"We will be a Great City, when we convince ourselves and when our spirits believe; otherwise our satisfaction will continue in poverty, neglect and blight. Let our imagination direct our creation. " ...Ron Oz
Oakland's arteries and vital organs should be our environmental life's blood...
"NOT VOTING IS A SURE VOTE FOR THE CANDIDATE YOU'RE NOT VOTING FOR."
- It may surprise residents to learn that Oakland has 99 parks listed by the Parks and Recreation Department. Adding them all up reveals that they cover about 1,200 acres. Our City Budget says we have 100 parks on 2,500 acres. Nevertheless, two parks account for two thirds of our park space; Joaquin Miller Park (heard of it?) is 500 acres and Kennedy Tract Park (heard of it?) is 291 acres. 24 of the parks are under one acre. They are everywhere, and yet who feels it?
- Lakeside Park is 75 acres. Few people visiting Oakland can miss this gorgeous man-made lake. It's about a 3.5 mile jog or walk around the lake, and in the evening the "Necklace of Lights" is spectacular. The many activities, and potential events, make Lakeside Park our greatest opportunity. We can expand this crown jewel Lakeside Park by about 12 acres very easily by taking over the adjoining roads parking and outside lanes. We can also make our Lake Merritt the hub of a fantastic network of environmental boulevard arteries coming from all directions, with major promenades all descending on Lakeside Park.
- We can completely revitalize our Oakland environment only with new thinking. Leave the skeptics, pessimists, cynics and nay sayers at the door while Ron Oz sets the mood.
- Start with some very simple precepts. (1) Oakland streets of the past were made for the convenience of cars, trucks and buses. (2) We are going to remake Oakland in the future for the best quality of life for our people. Know that our cars get us there, but being there is much more important.
- First, we must want to build vertically. If the 3,100 units to be built on the Oak to 9th Street property were required to go vertical, three times higher, we would have three times the green and park space. If the downtown 6,000 units had been required to be built six times higher, we would have considerable green and park space that isn't there now. If we required our developers to build vertically, construct parking underground, offer small retail and office space on the first one or two floors, the areas would be much more attractive. We should also require eye-candy architectural criteria. The developers would be happier (read as profitable), disregarding their crocodile-tears protests, because their property costs would be much less per unit and their projects would be more attractive to buyers, citizens, businesses and visitors. Oakland would also have some "Class A" buildings that would last much longer than the "stick-frame" construction that gobbles up nature's trees with gluttony.
- Second, we must want to build as many obscure vertical parking garages as possible, so let's go downward into the ground. Look at other grand cities that regard the land of their people as too precious to waste on overt parking. Every asphalt parking lot in the Oakland, and there seem to be thousands of acres of them, should ideally disappear someday. In some cases, where vertical garages are above ground, as the Kaiser garage on Howe Street, make them appealing architecture with cantilevers over the sidewalks for rain protection and bestow balconies with vegetation and trees. New big store? Fine, provide parking under and offer more for Oaklanders. You'll know when you like it.
- Third, our land use should be Minimal for cars and Maximum for people. So, reduce all six-lane and greater streets and use the 22-plus feet that the center two lanes occupy (and existing islands) for broad, long, promenade parkways. Broadway has six lanes, so reduce it to four and make a parkway. Imagine... use ten feet in the center for a gravel path as found in Paris, Stockholm, and other major cities, for bike and pedestrian travel. Large trees would mark the parkway edges, offer protection from cars, and give shade and backrests for benches. We could replace many miles of excess paving throughout Oakland for grass, trees, people, birds and squirrels. Forget expensive architecturally fanciful curved concrete and go for straight broad natural pathways. Reclaim as much land as possible, and let people hold hands with nature.
- Fourth, eliminate as much street parking as possible in all the merchant areas. The ugly meters don't work anyway. Traffic gets blocked and delayed. Make the sidewalks much wider instead (about 16 feet). People could stroll, enjoy, and likely browse and shop much more. Maximize sidewalks for tables dining and people watching. The vertical parking facilities would take care of the parking problem. On every other block, or wherever it is convenient, leave a limited parking zone available for truck and bus loading, and also for quick car loading of bought merchandise. Forget the bus-only lane ideas and let people enjoy being out of their vehicles. Cars don't smile.
- The Piedmont Merchants area is but one example. The entire street, from Macarthur to Pleasant Valley, has parking for only 163 cars. Reclaim it. The sidewalks could easily be widened by twelve feet on both sides, that's 24 feet less for Public works to pave and fill potholes. Restaurants and merchants would love the sidewalk atmosphere. There is one parking lot full of meters that affords spaces for 130 cars now. Build a garage of three levels and easily accommodate about 350 cars in the same area. Plus, no meters. Two bucks an hour sounds like a reasonable price to pay for the new environmental ambiance. To make it even more convenient, build a couple smaller 200 car public vertical garages about a third in from each end of the street. Let's see, there are now 293 metered spaces available for people visiting all the shops and restaurants of Piedmont Avenue and they have to dodge each other on the narrow sidewalks. The new plan would offer parking for 750 cars and sidewalks the envy of Amsterdam. And, no parking meters! The merchants, shoppers, environmentalists, tourists, visitors, elderly and anyone in the area would be much better off. Why couldn't we eventually do that all over the City?
- Behold the new Oakland. Lakeside Park becomes much larger. It is connected by spokes of wide hand-holding green promenades that trade cars for people. Those wide, noisy, highways of potholed asphalt could offer many miles of parkways, some to the water's edge, many directly leading to Lake Merritt, and all offering the greenest revitalization any City has seen since the creation of Central Park and Golden Gate Park. "Spokes of Light" could light up the City as extensions of Lake Merritt's "Necklace of Lights." Parking on the streets in miles of merchant areas will also trade cars for people. Walkers and bikers will have many miles of safe and peaceful paths to traverse in all the active parts of the City. Strollers and lovers can easily find benches to read, converse and watch the world pass by. Can you feel the mood of Oakland changing?