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Oakland's Second-City Blues

Jun 8, 2007

I was walking down Broadway in Oakland the other day. And I was terribly disappointed.

I hadn't been on Broadway, downtown Oakland's most important boulevard, in six years. Since then, I had heard a great deal about dreams and schemes to "bring Oakland back," including Jerry Brown's ballyhooed proposal for 10,000 new housing units.

But the Broadway I found was not much different from the Broadway of six years ago, or 16 years ago, or even 26 years ago. Vacant storefronts. Garbage. Plentiful surface parking. Old buildings begging for investment.

I was in town to attend a concert at the Paramount Theatre, a beautifully restored Art Deco facility at 21st and Broadway. After the show, 1,500 people spilled out onto Broadway. The night was young, or at least it could have been. The weather was warm, and music fans were still buzzing from a good show.

But the sidewalks of downtown Oakland had been rolled up. After milling around in front of the Paramount for a few minutes, some people started heading for the BART station. The rest of us got in our cars and drove away.

- Paul Shigley

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