Odds and Ends

Odds and Ends – July 2022

The EVgo Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in the Lake Park parking lot were initially approved by the City Council in mid 2018 but the project was plagued by a string of obstacles (literally and figuratively), including PG&E delays, vandalism, an underground gasoline storage tank adjacent to Vegan Mob, and complications due to the pandemic. In September 2020, we quoted Project Manager Jonah Eidus as saying,  “It is by far the longest project in the history of EVgo, and it’s not close. I don’t believe in curses, but this project has sure had some bad luck.” Two years later, aside from some infrastructure remediation work that’s being scheduled, the project is finally complete and all six charging stations are fully operational. Thus far, they seem to be fairly lightly used but, in addition to serving neighborhood residents, these stations pop up in a Google search by folks passing through. Moreover, demand in the coming years is sure to increase exponentially.

One additional EVgo benefit we hadn’t planned on is a beautiful new mural on a wall of the EVgo enclosure under the freeway. It was painted by Pancho Pescador, the same artist who recently completed the mural at 3515 Grand Avenue that was commissioned by Dr. Kenda Burke, owner of Awaken Chiropractic — as we reported in the May Splash Pad News. In this case, we’re guessing that the mural wasn’t commissioned but rather part of Pescador’s ongoing efforts to help beautify Oakland — one wall at a time.

Way back when, the Lake Park parking lot under the freeway was packed with cars belonging to business owners, their employees, and their customers.  When a two dollar per hour fee was implemented, 90% of those vehicles went elsewhere. Eight years ago, the city began talking about implementing variable parking rates following the example of a pilot program in Montclair but didn’t do so until December 2021. At that time, parking rates under the freeway and in the Walker Avenue parking lot were reduced to one dollar per hour on Mondays through Fridays only. Unfortunately, an informal survey last week indicated that the reduction in price hasn’t had the desired effect as the Lake Park lot was at less than 10% of capacity. This is especially disappointing since monthly parking passes are available for only $90. The more centrally located Walker lot is doing better but is still well under 50% capacity. The root causes aren’t clear. Maybe drivers aren’t aware that the price has been reduced. Maybe they’re concerned about break-ins. Maybe it’s yet one more example of how the pandemic has impacted everyday life. In any case, Michael Ford and the Department of Transportation are well aware of this issue and are currently exploring solutions.

Roughly two decades ago, Barbara Newcombe (then in her late seventies) invited me to an informal gathering in her apartment to talk about the organizational process we used while lobbying for the new Splash Pad Park. Her goal was to landscape the roundabout on Brooklyn just down the hill from her residence. It was a pleasant evening but I left thinking to myself that there’s no way “this little old lady” is going to make this happen. Unbeknownst to me, Barbara was a force to be reckoned with. The roundabout was just a warm-up followed by her ending up as the mainstay (along with Jim Ratliff) of a campaign to resurrect the Cleveland Cascade. But it was Barbara, not Jim, who was scrambling up and down that steep hillside well into her eighties. She’s been mentioned multiple times here in the Splash Pad News when we shared articles in the local press about her and the Cascade, when she received a KCBS Jefferson Award in 2014, and when she was honored in 2010 as Oakland Mother of the Year. I’m pretty sure that’s where the above photo by her granddaughter, Ellen McAmis, was taken. It was also Ellen who wrote this loving tribute in The Oaklandside in her memory.

We apologize for not having the bandwidth this month to do a proper write-up for the annual summer concerts that resume this Sunday, July 4 at the Edoff Memorial Bandstand. As the next best thing, we pulled out of our archives a blog that Liane Zimny wrote for us in 2014. The dates don’t match this month’s but otherwise, most of the information is still applicable. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Bruce De Benedictis, a long-time subscriber and neighborhood activist who is Chair of the Friends of the Oakland Municipal Band. According to Bruce, the five concerts in July will be led by three different conductors: Danielle Gaudry, Troy Davis, and Cathy De Vos. He also noted that Grand Avenue will be closed to traffic from MacArthur to Bellevue on July 4, so either walk, bike, or use an alternate route.