Tag Archives: city of oakland

Repost: Mayor Quan’s 100,000 Block Plan

This just in: Mayor Quan has released full info on her 100 block plan.

It’s really a 100,000 block plan that covers all of Oakland because the Mayor “doesn’t want to be divisive.”

She blamed City Administrator Santana for leaving off a few zeros in the title of the plan.

Mayor Quan took full responsibility for overlooking Santana’s error, saying “Sometimes despite my best efforts, the buck stops here”

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Liveblog: Street and bicycle improvements Lake Merrit BART/Chinatown

What Lake Merritt/Chinatown junction could look like with enough pre-2007 level economic development. Photo by me near Tokyo circa 200?

Since VSmoothe is out to lunch and I’ve also been out to lunch… here’s transcript of tonight’s Planning Commission meeting about the Lake Merritt Specific Area Plan.  Good to see a lot of you Oakland blogospherians at the podium. By the way, this blog is mistitled a bit. It’s about redeveloping the Lake Merritt/Laney College/South Chinatown area, not just putting in street and bike improvements. But I’m not going to change the title now.  My smartass commentary below is inside [brackets].

Highlights:

  • pro-development/ economic boost people
  • safety, transportation and land use are (duh) major issues
  • no big vision other than defining Chinatown properly with Gate, branding, like other Chinatowns around the world. (in itself, a bit of a vision)  renaming Lake Merrit BART Station as Laney-Chinatown station or similar would be a big help.  Connectivity is lacking in the area for pedestrians, though not for cars and buses (the lake physically pushes central – east oakland traffic thru Chinatown, affecting residents)
  • plan should partly heal the scars of 1950s freeway and BART infrastructure “progress” — of which the urban fabric was torn apart, like 980 connector through “black wall street” west of uptown.
  • 880 is a major contributor to air pollution afflicting residents, and its dank underbelly is a block between Jack London and Lake Merritt BART as well as Old Town, Downtown, Chinatown.
  • large actors (Laney, BART) haven’t written strong comments yet except Alameda County, which was critical.
  • development should incorporate and fund community benefits — including pedestrian and cyclist safety (lighting, striping), two-way and narrower streets which nobody doubts, but also affordable housing of which there is contention between regular folks and developers
  • most people in favor of taller buildings for economic expediency, climate protection, fulfulling sb375 TOD growth mandate, funding of community benefits
  • for whatever reason city council wants SAP moved quickly to finish up by end of 2012 (in time for elections?)

Go back in time, live on KTOP:

http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/CityCouncil/s/VideoArchive/index.htm

Tonight’s city hall presentation is a nice follow-up to my previous post from March 2011 about the  Lake Merrit BART Station improvement plan area.

Liveblog:

7:20PM: Joint statement by Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce (Alan) and another business group: Plan needs revision to link BART/Laney area with Chinatown. Not be a barrier between the two. Mechanism for growing small biz. Needs to prioritize pedestrian level lighting, not just striping bike lanes. Desiring zoning for a multiplicity of businesses. (multi-use zoning) [completely agree with multi-use zoning] Chinatown Biz Community views development as: CC is vital part of Oakland not just a tourist spot. [agree] Contributes $MM sales tax revenue to city…

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Oakland’s Bond Ratings: Class Act or Not?

As every adult should know, a “credit” card is really a “debt” card.

In the same way, a “mortgage” is a massive “debt” owed to a bank, and the interest you pay on said mortgage is your “rent” to the bank for the money.  If you don’t own a house free and clear, you are still a renter — renting money from the bank. I won’t get into HELOCs but anyway, debt is debt.

Debt can be useful if you haven’t saved up enough money ahead of time — rainy day fun, savings, etc.  Also useful for putting up huge capital-intensive public works projects in a hurry if you expect future revenue to climb. The higher your “credit score” – aka “debt” score of “how good a debt slave are you” score – is, the more debt you can take on.

Cities have credit scores too – it’s called a “bond rating.” Continue reading

Behind Government Budget Problems

Sutro Baths Steps by sirgious
Sutro Baths Steps, a photo by sirgious on Flickr.

This month’s post by Gail the Actuary explains our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation better than I ever could, so here it is.

This obviously speaks for Oakland as well, since we’re one of hundreds of US cities built upon a once lustrous but increasingly potholed and cracked foundation of cheap (and now all burnt up) oil and gasoline.

We’ll need to find other means of social lubrication, and in the meantime, don’t be poor!

The ramifications touch every part of our society, and thus I’ve tagged this with all categories. Put on your systems thinking cap and get reading!

Errors on City of Oakland website

City’s taxi permit application page showcases the following paragraphs with misspelled words, strange spacing and more:

(PURSUANT TITLE 5.64 OF THE OAKLAND MUNICPAL CODE)” [two errors: missing an “i” in Municipal. missing a “to” in between Pursuant and Title.]

“Permittee must , and by this application does hereby agree to , abide by all applicable provisions of the
California Vehical Code , Oakland Municpal Code Taxicab Standards Ordinance , and all other Rules and
Regulations of the Chief of Polce.Public Works Agency and City Admnistrator Office.” [sic: FOUR misspellings plus grammatical errors. most spam is written better!]

I bet if the person who wrote or coded that page had to add his/her name or initials (page made by…) there would be fewer errors.  How embarrassing!

I can’t wait for the day when the city has a majority of competent political leaders, managers and staff.  Maybe then, people who work for the city will actually give a damn about their jobs instead of watching their sloppy, lazy “dead wood” co-workers continue to make a messs of civic governance.

Remember that waste of money, the OAC?

The OAK Airport Connector. You keep hearing about it and don’t want to keep hearing about it. Join the club.

Well, it is a huge waste of our taxpayer money so you will keep hearing about it from me until MTC+BART-CoO cancel it and build the best alternative possible.

We know what the best alternative is. We know that the best alternative costs 1/5 the $0.522 Ba-hillion OAC. We know that only $25MM out of that $0.522 will be “lost” if the OAC is not built.

AirBART Bus
AirBART Bus photo by LAW

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City Uptown Lot Proposal: Grow Hemp

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[6/15 update: Just two days later after this post, Alternet has a “legal pot in CA” article featuring Oaksterdam. We are so bleeding edge here! 🙂 ]

As you know, City of Oakland is pretty broke now, and not getting any richer. That’s just like most other US cities, and we aren’t in some measly two-year recession here. Oakland’s need for revenue is great.

V Smoothe and other Oakland bloggers have covered a potential pot tax on our July ballot in some detail. What I haven’t seen anywhere is discussion of the city actually growing and selling its own marijuana to raise revenue. This idea may not be as crazy as you might believe. (Or maybe it is!)

As noted at Alternet, hemp has many beneficial uses other than as medicine. It is sold as cereal at Trader Joe’s, is made into rope (a competitor fiber of which is sold at Long’s Drugs: sissal) and is even made into clothes and grocery “eco-bags.” Finally — and this ought to shock and awe you — even the U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper. That’s according to author Michael Ruppert in his new, seminal work A Presidential Energy Policy (May 2009).

[Plug: every Oakland city councilmember, business owner and citizen advocate/ activist should read Ruppert’s new book, above. This month would be a good time for it!]

There’s some discussion in the comments of Sharon Astyk’s collapse blog about how State of CA is staying alive only with marijuana sales/proceeds and associated industry. I doubt that, but it’s certainly already a part of our state’s tax base.

So, my proposal.

Uptown’s empty non-parking lot is brown and empty. Dust from it comes into my apartment through the window screen when I have it open. Nobody is using the space. What a waste! (Same goes for other empty city lots.)

Even weeds would be better than dusty Martian-like soil. Weeds improve soil quality, prevent soil erosion, clean our air, keep down dust, provide habitat for birds. A few are growing on the perimeter.

Now instead of sporting a do-nothing dirt field, imagine if:

  • City of Oakland put a hemp farm contract out to bid;
  • Oaksterdam University was chosen to administrate subplots  in the large empty lot, not to exceed 50% of the space;
  • Oakland residents and or the most expert pot growers in the state donated compost, soil and plants to begin growing the stuff right here next to Uptown;
  • The city received 70% of all proceeds; the growers and administrator received 30% to pay for landscaping, a beautiful wrought iron fence all around, security and lighting, benches and chess tables and;
  • Proceeds also paid for a public night market/ farmers market/ art space/ bowling alley or billiards or karaoke boxes in the Newberry across the street;
  • OSA kids and other students learned hands-on how to farm marijuana as well as other beneficial plants including fruit trees and vegetables (on the other 50% of this lot)

Why do I propose this?

Great Depression 2.0 is going to be “L” shaped. Not V shaped or U shaped. The economy will NEVER, EVER return to its pre-2009 state. That outcome is neither possible nor desirable. Richard Bernstein, former chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch says in Bloomberg Markets (July 2009 issue) that “I don’t think we’re going back to the credit-based global economy that we saw… if one disagrees with that and says we are going back to a credit-driven economy… I strongly doubt that’s going to be the case.”

(Credit aka debt is how we’ve been paying for a lot of things… homes, new cars, ipods, college educations, city budgets, state budgets, federal budget…)

The state of California is in no position to help cities. The federal government needs to cut its own spending. There is no free lunch. The city budget needs all the help it can get. We must depend on ourselves.

Back to basics, people!

We can live without derivative flipping and house flipping, but not water or food or natural resources or energy. Our young people need to learn farming skills for our oil-free future, to grow food.  People’s Grocery could admin the food growing demo garden here.

So there it is. I’m not a pot smoker, not daily weekly nor monthly. This just seems like a common sense proposal to me. It will at minimum teach. At maximum it would provide jobs, green our gray concrete drab downtown, and provide cashflow for essential city services such as water/sewer delivery, pothole repair along essential transit routes (defined as bway/tele/sanpab, e14th/international in my mind), and police/fire services. The way things are going, I can see Oaklanders paying occasional bribes to police within a decade or so, just to receive service. This would offset that.

That’s not what I want to see, but it seems inevitable. We’re not Cambodia yes… yet even Cambodians are making things of value in factories, whereas in Oakland I don’t know that we create very many physical things of value aside from some culinary items, artwork and some music.

So back to planting a useful agricultural crop within the city. This in no way should be a giant, centralized monocrop. That invites pests and lowers soil quality. I’m suggesting a demo project on the Uptown lot to teach everyone else in our region “how it’s done.” Then, people can go dig in the dirt at home and grow hemp there, or grow other things.

Why in Oakland?

We have the brains (experts at Oaksterdam and various cannabis clubs; ag expertise in Davis and Berkeley), money (local buyers, and said purveyors), and the test pilot incubator: cash-strapped City of Oakland, or just the area of Oakland.

It’s probably a reality that the state will legalize growing marijuana and regulating it further for tax reasons, within several years. This is according to Matt who I spoke with at Oaksterdam.

Now, what is the profit potential — does it cover lighting/security costs as well as the other goodies I outlined?

The uptown lot is small: under 60,000 sq ft.

I’d use up to half, or 30,000 sq ft as a hemp demo garden.

The rest would be processing shed, small warehouse, compost pile, education center (rudimentary, thatch roof and that’s it, no water/light); there’d also be a public market space and additional food production.

Hemp Production Estimates
Notes:
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
Competes with cotton and wood
Lot size utilization for hemp:
30000 sq ft
equals .27871 hectares
equals .68871 acres
$Production value per harvest
$209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
$137.74 hemp (paper)

These figures are old, so the production value is likely higher. It doesn’t take into consideration actual “medical marijuana” – these are prices for fiber only.  Then there’s the benefit of not having to truck the stuff down here from Mendocino County of up from Mexico alongside our organic safeway juices. I’d also rather eat hemp cereal from Oakland than nori made in China’s polluted waters.

Before planting ANY “pot” one of the conditions would be for the growers to plant a handful of fruit and nut trees FIRST, since these take years to start producing. I mean, that might be better than receiving no stimulus money at all.

hemp production estimates
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
competes with cotton and wood
30000 sq ft $Production value
is .27871 hectares 209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
is .68871 acres 137.74 hemp (paper)