94 thoughts on “
Open Thread

  1. len

    Safeway Bway and Pleasant Valley makeover. Could some of you urban design, architecture big brains please pay some attention to what will have a much bigger impact in this corner of town than the rockridge safeway would.

    i know it’s not much fun without rockridge nimbys to ridicule, but your comments to the city planning staff and safeway would be appreciated, because i don’t there’s much coming from my neighbors.


    -len raphael

  2. navigator


    Is Safeway going in the old Payless site? What happened to the world’s biggest Long’s Drugs? Am I looking at the drawings correctly?

  3. V Smoothe

    Becks wrote about the new Safeway earlier this week, and I try not to cover the same topics as she does unless I feel like I have a different angle, which, in this case, I don’t. I will probably write about it at some point, maybe when it goes to Planning Commission, I don’t know.

    But I do think the design sucks. Fairly vigorous discussion at Living in the O.

  4. navigator

    Thanks V. Very sad indeed. As a kid growing up in the neighborhood I bought my bubble gum baseball cards, my miniature army men and my plastic air force, all at the Payless toy department. Long’s did a great job keeping the same feel at the huge store. What a shame!

  5. len raphael

    Beck’s site does cover the design and impact aspects very well.

    I learned from reading the posts there, that the “new urbanist” contingent for North Oakland (ULTRA) has more of a central planning, redevelopment agency perspective than most of the pro development participants on abo who seemed to be of the Fountainhead highest and best use, stop discouraging developers point of view.

    if anything, the ULTRA people have more in common with the STAND aka nimbys then they realize.

    Posters wanting to get the city to pressure the land owner (Safeway i think has a triple net lease ) to become a residential mixed use landlord. Oakland is a strange town.


  6. len

    OPD and OFD by law cannot strike, but

    (repost of Don Link’s comment on opd yahoo)

    “Re: [OPD] Are police and fire forbidden by law or contract from striking?

    Yes, I believe that it is state law. The Blue Flu is usually the way around this restriction, and it is very effective. Several scores of officers calling in sick can play havoc with the patrol and lots of other functions in OPD. ”

    “Re: [OPD] Re: Are police and fire forbidden by law or contract from striking?

    Len: I believe that State law prohibits police and other civil servants from striking, and this seems to be pretty uniform across the country. We and the City Council refer to OPOA as the police union, but I believe that sworn personnel in the police and fire depts. cannot be part of a collective bargaining union. That’s why they are members of a “Police Assn” which is legally not a union but acts and quacks as if it were one. In negotiations, it also acts like a union, with tentative agreements going back to the membership for approval or rejection. I believe that both state and federal legislation prohibit law enforcement and fire fighter unions and strikes, and other legislation prohibits police and fire associations/unions to affiliate with larger labor union confederations such as the AFLCIO.


  7. Chris Kidd

    len, I guess I’d be one of those pro-development city planner types on ABO, but please don’t ever associate me with Ayn Rand’s “Objectivist” trite. Yuck.

  8. len

    chris et al, what’s your take on the carrots and sticks avail to nudge the owner of the safeway/pleasant valley land property to go higher density mixed residential/commercial when they seemingly just want commercial and let’s assume don’t need any variances or cud’s etc.for their project as is?

    other than maybe redevelopment districts, higher density proponents are geared toward beating down low density nimbys, not pushing owners to change their investment decisions.

  9. Chris Kidd

    len, I don’t see combating NIBMYism and advocating for a property owner to rethink their investment as mutually exclusive. A good idea’s a good idea; I shouldn’t need to compartmentalize fighting for principles of smart growth and good planning. Sure, the processes involved in either situation are quite different, but the goal both are trying to acheive are pretty much the same.

    I think the Safeway issue resonates so much with planner types because opportunities such as this one(in terms of size, location, single property parcel, the possibilties presented) don’t come along that often in Oakland. Hell, it set me off like one of Pavlov’s dog.

  10. Ralph

    With the Presidio no longer a viable option, Don Fisher needs a spot for his museum. Oakland, not only loves ARt, Oakland is for Art Lovers. I see marriage. I hope RK can get on this and bring DF’s vision to the Uptown.

  11. Rebecca Kaplan

    Ralph — yes, I do think this is a great idea — and we (and city staff) are in discussion on this. I even have some location ideas, but I will save those until we have a chance to get clear with the Fishers on their needs. Oakland, with the most artists per capita, and lots of appreciation for the arts, would be a perfect place for this (including for the large size sculptures that are part of their plan, which would be located outdoors and bring visibility of the arts…)

    And with the potential for easy access by public transit, this can be a bay-area-serving concept too. As for the marriage you propose — well, then I guess we’ll just have to deal with any potential opponents to this “Bay Marriage.”

    Best wishes and have a great weekend.
    P.S. for those wondering what we are talking about, see news article at:

  12. len

    oakland political history.

    1. when did we switch from have an entirely at large elected city council to mostly by district.

    2. when did we ban all fireworks.

    -len raphael

  13. Ken

    Hi Len:

    A long time ago, I spoke with a Long’s store manager at the flagship store regarding safeway’s wishes to take their space to make safeway larger, and that safeway was jealous that long’s did better business (i don’t remember in what way) than safeway… and safeway’s argument was that it needed a “warehouse” or at least more storage space…

    That parcel is huge. There is way too much parking. Long’s should stay — it is our 24-hour WalMart and OSH/Ace hardware. I get tons of thigns there at all hours:

    –Oakland Food Mill bars
    –hardware for house, car, bikes
    –juice (sometimes cheaper than safeway, ie odwalla)
    –ladybugs and preying mantis
    –bags of dirt, sand, rocks, bark
    –seeds and other gardening items
    –the rare hot dog (top dog)

    safeway needs to keep its hands off long’s…

    there’s also a badass lake or something there, probably takes runoff from the golf course that is above it… so i’d expect 3-eyed fish in it. that needs to be open to the public!

    there’s an empty restaurant building there

    there’s plastic/glass/metal recycling there for homeless people, poor/lower class people in the parking lot…

    I could care less about corporate banksters WF/BOFA/CHASE who are represented. how about a CU or local bank like Merchants Bank? Kick the taxpayer dollar eating dinosaurs out.

    Density is good… while we may nationally and as a state be overbuilt for housing and commercial space, IN THIS AREA we probably need more. Temescal home values remain high-ish. Houses and condos are stilll selling for more than X3 median income.

    Long live Longs i mean CVS CORP>

  14. Born in Oakland

    Illegal fireworks…maybe illegal and controlled everywhere but in my neighborhood three times a year: New Years Dec 31st, Lunar New Year and 4th of July. Usually neighbors “practice” beginning a week before the actual holiday but it has been relatively quiet here until last night. Tonight at 9PM it is starting up in earnest. The rockets are shooting (big professional looking), firecrackers are exploding everywhere, car alarms going off from the huge explosive firecrackers. My neighbors and I call the firework alert answering machine but we haven’t seen any police response. It is pretty scary once it starts and we watered the yard all this week in anticipation of tonight. My dog has had her dose of doggy tranquilizers. We feel beseiged and forgotten year after year. A couple of years ago even the OPD was fearful when they came out to try to stop the neighborhood display. We were hoping that the bad economy would dampen excessive purchase but I think it is going to be a rough night out here in Brooklyn.

  15. Patrick

    SF Chronicle, Matier & Ross, Sunday, July 5, 2009:

    “Nice ride: Reader Michael McClatchey was driving by Oakland police headquarters on a recent Saturday when he spotted a brand-new, black Maserati parked in a captain’s spot.

    “Someone is racking up the OT, don’t you think?” McClatchey said.

    Actually, our cop sources tell us the car belongs to a lieutenant – who, yes, is working a lot of overtime.

    And from the looks of things, enjoying it as well.”

    The lowest-priced Maserati starts at $117,500 – not including sales tax. Now, tell me again that our police officers aren’t overpaid? We’re funding this person’s specified-benefit retirement as well. But by then, she/he will probably be rolling in a Bentley.

  16. dave o

    Let this be a lesson to the young people out there. Don’t waste your life like I did getting a computer science degree from a top university. Go to the police academy instead. That’s where the big bucks are!

    Born in Oakland,
    If the OPD actually lived here, they might care more about what goes down. But at the end of the day, they head for some gated community with Oakland’s money, and we have to deal with the consequences of their war on teens and on poor people and so on.

  17. Ralph

    now how do you know that said vehicle was not a gift from a family member or the result of wise investing at an early age…(granted if he invested wisely, you wouldn’t expect him to spend so much money on a depreciating asset)

    not sure if i am more annoyed by the news person who went seeking a person firing illegal fireworks or the individual who said “let us have our illegal fireworks”

    dave o, why do you say a war on teens and poor people. i see teens and poor people ignoring the law on a regular basis. i also see rich people doing it but their crimes tend to be more federal in nature

  18. Max Allstadt

    Born in Oakland:

    I agree that there is very little fireworks enforcement on and around the 4th in Oakland.

    The reason is simple: there are a lot of people who really like fireworks. They are only marginally risky, and only a handful of people get hurt in this town each year as a result of them. Most are either dumb, have dumb parents, or are just plain unlucky. But guess what? Sometimes you need to take risks to have fun. I’d be willing to bet that the combined injuries in football games in OUSD cause more permanent harm and more expense than fireworks do. Do we ban football? No? Why? Because it’s not as easy to sensationalize a football injury on local TV news and scare a bunch of overprotective PTA mothers.

    I have never and will never call the authorities about illegal fireworks. We live in a country that seems hell bent on regulating away almost any sort of fun that involves risk, and I will take no part in that.

    This town needs to lighten up and grow a pair. One of the best things Oakland has going for it is lax law enforcement on little things that don’t matter. In time I’m sure this will change, but for now, lets just enjoy it.

  19. Ralph

    probably need more enforcement of these little things – it all goes to quality of life and respect for the law. when i was growing up, people were quick to call the police for these offenses. you want to create a community not a bunch of anarchist who believe that because it is the 4th it ok to blast fireworks until 1am. no one wants to hear that noise all night and parents with young kids especially don’t want to hear that cacophony

  20. Born in Oakland

    Hi Max, I really like fireworks but not when the rockets are aimed (unintentionally) at my house and yard and go on for hours and hours. The result of the illegal fireworks in my neighborhood is less celebratory and more war-zonish. Unless you live up close and personal to this assault three times a year, you have no idea how scary and intrusive it can be.

  21. Max Allstadt

    If people can’t take loud parties one night a year, I suggest they move to Danville.

    A few days a year, we should just let it all slide and celebrate. Seriously, this is a CITY. A little raucous mayhem on designated days is good for us.

    Last night, my block was all rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air. Dads and kids, setting stuff off together, and everybody had fun. Someday if this city gets rich and uptight enough, this will all end and I’ll look back on it wistfully.

    For my own part, I played an un-permitted backyard rock and roll show, with fireworks. The only person who got hurt was me: I drank half a bottle of Jack and decided to wrestle a dude twice as strong as me, got body slammed, managed to kick him in the head a couple times and then got pinned by a knee to the throat.
    But when it was done I got up and hugged my friend. Good clean risky stupid fun that America is far too ready to forget. In the old time, it was not a crime!

    As for disturbances, the neighbors complimented us when we came back in the morning to pick up our gear!

    There is a culture of good clean risky fun in this city that we must not let go. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a whip to go ghostride…

  22. len

    ralph, if you grew up in oakland, did the same people who called the cops for kids setting off fireworks also call when adults fired guns into the air for (what was it?) new years? to my way of thinking firing bullets in a city is hecka more dangerous.

    for years on my block in temescal all the neighbors came out to watch the “safe and sane” and very tame fireworks purchased in Union City. (they locked their dogs at home, but these fireworks are not very loud) You’d have to hold one of those things with both hands or put your face next to it to get hurt. And yes I’m sure that happens. But legalizing/regulating “safe and sane” type fireworks, and strictly enforcing the ban against powerful ashcans, M60′s etc. could reduce injuries overall.


  23. Ralph

    len, why would you think that there are also guns fired on other evenings? can’t a person just live in a neighborhood where people shoot off ‘crackers. for the record, the people who called the police thought it was gunfire.

  24. len raphael

    ralph, re oakland mostly AM tradition of shooting guns straight up to celebrate New Year’s. source: mostly hearsay, and my ears (which admitedly are not so good distinguishing the sharp sound of gunshots from firecrackers). but for some reason, the urban accoustics are such that we can hear trains and firecrackers from the other sides of town.

    btw, my father in law (of german/norwegian pursuasion) fired his handgun every new years.

    (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2008/12/the-los-angel-4.html) w/o racial specifics.

    oakland urban myth or fact?

    -len raphael

  25. oaklandecay

    How safe and responsible are the people that set off fireworks in my neighborhood? If they put on huge illegal firework shows, can I trust that they will take proper safety procedures to keep neighbors’ buildings from getting damaged? Like the business a few blocks away that was damaged by fireworks last year. Hell, most of the people I see with the neighborhood fireworks are ones I wouldn’t trust with a box of matches. Some of them are the same idiots that do doughnuts in the middle of the street. The risky “fun” in my neighborhood is not “nice” and both people and property are often damaged.

    I can’t leave town of the 4th, because I’m not sure if my home will be there when I return. Actually that applies for most of the year, that’s why I have lots of roommates. Oakland needs illegal fireworks just about as much as it needs illegal firearms.

  26. Patrick

    If you haven’t visited the Alameda County Fair, please allow me to recommend it (through July 19th). For $10 you get to see baby livestock (saw a cow licking the placenta off of her *rare* twins), a petting zoo (the llama was my favorite), truly bad karaoke and other shlock. For $28 you get unlimited carnival rides (the carnies wear a uniform). The park is clean, attractive and nearly mullet-free. I got to ride the Scrambler 5 times and nearly lost my corndog on the “Crazy Train” but, hey. It was a return to 30 years ago. Unsustainable, not green, etc. maybe. But, I got to enjoy a day of fun for $38 (plus corndog and gyro charges). It was worth it. Very well-run.

  27. Patrick

    BTW, “Morbid Manor” is a must-see. It was so incredibly amateurish that it raised itself to a new level of ridiculous.

  28. Max Allstadt

    If anybody is truly afraid to leave their house on the Fourth because they’re afraid it will burn down, I can recommend an excellent therapist…

  29. Patrick

    In 2007 I attended a 4th of July party on the corner of 44th and MLK (rooftop). The revelers up the street managed to set the landscaping of an adjacent property on fire. Through the “smoke-filled haze” we somehow extinguished the truly alarming blaze with a combination of watered down margaritas and tap water. Still, it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.

    Lest we forget, this is not the turgid East coast or Midwest. We live in a Mediterranean climate: primed for bursting into flame at a moment’s notice. It’s all in fun until someone gets an eye poked out.

  30. oaklandecay

    I’ve seen no less than 10 murders within a block from my home (probably way more than that have occurred), one of which was a woman died across the street after being eviscerated. I’ve never seen a police officer as white as a sheet than the one asking if I saw what happened. The house next to mine BURNED DOWN, taking off the roof of my building and my neighbors as well.

    Even with all that shit, I love living in Oakland, I own an awesome old commercial building full of artists including myself. I dumped a decade of sweat equity (I’m not rich) into a building that would have probably been filed with section 8 crazies if I hadn’t had bought it. I found syringes, old correctional IDs, spent casings, dead animals in it. I have no illusions about what my neighborhood is and have no patience for hipster idiots that think dangerous mayhem is cool. If I seen anyone pulling that shit they will get their ass kicked.

  31. oaklandecay

    Seriously len, I don’t know you. Why the hell should I trust you or any other stranger shooting off fireworks by my house. Why don’t I leave the fking doors to my home unlocked while I’m at it.

  32. Ralph

    “hipster idiots who think dangerous mayhem is cool”, they rank right up with the oakland socialist of people who should be banned from living here….once a month these hipster idiots take to the streets and cause all sorts of property damage in the Uptown district. and for those who don’t believe count the number of etchings immediately before and after art murmur

  33. Carlos Plazola

    Len, on the Pleasant Valley Safeway question:

    The Oakland Builders Alliance has a Project Review Committee made up mostly of architects and planners, at least three of whom live in the area around Pleasant Valley. This site is in our radar and we will discuss it in upcoming committee meetings. We have developed a set of criteria for supporting projects based on principles from Smart Growth, Congress for New Urbanism, as well as issues that are of particular importance to Oakland. While I can’t speak of what the committee will recommend for the site, the general consensus thus far seems to be that everyone recognizes the site is a great mixed-use opportunity that can help improve the pedestrian experience on that stretch.


  34. dave o

    You in the wrong town, man! If you want a peaceful living experience, I would recommend San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, Larkspur, San Ramon … I would die of boredom (and have) in these whitebread places. I don’t understand why people come to this vibrant, joyous, creative, flamboyant, “scary”, “crazy”, “outlaw” place, and then make it their life’s mission to try to sanitize it. Whitebread culture is almost everywhere, but African drumming, good hip-hop, Congolese dancing, etc, are really special! The Jerry Brown cultural genecide is over, flopped, bankrupt financially and morally.

  35. oaklandecay

    dave, WTF? Really do you think I would have moved here if I wanted “peace”. I live in fucking ghosttown. I just don’t want my shit burned down. Why don’t you go back to harassing billy goats.

  36. Ralph

    cities can be vibrant without ignoring the rule of law…jerry brown did that was right for Oakland. he knew that to have that vibrancy that you seek he had to bring more people to Oakland. increase the revenue base to support the very programs you desire.

  37. Max Allstadt

    “hipster idiots who think dangerous mayhem is cool”?

    First of all, the VAST majority of people in West Oakland who set off illegal fireworks are not hipster idiots.

    The fireworks on my block were set off by family men who own their own homes and were setting off the fireworks with their kids, closely supervising it all. No M80s in the hands of 12 year-olds, none of that. Risk is a manageable thing. Avoiding all risk is tantamount to paralysis.

    Gunplay is dangerous mayhem. Heroin dealing is dangerous mayhem. I see dealers, I call the cops. I see a guy try to shoot somebody at the 98th street Arco station, I call the cops.

    But small fireworks that Nevada deems safe enough for civilians are not dangerous mayhem. Neither is a little consensual drunken backyard brawling. Neither are strippers, blunts, ghostriding at 5mph on an empty block, or occasional loud music and dancing in the streets. These things fall into the category of fun. And I’m glad to live in a small corner of America that still knows how to have fun.

    As for before and after Art Murmur: Ralph, count the number of tax dollars flowing into downtown before and after Art Murmur. Cities have graffiti. They always have. I saw an Egyptian temple at the Met in NYC last week that was tagged by some guy named Leonardo with a chisel in 1820. Wanting human nature to change won’t make it so. Budget for paint-overs of the ugly stuff, appreciate the truly artistic tags for their craft, and move on.

  38. oaklandecay

    “hipster idiots who think dangerous mayhem is cool” — Max that was referring to you,

  39. Ralph

    Max, hipsters are etching private property from Starbucks to Ozumo to Pican to The galleries to Cafe Madrid and a whole host of other buildings. Last I checked the city does not pay for this damage. People who frequent these places do because the cost gets embedded in the price of their meal and clothing. Art Murmur can be nice but do you think if the damage escalated these businesses would be so quick to support it.

    i see a problem when hipsters crave graffiti as a welcome part of the urban environment and neighborhood people see it as a sign of blight and decay. the city doesn’t care about them. just once i want to see the hipster who lets the graffiti artist come tag his home and not be bothered.

    govt sanctioned slavery but i don’t exactly recall it being right. hipsters want to preserve crap that has no value in being preserved.

  40. Darby

    I live off Park Blvd on the Avenues (17Y/17X) and the fireworks set off in our neighborhood are the dynamite-size M-whatevers and the rockets used by municipalities. Our PSA site is buzzing with reports of illegal fireworks which DO endanger inhabitants and vehicles and buildings. We are not speaking about firecrackers, sparklers and such fizzlers we are talking about weapons-grade explosives set off during New Year, Tet and July 4th for days preceding and days following. I do have to say that this year has been the “best” year in a decade or so though and I have not found any spent bullets on our porch in a couple of years

  41. Max Allstadt

    Ralph: Graffiti enforcement has been universally proven to be futile. Paint-over programs work and discourage tagging, because taggers get discouraged when their tags don’t last. This is how it works in NYC, Boston, and many other downtowns. Expecting 801 OPD sworn to be able to stop or even curb graffiti with enforcement is delusional. Paint is much cheaper.

    Oaklandecay: (Yawn.)

  42. Ralph

    So Max, if i read this correctly, you are not in favor of graffiti and think that the city should be taking activities to curb it. I didn’t read where anyone had suggested using cops to enforce laws against graffiti but it is good to know that you believe that we should continue funding Oakland’s graffiti abatement program. That said, if anyone is advocating cutting off the hands of hipsters caught in the act, I am not opposed. I would even be for the spilled blood in the streets as it makes a nice statement. What can I say I am wired that way.

    I hate graffiti as most of it is crap, but as long as they contain their “art” to public property and the city does their part to eradicate it and doesn’t ignore some parts of the city in favor of others I have no problem. But when hipsters start etching private property because they are hipsters and hate all things associated with capitalism, I’ve got issues.

  43. Max Allstadt

    I am relatively neutral about graffiti.

    People attempting to write their names all over the place in some vaguely stylistic look = boring.

    Big bold virtuosic spray paint art on unoccupied blighted properties = cool.

    But I’m not king, so I don’t get to decide what’s art and what’s blight.

    What I was saying is that in terms of strategy, the only thing that works is paint-over. Arresting a kid here or there will deter nothing and is a drop in an ocean. California already has a law that makes damage over $500 from graffiti a felony. Lotsa good that’s done. So I’m saying if we’re going to spend on it, we should spend on what works.

    As for capitalism, etc, I doubt the name writing taggers have thought it through that far. Some may have posted some manifesto somewhere, but for the most part I don’t think it’s an ethos. There are a few tiny sub-cliques who might think that there’s something revolutionary about writing their name on a McDonalds, but really, how many people could be that naive?

    And as I said, we simply can’t expect it to all go away. People have been writing on walls since before King Belshazzar got his wall tagged, and they’ll be tagging Buck Rogers’ dumpster when you and I are dead and gone. It’s nothing new to this era, it’s human nature. It’s also human nature to clean it off. So it goes…

  44. Ken O

    thx max. now kids, don’t miss:

    Time: Governor’s Budget Cuts Will Turn California Into a Third World Nation aka US becomes Post-USSR with more drunks, more prostitutes, and more security goons. How the mighty have fallen!

    “States across the nation are suffering the effects of lost tax revenue in the
    worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. California’s woes are
    similar and different in kind, played out on a grand scale in a state that
    boasts the world’s eighth largest economy and a Hollywood star in the lead
    role. After voters rejected a slew of budget-balancing measures, the
    governor has proposed cuts to programs that would make California more
    like a struggling Third World state than 21st century America: welfare
    subsistence benefits would end, 1 million poor children would lose health
    care, college aid for the state’s best and brightest would be phased out,
    nonviolent prisoners would be released, hundreds of state parks would be
    shuttered, and thousands of school teachers would lose their jobs . . .”

    And I might add, this is all inevitable (world’s standards of living re-equalizing) and even good.

  45. Max Allstadt

    Thanks for the scary link, Ken. I still wish someone would tell me exactly where all the money went. The revenue from ’04-’08, specifically. How exactly did none of it get saved, and where did it all get spent?

  46. dbackman

    There was actually a show of graffiti art that opened at Fiveten Studio in Old Oakland this past Friday. Lots of dope art from established Oakland writers. Not many of them looked like hipsters to me, and as far as I know they didn’t deface any of 10th Street’s pretty Victorian facades.
    I don’t normally defend “hipsters” and find the Art Murmur scene pretty over-the-top at times. But its ridiculous to go blaming some nebulous notion of hipster culture for Oakland’s blight problem. It sucks that the surge of folks into Uptown for the Art Murmur is causing some vandalism. But lets not forget that this influx of hipsterdom has played a big part in the recent success of Uptown. If Oakland is going to base its little renaissance on its thriving art scenes, then it has to be ready to face some of the negative side-effects.

  47. Ralph

    No one has blamed hipsters for Oakland’s blight problem; if anyone is at fault it is the Oakland graffiti clean-up crew. Hipsters unlike graffiti artist have a tendency to mark up private utilized property while artist go for abandon and neglected buildings (at least in my observations).

    Hipsters are good for a number of things. Most notably trying to figure out where to invest one’s real estate dollar. From coast to coast, an analysis of hipster culture indicates that shortly after hipsters move into a neighborhood, rich monied types like to buy up property and build stuff and making the whole neighborhood more desirable. Seems as if hipsters like art and new stuff and rich monied types like to be near the art scene and new stuff.

  48. Max Allstadt

    And lets not forget that tagging happens with or without hipsters. In GhostTown, I see a lot more gang tags than ego tags.

    As for the whole gentrification angle, Ralph, it isn’t hipsters per se that make that happen. It’s newcomers who are slightly better off than those who were living there in the first place. Hipsters are just one example. I have plenty of neighbors who are new but aren’t wearing skinny jeans and riding fixies. Many are just working class folks who were still only able to buy in a dodgy place during the boom.

  49. dbackman

    There has always been a distinction between the artists, the bombers and the straight up vandals, but its not based on the cultural or geographic you imagine Ralph. Graffiti attracts people from a variety of backgrounds for a variety of reasons.

  50. Ralph

    i am not saying hipsters make it happen. hipsters are more like canaries. they test the waters. if they stick and stay others follow. rule #137 in urban development, people follow the hipster because they know investment is sure to follow. i hear that in some cases hipsters get pushed out of the very ‘hoods they discovered. but they go on to discover new hoods and so goes the circle of life.

  51. Patrick

    Today’s hipsters are analagous to yesterday’s gay population. Marginalized by society in the 70s and 80s, gays (and lesbians) created their own havens: the Castro, West Hollywood, Chelsea in NYC, Midtown in Atlanta, South Beach in Miami, University Park in Dallas, Boystown in Chicago etc., etc., etc. Then, homosexuality became mainstream. “Whether you like it or not!”

    The only difference is that today’s hipsters are marginalized by choice.

  52. Max Allstadt

    I think it’s all a matter of how many. There are creative people you might call “hipsters” in East Oakland, Fruitvale, and In the hardest hit parts of West Oakland. But there aren’t that many. Does anybody really expect industrial East Oakland to gentrify?

    Frankly, I think what passes for gentrification in this town is rather modest. Telegraph isn’t anything close to gentrified near the Art Murmur galleries. In Temescal, gentrification is underway but far from over. None of what I see in Oakland bears any resemblance to the fast paced gentrification that happened in the Mission in SF or in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Oakand at the moment doesn’t have the mojo for that. Let’s hope we can take some time in this recession to figure out how to build multi-income neighborhoods. One way to start is by forcing Rockridge to take it’s share of high impact residents.

  53. Patrick

    Parts of East Oakland have already gentrified – but probably not in the classic sense. In the Fruitvale, hispanics/latinos have created the most successful commercial district in the entire Bay Area (99.7% occupancy rate according to the City) in a span of about 15 years. Compare that to a 75% vacancy rate in the early 90s. Seriously, walk down the streets around Int’l and Fruitvale, or High and Int’l. Business is booming. It’s a local economy that I’m thrilled to be a part of, at least tangentially.

    I love the Fox, Art Murmur, etc. But is art what will take us (and Uptown) forward? Or is it just a distraction that doesn’t really produce anything of real, intrinsic value? It’s the new world order – as already suggested by Ken O. The Chinese can produce art that satisfies 99.9% of the people at 1/100th of the cost.

    Oakland needs to return to producing real products that people REQUIRE. Anything else is hanging on to a bygone gilded age.

  54. David

    Max, the gov’t cannot “save” money. That’s pretty much Econ 101. Sure you can have small “rainy day” funds and all that, but a real “savings account” is not possible (there are many reasons for this, one is crowding out of private savings, as the gov’t's “money” is really your money and mine, another is inflation if the “savings account” were to be spent, reducing the value of the savings etc).

    The real problem remains mandatory ratcheting up of spending during boom times and no mechanism to ratchet down the spending during bad times. Or better yet, to simply limit spending increases to population growth + inflation, and during boom times, return the money to residents (or, I don’t know, pay down debt??!). Otherwise the government continues to increase in size, until it collapses under its weight as we’re seeing. Again, there’s no reason that there are 10-15% more gov’t employees per capita than there were last decade–services sure haven’t gotten better, etc etc.

  55. David


    If oakland or any place in California is to PRODUCE anything, we need to reduce our cost structure. Ruthlessly.
    What does this mean?

    1) Lower taxes
    2) Less regulation–BS Environmental reviews, BS forms, BS liability/aka lawyer tort goldmines etc etc
    3) Lower employer costs of hiring, aka, workers comp, SDI taxes, Social Security taxes, health care mandates etc.
    4) Lower utility rates, NO BS “greenhouse” carbon taxes etc–that’s a 100% guarantee transfer of all energy intensive jobs to China and India etc. or, if we don’t want to burn stuff to make electricity, as a nation, we need to embark on quadrupling the number of nuke plants. Period.
    5) Better transportation, and this means ROADS. You don’t move products on BART. Upgrade PORTS and AIRPORTS. California is in the middle of nowhere. Seriously. We’re 2000 miles from Chicago. 1000 miles from Denver. 1000 miles from Seattle (which itself is in the middle of nowhere). 3000 miles from NYC/East Coast. 2000 miles from Texas. Our only location advantage is ocean access to the Pacific and China/Asia. But Seattle is eating Oakland’s lunch in terms of ports. This is ridiculous.

    These solutions are obvious, but Californians in general are living off in their dope-addled fantasy lands where everything is paid for by the “rich” and “big business” and they never have to do anything.

  56. Ralph

    What exactly would Oakland produce? Even if you reduce all the costs noted above, the cost of labor for simple manufacturing is going to be higher than just about anywhere else in the country. So what exactly are we going to produce?

  57. Max Allstadt


    I’m just getting up right now, but as long as your channelling the ghost of Barry Goldwater, can I do the same with Daniel Patrick Moynihan later this afternoon?

  58. David

    Production can exist in high-labor cost areas, as long as you have high labor productivity. Silicon Valley actually used to produce silicon chips….there’s actually quite a bit of manufacturing in San Leandro….

    Max, you can channel whomever you want. Moynihan wasn’t exactly what I’d classify as a tax & spender, and at least he had the courage to point out that a major reason blacks are disproportionately part of the underclass is due to out-of-wedlock births and the destruction of the black family.

    And again, I challenge you and everyone else who wish to justify the current spending levels and/or recommend increases in overall spending & taxes to tell me, exactly what has improved in the state after huge increases in spending and tax revenues over the past decade. Is it schools? roads? ports? water systems? electrical grid/reliability? police/crime? fire? prisons? what segment of the gov’t has measurably improved that would justify all that incremental spending over population+inflation?

  59. David

    PS. According to the Census, almost 11% of San Leandrans work in manufacturing, compared to 7% of Oaklanders. I don’t think wages are appreciably lower across the street in San Leandro, so what could account for the differences…hmmm. Could it be taxes, red tape, etc etc? Somehow I think it is.

  60. len

    david, oakland business tax on manufacturers is much lower than it’s biz tax on services. probably comparable to san leandro’s mfgr biz tax. am sure there’s less red tape in SL. But you have to look back 30 years and you’ll see that SL started off with a huge number of manufacturing and distribution facilities compared to it’s small population, compared to Oakland at that time. similar to Emeryville at that time. 30 or 40 years ago, most of san leandro residents were either employeed in manufacturing or retired.

    looks like the only growth in blue collar businesses in SL were the granite countertop and floor resellers of the real estate rehab bubble

  61. Robert

    len, sorry, but 40 years ago San Leandro residents were certainly NOT mostly retired. And a large proportion of them were commuters into other cities to work. I suspect that 40 years ago Oakland had a higher proportion of mfg jobs than SL. Just look at the vast tracts of land in East Oakland that were mfg, and the city in its wisdon is insisting remain zoned for mfg.

  62. len raphael

    rbt, indirect support for my statement about retired people in SL 40 years ago: when i worked in a san leandro cpa firm in 1981, i was amazed by the number of elderly clients who spread their modest savings across multiple banks. also by the number of banks in sl. i asked why and they explained that they had lived thru the bank panics of the depression and so wouldn’t trust any single single bank with their money.

    unlike oakland, sl never had the diverse economy of oakland. none of the vibrant retail of downtown dept stores and small retailers near washington street, office jobs, distributors, plus as you say many manufacturers. san leandro probably still had agriculture till late 19th century.

  63. David

    Len, I’ll believe you when you come up with some evidence to back your assertions (growth in SL blue collar=granite countertops etc).

    I look back 50 years, and Oakland was a huge manufacturing base. So what’s your point about looking back 30 years? That SL built up manufacturing infrastructure? Oakland had almost a 100 year head start! And squandered it.

    And you kind of prove my point–less red tape most likely in SL. So, why not cut red tape in Oakland?

    Diverse economy of Oakland? what economy of Oakland? ‘downtown dept stores’? well, SL has Home Depot, Costco, and plenty of department stores if that’s what you want-what dept stores are left in Oakland? Small retailers? quite a few down E. 14th, some on Bancroft and MacArthur. You do realize that SL is 1/5 the population of Oakland?

    PS. median age of SL is 38. Median age of Oakland: 36. Huge difference there. If you were amazed at all the old folks in 1981, guess what, it’s 30 years later; they’re probably dead.

    PPS. Alameda has 8% of its population employed in manufacturing! again, what’s Oakland’s excuse this time?

  64. David

    PPPS. Pleasanton, a city with a median household income of over $100K has 16% of its population employed in manufacturing.

    I really don’t think it’s wages holding Oakland back…

  65. livegreen

    SL not only has Manufacturing jobs (mostly food sector), it has distribution & warehousing jobs (WAY beyond the marble & flooring co’s). UPS & FedEx Ground’s regional hubs are there, Give Something Back’s warehouse, and many truckers. One of the largest deconsolidators of LCL freight from the Ports of Oakland & LA/LB is here, etc., etc., etc.

    Why do they have these? Because they’ve preserved a geographically well defined sector for this kind of employment instead of mixing housing into the middle of it (like empty Pulte homes).

    Two additional important points to be made here:
    –Leasing warehouse space in Oakland and SL is cheaper than in Contra Costa County (or was until the recent downturn, I haven’t checked since then);

    –One of the key reasons there’s so much Truck traffic spewing Diesel fumes into Oakland is because the trucks are taking freight down 880 from the port to warehouse & distribution hubs in SL, Hayward, and other areas of the EB which have these dedicated distribution hubs and where it’s safer for businesses to operate.


    –Besides less expensive industrial space closer to markets than Contra Costa, Oakland & SL businesses have more access to both cheaper labor & the Port of Oakland.
    –This can provide some limited Manufacturing, but more importantly Distribution (no matter where the products are made).

  66. livegreen

    Clarification: The UPS hub is UPS Freight. (Obviously UPS ground & express is based out of their hub in Oakland on Pardee near the airport).

  67. Jim M

    Len, San Leandro had plenty of retail. Bayfair Mall was plenty big. Also a trip down to Hayward’s Southland Mall by bus was easy. It was light years ahead of Oakland at the time. The only store we went to Oakland for was Capwells . Bart had an exit into the store as I recall.
    San Leandro has plenty of manufacturing in the west side. They did the smart thing and kept their taxes fair and controlled crime.
    My parent’s would tell you that Oakland was the place to be after the war. It’s decline came with the rise of the suburb and decline of manufacturing inside cities.
    As far as manufacturing returning to America and employing everyone, tough job. Full automation baby. Higher output with fewer people. Mankind loves robots more than himself.

  68. Max Allstadt

    Jim’s point about robots is very important. I read somewhere recently that America has lost five times as many jobs to robots as it has to offshore humans and illegal immigrant humans.

    If robots can do the work for so much cheaper, and enrich the upper classes who own the robots, leaving nothing for the working class to do, what’s the next step. I say tax the hell out of the rich and create a guaranteed income for the people who don’t have work anymore because robots are doing it all for them. If a robot saves an industrialist $50k a year over a human, take half that $50k and just give it to the human.

  69. Robert

    len, I lived in SL 40 years ago. There were a fair number of retired folks around downtown, but most of the city was families with the parents in prime earnings age, 30s, 40s, and into their 50s. When they started to retire 20 to 30 years ago, many stayed put and there were an increasing number of older folks. Based on the neighborhood my father lived in until 5 years ago, that started turning around again more recently.

    SL did have a pretty good industrial base back in the 60s, cannery, paper factories, Westinghouse and many others. I think SL has done a better job of maintaining a diverse economic bas. And SL did have a good retail. There was a Pennys downtown, and many other retail store there, well into the 60s. Bayfair mall was built in late 50s or 60s I think, as part of the restructuring of retail from single stores in city centers to shopping malls. But when retail started fleeing city centers, what did Oakland build?

    Jim is right in many ways, Oakland was the place to be right after the war, but with cars and the desire for families, many people moved to the suburbs (i.e. SL). This happened in all cities around the country. Other cities have just managed to find a way back to prosperity. And its not through manufacturing in most cases.

    PS len, I am pretty sure that the bulk of the population in SL did not use CPAs, even as late as ’81. That tended to be a luxury for the professionals and for the better off retired people. So I suspect that your data is highly biased.

  70. David

    Max, I’ll help you out with another Econ 101 lesson.

    Worker bee can make 8 lbs of honey in a day.
    Each pound of honey sells for $10/lb.

    How much per day can “industrialist” pay worker bee? hint: It’s not $80/day, but that is the upper limit. This is why the USA’s manufacturing workers make decent livings–we have about 20-30 million people manufacturing about $5T worth of goods (which is equal to the entire GDP of China, which has 1.3B people).

    As for “taxing” the industrialist 50%, well….the US corporate tax rate is 35%, the California tax rate is just under 9%, and then there’s social security taxes to pay on the wages paid out of 6.2% (plus 1.45% for Medicare). So the “industrialist” is paying out nearly 50% in taxes just on profits, along with 7.65% taxes on every dollar of wages (not counting workers comp, etc). As wages are usually around 70% of costs, you can make a pretty good argument an “industrialist” is paying about 50% in taxes on his enterprise.

    PS Robert–your hunches are correct, as demonstrated by the Census figures. SL’s age distribution is not that different from Oakland’s, with a bit of skew to 80+ year olds, who unfortunately, won’t be here much longer. And again, the median age of SL is only 2 years older than Oakland.

  71. VivekB

    Ah yes, class warfare yet again. Rather than educate those who were displaced by robots so they can do value-add work, lets just tax the creative minded folks who came up with, or ensure efficient executon of value delivery.

    If someone created a wheel that, when turned, turned water into wine, and they just needed someone to turn that wheel, unskilled & uneducated folks who never bothered learning anything would line up. Now, if it was your job was to turn that wheel, you never bothered learning how to do anything else other than turn that wheel, and now someone invented a robot to turn the wheel, then why in gods name should the guy who came up with the idea for the wheel, or the dude who invented the robot, be responsible for carrying your ‘no desire to improve yourself’ ass?

    Now, if you said you want to tax a portion of the profits on the company (or indvidual) and give greatly reduced (free?) college or vocational training so that the unskilled can learn how to turn the next wheel, that’s another story, i could get behind that. But given the massive black hole that is federal, state, & city government, i’m not willing to endorse just dumping it into the general fund.

  72. livegreen

    In the honey example, the upper limit actually must be less than the $80, since even if the business isn’t earning any profit, there’s still the costs of operations, raw materials, sales, etc.

    I’m surprised about the census in SL. Whenever I drive there from Oakland it’s like running into a brick wall. Drivers slow down by at least 20mph. Probably helps safety, though, & deters the sideshows at least out of sheer frustration.

  73. Chris Kidd

    If I introduced extremely simplistic hypothetical situations then asked condescendingly rhetorical questions about it, how right do you think I would be?

  74. David

    Yes, livegreen, you’re right.

    Thus, if you have worker bee, who can only make 8 lbs of honey/day, he can only make some number (significantly) less than $80/day or $10/hour.

    However, if you have machine-assisted worker bee making 24 lbs of honey/day (and the price of honey remains stable), he can make a maximum of $240/day.

    This is the miracle of productivity, and why it increases living standards. This goes straight back to the Luddites smashing machines that displaced (unproductive) workers in England.

    If we are going to compete in manufacturing with China, India or Alabama, we need to 1) lower costs, 2) lower wages and/or 3) increase productivity.

    Chris, it’s as simple as that. Sorry if you can’t figure it out. In economics, it’s only the basic rules that are true. Supply/Demand, productivity/labor costs etc. The rest is BS (carbon taxing=green jobs etc).

    If you drive into SL from Oakland, people slow down because, like Alameda, there are always cops posted on the surface streets on the border for obvious reasons.

  75. Chris Kidd

    Too true, Ralph. I hear climate change and pollution are decimating bee populations around the world. =D

  76. Max Allstadt

    What happens if the Queen Bee sells a bunch of honey default swaps and brings down the whole goddamn hive?

  77. livegreen

    Machines & robots replace not only unproductive workers, but also often productive workers. It makes still others more productive. If a company is expanding it should be able to help retrain good, productive workers (that’s one way to keep them off unemployment & prevent displacing retraining costs to government).

    While it’s historically and theoretically been more productive to do that, the cost benefit ratio changed with much cheaper production overseas in many industries (for the many companies that chose that).

    The incentives to offshore are actually artificially skewed to increase this displacement: China, Vietnam & India have very large artificial trade barriers that make “free” OR “fair” trade a farce. Companies will naturally take advantage of those incentives to lower costs.

    This make the displacement of jobs even worse & enhances elimination of many company-paid retraining programs. & yet our government does nothing except pick up more & more of those costs.

    That said there are still opportunities for Oakland, both in limited manufacturing & distribution, for the reasons I’ve outlined above. Up to our city officials to actually do this vs. promoting wholesale extinction of any blue collar jobs & the businesses that employ them, as they were before the recent real estate bust.

  78. livegreen

    Local bees & honey maker (from a neighborhood conversation last year):

    Call Khaled the Bee Man!

    Khaled’s Alive Bee Removal Services
    5433 Shattuck Ave.
    Oakland, CA 94609
    (510) 549-9509

    Last year he removed a spectacularly large hive from a neighbor’s tree, and
    has been of service to many other Glenview folks (always removes bees alive,
    no toxic chemicals).

    I’ve been told that he also runs the Bee Healthy Honey shop on Telegraph and
    McArthur, and that Savemore Market may sell his honey. Here’s an old
    newspaper article about Khaled and his business (it’s a long link, so you
    may need to copy the whole thing and paste into your browser):


  79. dbackman

    I’ve got it! Oakland should construct an army of hipster robots in order to more effeciently gentrify its neighborhoods.

  80. livegreen

    Making honey…

    I know this is comedy, but how will that gentrify neighborhoods?

  81. SF2OAK

    edgerly suing city. I hope they drag her ass through the mud and she tells lots of dirty little secrets about bloated city hall. Isn’t it amusing that the “secret” about the typing pool just came out in SF. Typing pool – everybody has a PC- talk about anachronistic and a waste of your tax $. Let’s see where OAK spend our $.

  82. David

    Then Max, the hive should fail as a lesson to other hives.

    Again, livegreen, the solution to compete with India & China is not to deliberately lower our own productivity, which will only serve to lower our living standards. Rather it is to convince China & India to open their markets, and more importantly to drive increases in productivity here in the US….and to lower our cost structure. The deadweight of regulations here is enormous. If you don’t believe me, start your own business or be self-employed and then try to do your taxes. My last return was a mere 86 pages.

  83. David

    Robert, I’d love it.

    I spend 10% of my weekends complying with the tax code, never mind other regulations.

    I’d even pay more in taxes to get that time back.