CED Committee approves surface parking lot, but changes overall outlook on parking and transit

29 Apr

Yesterday, after hearing from nine advocates who opposed the surface parking lot and two business owners that supported it, the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee voted 3-0 (with Ignacio De La Fuente absent) to approve the surface parking lot in Uptown. The meeting was a bit maddening, but our efforts were not a failure, and there will still be at least two more opportunities to amend this project.

Before jumping into the frustrating comments from the committee members and business owners, I want to thank everyone who emailed them about the surface parking lot. Your emails were mentioned several times during the meeting. And I want to especially thank those who spoke so eloquently at the meeting – we came together as a community, and it was inspiring to see the blogoaksphere speak out with a unified voice. So thanks.

Unfortunately, we were no match for the Uptown business interests. They wanted a parking lot, and that’s what they got (for now). During the hearing, Melissa Fitzgerald from the Oakland Ice Center and Greg Perloff from Another Planet Entertainment (which operates the Fox), spoke out in support of the lot. Normally I can respectfully disagree with opponents on issues, but their arguments were absurd!

Fitzgerald claimed that on nights that the Fox had shows, admission at the Ice Center was way down because people couldn’t find street parking. She made the argument that if people didn’t find a spot immediately, they’d just leave. You know, because there are tons of other places in the East Bay to go ice skating that have ample parking. Really, this argument makes little sense – there are tons of lots in the area and it’s the Ice Center’s job to educate its patrons about parking and transit options.

Perloff made even less sense. He complained that the Fox’s patrons were having a hard time finding parking and that the Fox feared that for new patrons, “if you blow it the first time, you blow it forever.” When pressed by Larry Reid though, Perloff joyfully stated that attendance is “better than we’ve ever imagined” and that 80-90% of the shows have sold out. So yeah, clearly people are so fed up with parking that they’ll never come back to the Fox. And yet neither Perloff nor the committee members seemed to realize how absurd his argument was.

The statements by Fitzgeral and Perloff were not the most maddening of the afternoon because we expected as much from them. After all, the only reason they want this lot is for employee parking (with 120 spaces at most, those are the only people this lot will serve) so they’re going to say what they need to to get it approved. The statements made by the committee members, who are supposed to be looking out for all Oaklanders and not just business owners, were what made me so frustrated.

Jane Brunner spoke first, proposing a “compromise” that is really no compromise at all. She started talking about how the farmers market at the Claremont DMV parking lot is so great (and I agree because I go there nearly every Sunday) and how we should replicate that in Uptown. Brunner said she supports the lot but would vote for it only if they reserved a day for a market. “That’s a solution,” she said. Um, really? That is not a solution. First, that only covers up the blight of the parking lot for a partial day per week and only mitigates the traffic impacts during those few hours. Second, the area is already saturated with farmers markets – Friday in Old Oakland, Saturday at Lake Merritt, and Sunday in Jack London Square. A farmers market in Uptown right now would either fail or significantly hurt the other markets in the area. Further, as Brunner admitted, it took two years for the Temescal farmers market to really catch on and become a vibrant market. Great, so by the time this Uptown market becomes popular, it will have to be shut down or moved so Forest City can build condos.

Pat Kernighan followed. She said that she had given this a lot of thought and had read the blogs, comments, and emails that claimed this was a step backwards. But she hadn’t seen any viable use that would be better than a parking lot. Wow. This comment made me want to explode. What Kernighan was suggesting is that it is our (bloggers and blog readers) responsibility to come up with detailed proposals for alternatives for this lot! Yet she didn’t seem to be concerned that the committee had directed Redevelopment Agency (RDA) staff to come up with alternative proposals and they came back with nothing. Yeah, you read that correctly. Paid staff comes up with no alternatives, so it’s up to us to develop alternatives. If one of us had come up with a business plan for a mini-golf course (which she mentioned) or a sculpture garden, then maybe we’d be having a different discussion. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I think this expectation is, though I suspect that it was just an excuse to vote for the lot and that even if we had developed detailed proposals, they would have been shot down.

OK, done with that rant and on to the positive aspects of the meeting. Even though the CED committee unanimously voted to approve the parking lot, our emails and comments had an incredible effect on their thinking and discussions about Uptown parking and transit. All three committee members had questions about keeping the surrounding lots open later, creating better signage for parking lots and BART, and providing more lighting. So they’ve directed staff to look into this and hopefully will make some improvements to wayfinding in Uptown. This in itself is a huge win because the big problem on Fox show nights is not lack of parking but cars circling in attempts to find parking because out of towners don’t know where to look.

And there’s more good news – we still have at least two more chances to amend this project. The full City Council will be hearing this item, likely next Tuesday. And after that, the parking lot needs to get a conditional use permit from the planning commission. I’ll be sure to post the meeting information here and will ask you to send just a few more emails (you can resend the ones you’ve already written) and to appear just a couple more times. This fight is not over, and advocate are not willing to concede defeat. Thanks again to everyone who’s helped so far, and please look out for future alerts.

Check out Future Oakland for another take on the hearing and the structural causes of the committee’s decision.

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21 Responses to “CED Committee approves surface parking lot, but changes overall outlook on parking and transit”

  1. Ralph April 29, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    I think we all recognize that 120 spots doesn’t solve any parking problems. But it may provide for a better experience for some. And I would tend to agree with Perloff that you have one chance to make an impression. As to the 80 -90% sellouts, the shows have been so diverse, it would be a tough argument to say that shows have a similar patrons. I can tell you that the Jeff Beck line was significantly different than Franz Fernidad. As to the ice rink, I believe it is open later than some of the nearby parking structures. If you have an equipment bag, you don’t want to be lugging it that far. You might as well be walking at night with headphones. You are an easy mark.

    I am going to respectfully disagree with you on hurting the other farmer mkts. A number of people in my bldg don’t work in Oakland so the Friday Old Oakland mkt is out. Those of us who work in the city also shop the CG and Ferry Bldg. I walk to Grand/Lakeshore but typically only on the week I get my hair cut – so once every 3 wks. People in my bldg would kill for Sunday Farmers Mkt that doesn’t take 15 minutes to walk to.

    I do agree with you – there were nice ideas but we lacked a way to implement them. But the committee now knows that we need signage. So, I am glad council is now looking at the signage and lighting.

    • V Smoothe April 29, 2009 at 10:28 am #

      The Ice Rink representative said at the meeting that the nearby garage is open during their night skating hours, and that it does not fill to capacity. The garage is literally directly across the street from the Oakland Ice Center.

      As far as farmer’s markets go, just talk to basically any farmer at an East Bay farmer’s market, they will be happy to to tell you how the area is oversaturated. I seriously doubt the Uptown area could support even a pathetic-Jack London Square style market.

      • dto510 April 29, 2009 at 11:33 am #

        Notice that the only business owners that showed up to speak in favor of the Redevelopment Agency’s parking proposal operate out of buildings owned by the Redevelopment Agency.

  2. dto510 April 29, 2009 at 9:28 am #

    I found the signage discussion frustrating. The head of redevelopment said that the city is not working with BART to improve signage, but in fact Oakland is – the bike/ped program in CEDA (not part of Redevelopment) is working with BART to improve wayfinding around BART stations. There are already new signs around the 12th St BART station, and MacArthur BART signs are set to be installed soon (or are already up; the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee provided input on the signs last year). But if the bike/ped program is working with BART completely separately from Redevelopment, then the signage will not address redevelopment’s goals (ie, helping patrons get from the 19th St BART station to Uptown). This is yet another example of how Oakland needs a centralized transportation decision-making process.

  3. Ralph April 29, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    dto, how is signage directing people to parking frustrating? On why the city hasn’t posted signs similar to the ones at 12th Street Bart is just stupid

    • dto510 April 29, 2009 at 11:31 am #

      I’m frustrated that the Redevelopment Agency doesn’t know that the bike/ped program in CEDA is already working with BART on signage.

  4. newoaktown April 29, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    Thoughts.

    Look at these 76 reviews of FOX Oakland on Yelp by “people under 35″ – per Greg Perloff’s comments:
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-fox-theater-oakland

    NOT ONE PERSON COMPLAINS ABOUT PARKING.
    What are people complaining about? SOUND! And legroom.

    NOBODY IS COMPLAINING ABOUT PARKING. Yes, BART should be 24-hours, or at least start last trains from 3am, on Friday and Saturday nights.

    Why are we – city taxpayers paying for city-owned FOX Oakland’s renovation, then letting Another Planet Entertainment (as good a job as they may be doing) get free parking too? Can I just write APE a check? (Aside: I’ve gone to at least one show there already, and probably will keep going, it’s a great venue!)

    4/23: “I went on April 18th to see the Black Keys. Had Mezzanine seats. The sound was WAY TOO LOUD. Piercing at times, even in the lobby, with earplugs. My husband left with a migraine. All of the ushers left as soon as the band started to play. The people in the front row were continuously being blocked by people standing in the walkway watching the show. Sucks to look like the bad guy shooing people away. I went to the bathroom for a break from the noise and had to push people out of the entryway to get through (fire hazard?). This would NEVER happen at the Warfield! I know it’s a new venue, I’m sure this will be a great venue once they get their sh*t together. I’ll update after my next visit.”

    4/22: “Went to the Blitzentrapper FleetFoxes show last night – I don’t know what it sounded like on the floor – but in the balcony it sounded like listening to bad beach boys songs out of blown out speakers in my mom’s chevette (I wish my mom actually had a chevette, but you get my point).
    They get one star for having fabulous byzantine decor and an insanely trippy ceiling.
    But seriously guys – if you are going to spend millions of dollars renovating a theater can you at least put a decent sound system in?”

    4/20: “parking was easy enough…garage like a block away for 10 bucks.”

    4/19: “easy parking across the street.”

    4/19: “The problem is the sound, not what I would expect from a smallish venue. This seems to be a common complaint about the fox. So, amazing building and disappointing sound quality… too much bass/drum/thud or something going on. Parking was suprisingly easy on the street for a Friday night. BART entrances seem very close too.”

    4/17: “So my dear Fox, you must be downgraded to 2-Stars
    Last night at BB KING was the final straw in my frustration level. We had Floor Seats & they were as horrible, if not more so, than the Balcony Seats we had 2 nights before.
    More legroom I grant you but the view was completely occluded by the people in front of me & at best, I got to see flashes of BB’s right shoulder.
    The sound was completely off ( couldn’t hear BB ) & many in the audience were yelling at you to turn up the volume…..but it took forever for you to get the hint
    This, in addition to the cocktail party behind us – who completely drowned out BB King – even after turning up the volume – was appalling.”

    4/16: ” Parking is street if you come super early and the lot which ranges from about $8-10. Pretty reasonable I think.”

    4/16: “Close to 19th St. BART, easy parking, great places to relax and mingle and eat before the show…”

    4/15: “I went to go see Green Day at the fox theater and I have to say that my Jaw dropped as soon as I walked in to the theater. This venue is gorgeous, big with a small venue feeling. Drinks are reasonable and parking in Oakland is not that bad.”

    3/8: “If you do drive, get there early and there is street parking, if not there are local garages.
    Get there early, not only for the street parking, but to get into the connected bar on the corner, settle in with a drink and perhaps a pre-show appetizer…
    It only gets four stars from me for the leg room, some of the blocked views and the acoustics are just fair. All in all, I will be back, especially now that I am a little more educated about the place.”

    3/5: “Parking: They have a parking lot up the street (behind the theatre) if you can’t find street parking, $10. OR you can do “Valet” parking and leave your keys with some random dude, I opted for the “Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll keep my keys with me” Parking Lot.” (I hear these guys yelling at night sometimes when I’m at home “parking for ten dollars!”)

    2/25: “And can you believe this was almost a parking lot?”

    2/23: “In addition, one of the best things about the venue is that it is so easy to find free street parking. Plus, my drive home only took 10 minutes. Double fist pump!”

    2/21: “Don’t even bother driving. Traffic is still a cluster#@$% and parking is probably not much better. Either BART or taxi around here. Taxis hang around this area looking for people. Be sure to hang out at either Cafe Van Kleef or Flora beforehand as well. I cannot wait to see more shows here.”

    So out of 74 reviews, there are ZERO complaints about parking. Where are the parking complaints? Did APE pay Yelp to remove those? I doubt it.

    This leads me to believe that the real solution is better signage for out of towners to FIND existing parking, and for BART patrons to get to/from the FOX Oakland.

    Seems to be NO need for a parking lot here.

    I second the motion that a farmers market would compete with TFM or GLFM and take a year to start up. And then what? Hopefully the FM would continue to exist, like Pike’s Place Mkt or Chelsea Mkt INSIDE ForestCity’s new development on the spot. That would be righteous.

    Also, city must include PAID bicycle parking lot inside this car parking lot. The existing sidewalk bike racks are oversubscribed during popular shows, and would encourage that “green” citizenry that city officials/staff claim to desire.

  5. newoaktown April 29, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    I also don’t see a single complaint about patrons getting mugged going to/from the BART station. This came up in Greg Perloff’s comments either during or after his public comment.

    Can someone verify this with OPD?

    http://oakland.crimespotting.org/map/#types=AA,Mu,Ro,SA,DP,Na,Al,Pr,Th,VT,Va,Bu,Ar&dtend=2009-04-29T23:56:38-07:00&dtstart=2009-03-31T08:51:57-07:00&lon=-122.269&zoom=16&lat=37.809

    I just checked OPD stats for the last 30 days, and only find ONE simple assault in the evening around any potential showtime, and it’s at 16th and San Pablo — NOWHERE NEAR 19th Street BART.

    http://oakland.crimespotting.org/crime/2009-04-24/Simple_Assault/126655

    So, this accusation of high crime without any proof is just a FUD scare tactic so far, that I can see. I would hate to see someone working for the FOX making false statements.

    I’ve hung out around the FOX and on Broadway at night and I didn’t see anyone assaulting any FOX patrons. Kids from the Broadway/12th-to-14th corridor don’t hang out around the FOX Oakland area on Friday nights.

    Lastly, why are the Uptown Apartments and FOX Oakland not part of the local business improvement district? That seems really odd.

  6. Ralph April 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm #

    newoaktown, on patrons getting mugged…it may be a case of the victim not reporting the crime. it doesn’t look like a high crime area when you look at the map, but individuals have reported to friends being assaulted and the ambassadors are aware of assaults west of telegraph. apparently there are number of heroin addicts lurking in the shadows.

    when it comes to using the 19th st bart station in the wee hrs, personally, the only way I recommend one get there from Telegraphis up TBW to Broadway. More light. More traffic.

  7. Joanna April 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    Re the ice skating rink patronage during events – maybe they’re not going there during events because they’re going TO the events? And maybe more people are seeing the rink by going to these events, which might be the cause of their increase in biz?

    I saw the rink a few weeks ago when we were downtown and realized that I’d sort of forgotten about it. I went a few times years ago, but we’re always busy doing stuff and I don’t always remember that it’s there.

  8. wanderer April 29, 2009 at 3:57 pm #

    In San Francisco, the Sony Metreon, Zeum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the carousel, and the ice skating rink (as well as a large playground) went in without a speck of additional parking. Certain uses in the Metreon didn’t work, but it wasn’t a parking issue, because other ones thrived. Like Uptown, the Yerba Buena Gardens site is a block from BART and near numerous bus lines. Like the Yerba Buena Gardens site, there is a large, existing parking structure adjacent to Uptown. Oakland needs to start thinking like a real city.

    • Chris May 7, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

      The existing parking garage near YBG and the Metreon (5th and Mission Garage) has 2500 spaces. The existing Telegraph Garage at 21st only has about 400 spaces.

      • Becks May 7, 2009 at 1:58 pm #

        But that isn’t the only garage in the area. Check out this map and chart produced by the City to see the ample parking available in the area.

  9. Jim T April 29, 2009 at 7:44 pm #

    Is anybody thinking of a little more action with regards to this? I’m as guilty as anybody else here (ie, I’ve complained a bunch, but only written a couple measly emails). I mean, we’ve got a voice!

    I’m considering starting a petition, but I’d rather help host a protest. I don’t have ANY experience with this, but I’d really like to get the City’s attention, and frankly (despite some tiny concession of a poorly thought-out farmer’s market) we have failed to do so.

    • Becks April 30, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

      Jim – the best thing you can do is come to Tuesday’s City Council meeting with us. We are organizing as many people as we can to speak out against the parking lot and in favor of a more vibrant, urban alternative. We’d love it if you would join us at the council chambers on Tuesday at 7pm. I’ll be posting more info about this in the next couple of days.

      • Jim T May 1, 2009 at 7:50 am #

        Is this next tuesday, Becks? I kinda went off the radar after my comment (week snowballed me), so hopefully I didn’t miss it. Send me info (reply to comment), and I’ll be there.

        • Becks May 1, 2009 at 7:51 am #

          Yes, this Tuesday, May 5th. We’d love to see you there.

  10. Joyce Roy April 30, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I have replied elsewhere but will repeat it here. I checked the May 5 council agenda on the web and Parcel 4 is not on it. So, happily, we have more time!

    • dto510 May 1, 2009 at 2:10 am #

      No, it’s there – it’s item 18.1 on the non-consent calendar (ie, it’s anticipated to be a divided vote).

  11. Joyce Roy May 1, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    I see it now. I guess I jumped the gun. I looked before the final which is dated 5/1/09. I never realized that they might put up the agenda before it was finalized.

  12. Karen Hester May 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm #

    I am SO excited that folks came out in force to the committee meeting and really had creaive ideas.

    I read with interest in the current issue of the Sierra Club Yodeler that the City has a sustainability coordinator (cc’ed above) named Garrett Fitzgerald who will be coming up with a Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP). First on the list of the approach is to
    “shift the City from car-dependent to transit-oriented: commit to demonstrable, annual goals that reduce vehicle travel, and invest in pedestrian/bike friendly corridors and in transit operations.”

    Isn’t it ironic that AC Transit is talking about such severe service cuts that it might not really be able to call itself a transit company and yet members of our “progressive” City Council seem to be rubber stamping a parking lot that encourages greenhouse producing cars and traffic? At the same time that Oakland insists on another deadening parking lot, Berkeley has magnificently turned a City owned lot into the David Brower Center, a environmental jewel that opens Sunday, May 10th (www.browercenter.org) to great acclaim as a LEED certified building. They are also building an amazing Ed Roberts Disability Center on top of parking at Ashby BART (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/29/BADATKMG2.DTL ) while I see no groundbreaking for the MacArthur BART transit development.

    Where is the City Council leadership on green building and activating commercial areas like the burgeoning Uptown?

    BTW, I heard from an aide to nancy Nadel that the Fox is not part of the Business Improvement District (seems like a shame) and they could change the boundaries perhaps but BID should still be weighing in on this.

    I think a quality Faremr’s/craft market on a weekday 3-7pm could be a good alternative as opposed to a weekend. I know I keep harping back to Berkeley (but they do some thngs right), but their Tues and Thurs markets are very popular and I could see a Wed or Thurs market in the dirt (with a little leveling and some very low cost and permeable top) doing well IF the City put some $ into marketing it right. That’s what we did wit the Temescal market and it worked over time (afer one year really).

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