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LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE
Last month, I used a 1935 photo of Lakeshore Avenue to launch a discussion of all the changes that occurred on this block between 2009 and the present. Above are three images (from a collection shot by Eve Lurie in 2007) that illustrate that while things do change, sometimes they remain (nearly, but not quite) the same. The George’s Cleaners neon sign is very high up on the facade, largely obscured by the adjacent street tree and no longer illuminated at night. Given that set of circumstances, I should perhaps be forgiven for blithely asking owner Liza Flores, “When and why was the sign removed?”- when it fact it wasn’t. I’m embarrassed nonetheless and more than a little motivated to launch a fundraising campaign to have the sign restored or, at minimum, have the tree trimmed.
Eleven years later, the Peter Lee mural at Rolling Dunes is a bit faded and the columns have been repainted, but the biggest loss is the guy scaling the wall on a rope ladder. I’m told he developed chronic vertigo as a result of an inner ear infection. Unfortunately, Earwitness Music is long gone but now, happily, home to Urban Indigo. Earwitness was operated by Paul Curatolo, the Manager of Walden Pond Books which, not coincidentally, continues to buy and sell vinyl records.
Typically, commercial districts evolve slowly – but what’s been happening on Lakeshore over the past several months has bordered on the epic. For starters, there’s been a dramatic change in the “Old Guard” of the Lakeshore Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) Management and new co-directors have just been hired. In addition, Michel is closed and slated to re-open as Bardo Lounge and Supper Club, and that’s just one of several businesses that have just closed and changed either ownership or identity. Finally, as of last Friday, the Lakeshore BID has a new website. You’ll find all of the above subjects covered in detail on the LakeshoreAvenue.com Home Page.
ELIDA SCOLA CELEBRATES 35 YEARS ON GRAND
Editor’s Note: Thursday afternoon, I received, via email, the following blog written by Elida Scola from Galleria Scola. The subject matter fit so perfectly into this month’s focus on neighborhood history and the process of change, I’m delighted that we’re able to share it.
In 1983 when I met Michael, the owner of Donoho Gallery at 3421 Grand, we had dark brown hair. We were both skinny and anxious, he as the caregiver to a partner with a mysterious disease and me on the brink of self-employment. Mothers with children were no longer forced to cross the street since the topless bar on Grand Avenue had finally closed. With Judith McKinnon teaching bodywork in the next block, Margene altering dresses, Mary B Best serving up homemade ice cream, Corella at the helm of Ford’s Fine Furniture, Joan fixing and selling Hoovers at the Sew and Vac, and Shirley selling Merlot at Shirley’s Liquors, I knew I had touched down in the right spot at the right time with the right women.
The show at Urban Boutique and Furniture features artwork by Araceli Espinoza, who holds a BFA in painting, from the San Francisco Art Institute. Araceli moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles to create art. She identifies herself as a xicanx artista feminista, a first-generation Mexican en los Estados Unidos, and an educator always. Through her artwork, she is able to reconstruct what feminine strength means in moments of war and how stereotypes can be challenged. Her drive to create paintings is to document her family stories, the resilience of adelitas (past and present), all while sharing her love for art to the young scholars in her after-school programs. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.
The group show at Panorama Framing — “Awareness and Activism in Textiles” — features the artistic statements of Bay Area quilters, sparked largely by the recent years of political turmoil. At the Opening Night Reception on July 5, you’ll have a wonderful opportunity to meet with the artists while partaking of complimentary wine and small bites with music provided by Scot Charland on guitar and ukulele. The show runs through the end of August.
A complete list of all the participating gallery spaces is available on our FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND web page.
How about a big round of applause for Timmy Nguyen (owner of Miss Saigon) for his creativity and for further beautifying the space in front of his restaurant. A couple of weeks ago, he installed a large planter around the street tree where he planted lemon-grass, marigolds, and mint, and he’s also turning wine barrels into sophisticated planters.
Last month, we reported that Ordinaire was honored by its inclusion in Food & Wine Magazine’s list of the very best wine bars in these United States. This month they doubled down by landing a spot on Esquire Magazine‘s list of the “Best Bars in America.”
Last month, we also reported on the sale of Ikaros and the impending departure of Zack and Lavender. This month, I’m pleased to report that I had a very pleasant conversation with the new owner, George Adranly. He and his wife, Rochael, are looking forward to getting acquainted with old and with new customers. The menu will remain much the same, but they are planning on some upgrades including more fresh fish and more vegetarian dishes, including a falafel gyro and a vegan soup.
The photo below was posted on the Oakland History Facebook page. It’s similar to an image I posted previously but from a very different perspective. If you look closely, you’ll see that the street in the foreground is labeled “Grand.” The one that intersects with it at on the far right is labeled “Lakeshore,” but I don’t believe that’s the case. Either way, the angled roadway follows the route of the Key System Railway tracks as they transition from Lakeshore to Grand, as shown in this detail from a 1912 Oakland map that’s available, along with half a dozen other maps dating from 1877 to the present, on this Old Oakland website. By the way, the upper portion of that triangular parcel is now Splash Pad Park.
Everybody in the above photo has a big smile but, in a way, it was a bittersweet moment as the photo was taken on June 16th, Devon Fryer’s last day as the Market Manager. It was a position she took on with enthusiasm and one in which she excelled. Her departure is unfortunate, but the good news is that she was offered a management position here in the Bay Area with the ACLU that she couldn’t refuse. It’s what she described to me as her “dream job” and it fits in nicely with her previous employment with Greenpeace and Amnesty International. We all wish Devon the greatest success and look forward to seeing her at the Grand Lake Market when she comes to do her shopping.
The other folks pictured above are (from left to right):
- Dan Foster, who has deftly stepped into Devon’s shoes — although his are a couple sizes larger. With twelve years experience in the food industry, he has the necessary experience and smarts. Of late, we’ve been talking about how the community can provide better support for the market and vice versa. To cite one example, he just sent me a very long list of needed updates for the Splash Pad Vendor List. When time permits, probably next week, I’ll go ahead and make those changes but, in addition, we’re also discussing the possibility that the Agricultural Institute of Marin will post its own list of the Grand Lake vendors online and we’ll be able to link to that instead.
- Andy Baja-Riese, AIM’s newly-appointed CEO, has been welcomed like a “breath of fresh air” from Marin. The fact that he was photographed actually standing in Splash Pad Park is a testament to the changes that are afoot. As we’ve mentioned previously, Andy has expressed a very strong commitment to providing community benefits and a perfect example is AIM’s decision to institute a new Mobile Market that will bring farm-fresh produce and nutrition education directly to underserved communities. “My goal is to ensure we are overcoming transportation barriers for individuals who are unable to visit the farmers market; rather, we will bring the market to them! We are still figuring out routes and logistics, but our primary focus will include senior housing facilities as well as faith centers,” FYI: If you’re interested in learning more about Andy’s strong educational and work background, he was just profiled in this article in the East Bay Reporter.
- In the center is Devon, making a fashion statement: “SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS.”
- Katie Derrig is a long-time community volunteer who staffs the information booth virtually every Saturday, distributing EBT coupons with ease and handling difficult situations, when they arise, with aplomb.
- A big welcome to Ellie Burke, a Mills College graduate, who signed on as a market assistant just this past month.
- Jon Ruiz is an Oakland native, who previously worked at the Grand Lake Market. His return last month was greeted with hugs and high-fives all around.
Two new vendors made their debuts in June: The Oakland Chocolate Company is owned by former District 1 Councilmember, Nancy Nadel, who regularly staffs their farmers market booth. Jamaican cacao purchased from a worker-owned cooperative in St. James Parish is used exclusively in all their chocolates. The other new vendor is Perfusion Vineyards. They bottle premium quality Pinot Noir and extra virgin olive oil grown on the slopes of their vineyard in Richmond’s Wildcat Canyon. In the August issue of Wine Enthusiast, their 2014 vintage was rated 92 points and earned an “Editor’s Choice” award. Look for owner John Bry and his wife every other week and, yes, they do offer samples. The third vendor, Charles Farrier from Crumble and Whisk Patisserie, tells me that they’ve been selling at this market for several months, but I didn’t take notice until last weekend. Maybe that’s because I’m lactose intolerant, and it broke my heart that I couldn’t indulge in one of their absolutely scrumptious looking cheesecakes, which have been featured in the local press, including 7 x 7 Magazine.
According to Manager Dan Foster, look for two new Oakland-based companies to join the market very soon: Mother Know’s Best Kombucha and Ale Industries. By the way, the latter’s products are also available for sale here in the neighborhood at both Bay-Grape and Buckingham Wine and Spirits.
Late-breaking news: We were just advised this afternoon that Andy and Councilmember Guillén have agreed to co-host a community meeting on Monday, July 23. This will be a perfect opportunity for Andy and his staff to meet the community and vice versa. The agenda will likely include a discussion of market operations plus an emphasis on ways that AIM and the Grand Lake Market will be providing more in the way of community benefits.
Update: The July 23 meeting (from 7 – 8:30 pm) will be held in Barnett Hall – up the driveway to the left of Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church. Jerry Barclay, the Chair of the Splash Pad Farmers Market Advisory Committee is describing this as the precursor to a long-term agreement between the City of Oakland and the Agricultural Institute of Marin subject to operational guidelines recommended by the Advisory Committee.
SPLASH PAD PARK
Efforts to abate the ongoing rat infestation at Splash Pad are beginning to show results thanks to steps taken by Zach and Carlos, two technicians from Pestec — a company selected by the City due to its commitment to using totally non-toxic practices. They have to share credit, however, with City staff members — particularly Tom Young from the Public Works Department, who is coordinating the effort.
The Grand Crew’s next 4th Sunday work day is scheduled for July 22. Please email Mary Jo Sutton (MJmatrix2@gmail.com) to volunteer or for more information.
ODDS AND ENDS
Congratulations to Councilmember Abel Guillén for authoring a city council ordinance that bans the use of plastic straws. News of the ordinance was published in an article in One Green Planet that has been shared, to date, 2,400 times.
Construction around the entrance to Lakeside Park and Fairyland is nearing completion and in this Facebook post, Fairyland’s Director, C. J. Hirschfield recently revealed a link to a photograph of the whimsical handrails that are about to be installed. A new sign apparently comes next.
We salute the Berkeley City Council for officially declaring this past Tuesday as Daniel Galvez Day. The Oakland-based muralist has strong ties to the Splash Pad and the immediate neighborhood thanks to his role as one of the lead artists responsible for the Grand Performance Mural which was completed in 1984. We were also gratified to have Daniel serve as one of a handful of design professionals on the Splash Pad Design and Planning Committee.
As outlined in this May 31 article in the SF Chronicle, the state legislature approved $768 million for electric vehicle charging infrastructure. A portion of those funds is going to be spent right here in Oakland including in the Grand Lake neighborhood. I’m told that one station has already been installed in the Walker Avenue parking lot and six more are proposed for the Lake Park Avenue parking lot under the freeway. If you’re interested in learning more about the latter project, plan on attending the Grand Lake Neighbors meeting on Wednesday, July 18, where an EVgo representative will be in attendance. The major agenda item at that meeting, however, will be a presentation by Ryan Russo, the highly-touted Director of the new Transportation Department.
While we’re on the above subject, Thursday turned out to be a great day for environmentally responsible transportation. While I was attending an informal on-site gathering at Splash Pad Park to discuss proposed solutions to the rat invasion, I let out a cheer when an OPD officer on bike patrol zoomed up Grand Avenue. Ten minutes later, two officers on horseback sauntered up the asphalt roadway and graciously accommodated my request for photos. And a few hours later, over on Lakeshore, a Bike Share employee showed up to redistribute the FORD bikes using a bike trailer. Maybe, there’s hope for the planet after all.
We’ll be updating our new WordPress Calendar on a regular basis. If you know of local events you’d like listed, please email email@example.com. Here are a few highlights:
- Wesley Timms’ solo show at the Lakeview Library opens July 1
- The Oakland Municipal Band‘s summer concert series begins July 4 at the Lake Merritt bandstand from 1 – 3:00 pm. It’s the first of five concerts.
- The July Grand Avenue First Thursdays event takes place on the 5th with two opening night receptions.
- Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, July 17
- Splash Pad Work Day, July 22
- Farmers Market Community Meeting, July 23