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Economic Stimulus For Oakland Or The Greater Bay Area Metropolitan Region? – Steve Lowe

Zennie62Media note: Steve Lowe is an Oakland landscape architect and developer who’s holds the following civic titles:

VP, West Oakland Commerce Association
VP, Jack London District Association
Boardmember, Old Oakland Neighbors
Member, West Oakland Community Advisory Group
Coordinator, WOJLOO!
Co-Founder (1973), Old Oakland Project

But his claim to fame is the development of Old Oakland: the group of victorian office buildings preserved during the Oakland Redevelopment Agency’s focus on remaking the City Center of Downtown Oakland during the 1980s. Steve is also noted as a tireless urban-planning-focused idea machine, who long advocated a farmers’ market on Oakland Army Base land. Today, Steve’s a volunteer on the Howard Terminal Community Benefits Group for the Howard Terminal Waterfront Ballpark Project. Steve posted this email here at Oakland News Now, which was originally sent to members of the Howard Terminal group he is involved with.

Back in the pre-ZOOM era when you first arrived to take over the reins at OEWD, I wrote what I hoped might be a welcome letter, as below, to see if we might meet and discuss some of West Oakland Commerce Association (WOCA’s) more pressing – or depressing! – issues, many of which have certainly become even more crucial due to the understandable diversion of proper attention that the virus appears to have brought with it.

Our concerns for West Oakland and the rest of District 3 remain much the same, even though our meetings during the virus outbreak and tenure have been severely diminished or even simply curtailed altogether until we can resume the constant struggle against blight, oppression, prejudice and neglect that, all too obviously, has kept our uniquely-situated area from its true potential for far too long.

Interestingly – even propitiously! – that latent potential has recently been thrust into the forefront of Bay Area economic planning via the combination of the Howard Terminal Community Benefits Agreement (HT-CBA) process, any number of Economic Stimulus programs out of Washington DC, and what many have come to believe is a growing appreciation by 46 & 47 of the true relationship between economic opportunity and social inequity.

All of the HT-CBA Topic Cohorts are focused on improving equity and opportunity for West Oakland, Chinatown, Jack London and Old Oakland (Waterside Oakland!), the four long-neglected neighborhoods which are now irrevocably linked together through the HT-CBA process as both a waiting opportunity and, if allowed to remain mired in blight, toxicity and congestion, the worst possible bloodsucking effect on the surrounding Bay Area economy.

Even without the proposed “Ballpark & Village” project at Howard Terminal, redound to Waterside Oakland – and therefore the rest of our City and the entire ABAG Area! – can be delivered almost immediately via an overhaul of the most snarled, tangled and polluted transportation corridor in Northern California, an accepted dysfuntionality that our HT-CBA Steering Committee agrees must be overcome before sanctioning any kind of development, much less a residential one, in that already-overcongested locale.

As relieving that very difficult corridor – plus the many other, not unrelated deficiencies – of the Waterside area would do more to revive our pandemic-stalled Bay Area economy, shouldn’t Oakland be assembling a Waterside-based roll-up mega-project that would, more than any other means, augment and/or enable many of the already underway (but eerily underfunded) clean air projects that the Port, City, community and BAAQM are slowly inching along?

Such a roll-up, in order to be truly effective as the surefire economic multiplier it can be, would also have to embrace linked projects for improving Oakland’s throughput on today’s perpetually clogged streets and freeways all throughout our Waterside area – perhaps nowhere more painfully obvious than along Maritime Street where truckers queue for whole afternoons or other chances of hours to disgorge or pick up their time sensitive cargoes less efficiently than at any other port on the West Coast – and at the expense of both the health of Waterside residents and Oakland’s ever-declining reputation as a preferred destination for shippers worldwide.

Because Oakland is in position more than any other Bay Area city to uncork our bottled-up regional economy, WOCA believes there is an obligation for our City leaders to demand the regional agencies act responsibly to coordinate a comprehensive state-of-the-art transportation plan for the Waterside Oakland area, and, instead of abandoning Oakland altogether, as MTC / ABAG did just a few years ago, recognize it as the epicenter of the Bay Area and the keystone of its economic comeback as the “Strongest Regional Economy in the World.”

Please let us know if progress is being made along these lines in the Bay Area’s application for federal stimulus funding, as ignoring this aspect of Oakland’s true role in the regional economy and focusing on some other project only speaks volumes about the status of economic thinking among our reportedly elite institutional minds.

Steve Lowe

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