This guest post was written by John Gatewood, one of the co-founders of ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area), which supports higher density mixed-use development along the major transit corridors of north Oakland. John works in the Graphic Arts Industry and is a resident of Temescal.
I hope all who oppose the construction of another suburban-style auto-centric strip mall in Oakland will come to the Planning Commission meeting on July 15 to voice their opposition to what Safeway has proposed at the site of the Rockridge Center Mall at Broadway and Pleasant Valley in north Oakland. This proposal is so offensive and so disrespectful of our city and our neighborhoods that it has managed to unite in opposition all the neighborhood groups who until now had been on opposite sides of the various development debates in north Oakland these past four years. And for those who have experienced how contentious these debates have been it is indeed a powerful statement that we all oppose this proposal.
A little background – In 1998 the City of Oakland, to its credit, adopted a visionary General Plan. The overarching goal was to steer new mixed-use development to the transit corridors in our city. Certain major transit corridors in Oakland also carry the designation “growth and change” because these are the transit corridors that the city thinks should be the location for higher density housing development in Oakland. The Broadway corridor is designated as “growth and change” from the 580 freeway underpass to College Avenue and the intersection of Broadway, Pleasant Valley and 51st Street has the further distinction of also being the center of a stretch of upper Broadway designated as a; “Target Area for Community and Economic Development.” It is also states that for this Target Area the city should; “conduct land-use study to determine the feasibility of higher density housing.” The city did just that in the Conley Report released in June 2008 that studied all of Oakland’s retail opportunities. This report singled out this intersection as one of only five “finalist nodes” in the entire city as; “an opportunity to redevelop the pattern of land use to one that is less auto-oriented, and supports creation of a pedestrian environment that serves the adjacent neighborhoods.” In the report, there are multiple alternatives presented as to how higher density mixed-use could be built on this site.
After all this quite clear direction from the city as to what its vision for this major transit node in Oakland is, imagine the community’s surprise and anger at being presented with a strip mall proposal that walls itself off from the neighborhoods!
The July 15 Planning Commission meeting is a “scoping” session for this project to help determine what the EIR will study. It is very important that the Planning Commission hear that the community does not want another strip mall in Oakland! Our hope is that the Planning Commission will instruct staff to study multiple alternatives to the proposal but that these alternatives must include housing. The city needs to use the EIR to encourage Safeway to help achieve the vision the city has for this junction where three neighborhoods meet. There is now an opportunity to build a project that could knit Temescal, Rockridge and Piedmont Avenue together instead of continuing to divide them and it is up to us to convince the Planning Commission to make this happen.
The Planning Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 15th at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here.