A Vision for a Better Broadway

Coalition ignites action in Oakland

If you have strolled up Broadway in Oakland, heading north from 19th Street BART, you may have noticed something in the past few years. The area previously dubbed “Auto Row” for its plentiful car dealerships is facing an identity crisis, as many dealerships have packed up and left. In their wake, they have left vast empty showrooms and vacant parking lots. Now, in the age of $4-per-gallon gasoline, Oakland is faced with the challenge of how to repurpose this space to something less car-oriented and more climate-friendly.

For years, the City of Oakland has considered using this part of Broadway to create an exciting new retail district. Oakland loses out to neighboring cities when it comes to certain kinds of retail, losing sales tax revenue that could support vital city services and help severe budget shortfalls. In 2008, city staff began to create the Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan but the first drafts brought back regrettable memories of the area’s car-oriented past and failed to provide sufficient housing for people who work nearby. The planning process then hit roadblocks and languished for over a year.

Greenbelt Alliance used this time to work with other organizations to create our vision for the area. A coalition of environmental, housing, and labor organizations agreed to endorse a platform that asks for a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood, with 1,800 homes, 300 to 500 of them affordable. We also envision new shops and jobs so Oakland residents don’t have to drive to other cities.

Better Broadway visionIn April, the coalition launched our Better Broadway vision (PDF) in one of the vacant dealerships. Over 100 people attended, including several decision makers, to hear about the bright possibility for the area. Oakland Councilmember Libby Schaaf perhaps said it best: “I don’t know how anyone on the Oakland City Council can turn down a coalition like this. I’m so excited that I have the opportunity to vote for a vision like this.”

Following the outpouring of support, the City of Oakland resumed its planning process with renewed focus. This spring, Oakland is holding a series of public planning meetings. A concept for how to revitalize the district will be released this summer, and Greenbelt Alliance and the members of the coalition will make sure this plan reflects our collective vision for a Better Broadway. Download the vision (PDF).

Marla Wilson
Sustainable Development Associate

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