Lake Merritt, a National Historic Landmark and the nation’s oldest wildlife refuge, has long been celebrated as the ‘jewel of Oakland’ and one of the country’s most beautiful urban settings. The recently completed six-lane, tree-lined Lake Merritt Boulevard borders a new four-acre park with lush landscaping, an expansive amphitheater, and Lake overlook. New bridges, broad sidewalks, jogging paths, pedestrian-activated crossings, and a widened day-lighted channel replace the former 12-lane mini-freeway, improving the environment and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
Transformation of the south terminus of Lake Merritt began when design and preservation activists organized the Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt (CALM) to oppose sale of the City Auditorium’s publicly-deeded land for private development. Through an RFP process, the City Council selected CALM’s community-based proposal for a new “Lake Merritt Boulevard” that connects north and south destinations and making the area attractive, functional, and accessible for all. In November 2002, 80% of Oakland voters approved Measure DD – the $198 million bond measure for “clean water & safe parks.” Since its passage, the City has leveraged an additional $49 million in grants to augment bond proceeds.
With oversight by the Measure DD Community Coalition, DD bonds fund 56 projects throughout Oakland, including Lake Merritt Boulevard, the Municipal Boathouse, Lake Merritt Pergola, East 18th Street Pier, Studio One Art Center, Children’s Fairyland, Union Point Park, the Lakeshore-El Embarcadero renovation, and the new East Oakland Sports Center, in addition to waterfront trails, creek restorations, water quality improvements, and numerous public art installations. The new Lake Merritt Boulevard is an inspiring testament to exemplary advocacy and community organizing, preserving city resources for the greater benefit and enjoyment of the people and visitors of Oakland.