Want to talk about something I haven’t brought up? Do it here. You can find the previous open thread here.
Merry Christmas! I hope you all are having a wonderful day.
I feel bad about kind of abandoning the blog for the last couple of weeks. I just get so frazzled around the holidays, it’s hard to find time to do anything. I mean, I love the Christmas season and everything, but it does get tiring. I’m sure at least some of you know the feeling. I made some half-hearted attempts to write about the new ballpark EIR, the Climate Action Plan, the MacArthur BART Transit Village, and I think something else that I can’t even remember now, but I just couldn’t find the time to do any of it right. Alas. Maybe next week.
So instead, I want to tell you today about a fun thing to do tomorrow if you’re spending the holidays in Oakland.
Mountain View Cemetery
So. A couple of months ago, I went on one of the free docent tours at Mountain View Cemetery. I have to admit, until like a week before I went on the tour, I didn’t even know that they offered such a thing.
I’d been to Mountain View Cemetery lots of times before, of course. It’s a beautiful place with stunning views, and I love to just go for long walks around there. Sometimes I’ll take a little picnic and a book and just hang out there for hours. Occasionally, I’ll wander around looking at the names on the gravestones and seeing if I recognize any of them.
Or if I see one that catches my eye, I might go look up on my phone to see if there’s an entry about that person on Lives of the Dead, Michael Colbruno’s Mountain View Cemetery Bio Tour. A couple of times, I’ve tried to locate Ina Coolbrith’s grave, but I have never been successful in that endeavor. I’ll find it someday, I’m sure. I know it’s in there somewhere.
Anyway, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from a guided tour of the cemetery. It turned out to be super cool! The tour lasted about two hours, and we just walked around the cemetery and stopped at the graves of people who were either some kind of noteworthy historical figure or just had an interesting story about them. It was a really good mix of people they talked about, and also a really excellent combination of informative and entertaining. That can be a tough balance to strike sometimes, but our docents got it perfect, and also did a really good job making everyone they talked about sound very real. Like, so you could imagine them as an actual person instead of just a name with a bunch of facts and dates attached.
They also talked some about the design and history of the cemetery itself, which was something I had honestly never really thought much about before at all, but I ended up finding really fascinating.
Anyway, the whole thing was just great, and I left eager to return for another tour. They do these free tours twice a month. On the second Saturday of each month, they do a general tour, which is what I went on. People tell me that it’s worth going on the general tour more than once, though, because there’s always different docents leading them and so the tour is always a little different.
On the fourth Saturday of the month, they do a tour on a specific subject. They have tours focused on important women in the cemetery or the architecture there and stuff like that. In February, for Black History Month, they have a tour about African American community leaders buried in the cemetery. There’s one about doctors in the cemetery. I was looking at the calendar after I finished the tour I went on, and saw that earlier in the fall, there was one about all the Mayors of Oakland that are buried there. I totally want to go on that one next year. And like a dozen different people have raved to me about the Memorial Day tour that local author Dennis Evanosky does of the civil war veteran plots, so if I’m in town then, I’m definitely going to go to that.
I’m sad to say that I haven’t actually made it back to another tour since the one I went on, because I have been out of town every time they’ve had one. But one of these days I am sure it will work out for me.
Anyway. The reason I bring this all up today is because they also do a special tour the day after Christmas: Mountain View Cemetery from the Beginning (Special Sunday: Founders Day Tour). The one tour I went on made me very eager to learn more about the history of the cemetery, so I think it sounds super cool, and if I were in town, I would totally go. But I’m in the mountains with my family, surrounded by snow. Which I have to say, is a pretty awesome way to spend the holidays, even if it means you have to miss the cool Mountain View Cemetery history tour.
But if you’re around, you should totally go. Have family in town and can’t think of what to do with them? Take them to this. It’s free, it’s interesting, it’s something different, it’s beautiful, the views are spectacular, you can go stroll down Piedmont Avenue afterwards, which is also really fun, and so on. According to weather.com, there’s a 40% chance that it will rain for you guys tomorrow morning, in which case I guess the cemetery tour would probably not be such a great idea.
But if the weather’s good, go for it! The tour starts at 10 AM tomorrow, Sunday, December 26th at Mountain View Cemetery, located at 5000 Piedmont Avenue.
Okay, that’s all for today. Have a great Christmas, everyone!
There are lots of things I love about the holiday season. I love giving presents and I love Christmas music and I love Christmas trees. One of the things I really love is Christmas lights. And one of my favorite places to go see Christmas lights is Picardy Drive out by Mills College.
Even without the lights, Picardy Drive is a really adorable little street, where all the houses are that storybook style. But around Christmas time, it gets especially awesome.
Not only does every house on the street get all decked out in lights, but the neighbors also string lights between all the houses. I think it’s really sweet.
I really wish I had better pictures for you, but Christmas lights really are not the easiest thing to photograph, especially on a not-so-super camera. You can view more photos of Picardy Drive at Christmas here, but really, none of the pictures do justice to the adorable display the street puts together. So really you should just go and see it for yourself.
Picardy Drive is located between 55th and Seminary out by…okay, I can’t really give directions cause I don’t drive. Here’s a map.
View Larger Map
If you want to read more about Picardy Drive, the following links may be of interest to you.
- 2005 San Francisco Chronicle article about Picardy Drive architect Walter W. Dixon
- 2002 San Francisco Chronicle article about the documentary about Picardy Drive
- 1997 Examiner story about the Picardy Drive light show
- 2008 San Francisco Chronicle story about the Christmas light tradition on Picardy Drive
- Picardy Drive documentary website
- Statement from filmmaker about the making of the Picardy Drive documentary
- More photos of Picardy Drive on Flickr
- Post about Picardy Drive Christmas lights on Picardy Project, a blog written by residents of the street that chronicles the renovations they’re doing on their adorable storybook house
A couple of years ago, I had this short-lived obsession with how Oakland needed a Good Vibrations in Uptown.
It started when I read an article somewhere about…well, honestly, I don’t remember very many details about it. I don’t even remember enough to make it worth taking a stab at trying to locate it to link to. But it was about some neighborhood that used to be dead and now is like super hip and thriving and so on. Maybe in New York or something, I can’t remember. Anyway, someone in the article, maybe a real estate broker or something, talked about how one of the things they did to try to make the neighborhood more marketable was to bring in all these sex shops, which this broker or whoever reasoned were good for the area’s image because they made it seem edgy. I realize that may not sound like it makes a ton of sense, but that’s only because I can remember so few of the details. It sounded totally reasonable in context.
Shortly afterwards, a friend from out of state came to visit me. And what was the number one thing on her agenda for her Bay Area vacation? A trip to Good Vibrations. Seriously. They don’t have classy sex shops where she was from. We ended up spending well over an hour there, and she easily dropped more than a thousand dollars.
And that’s when I decided we needed a Good Vibrations in Uptown. At that time, Uptown was full of potential, and not a whole lot else. Cafe Van Kleef was there, of course. The Fox Theater and Uptown Apartments were on the way, but there wasn’t much in the way of eating, and the shopping options were pretty much limited to the world’s worst Sears, a couple pawn shops and wig stores, and Bibliomania, which I of course love, but doesn’t exactly draw huge crowds to the neighborhood.
I reasoned that Good Vibrations would be the perfect store to stick on Telegraph because it’s the type of store people will travel to go shop at, and being so conveniently located near BART would make it an even bigger draw. Plus, their clientele probably has more disposable income than the people who go to the pawn shops, so I figured bringing those customers in would give a spillover boost to other businesses in the area, assuming any ever opened.
I babbled about it to anyone who would listen for about a week, and even made some effort to contact Good Vibrations to make the pitch, but since back then I didn’t know how to do anything, my efforts never got very far. Soon, I got bored with the idea and decided that what my neighborhood really needed to take off was to get Amoeba Music to move here.
Feelmore Adult Boutiuqe
So you can imagine my delight when I saw an item on this past Wednesday’s Planning Commission agenda about a Good Vibrations style sex shop opening up at 17th and Telegraph. Here’s a little description of the store from the staff report (PDF):
The applicant is modeling this activity after “Good Vibrations” in San Francisco and Berkeley, and other similar Adult retail stores. The business would sell adult sex toys, books, videos etc. from wall shelves, and provide room for small seminars on sexual health education. Larger educational and social groups coordinated by the business would meet at off-site locations in a convention format. The primary market is women aged 25 to 44, although other groups of adults would not be prevented for visiting. There is an adults-only entry policy. There are no massage, clothing-optional or direct sexual activities proposed. The business proposes to operate 7 days a week from 11 am to 11 pm, although midnight on weekends may be requested later.
It would be located on Telegraph, right past the intersection at 17th Street.
The store, called “Feelmore,” had to go to the Planning Commission for two reasons. One, sex shops (“Adult Entertainment Activity” in planning-speak) always require a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). Plus, they aren’t allowed within 1,000 feet of a residential zone or within 500 feet of a school. Since this store, at 17th and Telegraph, would be located less than 500 feet away from the Oakland School for the Arts and is also within 1,000 feet of the residential zone containing the Uptown Apartments, it also needed a variance.
I thought the whole issue was pretty interesting, and I kept sitting down all last weekend trying to write a blog post about it. But I kept having trouble with it. After all, you need conflict to tell a good story, and there just didn’t seem to be much of that here. After all, the City didn’t seem to think this is much of a problem. From the staff report (PDF):
In addition, the downtown area, especially nearby along Telegraph and Broadway above 14th Street, has seen a transformation within the last 10 years with an influx of bars, restaurants and residential units (catering primarily to young professionals). At least 2 bars within 6 blocks of the location cater primarily to a gay clientele. Given this transformation, it is not unreasonable to introduce a low-key retail establishment catering to adult items and sensuality. With the business model of the applicant, along with conditions of approval as accepted by the applicant, this Adult retail activity should not have adverse impacts at this location.
Additionally, the City received a number of letters of support (PDF) from acquaintances testifying to the owner’s character and work ethic. Not all of them are particularly persuasive (my favorite begins “I know that I may not be a California resident…”), but many specifically address how this store would benefit Oakland. Like, for example, helping stem our retail leakage:
As it stands if I require intimate adult products I go to San Francisco or Berkeley to make my purchases. I am thus supporting the economic growth of another city because my city does not provide this basic service.
But even though everyone seems to love the woman opening this store, and even though this particular shop is expected to be a classy operation, with flowers in the windows so on, I thought I might be able to make something of it, since issuing the CUP and variance for it is not without risk.
You see, Feelmore could close. It could be a failure and shut down, or it could be such a massive success that it needs to expand beyond its little 750 square feet and therefore perhaps move to a new location. And when that happens, since this particular location already has a CUP for adult entertainment, a seedier sex shop could potentially lease the space and move in. From the staff report (PDF):
However, a Conditional Use Permit and Variance runs with the land, not with any particular business. If “FeelMore” is successful and grows out of this space to relocate (or closes), this space could accept an Adult Entertainment Activity which meets the same conditions of approval. The applicant reports a 5 year lease, renewable to 5 more years. Under the First Amendment, the City could not censor content, only “time, place and manner” of business. Thus a store for a niche market of women customers could be replaced by the type of general Adult store familiar from other cities. Such stores have been reported to have blighting effects.
Youth Radio has performed due diligence investigating into the business philosophy and practices of Feelmore Inc. By all accounts the owner of Feelmore Inc. appears to be a positive, local, small-business owner who we would traditionally support. The concern in the permit issuance is rooted in the possibility of the retail space being vacated in the future and potentially sold to a less ethical business owner who would retain the adult entertainmnet permit. At around 750 square feet, the retail space could be outgrown quickly, especially with the expressed plans for the space being used for sex education workshops and the store being the only of its kind in Oakland.
Reading that, I was kind of sad to think that we’re so afraid of nuisance businesses in Oakland that we would feel the need to prevent good ones from opening.
But as much as I tried to sympathize with their fear of what could eventually happen, I still couldn’t agree with their position. After all, the approval of this store comes with a number of stringent conditions — they’re not allowed to have booths for private video viewing, they can’t frost or black out their window glass, they have to keep the adult items on display only in the back half of the store, they can’t put gross posters in their windows, and so on.
Since these conditions would apply to any adult entertainment business wanting to open up in the space, I just couldn’t see how anything bad could come from the approval. The staff report concurs:
Successor businesses using the CUP may not have the same self-regulation and benefits but would be subject to CUP conditions. Conditions of approval would precisely describe the business as presented by “FeelMore.” Conditions would help to prevent transition into a different kind of business with potentially more impacts.
So I kind of gave up on writing about it, since no matter how I tried, it just never seemed to go anywhere. I felt like I would be manufacturing controversy where none existed.
DAMN, WAS I WRONG.
So this came to the Planning Commission on Wednesday, and the hearing lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. You can watch a video of the whole thing below:
When all these people e-mailed me on Wednesday to say I just had to get the video of this hearing, I assumed that it was going to be all cute and funny, like that time at the San Francisco Planning Commission when they were talking about how to help industrial businesses and this guy started waving around a dildo as an example of quality goods manufactured in the City.
But it was not funny at all. In fact, I found it kind of upsetting.
A number of speakers showed up to oppose the store, mostly because of the negative impacts it would have on kids going to and from Youth Radio and First Place for Youth, two organizations that I think are great and do really wonderful work.
I’m not sure what exactly I expect them to say, but it sure as hell wasn’t what they did talk about, which was sexually exploited minors, child trafficking, and prostitution, and how the teenagers they work with need to be protected from such things, and how damaged these kids would be if they were exposed to this store and the element it attracts.
OMFG. I was floored. I mean, I guess, if I try really hard, I could imagine some reasonable objections that people working with youth could make to the idea of having their facilities near a sex shop. But to bring up the sexual abuse and trafficking of children as though this discussion has anything whatsoever to do with that? That’s outrageous. And just completely wrong. And really offensive.
So I was actually really happy when Commissioner Michael Colbruno just straight up scolded them.
Lately, I have been trying to be more sympathetic to people who oppose things. Like, even when they sound totally nuts, I’ve been really trying to think about what’s making them so crazy and what is it exactly that they’re afraid of. So normally I think I would find such stern comments kind of over the top. But in this case, I thought they were completely justified.
As far as I’m concerned, children whose exposure to sex has been exclusively negative (whether just through witnessing the horrifying amount of child prostitution that happens on Oakland’s streets or from more scarring personal experiences) can only benefit from exposure to an establishment that treats sex as a positive thing and a normal part of normal people’s lives that is consensual and enjoyable for all parties involved.
The puritanism on display was simply astonishing. Opposition to Feelmore wasn’t limited to the nearby youth service organizations. One woman who came to the meeting for an entirely different item felt compelled to get up and jump on the anti-pornography bandwagon.
And then, most surprising to me, the Downtown/Uptown Business District sent a representative to talk about how the store was inappropriate for downtown, because this supposed to be an art and entertainment district.
I don’t get it. Does the business district think sex is not entertaining? Maybe they’re doing it wrong, in which case they might benefit from some of the educational aspects of Feelmore’s business plan.
Look. You cannot keep kids away from sex, no matter how much you may want to. They don’t have to go looking for obscene video on the internet to be exposed to it — you cannot even walk into any store that sells magazines without seeing right there on the display racks shit like Maxim or whatever all chock full of photographs of barely covered women being portrayed as sex objects and nothing more.
And I don’t have anything against Maxim or whatever, but I do think it’s important, when we talk about what kind of impact a store like this will have on youth who walk by, to remember that kids are constantly bombarded with sexual imagery in all forms of media, and it’s also important to remember that very little of that imagery treats women as real people with real sexual needs of their own that merit attention and consideration. Stores like this one offer a healthy counterpoint to those portrayals.
I remember the first time I went to a classy sex shop. I was seventeen, and had just moved from Houston to Portland for college. The girls in my dorm all took a little trip together to this store called It’s My Pleasure. It was amazing! I had never even imagined that such a place could exist, where you could go and talk to the staff and ask all these questions I had and the women there would just be nice to you and answer you honestly and without judgement. Isn’t that better for young women than only being able to get answers about sex from boys who want something from them? We should celebrate businesses like this, not fear them.
After all, as Commission C. Blake Huntsman put it, “we’re all here because someone multiplied.”
The Commission ending up approving the CUP and variance for Feelmore unanimously.
In keeping with the theme from yesterday’s post about shopping local, here’s a neat little event I wanted to make sure people are aware of.
Oakland Urban Paths
Oakland Urban Paths is, in their words, “a group of dedicated walkers, planners, historians and fundraisers with a common mission: to raise awareness of the paths and Oakland’s heritage through a variety of activities in partnership with Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) and the City of Oakland.”
I haven’t really had all that much interaction with this group, even though I think the idea is really neat. I wanted to go on one of their Jane’s Walks last spring, but just couldn’t find the time.
A little over a year ago, they did this project of surveying all the pedestrian paths in Oakland, and I volunteered a little bit on that. I found it fascinating. Basically, they had this list of “pedestrian paths” from the City, and had people go around to each one and inspect it for all these different criteria. Does it exist (some that were on the list don’t, or have been kind of taken over by adjacent property owners)? What kind of condition is it in? What is the diameter of the handrail? What is the slope of the path? How large is the landing between flights of stairs? All sorts of crazy stuff like that.
I went and helped measure in a couple of different neighborhoods. Some of the so-called “paths” were pretty weak. Like, the courtyard in the Swan’s market. But there were other paths that were totally awesome. I had no idea about a lot of these staircases, and discovering them made me feel like I was learning a little secret or something. It was exciting!
Walk & Shop
Anyway. Tomorrow, Saturday, December 11th, Oakland Urban Paths will be hosting a neat-sounding event:
Come ramble through three Business Districts and surrounding neighborhoods of Crocker Highlands, Grand-Lake, and Piedmont Avenue via the historic stairways and pathways that once served the Key Route Street Car.
Participants will have an opportunity to shop at the many businesses along Lakeshore Avenue, Grand Avenue, and Piedmont Avenue.
We plan to meet at Lakeshore, between Longridge and Mandana, at 10am. The walk arrives at Piedmont Ave, via the Morcom Amphitheater of Roses, by 11:15 for a look around some of the stores. We’ll reconvene at 11:45 at the Key System Plaque near the corner of 41st and Piedmont (by the Longs Drugs parking lot) and follow Glen Echo Creek back towards Grand Avenue.
Here’s the map of where they’re walking:
I love learning about the stairways that connect different neighborhoods, so if I were in town this weekend, I would totally go. If you’re free tomorrow, you should consider attending.
Since last night’s Planning Commission Design Review Committee meeting on the new Pleasant Valley Safeway got canceled, I decided to use my suddenly free evening to sit it on the Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission meeting about the planned dog play area at Lakeview Park that I wrote about the other day.
Oakland’s Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission
This was only the second time I had ever been to a Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission (PRAC) meeting. The first time was about two years ago. I had gotten this idea in my head that I would like to join a City Board or Commission, so for a month or two, I kind of went shopping around, sitting in on random Board meetings trying to see if any of them would be a good fit for me.
The PRAC had been the first Commission I thought I’d enjoy serving on. I didn’t have any particular reason, I guess. I just really like parks. When the weather is nice, I ride the bus all over town on weekends so I can go hang out in all different ones.
I had downloaded the agenda and read all the reports before the meeting, and decided that everything they were being asked to approve sounded just fine to me. There was an approval for improvements to Cesar Chavez park (PDF) (which, BTW, just received a $2.25 million grant (PDF) from Prop 84) and some permits for collecting registration fees (PDF) for charity walks around Lake Merritt. Oh, and a mural at Defremery pool (PDF).
The only people besides me in the audience were the applicants for each of the items. I figured this must be pretty standard for the PRAC, since they seemed confused as all hell by my presence. At one point the Chair just straight up asked me what I was doing there. I was like “I’m here to watch!” and they looked totally befuddled.
Anyway. The Commissioners had all sorts of questions that had never even crossed my mind about all the items on the agenda. When the charity fundraising walk around Lake Merritt came up, there was this whole discussion about how the walk organizers needed to get their registrations online, because the Commission is very concerned about minimizing the exchange of money in the parks.
After that, I decided that just because I like hanging out in parks didn’t mean I was particularly well suited to make decisions about them, and that the PRAC probably wasn’t for me. And since their meetings are at a kind of inconvenient time and location for me, I never ended up going back. Until last night, of course.
Tree removal permit appeal for St. Albert’s Priory
So I actually ended up getting to the Garden Center kind of late, and I figured that they’d be well into the dog park discussion by the time I arrived. Nope. They were still discussing the first item, a tree removal application (PDF) for St. Albert’s Priory in Rockridge.
I know I’ve been saying this a lot recently, but it really is always so funny to me what ends up being interesting at these meetings. I had seen that there was something about tree removal on the agenda before the dog park, but it seemed so uninteresting that I didn’t even bother reading the report.
Anyway. So I waltzed in right in the middle of the discussion, without having read anything about it, which left me to figure it all out as they were talking. If there was much in the way of public comment, it happened before I got there.
In July, the priory applied to the City for a permit to remove ten trees from their property — eight sweet gums, a silver maple, and an oak. Many of the priory’s neighbors objected to the idea of removing the trees, because they’re pretty. (It’s true. Sweet gums are really pretty.) Tree Services received 22 e-mails opposing the tree removal application, and ultimately denied the priory’s application to remove the sweet gums, citing community opposition as the reason. They OKed the removal of the maple and the oak, which were sick.
The priory then decided to appeal the denial of their application, citing “ongoing concern that trees represent personal and property threat to neighbors’ safety” as their reason. The appeal came to the PRAC in October (PDF), but the Commission postponed the item (PDF).
The reason the priory wants to remove the sweet gums is because they can’t afford to maintain them. I am not an arborist or anything, but when I got to the meeting, someone who sounded fairly expert about trees was going on this long explanation about the root systems and how the trees are so close together and how sweet gums are particularly susceptible to limbs breaking off and falling, and how there is a way to decrease that risk, but it involves lots of very expensive pruning, and since you’re pruning the limbs so much, by making them safer, you reduce the aesthetic value of the trees. Here’s how the report (PDF) explains it:
St. Albert’s is concerned with limb failure from the sweet gums. Limbs up to eight inches in diameter have fallen from the trees. Limb failures can be a threat to both Saint Albert’s and the single-family home at 6140 Chabot Road that is adjacent to this row of sweet gums.
I was never able to figure out how this dude was. He kind of seemed like he was from the City, but then what he was saying sounded like an argument in favor of letting them remove the trees. Plus, there was someone else there against the tree removal who was definitely from the City. I asked my friend who I went to the meeting with if he had any idea who they were, but he didn’t have any more of a clue than I did.
So like I said, I don’t really know much about trees. Or at least I don’t know about root systems and different species susceptability to limb breakage. I do know, from experience, all about how obscenely expensive it can get to take care of big old trees and also about how dangerous falling limbs are. So you can imagine my surprise when one of the Commissioners comes right back after that long explanation and goes “Just because a tree is gonna drop a branch is not going to make me vote to remove it.”
That seemed like a pretty cavalier response to me, but like I said, I came in late, so I didn’t have all the details. One of the Commissioners suggested that in the future, staff provide the Commission with photographs of the trees in question, so they would be better positioned to make a decision. That seemed like kind of a no-brainer to me.
So as I’m sitting there thinking that maybe if these neighbors are so attached to the trees, maybe they should step up and help pay for all this expensive pruning. Then someone from the priory explained that some neighbors had offered to help pay for the tree maintenance, but in exchange for their contributions, they wanted to be able to use the priory’s lawn for picnics and entertainment, but that they weren’t willing to open up their property for just anyone to use, which sounded pretty reasonable to me.
In the end, the Commission decided to allow the removal of half of the eight trees in question, which would apparently be better for the root system or something, and make the Priory leave the other trees in place. It seemed like an okay compromise, I guess. But mostly it just made me wish I had gotten there earlier, because I found the whole discussion quite interesting. If any readers have been following this issue, I would love to hear more about it in the comments!
Lakeview Park Dog Play Area
Finally it was time for the dog park.
So last night’s meeting was a very different experience than the last time I attended the PRAC. This time, the room was completely overflowing with people. Seriously. They were spilling out into the hallway.
After pointing out that if everyone who had filled out a speaker card spoke for even one minute, the meeting would last all night, the Commission just asked everyone who supported the dog play area to just raise their hands and only speak if they had something specifically related to the design to say. Pretty much every hand in the room went up.
Three people spoke in opposition to the dog park, and I stopped counting at some point, but somewhere around a dozen or so spoke in favor. Those opposing the dog play area focused mostly on two issues — their concern over the drastic reduction of scarce open space near the Lake and the idea that having dogs so close to a children’s play area would be dangerous. One concluded his comments by informing dog owners that by choosing to live in a city and own a dog, they are signing up for inconvenience. Another wanted to know whether the planned hence could be replaced with some kind of hedge.
Okay. So I really do not get all this paranoia about a dog park. There is no lack of open space near Lake Merritt. What there is a lack of is a place for people to take their dogs to play. You don’t have to like dogs, but no matter what your opinion of them, people need to accept that having dogs is a very normal thing, even in cities.
37% of US households own dogs. It is not some weird thing that only people who live on farms in the country do. I was born in Denver (a bigger city than Oakland, BTW). We lived right in the heart of the city. We had a dog. My sister lives in Denver now, also in the heart of the city. Guess what? She has a dog. A huge one. Denver is extremely accommodating of it. Before I lived in Oakland, I lived in Portland. Also a bigger city than Oakland. Also very dog friendly. And lots of people in Oakland have dogs too. Because that is a normal part of life for a large portion of the population.
It’s true that not everyone will ever use a dog play area. It is also true that not everyone will ever go use some field for a soccer or volleyball game. It is also true that not everyone will ever have a child to take to a tot lot. But when we talk about how we are going to use our open space, we have to make accommodations for the needs of all different sorts of people. And the lack of places to take one’s dog in this part of Oakland is a legitimate quality of life issue for a lot of people, and it is long past time for it to be remedied.
In response to those concerned about the dog play area’s proximity to the tot lot, advocates noted that Hardy Dog Park is also adjacent to a children’s play area, and that there have not been any problems there. They even had a handy illustration.
The Commission had some questions about the fence for the park, which will be four feet tall, black vinyl chain link, with vines planted along every second post. There was a handout illustrating the fencing concept as well.
In response to concerns about the dog play area infringing on the space used in the park now for soccer games and such, supporters of the park explained that this particular design had been changed from one previously approved to leave a better space for non-dog recreation in the remaining park area.
They also had a colorful illustration of the plan.
After a brief discussion, the Commission approved the design for the dog play area. Then next step for the project will be to file an application for the project’s approval. It will likely come before the City Council in the Spring.
I’m sure I’ll write about this again at that point, but if you want to keep up with all the news about the park, and learn how you can help make it a reality, join the ODOGs mailing list.
You’ve all heard all the figures about why you should shop local, right? You know, like, how for every $100 you spend at a local business, the amount of your money that stays in your community is way higher than if you spend that same $100 at a chain store? Or how small businesses are the biggest creator of jobs?
This video from Buy Local Berkeley explains:
It seems like everyone in Oakland is constantly talking about how much they love local businesses. When you go to meetings about retail revitalization, whether it’s about a specific neighborhood or some general citywide thing, there is always overwhelming enthusiasm from the audience for filling all our storefront with adorable, locally owned little shops. Which is great, right?
The Great Oakland Grown Holiday Challenge
But here’s the thing about those shops. Once we get them, they can’t stay open unless people go buy things at them. Which is why, this holiday season, Oakland Grown is asking you to make a pledge to do your holiday shopping in Oakland.
Like the car-free challenge, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing — Becks noted yesterday that she signed up for half. I am also pledging only 50%, because I’ve already bought a bunch of my gifts. In my defense, it was at an independent business, FYI. The business just happened to be located in Berkeley. (I got there on the bus, BTW.) Plus I have my heart set on giving one very lucky person a souvenir from the greatest bar in the universe, which I will be visiting this weekend. And also because I already promised my little sister that I would get her Voldemort’s Ward, although, if anybody is aware of a store in Oakland selling that thing, please let me know and I’ll go buy it there.
The Oakland Grown Holiday Gift Guide
Perhaps you’re thinking “Well, that sounds good and all, but I don’t know where I would even find good presents in Oakland. Shopping local is kind of a pain.”
Just yesterday, I was talking to someone about buying Christmas presents, and they were all “So. What do you think of Omaha Steaks?”. I was all “OMG, dude. You don’t buy your Christmas presents in Oakland?” And they’re all “Well, I’m buying a present for my brother who lives on the East Coast. I just want to be able to order something and have someone else deal with the shipping. What Oakland store can I do that with?”
And I was all, “Just look on the Oakland Grown Holiday Gift Guide, and I’m sure you will find something.”
And if you’re having trouble thinking of things to buy in Oakland, you should check it out too. They have done a fabulous job putting it together.
Whether you’re looking for sporting goods, house stuff, jewelry, clothing, or entertainment, Oakland Grown’s holiday gift guide tells you where to find it right here in Oakland. They even have a whole section for gifts under $25. And for those too busy to go shopping, For those too busy to go shopping, they even have a special category for Oakland stores where you can shop online. How handy is that?
Other Oakland gift options
If you’re not into stuff, another nice present is a gift membership to a local organization, for example, the Friends of the Oakland Public Library (your giftee can get discounts all year long at local bookstores) or the Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation or the League of Women Voters of Oakland. Or maybe you could give the gift of an experience, like tickets to the Oakland Symphony or a membership at the Oakland Museum of California. (Have you guys gone to see the Pixar exhibit there yet? Go soon!)
Want to talk about something I haven’t brought up? Do it here. You can find the previous open thread here.
Mr. Hanks exhibited great excitement in front of a sold out crowd of theater enthusiasts as well as personal fans. His million-dollar answer was in response to the very last question of the night, when Solano College Student Lina Wu asked “What is your favorite thing about being an actor?” This million-dollar question invoked Mr. Hanks true passion and roots of theater…roots originating right here in Oakland, CA.
Ecstatically, he continued to describe in detail his first time experiences in theater while a student at Oakland’s Skyline High School. While speaking, he spotlighted a fellow classmate in the crowd (who also attended Skyline High) as she waved her hand in the crowd. Mr. Hanks pointing at her stated “I remember ‘Night of the Iguana,’ ‘My Fair Lady,’ ’12th Pacific’…” He went on eagerly to describe his experiences while at Skyline High. “Mr. Farnsworth would pair us up on Friday and we would have to wait all weekend to see who would be cast…Well, I still feel that way today as I wait for a film to roll out.”
I thought it was very sweet that, given the opportunity to talk about whatever he wanted, he decided to talk about his high school drama class. And it’s always exciting to hear positive things about Oakland, right? Anyway, it reminded me of how much it can mean for kids interested in the arts to have opportunities to perform before an audience and show off all their hard work. I support arts in the schools, and so I try to go see performances at local high schools when I can.
Conveniently, you have not one, but two opportunities to go see talented Oakland high school students perform this weekend.
OSA presents Bye Bye Birdie at the Fox Theater
First, the Oakland School for the Arts is performing Bye Bye Birdieat the Fox Theater this Thursday, December 9th and this Friday, December 10th. How cool must it be for those kids to get to do their musical at the Fox?
If I were in town, I would totally go, because, well, it is very close to where I live, plus I love Bye Bye Birdie. Sadly, I’ll be in Montana, so I’m going to have to miss it.
But if you’re around, you should think about going. General Admission tickets are $20 and VIP are $30. You can buy tickets online.
Cinderella at Skyline High School
On the other side of town, Skyline High School’s performing arts program will be presenting Cinderlla, “as you’ve never seen it before.” I’m not sure what the last part means, but I went to a show at Skyline High School a couple years ago, and it was very good. I’m sure this one will be as well.
Anyway, Cinderella starts tonight, and then shows also Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (December 8, 9, 10, and 11). The show starts at 7:30 PM every night. Additionally, on Saturday, there will be a matinee at 2 PM. The shows are all at Farnsworth Theater at Skyline High School.
Tickets for that one are $10 for adults and $8 for children under 12 and seniors.
You know what I love? Dogs!
I don’t have a dog now, my family always had dogs when we were growing up. Both of my sisters have wonderful dogs that I adore. I often think I would like to get one, and I’m sure I will someday. But for now, neither my apartment nor my schedule can accommodate one.
Anyway. One of the things I think about when I think about how I’d like to get a dog is that it seems like it would be hard to have a dog in Oakland. Or at least, for someone who lives in my part of the city without a car, it seems like it would be hard. There is nowhere for you to take them to play.
Or even to be with you when you want to hang out outside. I’m sorry, but I think Oakland’s no dogs in any park even on a leash unless it is a dog park policy is totally psycho. Everywhere else you go, you can take your dog to any park as long as you keep it on a leash. Sometimes I will complain about it to people who have clearly lived here too long, and they will immediate start back with this insane string of elaborate paranoid imaginings about all the terrible things that could possibly happen if there were a leashed dog in a park. I’m like “Dude, you know what? Somehow they make it work everywhere else. So I think it’s going to be okay.”
Wev. Anyway, one nice thing about the City recently is that we are adding all these dog parks. A new one opened in November at the a new one opened in November at the rededication of Old Oakland’s Jefferson Square Park. And there is going to be a new one at 37th and MLK. They are having a grand opening party on January 15th. The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me says that the reason the City is all of a sudden so eager for dog parks is because they know the dog owners are so desperate for a place to take their pets that the City can extort them into taking care of the property, so the City has less work. But hey, maybe it is just because people are really pushing hard to make them happen.
Lakeview Park Dog Park
Anyway. One neighborhood that has been clamoring for a dog park for a great deal of time is Adams Point. And tomorrow, they have a chance of coming one step closer to getting one. The Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will consider, at their meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 8th, a request for approval of the design of an off-leash dog play area at Lakeview Park.
The Lakeview Dog Play Area will enclose the corner of the park bordered by MacArthur Blvd to the north and Lakeshore Ave to the southeast. The long-awaited dog play area will contain separate off-leash areas for large and small dogs to exercise and socialize.
If you were wondering what I meant above when I said “a great deal of time,” the report (PDF) offers a brief history of this project:
The Lakeview Dog Play Area was included in the Lake Merritt Park Master Plan, which was accepted by the Oakland City Council in July 2002, and in the Adams Point Urban Design Plan, submitted to the City of Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency in December 2002. The development of both these plans included extensive public review and comment. Both of the plans included graphic exhibits showing the dog play area in the location adjacent to MacArthur Boulevard where it is currently proposed.
The creation of a dog play area in the Lake Merritt area was identified as an unmet community need by the Northlake Neighborhood Group (NLNG) in 1998. In 1999, volunteers from ODOG and the NLNG collected 740 petition signatures of residents in the Lake Merritt area, supporting the creation of a dog play area near Lake Merritt. Important factors in selecting a possible location for the dog park included adequate distance from the wildlife sanctuary and low impact on other park user groups and the surrounding community. NLNG met with my office to discuss the dog play area in December 2001. Councilmembers Chang and Wan held a public meeting on behalf of the dog play area in February 2004. At that time Councilmember Chang offered $20,000 for the dog play area but the City was not able to commit to building it in time to accept the funds. Thus, Councilmember Chang’s funds were used to create the Joaquin Miller dog play area.
Public meetings for the Lakeview Dog Park were also held on November 7, 2005, and on June 29, 2006, and community input from those meetings was incorporated into the design. The meetings were sponsored by Councilmember Nancy Nadel and community outreach was extensive. The needs of other user groups in Lakeview Park, including tot-lot users and soccer players have been addressed in the plans.
In July 2006, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission gave one-year probationary support for the construction of a dog play area at Lakeview Park. The creation of the dog play area was conditional upon approval by the City Council to amend the Oakland Municipal Code, Title 6, Chapter 6.04, Article 6.04.080 to include the Lakeview Dog Play Area as an off-leash dog play area in the exempted list of such parks. Unfortunately, the project stalled before the Public Works Department could approve the final design. The delay was in part due to the larger scope of the original dog play area project, which would have required several hundred thousand dollars to construct.
For the past 18 months, volunteers, including design and landscape architects, have worked diligently to scale back the project to meet the City’s resource constraints while still fulfilling the design and maintenance requirements of the City. Extensive discussions took place between volunteers and City staff from PWA, OPR, and ADA programs. ODOG also presented to and received approval from the Adam’s Point Action Council (APAC) in October 2009 Additionally, my office continues to receive frequent constituent calls and emails requesting a dog play area in this area.
The project has identified funding from the following sources: Public Works Agency Capital Reserves Fund ($21,000), Council District 3 carry-forward Pay-Go funds ($10,000), Council District 2 ($2,000), At-large Council office ($2,000). ODOG continues to seeking funding for the remainder of the cost.
At tomorrow’s meeting, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission will be asked to approve the design for the park. The project specifics listed in the report are as follows:
To enclose/fence a section of the Lakeview Park for use as an off-lease dog play area for dogs to exercise, and for both dogs and their guardians to socialize.
Specific elements of the project include:
- Separate play areas for large and small dogs
- Fencing to enclose the dog play area, which will be 21,3000 sq. ft. total in area. The fence fully separates those on the inside from those on the outside without imposing unnecessary visual impact on the park
- Double gate entries that are ADA accessible with supply vehicle access
- Concrete mow-band around 2/3 of the fence to provide easy access for lawn maintenance
- Two in-ground waste receptables
- Wood chips to provide the ground cover
- Tree planting between the fence line and MacArthur Blvd
And here’s one more picture.
So I think this is just great. As I said, I think dog parks are awesome and Oakland should have more of them. And it is true, as the report says, the dog parks serve the important function of giving dog owners a place to socialize. My little sister used to go to college in the middle of nowhere in eastern Washington. And she would always be telling these stories about friends of hers where I could not for the life of me imagine how she ever ending up crossing paths with this person. Like, she’d be all “My friend Doug, who is a 60 year old prison guard at the state penn…” and I’d be like “Wait, what? How are you friends with this person?” And she would always be like “Oh, I met him at the dog park.”
And it is totally true. Whenever you go to the dog park, everyone there wants to talk to you. I’m not very social myself, so I don’t particularly like that aspect of it all, but I see how it would be important to a lot of people.
Opposition to the dog park
But not everyone thinks the dog park is such a great idea. There are all these people, and honestly I don’t know if there are only like five really angry people, or if these five people are representative of a lot of other people or what. But there is all this craziness on the neighborhood listservs that people forward me against this dog park. All these e-mails being like “I don’t think a dog park is right for this neighborhood” and “the dog park excludes people” and “the rights of humans to use their parks are being usurped by dogs” and “the fence around the park will cause traffic accidents” and “well I want a dog park that’s closer to my house than that” and “the dog park should be on the estuary” and “we need more community input” and “but I just moved here” and “the dogs will destroy the beautiful grass that my only joy in life comes from looking at every day as I walk to the bus stop.”
So, to those people — look, I am sorry you don’t want a dog park. My advice is to chill out and learn to live with it. It’s a dog park, not a nuclear reactor or a surface parking lot. People all over the place manage to deal with them somehow, I’m sure you will find a way to cope too. Dogs are a very normal thing to have.
Because seriously, at some point, you have to just admit that there has been enough community input on whether or not something is a good thing and you have to accept the decision that was made. This has been discussed and decided for a long time. And it’s not like it was just once twenty years ago or something. If that were the case, it probably would be appropriate to revisit the decision. But public input and planning on this issue has been ongoing for over a decade. I’m sorry if people who just moved here and missed all that don’t like it, but you know, we can’t just start deciding everything all over again every time somebody moves. We just can’t.
Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
Anyway, if you’re interested, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 8, 2010 meets at 4:30 PM at the Lakeside Garden Center, which is located at 666 Bellevue Avenue
I am actually interested in this, but I will not be able to attend the meeting, because I am more interested in the Pleasant Valley Safeway at the Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee, which is also happening tomorrow. If anyone does go, I would love it if you’d leave a comment informing us all about the discussion.
Help fund the dog park
And if you’re into the dog park and want to help, but don’t feel like going to the meeting? Well, here is one suggestion, from ODOG’s recent newsletter:
The city is providing only about half the $50,000 cost of the dog park. The rest is up to us. A holiday gift to yourself or another dog lover would be a donation to support the dog park. You can contribute here with a credit card of PayPal account.
Please note that for technical reasons your receipt and credit card might show the name Emily Rosenberg instead of Oakland Dog Owners Group. Please be assured that every penny will go to the non profit account of ODOG.
Another convenient thing about the park is that is dog owners feel like a drink when their pets are done playing, they can just walk across the street and go to dog-friendly bar the Heart and Dagger.
One of the most frequent questions I get when people talk to me about my blog is whether I actually know all the people who leave comments here. I usually respond that I’ve met most of the regular commenters, although not all of them.
That wasn’t the case a few years ago. Back then, I had hardly met any of my readers, nor was I able to put a face to the voices on all the other great Oakland blogs I read regularly. Becks and dto510 and I used to sit around talking about how much we’d love to meet this blogger or that blogger, and then one day, Becks was all “Okay, enough of talking about this. We are going to have a party and invite all the other bloggers so we can meet them.”
We did a hastily planned, short-notice holiday party at the Washington Inn, where I got to meet all manner of cool people, including Artemis from City Homestead, Crimson, from the now-defunct (and missed) Oakland Streets, Farrah from the awesome local real estate blog A Piece of the Pie, and Coolhand Luke from the stellar culture blog 38th Notes. Plus a reader who very sweetly went on and on about how I should be on the Planning Commission, which amused the hell out of me.
The evening was so much fun that we decided to organize another one a few months later, this time at 2022 on Telegraph. We decided to expand the invite list beyond just blog writers, and sent notices to our frequent commenters as well. That party was even bigger and more fun, and so a few months later, we held another one at The Layover, which was even more awesome than the previous two events.
And of course, every time we do one of these, everyone is all “Oh, we should have parties like this more often. Why wait six months in between?” To which Becks and I are always like “Great idea! How about you organize one?” And somehow, I guess because we were all so busy with the elections, we managed to let 2010 pass by without any blogger parties at all.
Which is sad, because I love getting the chance to meet in person all the people I read all the time, whether I’m reading on their own blog or their comments as they pop up in my inbox. I think online discussions tend to be more civil when you’re talking to people you’ve met face to face and have had a non-heated, non-political conversation with.
And so, to that end, we’ve finally gotten it together to do another one. We used to always do the invitations by evite, but frankly, that was kind of a pain. A lot of bloggers don’t put their e-mail addresses anywhere on the blog, so it takes forever to track those down and even then, you miss some people. And a lot of people either use multiple e-mail addresses or fake ones when they comment, so you run the risk of either sending them the same invitation like four times or missing them entirely. Plus, evite’s interface is kind of awkward when you’re sending out lots of invitations. It is for me, anyway — it’s hard to figure out if you’ve already invited someone, and once I sent out like 50 invites to a party that had happened like six months ago.
Which is why we’ve decided to forgo the evite this time and just invite everyone via blog post and make a Facebook event for the party. I’m hoping to see lots of familiar faces there, and I hope to meet lots of new people as well. We’ll be trying to spread word of the event to other bloggers as well over the next week, who I realize — gasp! — may not all read me and Becks religiously (tragic, I know). But anyone who writes an Oakland blog or reads them is welcome — we would love to meet you. And I know you will love meeting other members of this wonderful little online community we’ve built up over the past few years.
So mark your calendars for January 6th, and if you’re on Facebook, please RSVP to our Facebook event, and invite others you think would be interested.
Once again, the party is going to be on Thursday, January 6th at downtown’s newest restaurant Disco Volante, located at 347 14th Street (at Webster) in downtown Oakland from 6 to 9 PM.
We look forward to seeing you there!
UPDATE, 12/08/10: This meeting has been canceled. I’ll post about it again when it gets rescheduled.
On Wednesday, the Oakland Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee will consider the current design proposal for the rebuilt Safeway at 51st and Broadway.
If you haven’t been by recently, what’s there right now is basically a suburban strip mall surrounded by a sea of surface parking. It contains 185,000 square feet of retail space and 667 parking spaces.
As you may recall, Safeway’s original plans for this site (PDF) went over pretty poorly when they were unveiled back in June of 2009. They essentially proposed replacing the existing suburban strip mall with a new one.
Feedback from community members who attended Safeway’s community meetings on the project appeared to be pretty much universally negative, which prompted Becks at Living in the O to ask her readers what they’d like to see at the site. The plan was so at odds with what North Oakland community members envisioned for their neighborhood that STAND, ULTRA, and the RCPC all came together to voice their opposition to the proposal:
This proposal is so offensive and so disrespectful of our city and our neighborhoods that it has managed to unite in opposition all the neighborhood groups who until now had been on opposite sides of the various development debates in north Oakland these past four years.
Additional concerns were raised about how the proposal related to the Oakland Retail Strategy, which identified this location (PDF) as one of five key opportunity nodes in the City, calling for increased intensity of use at this location. (The retail strategy Illustrative Design Plan (PDF) further details this vision for the site (PDF).)
The design is, unfortunately, flawed. It basically perpetuates the current design, by maintaining long, squat buildings that surround the surface parking lot. It does add office space, and it fills in the perimeter of the site. But buildings remain set back from the street, offset by landscaping, and the prominence of the central parking lot is maintained; moreover, additional parking is added to the roof of the Safeway. In other words, the design remains wholly suburban. Pedestrian access to the shopping center is currently pretty miserable — sidewalks at the entry and exit points break off for the convenience of automobile navigation, or are omitted altogether. Based on these sketches, the new design does not completely address that problem either, except for including a few colored crosswalks.
He was moved to share his own alternative vision for the project, which involved scrapping the surface parking, extending the street grid through the site, and filling it will dense housing atop ground-floor retail.
The project came before the Planning Commission in July of 2009 (PDF) for an EIR Scoping Session (PDF), and the Commissioners didn’t like it any more that anybody else had.
After taking the robust criticism from pretty much everyone into account, Safeway has revised their site plans. The proposed square footage of commercial space in the new plan is slightly less than what they had proposed last year (296,000 sf versus 304,000 sf) and includes slightly less parking (971 versus 1,0006 spaces). The Safeway stores itself would be increased in size from 48,000 sf at the existing building to 65,000 square feet at the new one.
In the revised plans, the buildings are no longer set way back from Broadway. The height is increased at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley (to 70 feet), and much of the parking has been moved from the ground to a three story parking structure on top of ground floor retail.
It’s definitely an improvement. But is it good enough? The staff report (PDF) for Wednesday’s meeting suggests there is more work to be done:
The proposed buildings incorporate a variety of articulations, materials, textures, and colors. The result visually breaks apart the building masses into smaller pieces, thereby reducing the perceived bulk of the project. However, all the varied architectural elements and treatments lead to a somewhat random and chaotic look for the project. The result is a large development with repetitive and overwhelming variation. Along Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue, staff believes the project would benefit from a design that reduces the widespread variability and presents an appearance of two or three individual buildings, each internally cohesive and distinct but related to adjacent buildings. Staff also believes the façade directly at the corner of Broadway and Pleasant Valley Avenue is arguably the most visually prominent and symbolically important area of the project as the anchor of one of the corners of the intersection, yet the design is too understated. The façade is somewhat flat and the downward sloping roof planes downplay the prominence of the corner. Staff believes the design would benefit if the architecture at the corner is more noteworthy and memorable.
What do you think? You can get a better idea of what’s being proposed from the renderings pictured below, all taken from the staff report (PDF) for Wednesday’s meeting.
The elevations were too hard to read in any picture small enough to fit on the blog, so download the staff report (PDF) if you want to examine those. For my part, I wish the renderings didn’t make it look like this shopping center is being plopped in the middle of some big meadow or something. Having to sit there and try to envision what it looks like across the street in every damn slide gives me a headache.
If you want to weigh in on the plans yourself, or just see what the Design Review Committee members have to say, the meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 8th at 5:00 PM at Oakland City Hall, Hearing Room 1.