Splash Pad News – August 2020

Salsa By The Lake
by C.J.Hirschfield

You really could call communications/public affairs professional Isaac Kos-Reed the ultimate Lake Merritt lover. He lives on its shore and, for 13 years, he’s been dancing by it. And now? He’s taken a sworn oath to protect it. But the current weekend craziness at his beloved Lake threatens to upend plans to expand a popular salsa-fest, where people of all ages and cultures have come together to celebrate the joys of Afro-Cuban music and dance.

“The lake is a daily source of healing energy,” says Isaac, referencing its water, people, birds, sounds and smells. Years ago, he fell in love with the lake as well as dance culture after returning from a trip to Cuba, where he won a salsa dance competition. Looking for a way to recreate that country’s dynamic water culture and its “tidal energy,” Isaac looked for a place closer to home to share his love of outside dancing.


“Know Justice. Know Peace” Memorial Rededication
by Jim Hopkins

Eric Hughes Photo

Speaking at the the July 16th vigil to rededicate the Black Lives Matter Memorial on Mandana Green neighborhood resident Shamieka Nixon said,

I want to say upfront, we don’t know the motivations of the person who destroyed the memorial on Monday. We do know the motivations of those who created it. Ray and Robbin conceptualized, created and put each stake in the dirt, by hand, twice, in order to honor these unarmed black and brown people killed by police.

This tragically beautiful work of art can trigger people in different ways. It triggered in me an immense appreciation for my neighbors, knowledge that real radical change is possible and a realization that it will happen block by block.


Last Chance U: Laney Eagles Rising
by C.J. Hirschfield

Michelle Snider Photo

Throughout the world, the phrase “Oakland football” conjures up images of Raider Nation, fans who glory in looking as terrifying and tough as they can. But while the Raiders are gone, the Laney College Eagles are still flying high. And thanks to the latest season of a popular Netflix series, a new image of the city’s football presence can emerge: a kinder, gentler one that better reflects what we locals call Town Love. And the coach is Hella Oakland, focusing on community and guiding his scrappy (read that working-class) team members to be successful—in sports, and in life.

The Emmy-nominated documentary series from executive producer and director Greg Whiteley is called Last Chance U, so named because earlier episodes followed struggling students who were required to attend East Mississippi Community College in the hopes that doing so would get them back on the right track.


Summer on Lakeshore
by Kira Pascoe

Sarahjane Bernhisel Art

It is summer on Lakeshore and Lake Park Avenues! Our businesses are working amazingly hard to serve the community and make it through this very challenging time. In unprecedented times, Lakeshore businesses need unprecedented support (as much as we can muster) to make it through these times as a community. Below you will find fun and creative ways to win prizes by supporting local businesses, tips on local shopping and brunch, stories on how local support has made it possible for businesses to give back even more and the Re-Dedication of the Black Lives Matter Memorial on Lakeshore Ave. and Mandana Blvd. Read all about it!

Lakeshore Love is a campaign to lift our spirits and support beloved local businesses during this challenging time. This Buy Lakeshore campaign is a win-win for the merchants and the community. You can enter the drawing to win one of 30 Lakeshore prizes by supporting three or more Lakeshore businesses. Even better, you can enter the drawing for one of the grand prizes ($100 worth of local gift certificates) just by supporting six Lakeshore businesses. Remember, every business on Lakeshore counts as part of your entry!


Grand Avenue Business Report
by Ken Katz

March 30 at 8:50 pm

In last month’s News, I reported on the surprisingly high number of commercial vacancies in the Grand Lake District – most of which predated the Corona Virus epidemic and speculated that, under the present circumstances, far more were to be expected in the future. We’re sorry to report that 510 Brand has since closed and owner David Thom explained his rationale for doing so:

I do not see myself reopening. It’s too risky. First there is the risk of reopening with all the liabilities that entails, only to be shut down again. More importantly I think even once open there won’t be enough business to keep the business alive. Someone else may well reopen there with a similar concept. We are still selling everything that is still available at 50% off at 510brand.com.

Unfortunately, many other Grand Lake businesses are in the same boat and need your support if they’re going to survive. That includes retail establishments as well as restaurants, specialty services, coffee shops and bakeries. We’re sharing below, recent replies to an email requesting updates that we sent to Grand Avenue businesses.


Grand Lake Farmers Market
by Ken Katz

In last month’s News, we announced that the Farmers Market management and the City of Oakland were both talking sh_t due to concerns over hazardous wastes – an issue that had become a major sticking point in their negotiations over a long-term lease agreement. According to AIM CEO Andy Naja-Riese, they had a meeting yesterday morning with the City’s property management office during which they were informed that the City lacked the resources to remove hazardous wastes very early on Saturday mornings. In response, AIM noted that they were already renting an additional port-a-pottie for unsheltered individuals to use during the week and would also be willing to contract directly for clean-up services with the expectation that the City would agree to a reduction in rent. From what we’re hearing, Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas’s office is optimistic about an agreement being reached on this issue.

On a related matter, as part of the initial Sheltering in Place order, the market has been operating without any hot food vendors but AIM is hopeful that the Alameda County Health Department and Oakland’s Fire Marshall will sign off on their return within the next couple of weeks. Once they do return, it will be purely takeout as foods have to be consumed offsite.


In The Katz Kitchen
by Ken Katz

As everybody knows, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but what’s even harder is getting this old (Katz) cat to embrace produce that hasn’t typically graced our table in the past. Given our reliance on the  Grand Lake Farmers Market’s Bounty Boxes for the past three plus months that’s becoming something of a necessity as what comes inside that box is always a surprise.  Sometimes we’re more pleasantly surprised than others – even though we’re always hugely impressed by the quality and freshness of the produce – especially compared to supplemental items we’ve occasionally ordered online and picked up curbside at various supermarkets that shall remain unnamed.

The first three weeks of July were especially rewarding with basics like corn on the cob and carrots from Rodriguez Bros. Ranch (my personal favorite).  Unfortunately (or so it seemed), the box last Saturday lacked both but had, in abundance, chile peppers – which are basically anathema in the Katz household.


Music as Explanation
by Eric Hughes

Barbara Dane
Kev Choice

Perhaps a sliver of hope in this year of chaos is that we spend more time considering how to separate fact from fiction. We are getting better at discerning which influences to covet and which to ignore. Perhaps we read, view, and listen with increased care, tolerance, and understanding? For me, music has always been an important conduit to help me understand context. Lyrics and melody not only make me feel – their traditional impact – but help explain important issues and problems.

For this month’s hour-long Spotify playlist, Music as Explanation, I assembled a diverse group of songs that includes everything from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On to Woody Guthrie’s Deportees to Beyoncés Freedom. You can listen to curated lists of songs like these on Spotify without a subscription, but in order to create playlists, which is what I’m doing  for this and future articles, a subscription is required.


Online Theater Options
by Sheila McCormick 

The bad thing about sheltering-in-place is that you can’t go to live theater. The good thing is that there are more options online than anyone could manage to see in person.

  • Theatre Bay Area has compiled a detailed list of many Bay Area productions, both live and recorded
  • Cal Shakes lists many, many other options from other parts of the world
  • The Marsh has a diverse line-up (interviews, solo performances, games, etc.) and you can see many of their past events on their YouTube channel.


Splash Pad Grand Crew Report – August 2020

Rachel and Jesse

We’re having to adapt to problems that we’ve never seen before. While the COVID -19 virus spreads widely due to human contact, weeds spread exponentially in the absence of same. That’s why (after observing Oakland’s initial mandatory shelter-in-place order) a small but highly dedicated group of volunteers has been showing up monthly for the Splash Pad Grand Crew’s 4th Sunday volunteer work days. This past Sunday, Crew Leader Mary Jo Sutton was joined by Claire Wing, Blaine Hatab and two new volunteers, Jesse Dwyer and Rachel Paluska. Together, they filled six large compost bags–not to mention assorted trash.

We asked Rachel (whose husband co-owns the recently opened Comal Next Door Mexican restaurant at 550 Grand) for her first impressions and received the following response:


A Letter Home From Our Hollywood Correspondents
by Ross Turner

Michele and I were so happy to read the latest issue of Splash Pad News. The monthly missive has been keeping us feeling connected to our old Grand Avenue neighborhood since we moved to Los Angeles in March. The news has been bittersweet lately, as we’ve noted the closing of some of our favorite haunts due to COVID-19. It is odd to think of the Grand Lake Theatre empty, its organ silent, its snack bar shuttered. Still, we are hopeful that things will one day return to normal, and we can return – unmasked and un-distanced – to our beloved Grand Lake friends and businesses.

There is so much we miss about Grand Lake. We often reflect on our fond memories (30 years’ worth) of our time there. With such emotional bonds, you’d think we’d be better at staying in contact but we were delighted to receive your inquiry as to why we had chosen to relocate to Los Angeles, a city with statistically worse traffic than the Bay Area, less temperate weather, smoggy skies, and inferior sports teams – in the middle of a pandemic no less!


Odds and Ends
by Ken Katz

In the Good News/Not So Good News Department, we learned earlier this week that Starbucks is planning to move into the vacant space at 470 Lake Park. The good news is that just about anything would be an improvement over the KFC that’s been boarded up and covered with graffiti for the last twelve months. The Not So Good News is that it’s a huge chain that will be competing with locally owned shops around the corner that offer coffee and baked goods (Wilde Brothers Coffee and Wild Rabbit Bakery) – not to mention, Alkali Rye which has a strong family connection to Oakland-based Red Bay Coffee. There are also legitimate concerns over the likelihood of increased traffic coming off the freeway onto Lake Park Avenue which would be especially problematic during the morning rush hour. In addition, there’s an incredible amount of signage proposed including two Starbucks signs that are each 10 feet long and a figural sign atop the building that’s roughly 7 x 9 feet. The latter would be illuminated by 19 bulbs producing a total of 15,200 lumens.


by Eric Hughes

  • The Oakland Zoo is open again! After being closed since March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the zoo opened up again on Monday, July 27 & 28th for members only. The general public was then allowed in starting July 29. All attendees, at least for the time being, must make reservations and buy tickets online at www.oaklandzoo.org. My wife, son and I attended on Monday the 27th and found the visit to be absolutely wonderful. Safety precautions worked well, and everyone there was considerate and careful. There is a lot of room to spread out, and at no point did we feel uneasy about being there.
  • The Oakland Rotary Club’s weekly meeting on Thursday afternoon, August 6 will feature Melissa Jones speaking about Homelessness and Mental Health Issues. Sign in to the Zoom meeting on this Facebook link.
  • The monthly Grand Lake Neighbors meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, August 19th beginning at 7 pm. Look for the agenda and the Zoom login info on the GLN Facebook page.




3 responses to “Splash Pad News – August 2020”

  1. As a building owner on Lakeshore, I really appreciate the work Ken and Kira put into the newsletter every month. Given SiP I am not able to mingle in the area as much as I used to and having these great updates keeps me informed and up-to-date. The BLM memorial inspired me to work on something similar in my neighborhood.
    Wanted to give a shout out to Wild Rabbit Bakery on Grand. They are only open for pre-orders on the weekend, but everything is delish – the chocolate thimble is a perfect small piece of chocolate heaven!!

  2. Karen Hunt Avatar
    Karen Hunt

    Another great update on the ‘hood. So grateful for all the time and energy you and your “staff” put into keeping us informed and giving us a sense of community, especially during this dystopian time.

  3. Ken Katz Avatar

    CJ didn’t mention this in her review of Last Chance U, but Laney’s coach, John Beam is a regular shopper at our Grand Lake Farmers Market and is, apparently always delighted by the number of people who recognize him and give him a big greeting.