By Rachel Kaufman.
In the days leading up to Super Bowl 50, hundreds of thousands of people visited “Super Bowl City” in San Francisco, a temporary amusement park filled with concerts, exhibits and even enormous virtual reality games.
Across the bay in Oakland, at the Public Design Fair, a few thousand citizens did something a little different. Kids played basketball with a light-up hoop. Parents helped their young children climb on sculptures made of two-by-fours or concrete and rebar, and older folks sat in rocking chairs in an “outdoor living room,” some meeting their neighbors for the first time.
“There was a 60-year-old Chinese woman hula-hooping with a kid shooting hoops, and a middle-aged guy with a kid on his shoulders learning to pop and lock,” says Ray Boyle, cofounder of Our City. The Oakland-headquartered national nonprofit focuses on community engagement in cities and hosted the event.
Funded by the Super Bowl host committee’s charitable arm and supported by the city, the fair aimed to create new opportunities for Oaklanders to play, support local artists and help residents “reclaim” their public space in a community that saw a nighttime curfew and restrictions on public protests just last year.
The event also came as the city of Oakland is beginning the planning process for its first-ever downtown master plan.