A particular stretch of road is causing controversy in North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. Five blocks, from 45th to 51st Street, are facing scrutiny due to a recent campaign by the Temescal Business Improvement District to repave that portion of Telegraph Avenue.
“We’re really eager. We want to get this repaved,” said Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, executive director of the Temescal Business Improvement District (BID). Kessner said the group has been lobbying to get this stretch of the street repaved for the past 10 years, and recently learned the area was not being considered for repaving by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
In mid-March, the group hung a banner across 51st Street, reading “Repave Telegraph,” with giant red arrows pointing to the street. Kessner attributes this new campaign to “frustration” with the city. “We really wanted to take our lobbying and our organizing public, because we hadn’t had any success with the emails and calls and the working on a person-to-person basis,” said Kessner.
Some local business owners feel that the street is difficult for cyclists and should be repaved. “I think it’s dangerous, especially for bikers,” said David Way, owner of Tip Top Bike Shop, on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 48th Street. Way compared the road in front of his shop to “riding on cobblestone,” saying that he only rides for a couple of blocks on the contested area of road, because it’s uneven.
Up the street, at It’s Your Move Games, co-owner Will Kreber agrees that the uneven road makes biking to work difficult. Kreber, who lives in North Oakland, says he rides on the sidewalk once he hits 51st Street, because of the noticeable difference in road quality. “I’ve broken three spokes in the past year,” said Kreber. And while he notes that he could walk to work instead, he said, “it takes three or four times as long.”
Kreber says he has “high hopes” that the Temescal BID could lobby for something similar to the new protected bike lanes along Telegraph in downtown Oakland, which offer well-defined bike lanes placed between the sidewalk and metered street parking. “As a cyclist, I really like it,” Kreber said.
Shari Godinez, executive director for the Koreatown Northgate (KONO) Community Benefit District, which represents the area further downtown along Telegraph, said her district didn’t need to pressure the city to get their streets repaved, or the protected bike lanes installed. “They were scheduled to repave it,” said Godinez. “[They] did the bike lanes so they wouldn’t have to do double work.”
In a statement released to the press, District 1 City Councilmember Dan Kalb wrote that he was surprised to learn this area in Temescal was not being considered for repaving. Kalb says he encouraged the Department of Transportation (DOT) “to include this part of Telegraph at the soonest possible time.”
But according to a statement released by department officials on April 19, Temescal being left out of the 2019 repaving plan seems to have been a mistake made somewhere in the planning process. In the statement, DOT staff blamed the confusion surrounding the plan to repave the stretch of road on Telegraph Avenue in Temescal on a mislabeled list within the Oakland Public Works Five-Year Pavement Prioritization Plan. The DOT called the road condition of Telegraph Avenue in Temescal “among the worst for major streets in Oakland.”
According to the DOT, the contested stretch of Temescal road is scheduled to be repaved and redesigned in spring, 2019. Sean Maher, public information officer for the city of Oakland, said the Temescal redesign should take about six months, and that the city does not yet have a budget estimated for the project.
In response to the DOT’s report that it had made a mistake, and does plan to repave and redesign the Temescal stretch of Telegraph next spring, Kessner said she is “very excited that our Repave Telegraph campaign was successful.” She said that the Temescal BID plans to “hold the city accountable to follow through on their promise.”