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AUTUMN LIGHTS FESTIVAL – 2017
by Sarah Van Roo

The Autumn Lights Festival returns each October to The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Lakeside Park as a marker of Fall’s arrival in Oakland.  This year, the sixth annual festival takes place Thursday October 19 through Saturday, October 21. 

The festival is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt and this year’s proceeds will help fund installation of new gates and entrance landscaping.  As anyone, who has walked or driven through the park can attest, these gardens are easy to miss, with scant signage.

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 LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE

The LGBTQ Community Center celebrated its Grand Opening at the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park on September 7 as reported by KTVU.  I was surprised to learn that its the first such center in Oakland that specifically serves the entire LGBTQ community and was actually shocked to hear that Oakland ranked eighth (with a score of 77) in a list of the ten largest cities in California in terms of the services they provide to LGBT residents.  By comparison, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Long Beach all received a perfect score of 100.

According to the press release sent to me by co-founder Joe Hawkins, their group feels quite fortunate to have found an ideal space with the Co-Community in our very welcoming, Grand Lake neighborhood.

Dr. Bruce McEtchin is about to retire after providing superb dental care in his office at 3307 Lakeshore for 37 years. That represents a ton of fillings – not to mention restorations and root canals (including one of mine).  In a letter to his patients, he said,

It has been a privilege and honor to be your dentist, I am deeply grateful for your friendship, trust and confidence.  My career has been a joy and I will certainly miss you.

Dr. McEtchin also announced that his practice has been purchased by a husband and wife team, Dr. Lance Brune and Dr. Colleen Vasquez, both of whom have sterling credentials.  Dr. McEtchin’s wife, Luly will continue working in the office temporarily during the transition and all the other members of Dr. McEtchin’s team will be staying permanently.  On October 14th from 1 – 3 p.m., Dr. Brune and Dr. Vaquez will be hosting an Open House during which patients can congratulate Dr. McEtchin on his retirement.

The Lakeshore Business Improvement District has retained a new gardener.  Donnie Schneider is a graduate of the fabulous Horticultural program at Merritt College and he’s already started to revamp the landscaping up and down Lakeshore.  The photo to the right was taken several weeks ago as he was working in the traffic island where Trestle Glen dead-ends.  He’s been consulting on this particular project with Parks Supervisor Tora Rocha, who has offered advice and promised to provide some milkweeds and other California Native plants favored by local pollinators – particularly butterflies.   

Proposition chicken opened on September 13 – right on schedule and they’ve been busy ever since.  I dropped by this past Thursday afternoon planning to take a photo of the interior but, due to a long line almost out the door, I settled for this photo shot through the front window.  Earlier in the month, an East Bay Express “What the Fork” column previewed the opening of Proposition Chicken’s Lakeshore location – but the most interesting scuttlebutt came in the report from KQED, which explained that the restaurant’s theme was generated by a gut response to the owner of Chick-fil-A and his virulent opposition to same-sex marriage.  

 It’s why there are strong words on the walls of Proposition Chicken, beginning with the cheeky: “This chicken goes three ways” to the statement that they are for “The Right to Choose: Choose your style, your chicken, who you marry, what you do with your body” and they are against “people against equality” among other things.

Next door, the plans that Peet’s filed with the City will allow them to expand into the adjacent storefront that used to house the Burrito Shop.  The main objective is, of course, to remove the wall that separates the two spaces.  I’m told that they’re also going to remove the remnants of the shop sign on the front facade to expose the original transom windows.  This will be a major plus as it will introduce more natural light into the interior and also help restore the integrity of the original design.  Although the plans call for new aluminum frame doors, I understand that the architect is going to substitute wood frame doors to match the originals, including the one that Proposition Chicken has retained.  All, in all, it’s a big step forward.  I’d also note that I’m particularly pleased to hear that Peet’s is interested in utilizing the concrete platform at the adjacent corner of the parking lot as an outdoor patio.  In addition to the obvious benefits, it would almost certainly eliminate the tripping hazards that I talked about last month and also add some more greenery and color to a sea of asphalt and concrete.  The one fly in the ointment is that they have yet to negotiate an agreement with Sansome-Pacific, the company that manages the property that includes the outdoor parking lot, Walgreen’s and Trader Joe’s.

Bay-Made (next door to Buckingham Wine and Spirits) opened Friday afternoon and the space looks marvelous – although there’s clearly room for a much broader selection of merchandise, which is why shop owner, Sarahjane Bernhisel, is continuing to solicit inquiries from local artists, craftspeople and  others making unique products here in the Bay Area.  By the way, if Sarahjane looks familiar and you can’t figure out why, she was the Manager and buyer for Adventure Toys for the past three years. She’s just moved two doors up the street and her former boss is now her current landlord.  This Thursday, Sarahjane will be hosting an Opening Night Reception in conjunction with Grand Avenue First Thursdays that features four artists including herself plus  Simon Lutrin, Germaine de Luca and Brandon Smith – all four of whom live in close proximity to the Lake.

The abundance of trash cans out on the street day after day has been an ongoing problem on the west side of Lakeshore – particularly in front of Noah’s and Starbucks and especially so, now that they’re partially blocking the newly-installed bike-share station. I’d also add that the very tentative plans for a parklet adjacent to the bike-share station can’t proceed unless this issue is resolved.

As is the case in residential neighborhoods, the cans are supposed to be placed at the curb the night before pick-up and brought in as soon as possible after they’ve been emptied.  The regulations are clearly not being honored as exemplified by the photo to the right taken early in the evening on Saturday, September 9 – at least 36 hours before the next garbage pick-up was scheduled.  Multiple complaints have been forwarded to Code Enforcement and the businesses affected should have been given a 30-day notice to comply.

Lakeshore Avenue News in Brief:

  • Lin Jia had a special visitor for lunch a couple of weeks back – Warriors Andre Iguodala.  Getting him to pose for this photo was apparently a slam-dunk.
  • The Moroccan Palace received a wonderful review in the East Bay Express
  • Cana is celebrating Thursday Night football games with Big Screen TV’s and specials on Chicken Wings, Mojitos and Beer.
  • Flavors of India was re-named “Punjabi Tadka” after one of two partners withdrew from their business partnership.

GRAND AVENUE

The big news on Grand, according to this article in SF Eater, is that Charlie Hallowell has come up with a working proposal for the Grand Fare Market space. Loosely modeled after the Gjusta Bakery in LA. Reporter, Ellen Fort writes:

The idea is to open a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and (probably) dinner with an accompanying commissary of pantry provisions like jams, charcuterie, and wines. “Enough to make a beautiful picnic, if not an entire meal,” says Scott. The expanded space will also create the opportunity to up the group’s baking capabilities, with more of Pizzaiolo’s popular bread for sale there and at its other restaurants.

The project appears to be very much in the planning stages and, including any needed structural changes, will likely take up to a full year.  Meanwhile, the patio will continue to be used for special events; for the popular Friday – Sunday “Secret Garden” barbecues and movie night plus an occasional Korean pop-up.  At least for the time being, Freya Prowe will continue operating her Brother and Sisters Flower Shop.

For the last several weeks, work crews have been excavating inside the former home of Grand Bakery – installing a new sewer system.  I talked to the property manager for the building on Friday and was informed that they haven’t yet signed a new tenant and will start publicizing the space once the new flooring is installed and other improvements completed.  As an aside, click on the photo to the left to enlarge and you’ll see what may be the last remaining reminder inside the building of Bob Jaffe’s long-term presence in this space, a Beatles “Abbey Road” album cover.

Studio Grand’s big highlight this month will be their  Annual Celebration of the Day of the Dead which begins Monday,  October 16 and runs through November 27.  They’ve also scheduled a number of new and returning classes including “Flavas Rhythm and Movement” on Sundays and Capoeira on Mondays.  A new 7 week-long Group Voice class begins October 11.  As we’re going to press, their music calendar isn’t fully posted but five concerts are already scheduled, mostly with a focus on improvisational and electronic music.

GRAND AVENUE NEWS IN BRIEF:

  • Ordinaire has a 3-course “Kosuke Bistro” pop-up scheduled for Monday evening, October 2 featuring beef tartare, smoked avocado, anchovy, pork belly confit and more
  • Camino’s “Paella Mondays” continues through October
  • Like the lovely garden Scott planted in front, Awaken Chiropractic has been steadily growing and now includes therapeutic massage services, Chinese medicine and Holistic Psychotherapy

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

GABA Logo

FARMERS MARKET

Last month, I was taken to task by one very vocal critic for noting that “with the screws tightening on the farmers market management, they’ve been far more protective of the grass”.  Perhaps, my choice of verbiage was a bit over the top but the more important observation is that our complaints regarding excessive congestion have seemingly had the opposite effect – prompting the management to double down by making the aisle between the two rows of vendors in the shadow of the freeway still narrower. The weird thing is that the last couple of times I’ve shopped the market during the afternoon rush hour, there really wasn’t much congestion at all – maybe because the crowds are going elsewhere.

New or relatively new vendors include Feral Heart Farm, which is based in Sunol  up at the top of Niles Canyon, SpiruSource and The Baconer, which is based right here in Oakland.

SPLASH PAD PARK

Splash Pad’s “Grand Crew” volunteer team is still looking for volunteers to help install decomposed granite walkways in and adjacent to the plaza – probably on a week day and, hopefully in the next month or so before the rains begin.  Please email info@splashpad.org, if you’re interested.  The next regular 4th Sunday work day will be on October 22 from 9am – Noon. At the workday last Sunday, we were pleased to again have assistance from a group of Piedmont High School students who are back from summer vacation.

If you’ve noticed that Splash Pad’s community garden is looking rather forlorn of late, please keep in mind that this is typical of California Native perennials and come early Spring, all the flowers pictured above will again be in bloom.

GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS

As mentioned above, October’s First Thursdays art walk will coincide with an artists reception at Bay-Made. There’s also two new artists showing at Pure 510.  I’m especially impressed with the pieces by “Jonesy” that are, in my opinion, seriously underpriced. If you missed last month’s First Thursday event, be sure to visit the other galleries as well, as there’s currently a wealth of really spectacular art.    Details for all the participating galleries can be found on this Grand Avenue First Thursdays page.

ODDS & ENDS

I‘m always delighted to see vintage photos of the Grand Lake district on the Oakland History Facebook page.  There were two that popped up in the last couple of weeks that were of particular interest.  The one picturing a heavily flooded Lakeshore Avenue circa the 1940’s is  from the Oakland Museum collection.   If you click and enlarge the photo, you can make out Edy’s Candies, Highland Realty and Thatcher Paints which specialized in Sherwin Williams products – then manufactured in Emeryville. As a point of reference, the Edy’s spot is now Punjabi Tadka.  When we bought our house in the early 1970’s, it was “The Ice Creamery”.  Somewhat ironically, the walls of the latter were decorated with early neighborhood photos not unlike those now posted on Facebook.  

The photo on the left depicts a page from a 1930 edition of the Oakland Tribune promoting a miniature golf tournament that spanned eighteen courses – all but two or three of which were located in Oakland.  My initial reaction to this post was astonishment.  I would have never guessed that miniature golf was so popular at the time.  I was even more amazed to discover that the First Prize for Men was a brand new car, but, in the “More Things Change, The More They Remain the Same Department”,  the First Prize for the top woman golfer was a console radio.  As for the aforementioned, Grand Lake connection, one of the courses listed was the “Roof Top Garden” at 3225 Grand.  Alyce from Alyce on Grand tells me that she’s seen the roof and there’s neither a garden nor any sign of a mini golf course. If you know more, please share.

 

In Front of Colonial Donuts

Newspaper racks are scattered through-out the Grand Lake commercial district in at least seven locations and each location is blighted to at least some degree.  Many of the individual boxes  have been abandoned and are now literally filled with garbage.  Code Enforcement is aware of this issue as multiple complaints have been filed but, as far as I know, no solution is in the offing.

 CALENDAR

  • Thursday, October 5, 6 – 8pm:  Grand Avenue First Thursdays
  • Friday, October 6: Art Murmur Downtown
  • Monday, October 16:  Opening of Studio Grand’s Annual Day of the Dead Celebration
  • Wednesday, Octber 18, 7 – 8:30 PM: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting in Lakeshore Baptist Church Family Room
  • 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
  • Sunday, Octber 22, 9 AM – Noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” Volunteer Work Day