Tag Archives: planning commission

Daniel Schulman – What Matters a Taco Bell

18 Dec

This guest blog post was written by Daniel Schulman, who first moved to Oakland in 1984. Following a multi-year break for graduate school and career, he returned to the city in 2001 where he has lived since. During that time, Dan has worked to improve Oakland’s livability while maintaining its unique character. He is a founding member of Oakland Urban Paths, a voting member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and currently serves on the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board.

Before jumping into Dan’s blog post, I wanted to mention that on Thursday I will be sworn in to the BART Board of Directors. I invite you to join me at the swearing in at 9 am and the celebration from 6 pm – 9 pm, both in downtown Oakland. You can find all the details and RSVP on my campaign website or on Facebook. – Rebecca


The third item on the agenda for the December 19 Planning Commission is for the demolition and re-build of the Taco Bell on Telegraph at West Grand. This item was originally scheduled for October, but it was pulled due to unanticipated community objection. Originally, the applicant wanted to rebuild at the same location, but staff convinced them to move to the corner so as to minimize the “auto-orientation of the building” and “give the restaurant a greater street presence.”

While staffs’ goal of increasing the urban-feel of this highly visible intersection is laudable, their solution left a lot to be desired. In order to accommodate the drive-thru facility, a corner location would have required stacking the cars parallel to the West Grand sidewalk. While myself and others had a number of objections, the poor pedestrian experience afforded by being sandwiched by cars was our primary concern. In December of 2010, a group of activist successfully raised over $1,400 to appeal the Planning Commission’s decision on the rebuild of the Telegraph McDonald’s for precisely this reason. Continue reading

Safeway on College: Round 2 at the Planning Commission

3 Aug

I know I promised a long breakdown of the Safeway draft environmental impact report (DEIR) in my last post, but after reading the DEIR again and thinking about it some more, I realized I’d need more than one post to cover anything substantive. So this first post will cover a couple of the issues that were discussed at public comment at the July hearing and mitigations the DEIR offers to many of these issues. I’ll write a second post discussing project alternatives after tonight’s continuation of the DEIR hearing (at the last hearing, the Planning Commission ran out of time and continued the hearing).

The hearing a couple of weeks ago was quite interesting. There were so many people there that the hearing had to be moved from Hearing Room 1 to Council Chambers! When I arrived, I surveyed the room and feared that as at so many past Safeway meetings and hearings, the room was dominated by opponents. As the night went on though, the comments seemed to be fairly evenly split by opponents and proponents. Even with such a mix of project perspectives in the room, people were generally very civil and respectful throughout the comments. It was quite refreshing, especially thinking back to the first community meeting on this project that I attended back in 2008, when I was one of the few people who expressed any kind of support for the project and I got heckled while speaking! Continue reading

Safeway on College finally at Planning Commission tonight

20 Jul

UPDATE: Though some public comment was made on the Safeway DEIR at the 7/20 Planning Commission meeting, the item was continued until Wednesday, August 3rd. At that meeting, public comment will continue and the planning commissioners will provide their feedback on the DEIR.

After years of community meetings and plenty of delay, the College Avenue Safeway is finally going to the Planning Commission tonight (Wednesday, July 20th) for a hearing on its draft environmental impact report (DEIR). I had hoped to write a post about this last week well in advance of the hearing, but I got busy and then spent a long time reading the DEIR. So the long substantive post will have to come post-hearing, but I wanted to at least alert folks that the hearing is happening.

To refresh your memory, since it’s been more than a year and a half since I’ve blogged about this project, the proposal is to replace the hideous Safeway on College and Claremont that is surrounded by a sea of parking and a gas station. You know, this place: Continue reading

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: Continue reading

Staff report on temporary conditional use permits ignores concerns of Planning Commission

19 Jan

Update: The Planning Commission hearing on temporary conditional use permits for surface parking lots has been delayed to February 2nd so please put that on your calendar. If you go tonight, you can still speak on the issue, but there will be no hearing on it.

If you’re on Twitter, you probably saw via @vsmoothe that staff took forever to get the staff report up on the temporary conditional use permits (TCUPs) for surface parking lots that is going before the Planning Commission tonight. Emails were sent, calls were made, but still the staff reports weren’t posted, even though by law they’re required to be available 72 hours in advance of the meeting. Finally, 25 hours before the meeting, the report was posted.

Since it took so long, you might have guessed that staff would have written a report that answered all the questions brought up by planning commissioners and the public, considering how skeptical many of the commissioners were when this came up in October. Well, if you guessed that, you would be wrong.

I read a fair amount of staff reports, and am used to sometimes disagreeing with the recommendations in these reports. Like with the Oakland Airport Connector, I vehemently disagreed with most of the BART, MTC and Port Commission staff reports. But with those OAC reports, I could tell that staff had spent much time and energy on them. They had woven complex tales, which though based on fantasy, half-truths, and misleading information, at least attempted to answer concerns that had been raised.

This “new” TCUP report doesn’t even bother to do that. It’s largely the same as the report issued by staff in October, except that it goes to lengths to explain that this would be an 18 month trial program. That might sound like a big change at first, but it’s really not when you consider that the TCUPs issued for the surface parking lots would be for four years. This means that even if this “trial” program was not deemed successful and was not continued, we would be stuck with surface parking lots downtown for anywhere from four to five and a half years from the beginning of the trial.

Yes, five and a half years from now, when hopefully the economy will have recovered and gas will cost who knows how much more than today, we’ll still be stuck with parking lots from a “trial” 18 month program. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like much of a trial to me.

Even worse, staff barely touches on the concerns planning commissioners brought up at the October hearing. Probably a dozen different questions were asked of staff by the commissioners, yet the report only lists four and explains that the rest of the questions or concerns had already been raised previously by the zoning update committee (ZUC) months before. Except that if the commissioners were asking these same things again, maybe it was because they felt like their concerns hadn’t been addressed in the previous staff reports. Oh well, I guess we’ll probably never get responses to those issues.

As for four of the issues raised that staff did bother to address, they gave basically the same answer for two of them. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to cut and paste from the report and with so little lead time before the meeting, I can’t copy the text verbatim, but you can read the brief answers on page 9 of the report. In short, planning commissioners asked that options be narrowed and that the program have an end date. Staff responds to both talking about the 18 month trial period, which is apparently their solution to all problems.

A commissioner had also asked if a similar approach had worked in San Francisco. Staff’s answer – San Francisco hasn’t started the program yet. So the one city where they found something similar can’t be looked to for any answers.

Another commissioner asked to exclude surface parking lots from TCUPs. Staff’s response – “Staff has retained surface parking in the proposal as this is the primary interest expressed  by interested parties for the TCUP process.” My translation of staff’s answer – the only thing we’ll ever issue TCUPs for is surface parking because all the other examples we bring up in this report (a clothing store using a neighboring lot to sell clothes and legal survices provided out of a shipping container) are totally preposterous.

I wish I had time to dig deeper into this report, but as I’m using my work break to finish this up, I have no time left. Maybe if the report had been issued days ago, as it should have, I could share more of this terrible, thrown together report. A Better Oakland also has a blog up on this report, so go there for more cringe worthy details.

And please email the Planning Commission (contact info below) and/or speak tonight. 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.

Planning Commission Contact Info:

Time to stop downtown surface parking lots… again

17 Jan

Update: The Planning Commission hearing on temporary conditional use permits for surface parking lots has been delayed to February 2nd so please put that on your calendar. If you go tonight, you can still speak on the issue, but there will be no hearing on it.

There are a couple of urban planning nightmares in Oakland that, no matter how hard advocates try to squash them and no matter how little sense they make, keep popping back up somehow. It’s like they have nine lives. One of them is the Oakland Airport Connector, which is back before BART and the Port Comission, and I’ll get to that later this week. The other is surface parking lots downtown.

Even though the downtown zoning code that was passed in 2009 prohibits surface parking, and even though the blogoaksphere and advocates fought hard and won to stop a surface parking lot in Uptown and instead build a temporary public arts space, surface parking is back before the planning commission. Actually, it’s was before the Planning Commission this past summer and fall, but I was caught up in elections and didn’t have a chance to write about it then. They’ll be considering surface parking again this Wednesday, so there’s still time to act.

V Smoothe did a thorough job covering the issues in these two October blog posts, and I encourage you to read them for the full story, but the short version is that the Planning Commission is considering temporary conditional use permits (TCUPs) for surface parking lots since they don’t confirm with downtown zoning. V Smoothe asked what the point is of zoning if we’re just going to go around it with these TCUPs, and I agree. The downtown zoning process was long, involved tons of public comment and planning commission discussion, and it was done less than two years ago with most of the current planning commissioners involved in the entire process! If surface parking lots downtown were so necessary, why did they prohibit them?

They prohibited them for good reason – surface parking lots detract from the urban fabric of downtown Oakland. Their multiple curb cuts endanger pedestrians and bicyclists, and particularly at night they attract crime and litter. Do we really want more of this downtown?

Those photos are from today’s A Better Oakland post on TCUPs and surface parking. V Smoothe took them at a recently reopened parking lot on 1333 Harrison Street. You might ask, how did a new parking lot open without TCUPs passed and with downtown zoning that prohibits surface parking? Simple – the lot owner applied for and received a variance.

People apply for and are granted variances all the time when their land uses don’t conform with zoning. Recently, the Planning Commission granted a variance to the Feelmore adult store. It needed one because it is less than 500 feet from a school and less than 1,000 feet from a residential zone, which zoning does not allow.

So right now, land owners can apply for a variance to build and operate surface parking lots downtown and the Planning Commission has granted a variance and will be considering yet another variance on a surface parking lot on Wednesday night.

If you’re confused by now, I don’t blame you. You might be thinking – why do we need TCUPs if land owners can just apply for variances and open their surface parking lots anyway? We don’t.

As Dan Schulman commented:

What has most recently become apparent to me that I did not realize at first, is that staff is just asking for a big transfer of power from the Planning Commission to themselves. As the report notes, most of the uses are already conditionally permitted, so what they are asking for is to change the process of applicants going in front of the Planning Commission seeking a variance to a closed-door one of applicants going to staff for approval. Without the Planning Commission involved, ordinary citizens won’t have the ability to know what’s going on and to comment on it.

Yeah. All TCUPs are is a power grab for staff and a way to make it much easier for land owners to circumvent downtown zoning.

So like I mentioned, the Planning Commission considered TCUPs in October and V Smoothe, Dan Schulman and Naomi Schiff spoke against them. I unfortunately arrived just after public comment so couldn’t speak, but I was so grateful that the three of them had spoken. I don’t have video and it was several months ago, but I recall that most of the commissioners were very skeptical of the proposal. They grilled staff pretty hard and ultimately found out that not one other locality in the country is using TCUPs in this way.

Several of the commissioners were open to hearing more, so they asked staff a bunch of questions and asked them to come back in January with those answers. And that’s what will happen this Wednesday night.

Even though policy and reason are on our side, it’s possible that the Planning Commission could wash away the pedestrian gains earned in downtown zoning by approving TCUPs for surface parking lots. Please, if you care about the pedestrian experience and livelihood of downtown Oakland, email the Planning Commission (contact info below) and/or come speak on Wednesday night. 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 send an email or speak, please remember to be polite and to explain why we don’t need more surface parking lots in downtown Oakland. Feel free to use any language from this blog post that you find helpful.

I hope to see you on Wednesday!

Planning Commission Contact Info:

Thanks to your help, we’re appealing the pedestrian-unfriendly McDonald’s redesign

15 Dec

As you might have seen on my updates of the last post, we met our fundraising goal, raising $1407 to appeal the redesign of the McDonald’s on Telegraph and 45th. The incredible part to me was that we raised the vast majority of the funds in 26 hours! I was a bit concerned that it might be difficult to raise funds online after the successful crowdfunding efforts of The New Parkway and Awaken Cafe, but I think the success of all of these fundraising efforts show how invested Oaklanders are in our community and that we’re willing to financially invest as well.

Over the weekend, Max Allstadt and Josh Thorp drafted the appeal and did a very thorough job of it. Thanks to them and to John Gatewood, Christopher Waters, and many other ULTRA members for providing edits. Thanks also to John Gatewood for stepping up as the official appellant (and to the many co-appellants).

The appeal was filed on Monday. I encourage you to read the appeal in full, but if not, there are some highlights about why the redesign not only makes no sense but also does not comply with the General Plan and specifically the Land Use and Transportation Element (LUTE):

As stated in the General Plan Analysis of the Planning Commission Staff Report of December 1, 2010, the drive-through element of the current facility is acceptable only because it was established before the LUTE element of the General Plan was enacted. What is not addressed, however, is why it is acceptable that the property be redesigned to highlight this feature in particular—the new design insulates the entire property on all sides with drive-through lanes, making it impossible to enter on foot from either Telegraph Avenue or 45th Street without crossing one or more interior vehicle drives. It is not surprising that the proprietor would want to increase visibility and capacity of the drive-through element—at the December 1, 2010 meeting he estimated that drive-through traffic accounted for 70% of his business. What is surprising is that after meeting with select local groups including ULTRA (Urbanists for a Livable Temescal Rockridge Area) and in full light of current General Plan guidance, the Planning Commission has approved a new design that is actually more antagonistic to pedestrians, increases drive-through impacts on the neighborhood, and weakens the concentration and continuity of the shopping frontage. The appellants feel that this signifies a lack of discretion on the part of the Planning Commission on the most basic level.

Nicely said – not much to add there.

The appeal goes through several required findings by the Planning Commission and explains why their findings were inadequate. These are all worth reading, but I especially appreciate this one that focuses on how this decision will impact the future of the area:

Section 17.136.070 (B)-Regular Design Review Criteria, Nonresidential Facilities:

Required Finding

2. That the proposal will be of a quality and a character which harmonizes with, and serves to protect the value of, private and public investments in the area.

Adopted Planning Commission Finding of December 1, 2010

The remodeled project will enhance Temescal neighborhood’s appearance compared with to the status quo. The improvement will retain a restaurant business which draws customers to the Temescal retail area, providing an improvement in quality of materials, design and landscaping from the existing 1977 restaurant design.

Inadequacy of Planning Commission Finding

The character of the proposed design is inherently at odds with the goals of private and public investment in the area. Effectively, the design is a do-over of an existing use of the parcel which is in conflict with current LUTE element of the General Plan, which explicitly calls for pedestrian-oriented development in the area.

Telegraph Avenue is a “Growth and Change” corridor under the LUTE designation, but the proposed project does not offer significant growth. In fact the project presents a long-term liability for growth by allowing major investment in new construction of a design which is out of step with long-term goals for the neighborhood. There are long- term consequences for permitting this level of investment in a project which is profitable but underutilizes a 3/4 acre lot. Particularly, it can be expected that this low-density anti-pedestrian design will persist many decades into the future while the rest of the neighborhood grows around it in ways more consistent with the LUTE. In short, the project amounts to complete reconstruction of an anachronism.

Thanks so much to everyone who contributed by writing or editing the appeal or by contributing to the filing costs. The Council will hear the appeal sometime in the next couple of months and we’ll need your help again writing emails and speaking at the Council meeting. Until then, enjoy reading the appeal.

Keep Temescal pedestrian friendly – help appeal the auto-centric McDonald’s redesign

9 Dec

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.

February 15-21 Oakland Political & Community Events

14 Feb

Tuesday, February 16th – Oakland City Council Special Budget Meeting & Regular Council Meeting

This Tuesday, there are two Council meetings – the regular Council meeting preceded by a special budget meeting. As V Smoothe explained, the new budget proposal is mostly tricks and some cuts, and though based on past meetings, it’s unlikely that anything will actually get decided, it’s important to attend and weigh in. As for the regular Council meeting, it looks like a short agenda, but there are some contentious items that will ensure the Council stays in session until late in the night. Among them are the awarding a $30 million contract for parking citation and revenue collection, exempting certain positions from the hiring freeze, and the awarding of Workforce Investment Board contracts. See the budget meeting agenda and the regular meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The budget meeting is scheduled to run from 5pm-6pm (which sounds ridiculously short to me) and the non-ceremonial parts of the regular Council meeting start at 7pm. Both meetings will be held in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, February 17th – Planning Commission Hearing on Bus Rapid Transit

After years of mostly Berkeley meetings about AC Transit’s bus rapid transit (BRT) project, Oakland is finally going to discuss it’s locally preferred alternative. If you support BRT, please come to this meeting or submit comments ahead of time – this project is incredibly important to the future of Oakland. The Planning Commission meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 15th at 6:00 pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza and the full agenda can be read here. You can read more about the BRT proposal in the staff report and at OaklandBRT.com.

Thursday, February 18thBART Police Department Review Committee Meeting

The BART Police Department Review Committee will meet at 9:00 a.m. in the BART Board Room, which is located in the Kaiser Center 20th Street Mall, Third Floor, 344 20th St., Oakland, CA.

Thursday, February 18th Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting

Oakland’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meets monthly to discusses bicycle and pedestrian issues. This month’s agenda includes discussions of median modifications on MacArthur Blvd at Richmond Blvd, the bicycle and pedestrian facilities program one-year plan, I [BIKE] Oakland 2010 Bikeways Map design review, and nominations for BPAC Chair and Vice-Chair. The BPAC is extremely inclusive – any Oakland resident who attends three consecutive meetings becomes a voting member of the committee – so if you’re interested in bike and ped issues, you should consider attending. The BPAC will be meeting from 5:30-7:30pm in Hearing Room 4 of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Friday, February 19th WOBO Presents: An Evening with Willie Weir

Join Walk Oakland Bike Oakland to hear Willie bring to life tales from his latest book Travels with Willie that will have you chuckling and leave you wanting to chuck your day job and hit the road. Bicycling magazine says, ‘Travels with Willie is one of the rare bike books that gets it right.’ Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine and a cycling commentator for public radio station KUOW in Seattle. His bicycle travels have taken him around the globe–including such ‘off the tourist path’ destinations as India, South Africa, Bosnia, Laos and Colombia. Tickets: $5 WOBO members, $10 non-members. Special $25 annual WOBO membership (including event ticket) will be available at the door. The book Travels with Willie will be available for purchase for $15 (cash only). All ticket revenue and a portion of book sales will benefit WOBO. This event takes place from 6:30-8:30pm at Oakland Humanist Hall (390 27th Street, between Telegraph & Broadway). For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

Saturday, February 20th – Jane Brunner’s October Community Advisory Meeting: “How Can We as Individuals, and as a City, Address Climate Change?”

This month’s community meeting features Garrett Fitzgerald, City of Oakland Sustainability Coordinator and Emily Kirsch, Oakland Climate Action Coalition. Instead of a typical question and answer period, the meeting will be using the “World Café” approach, breaking up into small groups and intensively discussing our different perspectives on climate change, and our ideas for action we can take. This meeting will be held from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon at Peralta Elementary School, 460 63rd Street. To learn more, call 238-7001.

Saturday, February 20th – Oaklandish Tour De Taco

Hosted by Cyrus Farivar of californiatacotrucks.com and the East Bay Bike Coalition, the Oaklandish Tour De Taco is a gastronomical quest on wheels through the Fruitvale district of Oakland. Whether you’re a taco truck veteran or a mobile food newb, the Oaklandish Tour De Taco is not to be missed. Bring: Bike, helmet, camera, $10-15 for tacos, maybe $5-$10 for ice cream/beer. Bring your friends, your bikes, and an empty stomach to Fruitvale BART, Saturday, February 20th at 11:00am. For more info and the full list of taco trucks to be visited, visit the Facebook event page.

Saturday, February 20th – “DO IT FOR HAITI” A Monumental Benefit and Clothing Drive

“DO IT FOR HAITI” offers a staggering roster of performers and a unique opportunity to support Haiti relief efforts, learn first hand about local organizations working in Haiti and get involved with organizations making a difference on the ground. Events will feature performances and live music including socially relevant theater, Afro-Haitian music and dance, monumental sculpture and art events for children. The event runs from 2:00-11:55pm at NIMBY – 8410 Amelia Street, Oakland CA 94621, which is BART accessible and has bicycle and car parking available. Admission: $10 (children under 12 free). Donations of summer weight clothing for children and adults will be accepted on site. For more info, including the full lineup of artists, see the Facebook event page.

Saturday, February 20th – Obama Campaign Documentary Viewing

Join Organizing for America to honor and commemorate the historic election of President Obama and celebrate the work we did together during his first year in office. We’ll watch the HBO documentary, By the People: the Election of Barack Obama, and plan our work in the coming year. We all need to recommit ourselves to supporting the President and making the change we voted for a reality. Movie starts promptly at 5:30. Barbecue before and after! The event runs from 5-8pm at Everett and Jones, 126 Broadway (corner of 2nd). RSVP and find more info at the event’s website.

Safeway on College – The cost of doing nothing is not nothing

19 Nov

Last night’s Planning Commission hearing on the College Avenue Safeway went well overall. Sure, the neighbors showed up in force to try to stop the project or at least to greatly reduce the scale of the project. But it was just a scoping session so staff and commissioners repeatedly reminded them to stick to scoping issues and that the merits of the project would be discussed later.

As I listened to speaker after speaker talk about their grave concerns about an expanded Safeway, I realized that they seemed to believe that the cost of doing nothing is nothing – that if we leave Safeway the way it is, there would be no cost to the neighborhood, environment, or the economy. I’d like to borrow a concept that Robert at the California High Speed Rail blog came up with about HSR – the cost of doing nothing is not nothing. Robert argued that not building HSR would end up costing the state much more in the long run, with increased air and car traffic, needs to upgrade airports and highways, pollution, etc.

In the same vein, we need to ask the question: what is the cost of leaving the Safeway as it is now? John Gatewood from ULTRA came up with these questions, about the environmental impacts of leaving the store as is:

  • How efficient are the existing HVAC systems in the present store?
  • How efficient are the existing refrigeration and freezer units?
  • How efficient is the energy usage?
  • How efficient is the existing loading dock? Do trucks need to idle longer because of lack of space, etc?
  • How efficient is the existing parking lot configuration? Do drivers spend too much time looking for a space?
  • What is the “embodied energy” of the existing structure, the energy that went into producing the materials used in the existing structures?
  • What are the energy and carbon footprint coasts of demo’ing the existing structures and can these be recouped in the energy efficiencies and more environmentally sound new construction?

Beyond environmental impacts, the current store has real negative impacts on the neighborhood that effect quality of life and local business. In my comments to the Planning Commission last night, I told my story of being a pedestrian that frequently goes to that Safeway, as it’s a short walk from my home. Getting to the Safeway on foot is a nightmare – there are multiple opportunities to get hit by cars, and there are multiple times when both car driver’s and pedestrian’s views are obstructed. Part of the reason for this is that there are so many driveways – 9 in total on College and Claremont. Just the fact that the new Safeway will reduce the curb cuts from 9 to 4 will be a huge benefit to pedestrians, bicyclists, and to safety.

I’ve mentioned this before, but the current Safeway and its huge surface parking lot is a blight on the neighborhood that’s quite creepy at night. It is also entirely uninviting – unless I’m going to Safeway I avoid that side of the street entirely and often just go to a different part of Rockridge that’s more inviting to do my shopping.

The cost of doing nothing looks like this:

While doing something looks like this:

To me, the decision is obvious. I’m tired of this dangerous, ugly, and uninviting store being the center of the Alcatraz/College/Claremont shopping district. The cost of doing nothing is high, especially when we have the potential for a beautiful designed Safeway with hidden parking and more small, street level stories to keep the neighborhood dynamic.

If you’re interested in the details of the last night’s meeting, you can see coverage on Twitter #oakmtg. I just joined Twitter this week and will be using it primarily to cover Oakland meetings. You can find me @oaklandbecks.

Previous posts on College & Claremont Safeway: