CFAH

While waylaid by the pandemic, Oakland’s Planning Department is aiming to update and adopt its comprehensive plan to transform Downtown Oakland by the end of this year.

As envisioned, the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan (DOSP) would allow for the development of up to 20 million square feet of new commercial space and over 29,000 new residential units over the next two decades, including up to 7,250 units of housing which could be offered at below market (affordable) rates, centered around BART and its connectors.

At its core, a new Incentive Program would allow for the development of parcels beyond their current mass, height and capacity limits, in exchange for providing, or possibly funding, additional community benefits, “such as affordable housing or commercial space with reduced rent for non-profits, arts organizations, local businesses at risk of displacement, and homeless services.”

And in response to Oakland’s “ongoing extreme housing needs,” which have been exacerbated by the pandemic, the City is now aiming to concurrently, rather than sequentially, develop “a focused strategy” to fund and fast track the development of housing which will be enabled by the DSOP.

We’ll keep you posted and plugged-in.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Panhandle Pro

    Oakland has a real chance to take a big bite out of San Francisco’s lunch when it comes to office/commercial. BART can pull workers into downtown Oakland from a huge population: Richmond, Walnut Creek, Antioch, Pleasanton, Fremont, San Jose (!) and SF.

    Oakland’s problem was always that it’s office stock was tired and unappealing. These new buildings will change that, obviously.

    • Posted by Notcom

      No Oakland’s problem was always that it had a larger, better known media darling next door (whose own faults were rationalized, rather than repeated ‘ad nauseum’).

      I don’t know that any of that has changed. (see below).

    • Posted by Patrick Siegman

      Downtown Oakland also used to suffer from minimum parking regulations, which frequently deterred new investment. As my colleagues and I wrote in the Downtown Parking Management Report a few years ago,

      “The City should take an active approach in establishing policies to regulate private developments, to ensure that new development supports City goals. This report recommends that those policies include removing minimum parking requirements, establishing maximum parking requirements, and requiring that new developments:

      – unbundle the cost of parking from the cost of other goods and services;
      – offer car sharing agencies the right of first refusal for a limited number of parking spaces and require that those spaces be provided to the car sharing agencies free of charge; and
      – provide free transit passes to the project’s residents and/or employees.

      As referenced in Chapter 2, the Planning and Building Department is in the process of reevaluating off-street parking requirements in the Zoning Code. The recommendations in this chapter are intended to support and help inform that process, rather than compete with it.

      The Case for Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

      Minimum parking requirements work at cross purposes to virtually all of the City’s other adopted goals. As UCLA professor Don Shoup describes it, ‘Parking requirements cause great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment… [O]ff-street parking requirements also cost a lot of money, although this cost is hidden in higher prices for everything except parking itself.’ Removing minimum parking requirements will provide numerous rewards, supporting economic growth and a better quality of life in downtown, and helping meet the City’s overall goals of environmental responsibility, social equity, and economic growth.

      Removing minimum parking requirements will encourage the use of shared public parking infrastructure, rather than unshared private lots; can make the City more attractive to truly transit-oriented tenants with low parking demand rates; provide maximum flexibility for efficient sharing of parking; and create a healthy market for parking, where parking spaces are bought, sold, rented and leased like any normal commodity.

      It is worth noting that removing downtown requirements is a relatively modest reform. Many places (see sidebar below) have removed minimum parking requirements, and some, such as Great Britain, have removed minimum parking requirements entirely throughout their cities, and now rely instead on active management of curb parking to prevent curb parking shortages, while using fees from drivers to finance the parking that those drivers use.”

      Since 2016, when our report’s recommendations were adopted, the City has removed all minimum parking regulations throughout downtown. While this change is not a panacea, it’s a significant step forward.

      • Posted by tfourier

        >>
        “It is worth noting that removing downtown requirements is a relatively modest reform. Many places (see sidebar below) have removed minimum parking requirements, and some, such as Great Britain, have removed minimum parking requirements entirely throughout their cities, and now rely instead on active management of curb parking to prevent curb parking shortages, while using fees from drivers to finance the parking that those drivers use.”
        <<

        I was amused by that quote because the reality in the UK is that High St retail business had suffered a catastrophic collapse in the last 15 years (even before the online shopping apocalypse of the last few years) and by far the biggest single reason given by shoppers for now shopping in out of town retail parks rather than traditional town / city centers was the lack of parking in the city-center and its exceptional expense when found. So the shoppers quite naturally went to where it was most convenient to shop. And park.

        Ordinary people going about their lives will not waste large amounts of time by using public transport etc just to conform to a small group of "New Urbanists" urban planning fantasies. Want to kill a downtown, make it car unfriendly.

        What I find interesting is that in France the local governments have not tried to fight the perfectly rational behavior of the vast majority of ordinary people. Who want to drive when doing their shopping etc. So there are the hypermarkets etc in the ZC's on the outskirts of town but there is always easy to find and cheap parking to be found in the center of the town / city. Usually in municipal parking structures. So in cities like Toulouse, Nantes, or Rennes you would not think twice about driving into the centre-ville to do some shopping or just wandering about. Parking is never a problem. Now in Lower Market SF or downtown Oakland, pretty much forget it.

        Public transit is always a time wasting and very inconvenient way of getting around. Only starts to make sense in ultra dense urban cores like Zone 1 in London, inside the Peripherique in Paris, or in Manhattan. That's about it.

        The anti-car cranks are killing our cities. This tiny minority need to be stopped before the have killed the commercial cores irreparably. Which they inevitably will if given the chance.

        If you want a thriving economically healthy city downtown it has to be car friendly. In other words, customer friendly.

        • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

          I don’t read Siegman’s comments as a “New Urbanist” anti-car screed as much as he’s in favor of developers making as much money as possible, and eliminating off-street parking requirements means that developers will make another fraction of a percent of margin on an average project.

          The way you know he’s not serious in the “New Urbanist” sense is that he cuts-and-pastes this pap:

          Downtown Oakland also used to suffer from minimum parking regulations, which frequently deterred new investment. As my colleagues and I wrote in the Downtown Parking Management Report a few years ago, The City should take an active approach in establishing policies to regulate private developments, to ensure that new development supports City goals. This report recommends that those policies include removing minimum parking requirements, establishing maximum parking requirements, and requiring that new developments…offer car sharing agencies the right of first refusal for a limited number of parking spaces and require that those spaces be provided to the car sharing agencies free of charge

          Emphasis mine.

          Informed people know that so-called “car sharing services” such as Uber and Lyft (maybe they mean ZipCar-like services?), don’t reduce congestion, they extend and worsen it. From Do transportation network companies decrease or increase congestion?, A 2019 study by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority and the University of Kentucky:

          Uber and Lyft…are the biggest contributor to growing traffic congestion in San Francisco. Between 2010 and 2016, weekday vehicle hours of delay increased by 62% compared to 22% in a counterfactual 2016 scenario without TNCs.

          We would all be better off if these kinds of illegal cab companies had never lept fully formed from the anarcho-capitalist head of Travis Kalanick.

          Eliminating or reducing parking only works if the people evaluating newly built buildings who do not have cars self-select those buildings to live in. The real-world evidence that they do is pretty thin. If people who do have cars select those buildings, and then park on the street, we are all worse off.

          • Posted by tfourier

            If you have read enough New Urbanist screeds over the decades you would have recognized its fingerprints all over the post I was replying to.

            To pick just one example..

            >>
            The Case for Removing Minimum Parking Requirements

            Minimum parking requirements work at cross purposes to virtually all of the City’s other adopted goals. As UCLA professor Don Shoup describes it, ‘Parking requirements cause great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment… [O]ff-street parking requirements also cost a lot of money, although this cost is hidden in higher prices for everything except parking itself.’ Removing minimum parking requirements will provide numerous rewards, supporting economic growth and a better quality of life in downtown, and helping meet the City’s overall goals of environmental responsibility, social equity, and economic growth.
            <<

            Pro development, pro car, pro pragmatism people dont quote sources that want to remove parking and use terms like "social equity" etc. This quote is typical of the trickle down marxist foundations of the movement, especially in Europe.

            I remember the very tail end of the old Oakland downtown. In the 1980's. Around the time of the botched Redevelopment Plan which ripped out the last of the traditional urban core. In the 1980's there was still a reason to go to downtown Oakland (although you chose your route carefully). By the early / mid 90's it was just another dead city core.

            The improvements in the outer core areas of Oakland in the last decade have been very noticeable. A huge improvement. A while ago I did a drive all the way down Broadway to downtown from the hills then back up Telegraph to Berkeley . Last did that full route back in 1993. It was great to see the improvements in most areas. And no longer having to do rolling stops at red lights in some areas.

            But downtown was still dead and very unappealing. All the New Urbaism shibboleths were there. The anti-car street layouts. Limited parking. Empty bike lanes. Which are purely for the affluent young suburbanites who might be spending their twenties and thirties in the city. Maybe 5% of the population max. But for the other 95% of the population just more reasons not to go downtown.

            If you want a healthy urban core for a small / mid-sized city make it very friendly to the vast majority of ordinary people. Who drive cars. Just provide enough easy to use/ find parking space and dont have all pubic spaces configured to scream – We hate everyone who drives a car. Even a modicum of respect for the majority of ordinary folk who drive will pay big dividends. In the long term. They are by far the largest source of potential downtown customers and foot-traffic.

          • Posted by E. Gonsalves

            Downtown areas all over the world are filled with thriving pedestrian only zones. Rome, Florence, Lisbon, London, Paris, Budapest, Moscow, Shanghai, Tokyo, etc. The walk from 12th Street BART through City Center to Preservation Park is one of the best pedestrian walk areas in any American downtown. The JLS waterfront promenade is also a great car free area. American cities need more care free areas. The rest of the world thrives in car free environments. Americans are addicted to cars and easy parking. Oakland is the 9th most walkable city in the United States with one of the best climates in the world. We need many more pedestrian only areas. We need to enhance the walking experience in the downtown core on Broadway, Telegraph and Franklin. Pressure wash the sidewalks, get rid of the graffiti, put out more flowers, etc..

        • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

          Instead of complaining about “anti car cranks”, why not rail against land use decisions that both distort transportation choices and rob traditional urban shopping districts of their customers? Suburban shopping malls have nudged consumers towards car dependency, toxic to traditional cities. The level of convenience hasn’t changed but now everyone budgets for car ownership to regain the convenience that was available before needing a car. We’ve been hoodwinked into buying into a system that drains our paychecks and makes us rationalize the sunk cost of buying into car ownership.

          San Francisco and Central Oakland are about as close as you can get to a “15 minute city” in California: a place to live where you can find everything you need within a 15 minute walk. Why ruin this uniquer opportunity by making the same mistakes that other cities are now regretting? Rectifying bad land use decisions is very expensive. Better to make a good decision when you can.

          • Posted by E. Gonsalves

            Oakland has to go to more pedestrian only zones. Downtown Oakland is extremely walkable. You can also walk to downtown from surrounding neighborhoods as far as Piedmont Avenue, Adam’s Point, Grand Lake, and even Temescal. Oakland is the 9th most walkable city right now and could easily move up to 3rd most walkable once all the new construction is finished and thousands of new residents move to downtown, uptown, and Valdez/Auto Row. Oakland has to concentrate on curb appeal at street level and on creating more plazas and pedestrian only zones. Oakland has the public transportation, walk ability, access to two beautiful waterfronts, incredible amount of parkland, good restaurants, improving bike infrastructure, and arguably the best climate in the country. Only bad decisions and bad policy can keep Oakland back from reaching its full potential and becoming one of the top 5 cities in the United States.

          • Posted by tfourier

            @The Milkshake of Despair

            Let me guess you grew up in the suburbs somewhere. Have you actually lived in a city like SF? For any amount of time? With a family? And a full-time job?

            With more than three decades experience of the City (so knowing were to find parking) I’d say that everything in SF is 15/20 min DRIVE not walk away. Using walking and public transit you are talking a good 90 mins minimum to get across the City. On a good day. A very compact city.

            Here is just one simple example. The school in SF run was a simple 10 min drive. So total turn around time was 25 mins morning and afternoon with options to do shopping etc on the way back. Using MUNI / walking it was at least 45 mins each way, morning and afternoon with no option to do any shopping.

            Thats real life.

            A car is an absolute necessity in SF. Always was, always will be. Unless you are a suburbanite doing your 5 to 10 year stint in the City between college and moving on. Usually back to some kind of suburb after getting married. Of that group only the rich or the lucky get to stick around.

            People who talk about “walkability” etc are just looking for others to finance their particular lifestyle choice for the relatively short amount of time they are actually living in the city. It just causes huge inconvenience to the rest of the population who actually have all the normal obligations of work and family life.

            I love the arrogance of your opinion that people like me are “stupid” for owing cars. Your time is oblivious worth little or nothing and you must have no family obligations or responsibilities. Cars save immense amount of time. Gives one huge freedom of choice. And allows one to live a family life that is completely impossible in your walk-able” fantasy city. Based on past experience its pretty much a certainty that if one day you actually do start having family responsibilities etc one of your first purchase will be a minivan or some like vehicle. Because fast convenient transport is a necessity. And that will always be a car.

            So if cities like Oakland want an actual future as a healthy urban cores like they had 60 / 70 years ago they will have to stop their war against ordinary people who wish to drive, stop listening to a small minority who want the city landscape reconfigured so as to provide them with what is little more than a lifestyle luxury. As I said, French urban planners seem to have made a reasonable balance between the vast majority who drive and the very vocal small minority who want their lifestyle whims pandered to. They make sure there is plenty of cheap CBD public parking.

          • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

            tfourier, don’t know why you quoted the word “stupid” when no one, and that includes Milkshake, said you were quote stupid close quote for owing a car.

            If someone had grown up in the suburbs, like Moraga, then it would seem to me that person would be more sympathetic to and outspokenly in support of car ownership, not less so.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            Oh gee tfourier, you’re right. Cities did not exist prior 1910 when Model-Ts started coming off of the assembly line. Before then we were a pastoral people, barely able to sustain ourselves. Families were impossible though not sure how the population grew.

            But seriously, you must know that even today a significant percentage of SF households have zero cars. How do they do it?

            As for 15 minute city, I didn’t mean that you can reach every place in the city within 15 minutes. That’s silly. Instead it means common needs (grocery, school, pharmacy, hardware, park, library, etc.) are within a short walk or transit ride. Suburban style shopping malls are the antithesis of such a walkable urban environment. And worse: they drain the life out of traditional urban shopping districts at the expense of health, safety, and economy.

          • Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

            “A car is an absolute necessity in SF”. Very silly. Two thirds of journeys in SF are made without cars, and one third of SF households own no car.

        • Posted by Al

          You’re basically proposing to turn Oakland into a suburb. There are already plenty of those in the Bay Area, I hear Walnut Creek is idyllic if that’s your preferred lifestyle. If your idea of a perfect city is one where you can park easily to go to the mall, try literally any other place in the U.S. (nevermind that the people that used to go to malls buy everything on Amazon nowadays and malls are turning into ghost towns). The “vast majority” of car lovers can live anywhere else, support public transit and walkable cities for the rest of us in one of the few places where it’s feasible.

  2. Posted by ST

    Just last night on nightly news, talking about dumping and homelessness going out of control in the city of Oakland. And then, the “re-imagination committee” discussing cutting policy budget in half when violent crimes are going thru the roof. Not sure what investment value folks see in Oakland, beyond me.

    • Posted by Zac

      Crime and homelessness sucks but some people still want to live here. So if that’s the case, keep building baby.

  3. Posted by OaktownPRE

    Don’t understand why there’s so little development planned around the Lake Merritt BART station? Makes no sense to me.

    • Posted by logan

      ^ was thinking the same thing. also they show an “active development” at 12th and Lake Merritt Blvd — that development is long dead, and currently remains a massive homeless encampment.

      • Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

        There is permit activity on that project as recently as June 2020, although I agree that the pace of the project is absurd, I don’t believe it’s dead as such.

    • Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

      It’s because the pace of planning is glacial and public opinion about how much and how fast to build have outstripped the capacity of our sclerotic planning system. The Lake Merritt Station Area Plan started in 2010 and many of the projects have already been completed, so they aren’t in the future any more.

      • Posted by OaktownPRE

        I haven’t seen any projects completed near LM BART in ten years. What projects were completed under that plan?

        • Posted by OaktownPRE

          Other than blocks away at the Main Post Office, but nothing right at the LM station itself.

          • Posted by Jeffrey W. Baker

            Yeah, don’t ask me to defend the boundaries of the plan. Many of the projects completed under that plan are much closer to 12th than LM, station-wise.

    • Posted by Matt in Uptown

      Well, because “around Lake Merritt BART” is a place called Chinatown?

      • Posted by Shonkin

        You hit the nail on the head. Chinatown is one of the last old-time, working-class family-oriented downtown neighborhoods. There is a lot of pushback against developers who want to put up high-priced apartment developments there.

  4. Posted by logan

    i’m an oakland resident and love oakland, mostly. this plan is too little too late. they need to ring the fire alarm and eliminate all height and use limits within a mile radius of the 3 major bart stations (12th, 19th, LM). oakland needs to focus on rehabbing old properties to provide homeless housing NOW — like the Henry Kaiser center, and the beautiful, gigantic old school at 2nd Ave & E 10th.

    the lack of vision / ambition is depressing. slow and steady may be politically correct, but it sure ain’t progressive.

    • Posted by OaktownPRE

      What they’ve already done to the Kaiser Convention Center is a disgrace. It should definitely not be turned into homeless housing in my opinion. Oakland in 1916 build a magnificent building for all Oaklanders to use and for the civic betterment of the city not for a dumping ground which is what it’s turned into.

  5. Posted by hmmm

    the rows of tall-ish buildings lining the freeway (880) is bizarre. I don’t see either the design or density rationale or the attractiveness. Freeway views!

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      At least freeway views will remain somewhat unobstructed. What doesn’t make sense is designating most of the buildings as residential when commercial office space is more appropriate next to a freeway.

      • Posted by Al

        Considering that all of the commercial space at the base of those buildings remains completely empty, I’d have to disagree.

    • Posted by Notcom

      Your two opinions notwithstanding, a quick examination will show that’s what (in many cases) is there now; the building @6th/Broadway being a particularly good example.

    • Posted by I like food

      Probably because NIMBY’s are less likely to complain about tall buildings blocking their views of freeways or casting shadows on freeways. Tokyo has a lot of tall buildings alongside freeways, incidentally and it’s… fine.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      The new tall development at MacArthur BART would beg to differ.

      • Posted by Sassy

        Right? I remember hearing the uproar about that and there’s still lamenting today. No shadows on 10 story freeways and a sunken BART parking lot referred to as “open space”. NIMBYs getting creative.

        • Posted by Al

          The fact that the towers sit mostly vacant while down the road at mosswood park homeless encampments grow every day might contribute to the ire.

  6. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    Several of those proposed developments on the east side of 880 are on sites currently occupied by the Alameda Co. Jail, the courthouse, and OPD HQ. That means that the city and county are planning to pull up stakes and move their facilities elsewhere.

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