Editor’s Note: When I issued a plea for assistance last month, I should have thought to quote John Lennon, whose lyrics fit me to a T.
Help! I need somebody. Help! Not just anybody.
When I was younger, so much younger than today, I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these days are gone and I’m not so self assured.
Now I find I’ve changed my mind, I’ve opened up the doors.
Two weeks later, when I did, in fact, open up my doors for an introductory get-together, seven volunteers walked in, and two others emailed their regrets. And these people weren’t just anybody. As a group, they bring to the table an incredible wealth of writing, editing, and organizational experience. Rather than merely helping to preserve the newsletter in its current form, their generous response has opened entirely new doors that may, over time, allow us to add new features while expanding our geographic outreach and subject matter.
The most likely change will be a shift away from the monthly newsletter format. Over the last several months, this has become especially galling as big news stories have repeatedly broken within hours of publication. In the near future, we hope to become your regular online source for neighborhood news as it happens. The first symbolic step in that direction is our moniker. We’re now simply the Splash Pad News. If you haven’t already done so, please like and share our Facebook page.
Speaking of which, four volunteers have joined forces with Eric Hughes to expand our outreach through social media. One of the four new contributors, Sheila McCormick, has already posted two neighborhood walking tours on Facebook, accompanied by maps and photographs. She is a professor at Cal, who edits several science journals, as well as the Friends of Oakland Public Library Newsletter. Sarah Van Roo has a journalism degree and experience in various media. As owner of a marketing company, she produced newsletters and websites. She is also Marketing Manager for the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Kathleen Boergers is an attorney with extensive writing experience and has published a blog. Linda Holland has twenty years of corporate marketing experience and authored a wonderful blog called “East Bay Envy” that is temporarily on hold until she retires.
Further down this page, you’ll find an in-depth article about “Collage Clothing Lounge” posted by Keila Diehl, who is a cultural anthropologist at Cal, where she serves as Managing Editor of “Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review.” My immediate reaction to what Keila had written was two-fold:
1. The content is exactly what I hope to see more of in the future. Specifically, content that focuses on the neighborhoods more or less adjacent to Lake Merritt but that simultaneously have relevance elsewhere in Oakland and possibly, far beyond.
2. Keila’s debut article is deserving of a much larger readership than the Splash Pad News can provide. If you agree, please share it as widely as possible.
Next month, look for a debut article by Molly Miller, who writes primarily about environmental issues for the Huffington Post and on her own blog.
Other volunteers we hope you will be hearing from in the near future include long-time area resident, Carter Dunlap. Jack Cooper, who is a realtor with Grubb and Company, has tons of writing experience. Gail Jara, who lives on Rose, has experience with the Piedmont Avenue Neighborhood Improvement League and its newsletter. Also, a big shout-out for LZ who has been authoring the Grand Avenue West of 580 blog since June 2013; to Raul Audelo from Earth Justice who built the Splash Pad website; and Jim Ratliff – publisher of the short-lived Grand Lake Guardian, which is still online offering a window into neighborhood history circa 2008.
LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
Last month, I wrote that a community stakeholders meeting was in the works to discuss possible solutions to a snag in the planning process for the 500 Lake Park Project. I was unable to attend, but this is the current status, as I understand it:
Lowney Architecture’s original plans would have replaced the curb cuts and driveways on either side of the Kwik Way building with a single twenty-four-foot-wide curb cut and driveway that would be less than half the size of what’s there. It would provide in and out access for the twelve parking spaces that are required by the Bank of America’s long-term lease plus another eighteen spaces for residential tenants.
In order to make Lake Park Avenue more pedestrian-friendly by minimizing the amount of vehicular traffic crossing the sidewalk, the City Planning staff wants to require a sixteen-foot-wide entrance with an exit onto Cheney at the rear of the lot, but B of A is adamantly opposed. In addition, this change in plans would result in added traffic on Cheney, the loss of twenty-one parking spaces for residents, and a 30% increase in the width of the driveway on Cheney. As things stand now, Lowney is back to square one – lobbying for City and community for approval of their plans as originally presented.
One of C. J. Hirschfield’s most recent blogs, “Box of Buttons,” is a tribute to Fairyland, of which she’s the long-time Director. She writes, “Sometimes it really does feel like our little park is an oasis: a place where families can go to escape the troubles and fears in an uncertain world.” We are including this story in Lakeshore Avenue news because we love happy endings and, in this case, a happy ending wasn’t in the cards without Ike’s Shoe Repair at 3311 Lakeshore.
Rose Quartz is permanently closed as of January 31. This photo was taken this past Saturday, and Yvette Chamberland’s big smile could be attributed to the fact that she was merely three days shy of her official retirement – which is going to be spent in Cape Cod. According to the Rose Quartz property owner, Jesse Patel, they don’t yet have a replacement tenant but have contracted with a broker who was instructed to give first preference to a locally-owned retail business with great potential. Any suggestions?
Lin Jia Asian Kitchen is celebrating the Year of the Rooster in traditional fashion with food offerings and firecrackers to chase away evil spirits. Sunday morning, owner Marcia Lam shot this video of exploding firecrackers, while I only barely managed to avoid getting hit by passing cars. Inside Lin Jia, Marcia asked if I knew why the roosters that are given as offerings always have their heads and tails intact. Answer: it’s symbolic of the fact that every year has a beginning and an end. The celebration continues at Lin Jia through Saturday, and dinner guests who qualify as “little kids” will be presented with red envelopes.
Sunday afternoon, Richard Odenheimer, from MRE Realty, gave me a courtesy call to announce that Dress Best for Less had just signed a lease for the space at 3411 Lakeshore recently vacated by “Posh.” DBFL is a non-profit that was originally organized by Moms in Piedmont who began selling second-hand items as a source of income for Piedmont Schools in 1992. They have a sorting/pricing space in Piedmont and, for many years, have had a very successful retail storefront on Piedmont Avenue, next to Commis. That restaurant’s planned expansion is forcing the relocation. Featured merchandise includes clothing for men, women; and children, accessories, shoes, art, collectibles, housewares, toys, books, and CDs. Although the majority of the proceeds still benefit Piedmont schools, they’re equally generous with the community at large – starting with St. Vincent de Paul which receives approximately 50 percent of donated goods. Books and arts materials go to Children’s Hospital and local schools including those in Oakland. If you’ve been following local news, you’ve got to be aware that 3411 Lakeshore has been a problem spot with lots of turn-over. In my opinion, this is a very good choice that will be greeted warmly and should be super successful.
In her debut blog, Keila Diehl reports on why Collage Clothing Lounge is likely to close – barring a miracle.
A sociologist and an anthropologist sat down to talk about retail, and the conversation inevitably spread out in ever larger circles from its starting point: the imminent closure of the colorful Collage Clothing Lounge at 3344 Lakeshore Ave. This sad kernel of a recent conversation between me and Collage owner/sociology major, Amanda Robinson, jumped quickly from the facts of her closeout sale (clothing is currently 35% off) to gentrification and the delicate chemistry of a thriving neighborhood.
GRAND AVENUE NEWS
Construction is winding down and, judging by the table and chairs already set up inside, Aisle 5 must be very close to opening. When I took the above picture on Saturday, the newly installed stucco walls were only partially painted, but the facade was beginning to look finished and much better than I had envisioned last month. In fact, the windows and rustic wood trim are growing on me. That said, the steel access door on the far left is an abomination that’s going to be hard to hide. For the record, when they removed the signage and false front on the upper portion of the facade (exposing the original terracotta decorative elements) and promised to preserve them, I had high hopes. Unfortunately, they haven’t done much more than that to preserve and enhance the original exterior – but, it’s not too late. Hopefully, they are already planning (or willing to consider) accent paint on the terracotta – similar to what Nick and George Saribalis did with their building down the street that’s occupied by Knimble, Mijori, and Alchemy Bottle Shop.
The tragic news on Grand Avenue last month was that Sam “Peaches” Maxwell, Manager of the rare book room at Walden Pond Books, was in the Ghostship when it broke into flames. As reported in this article in the East Bay Times, Sam got out – but just barely and he remains hospitalized with burns and internal damage. Online donations are welcomed on this crowdfunding site. As of Saturday, they had raised just over $15,000 of their $50,000 goal.
It’s taken a lot perseverance but Russell Hill (from Red Oak Realty) and Eric Hughes (who wears a lot of hats including Co-Chair of the Grand Lake Neighborhood Council) recently installed three replacement street trees on Grand Avenue between Grand Lake Veterinary and Jau Jou Studio. When they began, there were ten tree wells that needed replacements and they’ve already garnered funding for the first six. To cover the cost of planting the remaining four locations, they’re hoping to raise an additional $1,000 before February 17 so that trees can be purchased and planted before the end of the rainy season. Funds help pay for clearing the tree well, cutting concrete, and buying/planting the trees. If you can help, please send donations to: Sierra Club Tree Team, c/o Anna Robinson, 1865 San Pedro Ave, Berkeley 94707. Mark your donation check “Grand Avenue Tree Account.” Paypal is also accepted at THIS LINK.
Qi Dumpling Lounge at 3300 Grand had its soft opening early last month, which is when I took this photograph. Steve Yip is on the far left. His wife, Shirleen Auyoung, is in the center, and Isaac Lam is on the right. Shirleen and Isaac are partners in the restaurant. If she looks familiar to you, it’s because she’s also the owner of Chi, Wind and Water on Lakeshore Avenue – the source of the spectacular geode behind the bar. According to a post on Trip Advisor, this is the next generation of the family that operated the Silver Palace on Moraga in Montclair. In addition to dumplings such as “Firecracker Pork Won Tons,” Qi serves Asian tapas including “Soy Glazed Pork Belly Sliders” and an assortment of salads and greens. I talked to Isaac on Monday and he indicated that they’d just extended their hours to make it more convenient for their customers.
Studio Grand has a new dance class starting this week and its usual array of superb music in a very warm and intimate space. Based on the two Balkan Night Concerts I attended last year, I highly recommend the Friday, February 17 incarnation featuring Laura Lackey’s Rhythm Revue and the Het Hat Club from Budapest. Please check out the sound track on the Het Hat Club website and I’m willing to bet that you’ll arrive early hoping for a front row seat.
“Romántico, An Evening Concert Celebrating Boleros and Latin American Music” on February 11, is scheduled to coincide with Valentine’s Day. That afternoon, look for “Love Bizarre, A Valentine’s Day Pop-up Market” from Noon to 5 PM.
Believe it or not, this photo of the exterior of The Alley makes my mouth water. What’s pictured is a new, high-capacity gas lining that’s been routed into their kitchen and, according to the plumber doing the installation, they should be back in operation in a month or so. Oh Lordy, I can’t adequately express the extent to which I’ve been yearning for one of their steaks with baked potatoes and a salad and fresh veggies.
Alyce on Grand is again featuring photographs by Ella Sophie Bessette, as well as hand-crafted leather accessories by Timmy Mays. Both will be prominently displayed at a pop-up shop scheduled for Saturday, February 4 from Noon to 6 PM. A DJ will be in the house and Alyce will be pouring free mimosas.
For an always up-to-date business directory, click and save the…
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
Last week, I was delighted when Lou Grantham (owner of San Francisco Fiber) emailed the above photo. With our world seemingly coming apart at the seams, it was a timely reminder that, even after the darkest nights and heaviest rains, the sun will shine again and bless us with an occasional rainbow.
Speaking of rains, another weather front is headed our way and light rain is forecast for Thursday night. If you need an excuse to venture out for the First Thursdays event on Grand, Lou is planning a hands-on wet and dry felting demonstration and ALL AGES are welcome. Even I’m excited – knowing that felting was one of the favorite activities at the two “Fiber and Textile Festivals” in Splash Pad Park that Lou and Bente Peterson (the former owner of Piedmont Yarn and Apparel) organized. By the way, net proceeds from the festivals were donated to Splash Pad Park and were a major source of funding for new landscaping.
If that’s not enough motivation to venture out Thursday evening, Panorama Framing will have live music supplied by Rick Schiller, plus refreshments. More importantly, you’ll be showing support for nine talented Clausen House clients responsible for the “Their World Through Their Hands” show. Clausen House, based at the corner of Grand and MacArthur, is about to celebrate its 50th Anniversary. On an annual basis, they provide independent and supported living accommodations, supported employment opportunities, and educational services for more than 200 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities
OTHER FIRST THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS
Better Homes & Gardens (3923 Grand) is debuting a show of Earth Spirits Photographs by Natalie Wesley. Complimentary beer, wine and snacks.
Jau Jou Studio is showing abstracts by Berkeley resident, Micah Liedeker. 15% discount on all merchandise.
Galleria Scola will be displaying some recent examples of Elida’s assemblage, and she’ll be demonstrating some framing and matting techniques. There’s also a special Valentine’s gift offer good Thursday evening only. If you bring a photograph or any piece of ephemera that evokes poignant memories, Elida will frame it for $50 using a custom-made decorative mat. Heart-shaped, perhaps? Music by Brian Maag. Complimentary beverages.
Baraka Gallery is continuing to feature tiny beadwork masterfully handcrafted. Stop in and stick around for a cup of tea.
Alyce on Grand is continuing its show of spectacular photographs by Ella Sophie Bessette plus leather accessories handcrafted in Oakland by Timmy Mays. Complimentary beverages. Regularly priced merchandise 15% off.
The Libertine is featuring local artists and extending their Happy Hour to 9:00 PM.
Urban Furniture: Small bites and beverages.
510 Brand is featuring painting by store employees, including Culling Cahayag, Nina Simi, and Natasha Reh. All merchandise is reduced 10% from 5:00-9:00 PM. Music and refreshments served.
All galleries are open from 6:00-8:00 PM
A complete list (including twelve other merchants who are offering discounts) is available at:
This month’s blog describes the new Grand Lake Cultural Cuisine Tour presented by Local Food Adventures. The next tour will be on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 3 p.m.
Grand Lake Cultural Cuisine Tour by Local Food Adventures
At 3 p.m. on Saturday, January 28, Lauren McCabe Herpich, owner of Local Food Adventures, cheerfully greeted one sleepy toddler in a stroller and six eager adults at the Lake Merritt Colonnade to begin the first Grand Lake Cultural Cuisine Tour. Following brief introductions, Lauren described her three goals for this activity:
- To leave guests neither stuffed nor starving.
- To share some historic knowledge about the area.
- To have fun.
Previous LZ blogs are archived and available on this link.
SPLASH PAD PARK
The February 4th Sunday work day at Splash Pad will be on the 26th. The Grand Crew’s December holiday vacation combined with an abbreviated January work day due to the rain-soaked grounds, translates to a serious backlog of weeding and we’d love to have additional support. Work days always begin at 9 AM and conclude at Noon with a communal lunch during which we congratulate one another for a job well done.
The photo on the right was taken this past Sunday. This particular bed (originally planted with Dogwood) was re-landscaped with drought-tolerant California Natives just over a year ago and has already filled in beautifully.
In response to the SeeClickFix Complaint that I filed several months ago, a pair of Public Works employees welded the break in the Names in Lights panels and replaced most of the missing screws. There’s still lots more to do, but it’s a good start. We’ve also been in communication with park staff over concerns they share regarding infrastructure damage related to the farmers market and, to a lesser extent, from the Christmas tree lot. I’ve got my fingers crossed that these issues will be eventually resolved.
While shopping the Old Oakland Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago, I found Jay Gascon leaning against his truck while soaking up the sun after two weeks of cold, pouring rains. The photo he shared that morning is a selfie he took just after pulling up a carrot that’s the veggie equivalent of a seven-foot tall Kevin Durant. With the incredibly saturated soil, he said the carrots came up with little effort. That and the apparent end of drought restrictions for at least this year makes up for the mud and miserable working conditions.
Around the corner, I was looking in vain for Eddie Chavez from EGB Farms when his son, Eddie Jr. called out and got my attention. I had been looking for their EGB Farms banner and walked right past their space. It turns out that Eddie Senior has turned over the keys to the barn and the tractor and Eddie Jr. is now in charge of a farm now called Sunnylands Orchards. His parents are, however, both continuing to work some of the markets including the Grand Lake where we have a special attachment. He and Javier Ledesma may be the only two farmers that remain at the Grand Lake from a select group that began selling under the freeway before the new park was built circa 1998.
ODDS AND ENDS
A huge, two-million dollar facelift is in the offing for the entrance to Fairyland and Lakeside Gardens as reported in this article by Mark Hedin in the East Bay Times. This project, along with the reconfiguration of traffic around Snow Park is amongst the last of the projects funded by Measure DD which was approved by 80 percent of voters in 2002.
Ann Woodell, who was widely recognized as Oakland’s Patron Saint of the parks and recreation community, passed away this week after more than three decades of volunteer service during which her dedication was legendary. Thanks to Sarah Van Roo for posting This Tribute on the Splash Pad Facebook page.
The list of restaurant closures compiled by SF Eater that I posted last month has been followed by two additional reports on the same theme. The East Bay Times article was entitled “What’s Behind the Spate of Restaurant Closures” and KQED’s analysis: “Here’s Why 2016 Was Rough for Bay Area Restaurants.”
One of the many restaurants that bit the dust was Salsipuedes at 42nd and Market. The good news is that the space has already been revamped by Russell Moore and Allison Hopelain from Camino and will re-open as Kebabery – giving that revolving staple on the Camino menu a more permanent home. According to Allison, all the work’s done and they’re simply waiting for the Alameda County Health Department and the Oakland Fire Department to inspect and sign off on their applications.
A quick show of hands, please. Did you participate in the Women’s March in Oakland on January 21? According to the Mercury News, 100,000 people attended. All I know is that it was a sea of people so vast, I only saw three people I knew: Pat Kernighan, David Flack, and his wife, Liz. In addition to being huge, it was also amazingly well organized and totally peaceful. My assumption for the latter is that the Black Bloc protestors who have marred previous demonstrations didn’t want anything to do with a bunch of resolute women who weren’t about to take sh_t from anybody. More of my Women’s March photos are posted on Flickr, and a search of the site will turn up thousands more.
A week later, a protest sparked by Trump’s Executive Order, widely assumed to be aimed at Muslims, took place on Lake Park from Lanesplitter Pizza up onto the freeway onramp. Another was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Here’s a small sample of photos.
The February meeting of the Grand Lake Neighbors group on Wednesday, February 15, will include the monthly crime report and a discussion on how to best solicit community input regarding the 500 Lake Park project. The major item on the agenda, however, will be a presentation by Neighbors for Racial Justice exploring “how to examine implicit bias and other patterns that lead to profiling” while building “neighborhoods that are safe and welcoming for all.”
The March 15 promises to be equally informative as EBMUD Board Member Marguerite Young is scheduled to talk about the prospects of major infrastructure repairs. Her presentation will be accompanied by a slide show that documents the replacement of the water main on a two-block length of Balfour Avenue.
- Thursday, February 2: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, February 3: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday, February 11, 9 AM – 1:00 PM – Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Saturday, February 11, Noon – 5:00 PM: Studio Grand – Love Bizarre, A Valentine’s Day Pop-up Market
- Wednesday, February 15, 7 – 8:30 PM: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting – Lakeshore Baptist Church Family Room
- Sunday, February 26, 9:00 AM – Noon – Splash Pad Park Volunteer Work Day
- Saturday, March 25, Noon – 4 PM: The Plant Exchange, 4500 Lincoln Avenue