Thanks to you, we have the opportunity to find a McDonald’s design that works for the community, pedestrians & the business

4 May

As you might have heard via Twitter, last night’s Council hearing on our appeal of the Temescal McDonald’s redesign went quite well. After hearing from many appellants and community members about why the design is inadequate and doesn’t fit the neighborhood, Councilmember Jane Brunner (who represents the district) moved to continue the hearing for two weeks to give the appellants and McDonald’s a chance to meet and work out a solution that we can all support.

This was a great result because ultimately I and all the other appellants want the McDonald’s to succeed. Nobody likes the current building and rebuilding and redesigning it could be a huge plus to the neighborhood. But with a moat of cars surrounding it, as in the current design, it will be a deterrent to growth and will interrupt that vibrant, pedestrian oriented part of Telegraph Avenue.

I am confident that as long as everyone comes to the table with an open mind, we can find a solution that works for the community, pedestrians, and McDonald’s.

I’ll post some video of the meeting next week, as there were some great comments made by community members. Everyone was on point and very compelling. And the speech Councilmember Brunner made was inspiring. Maybe she was channeling Jane Jacobs, who we’ll honor this weekend at Jane’s Crawl.

But for now I wanted to thank everyone who was involved in the appeal. Whether you contributed money to the appeal, helped write it, spoke last night, or contacted your councilmember, you are the reason we succeeded. So thank you!

I particularly want to thank those who posted your emails to the Council as comments on last week’s blog post about this. Your emails inspired me, especially those from people who I don’t typically see at Council meetings. Unlike with emails to Congress, emails to Council make a huge difference. Councilmembers read their own emails and often read them thoughtfully and critically.

Here are a couple of these emails:

Dear Oakland Council Members,

I urge you to support citizens’ appeal of the car-intensive plan for Telegraph and 45th MacDonald’s. Children and seniors walk, bike and skateboard through this intersection constantly. The design allows drivers to speed into the parking lot without seeing pedestrians. This is inconsistent with Oakland’s push to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

In addition the Temescal neighborhood is a showcase of progressive, pedestrian-centered living in Oakland. A healthy lifestyle includes walking to shops, school and services. The current MacDonald’s proposal sends the message that burgers and fries and driving are more important than exercise and safety. Thank you.

Yours truly,

Annalee Cobbett, JD
Non-profit Management Certificate 2011
Cal State East Bay Oakland

This one is from one of the appellants who I met for the first time last night. She gave a great speech that echoed the concerns in this letter:

Dear Councilmembers,

I’m one of the co-appellants in the Temescal McDonald’s proposed expansion project, and I’m writing to express my hope that you will deny approval of the proposal as it currently stands.

I live at 44th and Telegraph and have witnessed the extraordinary development that’s occurred along Telegraph over the last several years. At one time, the streets weren’t populated by cyclists and pedestrians, but now they crowd the streets and sidewalks of Temescal. It’s a beautiful thing to see this area becoming such a desirable destination: people come, stay for a while, spend their money, and enjoy life with each other. A 24-hour drive-through, designed expressly for patrons to come to the area for 5 minutes and leave, no longer fits with the character and use of the neighborhood.

Most opposition I’ve heard to this proposal doesn’t derive from hostility toward McDonald’s, but from the passion we all have for this neighborhood and its wonderful growth trajectory that’s so pedestrian-centric and vibrant. The McDonald’s project as designed does not support the direction of this growth. From the perspective of fulfilling Oakland’s general development plan, this is a critical decision (and a pivotal location) that will affect the area for decades, and will set the course for future development and priorities. The proposed development location almost perfectly bisects the Temescal business district and, if approved, will ensure that a contiguous, pedestrian-friendly commercial stretch will never be realized here.

Times and neighborhoods change; how people use neighborhoods evolve. The owner states that 70% of his business comes from his drive-through. If this expansion is an attempt to bolster a sagging business, my observation is that businesses must reframe themselves all the time to accommodate changes in the market and culture, creating opportunities for more relevant business models that make a positive contribution to the community and the values it supports.

If McDonald’s was truly interested in being a good neighbor in Temescal, they would give more weight to the concerns of the residents here. Please value the impassioned voices of your constituents, the people of Oakland who love their neighborhood, over well-connected businesses and lawyers that appear to be serving their own interests to the exclusion of their community.

Diana Ghermann

But my favorite comment came last night, after the Council meeting, from Madeline F:

Thank you for posting about this so thoroughly! You made me aware of this, and kept in my mind, and because of that for the first time I went to a city council meeting tonight, where I got to speak on this and say a few things no one else had! It was really inspiring.

Good luck getting the design changed… I really think the McDonald’s on 66th and San Pablo is an object lesson for builders of McDonald’s why it’s better to have cars away from the sidewalk when they’re stopped at the drivethrough.

Comments like these are the reason I keep blogging. Madeline – congratulations on speaking at your first Council meeting and I hope to see you speak again! And for everyone who’s been thinking of speaking at a Council meeting or emailing the Council for the first time, I hope Madeline’s story inspires you. It’s a bit scary (I’ve done it a ton of times and still get nervous), but it’s fulfilling and enjoyable too.

I’ll post an update next week about progress on negotiations with McDonald’s. Until then, thank you to everyone who’s been involved for helping to make this happen!

Previous McDonald’s posts:

5 Responses to “Thanks to you, we have the opportunity to find a McDonald’s design that works for the community, pedestrians & the business”

  1. Naomi Schiff May 4, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Good work! Hooray! I hope for some good cooperation, moving forward, between community and property owner. Thanks so much to everyone.

  2. Anthony Sanchez May 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    The process works! Too bad the same sentiments are not celebrated here in Berkeley. Appeals are typically demonized.

    • Becks May 4, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      I wrote about the positive sentiments shared last night, but there were plenty of comments demonizing our appeal and the appellants. In fact, one of the accusations was that a bunch of the appellants live in Berkeley! (Which isn’t true.)

  3. Oakland Space Academy May 4, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    From where I write, that is about the most demonizing accusation one could make.

    Great work all! My two cents is that now is the time to up the ante slightly. Let’s work toward a solution that not only sites the building on the sidewalk, but leaves a the lot divisible for a separate, future, more urban development. This may already be an alternative; I’m not familiar enough with them to know. And if we could push toward a new building that is easily adaptable to add floors in future years, better still.

    • Joan Lichterman May 7, 2011 at 9:01 am #

      Unfortunately, that’s not up to us but the property owner. We’ll see how amenable he is to changing his plans – and if the council has the courage to send this back to the Planning Commission if needed. It will help if a lot more people come to the meeting on 5/17!

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