Splash Pad News – June 2018

 
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LAKESHORE AND LAKE PARK AVENUE

Lakeshore viewed from the corner of Lakeshore and Mandana circa 1935

In the “My, how things have changed department,” we’re sharing a 1935 photo of Lakeshore Avenue that Philip Duhe posted on the Oakland History Facebook page. Please note the overhead cables for the streetcars and the huge tree on the corner of Lakeshore and Trestle Glen in what appears to be an empty lot. In the early 1970s, when I moved into the neighborhood, that lot was occupied by a service station. It is now the site of the Wells Fargo Bank building.

I‘m even more cognizant of changes on Lakeshore than I might have been otherwise, since I’m in the process of creating a new online Business Directory for the Lakeshore Avenue Business Improvement District to replace the one that was deleted last year. One of my resources is a print copy of their 2009 Directory. A review of those listings illustrates the extent to which the restaurant and bar scene (to cite one example) has evolved over the past nine years. Adam’s Burger, The Burrito Shop, China Lake Express, Fiestas Pizza, Good Nature Deli, Mezze, Spettro, Subway, Szechuan Restaurant, Taste of Joy and Vine Wine Bar no longer exist. The most glaring example is Spettro which has changed hands and identities twice in the last couple of years with a third iteration in the works.

If, like me, you’re a Lin Jia Asian Kitchen junkie, be forewarned. Owner Marcia Lam says they’ll be closing for a month-long remodeling project, as early as July 1. Watch for a sign in their front window and an announcement on the Lin Jia Facebook page. Plans include banquette seating along both walls along with sound panels to reduce ambient noise levels, a new floor, new tables and chairs, a new bathroom and new interior colors. Marcia is also talking about some revisions to the beer and wine list and asked me for my recommendations regarding the former. My suggestion: ask for your suggestions.

Hipline’s 4th Annual Shimmy Pop-A-Thon is scheduled for this Saturday, June 2 with four straight hours of non-stop dancing (from 10 am-2 pm) led by an all-star line-up of Hipline choreographers. According to event organizer Penny Barthel, this is a free event open to all with no sign-up required.

If you’re not in a shimmying frame of mind, Penny also notes that they welcome spectators to cheer on the dancers. In the parking lot at the base of the Hipline stairs, you’ll also find professional facepainters, mini chair massages, and iced tea courtesy of Arizmendi.

You’ll also have an opportunity to talk to representatives from Misssey, a nonprofit that provides support and counseling for sexually exploited youth. They’re the recipient of this year’s Hipline fundraising campaign, which has to date raised  $11,497 of their $15,000 goal. The deadline for donations (which can be made online) is June 9.  Additional details are in this Hipline Press Release.

Returning briefly to the ongoing evolution of the commercial district… According to a sign posted in the front window of Pure Vida Flowers and Plants at 3247 Lakeshore, the recently vacated space is about to be filled by “Forever Beauty and Nails.” At the time of publication, we have no additional information.

ABay-Made, during the month of June, owner Sarahjane Bernhisel will be featuring a small selection of photographic works by Oakland artist, Brandon Ruffin. In July, Brandon’s works will be expanded to an entire wall in conjunction with a special artist’s reception.

GRAND AVENUE

Since we began our Lakeshore reporting with an historic photo, we’ll do the same for Grand Ave. by virtue of this 1940s photo  that was emailed to me by Paul Curatolo of Walden Pond Books. That venerable shop, which is repeatedly voted the Best Independent Bookstore in the East Bay, moved into the space after Grand Lake Hardware moved up the street. As reported in last month’s news, Councilmember Abel Guillen had just honored Walden Pond with a proclamation for its 45 years in business and it owner, Marshall Curatolo, on his 90th birthday.

Earlier this week,  someone emailed me to report that a new shop had opened at 3738 Grand called “All Things Hemp.” My initial reaction was quite positive, but when I checked the address, I was a bit dismayed to find that the storefront was the home of Dr. J’s Closet operated by Jan Bowman. When I went by Tuesday to take some photos, I was delighted to learn that Jan still owns the space and still has a nice selection of high quality designer clothing that originally retailed for hundreds of dollars. Over time, as they build up their hemp inventory, they will be gradually transitioning out of the consignment clothing business. Currently, their hemp inventory includes hemp back packs handcrafted in Nepal, hemp t-shirts, CDB oils, hemp based snacks, and much more.

Lynn and Lu’s Escapade Cafe has been a neighborhood institution for some thirty years. Thanks to a heads-up from Patrick at Panorama Framing, we can report that a couple of months ago, it changed hands. Tuesday, I introduced myself to new owner, Kenneth Wu, whose background includes two years operating a food truck in Berkeley. By profession, however, he is an interior designer – so, not surprisingly, some remodeling is in his plans. He is, however, keeping the same basic menu as well as the same chef.

Unlike Lynn and Lu’s, Ikaros doesn’t yet qualify as a neighborhood institution, but it has, since opening in 2011, accrued a listing in the Michelin Guide and a very faithful clientele. We regret to report that owners, Zack and Lavendar Kratsas, have decided to sell the restaurant. Asked why, Lavendar explained that their son has moved to Arizona and their daughter has opted to pursue other interests. Both played central roles in the restaurant’s everyday operations and, in their absence, the husband and wife team have been obligated to spend far more time at Ikaros. In addition, Lavendar noted, they’re not free to travel and they miss seeing their grandkids.  While she pointedly emphasized that, “We’re definitely going to miss all of our customers and friends we’ve developed over the years,” she also noted that they have already made plans to travel to Cabo and Greece. Those plans also include lots of time with their big, extended family.

If you’d like to wish Zack and Lavendar well before they leave, either or both will be on the premises for forty hours a week through June in order to train the new owners. Lavendar assured me that the new owners are a very nice couple and, other than occasionally adding fresh fish, the menu will remain exactly the same. As an interesting aside, she added that many of their long-time customers grew up in this neighborhood and remember it as being heavily populated by Greek families served by a variety businesses, including a Greek bank, butcher, and grocery store. In the future, we will try to research that further.

Art at Pure 510

I stopped by Pure 510 on Tuesday, and owner David Thom pointed out one of their new offerings – a line of caps that can be printed with in-stock images or with images custom-designed for your own needs. I also checked out the art on the walls, including lots of new pieces that will be on display at the First Thursdays on Grand event on June 7.

A couple of days ago, after watching Aisle 5 owner, Michael Graves, help move several kegs of locally-brewed beers into his establishment, I popped the big question: “How much are you benefiting from the Warriors making the final round of the playoffs?” “It’s huge,” Michael replied. “It’s our Christmas in June.”

I’d venture to say that’s true throughout the City of Oakland, which is proud to have such a successful basketball team – but also one in which the players and management are personable, highly progressive, and generous with their time and financial assistance for community causes.  GO WARRIORS!

Congratulations to Ordinaire owner, Bradford Taylor, for well-deserved inclusion in Food & Wine Magazine’s list of the very best wine bars in these United States. They had this to say about the hugely-popular Grand Avenue destination:

Here’s how owner Bradford Taylor characterizes natural wines: “We like when a wine tastes like a human made it—sometimes that means it’s challenging, perplexing, incomprehensible. Most of the time it means it’s vibrant and delicious. Sometimes it means it is transcendent.” Such wines, from France in particular, are the focus of this idiosyncratic bar, which is relaxed in demeanor but serious in its devotion to unusual bottles. Serving around 15 wines by the glass, Ordinaire stocks another thousand—set out on shelves and sheltered in the cellar—all available for retail purchase or to be opened at the bar for an eminently reasonable $10 corkage fee. ordinairewine.com

In addition to its usual slate of jazz concerts and  a variety of dance workshops, Studio Grand has two special events coming up in June.  The first, on June 23,  is “The Shape of Funk to Come” celebrating the Northern California release of the CHOLA ORANGE 45 VINYL “SOUL BLAZER.” The other is the second in a series of free concerts at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater entitled, “Under the Oakland Skies.” Scheduled for Sunday, June 24 from 1 – 3 PM, the performers have yet to be announced.

For an always up-to-date business directory, click and save the…

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FARMERS MARKET

Last month, we shared the news about the Agricultural Institute of Marin’s newly appointed CEO, Andy Naja-Riese. Andy has since visited the Grand Lake Farmers Market on three Saturdays, underscoring AIM’s recently announced commitment to providing far more support for their satellite markets including the one here. In addition, we’ve already witnessed several other positive changes. For starters, they’ve acknowledged that two paid employees weren’t adequate for such a large market, particularly since it’s in a fragile park environment. The very best part of their hiring a third staff member is that it’s Jon Ruiz, who had been previously employed as the Market Manager for about a year. After I gave him a big welcome-back hug, I had Jon pose with his fellow team-members: Grand Lake Manager, Devon Fryer, and Dan Foster.  

Jerry Barclay, the Chair of the Splash Pad Farmers Market Advisory Committee, has had the opportunity to talk with Andy at some length during at least two of his visits to Oakland. Here are the highlights of the email that Jerry shared on Wednesday with committee members:

My conversations with Andy have been very productive. He has been very receptive to our concerns, and he has described many positive things he wants to accomplish with the Grand Lake market and others. His objectives include serving underprivileged and underserved people with a clear desire to help people have access to good food and nutrition in a social justice context.  He is very aware that Alameda County has a large population that fits in that category. And he clearly wants to remedy issues at our market. I’m hoping this will be a catalyst to re-start the Citizen’s Advisory Committee.

I’m feeling very optimistic.

Jerry

I’d like to add a personal note: there were a few very outspoken supporters of the Grand Lake Market who ignored our concerns while totally misrepresenting our motivations and intentions. The fact of the matter is that the new CEO and the newly-constituted AIM Board of Directors are now acknowledging that there were major problems with the higher-ups and they’ve pledged to fix them. While there’s no iron-clad guarantee that all our complaints will be fully addressed, at a minimum we now feel confident that we have the makings of a partnership that will allow the Grand Lake Market to reach its ultimate potential. For this, I personally feel vindicated and, like Jerry and the other members of our concerned neighbors group, am hopeful for the future.

Believe it or not, there’s still more good news from our farmers market. There are a couple of new vendors – the newest being Kandarian Organic Farms. Larry Kandarian farms in Los Osos (between Morro Bay and SLO), where he produces truly exotic ancient grains and seeds, herbs, spices, dried peas and beans, botanicals, and pollens. This past Saturday we had a long talk, during which I found him to be perfectly delightful and a wonderful addition to the market – especially since, if I remember correctly, we haven’t had a dry bean vendor since Rancho Gordo left for the Ferry Plaza Market circa 2005. Kudos to Market Manager, Devon Fryer, for spotting him at AIM’s San Rafael Market and convincing him that he’d get a big welcome in Oakland. Please do your part!

The other relatively new vendor is Shinto’s Dog and Cat Food – which they bill as “Pet food in the spirit of wellness” that “takes nutrition for your pets to the next level.” Shinto’s booth is located on the perimeter of the market, next to the popcorn vendor and adjacent to Lake Park Avenue.

One last gem: Councilmember Abel Guillen’s office has been conversing with OUSD regarding AIM’s lease of the Lakeview School parking lot which includes the converted playground.  They’ve been assured that the entire lot will remain available in the future for vendor and public parking. Currently, there’s no charge and a total of over 100 spaces. If your blood pressure goes sky-high while waiting for a space under the freeway and/or you’d rather not spring for the $2 per hour fee and worry about over-parking, please consider the school lot as an alternative.

SPLASH PAD PARK

If you haven’t done so already, check out Splash Pad’s California Native Garden.  It’s in nearly full bloom and the best it’s ever looked. Thanks to a grant from Keep Oakland Beautiful, interpretative signage should be up by the end of the year. Our next work day is scheduled for Sunday, June 25. Please email Mary Jo Sutton (MJmatrix2@gmail.com) to volunteer or for more information.

ODDS AND ENDS

Editor’s Note: Beginning with an initial community meeting early last year, editor/contributor Sheila McCormick regularly reported on the progress of a proposed Haddon Hill residential development at the corner of MacArthur and Wesley Avenue. The final result came in the form of an emailed letter from Valerie Camarda, the developer’s Public Affairs Manager:

“Dear Neighbors, As I promised from the very beginning when we met at our first community meeting back on February 9, 2017, I want to keep you informed on the status of the Lake House Development Team’s progress on the 601 MacArthur project. I was hoping that this email would provide some good news. Alas…”
CONTINUE READING →

Damon Tighe Photo

A recent Facebook post that included a photo of a Lime Scooter that somebody threw into Lake Merritt devolved into a discussion as to whether or not the lake harbored parasitic flatworms and other harmful organisms. It ended with Damon Tighe’s link to the iNaturalist list of the 846 species that have been identified at Lake Merritt. The best part is that the list is illustrated with amazing photographs – many of which were shot by Damon.

Artist Wesley Timms

Artwork by Wesley Timms, who was profiled (along with Peter “Monkeynaut” Odum) in a wonderful article by Keila Diehl we published in March, will be featured in a special show at the Lakeview Branch Library for the months of July and August. Congratulations, Wesley!

Plans for the Rotary Nature Center seem to be crystalizing, and a recent post indicated that the facility might re-open as early as this month. That said, a follow-up “Community for Lake Merritt” meeting to review specific proposals is scheduled for this Saturday, June 2. RSVPs were requested by May 30, but if you’re really interested, I’d recommend contacting the organizer and ask if they can squeeze you in. All the details are on this link.

EVENTS CALENDAR

We’ll be updating our new WordPress Calendar on a regular basis. If you know of local events you’d like listed, please email info@splashpad.org. Here are a couple of highlights:

  • The June Grand Avenue First Thursdays  event takes place on the 7th. There’s some new artwork at Pure 510 and, if you haven’t been to the other galleries, we especially recommend the show at Alchemy Bottle Shop and the exhibit at Panorama Framing featuring artists from Norton Studios.
  • The concert at Studio Grand on June 23 and the one the following afternoon at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater both sound marvelous.

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Comments

8 responses to “Splash Pad News – June 2018”

  1. Tim Innes Avatar
    Tim Innes

    This may be a bit off subject, but does anyone know what became of the news racks outside Noah’s, Colonial Donuts and Peet’s? And does anyone know where one can find an Express? There’s not even a stash outside the Indian restaurant anymore.

    1. Ken Katz Avatar
      Ken Katz

      Tim, This subject was covered on the Lakeshore Avenue BID’s Facebook page and again, on their new website: http://www.lakeshoreavenue.com. In brief, they were removed due to ongoing complaints from residents and business about their blighted condition – as roughly 3/4 were inoperable/and or covered with graffiti. I recommend that you call EBX and ask where the nearest source is.

  2. Ken….we met my first day showing my ceramics at the Farmers Market. You were so welcoming and full of information. I since have subscribed to your newsletter and so appreciate reading about the market’s activities which gives a different perspective to mine as a vendor. I love Oakland and the vibrant diverse community and thank all those that come to support all of us!! Lissa Herschleb…. see you next week

    1. Ken Katz Avatar
      Ken Katz

      Lissa,

      Thanks for your kind comments directed specifically to me – but, more importantly, related to the vibrant, diverse community I’m fortunate to call “home”.

  3. Great newsletter!
    Thanks, Kent, for all you do for our community.

  4. I enjoyed the historic photos, especially in context with your reporting on the many business changes in the hood

  5. Ken Katz Avatar
    Ken Katz

    Jerry Barclay also made the same point and I’ve corrected the text to say that Walden moved into the current location when the hardware store moved up the street – without specifying an actual date. I just spoke to someone at the bookstore and they confirmed that the shop originally opened in 1973 in another location a few doors down. Sorry for the error and I appreciate the correction.

  6. Manny Myers Avatar
    Manny Myers

    In your piece on Walden Pond, are you suggesting the Ace Hardware moved to its current location back in the 70s? If so, not true. They moved into the old Louis Store building, in Piedmont, in the mid-1980s.