Oracle's Open World closes streets

As Oracle gets ready to impress the more than 41,000 expected attendees at this year's OpenWorld user conference, it's also likely to tick off thousands of Bay Area commuters who are already dealing with an unprecedented convention-related traffic detour.

street closure

In an incredible display of clout, the software company convinced the city of San Francisco to close a block-long stretch of a major downtown thoroughfare (Howard Street) for 10 full days to make room a tented food-service area immediately in front of the Moscone Center, where the conference is taking place.

Never before, at least in the memory of current city officials, has the city every closed down a street near the convention center for such a long duration, said Janice Yuen, a spokeswoman for the city's transportation agency. The most recent recollection of anything comparable was a political convention that resulted in no more than four or five days of detours, Yuen said.

However, with Oracle agreeing to "full cost recovery," for all related expenses--including signage and extra patrols--the city decided it would accommodate the company and its users who will in turn spend millions of dollars in and around the city, Yuen said.

Oracle started working on the detour request almost a year ago when it realized it needed more space to account for what is expected to be about 7,000 additional attendees at the ninth-annual conference, company spokesman Bob Wynne said. "We just flat out ran out of room," he said. He added that while the show is just from Sunday though Thursday, the company needed the road closed for a couple days on either end to set up and take down the facilities.

Wynne declined to disclose the estimate from the city of how much the road closure would cost the company. And he recognized there's also a price to pay for annoying drivers all week; that's one of the unfortunate tradeoffs for better serving Oracle users and keeping the convention in the company's home town, he said.

As for me, as a daily commuter to that vicinity, I'm prepared to deal next week with some grumpy carpool drivers who will likely be cursing Oracle's name.

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