Happy Passover. This is a good time to reflect on how to bring about important societal change. On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council discussed the proposed Climate Action Plan (PDF).
As the report of the Oakland Climate Action Coalition notes: Transportation is the largest contributor of GHG (Greenhouse Gas) emissions in Oakland, comprising nearly two-thirds of all emissions.
We can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, become more energy independent and create jobs here in Oakland. How?
Transit Oriented Development (TOD).
What is Transit Oriented Development?
Since we know that the transportation sector is the most important contributor to GHG, strategies to reduce consumption in the transportation sector must be central to our solutions.
It will be essential to rebuild our city in a way that makes it easy for people to walk, bike, take transit, and more — which, in addition to being one of the top ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will also dramatically improve quality of life in the community.
Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is a mixed-use residential or commercial area designed to maximize access to public transport, and often incorporates features to encourage transit ridership.
A TOD neighborhood typically has a center with a transit hub surrounded by relatively high-density development with progressively lower-density development spreading outwards from the center. This is often called Smart Growth or TOD.
Funding & Planning Opportunities
In recognition of the fact that TOD is one of the top needed strategies for traffic congestion relief and reducing oil consumption, increasing amounts of funds are being made available to support “TOD” projects, at the Federal, State, and regional levels. The upcoming Federal Transportation and Energy Bills will likely include substantial new funding for TOD.
At the regional level, target “priority development areas” (PDAs) will be eligible for funding this year through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). Implementation of the State of California’s own greenhouse gas reduction strategies are also anticipated to include funding for TOD projects in California. Many other opportunities exist to fund TOD projects — Oakland must ensure we are ready to capitalize on these opportunities.
What Does This Mean?
In Oakland, right now, there exists an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of jobs, in construction and improving our sidewalks, streets, bike lanes, and streetscape, and ongoing in new commercial and mixed use development and for which outside funds are being made available.
It is vital for Oakland to complete the appropriate plans to position the City for these upcoming State and Federal funding opportunities. This is a major opportunity that we cannot afford to waste. We must track the grants, prepare the plans, and seek the support we need to make this possible.
One example of a large project which would transform Oakland’s economy is the Oakland Coliseum Transit Village. A coordinated TOD improvement plan for the Coliseum BART station area should be adopted and implemented as soon as possible. This plan should rebuild the area around the Coliseum BART station into a thriving, mixed-use destination with restaurants, bars, shops, and more.
- Provide an opportunity for the millions of patrons coming for games or concerts to have a great place for dinner and more (over 3.2 million visitors in 2009).
- Thousands of jobs in the community would be created, both during construction, and beyond.
- Make the area between the Coliseum BART station and the Coliseum/Arena into an Asset instead of an Embarrassment!
- Improve surrounding streetscape, traffic signals, sidewalks, lighting, and signage.
- Attract business and increase local sales tax revenue with amenities such as a Dave & Buster’s and an Everett and Jones, along with a conference center hotel where businesses and community organizations can host their meetings and then go to a game together would help establish the Coliseum Village as a sports and entertainment destination.
Next Steps Should Include:
- Conduct planning/design/engineering for these projects to enable them to be ready-to-go for grant applications
- Conduct Environment Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement as needed
- Ensure zoning is compatible with these projects
- Ensure these projects are included in County and Regional plans as eligible projects for funding
With the right kind of vision and leadership we can move Oakland forward with a Coliseum Village TOD project that will provide jobs, help reduce GHG emissions, improve Oakland’s image and create more revenue for the City.
Rebecca Kaplan is the At-large Councilmember for the City of Oakland.