This month’s Splash Pad News is venturing into the kind of issue we’ve rarely, if ever, broached: namely, a serious discussion about Oakland’s homelessness crisis with content provided by myself and photographer, Joanne Devereaux, with much needed input from Pastor Jim Hopkins.
I’d preface this discussion by noting that we’ve long had a homeless presence. As early as 2004, the negative impact on the newly opened Splash Pad Park prompted me to organize a community forum at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, which led indirectly to the City establishing a scaled-down version of San Francisco’s Operation Homeless Connect. For several years, I was actively involved as a volunteer, but over time I became increasingly frustrated by the lack of results, while simultaneously becoming increasingly perturbed about all the negative consequences.
I’m happy to say that I currently have a new perspective thanks to a Lava Mae “Christmas With the Currys” Pop-Up Care Village on December 21 (see photos) that was co-sponsored by the Curry Family Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. As impressed as I was by the event itself, my own epiphany began the day before.
INTRODUCING PASCHAL NNAJI
by Ken Katz
I previously introduced Paschal to Splash Pad News readers when I included the above photograph in last month’s newsletter and described him as the newest member of the Splash Pad Grand Crew volunteer team. What I didn’t mention is that he’s homeless and living in the parking lot under the freeway, which is where I first met him while publicizing the Lava Mae event. He volunteered his name, asked mine, and thanked me for the flyer. I was immediately impressed by his demeanor and the fact that his encampment was neat as a pin with cardboard carefully stacked and blankets crisply folded.
At the Splash Pad Grand Crew’s 4th Sunday monthly work day in December, I asked him if he’d like to volunteer and he was happy to oblige. He did so again last weekend and, in between, took it upon himself to help keep the park clean. When rakes weren’t available, he swept the plaza (which hadn’t been this clean in quite some time) with palm fronds. He’s also volunteered twice at the Morcom Rose Garden and, without exception, staff and fellow volunteers have been dazzled by his strength, work ethic and affability.
FACING HOMELESSNESS – OAKLAND
by Joanne Devereaux
Eighteen years ago when we first moved to the neighborhood, there was one, quite visible homeless man in the area whom we’ll call “Allen”. When my daughter, as a toddler, played at the Mandana Green, she asked me why he didn’t have a house to live in like we did. Many years later, as an almost-adult, she asked me another broader question, Why didn’t I do something about the homeless?
Soon after that question, I came across an article about an architect in Seattle who was greatly impacted by the homeless he saw. Rex Hohlbein had a successful architectural firm, but was disturbed seeing so many unsheltered people living close to his office. In 2011, he started a Facing Homelessness-Seattle Facebook page (that now has 50,000 likes) on which he began quite simply to share the stories of local homeless men and women. The photographic portraits have had a big impact, and have allowed for an outpouring of support in the past eight years to the specific individuals who have been photographed and profiled.
THE PARTICULAR CHALLENGES POSED BY MENTAL ILLNESS
by Ken Katz
Eighteen years later, “Allen”, the disheveled individual, who inspired Joanne Devereaux to make a difference, is still a permanent fixture on Lakeshore and Grand. I marvel that he has been able to survive this long given his constant exposure to the elements along with his questionable diet. Although the clinical diagnosis is uncertain, he’s clearly mentally ill. Periodically, he has disappeared and returned clean shaven, wearing clean clothes and possibly medicated.
Neighbors concerned about his welfare have, in the past, worked with OPD and the Social Service system to have him picked up on a 5150 complaint and taken to Highland for observation. On those occasions, staff has invariably determined that he’s neither a threat to himself or to others – the usual legal standard that has been applied in determining whether any California resident can be hospitalized against his or her will. Typically, after spending the night, he’s been released without treatment, without a shower, and without a change of clothing.
WORKS IN PROGRESS AND ON THE DRAWING BOARD
- There are currently three Tuff Shed Villages in Oakland and 70% of the “graduates” are placed in permanent housing.
- Kaiser Permanente has just announced a $5.2 million donation to fund 41 units of affordable housing in the San Antonio district – an initial down payment on a $25 million commitment to Oakland.
- The Interfaith Council of Alameda County has received a $300,000 grant to provide secure living spaces with showers and toilets for three to five vehicles in church parking lots throughout the city.
- There are a host of non-profits providing invaluable services. Special shout-outs to Operation Dignity, St. Vincent de Paul, Keep Oakland Housed, Bay Area Community Services, and the Homeless Action Center.
- In the last election, California voters approved Propositions 1 and 2 which will provide billions in housing assistance to veterans and the mentally ill.
WHAT YOU CAN DO?
- Say “Hello.”
- Acknowledge that living on the streets is not generally a lifestyle choice that anyone ever makes.
- Support far more affordable housing – not just for the homeless but also for those individuals and families that are being displaced by market forces.
- Lobby the City of Oakland to install portable toilets wherever needed to help forestall a public health crisis.
- Lobby Alameda County to provide more and better services for the seriously mentally ill residents who are unsheltered.
- Become better informed by reading this 2017 article by SPUR – the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Research Association and also the City of Oakland’s response to the crisis.
- Support Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church’s Hunger Task Force food pantry through cash donations and by contributing to and/or participating in their annual Walk Around Lake Merritt. Also, save your cans and bottles for the recycling container in front of their preschool office. Using this container, my beer cans and bottles paid for a healthy chunk of the food bag they gave to Paschal.
- Help continue this conversation via the comment link at the bottom of this page.
I stopped by Brother & Sisters Flower Shop on Wednesday to check out their newly completed greenhouse and wasn’t the least bit surprised to find it just as inviting as the rest of the patio garden. With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, check out the garden yourself; while you’re there, congratulate owner Freya Prowe for having just signed a 5-year lease with a 5-year option to renew. Regarding the adjacent Hot Core Yoga space, Freya says they are looking to open in May – but that may be optimistic.
San Francisco Beer Week starts today, February 1, and runs through February 10. If you want to get in on the fun but would prefer to limit your driving, there are 21 establishments participating right here in Oakland. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to walk or ride a bike or scooter, then be sure to check out the Aisle 5 Beer Fest on February 7 from 6-9 PM. Look for ten locally-owned brewers with 30+ special releases. Advance tickets are available online.
Last month, we reported that the vacant space next to Connie’s Cantina had been leased to a doctor. What I didn’t realize at the time is that Grand Avenue was about to land a second alchemist to complement the Bottle Shop. The new tenant is Natasha Bernard, a Doctor of Osteopathy whose practice is called “Alchemy Restorative Medicine.”
I hadn’t mentioned this previously but 510 Brand is now doing custom printing. As mentioned on the First Thursdays page, they also continue to find more wall space for an expanding group of local artists.
The vacant Sole Space storefront wasn’t vacant for long. Late Wednesday morning, I took this photo of one of the shop owners as they were unloading merchandise. The only information I have to date is that he has a twin brother who is a partner in the business. Their shop will be specializing in custom-made sofas and they are having a soft opening today.
Just checked Studio Grand’s calendar, currently they only have four events scheduled including the Oakland Freedom Jazz Society on the 4th and the 11th. In addition, a Cuban Jazz Trio on the 3rd sounds like a winner. On the 9th, Studio Grand’s Group Voice Class will be performing at a free concert.
A tip of the hat to Kira Pascoe for sharing information about the 7 x 7 Grand Lake Neighborhood Guide that includes all our favorite locally-owned haunts on Lakeshore, Lake Park and Grand Avenues.
Hipline is bringing Rory Davis (who has been called ‘the Richard Simmons of San Francisco’) to lead routines that will make you laugh and sweat equally. Rory has over ten years experience choreographing for nearly every winner of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, pop-stars like Peaches and Fischerspooner and, most recently, for the world premier of FX’s miniseries – FEUD. All levels welcome, tickets are $40 (champagne included) and open to all genders. Saturday, February 9th at 6:30 pm
Heart & Dagger Saloon will be hosting their annual Anti-Valentine’s Day Party on Thursday, 2/14, from 9pm-close. They will have anti-love & breakup tunes, horror movies, drinks specials, and candy! Perfect for all the single folks to escape for the night! Thursday, February 14, Anti-Valentine’s Day Party, 9 pm-close
Dress Best for Less is wrapping up their “Get Fit in Style” event! They have a great selection of activewear from Lululemon, Athleta, Nike, Fabletics & more — for an incredible deals!
The European Wax Center has a special TWICE THE STRUT. HALF THE PRICE. sale.
For a limited time, visit the European Wax Center for one service, and get a second new service 50% off.*
GRAND LAKE FARMERS MARKET
The HARVEST TALK program, featuring farmers, food producers, and others working in local food policy, debuted at the market this past Saturday. The subject was food equity and the panel, which was moderated by AIM CEO, Andy Naja-Riese, included Charles Farrier from Crumble & Whisk, along with Jianna Sterling and Asia Hampton from Phat Beets Produce. One of the bits of information I gleaned from the discussion was that the CSA boxes offered by Phat Beets come from a fairly wide variety of sources, including a number of the vendors at the Grand Lake Market. According to Andy, AIM has not yet scheduled a second talk but he’d love to get input from market patrons with recommendations for specific topics or vendors.
Out of Time Steampunk Creations is one of the newest vendors at this market. Susan Rosario’s jewelry relies heavily on vintage watches as a source material. Her husband, Steve Sunday, similarly makes lamps utilizing vintage objects including brass divers helmets.
Another new vendor is clothing designer Sam Juliana. Her inspiration likely is her mother, clothing designer Susan Eastman, who has been building a loyal following at the Grand Lake Market for over a decade.
Perfusion Vineyard owner John Bry, the subject of this August 2018 article in the Splash Pad News, will be periodically returning to the market as long as he has wine and this year’s olive oil available for sale and for tasting. He’ll also be the center of attention at a June 23 event at the Richmond Museum of History focused on Jewish Food and Wine (for the record, not the Mogen David and Manischewitz wines we love to hate). This event will be the last in a six-month long series honoring the “Pioneers to the Present – Jews of Richmond and Contra Costa County.” I should also note that my wife and I went to the opening reception and were delighted to have discovered this museum. It’s on the small side but has lots of history regarding the Ford plant in Richmond, the Kaiser shipyards, and much more.
Negotiations over the proposed agreement between AIM and the City of Oakland are still in flux as quite a few details have yet to be resolved – some of which involve City responsibilities, in addition to those that will be required of the Farmers Market management. Jerry Barclay, the Chair of the Farmers Market Advisory Committee, is hoping to announce a date for their next meeting sometime soon.
Several weeks ago, after learning that Ayla Groom and Chase Agee, the owners of Base Camp Bakery, lived right here in the neighborhood, I purchased my first seeded rye. It was absolutely delicious and, as an added advantage, because of the sourdough content and density and moisture, the shelf life is up to eight days. They also have sourdough bagels at the market and, now that Chase has added an employee, they should resume offering bialys as well. Since they almost inevitably sell out on Saturdays, get there early.
Base Camp has already been featured in Momo Chang’s 2018 Berkeleyside Nosh column and I’m told that Oakland Magazine is publishing a lengthy profile in their March issue.
An up-to-date list of all the Grand Lake Farmers Market vendors is available at THIS LINK.
FIRST THURSDAYS ON GRAND
This month’s First Thursdays on Grand takes place on February 7. Hours are 6-8 PM unless otherwise noted.
Alchemy Bottle Shop’s second-floor gallery has a new show entitled, “Where Do We Go From Here?” featuring art with detailed line work by Oakland-based artist Kayleen Dejesus, also known as “Kayleendaa.”
Panorama Framing is hosting its 3rd Annual Clausen House art show featuring highly original artwork by adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Complimentary wine and cheese will be served.
The walls at 510 Brand are brimming with new works by Steven Haman, Viktor Castro, Aaron Mountain, Natalina Simi, Jeremy Reule, Loren Fizer, Thndur 1, Benny Muir, Eugene Spinks, and photographer Kris Fernald, who also works at Walden Pond Books. Free drinks and free snacks. 6-10 PM.
The Libertine is again featuring Josh Stevenson’s nudes printed on aluminum that focus on the interplay between light and shadows.
At this month’s 4th Sunday work day, volunteers planted one of the two beds from which ferns had been removed and completed the bamboo border that surrounds it. At next month’s work day, on February 24, the Grand Crew will be duplicating those efforts in the second fern bed. Additional volunteers are always welcome. Hours are 9 – Noon. Gloves and tools are provided. Just as this month’s work day was about to wrap up, I was delighted to see Kimberly Leo, the owner of Namaste Yoga, ride into the plaza on an electric scooter accompanied by her twelve-year old son. Kimberly was equally delighted to tell me that they have just moved back into the home she grew up in on Trestle Glen Road. I expect we’ll be seeing much more of her now.
The photographs above correspond to SeeClickFix complaints that I filed within the past month. Yesterday, I posted each of the complaints on our Splash Pad Facebook page. If you’re a SeeClickFix member please log on and vote to fix. If you’re not, you can cast an informal vote using the COMMENT link at the bottom of this page.
- Issue ID #5248454: The Splash Pad fountain hasn’t been maintained properly since Jaime Salazar retired and currently it appears that the City has not assigned anyone to regularly clean the filter and pond and adjust chlorine levels as necessary. A month ago, recognizing that the filters hadn’t been cleaned, I turned off the system to keep the pump from burning out as has happened previously. Currently, the water is heavily polluted.
- Issue ID #5279968: Several weeks ago, one of these palm fronds (which weigh about 15-20 pounds) dropped some 30 feet onto the head of a Farmers Market shopper. He left the park dazed and complaining of head and neck pain. I’m glad that he could walk away but fear the consequences next time could be worse. The trunks of all the date palms have to be cleared of dead fronds and they should also be inspected to determine if they are diseased.
- Issue ID #5345911: A support beam in the Ipe Wood decking has rotted away and the sunken decking poses a severe tripping hazard. This was first reported nearly three years ago.
- Issue ID #5345950: Two of the four bollard lights originally installed have been removed because they were unstable and kept falling over. Neither of the two remaining lights are working. Chances are they’ll all have to be replaced but funding is not likely available.
- Issue ID #5345934: There’s currently half a dozen of these street lamps on the perimeter of the park. One was destroyed in a major accident a couple of years ago and hasn’t been replaced. When I checked last week, the remainder were working but not at full brightness.
- Issue ID #5345942: None of the recessed spotlights under the palm trees at the south-east corner of the park (across from the theater) are working and a number of the blue lights under the freeway are out as well.
For the record, we’re asking for these issues to be resolved but not directly assigning blame to the Public Works Department or its staff. I’m told that there are 550 city-owned structures and 130 parks that DPW is responsible for. They currently have two painters and one of those works full-time on graffiti removal. City-wide, there are only three electricians and three plumbers available to maintain all those structures and parks. In addition, the gardeners assigned to our parks also do double-duty picking up garbage and there aren’t enough to start with as is. The Tree Division, similarly, is staffed at levels about half of what we had previously. As a result, they spend the majority of their time taking down dead street trees and/or removing limbs that have fallen due to a lack of pruning. One way or the other, the City Council will have to find additional funding or establish new priorities.
ODDS & ENDS
The electric vehicle charging stations in the Lake Park parking lot are nearing completion. According to one of the employees, the entire crew hails from New Mexico and they travel all over the West Coast doing similar installations. One that he mentioned is the Tesla Supercharging Station in Kettleman City that I photographed last year on my return from a trip to Baja. FYI: The concrete block enclosure is to secure the electrical equipment that provides power to the charging stations. I remain a bit concerned that the wall will attract graffiti, but when the portable toilets are moved back into the place, the most prominent wall will be screened off. If graffiti is a problem, we may be talking at some point in the future about raising funds for a mural.
Coincidentally, Walker Avenue residents Lucy and Randy Glover are about to launch a fundraising campaign for a very large mural on the wall that separates their condo building from the Walker Avenue parking lot. They already have preliminary drawings from Stefen Art – the artist who did the replacement mural on the exterior wall of the Lakeshore Peet’s as well as the Broadway Pet Hospital.
While we’re still on the subject of murals: Daniel Galvez was just profiled in an article in Current SF. I’d written fairly recently about Daniel in connection with the historic mural he’s just installed in the library at McClymonds High School. And, if you’re not already aware of this, he was a member of the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum’s Design Committee. He was invited in recognition of the fact that he and Keith Sklar were the two principal artists responsible for the Grand Performance mural that was dedicated in 1984. Thirty-four years later, a restoration is very much needed; you should expect to hear more about that in the near future.
Kara Wood, a Lakeshore Avenue neighbor, Splash Pad News subscriber and owner/operator of Cimaruta Remedies, just alerted me to an Amaro making class she’ll be leading at the Ancestral Apothecary School on March 8. If you’re not familiar with Amaro, it’s an herbal liqueur whose name in Italian means “bitter.” The class will include some relevant history, tasting of different Amari and then making your own to take home. You can sign up in advance via THIS LINK.
Here are a few highlights from this month’s Event Calendar:
- Grand Avenue First Thursdays art walk – February 7, 6-8 PM
- Rotary Nature Center at Lake Merritt reopens on February 16
- Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting with Nikki Fortunato Bas – Wednesday February 20, 7-8:30 PM, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church Family Room
- Splash Pad Work Day, Sunday, February 24, 9-noon
- SPRING FOR PARKS – Oakland Parks & Recreation Foundations’ 16th Annual Fundraiser – Thursday, April 25
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