sitting next to him at an Emeryville Chamber of Commerce luncheon, and asked him what was he planning to do to mitigate the impact of all those cars his projects would bring. Answer “the next person in my position will have to deal with that.”

    i want to say something like “Emeryville was extremely development friendly, blah, blah”. And they were.

    But heck, they continue to eat Oakland’s retail lunch because it safe and clean with parking. My impression is that gang bangers go there or a bit of R&R shopping too.

    I was talking up new Oakland eateries to a friend who lives in a rough part of East O. Describing some of the places a few blocks east of Bway.

    Her response was to tell me how last week she was there during the day when five 10 to 11 year old kds, mostly girls, tripped her and then started to beat her up because she cussed them for tripping her. A passerby pulled them off.

    -len raphael, temescal

  49. len raphael

    I don’t claim the high moral ground in opposing densification of the lower density livable neighborhoods before DTO is fully occupied. Selfish point of view is that is my line that the only thing worse than living in a low density neigborhood of a dsyfunctional city is to live in a high density neighborhood of a diysfunctional city.

    Encouraging high density will kill the golden goose of the neighborhoods without a city that can provide the other amenities needed, including parks.

    Can’t see how the densification of say the Lake Merritt area over the last 40 years improved quality of life for anyone. Certainly made it a scarier place to walk at night.

    I don’t claim to know much about SF, but my impression is that it has protected its lower density neighborhoods while encouraging very high denisty in the core.

    Seems to have worked quite well judging by the low vacancy rates and high property values cf to Oakland.

    On the average, isn’t SF one of the denser cities in the US?

    -len raphael, temescal

  50. Chris Kidd


    Most of Emeryville’s vaunted retail centers were built on the sites of major brownfields. These abandoned (and highly toxic) brownfields were one of the biggest reasons why people 20 years ago considered Emeryville to be the “armpit of the bay area”.

    Emeryville’s redevelopment agency was essential in facilitating the environmental remediation of these brownfields and assembling the massive lots necessary for their large-scale retail developments.

    Emeryville’s CIERRA revolving loan fund was essential in providing low-interest loans to developers for remediation of small-lot brownfields in east Emeryville that couldn’t attract regular investors, many of them within the arts & craft overlay district. Providing opportunities to remediate these brownfields was essential, as it allowed the surrounding properties to become eminently developable once their toxic-eyesore neighboring parcels were cleaned up.

    It may be true that Emeryville didn’t bother planning for transportation issues – there are many kinds of planning. I do know, however, that they absolutely insisted upon extending Shellmound Street over the traintracks between dowtown Emeryville and East Baybridge shopping center. And that was before IKEA and the Bay Street mall got built. How’s that for foresight.

  51. len raphael

    Chris, no disagreement with you about the role of government in the brownfields remediation.

    NYC does some of that thru very generous tax incentives to private developers. But yes,

    My point would be that Oakland had and has plenty of huge pracels that weren’t/aren’t heavily contaminated by chemicals but by the taint of high crime and surrounding blight.

    BART, more bus lines weren’t enough to overcome our curse.

  52. Naomi Schiff

    Personally, Bay Street (known in my household as Dead Indian Mall) is a place I avoid. Feels like a fake nowhereville with no sense of place. The shopping area over by Powell where Copeland’s used to be looks like it is in decline. Interesting to see what happens in the longer run, isn’t it? These things have a lifespan, not always for the ages. Have you ever looked at this?

  53. Chris Kidd


    Well, yes, of course. Oakland has many different issues to tackle to get its house of cards in order. Sound planning is one of them. Applying best practices to Oakland’s long-range plans shouldn’t and won’t preclude action on any number of other social ills. It seems like so often they’re presented as either/or. I don’t know why that happens.

    Naomi, Yes Bay Street is gross. It’s got that faux-new-urbanism that is so popular with mall developers these days. The area by Powell is definitely in decline. It will be interesting to see what happens to that area as it has got some really great potential.

  54. annalee allen

    hey naomi, I hate to say this, but my “landmarks” eye saw a classic 1950′s mid-century style to that so called “dead mall.” I guess I’m hopeless when it comes to this stuff.

  55. lovica

    7 years ago when I started working in Emeryville, the city had hardly any residential property but a lot of existing and expanding retail, plus all of the aforementioned corporations. We had a police officer explain to us that the E’ville population more than doubles during week days – an interesting challenge for the small police force, but I digress.

    In the intervening years, I have witnessed a huge increase in residential construction, and even now that the boom is over it seems like they’ve got pretty good occupancy rates. It seems like Emeryville managed to get the kind of density idealized by the TOD principles cited above without actually investing in the T. I may be mis-informed, but I believe the free Emery-go-round vans are mostly paid for by participating businesses along their routes. So E’ville invests next to nothing in transportation, and gets huge influx in both commercial and residental usage, capitalizing on a huge amount of tax revenue that might otherwise have gone to Oakland. How’d they do that? I’ve gotta think it’s more than just remediating the brownfields.

    I’m inclined to support the concept of TOD, but in looking at the Emeryville example – much as I dislike some specific elements like the Bay Street mall – it seems like they’ve accomplished a lot of the same goals without even thinking about transportation. It’ll be interesting to see how that works out for them in the long run.

  56. Livegreen

    They also got the Amtrak station instead of rebuilding Oakland’s 16th St Station…It is interesting that near Oakland’s own small station in Jack London Square there is also high density housing but very little retail.

    Is that be ause it wasn’t planned well in the beginning or because it hasn’t been able to survive (or both)? What’s the occupancy rates of those apartment buildings?

  57. len raphael

    gotta wonder if the true purpose Measure BB was to discourage any hope that voters had any control over public security decisions.

    Many people thought that yes on BB = they’d get their PSO’s (neighborhood beat cops) back.

    Silly voters.

    Because Measure BB didn’t result in hiring more cops, OPD used some hamburger helper to redraw 57 beats down to 35. Then OPD weighted the needs by crime levels so that some beats got two officers and others only 1.

    Politicians say otherwise, but i think they prefer voter apathy and cynicism.

    -len raphael, temescal