Overall, this month’s newsletter is once again going to be a bit on the slim side but we’ll compensate with lots of information about the Grand Lake Neighborhood survey with particular focus on the Farmers Market questions. Since the survey closed on August 9. Eric Hughes and I have been sorting and summarizing the voluminous data that was submitted by six hundred and twelve survey participants and today’s the day, those results finally went online at GrandLakeNeighbors.org. For each of the open-ended questions, we’ve provided a brief analysis and summary – but, if you want to get into the real nitty gritty, please take the time to read through the pdf files that contain all the raw data.
Here’s a brief summary of the hot-button issues:
- Asked if a mixed-use development is the best use for the Kwik Way property, 51.6% either agreed or strongly agreed while 36.9% disapproved or strongly disapproved.
- Asked to rate the recent lane reduction on Grand Avenue, 43.3% approved or strongly approved versus 26.6% who disapproved or did so strongly.
- Asked what you like about the local business district or what you’d like to see in the way of new businesses, “restaurants” continued to loom large.
- Questioned about reviving the Lakeshore Street Festival, 77.6% overwhelmingly approved and only 7% were opposed.
- The most surprising and gratifying response came on the question about reorganizing Jerry Cauthen’s Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Committee. One hundred and one survey participants expressed a willingness to support such an effort. Their first priority will likely be addressing ongoing concerns about the Grand Avenue “Road Diet”.
For me, the single most timely question was the one that asked survey participants to discuss what they like and don’t like about the Grand Lake Farmers Market. The majority of those responses were overwhelmingly positive but a significant percentage of the five hundred and twenty-nine who answered Question 6 had serious complaints.
- One hundred and thirteen complained about excessive crowding inside the park.
- Ninety-five complained about the lack of parking – not just in the area immediately adjacent to the market but also throughout the neighborhood.
- Sixty-one complained about excessive traffic.
Last year, Jerry Barclay (Chair of the Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Group) and I shared these very same concerns with the City Administrator’s office and later, with the Real Estate Management Department. Pleading time constraints, they signed a one-year contract with AIM and promised that they would later come back to the table to consider our objections and suggestions for improvements. As that one-year contract is about to expire, we’re prepared to argue that the status quo is totally unacceptable and that manageable solutions exist that the market management has been reluctant to enact.
For the record, I’m one of the one hundred thirteen individuals who complained about excessive congestion. It’s imperative to note, in this context, that the Agricultural Institute of Marin has a financial interest in expanding (not contracting) the market’s footprint since the fee structure is based on the size of the vendors’ selling spaces. All the walkways inside the market can and should be a minimum of eight to ten feet wide but that’s unlikely to happen unlesss required by the city.
As for the parking, I don’t have a personal axe to grind since I mostly ride my bike but I do empathize with those survey participants who said they no longer shop the market because parking is impossible and I also empathize with those of you who continue circling the lot under the freeway waiting for a space to materialize. The root of the problem is, as I confirmed with a quick tour this past Saturday, that about ninety-five percent of the parking spaces on Lake Park and on Grand between Lake Park and the freeway were occupied by farmers market-related vehicles plus another thirty or more under the freeway.
The solution for the parking problem is very straightforward: AIM has to secure off-site parking for their vendors and make sure they use it. They’ve done this in the past at Lakeview School until that lot was chained off on weekends and in the Our Lady of Lourdes parking lot until the monthly fee was raised to a level that AIM deemed excessive. Regardless of the price, this is not a negotiable demand – particularly since the Grand Lake Market generates roughly $5,000 per week in booth fees that more than covers all their current expenses at this market.
Since the market serves a valuable service to its customers and continues to play a crucial role in creating a more pedestrian-friendly and vibrant neighborhood, my concern is that, if not addressed, the problems that currently plague its operation will continue to take its toll. As it is, lots of individuals who filled out surveys (plus lots of my neighbors) say they now prefer markets elsewhere. Caroline Kim (who saved the park from development and founded the Grand Lake Farmers Market) now shops at the downtown market because of the overcrowding here. Arvi Dorsey, who was on the original farmers market steering committee, patronizes the market in Alameda and Walter Hood (who was named Landscape Architect of the Year – partly in recognition of his Splash Pad Park design) began avoiding the market years ago because so much was crammed into too little space, he could no longer see the park.
At this point, Jerry Barclay is fed up with years of delays and a lack of cooperation from the Agricultural Institute of Marin. He wants the City to issue an RFP and ask for proposals from other market management teams. If that doesn’t fly, he and I are prepared to draw up a long list of guidelines that need to be incorporated into the farmers market contract. Armed with the survey results, our first priorities will be on addressing congestion and the lack of parking but we also want assurances that the park’s infrastructure will be adequately protected.
If the City fails to incorporate such provisions and make sure they’re enforced, the guy who led the community campaign to build a new Splash Pad Park will likely consider a Sunday bike ride to Jack London Square as the better option. That market is now operated by CUESA – the people responsible for the hugely successful market at the San Francisco Ferry Building. JLS is a very spacious location and, beginning this month, they’ll be offering special events (such as chef demos and food tastings) every Saturday. Our Grand Lake Market has long been viewed as “The Best in the East Bay” but, as things now stand, that status is about to be challenged.
Since publication of last month’s newsletter, I’ve been back to Grand Fare Market twice – once with my grand-daughter and again, with my wife. On both occasions, we ate very satisfying dinners while sitting outside in the patio, mesmerized by the beautiful surrounding and kept toasty warm by the adjacent space heaters. As I’ve said from the beginning, there’s no outdoor space in the neighborhood that compares to the one that Doug and Freya have created and it’s far more lush now than it was when they originally opened. By the way, Freya’s art work is now installed and, in honor of tonight’s First Thursdays art walk, visitors will be treated to music provided by 1 Man Banjo beginning at 6:00 PM.
Studio Grand has five concerts on their calendar for September including some Flamenco and Brazilian music. They’re also starting a 10-week, Afro-Peruvian Dance Workshop on September 25.
Earlier this week, I was delighted to see Alyce Preston back in her shop after a long recovery from a broken hip. I also took the opportunity to take another, long-hard look at the Little Box Theater photographs currently displayed. They are absolutely spectacular. If you’re going to the First Thursdays event, make sure to stop by to welcome Alyce back; check out the photos and help yourself to a complimentary glass of wine.
Last week on the Oakland History Facebook page, someone mentioned that The Alley had applied for permits to get their kitchen back on line. A couple of days ago, one of the employees confirmed that’s the case but was unable to provide any sort of timetable – which is just as well, since they’re usually far too optimistic. In any case, at some point in the future, I’m looking forward to one their steak dinners – hopefully still served with a baked potato, fresh veggies, salad and garlic bread.
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The proposal for a mixed-use development on the Kwik Way property was the subject of an article in the Chronicle early in August by Rachel Swann. I thought the overall coverage was excellent but I took exception to this assertion:
Though the project is still in its early stages, it appears to have near-unanimous support from a neighborhood where residents have quibbled for 12 years over what to do with the site.
“Near-unanimous”, it’s not ! In point of fact, just over one-third of those polled in the GLN Survey are opposed. That said, the proponents have a 15% plurality and a slim majority. In addition, all indications are that Councilmember Guillen wants to see this happen and the Planning Commission, which will have to approve a Variance, will most likely be on board as well. For more information about what community members had to say about the project, in general, and about what they’d like to see as a retail tenant, in particular, please consult the survey results. One last note on the subject: I wish I could take credit for the photo but it was taken by Michael Short for the Chronicle article.
Repairs to the two shops (Mary’s Cleaners and UA Nails) that were extensively damaged in an automobile accident on May 31 have finally been completed and both businesses are up and running with regular hours.
Abebe (the Lakeshore BID security guard) helps keep me informed about happenings on Lakeshore. The other day, he offered assurances that work is ongoing behind closed doors at the former Burrito and Lakeshore Produce spaces. The latter is scheduled to re-open as Proposition Chicken. The former as a Falafel Stop.
A couple of the stately old trees lining Lakeshore Avenue have recently been removed because they were dying and posed a safety hazard. One of the vacant tree wells has already been turned into an improvised planter and the eventual fate of the second well is currently up in the air. I was already of the opinion that new street trees (selected from the city’s list of species with non-invasive roots) should be planted. After reading the many comments in the GLN survey t0 the effect that Lakeshore felt more pedestrian-friendly and “intimate” because of the trees, I’m move convinced than ever that tree-planting needs to be encouraged – not just on Lakeshore but, even more so on Grand.
LZ’s GRAND AVENUE – WEST OF 580 BLOG
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
This month’s First Thursdays Art Walk on Grand Avenue takes place September 1. Galleries are open to 8 PM unless otherwise specified.
Ruth Stroup Insurance: (3560 Grand) – Opening Reception for show of abstracts by Paul Glaviano. Complimentary refreshments and beverages. 5:00 – 8:00 PM.
San Francisco Fiber: (3711 Grand) Lou Grantham extends an open invitation to try your hand at weaving and spinning.
SPLASH PAD PARK
This past weekend, we had another highly productive 4th Sunday work party – thanks in large part to twelve Key Club members from four different high schools. The 500 square foot expansion bed is now almost entirely covered with a cardboard weed barrier and should be ready to plant by October when the rains should start. Our next work party is on Sunday, September 25.
As is usually the case, work starts at 9:00 a.m. with lunch served at Noon. New volunteers are always welcome regardless of experience but RSVPs are requested.
One other takeaway from the GLN survey was that lots of Farmers Market customers would like to see more seafood. In apparent answer to their prayers, Same Day Seafood debuted at the market this past Saturday. I was delighted to introduce myself to the owner and even more delighted to learn that Gary is a friend of Garin McCarthy. Long-time market customers may remember Garin as a fourth-generation fisherman who showed up on Saturdays with freshly-caught salmon and Dungeness Crab. The latter was his undoing as a crab pot fell and broke his leg. He showed up at the market the next day with a full load of crab and his leg in a cast. That was his last market but, after selling his boat and moving to Washington, he’s now back in the Bay Area and selling fish at one of the wharves in San Francisco.
I’m greatly saddened to report that Brianna Kaufmann (a craftsperson and long-time Farmers Market vendor) passed away this week at the age of sixty-two. She and her husband and her son specialized in jewelry and whimsical artwork fashioned from recycled metals. From what I understand, she had an aggressive cancer but continued to live life to the fullest without complaint. The last time I saw her, I wish I’d only known so I could have stopped by instead of rushing past.
ODDS AND ENDS
As mentioned above, the GLN Survey elicited a tentative commitment from 101 neighborhood residents to help support the revival of a neighborhood Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Committee. In addition to concerns related to the Grand Avenue road diet, I was hoping that the group would also focus on Lake Park Avenue. The need for traffic calming there was underscored early Sunday morning, when a car traveling at a very high speed (one witness said, 80 MPH) went out control as it reached the curve just past Kwik Way and proceeded to destroy the following:
A mature Queen Palm in the street median
A very tall street light at the curb to the left of the median
A parking meter that was no longer being used
A parking pay station that was being used
A street sign
One of the aluminum street lamps specially designed and custom-made for Splash Pad Park.
At this point, the wreckage has all been hauled away, except for the base of the Splash Pad light fixture. The only repair thus far was a replacement parking pay station that was installed on Tuesday. As for the rest of the damage, I honestly don’t know what to expect from the City. Based on past history, don’t expect a replacement palm. To the contrary, accidents on this stretch of Lake Park have previously obliterated three large Queen Palms. This is the fourth and a fifth (that was severely damaged several years ago in another accident) is about to be removed by Tree Services which discovered that one-half of the trunk at the base is rotten. That means only four of the nine palms that were originally planted in the median in 2003 will remain. Stay tuned for further developments. EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: The massive street light that was destroyed on Sunday has already been replaced just four days later. Kudos to Oakland Public Works.
Gentrification is one of the major issues that was reflected in some of the GLN survey results. If you’re concerned about the potential loss of ever more neighborhood serving businesses, you’ll find this article in the New York Times of interest.
24 East had a great story (accompanied by lots of photos) about the Grand Lake neighborhood. Featured locations included the Farmers Market, Namaste Yoga, Urban Indigo, Arizmendi, Boot and Shoe Service, Alchemy Bottle Shop, the Grand Lake Theatre, Walden Pond Books and Grand Lake Kitchen. Speaking of Grand Lake Kitchen, they were just the subject of this glowing review by Nosh.
Fundraising for the new Tot Lot adjacent to the Lakeview Library is still ongoing. You can learn more and donate online via their Facebook page.
The only problem with the Autumn Lights Festival at Lakeside Park, over the past couple of years, was that the lines to get in were extraordinarily long and the advance tickets have quickly sold out. To remedy those issues, the Festival will be open for two additional days (four total) beginning with a VIP night on October 12. Tickets are available online and early purchase is recommended.
The 8th Annual Volunteer Fair is scheduled for September 10 at Lakeview School from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Latebreaking News: The International Dragon Boat Festival is moving to Lake Merritt. The free event is scheduled for September 17 -18. See the comment below and/or visit their website.
- Thursday, September 1, 5:00 – 8:00 PM unless otherwise specified – Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, September 2: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Saturday, September 10, 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Volunteer Fair at Lakeview School
- Saturday, September 17, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Saturday, September 17 – 18: International Dragon Boat Festival, Lake Merritt
- Wednesday, September 21, 7:00 – 8:30 PM – Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
- Sunday, September 25, 9:00 AM – Noon – Splash Pad Volunteer Work Day
- Saturday, October 8 – The Plant Exchange at Ability Now Bay Area on Lincoln Avenue