Lakeside park improvements, progress on Kaiser Center rehab, updates on street-safety improvements

November Is the Season to Vote!

Happy November! The past few weeks, I’ve been out and about in District 2 talking to neighbors about the upcoming election and the important local measures on this year’s ballot. Election Day is next Tuesday, and I want to provide you with some resources that might help you cast your ballot.

As a longtime member of the League of Women Voters Oakland, I’ve always been impressed with their voter-education efforts. They have put up severalYouTube videos explaining the local measures on the ballot. They’ve also put on some informational video on the state propositions.

If you have a mail ballot, you can drop it off at any polling place in Alameda County. Find your polling location and check your registration status for Alameda County here

Voter guide translations – Chinese Spanish

Happy voting everyone – be sure to vote the entire ballot!   


Park Maintenance Improvements for a Cleaner Lake Merritt
You may recall that we secured $800,000 in the 2015-17 budget to protect our Measure DD investments around Lake Merritt. I’m happy to report that, with the vigorous efforts of Measure DD advocates and my office, Lakeside Park maintenance staffing has gone from two gardeners to five full-time gardeners who are responsible for gardening in and around Lake Merritt as well as maintenance and irrigation repair to help keep our lake beautiful.

In my first year on the Council, we didn’t have the money to properly maintain Measure DD improvements at Lakeside Park, particularly around the amphitheater. As a result, garbage cans were often overflowing, and the wear-and-tear on the paved paths and pedestrian bridge was becoming more noticeable.

Now, with this increased funding, garbage complaints have diminished due to more pick-ups by City staff inside the park and by Waste Management on the perimeter of the park. Much-needed preventive maintenance is also being scheduled and completed. The overall result is a cleaner park for neighbors and visitors and protection of taxpayers’ investments at the Lake.

In the past year, we’ve also doubled street-cleaning along the Lakeshore Ave. cul-de-sac to once a week. While we still have littering, this extra service is helping to keep the cul-de-sac cleaner.

To help our staff do their job more efficiently, the City also bought four electrical utility vehicles (photo) to replace outdated carts.

Lastly, you may have noticed the new Big Belly solar compactor trash can at El Embarcadero and Lakeshore Ave. It’s one of eight Big Bellys that will be installed in the area.

A big thanks to our friends from the Measure DD coalition for their support in making all of these improvements happen!

 kaiser-interior_glass_space.jpg  kaiser-interior_glass_space3.jpg

Making Progress on Kaiser Center Renovation
Last week, the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee received a report on the progress being made on the rehabilitation and reopening of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. It included an update on the extensive series of productive meetings with the community (more than 70 forums, meetings, focus groups and building tours) that have gathered ideas about the future uses of the historic Beaux Arts center and the feasibility study that evaluated the financial viability of keeping the building’s arena as an event venue.

When the Council selected the Orton Development team in July 2015, I called for Orton to make this progress report and complete this study. 

FEASIBILITY FINDINGS: According to the study results (validated by Willdan Financial, an independent third party hired by the City), using the arena as a conference center, exhibition center or sports arena fails the market feasibility test “because of the building’s size, its failure to meet basic space and infrastructure needs, and an abundance of other venues more appropriate for these uses.”

Its use as a live-entertainment venue – as it was used before it closed down in 2005 because of significant financial losses to the City – fails the financial feasibility test because the estimated cost of necessary capital improvements, which include public safety, seismic and ADA upgrades, are more than the income that concerts and other events might generate.

When I was on the Peralta Colleges Board of Trustees, we also came to the same conclusion several years ago – it simply didn’t make good financial sense to use the shuttered arena solely as an event venue.

CAPITAL INFUSION: The project will put more than $50 million (including historic tax credits) into bringing the 215,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts auditorium back to life.

The revitalized Kaiser Center will be leased out, but will still owned by the City. A revenue-generating mechanism for commercial or other uses is necessary to rehabilitate and reopen the building and the Calvin Simmons Theater to the public as part of a long-term ground lease.

CULTURAL AND COMMUNITY USES: I want to emphasize that the reuse plan includes reopening the Calvin Simmons Theater as a venue for performances and community events. Further adding to the site’s cultural uses, about one-third of the arena will also feature a unique design of a glass building-within-a-building (photos above) to provide offices specifically for cultural and arts organizations – and also serve to seismically retrofit the building.

The building will be open to the public, and will include a restaurant and café, spilling out onto a deck facing Lake Merritt – effectively creating a community front porch for everybody to enjoy.


HISTORICAL PROTECTIONS: The building will be placed on the National Historic Registry, and the building improvements will be made in accordance with the U.S. Department of the Interior and State Historic Preservation Office standards for historic rehabilitation. The landmark status will require State review to ensure that any physical changes to the building’s historic elements are reversible.

Many of us have fond memories of great moments at the arena, filing important pages in the rich story of life in Oakland, and I value this space as a public treasure. While cherishing the past, we must also move forward and ensure a viable, sustainable future for the HJK. We honor the past by bringing the building back to life.

My staff and I have been actively engaged in this process to restore the Kaiser Center, and I am committed to ensuring its future as a vibrant gathering place that represents the very best of Oakland in expression, innovation and diversity, a place that is resilient, flexible and sustainable for decades to come.

HJK project website and Informational report


Update on Grand Ave. Street Improvements
Public Works has been monitoring Grand Avenue periodically since the new road diet and bike lanes were installed this summer. Overall, the number of bikes on the street has increased, bicycle-car conflicts are down, and vehicle speeds have slowed slightly.

There are several additional street improvements in the works to improve visibility, traffic flow and safety in the coming months: Install sign, striping and markings on Grand Ave. northbound at Elwood (to guide motorists on the lane drop downstream); paint refuge island and install pavement markers at the crosswalk at Margene’s Bridal Shop; add sign and box markings to better define the “keep clear” zone in front of the ACE Hardware and nursery driveways; and fix the detection signal on Jean St. and provide additional green time to Grand Ave. approaches. A project to install a left-turn phase at Mandana Blvd. is also scheduled for late 2017.

We’ve been discussing the Grand Ave. improvements at the Grand Lake Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council every month, and will continue to do so. The Grand Lake Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Committee has also been revived to discuss this and other streetscape issues. If you would like to join this group, please contact Ken Katz ( Councilmember Guillén is committed to fostering an ongoing conversation with the community and City staff on this issue and to incorporating further street improvements where possible.

November 16-17 | Community Meetings about Park Blvd. Traffic
Wednesday, November 16 | 6:00 pm | Christ Church Oakland, 4101 Park Blvd.
Thursday, November 17 | 6:00 pm | FM Smith Recreation Center, 1969 Park Blvd.
In response to concerns about ongoing speeding, pedestrian safety and spillover traffic into nearby residential neighborhoods, the City’s Public Works department will hold two community meetings to discuss traffic-calming projects on Park Boulevard. For more info:



Volunteer for Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway
Councilmember Guillén’s annual Thanksgiving Basket Giveaway is two weeks away. We need volunteers to help stuff the food baskets and hand them out to 500 families in Lincoln Recreation Center. Join us on Saturday, November 19 – we start at 9:00 am and will finish by 3:00 pm. Come for the day or just a couple hours. Please use our online volunteer form to sign up. For more info: Michael Drane, 510-238-7021 or

Wednesday, November 16 | Meeting about Park Sounds
6:30-8:30 pm | Mosswood Recreation Center, 3612 Webster St.
If you’re concerned about amplified sound at park events, please attend the upcoming Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee’s task force meeting to provide your input. The meeting will focus solely on the current code about park noise.

Help Make Decisions about City Funding for District 2 | Apply by November 7
We are now accepting applications for new representatives on the Community Development District Board for Council District 2. Serving as a District boardmember is an opportunity to learn more about the Oakland City budgeting process, help make decisions about how the City spends federal funds for low-income communities, and make a difference in your community by actively helping to improve it. I urge you to consider applying.

The Community Development District Board is comprised of District 2 residents who provide input on our community priorities and make recommendations on actual funding requests from organizations that serve our community. As a boardmember, you will be instrumental in getting projects and services funded that will help to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods through the district.

If you’re interested in joining the board, email your letter of interest to Sarah Ting, Please include your full name, phone number, email and street address by Monday, November 7, 5:00 pm.


Friday, November 11 | “Together We Stand” Dinner for Veterans
5:30-8:30 pm | de Fremery Center, 1651 Adeline St.
Councilmember Guillén invites military veterans in District 2 to attend the “Together We Stand” dinner and award show on Veterans Day. The event is organized by the de Fremery Recreation Center and the National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations. Our office has invitations for five veteran couples. If you would like to attend the dinner, please RSVP by November 4: Jessica Chen,


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