Joyce Roy: Urge the Council to approve higher density on Broadway & Telegraph

6 Feb

This guest post was written by Joyce Roy, with an introduction from me. 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.


For the past couple of years, Oakland has been working on a long overdue zoning update. As John Gatewood explained in 2009:

As some of you know the city has finally started the Zoning Update for the commercial and residential areas of Oakland. This process should have started in 1998 when the city adopted its latest General Plan but, for a number of reasons, it did not. This lack of agreement between the General Plan and the Zoning is what has led to so many conflicts over new developments in Oakland. Our existing zoning is patchwork created over decades to respond to immediate concerns rather than long-term goals. The 1998 General Plan spells out where the city wants to focus growth in Oakland. To their credit the writers of the 1998 General Plan focused this “growth and change” on the major transit corridors in Oakland.

The Zoning Update is our opportunity to bring zoning, the details of what can be built where, in alignment with the vision of the General Plan. Updating the zoning to allow for the higher density envisioned in the General Plan will be one step in turning Oakland away from the path Detroit is on. Our city is at the heart of the East Bay. We already have the public transit infrastructure to support more residents using it. We were once a denser, more walkable city. We now need to update our land-use rules so that we can build higher density housing on our transit corridors to respond to how we live today so that we can rekindle the walkability and vibrancy we had 60 years ago.

After many hearings before the Planning Commission’s Zoning Update Committee (ZUC), the zoning update is coming before the Community and Economic Development Committee this week and the full City Council next week.

Here is Joyce Roy’s post about why you should attend and/or send emails about the zoning update:

Urgent need to support higher density along Telegraph and Broadway:

Most concerns have been resolved at the Planning Commission’s Zoning Update Committee meetings. But two points of contention may be the 60-ft heights along Telegraph other than the historic districts, which are 35-ft to 45-ft, and only 45-ft rather than 60-ft on Broadway between Whitmore and 40th.

From the staff report (warning – LARGE PDF):

Staff’s recommendation for Telegraph Avenue is consistent with citywide height mapping principals that applied a 60-foot height maximum on wide corridors that are adjacent to lower-density residential neighborhoods. This height limit creates an appropriate “wall” to contain the wide street space on Telegraph Avenue. The updated proposal also allows the density that fulfills General Plan policies encouraging development at major corridors to promote infill development, increase transit use, and revitalize retail districts. Regulations proposing a building stepback from the rear setback line of corridor sites will significantly lower the impacts of taller corridor buildings on adjacent residential neighborhoods.

Staff agrees that the same reasoning applies to Broadway, but staff needs to be able to show it has the support of the community.  The City Council has the final say. So we must fight for a 60-ft height limit on Broadway and to maintain it on Telegraph by sending emails to councilmembers. It is very important that the councilmembers receive many emails. So even if you are planning to go to the meetings, send emails.

Please come to the meetings:

  • Community & Economic Development Committee mtg: Tues. Feb. 8 at 1:45 pm in Hearing Room 1
  • Full Council: Tues. Feb. 15 at 7:00 pm in the Council Chambers

Here are email addresses for the Council (the first four are on the committee, but I would advise sending to all):

  • Jane Brunner   <>
  • Patricia Kernighan <>
  • Nancy Nadel  <>
  • Ignacio De La Fuente <>
  • Jean Quan  <>
  • Desley Brooks  <>
  • Larry Reid  <>
  • Rebecca Kaplan <>
  • Libby Schaaf   <>

For more background on the process, please read an article on the zoning update in the Sierra Club’s Yodeler.


40 Responses to “Joyce Roy: Urge the Council to approve higher density on Broadway & Telegraph”

  1. formerOaklander February 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    In typical form, RCPC is opposed to additional density (as allowed by relaxed height limits). According to the recent RCPC e-newsletter:

    ————————————————————-However, two major changes will affect Rockridge residents.

    1. The zoning amendments establish new height limits across the City. In particular, on both Telegraph Avenue from Temescal north to the Berkeley border and on Broadway between 51st Street and College Avenue, the height limit has been set at 60 feet. Both of these areas directly border residential areas of primarily one and two-story homes.

    2. Along Broadway, the land to the west slopes downward, so building heights will seem even taller. In addition, these height limits don’t take into account the potential for the state’s affordable housing density bonus law, which overrides local height and density limits, to create even taller buildings.

    RCPC is requesting that the City Council consider lowering the height limits for the portions adjoining Rockridge residential areas — the west side of Broadway between 51st and College, and the east side of Telegraph Avenue from Highway 24 north to the Berkeley border — to a more reasonable 45 feet. This seems an appropriate compromise between the city’s desire to locate higher density along transit corridors and residents’ need to live in a pleasant residential neighborhood, not a dark, canyon.———————————————

    As usual, RCPC will be out in force targeting any proposal that supports increased density.

    • Becks February 6, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

      Yeah, thanks for pointing that email out – even more reason to email the Council and to show up at the two hearings.

  2. Dave February 8, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I attended the meeting and it was very frustrating. Jane Brunner has delivered the goods to RCPC and she is radiant! Because of the requirements of the CN-1 zone, there will be no mixed use development… in fact no development is likely to occur. The area of Broadway that Joyce spoke of, which contains some of the only parcels in Oakland on which higher density zoning is financially feasible, will likely not be developed for many years. The plan represents a significant down zoning. Jerry Brown told the cities to cut back the Nimby underbrush. Oakland is codifying it.

  3. len raphael February 9, 2011 at 9:37 pm #

    You guys are hard core convinced that the main obstacle to Oakland greatness is nimby dominated zoning. Wish it were so.

    As one of those nimbys who lives just west behind Bway between 51st and 49th, I’d say the obstacle to development there had nothing to do with height limits but was simply an owners calculation that his highest and best use was holding, collecting sign rentals, and paying low prop 13 taxes.

    There have been no height limits on Bway for years and very little development. The developments that were approved got the heights they wanted but still failed because the market collapsed.

    As for your theory that taller denser buildings make for a better place to live, I offer you Lake Merritt area of town. With the forseeably absymal level of public security and schooling, and recreational areas, increasing density in Rockridge and Temescal immediately adjacent to lower density housing, is more likely in the 5 to 15 year horizon to increase crime and noise.

    This city needs more businesses and more jobs. Not more residents that need more expensive services.

    The only thing worse than a dysfunctional city, is a high density dysfunctional bedroom community city.

    Vastly improve the quality of muni services here, attract jobs for all groups of residents, and then talk about increasing density without destroying the very livable neighborhoods we now have.

    -len raphael, temescal nimby

  4. Michael O'Hare February 10, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Joyce Roy and ULTRA do not express the opinions of the Temescal community. I am a resident of the Temescal neighborhood that has met with many neighbors, whom all share the same opinion, keep heigh limits to 45 feet around the Temescal neighborhoods, especially along Broadway Ave. It is a disappointment to read another view from an architect and the ULTRA group, who claims to have the feelings for the residents of a neighborhood. If ULTRA wants urban, then move downtown, there are plenty of the vacant tall buildings that you are wishing to construct.

    • Erick February 10, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      Michael, many in Temescal support higher heights and density. I’m one of them. There are lots of us. Your group of like-minded neighbors do not express the opinions of Temescal either. It’s a diverse neighborhood and opinions run the full range of strongly opposed to strongly in favor, with a solid block of mostly indifferent in between.

    • DD February 10, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

      As a Rockridge resident who is continually disappointed with RCPC’s anti-growth attitude, I can empathize with the familiar feeling of “they don’t speak for me.”

      However, I do not think that this piece–or ULTRA more generally–claims to reflect the views of every resident of Temescal or North Oakland. They are simply offering people in the community who DO want to see higher density the information they need to make their voices heard. Those residents who feel differently are welcome to do the same…

  5. Hometown grrl February 10, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Will you be writing a follow-up piece?

    • Becks February 10, 2011 at 11:01 am #

      Yes, they delayed the vote two weeks so I’ll probably write about it after that.

  6. Gerald Veiluva February 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

    Micheal O’Hare and Len Raphael are my immediate neighbors and I agree with what they have written, in particular Michael’s comments.
    ULTRA’s focus in past years has been on Telegraph and now it wants 60 foot heights on Broadway?
    60 feet heights on Telegragh may in deed be acceptable since it is wider and has less variation in terrain( its Flat!); However, as “former Oaklander” has written Broadway has slope/terrain issues and is not as wide as Telegraph.

    • Max Allstadt February 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Broadway below 51st street is absolutely as wide as Telegraph. It also isn’t particularly hilly.

      Broadway is also blighted with auto parts stores and fast food joints and auto sales. It needs to grow.

      Also, it is very important not to make the mistake of thinking that by raising the height limit to 60 feet, we’ll get a 60 foot tall flat topped continuous canyon of buildings. Not gonna happen. At peak development, we’ll see one or two buildings a year. In many years, we’ll see none.

      Further, as far as homes behind these developments go, remember that the setback rules on the rear of these lots have been made radically stricter. There’s a fifteen foot setback, and at the rear the height limit is 30 feet. The impact on adjacent homes has been accounted for.

      Lastly, stop worrying about your home values. Adding apartment and condo units to your neighborhood increases your property value, because detached homes make up a smaller percentage of the market, and become more of a luxury.

      • Max Allstadt February 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

        yup. just checked on Google Earth. Broadway is EXACTLY the same with as Telegraph in the areas we’re talking about. It’s even wider north of 51st.

        • Hometown grrl February 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

          Broadway may not be hilly, but the road does gradually rise from JLS to Lake Temescal. But I still favor the 60ft bldgs.

          Broadway is blighted and most of those buildings need to go.

          Apts actually decrease property value. The theory is too many people without a vested interest in the community will not treat it the same way owners. Furthermore, apt dwellers tend to earn less and leasing agents tend to lease to anyone with a pulse. Right or wrong, homeowners have preconceived notions of these folks. Condos are not as bad but homeowners do worry that the condo owner will just rent out the unit. In short, this is a valid concern.

          for the person who asked about NIMBY: not in my backyard

  7. len raphael February 10, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    Max, buyers in the 2002 to 2009 period are so far under water, they’re not worried about their home values. Residents who bought pre 2001 i Temescal aren’t worried either because values held at least steady for them.

    Residents such as Gerald V are particularly not concerned about values because they’ve owned here for decades. Gerald’s dad and late mom moved to this block as newlyweds in the 1930’s when the quarry was in full swing.

    Nope, it’s aboout quality of life in a city where it is deteriorating by the day. Higher density residential after the inital year or so of permit fees and transfer taxes, should cost the city more in services than the incremental tax revenue from the new residents.

    The operational word is “should” because Oakland is broke and starting out so far behind the eight ball that it won’t be able to provide adequate core services to it’s existing residents for years, let alone serve additional residents.

    -len raphael, temescal nimby

  8. Max Allstadt February 10, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

    The whole point of growth is to bring in new residents, new homeowners, and the new tax revenue they provide.

    On upper broadway, near rockridge, the residents that will be attracted to new developments over the next 10 years will be above average income for this city. Probably way above. They’ll also be paying property taxes at assessment values WAY WAY above what a 10 year 20 year or 40 year owner occupant currently pays. Rental property operators will also pay higher property taxes.

    New residents, especially new homeowners, push our average revenue per parcel up. They pay more than their share of the cost of services.

    Why would someone be afraid of that?

  9. Dave February 10, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    What is a NIMBY?
    It’s not 45′ vs 60′ height. The NIMBY behavior was most clearly defined when a real estate brokerage applied to remodel and use the building now occupied by McGuire RE on College Ave. As you may note, properties on both sides are ‘non-conforming’ uses, not retail and retail is very weak in this area. The prior owners had moved out and boarded up the building. It was vacant for several months because converting the building to retail was not financially feasible. RCPC objected to the RE Brokerage obtaining a Variance. They appealed it all the way to the incredulous city council because they wanted the boarded up building to remain until a retail tenant could be found which was not going to happen.

    That’s what RCPC wants…no project, ever.

    Rockridge Construction Prevention Committee,

  10. John Gatewood February 10, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

    I am one of the co-founders of ULTRA and I live in Temescal (two blocks from Len actually.) We’ve never claimed to “speak for Temescal.” Who even uses that kind of language anymore? What we’ve tried to do for almost 6 years now is present another way of looking at development and density in north Oakland. Something other than the received wisdom we have had for at least the last 30 years in Bay Area cities – development is bad, greater height is bad, higher density is bad, etc. For decades now the same litany of negative outcomes have been trotted out to oppose change – traffic, parking, overburdened city services, “Manhattanization”, etc. Yes, urban renewal in the 50’s and 60’s destroyed intact neighborhoods (not just here, but back East where I grew up.) Yes the construction of the freeways through Oakland did a huge amount of damage to our city. But that was 40-60 and more years ago. Projects that have been proposed in north Oakland and what is proposed in the zoning update are orders of magnitude less than what happened half a century ago. And yet from some of the reactions both in the last few years regarding proposed projects and regarding the zoning update now one would think our neighborhood is under siege. It’s not. To quote Jon Carroll, we live in cramped, fearful times.
    The Zoning Update isn’t about us. It is about giving future residents of Oakland the flexibility to build and rebuild the city to suit THEIR needs not ours. Even if what was proposed in the update was the maximum height and density allowable under the General Plan (which it isn’t) but even if it were it would be DECADES before Broadway and Telegraph were built out. We are not in a redevelopment zone – there are literally hundreds of individual property owners along Broadway and Telegraph and only a small fraction of them will ever want to redevelop their properties to the maximum allowable under the proposed zoning. We will all be gone before any major changes come to Broadway and Telegraph. And what do we want our generation’s epitaph to be? We were the ones who made sure nothing could change? No. We need to allow future residents the ability to build an Oakland that serves their needs and for them to do that we need to allow for higher density on our major corridors.

  11. len raphael February 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm #

    Max, there is no way that Oakland can afford to pay for the services its residents need by becoming a higher density bedroom community. OK, maybe if the new residents all were making 150k incomes with lots to spend on eating out and medical mj.

    SF and SJ and WC and Emeryville are successful cities because they have lots of successful businesses. Rental business doesn’t provide the jobs, income tax, property tax, sales tax, business tax revenue that operating businesses do while placing a much lower demand on schools, fire, and cop services.

    • Joan Lichterman February 11, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

      Len, by what criteria do you claim Emeryville is a successful city? Because it brings in a lot of tax dollars, or other reasons? If it’s so successful, why haven’t you moved there? I’m sure one of the reasons you haven’t is that Temescal is a walkable area and as such is a lot more livable than Emeryville — at least for people who don’t live in cars. As far as I’m concerned, Emeryville has been ruined by its rush to bring in tax dollars.

  12. len raphael February 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Re quality of life impact of 60 foot and higher building immediately adjacent to one and two story residences:

    quality of life aesthically the lower height residences will be overwhelmed by massive taller buildings. and yes my urban garden will lose an hour or so of sun every day.

    15 foot setbacks certainly help but can’t overcome the basic problem that the parcels on Bway are not very deep.

    Can’t speak for other areas, but we want development of Bway. Just not 60 and 70 foot high development with fractional parking under the delusion that people will give up cars.

    Adjust the zoning and the valuations of the lots on Bway will adjust. Sorry, but I can’t get too teary eyed if a lot bought 30 years ago loses 25% of its’ value because it’s limited to 45 feet instead of 60 feet.

    Development is still quite viable when land prices adjust to the zoning. More importantly the city has to cut its costs to deliver adequate services to make this area a pleasant place to live when it has higher density. Otherwise the first few developments will sell/rent fine. But subsequent ones will drop as quality of living that made this area attractive drops.

  13. Dave February 11, 2011 at 1:33 am #

    Len, You have a good point about the rental units generating marginal tax revenues. These lots on Broadway are one of the few locations in Oakland that can support higher value Condos, when markets recover. There will be a new shopping center across the street and walking to Bart is 15 minutes or less.

    So the amenities will be there to support market rate multifamily development.

  14. len raphael February 11, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Kaiser handled the shallow lot, appropriate transition to lower density decentlyl behind their parking structure on the NW corner of Bway: they bought a bunch of single family homes behind them and put in a landscaped sitting area. I don’t know what the background and collateral effects leading up to that were.

    So in some ways I agree with the poster at ABO who wanted to see rezoning extend one block deep into existing residential zones had it right. Difference being I’d want the converted residential to be a green belt in a part of town with no public parks.

  15. Beverly Potter February 11, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    My home is in the very heart of Temescal and one of those dreaded 6 story bldgs has been approved to be constructed directly next to MY one story home. The project developers were sued by members of another Temescal group pretending to “speak for” all of us . . . He lives more than a mile away from the project. So goes groups who claim to “speak for us”!!!!!

  16. Gerald Veiluva February 11, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Max, Google cannot tell us anything about the character and terrain of the 2 streets(Broadway & Telgraph) ; however, I believe a survey would show that 49th & Bway is higher than 45th and certainly 42nd and Bway.
    2) as Len has stated my family is not concerned about value because we have owned the houses since 1920 and will continue to own the property into the future.

    3) I would agree that there are blighted properties on Broadway, however, there are many properties which are not. I mean in light of what len has said earlier about businesses and jobs let us look at what is on Bway. we have the auto parts store, Burger King, Genoa Deli Kitchen, Firestone tires, 7-11, Anderson carpet, Downtown Auto center and Bay Applliances Pet shop,real estate office and some small shops. What do all of these establishments have in common 1) they pay taxes 2) they employee works and they may or may not be a “blight” on the street. The blighted properties with a little creative onwership could become usable again. So I do not think we are presented with and either / or situation. I am thinking about what is happening with low rise / small development on parts of Piedmont ave. Why is that example not suitable for Bway or telegraph?

    Finally in looking at the heights on the zoning map, I find it curious that with the exception of eas tside of Bway at Pleasant Valley we on the west side of Bway from Hemphill to Oakland Tech are being asked to except 60 foot height limit.

    • Gerald Veiluva February 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

      the last part of my last paragraph should have read …I find it curious that with the exception of the east side of Bway at Pleasant Valley ONLY we on the west side of Bway from Hemphill to Oakland Tech are being asked to except 60 feet everyone else has a 45 foot height limit.

    • Hometown grrl February 11, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

      Broadway does sit higher than Telegraph. West Grand and MacArthur are two of the easiest place to detect this as you are climbing from the east to get to B-way but but walking down to get to Telegraph. Streets above MacArthur tend to be coming down to B-way and back to sea level.

      • Hometown grrl February 11, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

        A correction: marathon memory fail. There is a stretch between Broadway and Telegraph that dips and rises back to Telegraph. But I still believe B-way sits higher.

  17. Naomi Schiff February 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    The move to line our “transit corridors” (quotes because some of them have ever-sparser bus service and are a not close to BART stations) with condo buildings has ignored the large aggregate mileage involved. There are good reasons for density, but we should start downtown and work outward from there. If we want to have a city, let’s build it like a city with a center, not zone for long rows of one-block-deep middle-sized apartments. We should consider the quality of life in the neighborhoods, and support the adjacent vacant retail with more forward-looking planning. A lot of this controversy seems to be left over from the condo boom. We are going to have to think more creatively and more realistically.

  18. Noah Friedman February 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    Dear Neighbors,

    As the owner’s representative for the property at 4225 Broadway I am writing to express our concern and confusion by the proposed height changes to the Broadway corridor. As one of the widest and most prominent streets in Oakland it is not clear why the height limit has been reduced so dramatically along the stretch of property that includes our property. The proposed height map seems to work against the City of Oakland’s and The State of California’s stated objectives of providing affordable housing and reducing fossil fuel consumption.

    Our Story and Hopes for the Future:

    We initially purchased this property with the intention of developing a small, mixed-use project that would help to increase the vibrancy along this stretch of Broadway by including active ground floor commercial uses and a number of high quality living units above. Our intended project would provide up to 24 new dwelling units in order to capitalize on the proximity of this urban infill site to public transit, neighborhood services and amenities. Unfortunately, our project was caught up in the well documented conflict between the General Plan and Zoning regulations and a growing neighborhood opposition to new development in North Oakland and there for we were not able to bring the project to market in a timely manner. As a result our property sits vacant and underutilized, with little prospect for change in the near to mid-term future. We welcome the effort to update zoning and eliminate any potential conflicts between the two policies. We are hopeful that this effort will help to simplify the approval process and ensure as-of-right development standards.

    45 Foot Height, Financial Feasibility and Affordable Housing:
    However, after careful review of the proposed changes we are extremely concerned with the height and density standards that have been proposed for this stretch of Broadway. The proposed 45 foot height zone represents an extreme change from the current zoning. The right-of-way width for this stretch of Broadway is 100 feet. The majority of properties that back up to commercial properties along Broadway are multi-unit rental housing. Recognizing this unique condition, the current zoning code provides an unlimited height zone along this stretch, with height limitations linked to the setback/stepback requirements from abutting residential zone. In most areas along Broadway this would result in a 120 foot tall building. While the neighborhood concern that Broadway would become a 120 foot canyon over time is valid in the abstract, the reality of such a scenario is highly unlikely. The 120 foot height limit has been in place for quite some time and has yet to produce any projects of that size. Additionally, many properties along Broadway are already occupied by thriving businesses that will most likely continue in their current form well into the future.
    While we understand the desire to focus taller buildings and greater density around transit hubs and major intersections, we strongly disagree with the proposed reduction in the maximum height limit to 45 feet along this stretch of Broadway. At 4225 Broadway we have proposed a multi-story building that supports the stated objectives of the new CC2 zone by providing a mixed-use project that include ground floor commercial with a minimum ceiling height of 12 feet, while providing adequate parking to address the surrounding neighbors concern about a future lack of on-street parking supply. This project requires a Type I construction (concrete w/ additional life safety requirements) on the ground floor, regardless of whether the building’s ultimate height is 45 feet, 85 feet or 120 feet. This is due to both the structural requirements for building multi-story buildings over a parking garage and a required fire-separation between the parking garage and all other occupancies. Simple logic dictates: the lower the height limit, the more expensive the investment in the ground floor construction will be on a per unit basis.
    The proposed 45 foot maximum height limit will have two negative repercussions. First, the project will no longer be financially feasible due to the increased cost of construction. Second, when and if market conditions improve, dwelling units will need to be offered at un-affordable prices to cover the increased price of construction per rentable square foot.

    Relevant Height Limits, Streamlined Process and Progressive Policies:
    In order to participate in this dialog in a constructive manner we would like to propose a few changes to the zoning update:
    1. Height limits should simply match relevant construction types. A typical multi-story / mixed-use building is built using Type I on the ground floor and Type V above. This construction type is allowed up to 60 feet. Allowing building projects to maximize this construction type will help to better ensure that the type of mixed-use projects that are envisioned along Broadway come to pass. Our recommendation is for a 60 foot maximum height limit along Broadway and other major corridors, with greater heights at transit hubs and major intersections.
    2. As-of-Right Development Standards. Building projects that meet standards included in the relevant zoning code section should receive staff level approvals. Many projects have not been realized in North Oakland due to a lengthy community engagement process and planning commission review, not because they weren’t approved. Our recommendation is for building projects that meet all of the zoning code requirements to be approved at staff level.
    3. Reduced Parking Standards. To encourage the development of more affordable projects and reduce fossil fuel consumption, reduced parking standards should be as-of-right as opposed to conditionally approved. While many developers may be interested in capitalizing on this progressive policy, surrounding neighbors will not be receptive to proposals that take advantage of reduced parking standards. The prospect of slowing down the approval process with a lengthy public review process due to the surrounding neighbor’s concerns for on-street parking will reduce the likelihood that developers will pursue this forward thinking zoning policy. Our recommendation is to make reduced parking standards as-of-right.
    Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of the concerns and comments that we have regarding the rezoning process.

    Noah Friedman

    • Dave February 15, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

      I am glad to see that you are making the case for higher density at this location. If there is one glaring shortfall in the current re-zoning process, it is that owners of commercial properties have been left out.

      College Ave. will not truly be a pedestrian retail district until multifamily development is allowed in the neighborhood.

      • Noah February 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm #


        Thanks for the post. You may be surprised to hear this, but in talking with property owners along the section of Broadway that is being severely down-zoned to 45 feet it has come to my attention that none of them are aware of the zoning update process!

        Neil Grey, staff planner, indicated the City did not provide a sufficient budget to properly notify all of the property owners that will be affected by the zoning update. Council member Nadel has expressed concern that the notification process has not been handled well. A list of affected properties on the city’s website does not include any of the properties along Broadway.

        Not to mention that the sub-committee meeting is at 2 pm on a Tuesday. I think a lot of people will find it difficult to leave work to attend this type of meeting.

        This situation seems very similar to the Bus Rapid Transit debate. The loudest voices at community meetings and public hearings were opposed, but when put to a vote where ordinary citizens were asked to weigh in, it passed overwhelmingly!

        I think we should either make this a truly open and participatory process or we should simply leave the job of planning to the experts. Allowing a narrow group of individuals with special interest to set the framework for our city’s future is not acceptable.

        • Dave February 21, 2011 at 10:18 pm #

          Interesting post about the notification issue. I must be one of the few people who have read it. Do people know it will shut down Bakesale Bettys? Nope. It’s astonishing the stuff that is being put in the CN district codes that no one knows about.

          Hey, is anybody reading this?

    • Gerald Veiluva February 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

      You make some reasonable points; however, as you probably know it is your neighbors to the east of you who want the 45 foot limit so their view corridor is not destroyed.

      • Noah February 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #


        I think you are right that the neighbors to the east have pushed for the 45 foot maximum height limit.

        Currently, city policy does not provide for view protection across major corridors. This is in recognition of the importance of supporting development along transit/commercial corridors as opposed to preserving distant views for an extremely small number of individuals.

        Furthermore, there never was a view corridor at this location, it has been zoned for an unlimited height for decades. City staff is not in favor of the 45 foot maximum height limit in this area and had proposed a 60 foot height limit for this section of Broadway.

        Obviously as a property owner who is having their property severely down-zoned I am in favor of keeping the existing unlimited height zone in place. However, I am open to a zoning adjustment, just not if it is to provide a small number of properties a view protection they never had before.

        I support any and all policies that are focused on providing more affordable housing, reducing fossil fuel consumption and stimulating development in the City of Oakland. To my mind these three goals should guide all decisions regarding city policy. Not the narrow interests of a small number of property owners.

  19. len raphael February 17, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Joan, for a good example of why Oakland’s self inflicted financial problems have created a problem so severe that there can be no increase in vital services output for forseeable future no matter how many middle class residents come to live here in higher density developments.

    Emeryville, WC, and Sunnyvale might not be as walkable, but they don’t drive their own residents away with high crime and bad schools. People under 30 or 35, especially if not raising kids, have a different calculus of vibrancy vs safety/public schools. That’s fine for dense sections of DTO, but you can’t build an entire city on an economy of restaurants, hair salons, and clubs. You do that in that neighborhoods and you’ll simply drive away the stable residents away.

    to make this the sustainably vibrant city we all want, we need to provide higher quality and quantity of core city services at lower costs, plus increase revenues by growing and attracting for profit businesses that pay taxes. a high density bedroom community for SF won’t do that.

    -len raphael, temescal nimby

  20. Ken Ott February 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Len, do you have a list of US cities which are successfully retaining and attracting “for profit businesses that pay taxes?”

    I’d love to see it, and then compare their zoning codes to ours.

  21. Dave February 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    If I understand Len’s point correctly, Oakland is so weakened financially by bad City Council (and voter) decisions that the city will not be able to attract businesses and population which are necessary to revitalize the city. Here we are, the geographically central Bay Area city, but unable to capitalize on it.

    Look at these contrasting developments;
    Mission Bay in SF vs the ‘Uptown District’
    Santana Row in SJ vs Jack London Square.

    Of course, Oakland does have a downtown Ice Skating rink.

  22. len raphael February 18, 2011 at 2:54 am #

    People on different sides of the rezoning issues agree on the problems they want to fix here, but differ on whether higher density per se will cure the problems.

    One of my points is that it’s relatively easy to create high density residential when there are expensive high paying job centers rnear by like SF and Silicon Valley where the housing is much more expensive than anything here.

    Maybe for the Sierra Club who gives a fig for the quality of life on the ground here, that’s a great result because of reduced carbon footprint.

    If you’re in the rental housing operation,construction, or development biz it’s also a goal unto itself.

    For the rest of us who plan on sticking around for the next 20 to 50 years, raise familiies, recreate, get old etc. it is not enough.

    Maybe another way to look at this is that density is neccessary for great cities but not sufficient. City planners, urbanists, architects, lose sight that it isn’t the density of SF or NYC that makes them great, though it does help. Its the confluence of very profitable businesses, arts, interesting work, and high functioning city services that pull it off.

    You can’t design or zone your way to another SIlicon Valley or a Wall Street.

    If you convince yourself that high density is what causes those great cities to be great, and you try that in a place like Oakland with a weak municipal and i’d say social infrastructure you’re more likely to end up with one big Lake Merritt area with people worried about getting mugged and raped than a Dumbo or South of Market or a Seattle.

    Make DTO work, make Oakland city government sustainable with a combo of massive cutbacks and management changes, then gradually add and expand city services as you add the tax paying businesses that can pay for the services that more residents will need.

  23. jaded February 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm #

    One of the most important criteria of being a successful city is being dynamic and adapting to the needs and changes of its residents.

    People always talk about in order to get ahead you need to dress the part. Oakland, unlike many other “up and coming” metro area has plenty of amenities: great location, existing transit infrastructure and enthusiastic residents. To be a successful city, Oakland doesn’t need to aspire to being SF, E-Ville, Walnut Creek or Berkeley, it needs to be better at being Oakland.

    We need density on our major corridors, because the bay area is out of space It only makes sense to reduce traffic and support the population growth by concentrating residents where the infrastructure exists.

    Even as transit service is reduced, most transit flows on Broadway and Telegraph in our city. Linking the neighborhoods around Broadway and Telegraph will keep the city from feeling disconnected. We have a ton of great neighborhoods in Oakland, but sometimes they feel like isolated islands (see JLS, Uptown, Old Oakland and Temescal).

    This goes a long way to remedying this issues and preparing for the future.

  24. newoaktown February 22, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    Hey Jaded: without more density, the many great neighborhoods will always have an isolated feel.

    I said something similar a couple of years back, that we have lots fo nice pockets of activity separated by concrete desolation.

    And you know, it may not be bad… maybe the expanses in between will become our urban farms and greenbelts.

    Beyond that, Oakland was always a menagerie of close-by towns and villages. Some of our old towns had names like Brooklyn (1855 – 1878) or M-something or other. (Similar to Montclair, Piedmont, Fruitvale…)

    Agree population should live in and around TOD, Japan style. Question is, will people of means leave Suburbs to move back to Cities?

    Maybe the ultimate TOD would be to build actual “transit villages” around BART. GCEVs (bart/muni/oakland streetcar) are way more sustainable than BEVs (nissan leaf, prius, volt).

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