NovoMetro

Education in Oakland

Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

Inclusionary Zoning Deadlock

Posted by novometro on October 18, 2006

This from Mayor Brown’s press office regarding Tuesday night’s City Council deadlock on inclusionary zoning: “The Mayor will make a careful study of the situation and talk with staff. He’ll weigh the options carefully before taking action.”

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Posted in Development, Oakland, Real Estate, Zoning | 2 Comments »

Inclusionary Zoning is Back

Posted by novometro on October 17, 2006

This is a tough one. Oakland City Council takes up an inclusionary zoning ordinance Tuesday evening that would require 15 percent of new rental units in the city be affordable to a family of four earning around $50,000. Affordable units for sale would have to be within the budget of a family of four with an annual income of $83,000. Thus, a maximum rent for a four-room apartment would be $1,458. A spacious, new condo could be had for $250,000. Developers could also opt to put money in an affordable housing trust fund. The fee for a project with 100 market-rate, two-bedroom units would be $5.3 million.

That works out to a “tax” of $53,000 on each unit. The question is this: Will that mandatory extra cost stifle development in Oakland? Oakland Native thinks so. And a paper published by the Reason Foundation in 2004, a Libertarian think tank in Los Angeles, argues that inclusionary zoning fails to create affordable housing while it simultaneously prohibits the creation of market rate housing. The study ends this way: “Inclusionary zoning should only be enacted if the goal is to make housing more expensive and decrease the quantity of new housing.”

But a 2002 study prepared for the Los Angeles Housing Department concluded that inclusionary zoning policies throughout the state have not hindered housing production, but have actually resulted in more housing in places like Sacramento and San Diego. The study found that “housing starts most closely track the unemployment rate.”

Part of the problem in evaluating the pros and cons of inclusionary zoning lies in the wildly different numbers the researchers use to support their competing arguments. For example, the authors of the Reason study claim that inclusionary zoning policies in the Bay Area have produced only 7,000 units over 30 years. According to another team of analysts in Washington D.C., that figure is off by about 93,000.

Crafted by City Councilwomen Jane Brunner and Jean Quan, the proposed ordinance would make an exemption for projects within 1,000 feet of a BART station.

Erecting a speed bump to development in Oakland makes me nervous. So does the prospect of Oakland no longer being an affordable home for the kinds of immigrants that make a city a hotbed of entrepreneurialism and creativity. Jane Brunner told the San Francisco Chronicle it would have been better to introduce inclusionary zoning in the midst of the housing boom. She’s right. It seems dangerous to do this now with DataQuick reporting Monday the first downward tick in housing prices in four years.

Posted in Development, Environment, Housing, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Real Estate, Zoning | 5 Comments »

Wireless Coliseum

Posted by novometro on October 5, 2006

GigaOm’s Katie Fehrenbacher writes about Earthlink angling to make Oakland Coliseum a wireless hotspot. Earthlink wants Oakland to know it has the chops to provide wireless Internet across the city, and unwiring McAfee would be a demo. The coliseum plan comes as city officials are reviewing consultant candidates who will assess what it will take to build a municipal wireless network in Oakland.

Posted in Development, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Technology | 1 Comment »

Stockholm Syndrome

Posted by novometro on October 4, 2006

Heeding the warnings of the peak oil movement, which is sometimes described as “Left Behind” for lefties, City Councilwoman Nancy Nadel wants to create an 11-person task force aimed at making Oakland oil-independent by 2020. If the task force leads to official policy, Oakland would join Sweden in planning to be free of oil in 14 years. It makes sound business sense. The green economy is booming and Oakland is well-positioned to take more than its share of the profits.

Posted in Democrats, Development, Environment, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | 10 Comments »

Eat This Book

Posted by novometro on October 2, 2006

The person in charge of securing a victory for Oakland’s first library bond since the late-1940’s told me I’d begin seeing evidence of the campaign this week. Sure enough, a volunteer rang the bell Saturday afternoon with a handful of Yes on Measure N signs and a pamphlet detailing the many ways the bond would improve the Piedmont branch.

The literature emphasized the local benefits and soft-pedaled the $148-million bond’s chief element: A new main library in the shell of the shuttered Henry J. Kaiser auditorium. The woman who came to my door said the new library and the adjacent Oakland Museum of California would form a kind of “cultural district” on the south shore of Lake Merritt. If the bond passes, the quarter-mile stretch between Oak Street and Peralta Park may one day brim with culture, but it will be empty of people. I’ve been to the museum on a Sunday afternoon. And I’ve been to the library on a Sunday afternoon. There are usually more people eating dim sum a few blocks away in one Chinatown restaurant than in both cultural institutions combined.

Chinatown’s Sunday bustle ought to provide inspiration for the city as it decides what to do with the Kaiser should the bond fail to win the necessary two-thirds of the vote. The library option emerged after the City Council scotched a last-minute push from the port to install a permanent world trade expo in the Kaiser. But why are we forced to choose between a library and an ill-conceived world trade center? At the moment, there is really no place to enjoy a good meal and a view of Lake Merritt at the same time. A creative remodeling of the Kaiser could remedy that. Think San Francisco’s Ferry Building meets International Boulevard.

Oakland’s best taquerias, pho parlors, dim sum spots, injera makers, and sandwich shops could share space with upscale patisseries, cheese mongers, and wine sellers. At last, Oakland’s two greatest assets – natural beauty and delicious food from all over the world – would be brought together in one place.

But what about the library? What about the future of literacy in Oakland? Perhaps the Measure N campaign spokesperson was mindful of a Public Policy Institute of California study released in September that showed the majority of voters in California are over 45. She said it’s important that the paramedics who respond to 911 calls are able to read. I don’t care if the paramedic can read so long as he can drive fast and knows how to restart a stopped heart. Either way, a new library in the Kaiser won’t do much for the state of literacy in Oakland.

Measure N supporters will tell you that it would cost more to renovate the current main library than to erect a swank new flagship in the Kaiser. That’s true, if the renovation includes a $13 million parking garage and other features whose absence would not be missed in a perfectly adequate main library. But we don’t need a fancy library. We just need a library that serves downtown, houses the historical archives, and maintains the bulk of the library’s reference materials (a section of increasing irrelevance thanks to the Internet). The excess books that circulate to other branches can be kept in inexpensive warehouses.

If the library does move to the Kaiser, don’t expect great things to relocate to the current site. A library employee told me that one tentative plan calls for turning the site into a youth center since it resides in “neutral turf.” Even if the library doesn’t become a place for the Sharks and the Jets to put aside their differences, history has shown it will be hard to raze it and erect something the city actually needs, like more housing. I would be surprised if the application isn’t already filed to designate it a landmark.

The measure N campaign plans to spend $150,000 between now and November convincing us we should spend $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property value to support this plan. Like any bond measure, the proposal includes funding for some much-needed projects. Laurel needs a library. So does East Oakland. Improvements and expansions throughout the system are long overdue. But we can do it for less money and in a way that doesn’t waste the Kaiser’s potential.

Posted in Development, Education, Going Out, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics | 19 Comments »

The Eclectic-est Street You Never Heard Of

Posted by novometro on September 26, 2006

On what other block in Oakland can you get a wig, a tattoo, a bespoke bathrobe, some of the best pho in California, and if you have a medical marijuana card, dope? Maybe its the trees, but the stretch of 17th Street between Franklin and Webster has always stood apart from the rest of downtown Oakland. It’s romantic. On some days it resembles a Saigon backstreet on others, somewhere in Paris. After a decade-long hiatus, merchants on 17th are hosting a street fair this Saturday. The fair begins at 11 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.

Posted in Development, Events, Going Out, NovoMetro, Oakland | 1 Comment »

California Home Sales Drop 30 Percent in August

Posted by novometro on September 25, 2006

The California Association of Realtors reports that sellers are “clinging to price expectations that are no longer valid.”

Posted in Development, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Loving Las Vegas

Posted by novometro on September 25, 2006

In an article published this month in Democracy Journal, Joel Kotkin takes another swipe at the “condo and coffeehouse” school of urban planning. Mr. Kotkin blasts Boston, San Francisco, and Seattle for promoting “boutique” downtowns that cater to the cultural whims of well-heeled elites, but quash the aspirations of the middle class. He’s right. Cities do need to encourage and promote the strivings of the middle class (such as we still exist).

But Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Houston, three cities Mr. Kotkin points to as examples of places where newcomers can flourish largely because of affordable housing and good business conditions, grow on unsustainable models. Both Houston and Phoenix sprawl across more square miles than Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose combined. In Phoenix and Las Vegas, water is a problem. Houston struggles with pollution and traffic congestion.

In Oakland’s case, its long-term prosperity hinges more on its ability to lure and keep immigrants than on its selling points as a temperate, reasonably cosmopolitan place to dwell without children. The ongoing debate in the Oakland City Council about the possible rezoning of certain quarters from industrial to a housing/business mix goes to the heart of this question. Should land that might incubate businesses that could create wealth for hundreds be turned into homes for hundreds of the wealthy?

Oakland Native offers his/her take Monday on what inclusionary zoning would mean for the future of Oakland’s middle class at Oakland’s Future: An Optimistic Perspective.

Posted in Development, Housing, NovoMetro, Oakland, Opinion, Politics | 5 Comments »

Decision: No Eviction

Posted by novometro on September 22, 2006

A judge left little room Thursday for the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) to continue with immediate evictions of tenants it claims illegally moved into public housing by bribing a rogue clerk.

The ruling is a setback for the OHA, which sought to evict around 20 people from the Lockwood Gardens in East Oakland after discovering that Carolyn Wilson, a housing authority employee, allegedly charged up to $1,000 for the keys to subsidized apartments reserved for poor families.

While the OHA receives high marks from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development in annual audits, the Wilson case has been something of an embarrassment to the agency. Ms. Wilson fled to Louisiana shortly after her bosses confronted her with evidence of her crimes in 2005. But in June, deputies from the Sheriff’s Department in Saint Tammany Parish  arrested her. She is now in jail in Covington, Louisiana fighting extradition to California, where she faces charges of computer fraud and misappropriation of public funds.

The Alameda County Superior Court judge’s decision allows the tenants to stay in their apartments, but the validity of their leases remains a question for the court to answer. David Lipsetz, a spokesman for the OHA, said that the OHA does not recognize the people who moved into Lockwood Gardens with Ms. Wilson’s help as tenants. Their rent checks are returned. He said the agency will move forward with proving the leases are invalid with the aim of eviction.

Posted in Development, Eviction, Housing, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics | Leave a Comment »

Monument Alley

Posted by novometro on September 19, 2006

Oakland City Council will likely vote to accept Mario Chiodo’s 15-ton gift to the city Tuesday. Here’s the article I wrote in the Tribune a couple of weeks ago about Mr. Chiodo’s monument.

Posted in Art, Development, News, NovoMetro, Oakland, Politics, Sculpture | 1 Comment »