What’s under all those cars?: Broadway Specific Plan existing conditions meeting tonight

Two months ago, some of you made it out to the first public meeting for the Broadway/Valdez District Specific Plan, and got a chance to share your vision for the area. Tonight, you have another opportunity for input, from 6 to 8 at the First Presbyterian Church on Broadway.

Tonight’s meeting will focus on the next step in the Specific Plan process, exploring existing conditions and market demands area. Last I heard, the full existing conditions report should be up on the project website next week, but for now, read on for a very brief preview.

The Specific Plan area runs along Broadway from 23rd Street to 580, and it’s kind of a weird place.


click to enlarge

This neighborhood is distinguished from surrounding areas both by its topography (situated in a shallow valley) and its uses. There’s a solid residential neighborhood (Westlake) immediately to east, but hardly any residential within. There’s significant medical use immediately to the west and north, at and around the Kaiser and Summit hospital campuses, but almost none of that spills into the Specific Plan area either. There are no parks inside the boundaries, but plenty nearby (Lake Merritt, Mosswood Park, Oak Glen Park). Adjacent neighborhoods saw some pretty significant new development over the past several years, but this area got almost none. And although we’ve identified it as a key opportunity location for destination retail, there is basically no retail there now aside from Grocery Outlet on 29th. The map below illustrates how the land is being used currently.


click to enlarge

So the upside of having this sort of big random strip of nothing right in the heart of your city is that it gives you a huge opportunity to do something really cool. The area includes 29 parcels that are simply undeveloped, 39 being used for surface parking, 15 occupied by vacant buildings, and 5 with an FAR of less than 0.33. The map below shows the currently underutilized parcels in the area.


click to enlarge

What a perfect place, then, to try to recapture some of that $1 billion in retail sales every year that Oakland is currently missing out on. The market analysis shows plenty of potential in the area – we could support 800,000 square feet of retail along this corridor if Oaklanders started spending just 12% of their shopping budget here. If we expand the potential market to the inner East Bay (Alameda, Berkeley, Piedmont, etc.), then we’d only need to capture 8% of comparison goods shopping. And if we market the area to everyone living within a 20 minute drive, we’d only need to steal 4% of the purchases they’re currently making in places like Union Square, Bay Street, and Walnut Creek in order to make this a successful shopping destination.

Of course, before people can start spending money here, you need stores. Which leaves us with two questions. First, what kind of stores? The inner East Bay lacks a department store, but getting one to open right here might not be easy. Another option would be to try to anchor the area with a different sort of large-format retailer, like Target. Many successful retail destinations are market by a sort of theme – lots of outdoorsy stores all together, for example, make a popular one-stop shopping destination for outdoorsy types.

Of course, before we get to the point where we even have to think about what kind of stores to stick in all this new retail space, we need to figure out how we’re going to get the retail space there in the first place. The area contains several lovely historic buildings well suited for modern retail needs (think the Volkswagon dealership), but it also contains a lot of lame buildings suited for nothing, or vacant lots, and so on. The map below shows the existing building footprints.


click to enlarge

And pulling together enough land to build anything new is a whole special struggle of its own, since the area contained 242 separate parcels with 135 different owners between them.


click to enlarge

It’s definitely going to be a challenge. But an exciting one. And if you’re eager to learn more, you can peruse this summary presentation (PDF), but you should also definitely try to make it out to tonight’s meeting, where you’ll get a better explanation of what this all means and have opportunities to ask questions and so on.

So if you’re at all interested in seeing this area realize its potential, try to make it to the second community workshop for the Broadway Valdez District Specific Plan from 6 to 8 tonight at the First Presbyterian Church, 2619 Broadway. And if you just can’t manage to fit it into your schedule today, mark your calendar right now for the next meeting on August 20th, when you’ll get to talk about project alternatives.

And if you have some spare time after the meeting, head across the street and check out the Mix It Up East Bay 2 year anniversary party at Shashamane (2507 Broadway).

42 thoughts on “What’s under all those cars?: Broadway Specific Plan existing conditions meeting tonight

  1. livegreen

    What will happen to the Auto Dealers? Is there a suitable place to relocate them to, so the city can keep some of that revenue? I understand it’s one of the biggest sources of income for the city, if not the biggest among retail sales…

  2. Shakeel

    This strip really does have some lovely buildings – the building that occupies the northern Broadway/Webster triangular plot is really nice – it most recently housed a short lived Kia dealership…

    This area could really be transformed into a nice medium density residential neighborhood, something like Upper Market in SF. Or, how cool would an Oakland “panhandle” be, with a wide swath of green running down this stretch? Sign me up for benevolent dictator Broadway re-arranger.

  3. Art

    livegreen, I think the plan is to keep those viable dealerships that want to stay on Auto Row (though possibly to consolidate some of them in one area, according to the presenter last night). There are only a handful, some of whom are already in long-term leases—I would imagine it might be some combo of Acura, VW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Honda, several of whom have already expressed interest in staying or have recently invested in new facilities on Auto Row.

    But yeah, there are some gorgeous old buildings in this stretch (I love the Kia building!)—hopefully they’ll get preserved and creatively reused in some way.

  4. dave o

    Hey folks! Maybe I’m having a hippy-days LSD flashback but it seems to me that … well … retail is bombing in Oakland. That we are already overbuilt considering the interest in it. It’s hard to imagine that the City of Oakland has some special power to create a thriving retail area. Most of what I’ve seen here in Oakland over the last ten years is that the city wrecks what is already vibrant and replaces it with a something sterile, lifeless, and basically unwanted. Have you seen that city plaza with the Topdog, Starbucks, Sprint store, etc? This is a stereotypical, tacky, strip-mall like you could find in any suburb. Does anybody else want to run for the hills when the city announces an effort to “improve” something?

  5. Ralph

    the interest in retail is high. ask any of JB’s 10K who had to go outside of Oakland to buy home goods. ask any of the professionals who can’t find clothes, ask 1000s of outdoorsy types that would love a store in our city limits, the sports enthusiast who might like a sports bars, don’t forget the pro athletes who might like a dave and busters, the temescal families that might like a chuck e. cheese, the kaiser workers who might want a panera bread…the stuff at city plaza serves a purpose but it is by no means a destination. it captures a captive workforce.

    we have an opportunity to do something much bigger with the upper broadway parcel

  6. Naomi Schiff

    Nobody I have ever met wants a chuck e. cheese. Most parents consider it one of the lower circles of hell, only to be entered because your kid insists on going to the bday party of some kid he doesn’t even like. But if you do build one, not bad to have it next door to a hospital emergency room.

  7. Chris Kidd

    Well, one way to help support increased retail is to increase Oakland residents through creating more density in our transit corridors and downtown. More people, more customers, more stores Oakland can support.

  8. dave o

    I would advocate for more fast food in the Broadway to support the medical facilities on Pill Hill, particularly the ER and the dialysis place. Seriously though, why can’t businesses experiment with different ventures in the area and slowly, organically, see what flies and what fails. Why does the city of Oakland have to do a heavy handed, over financed, blitz to ramrod its great “vision” on the already overstressed citizens of Oakland? Maybe the 10K people want more retail but the 400K want to express their culture, buy things cheap, party, etc. I could open a sweet 15 place and pack it every weekend. And that would support many enterprises that are a lot more joyful than these oppressive big-box/chain stores. I mean caterers, hall decorators, limo services, musicians, sound system techs, cleaners, tailors, renters of jumpers, security guards. And people would come from all over the state to be here and have a good time. Emeryville and everywhere else has already done the boring chain retail thing. And if you take the long view, chain retail is on its way out anyway in favor of local culture.

  9. Raymond

    The Valdez District is the only viable neighborhood retail environment. It is bound by four major streets, and has 8-9 ingress and egress points to those streets, and looks and feels like a retail hub. Unfortunately, the Masri family owns a great deal of property in the 24th & Valdez area, ground zero for retail. Good luck getting them to do anything, including selling or joint venturing with an experienced developer. Broadway will still have auto dealers, and the other older buildings are not suitable for retail with their long depths and lack of parking. Does anyone think retailers are waiting outside the city limits anxious to flood this area with new stores? Think again. The used car block between 30th & and Hawthorne is owned by two parties, one of whom is marketing their site at a price no one will pay, the other just wants to sit and do nothing. The Specific Plan exercise is nice, but will not produce the so-called “vision” of a 800,000sf+ retail corridor that the City thinks will “recapture” the billion $ of escaped sales. The City should put their money and effort into a making a deal with Target, somewhere in the Valdez district, and at least show others they mean business. Expecting uninvolved property owners who just want to lease their buildings to anyone, and for any use, to somehow wake up and engage in the “vision” is wishful thinking. All the hype to get 10K into the downtown has driven other property values to a level that makes retail development unfeasible. Four restaurants at each corner of 24th & Valdez may be all you get, which is still an improvement.

  10. Jesse

    “The inner East Bay lacks a department store” ? Sears is at 20th and Broadway, just a few blocks outside the zone of interest. There’s talk the building will be remodeled.

  11. dave o

    V Smoothe,

    I’m not clear why Sears is not “a real department store”. And why would a Target thrive while Sears sits empty. These big ventures seem driven by developers and big business people who want to force them on the town and maybe cash in on redevelopment money. There is little interest from the people living here outside of a few vested interests. Berkeley has done well with small locally-oriented businesses. They actually had a sale tax increase last year while the big-box and chain stores tanked. Yet Oakland somehow sees a future in big-box and chain stores. It’s probably a future for the builder, not for the community. The community gets stuck holding the bag.

  12. Ken

    broadway in temescal is too wide. far too wide.

    It’s a South Bay style expressway for Lafayette, Hills and upper rockridgian residents to ride their acuras, priuses and bimmers down to oakland proper in style, for a nice, safe prepared meal at Flora or Pican. And what a pothole ridden bump and bounce! terrible for bicycles.

    Oakland City needs to put that road in triage mode for its 85 and probably now 100 year repaving cycle. (ie, never, except for the annual pothole covering photo opp)

    Probably the only roads that Oakland will ever repave EVER in the future are major arteries. there will never be money ever again, to repave the rest.

    just these:

    broadway
    telegraph
    streets in jane brunner’s coveted rockridge hoods

    not mlk. not west (done already). not pimp international. not san pablo or shattuck. maybe chinatown will get it together to redo JACKSON STREET but i doubt it. it’s been this long.

    Again — why not order actransit, public works and a few “poor oaklanders” to hammer in a few iron rails borrowed from bart (they are rusting in various yards, or along the 980 tracks) to start our own F-line street car? extend it to downtown at first, then later curve it around the lake to international. Wiith tracks, we don’t need to keep up our insane and no longer possible asphalt/concrete repaving.

    maybe keep the streetcar at least 10 feet above sea level, though. so go thru downtown instead. (avoids tsunami flooding and sea level rise.)

    then add a greenbelt of DATE PALMS and community tended gardens down the middle of upper BWAY.

    there should be at most only ONE paved lane going down bway on each side. shrink the intersection at 51st/pvalley and bway too: that doesn’t need to be so huge a waste of space!!

    all those buildings on autorow which people say are “too deep” should be converted to mixed use spaces:

    * residential cloisters
    * monastery
    * light industrial/craft: pottery, bicycles made from car parts
    * graineries
    * OPD/OFD housing
    * clothes swap
    * dance hall
    * repair shops: furniture, CLOTHING, shoe, bicycle, car
    * rainwater catchment depot
    * PUBLIC BATHS
    * neighborhood movie theater/stage theater (like el cerrito has up in the hills)
    * another re-use depot
    * NO MORE nonprofits
    * agricultural support: maybe an edible mushroom grow house

    On the roofs: tennis courts, more food gardens

  13. david vartanoff

    Not sure what department stores still have to offer that I need? I did go to Seara 3 years ago to get a new fridge. Haven’t been in since.

  14. dave o

    Ken,
    Your vision lacks the required denial of peak oil, climate change, and permanent collapse of the former cheap-energy economy.

  15. James Robinson

    I can answer the Target/Sears question. To start out with, people who shop at large stores want large parking lots adjacent to the stores. Sears doesn’t have that. Secondly, Target is generally WAY more popular than Sears. In fact, Kmart bought Sears in 2004 as part of a consolidation in the retail industry.

    People in Oakland are going to shop in Target, whether it is the El Cerrito store, the San Leandro store, or some other Target. Why not put one in Oakland so we can get some of those sales taxes?

  16. dave o

    James,
    But aren’t stores like Target put in low-value places on the outskirts of things, like the former army base? Isn’t auto row too close to the downtown? You wouldn’t put a Target on 4th in Berkeley, or Rockridge, or Piedmont Ave, etc.

  17. Ralph

    To add to the KMART consolidation, the value of KMART holdings shot up not because Sears was the crown jewel in retail but because many of their stores sat on valuable real estate. I am personally convinced, but far from certain, that KMART holds this Sears location because of the value of the real estate. It can’t be for the quality of its merchandise.

  18. James Robinson

    Dave, you’re confusing Target with Wal-Mart. Target places its stores much closer to urban centers. For example, there is a Target in wealthy Arlington, VA which is adjacent to Washington, DC. Target usually draws a slightly more upscale customer than Wal-Mart, so Target is not has pressed to have cheap land “out yonder.” That being said, I don’t know if there is a big enough parcel of land in downtown Oakland or Rockridge for a Target, plus the enormous amount of parking a Target would require. However, if you put a Target where the Naval Hospital was, it could do well, because of the surrounding affluence.

    Ralph, you are right. Unlike most retailers, Sears owns most of their stores and the land underneath those stores. I agree with you, Sears probably keeps their Oakland store open because of the real estate value. They are doing a type of land banking, in my opinion.

  19. Robert

    For reference, the Target in Albany is about 150,000 sq.ft. (on two levels) sitting on about 5 acres. The block bordered by Broadway, 30th, Webster and Hawthorne where the GM dealer sits is actually somewhat larger., about 6 acres. There is not good access from the freeway to that lot however, which may be a limiting factor in trying to put any department store/big box retailer anywhere along Auto Row.

  20. Ralph

    call me crazy but aren’t there a few freeway access points to Auto Row. If there were none, I could not imagine what incentive dealers would have to stay.

  21. Max Allstadt

    27th and Northgate exit. Maybe the HarriOak exit too. But of those, which will it be? Hmm, which neighbors will be easier to win over?…

  22. Raymond

    Robert, Target would take an Auto Row site for their 150K+- store regardless of the freeway access. 30th to Hawthorne would be an ideal location.

  23. Robert

    I hope you’re right Raymond. Target would be a good, realistic addition to Oakland shopping. Save me driving to Albany.

    Sorry Max, it will be 27th, because the streets are much better set up to carry the increase in traffic. Although 27th does not provide access to 880. The HarriOak exits are too far and on poorly aligned streets. HarriOak will take you all the way down to 27th before you can cut over to Auto Row anyway. There is an eastbound exit from 580 to Broadway, but no return.

    Weirdly enough, auto dealers actually don’t generate a lot of traffic. Just think of how big their customer parking lot is compared to a store like Target.

  24. Max Allstadt

    27th would be great, if it’s done right. One gas station tops, or better yet put one on broadway. Parking structures would be needed too, and there’s a lot of blighted commercial property on 27th that could be redeveloped.

    If 27th is integrated into the retail plan, that would be even better. The intersections of 27th and Telegraph and 27th and Broadway should both be part of it. There is way too much one story property with surface lots around there.

  25. dave o

    Max,
    What do you consider blighted on 27th? “Blight” is a dirty world around here, a kind of code for all kinds of oppression.

  26. Ralph

    blight is an accurate description. there are a number of empty storefronts on Telegraph. There were a fair number that served the medical community but with the exodus of docs to the burbs so went the occupied offices. i would also like to get rid of some of those streetside billboards.

    word on the street a fair number of the properties on telegraph are being purchased by one investor to shape his idea of what telegraph should be.

    and max to answer your question, i suspect it will be 27th as there is no school in the nearby vicinity.

  27. dave o

    The billboards really destroy a sense of community. It’s a kind of corporate tag mentality that marginalizes the people who live around them.

    For blight, we can all agree on the boarded-up abandoned building (like Biffs). But you agree that the term has been abused and heavily nuanced to give developers the ability to start snatching properties that were important to people in terms of livelihoods and living accomodation?

  28. Max Allstadt

    To be clear, when I say blight, I almost never mean a residential building unless it’s uninhabitable. What I mean is vacant commercial property, a big parking structure, a big parking lot. Particularly the stretch between Northgate and Telegraph.

    Theres also a HUGE amount of no-man’s land under the BART tracks and the freeways over there. (OK, not “No-man’s”, it belongs to BART and CalTrans). Some of that should be acquired or mitigated somehow. It’s an absolute mess. The junkies call it “The Concrete Jungle” and they’ve built shanties under it at times. On an every day basis, it’s just a place for them to sleep and shoot up. Needles everywhere and every fence is shredded open in one place or another.

    Some of that land could be taken and turned into parking if there was a reason for folks to park. The specific plan should consider expanding the scope of Broadway redevelopment to include any corridor to and from the highway access points. And by redevelopment I don’t mean putting in another gas station.

  29. Ralph

    we can not speak with one voice on blight. i am no fan of boarded and abandon commercial buildings. and i am no fan of run down neglected residential bldgs and vacant properties where rats make a home. those properties are easily classified as blight. urban minority communities from east to west find this to be a problem not adequately addressed by the powers that be. and quite honestly, if a developer started buying up residential property for the purposes of either bldg a village or individual single family homes, I won’t be too upset.

    i talked to a few people last Thursday and we all agree to make the B-way plan work, the city needs to have a strategy to address the areas to the west.

  30. Raymond

    Ralph, you make some good points, but the city does not need to have a strategy to address the areas to the west in order to “make the B-way plan work”. Just get the plan in place and other nearby areas, in whatever direction, will take care of themselves. A major problem with the city is that they always find another “project” to address and never seem to get the initial plan completed.

  31. Ralph

    Don’t get me wrong, definitely need to get the Broadway show on the road. I just hope the city has a vision for what is next. Years before I was born, the powers that be completed the Baltimore Beltway. Exits were consecutively numbered except when you hit 17 – 20. There was no 19. For years there was no 19 but it was planned that way as the powers that be knew that expansion would go west and when it did they knew they would need a road to take you there.Some 20 yrs after it was built we got our exit 19. Oakland would do well to have a similar foresight and visioning.

  32. James Robinson

    Ralph, you’re expecting too much from Oakland. Planning 20 years ahead? They can’t even plan ahead to the next recession.

  33. livegreen

    Question: Target might plan their stores closer to downtowns but they still have the “big box” design. That doesn’t fit in at all on Broadway, esp. where there’s been movement to preserve some of the older historical dealer buildings.

    Would Target be willing to use some of those, as in a step towards what Wholefoods did? (& any examples of Target doing this) If not would that kill their prospects?

    Personally I think their standard big box designs would fit better off the freeway or by itself off a major thoroughfare, not anchoring a multi-unit downtown complex (and would be f-ugly downtown, even if I agree it would be nice to have one).

    I’m also concerned if any other stores or boutiques would want to locate near a discount store? There are NONE of significance near Target Albany, Walmart Oakland, or Costco.

    Can a big box like Target be incorporated into a Berkeley style 4th St. or Walnut Creek style (just as general examples) or does one preclude the other?

  34. Ralph

    Livegreen, the spam filter prevents me from posting links, but I have found a couple of articles where Target has redesigned their std bldg to make it work within the constraints of an urban setting. Not all retailers are willing to do this, but Target is and has found a way to make the economics work. I’ve also found an example where they have made a Kia corner work.

  35. gem s

    livegreen, halfway down the page in this thread my comment (May 5th, 2:24) has a link to a pic of the Minneapolis Target store. Target has been designing stores specifically for urban environments for awhile now.

    If you want to continue to encourage suburban use patterns, you put big-box stores out on the outskirts where people are forced to drive and where land is cheap enough that no one insists that parking lots be underground or non-existent. A true urban environment can handle large departments stores. The Rotunda Building, for example, was a giant department store.

  36. livegreen

    Thanks Gem. Best looking Target I’ve ever seen (that doesn’t say much, but a step in the right direction). That style or something adopted to work with it’s surroundings would work for me.

    From the photo of just that one example it’s hard to see if there are other stores nearby. I remain concerned about the affects on other retail (& whether middle or upscale stores & boutiques would be willing or reluctant to commit), but am open to it if examples can be given/shown.

    After all there’s no point to having a redevelopment area of just 1 store, or just big box retailers…

  37. Naomi Schiff

    There’s a freeway exit from 580 eastbound onto Webster (unremarked above) that loops around, is underused, and drops you at Pill Hill/Broadway southbound. With some good coordination with CalTrans this could get a slight redesign and upgrade to be more useful and better signed. To escape downtown Oakland, take 27th and use North Gate access to freeway, which has large capacity and connects in all directions.

    Downtown department stores at one time before some of us were sentient (or born), but into the 1970s:

    Large buildings still standing:
    Kahn’s later Liberty House now the Rotunda
    I. Magnin
    Capwell’s/Emporium/Sears
    Roos Brothers (15th & Broadway)

    Demolished:
    The Grey Shoppe (Broadway/20th, where nondescript grey office building stands amid parking lots) was a fabulous example of really good art deco, and I still grieve its demolition.

  38. navigator

    Any development of upper Broadway has to include high density housing, large pedestrian plazas, a huge tree covered landscaped park down the middle medium with benches, fountains, statues, ornamental street lighting, etc.

    We have to make upper Broadway a pleasing residential and retail area connecting Rockridge to Downtown. This upper Broadway area has the potential to be a great pedestrian friendly neighborhood. The topography of the area is definitely conducive to walking and connecting the general populace to neighborhoods like Piedmont Ave., Adam’s Point, Lake Merritt, Uptown, Temescal etc.

    Unfortunately, to build anything in Oakland, California, or in the United States, takes a gargantuan effort at a glacial pace. After returning from a two week visit to Portugal, it’s incredibly disheartening to see how far behind we’ve gotten as a Nation. Lisbon is a wonderful modern city with amazing historic architecture huge closed off squares and pedestrian areas, great public transportation, clean streets etc. However, they do pay heavy road tolls to maintain their awesome highway system. People pay high road and gasoline taxes for the benefit of the whole. Unfortunately, the right wingers in this Country have brainwashed the Nation into thinking the only rightful place for taxes is to keep us “safe” via a huge and wasteful military budget. The end result is that we are rotting from within.

    Oakland has great potential, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve seen the glacial pace of development in Oakland for many years.