Central Station

The Bay Area's Newest Destination

Monday, April 30, 2012

Help Plan the Neighborhood's Future: West Oakland Specific Plan Meeting Next Week

Community Workshop #4 for the West Oakland Specific Plan is next weekend, Saturday May 5 from 10am (promptly) to 1pm. The meeting will be held at the Cypress Mandela Training Center, 2229 Poplar Street, Oakland, Ca 94607.

The City's consultant team will recap the process so far and review some of the different development scenarios (how much and what kinds of new buildings should be allowed) that have come out based on community input. It will be a chance to learn about the process and also provide input on the direction the plan takes. The Specific Plan will become the policy document that determines zoning (what land owners can and can't build in the area, and what design standards new buildings will be held to) for the future.

More Detail: What is the Specific Plan?
(from the City's site about the plan)
The purpose of the West Oakland Specific Plan is to develop comprehensive, multifaceted strategies for facilitating the development of vacant and/or underutilized commercial and industrial properties within West Oakland’s Opportunity Areas. The Plan will be a tool for supporting, attracting and facilitating developments that provide jobs and services needed by the West Oakland community and the city of Oakland at large.

Intended to be a partnership between the City, Redevelopment Agency, affected property owners and adjacent business and residential communities, the West Oakland Specific Plan can serve as a vehicle for orchestrating public and private investments by having those investments installed in accordance with a mutually agreed-upon strategy.

The Plan will integrate past great ideas and recommendations into a present-day strategy to ensure the products of similar efforts are not disregarded. The Plan will explore a range of issues to identify development challenges; it will then assist the City in refining its economic development planning for the area by targeting specific area needs. The Plan will serve as a concise, consistent way to communicate the preferred development strategies for the Opportunity Areas and in this respect can serve as a marketing tool to attract developers to key sites within the Opportunity Areas.

Why should you go?
This is a chance to voice your opinions about what the neighborhood needs and would benefit from to the City of Oakland and the team preparing the long-range development policy and building standards for the neighborhood. Planners try to make these workshops interactive and fun and do their best to collect good informed input from the people who live and work in a neighborhood.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Photos from Saturday's BBQ Bikes and Beer event

Lots of people came out for the great weather and fun time hanging out saturday. We had a bike mechanic from Bikes4Life (located on 7th at Peralta) on hand doing free tune-ups, burgers and sandwiches from the Fivetenburger food truck (a neighborhood resident), free coffee from Scarlet City Roasting (located right around the corner from PCL), cupcakes from Angel Cakes (who bakes 4 blocks away), Beer from Linden Street Brewery (south of 7th), art from neighborhood sculptor Gina Tolcucci (on display in the models), and information from Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, The East Bay Bike Coalition, and the West Oakland Specific Plan all on display in EBGB Wine Bar.

In the next few weeks I'll post follow-up about a few events these neighborhood businesses are hosting in the neighborhood. There is an open studios art event at American Steel Studios, a West Oakland Specific Plan open house, a Brazilian dancing night at EBGB, and cupcake and coffee tastings all coming soon!

Below are a few photos from the event. Thanks for coming out everyone!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

THIS SATURDAY! BBQ Beers and Bikes

We're getting great response for this coming Saturday's BBQ Beers and Bikes event at PCL. I'm excited to add that we've gotten interest from local artist Gina Telcocci and American Steel Studios who'll have info on their work and upcoming open studios at American Steel. And to make sure we're not just spreading the word about the great causes but also supporting them, the cost of Angel Cakes cupcakes (baked on 14th street!) will be just a donation to WOBO to help them in their mission to improve walking and biking in Oakland. So we'll have Bike to Work day info from the East Bay Bike Coalition, lots of info from WOBO, and info about the West Oakland Specific Plan (likely another blog post checking in on their process is in order soon), and now some cool examples and insights into the local arts community.

Frankly, I'm pretty excited to try a cup of Scarlet City Roasting coffee (from across the street!) and then have a burger from Fiveten and a beer from Linden Street, and a cupcake from Angel Cakes. Maybe I'll need to go for a bike ride to work off all the good food!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Earth Day: PCL Neighborhood Cleanup (and BBQ Bikes & Beer!)

PCL Resident Patti White is organizing a neighborhood clean-up day on Earth Day, Saturday, April 21, prior to the BBQ Bikes & Beer event we'll be hosting. Details are below.

Please join us in helping clean up the Frontage Road which butts up against Central Station and the 16th Street Train Station. We will gather at the Frontage Road side entrance to the Pacific Cannery Lofts (access to dirt lot for parking is at 14th and Frontage Road) at 9:00 am. Check in at Loft #152 where you can get gloves, bags and other items that may be useful for cleanup.  If you walk from the neighborhood and enter at 12th and Pine Street entrance, look up Patti White and buzz for access. If you enter from the Frontage Road side, you should see our unit number on the outside of the building.

New row of pine trees planted along frontage road
What: West Oakland / Central Station Frontage Road EARTH DAY Cleanup

When: EARTH DAY - Saturday, April 21 - starting at 9:00 am and running until we get the job done or 12:00 pm at the latest.

Where: Pacific Cannery Lofts Frontage Road Entrance or Loft #152 (PCL is at 1201 Pine Street at 12th)

Why: There are two reasons I thought this would be a good "starter" event for us in April:
1) The City of Oakland is going to be installing drip irrigation along the pine tree row (you may have noticed many newly planted trees if you've driven by) during the week of April 23 and we want to help facilitate the job by cleaning it up!


2) Because there's another event going on that day starting at 11:00 am at Central Station that we want to piggy back on and encourage you to attend. See attached for more information on Barbeque, Beer & Bikes which runs from 11:00 am - 2:00 pm on the same day!

Please let Patti know if you can attend. We will have gloves and bags available or if you have your own gloves, please bring them along!

Call or write if you have ANY questions. And please - SHARE with friends and neighbors.

Patti White
1201 Pine Street, Loft 152

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

PCL/Passport Oakland in The SF Chronicle Today and More News on Oakland Affordability

PCL and the Passport Oakland events got mention in today's San Francisco Chronicle

Buyers' market: If San Francisco real estate is a little too rich for your blood, how about Oakland? Home sales are up, especially in the condo market, and property developers are keen to show you their wares.

A number of developers and real estate firms, including Holliday Development and Uptown Place, are part of a month-long business campaign called Passport Oakland, designed to entice folks to experience a city that has had some not-so-good press lately. Five "new home communities" are available for inspection, plus neighborhood tours. Barbecues, wine tasting, deals on meals and $100 gift-card prizes are among other incentives.

More information at passportoakland.com and on Facebook (Facebook.com/PassportOAK) and Twitter (#PassportOAK).
Full story:

Notably, it comes as the latter part of an article about a parking lot being purchased for $41 million in ALL CASH, which gives context (albeit, one of insanity) to the claim that prices in SF have just gotten too far out of reach.

Also this morning, on NPR's California Report (during Morning Edition), there was a segment on how middle income buyers are squeezed out of San Francisco, with affordable housing incredibly limited and competitive, and less than 25% of housing in San Francisco affordable to people earning less than $110k per year. That means that most single earner and young professional households can't hope to establish themselves in San Francisco long-term.

And, in case the message wasn't resoundingly clear, another piece from a few weeks ago echoes that with prices so far out of reach in San Francisco, it's still better to rent than buy. Yes, even with San Francisco 1-bedrooms renting for over $2000/month and and 2-bedrooms in the mid $2k range, its still better to rent. Unless you're looking to buy in Oakland -

Monday, April 9, 2012

Passport Oakland: Fun so far!

Passport Oakland has been a big success so far, delivering two well-attended and fun events last week. I got my passport stamped - have you yet? Keep in mind that if you missed the events, you can still visit the buildings that hosted and catch up by getting your passport stamped at their sales offices and you'll get the $100 gift certificate to great restaurants like Ozumo and Pican.

On Thursday, April 5 the Ellington (that tower in Jack London square you can easily see from downtown and 880) held a panel of experts on the local Oakland economy in general and housing market in particular. The building is really slick - it feels like a high end hotel with a gorgeous concierge lobby on Broadway, amazing bay views from upper floors, and a rooftop pool on top of the parking garage. Apparently they just sold one of their ultra-lux penthouse units which is a good sign for Oakland real estate. The panel thursday night was all positivity. Sarah Filley from popuphood talked about the strength of small business and the diversity and resilience of Oakland lifestyle-based retail like coffee, bars, and bike shops. Its those great neighborhood retailers and restaurants that folks like most about Oakland. All of the panelists, including economist Janet Smithheimer and Oakland infill developer Mike Ghilmetti, talked about how we're past asking the question of whether the housing market has hit bottom, and the turn around is clear both anecdotaly (said Ghilmetti, based on sales picking up) and in the data (said Smithheimer, whose job it is to only look at numbers). Prices are exceptionally low, interest rates are historically great, and lenders are finally relaxing their standards to more realistic expectations which mean that most people again can walk into a bank and hopefully qualify for a loan on a home they can afford. It was a really analytical and thoughtful conversation with a clear message - things have turned around, and Oakland is a great opportunity for young first-time buyers or older folks moving back in from the suburbs to buy into a walkable, vibrant, urban lifestyle. More importantly, that home and lifestyle are affordable in Oakland. After the cerebral housing market chat came the fun - cocktails and appetizers in the Ellington's 13th floor model units!

The friday event at Broadway Grand was a pre-party for Oakland's monthly First Friday celebration and Art Murmur. Art Murmur is always rocking, and Broadway Grand hosted a fun way to kick-off the night with free bites from Ozumo, Tina Tamale, and James and the Giant Cupcake - 3 local favorite Oakland food vendors. The party was so popular it booked up in advance so I couldn't even get in! Its a good reminder to sign up early for the Passport Oakland events because folks know these are fun events with great free food, drink, and giveaways.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

PCL Bikes Beer and BBQ Open House - April 21, 11am-2pm

Invite friends and family and come celebrate local businesses, artists, and most importantly your neighbors at a spring open house at PCL! 

As the Central Station community (PCL and our neighbors at Zephyr Gate and Ironhorse) keeps growing, it's exciting to meet the folks who live here and in the surrounding neighborhood. Add to that great locally brewed beer from Linden Street Brewing, locally roasted coffee from Scarlet City Roasting (across the street!), wine from PCL's very own EBGB wine bar, cupcakes and BBQ lunch from Oakland-local businesses and there's certainly a lot to bring you out!

We'll have a bike mechanic on hand to help tune up your wheels for spring and also have info on plans and ideas for what's happening in the future of West Oakland provided by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, and the team putting together the new West Oakland Specific Plan. And if you're trying to convince your friends to be your newest neighbors, we'll have giveaways for folks who come tour PCL model units.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Still Better to Rent than Buy, Except in Oakland!

The San Francisco Chronicle posted this piece last week on renting versus buying in the Bay Area. While buying now beats renting in most of the country, renting is still cheaper than buying in San Francisco. Coincidentally, SF is also the least affordable place to rent in the nation. The SF Chronicle article shows that in general it's a better deal to buy in Oakland. And with such incredible prices at PCL right now, its particularly true here.

Still better to rent than buy, unless you’re looking in the East Bay

With the housing market having plunged all around the country, it’s actually better to buy vs. rent. Of course, unless you are living in the Bay Area, like ourselves, or in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii.

Real estate site Trulia just recently released their Winter 2012 Rent vs Buy Index, where they looked at prices on rentals and comparable homes for sale across 100 metro areas. Prices have dipped so low that it’s more affordable to buy vs. rent in 98 of those metros. The only 2 where that wasn’t the case was Honolulu – where it made the least sense to buy – and the Bay Area.

As we have written, the real estate market in parts of San Francisco and down in Silicon Valley seem to be booming – multiple offers, all cash, above asking. According to Trulia, home prices in San Francisco and its southern neighbors are still pricey, relative to renting. But, if you’re willing to head east, the rent vs. buy ratio drops in Contra Costa and Alameda counties.

“People will pay more for a home if they expect prices to rise and give them a better return on their investment,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist. “Metros where homeownership is expensive tend to have stronger long-term economic growth and little room to build new homes, like Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area, where people expect home prices to increase over time.

For details on the Trulia’s Winter 2012 Rent vs Buy (and find out where in the country it’s way cheaper to own than rent), click here.

Price-to-Rent Ratio of 15 or less: Buying a home is a better deal than renting for people planning to live in a home for at least five years. However, if the buyer is planning to live the home for less than five years, buying could be a better deal if the index is 10 or less, depending on moving and closing costs.

Price-to-Rent Ratio of 15 to 20: Renting or buying a home could be a better deal, depending on a prospective homebuyer’s tax bracket and if they plan to itemize their tax deductions.

Price-to-Rent Ratio of 20 or more: Renting is a better deal than buying a home, except for people planning to live in a home a very long time (fifteen years or more).

Posted on SFGate By: Jenny Pisillo | Mar 23 at 9:00 am