Tom Thurston: Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Monday night saw the first community meeting for the Area Specific Plan for the Central Embarcadero area. The area stretches from Coast Guard Island to the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreway. The Area Specific Plan will build on the prior Estuary Policy Plan (PDF) and will set the framework for re-zoning the area. It also sets the vision for how the area should be twenty or forty years from now.

Except for the Jingletown area, the area was entirely industrial until about twenty years ago. Now much of it is mixed use transitioning from industrial. It is home to a number of industrial artists. However, heavy industry does remain, including manufacture of glass, aggregate and concrete.

Visions for the area followed two divergent paths, one focused on keeping as much as possible, preserving existing buildings, protecting industry, while the other drew examples from West Berkeley and more frequently Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. The guiding question in the first path is what sort of urban development is compatible with industry. The second path asks what sort of industry is compatible with intense urban development.

People would like the intense and vibrant waterfronts of our neighbors to the north, without facing how this transformation would take place.

Since the Area Specific Plan takes a long-term visionary approach, I suggest that the second path is well worth considering. Can Oakland develop and preserve neighborhoods that really are mixed use yet with a density that recognizes the value of this highly desirable location? Can we integrate business, commercial and residential activity with the waterfront, making the Estuary not simply a backdrop but an integral part? Can we create public space that gives complementary relief to a higher density and makes the area inviting for people throughout the region? Can we do it in a way that benefits not just a few existing vested interests, or a few developers, but the city that Oakland will be in twenty or forty years?

Notes from the meeting will be posted at this website. Email the team at

The next meeting will be April 22, place to be announced, but the Unity Council’s Senior Center in the Fruitvale Transit Village is the leading candidate.

Tom Thurston is an East Oakland resident and Chair of the Central City East Redevelopment Area PAC.

24 thoughts on “Tom Thurston: Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

  1. Chris Kidd

    Thanks for the writeup, Tom.

    There were a lot of nice bright and shiny ideas at the meeting. Now that’s okay, because this meeting was all about big vision stuff: what you love, what you hate, what you want without any strings attached. But now that we’ve hashed all of that out, it is time to proceed with more practicality in how to actually acheive these things.

    Any and all improvements brought about in the specific plan will come from the streamlined EIR process created and the developer user fees it will generate. Therefore: no development, no user fees, no bright and shiny ideas becoming reality. We now enter the realm of hard decisions where we must make sacrifices to achieve our goals.

    Development is coming to the central estuary. Nobody can stop it. The only question is how we’re going to relate to it. We can stomp our feet and shot “no!” while getting swept along or we can work with development and try to shape its outcome. Hopefully, we can retain many things that we like about what’s already there while improving upon the things that we don’t.

    One thing that I saw a lot of people call for was more greenspace, pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, and more business activity in the form of restaurants and shops. If we don’t want those greenspaces to become blighted, if we want those pedestrian areas to stay full and safe, and if we want those shops and restaurants to open, much less survive, the central estuary is going to need to greatly increase it’s population density. This means making sacrifices with industry, with what areas should be developed rather than rehabbed, and maybe even reconsidering that NIMBY 3rd-rail, the 55 foot height limit. But hey, like I said, sacrifices.

  2. Joanna/ShopGirl

    I’d say you should see how mixed use is working in the Jack London District, because I miss more industry. People have moved in and seem to want it to have that industrial feel, but without industry. They move in with clear terms of neighbors, such as Prime Smoked Meats, but then want them to go away because they smell, make noise, or have trucks out too early in the morning. On the other hand, you want growth and change, so figuring out the compromises is key.

    Having shops and restaurants is a great idea, but I have to ask if it is realistic. Retail and restaurants aren’t really working in the neighborhood area here, although part of that is because many developers built the wrong thing (imho). I like the idea of more green space and ped friendly areas, but that gets expensive. What developer doesn’t want to maximize every square foot of land?

    Height limits? There used to be this idea that building heights would be higher next to the freeway and then scaled down towards the waterfront.

    If the idea is to grow upon the existing EPP, what about actually following the EPP? It seems that many times it has been thrown out, but again, that’s just my opinion… my point is that if the City isn’t interested in the EPP, why continue to build on it?

  3. Chris Kidd

    Well, the EPP *is* over 10 years old at this point. The realities of the central estuary, especially in neighborhoods like Jingletown, have rapidly outpaced the EPP. It is good to use it as a starting point, but it shouldn’t handcuff the process. What’s more, the EPP had no funding mechanism and no stated avenue of implementation. The specific plan will fix that.

    I’d agree that the current incarnation of the loft district in JLC is not what staff should look to for examples of succesful mixed use development. The disparity between high-end condo folk, the small businesses, and light industry is just too great. It’s the same reason that I think Jingletown is a more succesful example. The range is wider from long-time homeowners to condo owners to renters to honest-to-god live/work artists to small manufacturers and some warehouse/industry on the periphery. Now that may just be because Jingletown is a few years behind on the development curve, but I’d like to believe it’s because the Jingletown community has grown more organically. A by-product of that organic growth is neighborhood cohesiveness in groups like the JABC and support of local businesses like Keefa Coffee.

    In terms of open space and developers using every square inch, I think you’re on to something. Maybe the specific plan could include language for open space requirements on buildings above a certain number of units. And when I say open space, I mean *public* open space. I can’t stand developments like Harbor Walk with huge interior courtyards for their residents and a fortress-like exterior to the world around them. IMHO, the specific plan should do away with private open space requirements and boost the amount of public open space a developer needs to provide.

  4. Carlos Plazola

    Tom, thanks for the posting and for the great headline.

    First, props to the city, city staff, and the consultants for a well run meeting and for getting us to this point. They all get “A”‘s. But we, the public, get C-’s. It was surreal sitting in a room where everyone wants open space, public art, affordable housing, better infrastructure, better trails, more retail…but nobody wants development.

    Everybody wants to be like Vancouver, Portland, Brooklyn, the San Antonio riverwalk, Seattle, but no body wants the neighborhoods to change much.

    Everyone appreciates and wants to preserve the industry that’s out there, but everyone wants more trails and open space, and more transportation, and more jobs, and…huh?

    I know this is a slighly hyperbolic representation of the meeting, but it’s generally true…everyone seemed to want to be associated with the pretty, fluffy squishy things like parks and trails, and then NOT be associated with things like more density, more growth, more condos, as if they’re stinky things that will cause one to become a heretic in the group.

    Some people even put on their sheet “no more condos”. Huh? Ever? wow.

    Let’s face it. If we’re going to get really cool stuff, then we’re going to have to figure out how to pay for it. And we will pay for it through development. Yes, I said it. Development. Development. Development. Development. There. Now we can move on. I’ll be the bad guy that says it.

    We will need higher density office, and residential, mixed with cool new modern industrial uses, in order to support the kind of retail people want along the waterfront. But there is going to be change. Lots of it. Lots and lots of it. Did I mention lots.

    The challenge for us all isn’t to figure out how to pay for all the cool stuff without changing a damn thing. It’s to figure out how to transform our waterfront in a way that allows us to get really cool stuff, while not losing the things we value. Like “funkiness” and GOOD industry (not the kind that has 2 employees per acre who get mad when our kids try to use their waterfront, and then the employees drive home to Castro Valley), and low-income people, and people of color and artist communities, and eclectic neighborhoods. But in the same way the artists in jingletown descended on the Latino community of Jingletown without asking their permission, others will descend on the current residents as part of the process.

    We should all start by being real about what humanity has done over the course of its 2,000,000 years of travels on Earth (or 2,000 years, depending on your beliefs) –we have altered our environment. Over, and over, and over. So, let’s accept that things will, and should, look very different on the central waterfront 15 years from now, figure out what we value and how we keep it, and get on with building something beautiful for our grandchildren.


    Lord please don’t turn the Central Estuary area into

  5. V Smoothe

    I too am appreciative of Tom’s guest post, and although I wasn’t able to attend the meeting, I hope I’ll be able to find time soon to offer a more thoughtful response. For now, though, I just wanted to direct people to another report on the event elsewhere in the blogosphere – Crimson from Oakland Streets also posted about the meeting today.

  6. len raphael

    are there any rules of thumb for how much residential density can fund how much open space strictly thru initial fees? we’d have to assume that the city will eventually be able to afford the operating costs.

    interesting that farms and industrial real estate pricing changes to where those functions are best be done overseas. you’d think an equilibrium point is reached post bubble, pre next population boom, where the demand for housing slows down.

    more of what worked and didn’t in JL and jingletown would be appreciated. eg JSG, what makes you say some developers made wrong choice (other than bad timing)?

    -len raphael

  7. John Klein

    Thanks for the quick report. My concerns and questions might be slightly off topic, so I will keep them brief. Simply put, I question why the City is undertaking a new study of this magnitude when it does not appear to have the staff and resources for current studies, such as CBD rezoning and City-wide Rezoning?

    The CBD rezoning is a year old now, but the City has yet to produce any kind of 3D modeling (or photographs) even though height, scale, and bulk are key issues downtown. It is the public that is providing photographic and conceptual support while the role of the City has been only to provide periodic staff reports, it seems.

    Similarly, with the City-wide rezoning, rather than meeting in the six planning areas designated in the General Plan, sporadic meetings are being held in pairs at separate locations around town. This “broad brush” approach really doesn’t match the General Plan’s Area Views of Oakland and it provides for few, if any, good opportunities to discuss issues specific to the various areas of Oakland.

    From a staffing and resource perspective, I’m not sure that I agree with the City on taking up the Estuary now because of the unfinished state of studies/rezoning currently in progress. Those projects need staff and resources now.

  8. Naomi Schiff

    I went to the meeting. John, this type of Specific Plan is called for in the Estuary Plan. It is a good approach in that it allows for a public process rather than one driven by any particular privately-sponsored development. The consultants are doing the work, not the city staff. The project is already funded.

    I think in a visioning meeting it is great to throw a lot of ideas out there. Given the current economic moment, it is sensible to look at the larger economics, as somebody mentions above. Questions: are condos the only viable form of development? Can local industry survive as a job-generator? When we say industry, can we think about what kinds, and where? In our break-out group we had an eloquent participant who described how many Oakland jobs his business produces, both directly and indirectly, and how proximity to the waterfront was being used to eliminate thousands of heavy-polluting truck trips that would be necessary if they couldn’t barge materials in from the water side.

    What is the relationship between jobs generation and housing, and what is the pricing structure for housing that matches the economic requirements of Oaklanders, going forward? We are not in the speculative situation we were in a few years ago. I appreciated the thoughtful participants, who seemed to represent quite a wide range of views, and their willingness to think about the problem from many angles. There may be no one right answer, as it is a quite large area. I was surprised to hear people I think of as fairly hard-boiled land developers talking about arts and industry, and people I thought of as “all about amenities” talking about housing. I don’t think we should be too quick to rule out anything. The previous model is the previous model. It is time to move on.



  9. Chris Kidd

    I have to agree that the old model is broken. We can’t, and shouldn’t, base the specific plan solely off of the speculative interests of real estate developers. I also would abhor wall-to-wall luxury condos, maxing out their FAR, block after block after block. That kind of redundancy of use and monoculture of building type would simply be a trajedy.

    But while they should not be in the driver’s seat for the specific plan, developers certainly are the engine. While we need to make sure the specific plan area is something that we want, we also have to make sure it is something attractive to the developers who will build our vision around us. The plan can call for all the low-income housing and strong blue collar jobs in the world, but without the support of the business/development community they are simply words.

    Much of the approach I saw at the meeting was “we want x and we want y”. That was fine for that meeting, but now the question becomes “how do we create x and y?”. It will not be enough to say we want well-paid, stable blue collar jobs. Instead, we must find the types of industries that still offer these jobs, find which of said industries have potential for growth over the next 5-10 years, find from *that* pool of industries which ones would match up well to the area contained in the specific plan, figure out what kind of infrastucture/amenities/building specifications those kinds of industries would need to consider moving to Oakland, and weigh the changes those demands would bring to the neighborhood against the impact it would have on the other businesses/residents and against the other stated goals of the specific plan.


    The same process could be said of creating housing that’s affordable for most oakland residents, or preserving the artist community, or increasing retail activity.

    So instead of saying this shouldn’t be about developer interest, we should be saying “how do we entice developers to do exactly what we want them to do?”

  10. Joanna/ShopGirl

    My point about the EPP was that it was never (?) really taken seriously, so is the next plan going to be taken seriously? It takes so long to go through the process that it seems like it’s already out of date by the time it is finalized.

    Ironically, Harbor Walk is probably successful to some degree because of the fortress-like environment is has. But it is also what has a negative impact as a whole on the *neighborhood*, because it’s essentially it’s own neighborhood.

    There are a couple of things wrong with the Jack London District (JLD) as a mixed-use district from my perspective that I hope could be better addressed in future similar mixed-use areas:

    Recent developers built rather small units in general, going after (from my perspective, which could be wrong) first time buyers – or the young & “hip” (their marketing term). This doesn’t equate to stability, especially in the short term. You need a better mix of condos, townhomes, and maybe even some single family dwellings to go along with the industrial areas.

    Sales reps often tell newbies looking to buy that “the produce market will go away” – and it may or may not. Okay, so this isn’t a developer issue, but instead of denying what is there, they should learn to embrace it and market it as a positive, not a negative. (yet still tell the truth)

    Sales reps often tell newbies looking to buy that their view is “probably” protected because of the EPP guidelines suggesting that taller buildings would be built next to the freeway, and scaling down in size from there. Clearly things can and will change. This is a tough one. I lost my view of downtown and while I do miss it, it hasn’t been the end of the world. (or so I keep telling myself)

    One developer in particular built their best units on the side of the lot adjacent to a meat smoking company, knowing full well about the noise and smell issues (even though they EPA required equipment). These units are literally feet from the units on the meat smoking company’s roof. Why not build smaller, more transient and affordable units on that side of the lot, and bigger units with more windows on the other side of the lot?

    There are very few setbacks – most less than 10 feet between buildings, and certainly only about 10 feet from the street, which doesn’t allow for a “front yard” place to walk the dog or sit and watch the traffic. (okay, so the latter is silly) Creating places for “neighborhood” and community”. They don’t have to be huge, just practical.

    Open space – sort of the same message as above. We have a rooftop garden, as to a couple of the other buildings. Others have a courtyard. This creates a “community space” within a specific building, but not with the neighborhood as a whole. Yes, we’re blocks away from the Estuary, but not near a park. Certainly not a community park. We’ve supposedly got the Webster Green, but no money has ever been put towards making it a “green” space, and honestly, it’s not really wide enough to be *that* appealing. And if the Webster Green were to become a reality, the Port and CalTrans would lose some of their beloved parking. A “real” park would be great for having a lunch time picnic for workers in the area. And okay, so others might say a great place for the homeless and drug trade to hang out. Better there than in our doorways, is my humble opinion.

    There are not allowances made for existing industry in terms of parking – specifically for trucks being loaded or left overnight. There aren’t allowances made for these industrial customers to pick up or drop off goods. Parking enforcement no longer allows businesses to even park in their own driveways. (another thank you that Francine L-Thompson is gone in hopes that the City might see that they were cutting off their nose to spite their face)

    Density. How much is enough? How much too much? What is dense enough to support local business, and what is not. We don’t have enough density (yet) for a grocery store. Existing businesses are being squeezed (or in my case planning to close) because although there is a certain number of people, it’s just not enough. And because people live in their little bubble enclaves, they go somewhere else to run errands and buy things because they can do it all in one stop. It’s not convenient to shop locally in the neighborhood. Maybe they shop locally in Oakland, but I did a survey of my own spending for Feb and Mar and a good amount of money went to Alameda.

    Geographically we also have some barriers – we’re a long, narrow area that is cut off by the freeway, the train, the water, and Jack London Square. I know someone is going to bring up Vancouver, but I still say this area is very different. Seattle too. We’re much narrower, which equates to less density. There are also more crossing areas in Seattle and my friends that live in downtown Seattle say that they train never stops for long periods of time the way that it does here in the JLD.

    These are concepts that need to be considered in future mixed-use areas. And if you discuss them and decide that other things are more important, that’s fine, just so long as they’ve at least been considered. (imho)

  11. Brian

    @ Joanna/ShopGirl
    Going by Jane Jacobs writings, at least 125 units/acre is really necessary to fit in enough people to support pedestrian-based retail. I believe that number is for the residential land not the overall density.


    One big problem with all these new condo developments is parking. TOO MUCH PARKING. If the units have two spaces each the residents will drive everywhere else to shop (hello Alameda, Berkeley, etc.). The solution is to drastically LIMIT the parking for new units, and add on-street car shares.

    If it is a PAIN IN THE ASS to have a car residents will choose not too. Then were will they go to shop? They could spend $$$ to rent the car-share to go buy groceries, or they could go to the local supermarket. This dynamic works all over much of San Francisco, which is why they still have all those corner stores and smaller neighborhood markets.

    The choice is always the urban community experience we want, or the driving experience we want. So far Americans have always put the driving experience above everything else. We have chosen to denigrate and destroy our public spaces and communities, and our safety, to make driving and parking faster and more pleasant.

    Will this time be any different?

  12. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Even limiting parking doesn’t always help. I have to say that as a retail store owner, I saw the opposite. Once parking was freed up with the parking permit plan, we saw our business increase and we’re finally starting to see a few of the office spaces fill in where other businesses had moved out because of lack of parking – both for employees and for customers/visitors/clients.

    I know this is going to come off all wrong, because I’m truly not a huge fan of using the automobile. I walk most places including to work, and when I drive somewhere it’s 99% of the time with someone else so that we can do multiple errands, use the car to haul groceries, and carpool all at once. I encourage people to get out of their cars and to use public transport (I’m a BART fan, but I walk places where others tell me to ride the bus) and I also encourage Zipcar as a an alternative to actually owning a car. At $150 per year for a parking permit in our area, it is much higher than residential permits that cost $25 per year. (which is wrong, because we should make it equally costly to park, no matter what city street you are parking on – nor is it guaranteed parking)

    Since we don’t have a market in our neighborhood, of course we drive. (carpooling, in my case – MOST of the time) It’s a case of chicken or the egg. No market in the hood, so we drive (or have Safeway delivery).

    I’m going to figure out what our estimated population per acre is and see how it compares to Jane Jacob’s estimate. I read a book of hers, but it’s been five + years ago, so maybe I’ll have to dig it out and read it again… Thanks for the reminder – and the number!

  13. Ralph

    Brian, from Oakland to Emeryville to San Francisco just about every condo bldg I toured during the past 3 years had a max of one parking space per unit. This includes 2 nad 3 bdrm units. If it is a PIA as you say to have a car residents will not have one is wishful thinking. It is just as likely that they could opt to live elsewhere. There is a group of people who want a walker friendly hood and will gladly use zip-car, but the city needs to work to provide the amenities which make this completely possible. Until then people are not going to envision life without a car.

    I have a Whole Foods within walking distance, but I would kill to have a Wegmans also. I would love to be able to buy clothes, furniture, other household goods, and walk to my doc’s office but the best the city of Oakland can do is Grillz.

  14. Brian

    @ Ralph
    Really? I rent in a building with 0 parking. Must be my bldg. doesn’t really exist. Huge numbers of buildings in SF and Oakland have 0 parking. People pay top dollar to rent and buy them too. Price, as always, depending on location.

    If a portion of the population does not want to live where they don’t have off-street parking (or free abundant on-street) they CAN live elsewhere, suburbia. Thanks not the point, the point is how to make JL work as an urban neighborhood with urban amenities. Having new building that make the neighborhood better is the goal. The goal is not maximizing absorption rates, or per unit prices, by having every unit be all things to all demographics, no matter the impact on the neighborhood.

    Retail follows population 90%+ of the time, first you need the population (preferably captive) demanding the retail, then the store comes.

    Actually you make a great point I left out, putting a price on on-street parking is important too. It makes parking available to shoppers (who will pay because they are there a short time, to spend money) and those workers/residents that MUST have cars, and are willing to pay. By clearing out all the cars whose owner are not willing to pay anything for parking, it “freed up” as you said parking for those who actually value it.

    I am not pure myself concerning cars and parking. My family has a car, actually two recently, that we park on the street. The ease with which we do it and the price (Free! 100% subsidizing by the City of Oakland!) contribute to that. If we had to pay for permits or a space in a lot a few blocks away, we would rethink having two cars. But for now, why leave that subsidy on the table? The City is begging us to have more cars by subsidizing it.

  15. Joanna/ShopGirl

    I’m trying to figure this out – bear with me, I’m blonde and horrid with math…

    I calculate the acreage of the Jack London District to be about 250 acres. (very rough estimate, mostly using Google Earth to figure it out) We certainly don’t have 31,250 units. I then used the key residential and most dense area of Broadway/Freeway/Embarcadero/Oak + Fallon/Embarcadero/Alice/Estuary and got roughly 90 acres. Even within this area we don’t have 11,250 units. I got closer to 21 units per acre.

    I then looked at the Oak to 9th project which is 3100 units on 64 acres, and I get 48.4 units per acre. That makes me wonder whether the 125 units per acre is reasonable, especially in an area of unstable ground (landfill) and earthquakes.

    I then looked at grocery stores and what density they look for, and although I couldn’t find much other than this Emeryville general plan update steering committee report:

    And this Sept 2003 EPA Report on Creating Great Neighborhoods:

    The latter is interesting, but I can’t help but feel that it’s a little out of date, because I think transit oriented development has exponentially became more important over the last five years.

  16. Joanna/ShopGirl

    Brian – one last post and then I’m off work for the day (too much time on my hands!)

    You say, “Retail follows population 90%+ of the time, first you need the population (preferably captive) demanding the retail, then the store comes.” First, they don’t come quickly! Second, so many people have moved in and moved right back out because of the lack of convenience just of a grocery store.

    I thought the general rule was 1.14 parking spaces per unit, although 200 Second Street was allowed to be built with .9 spaces per unit with the agreement that they would include a careshare program in their building. Every time I’ve asked if that condition was met, I get a blank look or no response… I did used to get the “we’re working on it”, which I equated to “the check is in the mail”. ;)

    I don’t mind less parking, but don’t create less parking in new buildings and at the same time reduce bus service! It doesn’t make sense. But then I don’t make sense because I don’t take the bus as a general rule. I prefer walking…

  17. Ralph

    I am never a fan of debating logic in these forums b/c it leads nowhere, but last I checked 0 is less than 1, which would mean your bldg exists. Where I take issue with your statement is the assumption people will give up the car if it is a PITA to own. As you later recognize not everyone is keen on the idea of giving up the car. They need to have the inclination to want to live without.

    Growing up and even when I first started working, it was all about the car. It wasn’t until I moved to DC that I first went without the car. I realized just how great it was to walk, bus, or metro to wherever I needed to go. This was pre-ZipCar and CityShare. I knew then I wanted to live without the car. Fast forward 14/15 yrs, I live in Fremont, I went an entire year w/o owning a car.

    I own a car, and with just over 10K miles on it over the last 3 yrs I wonder why I own it. Had my bldg had some type of car share, I probably would have sold that bad boy. But even with car share, some part of the bldg is going to be designated for parking, so that is why max 1 space per unit is not unreasonable. Space can also be utilized for storage.

    As for JL, right now it just strikes me as a warehouse district. Despite living at 3rd & Jackson, I walked 3rd to Broadway once. Too many warehouses, too much funk, too many nimrods at that one club…I am disappointed that storefronts were not bigger. Small size essentially limits what will locate there. Oakland CC seems to think that all retail is created equal. Someone needs to wake up and smell the coffee and stop approving plans that don’t provide sufficient retail space to be attractive.

  18. Ralph

    I believe 200 2nd is at 1+ parking per unit but I am also trying to recall data from when I visited the bldg whe it opened.

    In the you can’t be all things to all people, I would have preferred that residential JLS have less bus service. Force it to Broadway. I actually prefer less bus service and easy access to BART which can connect you to bus hubs. More coordinated transit.

  19. Brian

    Sorry, I led you down the wrong path with that number. 125/acres is the net density number (density for a particular parcel) not the gross density (for a whole neighborhood including streets and non-residential building). I don’t know the real NET number off the top of my head (it is X/per sq. mile) but I would divide the 125/acre by 2 or 3 for a rough idea. So 60 or 40/gross acre. Wow, and I’m a professional planner and I forgot, need to re-read that Jane Jacobs again. Too bad almost no zoning code actually encourages good urban neighborhoods.

    The answer to more bus service is mandatory bus passes bundled with the HOA/rent instead of mandatory parking. The city hands over the money via a contract with AC Transit mandating X level of bus service in the neighborhood, or contacting with someone else for a neighborhood shuttle.

    Imagine, requiring new development to improve transit rather than adding to traffic (via more parking). If only it would be so…

  20. Joanna/ShopGirl

    I went to every planning meeting re 200 Second – Robson (sp?) Brown was the developer with Metrovation. They were given a waiver on the requirement of 1.14 parking spaces (I checked with someone else) per unit in exchange for committing to a car share program. All but one unit has parking as I understand it, so they’re not really that bad at .99 parking spaces per unit. Unfortunately, I don’t know that the car share portion of their committment was implemented.

    I do know that it has been a tough sell for that building, mostly because the ground floor units in particular are not of interest to most people that do like that building. They thought they’d be able to sell those units to architects or artists, but the reality is that many people don’t want to live on the ground floor. They don’t work as retail spaces because of the access, and no ADA access from the street side.

    I’m fine with leaving the buses at Broadway or the train station. I walk to Broadway regularly.

    As for the size and layout of retail spaces, YES, the SUCK here. And I have one of the better spaces that I’ve figured out how to make it work for me (until I close in 307 days). But I will give props to Margot Lederer-Prado (sp? sorry) who worked with an intern to show the other planners what works and what doesn’t work. My store was one of the case studies. They showed the lack of signage, the poor windows not meant for retail, the funky exposed ceiling (which ironically I like, but few others can stand it), the parking, etc. No bathroom, no second exit, and most units only have a single door. I was lucky to get a double door opening, which has saved me for some of my bigger shipments.

    I’m sure this all comes off as my beating the dead horse, but my point is the same with future mixed-use development areas as it was when working with developers to build the best that they can so that they don’t say in 10 or 20 years that they built the wrong thing and have to do it all over again. We need to learn from our mistakes and figure out how to make lemonade out of the lemon mistakes that have been made already. I give ideas all the time, but so far my own landlord has refused to listen… add plants, add color (which they did) to the building itself, add painted on warehouse names like they used to, etc.

    I think neighborhood input allowed 288 Third to be significantly better than it was originally approved just by adding a recycling area in the trash area and by adding the roof garden and making it an awesome space for their residents. I think they also added bike storage, which wasn’t in the original plans.

    For future buildings I’d like to see them find a way to allow green waste (compost), because if the City can pick it up from the residents in the Hills, why can’t we figure out a way for that to happen in these larger buildings where we’re filling landfill with the wrong refuse.

  21. Chris Kidd

    Brian, was it 125units/net acre, or 125 residents/net acre? I can’t remember. I also should brush up on my JJ.

    Joanna, you certainly have a wealth of knowledge from living through the successes and failures of mixed-use zoning. You should really consider showing up to the next stakeholder meeting for the specific plan in order to share that point of view with staff and the other stakeholders. I was somewhat aghast at how many people in my focus group during the last meeting pointed to the development at Jack London Square as what they would like to see happen in the central estuary(or as one of them put it “just continue the trend, all the way down the estuary”. *shudder*).
    A lot of people called for “mixed-use” in the last meeting. I’ve got the sinking feeling that no two people would actually agree on what “mixed-use” is supposed to be. While we can’t change oakland’s mixed-use zoning code in this process, we can use the specific plan to more minutely address some of the ways in which oakland’s mixed-use planning falls down.

  22. dto510

    Chris (and Joanna) I think that JLS is successful conceptually, it’s the details that are a problem. Those details include poor ground-level design, the lack of focused retail development (those two are interrelated problems), and the lack of a transportation plan. But the idea of building new mixed-use developments near the Esturary is a good one. By mixed-use, I mean both housing over retail, pure housing, and office.