Editor’s Note: Many years ago, I alienated a number of friends and neighbors when I used the Splash Pad Newsletter as a vehicle to endorse a specific candidate for City Council and, as a result, swore I’d never do so again. I kept that pledge this year even though, judging by the figures Oakland Magazine just released, only 4.63% of the newsletter readership would have been offended.
That said, the election is over but the possible consequences are not. The Oakland City Council has just publicly doubled down on our status as a Sanctuary City and endorsed a campaign to turn California into a Sanctuary State. I’m hoping you’ll share their commitment to provide a safe haven for Oakland’s immigrant community – while also supporting minority communities in general and Muslims, in particular.
I’d also hope that we, as concerned citizens, will exercise extreme vigilance in the face of threats to our shared civil rights and our democratic form of government. It can happen here unless the overwhelming majority of US citizens stand up to protect those rights. You can volunteer or you can help provide funding or do both. I just joined the ACLU which received 120,000 donations totaling $7.2 million in the week immediately following the election. Other organizations worthy of your support include the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Planned Parenthood and dozens more. If you have your own favorites, please post in comments below.
GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
Within hours of publishing last month’s newsletter, I posted an update announcing that Grand Fare Market had closed permanently and offered my personal regrets and best wishes to Doug Washington and Freya Prowe. The disappointing closure was later reported in this article on the SF Eater website.
Newsletter subscriber, Gary Meyer, also emailed me with an assessment that perfectly mirrors my own:
I too am saddened and surprised. The original version was too expensive for the neighborhood and too ambitious. The reopened Grand Fare was more reasonably priced (no bargains but appropriate for the high quality and portions). The new layout was more efficient and less confusing and did not require such a large staff. The new staff was better trained and did a very good job. The addition of indoor seating offered choices with the garden being a delightful space in nice weather. I was sorry to see the airstream coffee trailer go but understand.
Both times I was there it was busy and co-owner Doug Washington was serving and visiting with customers. I really thought it would work.
Currently, Doug is talking to prospective tenants – hopefully, someone willing and able to take ownership in its present configuration. If that doesn’t pan out, a review of the results of the recent Grand Lake Neighbors survey could be extremely helpful. A high-end butcher shop tops the wish list as was the case eight years previously. Fresh seafood also ranks very high. To generate additional traffic and to capitalize on the gorgeous outdoor patio, those two draws would be further enhanced by a kitchen that produces quality sandwiches or other light fare.
A few caveats:
1: The Clove and Hoof butcher shop/restaurant is only five minutes away on Broadway. Maybe that’s too close for comfort.
2. The monthly rent is a big nut to crack for any new business.
3: The patio should, if possible, be covered during the rainy season or at a minimum, drainage should be improved.
4. Thanks to the big stucco wall, I personally felt that dining in the patio was like being magically transported to a more serene and distant place. Gary Meyer, on the other hand, took exception to the very same wall, noting that “the aesthetic joys and appeals of Penrose are the restaurant’s wide windows that allow people to look into the beautiful space and for diners to enjoy the street scene.” Perhaps, a compromise solution is in order.
The only good news on this front is that Freya’s Brother and Sisters Flower Shop (which is under a separate lease) remains open Tuesdays through Sundays and they’re now gearing up for the holiday season with a pop-up shop and a big selection of wreaths, centerpieces and floral arrangements. Freya also leads popular workshops on wreath-making, floral crowns and flower arranging. You can sign up online but enrollment is limited.
Last month, I reported that Bangkok Palace had closed and heavy remodeling was underway. Shortly, thereafter, I learned that the new tenant will be a Chinese restaurant called Qi that will specialize in small plates. They’ve applied for a beer and wine license and later intend to serve distilled spirits as well.
Alyce on Grand has a new art show going up on December 8th featuring photographs by Ella Sophie Bessette. An artist reception is scheduled on December 17th for Ella and also for Jessica Daniel who crafts wonderful necklaces that combine hand-crafted ceramic beads with tassels – mostly made from deconstructed mop heads.
Contractors are continuing to make steady progress on the Aisle 5 restaurant/brewhouse at 3320 Grand and the latest news is that Loh Realty is now looking for tenants for an attached, 2600 SF two-story office/work creative space. It’s a hard-to-beat location with a brew pub in the same building – not to mention a dizzying array of eateries and bars within a two-block walk. More details are available on this PDF File.
La Parisienne is spreading its wings and their pastries are now also available at Rigol Cafe on California Street in SF.
As their way of celebrating their 11th Anniversary on Grand Avenue, Samurai Sushi Boat has an unbeatable offer – $2 for a large sake or draft beer from 7:30 – 9:00 PM every night.
The highlight of Studio Grand’s December calendar is the opening night reception for “POW! Womxn in Comics & Illustration” tomorrow evening from 7:00 – 9:00 PM. This show features nine women of color who tell their stories and convey their magic as comics illustrators. The following afternoon, look for “POW! A Public Reading, Panel, & Pop-up Comics Market” from 3:00 – 6:00 PM. Be sure to also check out their event calendar for musical performances throughout the month. I went to the Balkan Nights concert on November 18 and it was absolutely fabulous. The only downside is that, considering the draw, it should have been an overflow crowd and wasn’t.
I‘m finding it harder and harder to tolerate cold weather but there’s one saving grace. Much as Spring brings April showers, Winter brings the much-appreciated return of “Wedding Soup” to the menu at Modigliani.
For an always up-to-date business directory, click and save the…
LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
I had a brief conversation yesterday with Ken Lowney, owner of the architectural firm that’s working on the proposed mixed-use development for the Kwik Way property. Asked about any changes in the design that was earlier presented to the community, Lowney replied in the negative and directed me to the firm’s website where I found four artist’s renderings of the project – three of which I hadn’t seen previously. I may or may not have mentioned this previously, but, fairly early in the design process, the undulating curves and bold use of color captivated a small group of local architects and other representatives of the architectural preservation community – erasing any concerns I may have had over Kwik Way’s eventual demise.
Asked about the current status of the project, Lowney indicated that a member of the Planning Department had thrown a wrench in the proceedings when he or she ruled that they couldn’t make any curb cuts to allow vehicular access to the project from Lake Park Avenue. Lowney subsequently proposed a compromise solution that would have provided B of A customers with a 12 foot wide entrance on Lake Park and an exit on Cheney but bank management turned thumbs-down on that proposal. They’re now back to Square One and looking forward to a meeting with Zoning Manager Scott Miller -hoping to resolve the current impasse.
Last month, we wrote about the future prospects for this vast open space that frequently houses trash containers but otherwise serves no useful purpose. Hopefully, that appears likely to change as a group of stakeholders that included Tim Nugent (Shakewell), Brandon Mathews (from Motivate-the Bike Share Company), Carlos Hernandez (City of Oakland), and local architects Brett Snyder and Janette Kim, had a hugely productive meeting on-site. As a result, I’m happy to report that we have a tentative understanding under which Motivate will install 19 bicycles and leave room for installation of a parklet up to 400 square feet in area.
Motivate will likely install their bike station by the end of next summer. Planning for the parklet is, however, temporarily on hold pending passage of Oakland’s permanent regulations governing installation of parklets citywide. Meanwhile, we’re hoping to reduce the number of trash cans that currently occupy the site.
Rose Quartz, the boutique that specializes in fine jewelry, women’s clothing and accessories is closing after 32 years – the last eight of which were on Lakeshore Avenue next to Buckingham Wine and Spirits. Owner, Yvette Chamberland, is retiring to Cape Cod but will be using Etsy as a marketplace for the scarves that she hand-makes from vintage kimonos. Meanwhile, everything at Rose Quartz is discounted by a minimum of 15%, with select items reduced by 50%. The shop is scheduled to close at the end of January or earlier if everything is sold. According to property owner, Jesse Patel, there’s lot of interest in the space and by next month, she expects a new lease to be inked.
Speaking of Buckingham, Jesse’s daughter, Mira, is in charge of the beer selection and she’s been scoring some very desirable, hard-to-find brews. For example, Founders Breakfast Stout, which Beer Advocate rates as a combined 99.5. It’s loaded with coffee and imported chocolates and at 8.3% alcohol, it generates a very pleasant buzz. Also just in, although I haven’t indulged, is a Bourbon County Stout.
Yesterday, I took another quick peek through the back door at the future home of Falafel Stop. They’re now framing partitions – so don’t expect them to open anytime before next year.
This month’s blog shares news about the successful relaunch of the Loring Cafe as Small Wonder Bar & Café, kickin’ it old school so far – i.e., with no phone & no website.
“There are only 2 rules” grinned Dan, bartender and order taker at Small Wonder Bar & Café. “Be comfortable and enjoy your food.”
The atmosphere at Small Wonder continues to be a relaxed scene with quirky décor. Dan encourages you to come by between 9 AM and 11 PM on weekdays and until midnight on Saturdays. Drop in for live music every Saturday night in December and most First Fridays. This month (tonight) jazz singer/songwriter Gabby McGee will perform on First Thursday. “It’s a joy to work here!” he beams. And that spirit infuses the whole place for the rest of us.
Previous LZ blogs are archived and available on this link.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
Every one’s delighted to have Galleria Scola back in the First Thursdays fold – especially since Elida likes to do things in a big way. Last month, she gave away free prints. This month, she’s taking advantage of the fact that one of her framers is also a professional photographer. Equipped with lighting and props, Claire Wilson will be shooting portrait photos that will be available for free digital download. Quality prints can also be ordered ranging in price from $10-$20 depending on the size. There’s also a Chef demo at Better Homes and Gardens and a 20-50% discount on shoes at Sole Space.
If you have time, try to hit all twelve participating galleries but, if not, be sure to check out the “Histories” show at Libertine since it’s closing on Saturday and we’re also getting a sneak preview of the “POW! Womxn in Comics show at Studio Grand. The opening night reception is Friday evening. A complete list of all the exhibiting artists AND participating merchants is posted on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays website
The Libertine: “Histories: Art by 30 Bay Area Tattoo Artists” is an exhibit of 100 pieces of original art curated by Joe Paul, the owner of Bell & Iron Tattoo. Happy hours extended to 9:00 PM.
Urban Furniture: “SHINE” – Pop-up boutique featuring “Laurel Ashely Off the Rack” (beautiful clothing for Plus Size Women) plus small bites and beverages.
510 Brand: Works by Culling Cahayag, Nina Simi and Natasha Reh. 10% off all merchandise 5:00 – 9:00 PM. Music and refreshments.
San Francisco Fiber: Try your hand at weaving and spinning.
SPLASH PAD PARK
The November work party was again quite successful thanks, in large part, to a big contingent from Piedmont High and other local Key Clubs. When you’re next in the park, please take a minute or two to admire all the work that’s been done – particularly the large expansion bed which will be almost fully landscaped early next year once a specialty Ribes becomes available. The Grand Crew will be taking a vacation during the holidays and our next volunteer work day is scheduled for January 22.
Last month, I outlined numerous infrastructure problems at the park which apparently accomplished virtually nothing. Seeking outside advice, someone, whose opinion I trust, reminded me that the “squeaky wheel gets the grease” and recommended that I file another SeeClickFix.com complaint. I did just that but this one is a long laundry list of unresolved problems. You can make a difference by clicking on this SeeClickFix Link and then vote for the necessary repairs – assuming you’re already a SeeClickFix member or are willing to register first. As another option, we’ve posted the identical complaint on SplashPad.org Facebook page where you can “Like” the post and/or leave comments.
ODDS AND ENDS
Earlier this week, Astro Tot Lot organizers were still soliciting additional volunteers for the “Prep Day” this Saturday and for the “Build Day” next Tuesday, December 6. Prior registration is required and you can do so online via THIS LINK.
If, like me, you’re getting older far too quickly and have no desire to move, you may want to check out a non-profit called North Oakland Village. According to Sandra Coleman, it’s part of a nationwide movement to allow seniors to stay in their homes as they age. Members live in their own homes and are provided services such as rides (six a month), small home repairs such as changing a lightbulb, walking partners and so forth. While they don’t provide any medical services, they do have an active program of social events including a monthly potluck supper. North Oakland Village is also looking for additional volunteers and they especially need drivers.
The VW automobile storage lot on the corner of Lakeshore and MacArthur was established without benefit of a permit . The operators have been cited by Code Enforcement; fees have been assessed; and VW’s request for a six-month extension have been denied. Stay tuned for more details.
What are the odds that our “Odds and Ends” Department would end with three different stories about photos – all three of which are all, or at least partly related to Lake Merritt?
Last month, I mentioned that Public Works had replaced all the bulbs on the string of lights in the commercial district with LEDs. What I didn’t realize was that they were doing the same with the Necklace of Lights that rings Lake Merritt. A couple of days ago, Councilmember Abel Guillen documented the new lighting with this absolutely stunning photo that I compared, on Facebook, to a vintage Maxfield Parrish print. Since I carry around a 3 pound Nikon, I’m not going to be a happy camper when Abel shows me the cell phone that caught this image.
The second photo story is from Kevin Blackburn’s “skyhighoakland” album of aerial drone photographs. Not surprisingly, Oakland’s crown jewel, Lake Merritt is one of his favorite subjects.
And finally, here’s an album of photos that I posted on Flickr documenting the Hands Around Lake Merritt protest on November 13.
Women’s March in Oakland on January 21, the day after the presidential inauguration in conjunction with the Women’s March in Washington D.C. and elsewhere across the country.
Fairy Winterland – From December 16-23, special decorations and thousands of twinkling lights will transform Fairyland into a sparkling holiday festival. The event will feature live performances celebrating holidays from many cultures; appearances by Santa Claus; free cider and hot cocoa (4 to 7 p.m. daily); puppet shows; rides; and many surprises!
Hours are: Noon to 7 p.m. General admission $10; Fairyland members $5 (members admitted FREE on weekdays between noon and 2 p.m.).
- Thursday, December 1: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, December 2: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday, December 3: Prep Day at Astro Tot Lot
- Tuesday, December 6: Build Day at Astro Tot Lot
- Saturday, December 10, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Friday, December 16-Friday, December 23, Noon – 7:00 PM: Fairy Winterland at Fairyland
- Saturday, January 21, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Women’s March in Oakland