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LAKE MERRITT LAUNDROMAT UPGRADES

By Sheila McCormick

Confession: I last used a laundromat about 30 years ago and that was because the knob and tube wiring in the house we’d just moved into didn’t have the capacity to run our washer and dryer.  Once we upgraded the power, no more need.

Lake Merritt Laundromat, at 500 Wesley Ave., was taken over in January 2017 by Derek Drake, whose family has been in the laundromat business for years. Derek has made a lot of positive changes. He added granite countertops, and all in all it looks great. All the machines are new and high efficiency, and although it is apparently a nice place to hang out (free wifi, ample power outlets for charging phones or computers, a big-screen tv, with Netflix) – the time you need to spend there might be less than typical.   

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PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT AT HADDON HILL CAFE

By Sheila McCormick

Sue Amar

You may have missed the artist’s reception on August 24, but don’t miss Haddon Hill Cafe’s exhibit of Sue Amar’s landscape photographs – many taken at night and many in our national parks. The photos are breathtaking, dye-infused prints on metal. The show continues through September 15th at Haddon Hill Cafe, 504 Wesley Avenue.  For more photos, visit her website or follow her on Instagram (@sueamarphoto).

 

 LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE

 

Stefen’s replacement mural, “Lake Merritt Composite”  was completed in record time and it’s been receiving overwhelmingly positive reviews. Congratulations to the artist and to the Gilberts for successfully negotiating what I feared could become a public relations boondoggle. Thanks also to Barry and Elaine (along with the Lake Merritt Institute) for funding the mural’s cost.

Looking at my photo, I especially like the walkway in the foreground that’s inviting enough to tempt the guy heading to Trader Joe’s to instead, veer left and take a leisurely stroll around the lake. The other feature I’d single out are the faux tiles on each end that match the deco tiles on the front corners of the building. That’s a nice added touch that helps frame the entire mural.  More of Stefen’s work can be viewed on his website.

 

Now I’m hoping that all the attention that’s been focused on the mural will rub off and result in major improvements to the walkway at its base as well as the adjacent concrete platform that borders the sidewalk on Lakeshore. The platform, as I pointed out last month, is a major trip and fall hazard and the walkway isn’t ADA- compliant. With front bumpers up over the parking lot curb, it’s barely three feet wide.

 

I‘ve been reporting on restaurant openings for a number of years and invariably, the predictions have been mostly worthless. I was, therefore, understandably surprised when Proposition Chicken did something I’ve never seen previously. With a fair amount of finish work yet to be completed, they put a sign in the window announcing a specific opening date – Wednesday, September 13. Last week, the front door was open for employee interviews – so I walked inside and introduced myself to the Manager. Mike wasn’t the least bit worried about meeting that hard and fast deadline. In fact, he’s pretty sure that they will squeeze in a soft opening before the 13th. I’m not sure my photograph does the interior justice, but it seems open and bright and surprisingly spacious for a small space.

There’s a fair amount of anticipation in social media over Proposition Chicken’s upcoming opening and I suspect that this location (their second) should do quite well.  That said, in my opinion, I’d worry that the restaurant sector in the district is going to reach a saturation point – if it hasn’t done so already.

Yesterday afternoon, although I was in a hurry to get home and wrap up the newsletter, I  couldn’t resist taking a photo of a mini school bus painted bright red.  It’s been re-purposed as a delivery vehicle for Oakland-based, Line 51 Brewing Company and they were just about to drop off  a keg for the Cat House.  Coincidentally, just last week, I also made a point of complimenting a driver from Fort Point Beer Company who was delivering cases to Buckingham Wine and Spirits. More importantly, later that week, I purchased a six pack of their Westfalia Red Ale.

In both instances, I appreciate the fact that they’re craft brewers dedicated to a direct one on one relationship with their retail customers and, as such,  are a total antithesis to what’s happening nationwide with big international conglomerates snapping up local breweries. For example, Constellation Brands which purchased Ballast Point for $1 billion.

Just afterwards, I also popped in to the future home of Bay-Made (next door to Buckingham ) and had a brief conversation with shop owner, Sarahjane Bernhisel, who had been assembling a display table and was about to install picture hanging moulding. One very long wall will be dedicated to artwork. The wall behind the counter will feature an assortment of fine-art from which giclee prints can be printed on demand. The balance of the space will feature ceramics, jewelry, textiles and other crafts.    If you’re an artist or craftsperson working in wood, ceramics, metals, leather or whatever, Sarahjane would be delighted to talk with you about consigning. In addition, if you’re an aspiring artist, she’s going to be giving art lessons and will also conduct workshops – for example, block printing a bag. Across the street, Proposition Chicken has promised that they will open on September 13.  That’s the date that Sarahjane is also shooting for – but I don’t think she’s about to put it in writing.

 GRAND AVENUE

Baraka Gallery (at 432 Santa Clara) has closed permanently and, yesterday afternoon, Shiffen was in the process of packing up the last of her merchandise and display fixtures and was about to post a letter in the window that apologized for her abrupt move to a new location in San Francisco. The letter, in part, noted:

I sincerely appreciate the support and sense of  community that you gave me here.  Most of all, however, I appreciate the warm friendships that were created here.  I will always carry them with me.  

Baraka Gallery’s new location will be at 1230 Fillmore Street and Shiffen can be reached at BarakaGallery@Yahoo.com.

Studio Grand is currently offering a wide variety of classes including free Zapateado dance classes (for adults and children)  and free Jarana classes that continue through mid-September. As we’re going to press, their “Event Calendar” hasn’t been fully updated – but watch for their monthly Balkan Night as they’re always a treat and guaranteed to get your toes tapping.

Grand Bakery has a sign in the window with a long list of locations where you can purchase their challah, macaroons and cookies. Round challahs and honey cake will also be available for the high holidays. The two nearest retail locations are Oakland Kosher on Lakeshore and Piedmont Grocery. For more information, visit their website or phone 510 465-1110. As yet, there’s no indication that Sam Tobis will move back into the Grand Avenue location – but, when I talked with him last month, he did say he wanted to keep his options open.

GRAND AVENUE NEWS IN BRIEF:

  • The just-opened Cycle for Lyfe spin exercise location has a Grand Opening Special: $10 for your first class.
  • Ordinaire is celebrating their Fourth Birthday today (September 1) with paella, oysters and steak.
  • Aisle 5 has a trivia contest Tuesday nights from 8 -10pm and occasionally live music on Fridays and/or Saturdays. Check their calendar.
  • This Saturday afternoon from 3 – 5pm, Alchemy Bottle Shop will be pouring samples of gin and rye whiskey bottled by Spirit Works in Sebastapol.
  • Alyce on Grand will be having a week-long big sale on Spring and Summer fashions beginning Monday, September 4. Prices reduced up to 50%.

For an always up-to-date business directory, click and save the…

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FARMERS MARKET

Former District 2 Council Member, Pat Kernighan, weighed in on the Farmers Market controversy via a detailed letter she posted on neighborhood social media. From what we’ve been told, the discussion should now be moving to the City Council’s Community Economic Development Committee as early as September 12.  I believe we’ve made an extremely strong case for operational guidelines that would help protect the park infrastructure, ease the parking crunch, create more elbow room for the public and, in the process,  make the farmers market even more popular than it is already.

I hate to repeat myself but, contrary to what the most vocal Agricultural Institute of Marin supporters are saying, we have no desire to eliminate prepared foods or arts and crafts vendors. In point of fact, we like the market balance just as it is and we’ll urge the city to include, in an RFP, provisions that would protect current sellers. The RFP would be a competitive process that would help ensure that the market operator is paying a reasonable fee and potentially  providing additional community benefits. I should also note that there’s an overwhelming consensus amongst those neighbors who are actively supporting an RFP that we want AIM to participate in the process. On the other hand, there’s zero support for an idea I floated months ago suggesting that we form a community non-profit that would compete for the opportunity to manage the market. The RFP will instead be limited to organizations that already operate successful Bay Area farmers markets.  Two have privately expressed interest and, if the RFP is issued, we expect AIM and others to also participate.

Jonathan Ruiz

In the past several months, a lot of market changes have already transpired, beginning with the manager’s position.  Jonathan Ruiz, the first Oakland resident and first person of color to be employed at the market, is no longer working for the Agricultural Institute of Marin and, since I haven’t talked with Jon, I’m not sure of the circumstances.  I, personally, was sad to see him go since he was dedicated, hard-working and very likable.  I’m also feeling a bit guilty since one of our last conversations was about a section of asphalt that has buckled creating a tripping hazard. I wasn’t particularly supportive – pointing out an equally severe tripping hazard in the plaza where a section of Ipe wood decking has collapsed. The buckled asphalt is, however, especially problematic since it’s repair would require cutting the roots of the adjacent Canary Palm – likely exposing it to infection by Fusarium Wilt which has killed half a dozen palms since the park opened in 2003.  That’s largely irrelevant, however, since, in both cases, the city apparently has neither adequate staffing or funding to address such concerns.  Meanwhile AIM is grossing approximately $250,000 each year at the Grand Lake Market and preparing to spend in excess of $20 million for a new agricultural center in San Rafael.

Jon’s replacement is Oakland native, Devon Fryer.  She is, by my count, the ninth market manager we’ve had since 2003 and, of those, two (Jim Fenton and Chris Blackburn) were here multiple years. The average stay for the balance has been approximately one year – not nearly enough to “learn the ropes” and maintain continuity.

There have also been several recent changes in the market vendor make-up.

  •  Guy Birenbaum, the proprietor of La Fleur de Lyon, has officially retired after a long-run at the Grand Lake Market. He had a very faithful clientele who very much miss his presence – not to mention the meat and vegetable pies.  In addition to offering a superb product, Guy also used his farmers market booth as a fund-raising vehicle for Parkinson’s research. As we reported in the November 2015 newsletter, between his own donations and those of his customers, he’d raised $400 the previous month.
  • E & H Farms is relatively new to the market. They are based in Oakdale and offer a variety of organically-grown mushrooms.
  • Billal Sidiq, the charming President of East & West Gourmet Food, is back at the Grand Lake Market peddling bolani.  He told me that they’d given up on wholesaling since the increased revenue wasn’t adequate to compensate for the huge time commitment – not to mention, major headaches. They’ve sold the rights to the name but not the business and will again be focusing exclusively on farmers markets.

SPLASH PAD PARK

The major infrastructure problems I’ve discussed in the past several months haven’t been addressed.  That  includes the rat population, the collapsed wood decking in the plaza and replacement of the custom-made light pole that was destroyed last year. To add to the misery, a valve that controls the water level in the fountain went bad and hadn’t been replaced. When the employee who regularly maintains the fountain failed to show for a period of time, the fountain went dry and the pump failed. The fountain won’t be working until the pump and valve are replaced.

 

One bit of good news is that, with the screws tightening on the farmers market management, they’ve been far more protective of the grass and thankfully, our city gardener, Christian Boyle, has been working miracles despite all his other responsibilities at the Rose Garden, Mandana Green and elsewhere .  While the turf is looking  very good overall, there’s one glaring exception: the two  bald spots under the Phoenix Pastificio booth that have been there for about a year.

The other good news is that Splash Pad’s “Grand Crew” volunteer team finally completed installation of a short decomposed granite path that we began working on two years ago. The path, which is adjacent to the California Native community garden,  was approved in concept by Walter Hood and is designed to provide access to the outside of the seating wall – particularly on Farmers Market days. There’s a similar, but much longer pathway on the same side of the wall that has yet to be filled. In addition, we’re planning to install a big section of decomposed granite on the plaza side, in a bed that was originally planted with bunch grasses but that were heavily trampled. We’ve asked the Public Works Department for help with labor and possibly materials, but so far we’ve yet to receive an answer. Either way, volunteer assistance is going to be needed.  If you’re interested, please email us at info@splashpad.org.

The next regular 4th Sunday work day will be on September 24 from 9am – Noon.

GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS

As mentioned above, Baraka Gallery is moving to San Francisco and, for the time being, Better Homes & Garden Realty won’t be participating in the First Thursdays event. Hopefully, BH & G will return to the fold sometime soon.

Otherwise, the outlook for this month’s event on September 7th  looks outstanding.  There’s artists to meet and new artwork to view and purchase at Panorama Framing, Urban Furniture, Alchemy Bottle Shop, Jau Jou Studio, Clausen House and Ruth Stroup Insurance plus art in the making at 510 Brand. Details for all ten participating galleries are on this Grand Avenue First Thursdays page and updates are regularly posted on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays Facebook page.

 HAPPENINGS

If you want to celebrate Labor Day in style, while simultaneously supporting Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Terrie Odabi and David Sturdevant are providing the perfect venue – three hours of jazz and blues featuring some of the Bay Area’s most highly respected musicians, including John Santos, Lady Bianca, Valerie Trout and many, many more. 

100% of the proceeds benefit two approved charities in Houston. All ages are welcome. Suggested donation is $20 at the door.

Kyle Wiggins, who has thus far produced two “Town Biz” showcases for locally-owned small businesses, is gearing up for a third on Sunday, September 10 from Noon – 5 pm. Re-branded, the  “Splash Pad Market“, Kyle has  45 vendors signed up and is looking for more.  He says they’ll again be providing free arcade games and will be offering additional food options.

International PARKing Day, under the sponsorship of Walk Oakland/Bike Oakland, takes place on Friday, September 15.  Locations include Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, where they will be occupying two parking spaces for the day.  In addition, they’re teaming up with  BANDALOOP  to offer a free public art performance on the Great Wall of Oakland from 6 – 8 pm.  A portion of Luka’s parking lot will be set up with seating and space for blankets. 

The 5th Annual “Drawn Together” event at Fairyland on September 16 showcases fifty local artists who will team up to create over 100 pieces of original Fairyland-inspired art that will be offered for sale at $40 a pop.  All proceeds help Fairyland provide free access to low-income families. 

The Autumn Lights Festival at Lakeside Gardens is going to be bigger and better than ever.  If you haven’t been previously, you’re missing out as the gardens are magically illuminated as darkness falls.

 CALENDAR

  • Friday, September 1: Art Murmur Downtown
  • Monday, September 4, 7 – 10pm: Monday Night Jazz Session at Plymouth Church
  • Thursday, September 7, 6 – 8pm:  Grand Avenue First Thursdays
  • Saturday, September 9, 10pm – Noon: Volunteer Fair at Lakeview School
  • Sunday, September 10, Noon – 5pm:  Splash Pad Market
  • Friday, September 15:  International PARKing Day
  • Saturday, September 16: 22nd Annual Creek to Bay Day
  • Saturday, September 16, 6 – 9 PM:  “Drawn Together” at Fairyland
  • Wednesday, September 20, 7 – 8:30 PM: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting in Lakeshore Baptist Church Family Room
  • Sunday, September 24, 9 AM – Noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” Volunteer Work Day
  • Thursday, October 19  – Saturday, October 21:  Autumn Lights Festival at Lakeside Gardens.
  • Saturday, October 21, 12 PM – 4 PM: Fall Plant Exchange, 4500 Lincoln Avenue.