The city of Oakland is inviting residents to be a part of a new planning process that aims to revamp the city's downtown area.
A "Plan Downtown" kick-off event will take place Thursday at the Rotunda Building, 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, and will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The free event is open to all and is the first in a series of events where the public will be encouraged to input ideas that will focus on improving the quality of life in the downtown area, according to city officials
With more than 40 percent of the city's jobs located in or near the downtown area, city officials are hoping the plan will make downtown more attractive to walk, bike, shop, work and live.
"We want to reach out to people who might open a business here; visitors, tourists, anyone and everyone who wants to make this a successful downtown," Director of the city's Planning and Building Department Rachel Flynn said.
Meanwhile, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf issued a statement saying: "I invite all Oaklanders to participate in the 'Plan Downtown' process to shape the future of our vibrant city's core by continuing the area's growth as an employment, cultural and entertainment hub enjoyed by all."
Ahead of the kick-off event, city officials are considering ideas such as adding more bike lanes and making the city center more pedestrian-friendly.
"We want to get more people walking, which helps retailers and makes the streets safer," Flynn said. "It all goes hand in hand."
Additionally, Flynn said the city is currently analyzing how street sizes and one-way direction streets impact not just vehicle traffic in the area, but bike and pedestrian traffic as well.
"We're looking at what are appropriate street sizes," Flynn said. "We don't want cars to travel fast, we want to slow down traffic."
Changing some streets in downtown from one-way to two ways would reduce vehicular speeds in the area, which in turn would create better access to businesses and promote walking and biking in the area, according to Flynn.
"All these things can change the city," Flynn said.
The planning process will likely take about two years to complete, according to city officials.
"Plan Downtown" is funded by a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments.
People can find more information about "Plan Downtown" online.