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Reimagining MacArthur Boulevard

Halie Johnson

Oakland redevelopment, transportation and how to better connect Mills to the community were discussed by over 200 local residents during a meeting at Mills last week for “Envisioning MacArthur Blvd: Planning Community Growth for the Next 30 Years.”

Sponsored by Oakland Council member Jean Quan and President Ignacio de la Fuente, Mills College and the City of Oakland Community & Economic Development Agency, the meeting was held on Nov. 5.

The grassroots, town hall-fashioned meeting is quite common for neighborhood planning efforts, Quan said. It is mostly used on a smaller scale, such as to plan a single park; this was much more complex.

“We try and we want to be engaged with the community,” said President Janet Holmgren in her opening remarks. “This is exactly what we want to do, this is exactly what Mills is all about.”

After opening remarks from Quan, de la Fuente, Holmgren and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Andrew Workman, the floor was opened to an hour of audience commentary and participation was high. Participants discussed assets, concerns and things they’d like to see, such as traffic and the bus system, building a community center, and a new library. “If you build it, we will come,” several participants said throughout the night.

There was also a short presentation on MacArthur Blvd., then and now, from Daniel Iacofano, president of Moore, Iacofano, Goltsman, Inc. He discussed the demographics of the MacArthur corridor and plans for improving pedestrian walkways, revitalizing businesses and generally making the “neighborhoods more functional and safer.”

There were multiple comments from neighbors and community members about how Mills is cut off from the rest of the community because of the freeway. When exiting the campus by foot and turning right, one is confronted by the freeway on-ramp and overpass, which are difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to navigate. There was talk of installing a sidewalk that would make walking in the area easier.

“I feel like Mills is very unique,” said one attendee to the audience, “and not in a good way.” He said Mills College is the only college that is cut off from the surrounding community.

When asked why the event was held at Mills, Workman said, “They asked, and because we wanted to be good neighbors.”

Mills was one of the first permanent residents in Oakland, he said. “We want to build a community.”