concept design phase completed
The original idea for the West Oakland Walk occurred 8 years ago when Philip Banta and Norman Hooks were completing conceptual designs to raise money for restoration and improvements at Raimondi Park, a 10 acre sports field and recreation green space at the western edge of the city where it is separated from the adjacent Port of Oakland industrial yards by I- 880, the Nimitz Freeway. They noticed the remarkable fact that a 9.5 acre park, DeFremery Park, could be found only four blocks away, both fronting onto 18th Street. Stepping back they discovered a third park, Lowell, approximately 8.75 acres, one block to the south of DeFremery fronting 14th St. Most cities have one large park, like Lake Merritt or Central Park, then much smaller parks scattered through various neighborhoods. In urban settings it is unusual to find three such sizeable parks so closely positioned to one another and so fluidly connected around streets separated by only a few blocks. This wealth of open space assets was immediately obvious and also surprising that such a benefit had not been more readily apparent or well known. This “discovery” inspired Banta and Hooks to step back and see what else might be in the neighborhood. They “found” that a total of 8 parks in West Oakland could be linked together into a simple loop. The logical next step was to see if this loop could be extended into the heart of the City to connect to its unique open space jewel: Lake Merritt. And indeed 14th St. led right up to City Hall, past a host of major public facilities, and directly to the Lake. Continuing the loop up to 19th St. and jogging down to 18th allowed the path to pick up 2 more parks before reconnecting with West Oakland. In all there are 14 parks directly along the loop, and 9 more within its orbit, as well as 22 major public facilities within the same zone. The physical elements of a major urban design event had made themselves evident. All that remained was to leverage these individual assets into an integrated whole that exceeded the sum of its parts.
Community Outreach & Neighborhood Support
Upon completing the Maps that defined the Concept, Banta and Hooks presented the idea to all the major community groups of West Oakland to test its viability and gather feedback. This included meetings with the West Oakland Commerce Association, The Dogtown Neighborhood Association, the Port of Oakland, West Oakland Environmental Indicators, West Oakland Project Area Committee, etc. The result was uniformly positive, collecting endorsements and votes of support from virtually every group the project was presented to
City Government Support
A similar response was collected from the Director of the Oakland Planning & Building Department, The City Manager, the office of the Mayor, Lynette McElhaney, Councilmember for District 3, the Planning Commission and the City Council, City Parks and Rec. Dept., and the Dept. of Public Works. Through their support and direction the production team for the West Oakland Specific Plan was instructed to consider the inclusion of the West Oakland Walk into their final report.
City of Oakland West Oakland Specific Plan & EIR
both were approved by the Oakland City Council in July of 2014 and featured the West Oakland Walk as one of the proposed improvements. The inclusion of W.O.W. in these important planning documents affords the project the legal protections and essential platform upon which to pursue the development of its proposed improvements, as well as representing the City’s commitment to supporting its goals (see next section 3).
final west oakland specific plan
501(c)(3) Status: As of April 2016, the West Oakland Walk has officially partnered with “Social Good”, a certified 501(c)(3) Fiscal Sponsor that will allow the project to apply for funding and grants as a non-profit organization.
Founder’s Circle Funding Commitments: To date five individuals and their organizations have pledged the minimum funding requirement of $5,000 each to qualify as members of the Founders Circle. Pledges will be called in upon achieving a minimum aggregate commitment amount of $50,000