Mr. Mitchell,

In the late 1990’s, Caroline Kim’s Eastshore Park Preservation Association obtained in excess of 7,000 signatures on a petition to save Splash Pad Park from commercial development. Their efforts saved a park that was un-used and heavily blighted but turning it into a beautiful asset that serves the community became the responsibility of Oakland-based Landscape Architect Walter Hood.   In 2004,  he was named recipient of the “Distinguished Project of the Year Award” by the American Public Works Association specifically for his Splash Pad Park design.  In 2009, Hood was named the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s Landscape Architect of the Year – based, I was told, largely on two projects in Oakland –  Lafayette Square and Splash Pad Park.   In addition, Walter has been extensively profiled in at least eight major  publications  including the New York Times, Metropolis, Dwell, Fast Company and Architect Magazine and, in each case,  Splash Pad Park was prominently mentioned.

Fourteen years after its opening in 2003, this wonderful gem of a neighborhood park has lost the luster depicted in the above photos.  This despite the best efforts of Christian Boyle and his hard-working crew, who manage to keep the grounds clean and the lawns green but can’t deal with the infrastructure problems described below.  While I know that the Public Works Department is under-staffed and under-funded, I’m hoping that we can work together to find the resources to restore the park and allow it to again serve as a safe haven and source of unbridled community pride.

This Queen Palm in the Lake Park Avenue street median was destroyed in the course of an automobile accident on September 1 of 2016.  Four additional palms (out of the nine that were originally planted in the median in 2003) have met the same fate . To date, none have been replaced.

This is the remains of a light pole that was custom-designed by Hood Design Studio for installation at Splash Pad.  Like the Queen Palm in the previous paragraph, it was destroyed by an out-of-control car on September 1, 2016. If you look closely, you can make out its twin in the distance to the left of the utility box.

The subsidence of the wood decking adjacent to the Names in Lights panels represents a major tripping hazard and law-suit waiting to happen. It was first reported in October of 2016 as Issue ID #2960704. While this is the primary concern, all the Ipe wood decking should be inspected as there are loose boards elsewhere.  In addition, many of the screws that hold the steel panels in place are loose and should be tightened and those that are missing need to be replaced.

The Grand Lake community helped fund the Splash Pad fountain.  It’s one of the park’s most beloved features.  Kids wade in it and the splashing water helps offset the drone of traffic on the adjacent freeway.  Shortly after the park opened, Jaime Salazar took over maintenance and continued to do so until his retirement in early 2015.   I took comfort in knowing that he had trained his replacement but, for whatever reason, that transition never occurred.  The fountain is currently dry because a faulty refill valve wasn’t replaced resulting in damage to the pump which now needs replacement as well.  If Mr. Salazar isn’t willing to come out of retirement and work part time, please find a replacement able to fill his shoes and service the fountain on a weekly basis to make sure it’s properly chlorinated and safe for the kids to wade.

Last month, I reported on (Issue ID #3691819) that all the park lighting (except for a street lamp on a separate circuit) was out, which is still the case.  This is highly problematic since one the park’s primary goals was to provide safe access to the parking lot under the freeway for shoppers, diners and theater-goers. Without lighting, the park has become a dark and forbidding space.   Although most of the outages are related (possibly a tripped breaker)  the following problems will likely require a significant investment in time and money:

  • The Names in Lights panels have to be removed to access the lamps.  The underground concrete box that houses the lights should be cleaned at the same time.
  • The glass lens on one of the up-lights under the Queen Palms adjacent to the corner of Grand and Lake Park is missing.  Another up-light in the same location needs to be raised to ground level.
  • The spotlights in the fountain wall are inoperable and likely need to be replaced.
  • All the remaining lighting including the four bollards should be inspected to ensure that they are operational. (OCTOBER 26 UPDATE: One of the bollards that had been repaired previously using what looks like expanding foam is down again – posing a tripping hazard.)

There’s a serious rat infestation throughout the park that poses a health hazard for our Splash Pad volunteers, city staff and the general public.  In addition, their burrows disturb the soil causing the plants to decline and eventually die.   Alameda County’s Vector Control has dusted the burrows on occasion but they don’t have the resources to provide ongoing controls.  Our own efforts, despite an inordinate investment in time and energy, have also been unsuccessful.   The most effective solution would be installation of bait stations as is the case at the Lakeview Library, the Garden Center at Lake Merritt and, I’d assume, many more locations throughout the city.

The health of three of the Canary Palms pictured above appears to be questionable.  Two of the palms pose a significant hazard since fronds that are about 12 feet long and weigh up to 20 pounds suddenly drop without warning.  These palms need to be inspected; treated if possible;  the trunks should be cleaned and dead fronds removed.  That said, this needs to be done carefully in order to minimize the spread of any fungal or bacterial diseases.

Several years ago, Splash Pad volunteers met with Tora Rocha and Walter Hood and came up with plans to install decomposed granite walkways to provide better access to the seating walls that border the plaza.  Six weeks ago, we installed DG in the smallest walkway and have already excavated the two remaining sections.   In order to complete this project, we will need some Public Works staff and equipment for the better portion of one day – hopefully before the rains commence. The Splash Pad Grand Crew volunteer group has limited funds for landscaping – so any assistance with the purchase of  base rock and DG and/or transportation of same would be appreciated.

The gravel in the bed that parallels the freeway has migrated over time creating a severe tripping hazard as witnessed by the number of farmers market patrons who fall every Saturday. A permanent replacement for the gravel is being considered but, meanwhile, thought should be given to spreading more gravel as a temporary fix.

A section of the asphalt roadway that bisects the park has severely buckled – most likely due to intrusion from the roots of the adjacent Queen Palm.  As assessment needs to be made regarding possible fixes – while keeping in mind that cutting the palm’s roots may very likely expose it to pathogens and lead to its possible demise.

I’d conclude by noting that this small park is amongst the most heavily used in the city thanks to its central location and the fact that it’s the home of a farmers market that attracts in excess of 5,000 shoppers each Saturday.  It’s also the home of a California Native Community Garden that volunteers planted in 2003.  In the past three years, we’ve doubled its size thanks to funding from Keep Oakland Beautiful.  A third KOB grant that was just announced this week will allow us to add interpretative signage and brochures that will allow us to better promote drought-tolerant, California Native gardens.  As our “home away from home”, we want to do whatever we can to help you make this happen.


Ken Katz