California and National Elections

Oakland Residents Close To Resoundingly Approving Lake Merritt Improvement Measure

By Brent McDonald
November 6, 2002 01:15 AM

OAKLAND -- A massive bond measure to restore Lake Merritt and improve city parks appeared headed for a landslide victory Tuesday night with nearly two-thirds of the vote counted. Updated Nov. 6, 1:15 pm

The returns showed strong support for Measure DD, known as Clean Water, Safe Parks, despite the dual challenge of a soft economy and a ballot full of bond measures and tax increases. Two-thirds of voters need to approve the measure for it to pass.

"It's a really nice way to celebrate Oakland's 150th," said Sandy Strehlou, a campaign volunteer for Yes on DD. "Oaklanders have been very generous time and time again about these measures."

Lake Merritt Park was first developed with a bond measure. Now 100 years later, Strehlou said, "We're doing something truly historic, revisiting the whole 'city beautiful' notion."

A little girl feeds the birds near where a street drainage pipe dumps water from street runoff into Lake Merritt. Photo by Edward Carpenter.

The measure promises to fund a host of popular projects aimed at boosting downtown's image. In addition to restoring the smelly and trash-strewn Lake Merritt to its former glory, money raised from the sale of the bonds would be used to renovate the boathouse and other lakeside amenities; improve water quality in the estuary; and expand green space joining new parks and trails along the waterfront. It would also be used for a laundry list of other projects long advocated by community groups, including spending:

  • $10 million to build an Olympic-size swimming pool and bowling alley in East Oakland
  • $10 million for seismic renovations to Studio One Arts Center in North Oakland
  • $4 million to develop a youth center and café in Union Point Park in Fruitvale
  • $5.5 million to restore 13 neighborhood creeks in the Lake Merritt watershed.
  • $4.5 million to acquire and protect natural habitat along watershed creeks.

DD is three times larger than any bond measure ever passed in Oakland, according to Treasury Manager Joe Yew.

Bonds issued for Measure DD would be repaid over 20 years and cost homeowners up to $20 in taxes for every $100,000 in assessed property value.

An oversight committee would be formed to help ensure proper allocation and management of Measure DD's funds. The city auditor will conduct an annual audit of the bond money.

The bulk of the money -- about $90 million -- would be used to reconfigure roadways and repair lakeside facilities. Another $40 million would go toward improving lake water quality.

City Councilman Danny Wan, who initiated the water parks bond, said he hoped this measure would help get matching funds from the state and federal governments.

"People have been wanting state money to improve Lake Merritt for a decade," said Wan, "We've never been successful, because we never had a plan."

"Now, we have a plan."