Oakland Local

Oakland City Council votes to return two-way car traffic to Telegraph Avenue, ending the pilot plaza. 

Everyone knows the Council voted to restore 2-way traffic to Latham Square, right? So, what happened?

At its first meeting of 2014, Oakland city council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney called the Latham Square pilot process a “comedy of errors,” but still urged support for the staff recommendation to resume two-way car traffic on Telegraph Avenue.  Despite what appeared to be initial support for a compromise solution, allowing southbound traffic on Telegraph and retaining a larger pedestrian space, a substitute motion by council member Dan Kalb failed and McElhaney’s motion to support the staff recommendation passed.

Referring to the “thoughtful” public discussion, Mayor Quan called this “one of the council’s best nights.”

Latham Square is unusual in the annals of “pilot” projects.  “It’s only paint” is the planner’s mantra for implementing rapid changes that can be adjusted on the ground based on results.  More often than not, the paint stays and permanent fixtures replace temporary street furniture. For examples of this, Oaklanders don’t need to look farther than San Francisco, which has slapped down a lot of green paint in the past few years.  Most recently, the city responded to a spate of cyclist deaths on SOMA streets with pilot buffered bike lanes mere months after the incidents sparked protests.  Parklets, which started as a renegade street reclamation during Parking Day, are perhaps the best example of the temporary-permanent space. Oakland’s two parklets – on West Grand in front of Farley’s and 40th by Manifesto Bicycles – have become neighborhood assets.

City staff are usually staunch supporters of their own pilots, weathering opposition to keep projects in place long enough for residents and merchants to experience the benefits of the new design.  When Oakland staff turned against their own plan and cut the pilot short, the feeling of betrayal among project supporters was tangible.

Dan Kalb: “I think this plan put forward by the staff is not a compromise at all. It’s opening the whole thing up and possibly making it even less safe for pedestrians.” 

So it’s no surprise that more than 30 people showed up to speak at the council meeting and twitter buzzed with comments during the discussion of Latham Square.

For both supporters and opponents of the pedestrian plaza, Latham Square has come to symbolize everything that is wrong with Oakland planning.  To businesses and property owners who felt the traffic disruption harmed their bottom lines, this was another example of Oakland failing to support businesses.  To pedestrian advocates and plaza fans, the abortive pilot and flawed public process showed Oakland making a u-turn into the past, just as it was about to join other major cities in creating a more walkable, bikable downtown.

Speakers on both sides of the issue referenced other cities:  Portland, New York City, and Chicago all were mentioned as examples of what Oakland could aspire to or shouldn’t try to emulate.  The discussion was clearly about more than land use issues on one block of downtown roadway.  Oakland is wrestling with the question of how a modern city evolves in an era of climate change and reduced car use and how fast that change can happen.

Dave Campbell, Advocacy Director of EBBC who also lives a few blocks from Latham Square, asked council members to “take a moment to think about all the things we have done to make it easier for people to choose to drive to downtown Oakland.  Think of all the freeways your predecessors approved … to get people to downtown Oakland.  …  Think about all the parking garages we have in downtown Oakland.  Think about all the one way streets we have to get people in their cars through downtown Oakland.”  Campbell said, “We have done so much to improve car access to downtown.   If that were the key to successful retail, we would have it nailed.”

Planning commissioner Chris Pattillo spoke up for a return to two-way traffic on Telegraph because doesn’t want to add to the “frustrating” experience of driving in downtown Oakland.  BART director Rebecca Satlzman came out to support a compromise plan for one lane of traffic (the current configuration) and to ask the council to address downtown circulation issues – a concern that was repeated by many.

The deciding factor appeared to be opposition from property owners and businesses in the neighborhood.  Several residents and business owners from the Cathedral Building, for whom Latham Square is their “front yard,” voiced support for two-way car traffic. McElhaney, whose district includes Latham Square, cited opposition from the developer of the Sears building at 20th Street, who fears loss of financial backing for the project if car travel were limited on Telegraph Avenue.

Kalb was the strongest voice on the council in favor of the pedestrian plaza.  After stating, “I’m generally one that is very supportive and thinks very highly of our city departments,” He listed a litany of failures and missteps:  “We were told about a six-month pilot and it turned out to be, really, nine weeks.  We’ve heard reports, documented reports, of staff going out of their way to organize opposition to the closure – and staff sometimes working at odds with other staff in other departments.  Not a pretty picture.  There have been public meetings almost held as an afterthought.  One meeting was held on a popular religious holiday, the other with a day and a half notice.  There was a survey – the survey is referenced in the staff report, but the results of the survey are not referenced in the staff report and the results of the survey were overwhelmingly in favor of closure. Whatever we do, pedestrian safety has to be paramount.  It’s not clear to me whether this staff proposed design is the most pedestrian safe, pedestrian friendly design.  In fact, I’m sure it’s not.  I don’t think we can really call this a usable significant pedestrian plaza.”    Noting the wealth of transit options in the area (two BART stations and many AC Transit bus lines), Kalb added, “This is the kind of place where you should be doing a true pedestrian plaza without a lot of car traffic.”

Oddly, the inevitability of a car-free Latham Plaza seems to be accepted by all sides.  Several of the public speakers that supported a return to two-way car traffic wanted to see a “flex space” where cars could easily be excluded.  Assistant director of public works Michael Neary said the design presented by staff would allow the space to transform into an exclusively pedestrian space in a few years, after downtown circulation issues are addressed.   The AIA advocated for a curbless design that would make the transition seamless.

The process is not over:  many design details of the plaza and adjoining parts of Broadway are still to be resolved.  The AIA will host a public design meeting on January 30 from 6-8 pm in their office at 14th and Clay Streets.

You can read Oakland Local’s prior coverage of Latham Square here.

 

49 thoughts on “Latham Square outcomes show flaws in Oakland city planning

  1. There were a few other points:

    1. Who was to maintain the square?

    2. The close proximity of Frank Ogawa Plaza and the City Center made another area unnecessary

    3. The square did not increase business activity; in fact, business felt it choked it off

    4. Many people want to use their cars–not everyone wants to use BART

    5. It looked awkward and it made a bad driving pattern worse; you drove down a main street and suddenly you were up against that sign

    6. We are not San Francisco or New York–what worked for them may not work for us (look at the Frank Ogawa Plaza and the City Center)

    7. Not many people used it; it actually hurt many more drivers

    8. It was unnecessarily divisive

    In effect, it created more problems. Good planning would not solve these problems. Good planning would see that it was creating a problem.

  2. There are many streets in and around that area that could be closed off to cars without causing much disruption to traffic. Telegraph is not one of them. The roads in downtown Oakland were designed around the Key System (commuter train system) and Telegraph was the main spur off of Broadway (which itself was the hub of the system) leading towards UC Berkeley. It’s not surprising that development along Telegraph was robust and remains so many decades later, for the most part. Why would anyone think cutting off this most important roadway would be beneficial to the City as a whole?

  3. Good discussion of the topic and fair-minded. The Latham Square project shows pretty clearly the unique problem this city has in dealing with progressive change.

    Basically change requires strategic planning. Oakland is unique politically in its aversion to setting goals and thinking long-range. We get all tied up in divisive reaction to anything new and usually fall back on ideas that are 50 years out-of-date.

    Making central business districts more accessible by automobile has been a large part of what has led to their economic demise since the 1960s. Which is where Oakland is stuck in terms of urban planning.

  4. Latham Square was not a “progressive” idea. It was a bad idea. I did not oppose it because I was afraid of change.

    Proponents talked about San Francisco and New York. Well, Oakland is not San Francisco or New York. I don’t think we need to do everything they do.

    They wanted somewhere to hold events. Well, Frank Ogawa Plaza less than a block away.

    They wanted hang out near restaurants. Well, City Center is two blocks away.

    If those two areas did not succeed, there is even less reason to believe that Latham Square would.

    They talked as if Latham Square was surrounded by stores, restaurants, bars, etc. It is not.

    In fact, City Center and Frank Ogawa Plaza are already closed off to cars and are surrounded by businesses to eat and shop.

    When the business association man was asked if he had the budget to maintain the square, he said they did not.

    In fact, the city can make money from more metered parking which means making the area easier to drive through.

    Besides, I don’t care about the label “progressive.” I don’t think our policies should be determined by the label “progressive.” There are progressive people in Oakland and there are a lot of people who either don’t really care or are conservative.

  5. I use the term “progressive” simply to indicate an interest in change from the status quo. Nothing profoundly ideological. Identifying ideas or people in ideological terms isn’t very useful.

    What other cities, especially economically-and-socially vital cities, is quite relevant to what Oakland does. Oakland is stuck in a self-destructive cycle and has been for decades.

    Latham Square in itself is not at issue. It may or may not have been “successful” in isolation. What is important is that Oakland should have a plan for making downtown more vital, in all ways social and economic.

    I am sorry to have to point this out to you, but you simply do not understand the topic at hand. You react only as someone who does not embrace change, cannot envision a future different from the present or the past and as someone who prefers to look at the world from inside a motorized cage which weighs a couple of tons. The motorized cages, in general, are death to downtowns. They are also death to the biosphere. Google “fracking” for example. That’s what’s needed to keep your cage moving.

    Many people in this country have rediscovered the human body as something good to celebrate. The body uncaged, out in the open, clean air. You may not like it, but it really does represent a positive future.

    A final detail, likely incomprehensible to you: parking policy and its related governmental activities do not have the primary purpose of providing income to the jurisdiction involved. Again, do some research. The purpose of parking policy is to promote the economic and social vitality of the area in question, not to maximize income to the city as well as to protect the environment. Very different goals, very different methods and outcomes.

  6. Last sentence should read:

    The purpose of parking policy is to promote the economic and social vitality of the area in question as well as to protect the environment, not to maximize income to the city . Very different goals, very different methods and outcomes.

  7. This is another one of your pseudo-intellectual, pretentious rants. Because I don’t agree with you, does not mean I don’t understand.

    Can you give some concrete reasons for Latham Square?

    Latham Square represents Oakland’s need to be “progressive.” It reflected the failure of such a philosophy. Progressivism isn’t always good or bad; conservativism isn’t always good or bad.

    That point can be stated simply and clearly without such tacky, and as I stated before, “pseudo-intellectual, pretentious rants.”

  8. Native–Sorry that you are having such a hard time understanding something new. Not all of us welcome change and I understand that. It’s the essence of conservatism and political reaction and deserves respect because so many of us want things to remain always the same.

    Unfortunately there is nothing as certain in the world as change.

    Latham Square represents, to me, and I understand not to you, a failure to carry through a new policy which might enliven downtown Oakland. Such endeavors work elsewhere. Drive your cage to Berkeley and look around. Get out of your cage and try walking a bit in an area where you see others on foot. You might get a thrill and feel a little more love than hate.

    Latham Square was, is, nothing more than a timid step in a new direction. Oakland needs many more such efforts in order to make downtown work in the future.

  9. RD211,
    I asked you for some concrete arguments supporting Latham Square, you responded with more of your fluff.

    Before I thought you were just showboating, now I think you are just unintelligent and uncreative. Thus, I will give you an example of a concrete argument why I don’t think we need Latham Square (please try to follow).

    Americans have moved from downtown to shopping malls. There parking is generally free, ample and one can go from store to store.

    So a square would be good as an entertainment center. Bars and clubs could line the street for nightlife.

    Looking at that idea, Oakland already has City Center.

  10. It is a shame that this project was aborted. I was actually starting to make a difference. It was a nice calm place to relax and it was in a perfect location. Traffic is now actually works because people tryting to go north on Telegraph have to cross southbound lanes of Broadway. Also, the northbound Broadway lanes often back up now due to trying to wait for southbound lanes to clear of traffic.

    From a traffic flow perspective, it made more sense to keep this closed due to the ridiculously short distance to 17th street. I mean it wasn’t what one would call a block…. it was ONE BUILDING away.

    A real shame and lack of vision from our elected leaders.

  11. One thing that has struck me more and more as I’ve covered Latham Square is the robust discussion it has caused among people with a variety of points of view – what Mayor Quan commented on at the city council meeting. Nice to see it continue here.

    A point of clarification: I heard the representative of the Downtown BID say that maintaining Latham Square would be no problem for the district but that they didn’t have a budget for producing events going forward. Even under the plan that was adopted, with two way traffic resuming on Telegraph, there will be an expanded plaza that needs to be maintained.

    The failure of Frank Ogawa Plaza came up many times in discussions about Latham Square. The question is, does the lack of appeal of FOP represent a poor design or does it show that Oakland won’t utilize public space downtown? I think the people who wanted to see a pedestrian plaza in Latham Square saw this as a different kind of space, and one that was much more inviting. A delightful pedestrian space incorporated in the fabric of downtown could be seen as a different type of project, with the potential for a different outcome. Ogawa Plaza definitely cast a pall over Latham Square.

  12. I’m all for making downtown more pedestrian & bicycle friendly. I bike and walk through this area multiple times a day. I agree 100% with PatrickM. This particular intersection is not the one to close. And the “public input” process before the pilot was implemented was a joke. I didn’t find out about it until after it happened, even though I walk through the area daily. I don’t understand why the project advocates have latched onto this particular spot, it really wasn’t well thought through.

  13. Laura,
    I did appreciate your article.

    Thanks for your clarification. You are correct. The BID guy stated there was no budget for producing future events.

    I have heard about the “failure” of Frank Ogawa Plaza, but I have heard little explanation of what that means. It seems fine to me. Why would Latham Square be different?

    Ironically, the same arguments used to defend Latham Square could be better used to defend Frank Ogawa Plaza: existing pedestrian/bike traffic; established open space (I’ve seen many events there over the years); businesses line the plaza; it’s accessible by public transportation; it has a central location, etc.

    Unlike Latham Square, Frank Ogawa Plaza is well-planned and attractive. It is also away from busy downtown street traffic. It is already built and non-divisive.

    (The same arguments can also be made for City Center).

    So if Frank Ogawa Plaza is a “failure,” why would Latham Square, less than a block away, be a success?

  14. I don’t think FOP’s “failure” necessarily means anything for Latham. FOP is surrounded by offices and businesses that cater to the weekday lunch crowd; San Pablo is slowly gaining life, but there’s still no reason for anyone to be at FOP after hours or on weekends. Latham is on a much busier, more central thoroughfare; both Broadway and Telegraph have much more street life and pedestrian traffic than San Pablo. It’s not hard to imagine Latham succeeding where FOP “failed” (in quotation marks because I don’t think that’s quite fair to call it a total failure)

  15. Native sez:

    “Americans have moved from downtown to shopping malls. There parking is generally free, ample and one can go from store to store.”

    Yep. But the chief consequence of this is the death of downtown economies. Automobile-based suburban planning is low-density, environmentally unsustainable and very high in infrastructure cost. Change is required for the future of downtowns.

    Current (for several decades) thinking is that we can reinvigorate our old, dying, downtowns by creating attractive, pedestrian-oriented spaces where people feel safe from the noise, pollution and physical threat of automobiles (studies show this clearly) just as they feel safe in the mall areas of suburban shopping centers.

    This sort of thinking not only intends to revitalize old urban centers, but also to allow heavily-populated urban regions like the Bay Area to accept the ongoing flood of people moving here. Again, it’s a matter of environmental sustainability and keeping the costs of new infrastructure (roads, sewers and other utilities) to a level affordable by local governments.

    As I said above Latham Square itself is not the problem. The problem is a lack of vision, planning, management and especially leadership (this point reiterated by another poster) in our Oakland government. Whether Latham Square “works” as an individual project, seen in isolation, or whether it’s part of a comprehensive overall plan for reinvigorating downtown are very different questions. In terms of an overall plan, which we in Oakland do not have, many sorts of projects like Latham Square need to be attempted, studied and assessed. Thus far in Oakland, such new growth withered well before its time.

    The WBWs (Widebottoms) of the world who cannot conceive of themselves, or of the world, without their ostentatious wheelchairs, otherwise called cages (by motorcyclists and bicyclists) or cars, will always stand in the way of innovations like Latham Square. So much the pity for Oakland. It needn’t go the way of Detroit. Detroit is the shining example of what happens when planning focuses on suburbs, shopping malls and endless “free parking.”

    By the way “free parking” is never free.

  16. How would Latham Square revitalize downtown more than City Center or Frank Ogawa Plaza?

    Latham Square is pretty much an annex to Frank Ogawa Plaza. It could have easily been called Frank Ogawa Plaza East.

    Frank Ogawa Plaza East would not be more pedestrian-friendly than the rest of the plaza.

    It was a waste of planning.

    By the way, Oakland can’t be too bad. Many people who complain about it move here from somewhere else.

  17. “How would Latham Square revitalize downtown more than City Center or Frank Ogawa Plaza?”

    Whew!

    It’s not about Latham Square as an isolated case.

    It’s not about Latham Square as an isolated case.

    Read my posts again. Slowly.

    When the master points at the moon, the fool stares at the finger.

  18. Oakland really should be building a dozen Latham Square-type projects downtown and dozens more in neighborhood business districts around town.
    All coordinated with a citywide bicycle network.

    What a place Oakland could. A real city of the future that works for people.

    As it is, Latham Square has become a fiasco which has served to disappoint many creative, involved people and organizations.

    Fortunately most of them have plans to continue the battle to make Oakland viable.

  19. I want to get specifically back to Frank Ogawa Plaza East (aka Latham Square).

    FOP would address all the arguments that I’ve read for for FOP East.

    If one believes that FOP is a “failure,” why would FOP East be a success?

    Tim, you argued that FOP East has more traffic, but isn’t the point of the square to be pedestrian friendly? So wouldn’t that support FOP?

    I’m wondering if there are some other issues that are not being discussed in this debate.

  20. “Planning commissioner Chris Pattillo spoke up for a return to two-way traffic on Telegraph because doesn’t want to add to the “frustrating” experience of driving in downtown Oakland.”

    She actually said that she was concerned about road rage because it wasn’t easy to drive downtown. She actually said she got road rage and suggested we needed to widen the street because of that.

    Lady, if you have road rage, what you need is not a wider street, what you need is therapy.

  21. Lots of energy in this discussion to channel positively!

    I love the idea that Latham Square will become a sustainably active environment, with thriving small businesses and an increased focus on creative events. I want to see this metamorphosis happen as quickly and successfully as possible. Since one of my first jobs as a bicycle courier three decades ago, my main modes of transportation, which carry me through Latham square 10-20 times per week, have remained my two feet and my bicycle. As such, I look forward to the day when we will have constant activity in the square without vehicular traffic passing along Telegraph.

    Nonetheless, the plan approved by the council totally makes sense to me. Why start by immediately prohibiting vehicles? Why *not* start by redesigning the space for flexible use? I would love to see the square dedicated to pedestrians more and more frequently as people invest time and energy in holding events. I would love to see so many people coming to the square on weekends that closing the square to vehicular traffic on a regular basis proves overwhelming beneficial to local businesses. I would love to see regular automobile traffic closings eventually extend to nights as well as weekends as stores, restaurants and bars decide see their non-vehicle-related traffic ramp up. These establishments should start now polling their patrons to better understand the dynamics so that we can best plan for the future. However, I have no interest in trying to force many of these people to do something that only compounds the risks they are taking to improve the downtown environment. Maybe it will turn out that these risks are perceived rather than real, but if so, let’s take things step by step and find out. I respect the diverse objectives and want as many people to be able to succeed as possible.

    I’m excited out the upcoming meetings to discuss the design. I really hope we can find a safe way, along with elimination of curb cuts and installation of retractable bollards, to re-surface the plaza so that it feels less like an automobile street and more pedestrian friendly. (And I do mean *pedestrian friendly*. Even though I am a bicycle commuter, I think that bicycles should only be allowed in the square to the extent that automobiles are.) I look forward to further discussion on signage, lighting, tree canopy, landscaping, perhaps even restoration of the historic fountain so that it functions on occasion (subject to responsible water conservation). It’s shaping up to be a constructive and exciting 2014 in downtown Oakland!

  22. R2D2II – Did you really just insult everyone who disagrees with you as being stupid and fat and clueless? Please, emotions have been running a little high on this project, but let’s tone down the rhetoric and keep it civil.

  23. SJ–“Stupid, fat, clueless are your words not mine.

    I think life without a sense of humor must be very dull indeed.

    Debate in a democracy needs to run on the highest of emotions; humans are creatures of emotion. We deny our humanity at great risk. Read the debates of the American Revolution if you don’t know about this.

    Civility is not at all the same thing as censorship, thought control, self-denial.

  24. “Tim, you argued that FOP East has more traffic, but isn’t the point of the square to be pedestrian friendly? So wouldn’t that support FOP?”

    It has more foot traffic (although obviously it also has more car traffic; if it were closed to cars, it would have the same amount of car traffic as FOP: zero). I laid out my reasons above why I think the two are different and why a “failure” of FOP doesn’t necessarily mean Latham would “fail.” I’m not going to do it again.

  25. Tim,

    You and I agree that Frank Ogawa Plaza is not a “failure.” Evidently, some people have said it was. I wanted to know what criteria they used to define “success” and “failure.”

    At the meeting, several business told how their businesses were negatively impacted by the Latham Square pilot.

    Also, if we close off Telegraph Street, it would no longer be a thoroughfare. It’s too major an intersection to simply choke off.

    I don’t see Frank Ogawa East as really booming at night. There are a couple of dental offices on each side of the Latham Square pilot.

    Also, is there a way to revitalize Eastmont Mall or Acorn Square?

  26. Don’t understand why F Ogawa plaza is noted as a failure.

    I think it’s fine and beautiful.

    Not everything has to be built with retail entertainment in mind. The plaza represents the seat of our local government, in front of city hall. It invites people: all kinds, including Occupiers to assemble and interact. Its symbol is vital to our democracy.

  27. ” McElhaney, whose district includes Latham Square, cited opposition from the developer of the Sears building at 20th Street, who fears loss of financial backing for the project if car travel were limited on Telegraph Avenue.” —such small-minded thinking! Broadway provides easier access to the front door of Sears. Why would Telegraph matter? That side has better BART access anyway. For shame, for shame.

  28. I am one of the people who like Frank Ogawa Plaza. I like the location, the feeling of a park near City Hall.

    I’ve hung out there in the past.

    I walk through there almost every day. I see friends there too.

    It suits its purpose.

  29. “They talked as if Latham Square was surrounded by stores, restaurants, bars, etc. It is not.”

    @OaklandNative: You must not get out much. There is Awaken Cafe immediately to the south that serves coffee and alcohol. Immediately north there is a jazz club and Make Westing. It requires some walking, yes. But there are people walking through there on any given night. Get out of the car once in a while and you might be surprised how short these distances are—that’s what improves business downtown. That’s the point of making places more welcoming for pedestrians. People overestimate the loss incurred by a change and underappreciate what they have to gain.

    “I don’t understand why the project advocates have latched onto this particular spot, it really wasn’t well thought through.”

    @bikecommuter: It’s historic. As the place where Oakland’s two main streets (Broadway and Telegraph) fan out from each other, it is the geographical center and heart of the city. It’s a symbolic statement to take that place back for people, the way it was before cars forced people off streets.

    Oakland may not be San Francisco or New York, but it has the potential to be if it wants that future for itself. And even small towns are doing these things because they make sense for people and the environment. I’m relieved that the plans include future flexibility to restore the closing once there are more two-way streets downtown to make the closure less inconvenient.

  30. “Why *not* start by redesigning the space for flexible use?”

    Without a permanent removal of the ability of cars to travel through that space, there will always be political pressure to leave it open. Confusion can ensue from temporary closures, and people will view it as an inconvenience rather than a benefit. Hopefully this doesn’t happen, but that’s the potential you’re leaving open.

  31. I’ve heard people argue that we need Frank Ogawa Plaza East (aka Latham Square) because it should be more “pedestrian-friendly.”

    It is not fair to motorist to close off vehicular traffic.

    There are sidewalks along the streets for people to walk on.

  32. Yacoubi wrote:

    “Oakland may not be San Francisco or New York, but it has the potential to be if it wants that future for itself.”

    But who said Oakland wants to be San Francisco or New York? If people want to live in San Francisco or New York, they should skip all the fuss and just move there. Case closed.

  33. “But who said Oakland wants to be San Francisco or New York? If people want to live in San Francisco or New York, they should skip all the fuss and just move there. Case closed.”

    And I suppose people who want to change the direction of our country should also just move somewhere else? – “Love it or leave it” after all. San Francisco and New York have some amazing qualities as cities and Oakland should borrow successful ideas to become a better city, not to try to be a copy of those two. Oakland doesn’t have to stay the way it’s been. It can be better.

  34. Who should decide these new directions? Who decided that we wanted to be SF or New York? Maybe we want to be Atlanta or Houston.

    Why move to Oakland and complain? True, if you don’t like it, leave. It’s a big world. It’s a big country.

  35. I actually don’t have a strong opinion, pro or con, on closing Latham Square (what’s wrong with me?!). However, it is not analogous to Frank Ogawa Plaza. Jane Jacobs and others have pointed out that public space needs to be where people are. People will not go out of their way to go to public spaces, except for special events (like demonstrations). Frank Ogawa Plaza is out of the way, Latham Square is where people walking, biking, taking buses on Broadway and Telegraph already are. Frank Ogawa Plaza has almost no eyes on it except between 8 and 5, Monday through Friday.

    Writers about public space would point out that Frank Ogawa Plaza is also too large. Only on rare occasions (like concerts or demonstrations) are there enough people to begin to fill it. Otherwise, the Plaza feels yawning and empty, an insecure feeling. It’s a shame that the City put so much effort into creating Frank Ogawa Plaza, it’s really not very useful.

  36. “Maybe we want to be Atlanta or Houston.”

    I doubt it. Atlanta and Houston are frequently cited as the worst-planned-and-designed urban environments in this country.

    See James Howard Kunstler’s blog (author of “The Geography of Nowhere”) under Atlanta (an urban planner/architect convention was held there and Kunstler had some scathing observations). Also read Alexandra Lange’s critique of downtown (if there is such a thing) Houston on the Design Observer website.

    Sometimes just a tiny bit of knowledge can open many very big doors.

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  38. R2D211

    My point is that not everyone wants to live in San Francisco or New York. If you want to turn Oakland into San Francisco, maybe you should move there (or at least spend more time there).

    You have often implied that Oaklanders are “closed minded,” etc. If you don’t like it here, maybe you should move.

  39. “Who should decide these new directions? Who decided that we wanted to be SF or New York? Maybe we want to be Atlanta or Houston.

    Why move to Oakland and complain? True, if you don’t like it, leave. It’s a big world. It’s a big country.”

    We have certain democratic and bureaucratic processes to enact changes in our city. People who want change have to use those routes and are using those routes. People should try to make the city better, not just move to some other “better” city. Does your logic apply to every city? Every city should stay the way it’s been and people should just sort themselves out? How do you think any given city got the way it is?

    Anyways, through this democratic process, you’re welcome to advocate Oakland be more like Houston and Atlanta but I don’t think you’re going to win that argument fortunately. And it’s only going to change more as the car-obsessed boomers fade from power.

  40. Some people have proposed a “change” they believe will make Oakland better. Some people disagree. Does namecalling make Oakland better?

    Perhaps some of those “changes” have already been considered. Perhaps people feel other changes are more important.

    But why move to a city and bad-mouth it? Why bad-mouth those who disagree with you?
    .
    So I still say if you move to Oakland, like it or leave it. There were people here before you. Do they care if we like them or not? Do them care if we find them self-centered and self-righteus and materialstic?

    They might have liked things the way they are. They might have other ideas about what needs changing.

    So getting back to your “democratic process,” there is no evidence that the majority of Oakland residents approved of Latham Square. Many of us think it’s ugly and a bad idea. If people call me “small minded” and “afraid of change” because of that opinion, I can’t take them seriously. But then I can call them self-centered, self-righteous and immature.

    Is that a dialogue?

    Also, many people use cars in Oakland. Many people drive cars through downtown.

    While for some, it is a “cool fad” to be a bicyclist or pedestrian friendly. They are not more enlightened, progressive or whatever else I’ve heard on here.

  41. “If people call me “small minded” and “afraid of change” because of that opinion, I can’t take them seriously. But then I can call them self-centered, self-righteous and immature.

    “Is that a dialogue?”

    People take you seriously despite your unwillingness to take others seriously. That’s why they take the time to point out to you the areas of knowledge which you so clearly have not yet investigated.

    Yes, that’s taking you seriously. If you delve into the references mentioned you could, possibly, go from small-minded to big-minded, intolerant of change to tolerant and even welcoming of change. Your individual quality-of-life might even improve significantly.

    It’s you who are incapable of dialogue. Dialogue implies that all parties come together with an ability to listen, to read and to learn. The purpose of dialogue is learning, not winning.

    Take a deep breath and open your mind.

  42. If I disagree with your viewpoint I clearly have not taken the time to investigate the issue?

    I have been asked why I liked Frank Ogawa Plaza. I answered the question. I have also explained why I disagreed with Frank Ogawa Plaza East (aka Latham Square).

    Someone said that Frank Ogawa Plaza was a failure. I have asked why is it a failure? It is successful. I have gone through it nearly everyday for years. Why do people think it’s a failure? I have not gotten an answer.

    What about City Center?

    Also Oakland has a high unemployment rate. Many people can’t afford the luxury of cafes. So is this a class issue?

    .

  43. Pingback: Vote to Hand Latham Square Back to Cars Bodes Ill for Downtown Oakland | Streetsblog San Francisco

  44. That is the writer’s OPINION, not a balanced news story. It (mis)leads us to believe the only objection came from retail and the developer.

    To say that the city council “caved” to businesses, begs the question: If they had approved the square, did they “cave” to those activists who wanted it?

    In fact, the only objection was not the big developer’s objection. The writer failed to mention the ugliness of the idea, the obstruction to traffic, etc.

    He uses buzz words like “pedestrian-friendly.” The area is already “pedestrian-friendly.” There are sidewalks out there.

    He also failed to mention that there are already car-free squares in the area–Frank Ogawa Plaza and City Center.

    Who is Latham Square for?

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