Chapter 7: The Estuary Shore: A Mixture or A Recipe
This study has divided Oakland's nineteen miles
of shoreline into three areas, each having a distinct character and
function. The northern Waterfront is the Intermodal Gateway, with
massive ocean, rail and truck terminals. The southern Waterfront, the
Airport Complex, is an air passenger and cargo center, including two
airports and distribution, hotel and other related services. The area
between Jack London Square and the Coliseum is referred to as the
Unlike the other two areas, the Estuary Shore
has limited utility for air or marine terminals. Instead, it contains an
array of activities unrelated to transportation and largely unrelated to
the water. It is comprised of neighborhoods which mirror their inland
counterparts, though cut off by Highway 880.
The Oakland/ Alameda estuary is probably the
most vibrant waterway in the Bay Area. Its narrowness concentrates water
crafts, fishing and water sports on an ever changing "water highway".
The visual experience from the shore is comparable to the urban river
fronts of cities like New Orleans, St. Louis and Pittsburgh.
The Estuary Shore offers great potential as
Oakland's threshold on the bay. T o realize that goal requires a vision
and coordination between the City government and the Port of Oakland.
Recently, the Port and City have begun to
collaborate on issues of mutual concern, including land use. This is
especially important in the Estuary Shore, since it is nearly evenly
divided between Port and City jurisdiction. The Estuary Shore has
wonderful ingredients, but the City and Port have yet to combine them
into a recipe which features the best qualities of Oakland's Waterfront.
The Ingredients: The Neighborhoods of the
shown on Map One, the Estuary Shore is a patchwork of industrial,
commercial and residential activities. They are organized in three
Jack London Square/Produce Market
The northern section of the Estuary Shore is an important mixed-use
district. The most prominent feature is Jack London Square. It is
surrounded by the hardware and discount retail stores along Second
and Third Streets, the thriving Oakland Produce Market and a growing
office and live/work district containing many small businesses, as
well as the international headquarters of Safeway Stores. Given the
type and variety of uses, as a whole the district is closely related
to the downtown.
The crescent of shoreline across from Coast Guard Island, from the
mouth of Lake Merritt Channel to Embarcadero Cove, is undergoing a
slow transition. Fifth Avenue and Seabreeze Marinas, situated south
of Lake Merritt Channel, are in disrepair. The Ninth Avenue Terminal
is the only cargo facility remaining in the area, its use restricted
by the shallow depth of Webster Street Tube. South of the terminals
are three restaurants, marine supply stores and an aging dry-dock.
Between Executive Inn and Park Street (29th Street) Bridge, the Port
has developed Estuary Cove, consisting of several restaurants, a
marina and more than one hundred thousand square feet of offices.
High Street/Fruitvale Avenue
From Park Street Bridge to the Coliseum is a mixture of heavy and
light industries; including a recycling plant, a lumber mill, cargo
container repair and storage facilities and processing
installations. Distribution and other small businesses are scattered
throughout the area. The vacant acreage across from the Coliseum is
being considered by the City for a major retail center. Tucked among
these commercial uses are an active residential neighborhood,
containing single family houses and live/work studios.
Although these areas mirror inland neighborhoods
of Oakland they are treated differently because planning authority in
this area is split between the City government and the Port of Oakland.
The Chefs: The City and the Port
In 1926, the City Charter was amended to create
the Port of Oakland, an independent department responsible for
administering the City's tideland area. Among the powers granted to the
Port was the regulation of land use.
Today the Port exercises planning and zoning
control over those portions of the Estuary Shore which were formerly
tidelands. The balance - roughly half of the area - is within City
jurisdiction. The Port Commission decides land use issues in the Port
area, while the City Planning Commission or City Council regulates the
The City and Port exercise their planning powers
quite differently. This accounts for some of the development patterns
and is the primary reason for the lack of a master plan for the area.
Traditional zoning: The City follows
traditional zoning practices by classifying land into General Plan
and zoning categories. This method is intended to separate
incompatible land uses and establish patterns of future development.
Opportunity-driven zoning: The Port uses an
opportunity-driven model of zoning, leaving land unzoned and
allowing the marketplace to dictate its ultimate use.
This divided jurisdiction also exists in other
areas of the Waterfront. For example, the south side of Hegenberger Road
is within City jurisdiction while the north side is under the Port's
authority. However, the impact of the agencies' differing approaches is
most apparent in the Estuary Shore, due to its mixture of land uses and
its nearly even division between the City and Port jurisdiction.
Each part of the Estuary Shore is affected
differently by the division of authority between the City and Port. For
Jack London Square/Produce Market
The newly redesigned Jack London Square stands as an island,
visually distinct: from its surrounding neighborhood and physically
isolated from downtown convention and regional transportation
facilities. Coordination is needed between the City and the Port in
the promotion of Jack London Square as a destination and in the
development of the surrounding non-Port land.
For example, the Oakland Produce Market is one of the city's most
active and unique market areas, but its future is clouded by a
change of ownership and congestion. In addition, with two new
live-work projects presently under consideration, this area is
gaining a significant residential population. The future direction
of the marketplace, the developing new night life on lower Broadway
and the growing small business and live/work community in the area -
all within City jurisdiction - can attract: new activity into this
area and help overcome the isolation imposed by the freeway.
The shoreline between Lake Merritt Channel and Embarcadero Cove
offers excellent views of the waterway, but the area remains
isolated and lacking an overall plan for taking advantage of this
The Port has developed an attractive: water-oriented center at
Embarcadero Cove, but other sections have been developed without an
overall plan. For example, although restaurants on the northern part
of the crescent have been required to install public access on their
bay frontages, the boardwalks have been constructed on an ad hoc
basis and are not connected to one another except through parking
lots or along public roadways.
High Street/Fruitvale Avenue
This area is an important part of East Oakland's employment base.
However, past economic development efforts have sometimes been
stymied by an apparent reluctance by the Port to participate in
area-wide economic development efforts. Traffic circulation and
other improvements and the buffering of the residential neighborhood
require cooperation between the Port and the City.
Recently, the City and Port have begun to work
more closely on issues of mutual concern. The respective planning staffs
of the City and Port began meeting regularly last summer. In early
December subcommittees of the City Planning Commission and Port
Commission will begin meeting to improve coordination of land use
decision-making. In recent years the Port has also played a more active
role in economic development issues, especially in the Coliseum and
Besides creating new vehicles for City/Port
collaboration, two important planning efforts offer the potential of
defining a new vision for the Waterfront:
Land Use Element Update: Beginning next
year, the City will begin updating the Land Use Element of the
General Plan. The present General Plan designates virtually all of
the land within Port jurisdiction as "Industrial". Clearly, this is
not an accurate description of the present or potential uses of much
of the Waterfront, especially within the Estuary Shore.
"OSCAR" (Open Space Conservation and
Recreation Element of the General Plan): The City also is currently
revising the Open Space and Conservation Element of the General
Plan. This will help define important shoreline recreational,
ecological and visual resources which should be preserved or
emphasized in future development of the area.
Searching for a Recipe
Estuary Shore can become an amenity equal to other famous river fronts
and urban shorelines. Map Two was prepared by the architectural firm of
Van Meter Williams Pollack to illustrate methods of strengthening the
identity of the Estuary Shore and its relationship with inland Oakland.
The illustration emphasizes three important elements:
Linkages: Physical connections between the
shore and inland Oakland can help overcome the formidable physical
barrier that Highway 880 presents. Internal linkages can strengthen
the identity of the area with the waterway. Several roadways,
including Broadway, Twenty-Ninth Avenue, Fruitvale Avenue and High
Street provide important links with inland neighborhoods.
Pedestrian/bike pathways between Lake Merritt and Estuary Park and
north and south along the shoreline would also invigorate the area.
Gathering Points: Major access points, such
as Estuary Park, Jack London Square and Estuary Cove and mini-parks
and shoreline trails provide important focal points for the area.
The ferries and future Amtrak station at Jack London Square also are
important means of attracting people to the Waterfront and making
the shoreline a vital part of Oakland.
Commercial and residential revitalization:
Improving the vitality of commercial and residential neighborhoods
within the Waterfront is also critical. Opportunities include the
Produce Market, live/work and other residential opportunities and
improving traffic circulation within the Fruitvale and High Street
The Estuary Shore is Oakland's threshold to the
water. Here, perhaps more than in any other part of the Waterfront,
vision and City-Port cooperation is essential. Hopefully, the recent
Port/City cooperative efforts and new planning processes will lead to a
recipe for reconnecting Oakland to its shoreline.
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