Over two years ago, while a member of the Park Avenue District Committee, I proposed transforming the dilapidated space under the 40th St./Shellmound bridge into a community asset. The idea was well-received by fellow committee members, City staff and Council representative Nora Davis. The project was eventually added to the City Capital Improvement Projects list with an initial budget of $50,000 thanks to support from Planning Director Charlie Bryant and the Parks & Recreation Committee.
Two years later, the project remains in limbo and the city has yet to make it a priority. City Council will meet on Tuesday May 17th to review and prioritize this long list and we are asking our readers to help support this in a true grass-roots effort.
I made a final desperate plea to Council at the May 3rd citizens to be heard comment period:
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The project slowly began to gain momentum. I got the support of ODOG (Oakland Dog Owners Group), Target and other neighboring businesses and recruited The Estria Foundation to enliven the space with an original mural. I was set to launch a crowdfunding campaign selling engraved sponsor bricks to help fundraise for the public art portion of the project. About a year ago I met with the Public Works Department where initial drawings were presented. This was the first tangible evidence that this project was becoming a reality.
The wind was taken out of my sails unfortunately when the budget for the project came back at $280,000 leaving the project mostly unfunded. The good news is that a financial windfall from the Measure V transfer tax has padded the city coffers with an addition $3.4 million in revenue to fund projects like these.
Councilmember Nora Davis has advocated strongly for the project. Park Avenue resident and Councilmember Scott Donahue as well as current Mayor Dianne Martinez have verbally expressed support as well. While their support is welcomed and needed, the project needs to be made a priority if it’s to make its way up the list that currently includes 86 other projects. Even at $280K, this project is low hanging fruit compared to larger infrastructure projects that run in the several millions.
Challenges for the project
If you’re not familiar with the site of this proposed park, it’s among the most blighted areas of our town. The site also straddles the Oakland/Emeryville border further complicating the responsible agencies for maintaining and patrolling it. The area is prone to illegal dumping and encampments and every time the area is cleared, it presumably deplete thousands from maintenance budgets.
Costs that have so far been absorbed by The City of Oakland although questions of who’s actually responsible have been raised. A 1994 memorandum provided to The E’ville Eye by Emeryville city staff states “the City of Emeryville also agreed to maintain the Bay/Shellmound Street Project in the City of Oakland in perpetuity.” A current resident who was a Planning Commissioner at the time of the agreement validated that this language confirms Emeryville’s responsibility as they would be the primary beneficiary of the bridge.
The office of Oakland District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney has already expressed support for the project so any conflict between municipalities would not be a factor. Some have indicated that the Sherwin-Williams project if built is slated to also possibly include a Dog Park as if this would negate the need to attend to this area. It is my personal belief that ignoring this space will not benefit anyone.
How you can Help
If you were fortunate enough to attend the Skate Park Ribbon cutting ceremony last March, it gave me hope that this city’s stated desire to become more family-friendly wasn’t just lip service and extended beyond their will to influence development projects. It doesn’t get any more family-friendly than reclaiming a piece of wasteland for public use.
1). Sign Our Petition
Join our growing list of supporters that includes PARC (Park Avenue Residents’ Committee), The Board of the Emeryville Warehouse Loft’s HOA, Members of WOCA (West Oakland Commerce Association) and The Oakland Dog Owners Group (ODOG) .
2). Write City Council
If you want to write council yourself, this would be encouraged. We especially need help lobbying Councilmembers Asher and Atkin who have not expressed interest in this project thus far despite inquiries.
3). Show Up
Council will be discussing the City’s Five-Year Capital Improvement at the Tuesday May 17th Council Meeting (was it Woody Allen that said ‘80% of life is showing up’?). A lack of participation is generally interpreted by council as disinterest in a matter. If we can’t get bodies in council chambers, it’s unlikely to happen. If we can, then they have to listen us.
NOTE: The Council meeting begins at 7:15 p.m. but this item is a bit down the agenda. Council reserves that right to move agenda items up in the event a majority of attendees are present to speak for a particular item.
More than “A Dog Park”
Everyone I’ve pitched this idea to has been supportive of it but it’s become more than about a Dog Park for me. It’s the idea that a resident can gather support and get the city to act in our best interests. That when enough tax-paying residents demand that something be done, the city will respond.
Dog ownership has led me on a path to be more engaged with my neighbors and without my dog Fiona, you would not be reading this news site today. She’s changed my trajectory in life and I owe her and the other dogs I’ve interacted with my strongest advocacy. A victory for our canine companions would be a victory for all E’villains.
The complete Capital Improvement Program project list: