GRAND AVENUE MERCHANT NEWS
The biggest news on Grand Avenue revolves around the vacant Silver Screen Video space where Grand intersects Boulevard Way. The One Medical Group has signed a lease contingent on their receiving a Minor Conditional Use Permit. One Medical is based in seven metropolitan areas including San Francisco, which has twenty individual clinics providing a host of medical services.
I checked with my long-time next door neighbor, who is a Physician’s Assistant at UCSF Medical Center, and he noted that he personally knows “a number of the clinicians who work for One Medical in SF/Berkeley and all are top notch”.
I’ve also been told that they expect to spend $1 million on building improvements but will maintain the classic Art Deco exterior; reduce the size of the awnings and, if possible, replicate the original Deco color scheme.
If you have questions or want more information, a spokesperson from One Medical will be attending the next Grand Lake Neighbors meeting on Wednesday, May 20.
For the record, the Silver Screen Video building would have been the ideal location for a butcher shop or a specialty grocery – both of which have long been on top of various neighborhood surveys but the upcoming opening of Grand Fare and the recent debut of Clove and Hoof on Broadway may have put a damper on our prospects for either.
Speaking of Grand Fare, I have very good news to report. Yesterday, I was told that they plan on opening by the end of June. The major construction in progress outside is for restrooms which will be installed against the rear retaining wall. The former parking lot is then going to be converted into a large garden with seating that will allow patrons to purchase ready-to-consume foods inside and then sit outside with a glass of wine or a beer. I was assured of a good selection of the latter on draft on a rotating basis.
By the way, the beautiful garden on the hillside above the retaining wall is the “front yard” of Landscape Architect David Thorne and to the left of the building is another, smaller red brick building that housed the original Dreyers GRAND Ice Cream factory.
Ordinaire just received a big boost from a very prestigious source as they were named one of “7 wine bars you need to drink at now” by bon appétit. Here’s that LINK. One of the factors that ensured Ordinaire’s inclusion on the bon appétit list was their ambitious pop-up chef program. Speaking of which, tonight (Friday, May 1), Chef Geoffrey from Boot and Shoe will be serving up some bistro classics.
There’s still a bit of re-striping yet to be done but the Grand Avenue repaving is 99% complete. This project prompted Bike East Bay, WOBO and the community at large to talk about measures that could make Grand Avenue safer for pedestrians and better accommodate bicycle traffic. While some significant improvements, including better crosswalks and “sharrows” for cyclists were already implemented, I’m told that Traffic Engineering is currently looking at re-striping options that would go beyond what was previously planned. Stay tuned for an announcement about an initial community meeting in early to mid June.
Studio Grand kicks off the month with a big bang tonight (Friday, May 1) with an opening night reception for “Eyes on the Movement: Images from Bay Area Activist Photographers“. Hours are 6:30 – 9:30 and will include performances by Andrew Bigs and ASPIRE as well as DJ Agana. The event is made possible thanks to the support of the Diane Middleton and Akonadi Foundations.
Another highlight will be the reunion on May 29 of a cult group called 20 Minute Loop. I previewed a couple of their tracks on Bandcamp and was thoroughly enamored by the complex melodies and an energy level that reminded me a bit of the Beatles.
Five couples showed up for Studio Grand’s very first Salsa Dance Class on April 2. A new session is scheduled to begin May 21. In addition to Salsa, Bomba and Soca Rhythm dance classes, they’ve also started a Son Jarocho Dance Workshop and a Group Voice Class that begins June 14.
As I reported last month, several years ago the City of Oakland cut the Tree Services Division by about 80% and, as a consequence, they no longer do routine tree maintenance or planting. Consequently, trees with foliage too dense and limbs too long are prone to drop limbs with a minimum of provocation. Another consequence is that building facades and signage are frequently screened from the street.
As a stop gap measure, a small group of volunteers showed up on Grand last Sunday morning led by Russell Hill (a realtor with Red Oak Realty) and Eric Hughes (a one-man “un-wrecking crew” who has been picking up litter and banishing graffiti for 25 some years). Other volunteers included Susan Schmidt, Scott Yundt (whose wife operates Awaken Chiropractic), Andy Campbell (who also provided the pick-up truck) and little old me (which you can take literally on both counts).
On the plus side, my one major contribution was the removal of the AT & T sign on the facade of the Grand Avenue Sew & Vac that was left in place when the phone was removed long ago. By the way, for the next two months, the sign is on loan to Panorama Framing where it will be incorporated into the “Disconnected” photo exhibit that opens on Thursday. By a strange coincidence, the phone pictured on their promo cards is the one that was at the Sew & Vac shop.
Back to the trees, I did a survey the day before and identified 58 between the theater and Boulevard Way that needed at least minimal pruning. We finished about fifteen on Sunday and are likely to return at a later date to do more. More importantly, at Russell’s suggestion, we have been talking to the city about replacing a dozen missing street trees up and down the avenue. If you’d like to sign up to help with tree planting and/or pruning, email Eric at email@example.com and ask to be added to the contact list.
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The European Wax Center opened over the past weekend bringing a sigh of relief from those who were complaining about the gigantic poster covering the front window, which featured a scantily-clad model and the caption: “In one month, we’re taking it all off”.
My reporting last month on the Wax Center and Eighteen/Eight (the men’s hair salon across the street) also generated a complaint from a reader who expressed disappointment that the two new businesses are both big national chains.
In my online reply, I noted that I shared her concerns – particularly so, since, in both cases, they replaced retail establishments that actually served the Grand Lake neighborhood. I also postulated that Lakeshore has crossed the tipping point with rents well beyond the reach of most independent, locally owned businesses and expressed my fears that the same may happen on Grand.
The property owners of the building that houses Lakeshore Produce have declined to renew their lease which expires this summer. I’ve been told that they’re doing so in order to undertake structural repairs – but speculation is that Peet’s is looking to expand.
Lakeshore Produce has, however, found an alternate space that’s about 30% smaller at what is currently the PCS Metro outlet. They’ve been granted a lease extension and hopefully won’t have to move until improvements and permits are in place at the new location – maybe sometime in June.
Looking on the bright side, the number of cellular phone stores on Lakeshore is about to undergo a 75% reduction.
The gardeners employed by the Lakeshore BID have been working overtime this week cleaning up the transit plaza where Lakeshore meets Lake Park. Their agreement with the city apparently required that they provide maintenance and for whatever reason, they hadn’t been doing so. Meanwhile, there are multiple breaks in the irrigation system which should be the responsibility of Public Works since the system was installed as part of the Splash Pad project.
In the longer-term, Pamela Drake (the BID Director) informs me that they’d like to replace the Phormium in the transit plaza with a drought-tolerant, California Native and/or Mediterranean garden that would become part of the “Pollinator Pathway” that radiates out from Lakeside Gardens and increasingly includes Splash Pad Park. Let’s hear it for bees and butterflies on Lakeshore!
Heart and Dagger Saloon was featured in Culture Trip’s list of five best Dive Bars in Oakland/Berkeley.
GRAND AVENUE – WEST OF 580
FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND
This month’s First Thursday Art Walk takes place on May 7. Hours are 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.
Panorama Framing will be hosting an opening night reception for two photographic exhibits. The first is “Pic Oakland” curated by Shift Local. The second is “Disconnected: New Works by Eric S. Goodfield” which consists of photos taken on his iPhone of payphones that are increasingly obsolete due to the thing with which he takes photos. Refreshments will be served.
Studio Grand hosts “Eyes on the Movement: Images From Bay Area Activist Photographers”. Open 5:00 – 8:00 p.m. only.
Urban Furniture presents a First Thursdays “Mother’s Day Community Art Show”. Store merchandise reduced 15%. Light refreshments served.
Jau Jou Studio features “Chocolate City”, Prismacolor graphics on paper by Gerone Spruill. The artist’s multifaceted talents are evident in this six-minute video. Memorable quote: “Every chocolate city has its vanilla suburbs and the way I see it, there ain’t no strawberry about it.” Open to 8:00 p.m. only. 15% discount on all salon merchandise
Baraka Gallery at 432 Santa Clara continues its exhibit of “A Grain of Truth” – works in wood by Giovanni Nixon.
Alyce on Grand continues its exhibit of recent works by artist, Gale Madyun. Light refreshments served including an Oakland-roasted “Coffee Pour” by Red Bay Coffee. 15% discount on all regularly priced merchandise.
San Francisco Fiber at 3711 Grand extends an open invitation to try your hand at weaving and spinning + 50-70% off striped and variegated super sock yarn.
This past weekend, Farmers Market Manager Chris Blackburn and Eddie Rodriguez from EGB Farms were both marveling at the early, simultaneous arrival of cherries, blueberries and peaches. Eddie says this came two to three weeks earlier than normal going back thirty years. This is likely a function of Global Warming and also the resulting stress from lack of adequate irrigation due to the ongoing drought. It also seems to me that prices are up from last year which would reflect expectations of a smaller crop than usual.
This New York Times April 6 article detailed the crisis California farmers are facing and the extent to which ground water is being seriously depleted and very likely, permanently so.
The adjacent photo was taken this past Saturday. That’s Market Manager, Chris Blackburn on the left and his assistant, Viktor Westman on the right. Viktor says that he’s going to miss the Grand Lake Market but sometime in June will begin managing the AIM market in Newark.
For the past several years, the City Administrator’s office has been attempting to negotiate a new lease with the Agricultural Institute of Marin which has been using the park free of charge since 2003. The major components would include an agreement for AIM to begin paying a monthly lease fee and also to restore the decomposed granite walkway that parallels the freeway. The latter has a price tag of roughly $25,000.
Jerry Barclay (the Chair of the Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee) and I are, however, chagrined that the agreement, which was about to go the City Council for approval, fails to address a host of issues that we spelled out in a letter to the City Administrator’s Office on November 20.
For starters, it doesn’t include operational measures that would protect the park over the long haul. In addition, the proposed agreement fails to address our major concerns over congestion and the acute lack of parking for the public.
Regarding the latter, we originally recommended that the City require AIM to provide offsite parking for market vendors and to keep the number of vendors parked on the street and under the freeway to an absolute minimum. That’s still our goal but we’re now urging the OUSD/City of Oakland Partnership Committee to instead implement paid parking in Lakeview School’s lower lot and playground which combined have about 125 spaces that both the public and market vendors would utilize. We believe this would represent a win/win situation with the proceeds used to fund school and other non-profit groups.
Our other major concern is over congestion which has been the result of the ever larger market footprint. As vendor spaces have doubled and tripled in size with a concomitant increase in fees paid to AIM, the walkways and other spaces available for patrons have shrunk accordingly – creating bottlenecks, tripping hazards and a lack of seating areas. Our recommended solution is to mandate that sidewalks be kept free of all obstructions and that walkways within the park be a minimum of eight to nine wide free of all obstructions including umbrellas, tables and tasting stations.
To be clear, the market is a huge asset to this community and we would never do anything to compromise its success. To the contrary, we are absolutely convinced that an agreement that protects the park’s infrastructure long-term while better accommodating the public through reduced congestion and easier access to parking will allow the market to soar to new heights.
SPLASH PAD PARK
Earth Day at Splash Pad Park was a huge success. We had 30 adult volunteers and roughly 15 kids (yes, we were slightly overwhelmed and did lose count). A special shout-out to Judy Kahn who for the second straight year showed up with parents and students from her Beatie Street Preschool and Kindergarten. Also, special thanks to Mary Jo Sutton for her leadership and to all the regulars from Splash Pad’s Grand Crew – not to mention other newsletter subscribers who volunteered for the first time – without whom, we never would have accomplished as much as we did. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Keep Oakland Beautiful for their assistance and Christian Boyle, the City Gardener and his hard-working crew.
The group from Beatie Street School started by clearing the main entrance to the park of date pits and weeds and then moved on to help with the planting beds. One major section of the original California Native Garden was weeded and then covered with a cardboard weed barrier followed by a layer of compost. We did the same with a Dogwood bed behind the fountain. The adjacent bed should be done shortly when Christian delivers more compost. For the first time in a very long while, I’m beginning to think that we can keep weeds to a minimum.
I was especially gratified that many of the volunteers complimented us for organizing this event and thanked us for the invitation. A big part of their gratitude was undoubtedly due to the spread we put out for lunch. Noodles from Lin Jia; pizzas from Arizmendi; fried rice from Chao Thai and Vietnamese Chicken Salad from Miss Saigon. We also received donations from East/West Bolani, Home Maid, Ledesma Farms, Happy Boy Farms, Twin Girl Farms and J & J Farms.
One more round of applause is in order on the occasion of Jaime Salazar’s retirement from the City of Oakland’s Public Works Department. When the park first opened, I ended up, by default, trying without much success to maintain the fountain. Thankfully, after well over a year, Jaime showed up to replace me. He replaced the filter system and the pump and installed a ventilation system which eliminated the corrosion that was plaguing all the components within the vault.
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to meet his replacement, Franklin Reust who maintains a bunch of public swimming pools in addition to our fountain. I’m hoping that Franklin accepts my invitation to visit the park on market day and see all the kids splashing in the fountain. It’s one of the assets that helps make the park a very special place.
ODDS AND ENDS
It’s not exactly on a par with “the Redcoats are coming” but very soon people in yellow reflective vests are going to begin shutting down lanes on Highway 580 in the middle of the night in order to saw up concrete slabs and then replace them. This is part of the Caltrans highway resurfacing project that extends 6 miles (including lanes in both directions) from Highway 80 to just East of Boston Avenue.
There have been several community meetings protesting what’s been planned. Perhaps, the number one objection is that Caltrans isn’t using this as an opportunity to install rubberized asphalt which would result in a major reduction in the non-ending freeway “hum”. The other biggest objection is that the work will be done at night disrupting sleep. If you’re interested in knowing more about the nitty-gritty organizing efforts, you can read an email from Peter Turner (President of the Lakeshore Homeowner’s Association) which I’ve posted HERE.
The adjacent photo was taken in the Lakeshore Transit Plaza where Oakland School for the Arts students were performing and raising funds for Vocal Rush’s trip to New York for the International A Capella High School Championships. They did Oakland proud by walking away with the First Prize (for the third time in four years) plus McKenna Lindell-Wright was named Top Soloist for “Upside Down”. I’d highly recommend that you watch the entire 10 minute video of their Finals. I promise it may be the best 10 minutes you spend the entire week.
The Oakland Book Festival is scheduled for Sunday, May 31 at Oakland City Hall. The one-day festival will feature readings, panel discussions and even a children’s area with participation from MOCHA and Fairyland.
As an aside, a friend of mine had a booth at the 48th Annual Antiquarian Book Fair which was held in Oakland for the first time in February. Jeff said that many, if not most of the two hundred exhibitors and customers from all over the world were skeptical about the move from San Francisco given our “bad rep”. He went on to say that everyone was surprised and delighted by what they found.
If you read Michael Chabon’s comic novel, “Telegraph Avenue”, you might have been left wondering why the parrot, which plays a prominent role, was named “Fifty-Eight”. In her April 24 Oakland Local blog, Fairyland Director C.J. Hirschfield provides the surprising answer. And yes, it does have a Fairyland connection which isn’t surprising in that this beloved institution could likely give Kevin Bacon a good run for his money.
Speaking of Fairyland, if you’d love to visit but don’t have kids to accompany you, your golden opportunity is Thursday, June 4 when the gates open for adults only for their 20th Annual Gala Dinner and Costume Party. This year’s theme is “A Cinderella Story”. Tickets and more information are available HERE.
On the other hand, if you do have kids and are looking for an outdoor, overnight adventure, the first of four Summer Sleepovers begins July 11. Admission includes rides, special performances, dinner and a continental breakfast. More information and tickets are at THIS LINK.
The latest crop of Hack the Hood interns graduated last week. As I’ve noted previously, the Hack the Hood program is solely responsible for the DonateOakland.org website that I maintain. At the graduation ceremonies, I spoke with C. J. Hirschfield who just published her latest blog about Hack the Hood in which she relayed my admiration for what they are accomplishing and my sincere appreciation for their assistance.
Last year’s Eastlake Music Festival centered at the amphitheater at the south end of the lake was a huge success. Mark your calendar’s for the 2015 edition on May 23.
Next meeting of the Grand Lake Neighbors group will be Wednesday, May 20 in the Lakeshore Baptist Church Library beginning at 7 p.m. OPD will be there to discuss recent crime statistics and answer questions. Also on the agenda, as mentioned above, Lakeshore Produce’s move and One Medical’s proposed lease for the Silver Screen Video space.
The Jim Grantham Jazz Quartet performed at the Grand Opening Ceremony for Splash Pad Park in 2003 and again at our 10th Anniversary Party. On May 7, they will be playing at the Lake Merritt Hotel’s Terrace Room from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
- Thursday, May 7, 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, April 3, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m: Oakland Art Murmur
- Thursday, May 14: Bike to Work Day
- Friday, May 15, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m: Oakland Police Department Open House
- Wednesday, May 20, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Baptist Church.
- Saturday, May 23: Eastlake Music Festival
- Saturday, May 30: Pacific Worlds Opening at Oakland Museum
- Sunday, May 31, 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.: Oakland Book Festival at City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza
- Thursday, June 4: Fairyland’s 20th Annual Gala Dinner
- Saturday, July 11: First of 4 Summer Sleepovers at Fairyland
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