Monday, October 02, 2006

Oak to Ninth: for Oakland voters

When preparing for my radio interview today, I spent some time looking again at the chapter on the waterfront in my Oakland's Neighborhoods book. Our city lost control of our waterfront for its first 60 years, thanks to the scurrilous maneuverings of Horace Carpentier. Then, not long after we finally got it back, Borax Smith (who I otherwise admire) asked for permission in 1916 to take a 99-year lease on the waterfront. Mayor Davies' response was wonderfully fierce and passionate, and I read it on the air:
I will fight to the last ditch, if necessary, to prevent the voters of this city from entering into a lease which will take out of their control property for which I have fought a lifetime and lost a fortune to secure for them... Any man who would turn over municipal lands for this damnable purpose ought to be taken out and hanged.
The irony, of course, is that had Borax Smith won his 99-year term, we'd still be in it! We'd be in it until 2015. And Borax is long dead and his estate dismantled and all we've got are some mules in the backyard of the F.M. Smith Recreation Center...

So, 99 years have NOT passed, and poor Mayor Davies must be a'whirlin' in his grave... because our City Council AND our city attorney are doing exactly what he abhored: handing out public lands to private developers. Horace Carpentier is somewhere smirking! His legacy of keeping Oaklanders from their waterfront continues.

So what the heck am I talking about? The infamous Oak to Ninth project. The project stretching along the waterfront for which City Council voted to hand over municipal lands to private developers, forever ruining our chance to have waterfront access.

Back in early September, city attorney John Russo declared that the signatures collected by the Oak to Ninth Coalition were invalid. The signatures say that the Oak to Ninth project should be sent to referendum--that Oakland voters themselves should decide.

In a mere 30 days, the coalition gathered over 25,000 signatures (when they only needed 18,000). A monumental achievement --and one that clearly demonstrates that people are concerned and unhappy about this dirty deal.

John Russo said that attached to the petition was an outdated version of the city ordinance--although coalition members tried to get the ordinance from city staff and were directed to the city's website. There, a current version was posted, which was later changed as Russo continued to negotiate with developers after City Council approved a version.

The latest news is that a week ago the coalition filed suit against the city. This makes the third lawsuit against the city on this particular issue. Hmmm, maybe that's because the whole deal is illegal? And crooked and sordid?


Anonymous said...

To Erika M:

Hmm, maybe you would rather see a blighted area as it sits now for the rest of time as oppossed to development that would make our waterfront a vibrant place to live, work and enjoy the outdoors. People like you make me sick, getting in the way of anything that would make Oakland a more attractive place that encourages growth. Have fun enjoying the toxic waste dump that is Oak to Ninth waterfront now you deserve it!

Erika M said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Erika M said...

Dear Michael,
You write, "Maybe you would rather see a blighted area..."
I want the Estuary Plan to be put into place, the thoroughly-researched plan methodically produced by a concerned volunteer committee over the course of several years.
Guess what? The Estuary Plan makes our waterfront a "vibrant place to live, work and enjoy the outdoors!"
If the developers get their (illegal ) way, we'll have expensive highrises that BLOCK residents' access to the waterfront.
I've written about this issue in the Monclarion: the online link is

Anonymous said...

Beg your pardon but I have done research. The Estuary plan would just be one large park minimizing the addition of new buildings for residential or commercial.

Maybe if you also did a bit more research you would know that the Oak to Ninth plan includes approximately 30 acres along the 1.2-mile waterfront shoreline of dedicated open space with trails, large green spaces as well as walking/bicycling paths, playgrounds, and enhanced wetlands.

It also includes retail, which the city really needs to bring people downtown. People like you are just anti development. Having some vertical towers at the waterfront (which the Estuary plan would not include) would add to the attractive skyline that the city an already has. Just to clarify, the towers and development would not block access to the waterfront. It isn’t a wall to keep people out that would be built, but instead an additional urban hub with residential (which includes affordable units) shopping which downtown desperately needs restaurants and outdoor areas OPEN TO ALL. I moved to Oakland with optimism for a city that is trying to move forward. Lawsuits from different groups and people that want to see minimal construction growth, just pushes us backward. Oakland needs construction growth to compete with neighboring cities. I believe in open space too, but housing is necessary.

You have your view and I have mine. I am hoping that the Oak to Ninth proposal goes through sooner than later and that we (the citizens of Oakland that like this project don’t have to sit and wait for years while lawsuits bog down an exciting development that the city needs.

Erika M said...

We'll have to agree to disagree. Our opinions differ and I get the strong sense neither will be persuaded.