Steve Brown: Measure DD progress report

If you’ve walked around the south end of Lake Merritt lately, you may have noticed construction equipment and big pieces of concrete sewer pipe stacked in the median area of the busy 12th Street Dam. Your heart may have jumped, like mine did, as you thought perhaps this is the start of the long-awaited destruction and rebuilding of that crumbling bit of infrastructure.

Alas, the equipment there is just being stored by Andes Construction, which, according to Joel Peter of the City of Oakland, is doing a sewer project in the nearby neighborhood. The company is using the median area, originally designed as a bus-stop island with tunnels linking it to the sidewalks on either side of the busy streets, as a place to stack up pipe sections and heaps of dirt (which is what fooled me into thinking they were digging).

According to Peter, the 12th Street project “is still creeping through the endless Federal funding process, which is administered by CalTrans.”

He said there’s been progress, and the city “may be able to advertise it for bid in a month or two” which would let construction start in early 2010.

Peter stressed, however, that “the CalTrans timeline is out of our control.”

Meanwhile, a huge wooden platform that used to hold stacked up rowing shells by the Oakland Municipal Boathouse has been floated over to the south edge of the lake, and it’s brought a huge host of birds with it. This morning there were 55 cormorants perched there at 8 o’clock. Last week no fewer than 10 huge white pelicans made it a temporary home.

The platform was moved as part of the renovations at the boathouse, set to hold the Lake Chalet restaurant.

The city will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. at the boathouse.

Steven E.F. Brown is a business reporter who lives in Oakland.

71 thoughts on “Steve Brown: Measure DD progress report

  1. freddy

    The east side of the lake (the Parkway side) stinks like
    SH*T! Literally. They dumped a bunch of manure, spread it around, and it’s just sitting there uncovered. It’s been like this for a couple of weeks. IT REEKS!

    This whole “improvement” is a complete joke. The lake was much more enjoyable before with trees and grass.

    The cut down the trees. They tore up the lawn and filled it in with concrete. And what is left is covered with SH*T!

  2. Born in Oakland

    Wow ! Andes Construction, Federal Gov’t and CalTrans! Think of the countless meetings, the reams of paper (not to mention the trees) wasted on process, process, process. Does anyone other than the guys at the job site do any real work? They are “shovel ready”. But first, the other agencies have to “shovel” something else without getting their hands dirty. We voted for the improvements at a fixed cost. The longer it takes, the more hours get billed and the more bond money is wasted. Watch the City come back to the trough on this one. I agree with freddy, this project is really starting to smell.

  3. dto510

    I just learned that the city did not install bike parking in the new boathouse parking lot, and plans to install bike racks at some point in the future in the dirt. It’s very unfortunate how the city is unable to accommodate needs other than drivers’.

  4. Robert

    and here I thought you would have preferred bike parking away from the cars and closer to the boat house.

  5. dto510

    Bike parking should be on an impermeable surface in a well-trafficked area. My understanding is that the dirt location for bike parking is not within easy view of the restaurant, but in any event parking in dirt is unacceptable and violates the city’s Bike Rack Placement Requirements:

  6. Naomi Schiff

    Bike racks notwithstanding (and I hope everyone can work together and come up with a good way to handle bike parking) it was a real thrill to see the boathouse today, looking spectacular (especially if you remember its dowdy decades as park offices) with a sizable crowd, and things looking promising for the restaurant opening there. Of course as with any large undertaking the DD projects have had some hiccups and warts, but overall, a terrific achievement. And apparently, 150 new jobs are coming with the new restaurant.

  7. John Klein

    I was standing with Pat Kernighan’s Chief of Staff today at the Boat House Re-Dedication when one of your cohorts on the Bicycle Advisory Board raised the issue of the missing bike racks. Ms. COS acknowledged this and indicated the racks are simply late, as of today.

    I ride around the Lake often and I agree with you that the racks are necessary at the Boat House; I doubt that anyone disagrees. We’ll need to make sure the racks are installed asap.

    As far as placement, they necessarily need to be in an open and visible area. There should a number of good spots along the front of the Boat House. It might be helpful to identify 1-2 good spots now and make those known. This would put you ahead of the game in case the racks show up but a spot hasn’t been designated. This might increase the chance of the racks being installed in a less desireable area. Start squeaking now, I say…

  8. Russell Spitzer

    It is fertilizer. It helps stuff grow. Its not super toxic and its great for getting new growth. It won’t smell forever. Deal with it.

  9. John Klein

    freddy, you’re a ‘city boy,’ aren’t you? As Russell so eloquently explained, manure smells really bad – always has. But it adds a lot of nutrients to the soil to aid plant growth.

    I talked with the landscape contractor this morning. They have been working at preparing for the new lawns for several weeks. Some pictures from today are here:

    They will begin installing the new lawn next week. They will roll out 150,000 square feet of sod. He also said they will be planting “really a lot” of trees in the five foot medium strip between the curb and sidewalk. He said that, two weeks from now, the entire length of Lakeshore Ave. will look completely different than it does now.

    I hope you can hold you nose for that long, city boy…..

  10. navigator

    Unfortunately the goose manure will remain long after the affects of the steer manure are no longer noticeable. The current level of maintenance at Lake Merritt is atrocious. According to Nancy Nadel there is nothing the City of Oakland can do to hose down the goose poop, pull the weeds, mow the lawns, maintain the plants and shrubs, clean the graffiti from park benches, light standards, paths, retaining walls, garbage containers, etc.

    Also, Lakeside Park is a complete embarrassment. The “beach” area near the bandstand is filthy with goose poop, dead grass, bird feathers, graffiti on the benches and retaining walls and the sand is eroded exposing a nasty drainage pipe. This is where children are suppose to go play on that sad cement climbing structure?

    The bird sanctuary area is another embarrassment with rotting benches, goose poop, pigeon poop, bird feathers, broken fencing, broken paths, etc.

    According to Nancy Nadel there is no money and no creative ways to improve maintenance at Lake Merritt. She says that Measure DD did not include any money for maintenance and the Lighting and Landscaping taxes are not sufficient to keep up with the improvements. I’ve suggested many creative ways to try to improve maintenance at Lake Merritt. I’ve suggested a volunteer campaign sponsored by the City of Oakland and local businesses to get the many seniors living in the many retirement homes around the Lake involved in the maintenance and beautification of Lake Merritt. Likewise for school kids in the neighborhood. The Lake Merritt Institute already does a good job getting volunteers cleaning the waters at the perimeter of the Lake. Why not expand that volunteer program to get more residents involved in maintaining and beautifying Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park?

    Also, why not request some stimulus funds for the capital improvements badly needed around the Lake like the removal or repair of those floating wayward blighted docks along with funds to improve the “beach” area into something we would allow our children to use? The bird sanctuary area could also use the funds.

    If everything is as Nancy Nadel says, and nothing can be done, you can expect the many millions spent on paths, flowers, trees, shrubs, benches etc. to go to waste in a few months. We’ll start seeing dead grass, filthy paths covered and stained with goose poop, graffiti on the new benches, dying plants, and flowers intermingled with tall weeds. This is the future of the beautiful Measure DD improvements voted on by Oakland taxpayers. For a glimpse of the level of maintenance of the new improvements take a look at the shabby, dingy, and neglected 18th Street Pier. How long did those improvements last? Take a look at the dingy Pergola on the other side of the Lake. Couldn’t these two recently refurbished landmarks use a good pressure washing and general cleaning?

    The leadership in Oakland is absolutely lacking and without any imagination. Nancy wrote me that Oakland is just too poor and too broke to think about doing anything about the current conditions at Lake Merritt. In Nancy’s view nothing can be done and Oaklanders are comfortable with mediocrity, neglect and blight. This is unacceptable from someone who is suppose to show leadership and creativity in dealing with these on-going problems. Nancy’s solution to the intrinsic and systematic neglect of Lake Merritt is for citizens to call Public Works to report specific problems in a peace-meal manner. Nancy writes that Oakland doesn’t have enough staff to know the level of neglect at Lake Merritt. Nancy acts like this blight is hidden and needs to be discovered. It takes me a 50 minute walk to realize that Lake Merritt is in shambles. Couldn’t Nancy, along with the rest of the Oakland City Council, take that very same 50 minute walk around the Lake? This is no mystery. It stares you in the face, it sticks to your shoes, it’s there for all too see in its infinite blight.

    Oakland city government is derelict in their duties. Do something to make Lake Merritt into something all Oaklanders can be proud of.

  11. Robert

    nav, some of the blame belongs to the voters in Oakland also, who are happy to approve bond issues for capital improvements without any thought about where the money to maintain things will come from.

  12. freddy

    Here’s what was listed in Measure DD:

    Specifically, the bond proceeds may be used to help finance the following projects:

    •replacement of the 12th Street culvert with an arched bridge;
    •improvements to water quality improvements, including storm water filters, trash barriers, wildlife waste clean-up facilities and aeration fountains;
    •improvements to Children’s Fairyland;
    •renovation and restoration of the municipal boathouse and the Lakeside Park sailboat house;
    •creation of park space and beach area along Lake Merritt south shore;
    •redesign of 12th Street to create pedestrian and bicycle access from Lake Merritt to Kaiser Convention Center and Channel Park;
    •renovation of maintenance facilities, landscaping, docks, restrooms, furnishings and signage;
    •repair of Lake Merritt retaining walls; improvement of pedestrian and bicycle paths and lanes in and around Lake Merritt;
    •reconfiguration of Bellevue Avenue; expansion of Snow Park;
    •reconfiguration of El Embarcadero roadways;
    •acquisition of land for environmental clean up and conservation;
    •clean up of hazardous materials clean up;
    •acquisition and construction of pedestrian and bicycle trails along the Estuary’s waterfront;
    •creation of public access area for shoreline parks, Martin Luther King wetlands and trails and City sportsfields;
    •acquisition and development of Estuary Park, Meadows Park, Union Point Park and creation of a new park along the Estuary waterfront;
    •removal of 10th Street; relocation of flood control barrier at 7th Street;
    •other Lake Merritt Channel and shoreline improvements;
    •East Oakland aquatic, sports and recreation facilities;
    •Studio One seismic renovations and recreation facilities;
    •creek restoration; and
    •acquisition of watershed protection easements.

    At the time, that sounded pretty good. Unfortunately “renovation and restoration of the municipal boathouse and the Lakeside Park sailboat house” transformed into spending $20 million turning public space into private space for the benefit of a upscale San Francisco restaurant.

  13. freddy

    And even more specific:

    B. Recreation and Youth Activities $14,500,000

    •Children’s Fairyland improvements, including historic restoration, drainage, amphitheater and play structure improvements
    •Renovate municipal boathouse and restore public use
    •Restore and renovate Lakeside Park sailboat house, including boat storage and conversion of parking lot to public shoreline area


    The word I keep noticing is “public.”

    So, country cousins, show me where it says “we’re gonna go way over budget to build a fancy restaurant’?

    Or perhaps bussing tables is now considered a Youth Activity?

    Do you farm boys know the difference between fertilizer and BS?

  14. len

    did a really nice job rehabbing studio one. it’s stayed strictly non commercial (actually, that’s probably a stipulation of the original donation of the building by the temescal residents). and it has no money for programming.

  15. Naomi Schiff

    The boathouse is going to be a lot more public than it was as a shambling rabbit warren of parks & rec offices; there are several different areas, including event space, the restaurant and bar, outdoor seating, rowing facilities and the gondola dock. So okay, you may have to buy an iced tea if you want to sit inside there for a long time. You have to pay at the Japanese Tea Garden in GG Park, to get into Fairyland, and to use public transportation, each also paid for by taxes.

    The project generates quite a number of jobs, a building that has been rehabilitated for the long term (no matter how long the particular business in question is there), a way to keep the gondola folks in business, another destination on the Lake, and creates additional activity. If you look at the DD projects as a totality, I think you will find that we are getting a lot done, and doing so at a time when creating a few construction jobs is not a bad thing. I’m sorry it went over budget. If it makes you feel any better, other parts of the DD projects have come in under budget, and additional funding is being applied for and granted, from other sources, so that we are leveraging our dollars. Let’s keep our eyes on the big picture.

    I have been known to be very critical of my city’s government, but I think it is great to see some actual results after a twenty-year effort to improve the Lake Merritt facilities, park, roads and walks. I am grateful to the taxpayers and I believe that the enhanced public assets DD is generating will have all kinds of benefits to the general public, private businesses, nearby property owners, park users, visitors, and employees both short and long term.

    I agree that we should fix up the sailboat house; it turned out to be in way worse condition than originally understood, and thus also more expensive than anybody wanted; but I am committed– as I think others are too– to help look for the additional money to put that one back together too. Are you willing to help, or are you just going to sit on the sidelines? I believe we can get more out of DD than promised in the original bond measure, and hope that with some energetic pushing and support we’ll get there.

  16. Ralph

    Walked by the lake this aftn en route to the EBE Party. Very pleased with the results. I am not sure if I have said the following before but I was giddy like a school girl.

    As for bussing being a valuable experience for some of Oakland’s youth, it is definitely valuable. I just don’t think the youth who would get the most out of it have the maturity to do it.

  17. navigator

    The measure DD improvements are nice but we need to find a way to maintain them at an adequate level. Also we need to deal with the reality that much of Lakeside Park is in shambles and desperately needs capital improvements not included in Measure DD funding. Sure, the perimeter of the Lake will look nice for a couple of months, but after that who will keep it up. Also, the decrepit condition of the “beach area” and the bird sanctuary area will remain along with the decrepit docks and the crumbling paths along the Fairyland side of the Lake. What are we going to do about these issues?

  18. Naomi Schiff

    Get active with Lake Merritt Institute (lake cleanups every Saturday), “adopt a spot” through the Public Works Dept., one of the Lakeside Park Garden Center groups, Friends of Oakland Parks & Recreation, and/or the Oakland Parks Coalition. You can pick from direct tasks such as litter pickup and pruning and lake-trash-skimming, or longer term less-direct but just as important tasks such as RAISING MONEY for FOPR or helping with OPC efforts. There are many people who share your concern. We can help make it better, meet our neighbors, and get some exercise in the bargain. If half the people who read ABO would volunteer at the lake for half a day now and then, or donate to these groups, it would make a significant contribution.

    The continual cuts to the Parks and Rec budget started some years ago. We have a fraction of the parks staff we used to, and it really hurts. What you are addressing is the distinction between financing capital improvement budgets (often done with bond measures) and the harder task of funding ongoing maintenance and staffing budgets, and I agree that it is a terrible problem. Because the Parks Dept. and libraries staffs are funded largely through the city’s General Fund, every time there is a budget cut these departments get devastated. And because they are small, the damage is worse than to the police and fire depts. Somehow, they rarely add park positions when times are flush. Lately, only cutbacks.

    On the outside-funding side, some people have been discussing establishing a park conservancy something like the one in New York City for Central Park. (Now all we need is a local Yoko Ono to fund it!) Would you be interested in thinking about this?

  19. livegreen

    The beautiful Lake Merritt lawns & grass are void of people and families enjoying them. There is but one reason for this: Goose Poop. Until this issue is addressed Lake Merritt will not become the center of recreation in the City that it deserves to be. And if this does not happen, it will not get the attention, repairs and volunteers that it also deserves.

    This also negatively impacts the businesses near the lake and lessens the use of the lake as a gathering points for families and events. If it were used for this people would spend much more time there, flowing back and forth from the lake and all it’s amenities to the businesses and neighborhoods as they enjoy their Saturday & Sunday afternoons.

    A solution has GOT to be found which helps contain birds (& bird feeders) in the area of the Bird Sanctuary, is open to migrating geese & other foul, but deters or eliminates the non-migrating birds.

    Without this Lake Merritt will not become the center of weekend recreation that similar parks are in other cities. & all else that flows from there…

  20. Max Allstadt

    A great solution to the goose problem would be to allow dogs on the Lake Merritt trails and lawns. Dogs will scare the geese off and they’ll contain themselves.

  21. Ralph

    As long as you have parents with young children, you will have geese all over the place. I have tried to bribe geese hunters to kill the geese but apparently no amount of money will convince them to hunt in a sanctuaries. There has to be some way to reduce the population.

  22. navigator

    Thank you Naomi. These are great great suggestions and ideas. If only I had gotten that response from our Council member Nancy Nadel. Unfortunately, all I got is “Oakland is a poor city,” Oakland is broke,” and there is nothing we can do about the decrepit conditions at Lakeside Park, etc.

    I’m glad that we have so many volunteer organizations which can greatly contribute to making Lake Merritt into the beautiful, clean, well maintained, family oriented park it should be. I’m afraid many people just don’t know that all of these volunteer organization for the betterment of Lake Merritt exist. I don’t buy the “we can’t do anything” argument from Oakland city government. I don’t buy the argument that Oakland is “a poor city” with no “corporate support” as the reason for the complete neglect of Lakeside Park. Oakland has tens of thousands of well to do citizens in districts like Montclair, Rockridge, Crocker Highlands, Claremont, Oakmore, Ridgemont, etc.

    Oakland also has large corporations like Clorox, Kaiser, Dreyer’s, Cost Plus, Ask, which should have a vested interest in improving the quality of life in Oakland.

    Oakland is a much richer city than the conditions at Lakeside Park imply. I refuse to believe that Oakland’s well-to-do residents and corporations simply don’t give a dam about their city. The problem is organization, leadership, and a complete negative and complacent “cant do attitude” which dominates City Hall.

    Come on Oakland residents let’s take care of the beautiful asset we have which many cities in the Country would die for. Letting Lake Merritt rot is NOT an option for Oakland. We’re better than this!

  23. navigator

    Let’s hit up Clorox for some money to repair those crumbling docks. Let’s ask Kaiser for some money to fix up the “beach” area near the bandstand. Let’s interest Cost Plus in repairing the bird sanctuary area. Let’s ask the CEO of Ask who lives in an 17,000 square foot mansion in Hiller Highlands, for some funds to help with the beautification of Lakeside Park. Come on, the only thing “poor” about Oakland is its horrible can’t do attitude!

  24. David

    Kill the geese. Donate the meat to food pantries. Heck, they’re so tame, I could start with a baseball bat to kill a few; it’s not like you even need to shoot them.

    once again, suckered into voting for a bond issue, and *surprise* money gets taken from taxpayers’ pockets, yet the stated goals are never fulfilled. And in 3 years, they’ll come around and try to steal more of your money. There’s a word for that. Suckers.


  25. Naomi Schiff

    As mentioned above, Oakland is well along in meeting many of the goals of Measure DD, which was always expected to bond in three tranches. Only the first third of the bonds have been issued. The money from the first cycle is almost used up. Now, on to the second part. More project completions to come!

    About the geese: there are ongoing efforts to distinguish between the migratory and the resident geese and to understand the life cycles, migrations and feeding habits. The current program has been to addle the goose eggs laid in the park so there will be fewer young hatching here. There ought to be a more aggressive policy to discourage feeding the birds in the park. This might also help with the pigeon population.

    It IS a national bird sanctuary, the oldest in the country. Although I am a lifelong dog owner, I do not think it appropriate to let dogs run in the park (actually it is signed as NO DOGS altogether, although not well-observed). How would the dogs know to chase resident geese off the grass, but not disturb the many ducks, cormorants, herons, pelicans, and humans?

    There are too many people using the park for dogs to be a solution, unless there is planning to train a team specifically for goose control. We can’t have miscellaneous uncontrolled dogs in this heavily-used park, among children, joggers, bikers, and walkers.

    The main attractant for the geese is lawns. They like to eat the grass. We should have a discussion about grassy areas; where they are needed, perhaps some low temporary fencing during the time when the geese are flightless would be the best solution. Could any of the grass areas be replanted with other vegetation (perhaps more native plants?) that presents fewer problems?

    We need a combination of scientific understanding, appropriate landscaping, and good maintenance and management to solve the goose problem. (Shooting them won’t work, as there are thousands of geese willing to take the place of any that disappear.) As a wildlife sanctuary, humans are not the only species to be considered.

  26. livegreen

    Naomi, There is Goose poop every square inch of grass around Lake Merritt. Until something is done to contain them, people will not be able to use any of the lawns & grass, and Lake Merritt will not live up to it’s potential.

    I do believe in finding a balance and I do agree that humans are not the only species to be considered. However that doesn’t mean the humans have no say in what happens and the geese get full control of the park to be run as they see fit.

    Which is how it stands now. Until we find a workable way to contain them, apparently Geese are the only species to be considered.

  27. Max Allstadt

    I am absolutely baffled as to why leashed dogs aren’t allowed on the path around the lake. But Oakland households have more dogs than children. This is a dog loving town with dogs banned, even on leash, in almost all of our parks.

    It’s idiotic, and when council gets back into session they need to fix it. If mob rule can get them to reconsider a revenue losing repeal of parking fees, mob rule should be able to get them to repeal a revenue-neutral dog ban.

  28. len raphael

    Max, EBay regional parks sets no dog policy restrictions for wildlife areas it controls, including the Harbor park. One of the park rangers while refraining from ticketing me; was saying that the bird poop has lots of bad germs/parasites etc for dogs. don’t think it was a scare tactic.

  29. Naomi Schiff

    Over the years there has been quite some discussion about dog parks and dogs and parks. I think your best informant is likely Nancy Rieser of the north lake group. EBRP also had a dog discussion in recent years.

    Things that always come up: what to do about liability and untrained dogowners. What to do about people who are frightened of dogs. Kids. Keeping walking paths clear so that runners can get by without tripping on a leash. Monitoring leash length. Dogs fighting.Cleaning up poop. Etc. etc. I have generally walked (run) dogs off leash in Redwood Park, where it is allowed in some but not all areas. EBRP requires dogs on leash in wildlife protection areas and areas intended for picnic/kid/camping/swimming uses.

    Obviously in city parks dogs would have to be on six foot leashes. Some parks may be able to accommodate it better than others. At Lake Merritt, the outer sidewalks have been de facto okay for dogs since Jerry B. started running his dog there. And since those are the only sidewalks along one side of the street, I think arguably there’s no way to forbid it anyhow. However, it is a bird refuge. Dogs don’t belong in bird refuges, generally. For instance, they are forbidden at the esteros similar marshbird habitats in the GGNRA.

  30. Max Allstadt

    I don’t think all of our lakeside park land should remain a bird refuge. We treat it like our central park, it’s an urban park, and if it is to be shared by birds, they should get a fraction at most. There are already inaccesable islands for them to shelter in. Maybe add a few more islands, keep the sanctuary structure and areas off limits, and open the rest of the park to dogs. I don’t know how to change this, or what the legal hurdles are, but it should definitely change. If mob rule can be mustered on this it will rapidly become clear that the people like dogs better than geese.

    As for those other dog-related concerns:

    The untrained dog owners should be liable for their dogs.
    Leash lengths should be set, and leashes should be required in urban parks.
    Fine people for not picking up poop.
    Runners and dog owners should use common sense and courtesy.
    Dogs that fight should be dealt with by their owners either with consensus or in civil court.

    Done. Why was it so easy? Because that’s how it’s handled most everywhere other than our uptight city.

  31. Robert

    AS an FYI, Lake Merritt is a state wildlife sanctuary, and not a national wildlife refure. I am not sure what differences that will make in the legal situation.

  32. navigator

    Something really needs to be done about the incredible amount of goose poop around Lake Merritt. I’ve brought out of town guests to the Lake and they’ve been disgusted by the goose poop everywhere. It’s come to the point that my wife will no longer accompany me on walks around the Lake. It’s just too sad and demoralizing for her to see the neglect.

    If the new Lake Chalet restaurant wants to succeed, I suggest cleaning up the goose poop before you have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Only in Oakland do you throw a party and forget to clean the crap in front of your house. Totally unbelievable. Believe it or not, people pay attention when they step on goose poop. It’s not a pleasant experience and it doesn’t do a darn thing for your appetite.

  33. Naomi Schiff

    Lake Merritt is National Historic Landmark, listed this way by the National Park Service, which maintains the list:

    And it is correct that it was voted a wildlife refuge in 1870 by the state legislature. Mayor Mott declared it a national refuge at a time when there was not yet such a national program in existence. This was the first area so declared. For history of wildlife refuges:

    The birds long predate the people, though the goose resident population dates to the 1950s. This is a key location on the Pacific Flyway, and migratory bird populations in general (not just Canada geese, but many many species, including some endangered ones) need all the help they can get. Max, I don’t think removal of designation would be possible, nor do I think it a worthy objective. And you would be taking on the Audubon Society, among others. And probably requiring a huge EIR among other things.

    The dogs and people have a lot of places they can go, but this is a unique resource for the birds. It was a huge estuarine marshland, originally, and already is very much reduced from its natural extent. (Have you ever noticed the high curbs on Lakeshore? The “lake” used to routinely flood Lakeshore and I have spoken to people who remembered taking a boat to get to school.) Look at an old map of Oakland and you will see that what is now Laney College was open water and marshland. Veterans Memorial Building, part of Oakland Museum, and the old Auditorium are also standing on former marsh. So the humans already took over plenty of its territory.

    In general there is a longstanding prohibition on dogs in Oakland parks. Here is the link for details:

    There have been many studies and discussions about the geese. I hope everyone will contribute generously to the Lake Merritt Institute and help them solve the ecological problems at the lake. They have the best handle on it, and work with the city to address water quality, litter, pollution, and bird issues.

  34. livegreen

    So the Lake was designated a State Wildlife Refuge in 1870 and now it protects Geese that:
    –Didn’t arrive here until the 1950′s and aren’t native to the area;
    –By 2010 will have doubled in population;
    –A good portion of which aren’t even wild anymore.

    Sorry, but there’s something wrong with this picture. The link that Robert posted lists several proposals for the City about how to curb or contain the Geese.

    Tell me Naomi, what is wrong with a little compromise and action here?

  35. Naomi Schiff

    I’m not saying goose control should be ignored. Of course it is a problem and we need some good solutions.

    I was saying we should not undesignate our wildlife refuge, as it shelters many kinds of migratory birds. And it seems obvious that shooting and whacking big birds would not be good nor easy solutions. There has been quite a bit of study and discussion, also some interesting population counts, and some actions have been undertaken. Whatever is successful and most humane is what we should do. We should also find funding for park staff, so they can run their cool goosepoopscooper machine (they really do have one!) more frequently. What about planting nonattractant landscaping wherever possible? Grass lawns may be part of the problem.

    Please note that not all the geese are permanent residents. Population studies have determined that there is a colony of residents, but also a large number of migratory birds that stop here relatively briefly; the numbers vary widely around the year. Goose presence is particularly irritating at the time when the birds are flightless, having molted, and can’t leave even if they want to.

    I believe the geese are native to the area as migrants and winter residents, as they are present in most of the US. What changed is that they began to breed here instead of farther north, and some birds hung around as residents.

    Weird too is the number of obviously non-wild geese that live at the lake. There are a few that look barnyardesque or like they made it over to the lake from some poultry market or farm. Escaped pets or escaped dinner, I wonder?

  36. navigator

    They City has a “goosepooperscooper machine” and they didn’t even run it before the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Boat House? There was goose poop everywhere along the new paths around the Boat House. If you’re going to have a ribbon cutting ceremony why would you leave the improvements in the area full of goose poop? This a perfect example of how Oakland is completely devoid of common sense.

  37. David

    Geese aren’t endangered animals. They pollute one of the few decent, accessible parks that aren’t filled with junkies, bums and whores. (no I don’t count some trail up in Tilden as “accessible” going back to what’s “walkable”–try walking there with a 4 year old from the flats).

    They also make good eating. Kill them, eat them. It’s rather easy to distinguish between a goose and say, a cormorant. Like I said, the geese so tame, clubbing them would probably suffice and serve as a good lesson to surviving geese.

    I don’t care if they’re “native” or not. I don’t care that it’s a “sanctuary”–the gov’t makes the rules on that, it can make a rule that geese don’t get protection. Mosquitoes are native too, and still a pest. Geese are no different.

  38. Naomi Schiff

    David, Killing the geese is not a real option. It won’t go anywhere. If you want to take up hunting you won’t be doing it in Lakeside Park.

    We took both our daughters to Redwood Park (shadier that Tilden), occasionally one of the other EBRP parks, from gestation on, nearly every week until they became teenagers with their own lives. We did drive to get up there, and bus access to the parks is certainly inadequate. But even at two they could walk a short distance along the paths. After all, humans did not evolve in a paved world. I see plenty of small kids in those parks.

  39. Robert

    David, if you are so worked up about the geese, go read the report I linked above about what the restrictions are and what can be done within the law. Then you have several options. Talk to the city about volunteering to help implement some of the control strategies. Maybe they would let you or nav drive the goosepooperscooper. Or start a grass roots effort to change the state and federal laws that protect the lake and migratory waterfowl to allow you to remove the geese. Or do what I do, which is not go down the the lake so much during the months where there are high numbers of migratory geese. I think that it is possible for people to adapt to the rhythms of the natural world. It does not always need to be a carefully manicured landscape for the sole enjoyment of humans.

  40. David

    And this is why people in the Bay Area in general are still sitting in the same old &&&& since 1960 or 1920 or 1900, depending on what part of the Bay they’re in..

    Problem: Too many geese/pigeons/rats/alligators/whatever.
    Solution: Kill the animals.

    Bay Area: Talk it to death, and then tell people who don’t like to walk in crap to go somewhere else.

    Chicago had a rat problem. A generation of politicians didn’t do anything about it.
    Daley comes in. Poisoning them becomes a regular event. Problem solved. This isn’t rocket science.


  41. John Klein

    Now this is a lovely vision for Lake Merritt: pit bulls and dobermans roaming freely (all handled by “responsible owners” of course…), clubbing and eating the geese. Yeah, these are things we’d all to be part of on the weekends down there.

    The only things you’d get rid of with these approaches would be the families, kids, seniors, etc.

    Hmm…I don’t think we are quite there yet on the solutions to the dog and geese issues at the Lake.

  42. Max Allstadt

    Nice hyperbole. And nice bias against breeds that have a bad rep because of local TV news sensationalism.

    Dogs on leashes should not be a problem, throughout the lakeside, with the exception of the area near the bird sanctuary structure. Anybody who thinks we could get them allowed off-leash isn’t thinking realistically.

    Geese? I saw that PDF that robert posted, and I like the idea of goose exclusion zones, but the ones shown on that document are too small. Goose zones and no-goose zones on that map should be switched in size. A small inclusion zone should be enough.

    As for EIRs and the Audobon Society, we don’t need to do that. All we need is to remember that we don’t have park rangers anymore, and we also need to make friends with dog-loving members of the OPD top brass. Apathetic enforcement might be all we need for our dogs.

    Also, The Canada Goose has a conservation status of “Least Concern”. It would be hard to make any argument against culling the flocks that didn’t involve “cutism” or sentimentality. The species is abundant in the wild, and the center of our city simply isn’t “the wild”.

    A little excerpt from Wikipedia:

    “In North America, non-migratory Canada Goose populations have been on the rise. The species is frequently found on golf courses, parking lots and urban parks, which would have previously hosted only migratory geese on rare occasions. Owing to its adaptability to human-altered areas, it has become the most common waterfowl species in North America. In many areas, non-migratory Canada Geese are now regarded as pests. They are suspected of being a cause of an increase in high fecal coliforms at beaches. An extended hunting season and the use of noise makers have been used in an attempt to disrupt suspect flocks.

    Since 1999, The United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services agency has been engaged in lethal culls of Canada Geese primarily in urban or densely populated areas. The agency responds to municipalities or private land owners, such as golf courses, who find the geese obtrusive or object to their waste. Addling goose eggs and destroying nests are promoted as humane population control methods.”

  43. Ralph

    Lake Merritt is the jewel of Oakland. This area of Oakland is populated by people with pets, runners, joggers, walkers, parents and strollers and those damn geese. That said, there is no reason why we can’t all get along. Cull the geese (we do it at the airport), and walkers, joggers, strollers, and pets stay to the right. Owners keep leashed pets from straying into the path of the runners.

  44. Patrick

    David, let’s see here…so the introduced species in Chicago (rats) were poisoned to death and that is a good thing. Lake Merritt is the historical flyway for these geese and other birds so the introduced species is – us. I’d like grape, please (kool-aid that is).

  45. Max Allstadt


    Canada Geese may have historically landed here, but they did it in much smaller numbers than they do today. And the reason the numbers keep rising is because humans like lawns and are creating more of them, and geese like to eat lawn grass. Human impact has attracted them, artificially, in greater numbers. Human impact can repel them or reduce their numbers too.

    As far as “historical” goes, how far back to we have to look? And which animals get grandfathered in? I be there are some historical buildings in this town that are historical termite habitats too. Let’s preserve those historical habitats!

    This debate is ultimately about whether an urban park should be rendered less attractive by pandering to bird enthusiasts. It’s about whether the desires of a special interest group should come before the needs of the general public. The general public appears to seriously dislike goose shit, and they should be accommodated by any available means.

  46. Ralph

    The general public dislikes a number of things but we don’t exactly have a council or a mayor who do things that appeal to the general public. They are however very good at catering to the needs of the few.

  47. Solace

    Wake up everybody. You have been under seige since 1978 and if you need more clues just consider what has happened again and again with the bust and the various up and down motions of the real estate market. you are all up for sale.

    Remember the Coffee Mill and Peter’s efforts. the Elmwood Group sold out, by and by. It’s not hard to see what’s going on if you live in the clinton manor where there are NO parking meters, nothing is enforced, and millions have been spent on infrastructure that is already deteriorating.

    Homeless people are everywhere, behind every bush and in so many doorways and foyers. Motorhomes and R/v’s leave their garbage and human waste eveerywhere. People urinate in broad daylight. where’s the city council on this?

    Just look at the park, Clinton Park. It’s a free garbage dump. Worse yet, the ordinances that restrict/prohibit styrofoam use, among other things, is completely lost on this area.

    On Sundays, parking is a free-for all. How about getting some of these mercenaries out of their cars and on foot-patrol. Do that and you will get all the neighborhood cooperation you need. do it not and you will further alienate what’s left of the longstanding, and prideful residents of Oakland. the newbees are perfectly content to see this taking place.

    I repeat, we are undeer seige. The council should be concerned. But what we need to understand is that there must be plans involving a continued drain on the cities limited tax base. It can’t be made up for by increasing peoples pensions and blindlessly pandering to the unions. There has never been enough money to sustain this pattern, but it continues because of the speculation over selling “public” property.

    and who really benefits. The public should be privy to what the city auditors know about who owns what and how much they get. then we should ask how did that happen. Your city government of coursee.

  48. Solace

    For Naomi, et al: The rather barnyard looking geese are hybrid geese I’ve been told. they actually adopt entire flocks of canadian geese. what’s really telling is that just past the 5th ave overpass, along the Embarcadero are areas that are teeming with these geese. They are distinctive and really mean business; they are the canadian geese’s guardians in every sense of the word.

    I inquired about this some years ago, as I was concerned about the role of the adults in culling their own numbers. It is shocking to see them torment the crippled and out-of-place gooslings. This frequently occurs when people prance their dogs, any size, by the cresh. the little ones get disoriented and this is so unnecessary. It would be more merciful to just kill them than make the babies suffer in this manner.

    do people with dogs even realize how they are tormenting these animals?

  49. navigator

    If Oakland can’t get it together as far as controlling the number of geese at the Lake, then they have to find a way to clean the goose crap. I went by the Boat House yesterday and the paths still had Thursday’s goose shit in the same designated areas.

    Also, the improvements already look sad. The new paths are already stained, the parking lot has tire marks all over it, some of the plants already look like they’re dying, and I just noticed that cars will be allowed to park on what looks like part of a very wide sidewalk in front of the Boat House. Get ready for some serious oil stains on that porous surface. What an idiotic idea to allow cars to park on what looks like a very wide sidewalk. Not only will it create blight with oil stains and trash, but it’s dangerous for the walkers and joggers in that area.

    Oakland truly is an incompetent third rate city. There is no other way to explain the stupidity and neglect. What a waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer money on a city which has no idea how to maintain anything.

  50. David


    Rats are filthy, disgusting, dangerous vermin. They are common, spread disease and deserve to die.

    Geese are filthy, disgusting, perhaps not as dangerous vermin. They are common, spread disease and deserve to die.

    The difference? Geese make some good eatin. Rats, not so much, although I hear they can taste all right.


  51. Chris Kidd

    You know what else can be filthy, disgusting, common, and effective carriers of disease?

    ….yeah…. us.

    Not sure how we taste, though.

  52. Robert

    Here I though nothing could get folks on this blog worked up as much as parking. Thank goodness the geese have save us from that.

  53. PRE

    This tread started out with complaining about the work around the lake taking too long, and the fact that they cut down some trees, without the slightest idea that a big part of the reason the work was delayed was because some complainers tried to sue to stop the trees from being cut. Then 45 comments about geese and now we end with complaints about tire marks on a parking lot.

    Tire marks on a parking lot?

  54. Ralph

    Tire tracks on a parking lot? Yeah, I have a hard time getting worked up about that. But I do wonder if it makes sense for a parking lot to look like a sidewalk. We all know that children run around like idiots. We also know that parents sometimes ignore children running around like idiots. Children running around like idiots may not make the distinction between the sidewalk and the parking lot. You hope the cars will help but are they really looking for cars when they are running like idiots.

  55. PRE

    Seeing the Boathouse with my own eyes walking by today, it seems to me that with a few minor kinks (sidewalk parking among them, valet perhaps?) that Measure DD (which was the original thread of this post) has done exactly what I and Oaklanders voted for. In this case, it’s taken a building that I would venture 99% of people have never thought twice about, and turned it into what looks like a real destination – one that I hope to enjoy many times in the future. Isn’t that what Measure DD was all about?

    And as Naomi Schiff mentions above (thank you for your VERY thoughtful posts!), only a portion of the funds have been issued and work on the 12th St Dam(n) should be commencing soon. I for one am excited about all of the terrific changes I see, and look forward to what’s in store.

    Finally, if anyone really wants to look for “incompetence” in a civic works project, I would suggest they hop on BART and get off at Civic Center and take a good long look at the SF Main Library. They practically had to have a book burning prior to opening because there wasn’t enough room to house the collection, not to mention that it’s a cold, ugly, uninviting space. The point is, Oakland has no monopoly on getting things wrong, and in this case, I think they’ve gotten most of it right.

  56. Karen Hester

    Interesting reading here and I especially appreciate Naomi’s thoughtful posts as always. I have just recently become a member of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and thought folks who read here would want to know that we are planning a Sunday Streets (closing Grand Avenue to cars on a Sunday, Oct 18th to go along the park). It will probably head into the Uptown after that.

    We are in the process of plannig the first Sunday Streets and will obviously need lots of volunteers on the day of. If you feel like doing something very positive for the park and the streets of Oakland to make them safe and healthy for a day at least, please sign up to join us at

  57. navigator

    It’s called frustration guys. I’ve been addressing these blight issues at Lake Merritt for years. I’ve taken pictures and sent them to the City Council to no avail. Tire marks on an area that used to be a green meadow is a big deal to me. Goose crap on top of the improvements is no improvement. Oakland deserves a lot better than this. Believe me, I’ve spent a whole lot of positive energy defending Oakland, but after a while, the incompetence, and the neglect gets to you.

  58. Patrick

    The problem with our city (it seems) is that there is no follow through. Every single great idea/project is destroyed by a lack of long-term responsibility. With the number of administrators our city has, we have an amazing lack of administration. What our city needs is to hire people who shadow government workers with one thought in mind: “what do you do all day?” I doubt the resulting report will be of much surprise to anyone. Well, maybe to Courtney Ruby.

  59. Steve R

    I’m also excited about the improvements around the lake and enormously frustrated by the multiple delays and our coucilmember’s negative, defeatist attitude, but when it all comes together in a couple of years (hopefully) we’re going to have a gorgeous park that will further transform the surrounding neighborhoods and could even be a regional attraction.

    But I think it’s appropriate to be concerned about on-going maintenance, which has always been a problem. Is there a way to know how many city employees are responsible for maintaining the lake and can we know what their responsibilities and schedules are? It’s micromanagement, I know, but it seems like we’re going to have to take matters in our hands in this town.

    Also, I’ve noticed Lakeside Park has been subjected to deforestation lately, mostly due to dying trees. How can we find out what reforestation plans are? The park has been badly neglected for years, but it doesn’t appear there are plans and funds for the park other than Children’s Fairyland and the Boat House. I would encourage participants on this blog to attend the monthly Measure DD meetings, maybe we can push for more positive changes.

  60. Naomi Schiff

    I recommend Oakland Parks Coalition.

    They post relevant information and are monitoring the service levels. Rather than taking up limited staff time with all of us demanding answers to your excellent questions, I’d suggest OPC as a good place to start. DD meetings are fine too, but more limited in scope as far as maintenance and ongoing staffing issues.

    Also, Parks & Rec Advisory Commission does have staff support. I’d suggest to contact members of the commission and make sure they emphasize these issues. The meetings are second Wednesdays of month, Lakeside Park Garden Ctr, open to public, and you can address them either on agendized items or as open forum.

    Again, while I think public participation is excellent and I am volunteering myself, I do think we need to be cautious about taking up limited staff time with answering queries when the answers are already out there.

  61. Solace

    Oakland has been called a whole of lot things…including the “arm-pit” of San Francisco. this is not just a funny thing to contemplate in light of what everybody should already know about where the break is, literally speaking. Sooner or later, maybe sooner than 10,000 years, San Francisco will be migrating towards Alaska. No big deal you might say, but Oakland has all the advantages in this context. The future of the West Coast is not San Francisco. Global warming will make this more and more obvious. The real city of the future is across the bay, here and further east. We need a visionary in this city yesterday.

    Dare I say we should have more regional authority and scrap all the redundant local institutions. Still, adopting a few ideas which come from San Francisco would help us get ready for the steady and relentless influx of cash-laden people from Asia.

    I hope people are really getting the impact of what is happening with the typhoons, etc all over the other side of the Pacific Rim. We need to do something now and quit speculating with government property, our property, and start planning for the inevitable.

    San Francisco has many, many more problems than Oakland, but they do the job with class and with real public input. Maybe it’s the advantage of being both a city and county. The issues are better addressed in spite of a dual bureacracy.
    S.F. was first with living wage I believe. They put shoes on the ground and they have been at the forefront of civil/human rights.

    How many porta-potties are set aside for homeless people in Oakland? What is the city of Oakland doing about it’s overtime? For a smaller city with so much more potential for growth beyond it’s mere local geography, how is it that this city is consistently mired in administrative dysfunction. The city of the future should take another lesson from San Francisco.

    here’s a recent article that should shed some light on how far behind we are:

  62. Tom W.

    Solace, I hope you won’t think I am being too picky here, (or too far off topic) but your remark “What is the city of Oakland doing about it’s overtime? ” distracts this reader. I’m sure that the misplaced apostrophe was unintentional on your part.
    It’s is a contraction for it is or it has.
    Its is a possessive pronoun meaning, more or less, of it or belonging to it.
    For some fun with this subject, you might want to visit the OPL to check out ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ by Lynne Truss.
    Respectfully yours,

  63. Solace

    OOOps, my bad. Sorry Tom. In the future I will be bettr at refining my posts via the editing protocols and determining where to place my comments on any unrelated subjects. I should have said east instead of west as well. It’s all good. Thanks.