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Daniel Schulman – What Matters a Taco Bell

18 Dec planning-area

This guest blog post was written by Daniel Schulman, who first moved to Oakland in 1984. Following a multi-year break for graduate school and career, he returned to the city in 2001 where he has lived since. During that time, Dan has worked to improve Oakland’s livability while maintaining its unique character. He is a founding member of Oakland Urban Paths, a voting member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and currently serves on the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board.

Before jumping into Dan’s blog post, I wanted to mention that on Thursday I will be sworn in to the BART Board of Directors. I invite you to join me at the swearing in at 9 am and the celebration from 6 pm – 9 pm, both in downtown Oakland. You can find all the details and RSVP on my campaign website or on Facebook. – Rebecca

                                                                                                                                              

The third item on the agenda for the December 19 Planning Commission is for the demolition and re-build of the Taco Bell on Telegraph at West Grand. This item was originally scheduled for October, but it was pulled due to unanticipated community objection. Originally, the applicant wanted to rebuild at the same location, but staff convinced them to move to the corner so as to minimize the “auto-orientation of the building” and “give the restaurant a greater street presence.”

While staffs’ goal of increasing the urban-feel of this highly visible intersection is laudable, their solution left a lot to be desired. In order to accommodate the drive-thru facility, a corner location would have required stacking the cars parallel to the West Grand sidewalk. While myself and others had a number of objections, the poor pedestrian experience afforded by being sandwiched by cars was our primary concern. In December of 2010, a group of activist successfully raised over $1,400 to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision on the rebuild of the Telegraph McDonald’s for precisely this reason. Continue reading

The Uptown art park Bike Bridge sculpture on the horizon

28 Sep bike-bridge-student-web-293x440

This guest blog post was written by Josie Schimke, the Program Development Associate for the Black Rock Arts Foundation. Through her administrative and program support over the last five years for BRAF, Josie has had the privilege of watching promising art proposals mature into exceptional achievements of public art.

The Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) is close to fulfilling a dream and needs the community’s help. We have art. We have a place to put it. We have 12 extraordinary young artists worth celebrating. All we need now is a few more dollars to make it happen!

Donate to the Kickstarter campaign for The Bike Bridge!

If you’ve been following this blog, then you’ve heard mention of The Bike Bridge. We can’t say enough about this project, and it’s so close to becoming a reality. The City of Oakland has approved the installation of the sculpture in a new park on Telegraph Avenue, between 19th and 20th Streets, adjacent to the beautifully renovated Fox Theater. Continue reading

Josh Sonnenfeld: After 143 years, Oakland’s Lake Merritt Reunites with the Bay

20 Sep Lake_Merritt_Circa_1800_Map

This guest blog post was written by Josh Sonnenfeld, Campaign Manager for Save the Bay. This post is cross-posted from Save the Bay’s blog, one of the handful of environmental blogs I read regularly. If you care about the Bay, you should be reading it too.

A gem at the heart of Oakland, Lake Merritt has been many things – the nation’s first wildlife refuge, beloved waterway, sewage-filled cesspool, and even the rumored home to a lake monster. There’s one thing that Lake Merritt has never been, however – and that’s a lake.

What we now call Lake Merritt has for most of the past ten thousand years been a tidal lagoon where the waters of several East Bay creeks met the brackish tides of the Bay. Ringed with mudflats and tidal marsh, this lagoon was home to an abundance of native wildlife, including hundreds of species of birds.

This changed dramatically in 1869 as Oakland Mayor Samuel Merritt dammed the channel connecting the lagoon to the Bay. Later becoming the 12th Street Bridge, the lagoon’s water was forced through narrow culverts on its way in and out of the Bay, significantly reducing circulation and largely disconnecting the waterway from the rest of our great estuary. Continue reading

Will Lowry: Don’t leave apartments out of Oakland Zero Waste plan

30 May compost

This guest post was written by Will Lowry, who was born in San Francisco, where he lives with his family. Will has worked in Oakland’s public schools and currently does online communication for the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. He considers it part of his online mission to encourage you to leave your computer off, and to go outside.

Oakland is designing a new “Zero Waste” collection system to be implemented in 2015, which will last for 10 years or more. The proposal has many excellent points, but it still needs an essential improvement.

Under the current proposal, single-family residences would continue to put out separate carts for recyclables, compostables, and garbage. Multifamily buildings, however, would receive pick-ups just for recycling and garbage, with compostables mixed in the garbage. This mixed garbage would be processed at a mixed-materials processing facility, which would try to sort out the compostables (organic matter) from the items going to landfill.

This distinction between residential and multi-family buildings is wrong — both for the environment and for the people. Compost derived from mixed garbage is contaminated (sometimes by hazardous waste in the dumpsters), and can’t be used for farms and food crops. Further, treating apartment-dwellers as second-class residents, unable to learn to distinguish between compostables and trash, is insulting to them, and leaves them out of the city’s efforts to achieve Zero Waste. Continue reading

Ratna Amin: Open Data is SO Oakland

27 Apr oakland_crimespotting

This guest post was written by Ratna Amin  (@ratnaamin), an urban planner, former Oakland City Council staffer, and Government 2.0 explorer. She is organizing OakX (@Oak_X) – a collaborative effort to grow civic innovation (email: oakXinfo [at] gmail.com).

Should the City’s data be free? The Oakland City Council will decide this Monday night on an Open Data Resolution, which would liberate City data from paper and PDF and make it readable by civic web sites and smartphone apps. The resolution, first proposed by Council Member Libby Schaaf, has been watered down and delayed – yet Open Data is the key to unlocking incredible assets.

What is Open Data? It is government sharing data with the outside world, in a format that computers can read. Anyone can use that data to inform citizens, engage communities, and help government do its work. Open data is typically used on web sites or smartphone apps. What kinds of government data? All kinds: public facility locations, job listings, crime data, meeting schedules, street sweeping schedules, test scores, transit schedules, wastewater data, anything.

Earlier this month, at the 55-country Open Government Partnership meeting in Brazil, Hillary Clinton stated that she and President Obama “believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful.” Oakland should comprehensively embrace open data, a City with a legacy of supporting citizen participation and openness. A few other reasons open data should thrive here:

Continue reading

Marla Wilson: Building a Better Broadway – Signs of life along Oakland’s Main Street

15 Dec Broadway at 27th

This guest blog post was written by Marla Wilson, Sustainable Development Associate with Greenbelt Alliance, the Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places. She has served on the Community Stakeholders Group for the Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan since the planning process began in 2008. Oakland is one of Greenbelt Alliance’s top priority cities for infill development in the region.

It’s easy to miss anything that happens this time of year. Things fall through the cracks in the crazy crunch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. That’s why you may not have noticed that the City of Oakland has released a key document with a vision for revitalizing a neighborhood that has, like several parts of the city, fallen upon hard times.

From the beginning, the City’s stated goal in creating the Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan has been to address Oakland’s retail “leakage” – the fact that only $1 of every $3 an Oakland resident spends is spent in Oakland. The City’s goal has been to create a district similar to San Francisco’s Union Square or Emeryville’s Bay Street, with at least 1 million square feet of retail – that’s equivalent to roughly 2.5 Bay Streets!

Without leadership, this vision will not happen. Property owners would prefer to sell their land for uses like housing that command a larger price tag, not to mention that there are 140 property owners who need to agree in order to assemble sizable properties necessary to attract major retailers. Yet, the economic downturn has meant that this stretch of Broadway, between Grand Avenue and 580, has become more desolate, with many “Auto Row” car dealerships leaving or going out of business. Some new businesses have arrived, like 3000 Broadway and Shashamane, but they could really flourish if more people lived nearby. Meanwhile, online sales continue to rise, leaving retailers reconsidering the role of bricks and mortar locations.

Earlier this year, Greenbelt Alliance teamed up with several other organizations to announce a bold yet realistic vision for a better Broadway. This fall, we recognized and applauded the positive impact this vision has had on Oakland’s Draft Plan Concept for the Broadway-Valdez area. Sure, there is lots this plan does not yet describe, including policies to attract quality jobs. Although it’s still largely at the 30,000-foot level, the plan is definitely headed in the right direction. Continue reading

Joyce Roy: Senate Public Hearing on Regional Governance in SF this Thursday

6 Dec

This guest post was written by Joyce Roy. As a retired architect, Joyce has raised her sights (or sites?) to the whole city of Oakland and so has been active in advocating for better transit, the right development in the right place and the reuse of existing structures.  She is an active member of ULTRA.

This is for those of you who were disturbed by the recent decision of MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) to leave the headquarters they share with ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) and use Bridge toll funds for real estate speculation by purchasing a too-big warehouse in a transit-challenged location. It was not just in itself an unwise, and possibly, illegal action, but a loud and clear symptom of the Bay Area’s transportation/land-use disconnect due to the difficulty of comprehensive planning without regional governance which would combine the functions of MTC, ABAG, the Air District and BCDC.

Here is your chance to have your concerns heard by our State Senate:

Senate Transportation & Housing Informational Hearing-
SUBJECT: Regional Governance and Bay Area Economic Development

December 8, 2011
10:00 am – 1:00 pm in the Legislative Chamber of San Francisco City Hall, Room 250

You can be assured that your comments will be given serious attention because the Chair of the Senate Transportation & Housing Committee, Mark DeSaulnier, has served on MTC, ABAG, and the Air District so he understands the dysfunctional separation of those regional agencies. Continue reading

Suzanne L’Heureux: The Show Must Go On – Community Film Series Struggling to Continue Without Funding

5 Dec Temescal Street Cinema

This guest blog post was written by Suzanne L’Heureux, an Oakland resident, artist, and art historian with an interest in community building and art as social practice. She is a cofounder and organizer of Temescal Street Cinema, which she views as part block party, part public art intervention.

I think many readers of Living in the O will agree that in large part, it’s the lively, creative community events and small businesses that make Oakland a rich and wonderful place to live in spite of some of our larger problems as a city.

This is why four years ago, my neighbor Catarina and I started Temescal Street Cinema – a free outdoor movie night featuring films by Bay Area artists. We wanted to highlight the work of Bay Area artists, while bringing people together in a dynamic community event that fosters connections in our community.

Our series has run for six Thursdays every summer for the last four years. Since we began, we have steadily grown to an audience of 200+ per week. We have received a great deal of positive press and we have supported the work of 100+ artists through a combination of live music, shorts and feature length films. This past season, we were voted Best Local Film Event by The East Bay Express.

Continue reading

Karen Hester: Show Up, Eat Up, Speak Out – Interim Mobile Food Policy Comes Before Council this Tuesday, Dec 6th

3 Dec Bites off Broadway Chefs

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

In the scheme of things, I’m a relative newcomer to the food fights in the mobile food landscape. City staff and some local food truck operators have been pushing for a new kinder, gentler mobile food policy for almost 2 1/2 years.

Last spring Ed Manase and staff from Planning got push back from the City committee called Committee for Community Economic Development to reach out more to stakeholders and naysayers. He had tried to push through a comprehensive policy for the whole city, which makes sense, except in Oakland since Desley Brooks and Larry Reid don’t want mobile food in their districts. Which is a shame as the poorest parts of Oakland are the ones that perhaps stand to benefit the most as food trucks are a great incubator for food entrepreneurs who can develop a loyal clientele without investing in a brick and mortar restaurant. I predict that whoever replaces Larry Reid next November will realize the lost opportunity and get onboard.

So now while Ed Manase and staff work on a comprehensive policy to hopefully be adopted by the Council by March, Councilmembers Kaplan and Brunner have worked with some of us in the community to put forward an interim food pod policy that will be good until January 2013. Continue reading

Nathan Stalnaker: Moving Oakland Forward

27 Oct Moving Oakland Forward

This guest post was written by Nathan Stalnaker, who spends the day organizing in West Oakland and serves on the Board of Make Oakland Better Now! and is an elected at-large member of the East Bay Young Democrats.

The City of Oakland suffers from gridlock and a fiscal crisis that just won’t quit.  Even so, again and again, the same characters are repeatedly elected to the same positions.  Our system is broken.  Our local races are anti-competitive.  New people enter the races and win only when an incumbent steps down.  It begins to seem that to become an elected official in Oakland, you already have to be or have been an elected official or spend your time currying favor with those already in office.

A Catch-22?   Sure.  Could an initiative calling for term limits for City Council stir things up sufficiently enough to get fresh policy thinking in City Hall?   Absolutely.  Read the petition yourself.  To balance experience and fresh ideas, the petition was crafted with a three-term (12 year) lifetime limit. Continue reading

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