One more chance to help keep downtown Oakland from becoming even more blighted

This Wednesday, the Oakland Planning Commission will consider, hopefully for the final time, a proposal to create something called a Temporary Conditional Use Permit (TCUP), which you can read all about here, here, here, here, here, here, and here if you’re interested in the details. The short version is that these TCUPs will allow for the creation of new surface parking lots in downtown Oakland.

Parking lot blight

Under the recently adopted new downtown zoning, parking structures are allowed, but new surface parking lots are banned, in accordance with the policies for downtown Oakland laid out in our General Plan, which specifies that parking facilities in the downtown area should be “designed to enhance the pedestrian environment.”

Surface parking lots are gross

On Saturday, I took a little walk around a relatively small section of downtown, surveying the state of all the surface parking lots between 19th and Broadway and 13th and Madison.

Parking lot blight

It was really, really gross.

parking lot blight

Some lots were better than others, and some were especially super gross. But out of all the lots I visited, there was only one that was actually clean and totally free of trash. Only two were free of graffiti.

parking lot blight

The most common argument I hear in defense of adding new surface parking lots downtown is that even if surface parking isn’t an ideal use, it is at least better than having some an empty lot, which will inevitably become blighted and covered in trash and graffiti.

parking lot blight

Observation indicates, however, that in reality, the opposite is true. The existing fenced vacant lots downtown, while hardly an ideal use of land, tend to remain relatively free of such things, perhaps because fences lend a sense of ownership to the land and present at least a small barrier to entrance for littering and/or other gross purposes.

parking lot blight

Surface parking lots, on the other hand, are large expanses of open space that appears unowned. Their large blank walls welcome taggers. Their dark, open corners invite those in need of a place for sleeping or conducting other personal business. Their vast expanses of uncared for asphalt are treated as trash cans for anyone who passes by.

parking lot blight

The deplorable condition of these lots only invites more blight. A space full of trash day after day sends a message to everyone who passes by that it’s okay to add to the pile.

parking lot blight

As we have seen with the recent addition of a “temporary” parking lot at 14th and Harrison, it doesn’t matter what kind of conditions the City places on these permits — Oakland simply does not have the resources to monitor or enforce these conditions. And then you end up having piles of feces sitting there for three months and 20 foot tall graffiti that remains for six weeks even though we were promised the lot would be cleaned daily and all graffiti would be removed within seventy-two hours.

parking lot blight

What kind of message does this send to people who come to our downtown? Is this the kind of welcome we want to give visitors?

parking lot blight

I had originally planned on doing a larger section of downtown for my little parking lot blight survey, but after just going through this small section, I had to stop. I was so disgusted that I just couldn’t take it anymore.

parking lot blight

How you can help

If you don’t want more of this kind of blight downtown, well, it would be awesome if you could come out on Wednesday night to speak at the Planning Commission against the TCUPs. The meeting starts at 6 PM.

parking lot blight

If you can’t make it on Wednesday, you can still help out by sending an email to the Commission. Here’s a sample message to get you started, but I encourage you to personalize it with your own views.

Dear Planning Commissioners -

I am writing to ask you to vote against adopting the Temporary Conditional Use Permits that would allow for new surface parking lots in downtown Oakland. Allowing unlimited surface parking downtown would be unpleasant and unsafe. Parking lots are a magnet for blight, graffiti, and crime. I enjoy downtown and don’t want to see more cars and more curb cuts. There is no good reason to do this, it’s not part of any transportation or business strategy, and is in direct opposition to Oakland’s stated goals of created a more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant downtown. Please recommend against adopting this proposal.

The Planning Commissioners emails are as follows:,,,,,,

So please send an email. Or don’t, if you want more of this:

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41 thoughts on “One more chance to help keep downtown Oakland from becoming even more blighted

  1. Ken 0

    Basically all private land that is basically unguarded and untended “privately owned public open space” (POPOS), therefore we get “tragedy of the commons.”

    Our Popos have too much to deal with to care about POPOS, and the owners don’t give two hoots either.

    One would hope though that some of the sprayers would eventually make some NICE graffiti/ aerosol art/tags…

    mostly ugly duckling stuff.

    here’s an update i wrote about Uptown’s newest private auto parking garage rendition:

  2. Jason G

    Thanks for this. Pretty awful. I would say it looks like my walk to work, but I think the only clean one is the one I cut through at 17th and Broadway….

  3. Ben Delaney

    Thanks for this report. Well done!

    the other problem with more lots is that it encourages more driving. we need to make public transit more attractive, and driving less so.

    Methods include full funding for public transit, reducing fares, increasing schedules, building trains wherever possible, and increased auto license fees.

    also, we need to make the driving test more difficult to encourage the drivers remaining to be better.

  4. Dax

    Ben Delaney…

    Your take on what government should do to, encourage, force, and make citizens take public transit, must be written tongue-in-cheek, right?

    – make driving less attractive–

    –increased auto license fees–

    – full funding for public transit–

    Full funding from where…new taxes?
    Perhaps we can increase the AC Transit employee benefit package so its not just 85% of salary… no, lets boost it to over 100% right now… raise auto license fees NOW.

    How about we boost bridge fares a couple more bucks, and make it a flat $10 during the peak travel times.
    Force more folks into BART. Then boost BART salaries a bit more so a simple train operator or station agents can have more than a $120,000 total compensation package as they currently do.

    – building trains whenever possible–
    Lets boost funding of the bullet-train, so we can take the traffic jam off Interstate 5…
    Why, we’ll be able to get from Tracy to Fresno in under 20 minutes by 2022 and all for less than 30 billion of the eventual 100-150 billion dollars for the entire system.
    Or perhaps a billion dollar Oakland airport extension of BART as well.

    There is no end to the creative ways our seasoned political leaders can invent to pry us out of our cars.

    Oakland parking fees boosted to $3.00 per hour, why not?

    Meanwhile, after reporting a deliberately picked-up and gathered pile of trash to the city, they decide to send 1 city crew, in one truck, to pick it up…

    Oh no…. one city truck and crew won’t do.
    No, we need to send 5 city trucks, with 5 crews, to pick up ONE pile of trash. A pile in a out of the way hill location.

    Truck #1 with crew… Picks up a 2 tires (tires only truck)
    Truck #2 with crew… Picks up 1 TV set ( E-waste truck )
    Truck #3 with crew… Picks up the construction and regular waste, bottles, cans, papers.
    Truck #4 with crew.. is a fire truck… to “evaluate” the 8 partially filled paint cans.
    Truck #5 …is a private contractor, hired by the city to “pick up” those 8 cans of paint.

    11 employees (with 10 city pensions), 5 trucks, one pile. multiple gallons of gasoline and diesel.

    Yes, our city leaders can certainly give us their wisdom in showing us the way to cut down on auto and truck traffic in Oakland.
    They are wise beyond their years…

    Meanwhile, the headline today on SF Gate is the following…
    “Transit chief is on the gravy train”

    SamTrans, Caltrain head Michael Scanlon’s compensation package worth as much as $433,000 a year. M&R.

  5. Dax

    I suppose I got a bit off the main point of this thread in my above post.

    On the main point.
    I don’t understand why it would be so difficult to have one city contracted person, or part time employee, that would go by these private lots a couple times each week.

    If they haven’t been kept clean, he takes a photo for proof of said condition, then proceeds to pick up the trash, billing the owner some nominal amount.

    NOT some huge fine of $200 or $500..
    Rather something like $30 for the 15 minutes it takes him to clean it up.
    Even small fines/fees would do several things. The lots would be kept clean.
    The fines/fees would cover the cost of the service, and both the city and probably even the owners would save money.

    Is some variation on the above theme not the practical way to handle this ongoing mess?
    We don’t need a new FT city employee costing $100,000.

    Sure some parking lot owner might challenge or refuse to pay, but I’m betting 90% of them would welcome some variation of the above, if priced at true cost.
    Why have dozens of lot owners hiring separate people to come by less than once every week, thereby allowing the mess to build up?

    OK…too simple?

    How may messy lots are there? 20, 40, 100 ?

  6. MarleenLee

    Why is the trash and grafitti not a violation of the blight ordinance? Can’t the owners of the lots be fined for not keeping the lots clean? I’ve heard stories of the City sending in people to mow weeds, tear out trees and shrubs, and send bills amounting to thousands of dollars to the owners for violating “blight” ordinances. Why can’t the City do the same here?

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    The City lacks the resources to monitor these lots for blight, just as they lack the resources to enforce conditions of approval related to keeping them clean. Additionally, the City has very little success in actually collecting on the fines they asses for blight. Normally, people simply don’t pay.

  8. livegreen

    Dax, I agree with your point about fines, but it has to be enough to pay for the employee + so the City can invest in more.

    There would seem to be two violations here, one for pollution, the other for violating zoning variances (if that’s the case). I don’t know if Blight would be in the former or an additional.

    Of course if it’s effective then they’d clean up their act then the City would have extra employees on hand. I don’t know the personnel implications in that situation, but that could be factored into the initial amount of hires as it’s tested.

    They could also share inspections responsibilities with other parts of the City, such as Business License enforcement. Another area where one has to wonder if the City has any enforcement on unregistered companies.

    I’m curious about the size of the underground economy with little enforcement of unregistered companies. It seems to be a purely voluntary tax.

  9. livegreen

    V, Private companies have methods for collecting debts, as do governments, including:

    -Collections agencies? (Other than political candidate Mario Juarez).
    -The Nuisance Bureau uses fines of $10k-$15K at a time. Why not do the same or larger?
    -Repo the property in the case where it’s previously Redevelopment owned land.

    The key is for the fines to be big enough, at least at a certain point, to pay the lawyers if it has to go to court. & if it can be part of a contract from the beginning (like previously owned Redevelopment land or Conditional Use permits) it would seem to increase the chances of a victory before or in-court.

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    There was a lengthy discussion during budget deliberations a few years ago about improving the City’s ability to collect on fines for blighted properties. I don’t really have time to get into it right now, but in short, the City has a great deal of difficulty collecting them and assessing fines that never get paid doesn’t do anything to improve the situation.

  11. Dax

    I don’t buy all these problems.

    How may parking lots are we talking about
    50, 100, 200 ?

    Heck, a part time… perhaps only one day per week person, could nearly visit all of them, take a couple photos, give them a form of ticket, and move to the next one.

    Then give the owner a option of paying the fine NOW of perhaps $50, or paying the late fine of $500.
    Just like they do to ALL homeowners for their garbage collection.

    You devise a LOW employee plan.
    Not like we normally see for Oakland where 5 trucks pick up one pile of garbage.

    I’m telling you, one employee, working 1 day a week could address 90% of the downtown problem.

    I don’t know the exact law the city would need to pass or the exact mechanism for collection of fines, or the exact authority needed for a part time employee or contractor to pick up the trash, but this is NOT a difficult problem.

    People have become so helpless in needing the Earth to move to solve a simple problem. Mired in the glue that passes for imagination and thinking in City Hall.

    This is a very simple problem for any normal entity to solve.

    Heck, if it doesn’t pass muster, put a “Boot” on the lot.

    But if you complicate it, or make it so it needs someone’s brother-in-law to clean it up under dubious city contracts, then I’m sure you can make the entire process onerous such that the problem isn’t solved AND it still requires a new FT city employee.

    You know, we all know, one guy with a pick-up truck and some brooms, could handle all these lots on a very part time basis, perhaps one day a week depending on the number included.
    Thats it……not a fleet of city trucks, supervisors, and the like.
    Doesn’t need to even be a city employee.

    The need to complicate things seems to be in the saddle in Oakland.

    Like having 5 trucks pick up one pile of trash. Everyone knows it crazy and insane, even the people taking the calls.
    Now we complicate this very simple problem while we find ZERO problem with issuing thousands of parking tickets daily.

    We have layers of managers costing $150,000 per year who can’t figure out this simple problem? without costing the city anything.
    I don’t buy it.

  12. livegreen

    Another option is of course liens on the property.
    How effective have the fines on empty Forclosed properties been (including banks)? Did the City Council’s big debate on that result in success, or are the bank’s ignoring the City?

    If it’s successful, why the difference?

  13. Steve Lowe

    Dax, regarding Ben’s comments about getting more people to use public transit, it should be noted that other areas of the world have been more successful than here because (a) they’re not as Balkanized as the Bay Area and (b) they’re able to adapt to new technologies (and use public subsidy to do so), whereas we’re just not willing to make that investment here – unless, of course, it’s an Airport Connector meant to keep the already well-connected even more so.

    At the root of all our troubles here in Oakland, we have a rather glaring transportation planning deficiency, even though we’re the obvious transportation hub of the Bay Area. But Oakland’s perpetually limited revenue stream equates to not enough staff to help plan and/or interact with the regional agencies, a familiar vicious cycle of crud. And meanwhile, MTC and CalTrans in particular have become agencies that rarely entertain any thoughts of Oakland other than that it might disappear somehow before improving service to those who need it most. This doesn’t mean that Oakland’s transportation planners are at fault, just overworked and often directionless when Council doesn’t understand the issues clearly enough – and that’s how little acorns grow to become mighty OAC’s, no?

    So we need an Oakland Transportation Commission to help work our way through the snarl of railroads, roadways, freeways, bus lines and BART, all of which converge here in Oakland as nowhere else in the entire Bay Area. And, in getting such a new Commission (as per the official Recommendation of the Dellums Task Forces), we can finally begin to attain a modicum of parity with our sister cities around here, all of whom derive many more benefits from the regional agencies than this most miserable city right here in the center of it all. In the dialogue that must ensue, the ideas that Ben has can be brought to the forefront, as can yours, and the unintended consequence of reasonability will prevail – or something to resemble it anyway…

    We already have a Land Use Commission (aka the Oakland Planning Commission), shouldn’t there also be a means of dealing with, arguably, the single most important function of this city, too? They’ve got ‘em in Berkeley, San Francisco and other, far wealthier cities; so what’s to prevent Oakland from beginning to see why its seat is always at the kiddie’s table while the grownups are strategically placed around the regional table and throwing only scraps in our direction?

    Rebecca has championed such a new Commission, but it’s on hold because, again, we just don’t have enough funding for this kind of tomfoolery – whereas we’ve always got enough to study whether we need to congest everyone in Jack London to death so that a ballpark can maybe go there instead of out at the Coli where there’s already, gasp, an entire BART station almost solely devoted to that more intermodally located complex. But the Planning Commission could immediately authorize a Transportation Committee that would be on par with Design Review, Zoning, Special Projects, etc., and we’d almost immediately be the beneficiaries of more respect from the regional, state and federal agencies that otherwise will keep on giving us other OAC’s and pretending that they’ve done us all a big favor by allocating our share of the public transit dollar as wisely as possible.

  14. livegreen

    Further to V’s post and Steve’s comment, are there any posts related to the organization (or lack thereof) of our fair City’s govt., or individual Agency’s therein?

    Do we have effective government and agencies, or ineffective? Who out there analyzes this stuff?

  15. Navigator

    How about having the guys in the orange and blue shirts who do such a good job keeping Broadway clean expand their patrols east towards the Lake in order to monitor the horrible surface parking lots.

    Those lots are absolutely disgusting. After they get cleaned up they need to be monitored on a regular basis so that the graffiti terrorists and the slobs, don’t make a mess of them again. Why are people so freaking destructive? How many graffiti vandals has the city caught so far this year? Surface parking lots are a horrible idea. What’s ironic is that the streets downtown along the Broadway spine south of 27th Street are now being kept very clean and tidy.

  16. Dax

    LG, You ask, effective or ineffective?

    Who analyzes this stuff?

    Unless you have a system in place, everyone is flying by the seat of their pants.

    Compare that to Sunnyvale, CA.

    Take a look at this article looking at Sunnyvale’s system about 17 years ago.
    Still in place now.;col1

    Now look at Sunnyvale and Oakland
    Oakland has 3 x the population and about 3 x the city workers… except some differences.

    Employee # 801 in Sunnyvale earned $54,000

    3 x 801= 2,403 in Oakland

    Employee #2,403 in Oakland earned $60,840

    Only 10% higher, but go a bit more and you see dramatic differences.
    Each time to three times the number since the staff is three times a large.

    Sunnyvale #855 $39,000
    Oakland #2565 $56,000

    Sunnyvale #901 $28,181
    Oakland #2,703 $52,736

    The difference gets much much greater as you go further down the lists.

    Oakland has a proportionately greater number of higher paid, lower level employees.

    Sunnyvale, for many reasons gets the work done with many lower paid and part time employees.
    Probably because their regular workers are much more efficient and well managed by both their superiors and by their systems approach.

    AS to their higher paid employees, well if they are paid $85,000 but their production is 150% then, their true relative cost is only $56,666.

    Very interesting…

    Now look at this short PDF for Sunnyvale.
    It includes how they approach their Surviving Fiscal Challenges, complete with nice chart.

    Changing over to such a system would be quite a task, but is there another answer?

  17. Livegreen

    But DAX, This gives Sunnyvale 1 gigantic weakness. Their employees do not earn as much so they will all want to move to Oakland!

    Then WE will have the best employees and the best system. That is why Salary Surveys r so accurate and why we have them. We can see the beneficial results…

  18. Christopher Kidd

    Now that we’ve gotten suitably off-topic to the Golden Calf of ABO commenters (employee compensation), let’s try and steer this ship back to the actual matter at hand: land use.

    Whether or not we want to “force people” to get out of their cars and whether there should be private or public mechanisms to ensure clean public spaces are completely ancillary issues to the actual question at hand: what kind of community, or built environment, do we want to live in?

    Why are we even considering dedicating more limited downtown real estate to a blighting single use? Why are we prioritizing cars over people? Traffic flow over livability and quality of life? Dead space over activity?

    Downtown is literally swimming in a sea of asphalt that you can use for only one purpose. Almost anything else you can have downtown, whether buildings, parks, streets, sidewalks, etc. can have multiple uses that grow activity and engage people. A parking lot does one thing: store cars. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; we need places to store cars. But downtown is beginning to reach a tipping point where the placement of cars is actually crowding out human activity.
    We have blocks downtown that are almost entirely eaten by surface parking, forcing apart centers of activity and creating a blanket of dead spaces throughout what should be the liveliest, busiest part of our City. How can we even consider adding to this?
    The building forms of a urban center are supposed to frame and define the street to give a contextual, human-scale feel to it. If the street is a mouth, buildings are the teeth that give the mouth its beautiful smile. When we place a surface parking lot in this midst of the urban fabric, we’re knocking a tooth out of that smile, irreparably marring it.

    In this day and age, there are many proven innovative models to provide urban parking in ways that are acceptable to developers, planners, and the public alike. To insist on more surface parking is not simply benign ignorance, it is willfully refusing to unstop your ears.

    One thing I heard throughout the CBD update a few years ago was that people were afraid of the “Manhattanization” of downtown. Well folks, if we let much more parking pave over useful spaces downtown, we won’t be Manhattan, we’ll be Los Angeles.

  19. Dax

    “Dead space over activity?~~~ But downtown is beginning to reach a tipping point where the placement of cars is actually crowding out human activity.”

    I’m curious, has a single building been removed to make space for a surface parking lot, or were these spaces just empty before?

    I remember down town Oakland, in the late 50′s and early 60′s.
    Very busy and bustling. Before the invention of the shopping mall.
    I don’t recall there being a problem with these same empty lots.

    I’m not sure limiting them to “appropriate” use will do anything more than leave them empty for years to come.

  20. ralph

    With the exception of the Fox lot, I am hard pressed to identify lots that aren’t parking lot ready – paved and curb cuts. It is not unreasonable to allow a temporary fixed time and limited renewal to owners that having parking lot ready lots. It goes against all that is holy to allow them to pave and curb cut for new lots.

  21. Matt C

    The evidence that many Downtown buildings have been lost and replaced with parking lots can be found in old photos of a once built out Downtown and in old lobby tiles peeking through Downtown parking lot asphalt. American cities are in the midst of recovering from a half century of disinvestment. In 2011 to be making any accommodation whatsoever to add more surface parking to the CBD is totally backward. The Oakland Planning Commission should be diligently investigating and eliminating barriers to development as well as on ways to dissuade land banking in the CBD.

  22. Naomi Schiff

    Working from memory, parking lots replaced buildings at 17th and Broadway (in 1980 it was a diner-type restaurant with a parking lot around it), across from the Paramount (the lamented fabulous art deco Grey Shop), along Grand Ave (weird walkthrough areas between buildings betw. Harrison and Webster), on 17th Street (bldg so. side betw San P. and Telegraph removed after EQ), behind the Haley law office building at Clay and 17th, on Broadway between 19th and 20th (KaiserPerm. took down office bldg after EQ), near The Layover where phone co. removed an elegant and tall historic building just south of the ugly one with the imprisoned vines–and I haven’t looked at a map or tried to think hard yet. Most of the vacant lots had buildings on them at some point. Quite a bit of post-1989 EQ demolition, now that I think about it.

    Thank you to all who emailed, came down to City Hall, or told others about this embarrassing attempt by the staff to institute a very bad policy. I hope it is killed dead but we will have to remain vigilant.

  23. Dax

    My sister worked at the Grey Shop back about 1960 or so. I also remember that little diner.

    Now, if land owners want to turn their lots into a parking lot, what does that mean.
    To me it means, they see that as the best economic use of the lot, at this time.

    If they thought new retail shops, professional offices, or vanilla offices made more economic sense, don’t you think they would take that route.

    What are we trying to do? Say, leave it vacant with a fence around it until 10 or 20 years from now, when people decide to come to DTO? Then build a “approved” type of business structure.

    So you keep a vacant lot… add no cheaper parking. Is that suppose to draw more folks to the other stores?
    I’ll tell you why I almost never go downtown. It costs too darn much to park.
    Last time I went to a City Council Finance meeting, I spent $8.00.
    Told myself to never do that again.
    Spent $8.00 to listen to a endless string of highly paid public employees tell the committee why they should be paid so much and why no one should be laid off.

    I guess I just don’t see how limiting parking lots is going to make more people want to come downtown.

    OK, say I have a good sized lot.
    You don’t want me to allow parking on it.
    So, please, tell me what you want me to build there?

    A few ideas on what would make economic sense, such that a bank might provide a loan to proceed.
    #1 _________
    #2 _________
    #3 _________

    I await the excellent ideas.

  24. Dax


    Why not just use a “hog farm” next to the new Catholic cathedral as your example.

    I see the following are still blank

    #1 _____
    #2 _____
    #3 _____

    The guy with the lot, what would you have him build? Say this June, what would be acceptable for him to start?

    There must be something everyone has in mind, in place of the additional parking.

  25. Chris Kidd

    It’s a valid example. An over-abundance of surface parking is as harmful to the success of a downtown as any other noxious use. That’s why they were banned in the CBD update.

  26. RdwithCypress

    Auditor Ruby says Ethics in Oakland are Double Plus Good!!! Yea Ruby…… Right!

    Double-plus good!!!
    Have your cake and eat it too!

    We’ve got great whistleblowers; but don’t take that to mean we think there’s anything unethical going on.

    According to recent reports from the city auditor the war in Eurasia will soon be won.
    The following content is from the city auditor’s recent communications.

    Everything you ever thought about “self-reporting” among government employees is, apparently, true.
    Fraud, Waste + Abuse Prevention Program (FW+A)

    In January 2009, the Whistleblower Protection Act, sponsored by Auditor Ruby and authored by Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, went into effect. This law protects whistleblowers in local government who expose fraud, waste or abuse.

    As a function of FW+A, we operate a 24 hour/7 day a week confidential hotline that takes reports of possible fraud, waste, abuse or misuse of City resources. This program fosters the highest standard of ethical behavior and acts as a deterrent against fraud, waste or abuse in Oakland.

    In its second year, FW+A received 136 tips – more than an 11 percent increase from the program’s first year and more than a 700 percent increase from before this program’s implementation. Additionally, 57 percent of all tips received on the hotline came from Oakland City employees – exceeding the national average by nearly ten percent.

    The FW+A Report (Volume Three: July 1 – December 31, 2010) will be released in the coming month.

    Ethical Climate Survey 2010
    Published 2/17/2011
    Dear Oaklanders,

    Today I would like to share with you the results of Oakland’s first Ethical Climate Survey.

    The survey, designed by the Institute for Local Government, showed that Oakland’s overall ethical climate is in a good place but has room for improvement on some key areas – principally for elected officials and other top management.

    Highlights from the report are listed below. To read the full Ethical Climate Survey report, click here.

    Good News:
    Employees felt that they were expected to use ethical behaviors in getting results
    Elected officials and City management treat the public with civility and respect
    Employees generally believe they are expected to follow the City’s stated policy – not individual elected or appointed officials’ directed requests or opinions
    Bad News:
    Elected officials and executives need to do more to create an environment where employees are comfortable surfacing ethical concerns in the work environment
    Employees question the effectiveness of management ensuring that elected officials stay within their policy role and out of day-to-day management.

  27. Steve Lowe

    Dax, I don’t have a bunch of ideas for your nos. 1 – 3, but I bet that the lot across from the Fox can be better used for almost anything other than the creepy structure that Forest City wants to stick there – as would surely be confirmed in any public meeting to discuss what its highest and best use would be if the Redevelopment pact were to be flushed down to wherever those kinds of crappy ideas really belong.

    The point I was trying to make last night is that all great cities have a central square and/or plaza around which the high end retail tends to locate, Union Square over in San Francisco being perhaps the most well-known example in the region. In the “Economy of Cities,” Jane Jacobs famously illustrates this point by arguing that cities form in the first place not because a bunch of people were walking down the road one day, got tired and decided to build a huge residential project around which retail eventually formed. Surely it just had to be the other way around, and, just as form follows function, residential follows retail. And the big field beside the trading post where you knew you weren’t going to get ambushed was part of the earliest retail experience, evolving over the years into the main town plaza or square or just about any other kind of open space besides the eerie yuck of the Bay Street-kind of ersatz we are currently being told is our innercity due.

    So the lot across from Flora and the Fox absolutely deserves to be something more than just another highrise tribute to the low-bid architecture firm, especially if ends up commemorating the soul-sucking bargain that has us all committed to $60M + in Redevelopment payola. Think of that space instead as a fabulous downtown center, renowned throughout the country, where musicians fill the air every night with the most stirring of multicultural melodies to greet the patrons of the Bay Area’s friendliest establishments up and down Telegraph and spilling over onto Broadway.

    That’d be my #1 on your list…

  28. Navigator

    I agree with you Steve. That lot next to the Fox Theater should be a great public square for Oakland. Frank Ogawa Plaza is another place with great bones and nice historic architecture. Oakland should be known for its public squares, historic architecture, pedestrain and biking accessability and great climate.

    Let’s dress up that plaza and extend that park with maybe a fountain and a nice lawn. I was in Europe two years ago and public squares are what make cities interesting, vibrant and liveable. Oakland has the great weather and the walkable downtown neighborhoods to make it work.

  29. Max Allstadt

    Believe it or not, a CEDA staffer said after the meeting that CEDA was still interested in using half of that lot for parking.

    That would make it a parking lot in between Mario Chiodo’s sculpture and the NEA funded sculpture park on the other end.

    Am I crazy or am I right in saying that is SO NOT HAPPENING.

  30. David Alger

    Oakland needs more parking. Its more and more difficult to get parking in Uptown when there are events going on at the Paramount, Fox, Lucas, Pan Theater and other Oakland arts and entertainment venues.

    Even during the morning parking has become harder.

  31. Navigator

    Putting a parking lot in the middle of that lot would be a big mistake. That lot is perfect for a large public square where people can enjoy Oakland’s great climate,dining, and arts scene. I love the views looking back at downtown from the current park. It’s a great space and needs to be used to enhance Oakland’s attractiveness and liveability.

  32. Naomi Schiff

    If there is a parking shortage (I haven’t actually seen it yet, and I work downtown too) keep the city parking lot at 19th &Franklin OPEN UNTIL 2 AM on Fri and Sat when there are performances. 482 spaces.
    Add signage to the structure! and more info on the websites so people can see where it is. We have repeatedly suggested this.
    There are thousands of parking spaces, especially available in the evenings. We don’t need to devote new lands to parking.

  33. ralph

    There may be a lack of preferred parking but I don’t think there is a shortage. While 19th and Franklin is but a stone’s throw away from Broadway, I just don’t have the sense people want to walk to an isolated, in the sense that a handful of people will use the lot, location. In other words, there is not enough demand even on the busiest night to justify opening that lot.

  34. Naomi Schiff

    If there isn’t demand, there isn’t a shortage. It is 1.5 blocks away from the Fox Oakland Theater! I parked there for years with no problems, and my office window overlooked the theater. The Business Improvement Dist. in the area has sidewalk personnel who could be asked to patrol between theaters and the 19th st. lot, though, and it would NEED SIGNS so people could find it.

  35. Navigator

    I’ve always parked next to the Ordway Building during Art Murmur and when going to shows at the Paramount. I never had a problem or felt unsafe. I didnt know about the garage on Franklin. I see people walking all over downtown at night. I see young women riding their bikes at 10:00 PM. I don’t think most people mind walking a few blocks.

  36. Naomi Schiff

    I routinely walk from 12th St. or City Hall to get home (near 29th St.) at any time between 6 and midnight, and don’t have any problem. Nowadays there are generally people out and about. When I first moved to Oakland one didn’t go near the lake after dark! Despite our legitimate concerns about crime etc., it is safer than it was when I moved here.