Will The Federal Government Stimulus Help The Bay Area Economy, And How? By Steve Lowe

(Last Updated On: May 4, 2020)

Where should the Bay Area place any stimulus funding from DC in order to restart our Covid-wracked economy if the individual cities here don’t each get a whopper check from Steve Mnuchin?

Commonsense pretty much dictates that it’ll have to be where any large project – or a package made up of interrelated, small to medium sized projects! – can unleash the highest economic redound for its area, and there’s nowhere else in all of Northern California to fit that description better than Oakland’s emerging Megahood of West Oakland, Jack London, Old Oakland and Chinatown!

For the A’s, the City and the Port to agree on using Howard Terminal for a new ballpark, a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) has to be firmly in place, detailing, among other things, how game-day congestion will be of benefit to the surrounding Megahood, an area of town already suffering inordinately from Port-related traffic exacerbated by inadequate truck parking, overlong queuing, limited gate hours, etc. – plus all the pollution that goes with such a critically important Bay Area activity.

Historically, those four parts of the Megahood have been abused, ignored or taken advantage of by the regional agencies hereabouts, but because of its geographic position at the epicenter of the Bay Area and the need for a long overdue upgrade, that special part of the Bay Area can be more efficiently reconfigured to realize an economic potential that years of neglect (and, yes, an institutional bias against Oakland!) have kept unduly repressed.

Without going on about the stifling of West Oakland’s once-bustling commerce along 7th Street by the instillation BART or the dire consequences of truck exhaust on the health of Megahood residents, everyone is aware that smarter systems, new technologies and strategic urban planning can, for this unique are especially, yield the highest return on any stimulus package intended for the Bay Area, guaranteeing the soonest return to our former status as, until the Coronavirus, the “Strongest Regional Economy in the World!”

Obstacles along the way will be many, as stimulus dollars – always less than at first advertised! – are likely to be fought for by every city in the region, many with stronger lobbies in Washington, and coming at a time when the Bay Area is almost totally Democrat and the Senate absolutely controlled by Republicans!.

And there are always those – some even area residents! – who would contend that Oakland doesn’t deserve this kind of attention and needs to seek a lower profile in order to get one or another of its less meaningful projects underway…

However, many of those same projects will likely fall short of the goal we can set for a successful reboot without the kind of infrastructure improvements that only a Megahood-like project can command, especially if the lenders question the post-virus recovery assumptions that each individual developer will shortly have to re-submit before those pre-crisis-originated projects can begin construction loan draws.

So the larger question is this: if there is no better raft of projects worthy of stimulus dollars, who can step forward to help marshall the advocacy groups already in formation so that their voices – and vision! – will be acknowledged throughout the power grid: locally, regionally and federally?

Or should we just step back from the plate, so to speak, and hope that someone downtown or over at the County or maybe a decisionmaker elsewhere in the region will suddenly see that Oakland’s best hope of receiving stimulus funds – and using same to their highest and best effect! – is to formalize our assembly-ready, stimulus-worthy, community-benefitting Megahood project?


By Steve Lowe

Oakland Developer Steve Lowe is best known as the co-creator of Old Oakland, a collection of restored Victorian buildings at and near 9th and Washington in Downtown Oakland.


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