Editor’s Note: A few hours after this month’s newsletter was published, I found a sign in the entrance to Grand Fare saying that they had closed permanently – although Freya’s Flower Shop will remain open Tuesdays through Sundays. This is a very disappointing end to a project in which Doug Washington had invested a tremendous amount of time, energy and money. With much regret, I wish Doug and Freya good fortune going forward.
A company called Motivate is planning to eventually install 7,000 Bike Share bicycles in the Bay Area in partnership with the Ford Motor Company. The program is already in place in San Francisco and the first twenty locations in Oakland should be installed along the Broadway Corridor by April of next year. An additional twelve to fifteen locations are scheduled for installation in Oakland as part of Phase II by next summer and by the end of the year, plans call for a total of seventy locations offering a total of eight hundred and fifty bikes.
Grand Fare has already been selected as one of the Phase II locations based on pedestrian traffic, estimated demand and, most importantly, there’s room for a 50 foot long bike rack without sacrificing parking spaces. The City of Oakland has appointed Carlos Hernandez to help facilitate the project.
The rationale is pretty clear. Our population is growing and along with it, so is traffic and the demand for additional parking. Using bicycles as an option is becoming increasingly desirable and is increasingly reflected in urban housing policies. Take for example: the push to build housing adjacent to transit hubs and the corollary, eliminating the requirement for parking spaces in some new developments.
For local merchants, the Bike Share program offers another unrelated advantage. I haven’t yet had a chance to talk to Grand Fare’s Doug Washington about this, but Motivate has already approached Maurice Himy, the new co-owner of Spettro. He’s enthused – figuring that folks are going to utilize the bikes on Lakeshore for long rides and when they return, absolutely famished, Spettro and a dozen other food outlets will be waiting with open arms. More info about Oakland’s participation in the Bike Share program is available on THIS LINK and I’ll be providing more about Lakeshore in the following newsletter section…
Sunday night, Penrose celebrated its Third Anniversary with a huge party and a very hot, blues group. Congratulations to Charlie Hallowell and Richard Weinstein.
The Bangkok Palace restaurant closed late last month and construction is now underway. Every indication is that it will be another restaurant but, at this time, I have no information about the cuisine or ownership.
Several weeks ago, I ran into the owner of the pub destined for the space vacated by Better Homes and Gardens Realty and was treated to a “flashlight tour” of the very spacious interior. Originally, it was slated to be called “E. W. Trapp’s Jenny Wren Pub” – in honor of the Jenny Wren Market that was in this location in the 1920’s. For brevity sake, it’s now going to be “Aisle 5” which is still a reference to its past – although very obliquely. It sounds like their original plans are otherwise going to be much the same with an emphasis on craft beer, good food and a sleek interior. One of their more intriguing concepts is to feature local artists on a regular basis – but rather than hang paintings on the walls, the artwork will be displayed electronically.
Speaking of previous tenants on this Grand Avenue block, the Oakland History Facebook page recently posted this photo of the Grand Lake Sew and Vac building and its previous incarnation in 1935 as the first Lucky Grocery store in Oakland.
Local non-profit Urban Furniture is using this week’s First Thursdays on Grand event as the perfect opportunity to launch a new retail experience called “Shine”. This new initiative is centered around a pop-up boutique featuring Laurel Ashely Off the Rack clothing for plus size women combined with empowerment workshops and community crowd funding . The Launch Party is scheduled from 6:30 – 9:00 PM and, in addition to a fashion show, you’ll enjoy small bites and good music. More info is on their Facebook event page.
One of the highlights of Studio Grand’s calendar this month is the Balkan Nights concert featuring Beaucoup Chapeaux on November 18. I’m also tempted by the Songs of Ports with Harp and Voice concert on Thursday, November 10. As is usually the case, prices for both performances are $10-$15 on a sliding scale.
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LAKESHORE/LAKE PARK MERCHANT NEWS
“The Cat House“, the newest addition to the bar scene in the Grand Lake district, opened around the first of October. It’s attracting a steady clientele that appreciates the laid-back vibe, excellent cocktails and an assortment of Victorian furnishings against the back wall. When I stopped by on Sunday to take some photos, the interior was decorated for Halloween and I had the pleasure of meeting co-owner, Hortensia Mitura. Additional information and more photos are available on their YELP page.
One of the questions in the Grand Lake Neighbors survey (that was completed in August) solicited volunteers to assist with the design of parklets in the Grand Lake commercial district. Two of those volunteers, architects Janette Kim and Brett Snyder, met a couple of weeks ago with Maurice Himy from Spettro, Tim Nugent from Shakewell and Nimer Musleh from Flipside. The discussion focused on the potential to build a parklet in the fifty-four foot no-parking zone that stretches from Spettro to Starbucks. The discussion was complicated by the fact that the City of Oakland has not yet finalized regulations governing the placement and construction of permanent parklets. In addition, one way or the other, something has to be done with the overflowing trash cans from five or six establishments that currently occupy the space on a regular basis.
To make the situation even more complicated, Motivate is eyeing the same parcel for a large Bike Share installation that would house up to twenty-three bikes. We’re hoping that a compromise can be reached that would accommodate Bike Share and a scaled-down parklet and I just learned minutes ago that an on-site meeting has been tentatively scheduled for later this week that would include all interested parties.
Up at the end of the block, another volunteer, Landscape Architect Alethea Brown, met with Omar Musleh who owns and operates “The Main Squeeze” in partnership with his brother, Nimer. Although, Omar was initially talking about a parklet in front of his shop, built-in sidewalk seating well off the pedestrian right-of-way may prove to be more feasible and also, less expensive. Incidentally, “The Main Squeeze” just celebrated its First Anniversary. I found that hard to believe but, as a senior citizen with room to spare, the months and years seem to be flying by – except, of course, for the presidential election which seems to be taking forever to end.
A couple of weeks ago, a Public Works crew diligently removed all the bulbs on the Lakeshore string of lights and replaced them with LEDs which last longer, consume less energy and also emit a brighter light. Oakland Parking Partners are hoping to do the same in the Lake Park lot under the freeway where all but about eight lamp posts already have the newer bulbs.
Marcia Lam, owner of Lin Jia Asian Kitchen, spent much of her vacation in Taiwan sampling local fare and also taking cooking classes. New on the menu last week was a gluten-free Konyaku Wild Shrimp – lightly stir fried with opo squash. Lin Jia’s weekend brunch is now also featuring Hakka style steamed Pork Buns with cellophane noodle, wood ear and carrots.
Last week, the back door was open at the future home of Falafel Stop (previously the Burrito Shop) and I took a long peek inside. They didn’t appear anywhere close to beginning finish work – so I wouldn’t expect a Grand Opening anytime soon. Two doors up, Proposition Chicken is probably in the same boat but likely more so, since Lakeshore Produce didn’t already have a commercial kitchen and vent system.
Although Grand Avenue is now rivaling Lakeshore in many respects, the latter still has a lock on the best window displays – especially during the holidays. I went out Sunday night specifically to take some photos at The Cat House but couldn’t resist shots of the holiday windows at Silver Moon and Urban Indigo. With Halloween out of the way, look for Christmas displays sometime soon.
Last month, I shared details about a presentation that Eric Hughes and I did for the Lakeshore Business Improvement District. I’m happy to report that some of the specifics have been addressed including the following:
1. The gaping hole in front of Kwik Way/Lake Merritt Bakery has been filled.
2. The dumpster on the street across from Holy Land has been removed.
3. Much of the Bermuda Grass in the island at the corner of Lakeshore and Trestle Glen has been removed.
4. A major tripping hazard in front of Lakeshore Natural Foods has been temporarily patched.
Although this is a step in the right direction, there is still a huge backlog of infrastructure issues yet to be addressed. The most critical problems remain:
a. Steam cleaning all the sidewalks on a regular basis
b. Eliminating all the many tripping hazards up and down Lakeshore
c. Repairing the heavily damaged grate in the bulb-out in front of Chipotle and I’m now noting for the first time, that the identical problem is developing in the bulb-out in front of Starbucks
d. Filling in gaps in the landscaping on public and private property
LZ’s GRAND AVENUE – WEST OF 580 BLOG
This month’s West of 580 blog is about neighborhood businesses on the move: California Document Preparers’ growth leads to an impending move next door (with a fitness center to fill in the space). Meanwhile, Spokes Bike Lounge moves and morphs into two new enterprises in Berkeley.
Previous LZ blogs are archived and available on this link.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
As I noted last month, organizers are making a big effort to expand the monthly First Thursdays event and this month’s event is likely to be the biggest and best yet. The Grand Avenue First Thursdays website has all the details including a list of all the gallery spaces, as well as the participating merchants who are offering special discounts during the event. The latest addition, a 15% discount at Miss Saigon with a minimum $20 purchase.
Here’s some of the many highlights:
The Libertine: “Histories: Art by 30 Bay Area Tattoo Artists” is a show curated by Joe Paul, the owner of Bell & Iron Tattoo at 3512 Grand. This should prove to be an event to remember with approximately 100 pieces of original art + drink specials + a pop-up restaurant + a DJ + a party scheduled to last from 7:00 PM to Midnight;
Galleria Scola: Elida Scola usually does things in a big way and her return to the First Thursdays line-up is no exception. Artist Karen Stanton, who is a nationally known artist and book illustrator, will be showing some of her original artwork while Elida will be demonstrating conservation mounting and hinging techniques. Elida has also assembled a collection of unframed prints that she’s distributing free – one per person. Refreshments will be served and music will be provided by jazz guitarist, Brian Maag.
Urban Furniture: Fashion Show and Launch Party for “SHINE” from 6:30 – 9:00 PM. Refreshments served + music.
SPLASH PAD PARK
By the way, we’re proud to announce that we’ve just been awarded a grant from Keep Oakland Beautiful – our primary source of funding for all the new landscaping. A similar grant last year also made possible the earlier expansion plot that was in full bloom over the Spring and Summer.
While Splash Pad’s Grand Crew does their best to maintain the California Native Garden (and often elsewhere in the park), the bulk of the responsibility falls on Public Works employees and particularly on Crew Leader, Christian Boyle. They do amazing work despite a lack of adequate funding and a shortage of employees.
Nonetheless, there are a ton of ongoing problems at Splash Pad that repeated complaints through the SeeClickFix system are unlikely to resolve anytime soon. According to my source, all but the most pressing emergencies are put on a wait list with up to a year’s delay. Here’s some of the issues with which I’m most concerned:
1. The eroded gravel beds that parallel the freeway are a visual blight and pose an enormous tripping hazard
2. There are leaking and broken irrigation lines throughout the park
3. Supports for wood decking adjacent to the Names in Lights panels are rotted out
4. Screws attaching the Names in Lights panels are loose and/or missing
5. The Lakeview School Names in Lights panel is damaged and, if not reinforced, will break and never be repaired
6. The remnants of the Walter Hood designed street lamp have not been removed and there’s no indication it will be replaced
7. Five of the palms in the Lake Park median have been destroyed in accidents and none has been replaced
8. Much of the park lighting is not functioning including the spotlights in the fountain and the uplighting for the Names in Lights.
I realize that the City of Oakland has immense budgetary problems but, one way or the other, we need to find the means to restore the park that was a major factor in the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s decision to select Walter Hood as its Landscape Architect of the Year in 2009.
Last month, we shared the FARMERS MARKET GUIDELINES that we proposed as a way to resolve some of the many problems associated with the Farmers Market . In my opinion, the management seems willing to make minor concessions, but not always in an effective manner, and hasn’t budged on major issues including the overcrowding and their failure to adequately protect the park infrastructure and periodically steam clean the plaza. Meanwhile, Councilmember Guillen has been talking to OUSD about opening up the Lakeview parking lot for use by market vendors. When I first proposed doing so, Lakeview was vacant and there was an outside possibility that the playground could be accessed for parking as well. Now that’s it’s being leased by the American Indian Charter School that option has been closed and, in addition, the parking lot itself has been reconfigured – reducing the size by about 20%. The solution is to again lease the Our Lady of Lourdes parking lot. If the market management unable to negotiate a better price, they can opt to charge the market vendors a nominal parking fee and make up any difference.
However, at this point, my big fear is that Oakland’s property management division may yet ignore the community’s concerns and grant AIM the five-year lease that they’ve requested without incorporating critical guidelines. This would be particularly troubling in view of the fact that AIM is grossing approximately $250,000 per year while paying a $1,000 per month rental fee. This is especially galling when I look at the long-term infrastructure problems described above and know that Public Works doesn’t currently have the staff or funding to address those problems.
In the best of all possible worlds, the market would be administered by a non-profit community board that would better serve Oakland residents and would plow profits back into the park and into the City’s general fund.
The fundraising campaign for a new playground at the Astro Tot Lot is now complete and the fun begins with a Build Day on Tuesday, December 6 – preceded by a Prep Day on Saturday, December 3.
KaBOOM, PG & E, the City of Oakland and the Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation have already made a commitment to supply one hundred twenty-five volunteers on the 6th but seventy-five more community volunteers are needed that day plus another thirty on the preceding Saturday.
Prior registration is required and you can do so online via THIS LINK.
More information is available on the Astro Tot Lot Facebook page.
In last month’s newsletter, I gave a tip of my hat to the Oakland group that’s been transforming ugly trash receptacles into stunning mosaic works of art and mused about the possibility of commissioning a mural for the butt ugly trash can on the edge of Splash Pad Park directly across the street from Merritt Bakery. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks later at the Keep Oakland Beautiful gathering honoring grantees, Tiffany Eng talked about the mural project and subsequently provided me with information about the artist largely responsible.
His name is Juan Lopez and his workshop is called “New World Mosaics“. Check out Juan’s portfolio and you’ll be blown away by his creativity and the quality of his workmanship. The trash can mural that Tiffany commissioned as a wedding present for her sister,District 2 School Board Member Aimee Eng isn’t in Juan’s online portfolio but it is pictured here adjacent to the Lake Merritt Bandstand where the marriage vows took place.
Ancestral Apothecary is sponsoring its first annual Herbal Gift Fair on Saturday November 26 from 1:00 -6:00 at Studio Grand. Look for chocolate, tea, flower essences, tinctures, salves, body care, clothing, jewelry, herbal mini classes, Tarot readings plus delicious food and drinks! Admission is free and a portion of the sales will support the Ancestral Apothecary Herbal Scholarship fund. More information: www.ancestralapothecaryschool.com
- Thursday, November 3: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, November 4: Art Murmur Uptown District
- Tuesday, November 8: ELECTION DAY – DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!
- Saturday, November 12, 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Second Saturday Work Day at Morcom Rose Garden
- Wednesday, November 16, 7:00 – 8:30 PM – Grand Lake Neighbors meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
- Sunday, November 27, 9:00 AM – Noon – Splash Pad Volunteer Work Day
- Saturday, November 26, 1:00 – 6:00 PM: Ancestral Apothecary Herbal Craft Fair at Studio Grand