There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Street-level commerce

When I started my job in Oakland, I was getting a ride to the Watt/I-80 park-and-ride lot and taking light rail to St. Rose. From there I would walk a half-mile to the Amtrak station.

It was a lonely walk along empty sidewalks past closed buildings. Each day I made that trip I was reminded of how far Sacramento still has to go to be a real city, alive outside office hours.

Today I bypass that walk by taking the No. 82 and No. 31 buses. But each day when I arrive in Oakland I'm reminded of what Sacramento lacks.

My walk from the Jack London Square Amtrak station to work takes me through Oakland's Chinatown, an urban mixed-use area of street-level commercial with residences and offices above. By the time I arrive at 9:30 a.m., the sidewalks are filled with shoppers.

To me, the most remarkable are the many sidewalk markets with their produce stacked on boxes on the sidewalk. Each morning I stop and buy fresh fruit.

Sacramento really needs to open up the ground floor of downtown buildings to street-level commerce that could meet the needs of residents, not just office workers. You get a feel of what this would be like in parts of midtown, but Sacramento's central business district is just that: all business -- sterile and lifeless.

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