A Better Empty Uptown Lot

As most of you know from discussion at ABetterOakland and Living in the O, our city government is choosing to shoot itself in the foot by letting the empty lot between FOX and Uptown become another ugly parking lot which won’t even pay for itself. (See this GoogleMaps satellite shot of what used to be in the Uptown.)


Uptown circa 2005. Large green boxes: ForestCity's Uptown Apartment complex. Small green box: the park FC built and gave to City of Oakland. Purple: empty lot, which should NOT become a car parking lot!!! Image via google earth.

The council is completely against park space — well, hello, look at what removing the Embarcadero Freeway did for San Francisco’s Embacadero district: property values went up 300% after the city tore down the freeway! And now we have the beautiful Ferry Building and whole streetcar-palm tree strip by the bay to enjoy. But I understand this is supposed to become more condos/buildings in 3-10 years from now, so let’s drop the big-park-idea for now.

So, here’s what I recommend the city do with the space between FOX and Uptown:

  • 1/5 lot: Allow area residents to set up a demonstration community garden and temporary park — next to the existing small park. Development is great, but we need more green spaces. As mentioned this area should be next to the existing new public park at Rasheeda Muhammad and William Streets.
  • 1/3 – 1/2 lot: Allow farmers market, prepared food and other vendors to set up a weekly Thursday evening  night market. Or perhaps a week-round night market. This will bring in tons of people. Think, SF Chinatown at night. Or better yet Bangkok, Thailand at night. The vendors will pay rent to use this space.
  • 1/2 lot: A little dirt never hurt. Let people play soccer (and other sports) on this dirt field! I played plenty of soccer on dirt fields while living overseas.
  • Put a sign on this whole area called “Temporary Uptown Community Plaza”

There are many good ideas out there. Here are some I like from other blogs’ comments:

  • Naomi Schiff over at ABO: “Really what we need there is miniature golf.
    • [This is really unique, and a great draw! Prob is, to do it right like SVGL/MGL, you need lots of space, and it might not go away. Plus, some people might get hit by a ball…. but sounds like a good idea and low capex barrier to entry!]
  • Ralph over at ABO: “right now the best thing that I can of is some type of rotating art that highlights the area and could possibly be incorpoarted into the new bldg”
    • [Art is great for temporary spaces–see Uptown’s “RAW” exhibit at the next Art Murmur!]
  • Karen Hester over at LivingInTheO: More bicycle parking
    • [Yes! The bike racks, trees and tree-protectors are always COMPLETELY FULL on happening music nights!]

The city council CED committee members who are voting for MORE PARKING (the city already owns and operates several vertical parking lots in the area–just EXTEND THEIR HOURS!!)… include the below:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Patricia Kernighan, District 2
PKernighan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7002

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

Larry Reid, District 7
LReid@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7007

Email them to complain. And email ForestCity/Uptown to complain. I’ve already sent an email, so now it’s time to call.

Will add photos later. [4/25/09 11:40pm: see photos below from early april. Photoshop your own design ideas and post up online!! -Ed.]


click pictures for full size version!




My email to the CED committee, dated 4/20/09:

Dear CED committee members:
Please do NOT approve of a surface parking lot in the Uptown district. A parking lot would completely ruin a good thing district in this city, which needs all the good residential/commercial districts it can muster.
Reasons NOT to introduce a parking lot:
  1. There is a GREAT amount of public transportation availability: 19th/12th St BART stations, AC Transit’s bus terminal, taxis, and of course bicycle taxis;
  2. I live at the Uptown apartments in Nancy’s district now (D3) and completely oppose more auto parking – we have plenty of parking nearby it is. We have highway 880 as it is – so a parking lot here would be redundant. Most importantly, it would greatly reduce the quality of life here at the Uptown apartment complex, hurting Uptown’s potential tax payments to the city due to falling rents. Plus, I’d make sure people here and elsewhere knew who had a hand in approving more surface parking, Robert Moses style;
  3. More parking is NOT GREEN. Cars are not a form of sustainable transportation, here or anywhere. If Oakland is serious about its own sustainability – environmental, social, economic and otherwise – it should avoid rewarding more auto driving and parking. People like me are moving here from suburbs partly in order to avoid driving. Oakland’s rankings in national “green city” indexes would not be helped by additional automobile accomodation;
  4. Parking encourages more car driving – and cars are not safe for pedestrians and bicyclists. Telegraph is already a 4-lane thoroughfare for cars. This runs counter to the city’s recently updated Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plans, which encourage more walking and bicycling, along with statements by some city executives about how green they want this city to become;
  5. There are better ways to monetize this space which both ADD revenue to city coffers AND rejuvenate downtown further, making Oakland an ever more attractive magnet for richer people to come here, spend money and move in. This will do more to boost the city’s budget short-term and long-term. The last thing Uptown needs is a big, useless parking lot along with attendant evaporating, carcinogenic gasoline fumes from all the parkedcars. It is a poor use of space in a hip, urban setting (people hang out in WalMart parking lots for fun in the boring Midwest. We can do better!);
  6. Asphalt parking lots are not water permeable, and thus cannot filter rainwater or urban runoff to the bay. Parking lots worsen groundwater quality and Bay water quality; and
  7. The Uptown Apartments are built on what were three large surface parking lots up until 2007. What did these parking lots do for the vitality of the City of Oakland? I would answer: nothing. Look at what is here now. Much better than a parking lot! Been there, done that, we can do better.
Thank you for listening and I look forward to your NO vote on ANY automobile parking here now or in the future. If you’d like to know what the community wants, why not hold a design charette in the Uptown district to receive public input?
Why Parking? Money talks, lack of imagination

I guess being against car parking spaces is extreme and enviro-wacko of me or anyone else. The sole party to benefit from this would be Sears. Maybe FOX, Flora and Bibliomania too. Old rich white people from Lafayette, Orinda and San Ramon after all, would much prefer to drive here than BART here. And they’ve still got some money. And they can barely walk.
You people talking about how we have car parking in the area forget that these city-owned lots are too far away to walk to. People with a suburban/exurban must-drive-my-own-car mentality are only willing to walk at most 1-2 blocks to destinations. Because that’s how it is in Walnut Creek. Or San Ramon. Or Fremont. Or Marin. Park and shop.

5 responses to “A Better Empty Uptown Lot

  1. Great email to the Council! Thanks for explaining the problems with surface parking, and summarizing the alternatives.

  2. No prob. I just thought of another idea.

    Down at “Onion Landing” in Union City, there is a faux parachuting experience behind In-n-Out Burger shack.

    There’s probably a huge fan of doom down below, and it blows you up, simulating a parachute fall. That seems cheap enough to build–although ti’d be torn down.

    So… how about a year-round carnival, just like I see being set up every so often in Oakland by the Laney flea market or by the car dealers? (or wherever it is.) Carnivals by their nature are temporary.

    Another idea: set up temp. spaces for all those food vendors to set up, like the family that has a hot dog stand in front of Uptown night club or over by Paramount depending on day of week. Precedents: Pedro’s Brazil Cafe in Berkeley, or the burger joint across from Albany Bowl.

    How about a temporary bowling alley?

    How about a Quickly’s pearl milk tea cafe?

    How about a billiards place?

    Paid bike parking?

    Mmm… the possibilities. Yes, an RFP sounds good, as someone mentioned @ABO. Lease thru 2011, earn money.

  3. Indeed, the Surface Parking Lot is the first item on the agenda on Tuesday’s, April 28, Community & Economic Development Committee (CEDC) meeting which starts at 2:00. That is, it is the first item after Approval of Minutes & Determination of Schedule, so for you who like to sign up via the web, it is Item #3:


    And, if you can’t come email all the committee members. Emails they got at the last meeting helped convince them to give the Surface Parking Lot proposal a second look.

  4. Pingback: CED Committee approves surface parking lot, but changes overall outlook on parking and transit « Living in the O

  5. Pingback: Becks and dto510, my heroes. | A Better Oakland

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