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Editor’s Note: Let me begin by extending greetings for a very happy and healthy New Year along with an apology for a newsletter that’s a day late and severely deficient on local news due to a just-concluded, extended vacation that took me far from my favorite haunts and local sources of information. Our saving grace this month is two very welcome posts by contributing editors Sheila McCormick and Keila Diehl.
LAKEVIEW LIBRARY HAPPENINGS
by Sheila McCormick
Lakeview is open 5 days a week: Tuesday: 12:30 pm – 8:00 pm; Wednesday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm; Thursday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm; Friday: 12:00 pm – 5:30 pm; and Saturday: 10:00 am – 5:30 pm (unfortunately closed Sunday and Monday).
I met the Branch Librarian, Michelle Rosenthal, to get some information about the various events there. She told me that they frequently feature works of local artists. On display through January 31, some paintings by Rad Sanza, who has worked at Lakeview as a library aide for 11 years. If you are a local artist who is interested in having your art displayed, contact Michelle at email@example.com.
INDIAN CURRY, TIBETAN STYLE — JUST GRAND!
by Keila Diehl
A Tibetan refugee and an anthropologist sat down to talk about curry, and the conversation transported them from Oakland to Bhutan, India, Connecticut, Georgia, and, finally, back to Oakland. A steaming mug of sweet chai in hand, I followed Tsultrim Dorjee, co-owner of High Peaks Kitchen at 391 Grand Avenue on his journey from an impoverished refugee school in the Indian Himalayas to the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile, a filmmaking career, training as a sushi chef, and, ultimately, to a settled life in the East Bay making our neighbors happy by serving delicious Indian comfort food.
Born to Tibetan refugee parents living in Bhutan, Tsultrim’s childhood was a simple one — the only modern conveniences were a truck that passed by their house once a week (he scooped up the imprint of the tires in the mud to marvel over at his leisure) and, a short-wave radio (which he thought had a little talking man inside). Television finally arrived in Bhutan in 1999, but long before that, in 1981, Tsultrim and his family had resettled in India following a government ultimatum requiring refugees to become Bhutanese citizens or go back to China-occupied Tibet.
Last month, I wrote at some length about proposed changes to the plans for a mixed-use development on the Kwik Way site. The most critical element was a tentative agreement for EAH, a non-profit housing corporation, to purchase the property from the Hahn family. That specific detail and much more was confirmed at a stakeholder’s meeting hosted by Councilmember Guillen on December 4.
EAH (represented at the meeting by President and CEO Mary Murtagh and Real Estate Development Area Director Welton Jordan) is proposing to build and manage fifty units of affordable family housing consisting of one, two, and three-bedroom units with as few as 29 residential parking spaces. Eligible individuals and families would earn 30-60% of the Area Median Income, which translates (for a family of four) to $31,290-$62,580. Two-bedroom apartments would rent for $704-$1,408.
The building will have a Resident Manager and also the services of a community resources manager. According to Murtagh, over the past fifty years, EAH has built 30 projects in Marin alone; they currently have 9,000 units across the country and are proud of their most recent project in Oakland, the Cathedral Gardens on San Pablo between 21st and 22nd Streets.
Several changes in the building plans were explained by Winston Win, the Project Manager for Lowney Architects. At the Planning Department’s insistence, the curb-cut on Lake Park has, in fact, been reduced to an entrance only with an exit onto Cheney. This will reduce the amount of parking available on the ground floor, and construction of a separate exit lane onto Cheney will reduce the amount of landscaping and garden space on the rear of the property.
According to Mr. Jordan, the facade (as designed by Lowney Architects) will remain essentially unchanged – although they may opt to reduce the cost of some of the components. The 5,000-square foot retail space remains intact and EAH seems open to input from the community regarding possible tenants. A second 1,000-square foot retail space will be converted into a community space for use by the residents. Depending on their specific needs, the room could provide access to computers, English as a second language instruction, or other similar programs.
As of early December, there were concerns that federal funding for low-income housing could be eviscerated in the tax reform bill passed by the GOP Congress, but in his newsletter last week, Abel indicated that those credits had been preserved and, as a result, the Kwik Way project should be able to proceed as planned. It’s also possible that Cap-and-Trade grants might be available for improvements that would improve the parking lot under the freeway and/or improve access to the parking lot.
The one remaining obstacle would appear to be the lack, thus far, of an agreement with Bank of America regarding parking (their current lease guarantees them access to 30 spaces). The current proposal is for 12 dedicated spaces. B of A is also asking for special accommodations for parking and pedestrian access to the parking lot across the street during the construction phase. According to Jim Ratliff, Mayor Schaaf has reached out to B of A urging them to facilitate construction.
For the past couple of months, we’ve been reporting 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. Since I’ve been out of town for the past several weeks, I’m unsure how much more compliance has been achieved, but it does seem as if some progress has been made. Hopefully, we’re on the right track.
Arizmendi has again taken advantage of an extended holiday period to accommodate interior improvements. They’re scheduled to re-open January 8.
With little or no warning, the Subway Sandwich shop recently closed and was immediately stripped of its signage and interior furnishings. I spoke to the realtor this afternoon and he indicated that the space has already been leased by a food vendor. Because of a confidentially agreement, the realtor was unwilling to divulge any additional information. Hopefully, it’ll end up as a locally owned, independent business – but I’m not taking bets at this time.
Bay-Made, which is continuing to make a big splash on Lakeshore Avenue, has new hours posted on their front door. Biggest change is that they are now closed on Mondays. The new artist for the month of January is Simon Lutrin who describes his current art form as “Abstract Cyberpunk Expressionism”.
Peet’s remains open while contractors continue working on the expansion into the adjacent space previously occupied by the Burrito Shop. This afternoon, I was more than a bit annoyed to see that the architect had violated an agreement to install new wood frame doors that matched the original ones in the Proposition Chicken space. Instead, they swapped out the wood frame original for three matching aluminum frame doors. I’ve never been able to understand why all the chains insist on trying to make the facades of old buildings look like they belong in a suburban shopping mall. I do, however, take some solace in the fact that the contractors have painted three swatches on the rear of the building which, hopefully means that they’re going to cover over the garish yellow wall installed by Falafel Stop – the shop that stopped before it ever started.
The passing of Rod Dibble at the age of 85, as reported in the East Bay Express and elsewhere, marks the end of a career that began back in 1960 and continued largely unabated for some fifty-five years. It was a period of drastic change in fashion and social mores as preferences in music went from Sinatra to Elvis to the Beatles to Disco to Hard Rock and Hip-Hop. Through all that change, the one constant was Rod Dibble “tickling the ivories” at the Alley playing his beloved standards. His career spanned the dawning of the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, hippiedom, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, home computers, and cell phones. In the early 70s, a topless bar opened a few doors down the street, which subsequently became the Cancer Society Thrift Shop and still later, Cycle Sports, a mattress store, and then Urban Furniture. Through all those changes, Rod Dibble persevered, and for that he’s earned a well-deserved place in local lore, as well as online. My favorite piece: a short video produced by Cary Virtue in 2010 that captures the exuberance that made Rod Dibble the man his legion of fans will miss so dearly. As we’re about to go to press, we’ve just learned that The Alley will be hosting a memorial gathering in his honor from Noon to 6 pm on January 6 and again, on January 7.
There’s another major news story regarding Grand Avenue that will also hopefully mark the beginning of the end of an era. Like virtually everybody else, I was shocked to read the report in the Chronicle about the charges leveled against Charlie Hallowell – the proprietor of three of the most successful restaurants in Oakland. This is unfortunate for everybody involved – but it’s part and parcel of a pattern of unacceptable behavior that’s being documented nationwide in corporate boardrooms, the halls of Congress, casting couches, and, in this case, restaurant kitchens. It’s unacceptable and the time is long past for society to look the other way as employees are intimidated and made to feel uncomfortable in their jobs. I don’t know how the current situation is going to be resolved – but I know that it must be.
I stopped by Walden Pond Bookstore today and had a brief conversation with manager Paul Curatolo, the manager of everybody’s favorite used book shop. He confided that his Dad, Marshall, has recently turned ninety and is still working on a regular basis. Paul also noted that we should be expecting an announcement regarding a 45th Anniversary Celebration for Walden Pond sometime later this year.
Grand Studio has a blockbuster concert scheduled for Sunday, January 21. It features three top-notch groups including “Bells Atlas”, the house band for Glynn Washington’s “Snap Judgement” + “Spirit Award” + “Cave Clove”. Advance tickets ($10 – $20 on a sliding scale) are available for purchase online.
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Members of the Grand Lake Farmers Market Friends group met with Councilmember Guillén several weeks ago. Abel shares our concerns but, at this point, has not yet been convinced that an RFP is warranted. He does, however, seem to agree that rules and regulations need to implemented. The sticking point seems to be over which agency is willing and able to provide the necessary supervision. It’s beginning to look like Parks and Recreation may get tagged with that responsibility and, historically, they’ve done a superior job in making sure that park spaces are protected and left in pristine condition after permitted events. Stay tuned!
SPLASH PAD PARK
In addition to the “Grand Crew’s” regular 4th Sunday work day on January 28th, we’ll be participating for the first time in the Martin Luther King Day of Service Program on Monday, January 15th. Hours for both events are from 9 – Noon. If you’d like to join us, please email Volunteer Coordinator, Mary Jo Sutton at mjmatrix2
The line-up for this Thursday’s event is somewhat in flux as we’re about to go to press. Lou Grantham, owner of SF Fiber, is hoping to do a hands-0n demonstration of wool spinning, but she’s currently in Wyoming where the weather hasn’t exceeded minus two degrees for the past two weeks. If they can get the wings de-iced, she’ll be flying home tomorrow. Over at Panorama, Patrick reports that they were supposed to hang a new show of artwork by clients from Clausen House – but, if it doesn’t get up in time, the show of abstract paintings by Natalie Madden entitled, “Simplifying the Complexities of the Soul” will be extended for another month. If you want to party, I highly recommend 510 Brand which just put up a big “Thursday Art Show” poster in their front window. Details for all of the participating galleries can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays page.
The Friends of Sausal Creek are hosting a Kings Tides Walking Tour of the Waterfront on Friday, January 12. Led by Oakland historian, Dennis Evanosky, “Attendees will learn about the area’s history, which includes a dynamite factory, a horse racetrack, and other points of interest.” In addition, attendees are invited to document the King Tides through photographs under the working assumption that the King Tides of today will be the average tides of the future.
The Grand Lake Neighbors group meets on Wednesday, January 17. As always, the agenda will include a police report and, according to Co-Chair Eric Hughes, the proposed affordable housing project at the Kwik Way site will likely be discussed as well.
- Thursday, January 4, 6 – 8 pm: Grand Avenue First Thursdays
- Friday, January 5: Art Murmur Uptown Oakland
- Saturday and Sunday, January 6-7, Noon – 6 pm: Memorial Gathering at the Alley for Rod Dibble
- Friday, January 12, 10 am – Noon: Kings Tides Walking Tour
- Monday, January 15, 9 – Noon: Martin Luther King Day of Service Volunteer Day, Splash Pad Park
- Wednesday, January 17, 7 – 8:30 pm: Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting, Lakeshore Baptist Church
- Sunday, January 21, 7 – 10 pm: Bells Atlas + Spirit Award + Cave Clove in concert at Studio Grand
- Sunday, January 28, 9 – noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” 4th Sunday Volunteer Work Day