downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — construction

A recovery for Uptown and Oaksterdam

April 20, 2012

On this beautiful day we have nothing but good news for downtown: a new investment and HUB for Oakland, new moves from an important local industry on 4/20, and some flattering television profiles of our favorite neighborhood.

A new Hub for Uptown, above Grand

Broadway’s large Western block between 23rd and 24th Streets downtown is owned by a spin-off of Signature Properties. A follow-up to the successful Broadway Grand project across 23rd, it’s approved for a 367-unit development. In what is hopefully another sign of economic recovery, the first phase, about 100 units, will likely start construction this year on the rear of the block on Valley St – home to one beautiful brick facade which will hopefully be preserved. But more immediately, the half of the block facing Broadway is fully leased under the curation of Numi Tea owner Ahmed Rahim, and so later this year we’ll see a fully-occupied commercial strip from the forthcoming Sweet Bakery at 24th all the way to Ozumo at Grand.

One of these spaces will be occupied by the developing HUB Oakland project, an application to bring the Google-sponsored incubator for woman and minority-led technology startups to downtown Oakland. Tonight HUB Oakland hosts a mixer and panel discussion at Oakcollectiv, though all tickets were reserved in advance, look for more events and news from HUB Oakland on Facebook.


It’s not all doom and gloom for the medical cannabis industry, as demonstrated by the spirited protest today at the Dellums Federal Building. Former Prop 19 spokeswoman Dale Sky Jones is taking over Oaksterdam University and it will likely survive though on a smaller scale, while Richard Lee will reopen the Oaksterdam Gift Shop, which is a great stop for visitors to the city. Read an Oakland North interview with the two of them to learn how they expect to continue serving patients and employing Oaklanders.

In celebration of 4/20, which has become slang for marijuana for some reason, the New Parish (579 18th St) hosts the “12th Annual 420 Fest” of island music headlined by Fungo Mungo, and stoner favorites the Extra Action Marching Band come to the Uptown (1928 Telegraph) tomorrow along with fellow hornmeisters Damon and the Heathens.

What’s on TV?

A few nice TV news spots about the DTO this week:

Enjoy this beautiful weekend!


Five years of the DTO

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.

Remaining challenges

  • 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!