Enforcing Safe Pedestrian Access During Oakland’s Construction Boom

What do you when you’re walking and you see the sidewalk ahead is closed–do you go across the street or walk in the travel lane to get through? If you are like me (and many others), you probably walk in the street. Humans regularly choose convenience over safety when the built environment forces them to choose.

Recently, OakDOT issued guidance to require designing for pedestrian convenience (as well for bicyclists and bus facilities) when buildings are under construction. According to the new guidance:

  • “Pedestrian Detours” are not acceptable in Downtown Oakland, along major transit corridors, or along neighborhood commercial streets.  A sidewalk that is completely closed and requires crossing to the other side of the street is called a “pedestrian detour.” Detours are only allowed when there is a construction flagger present.
  • “Pedestrian Diversions” must be provided. A “Pedestrian Diversion” is  is a temporary walkway installed on the same side of the street as the obstruction allowing pedestrians to bypass the construction without having to cross the street.

So, how do project sponsors know they have to comply with the new requirements? When a construction sponsor files for an “Obstruction Permit” to block sidewalk or street space, they must submit a “Temporary Traffic Control Plan” (TTCP) that OakDOT staff review for compliance with the guidance before the permit is issued.

Oakland is entering a construction boom, so now is an important time to ensure construction project sponsors are aware of and complying with the new requirements. And now is also an important time to ensure that OakDOT has staffing resources to provide enough inspectors to enforce the new guidance and respond to complaints made through SeeClickFix or the Call Center.

We noticed some sidewalk detours around Oakland and did a little digging about how the new guidance was affecting them.

1640 Broadway aka 449 17th Street

Lennar’s 254 unit residential tower at the intersection of 17th and Broadway has an excellent pedestrian diversion along its Broadway frontage, but the south side of 17th Street is closed between Broadway and Franklin. While it currently appears to be being used as contractor parking, OakDOT staff told us that they granted an exception because it is an extremely tight site that needs some staging room. In addition, 17th Street is very narrow and much of the roadway space is needed to provide adequate clear zone.

250 17 Street

At Simeon’s 74-unit new housing project going up at the intersection of Alice and 17th Street, the north side of 17th Street is blocked off between Harrison and Alice streets. Their current active Obstruction Permit expires on May 4, after which time the new guidance will apply to them if they apply to renew or extend their Obstruction Permit. The net effect of this project plus 1640 Broadway means you can’t walk continuously on one side of 17th Street without having to cross at least once to avoid construction disruption.

528 Thomas L Berkley Way

At the CRC Development’s 25-unit housing project going up near the intersection of Telegraph and Thomas L Berkley Way, the north side of Thomas L Berkley Way has been blocked off regularly. Recently, the pedestrian diversion has mostly been restored, but signs still say it is closed to pedestrians and it is not ADA accessible. We registered a SeeClickFix complaint and are awaiting full resolution.


Also, the south leg crosswalk at Grand and Harrison is closed

This appears to be related to the Lakeside Green Street project. It certainly doesn’t seem safe and we have reported it on SeeClickFix.

What can you do if you see a pedestrian detour?

Report it on SeeClickFix. You can also look up its “Obstruction Permit” in Accela. Type in the address in the “Global Search” box in the top right.

Final note

Transport Oakland welcomes more housing and jobs in Oakland- dense transit-oriented development is consistent with our vision and mission. But we do want to see safe and convenient pedestrian access maintained during construction!