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Last month, I wrote about a serendipitous event that led to my meeting photographer and cinematographer Rick Wise who, in turn, connected me to his wife, Victoria, whose credentials at Chez Panisse go back to Day One. This past Saturday, I had a similar experience on Lakeshore that led in surprising directions and eventually revealed interpersonal connections that would give Kevin Bacon pause.
When I parked my bike in front of Bay-Made, I spotted a hand-truck heavily laden with farmers market produce from County Line Harvest. Inside, talking to a jeweler who was doing a pop-up, was Anthony Salguero, the head chef at Michel Bistro. When Anthony emerged, I insisted that he pose for a photo – delighted that through a single photo, this enterprising reporter and aspiring publicist could simultaneously plug Michel, County Line, and Bay-Made. It was like hitting the Trifecta at Golden Gate Fields.
Many of us wander bewitched though the Autumn Lights Festival each fall, without knowing that each ticket purchased has gone to help fund the redesign of the entrance plaza for The Gardens at Lake Merritt in Lakeside Park. This plan, six years in unfolding, was created by the Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt. It includes a new iron gate, designed by Alameda ironwork artist Shawn Lovell. She is a blacksmith of national stature and has been on the cover of American Craft magazine. The gate, which will be next to the Garden Center plaza is separately funded by Measure DD.
The Autumn Lights funds go toward improved fencing in the gate areas, new plant landscaping and hardscaping – that means the concrete pathway entryways, and also proceeding into the garden itself with new gardens. The current entrance will become a service entry.
FAIRYLAND’S C.J.HIRSCHFIELD: “WE’RE IN THE MEMORY-MAKING BUSINESS”
by David Gans
“Fairyland is a therapeutic environment,” she says. “It’s ten acres of gardens in the heart of the city, totally low-tech. It’s about appreciating family time. We are a cynicism-free zone. The more stressed people get, the more they appreciate a place like Fairyland. Thank goodness! Otherwise we wouldn’t have been around for 67 years.”
Under Hirschfield’s guidance, Fairyland has developed a great number of collaborations with organizations that work with kids and families. “We’re the partnering-est!” For example, Fairyland collaborates with the Oakland Symphony’s Music in the Schools program. Hirschfield explains, “We invited them to bring it to our stage. The first year, [conductor] Michael Morgan – who had never been to Fairyland – offered to conduct. I gave him a tour, and then he said, ‘Can we do this every year?’ So, every year the maestro comes, and 50 kids from 12 different schools come in their white shirts… We have an ‘instrument petting zoo’ afterwards, so the kids can explore the instruments.”
LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE
The outlines for a resolution of the stalemate that has been blocking construction of the proposed mixed-use development on the Kwik Way property are starting to emerge – although nothing is definite yet.
From what I’ve been told, the developers have agreed to the Planning Department’s demands that they limit the curb cut on Lake Park to an entry only with vehicles exiting on Cheney. In addition, the Hahn family has been negotiating with EAH Housing to purchase the property, assume responsibility for construction, and manage the completed project. EAH is a non-profit, and their tentative plans would be to provide housing for low-income individuals and/or senior citizens. Ken Lowney’s architectural firm is supposed to remain the architect of record, and the basic look of the building (which received very positive reviews) will not be altered – although significant changes will be required to accommodate the vehicle exit onto Rand. One possible hang-up that may need to be ironed out is a Bank of America lease that supposedly guarantees the bank thirty-five parking spaces. There’s going to be a stake-holders’ meeting next week at which we will be provided with more info and likely have an opportunity to offer input. I’ll provide an update on the Splash Pad Facebook page next week.
In the last couple of months, The Monthly has been giving Lakeshore Avenue establishments a lot of positive press. The November issue featured this cover story about the new LGBTQ Community Center on the second floor above T-Mobile and, in Nana Twumasi’s “Retail” column in December, Bay-Made was one of three businesses that were profiled.
Speaking of Bay-Made, the recent show of artwork by Michael Tunk ended November 26. For the month of December, Sarahjane has scheduled a special $100 gallery show with artwork by a number of different local artists working in different media. If that isn’t enough to pique your fancy, on December 2, look for a pop-up featuring hand-knit, purple caps with a Prince symbol.
Last month, we reported on ongoing efforts to eliminate the abundance of trash and recycling cans that litter the street and sidewalks on Lakeshore, particularly in front of Starbucks and Noah’s. The City referred the problem to Waste Management, and we understand that one of their representatives has been out to talk to the affected businesses. I’m pleased to note that Oakland Kosher has purchased a plastic bench that doubles as a storage container for flattened cardboard, which is a good first step. Also, Beth (the Manager at Starbucks) continues to be a model “good citizen.” Their trash cans come in immediately after being emptied and don’t go out until just before they’re picked up.
That said, thus far, there’s been no reduction in the number of trash cans that appear to be permanently stationed in the street adjacent to the Bike Share station. Until all of the cans are tagged with business names and/or addresses, it’ll be impossible to establish responsibility and, if push comes to shove, impose fines.
Meanwhile, between the garbage cans and blighted newsracks, my feelings of frustration bubbled over at the Grand Lake Neighbors meeting two weeks ago when I went on a five-minute, “I’m as mad as hell and can’t take it anymore” rant. Apparently, at least one other neighbor feels the same way, as the garbage-filled, particularly loathsome newsrack in front of Qi Dumpling Lounge on Grand magically disappeared in the middle of the night.
The annual Lakeshore Avenue Christmas celebration takes place on Friday, December 8 from 4-6 pm and on Saturday, December 9 from 2-4 pm. The event features free carriage rides that depart from the 18/8 men’s hair salon on both days. Free face painting will be offered in the same location on Friday and at Silver Moon Kids on Saturday.
Tonight’s concert (November 30) at Studio Grand will feature Fred Frith Trio members Jordan Glenn & Jason Hoopes improvising with Evelyn Davis and Julie Moon. This is the first of four straight nights of collaborative improvisations that pair Glenn and Hoopes with different guests each night. Friday night’s concert will feature Kyle Bruckmann and Theresa Wong. For Saturday night’s improvisation, Glenn and Hoopes will be performing with Nava Dunkelman and Amma Ateria. On Sunday night, they’ll partner with Bruce Ackley and Danishta Rivero Castro.
On December 17 from 2-3 pm, Brother and Sisters Flowers will be hosting a holiday amaro-making class led by Kara Wood from Cimaruta Remedies that will teach the fine art of amaro-making and bottling. Students will learn about the history of this ancient and fantastically diverse Italian digestive liqueur and about the plants that have been traditionally used in amaro formulas. They will also get to taste some and then make their own to take home. All participants must be 21 years or older. To learn more and reserve your spot, visit this Eventbrite link.
Nana Twumasi’s “Retail” column in November had a very nice story about Alchemy Bottle Shop, but that news is secondary to the fact that Peter and Tova are now the very proud parents of a baby girl, Sylvie Maria Mustacich.
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There have been quite a few changes at the Farmers Market of late. The newest vendor is San Francisco-based Mission Pie. Their baked goods utilize organic, in season local fruits. The other new vendor, Thierry from Fabrique Delices, is actually returning to the fold after a long absence. They specialize in a wide variety of artisanal charcuterie that they’ve producing locally since 1985.
Coincidentally or not, their return more or less coincides with the closure of Oakland-based Boccalone, as reported in this October 6 article in the SF Chronicle. The same article also notes that Boccalone and Rancho Gordo were exiting the marketplace at Ferry Plaza in SF. If you remember when Steve Sando was hawking Rancho Gordo’s dry beans in the shadow of the freeway at the Grand Lake Market, you qualify as an old-timer. The good news for Rancho Gordo, according to this Inside Scoop column, is that Sando no longer needs the exposure provided by the Ferry Plaza location as “Rancho Gordo has national recognition and can be found fairly easily in San Francisco markets and restaurants.”
While we’re waiting for the City Council to take up our request for an RFP and operational guidelines, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking along with some research into the Agricultural Institute of Marin’s non-profit tax forms. Before I get into that can of worms, I have a confession to make. During the park’s first decade, I bent over backwards to accommodate the market – ignoring stains in the plaza and wear and tear to the landscaping. When others suggested that the market should be paying rent, I demurred, since I didn’t want to put them at a competitive disadvantage.
My rationale was that the success of the new Splash Pad Park and the Farmers Market were inexorably intertwined – as was the revitalization of the surrounding commercial district. I’m still convinced that these three entities are in a relationship that needs to be preserved and protected, but I’m now equally convinced that AIM is no longer necessarily the best agent to make that happen, based on their questionable management practices and their unwillingness over some eighteen years to give back to the community that hosts the market.
Those doubts are substantiated to some extent by AIM’s IRS 990 forms. In my Open Letter to the City Council in February, I noted that AIM had, for the first time ever, just hired an Oakland resident (and also, the first person of color) to work at the Grand Lake Market. Maybe, it’s because the CEO, Brigitte Moran, was preoccupied with hiring members of her own family, including her daughter (in charge of billing and accounts receivable), her sister-in-law (Market Outreach Coordinator), and someone (likely her nephew) whose surname matches her maiden name (Sunday Market Manager). In addition, AIM paid $59, 317 for insurance premiums to a company that listed her husband and another daughter as Vice Presidents.
The Program Service Accomplishments that AIM listed in their 990 forms (between 2015 and 2006) to justify their non-profit status are even more revealing of their Marin-centricity. In each of those years, they boast about free weekly tours, chef demos, nutrition education to promote healthy eating for Spanish-speaking families, a Farm to Fork Program, etc. The 2009 form (shown on the right) goes into extensive detail regarding who got what. Here in Oakland, we got farm tours for two classrooms this year as AIM suddenly realized that their lease was at risk. Otherwise, since 2003, we’ve gotten zilch.
What I’ve learned from the above research merely confirms what we’ve been saying for the last several years. An RFP would open up the process and ultimately ensure the long-term viability of the market, while better protecting the park infrastructure and providing more community benefits.
SPLASH PAD PARK
One of the infrastructure issues listed in an Open Letter to Public Works Director, Jason Mitchell, in October has since been addressed, but only in part. Crew Leader Christian Boyle pulled down dozens of heavy fronds from the two palms on the northeast corner of the plaza – mitigating a severe safety problem – but, to the best of my knowledge, no one from the Tree Services Division has come out to inspect the palms that appear to be diseased. More importantly, there’s no indication that any other repairs are being scheduled. The only bright spot is that Councilmember Guillén has intervened on our behalf, so hopefully we’ll see some progress in the near future.
To minimize competition with the upcoming holidays, the “Grand Crew’s” 4th Sunday work day in December will be December 17th – not the 24th. Heavy rain cancels.
GRAND AVENUE FIRST THURSDAYS
The only, totally new show this month is the holiday special showing of original art priced for $100 at Bay-Made. I also recommend the show at Panorama Framing of abstract paintings by Natalie Madden entitled, “Simplifying the Complexities of the Soul.” Oluyemi will be performing on the saxophone and small bites will be served. I also continue to be impressed by what 510 Brand is doing to promote the event. They put out a really nice spread and have just added more artwork by Natasha Reh and by Jonesy, whose work is underpriced. Details for all of the participating galleries can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays page.
To an astute observer, it may have seemed that November was mostly dedicated to a month-long series of occasions honoring Tora Rocha on her retirement. The festivities began on the 2nd when the Public Works Volunteer Appreciation party, likely for the first time, chose to honor a city employee. On the 7th, Tora was feted by the entire City Council, as Councilmembers Guillén and Campbell-Washington jointly read a proclamation honoring her for 36 years of service to the City of Oakland beginning with a job as an elephant trainer at the Oakland Zoo and followed by a stint as a gardener and animal-keeper at Fairyland. When Tora officially retires today (November 30), it will be the culmination of seven incredibly productive years as a Parks Supervisor.
The icing on the cake (in the form of a Bee Hotel) was, however, the Tora, Tora, Tora Party on the 17th. Some two hundred devotees showed up to give her a standing ovation after listening to a steady stream of admirers wax poetic and after watching an absolutely fabulous video assembled by Susan Bradley. The tribute by former Buildings and Grounds Supervisor, Jim Ryugo, was especially poignant. It was he who had originally encouraged Tora to take horticultural classes, and he glowed when he talked how she had subsequently bloomed – much like the gardens that she later brought back to life or built from the ground up. Jim was also responsible for Tora’s appointment as the first female Parks Supervisor in the history of Oakland, recognizing her potential to transform cultural norms as a prerequisite for improving our physical environment.
Tora is no longer a city employee, but she’s not giving up the good fight. As she noted on the 17th, she fully intends to continue promoting the Pollinator Posse and environmental stewardship. It’s much the same message she voiced in an excellent article about the Gardens of Lake Merritt in the Summer 2014 issue of Pacific Horticulture.
BTW: If you want to see additional photographs from the Tora, Tora, Tora Party, Eddie Dunbar has 91 posted on the Pollinator Posse Facebook page at THIS LINK.
Speaking of “environmental stewardship,” the Doctors Without Borders event that I publicized last month was originally scheduled to be at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, but Tora insisted that she wasn’t going to allow them to trample the lawns for a full week. They moved instead to the parking lot next to the Kaiser Auditorium. Forced From Home would have been a moving experience in any location, but the bare asphalt of the parking lot with a boarded-up building on one side and, ironically, a homeless encampment at one end actually seemed more appropriate for the subject matter. I’ve shared photos in this Flickr album, but they don’t do justice to the enormity of the problem – 65 million refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. Doctors Without Borders is doing incredible work in very difficult and often hazardous circumstances. Please visit their website and consider making a donation.
The giving in the Thanksgiving holiday can be seen from two perspectives – an opportunity to give thanks for everything we have and/or an opportunity to give aid and comfort to those less fortunate than ourselves. The latter perspective motivated Abel Guillén to start an annual Thanksgiving food giveaway three years ago. This year’s event was held on the 18th at Roosevelt Middle School, and 150 volunteers showed up to help distribute 500 turkeys along with food baskets that included packaged goods and fresh produce.
Later that day, heading for the Grand Lake Farmers Market, I took advantage of the free parking in the Lakeview School parking lot and was surprised to find another food basket giveaway closer to home. It was being coordinated by the East Bay Agency for Children in conjunction with the school district’s Central Family Resource Center, which is housed in one of the school’s portables. Talking to Senior Program Coordinator Jacqueline Portillo, I also learned that the Resource Center has a food giveaway every Monday morning under the auspices of the Alameda County Food Bank. I’m hoping that the new manager at Noah’s agrees to set aside surplus bagels for delivery to the Resource Center once a week. If he agrees, I’ll be looking for one individual (and perhaps a back-up) to pick the bagels up after 4 pm on Sundays. If you’re interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use the comment feature at the bottom of the page.
ODDS & ENDS
Did you happen to catch the Sixty Minutes report earlier this month about the Millennium Tower in San Francisco that’s slowly sinking into the highly unstable muck below? If so, did you realize that Jerry Cauthen, who was interviewed at length, is something of a neighborhood celebrity. Jerry chaired the Splash Pad Traffic Calming and Pedestrian Safety Committee and some 90% of the recommendations for streetscape improvements that group provided to the City were actually incorporated into the project. Several years later, Jerry also led efforts to further improve safety at the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park. The resulting Lakeshore Complete Streets Project created the new transit plaza, widened the sidewalk by 10 feet on Lake Park from Sprint up to the Kwik Way driveway, and substantially narrowed the crosswalk on Lakeshore from the gas station to T-Mobile.
Speaking of neighborhood celebrities, James “Old School” Copes was featured in a November 2 SF Chronicle article that covered a big slice of his background as an Oakland native who grew up in the projects and has never given up as an Oaktown booster.
- Friday, December 1: Art Murmur Uptown Oakland
- Thursday, December 7, 6-8 pm: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, December 8, 4-6 pm: Free Carriage Rides and Face-Painting on Lakeshore
- Saturday, December 9, 2-4 pm: Free Carriage Rides and Face-Painting on Lakeshore
- Sunday, December 17, 9 am-noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” Volunteer Work Day
- Sunday, December 17, 2-3 pm: Amaro-making class at Brother & Sisters Flowers