No leadership, no decisions, no progress

As of today, Oakland has gone 54 days with a permanent Fire Chief. We have gone 170 days without a permanent City Administrator. 227 days without a Planning Commissioner. The Public Safety Director position, which the Mayor fought desperately to retain during last summer’s budget discussions, has been without a permanent occupant for 199 days. Oh, and don’t forget the 353 days we have gone without a permanent CEDA Director.

I know there are plenty of very hard working, intelligent, and competent people working at City Hall. But all that means squat when there is a complete void of leadership. There is no accountability, and nobody is empowered or willing to make any real decisions. And without that, Oakland is never going to go anywhere.

At yesterday’s meeting, the Community and Economic Development Committee received two insanely frustrating reports. The first was on the City’s retail enhancement strategy (PDF). The 17 page report did not outline a coherent plan, provide timelines, goals, responsibilities, or in any other way present a clear strategy for growing the retail sector in Oakland. Instead, it recommended 96 vague possible future actions aimed at attracting retailers, many of which appear to be thought out…well, not at all. My favorite:

Provide free security, customer service, web and marketing consultations with designated consultants for retailers that make certain milestones (sign leases, buy property, open for business, expand, etc.)

The Committee also received an equally meaningless report on the City’s Economic Development Framework (PDF). As one friend put it, the report reads like a term paper prepared by a college freshman. Again, no goals, no strategy, no actual plan for anything…nothing. The oral presentation was so painful to watch that I had to try four different times before I made it all the way through without my attention wandering. Endless talk of how we need meetings and workshops and working groups and how we’re going to develop strategies for this or for that and coordination and information, and when you put it all together, it just comes off like total jibberish.

At some point, somebody has to make a decision! We cannot sit around forever talking about the future and planning on developing working plans for ten thousand different things over some indefinite time period, at the end of which we will simply receive yet another unclear report with dozens of next steps that will probably involve yet more working groups and workshopping and strategy development.

This nonsense is hardly limited to yesterday’s CED meeting. Dellums has been talking since the summer about some “revolutionary” and “innovative” and “unprecedented” deal with the broke-ass State that is perpetually just about to be signed and will somehow magically revitalize 470 blocks of Oakland without providing any new money whatsoever, but instead encourage us to work with existing state programs that are all about to be cut anyway. And the media keeps writing about it as if its news, and as if its real! As dto510 pointed out yesterday, the downtown rezoning has been dragging on in front of the Zoning Update Committee since March.

I don’t fault City staff for the endless stream of nonsensical and pointless bureaucratese I have to read. The blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the Mayor and the City Council, who are apparently completely incapable of providing consistent or clear direction. We obviously do not have the capacity to do every last thing anyone can dream up on some wish list of economic development and retail attraction. We need leaders who are willing to take responsibility and make difficult decisions about what are the few, specific things we can reasonably accomplish and want to focus our energies on and direct staff to just do them.

Ron Dellums, who can’t seem to let a single opportunity to speak in public pass without whining about how he desperately needs more power, needs to step up and start filling the one obligation of his job and just hire people already. The Council needs to stop giving our delusional and power drunk Mayor everything he wants. How long are they going to let themselves be the last people in all of Oakland to publicly question the Mayor’s direction or lack of? His total lack of leadership in virtually every area has left them hanging, unsupported and ill equipped to guide the city through this disastrous period of total financial meltdown and public safety freefall. In the arenas where they do have authority, they need to stop talking and make some damn decisions and stick with them.

Or else…well, a very angry Larry Reid probably said it better than I would. I don’t know anything about this school he’s so upset about, but he’s certainly right on when it comes to the consequences of the failure of Oakland’s leaders to adopt concrete goals and stick with them:


Transcript here. (PDF)

43 thoughts on “No leadership, no decisions, no progress

  1. Jennifer

    Oakland’s lack of leadership is so depressing. I truly, honestly do not understand how so much of nothing gets done. Does nobody in City Hall care? Has Dellums hired such incompetent staff that they can’t even put a plan together and move it forward, despite the mayor’s lack of interest or competence? I’ve watched city council meetings and have been so unimpressed by the council members that I just won’t watch anymore. There’s not even a real grandstander in the bunch who makes it one bit interesting.

    Oakland government is absolutely and completely ridiculous.

  2. Max Allstadt

    As far as CEDA goes, Chip Johnson wrote a piece recently suggesting that we hire the guy responsible for that job in Emeryville. He went as far as to suggest that this dude would be the dude who could make West Oakland more like Emeryville, and implied that this would be a good thing.

    I totally disagree. Good luck with that sales pitch. Emeryville might be successful, but if anybody expects to build a second freeway-side megamall in West Oakland, they’re crazy. Emeryville’s entire success is based on being tiny and unburdened by nimbys. We can’t repeat that here.

    Hire Eric Angstadt and be done with it. We don’t have time for a learning curve. The guy, as V has pointed out, is diplomatic enough to be unflappable even at public input meetings where everybody it trying to put him in a “gotcha” corner. Plus, from what I’ve heard from his staffers, he’s well liked by his subordinates. They seem to think this even after a few beers too.

    Interim everything from do-nothing Dellums. It’s clearly about his need for yes-men. Yuck. Two more years of this crap before someone hands him his ass in his re-election bid?

  3. Andy

    Love your angry posts. Very entertaining.

    This stuff is crazy. Could Oakland be the worst run city in the Bay Area?

    The real sad part is the fact that the vast, vast majority of the citizens have no idea how bad things are.

  4. Art

    I don’t think the point about Flores (the Emeryville guy) understanding West Oakland was so much about turning West Oakland into another Emeryville as it was an acknowledgment that, in many respects, Emeryville’s troubles were/are West and North Oakland’s troubles. There’s a city line there, true, but the challenges of transitioning away from an industrial economy and coping with neighborhood cohesion, crime, youth engagement, etc., that Emeryville deals with are very much Oakland’s concerns too. (I’m not advocating for Flores—he retired not long after I moved here, so I don’t know too much about him—just noting that there are lessons to be learned from—and shared with—-Emeryville even if a freeway megamall isn’t the solution on this side of the line.)

  5. Chris Kidd

    I have to second Max’s endorsement of Eric. I have been impressed by him each time I have seen him speak, be it in community/stakeholder meetings, the planning commission, or before the whole city council. Even with his aforementioned ability to be diplomatic, I have yet to see any amount of waffling on the issues even when backed into that “gotcha” corner. I really value the ability of a public figure to stick to his/her guns, considering that the current administration refuses to even get their guns out of their proverbial holsters.

    I’m sure there are plenty of other likeminded people in the city government who would love to get to work but for the huge brain freeze coming from the top. In the words of Cider House Rules: “Shit or get off the pot!”

  6. Max Allstadt

    Art,

    There are some connections, but not enough. West Oakland is at least 10 times the population of Emeryville, and probably 20 times the number of organized lobbying groups. Planning commitments have been made to keep West Oakland industrial rather than retail. Reigning political forces for now seem against any corporate retail in West Oakland. Besides, Emeryville already has the jump on us in that department. Oh, and the economic boom is over. So talent and endorsements aside, these jobs are not at all similar.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    A couple of things wrong with that comment, Max. First, West Oakland has roughly double the population of Emeryville, not ten times. Second, I see zero evidence of any sort of long term political commitment to retaining industrial, rather than retail or some other use along major corridors in West Oakland. In fact, all indications from City Hall suggest otherwise.

  8. dto510

    Max, West O’s population is about two or three times Emeryville’s 10,000, not ten times. And I disagree that “reigning political forces” oppose some Emeryville-like development, particularly along Mandela. While “corporate retail” may be how you think of Emeryville, other people see its industrial / office job growth and high-density housing as other successes.

    The reason some people support Mr. Flores is not because they want to see Oakland be the same as Emeryville. It’s because Emeryville picked a plan and implemented it under his leadership. That’s what Oakland needs to do.

    Mostly, though, we need to hire top-level administrators, whoever they may be. The city really is falling apart under Dellums, it’s become painful to watch public meetings with headless bureaucracies.

  9. 94610BizMan

    My wife and I have been associated with multiple startups in Berkeley, Oakland and Emeryville over the last 25 years that created 100s of good jobs. I’ve moved jobs from Berkeley (lack of space due to success) to Oakland that subsequently end up with the company moving those jobs out of Oakland. Now we can argue whether that’s just Oakland’s fault, but that hasn’t been my experience with Emeryville.

    With the economy likely to be in job destruction mode for the next year or two, when the recession ends, Oakland will be the last to see improvement. The feckless incompetence of the city administration could easily double the length of the recession locally. No executive is going to make the decision to bring good jobs to Oakland with the current administration when there are alternative less incompetent locations. It will also be tough to hold onto what jobs are here presently during the recession.

    I would agree with our hostess that “Oakland’s lack of leadership is so depressing

  10. Robert

    I see two critical skells needed by the next administrator. The first is obvious, that she/he can actually run a city government and effectively bring policies to fruition.

    The second is more unique to the political situation in Oakland, the ability to develp and articulate a vision for the future. Not that they have to have that visions the day they walk in the door, but the will be able to develop a vision over the first year. Having the vision in place before you start would, I think, be bad, because it means that you aren’t too concerned about the realities of Oakland, but more about your own philosophy. The need to develop a vision is becasue of the total lack of any vision by the mayor or by the council. Normally I would expect the administraton only to have to implement the vision, but in Oakland they will have to come up with the vision also.

  11. Hayden

    For what it’s worth, at least some of the industry in West Oakland doesn’t think it’ll be around for too long. The folks at CASS metals can see that there was an almost-built live-work project across the street from them, and figure they may need to pack up their aluminum smelter in 5+ years, or so they say.

    Also, the Oakland Base Reuse Authority was looking to attract a Target or Costco to the dirt lot (former national guard or army property, I think?) that is to the northeast of Grand and Burma Road. That didn’t pan out (unless anyone knows otherwise?), but that would’ve been big box retail in the maze area–accessible from West Oakland, but not in a way that would disturb it.

  12. Doug Boxer

    Out of every crisis comes opportunity.

    Job creation, retail attraction are dead for the short term. We need to do being the things from a planning perspective to ensure that when the bottom happens (2009? 2010?), we are prepared to ride the wave. The PC has been hammered here at at FutureOakland for dragging it’s feet on downtown rezoning. The fact is that our deliberations have caused very little harm, as few developers are seeking entitlements for downtown properties. We can take the time to get this right. I’m just as frustrated as you all about how long it’s taking us but we will get this done in the 1st quarter of 2009. My hope is that when we finish, and the Council adopts the downtown rezone, we’ll be all set to catch the next wave.

    I too want a new Planning Commissioner. We’ve had a hard time attracting quorums recently.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    Like last night! I was all excited to get off work early and rushed over to City Hall to watch the meeting. What do I find? A note saying that the Planning Commission meeting was canceled due to lack of quorum.

  14. dto510

    Mr. Boxer, with all due respect, I strongly disagree that “job creation and retail attraction are dead for the short term.” The fundamentals behind Oakland’s need for new retail do not depend on growth, but on the fact that Oakland is seriously under-retailed. Oakland can attract jobs by positioning itself as a lower-cost but attractive alternative to San Francisco. Oakland can grow its job base even during an economic downturn, as we did in 2002. But we cannot do that if decisions get delayed for years.

    Downtowners consider building new surface parking lots and allowing key retail spaces to go back to office very harmful. The DTO zoning is not only about skyscrapers. Dithering over height limits, while perhaps not affecting attention-grabbing developments, is holding downtown back. The zoning is six months late and counting. It’s time to make a decision, sir.

  15. Max Allstadt

    We do indeed need a new planning commissioner. The council can put one through without Dellums, and they need to do that. I just don’t get why they don’t get of their buts and find a commissioner and an administrator, and just vote them through while Dellums is where ever he goes when he’s doing nothing (home watching Matlock?)

    Is the council’s infighting more important to them than a city that runs properly? Hasn’t Dan Lindheim pissed five of them off enough that they would be willing exercise their voting power so the don’t have to sit next to him anymore?

    Perhaps the sitting commissioners should consider intentionally not making quorum on nights when key council members are hoping for a commission vote on something important in their district. Other workers go on strike when they feel management has left them understaffed, why not the planning commission?

  16. Doug Boxer

    DTO,

    Thanks for the respect. I would never think otherwise as long as you have well reasoned and rationale comments, which you always do.

    A couple of points:

    No question that we are under-retailed. How many times do I curse my own behavior as I head to SF to shop at Macy’s or other retailers. I do go to my own local merchants on Lakeshore and Grand but you can’t get a winter coat at any of those stores (plus Macy’s is practically giving away stuff now).

    I guess I meant that MEANINGFUL job creation and economic development are dead. Yes, we (the Mayor) can and should be out there recruiting new businesses and retailers to come to Oakland but in terms of the hundreds of millions of dollars of private capital we need flowing to Oakland to help us achieve job creation….well, we’re going to have to wait a bit.

    I have talked to countless developers about their plight. The fundamental issue right now is that very, very few can secure financing for new construction. Very well heeled, respected developers in this town are being asked to put up 50% to secure a loan and even then the interest rates they can secure are like 9%. It is almost impossible w/ that cost of money plus cost of construction for someone to build a new building in this environment. Yes, Shorenstein did start construction but that is b/c they had to under the rules of their redevelopment contract with the City.

    DTO, please keep up your advocacy for Oakland.

  17. TN

    Re: John Flores

    When I lived in and was active in West Oakland back in the early 1980′s, John Flores worked for the City of Oakland. I recall that he had worked his way up the ranks to a high position in City Hall before he was lured away to Emeryville.

    Emeryville’s gain was Oakland’s loss.

    If anyone understands the issues that Oakland faces from inside and out, it is Flores.

    I can understand that some people might question his “vision.” But I don’t think that anyone can question his detailed internal knowledge of city government in both Emeryville and Oakland.

    ps. V: Thank you for this site. I’m glad I found it even though I no longer live in Oakland.

  18. dto510

    Max – according to an article unearthed by City Homestead, the Planning Commission quit en masse in the 1920s. The blogger told me last night that she thinks it was because they had difficulty reaching consensus during the building boom. Apparently the Grand Lake Theater was very controversial.

  19. V Smoothe Post author

    Doug, you’re obsessed with skyscrapers! You totally dismiss dto510′s blog, in which he highlighted three very explicit examples of how the delay in the new zoning’s adoption is hurting downtown, for no reason at all.

    Perhaps brand new surface parking lots, new buildings on retail corridors without ground floor retail space, and retail spaces in up and coming districts converting to office aren’t “MEANINGFUL” to you, but they have a very direct impact on the people who live here and experience their impacts every day, and your suggestion that they are not important enough to merit your concern is insulting to downtown residents.

  20. Art

    It’s also worth noting that the few months’ delay in adopting the zoning pales in comparison to ten YEARS of delay since the GP was updated. Having a GP and a zoning ordinance that are out of sync for a short time is problematic, but understandable. Allowing that to go on for years is insane, and has had impacts on the city that we can’t even begin to fathom. Every day counts. Emeryville may have its issues, but at least they’re updating their zoning alongside their GP right now. (Of course, their planning director and GP coordinator also both came from Oakland, so they know all too well the dangers of not doing this….)

  21. Robert

    Did you see that our mayor has done such a fine job in Oakland that he has been appointed to serve on the United States Conference of Mayors’ Working Group on the MainStreet Economic Recovery Plan?

  22. Kent Lewandowski

    The problems in Oakland start at the top, in the mayor’s office. I’ve been to council meetings and watched the council try to grapple with decisions. Admittedly it is not a pretty sight and often the lack of decision making results from infighting in the council. But that too is a problem with executive direction-setting (the mayor). When I go to the Berkeley City Council meeting there is Tom Bates sitting right in the middle and brokering compromises. That’s what we need, too. Until we have a mayor willing to do that dirty work, I’m afraid we’re going to be left with the generally fractious councils and commissions, who after all represent a city that is also fractious and divided. That’s just the nature of Oakland – it’s economically, geographically, and sometimes (unfortunately also) racially divided. So this city really needs a mayor willing to work with all constituencies and broker compromises. I don’t see that happening right now.

    Also: the constant barrage of criticsm and negativity I hear emanating from public speakers like Mr. Honda at meetings, accusing the council of greed, graft and corruption at every turn, does not help get things done, either.

  23. Frankie D

    V Smoothe, this is concerning the quality of the two reports mentioned in your post. I read them both and was also unimpressed. I linked you a copy of a Commerce and Industry Inventory report prepared not by hired consultants but rather civil servants from a neighboring jurisdiction. The technology used to prepare this document is no different then what’s probably available in Oakland, but the skill level to minipulate the technology is obviously not. Nor are the expectations from the public on the caliber of work. Presentation and graphics are extremely important when presenting dull dry information, nearly as important as content. Hiring someone in house with those graphic communication skills is well worth the salary. This is the type of stuff good leadership should know.

    http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/planning/Citywide/pdf/Commerce_and_Industry_Inventory_2008.pdf

  24. V Smoothe Post author

    The graphics and presentation style are certainly in a different class than you’d ever see in an Oakland report. But beyond that, I’m amazed by the sheer amount of information contained therein. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything close in a City of Oakland report.

  25. Robert

    The SF report does have a lot of information, more importantly, it has information presented in a way that provides meaning. City of Oaklnad reports, and the budget is the best (worst?) example have data, with little information and no meaning. The reader is force to perform all of the intrepretation of the data.

  26. Brooklyn Avenue

    I was amused (and depressed) when I read this quote from Dellums in the Tribune last week, regarding his dispute with John Russo about the delay in hiring a permanent city administrator:

    “You’re not going to have to hold your breath a long time…I’m still interviewing people for different (positions), but the decision’s got to be made fairly quickly, because we’ve got to rock and roll.”

    After 2 years of watching Dellums’ hemming and hawing and dillying and dallying on one issue after another, I wonder how many residents of Oakland can take him seriously when he says “we’ve got to rock and roll.” The notion of Dellums taking quick, decisive action on ANYTHING at this point just seems laughable. I hope he proves us all wrong.

  27. charles hahn

    Kudos to Councilmember Reid for telling it like it is. Thank you for your leadership and standing firm on retail development on Hegenberger Ave as well as the entire city.

  28. Deborah Acosta

    As staff, we’ve been watching you roast our efforts since Tuesday’s presentation, and feel it’s time to become engaged in this conversation.

    Comparisons to the work of the report you referenced in SF and the one presented to the CED Cmte. on Tuesday are meaningless when you consider the difference in numbers of staff — and amount of resources available — between the two cities. SF has over 100 employees dedicated to economic development. Oakland has ten — and only seven of us are actually dedicated to investment attraction efforts. Actually, this is a huge boost from the Jerry Brown days, when at one time there were exactly four of us, all reporting to different managers within CEDA.

    Today, all ten of us still report to three different managers. In spite of the issues that this fractured leadership causes, the report that went to CED last Tuesday for the first time in ten years proposed a framework with which to view Economic Development. What is the mission of Economic Development? To attract investment for the benefit of Oakland’s residents, workers, businesses and the City. How do we do it?

    Product Development (enabling a business friendly environment through excellent infrastructure, site availability, workforce development, business support services, access to capital, ease of doing business with the City, and financial incentives);

    Marketing (communicating the advantages of investing and doing business in Oakland);

    Broker (facilitating successful deals that benefit buyers, sellers, the City and its residents); and

    Customer Relationship Management (developing and maintaining good relationships with businesses, investors and other stakeholders).

    Frankly, it is impossible to map out goals and strategies without understanding what your mission is and what tools you have at your disposal to do so. For the first time in ten years — we as a unit are crystal-clear about what our role is.

    The question is — within this framework, will staff finally be given the policy direction, tools and resources we need to do our job effectively?

    Finally — we invite all of you to discuss your concerns and ideas with staff directly. My name is Deborah Acosta, my area of responsbility is investment attraction into the Office Real Estate and International Trade, and I can be reached at 510.238.7090 or dacosta@oaklandnet.com. In future discussions, others of us will join in and more contact information will be provided — unfortunately, our web site information is outdated, so I won’t bother including the link here.

    The discussion of economic development, its framework and the developing goals and objectives is finally a very public discussion — and we welcome it.

    More to come…….

  29. Carlos Plazola

    Deborah, Welcome!

    BTW, everyone, Deborah is wonderful! (Deborah, I hope that doesn’t get you fired ;-) . Seriously, Deborah is dedicated, smart, and clearly (based on her post) committed to Oakland.

    I’m happy to see you post here. I made a statement at CED Committee the other night, after having read the “Framework” report, expressing appreciation for all the hard work that staff put into the effort. But it seems that while we have smart and dedicated staff at your level, we’re not seeing much strategic vision come from the Mayor’s office or the City Administrator.

    And the frustration you sense from this “roast” is aimed at the inability of our city’s leadership to give a clear direction of where we’re going. Analogy: We’re all in a big ship in a stormy sea and all the staff people are rowing really hard, but the captain and his mates are sipping tea in the galley, so we’re just rowing to who-the-hell-knows-where. What we’re missing is L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P.

    What is our mission? What are our goals? How will all the work you’re doing help us meet our goals? What do we need to reorganize/streamline/re-orient to help us meet our goals? What is our city-wide retail strategy (in terms of land use) and what are our goals for raising revenue and jobs from this strategy? From our industrial strategy? Our housing recovery strategy? What is our strategy to raise revenue and jobs from our rezoning effort? How do we position ourselves for the economic rebound, in terms of marketing our goals and strategies, to become the next great “smart-growth” city? How do we know if we’re succeeding? How do we know if we’re failing? Who will be held accountable for success or failure?

    All of these are things the Mayor and City Administrator should be figuring out right now, because our opportunity to prepare for the economic recovery started about 6 months ago, and the clock is ticking. We have to start figuring out these questions now, because if we delay another 6 months, it may be too late. Once the economy begins to recover, other municipalities that figured out these questions, will be the ones that attract the investment, and can thus negotiate greater public benefits for their residents.

    I certainly recognize, appreciate, and applaud the work you’ve done. But I hope the Mayor and new City Administrator do a better job of supporting you than they’ve done in the last two years.

    Carlos Plazola

  30. Deborah Acosta

    Carlos: Thank you for your support in your comments here and at Committee. Not only you, but Karen Engel of the Chamber were very clear on their appreciation of staff’s efforts and the need for effective, informed and strategic leadership to move this work forward.

    I’ve lived in Oakland 35 years. My ex-husband (Tony Acosta, former Director of Oakland Parks and Rec) and I raised our two children here, suffering through the deficiencies in the Oakland public school system. I’ve served a number of roles in this City, ranging from PTA president to founding member of Oakland’s Community Policing ordinance 72727 and appointed by both Dick Spees and Larry Reid to the Community Policing Advisory Board. I’m a Wells Fargo finance professional, and I’ve worked in CEDA for ten years. And I am not the only one bringing this kind of experience to the table. Staff gets it — we know what needs to be done and how to go about it.

    V., Carlos, Max, everyone — you obviously care about what happens here in Oakland. Make your voice heard, not just in this blog, but join us at City Hall. Enter the discussion at that level. Support our efforts, offer constructive criticism, whatever — but please join in the public discussion. This is how democracy really works.

    Debbie

  31. Carlos Plazola

    Deborah, hear you loud and clear and I hope others do, too.

    If we truly want change, we must walk the walk–away from our computers, at times, and down to city hall, at least on Tuesdays.

  32. Doug Boxer

    V,

    I don’t really get your comment that I’m “obsessed” with skyscrapers. If, by that, you think that I think the only meaningful job creation and retail attraction will occur when you get a lot more density downtown, then perhaps you are correct. But I can tell you that this is not what keeps me up at night (which is kinda how I would define obsessed). The reality is that there is a very large segment of the lake edge community that is very concerned with any height near the lake.

    That said, I must also comment on your conclusion that if a blogger makes a point and that point is not responded to in this space, that somehow the poster is “dismissing” the bloggers points. I didn’t mean to dismiss any of dto510′s points. Quick frankly, I’m lucky to find the time to read and post here and I’m glad you give people the forum to do it. I’m sure that dto made some very good points (as usual).

    I was simply responding to the complaint that the Planning Commission is taking too much time on downtown rezoning. I was trying articulate some rationale as to why the time delay isn’t the end of the world. DTO’s blog indeed indicate some examples of how the “delay” hurts the current effort to create a walkable, livable downtown. I would agree that additional surface lots are deleterious but they do create revenue while the owners wait for the credit markets to unfreeze (a parking lot seems preferable to a chain link fence). As to the senior housing project, I’m not familiar with the specifics. When the application comes forward, I would certainly hope you and dto come to tell us why the proposal is deficient.

    Doug

  33. driver

    V, Insulting to ALL residents,not just downtown risdents.

    Perhaps brand new surface parking lots, new buildings on retail corridors without ground floor retail space, and retail spaces in up and coming districts converting to office aren’t “MEANINGFUL” to you, but they have a very direct impact on the people who live here and experience their impacts every day, and your suggestion that they are not important enough to merit your concern is insulting to downtown residents.

  34. Max Allstadt

    Doug,

    If the intent is to allow surface lots as a bridge until the end of the credit crunch, you and your fellow commissioners need to put explicit sunset dates on the use permits for these things. No-one should be granted an indefinite permit for a surface lot downtown under any circumstances. Two years tops, and then they have to come back, hat in hand, or better yet, come back with an application for a real development.

  35. V Smoothe Post author

    Doug –

    I would certainly never suggest that failure to reply to any specific blog is evidence of being dismissive of the blogger’s concerns. I said you were dismissing dto510′s points because you went out of your way to take the time to write a comment complaining about the criticism, claiming that the delay caused no harm because nothing “meaningful” is happening now, when the entire point of his blog was that the delay in adoption in zoning has resulted in actual damage to downtown.

    Deborah –

    I’m sorry if you took the “roast” of the report personally. I thought I went out of my way in the blog to say I didn’t think the problems with it were the fault of staff. But while a “framework” that allows for discussion of economic development and investment attraction is long overdue, and it’s difficult for me to see the utlity of such a framework when it comes, as this one did, without any measurable goals, metrics of success, or concrete actions.

    I understand that there are multiple reasons why our investment attraction efforts are so far behind where they need to be – staffing levels, departmental organizational barriers, inconsistent and unclear political support, and the multiple layers of bureaucracy any report needs to pass through all contribute to Oakland’s lack of vision and direction with respect to economic development. But the fact that there are explanations for deficiencies in a product does not make said product any less deficient.