Staff report fails to recognize that appellants want to improve McDonald’s, not destroy it

2 May

As I mentioned last week, tomorrow night the Oakland City Council will be voting on our appeal of the Temescal McDonald’s redesign. I had planned to go through the staff report point by point today, but upon re-reading the report, I realized that such a blog post would be repetitive, long, somewhat boring, maddening, and useful to probably only a couple dozen people (including councilmembers and their staff). So instead I wanted to focus in on a couple of points.

But before I do that, I’d like to share some diagrams that one of my co-appellants created. It’s very difficult to visualize the traffic flow of the new McDonald’s design by looking at the diagram provided by staff, and if you’re not familiar with the current site, it’s hard to visualize the flow there as well. Here is a diagram of the current flow:

And here is the flow of the proposed design that we’re appealing:

Hopefully these diagrams make it easier to understand that the design prioritizes car flow at the expense of the pedestrian experience.

Back to the staff report, throughout the report, staff claim that the approved redesign that we’re appealing will be more “attractive” and “modern,” but they fail to make a case why. I guess we’re just supposed to take them at their word? The only design element that staff discuss in any detail is the drive through, and they discuss it repeatedly. For example:

Staff maintains that the low wall, trellis and pilasters near the sidewalk, around the drive-through, create a visual volume which, in a deconstructed manner, echoes the street wall of Temescal buildings further east on Telegraph Avenue, without literally mimicking them.

And:

…The new design includes a Craftsman-style trellis system over and around the drive-through, with a low wall, which frames a space like a building, only a few feet from the Telegraph Avenue sidewalk.

Clearly, having a wall around the drive-through is better than not having it, but the only reason that wall is needed is because the drive-through lane is inappropriately located directly adjacent to Telegraph, a highly trafficked thoroughfare. You know would create an even better “visual volume”? The actual McDonald’s building being next to the sidewalk, like it is now.

What staff fails to address when discussing the drive-through is that the visual appeal of the drive-through is not the central concern. What is a concern (besides the obvious pedestrian hazards, that the staff report discounts) is that the new design causes us to lose eyes on the street. Not only will the McDonald’s and the employees be behind a row of cars, but they’ll also be behind the additional low wall. Eyes on the street are not only important because of actual safety but because of perceived safety. If I’m walking alone at night and I can see employees or customers of stores or restaurants, I feel safer and less alone.

The most maddening statement in the staff report is this (emphasis added):

There is clearly nothing in the applicant’s proposal that is “adverse, ” “averse, “or “threatening” resulting from an improved design for an existing business. Other property owners in the area are free to take advantage of zoning limits in Temescal without depending on McDonald’s to abandon a 33-year old successful business to do the same.

This statement exposes the root of the problem of how staff views our appeal. None of the appellants (or at least none of the active ones) wants or expects McDonald’s to abandon its business. We are not asking them to shut down. We are not asking them to abandon plans to redesign. What we want is to find a solution that works for both McDonald’s and the community.

The assumption by staff that McDonald’s would have to abandon its business or even abandon a redesign is entirely false. McDonald’s has stated again and again that they need to redesign to accommodate more cars in the drive-through. They are not going to abandon the redesign if the Council approves our appeal. What would happen is that they would need to look at some of the design alternatives, all of which appellants prefer over the approved design, and would figure out a solution that is more preferable to the community but that also works for their business model.

Once again, to make this abundantly clear, appellants hope that the Council will approve our appeal so that we can improve upon the McDonald’s redesign, not so we can kill it.

Please email or call the Council before Tuesday night to explain some of these points and to express your support for our appeal. You can find talking points in last week’s blog post.

If you can, please also plan to speak at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 3rd. The non-consent calendar part of the meeting start at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Our item is first on the non-consent part of the agenda so please arrive early, and know that the item will be done by a reasonable hour. Please RSVP on Facebook if you plan to attend and fill out a speaker card online.

Here is contact info for the Council:

Rebecca Kaplan, At-Large
RKaplan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7008

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Patricia Kernighan, District 2
PKernighan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7002

Nancy Nadel, District 3
NNadel@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7003

Libby Schaaf, District 4
LSchaaf@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

Desley Brooks, District 6
DBrooks@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7006

Larry Reid, District 7
LReid@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7007

If you send an email, I’d appreciate it if you could copy me (oaklandbecks at gmail dot com) or better yet, if you could post it in the comments here to inspire others to write. Thanks, and I hope to see you on Tuesday at City Hall!

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