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Uptown Art Park grand opening this Friday night!

3 Apr bike bridge 2

Four years after several Oakland advocates, bloggers, and blog readers saved the space from becoming a surface parking lot, the Uptown Art Park is opening this Friday night! Thanks to hard work by staff in the City’s Public Art Program and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Oaklanders and Uptown visitors will soon be able to enjoy several sculptures by local artists. (Read more about our advocacy for the art park in the many blog posts listed at the bottom of this post.)

Here are the details for the grand opening event:

Uptown Art Park Grand Opening!

What: Nine Sculpture Art Pieces by Local Artists, Music, Tours, Food Trucks

Where:  Telegraph & 19th Street

When: Friday, April 5th from 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/events/170069043142598/

Get There: 19th Street BART Station or Free Broadway Shuttle… or bike there from West Oakland with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and Bikes4Life: Riders of all ages gather at 5:30pm at Bikes4Life, 1600 7th Street @ Willow in West Oakland (take BART to the West Oakland station) for 1.5 mile ride to the event. Free bike lights courtesy of the City of Oakland (limited supply –arrive by 5:30pm). Bike valet parking provided by Richmond Spokes.

Continue reading

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

Uptown art park to open this fall, City puts out call for art

7 Sep glowing balls

Throughout my blogging hiatus this year, I’ve many times been tempted to blog about things happening in Oakland (particularly upcoming decisions at the Planning Commission and City Council). I’ve stopped myself because I just don’t have the time to start blogging again while I’m campaigning for BART Board and maintaining my full-time job. But I came across news on Facebook yesterday that was far too exciting not to share, since this blog, other Oakland blogs, and dozens of blog readers made this news possible.

The Uptown lot that we saved from becoming a parking lot back in 2009 is finally becoming a public arts space!

I know, I know, I’ve shared this news a couple of times here already. Unfortunately there were major delays due to funding issues after the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency. But now it really is happening. And by now I mean that construction should start this month, and if construction stays on schedule, the art could be installed as early as mid-late October.

The City of Oakland Public Art Program has put out a call for art, with applications due on September 18th. With such a short timeline for submission, acceptance, and installation, they’re currently looking for existing artwork, to be displayed for 6-12 months. After that, they might commission some new artwork. From the call for art: 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

PARK(ing) Week in Oakland

13 Sep parking day lemonade 2

If you’re interested in parking or PARK(ing), there’s plenty for you to do in Oakland this week. You might have heard that this Friday, September 16th is PARK(ing) Day, “an annual, one-day, global event where artists, activists, and citizens independently but simultaneously temporarily transform metered parking spots into “PARK(ing)” spaces: temporary public parks.” Oaklanders have participated in PARK(ing) day for the past several years, and I’ve heard about some awesome plans for this year.

PARK(ing) Day is all about re-appropriating on-street parking, but off-street parking is also important to our city. On Thursday night the City is holding a workshop on off-street parking. From the email: Continue reading

Joyce Roy: MTC stealth action contradicts sustainability policy

16 Aug 380 Main Street

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.

With little public knowledge or input, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted on July 27 to purchase a 1940’s warehouse in a desolate San Francisco area, a half-mile from BART, for a new headquarters to share with other regional agencies.  This violates their own land use policy of locating ”job centers within a quarter mile of transit.”  And it will take many years and more than the $180 million allocated to transform this 8-story humongous plug-ugly warehouse into humane habitable office spaces. No matter how much money is sunk into this building, it is doubtful it can be rated a Class-A office building because of its location.

MTC has another choice, a superbly sustainable one, for $153 million—a proposed new, fully entitled, 20-story Class-A office tower above the 12th Street BART Station at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland which will be LEED Platinum certified! With 310,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of public/retail space on the ground floor, it would more than meet the needs of all three (or four?) regional agencies—it would become a signature regional center.  And the façade of the attached Historic Key System building, the birthplace of Bay Area mass transit, would be restored! What better demonstration of sustainable development could there be? Continue reading

Luminous Oakland – Light art comes to 17th Street BART alleyway

12 Aug 17th Street BART Alleyway

Over the past several years, Uptown has improved in so many ways. The Fox opened, many restaurants and bars opened (and all seem to be doing quite well), the Art Murmur brought new people to the area, and most recently, the Broadway Shuttle started running through Uptown on Friday and Saturday nights. But there are a few places in Uptown that could use some work. One is of course the huge lot next to the Fox that will turn into a sculpture garden next March. Another is the 17th Street BART alleyway between Telegraph and Broadway.

If you’ve ever walked through that alleyway, you know it’s not very appealing or welcoming – definitely not the first thing we want Oakland visitors to see as they come out of BART for a show at the Fox or for dinner at Flora. Thankfully, the Oakland Cultural Arts Department is working to improve it. From their website: Continue reading

Safeway on College: Round 2 at the Planning Commission

3 Aug safeway on college

I know I promised a long breakdown of the Safeway draft environmental impact report (DEIR) in my last post, but after reading the DEIR again and thinking about it some more, I realized I’d need more than one post to cover anything substantive. So this first post will cover a couple of the issues that were discussed at public comment at the July hearing and mitigations the DEIR offers to many of these issues. I’ll write a second post discussing project alternatives after tonight’s continuation of the DEIR hearing (at the last hearing, the Planning Commission ran out of time and continued the hearing).

The hearing a couple of weeks ago was quite interesting. There were so many people there that the hearing had to be moved from Hearing Room 1 to Council Chambers! When I arrived, I surveyed the room and feared that as at so many past Safeway meetings and hearings, the room was dominated by opponents. As the night went on though, the comments seemed to be fairly evenly split by opponents and proponents. Even with such a mix of project perspectives in the room, people were generally very civil and respectful throughout the comments. It was quite refreshing, especially thinking back to the first community meeting on this project that I attended back in 2008, when I was one of the few people who expressed any kind of support for the project and I got heckled while speaking! Continue reading

Bike Bridge – Gateway to the Uptown sculpture garden

27 Jul Parcel 4 3D

You might have read earlier this month that the opening date of the Uptown sculpture garden has been delayed from December 2011 to March 2012, but have you heard about the centerpiece sculpture chosen for the space? Because I’m often a month behind on blogs (except for a few), I was ecstatic this morning to read a Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) blog post written a month ago about this piece.

From the beginning of this fight – when advocates including myself convinced the City Council to approve an arts space instead of a surface parking lot in the lot between the Uptown apartments and the Fox Theater – I dreamed about Burning Man style art being featured there. I’m often frustrated that San Francisco gets to publicly display so many East Bay Burning Man art pieces, like Ecstasy and the Raygun Rocket Ship, and I thought this was the perfect space for Oakland to showcase East Bay art. Well, my dreams have come true.

Actually, this art piece is even better than what I imagined. The project is being led by one of my favorite Burning Man artists, Michael Christian, but it’s being created by 12 young Oakland women. Also, it’s made of reclaimed bike parts. Here are the details from BRAF’s blog: Continue reading

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