Category Archives: food

Upcoming forums, new DTO restaurant, and other odds and ends

Oakland’s busy election season continues this week with a calendar chock full of candidate forums. Here are a few upcoming events that may be of interest to readers:

  • League of Women Voters Fall Kick-Off Meeting, with presentations on Ranked Choice Voting and the November 2010 Ballot Measures: Tonight, Tuesday, October 5th from 6 to 8 PM, Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 3, One Frank Ogawa Plaza:

    There are nine state propositions on the ballot for November 2, dealing with issues as varied as suspending air pollution control laws (Prop. 23) and requiring a simple majority vote for the state budget (Prop. 25) to legalizing, regulating, and taxing marijuana (Prop. 19). There are also six local measures on the Oakland ballot, and, for the first time, Oakland will use Ranked-Choice Voting to elect the Mayor, City Council members, City Auditor, and School Board representatives from Districts 2, 4, and 6.

    Come hear Dave Macdonald, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, give a short presentation on Ranked-Choice Voting, followed by a neutral review of the Pros and Cons of the many ballot measures we will be voting on in November. The Pros and Cons will be presented by representatives of the League of Women Voters. This will be a very informative and informal meeting with time afterward for Q&A. Light refreshments will be served.

  • Candidate Forum for City Council District 2: Wednesday, October 6th, 7-9 PM, Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3524 Lakeshore Avenue, co-sponsored by the Grand Lake Neighbors Association and the League of Women Voters Oakland
  • Candidate Forum for Oakland Mayor: Thursday, October 7th, 6-8 PM, Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 1, One Frank Ogawa Plaza, co-sponsored by the Oakland Cultural Trust and the League of Women Voters Oakland

You can find a list of all the League’s upcoming candidate forums on their website.

New DTO restaurant: Disco Volante

Meanwhile, SFGate’s Inside Scoop reports yet another new restaurant on the way in downtown Oakland:

Disco Volante has been a few years in the making, with Cook and his partners batting around the original idea of a bar/live music venue for a while. But with the Uptown neighborhood growing as a dining destination, the idea of a restaurant grew on them. Then, when a space in the tiled Art Deco commercial block on 14th Street became available — with an existing kitchen and equipment — they pulled the trigger.

The name means “flying saucer” in Italian, but there will only be hints of Italian on the menu. The chef is Douglas Bernstein, last seen as the Bacar executive chef; he’s also worked at Eccolo and Farallon. He’s going to put out a local/seasonal California-ized menu (think braised octopus terrine, house-ground burger, smoked sausage, etc.), with nothing over $20. I can’t wait for the opening!

I was fortunate to attend a small pre-opening event for Disco Volante a couple of weeks ago. At the time, the space was still very rough, but you could already tell that it will look fabulous when complete. The food options on offer were quite limited, since it was just a preview event, but everything I tasted was absolutely delicious.

Speaking Truth to Power

Mark from Back to Oakland returns to blogging after a brief hiatus to update us on his new job teaching at Edna Brewer Middle School and makes a sweet pitch for donations to help buy video cameras and flash drives for a classroom project called “Speaking Truth to Power”. From the project page:

Six exceptional 6th and 7th graders are learning what it takes to become the next Martin Luther King Jr. In our Speaking Truth to Power unit they will develop public presentations to persuade, to invigorate, and to embolden their classmates to stand up and speak with passion and conviction.

These students are enrolled in a middle school reading intervention program. We were inspired by the Chevron Classroom Challenge to raise the stakes for our Speaking Truth to Power unit and incorporate a video presentation that will accompany each student’s oral presentation. Because these students commit two periods each day to their English Language Arts studies, they give up an elective course in favor of building power as readers and writers. One of the foundational skills that helps students with comprehension and fluency is oral communication. Our Speaking Truth to Power unit will focus on helping students develop a powerful academic vocabulary, and put that vocabulary to work in both their oral presentation and in an accompanying video project that will expand on a topic of their choosing.

Some of these students are struggling to read at grade level, but by engaging them in a project that inspires their passions and their creativity, and building on the state standards for language arts, we will open a door that inspires them to read and communicate using the vocabulary of power. (Academic language, and the languages of business and the arts.) Be part of this transformational experience!

Can you chip in a few bucks to help out? Click here to donate.

Another Mayoral forum video

Finally, for those of you who haven’t had enough of candidate forums yet, I’ve finally gotten around to uploading my recording of a Mayoral forum I attended back in July at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church that focused on public safety issues. The candidate pool has changed since then, but Terence Candell, Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan, Joe Tuman, Greg Harland, and Don Macleay were all there. So perhaps some people will find it useful. I didn’t arrive early enough to get a seat where I could videotape this one, so it’s an audio recording with pictures of whatever candidate is speaking at the time. Enjoy!

Keep Oakland Safe campaign

The campaign for ballot measures BB and W is becoming somewhat more visible with a new (to me, at least) website, Keep Oakland Safe. Measure BB is also known as the “Measure Y fix” and Measure W is the telephone tax.

Help give other Oaklanders a better holiday season: donate to the Mayor’s Holiday Toy Drive and the Blogoaksphere Virtual Food Drive

Oakland is full of superfun stuff to do during the holiday season. Shopping districts host festive street fairs. Normally-cool institutions like the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate, the Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland become even cooler when they get all gussied up with lights and decorations. The Holiday Parade is must-see, as are the adorable Christmas lights on Picardy Drive. Artemis at City Homestead has an incredibly thorough round-up of this year’s events.

But the holidays are a difficult time for many in our community, those who have fallen on hard times and those who never had very much. It’s important to remember those less fortunate than we are during this period, and try to find ways to give back.

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Sean Sullivan: The Hope of West Oakland

In June 2008, I had the opportunity to blog about food security. The election happened. Despite its outcome, food insecurity in West Oakland persists. Until now and no, its not what you think.

What you’re probably thinking is that V Smoothe’s long ballyhooed Mandela Food Cooperative has finally opened. Longtime readers of this blog will remember this, this, and this.

Well, Mandela Foods, a food cooperative funded by large payout from the Councilmember as well as the citizen driven West Oakland Project Area Committee (WOPAC) had its “ground-breaking ceremony.” I was not in town that particular day. No, I wasn’t off in Jamaica looking for cocoa beans while Oakland businesses were robbed and the city needed leadership. I was in Los Angeles, working on the largest and most successful fundraiser for an LGBT organization in the history of California.

From what I understand from neighbors who attended, the ground-breaking ceremony included breaking down walls in the continuing construction of a store that is still, one month later and years after it was promised, still not actually operating. Don’t get me wrong, I have wanted this store to open but I, personally, don’t need this store to open. Many neighbors absolutely do need a grocery store to open. The average income of homes in West Oakland and the Prescott neighborhood is below the poverty line. With such a limiting income, maintaining a working vehicle can be a challenge as well and the two work against each other.

For me, living above subsistence and, not transit dependent, I do not face food insecurity, I face inconvenience when I need an ingredient or its late at night and I just want an apple. It’s a drive to Emeryville Pack and Save. What many West Oaklanders face is real food insecurity.

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Still waiting for Mandela Foods

Apparently, some people are tired of grocery store posts. I suggest those people scroll down and read my recaps of last week’s HarriOak All Candidates Forum and of last month’s District 5 League of Women Voters forum. I want to talk about Mandela Foods some more.

East Bay Conservative posted a photo showing the unimpressive state of the of the Mandela Foods store at the end of March. Since it’s been a while, I figured I’d stop by and check out their progress since I happened to be in the neighborhood yesterday. This is what I found:

Yes, that’s the same Mandela Foods that District 3 City Councilwomen Nancy Nadel claims on her re-election campaign website will be open in April, the same Mandela Foods that Nancy Nadel said would be open in April at the League of Women Voters Forum a month ago, and the same Mandela Foods that Nancy Nadel said at the All Candidates Forum a week ago would be opening in May. This is the same Mandela Foods that Nancy Nadel uses repeatedly in candidate forums as an example of how she has brought neighborhood serving retail to West Oakland. And they still haven’t even begun build-out. Folks, this store is not opening this month. At this point, I’m wondering if it’s going to open ever.

Remember, Nancy Nadel handed these people $100,000 of your money in October 2006, and the City Council voted to give them another $200,000 of tax money in September 2007. Meanwhile, we’ve limited the amount of produce a neighboring store is permitted to sell as a means of ensuring the success of Mandela Foods, and rejected another grocer who wanted to open up in the area next to a McDonalds and KFC because they didn’t pay enough. Our priorities are seriously out of whack.

Related posts:

Mandela Foods Cooperative: Subsidizing failure

West Oakland houses 28,000 people and does not have even one full-service grocery store. Residents with access to a car or near the Emeryville border can shop at Pak ‘n’ Save, but most of the area’s food needs are met at one of West Oakland’s 53 liquor stores, where produce is scarce and prices for staples tend to be significantly higher than at real grocers. (A 2005 UCSF School of Medicine study found that in Hunter’s Point liquor stores, a loaf of bread averaged $1.94 versus $1.09 in grocery stores elsewhere in San Francisco.) This places a serious burden on an area where the average income is only $12,000/year. Despite wonderful efforts by local groups to make produce more readily available, the food access and food security situation in the area is dire. Continue reading

Fresh & Easy update in the Trib. Also, shame on you, Nancy Nadel!

So today’s Trib has a story about the Fresh & Easy situation. It’s fine. It doesn’t say anything that hasn’t been covered here, but it’s good to have all the information in one place rather than scattered over months of posts. But this is ridiculous:

Lorie Alemania, president of Portfolio Property Investors — which, along with the East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation represents the third partner in JLG Associates — said Fresh & Easy’s decision was disappointing, but not wholly unexpected, given its announcement this month that the company would not open any new stores for three months.

Fresh & Easy announced their East Bay locations way before they announced they were pausing from opening US stores, and West Oakland, one of the very first Northern California location they had talked about, was never on the list. East Oakland was. If the store on 73rd and Bancroft never opens, then that is a result of Fresh & Easy’s financial problems. The lack of a store in West Oakland is entirely about conditions EBALDC placed on the lease. Continue reading

Finally, a clear answer on Fresh & Easy

Okay, so we finally have a firm answer on whether Fresh & Easy is coming to West Oakland or not. They aren’t. At last night’s All Candidates Forum, someone brought up the issue of a lack of grocery stores in West Oakland. As you may remember, Nancy Nadel had said in her Winter newsletter that Fresh & Easy had signed a lease at the formed Eugene Market space and would be open by “mid-2008.” Afterwards, she said that lease negotiations were still underway. Although there has never been a new report confirming that they signed a lease, people still keep saying that Fresh & Easy will be opening at the end of the year.

Last night, Nancy Nadel finally confirmed that Fresh & Easy is not coming to West Oakland, explaining that they were at one point close to signing a lease, but that the deal fell through because Fresh & Easy would not agree to a “living wage.” “So, do we want a company that won’t pay not even prevailing wage, but living wage, which is not very much.”

Here are Sean Sullivan and Nancy Nadel’s answers to the question:

I find this outrageous! People want to be able to buy food. People deserve a grocery store near where they live. Now we discover that a grocery store wanted to come to West Oakland, and we said no because they pay only $10/hr (plus benefits) instead of $10.39/hr, which I believe is the current minimum according to our Living Wage law (somebody please correct me if that’s outdated). This is exceedingly upsetting to me. Fresh & Easy, as I’ve noted before, is taking a pause from opening any more US stores right now, so who knows if they would have ended up opening anyway. But to reject the possibility of a grocery store in West Oakland over thirty nine cents an hour for starting positions is unconscionable. I am very disturbed that Nadel appears to endorse this decision. Continue reading

West Oakland is not getting a grocery store anytime soon

So, even though Fresh & Easy has already announced their first 18 Bay Area locations, and the only one in Oakland is at 73rd and Bancroft, people keep insisting that West Oakland will be getting one this year. This is probably at least partly due to the fact that Nancy Nadel published in her Winter newsletter that they had leased the former Eugene Market space, when, in fact, they had not. Anyway, Fresh & Easy has now announced that they’re going to be taking a three month “pause” from opening any more US stores. One Fresh & Easy follower thinks it’s going to take more than three months to fix the company’s US model, which has not been performing particularly well so far.

I’ll be back from vacation and back to real blogging tomorrow.

Related posts:

Bakesale Betty coming to downtown? OMG!

Whenever people ask me what downtown Oakland is missing, I answer without hesitation. A bakery! We need a bakery! It drives me insane that I can easily walk from my home to buy pretty much everything I need, except, you know, an edible cookie (and stockings).

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I saw this posted in a downtown window the other night: Continue reading

Green Jobs, Fresh & Easy

Okay. I’m keeping things short and sweet today. Apologies for the sparse posting the lately, but that will all be remedied next week. I have a very special treat prepared.


  • Apparently nothing at all has happened with the Green Job Corps that Clinton keeps praising us for and Dellums keeps bragging about. In fact, as of last week, the city hadn’t even written an RFP to find someone to spend this green jobs money that the Council approved in June. Incredible.
  • Does anyone know what’s going on with Fresh & Easy? Nancy Nadel said in her most recent newsletter that they had leased the Eugene Market space at 7th and Market. But then someone told me that their leasing agent told them that they hadn’t leased that space. I said they must have heard wrong because why would Nancy Nadel put something in her newsletter that wasn’t true? But now stories in the Chronicle and the Trib don’t say anything about that location, and the Chronicle story says “The company…is discussing several addresses in Oakland,” implying to me that they haven’t committed to one. Anyway, if anybody has any information as to whether Fresh & Easy at the Jack London Gateway is a sure thing or not, I’d love to hear about it. UPDATED: Okay, someone just forwarded me an e-mail Nancy Nadel sent them within the last week which says that Fresh & Easy is considering the space. So guess the claim in her newsletter than they had already leased was just a lie. Also in the forwarded e-mail, Nancy Nadel mentions that she is still working on starting her chocolate factory. Why she thinks its appropriate or fair to her constituents to be running for re-election while trying to start up a business is beyond me. And to think I thought it was impossible for District 3 residents to get any less attention from their Councilmember.

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Random Monday thoughts and links

I’m keeping things short today, on account of the holiday.