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Posts from the "Oakland" Category

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Scenes from Oakland’s Bike Away From Work Party

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A well-trained passenger arrives in Old Oakland.

Oakland’s official Bike to Work Day after-party kicked into high gear in Old Oakland last night. Over 600 people converged to dance, eat, drink, mingle, and just take in the atmosphere from the middle of the street.

“We saw people of all ages out enjoying bicycle carnival rides, great local food, and the company of our vibrant East Bay cycling community,” said Renee Rivera, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), which spearheaded the event. “I look forward to the event growing into an Oakland institution as more and more people bike everyday here in the East Bay.”

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Walk Oakland Bike Oakland executive director Kassie Rohrbach and EBBC executive director Renee Rivera draw raffle winners.

Raffle drawings and award presentations punctuated the ceremony.

The EBBC recognized this year’s Bike-Friendly Businesses, Clif Bar, Sun Light & Power, and Alta Planning & Design, for taking that extra step to motivate their employees to ride to work.

“I wish we could make 30 awards instead of three,” lamented Rivera. “So many businesses in the East Bay realize that cycling to work makes their employees healthier, happier, and more productive.”

Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner presented Alameda County’s Bike Commuter of the Year award to sixth grader Jason Hollick, already a successful cycling advocate among his friends and family.

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Record-breaking 10,000 People Biked to Work in Alameda County Today

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Gloria Bruce, WOBO board president, at the Rally for Bikeways

Bike to Work Day is underway in Alameda County, and this year’s riders already broke last year’s record by 12.3 percent.

The Cities of Emeryville and Berkeley saw the largest increases, with 15 and 14 percent increases respectively. At one point, a quarter of street traffic at Sproul Plaza in the heart of Downtown Berkeley was bicycles.

Even Oakland, with a mere eight percent increase, set a new city record for its Bike to Work Day turnout.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) organized 79 energizer stations throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. The stations dotted major corridors and destinations, offering a place for cyclists to stock up on coffee, snacks, tote bags of coupons and maps, and information about local bicycle organizations. Several stations adopted themes to give their patrons an extra boost of energy and excitement on their commute.

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Oakland Hopes to Approve City’s First Parklet by September

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Photo: Actual Cafe's temporary parklet on PARK(ing) Day 2010 could be a real parklet by PARK(ing) Day 2011.

Just over one year after San Francisco’s first parklet was installed outside Mojo Cafe, East Bay streets are conspicuously lacking these popular islands of livable public space. That’s about to change.

This week, Oakland is expected to take the first step toward bringing parklets to the sunny side of the Bay, convening a special cross-department city task force on Thursday. Its mission is to draft a new ordinance that would allow Oakland to permit parklets as a unique type of encroachment.

“We had a lot of staff members who all thought it was a great idea, and they got together to figure out how to do it,” explained Eric Angstadt, deputy director of Oakland’s Planning and Zoning Division.

Representatives of several departments were invited, including Building Services, Planning, Parks and Recreation, and Police, but the heavy lifting, according to Angstadt, will likely come from the Community and Economic Development (CEDA) and Public Works agencies.

The group’s leadership intends to present a draft ordinance to the City Council before the council’s summer recess at the end of July. The Oakland City Council requires at least two months to “agendize” items, a deadline that is less than three weeks away. Angstadt is optimistic that the staff’s personal interest in seeing parklets come to Oakland will motivate the process to keep a brisk pace.

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AC Transit Riders Fight For Their Right to Ride, 55 Years After Montgomery

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Colin Miller of Urban Habitat holds up gravestones in memory of bus lines that have been cut. Photo: Reginald James

Editor’s note: This story is being re-published from Race, Poverty and the Environment, a magazine produced by the social and environmental justice non-profit, Urban Habitat.

Fifty-five years to the month after the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, people of color can sit wherever they want on the bus—when and if one arrives. Bus operators all over the country are slashing routes in response to deepening deficits. This loss of service denies people who depend on transit their civil rights in deep, daily, grinding, unmistakable ways.

Bus riders in Oakland and throughout western Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have lost nearly 15 percent of their AC Transit routes in 2010. Deeper cuts were forestalled by the drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192, which refused to agree to a new contract unless the agency postponed further service reductions for at least three months. Now it looks like those cuts will be back on the table in January, and riders and drivers plan to protest at tomorrow’s AC Transit meeting.

“We are the heart throb of this city,” AC Transit driver Lorenzo Jacobs said, speaking at a May 2010 public hearing against the cuts. “When you start cutting service, you’re cutting opportunities out there for people who are doing whatever they’re doing in their lives. When you cut lines, you’re affecting people’s lives, their everyday lives,” he said.

The service cuts directly impact Oakland youth, who need AC Transit to get to school because the district doesn’t run yellow school buses; they hurt seniors and people with disabilities who can’t drive, and low-income families who can’t afford cars. Lack of mobility cuts off opportunities for work and education, enforces inequality and persistent segregation. African-Americans and Latinos are far less likely than whites to own cars. Nationally, around 62 percent of city bus riders are African American and Latino. Nearly 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color.

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StreetFilms 7 Comments

Streetfilms: Thousands Play in Oakland’s Streets at First-Ever ‘Oaklavia’

On Sunday, June 27th, downtown Oakland opened two miles of its streets to fun and activities—zumba dancing, circus arts, BMX bike competitions and performances from local musicians. Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) partnered with the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Oaklandish, Oakland YMCA, Cycles of Change, and other civic organizations to create the East Bay's first “Sunday Streets” style event. Preparations are in the works for another Oaklavia in the near future. 

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Thousands Play in the Streets as Oaklavia Transforms Downtown Oakland

Oaklavia transformed a swath of downtown Oakland to a vibrant streetscape Sunday, in its first ever ciclovia-style event, with café seating in the streets, yoga classes, dancers, musicians, food carts and games. More than two thirds of the estimated 3,000 - 4,000 people who turned out to experience the joy of car-free streets were people who rode their bicycles. 

WalkOaklandBikeOakland (WOBO), the organizer, called the event a success, and said businesses and elected leaders were thrilled, and the community response was overwhelmingly positive.

"My favorite quote was a woman who said 'This is a better Oakland,'" said Kassie Rohrbach, WOBO's Executive Director. "WOBO is making Oakland a better place to walk and bike and that quote really captured exactly what we hoped folks would feel from the day."

One of the most popular spots on the route was Washington Street between 8th and 9th in Old Oakland. A parklet, hosted by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC), featured astroturf, outdoor seating for nearby restaurants and shady benches. A fooz ball table got continuous play despite the fact that it wasn't level. Musicians, gardeners, and bicycle tailors gravitated to the block, creating a lively street scene.

Restaurants that chose to open did a brisk business. Café 817 on Washington Street in Old Oakland is normally closed on Sunday. "We didn't expect anything," Lillian, one of the owners, said as she prepared salads behind the counter. "It's been great." She would be happy to see the event repeated and "we will be more ready for it next time."

And then there were the kids, so many kids. Little ones came in trailers, bike seats, bakfiets and on trail-a-bikes. Others scooted down the street on skuuts, tricycles, and scooters. Small people spun big hula hoops. The parking lot of Kinetic Arts was packed with bicycles as parents and kids poured in for circus arts performances and classes.

WOBO took the opportunity to stencil a temporary bike lane on Broadway. The organization's Bike Broadway Campaign seeks "a continuous and safe north-south bicycle boulevard on Broadway." The success of Oaklavia in demonstrating the vitality of safe streets for cyclists should help move that goal forward.

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The Nowtopian 9 Comments

Bridge the Gap!

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As I climbed the steps out of the Lake Merritt BART station this morning I heard loud chanting. "Wow," I thought, "those bicyclists have really pulled out the troops!" But the demonstrators that greeted me across 8th Street in Oakland were pile drivers, iron workers, carpenters and other trades workers, chanting "Jobs for Oakland Now!" Not far from their boisterous demonstration in front of the main doors of the Joseph Brot Metro Center were a few cyclists showing their signs to passersby, "Bridge the Gap Now" "All the Way Across the Bay" and "Safety Path!" Across the street, Transform and Urban Habitat were also making their presence felt, opposing the Oakland Airport Connector that the building trades unionists were clamoring for.

Democracy in action, I suppose. Long-time bicycle advocates from the East Bay and San Francisco converged on this meeting, hoping to convince the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) to support using some of the new tolls ($5 on all bridges as of July 1, with $6 congestion pricing on the Bay Bridge during rush hour, and for the first time, a half-price toll for carpoolers) to fund a new west-span bicycle/pedestrian/maintenance/safety lane to make the bridge safer, and to finish the transbay route for bicyclists and pedestrians too, not just motorized vehicles. But that effort was bureaucratically sidetracked before this meeting even started.

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Some Bay Area Developers Ditch the Extra Parking Spaces for More Units

When it comes to building new developments in the Bay Area, especially in San Francisco, the battle over limiting the construction of new parking spaces is pitched. Parking reform advocacy organizations like Livable City, which maintains a listserv populated by car-free and livable-city advocates keeping a keen watch on planning commission parking exemptions, have long encouraged city leaders to tighten the parking-to-unit ratios in dense neighborhoods flush with transit and bicycling options.

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Why, these advocates ask, would any city seeking to be a model of sustainability require developments to have one parking space per unit, as is the case across San Francisco outside of the downtown core and certain neighborhood plan zones (the mandatory parking ratio can be higher in other Bay Area cities)? San Francisco is the city it is because it was built densely, with minimal parking, and areas like the Mission or North Beach would be impossible with 1:1 ratios.

And who should they hang for granting variances permitting higher than 2:1 ratios, as happened last week when a two-unit home at 2626 Larkin Street in Russian Hill received permission from the San Francisco Planning Commission to build five parking spaces, one with a parking stacker for additional cars?

When these questions are asked of city planners and developers, like they were during the struggle to limit parking at 299 Valencia Street, advocates and political leaders are led to believe that it is impossible to finance new developments, particularly condos and non-rental properties, without the maximum parking ratio possible. Less parking, goes the developer refrain, banks will refuse to loan and the units will be impossible to re-sell.

Not all developers buy that argument, however, and some have buildings that disprove it.

"If you are doing a project next to BART or many buses, you really don't need to have a lot of cars," said Oz Erickson, Chairman of the Emerald Fund, Inc, a developer who has built more than 2,000 units in San Francisco. Emerald's newest development, a rental building at 333 Harrison Street in Rincon Hill, will be built with a .5:1 parking-to-unit ratio, even though the developer could appeal for a variance to build more parking.

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CA Poised to Reform Auto-Centric Level of Service Environmental Rules

California administrative rulemakers recently moved a step closer to reforming the section of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that has compelled cities to focus undue attention on the age-old Automobile Level of Service (LOS) threshold for impacts of new projects and has led to the construction of excess off-street parking.

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The state's Natural Resources Agency released the newest revisions of Appendix G of the CEQA guidelines (the Environmental Checklist Form) late on Friday afternoon, setting off a flurry of emails from proponents of LOS reform, including officials in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, as well as transit and bicycle advocates.

As we documented on Streetsblog, over-reliance on LOS considerations by planners has traditionally led to widening intersections and roadways to improve the flow of automobile traffic at the expense of other modes. If the amendments made by Natural Resources stand and are formalized by January 1, 2010, the deadline for the changes, cities and counties around the state will have the flexibility to consider capacity metrics like LOS alongside other metrics that prioritize transit, pedestrians, and cyclists. The new rules would even allow city planners to walk away from LOS completely.

From the introduction to the proposed changes:

The intent of those amendments was to recognize a lead agency’s discretion to choose its own methodology for determining transportation-related impacts of a project while ensuring that all components of a circulation system are addressed in the analysis. The proposed revisions would refocus the question from the capacity of the circulation system to the performance of the circulation system as indicated in an applicable plan or ordinance. The proposed revisions also clarify and update language regarding safety considerations and other mass transit and non-motorized transportation issues.

In San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom's Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the City Attorney have been collaborating with the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (TA) to replace LOS with a new metric for measuring the projected environmental impacts of a development or a project by the total number of new automobile trips it will generate (ATG). The city and county believe this new metric would move the focus away from how many cars move through a particular intersection to how many additional cars would be added to the total traffic picture. By default, this metric would prioritize transit improvements, bicycle infrastructure, and pedestrian safety measures, none of which would add automobile trips.

"This is a fantastic development with tremendous impact for transportation analysis in California," said TA Executive Director Jose Luis Moscovich in an email. "We are optimistic that, after two rounds of hearings and comments, the CEQA guidelines will drop references to congestion and automobile LOS. The Authority is proud to have worked hard with our partners at the Mayor's office and City Attorney's office to bring about this exciting reform."

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Donald Shoup Calls San Francisco Parking Meter Study “Pathbreaking”

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With the debate about parking meter rates and hours raging on both sides of the Bay, Streetsblog called UCLA Professor Donald Shoup, author of The High Cost of Free Parking and arguably the world's foremost parking expert, and asked him his opinion on the new San Francisco MTA parking meter study, which was released on Tuesday and calls for increasing meter hours in commercial districts where parking occupancy rises above 85 percent and where businesses are open late on weekdays and on Sundays.

Professor Shoup had read the study and called it "pathbreaking," lauding the MTA for being thorough and data-driven and for embracing occupancy targets for managing parking supply.

Professor Shoup also re-iterated the importance of Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) as a tool for selling parking reform to the public. In CBDs, a portion of the new meter revenue collected in commercial districts is returned to that district for sidewalk repair, street trees, enhanced street cleaning, etc., so that businesses can see firsthand how parking revenue improves their streets.

MTA Chief Nat Ford told Streetsblog his agency is not yet ready to have that discussion, and further complications arise because the Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining sidewalks. How and when an arrangement between the two agencies would be brokered is anyone's guess.

Professor Shoup also pointed to Redwood City, Ventura, and Old Pasadena for best practice examples of occupancy-based parking policy changes that have revitalized neighborhoods and facilitated business. Read his full comments after the jump.

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