Median Strips: Forgotten Eyesores or Patches of Beauty?

Submitted on behalf of Ken Ball, Keep Oakland Beautiful Board member.

Median strips: that forgotten land between street lanes. Sometimes they don’t get the love—let go to become unruly weeds.

One neighborhood is tackling its mean medians. The Montclair Village Association and several neighborhood associations are looking at the weed patches they have and are identifying how to make their strips more attractive, with a less-neglected feeling.

Two of them are at high-traffic junction points along Mountain and Park Boulevards, adjacent to on-off ramps of Highway 13. They become a homely host, not only to residents, but for the many visitors who find the quaint, but thriving shopping district in Oakland tour guides.

A team has been meeting to assess possibilities for how the strips can be turned from hardscape (asphalt, concrete or other non-living materials) to something more visually appealing and lively.

In this water-starved period, it becomes more complicated: should we opt for plants and vegetation or opt for non-living materials, such as river rock, small boulders or permanent sculptures (which can already be found in a couple adjacent medians)?

If it’s to be vegetation, who will care for the plantings? Will water be available, and if so, will the City apply a surcharge? It’s not even clear that Oakland will permit that kind of solution.

Team members are talking with officials from Public Works and are consulting with landscape architectural sources who may provide guidance on the practical direction that can be taken to bring life to these medians.

Drive any part of Oakland where you see medians and you may suddenly become aware of how few have been shown tender mercy. Most are afterthoughts, best left to nature, so city workers don’t have to worry about maintaining them. However, the strips that have been beautified are a welcome cousin to plantscape sidewalks that border them.

Next time you’re cruising your neighborhood, be alert for median strips. If you have any that are as homely as the one pictured here, contact your neighborhood association. They may be receptive to creative ideas about how the medians can be brought to life.


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