Note: this post on Sidewalk Café Tables in Oakland’s Glenview District is the first by Alton Jelks for Oakland News Now. Alton worked with Zennie62Media’s Zennie Abraham in the Office of Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris from 1991 to 1998, and is presently a facilitator and organizational planning consultant. You can learn more at his Linkedin Page here.
First, what other cities do on any issue of public policy is not proof that similar action is warranted for Oakland. Small businesses in Oakland have struggled for years to get anything close to the level of City attention afforded to corporations and big box stores. Walmart, however, rarely if ever builds a neighborhood; coffee shops, local markets, restaurants, gift shops, hardware stores, and yes, nails shops, do.
Second, the small businesses in Oakland’s Glenview District have been putting a few café tables next to their stores for years. Ultimate Grounds has two. Savemore Market has three. Others have some as well.
In walking the Glenview Business area almost daily, I have never seen a situation where I couldn’t pass easily. Perhaps not everyone can, for instance, someone in a wheelchair might have a problem along the route, and businesses must take care. But If there have been complaints about this, they have yet to be made public as far as I know. Perhaps someone did.
People value the quality of life available to them in the area where they live. They call it a neighborhood, and if there are shops, etc., then ambience becomes important. In general, ambience means shops look nice, create a good environment, and entice people to the neighborhood. Café tables are recognized not only in Berkeley, or San Francisco or Paris as a small step that can be taken to achieve this, but in much of Oakland as well.
Glenview is no exception.
Its $2,100 Just To Get A Permit For Cafe Tables In Oakland’s Glenview District
For the sake of argument, let’s agree that if a business wants to put tables out front, they ought to let the City know by obtaining a permit. The reason? To ensure public safety.
But in this case, the fee appears to be a mind-boggling $2100. Plus, the shop owners say they are required to hire an architect to measure the tables and sidewalk. This fee is way out of line. Perhaps $100 per table would be more appropriate. And the architect? Can’t the city staff member strolling about the neighborhood enforcing the rule bring a tape measure?
In my work, I rarely find anyone happy with bureaucracy, but they often do little about it. In this case, why would we simply allow this to happen without raising concerns about how it’s being handled, its structure, and its potential impact? It’s our neighborhood, not city hall’s, and the most affected people are the families that own the businesses. And by the way, taking any parking away in a small commercial area is clearly not a viable option. Changing this policy is.
Talk to your Oakland elected officials, and support our local businesses.