Uptown Empty Lot >>>Plaza de Arte

♥ in SF

So if the Oakland School of the Arts kids weren’t spoiled rotten before, they’re gonna be now!!  OSA kids, according to parents I know, get to use the Oakland Ice Rink at least twice a week for PE class, among other immersive activities.  Those lucky plucky OSA kids also get to draw their own school building structure while sitting on the sidewalk on Telegraph outside on sunny days, play music indoors and out, have smallish class sizes, skateboard in Fox Square Plaza… future students will enjoy gazing out on and sitting amidst strange and wonderful public art installations too!

Anyway, back to the main story:

Thanks to the efforts of local activist residents like Becks, V Smoothe, retiree Joyce Roy and city staffers putting in additional effort somewhere between “normal” and “heroic”, the empty Sears-Fox-Uptown dirt lot will transform into a booming arts plaza! (And perhance lead to a small food-carty night market during the summer! One can hope. Yes, we have the street cleaner app for that.)

Lisa Bettany with SF Heart in Union Square

This reminds me of similar efforts in East Germany, Detroit, SF and other cities to reclaim barren urban real estate/land for public open spaces, art spaces and market plazas.  While I was in Peru, I noticed that even in the brand new shiny suburbs of Lima-Callao, every neighborhood seemed to have a central grassy plaza with the well-known X-in-a-box shaped rectangular open area in the center with benches, soccer fields, trees and gardens. Of course, these were mere copies of the historic downtown plazas which feature more markets, more activities, and more life — but at least it’s there.

Not that Lima is the ideal–far from it!  Lima is basically LA meets Vegas meets SF meets Beijing — foggy weather most of the time, not much sun, lots of pollution and TONS OF TRAFFIC OMG, but sometimes very hot. It’s another desert city dependent on distant snowpack for water just like all the other cities listed in this paragraph. Just like Black Rock City, but temporarily permanent.

So anyway, this arts plaza I am calling “Plaza de Art” or PDA for short will happen, according to Living in the O, due to a National Endowment for the Arts grant of $200k.  That’s not a ton, but we’re not going to be paving the land for private car parking either.  When studying US cities in the past, the data I found placed Oakland in the laggard group where parks and open space in populated areas was concerned — which is important to the majority of Oaklanders who live more than a half mile away from beautiful Lake Merritt.  Most Oaklanders can only count on their local elementary school grounds for park space, though most of us have plentiful “free” park(ing) and freeway space nearby.

Embarcadero SF

I really hope that a few trees will be planted in the empty lot as well — drought tolerant ones with fruit (date palms, olive trees) at that. This city has too low a tree-to-concrete ratio as it is. Naturally, who better to plant these trees than local nonprofit Urban Releaf, which hires low-income Oakland residents and “at-risk” youth.

Again, great kudos to all the Oakland bloggers, citizen activists and others who made our future art plaza possible. ¡Hicimos si!

A Humble Plate
(Photo from the forageSF underground market in Broadway at 25th Street, Oakland… a smaller version could take place in the new PDA.)

heart in SF Union Square

City planning graphic designed by Amy Wingfong Lee / Faye Wong. Top Flickr photo by SunCat.


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