What kinds of open spaces does Oakland need? The City recently posed this question via Twitter as a part of its ongoing Downtown Specific Plan efforts. The Downtown Plan presents an exciting opportunity to guide a new chapter of growth and revitalization of Downtown Oakland; initial planning efforts have already offered some transformative discussions, including replacing I-980 with a surface boulevard, implementing protected bike lanes, and expanding open space. However, the rendering of Snow Park and Lake Merritt included in the City’s tweet was not exactly consistent with the plan’s people-centric goals:
The rendering depicts the City’s disastrous Lakeside Green Streets project, showing a wide divided highway along Harrison and 20th Streets and only a single token crosswalk. While it’s silly to read too far into a sketch, the rendering serves as a reminder that Oakland needs accessible and walkable public spaces, not symbolic spaces that are disconnected from surrounding neighborhoods.
Hopefully the Downtown Plan can lead to some exciting improvements to improve the livability and liveliness of Downtown. Addressing Downtown’s disconnected neighborhoods and overbuilt streets would be a great place to start, especially through making Lake Merritt more walkable and bikeable.