Category — politics
March 30, 2012
The end of March marks five years after I published my first post on this blog – about an invasion of SF-based restaurants into Oakland. The restaurants surging in Uptown, combined with the strength of Old Oakland, were kick-starting a renaissance five years ago: a renaissance which is thriving even after years of recession.
The most popular categories on this blog are: Old Oakland, the original happening hood, and where I used to live; Uptown, downtown’s showcase district; dining, which is one of the key draws to downtown and Oakland in general; and nightlife, of course. This reflects a host of exciting developments in the 160+ years of Oakland’s existence as a city.
Perhaps most significant for downtown was the reopening of the Fox, a long-cherished community dream that was enabled by Redevelopment dollars generated by private investment in Uptown. About five thousand people moved downtown during the last half-decade or so, and despite an oft-repeated myth, there are few empty condos or apartments in the downtown area (in fact, Oakland appears to be experiencing an apartment shortage that may jump-start new housing construction). With all the excitement and investment, what helped downtown improve?
Key factors in downtown’s rebirth
- Broadway Shuttle: The Broadway Shuttle today is just great. A transit investment study, with implementation funds in the upcoming transportation sales tax hike, may provide a major new transportation link throughout greater downtown in the near future.
- Cabaret Ordinance Reform: In 2010 a long-sought change to Oakland’s outdated Cabaret Ordinance legalized DJs at bars, clarified the rules for dance clubs, and created a late-night permit for a few establishments.
- Pop Up Stores: Generous landlords, far-sighted city employees, and the assistance of the Downtown Business Improvement Districts have enlivened downtown with temporary and lower-cost boutiques and art galleries, from Oaklandish to Betti Ono Gallery. The trend culminated in the Pop Up Hood in Old Oakland, which may be leading that district out of recession into retail success.
- Updated zoning: Ten years after Oakland passed a new General Plan, downtown’s zoning was updated to reduce planning headaches for developers, concentrate residential and commercial construction in appropriate areas, and ban surface parking lots as a bane to pedestrians.
- Public safety: There are precious few beat cops downtown and the helpful Downtown Ambassadors can only do so much. Considering how light the police presence is, it’s miraculous that downtown has relatively few crimes.
- Infrastructure: Despite almost a decade of city promises to private investors, Uptown is still marred by inadequate sidewalks and and a crumbling Telegraph Ave.
- Capricious public policy: The Oakland City Council is famously myopic, and can swing radically from pro-growth policies as outlined in the Downtown rezoning to the development-last approach of the Lake Merritt Specific Plan. Outdated ordinances like the Amusement Fee continue to bother businesses. But Downtown will get a new City Council Member next year, and no matter who wins, we’ll see a fresh approach to downtown.
Enjoy your downtown weekend, and thanks for reading this blog, and enjoying the heart of our fair city!
October 7, 2011
For some it’s the High Holy Days. For others it’s Fleet Week. In Oakland, we call it First Friday. Here are the highlights of this weekend in the DTO.
To celebrate Fleet Week, photographer Eric Murphy honors the humanitarian work of active servicemen at Old Oakland’s Sticks + Stones gallery, 831 Broadway. Nearby, Oaksterdam Tattoo hosts live music at 811 Washington St.
The Cathedral of Christ the Light is one stop on a roving tour of the Mobile Plant Ambassador, an artist terrarium known as the Wonderarium. Eventually the artists behind this project hope to plant a large terrarium in the middle of Lake Merritt. Find out more on Facebook.
Era Artbar hosts LA-based soul group Chicano Batman with DJ Joe Quixx, and Foxtail Brigade plays a free show at the Uptown. The Starline Social Club, an new music venue from Adam Hatch of the Hatch Gallery, holds a post-Murmur show featuring Shock, Range of Light Wilderness, and Antonian.
Saturday in Uptown
Saturday sees more action in Uptown. The Art Murmur continues to promote its quieter gallery stroll on Saturday afternoons, with extended hours into the evening. Several bars and restaurants will participate in the second annual Uptown Block Party to raise money for Oakland schools – check out East Bay Loop for more information.
And a bit further up town, the Gardens at Lake Merritt hold their annual Bonsai show for fans of the diminutive trees.
On a more academic note, the City Auditor released a report this week criticizing Fox Theater project – but developer Phil Tagami and the City of Oakland fiercely contest every one of its conclusions. In the end, one can’t argue with success – the Fox has sold out every show since it opened. Go to TheFoxOakland.com for a list of upcoming shows.