Joel and Yvette Devalcourt
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Alex Chen

A Better Broadway, a Better Oakland

Planning a life in the Bay Area can move incredibly fast. Just two years ago, Santa Cruz native Joel Devalcourt and his wife, Yvette, saw the East Bay as an exciting place where they could start a family. Fast-forward to 2014, and they are already settled in and are expecting their first little boy. But as Joel can attest, not all Bay Area planning happens so quickly.

Joel has been Greenbelt Alliance’s Regional Representative in the East Bay since 2012, when he took over the ongoing process of reshaping an Oakland neighborhood plan. He and our Better Broadway Coalition partners, including East Bay Housing Organizations, brought the community and businesses together to guide the Broadway Valdez District Specific Plan—the neighborhood plan for 13 blocks between Grand Avenue and Highway 580.

The one-time vibrant neighborhood in Oakland has become an uninviting row of car dealerships. Early versions of the revitalization plan called for car-centric, big-box retail. But this history-filled neighborhood deserved better. It needed a plan that serves its residents and could transform it into a destination, not just a thoroughfare for cars.

“This plan stitches together the fabric of downtown Oakland—from urban parks to arts and entertainment.”

Joel and the coalition worked with city staff to form a better plan. One with independent and national retail, better transit options, walkable streets, sustainable design, and 1,800 new homes—many of which will be affordable to low- and middle-income residents. On July 1, after a six-year process, the Oakland City Council unanimously approved the plan.

“This plan stitches together the fabric of downtown Oakland—it connects the urban park spaces of Lake Merritt to the arts and entertainment happening in Uptown,” Joel says. “Right now is an exciting time to be in Oakland.”
At a time when the Bay Area’s skyrocketing housing costs are grabbing headlines, this success of adding much-needed new homes is no small feat. As our region continues to grow, we need to make sure our cities grow smart. And it doesn’t surprise Joel that Oakland is the city leading the way.

“More and more, Oakland is becoming a community that embraces sustainability. It’s a place with a lot of potential, and the people who live here want to be a part of Oakland’s thriving future.”

This year, voters around the Bay Area have the opportunity to vote to revitalize neighborhoods like the Broadway Valdez District at the ballot box. See all of our ballot recommendations for the upcoming November election here.

Photo: Julia Kim


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