Monthly Archives: October 2009

Realistic City of Oakland Budget Cut: 10%

City must trim its budget… to FY2000 levels…soon.

[The short version: FY08-09 budget $1.066 Billion. 10% cut needed — a $106.6 Million cut for FY09-10.]

A favorite blogger of mine, Karl Denninger, spends a good amount of his time calling out the lies put forth as truth by our “Federal” Reserve, Congress, White House and corporate media.

Indeed… Who respects authority figures these days? Americans are lied to by everyone–from politicians to CEOs to AC Transit directors to City of Oakland administrators to realtors…. it’s a loooong list! That many Americans don’t vote actually shows how smart we are.

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Captain Obvious: Lake Merritt is our GGP!

By Captain Obvious (KenO)

Thanks to John Klein for posting photos of our local repaving team at work:

Repaving LM pavement

Repaving LM pavement

Keeping Lake Merritt firmly ensconced in a brand new asphalt setting (or “collet” if you are British) will keep our aqueous Jewel looking shiny and welcoming for quite some time. The city’s Public Works department has also repaved the walking paths around the south side of the lake. Completing the makeover, with the new Lake Chalet finally open, the Lake now has its own upscale eatery.

Do not interpret any of this as diminishing the important part (and utility) of the Lake Merritt Bakery though.  The Merritt R&B is still open until 12am or 2am (thanks Oakland city council for the 2am must-close rule!) unlike the 3-4am sitdown times I enjoyed back in my 20s after a night of hard SF house clubbing. Continue reading

Are cities really sustainable?

One of my colleagues recently presented on sustainability and urban planning in Vancouver. This led me to think of what I’ve been reading lately. Not libatious poetry about cities or google eyed narratives in Next American City magazine, but some naysaying.

I’ve read a bit of city naysaying recently. One critique of cities is that they absorb quite a bit of bio capacity from other areas, requiring transport. Meaning, we cannot have Hong Kongs every 100 miles. Not at HK’s current scale.

For Rome in 2,000 years ago this would have meant moving food and lumber from outlying areas, France and even Africa back to Rome. Intercity trade without capital flight can be good, but ecologically speaking if there is one metropolis pulling in resources from everywhere, that probably cannot last long before exhaustion from human population growth and increasing resource use per capita.

This reminds me of something one of my friends said once, that urban is the conceit of stretching (bending) natural limits. I agree that urban constitutes the “extend and pretend” that we are separate from nature. Apart from wilderness.

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Is Oakland greener than Berkeley?

Is Oaktown more of a sustainability oasis than Berkeley? Offhand, I’d say no.

It’s hard to beat 10-20,000 college students walking to class or to food, unlike us Oaklanders in our Subarus, Priuses, bicycles and Buicks driving to the Temescal, Saturday Lakeshore and other farmers’ markets.  Plus Berkeley has Biofuel Oasis and those elementary school gardens who provide vegetable matter for diners at Flora.

But maybe that’s not quite fair.  Oakland has more BART stations (though due to larger size) and perhaps more bicyclists than does Berkeley.  Oakland’s population is also 3-4 times bigger than Berkeley’s. I don’t have any figures on the latter, though.  Maybe EBBC’s number crunchers know.

SustainLane.com, a bay area green living guide, is conducting an 8-week sustainability challenge ahead of the December Copenhagen climate treaty negotiations. Cities of Berkeley, SF, Oakland, San Jose all have “top 10 lists” posted of things they’d like residents to achieve.

Interestingly, Mayor of Berkeley Tom Bates is participating directly, and being a good role model by example.  Here he is using shower water to water his garden.  A lot of Berkeley and Oakland residents use graywater systems to recycle mostly clean bathwater.  Time to show your green pride!

Many Berkeley and Oakland folks are already quite green compared to the stereotype of Los Angeles or middle america. Time to prove it!

Let the games begin!

Scene: Tem

Temescal’s BurmaSuperstar was hopping tonight. It’s a super-crammed eatery and tho the food was fairly good, it wasn’t as good as in Alameda where you don’t feel hurried by the crammed-in tables, single file walkways and loud noise. It was really noisy in there due to being packed and medium small.

Service was great though, no wait, every other waiter bussed us, brought us menus, took away card. Host opened door for us. There were groups of folks waiting, but these were 6-8 in size.

Here’s hoping that BurmaSS takes part in next Tuesday’s “Taste” 90% gourmand, 10% localvore eatery sampling event.

Will Telegraph be closed to traffic? That would be a great idea.

Parking Irony

In today’s SF Examiner, the headline piece is:

“Meters until midnight”

“Controversial plan would extend parking pay hours to late n ight and SUndays to generate $9 million”

Will Oakland’s political-business elites grow a pair and bring back either (A) higher parking rates or (B) longer meter hours, a few months from now?

Perhaps March or April before Earth Day would be a good time for it.

Is Grand Lake Theater on Crack?

Is this man on crack?

Is this man on crack?

Of all Oakland small biz owners, I recall one in particular, Allen Michaan, who rallied a rabid frenzy of gasoline-dependent “consumers” and fellow biz owners into an anti-city government parking fee increase froth.

Not that small businessees don’t have legitimate concerns of pure business survival during Great Depression 2.0, but the argument against parking  went too far. (I generally like his outdoor sign commentaries…)

Michaan, owner of the local movie theater by the lake claimed that his business was down 50% (?) due to the increased $0.50/hr parking fees? C’mon! Wake up and smell the non-fair-trade blue bottle coffee. Your theater has less patrons because their disposable incomes have shrunken like a cotton sweater left in the dryer on High too long. And you scared them off with parking ticket talk to the mainstream media. Heckuva job.

So now that Oakland City Council repealed its parking rate hike (and longer hours) this week, will we see a 50% rebound in said movie theater business? I highly doubt it. The Grand Lake shuck-and-jive to “roll” back higher parking rates will backfire into some other tax increase or service cut.

The real reason for Grand Lake businesses hurting is this:

Unemployment keeps increasing. Nationally the Sept unemployment rate is officially up to 10%.  That represents around 1 million fewer people working in Sept vs August.

To make house payments on your American Dream or to go out to movies every week requires a steady paycheck. A lot of people are losing that, which means they’re losing their disposable income.

Even if you keep your job, let’s say your credit card rate just got increased from 20% to 30% or your credit line got trimmed a cool thousand.  Now you have all the more reason to jump on Hulu.com or visit your local paid-for library’s DVD section… Plus, you might be inspired by all the bad news to actually save a few bucks for when you get laid off.

$3 gas now hurts more than $4 gas did in 2008.

Oakland business owners who have come to terms with all these facts of reality are battening the hatches for a few stark years  — and likely decades  — to come, Japan-style. People are only buying essentials these days. They’re going out less frequently.

Businesses which succeed will be the best of the best.

You can generally find these businesses at yelp.com’s “best of” sections.

They’ll also be located in great locations like Temescal, Uptown, maybe West Oakland, and perhaps even Rockridge. Areas close to public transit. Grand Lake can succeed too: at a smaller scale. Does any low-density neighborhood really need 5 beauty salons within three blocks?

Surviving businesses will thrive when their lesser competitors close. Survivors will have survived thanks to better service, unique ambiance you can’t enjoy anywhere else, maniacal focus, or being tight-knit with the local community. And most of all, offering something tangible which people really need. Food. Water. Air. Shelter. Clothing. You might have noticed that over in SF, the former Sony Metreon building now features an all-week farmers’ market indoors where sony hardware once sat. (Love the empenadas and day-old cupcakes!)

If they don’t offer the above, they are short-cutting or cheating somewhere. Think “bailout” or mafia.

Cheap and good is the order of the day.

Wishing small biz owners out there all the best! We’re in for a decade of penny-pinching. Now support your damn local economy by closing your national zombie bank account and switching to a local/regional bank or credit union!

I just closed my Chase account this week. If you can’t tell, I’m quite pleased with myself. 😉