Urban Development

There’s an invisible line on West MacArthur Boulevard that divides it these days into two different worlds. On one side of Telegraph Avenue, in the up-and-coming Temescal district, the corridor is full of activity. Up near Broadway and Piedmont Avenue, a new Kaiser facility is being erected, which once built, will literally become a beacon of light for that part of North Oakland.

On the other side, a lone church shares another two blocks with a dilapidated motel strip, boarded-up homes, wilted trees that look like they haven’t been trimmed in a while, and trash strewn along the sidewalk.

Then there’s Burley’s Auto Detail Shop, a tiny powder-blue garage hidden in the corner of a huge asphalt lot that on most days is full of cars. An awning hangs slightly sunken over the waiting area in front of the office, where customers can kick back in lawn chairs. Sometimes people barbeque on the smoker that sits on the corner nearest the intersection.

Owned by Mary Syon and her family for nearly 35 years, the auto detail shop at West MacArthur and Martin Luther King Way has survived the good times and the bad, is one of the longest-standing businesses in that neighborhood, and represents a community at a crossroads.

The area is undergoing a transition with the massive pending development—just a block away—of a 624-unit “transit village,” to be built around the MacArthur BART station, filling an entire city block with new commercial space, affordable housing, and a parking structure.. And that worries business owners like Syon, because her future is not certain and places like hers—no pretty facade, no employees in suits, cars of all kinds pulling up dirty all the time—are not part of the development plan.

With development looming, old Burley’s hangs on,” Oakland North, November 26, 2008