Over the summer I spent a lot of time working with Oakland’s zoning code at my job at the Port of Oakland. Zoning laws are inherently dull, but they have an enormous influence on shaping cities–San Francisco’s zoning code limits cheap housing options by restricting in-law units, Richmond’s zoning code reinforces the city’s unsafe streets by outlawing mixed-use buildings, Alameda’s zoning code encourages sprawl and hinders the city’s neighborhood commercial centers by not permitting any housing smaller than a duplex, etc. Oakland’s zoning code isn’t all that progressive, either, but what I want to focus on in this post is how Oakland presents itself to visitors and tourists through its hotel zoning policy.
Oakland has an interesting layout of hotels, motels, and inns. The vast majority of Oakland’s hotels are within the Downtown, Jack London Square, and Airport areas, with a small corridor of cheaper hotels along MacArthur in North Oakland. What’s most striking is that there are no hotels in Rockridge, Grand Lake/Lakeshore, and Piedmont Ave, and only two motels in Temescal. Check out the map below:
Much of Oakland’s hotel placement is due to the city’s strict hotel zoning laws. Here’s what Oakland’s municipal code states regarding hotels:
17.102.370 Conditional use permit for hotels and motels.A. Use Permit Criteria for Hotel and Motel Uses. A conditional use permit for hotel and motel uses may be granted only upon determination that the proposal conforms to the general use permit criteria set forth in the conditional use permit procedure in Chapter 17.134, to any and all applicable use permit criteria set forth in the particular individual zone regulations, and to all of the following additional use permit criteria:1. That the proposal is located in downtown, along the waterfront, near the airport, or along the I-880 freeway, and/or in an area with a concentration of amenities for hotel patrons, including restaurant, retail, recreation, open space and exercise facilities, and is well-served by public transit;2. That the proposal considers the impact of the employees of the hotel or motel on the demand in the city for housing, public transit, and social services;3. That the proposal is consistent with the goal of attracting first-class, luxury hotels in downtown, along the waterfront, near the airport, or along the I-880 freeway which provide:a. A minimum of one hundred (100) sleeping rooms;b. A full service restaurant providing three meals per day; andc. On-site recreational amenities, which may include an exercise room, swimming pool, and/or tennis courts.