Planning Commission passes CBD Zoning proposal

I felt like kind of a jerk yesterday when I kept hearing about how amazing Uptown had been on Wednesday night, what with all the crowds showing up for the Franz Ferdinand, Green Day, and Leonard Cohen shows at the Fox, Uptown, and Paramount, and with all the restaurants and bars all filled to capacity. Living in the area, I’m starting to grow accustomed to crowds downtown, but from all accounts, it sounds like it was a particularly exciting night. I wish I had thought to wander over and check it all out at some point. Instead, I spent four hours sitting on my couch watching people talk about how we want to create a vibrant downtown. Alas.

Anyway, Wednesday’s Planning Commission discussion of the Central Business District rezoning was pretty good. The meeting began with a 40 minute presentation from staff explaining the new zoning and the process that had led to the proposal before them:

Public comment was uneventful. CALM doesn’t want tall buildings near the Lake. The Downtown Lake Merritt Neighborhood Group turned out a number of people wanting lower height limits in their neighborhood. They were particularly concerned about the sites of two proposed high-rises, the Emerald Views project on 19th and Alice, and a proposed high rise on 15th Street across from the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts. Since both projects have already submitted applications, neither will be impacted by the new zoning. When they come before the Planning Commission, they will be considered on their own merits.

The Oakland Heritage Alliance remains, obviously, primarily concerned with preservation of historic structures, and want lower height limits for a number of neighborhoods. They continue to push for a Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) program. The idea behind TDR is that you can help preserve historic buildings by basically zoning everything for lower density than you expect people will want, so that in order to build tall structures, developers will have to buy the density that would be allowed on the site of historic buildings were that building to be developed. This ensures that historic buildings that sell their development rights will not be torn down and also provides capital the owners of those properties can use for building improvements. I hate the idea of TDRs and think that artificially downzoning downtown would be a terrible way to go about preserving historic structures, but that’s an issue for another post entirely. Strict criteria for demolition makes much more sense, and I’m really glad that the Commission has not elected to go this route for now, although it is possible that such a proposal will be considered in the future.

Representatives of the Oakland Builders Alliance noted that the proposal does not, in fact, allow unlimited heights in any practical sense due to FAR restrictions, and requested that that the floor height minimums for retail spaces should have a 15 foot minimum height, rather than the proposed 14 feet. They complained that the “street wall” set by the maximum base heights should have a 1:1 ratio to the street’s width, not 1:1/2 as is currently proposed, calling the proposed ratio “surburan,” which it totally is and I agree with them completely on this point. I wouldn’t be so offended by the whole tower and base proposal if the bases were a reasonable height. They also had a kind of long discussion about banning liquor stores that didn’t really go anywhere.

I really loved, as I always do, the comments from dto510, otherwise known as Jonathan Bair, Chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and a Board member of Old Oakland Neighbors.

I really, really thought, after that discussion, that we would get the self-storage, conditionally permitted and not on the ground floor. Alas, it was not to be, as later in the meeting, Commissioner Anne Mudge said she was “flummoxed” by the idea of allowing self-storage downtown, and Commissioner Sandra Galvez agreed that she was “not buying it.” This prohibition just seems so short-sighted to me. Everyone in the room, well, most people in the room, anyway, seemed to acknowledge that we want to increase residential density downtown, and the transit-oriented, green lifestyles that accompany it. But as you have more and more people living in smaller spaces, there will be an increasing need for accessible, off-site storage of recreational equipment and so on. So I was sad about that.

Commission comments lasted roughly an hour, although they didn’t end up making a whole lot of changes to the proposal. Commissioner Madeleine Zayas-Mart went on for a really long time, basically saying she wanted the whole proposal to be completely different in like, every way. She wanted lower heights, lower FAR, complete prohibition on demolition of historic structures in the inner part of downtown (we already have pretty strict limits on such demolition, and the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board is currently working on revising the criteria for better protection), and transferable development rights, shrinking height areas 5 and 6, studies of view corridors, and 3-D modeling. She wanted to keep the proposal at Planning Commission to alter it, and Commission Chair Michael Colbruno pretty forcefully shot down that idea, saying that if she had wanted to comment, she should have attended one of the nine Zoning Update Committee meetings on the issue, and that she would have ample opportunities for further comment in front of the Council.

So they passed the proposal (PDF), with changes as follows:

  • 17th St. parcel between Madison and Jackson be moved from Area 3 to Area 1a. I used to live on this block, and it really is an adorable little street, except for this absolutely hideous bright blue building on the corner. I used to dream of it being torn down and being replaced by something even marginally less horrible to look at. While I don’t think anyone else likes that building either, the consensus seemed to be that it’s better to let the street stay as is than risk it being replaced with a building as tall as would have been allowed under height area 3. I don’t agree, but I also don’t care particularly much, and neighborhood residents really seemed so want that. So wev.

  • 15 foot retail height minimum

  • In CBD-R, personal instruction activities allowed on 2nd floor as long as they’re part of a business offering the same services on the ground floor. The idea behind this one is that sometimes a yoga studio or something like that might be located on two levels.

  • Allowing R&D as a conditional use in CDB-C.

Madeleine Zayas-Mart abstained and C. Blake Hunstman wasn’t there. And that was pretty much it. It was nice to see some discussion of uses, and I was glad the Planning Commission didn’t try to hold the zoning up even further and keep tinkering with it. I’m sure the Council will want to do plenty of that when they get their hands on it.

43 thoughts on “Planning Commission passes CBD Zoning proposal

  1. Chris Kidd

    Thanks for the writeup, V. I really really should have gone and I’m still kicking myself about it. Instead I went to Green Day at the Uptown. Well, at least I contributed to downtown revitalization, right? Right?

  2. Ralph

    You really should have strolled the hood Wednesday. It was a sight to behold. Restaurants were packed. People had come in from out of town. It was all very good. The only sorespot was that eyesore b/w the Fox and The Uptown apts.

    I am glad the commissioners used common sense when it came to the storage. It is simply a poor use of space. People don’t visit storage areas that often. For most of the time the storage area would be a wasteland.

    I think the best way to accomodate storage needs is to have it built into the new construction. This way the cost is incurred by those who need it. The rest of us should not forego higher revenues due to less than optimal land usage.

  3. V Smoothe Post author

    We require people to build storage space for cars, even though we want to encourage people not to use cars. But we forbid them from providing storage space for our possessions. It just makes no sense at all.

  4. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you for your summary. I’m sure the seating in your apartment is a heck of a lot more comfortable than the seat I had in Hearing Room 1, which was a) somehow damaged perhaps through the accumulated weight of too many rears over too many thousands of hours, and b) in a blast zone of frigidity due to a stuck-open window. (Plus it got very late and no dinner.)

    TDRs have worked pretty well in San Francisco, but historic pres. people are open to any method of giving some protection to highly-rated historic buildings in the CBD, as long as it works. There are several alternate possibilities. TDRs are only one type.

    It was odd that Ms. Zayas Mart was not part of the ZUC committee, as she is the only trained architect/planning person on the commission, which is otherwise lawyers and bureaucrats. Some of her comments are excellent, especially that some 3-D visualizations are needed, a point that was made by many of us, including both OBA and OHA.

  5. dto510

    Naomi, calling Mr. Colbruno a bureaucrat seems a bit harsh! You could call him an operative, a lobbyist, a rescuer of abandoned dogs…

    I didn’t think the ZUC’s decision-making process was terribly well-grounded in the Land Use and Transportation Element of the General Plan (on which the zoning update is based), as I told them above. However, Ms. Zayas-Mart’s idea of radically downzoning downtown, so developers would have to essentially bribe way into extreme variances, is really shocking coming from someone who has the power to enforce city law and is supposed to be advocating for a well-planned city.

  6. Joe DeCredico

    V, Thank you for the ongoing dialog on the CBD. I was a bit perplexed by your earlier remarks that the OBA wants skyscrapers everywhere when all along we have been advocating for a form based code predicated on making great public spaces and streets, using slope plane models or other shaping techniques to ensure light filled streets, and we have worked closely with the OHA to define areas of the city where lower heights are critical to preserving APIs. I will admit that I do love a beautiful tall building, but I also like beautiful low buildings as well. But remember, as Commissioner Colbruno pointed out, the old zoning ordinance had unlimited height throughout the CBD, so in effect what was being advocated was really what areas would be down-zoned, and by how much.

    I too am unhappy that the PC misunderstood our request for self storage. We were not talking about the self storage yards like the ones we have near my office in West Berkeley. These create few jobs, take up tremendous amounts of land, contribute little in taxes, and encourage car and truck use. Instead, we were suggesting that, particularly in areas near transit, a residential development could reduce the number of parking spaces in the parking garage (which will most likely be built underground) and instead provide self-storage space for the residents. I am not giving up on this one, as we really need to rethink what uses we need as a community if we are serious about reducing our dependence on the automobile.

    There are still a number of land use issues that need to be adjusted in my mind, but as the process will now continue to the decision making body, I will save those recommendations.

    Regarding Commissioner Zayas-Mart’s plea for more time to understand the ordinance, I find it odd that she did not attend any of the public meetings, the walking tour, or the ZUC sessions. A weekend is truly not enough time to digest all of this, which is why many of us have been giving up our time to keep ourselves up to speed on the issues.

  7. V Smoothe

    Well, Joe, as long as I was characterizing CALM’s and OHA’s positions in a reductionist and somewhat mocking manner, it seemed only fair to do the same to the OBA. Comments are always an option if you feel a correction needs to be made.

  8. ConcernedOakFF

    I still do not understand any opposition to any type of building in Oakland. Let the market decide what is the appropriate height. Density is the only answer to the problems of the city, the environment, and the working professionals that need places to live, work and play.

    Simple. Don’t destroy history, build as big and as high as you can, and these NIMBY’s that oppose anything and everything, move to the suburbs ;) But seriously……build.

  9. tagami

    My dear friends

    I am grateful that so many are willing to dedicate so much time to provide a consistent and thoughtful guide for investors, builders, and business operators who choose Oakland as a place to land capital or a new business. This is a great city getting better!

    I think the planning commissioners and volunteers should be commended for the amount of outreach that was performed. The hard reality was as I watched the hearing on TV I felt… guilty, for not being more actively involved.
    I guess I felt I needed to opine to share my perspective as someone who has invested, restored, operated, and redeveloped here for over 20 years. Or upon reflection …I guess I wanted to project my frustrations or even fears that there seems to be a shortage of conversations of why capital decides to land here instead of other places, and hoped to do so and not impinge on the ears of those participating. I guess I wanted to make them understand …or hoped that they would be sympathetic to another perspective; you know that of someone trying to create something, not just for those stopping something, with no viable alternative… none… ever. But better yet everyone gets a say, and should so I am comforted that there are blogs or even the night sky to shout my wants and beliefs out to. I guess I am feeling the town is just starting to be what we said it would be 20 years ago and that feels good so lets not screw it up.

    I understand the whole conversation will be reviewed again at the council meeting and hope that the council will respect and accept the good work and thoughtful process that came out of hundreds of volunteer hours… and consider that the process support the enabling preamble of the planning commissions formation ordinance from 1927 “to promote the orderly growth and development of the City Oakland”. And, not stop it.



  10. Ralph

    Joe, add me to the confused and curious – what type of self storage do you want? paid, unpaid? only for the residents within that residential bldg. I am against anything that smacks of a business providing unpaid storage, and it certainly sounded like you wanted paid sterile storage units. But if the goal is to have unpaid self storage for the residents within the a residential complex I don’t think anything prohibits this.

    I know that some of the new condos have both bike and othr storage. There is typically enough space for this without sacrificing parking, which at one deeded space per unit is not unreasonable. What is unreasonable is an expectation that we are going to go to a carless society.

  11. Frankie D

    Great post thanks for your efforts V. I feel we need the following things;

    3 D Modeling; I agree that some form of 3 D modeling is essential when trying to determine the potential build out for the downtown. This was done for Rincon Hill in the City and posted on the front page of the Chronicle a few years back before that tower was constructed next to the bridge. We should have a similar build out model for DTO.

    Retail base height: I am glad minimum retail base height was increased to 15 feet. We want to aviod any future ground floor heights similar to what was done at the Marriotts Suites on Broadway.

    TDR: These work in San Francisco because downtown SF has a lot more development pressure than DTO. Developers are more than willing to cough up cash to purchase these rights in order to build. Right now we dont have this same kind of pressure so I seriously doubt TDR’s would be as effective in Oakland. It we drop the density throughout the DTO this would probably just result in more squatty suburban style buildings. Who wants that?

    Self Storage: I sympathize with the needs of active downtown residents who would like such a use, but cringe when I think what an over proliferation of this use would create in the downtown. Its possible this could replace the surface parking lot as a quick cash cow with minimal investment that gets in the way of better development. Also cities dont make much revenue from storage facilities. I like the idea of incorporating more storage space in future developments (office and residential) and treating it like we would parking. punch in 11th and Mission in SF on the southwest corner is a newly constructed multi story self storage structure, thats about as good as its gonna get (and this aint too good).

    Maximum front setbacks: Make an exception to this CBD-P district requirement for the vacant Uptown parcel north of the Fox Theater. Push that building back at least 50 feet and create a plaza that would serve as an entry to Uptown and lower Telegraph Ave. This also would prevent any structure from blocking the theater when viewed from the north on Telegraph Ave. Get the Oakland Ice Center to put in a temporary outdoor Ice Rink during the holidays. This section of lower Telegraph is going to become a strong retail corridor very quickly.

    Downtown Design Guidelines: You cannot codify good design. There is no substitute to a talented architect, committed planner and an educated and informed Planning Commission to insure quality design. If you try to depend on complex code language to give you this it will not work. Keep the code simple stupid. There are enough good and bad examples in DTO to easily develop design guildelines with graphic examples of what works and what does not and explain why it does or does not. SF Planning Dept. has a published residential design guideline its a very simple document that is easy to read with pretty little drawings that a lay person along with a design professional can easily understand. This little document has done more to improve and minimize the impacts of residential infill development than any amount of code acrobatics.

    I’ll shut up now.

  12. V Smoothe Post author

    Nobody, as far as I know, has asked for self-storage to be permitted outright. It is, under the current proposal, prohibited outright even as an accessory use. At the meeting, those requesting that it be allowed asked for conditional permission for non-ground floor use, and allowed for a maximum percentage of building space devoted to that use as well as a cap for the area.

  13. Ralph

    Will one of the advocates of self storage please explain to me like I am a five year what you mean by self storage? Do you want to permit a business to occupy space to earn a profit or for residents to store their gear? HABO!

  14. V Smoothe

    It’s not a subjective definition, Ralph. Every use discussed is defined by the Oakland Municipal Code. In the case of self-storage:

    Self- or mini storage consists of storage in small individual spaces, on average of four hundred (400) square feet or less that are exclusively and directly accessible to a specific tenant, offered on a monthly or other limited basis, and available to the general public.

  15. Patrick

    I think it’s both, Ralph. As already discussed, some condos that have been built do not have extra storage or enough storage. There are many types of things people would want ready access to (without having to drive across town, assuming they had a car) but don’t necessarily have room for in their homes. Besides the already mentioned recreational equipment, I can think of several other things: holiday decorations, art supplies, balcony-gardening supplies (like potting soil), packing boxes ( which I save and have already used 3 times), a bike if you’re not a daily rider, etc. For businesses it is a no brainer: packaging materials, excess stock – many older (and new) spaces have insufficient storage.

    Even if “storage space” were a requirement, like parking, it is inevitable that for some users, that storage would be sufficient for some and for others not enough. And to outright ban storage options (for profit or not) in what we hope to make an even more densely populated area seems highly short-sighted.

    People who look for housing in the suburbs look for amenities they can easily drive to. People in urban areas look for amenities they can easily walk to. Self-storage wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t so incredibly popular and useful, so to ban it makes the city center less viable for the stated goals of rezoning.

  16. Max Allstadt

    Although I understand the need for self-storage to be available in an urban area, it is also problematic. Mini-storage buildings are perpetual cash machines for their owners, and as such are incredibly unlikely to be redeveloped into a populated use down the road. Typically, they also end up blighting buildings by plugging all their windows and covering the exterior with advertising and signs.

    I don’t know the details of what you want to see happen, V, but the only compromise I could get behind would be one that limits the floor area that can be used for mini-storage to under 50 or even under 30% of a building. I’d also put some sort of overall per-parcel cap on the amount of square footage used. I’m pretty sure we already have provisions for obtrusive exterior signs, but that would have to be addressed as well.

    When I think of mini-storage, I thing of the corner of San Pablo and Brush, or the corner of 46th and Shattuck. If we can keep it from looking like that, I’d be fine with it. Otherwise, forget it.

  17. V Smoothe

    Before anyone else comments on how they think self-storage is ugly and shouldn’t be allowed because it will take over downtown or whatever, please watch the final video in the post where self-storage is discussed, so you can understand what is being requested. As I explained in the post, and again in the comments, what we’re talking about is conditionally permitting self-storage not on the ground floor, potentially as an accessory use, and potentially with a square footage cap for the entire CBD. Nobody has ever asked for self-storage to be permitted outright.

  18. Brian

    Downtown Oakland still has a parking MINIMUM in its proposed Zoning Code? How destructive and stupid an idea can you get?

    SF has a 025 space/unit MAXIMUM now. Oakland is not SF but 1 space/unit should be the MAXIMUM not the MINIMUM.

    I guess I will have to drag myself to one of these meetings after all to ask them to fix this. Even Hayward has Maximums rather than Minimums in their latest TOD area zoning. Parking minimum are about intentionally:
    1. Increasing traffic
    2. Decreasing property values
    Oakland has no great need to do either of those. Switch the min. to a max!

  19. Ralph

    V, thanks for the defn. I had always assumed that self storage referred to for pay units but it seemed like I was hearing a muddled defn and need.

    I don’t own a downtown business but I have often thought that some of the spaces are too small to accomodate business needs, including adequate storage. I’d rather that the spaces be bigger to accomodate storage needs that the owners pays for than set aside space for less productive purposes and we all lose.

    As for downtown residents, people need to make trade-offs. You can’t always get what you want. There are few rental bldgs which I have seen with storage. There are some condos with storage and some without. Will you be satisfied with it – depends. In some cases you may be able to make a deal with a neighbor to use their space. I am of the mindset that people need to learn how to downsize.

    Using the Allegro as an example, that is a bldg which has retail units available but are rarely used because they are too small to be useful. Additionally, it has some bike storage but could very easily have more just by installing it over car spaces.

    I agree with the commissioners that the storage is bad use of valuable resources. As to storage making the city center less viable people are moving here so something tells me that the lack of storage is not a hindrance to attracting residents. Downtown is meeting the needs of someone. And that is it. I am done.

  20. Max Allstadt

    The real travesty here is the tower-base concept. As I’ve said before, mandating a design solution is a great way of getting boring architecture, and we have enough of that in the DTO. It seems to be a done deal, but it would have been far better to mandate light, air, and shadow rules. Tell architects they have to solve a problem, not how to solve the problems. That would lead to a creative solution.

    What we will get instead, I fear, is a bunch of very similar looking buildings, a lack of creativity, and a city which will retain an unfortunate provincial feel.

    We also don’t seem to have any major incentives for green architecture in this plan. In my opinion, if you can achieve LEED platinum or a similarly high level of greentastic building, you should be entitled to major design review concessions and exemptions. Get green, and you should be able to get very very creative.

  21. John Klein

    Regarding the self-storage issue,

    As someone who has attended most, if not all, of the CBD rezoning meetings, I don’t recall anyone promoting the idea of self storage. When the idea was presented at the planning commission this week, it seemed a somewhat ‘quirky’ issue to raise at that late point in the process. As the meeting progressed, it was somewhat comical to watch as the commissioners shot down the idea, one-by-one, in fairly short order. Each time a commissioner spoke to it, it drew faint snickers in the audience because it seemed such trivial and off-topic item when viewed against the full range of zoning issues being considered just then.

    While you all seem to make reasonable arguments for the self storage here, they didn’t translate well at the planning commission. Yes, try again, and possibly with pictures, diagrams, etc., of successful, attractive downtown storage in other cities and where you think they could reasonably be place in the CBD. You guys just came in too late and without a real proposal, from what I see….

    I am glad the rezoning went on to the Council…this needed to happen and I think commissioner Culbruno made the right call. Keeping the little blue building site on 17th Street at 85′ was a good call, too. That particular site is important for preserving views into downtown from Lakeshore Ave. – it works for CALM.

  22. amazed

    incredible how vsmooth would sit around criticizing the work of all the people who have volunteered their time on this for a whole year. how can we take anything she says seriously when she admits she did not even attend the meeting? next time v not so smoothe maybe you should get off your lazy butt and go to the meeting instead of picking on people who care enough about Oakland to give up their free time to make it better.

  23. OnTheGoJo/Joanna

    Amazed… come on. Let’s have a reasonable discussion. No one gives more of her free time – for free – than V, except maybe Sanjiv. (and I like him, even if I know others here aren’t as impressed)

    I don’t always agree with V, but I give her my reasoning for speaking out the way that I do. Sometimes my mind can be changed when I hear other points of view, and sometimes it can’t. Sometimes I can change someone else’s opinion by explaining my rationale, and sometimes I can’t. All I can do is try to communicate better – something this City is not always very good at.

    Instead of name calling and insults, how about you tell us why specifically you disagree! That would be so much more productive. Maybe others will also speak up and give feedback.

    We all have to learn to disagree without taking it personally and without getting so upset. Myself included. Trust me, I banged my head against the wall for three years of going to 3-4 meetings each week on the JLS project, and add another year or more for five or six different developments in my neighborhood. On the plus side, some things were definitely improved, even if not as much as I wanted. :)


  24. Patrick

    Ralph, your comments kind of prove my point: “I am of the mindset that people need to learn how to downsize.” followed in the very next sentence with: “Using the Allegro as an example, that is a bldg which has retail units available but are rarely used because they are too small to be useful.” Would they be useful if the tenants had readily available access to a self-storage option? Perhaps we could allow, say, two extra floors if those floors were used for storage.

    If limited to a relatively small percentage of the building, the building owners can have what Max describes as a “perpetual cash machine”, which I think is a good thing. Retail income is subject to the vagaries of the economy, but I imagine storage income would be less so. And why waste ground floor space that can be used for selling product for storage?

    Simply stating that people to “downsize” is self-defeating and elitist. Do we really want the city to indirectly determine the volume of items that people can own? Personally, I’m thinking of my friend Steve who lives in a very small studio dowtown: in order to use his bathroom, you have to move his bike (which is not used daily) into the tiny kitchen. He walks to work but uses his bike on weekends for shopping, meeting friends, etc. Would you rather he get rid of his bike and call cabs?

  25. Patrick

    I’d also like to mention that by excluding storage from the CBD, you put pressure to build storage in areas that are adjacent to this area. How fair is that for those of us who don’t live in the CBD?

  26. Frankie D

    Brian, having maximum parking requirements rather than minimum is a great suggestion and one I strongly agree with and hope is incorporated into these land use changes. Parking can also be seperated out of the housing cost so you pay for your parking space separate and apart from your living space. This hopefully will become the housing development norm rather than the exception at least in a dense transit accessible DTO.

  27. Ralph

    Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in. The Allegro is not bad for residential usage – most units had adequate closet space and a storage unit off the patio, but it appears that the business usage was an afterthought. The designers would have done better to design a space that would actually accomodate retail. I still don’t think that you need to build separate for profit storage units.

    Further, the storage that I am referring to would differ from self storage because it would not be available to the general public. At least one of the condos in JLS has storage available to owners; so, they don’t have a need for self storage.

    I would not call it elitist to say that people should downsize. But i think it fair to say that it is true that people do downsize when thay move to the downtown areas. I feel bad for your friend Steve but I really don’t see how self storage is going to help his problem. Does he really intend to spend $100/mo to store a bike 5 days a week?

    Now I live about 5 blocks from that eyesore storage place on San Pablo and yes I am happy it is not next door to me, I do not think it appropriate that it is there either. It is there because the city needs money and the neighborhood didn’t put up a fight. Self storage does not need to be anywhere near where people live.

    Out of curiosity, this self storage that people need is this theoretical storage or actual storage – people at my place stuff their storage units with all manner of outdoor equipment and seem to be okay. So who are these people that we are not providing for?

  28. Patrick

    While I agree that society as a whole should work towards mass transit solutions, I disagree with the maximum vs. minimum parking argument. Maximum parking means more cars using street parking – and less parking for people who want to visit and shop or go to a restaurant or to a show. I only live a 3 miles from the CBD – but if I had to rely on our current public transit system to get there, I would never go. Ditto if parking wasn’t relatively easy.

    In addition, I work off of 101 in a warehouse district in Visitacion Valley. As I’ve stated before, I *can* use mass transit to get to work, but I would have to leave 2.5 hours early to have a reasonable chance to get to work on time. With no parking, I would never consider living in such a building, which makes that building inherently less valuable. Don’t put the cart before the horse. I’d rather them mandate plug-in stations in each available space.

  29. Patrick

    $100 a month for storing a bicycle is a deal compared to the cost of a cab or buying a car. I was just using him as an example; I’m sure he’d love to get part of his 2000+ vinyl collection somewhere else, too, but I’m only guessing.

    If the need for storage were only “theoretical” we wouldn’t even be discussing it.

  30. Ralph

    Really I am out of this discussion, but it is theoretical. Jon was talking about future residents. Frankly, I believe it goes back to what you value. If you look at a place which does not have storage and still elect to live there then storage is not a criticial factor in the decision making process.

    Since 1997 I have always had a walk-in closet. I want one now, but it would have cost me an arm and a leg. So I took that off the must have list.

    I also had some type of storage (mostly a closet on the patio). Even as a signed on the dotted line, it occured to me that I may need to get rid of my plastic storage bins as I did not have any additional storage. Fortunately, there was space inside the garage and other levels of the bldg that we could build storage for each unit.

    As I walked the lake this morning, it occured to me that it may be harder to provide 1:1 storage:unit ratio, but maybe they can use some space on the floor to provide storage for residents.

    if he needs a place for his vinyl collection, I know a secure, low cost, and humidity controlled space :)

  31. Frankie D

    I stand corrected dto510′s logic was clear regarding the need for some sort of accommodation for storage in the downtown. Standards could be controlled through the CU process and the image I posted was a good example of how not to to do it.

  32. Naomi Schiff

    In Manhattan, a few old multistory warehouses are reused for mini storage similar a few repurposed old “van and storage” buildings in Oakland and Berkeley. My street-facing office is helping to hide the Press Building storage facility. I think that where older buildings have big floor area it may be reasonable to use some interior areas for storage. It can be hard to get window exposure into these areas, thus hard to build marketable residential or offices. There are also many large basements in downtown Oakland, currently used for commercial storage. (These may be less formally set up and I don’t know that they get advertised, just handed on from one tenant to the next.) One thing most commercial ministorage places want is truck access for moving larger stuff in and out. Do we want to create a lot of new driveways across sidewalks for this purpose? It would be interesting to inventory the extant storage places (Press building and Beacon are not currently full) and underused older buildings and see where the good prospects might be. Perhaps they should be on the edges, near maritime uses and other warehouse-like activity?

  33. Max Allstadt


    I think you’ve hit on a couple of fairly cool criteria for CUPs for mini-stores. Use of windowless interior space and basements? Alley access for vehicles? No more than a single curbcut for in and out traffic? Curbside loading zone allowed only if proprietor covers the cost of lost city parking revenue?

    There are certainly ways to make this work. And also, lets not kid ourselves, one of the most common uses for unleased space is storage, often with under-the-table payment. That money makes it possible for a landlords to offset holding costs, which keeps our downtown emptier. Add some legit storage facilities and you cut into this market a bit.

  34. livegreen

    I would just like to point out that in or near downtown there are about 5 self storage units. Most of these are in warehouses, and most of these employ about two or three people a shift (max, sometimes just one), where a traditional distribution warehouse employs many more people (esp. when it has an office attached to it).

    Self-storage units are just as bad for blue collar employment in warehouses as they are for white collar employment in the downtown. Therefor anyone that advocates self-storage only belonging in warehouses is (intentionally or not) against maximizing blue collar jobs at a time Oakland needs them the most.

    It would seem that having storage built into new condo units would make the most sense. For existing buildings where that’s not the case, a limited number of downtown storage units, conditionally permitted with design impact taken into consideration, also seems to make sense.

  35. Naomi Schiff

    I agree with you, livegreen. I was only thinking about unused warehouse space and industrial, of which we have quite a few examples. I don’t think we should displace any warehouse jobs or any industrial jobs at this moment, since we need jobs here more than we need anything else! Sorry if I was unclear.

  36. Brian

    Patrick, your argument does not hold water for three reasons:

    1. You claim no parking or less than 1/unit would reduce the value of a building, meaning no developer would ever build such a thing; then claim we need to make such buildings illegal. Why? according to your logic no one would build one anyway. So let it be legal.

    2. You claim because you need a car, everyone does, therefore buildings without parking won’t work. That is universalizing one person’s experience. Besides I live in a building near DTO with no parking and my wife and I both have car (would like to go car-free someday). So it is quite possible to have no parking and a car. There are commercial lots around as well.

    3. You claim street parking for residents = less for shoppers. That is just not true. As was discussed about JLS, 100% subsidized street parking will often be used up. Metered or permit-required parking is only used by those who value it enough to pay something, anything.

    Pasadena shops became popular and rich on the simple idea of: metered parking $ == more streetscape improvements == more shoppers

    In my neighborhood I never park in the meter spots, I’m too cheap. So shoppers and visitors always have somewhere to park. I don’t think Oakland actually uses the meter money to improve the streetscape but that is a whole different subject.

  37. livegreen

    Naomi, Thanks for your clarification. However, shouldn’t any empty warehouse/industrial properties also be filled by other uses that employ more people?

    Of course the city needs to do a better job at that too (the City has been relatively ineffective at attracting distribution & wholesale companies, and the Planning Commission looks down on these uses).

    Personally I think Self Storage should be C/U anywhere…A couple years ago someone from CEDA told me they were working on a deal to attract a distribution business to an industrial property in West Oakland that had the potential to employ 30 workers. It got scooped up by a Self Storage that employs 2 or 3 people per shift…

  38. Patrick


    I’d appreciate it if, when contradicting what I’ve written, that you wouldn’t put words in my mouth – or at least avoid blatant lies.

    1. Reducing availability of parking inherently reduces value. Why? Because people like me, who rely on a car, must have parking. Less demand = lower prices. It’s simple economics. I never said no one would build “such a thing” let alone suggest they should be illegal. This is why I offered the option of plug-in stations in each space.

    2. I did not claim that since “I need a car, everyone does”. YOU are the one extrapolating my personal experience. Not everyone has the luxury of living without a car; I’m one of them, and there are certainly 2 or 3 other people like me. You and your wife may be able to live with only one car and no parking now, but what will happen if 10 or 50 thousand other people move into the CBD with no increase in parking?

    3. Your last suggestion is just preposterous. People will pay for parking, but THERE HAS TO BE PARKING AVAILABLE. Again I say, if 50,000 people move in, with increased spaces for 10,000 cars, there will clearly be less parking available. Your 2 to 1 ratio of people to cars is not the norm; until it is, CBD requires parking.

    Where the hell is Pasadena shops? I assume Pasadena – and why you would use an example from a wealthy, suburban town to counter the needs of urban Oakland, I’ll never understand.

    BRIAN: “In my neighborhood I never park in the meter spots, I’m too cheap. So shoppers and visitors always have somewhere to park.” Thank you for “universalizing one person’s experience.” Your one extra space has made all the difference.

  39. Ralph

    @livegreen, you realize storage in condos would not be self storage. Only the condo owners would have access to the storage in condos.

  40. david vartanoff

    many older (20′s, 30′s) apartment buildings had tenant storage areas in the basements. The builders at the time clearly found this a marketable amenity. If the building can have basement parking, locating storage down there seems just fine. This has
    nothing to do with the ugly land wasting mini garage spreads.

  41. Robert

    I don’t think there is anything that would prevent residential or commercial buildings from providing storage for their tenants. And this seems to be what Joe DeCredico was proposing in his comment. It is only when it becomes “self storeg” that you run into problems. But I am not really ot convinced that we need that sort of low revenue (for the city) and low traffic generation type of activity in the CBD. Back when I lived in an apartment I did have a storage locker, but I went to it once a month at the most. Anything I needed more often I found a way to store in the apartment. Whether or not a unit has sufficient storage associated with it is a factor in deciding where to rent, and if you really need more storage within walking distance, I would think that you would prioritise finding an apartment with adequate storage associated.

    On the related subject, I was happy to see that the PC went along with allowing associated business on the second story in the residential area. Many stores need additional storage, and every restaurant I am familiar with has a large amout of storage area, up to the equivalent floor area of the restaurant itself. Rather than using prime ground floor commercial space, the logical location for the extra storage is in the basement or on the second floor.