Splash Pad News – October 2019

All the News That Fits


Splash Pad Park (for the first time in a very long time) is our lead story thanks to this past week’s news about Walter Hood, the Oakland-based landscape architect who designed the park that eventually gave rise to this publication.

Rendering of the renovated museum gardens courtesy of the Hood Design Studio

This article in the Chronicle, on September 21, revealed that Walter had been awarded a $20 million contract with the Oakland Museum to totally revamp the rooftop gardens and center courtyard, connecting the space to Lake Merritt. A much lengthier and more detailed account was provided in this profile in Artnet News.  Among many wonderful tidbits therein is speculation that the walls facing Lake Merritt (that are to be removed within the next year) weren’t part of the original late 1960s plans and may have been added as a security measure to protect the museum and its patrons from all the ongoing, anti-war street demonstrations.

MacArthur Foundation photo

A few days after reading the Chronicle article, we learned that Walter (along with Sujatha Baliga, director of the Restorative Justice Project in Oakland) had been named a 2019 recipient of one of the hugely prestigious MacArthur Genius Awards. On Wednesday, NPR broadcast this five minute interview (which you should listen to, rather than read), which starts with this introduction:

In Oakland, Calif., a site next to a highway underpass is now a gathering place with plazas, fountains and curving lawns. It’s called Splash Pad, and it was one of the early examples of urban transformation that made landscape architect Walter Hood famous.

While we’re looking forward to the museum transformation, we’re even more excited to know that Walter has been officially recognized as the genius he actually is. That said, the title of the NPR report – “MacArthur Fellow Walter Hood Revitalizes Neglected Urban Spaces” – seems to us a bit ironic. “Why?” you might ask. To that, I could reference the laundry list of infrastructure issues that were cited in the February 2019 Splash Pad News. I’m happy to say that the fountain is now being regularly maintained and the light standards around the perimeter of the park have been repaired, which was a major accomplishment since there are only three electricians in the Public Works Department and they are responsible for 550 structures and 130 parks.

This past Sunday,  Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas and her Chief of Staff, Miya Saika Chen  (along with their families) participated in our monthly work day. Before they got to work weeding and pruning, I gave them a brief tour illustrating why I’m convinced that Splash Pad qualifies as a “NEGLECTED URBAN SPACE.” To wit: the spotlights in the fountain; the Names in Lights panels; and the up-lights under the palm trees are all out of commission. I also bemoaned the lack of progress in repairing the sunken Ipe decking in the plaza that was first reported as a serious tripping hazard three years ago. Now, adjacent decking is failing as well. I also noted that the California date palms are riddled with dead fronds that occasionally drop on unsuspecting Farmers Market patrons. The Tree Services Division, which has been cut by about 65%, can’t muster the necessary resources to remove the fronds. And finally, we walked over to the seriously eroded gravel beds where Farmers Market customers regularly trip and fall. AIM CEO, Andy Naja Riese, has pledged to lead a campaign to raise the necessary funds to replace the gravel with a more stable material and I’m hoping that pledge is embodied in the long-term permit that the city is negotiating with AIM.

As for the lighting, decking, and other issues, I hate to think that community members, who already provide a constant stream of volunteers, may have to eventually consider raising the necessary funds. That’s what they’ve been doing for the past eight years at the Gardens at Lake Merritt, where net proceeds from their Autumn Lights Festival have paid for new landscaping in front of the Garden Center, hand-crafted wrought iron gates that will be installed next month, and new fencing for the perimeter of the gardens – as depicted in the drawing below. Accordingly, in this month’s News, ALF gets second billing.

2019 Autumn Lights Festival Lights Up Lake Merritt

One-of-a-kind annual fundraiser to delight all ages October 17–19. Illuminated art displays involving nearly 200 Bay Area artists will light up Lake Merritt as thousands of festival-goers immerse themselves in the magic of art, innovation, and horticulture at the 8th Annual Autumn Lights Festival. The mesmerizing hand-crafted displays include:

  •  The world’s first fully interactive LED piano
  • A fire-spewing snail car
  • An exotic tiki village
  • Giant inflatable sculptures known as “Astrobotanicals”
  • Illuminated origami balloons and cranes
  • Much,much more     

This fundraiser for the nonprofit Friends of the Gardens at Lake Merritt runs for three nights, October 17-19, 2019, from 6:00 to 11:00 pm, in the City of Oakland’s lush ten-acre gardens nestled near the shores of Lake Merritt.



Collected at Four 32,” the antiques and collectibles shop at 432 Santa Clara, just opened a very few weeks ago. I’m especially enamored with the exhibit Anthony Bennett, the shop owner, dedicated to the memory of his long-time friend, Lewis Mahlmann, who retired in 2006 after 43 years of service as Fairyland’s Master Puppeteer. Anthony sent me an email advising that they had expanded their weekend store hours based on customer feedback, so they are now open Saturdays from 10 am-4 pm and Sundays 10 am-2 pm.  They will be regularly adding items for sale to their website and you’ll also find info about consignment options.

On occasion, the Splash Pad News has referenced some of the Grand Avenue shopping district’s longest-term businesses. The Alley, the Grand Lake Theatre, Walden Pond Books, and Galleria Scola all come to mind. As for a specific location with the highest turn-over the last twenty years, that distinction may belong to 3909 Grand. Most recently, it has housed campaign offices for Mayor Schaaf and Hillary Clinton with long vacant periods in between. Prior to that, I distinctly remember two restaurants – Destino and a soul food BBQ restaurant – but only vaguely remember two or three bar/restaurants before that. Its latest incarnation is as a local headquarters for the presidential campaign of Senator Kamala Harris. I’m guessing that the staffers will happily welcome the upcoming opening of Zachary’s Pizza right next door.

As revealed by the photo I took yesterday afternoon, remodeling of the Camino space is still underway but appears to be nearing completion. I also reached out to Zachary’s hoping for more information, but as we go to press, haven’t yet received a reply.

If you’ve been on Grand Avenue this past week, you may have noticed that the block is looking a lot cleaner with new landscaping. That’s due mostly to the efforts, a week ago Sunday, of the Grand Lake Improvement group led by Eric Hughes. A dozen volunteers picked up litter, dug weeds, pruned the shrubbery at the rear of the Walker Avenue lot, and added new plants in many of the raised planters.

Coincidentally or not, the tree well in front of Jau Jou Studio was subsequently beautifully landscaped. I’m told that the property owner arranged to have this done. Hats off to a couple of individuals who’ve been helping beautify this block – namely Timmy Nguyen at Miss Saigon, whose tree well and planters have an exotic array of greenery including lemon grass, and one of the residents of Bob Lycette’s property who has been maintaining the raised planters between Urban Furniture and Alyce on Grand for many years.

Brother & Sisters Flower Shop has new signage and also new interior fencing with new gates soon to be installed. On October 12, a bold prediction that I made in last month’s News is about to be realized. Namely, Freya has scheduled an encore of their extremely successful Taco Pop-Up.  Hours are 4-9 pm.

Grand Avenue News in Brief: 

510 Brand will be closing for remodeling on October 27. A soft opening is scheduled for November 2 and a Grand Re-Opening Party for November 7 in coordination with their First Thursdays art event.

Alchemy Bottle Shop is hosting an Amaro-making class led by herbalist Kara Wood of Cimaruta Remedies on Thursday, October 17. Details and advance tickets are at THIS LINK.

Alyce on Grand is hosting a Rhythm Constellation Art Show on Friday, October 12 from 5-9 pm. Their Annual Fall Collection Sale takes place the following afternoon from 2-6 pm with champagne and music provided as additional enticements.

by Kira Pascoe

Autumn is here and Lakeshore Ave is already prepping for Halloween fun! We will have a Lakeshore Halloween Parade but – before the parade – we have Lakeshore’s news! This edition has a big congrats to Chef Jen Biesty for winning the ‘Weird, Wacky & Wild’ edition of Chopped, business anniversaries, Lakeshore trivia and facts, and learn about the Vegan Mob. Read all about it!

Did You Know?

Lakeshore has a plethora of incredible businesses and services. Here is a snapshot of some facts and trivia to learn even more:

  • Holy Land offers cooking classes in addition to their scrumptious food! Location677 Rand
  • Senior citizens save 15% on the first Tuesday of every month at Dress Best for LessLocation: 3411 Lakeshore
  • The Beauty Center would be a great place for Halloween makeup to complement your costumes! It has a complete range of beauty & cosmetic products. Location: 3268 Lakeshore
  • Gelato Firenze & Q Tea Bar uses all natural flavors and serves more than 71 types of boba tea and non-dairy sorbetto! Location: 478 Lake Park

 CONTINUE READING HERE and for the latest updates, be sure to follow their Facebook and Instagram pages.


The above photos were taken on September 14 at the Diggin’ at the Market educational booth. Posing  for the camera in the photo on the right is Mimi Choudhury, a Senior Market Manager, who also coordinates classroom fieldtrips to local farms. To her right is Tyler Thayer, a long-time AIM employee who is currently their Director of Education and Market Integrity. Known as “Mr. Green Jeans,” Tyler leads 100+ free farmers market tours annually.

The Chaga Company, which offers a variety of medicinal teas and other products extracted from rare mushrooms,  has been at the market for about six weeks. They’re typically adjacent to the Information Booth.

New York Times Photo

Although we’re all beginning to feel the early affects of global climate change, farmers have obvious reasons to be especially concerned. This September 21 article in the New York Times – “In a Race Against Warming, Growers Try to Outsmart Climate Change” – explores the ways in which “from California to Costa Rica and beyond, farmers are experimenting with new crops and growing tactics.”

A list of Grand Lake Farmers Market vendors is available at THIS LINK.


The above photo was taken at the Splash Pad Grand Crew’s 2nd Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dim Sum luncheon.  Seated from left to right are Diane Hicks, Mary Jo Sutton, and Nadine Ong. Standing from left to right, are Kelley Danger, Eliza Wong, Jerry Barclay, Victoria Barbero, David Elliott, Susan Elliott, and me, Ken Katz. Kelley is deserving of special mention as she is chiefly responsible for significantly larger turnouts at our last several Sunday work days. All of those additional volunteers (including the four young people pictured in this month’s lead story) are from the oft-maligned tech community. I should add that the presence of those four volunteers along with Nikki and Miya and their families almost certainly constituted the lowest median age for any regular Splash Pad work day in the sixteen years we’ve been planting and maintaining the California Native Garden.

I seriously doubt that we can top that but we’ll try at the next work day on Sunday, October 27 beginning at 9 am.


Please check the galleries individually for times and dates. 

Last month’s Opening Night Reception at Panorama Framing for “RE-ACTION” – their show of propaganda and political posters was a bit disappointing since Brook Turner, the owner and curator of the “Lighthouse Collection” was out of town and only a portion of the show had been hung. The exhibit wall is now chock full of posters with diverse subject matter including pieces from Europe. Hours for the reception are SATURDAY from to 6-8 pm and possibly a bit later. Complimentary wine and small bites.

This THURSDAY, from 6-10 pm, 510 Brand will be featuring the artwork of Digital Introspect‘s Matthew Childers, who specializes in digital art and animation. From what I understand, he’ll be doing live demonstrations, but please don’t expect me (an admitted technophobe and senior citizen) to explain how downloading an app to your phone will allow you to animate the painting (UFO Gods) on the far left. For more info,  I recommend that you check out the Digital Introspect website -particularly the videos.”

Other artists currently displaying at 510 Brand include Oakland native, Michael Johnson, Shop Manager Natalina Simi and a Santa Cruz artist known simply as “Stitch”.  As usual, you’ll find a nice spread with complimentary drinks and snacks plus a DJ.

Jau Jou Studio has a lovely show of paintings by Fernanda Martinez – a Mexican artist based in Oakland. La Tinta, her personal brand, is best recognized for its highly expressive spirit; through her work with gouache and acrylic she explores the relation with the environment by incorporating nature elements as themes. The show is available for viewing whenever the salon is open, but hours vary.

Alchemy Bottle Shop‘s is continuing its exhibit of watercolors by Molly Champlin titled “Signs and Signals.” The above painting (“Lake Tower”) is in keeping with her artist’s statement:

My art explores the disconnect from the physical world caused by a deepening reliance on technology. Presently, the primary subjects of my paintings are abandoned and outdated technology: old TVs, circuit boards, recycling centers, junkyards, and cluttered storefronts.

Alchemy’s second-floor gallery is open during regular hours, unless a class or other special event is scheduled.

The Libertine is continuing to feature Josh Stevenson’s nudes printed on aluminum that focus on the interplay between light and shadows.

Urban Furniture and Boutique will be celebrating their 10th Anniversary from 6-10 pm on the SECOND THURSDAY (10/10) with a special show featuring numerous artists plus music, wine and a raffle. Donation at the door, $10.


Back in June of 2018, our Splash Pad Facebook page reported that Nico Hoerner, a 22-year-old resident of our neighborhood, had been drafted #24 in the first round of the major league draft by the Chicago Cubs, and it just so happens that his mother, Keila Diehl, is an editor and occasional contributor to this publication. Fifteen months later, he was sitting in his parent’s home, having just concluded his season playing Double A ball when he got a call from the Cubs’ front office. Both of the Cubs shortstops had been injured and they needed Nico to fill in immediately. The next night, September 9, he made his Major League debut – going three for five with four RBIs. After the series against the San Diego Padres, Nico hit a home run off the first pitch he saw in his first at bat at Wrigley Field, the Cubs home stadium. After six games, he had 11 RBIs, including two home runs and was the talk of the town. Unfortunately, the Cubs faltered for the remainder of the season and didn’t qualify for the playoffs. That means that Nico is back at Stanford finishing up the remaining classes he needs for his B.A. As for next year, it’s very possible he’ll start with the Cubs and, if not, he still has an extremely promising future. Congratulations to him and to his parents as well.


The Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association and the Golden State Bonsai Collection North are jointly hosting the 53rd Annual Otsukimi or Moon-Viewing Festival on Sunday, October 13 beginning at 5:30 pm. Admission is free. The Bento Box Dinner (which has to be ordered in advance) is $17. 00.

The Grand Lake Neighbors Crime Prevention Council next meets on October 16 at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church from 7-8:30. 

The hugely successful Autumn Lights Festival returns to the Gardens of Lake Merritt Thursday, October 17, through Saturday, October 19.

On Saturday at Noon on October 26, the Lakeview Branch Library is hosting a screening of “Beyond Recognition” followed by a discussion featuring one of the film’s subjects, as well the producer.  The subject matter revolves around a member of the Ohlone tribe attempting to protect her ancestor’s burial places, now engulfed by San Francisco sprawl. Details are on THIS LINK.

I‘d also highly recommend checking out the Oakland Library’s event page as there’s lot of other happenings that sound quite interesting.  The one that caught my eye – partly due to the fact that I moved to Oakland in 1968 while the BART system was under construction – is another episode of East Bay Yesterday Live! on Wednesday, October 9.  The topic: “Exploring BART history with Michael C. Healy“.  The other reason I’m especially interested is that Michael was a fellow Crocker Highlands parent way back when.


  • First Thursdays on Grand Art Walk – Thursday, October 3 and Saturday, October 5, 6-8 pm
  • Taco Pop-Up at Brother & Sisters Flower Shop – 4-9 pm
  • Otsukimi Moon Viewing at Lakeside Garden Center – Sunday, October 13, 5:30-8:30 pm
  • Grand Lake Neighbors Meeting at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church – Wednesday, October 16, 7-8:30 pm
  • Splash Pad Volunteer Work Day – Sunday, October 27, 9 am-noon
  • Autumn Lights Festival – October 17  through October 19
 We typically publish the Splash Pad News around the first of each month. If you’d like to receive an email announcing publication, please email us at info@splashpad.org with “SUBSCRIBE” on the subject line or click on the link at the very top of this page.
Comments are always welcome.