Splash Pad News – February 2009

Please note that this archived edition of the Splash Pad News was retrieved from back-up files. Links that no longer work have been deactivated.

This Apology is Followed by a Pregnant Pause

Remember me! I’m the guy who used to put out this newsletter once a month on a fairly regular basis. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the last edition was December 18. As a practitioner of three dot journalism, I have reason to worry as my periods are almost one month late…

The Golden State Warriors’ TV broadcasts share part of the blame since two or three nights each week (when I might otherwise be writing) are already occupied. My devotion to our local basketball franchise is a bit ironic in view of my overall lack of athletic prowess. In high school PE classes, I was (at 5’6″ and 115 pounds) largely invisible on the football field. On the baseball diamond, I rarely got the ball out of the infield. But it was on the basketball court that I excelled in mediocrity. Only once did I have any kind of impact and that was when I went in for a lay-up and cracked a rib in a head-on collision with the post. Despite these (literally) painful memories, I look forward to each and every game rooting for the once hapless home team and particularly for the the likes of C.J. Watson and Monta Ellis who at 6″2″ and 6’3″ respectively are little men in a big man’s game.

Grand Lake Retail Advisory Group

The more substantial reason I’ve neglected the newsletter is the amount of time, Grand Lake Advisory Board volunteers have been putting into implementation of the survey we did last year. If you haven’t already looked at the results, you’ll find a link on the glrag.org home page,. There are four subcommittees .

The Business Promotions Committee is working on a proposal that originated from one of its members, Michael Castilla. The “Stub Club” will allow Grand Lake Theatre patrons to exchange their ticket stubs for discounts at neighborhood restaurants and retailers that opt to participate. Watch for details to be released next month.

The Retail Attraction Committee has been contacting owners of vacant properties and has begun reaching out to prospective tenants. If you have a personal connection with any business that would be a good fit with the needs defined by our survey, please contact Madeleine Loh.

The Retail Assistance Committee seeks to help neighborhood merchants improve their facades, signage, window displays and interior layouts. Architect Carrie Shores and her partner, Josh Larson, are donating their services to draft proposals for Chao Thai and Grand Bakery to demonstrate what kinds of improvements are possible.

The Improvements Committee, led by Eric Hughes (with a big assist from his son, Gavin) has compiled a list of infrastructure problems for Lakeshore/Lake Park and also for Grand Avenue. We’ve been utilizing Oakland Public Works’ Call Center to report problems with city-owned property and have been extremely pleased with their cooperation. Many of the issues we’ve reported have already been resolved including replacement of burned-out street lights and the first two of the broken sections of sidewalk on Lakeshore.

The Lakeshore BID (through Pamela Drake) has responded favorably as well by pruning back and weeding planting beds up and down Lakeshore including the traffic island on Trestle Glen. Another huge boost came from Tom Souza, one of the principals at Sansome-Pacific, the developer responsible for Trader Joe’s. Their gardeners will maintain and have already started to refurbish the pocket park installed several years ago under the guidance of Michael and Buffy Hasley. Thank-you, Tom!

Prior to GLRAG’s formation, Eric and Gavin Hughes had been conducting an ongoing campaign to personally remove graffiti. This has emerged in the last year or so as a much bigger problem with many locations experiencing repeat attacks immediately after the tags have been painted over or removed. Our OPD Neighborhood Problem Solving Officer, Jessica Borello, is aware of this problem and would welcome any information that would help to get taggers off the street. Her email is: JBorello@oaklandnet.com.

Grand-Lakeshore Merchant News

After forty years in the same location, the Hallmark store on Lakeshore will close the end of this month and, as of last week, all prices were reduced by 30 to 70%. We’re hoping that this is an isolated incident, but the effects of the economic downturn are obvious as the overwhelming majority of the businesses in the area are hurting to at least some extent–helping to fuel a city-wide “Buy Local” campaign.

The Hallmark space has already been leased and will soon become home to an upscale children’s shop operated by Jason Knight who is, I believe, a neighborhood resident. Jason also owns and operates a well-regarded women’s clothing and shoe store in Berkeley and Alameda called “Sway”. He’d hoped to open a third branch in the now vacant space next to Peet’s. Unfortunately, despite entreaties from a variety of sources, the property owner chose to go with Verizon–creating a third large cellular phone store on one relatively short block.

The Beauty Center, which moved next door, re-opened some six weeks ago and the owners should be congratulated for the tasteful treatment of the exterior facade and for the inviting appearance of the interior.

The Liberty Tax Service has opened an office at 3224 Grand. As you’ve walked or driven by the Grand Lake Theatre, you’ve undoubtedly seen their walking “billboards” dressed as the Statue of Liberty and we’re pleased to see them at the Farmers Market, as well, capitalizing on the thousands of people who shop there on Saturdays. My prediction: scores of little kids will appear at your door next Halloween sporting their giveaway crowns.

L’Amyx continues to feature local musicians every Saturday night from 8-10 PM. February 14–Michael Grandhi. February 21–Lea Grant ~ Designating Peppers. February 28–Herb Toor (Bluegrass, folk and jazz). Also before it closes at the end of the month, be sure to check out the current exhibit featuring photos of Iranian cities and villages taken by Tina Hosseinzadeh.

Farmers Market News

There are quite a few new and some returning vendors at the market. Venga Paella Catering has already received a very big welcome. “Eco Safe Biodynamic” dates from Flying Disc Ranch will be available every other week. Uhuru Breakfast Cafe and Massa Organics Brown Rice are both back after several months’ absence. This week or next, look for Oakland-based Firebrand Artisan Breads featuring wood-fired sourdough.

Just did post some new photos in the Farmers Market Gallery. Look for the one of the California wild Iris in bloom. Like the rest of us, the suckers had figured Spring had sprung–only to be hit by rain and extreme cold. Another photo worth noting is the one of the Roli Roti spit. That’s pig knuckles on the bottom. Judging by the rush to purchase, everyone’s happy but the pigs.

Next time you’re at the Market, be sure to pick up a copy of the latest issue of “Edible East Bay”. This fine publication usually features watercolors by Helen Krayenhoff, but this issue also includes an article Helen wrote (and illustrated) about seeds. The other article that caught my eye is about pruning your backyard fruit trees. One of the first things I did when we bought our current home some 35 years ago was to plant an apple tree and then I let it grow until the top branches were impossible to reach. Several years ago, our next-door neighbor’s father, who was then in his early 80’s offered to help me prune. When he showed up one afternoon with a pruning saw in hand, I headed to the garage to get a ladder. When I came back, I discovered that Mr. Chin had scaled the tree and was already half way through the first of the big branches. Since then, I’ve become more conscientious about pruning our fruit trees, but I’m slower and depend upon a ladder.

Splash Pad Website and Entertainment Calendar

I started this month’s newsletter with an apology for my failure to publish a January newsletter. The situation at the SPNF website is unfortunately far worse. When I checked the link for “Latest News”, I found the most recent story was from late 2007. I solved that problem by re-labeling that link as “Old News”. On the other hand, there is no easy answer for the online Entertainment Calendar that hasn’t been updated for 8 months. Anyone out there with some free time and basic html skills willing to take this on? Meanwhile, here’s the scoop regarding upcoming entertainment at the Farmers Market:

  • February 14. Tara Linda
  • February 21. Lakay & Mystic Man + Mike Klapholz
  • February 28. Layce Baker’s Black Diamond Blues Band + Aryeh Frankfurter
  • March 7. David Gans + Fred McCarty
  • March 14. Circle this date in your calendar and, if need be, cancel the wedding and put your vacation on hold. Paul Curatolo from Walden Pond Books (in cooperation with the market management) is arranging for a special farmers market appearance by the Gonzalo Bergara Quartet –featured artists at the Monterey Dixieland Jazz Festival the preceding weekend. Their music is heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt and they sound fabulous. While we do have a well-earned reputation for being a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience, it helps that Paul’s sister is married to Jeffrey Radaich, their rhythm guitarist.Speaking of Walden Pond Books, if you haven’t already done so, check out their upstairs Rare Book Room. In addition to housing a fine collection of collectable books, it’s also where history was made as the location of the very first meeting of the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum.
  • Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee While, as noted above, I’ve been neglecting the SPNF website, I just did make one important change–incorporating a new link for the Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Committee which is chaired by Jerry Barclay. Two new documents are posted there. One is the Minutes of the January 20th meeting. The bulk of that night’s discussion focused on a comprehensive report on the park’s condition.One of the key concerns expressed in the report was the amount of time and labor required to sharply prune the Dogwood beds once a year and then periodically prune them back in order to preserve sight lines and prevent homeless encampments.

    We were very pleased to see the Public Works Department respond so promptly to Jerry’s report. Week before last, Crew Leader, Jimmy Lowe and his Gardener II assistant, Ramiro Segura, and a crew of hardworking young men from “Volunteers of America” spent two mornings at the park. The Dogwood, as you’ve probably noted, were all heavily pruned. The California Native Plant Bed was weeded; pruned and several clumps of California Native Iris were divided and re-planted. They also pruned and shaped all the Date Palms to eliminate low-hanging fronds.

    As happy as we were to see Splash Pad getting all this extra attention, we can’t count on it on a regular basis and need community volunteers to step up to the plate–particularly considering the amount of wear and tear the park endures on Saturdays. Sometime soon, please watch for a SPFMAC-sponsored community work day during which we hope to mulch the California Native Plant Bed to minimize weeds and undertake some other delayed maintenance.

    This Month’s Quiz

    This is a tough one warranting a signed (by me) Jack Black “Nacho Libre” movie poster for the first reader who can correctly identify the occasion associated with this entertainment schedule that I recently uncovered in my basement.

    You want a still tougher challenge. Last Saturday, after shooting some photos at the Farmers Market, I wandered across the street and took photos of the Grand Performance Mural. How many of the local “celebrities” can you identify? I’ll give you the easy ones–the only ones that I remember. Calvin Simmons, Jack London, Malvina Reynolds and Julia Morgan.

    As it turns out, this year marks the mural’s 25th Anniversary. Unfortunately, it’s suffered greatly from weathering and mostly from pigeon poop. Considering, the long-standing vitality of Oakland’s artistic community, the mural really ought to be restored. Anyone out there have the time and skills necessary to pursue grant funding. If so, it would be a big plus to simultaneously install an interactive station that would identify the subjects of the mural and describe their contributions to the arts.

    More About Pigeon Poop

    It took quite a while, but the problems posed by pigeons roosting under the freeway between Grand and Lakeshore are being addressed by Caltrans thanks largely to the efforts of Jocelyn Combs in the Public Works Department with an assist from Pat Kernighan’s Constituent Liaison, Joanne Karchmer. Caltrans has installed netting covering a gap between the east and west bound lanes; swept the entire parking lot; steam-cleaned the sidewalks at the Lakeshore end and installed plastic panels on the edges of the four horizontal buttresses where the majority of the pigeons clustered. This last treatment is somewhat experimental and, if it works, the plan is to use the same treatment on the remaining buttresses.

    Special Events

    The next Neighborhood Plant Exchange hosted by Odette Pollar is scheduled for Saturday, March 21. Visit the Plant Exchange website for more information.

    This Sunday, February 15 marks the grand re-opening of the Immigration Station on Angel Island. Ceremony is scheduled from 10:30 AM to Noon with the ferry from San Francisco departing at 8:45. Visit the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation’s website for more details.

    The 6th Annual Bay-Friendly Garden Tour takes place on Sunday, April 26. It’s sponsored by Stop-Waste.org with the intention of encouraging water conservation, recycling and minimal use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. This is an event that I look forward to each year. If you want to attend, you have to register online well in advance to allow time for organizers to mail you the tour guides with descriptions of each of the participating gardens.

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