City launches redevelopment for West Oakland, Uptown

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City launches redevelopment for West Oakland, Uptown

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

By Lauren Wilson / Staff Writer

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If the ideas they wrote on sticky notes are any indication, residents of Uptown and West Oakland know exactly what they want in their neighborhoods.

On chalkboards, large maps and interactive cardboard charts, Uptown and Oakland residents told City planners Thursday they want less parking spaces and more community spaces, like gardens and parks.

More than 200 Oakland and Uptown residents and business owners attended an eco-innovation district launch party at 300 Gist St. from 6 to 9 p.m., an event that kicked off the city government’s redevelopment efforts in the Uptown and West Oakland neighborhoods. Though the city is in the planning stages right now, Oakland Planning Development Corporation, City Planning and Uptown Partners hosted the event, where residents expressed excitement over the possibility of new businesses and restored housing.

According to Justin Miller, senior planner at City Planning, a $1.2 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration will fund the development project. The city will work on local infrastructure, including bike lanes and storm water management, before applying for larger development grants.

He said the city wants to adopt a plan that works for future sustainable development, and he expects the improvements to start by the end of this year. In the meantime, the city wanted to hear from its residents before they make changes by hosting the launch party.

“We know Uptown is a key location,” Miller said. “We want to make sure people have their input.”

Miller said the company plans to host another party next year. At this year’s event, residents were eager to voice their concerns, but some residents were worried that Uptown may be overdeveloped.

John Szabo, an Uptown resident for 52 years, said he came to the launch to learn more about the potential eco-innovation district and to ensure the city protects the local residents during the development process.

“I’m worried about displacement,” Szabo said. “We want a better neighborhood, but not at the expense of the people that live here, like what happened in East Liberty.”

At the event, residents had the opportunity to voice their opinions through sticky notes on blank cardboard displays, including improved roads, more housing and more activity for businesses. At an interactive voting station, residents voted on issues they thought were most important for the area, such as “faster bus routes” or “well lit streets.”

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

When residents had the chance to express words to describe Uptown, many tacked on notes with words like “potential.”

Miller said the launch is the first step to improving Uptown and Oakland.

“Anyone can see the streets around here are in terrible shape,” Miller said.

James Noschese, a frequent Uptown visitor since 1965, said he has noticed the rough condition of the roads and wants the city to install traffic lights at a local intersection.

“Over the past two years, there have been 20 accidents at the intersection of Gist and Forbes,” he said. “We need help making these changes.”

When the city started an urban renewal project the East Liberty neighborhood in many large businesses took over much of the area, but at the cost of increasing rent in the areas surrounding Penn Avenue.

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Dale Shoemaker | News Editor

Szabo said though he is not sure yet if gentrification will happen in Uptown, the phenomenon can happen when cities bring in big development projects.

“There has to be a balance between the residents and the new development,” Szabo said.

Wanda Wilson, director of OPDC, said the organization got involved in the replanning of the area because of the neighboring location.

“We have a lot of the same issues here in Oakland, and we share street corridors, like Fifth, Forbes and the Boulevard of the Allies,” Wilson said. “We want to think collectively.”

Mayor Bill Peduto, who attended the event, said it is important to the city to create a development plan that works for the people living in Uptown and Oakland. Peduto said he wants to prevent displacement of residents and make sure Uptown has the highest standards for sustainability.

“We want this to be a model for the rest of the city,” Peduto said.

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