Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 19, 2008

It’s NoLi

Filed under: Alameda, Development — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 6:56 am

I heard that initially someone in the City wanted a catchy name for the Park Street North of Lincoln area and one of the names that they were juggling around was NoLi.  Like SoHo, or SoMa.  But someone’s better judgement won out and now they are calling it the “Gateway DIstrict.” 

The first of a series of meetings discussing the Strategic Plan starts on Wednesday with the Economic Development Commission, moved on to the Historic Advisory Board in Septmeber, then to the Planning Board, and finally the Transportation Commission.  Also, if anyone is interested, there are two openings on the EDC, one is a community-at-large position.

This is the area of Park Street that is largely dominated by auto related uses, and the Island High parcel, the subject of much debate, is a part of.   Right now between the depressing Park Street Landing strip mall and the soon to be vacated auto dealerships, this section of Park Street really does nothing to prepare folks for the other part of Park Street, which has undergone amazing transformations in these past few years.   Even if you don’t like the streetscapes or the trees, you have to admit that Park Street looks pretty spiffy these days.  Speaking of the Park Street Landing strip mall, even though the renderings are just for illustrative purposes only, I really like the idea of opening up the waterfront in the drawing they have for a new Park Street Landing.

So it looks like the grand plan is to make this area more pedestrian friendly and make it feel less auto oriented even though the majority of the use in the area currently caters to car uses like auto repair shops and dealerships by relocating the auto uses to Clement or having the auto uses be placed inside buildings.   There also are plans to bring storefront closer to the street and relocate parking to the back of the building.  It appears that the plan is to incorporate housing over the storefronts as well and all in all to create a truly mixed use district for the “Gateway” of Alameda.

Under this plan, it is now the right time to talk about what are the plans for the Island High site, rather than the rather premature discussion with the inclusionary housing swap, etc…  Talking about the Island High site in context with everything else that is planned for the Gateway district should be a lot more palatable than a developer swooping in on a neighborhood and putting up its defenses.

Interestingly enough when it comes to the type of business that the plan thinks should relocate to the Gateway area they mention “destination store” which, to me, sounds an awful lot like bigger stores or — clutch the pearls — the dreaded chain stores because the intention is not to act as a competitor to the other part of Park Street but rather to act as a complement.    And there is a mention several times about a hotel/motel use, which I could actually see fitting in quite well in the area.  

Also, what would any staff report or report in general be without the requisite mention about “green” businesses.    One of the suggestions is the creation of a “green business center,” which sounds really great, but then when you get to the nitty gritty about trying to find “green businesses” to fill these spaces, it gets a bit more hairy.


  1. “…and make it feel less auto oriented even though the majority of the use in the area currently caters to car uses like auto repair shops and dealerships by relocating the auto uses to Clement or having the auto uses be placed inside buildings”

    Why “make it feel”? Is it an embarrassment to have your car repaired, or to run an auto shop? And they already are inside buildings, it’s just that because they work with, you know, cars, they also need parking lots. Can’t keep a car on a shelf.

    Have these businesses been asked to move voluntarily or will they be forced out? If the second, by what mechanism?

    Comment by AD — August 19, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  2. NoLi makes it sound like no asians are allowed. No Li, get it?

    Comment by Bob — August 19, 2008 @ 12:36 pm

  3. The plan looks well researched and might cheer up the neighborhood. I live right by it and cycle through daily.

    AD: Black helecopters are going to abduct the honest tradespeople and make them sell quinoa instead of antifreeze.

    Comment by BC — August 19, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

  4. BC, which part of the neighborhood do you think needs cheering up exactly? What would you change? If you live there, I assume you have some specific complaints or ideas.

    Comment by AD — August 19, 2008 @ 3:26 pm

  5. Park St. between the bridge and BV is pretty dismal (and I get my car serviced there). Clement from Park to, well, Grand, is ugly but for this project just focus on Clement to Oak. A good bike approach to the bridge would be useful–it’s a little perilous in the morning rush hour. The Aroma restaurant mall that now features a cigarette shop and a Kragen is a bit depressing. Plenty to make better, I’m afraid…

    Park south of Lincoln is a lot better than it was when we moved here six years ago. And it didn’t happen without some planning. If you’re philosophically opposed to urban planning and redevelopment, then there’s not much of a discussion to be had. But if one is pragmatic (accepting that, while markets are the best mechanism for most resource-allocation problems, there is a role for government to work for the common good and correct market failure…and, yes, I’m well aware of all the debates one can go into on that), then there can be good development projects.

    This isn’t to say all development projects are good. One must be extremely wary of bad ones (of which there are many) and of course of developers who aren’t doing this for altruistic motives. But, conversely, the market alone does not lead to the optimal social outcome (and, yes, this is hard to define) in the presence of externalities.

    Comment by BC — August 19, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

  6. I don’t know if I am philosophically opposed to redevelopment or not; I know it’s been abused from infancy (Robert Moses, I believe, was the first one to establish it as a separate agency to avoid public oversight of his projects). As everything else, it can be used for good or bad. I am more peeved by the wholesale approach which redevelopment employs which tends to wipe out whatever native plants grow well in the soil and replace them with Monsanto imports (to use an agricultural analogy). The result is sterilization of entire swaths of land and economy dependent on steroids (more redevelopment).

    The area south of Lincoln is maybe not the prettiest but it’s pretty robust economically as far as I can see (taking into account declining car sales all around). My understanding was Toyota is the only dealership planning to leave. What about the others (Chevy, the used lots, etc.)? Don’t they bring in sales tax? Why move them, and where to? The Toyota service station is staying too, right? Then you have all the other auto repair places which seem to have plenty of business (I was there yesterday, looking for a mechanic and everybody had a full lot). There’s a couple of auto parts stores too. It’s all pretty well themed and working well together. I am troubled by the prospect of having them moved and scattered, and losing business as a result (and subsequent tax revenue)

    I understand the desire for making things a little less gritty, spif up a building here and there, fill in some lots with some other uses; but grit is a byproduct of having something real happening, like fixing your auto. It’s not dangerous or depressed (I’ve walked there at night and it’s just fine; there a 24-hour machine shop on Clement that is fun to watch at work). There are large trees, which I would be very upset if they get cut down. I would be picking through very carefully through this neighborhood to make sure what is of value stays there.

    I have a lot more to say about design, but I gotta go so bye for now.

    Comment by AD — August 19, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  7. Fair points. Agree about the trees and I’ve also stopped to watch the machinists at work–pretty cool. We should indeed be wary of ending up with what I heard referred to as the United States of Generica. In terms of pedestrian and bike friendliness, there is work to do (respectively, wider sidewalks on Park, safer access for bicycles to the bridge).

    Comment by BC — August 19, 2008 @ 4:54 pm

  8. According to the report these plans are a result of a community planning process, starts at page 16 on the reader.

    The goals can be found on page 19 of the reader and as to the “auto-oriented feel” it’s not so much that it is an “embarassment” but rather:

    …The district can contribute to the City’s distinctiveness by embracing the patterns
    of development and overall character of the City’s cherished neighborhoods and
    historic centers. The current pattern of auto-oriented buildings, parking areas, and
    auto-oriented streetscape environment detract from walkability…

    Walkability, I believe, is one hallmark of what makes Alameda, Alameda and is a good goal for all our business districts.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 19, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  9. One of the community sessions was covered by the Island in March:

    As I recall there were approximately 30 people in attendance. After about an hour presentation about various examples of redevelopment of existing downtown areas, five groups gathered their input. The process was similar to Alameda Point community forums. The biggest thing I remember it focusing on the concept of what should Alameda look like as you from the Park St Bridge.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — August 19, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

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