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What started out as a slow news month finished with a bang, beginning with an August 27 article in the SF Chronicle revealing that Allen Michaan, the long-time lessee of the Grand Lake Theatre, had purchased the building – intent on continuing to operate it as a motion picture venue without rival in the East Bay. The Chronicle also noted that Michaan would be seeking to have the theater recognized as a landmark by its inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and that he was also planning to undertake additional improvements.
As a measure of how enthusiastically this news was received, the post on Splash Pad’s Facebook page, linking to the article, reached over 2,600 people, has ninety-five likes, and was shared twenty-seven times – all numbers that are at least two to five times greater than any previous Splash Pad post. This clearly reflects the theater’s popularity, particularly in its most profitable year ever thanks to the success of Black Panther, Sorry to Bother You, and Blindspotting. But it’s also an acknowledgement of the extent to which the Grand Lake draws patrons from throughout the East Bay, contributing to the pedestrian traffic that benefits local businesses including, especially, all the hugely successful restaurants which are, in themselves, major draws.
Speaking of successful restaurants, last month we shared the SF Eater article about Penrose’s sale. This month I’m pleased to say that, earlier this week, the new owner, Rico Rivera, graciously sat down with me for a long talk, and I came away hugely impressed and optimistic about the restaurant’s future.
Rico is an Oakland native, a graduate of Skyline High School, the father of two children, and someone who seems highly committed to do what’s right by his home town. He previously worked for Charlie Hallowell at Pizzaiolo but for the past eight years has worked at Flora – most recently as its Executive Chef. In the two weeks that he’s been cooking at Penrose, he’s already observed clear differences in the clientele. For starters, a significant portion of the diners at Flora were apparently heading to shows at the Paramount and Fox theaters and were frequently in a hurry to eat and get out. Thus far at Penrose, Rico is pleased to see diners less rushed and more likely to linger, and he also feels that they have, perhaps, a more educated palate.
For the time being, they’re only serving dinners Tuesdays through Sundays, but in two to three weeks, after Rico brings on board a couple of chefs he’s worked with previously, they’ll resume serving brunch. The name’s the same but only temporarily. Similarly, the menu will be much the same, but long-term they will be doubling the number of entrees with a heavier emphasis on the massive grill and the addition of far more seafood. By way of explanation for the latter, Rico mentioned offhandedly, “I love fish.”
He described the cuisine as “New American,” which relies on the “whole animal” and locally-grown organic produce. His produce suppliers include Grand Lake Farmers Market mainstay Happy Boy Farms and two small, non-profit, Oakland-based groups. WOW Farm, which is located in West Oakland, provides a source of income for high school students while also giving them an opportunity to farm in an urban environment and gain the skills necessary to run a small business. Acta Non Verba has a farm plot in East Oakland that’s planted and maintained by students in kindergarten through 8th grade and all proceeds go into their savings accounts.
Next door at 3265 Grand, the Grand Fare Market space has just been leased for use as a Corepower Yoga studio, which has as its motto “Flow, Sweat and Savasana.” This is a huge enterprise with multiple locations in twenty-three states and more than fifty in California alone. The conversion of the space is now underway with no information at this time on their predicted opening date.
Brother & Sisters Flower shop owner, Freya Prowe, is delighted to report that their tentative plans to move elsewhere have been shelved and they get to stay on Grand where they’re quite happy – as is their faithful following. They will lose the interior space they’ve been using for the past couple of years but will now have use of the entire patio garden, which Freya views most definitely as a net positive. I think it’s a net gain for the community as well, since the patio is such a beautiful, tranquil location and a refuge from the traffic on Grand.
Last month we relayed the sad news about the passing of Culling Cahayag – an artist and long-time employee at 510 Brand, whom virtually everyone knew as “Cool.” All his paintings are being shipped to his mother at her request, but this month they are featuring the first of many t-shirts that feature his artwork. A portion of the proceeds will be used to fund art education for young people.
All About Pets is closed for between six to twelve months. Its parent company, Grand Lake Veterinary, is going to be expanding into a portion of that space in order to accommodate more in the way of holistic care. In the meantime, bulk foods and dietary products will be available in the clinic next door.
CLICK AND SAVE THE GRAND AVENUE BUSINESS DIRECTORY
LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE
Carol Knight and Kira Pascoe are the new co-directors of the Lakeshore Business Improvement District (BID). Kira is in charge of social media, so if you want to be in the know as to what’s happening on Lakeshore and Lake Park, we highly recommend following her Facebook and Instagram feeds, which are updated regularly.
All the Latest News from the Lakeshore BID includes the following highlights:
- Hipline, which began as a belly-dancing studio, is celebrating its 10th Anniversary
- The LGBTQ Center is celebrating its 1st Anniversary
- Lake Merritt Bakery is preparing to open a second location on Lakeshore
- Lin Jia reopened with new menu items
- Bardo Cocktail Lounge and Supper Club now hiring and close to opening.
Over the last year or so, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of local groups performing at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, as well as an uptick in quality. One of the groups that’s drawn the biggest crowds and loudest applause is the youngest – the Crying Uncle Band based right here in the East Bay with members ranging in age from twelve to sixteen. THIS VIDEO, which was recorded at the market on August 18 isn’t very good quality but the music shines through.
Speaking of videos, if you haven’t already seen the one shot at the Grand Lake Market by a film crew from KRCB’s “North Bay Bountiful,” I highly recommend it as it shows “The Ins and Outs of Managing a Farmers Market” as you’ve never seen it before.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Ale Industries beers in our neighborhood Trader Joe’s last week. When I talked to owner Morgan Cox at the Saturday market, he said that their product is selling well and TJ’s is, accordingly, making shelf space for them in a total of ten Bay Area stores. P.S. In case you missed it, last month’s feature article was about Ale Industries.
A fairly up to date list of all the Grand Lake Farmers Market vendors is available on THIS LINK.
John Bry wears two different hats – one that’s broad-brimmed to ward off the sun when he’s working outdoors in his Wildcat Canyon Vineyard and the second, a scrub cap he wears as a long-time vascular surgeon.
Dr. Bry finished his medical training in Boston and launched his medical practice in Berkeley in 1994. Prior to medical school, he worked in research at UCSF where he joined a wine group that provided a basic introduction to the art of winemaking. In a rambling phone conversation, he shared what he considers the most important lesson learned: “Lousy grapes make lousy wine.”
Motivated in part by his fond memories of the “huge garden” that his father had cultivated and his recognizing “the privilege and responsibility that one has when owning a property,” John purchased his Wildcat Canyon property in 2002. He did so despite protestations from family members who questioned his sanity. With a temperate climate, a hillside with a southwest exposure, and rich soils, he saw it as the ideal location for a vineyard that he named “Perfusion” …
ODDS AND ENDS
EAH (a nonprofit housing developer based in Marin) has just announced that its purchase of the Kwik Way property closed this morning, marking the conclusion of a campaign that began in 2004 when 3,200 individuals signed petitions over an eight-day period opposing conversion of the Kwik Way into a McDonald’s drive-thru restaurant. A couple of weeks later, five hundred concerned neighbors filled the pews at Lakeshore Baptist Church – all of whom were adamant in their opposition to the proposal. For the record, it may have been the first (and last) time that the community, the city council, and the Planning Department were in unanimous agreement on anything.
Subsequent battles ensued over proposals for a Fatburger restaurant and, most recently, a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins franchise. In the interim, David Latina’s proposal for a mixed-use development with ground floor retail was greeted by the community (circa 2006) with nearly universal acclaim, but very late in the process the property owner had second thoughts and walked away from the project. Under the stewardship of Gary Rizzo, a new and improved Kwik Way opened in 2011 to great fanfare, but scathing reviews from customers who preferred the original, much funkier Kwik Way were his ultimate undoing. The space has since been filled, on a temporary basis, by Merritt Bakery while the property owners explored other options. In 2016, the Hahn family unveiled plans drawn up by Lowney Architecture for a mixed-use development that they would own and manage. Those plans were very well received by the community at large and also by key members of the Oakland Heritage Alliance, who loved that it hearkened back to the Deco era and that the undulating exterior made a “bold architectural statement”.
Earlier this year, the Hahn family decided to negotiate the sale to EAH that was just concluded. The original plans shared in 2016 are currently being revised to accommodate additional parking for Bank of America customers in keeping with the B of A’s long-term lease. As a result, EAH isn’t in a position to announce the total number of units that will be available, but it’s likely to be around fifty. What EAH is guaranteeing is that the units will be affordable and open to families earning between 20% and 80% of the Area Median Income. Susan Dutton, speaking on behalf of EAH, emphasized that family-oriented means everything from families with toddlers to senior citizens.
During a period during which more and more families are being forced out of Oakland, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of adding affordable housing here in the neighborhood. That said, there are other considerations that are also important. On the top of that list is the expectation that new construction will create a much more pedestrian-friendly link between Lakeshore and Grand and, in the process, eliminate an open-air parking lot that’s subject to littering, illegal dumping, and late-night partying. This is also a perfect location thanks to its proximity to major transit hubs, shopping, schools and recreational activities.
MORE ON THE SUBJECT:
Hahns try again to replace Kwik Way with major hamburger chain – 2007
Hahn family’s FatBurger in the fire – 2007
Local developer: mixed-use development on Kwik Way site still works– 2007
Kwik Way Polished Up and Revived– 2011
Dunkin’ Donuts won’t go in Kwik Way site– 2015
Oakland Project unveiled for former Kwik Way site– 2016
Plus for those nostalgia buffs who already miss Kwik Way, we’ll always have Commander Cody’s “Two Triple Cheeseburgers, Side Order of Fries.”
A rash of vehicular vandalism in the Lake Park Avenue parking lot will be one of numerous subjects on the Grand Lake Neighbors agenda for Wednesday, September 19 from 7 – 8:30. Michael Ford, who is responsible for managing all the city’s off-street parking, indicates that what is at least a partial solution is in the offing. Namely, installation of a security camera in conjunction with the installation of six EV (Electric Vehicle) charging stations under the freeway.
Belated congratulations to Chris Hwang, a Grand Lake neighbor, who was honored back in May by the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment. In awarding her the 2018 Anthony Grassroots Prize, they cited her tireless advocacy for biking and walking as the chair of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland.
FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND
This month’s First Thursday’s on Grand takes place on September 6 from 6 – 8 pm.
Panorama Framing is hosting an Opening Night Artists Reception for a group show about intimacy entitled, “This Must be the Place.” Refreshments will be served and music will be provided by Oluyemi Thomas accompanied by his wife.
Urban Furniture and Boutique will be hosting an Opening Night Artist Reception for a solo show of works by Jennifer Lugris entitled, “Offering a Possibility.” This is a return visit for the artist who made a big impression in 2015 with her paintings of death-row inmates. Beverages and small bites provided.
510 Brand will be featuring new works by Aaron Mountain, Rachel Dobos, Natalina Simi, Shelia Schroeder, Seluster Lane, and more. As mentioned above, Culling Cahayag memorial t-shirts will be available. Music by DJ Pauleytek. Food and beverages will be served.
San Francisco Fiber‘s owner, Lou Grantham, will be doing a hands-on demonstration of a variety of weaving and spinning techniques.
The Libertine has an ongoing show of nude photographs printed on aluminum by Josh Stevenson.
The landscaping in Splash Pad Park’s Native Plant Garden is beginning to look a lot like autumn – but the Tarweeds are still in bloom and, overall, the garden is nearly free of weeds. We’re also happy to report that, thanks to the ongoing efforts from Zach at Pestec, the park is nearly free of rats for the first time ever. The only exception is the two fern beds, which, for a variety of reasons, will have to be removed and replaced with a habitat less friendly to rodents.
The Grand Crew’s next volunteer work day will be Sunday, September 23 from 9 – noon. If you want more information or would like to volunteer, please email Mary Jo Sutton.
Here are a few highlights from this month’s Event Calendar:
- Lakeview Library Mural Discussion, Saturday, September 1 from 11 am – noon.
- The LGBTQ Center First Anniversary Celebration + Pride Week Citywide September 1 -8
- The September Grand Avenue First Thursdays event takes place on the 6th from 6 – 8 pm.
- Clausen House’s Annual Art Show is on Friday, Sept. 14 from 6 – 8 pm.
- Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, September 19 from 7 – 8:30 at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church
- Splash Pad Work Day, Sunday, September 23 from 9 – Noon.