SPUR Comments on the Downtown Oakland Specific Plan

Policy Letter December 7, 2018

In an April 2016 letter to Rachel Flynn, the then Director of Planning and Building, we noted that we agreed with many of the recommendations put forth in the Plan Alternatives Report, specifically the following: streetscape renovation, ground floor activation, energizing dead zones and significant infill development. Then, however, as now, SPUR believed that that the alternatives report — which appeared to be a major downzoning — was too timid and could, if adopted, lead to Downtown Oakland missing key opportunities for growth. We believe that the benefits and accrue from the community benefits negotiations processes that are set up under such a regime are limited and potentially short change the long term. SPUR makes the following recommendations:

  1. Consider all the potential public benefits that could be paid by new development and add them together into a list of items that developers could include in their proposals as a total set of costs.
  2. Adopt a scoring system that assigns values to each benefit so that developers would certain about the rules that they need to play by.
  3. Consider the adoption of “by-right” zoning downtown so that proposed developments, which score above a certain community benefit threshold, would be automatically approved.
  4. Build in triggers for adding additional public benefits over time.

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