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[whitespace] Oakland Lovers Soft and Supple: Oaktown's reputation as a gang-hardened urban thunderdome is fading fast.

Photograph by Greg Roden

Residential Rebirth

Creating a livable downtown Oakland

by Kate White, courtesy of Urban View

In the flush of a landslide election and a strong mayor mandate, Mayor Jerry Brown has set out to bring in these 10,000 new residents in an effort to breathe new life into the shell of a city downtown Oakland becomes when offices close for the evening and weekend.

A lot of old office buildings still sit vacant downtown. To encourage their re-use, the Planning Commission passed a new policy in June that makes it easier to convert non-residential buildings into residential. In cities like New York and Toronto, converting old office buildings to housing is providing thousands of new living units and bringing life to the street after 5pm.

A key feature of a livable city is the ability to get around simply by foot, bike or transit. The logic is simple: Streets and buildings that appeal to the pedestrian and well placed, dependable transit will encourage the walking and transit use that are part of a vibrant urban life. Compared to the low-density, auto-dependent outlying Bay Area suburbs, downtown Oakland is blessed with an existing transportation infrastructure.

Yet the planning and investment that creates a walkable urban form is complex. Oakland's city planners are examining urban success stories like Seattle, Portland and Vancouver, which have rewritten their land use policies to reduce parking, encourage transit use, design buildings that can be used for many purposes and make their downtowns great for walking. Oakland strategic planner Iris Starr says, "We aim to facilitate transit-oriented development around our three BART stations downtown: reducing the number of parking spaces required with new housing, expanding AC Transit's hours and stripping bike lanes." Building higher-density housing and commercial spaces would provide the ridership to make public transit more viable.

For more information about Oakland, visit oakland.com.

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From the November 8, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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