Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 29, 2009

The roof is on fire

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Landing, Alameda Point — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 8:43 am


I normally don’t post on the weekends, but this was too big not to.   Apparently there was a huge fire on Alameda Point Alameda Landing last night.  From SFist:

…They have trucks with variable reach booms trying to spray water in, but it kind of looks hopeless, one of those situations where it’s probably best to just try and keep it from spreading. I can see firefighters on the other rooftops…

The firefighters look like tiny bumps on the surrounding rooftops, in contrast to the flames and smoke. The firetrucks are all directing spotlights at the fire.

It looks like the fire found fresh material. It’s moving northward across the block and sending up pretty black smoke….

Although, when I look at the photo on SFist and then read the description:

We’re sitting at Jack London Square and it’s pretty much the center third of our visual range


Flames are burning structures at least three stories tall as firefighters work to contain the blaze.

A part of me wonders if the site that burned wasn’t the huge water front warehouses on Alameda Landing

Last night around 9:00, maybe 10:00 pm my husband and I heard popping sounds.   Like fireworks.   My husband said to me, “Really?  Fireworks at 10?”  I remarked that maybe they were from the Hornet.  He responded, “no, they sound too close” and proceeded to peek outside our window in the direction of the noise.   He then said, “sounds like someone’s rinky dinky bottle rockets.”

Then we heard sirens.

I thought they were police, but apparently they were fire trucks.

It is highly ironic that this happened on the heels of two major developments for Alameda Point.   The first is the release of the ballot language to redevelop the base.   The second is the news that the Fire Department is shifting the brownouts from the rotating Bay Farm and West End stations and instead browning out the Alameda Point Advanced Life Support truck.  

So, folks are going to be spinning this a number of ways.   The most obvious is the “we have to fully staff our fire department in order to prevent this from happening somewhere where there might actually be people!”   The other will be, “this is what happens when we just leave those areas to rot, attractive nuisances that become dangerous liabilities for the City and its citizens.”   I’m going with the latter.

UPDATE:  Okay as I was writing this, my suspicions were confirmed with a wire report saying that the old hospital at Alameda Landing was the building destroyed, I thought that Alameda Point might just be too far away from the Jack London Square line of sight.

And, John King weighs in, highlights:

A long-abandoned military hospital in the City of Alameda continues to burn this afternoon, nearly 12 hours after a fire of suspicious origin began inside the sprawling aged structure.

All 24 of the city’s fire fighters were pressed into service after the blaze on A Avenue in Alameda Point was reported at 2:30 a.m., according to division chief Rich Zombeck of the city’s fire department.

The two-alarm blaze lit the darkness, its flames a vivid site from Oakland’s Jack London Square and the nearby residential lofts. By daybreak, the flames had subsided but the innards of the building continue to burn – and because the former hospital was slated for demolition anyway, the blaze is not being battled in such a manner as to put firefighters at safety risk.

“The hospital was fenced off years ago but there’s been a lot of vandalism, and malicious mischief-type fires start there,” Zombeck said. Asked if arson is the likely cause, he replied “We’ll be investigating, but that is the assumption.”…


From the Oakland Tribune, highlights:

…”The city deemed the structure of the building unsound years ago,” Acting City Manager David Brandt said at the scene this afternoon, as two fire engines and two fire trucks shot water into the building from a safe distance. “So they can’t go in without doing some demolition first to open the building up.”

“We can’t keep the kids out of it,” Brandt said. “We have security patrol the area, and we put an eight-foot fence around the whole building, but kids see it on the Internet and cut open the fence and go in there to party.”…

Additionally the SF Chronicle story above (John King) is updated with a quote from one of our elected officials.  A piece of advice, never assume that people know how to spell your name.



  1. “The hospital was fenced off years ago but there’s been a lot of vandalism, and malicious mischief-type fires start there,” Zombeck said. Asked if arson is the likely cause, he replied “We’ll be investigating, but that is the assumption.”

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 29, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

  2. Is that what has still been burning over there all day?

    Could see the smoke, and water being sprayed on it from 880 this afternoon…

    Smoke plumes visible from 880 @ High, smoke crossed 880 around 5th street exit, could start to make out source by looking down Broadway and back from angle overlooking Schnitzer Steel.

    I could tell it was across estuary in Alameda, but wasn’t clear where it was because even though I was not driving, I only had a few momentary glimpses …

    Leaving Berkeley hours later it looked like Berkeley was using a crane boom of some sort spraying huge streams of water down on something at the Berkeley Marina. Anybody know anything about that – a fireboat test of some sort perhaps, or do they have salt water pumps to test?

    The Alameda fire looked like it could use that sort of assistance, too bad we spent all that loot repaying redevelopment bonds we should never have issued.

    Comment by Dave Kirwin — March 29, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

  3. We are now under a “shelter-in-place” order.

    Seventy percent of our city budget goes to police, fire and ambulance. You would think that after the second, third and fourth setting of an arson fire at this location in a single evening that some arrests would have been made? As for the AFD, do we now face a permanent reduction to 24 firefighers? I thought that the standard was 27 and at times, that may need to be reduced to 26, 25 or 24. Who is keeping track of the absenteeism rate at AFD? Almost all of our tax dollars are being expended on a handful of services and we should expect that those core services are monitored and evaluated with managers facing public scrutiny.

    No one seems to be minding the store.

    “Firefighters were called to the building four different times overnight Saturday in a three-hour period. Crews would respond to a call, extinguish a fire, leave, then get called back again just to find that a different area of the building was on fire.”

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 29, 2009 @ 7:38 pm

  4. ANT,

    you seem a little hysterical these days.

    Comment by M.I. — March 29, 2009 @ 8:14 pm

  5. #4

    It only happens if you are paying attention.

    It’s okay. Everyone just go back to watching American Idol.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 29, 2009 @ 8:38 pm

  6. #5 hysterical not a put down, you just seem to be doing much wringing of hands lately, where on average you come off more circumspect. You keep saying “Who’s watching the store?”

    I don’t know what people or entities outside of the fire department may be keeping close track but the fire fighter’s web site against the brown out has daily record of “impact”, though I didn’t see that it includes staffing numbers.

    Comment by M.I. — March 30, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  7. I wonder if anyone else thinks it suspicious that we have, within 3 days, received robo calls from our Mayor, a slick mailer from SunCal and a derelict building fire at Alameda point. My, things have escalated, haven’t they?

    Comment by Jayne Smythe — March 30, 2009 @ 1:49 pm

  8. #6
    I’ll try to be more circumspect about my hysteria.

    A. We no longer have a city manager. We are still paying for a city manager, but that person now gets to stay home instead of working.

    B. The firefighters are in open warfare with the city council. The city attorney is trying to keep their initiative off of the ballot. In the meantime, emergency staffing has been reduced. There is definitely a morale problem in that department.

    C. The police department is being sued for sexual discrimination.

    D. The head of police internal affairs (the cop that polices the cops) now faces drug charges.

    E. Taxes are being raised on a local and state level.

    F. The city government is facing major financial problems.

    G. The most emotionally packed issue in Alameda is going to be put on the ballot. We are about to face seven months of campaign hell.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — March 30, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

  9. I have to agree with ANT. I mean, things were just looking bad, for a while. Now, they are looking downright ugly. And there is a lot of money backing up the ugly.

    Who paid for the Mayor’s phone call? And how do I get my number on the City Hall DO NOT CALL list?

    Comment by E T — March 30, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

  10. 8. yeah, being circumspect about one’s hysteria is precisely the point.

    Did you read my post about mediating and doing 45 minutes of aerobic exercise a day to survive this period? An up side to being underemployed is extra time for deep breathing. The down side is too much extra time to linger on the internet and drive yourself nuts.

    Start by putting the C and D aside for the moment and labeling them as isolated as opposed to systemic. I realize the current police chief’s leadership has been compared unfavorably to chief Mathews, but one thing at a time.

    As for A., the pay-off for early contract termination is hard to avoid and not worth loosing too much sleep over. I don’t know how many assistants we need for City manager, but from my few opportunities to have close exposure to David Brandt he appears to me to be pragmatic, reasonable and competent. When the statute for release of closed door minutes expires we can read more details on the Kurita termination, but that’s no help now, so move on.

    E and F come with living in these times, in this country and state. Too bad we can’t make the sources of these problems our central focus, but with the other issues pressing us in Alameda, I think we have to ride out the period where Paul Krugman on one side of the spectrum and Kanter and Republican pals on the other, try to work with Obama.

    That would leave B and G, either being more than enough for one election season, and don’t forget Measure H will go to court right before the election.

    The fire station issue is the less complex between B and G. The petition and ballot initiative are political tactics as are the City suing to stop them, but are not the real issues. A well informed citizenry can perhaps have a positive impact. Support “full staffing”, whatever that means, or support the concept of working with options like brownouts, but try to be clear that Charter changes are political solutions which may be the wrong tool to fix the real problem and have negative implications beyond staffing fire houses. Also in systemic terms, even without immediate budget crisis, an issue to be considered for long term equitable contracts is the terms for retirement and benefits.

    When I told petitioning Firefighters a teacher pays over $600 a month health (in our case $800) they were either genuinely stunned or did a good job of faking for the sake of acting empathetic. I think there is room to work with this group face to face. They live in their own world and we live in ours. They need to hear the other side.

    That leaves us at G. Oh boy.

    I went by the rally at City Hall today and overheard some conversation and even engaged in some, where people were repeating information which was grossly inaccurate about simple things, such as the content of the brochure. Any misstatement in isolation may not be a big deal, but to me there is a culture of carelessness with the details which is deliberately allowed to fester among that group in order the allow them to whip each other into a frenzy of anger and being indignant.

    How worked up should we get at calls for “No More Back door Deals!”? Show me some clear linkage of actions to prove this and I might get excited, but screaming “they are all corrupt!” because that’s how you feel in your gut hardly helps refine the debate. And it does need to be refined to quantifiable specifics or we will yell ourselves blue and never agree on a damn thing or have clear means to disagree in a meaningful way.

    For me it’s not just how ugly this could get, but how utterly and willfully stupid it can get, contrasted to a really informed debate.

    Comment by M.I. — March 30, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

  11. Oh Mark, for heavens sakes, how honest has SunCal been in all its fantastic promises? So they’re selling something, fine, but it’s absurd to point at the project’s opponents and start harrumphing over their “misleading” statements, and the need for an “open” discussion.

    And as an honest assessment and nothing more, I think it’s stupid to claim that a city on an island does not have any more traffic constraints than any other community, and I’m not being “snarky” (that dumb word). Well, either stupid or misleading, take your pick. To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t require a $50+ million bridge to ride a bicycle from San Leandro to Oakland, but for some strange reason, it does here. Could it be that water is perhaps more difficult to cross than land?

    Comment by DL Morrison — March 30, 2009 @ 4:48 pm

  12. 11. Oh D.L., as far as the publicity campaign, the brochure is guilty of the sin of omission (plenty of them), but no misstatements. I posted critical comments of the housing content, or lack thereof, on Saturday. I’m not giving them a free pass.

    If SunCal does mislead even by omission, is that a justification for opponents to talk any kind of garbage because it sounds good to them? I was simply commenting on my observation that I saw people at the rally saying things ( some directly to me) which were in significant error and being listened to by those who know facts but appeared to stand by and let these confused statements stand.

    If I was in staunch opposition I would still want people who agreed with me not to look foolish by repeating garbage.

    The SunCal Development Master Plan was inclusive in terms of the issues it identifies, even if it lacked adequate detail. But ANT is correct, let’s make this about specious claims that the mayor is in somebody’s pocket and forget focusing on things like pursuing detailed answers to important questions.

    DL, SunCal is a corporate body over which we have little control, which seems at the base of many people’s concerns. But as a citizen who is trying to participate in self education and informed decision making, doesn’t it make sense to try to hold ourselves to reasonable standard of accuracy, or is it just a propaganda war?

    I believe the bike bridge is part of an ongoing and separate study of estuary crossings for ped and bike and is not offered by SunCal as part of their solution, though I’m sure they welcome it.

    Comment by M.I. — March 30, 2009 @ 8:18 pm

  13. On a serious note, has anything heard anything about the contents of the smoke that went out into the community? Nothing on the city’s site or BAAQMD’s either.

    Comment by Reginald James — March 30, 2009 @ 10:30 pm

  14. Yes, I think everyone should be honest and reasonable, definitely, and in fact, it’s all the spin around “TOD”, “Pod” stuff that has always bothered me. Unless it becomes illegal to drive, there just isn’t any means of controlling the transportation choices that people make, and that’s the honest truth. So we get all these hypothetical assumptions which are presented with this true believer mindset, that Smart Growth theories will always work because that’s what the planners learned in school. I don’t think it’s fair to say to people living here, who are stuck with the consequences, here’s our simplistic, academic solution to all your traffic worries. And as I think of it, I don’t really believe that someone who’s really sharp would truly buy into this anyway, I think they just present it as a rationale. So I guess I feel that there’s something fundamentally phony about this whole process and all the promises that have been made, which can’t be delivered on.

    No, we don’t control SunCal, and that’s kind of the problem. Why urge people to buy into their plan when realistically we don’t even know what their financial condition is? It’s like “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”. I don’t honestly feel that there’s been a fully truthful discussion about this project, and I think it’s largely because of the incessant cheerleading on the part of some people. That’s how it looks to me.

    And yes, I know the bike bridge is part of the Estuary Crossing, my point is that it takes a pretty Herculean effort to build a new route off the island, even if it’s only for bicycles.

    Comment by DL Morrison — March 31, 2009 @ 9:38 am

  15. DL: I don’t really think that you should be too down on “academic” solutions to problems since one of your biggest concerns — sea level rise — is in fact, largely academic as well.

    1.4 meters by 2100, 19″ by some date in the future, 1 meter by some other date…these are all numbers and speculation and, yes, guesswork on the part of academics to determine what will happen if we do nothing to correct our impact on our environment.

    In fact a recent study has shown that increased levels of CO2 has stimulated plant activity in coastal wetlands which elevates the surface. What this translates for the Bay Area is unknown and will require more academic analysis.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 31, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  16. I think that what DL is trying to say is that the underlying assumptions made by the business people who are promoting their approach as being backed up by what the academics are saying is where the fallacy lies.

    But the fact that there is nothing specific about the plan–I mean, both the longer addition and the “travel brochure” with the mayor’s picture on it–stinks.

    The specifics I mean are these:

    * agreements with Oakland on increases in traffic to China town
    * agreements with local transit agencies on an increased level of service
    * timeline on cleanup and guesstimate on groundbreaking
    * adherence to CEQA
    * how much bonding will be required by the city
    * what about the missing school
    * where exactly will the money for public services come from
    * agreement with utility district agencies on the planned inflation of infrastructure
    * and there’s more…

    SunCal’s promise of jobs (beyond the construction phases) is just that, an empty promise, a rhetorical tool. As we have seen with other places where they have made such promises, it doesn’t pan out, and the public in those places is pretty pissed off about it.

    Or, maybe they are only talking about jobs in the construction phases, maybe they expect everyone to hook into “jobs” and think that they mean lasting jobs.

    Since “more academic analysis” is required, I guess we need to rush into accepting a plan before anyone has any real answers.

    At least, that seems to be what you are suggesting, Lauren.

    The great and powerful OZ, indeed. A whole lot of flimflam for a whole lot of suckers.

    Comment by Jayne Smythe — March 31, 2009 @ 11:02 am

  17. The effects of global warming are observable and measurable thru factual, scientific methods. You must have seen those photos of the polar ice cap disappearing for example. As I understand the climate has been modelled and studied in great depth for years now, and the info coming out of that is reliable. Right now it’s reported that global warming is actually speeding up, and that’s not a good sign. That’s why I tend to think that the higher estimates of sea level rise are likely to be correct.

    Comment by DL Morrison — March 31, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  18. On the meaning of “academic”: here’s something I recalled from the Berkeley Daily Planet that illustrates this pretty well. These are excerpts of essays written by two undergrad students in a City Planning 110 class, and published as commentary.


    “Levy refers to this as “compact planning,” which is very favorable to city planners. Public transportation is meant to decrease congestion and lead to a pedestrian friendly land-use pattern. I see the BRT installment as an attempt to be the main source of transportation in a currently congested street in order for people to initially become frustrated, but then eventually submit, abandon their cars, and use AC Transit.

    In William Fulton’s book Guide to California Planning he mentions that a community has four options to mitigate congestion due to population growth and the least expensive and most practical of those options is to “try to reduce vehicle trips or shift travelers to other modes”. However because of the influence of suburban land use, the idea of using public transit is not at all appealing. BRT is a great opportunity for the city of Berkeley to redefine its land-use and to reject its reliance on private automobiles.”


    “For example, in the city of Berkeley, the meter rate has not been raised since 1992 (City of Berkeley). In most of the areas of the city, the rate still sits at one dollar per hour; … The under-priced parking meters have attracted many tourists and shoppers to hunt for on street parking spots; this directly leads to the reason of underutilized off street parking garages. On a good day, according to the garage owner in Berkeley, only 70% of the garage parking spaces are full; whereas close to 90% of on street parking spaces are taken (Studio 2007.) The underutilized off street parking issue can be solved by raising the on street parking rates to the rates of garage parking or higher. The policy not only is easy to implement, but also, it will have big impacts on decrease vehicle [cruising?], and increase parking turnover. Because this “increase on street parking price” policy also helps to induce a more diverse travel behavior, a transit and pedestrian friendly environment can be deployed in the city of Berkeley.”


    These essays are intelligent and well-written, and certainly make sense as an academic exercise. But you might expect that planners operating in the real world would take less of a text-book approach — at least I would — and frankly, I don’t think they do, not at all. I hear people saying exactly the same things, in virtually the same language.

    For example, the SunCal plan proposes to charge $5 a day for parking at the ferry landing, so the poor souls driving to the ferry will “submit” and realize the error of their ways.

    I don’t see any recognition of the difficulty this will cause and how counter-productive it is, and I wouldn’t know how to explain it to someone in Planning 110 either — if they don’t understand it, then I don’t know where to start.

    It’s an academic solution that’s just oblivious to the real world impact.

    Link to the paper, see comments on the left.

    Comment by DL Morrison — March 31, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  19. Actually DL, the commentary about the metering rates is something that Donald Shoup (High Cost of Free Parking) has studied and written about extensively. I wrote about it briefly in this post. To dismiss it as having no real world application is to not look for the real world application. Market rate parking has been used very successfully in Redwood City for a very very close example.

    Examples of compact development are everywhere, they aren’t just relegated to some urban planning student’s text books.

    And, I’m not sure what is wrong with charging for parking for the ferry, BART charges for parking as well, much like BART the ferry is simply a point to point mode of transportation. There is a cost to driving and the expectation of continued subsidization of free parking everywhere should be re-examined in light of issues such as climate change.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 31, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  20. Well I just received an email from the Alameda Fire Dept. because I asked them to tell me what the debris was that fell into my yard and all other everything that was outside and what should I do clean to clean up the mess. Here is their response”Mr. Grunnell, I spoke with yesterday about the debris in your yard from the structure fire over the weekend. I can assure you that there were no hazardous chemicals in the building. There was minimal amounts of lead based paint and asbestos. As you might know that the asbestos dose not burn. The likelihood of any asbestos or lead based paint being airborne is very remote. The debris that landed in your yard is typical wooden building materials.

    As I mentioned when you clean your yard take measures to protect yourself. Use a filter mask and gloves when handling the material and then place it in a plastic garbage bag and dispose of it in you trash container. For those things with ash on them use a damp cloth to wipe them off.

    If you would like to speak to me again please call me at my direct phone number 510-337-2122.”
    I have collected lots of material as well as unburned paint chips from this fire in my yard and its not supposed to be toxic????? Anybody have any idea whom I might talk to about this????

    Comment by Mike G — March 31, 2009 @ 2:26 pm

  21. Charging a fee for parking, in and of itself, is not horrible, but the way in which the parking fees have been described (as a means toward getting people to use public transit) is nothing short of punitive.

    And this frustrates people, but it does not frustrate them INTO an action that takes them further out of their comfort zone (e.g., driving from their home and parking).

    It is especially frustrating, I would say, that some people really, really do not have the choice to walk from their homes to get to a public transit stop or hub.

    But the problem with the entire question of getting people to use public transit more is this: the service is constantly being cut back, not expanded.

    This is why having an intelligent discussion about the plans to mitigate traffic and what has been done to date are important BEFORE anyone signs on the dotted line, or votes to amend Measure A.

    The fact that there have been absolutely no specifics about key issues is highly disturbing. A wing and a prayer is about what we are expected to believe, as we sign over a huge piece of the island to a development company with a pretty dicey track record.

    Even folks from HOMES have asked for specifics.

    We are all waiting in the yawning silence…

    Comment by E T — March 31, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  22. People assume that transportation choices are made in a vacuum, and that somehow any deviation from the status quo represents a sinister form of social engineering. The fact is that our supposedly free choices are already heavily influenced by public policy decisions, and parking is a classic example.

    Regardless of the motivation, charging a fee for parking is not “punitive”; in fact, failure to charge market rates for parking constitutes a direct subsidy to those who choose to drive. Our tax dollars pay for the acquisition, construction, and maintenance of public streets and roads. Each parking space is an extremely valuable piece of urban real estate. Anybody who parks there and does not pay market price is receiving a direct subsidy from the taxpayers.

    Regularly adjusting parking prices based on average occupancy is how the market price is determined. Shoup found that an occupancy rate of 85% is ideal. If more than 85% of the spaces are filled, the price is too low; if fewer than 85% of the spaces are filled, the price is too high. Free parking is justified economically only if the price can be dropped to zero without raising the occupancy rate above 85%.

    People do make free choices about where to live and how to travel, but those choices are heavily influenced by which forms of development and modes of travel we subsidize and which we do not. For example, we could choose not subsidize parking and instead use that money to fund more transit service. Buses and trains are short of funding because we as a society have chosen to spend our public money subsidizing roads and airports. Other countries have made different policy decisions, and this has a huge impact on how their citizens choose to travel.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — March 31, 2009 @ 3:23 pm

  23. DK

    Where is the repayment of redevelopment bonds at Alameda Landing?….there hasn’t been any redevelopment yet? Redevelopment bonds are they not repaid by property taxes?

    Comment by Joaquin — March 31, 2009 @ 6:53 pm

  24. I think I understand the academic arguments re subsidizing choices, and in all honesty, I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand. I think the problem is, tho, as I said above, that if you don’t see this already, then it’s very difficult to explain. You’re still treating this like an academic exercise, when in fact it involves people’s daily lives, and a whole way of living that has evolved over years and years. There needs to be some willingness to start by saying, “How do we help people do this?” and what I hear as often as not is something more like “How do we get the message thru to these nitwits?”

    If people are already using a form of mass transit — especially one which is “point to point” — then you need to help them get there and use it, not insist that they spend another 40 minutes on the bus coming and going. You also need to be realistic about the cost, which w/ the ferry is a full RT fare of $12.50, and w/ an added cost of $5.00 for parking comes to $17.50 a day, which is looney. The ferry does in fact get a subsidy and if you charge people this much to use it, then you’re basically driving them away from a public service (so to speak). That’s not realistic or reasonable.

    Plus people using the ferry become a captive audience of right-thinking planners, which kind of sucks. First the ferry gets moved in such an inspired fashion to its lovely new location, then the currently free parking (in a dumpy lot next to some industrial uses) now becomes pricey — great!

    I think you need to have more regard for the real problems that people face in making less use of cars.

    (And I have to note: BART charges $1 for parking, and recently decided NOT to raise parking fees as a means of raising revenue. Good for them.)

    Comment by DL Morrison — March 31, 2009 @ 8:22 pm

  25. Joaquin – do you think those debts exist without cost – How much are we paying for them, including but not limited to the Landings bond payments? I’ve never found out what we are paying each tear for the re-dev bonds we have sold, money that could pay for public services…. Then the larger question – How much $ is being diverted each year from the Gen Fund and instead also going to service and pay for re-dev bond debt?

    Bet the city could sure use that cash now t bay a bunch of over-inflated salaries…

    Comment by DK — March 31, 2009 @ 9:27 pm

  26. West Oakland BART charges $5 for parking. Lots around West Oakland BART charge from $5-6 per day for parking. Arbitrary pricing? Or proper market pricing for what West Oakland BART commuters will bear?

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 1, 2009 @ 6:48 am

  27. Lauren: Do you honestly believe that commuters would be willing to walk or bike to the West Oakland station? Would you? I don’t know how many buses run out there, but I can’t imagine that it’s quick or convenient trip, plus waiting for the bus could be a fun experience.

    Also, the Fruitvale BART station charges $1.00 for all but the reserved parking.

    Why oh why does this have to be such a dogmatic, rigid, preachy cause? Why? It seems to be as much about finding reasons to be coercive as anything else.

    Comment by DL Morrison — April 1, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  28. Your point wasn’t if anyone would walk or bike to West Oakland BART, you just said that BART parking is $1. I pointed out that West Oakland BART parking is $5.

    AC Transit lines 13, 19 and 62 all run to the West Oakland station. I would imagine that trip is quick and convenient for those on the lines that are directly served. Clearly Alamedans wouldn’t be taking the bus to the West Oakland station, but would opt for Fruitvale or 12th Street.

    If commuters make a choice to park at West Oakland, then they make the choice to pay the extra money, because, as you said they could always park at Fruitvale for only $1.

    Comment by Lauren Do — April 1, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  29. I’m saying that a $5.00 parking fee doesn’t “incent” drivers to use an alternate means of transit, because the neighborhood is so dangerous that biking, for example, would not be safe. As for the buses, I haven’t taken them and I don’t know how convenient that is, but compared to driving, probably not. I’ve just read the BART release on this and it doesn’t explain the rationale.

    Comment by DL Morrison — April 1, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

  30. There’s nothing “dogmatic,” “rigid,” or “preachy” about using Shoup’s approach. If you set the price at $5 and the lot is less than 85% full, then you are placing too high a burden on drivers and the price should come down. However, if you set the price at $5 and the lot is at least 85% full, you’re clearly not imposing too great of a burden.

    People argue that charging for parking will drive people away from BART, but if you set the price such that the lot is mostly full, you’re not really driving anybody away. Even if nobody chooses to walk, bike, carpool, or take the bus to BART, it’s still more fair to charge market rates for parking because the extra revenue can be used to keep fares lower than they would be otherwise. If you under-charge for parking, then the fares of the folks who don’t park at the stations effectively subsidize those who do.

    We allow supply and demand to set prices on nearly everything else in our society; why is it heretical to suggest doing so for parking?

    I realize that approaches based primarily on objective analysis may come across as “treating this like an academic exercise,” but how else should we approach public policy issues? Based on gut feelings and hunches?

    As someone who’s done a lot of walking, bicycling, and transit riding, I’m acutely aware of the difficulties of getting around without a car: Walking and biking are too often unpleasant and dangerous, and public transportation is too often inconvenient, slow, and unreliable. I look at this situation and ask, “How can we make it better? How can we give people more transportation choices?” Changing the way we do (or do not) subsidize certain modes of travel is a big part of the answer.

    Comment by Michael Krueger — April 1, 2009 @ 3:17 pm

  31. If you’re taking Bart and not driving, you go to Fruitvale (free bike parking, couple of bus lines) or 12th Street (three bus lines, I think), not West Oakland. So the point about how scary West Oakland seems to us islanders is irrelevant.

    Comment by BC — April 1, 2009 @ 3:46 pm

  32. I prefer West Oakland because 3 lines pass through it, making the wait for an SF train much shorter. The parking is also a much shorter walk to/from the turnstiles & is better illuminated, as opposed to Fruitavel which can be a long dark walk. West Oak may not be safer, but it feels safer.

    Comment by dave — April 1, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

  33. Agree, Dave. If I’m going to SF on the weekend to go to the theater or some other elitist form of off-island entertainment, I park at W. Oak for exactly the reasons you suggest. And it’s free to park on the weekend. The weekday $5 fee is set using simple supply and demand to allocate a scarce resource (parking spots at the station), as Michael notes. If it the price were lower, you’d just have to get up early to get a spot. The price mechanism works pretty well really in this case.

    Comment by BC — April 1, 2009 @ 4:12 pm

  34. Several of my colleagues walk to and from the West Oakland BART station to get to work daily and have not had any issues.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — April 1, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  35. #30-#34, not in that order:

    I’m not suggesting that people here would normally use the West Oakland station — I’m addressing the assumptions behind market rate parking, and I’m saying that extraneous forces can affect commuter choices — that’s the subject here. In this case, I’m saying that for some people (probably most), personal safety has some bearing on the choices they make, which would include a choice to walk thru a dangerous neighborhood.

    If you think street crime is not a major threat in Oakland, then you must not be reading the news. What’s more (as I’ve often wanted to say), women feel more at risk then man do, and to reduce that issue to “my friends walk” is absurd. Good for them, I’m an older woman and I’m not walking — obviously.

    It’s very simplistic to reduce this to a “people pay if they insist on driving” statement. No, actually, people pay if they can afford it — obviously. Or they continue to pay even if it burdens them, because their schedule, family demands, sense of safety, whatever, forces them to do that.

    Why defend this textbook version of the world? Because it’s easier to have all the answers that way?

    Comment by DL Morrison — April 2, 2009 @ 12:52 pm

  36. People pay if they can afford it. Of course. Demand is determined by ability (income) and willingness (how much do they value safety, convenience, etc.) to pay. Some people have more income than others. If you don’t like glaring inequality in income (and I don’t), address this directly. But what’s the alternative means to allocate scarce parking at W. Oakland Bart? Queuing? Lottery? If you’re going to criticize people for defending a textbook version of the world, at least read the textbook first yourself.

    Comment by BC — April 2, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  37. #6
    “you just seem to be doing much wringing of hands lately, where on average you come off more circumspect. You keep saying “Who’s watching the store?””

    Whose watching the store?

    UPDATED Facing loss of ambulance service, city could consider new tax

    Combine this with a good segment of Alamedans sucking up toxic fumes the past weekend while the AFD and APD tried to figure out why an abandoned building kept catching fire and I would question the competence of those receiving our tax dollars. Would you continue to hire a plumber who flooded your home each time you called? As long as we keep accepting this level of service, we’ll continue receiving it.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — April 2, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  38. i loved that place.
    fun to explore, creepy at night :]

    Comment by angela — April 7, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

  39. Michele Ellson wrote an update on the story.

    I would raise several questions:

    1. Why weren’t the police able to make an arrest after repeated arson fires were set?

    2. Considering the number of people affected by the smoke and ash, why wasn’t the fire fought more aggressively?

    3. Why is the city’s telephone alert system non-functional?

    This incident has really shaken my confidence in our local public safety departments. Considering that 70 percent of the city’s budget goes to public safety, I would expect better.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — April 9, 2009 @ 12:56 pm

  40. Forgive me if I’ve already posted here about this, but after testing fire debris and finding out it was 10% asbestos, a neighbor and I decided to start a blog devoted to forcing the city and the BAAQMD to clean up the asbestos it seems the fire scattered over the island. There is much that you can do. Please come on over and join us. thanks.

    Comment by zizzlah — April 9, 2009 @ 11:46 pm

  41. The phone alert system is a ridiculous problem to have. Because it is part of the 911 emergency infrastructure, the city should be able to write a FEMA grant to get funding for it. There is no excuse for not keeping that system up to date. City Hall needs to be answerable for this. Why do Planning and Building have brand new computers, but our emergency call system is antiquated? Ridiculous.

    Comment by E T — April 10, 2009 @ 11:38 am

  42. Not very impressive security.

    Comment by AlamedaNayTiff — April 12, 2009 @ 12:46 pm

  43. JKW wrote in his most recent column (4/24/09), re ferry, bus and BART service in general, and re ferry consolidation in particular:

    “The WETA board needs to make sure to condition this consolidation in such a way as to protect the existing Alameda service from some issues that have arisen in Vallejo. Last year, Vallejo raised fares significantly and saw a precipitious drop in the ridership, making service there much less economically viable.”

    So the question is, what happens if paid parking raises the cost of taking the ferry — will that lead to a drop in ridership? Probably, so maybe it’s not a good idea.

    Here’s an article re transit fuel costs, that mentions the Vallejo ferry, fyi:

    Crystal Odum Ford, Vallejo’s transportation superintendent, hopes that won’t happen. The city already imposed a fare increase effective June 1; the monthly ferry pass for travel between Vallejo and San Francisco went up to $330, a $60 increase. In short order, ridership dropped by more than 10 percent.

    Comment by DL Morrison — April 26, 2009 @ 1:18 pm

  44. Time to hoist the sails before the government figures out how to tax the wind.

    Comment by pop eyed — April 26, 2009 @ 7:30 pm

  45. The other thing that stuns me is that someone thinks it will be effective to move the ferry terminal from where it is to the seaplane lagoon.

    First of all, that is one of the most toxic places on the Point, will require MAJOR bucks and time to clean-up. Second, how will that increase efficiency? Third, won’t this also make it even more remote than it already is from east enders and off-islanders who might want to use it as an alternative to driving over the bridge?

    Comment by E T — April 27, 2009 @ 9:48 am

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