Another chance to stop the spread of surface parking lot blight

14 Feb

If you visited A Better Oakland today, well, I hope you weren’t in the middle of eating, or thinking loving Valentine’s Day thoughts, or enjoying the sound of rain because if so, her photo blog on downtown surface parking lot blight probably made you lose your appetite or happy feelings. Now that you’ve been warned, take a look at the post because though disgusting, her photos are important to the policy decision the Planning Commission will make on Wednesday night about temporary conditional use permits (TCUPs) for surface parking lots.

Oh, and if you’re in the middle of a delicious meal or a romantic moment, stop reading this and come back later because I’m going to share some of V Smoothe’s frightening photos she took this weekend of surface parking lots. Like this one:

Parking Blight

And this one:

Parking Blight

On Wednesday night the Planning Commission will finally vote on whether to approve TCUPs for surface parking lots, which would bring even more blight attracting lots downtown. I’ve already explained why this would be terrible and why the staff report is inadequate in responding to community concerns.

Now it’s time to make sure the Planning Commission understands. Please join me and other advocates on Wednesday evening to speak out against more surface parking lots downtown. The meeting starts at 6pm at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1. It’s hard to say when the item will come up so your best bet is to arrive close to 6pm.

If you can’t make it or are unsure if you can make it to the hearing, please email all of the planning commissioners:,,,,,,

I know that V Smoothe and I have been writing about this for a while and the decision keeps getting pushed back, but I firmly believe the Planning Commission will decide one way or the other on Wednesday night. If you have emailed in the past, thank you! Please forward that email to the commissioners again, as it’s been a long time since the last hearings and it would be good to refresh their memories.

If you’re trying to figure out what to say in your email, V Smoothe has a good, brief sample email at the end of her blog post. I also recommend reading this excellent letter from Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) for some inspiration. Read the whole thing, but here’s a key paragraph from it:

Additional surface parking lots, particularly in Oakland’s downtown, should not be approved for several reasons. First and foremost, surface parking lots diminish the pedestrian-friendliness of commercial because they are magnets for blight, trash, graffiti and crime. Surface parking lots and their surroundings are not ideal places for residents and visitors to walk around locally at night, yet pedestrian activity is exactly what downtown needs to continue to enjoy its resurgence. Having “eyes and ears” on the street helps reduce crime. Downtown’s resurgence is not guaranteed; it seems perilous to allow surface parking lots even if the proposal is for “temporary” development.

We’re trying to get a count of how many emails were sent, so please comment here if you send an email or let me know at oaklandbecks at gmail dot com.

Thanks, and I hope to see you on Wednesday night so we can stop the spread of parking lot blight!

3 Responses to “Another chance to stop the spread of surface parking lot blight”

  1. Alan Tobey February 15, 2011 at 8:57 am #

    Fighting the same battle here in Berkeley, but looking OK — the recent proposal to “temporarily” increase surface parking on a reconfigured east branch of Shattuck near University is going nowhere. But some would-be developers still don’t get the message, to a humorous degree — the Chicago-based proposer of an appropriately large (but badly designed) mixed-use DT project not only proposed surface-only parking, but also asked to be exempted from making any contribution to public open space on the ground that there’s plenty of open space available on the UC campus only a block or two away. Back to the drawing boards on that one. . . .

    • Eric Panzer February 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

      Alan, perhaps I’ve misunderstood this whole time, but I thought that EQR was proposing to do “surface parking” in the sense that the new buildings would have garage parking on the ground floor only, rather than in an additional subterranean lot. From what I had seen, none of the plans called for exposed surface parking of the sort being proposed for DTO. Open space issue aside, it seems that this proposal is actually doing the right thing when it comes to parking by having it be limited and unbundled. Perhaps I jump to conclusions, but the Acheson development seems like the sort of thing one would hope DTO could see more of.

  2. Becks February 15, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    Good luck with your fight in Berkeley. That’s terrible about the developer. Believe it or not, I once heard someone argue at a hearing that parking lots are open space!

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