Democracy vs. Development Oakland Wins a Round

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

Lake Merritt © Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau Oakland has always had a decidedly mixed relationship to its waterways. The city retains one of the largest working shipping ports in the nation but elsewhere along its extended waterfront, the East Bay’s gateway city has largely neglected its shoreline. That longtime neglect is more than made up by Oakland’s care for its most popular attraction, Lake Merritt. Created at the same time as the city itself, the lake was carved out of a fetid, marshy tidal pool. Today it is the home of a string of pleasant lawns, walking and jogging tracks, and the nation’s oldest wild bird habitat, the place where Oakland residents go to relax, and where they bring out-of-towners to show off. The lakeshore could be a prime spot for high-rise residential development butting up to the edge of the water. But over the years, the city and its public and politicians have fiercely protected both the view from the lake and public access to its environs, refusing to give in to the box-in builders. It is one of Oakland’s greatest success stories.

Six years ago, Oakland residents decided to extend that preservation success all the way out to the bayshore waterfront. But the initial aftermath of that effort showed that even where communities take affirmative steps to set aside open space parkland and waterways, the attempts to subvert that set-aside to private, commercial use can be both enormous and insidious.

Lake Merritt empties into the San Francisco Bay waters through the 3,000 foot long Lake Merritt Channel, a lovely but poorly-named little creek, much-loved by ducks and other waterfowl, bordered along some of its stretches by grassy banks and shadetrees. But many decades ago the channel was cut off from the lake by a high-speed throughway, so that only a spelunking adventure through an underground passage of uncertain safety makes it possible to walk from the lake to the channel.

Public Money from a Public Vote Expands Park Access
In 2002, in a $198 million municipal bond measure called DD, Oakland residents decided to correct that problem, voting to spend $80 million of the bond money in large part to dismantle the throughway, connect the lake to the channel through a series of bridges and pedestrian walkways, and landscape the channel banks into a more parklike atmosphere. END OF SUMMARY

Related Stories: 

The Fire This Time: Ferguson

By Alicia Garza

Since the first week of August 2014, a rebellion has grown in St. Louis, Missouri sparked by the murder of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. This is a rebellion fueled by state and police violence in working class black communities and its character demonstrates some very important shifts. Black youth are working diligently to re-calibrate this country’s moral center: building from the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, they have created their own historical identity, rejecting respectability politics, embracing direct action, and tackling new forms of anti-black racism rooted in old forms of slavery. As the black youth in Ferguson are innovating movement vision, practice and purpose, will the rest of us in the progressive movement be able to catch up?

Related Stories: 

New Majority Confronts Climate Crisis

By Jess Clarke

The 2014 climate assessment from the UN panel on climate change is the most dire ever issued.1 These climate impacts are hitting our communities now. California is in the grips of a three-year drought—the worst since it became a state—that is already threatening water supplies, worsening air quality and beginning to drive up food prices.2 International climate policy has stalled. Symbolic agreements, such as the one the Obama administration made with the Chinese leadership in November 2014, have few if any enforceable limits. And while the federal EPA has only just begun rulemaking to limit carbon emissions, the decades-long struggle of California’s environmental justice communities to shape a climate policy that inserts equity into the climate conversation is a notable bright spot.

Related Stories: 

RP&E History

Race, Poverty and the Environment (RP&E) was founded in 1990. The journal has a wide-reaching, extremely diverse readership that includes grassroots activists, students and academics, progressive policymakers, and philanthropists.

Pages

Subscribe to Reimagine! RSS