Splash Pad News – November 2017

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by Ken Katz

One of life’s many treasures that I value highly is the occasional serendipitous experience that brightens my day and sometimes opens doors to people and places and opportunities that would otherwise remain unknown and unrealized. One such incident occurred earlier this month when I glimpsed something in the gutter in front of our house just as I was about to round the corner heading for Lakeshore. When I stopped to investigate, I found an electronic gadget attached to a photo ID from the San Francisco Art Institute for someone named Rick Wise.

I managed to track Rick down online; learned that he lives just up the hill from me; discovered that he had enjoyed a long career as a cinematographer including a stint at KQED; was now semi-retired and concentrating on still photography while continuing to teach film and video lighting courses at the Academy of Art University. Later, when Rick picked up what he identified as a light meter, he explained that as he was getting into his car the day before, he had set it on the hood and forgotten it as he drove off.

When I visited Rick’s online gallery and saw his photos of Lake Merritt and Lakeshore Avenue, I immediately thought of Bay-Made, which had just opened days before – another lovely example of serendipity.   At my suggestion, Rick introduced himself to owner Sarajane Bernhisel, who loved his photos and is scheduling him as one of their featured artists early next year.

And yes, there’s yet another layer to this story. Through Rick, I received an online introduction to his wife, Victoria, who:

  • Cooked the very first meal (duck with olives) at Chez Panisse in 1971
  • Thereafter, owned and operated “Pig-by-the-Tail” – the first charcuterie in the United States.
  • Has written a total of  fifteen cookbooks (some co-authored with Susanna Hoffman)
  • Publishes a monthly cooking blog called the “Wise Kitchen“,  which is lavishly illustrated with Rick’s photos.
  • And finally, the icing on the cake (actually an apple galette) is that Victoria has kindly agreed to share her most recent,  October 23rd blog.  If you’re as impressed as I was and wish to subscribe, look for the “follow” button on the lower right corner of the blog page.

by Victoria Wise

Mostly I refrain from offering recipes with three parts because that’s almost a sure bet turn-off for the modern person. On the other hand, when it’s autumn harvest time, and the stolid apple, destined to become winter’s glamour-less workhorse fruit, appears newly luscious with a promise of sweet/tart, fresh, soft crunch, even the usually reluctant…



Michael Tunk

I‘m really pleased to see that Bay-Made seems to be attracting a regular stream of shoppers – especially since it’s helping to retain a retail presence on Lakeshore and is independently owned and operated. They have a new show entitled, “The Art of Michael Tunk” that will be hanging from October 31st to November 26th. Tunk’s contemporary collage work is full of mysterious characters, dystopia, conflict, and otherworldly settings. The shop will be hosting an artist’s reception tomorrow evening in conjunction with the First Thursdays on Grand art walk and again on Friday night until 9 pm during which light refreshments will be served.  

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also note that teas and culinary blends, lip balm, healing ointments and salves that are packaged by one of our long-time Splash Pad News subscribers, Kara Wood, are featured at Bay-Made. You’ll also find vintage refrigerator magnets (originally commissioned by the gift shop at Muir Woods) that yours truly manufactured some thirty-five years ago during an earlier incarnation as a woodworker. Be forewarned, however,  supplies are limited.

Last month, I wrote about the blight related to the abundance of trash and recycling cans that litter the street and sidewalk – particularly in front of Starbucks and Noah’s.  Friday, Eric Hughes and I visited seven of the food establishments along this stretch of the avenue and were encouraged by the response. Working with the City’s Code Enforcement office and Environmental Services Division, we’re hoping to help these businesses address problems that aren’t necessarily of their own making. Stay tuned for more details.

Lakeshore Avenue News in Brief:

  • During the retirement party in his honor, Dr. McEtchin and his wife Luly posed for a photograph in front of the office in which he’d practiced dentistry for 37 years.
  • A couple of weeks ago, Lin Jia hosted a mini high school reunion for Bay Area grads (including me) of Ramona High School in Riverside, California.  Jim Barnett, the color man for the Golden State Warriors and a member of the Class of 1962 was invited but failed to RSVP. Those of us who did attend ate very well and shared a lot of very good but distant memories.
  • Construction has begun on Peet’s expansion into the vacated Burrito Shop space.  My assumption is that the contractors will delay removing the interior wall that separates the two spaces as long as they possibly can to minimize disruption of the original space and also minimize the necessity for a temporary closure.


Lou Grantham

Lou Grantham, the owner of SF Fiber, is one of those folks who quietly gets stuff done without ever taking credit. We first met when she got involved in the Splash Pad project in 2000. In addition to serving on the Traffic Calming Pedestrian Safety Committee, Lou volunteered to solicit donations for the Names in Lights panels in the Splash Pad Plaza. Every single Grand Avenue business that’s represented did so at Lou’s personal request. She also co-organized, with Bente Petersen, three Fiber Festivals at the park and much of the proceeds were donated for Splash Pad improvements.  

When Lou told me about a Navajo rug weaving workshop that she was hosting two weeks ago in her Grand Avenue storefront, I volunteered to shoot photos and was delighted when the attendees consented. The instructors were Lynda Teller Pete from Denver and her sister Barbara Jean Teller Ornelas from Tucson. Both are 5th generation Master Navajo Weavers. The next 3-Day Navajo Rug weaving class is scheduled for March 23-25th followed by a 1-day, Navajo Loom Warping class on the 26th. Email Lou for details or, if you’re attending tomorrow’s First Thursdays art walk, stop in and say “hello” while she’s packing for a trade show in LA.    

To view more Navajo Rug Weaving photos, please CLICK HERE.

One of the highlights of Studio Grand’s Event Calendar this month begins on Friday, November 10th with an opening performance to welcome master dancer and teacher, Pierr Padilla Vasquez – direct from Perú. The schedule on Saturday and Sunday includes a free film screening, a free lecture and free dance intensive workshops on the Afro-Peruvian dance Son de Los Diablos, a street masquerade dance that dates back to times of colonization. This event starts a year-long project culminating in a public street performance and procession. 

In addition, Studio Grand’s Annual Celebration of the Day of the Dead has always been spectacular and it runs through November 27. If you’re not attending any of the events between now and then, watch for occasions during which the doors are open and do check out the exhibit.

Studio Grand is also the venue for Ancestral Apothecary school’s Second Annual Planting Seeds Herbal Fair on Saturday November 25 from 1-6pm. You can shop for Limpias, Reiki, chocolate, flower essences, tinctures, salves, body care, and more plus delicious food and drinks! A portion of the sales will go to AA Herbal Scholarship fund. Please contact Ancestral Apothecary School for more info. 


  • Congratulations to Alchemy Bottle Shop owners, Peter and Tova Mustacich, proud parents of a baby girl, Sylvie Maria Mustacich.
  • The interior of the small Smoke Shop space next to the Grand Lake Theatre has been transformed and now looks incredibly spacious and inviting. In the next month or so it should be open and serving coffee and pastries.
  • Beginning January 3, Penrose will be open for brunch from 10am-2pm every Saturday and Sunday and continue with their normal dinner hours.

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


by Sheila McCormick

There was another informational meeting for interested neighbors on October 19, again held at St. Vartan’s Church. Public Affairs Director Valerie Camarda again provided pizza from Leaning Tower, as well as Half Moon Cookies from Trader Joe’s. Always appreciated! At this meeting, the neighbors were introduced to some additional members of the team: Bart Martinez, Architect, Eddie Saroyan, Project Manager, and Jane Kiyoi, Landscape Architect. They showed us the latest renderings of the project, proposed color schemes for the building (terra cotta orange, grays and blues), and the proposed planting palette (e.g. Jacaranda trees are planned along the street on Wesley Ave.).

A new feature is the addition of decorative terraces with plantings, along Wesley, on the part furthest away from MacArthur. The property is set farther back from MacArthur than previously proposed, necessitating a drop to 33 parking garage spaces, instead of the previously planned 35 (i.e. there will be 25 spaces, one for each unit, and lifts allowing the stacking of 8 more cars above 8 of the 25 spaces). Timeline? Still being pushed back – they hope for a presentation to the Planning Commission in November 2017; if the project is approved there, then they hope for City Council Approval (for the rezoning) in January 2018. Assuming both of those things happen on that schedule, they would start grading the property in April 2018 and still anticipate about 12 months for completion.

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles by Sheila McCormick about the proposed condo development.  The original article was posted on February 26 and a previous update on July 1.


The Friends of the Grand Lake Farmers Market’s recommendations for an RFP, operational guidelines and enforcement provisions have not yet been scheduled for discussion by the City Council’s Community Economic Development Committee.

Meanwhile, what may be the best news in a while was a report in the Marin Independent Journal that Brigitte Moran, the Agricultural Institute of Marin’s CEO, has tendered her resignation. In the fourteen years that they’ve operated the market at Splash Pad Park, Moran has never once paid a personal visit – nor has she attended any of the various meetings with the council or city administrators. That failure has always underscored our assumption that AIM’s major focus has been on maximizing income in Oakland to subsidize operations in Marin, where Moran’s preoccupation has been on efforts to raise $24 million for construction of a year-round indoor market.

Whether her departure might trigger changes in policy and better management in Oakland is an unknown – as is, at this point, the City of Oakland’s response to our RFP request.

Addictive Toast is the newest addition to the prepared food scene in the Splash Pad Plaza.  They must be a fairly new operation as there’s virtually nothing available online other than references to farmers markets in Napa and American Canyon.


Hood Design Photo

I‘ve been a SeeClickFix.com booster for quite a while but, its efficacy (at least in terms of Splash Pad Park) has been highly problematic.  The most flagrant example is the tripping hazard created by the subsidence of one section of wood decking that I reported half a dozen times beginning in January of 2015. It’s just one in a long list of unresolved infrastructure issues that I summarized in an Open Letter I sent to Public Works Director, Jason Mitchell a couple of weeks ago.  

Mr. Mitchell promptly replied that he had forwarded my letter to the Tree Management Team and to SeeClickFix – but one additional comment underscored the reality that the underlying problem may be Oakland’s budget priorities and budgetary woes – rather than the reporting system.

Hood Design Photo

“As you know, the Park Maintenance budget has been reduced by nearly 50% over the past 8-9 years, and as such, we are attempting to maintain the parks with the limited resources we have available.”

That said, it seems to me that Splash Pad deserves some extra TLC based on the plaudits it reaped early on, including a “Distinguished Project of the Year Award” by the American Public Works Association in 2004,  and for the role it played in the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum’s selection of Walter Hood as Landscape Architect of the Year.  Any suggestions as to where we might look for major grant funding would be welcomed or, if we’re sufficiently desperate, perhaps we should consider offering naming rights.

A big shout-out to Keep Oakland Beautiful, which just approved a small grant application drafted by Mary Jo Sutton. Two earlier grants from KOB helped fund the expansion of the California Native Garden into three of the Dogwood beds. The newest grant will provide funding next year for some additional landscaping to fill in gaps – but mostly it will be used for plant ID tags, interpretative signage and perhaps, brochures.

To minimize competition with the upcoming holidays, the “Grand Crew’s” 4th Sunday work days will be moved up one week to November 19 and December 17.  Heavy rain cancels.


There are two new artists exhibiting at the November art walk on the 2nd.  Panorama Framing is hosting an Opening Night Reception for a show of abstract paintings by Natalie Madden entitled, “Simplifying the Complexities of the Soul”.  Over on Lakeshore, Bay-Made will be featuring “The Art of Michael Tunk”. Details for all the participating galleries can be found on the Grand Avenue First Thursdays page.


The Sixth Annual Autumn Lights Festival (ALF) was described by most attendees as “The Best Yet”. Hopefully, the event will continue to thrive despite the upcoming retirement of Park Supervisor, Tora Rocha, who was the event creator and driving force responsible for its incredible success.  Surrounded by adoring fans on Opening Night, Tora was honored with a brief ceremony that culminated in the presentation of a large trophy that most appropriately was illuminated with a string of lights. In the next couple of months, Tora can be expected to be feted on several other occasions including a Tora, Tora, Tora Retirement Party on Friday, November 17.

It’s also important to note that, while ALF has been a huge source of enjoyment, it also had a serious purpose.  Namely, to raise funds for a new improved gateway for the Lake Merritt Garden Center and the Gardens at Lake Merritt. Some of those improvements are already underway and there’s more to come as shown in the above artist’s rendering.

One last note: if you missed this year’s event, check out my Autumn Lights Flickr album.

At the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, through November 5:

Doctors Without Borders presents Forced From Home, a free interactive tour that takes you behind the headlines about the global refugee crisis. Guided by experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers, you’ll travel through a 10,000-square-foot space designed to convey the challenges facing a person forced to flee. You’ll also learn about the humanitarian aid we provide along the way.

Visitors experience virtual reality and 360˚ video, and interact with materials gathered from refugee camps, sea rescue missions, and emergency medical projects around the world.

Forced From Home tours are free, fully accessible, and take roughly one hour to complete. Families are welcome, however the content is best suited to children ages 12+.


The vintage photos of the Grand Lake district that I posted last month prompted several favorable comments and a promise to post more. Accordingly, here’s another recent photo from the Oakland History Facebook page.  Dated 1918, the two automobiles are on Ranleigh Drive heading towards Lakeshore Avenue.  The street that runs uphill from Ranleigh is Harvard.  If you look closely, you should be able to make out the quarry in the distance just to the right of center, now home to Davie Tennis Stadium. It’s kind of mind-boggling that, as late as 1918, there was still so much barren land – all of which would be pretty much filled within a couple of decades.  In its own way, it was equivalent to the suburban sprawl that later eliminated the walnut groves in Walnut Creek and the cherry trees in Hayward.

Late Monday afternoon, a large group of protestors gathered for a rally at Plum Patch Park at the corner of Mandana and Carlston.  They were there to protest Oakland Army Base Developer, Phil Tagami’s lawsuit that seeks to overturn legislation passed unanimously by the City Council that bans the export of coal through the Port of Oakland.  Sponsored by a loose coalition that includes “No Coal in Oakland” and Climate Justice, the protest continued with what was billed as a “Zombie March Against Coal” up the hill several blocks to Tagami’s home.  More details and background information are in this article in the East Bay Times.

Jennifer Stanley, who coordinates bike parking for the City of Oakland has just announced that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District has approved funding for a cluster of eight bike eLockers to be installed at the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park on the decomposed granite bed adjacent to the freeway. In an email earlier this year, Jennifer indicated that she had, over the years, “received multiple requests for lockers to serve the Grand Lake District”. Input was provided by Walter Hood, Oakland Parking Partners and various members of the community. The consensus was that this was an ideal location since it was a bit off the beaten path on an underutilized parcel – while simultaneously centered on a bustling transit hub.

CJ Hirschfield is best known as the long-time Director of Children’s Fairyland but she also publishes a truly wonderful blog.   This month’s edition begins with this sentence:  “During a lunch break last week, I had the opportunity to view, up close, the gonads of a flatworm.”

I don’t know how anyone could resist that lead but, if you need some additional motivation to read more,  this particular blog is about getting better acquainted with all the spectacular organisms that occupy Lake Merritt.

Jim Copes is “Old School” which is why his t-shirts say “I hecka Love Oakland” – not the more profane alternative that he dared not utter as he came of age in this, his home town.  It’s also why Jim is big on tradition – particularly those traditions that helped make Oakland special.  With the holidays approaching, he is currently trying to drum up support for reviving the Floating Christmas Tree on Lake Merritt that provided the cover photo for the December 1981 edition of the “Kaiser Center Newsbreak”.

Getting this tradition restored may or may not be a pipe dream but Jim is bringing back the Peace on Earth Christmas t-shirts that were featured in an article about Jim inside that same “Newsbreak” edition.  The t-shirts should be available beginning this weekend – but the predicted rains may put a damper on his sales. If so, you can reach him by phone or look for his truck in front of Sprint on Fridays and Saturdays – weather permitting.



  • Monday, October 30 – November 5: Forced From Home at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater
  • Thursday, November 2, 6 – 8pm:  Grand Avenue First Thursdays
  • Friday, November 3: Art Murmur Downtown
  • Sunday, November 11:  Tod Vedock’s Benefit for Run Better Oakland
  • Wednesday, November 15, 7 – 8:30 PM: Grand Lake Neighbors meeting in Lakeshore Baptist Church Family Room
  • Sunday, November 19, 9 AM – Noon: Splash Pad “GRAND CREW” Volunteer Work Day



7 responses to “Splash Pad News – November 2017”

  1. Thank you, Ken. You are a treasure!
    And yes, I am working on my interview with CJ and I’ll have it ready in plenty of time for next month’s issue! (And the CD, Drop the Bone, will be ready by the end of the month)

  2. Nancy Friedman Avatar
    Nancy Friedman

    Ah, Ken, you are such a neighborhood treasure. The combination of great writing skills, wonderful photography, an ability to reach out and connect with so many people, and a dedication to your home turf makes us all the winners in so many ways!

  3. Kasha Frese Avatar
    Kasha Frese

    I always love reading this newsletter. Thank you for keeping us up to date on all the comings and goings in our wonderful neighborhood.

  4. Sandra Torma Avatar
    Sandra Torma

    I could not resist lead in sentence to C.J.’s blog. 🙂 Such an informative article I never would have known about had you not brought it to my attention in such an enticing way.
    Been reading your Newsletters for many years now and have loved every one! You are such a treasure Ken!

  5. Love the serendipitous story about the photographer–and the food blog.
    I ALWAYS get something out of the newsletter–thanks so much.

    1. Ken Katz Avatar

      Thanks C.J. And I bet you’re going to love the story that David Gans is writing about you even more. It was tentatively scheduled for November but he was being recording a new CD for the last week or so. Maybe, we can “gift wrap” it and give it to you in December.

  6. Always enjoy Splash Park News. Thanks for publishing