What land swap?

I wrote about the Emerald Views condo meeting yesterday for Novometro. Today, there’s a story in the Chronicle about the project.

It contains the usual nonsensical babblings from anti-growth zealots who have somehow failed to notice that Lake Merrit is actually already surrounded by tall buildings. As for this “historic garden” nonsense, I addressed that issue last year in a post on Future Oakland, as did dto510.

And of course the story mentions (without any exploration of feasibility) this idiotic notion these people keep bringing up about trading the property for something near Broadway:

Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, whose district includes the western side of Lake Merritt, said she believes the tower might be better located on Broadway. Preservationists hope O’Keeffe will be willing to do a land swap to locate the high-rise away from the lake’s edge.

Nadel said the city’s general plan provides no height restrictions on the lake’s western edge. In September, city planners are expected to propose guidelines, which would then go to zoning officials and the City Council.

Okay, first. There are more tall buildings by the lake than on Broadway. They are taller than the buildings on Broadway. This project, as proposed, is only 5 feet taller than the current tallest building in Oakland, which sits only two blocks away, on the Lake! The tower would not be on the “lake’s edge.” It would be behind an already existing (historic) lakeside high-rise apartment building. I have no idea where this idea that the “Broadway corridor” is more appropriate for skyscrapers comes from. I can only conclude that Nancy Nadel has never taken a walk around downtown. She also is apparently unaware of the fact that a surface parking lot on 17th and Broadway has been entitled for high-rise residential for years and nobody is willing to build there because it is a terrible location for apartments.

Second, what land do these people think we’re going to swap? We don’t have any land! This is so infuriating. Do advocates of the swap seriously think that our tax money should be spent purchasing an equally desirable and developable plot of land for millions of dollars to give to a developer in exchange for a mostly dead lawn that wouldn’t even be open to the public? The concept is terrifying to me.

Don’t even get me started on the idiot on the Grand Lake Guardian who referred to this high-rise infill development as “sprawl.”

In other news, Nancy Nadel’s hypocrisy continues to astonish me. Just last week she and Pat Kernighan held a meeting about how to reduce to bird population around Lake Merritt, and today she’s in the paper saying:

The lake, Nadel said, is also a bird sanctuary and the well-being of birds should be taken into consideration when the city decides what type of development to allow.


4 thoughts on “What land swap?

  1. Deckin

    Exactly what is ‘Noodles’ thinking about when she’s talking about birds and this relates to a highrise how? Does she think another building will throw off those damn geese? And Naomi Schiff should be singled out for a precious skewering. She says that as we get more dense we need more, not less, open space. Of course, if she has her way, we’ll never get more dense in the first place. So were she to be successful, we’d need absolutely no more green space–let’s just leave it all parking lots!

  2. Eric

    The low-rise buildings currently on Broadway aren’t really an ideal use of this land — Broadway *ought* to be more high-rise than it is, so I can only hope that the remaining vacant lots (at 11th, 17th) will be used wisely. That said, this location on the lake is equally appropriate for high-rise development. As already remarked, Oakland’s tallest is already on the Lake. Calling this project “sprawl” is utter nonsense.

  3. Deckin

    I hope this isn’t too general or off the specific topic, but there’s a great book that should be required reading for city officials. It’s called The Social Atom, and it’s by a physicist named Mark Buchanan. It’s really a compilation of work that started with Thomas Schelling in the 60s about social change, but the current mayor’s fascination with top-down social engineering and making a city into a ‘model city’ by means of government grants sorely needs some fact based cold water. Buchanan talks about Times Square in the 90s and how that area went from drug infested cesspool to family friendly tourist attraction and it’s clear that one of the largest stimuli was large scale private investment–in that case Disney. That made it safe for other interests to invest in there and that brought people who demanded police protection (or better, whom the PD wisely saw required it) and then, just like Vonnegut’s Ice 9, awoosh, the neighborhood changes. Not from getting more grants from the state, not from any central decision on the part of the city (in fact, the city was as surprised by the resurgence as anyone), but by letting interests take risks and bring in people. Once that happened, lo and behold, things got better for everyone willing to obey the law, rich and poor alike. And yet, our current mayor’s mantra is that development must be viewed with suspicion, if not outright hostility. Oakland is so close to a real tipping point, if we could just lose the politicians whose belief systems are faith based relics based on their youthful influences in the 1960s and get some politicians up to date with current fact based research on how cities actually do change. (Apologies for the length.)

  4. V Smoothe Post author

    Deckin -

    Nancy Nadel never stops shocking me. I suppose I should be used to her hypocrisy by now, and expect it from her. Still, I was floored when I read that about the birds.

    Eric -

    Broadway should have more high-rises, but I think that commercial, not residential development is the way to go. It is a busy (and loud) street, and I simply can’t imagine that a large number of people would be willing to buy condos right on a major downtown thoroughfare. We’ll see how Broadway Grand does, but I think that location is removed enough from downtown proper that its success (or lack thereof) would be reflective of what could happen on 17th or 11th.

    Deckin again -

    Not too off topic. I always enjoy your comments (although I do miss your blog). I have not read the book you mentioned, but I will try to do so. It is indeed frustrating that Ron Dellums seems far more fixated on chasing phantom government grants than trying to maximize Oakland’s own resources in a way that might do some real long-term good.