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Re: “Tuesday's Briefing: Oakland declares impasse in labor negotiations with unions; Kaiser to build $900 million downtown headquarters

It is great news that Kaiser is consolidating smaller satellite offices to construct corporate headquarters in Oakland. We all saw Mayor Schaaf preening before the cameras as she is clearly looking to enhance her political legacy. However, where is the leadership in City Hall when it comes to land use and planning for the City? When completed, this will be the tallest building in downtown Oakland. All of that is great, but like the proposed new A's ballpark at Howard Terminal, this is the wrong site. Ironically, after missing the opportunity to build a new ballpark behind the Fox theater to anchor the Uptown district 20 years ago, a medical office tower is now proposed to do the same thing. However, there is one major problem. How does a Kaiser office tower with 7,000 employees contribute to the long term economic health and vibrancy of an entertainment, restaurant and arts district like Uptown? The answer is that it does not. Despite former Mayor Jerry Brown and at feckless City Council blowing the Fox theater ballpark opportunity, Uptown has come a long way as one of Oakland's signature destination districts. The proposed site is at the northern edge of Uptown and the correct land use would be some mixed use combination of office, residential and entertainment/restaurant uses on the ground floor. In addition, good urban design would dictate that the tallest office tower in the city be built either in the Central Business district or at Lake Merritt, not on W. Grand and Telegraph. As planning and land use issues like this project and the A's ballpark have surfaced over the last few years in Oakland, there has been a total lack of leadership from Planning Director William Gilchrist. He has been totally invisible to the public, hiding somewhere behind the politicians who would approve anything anywhere in order to promote their personal legacies. When a city is faced with major land use issues like this project and the A's stadium, it is critical that we hear from the land use professionals. We should not allow politicians to dominate the public narrative. They have no expertise or experience in planning and land use and are driven by a political perspective that changes with the wind. That has been obvious when it comes to the new A's stadium. Schaaf and the other City Council members have allowed the A's representative (Dave Kaval) to dominate the public space and inappropriately turn the process into a beauty contest. Hey Gilchrist, it is time to come out from behind the Mayors skirt and take a public position. Your role is more than to process permits. It is to provide land use planning expertise and leadership in a publicly visible way. That's why you get the big bucks, it is time to earn your keep.

Posted by GPatton on 06/18/2019 at 6:55 AM

Re: “How the California Environmental Quality Act Fails the Environment

Unfortunately, the basic premise of this article is generally true. CEQA has major defects in both process and scope. However, it must be said that at the end of the day, it is all of our faults. Humans are the only animal species that pollutes it's own habitat. Owls and frogs have no lobbyists and don't contribute to political campaigns. All you have to do is to look at the power of money that fuels the willful ignorance in Washington of the obvious impacts and pending doom scenarios of global warming. One major point of inaccuracy in the article is that public agencies who implement CEQA correctly do not allow environmental consultants to work directly for developers, especially for large projects.The normal process is that the developer pays the bills, but the CEQA document belongs to the City or County and they control the consultants work. The problem with many mitigation measures is that many have monitoring requirements that stretch out over time. No Planning department has the staff or in many cases the expertise to perform these duties. For the public to expect that level of service ignores the funding realities that every public agency struggles with every single year. CEQA is basically an unfunded mandate from the State of California that they hoisted upon local agencies 50 years ago. The concept was noble, but without any State funding for implementation, it was doomed from the beginning. At it's best, CEQA can get the big stuff right to buffer against outright environmental negligence. At it's worst, it is used by citizens to block unwanted development and establishes mitigation measures that look good on paper, but can't realistically be enforced. I would bet that many of the same people who complain about how CEQA is implemented would also object to any State or local tax proposal designed to pay for staff to effectively monitor CEQA mitigation measures to their full conclusion. You don't get to have it both ways. It is up to public activists like Kanz to continue calling decision makers and Planning departments to task to make sure that at the least they are pushed to do the best job they can given the resources available to them.

Posted by GPatton on 06/12/2019 at 9:09 AM

Re: “Did Mike Fiers Save the A’s’ Season?

The author is a hopeful fan and I get that. However, here are the baseball facts about the 2019 Oakland A's that should temper any fanciful hopes about this season. First of all, Billy Beane did absolutely nothing in the off season to address the teams biggest weakness, that is the lack of starting pitching. Without Sean Manaea, Fyres is the only legitimate major league starter who can pitch into the 6th or 7th inning with any consistency. The other starters can be good every now and then, but are hit and miss pitchers who walk people and are constantly behind in the count. That means that many days, the A's will be behind in the score early in the game. One of the keys to last years success was the consistency of the bullpen, the A's ability to hold leads and to score consistently in the 7th inning or later. So far, none of those things are happening in 2019. The bullpen has been average at best. In fact, Blake Treinen has already blown at least 3 saves in the 8th or 9th inning. Several others who had success from the bullpen last year seem to have lost their mojo during the off season. Secondly, former second basemen Jed Lowrie always started the season hot and usually carried the team until at least June. His replacement (Jurickson Profar), hit about .125 until about 2 weeks ago . He has been hot lately and with the addition of the previously injured Matt Olsen, the ability to score runs should improve.With that being said, the Astros are still the cream of the AL west and the Mariners are very good. The A's can compete with the average teams in the league, but when they play the top tier teams (Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Mariners) they will struggle without quality starting pitching. The best they can hope for this year is to be around .500.

Posted by GPatton on 05/09/2019 at 9:26 AM

Re: “Planners Look to Enhance Transit on San Pablo Avenue

The Bike East Bay's spokesman stated that vehicles using San Pablo Ave for commuting have another option, which is I-80. Somehow he seems not to have noticed that this option is a parking lot at a stand still almost 24 hours a day. Moreover, it is San Pablo ave that is the option to I-80, not the other way around. The elimination of parking in favor of bike lanes and bus lanes will destroy small neighborhood businesses along San Pablo ave. The City of Berkeley was correct to oppose and not implement the AC Transit BRT lane that will surely impact neighborhood businesses in Oakland along International Blvd. We are in an era where Transportation planners are trying to outdo each other in a rush to implement transportation concepts learned in graduate school. Everybody is in the fast lane to Amsterdam. There is no reality check which balances those noble concepts with the existing physical infrastructure, regional jobs/housing patterns and the culture of California and how people actually live in the Bay Area. Telegraph Ave in Oakland is currently a mess. There are bike lanes next to the curb and cars parked in what was a travel lane for the last 75 years. The remaining travel lane in each direction is shared by buses and cars who are never sure where to turn into driveways. In addition. there are unmarked ramps and loading platforms in the right of way. At the end of the day it is dangerous for everybody. I really feel sorry for those who are visually impaired. Environmentally sustainable transportation goals are a good thing, but there has to be a transition period. During the transition, you have to educate the public to change behaviors and invest in creating buy in for the vision you want to achieve. If you just go build it without balancing the history and reality on the ground, it will never be embraced by the public and in the short term, it is bad public policy.

Posted by GPatton on 04/23/2019 at 8:06 PM

Re: “Thursday's Briefing: Oakland council restores recent OUSD cuts; Port workers balk at A's ballpark plans

It is no surprise that the Port of Oakland trade unions and maritime businesses in the area are opposed to a new A's stadium at Howard Terminal.Operations at the port are the biggest economic driver in the City of Oakland. Not only could this project potentially compromise this business sector for Oakland, but everything in the region will be impacted by delays in the transportation of goods. In addition, selection of this Howard Terminal site will totally negate 30 years of public property acquisition and infrastructure improvements in and around the existing Coliseum site. If Howard terminal site is approved, the City of Oakland will have committed extreme fiscal malfeasance in favor of a public relations campaign by Major League Baseball and the Oakland A's. Those two entities are using the press to focus the public attention on making the decision a beauty contest about stadium design. The A's have already changed the design at least once from the original plans at the initial project roll out. No doubt they will continue to dumb the project down as the real costs are realized as the design development process proceeds. The Warriors used the same tactics to fast track approval of a new arena in SF. They told us how beautiful it would be and pushed the exceptional fan experience. Now that the building is nearly completed, they are talking about the lack of parking, gridlock on nearby streets and access to the stadium. You would think that those issues would have been resolved BEFORE the arena was approved. Obviously, when the arena opens later this year, it will be a nightmare for everybody trying to get there and everybody living and working in the area. Similarly, Dave Kaval of the A's response to every issue raised by the Port unions and maritime businesses is "don't worry, we can resolve the issue later". The people of Oakland should not be fooled or distracted. You can design a great looking stadium anywhere. The exercise is not about how it looks or feels, it is about picking the correct site. That decision should be driven by regional transportation criteria and the utilization of fiscal responsibility by decision makers. There is no doubt that based on those two issues alone, the existing Coliseum site is the preferred site, not Howard Terminal. The question is whether or not Mayor Schaaf and the other Oakland politicians will be duped by the shiny object or focused on the real issues. So far, they have not shown any ability to rise above the noise.

Posted by GPatton on 04/18/2019 at 7:02 AM

Re: “Fixing Oakland’s Death Traps

The Ghost Ship warehouse tragedy was just a peek into the internal lack of leadership and working systems that plague the City of Oakland. As a result, the staff is poorly trained, unfocused and lacking in work priorities. Some of these tasks are life and death issues. Every big city in the bay area has in some way addressed the unreinforced masonry (URM) and soft story building problem since the Loma Prieto earthquake in 1989. It took Oakland until 2019 to make this a priority. Ironically, the ordinance came from a City Council member (Kalb), not the Building Official. This speaks volumes about the invisible City Administrator (Landreth) and Chief of Planning and Building (Gilchrist). Gilchrist has been in his position over two years and has largely been silent and unseen. This is a leaderless organization with well paid senior managers, many who arrived in their positions because of relationships not professionalism. They were appointed and promoted not hired as a result of a normal recruitment process. When an organization fails to value experience and competence in favor of relationships, this is the result. There are many issues all over the organization that are not being addressed and the public will remain unaware and at risk until there is a tragedy.

Posted by GPatton on 01/31/2019 at 1:53 PM

Re: “Raiders ‘Global’ Brand Is a Myth

Like his big brother in the White House (Trump), Mark Davis is wrong on every single issue. It must be the tan and the hair. Davis forgets that the main thing that built and cultivated the Raider mystique was WINNING. When Al moved the Raiders to LA in 1985, they were arguably the most successful franchise in all of sports over the previous 20 years. In the last 20 years, they are among the least successful franchises in sports. The Raiders arrived in LA about the same time as gangster rap hit the music scene and their colors became part of that genre. However, fan attendance in LA is always dependent upon what else is going on that day. LA folks support three sports franchises, the Dodgers, the Lakers and USC football. Beyond that, they will turn out if it is the place to be at the hot game of the week, but if not, there are plenty other things to do. Las Vegas is a pipe dream and one of the shakiest set of financial assumptions ever compiled to justify moving a professional sports team and building a stadium. Approval of this charade by NFL owners reflects their greedy desire to collectively be involved in on line gaming. It was Jerry Jones, not Mark Davis who sold this Raider move to Las Vegas to the other NFL owners. Jones and Robert Kraft (New England) already have millions invested in this growing industry and the other owners want a piece of the action. At the end of the day, if you live foul, the universe will not reward you. Mark Davis is very foul and delusional. His arrogance and stupidity dooms him to many more years of losing seasons in Vegas. Nobody deserves it more than him. He and his sorry franchise cannot leave town fast enough. Asta la vista baby!

Posted by GPatton on 01/28/2019 at 5:59 PM

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