OAKLAND -- When Scott Louie and his wife moved into the Jade condominium complex on Jefferson Street, they were the only ones on their floor. The year was 2006, and the city was just starting to feel the growing pains of gentrification accelerated by Jerry Brown's "elegant density" plan to bring 10,000 new residents like the young couple downtown.
Since then, thousands of apartments, townhouses and condos have been built between Jack London Square and West Grand Avenue with perks like gyms, in-house movie theaters and swimming pools.
The latest building imagined in the 10K plan appears nearly ready to open on the corner of Jefferson and 14th streets. The developers call it Domain By Alta and included a workshop for bike maintenance and a custom-built Zen studio.
The lavish buildings have lured more than 5,000 young professionals, families and their pets downtown. In turn, they are reshaping their neighborhoods -- with sometimes unexpected results.
A dog park opened in the spruced up Jefferson Square Park on Sixth Street visible from the top of the Glenn E. Dyer jail. Residents grilling and sipping wine on the rooftop garden of the Market Square condos can see outlines of the inmates through the jail windows. And nearby, toddlers share Lafayette Square with men from the homeless shelters and halfway houses.
In addition, the Megan's Law website reveals a density of registered sex offenders living in the area. Multiple
Louie said Oakland police have responded quickly to incidents involving tenants of the residential hotels that ring the block. Neighborhood advocates are also working with Oakland police to lessen the prostitution, drug dealing and burglaries that persist in the neighborhood. They are making headway, said Sun-Kwong Sze, coordinator of the local Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council.
City Hall, however, has not kept up.
Parking meters and two-hour limits have sprung up around the area, even as the city suspended residential parking permits. The city recognized the need to change the street cleaning schedule to match the night life needs on Telegraph Avenue.
But trash lines other roadways because vehicles can stay parked without having to make way for street cleaning. Services lag because city revenues dried up with the housing bust, which nearly froze development for several years.
The dissonance in parking and other inconveniences comes from the fact that the area is a mixed commercial-residential area. The city is evaluating the need for more residential parking permits, while trying to discourage auto use in areas where public transportation is available, Councilwoman Nancy Nadel said of her district. All the new developments have at least one parking space per unit, she said. "Folks are seeking permits for second cars. We are automating some garages so that people can use them for night parking."
On the flip side, she added, the influx of residents supports the kind of night life attractive to people from other cities as an alternative to the traffic and parking problems of San Francisco.
The police are responsible for making sure those clubs and restaurants abide by rules set out by the city to accommodate their proximity to neighbors. Officers also keep an eye on the men and women asking for money who flank the S & A Market on the corner of 14th and Jefferson, although a man inside the store was stabbed on a Saturday afternoon in February. Such extreme incidents, however, are rare.
Owner Ali Hassan and his employees have established equilibrium with neighbors since the store opened 30 years ago. Back then, prostitutes and derelicts were the sole residents of the bleak and empty stretch in the shadow of City Hall.
Now condo dwellers like Louie turn up looking for buttermilk and flour at the last minute for a Christmas morning breakfast. But their presence also led Hassan to remove a beer ad on the back of his market after complaints began to circulate and he found out it violated city laws.
"If it's bad, we have to take it down," he said. In previous years few would have ever noticed.
"We want to make it better," Hassan said.