Odds and Ends – December 2023

Unlike Disneyland’s Main Street, Cities Change Over Time, (which we published this past March) includes a link to a 2020 Piedmont Exedra article that mentions Sidney Dearing, a black homeowner on Wildwood Avenue who was forced to sell his home at a loss in 1925 due to threats of violence and intense pressure from white residents and government officials including a police chief who was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. One hundred years later, in order to remedy that wrong, the City of Piedmont has selected Walter Hood to design a memorial in honor of the Dearing family which is to be erected in  Triangle Park at the intersection of Wildwood and Magnolia — across the street from the Dearing’s former home.

On November 7 in Piedmont’s Alan Harvey Theater, Walter spoke about his team’s ongoing efforts to honor history and incorporate community input in the creative process. Accompanied by a slide show, he discussed previous projects ranging from his early Lafayette Square Park in downtown Oakland to the exterior of the recently completed International African American History Museum in Charleston, South Carolina — which was constructed on a site where slaves were housed, sold and far too often, perished.  As was the case just over twenty years ago when Walter presented the final plans for Splash Pad Park, the audience remained glued to their seats — totally riveted. If you’re interested in more details about the project and his November 7 presentation, a Google search will turn up an abundance of articles including this one in the Piedmont Exedra.

What I’m choosing to focus on instead is prompted by Walter noting that his staff was astounded to learn that this could have happened in the Bay Area as recently as 1925. I wasn’t the least bit surprised having become involved in civil rights protests when I was at CAL in 1963. There were shop-ins and picket lines at Lucky stores where people of color were totally absent from positions where they would be seen and interact with customers. The same was true at Auto Row in San Francisco, the Bank of America and the Sheraton Palace Hotel — all of which were picketed. At the latter, there was also a sleep-in in the lobby — incidentally, the only time I’ve spent the night in a first class SF hotel. Sixty years have since passed and the very fact that Piedmont is building that memorial and Walter Hood is designing it is evidence that we’ve made lots of progress — but income, health and educational disparities have yet to be fully addressed.

Half a dozen volunteers showed up for the Splash Pad Grand Crew’s 4th Sunday work day in November but what they lacked in numbers was made up for thanks to their enthusiasm and guidance from team leader, Mary Jo Sutton. At the end of the day, several new plants were in the ground and there was a big pile of weeds, branches and trash for City Gardener Christian Boyle to pick up on Monday. The December 24 work day happens to be the day before Christmas – which Mary Jo says is the perfect excuse to serve her famed Linzer cookies and other goodies after the work day is completed. Hours are 9 to Noon. Gloves and tools are provided but you’re welcome to bring your own.

In a September 20 article, The Oaklandside reported that the City of Oakland had received an 8 million dollar federal grant to fund tree planting with a focus on low-income neighborhoods in West and East Oakland where tree canopies are lacking. Unfortunately, as happy as we are to see this happening, what’s also sorely lacking is anything approaching an adequate number of employees in the Tree Services Division to maintain the trees we already have. This is in keeping with our August 2023 Victim of Circumstance article that cited inadequate staffing in the Public Works Department as a whole. Street Tree limbs are going to continue falling if they’re not cut back as was the case with a tree in front of Arizmendi. Same applies to the unruly tree (center photo) bordering the Mandana Green that is misshapen with long limbs growing horizontally. The tree on the right, which is directly across the street, looks like what these trees are supposed to look like with limbs pollarded. According to Tyrone Banks (the Sexton at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church) it’s one of four trees that the church paid to have pruned. Inspired by their example, most of the homeowners on this stretch of Lakeshore between Mandana and Walla Vista have done the same. The unfortunate reality is that, due to staffing constraints, the Tree Division spends most of its time removing fallen limbs and dead trees.

The Grand Lake District has been officially designated an LGBTQ Cultural Zone. The boundaries are Lakeshore on the east. Grand on the west. The Embarcadero on the south and Boulevard Way on the north. In a presentation at the November Grand Lake Neighbors meeting, Joe Hawkins and Jeff Myers, Co-founders of the LGBTQ Center talked about the center, the new offshoot on Santa Clara catering to youth, and the significance of the Cultural Zone designation. More details are in the Grand Lake Neighbors meeting minutes. For reporting on the November 7 celebration in the plaza in front of the center, we’d recommend this article in The Oaklandside.

Editor’s Note: Appended below is an invitation to participate in a December 12 webinar organized by the Agricultural Institute of Marin

In these challenging times, the importance of small, local farms in our food system has never been clearer. As we navigate these changes, the choices we make as consumers hold significant power. Our upcoming virtual event on December 12, 2023 will focus on the vital role small farms play in our communities and why supporting them matters more than ever. Join us for a series of talks and discussions that will shed light on the challenges these farms face and how your everyday decisions can make a real difference.

This is more than just a discussion; it’s an opportunity to understand and engage with the heart of our local food system. Your support for local farms not only contributes to a sustainable future but also keeps our communities thriving. Save the date and be part of this important conversation.