Organizing to Preserve the Waterfront
The Fifth Avenue Point community's cohesiveness began in 1997 when a group approached the City of Oakland to propose a "World's Fair" on the Oakland Waterfront. The Fifth Avenue Waterfront Alliance was formed to oppose the plan, and a model of the proposed project was constructed to demonstrate its infeasibility and potential impact on the waterfront. The Alliance's research revealed that the developers had no intention of producing a true World's Fair but needed a government agency's backing to obtain the private property by eminent domain. The Oakland City Council unanimously rejected the proposal.
In 1999, the City and Port of Oakland funded, and numerous community organizations and individuals participated in, the preparation of the Oakland Estuary Policy Plan. The Fifth Avenue Point community participated in the process by attending many of the committee and subcommittee meetings over a two-year period, and also worked separately to propose an alternate plan to the one being proposed by the architectural firm hired by the Port. The community made presentations to various civic organizations, key government agencies and decision makers to emphasize the importance of retaining the Fifth Avenue Point as the oldest remaining neighborhood on the Oakland waterfront. The successful effort resulted in specific language in the final version of the Estuary Policy Plan recommending that Oakland should “preserve and expand the existing Fifth Avenue Point community as a neighborhood of artists, artisan studios, small business and water dependent activities.” The Plan was adopted by the Oakland City Council and incorporated into the Oakland General Plan.
In 2003, as the Estuary planning process proceeded, City planners suggested that a historic colony of artisans and craft people was not the best use of this stretch of waterfront, again suggesting that eminent domain be used to clear the land for high-rise upscale condominiums. In response, the Fifth Avenue Point community prepared a detailed plan to incorporate the arts colony into the development as an asset. This plan was supported by tours of Fifth Avenue Point and presentations to various civic organizations and planning agencies in Oakland and the Bay Area. Numerous organizations and individuals joined to convince the City of Oakland to preserve the Fifth Avenue Point area. The struggle continues.