Over the past several years, Temescal has become one of the most vibrant business districts in Oakland. Whether it’s Monday or Saturday night, the restaurants and bars in the area are packed and as long as it’s not pouring rain, there are plenty of people walking or biking up and down Telegraph. Initially, most of the excitement happened between 51st and 49th, but more recently the Temescal energy has moved South (and a bit North) along Telegraph, all the way to Aunt Mary’s and Remedy Coffee at 43rd.
This area is very pedestrian oriented, with fairly wide sidewalks, buildings right next to those sidewalks, not too many curb cuts or surface parking lots, and plenty of pedestrian crossings. Unfortunately, McDonald’s occupies a huge space on Telegraph next to 45th with parking taking up most of its lot and a pretty ugly, outdated building occupying the rest.
So when I heard McDonald’s was planning to remodel, I thought that could be a very good thing. I’m sure the new building will be much more attractive and inviting. However, the new design, which the Planning Commission approved last week, sacrifices the one good quality of the current design – the building is almost right next to the sidewalk (with some landscaping in between) and it’s very easy for pedestrians to enter.
When I used to take the 1 daily, I often saw people hop off the bus and walk right into the McDonald’s. It’s also one of the main restroom stops for AC Transit bus drivers, and I’ve seen dozens of drivers stop there.
The new design would make this pedestrian access much more difficult and dangerous as the drive through will now be right next to the Telegraph sidewalk, with the building in back of the drive-through and the pedestrian entrance to the building on the far side of the lot:
McDonald’s reps explained at the Planning Commission hearing that this design works best for the flow of cars, and I’m guessing that’s true. But an auto-centric design like this has no place in this pedestrian friendly neighborhood. It’s a very similar issue to the problem with the initial Safeway on Pleasant Valley design, which had all the buildings set far back from the street and a sea of parking next to the sidewalks. (Thankfully Safeway’s revised proposal, after the community and Planning Commission expressed concerns, places many of the buildings next to the sidewalks.)
It seems like McDonald’s is saying they do not want pedestrian customers, as the building will be walled off on all sides by car lanes and car traffic. It’s an odd business choice, since there are schools nearby and the students travel there by foot, and there are plenty of bus riders that frequent McDonald’s.
But I’m not worried about McDonald’s bottom line. What I’m concerned about is the overall pedestrian experience in Temescal, and it’s clear to me that this design will detract from this.
Unfortunately, the Planning Commission did not see it this way – except for two commissioners who dissented, Galvez and Zayas-Mart. So now it’s up to the community to appeal the decision to the Council.
About a dozen of us, including many ULTRA members, are working to file an appeal, but unfortunately appeals are not cheap. The appeal, which must be filed by this Monday, December 13th at 4pm will cost us $1,352. This may sound like a lot of money, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure Temescal remains a walkable, vibrant neighborhood. Plus, it’s not so much if we all chip in. I and several others have already chipped in, and so far we’ve raised $575, almost half of the total.
If you agree that the pedestrian experience in Temescal is important to preserve and improve, please chip in. Whatever you can afford will make a huge difference!
Once we file the appeal, I’ll provide updates on the progress as the appeal is only the first step. To convince the Council to call for a new design, we’ll need to email councilmembers and show up to speak at the Council meeting. We’ve done this before with the surface parking lot in Uptown and I’m sure if we all chip in we can succeed again!
UPDATE 1 (Friday at 1pm): We’re less than $40 away from reaching our goal! Thanks to everyone who’s chipped in, and for those of you who were considering contributing $5, $10 or $20, now’s the time to do it.
UPDATE 2 (Friday at 1pm): We’ve reached our goal! There are some fees associated with fundraising, so we’d still appreciate contributions.