Swig project scoping session report

So the Planning Commission had their scoping session on Swig’s proposal for two new buildings on 20th and Webster last night. The Commissioners didn’t have all that much to say – mostly they were all agog that nobody came to speak on the project. Other than that, they mostly limited their suggestions to aesthetic issues, saying they would want to see how the buildings interact with the broader skyline, and that they wanted to be sure the buildings were exciting. Here are the highlights from their comments.

Madeline Zayas-Mart:

We want something beautiful, elegant, we want to keep the competitive advantage of the city, and compete in terms of quality, not low cost.

Michael Colbruno:

My own personal concern is that we don’t build another just big ugly box. The one building’s beautiful and recognizes the curve of the Lake and I just want to make sure we don’t have a big stiff faceless International school building sitting there that does nothing for the skyline…make sure the building’s light and airy, and we don’t have a big, heavy building.

Doug Boxer:

I urge you, let’s make this a signature building.

Sandra Galvez was concerned about Swig relocating the gym in the current mall, and asked that the EIR consider the long-term health impacts of losing the gym.

I took screengrabs of the images from the presentation, which I’m posting below.

The presenter stressed that these are very preliminary, so if you think they’re boring, I wouldn’t worry too much. It sounds like they want to build something special here, and the Commissioners were pretty adamant about them doing so. I have high hopes, but if the final plans are ugly, well…that’s what design review is for.

The buildings:

View from Webster:

View from the Lake:

The site map:

16 thoughts on “Swig project scoping session report

  1. oaklandhappenings

    Thanks, V. I think that I now have the answers to my questions from your previous blog on this topic. It looks as if although they are taller than the KC, they are not by that much. Their
    “skinnier” structure, compared to the wide KC doesn’t lead to them overwhelming it.
    In the Webster-view one, it looks as if they are on the other side of the street. I think that image needs to be redone, no?

  2. Max Allstadt

    A few comments:

    Like I expected, the commission is pushing for pretty. Like I expected, the elevations in black and white tell you almost nothing.

    I am really baffled as to how the hell the force of law can mandate the loss of a crappy McGym as a criteria in an EIR. Would you do the same with a McDonalds, and assess a positive environmental impact on health?

    Also, having done renderings myself of various masses from various viewpoints, I’m suspicious of the Webster St. view. When I’ve messed with trying to create street level views of a building, I set the virtual “camera” at 5 feet off the ground, eye level. The Webster St. view looks like it’s from a lot higher than that, maybe 12 feet or more, same for the lake view. This sort of fudging happens all the time in the architectural world.

    Its a minor detail in this case, but planning commissioners, if you’re reading this: Always ask the architect if his street level perspective views are from 5 feet off the ground. It’s very easy to make something look shorter or taller or whatever is convenient if this rule is broken. It’s almost always done as deliberate deception.

  3. Chris Kidd

    Awesome points, Max.

    I’m also concerned that there’s no views from closer up. A rendering of the new skyline is important to have, but a rendering of the street scene is also important. A highrise that dominates its sidewalks creates a negative space for pedestrians. There are many different ways to prevent this from happening and I’d like to see what Swig’s ideas for that would be.

    I’d also be interested to see what the rendering would look like from 20th st. instead of Webster. How much more shade would that subject the KC park to? Wouldn’t it effectively cut off afternoon sun? (not that this is a huge point, just curious)

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    Just to be clear – this meeting was a scoping session for the Environmental Impact Report, not a discussion of the project’s design. The building’s design has not been completed, and the speaker who made the presentation stressed that these images were very preliminary, just intended to give a general idea of what the project would look like. I put these images up because that’s what was presented to the Planning Commission last night, but it’s way too early to make any firm judgments about aesthetics. When the time rolls around for Design Review, I’m sure there will be plenty of renderings from all sorts of perspectives, and I will share them here.

  5. John

    The City of Oakland is currently rezoning the Central Business District (CBD), which is the entire downtown, except in the Jack London district. One of the biggest changes in the zoning code is that it will allow for much higher buildings than it now does. For instance, no height limits are proposed along the Broadway-Franklin Street corridor.

    Along the downtown edge of Lake Merritt, the current proposals are alternatives which allow heights to either 150′ (12 floors) or 275′ (22+ floors). What has been missing until recently is any alternative to limit buildings at the Lake to much lower heights.

    Currently, CALM is proposing that buildings of no more than 55′, or 5-6 floors, may be built within 300′ of Lakeside Drive. This limit would run from 14th Street (the court house/library area to Snow Park). You can read more about it here: http://lakecoalition.blogspot.com/

    Btw, the Swig project is not in the area where CALM is proposing height limits.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    John –

    My patience with your nonsense has dropped to way below zero after your last string of nasty personal attacks. Your comment is in no way relevant to this post. I will not tolerate your spamming my blog in the future, especially with inaccurate information, as you have presented here.

    In any case, considering that almost every building on Lakeside Drive on the stretch you’re speaking of is well above fifty-five feet, your proposal is not only moronic, it’s ahistoric, and the Planning Commission will laugh you out of the room, as they should.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Max -

    John wrote the following in the comments section of this post.

    Vsmoothie: you are so “all over the road” with your own whining, it is hard to muster any interest in slogging through your so-called research. Particularly when you admit you thought it a waste of time. You are truly disgusting. Stop subjecting people who actually care about this city to your pathetic whining. It’s gross. Btw, second-hand information via someone who actually did make an effort to attend is called hearsay. Get a job.


    It is obvious that VS is on the payroll of the developers to write this.

    VS may think she has written some cute prose about what she did last Saturday instead of attending the meeting and why she did not attend. But, it is not cute at all – it is self-indulgent and lazy, for starters. Her “story” and response to a meeting she did not attend is one of the cheapest shots I’ve seen in a long time. VS, maybe for the next meeting, you will put down your fork or sacrifice your sandwich for what will probaably be the first time in your life and attend the meeting like the interested and concerned Oakland residents who aren’t on the take and who did attend last week. If you want to be the laziest person in Oakland, the least you can do is not force the rest of us to hear about it.

    I have no intention of letting people who cannot maintain a modicum of civility and who accuse me of being “on the take” use my blog as a platform to advance their radical agendas.

  8. Max Allstadt


    I will say this: spammy and unrelated as his last post was, he wasn’t uncivil this time.
    And yeah, an arbitrary 55 foot height limit is well, arbitrary.

    Those last two comments you reposted: well don’t get me started about how I feel signing my full name makes me think twice before typing something that I wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

    John, I’ll just gloss over my old anonymity debate and say this: typing what you wouldn’t dare to say in person is cowardice. I’m glad you changed your tone in the most recent post. As for self-indulgent and lazy… You insulted V personally online rather than contesting her point of view in a civilized debate. That’s pretty self-indulgent and lazy.

  9. V Smoothe Post author

    Max –

    While I appreciate your commitment to transparency, I can tell you that many politically engaged people in Oakland have no qualms whatsoever about being uncivil whether or not their full name is involved. The complete lack of basic social graces on the part of some of these people is astounding. I have had activists whose political views differ from mine literally spit at me and call me a bitch when they walk past me on the street. I have had people paid by our tax dollars call my cell phone and scream at me at length about how I’m “lazy” and “disgusting” and “make [them] sick to [their] stomach” and “a blight on the city” and should be sued for my “packs of lies” (while unable to identify a single inaccurate statement in my work).

    In one particularly stunning incident a few months ago, someone posted some false accusations about me, along with (innaccurate) personal information about my employer and education on a neighborhood listserv. The post prompted several unbelievably rude personal e-mails to me from members of the listserv, as well as more extremely nasty postings about me on the listserv itself from at least one prominent community activist. When I posted in response that the woman’s claims were false, I received even more hostile (and in some cases, threatening) messages. Off-list requests to the original writer to rescind her accusations were met with further vitriol. Eventually, I had to appeal to one of the group’s moderators for resolution, who kindly posted a message correcting the original accusations and rebuking the accuser for her behavior. One would think that maybe some of the people who had been attacking me would apologize in response. Nope. Literally the only response to the correction of any sort was from one of the people who had been posting really nasty messages about me, saying basically that the whole thing wasn’t a big deal, and that if I had a problem with what was said, I should get over it. (She then ironically ended her post by saying “we just need to act with a modicum of kindness and relevance.”) Honestly, it’s enough to make me want to quit blogging sometimes.

    In any case, I’m happy to give my commenters all the leeway they want to go off-topic (redwoods, etc.) as long as they adhere to basic standards of decorum and decency. John, after the comments above, lost his free-posting privileges here. If he wants to write about the CBD zoning, he can do it on one of the many posts about CBD zoning.

  10. Robert

    V – If it is any consolation, I took the email address from their blog and wrote to the city planner they listed to oppose the height limits.

  11. Max Allstadt


    Ah yes… the unyielding douchebaggery of cyberspace. Shoganai.

    From what I’m reading, CALM is a really ironic name. Since I happen to disagree with their stance, I hope John continues to self sabotage by being shrill. But be nice to the planners John, even if you don’t get your way.

  12. John

    Hi Vsmoothie. You are so right. That was one of those messages I probably should have counted to 100 before sending, or should have waited until the next day. I truly and honestly apologize for my lack of civility and decorum . Still, had I waited a day, my message would have been basically the same – you complained about a meeting that you did not attend. I think your readers deserve more accuracy than a second hand, hear-say report from you, particularly about this important issue.

    With regard to the building height limits, I would have expected you to be more accommodating regarding my comment because I know it is an important issue downtown right now. The unspoken message for why I posted under the Swig proposal has to do with your observation that the Commissioners seemed surprised by the lack of turnout on the item. That is, I think the reason that people who support 55′ height limits at the Lake did not turn out for the Swig project is because it is outside the proposed height-limited area.

    Many people support tall buildings or development in Oakland – but those same people may oppose it near the Lake. This project does not fall within 300′ of Lakeside Drive; and in any case, it is far enough away. I support the Swig project, as I do many other projects in the downtown, although it has a way to go on the design. So, one cannot not simply say that it is only “anti-development nimbyies” who want height limits at the Lake.

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    Wrong again, John. My post was not about a meeting, it was about documents distributed at the meeting. Documents that were in my possession when I wrote it. That’s not hearsay. (In any case, what you call “hearsay” is what journalists call “sources.” You must get awfully frustrated reading the newspaper.) Can you identify a single inaccurate statement in the blog? (And by the way, the comments of yours I posted above were from two separate messages, spaced 8 hours apart. The later one is even worse than the first. So it doesn’t really seem like a case of needing to count to 100.)

    In any case, this project does fall within 300 feet of Lakeside Drive. I can’t imagine why you would say it doesn’t.