Two opportunities Thursday to celebrate Oakland parks

You guys all know about the 12th Street reconstruction by Lake Merritt, right? Basically, they’re going to take the world’s shortest freeway right in front of the Kaiser Convention Center, which currently looks like this:

12th Street Brdge

And they’re going change it to this:

12th Street Reconstruction Plans

Here’s the City’s project description (PDF)

12th Street will be redesigned into a tree-lined boulevard with signalized intersections and crosswalks and a landscaped median. The redesign will create significant new parkland at the south end of Lake Merritt Park, remove unsafe and unsightly pedestrian tunnels, provide safer and continuous access for pedestrians and bicyclists along the perimeter of Lake Merritt, and improved access between the Kaiser Convention Center and Laney College. Remove of the Lake Merritt Chanel culvert at 12th Street will provide an open-water bridged connection and improve water flow between the Lake and the Estuary. Environmental benefits include improved water quality and wildlife habitat.

Anyway, some of you may remember that, a couple of months ago, there was some question as to whether we were going to actually go through with finally awarding a bid to build it due to concerns over the inability to require local hire on Federally funded projects.

Happily, the Council did decide to award the bid once the contractor agreed to commit to a voluntary local hire program. And tomorrow, 7 years, 6 months, and 2 days after Oakland voters approved the $200 million bond, Measure DD’s marquee project is finally going to break ground.

I can’t even tell you how many frustrated Oaklanders I’ve listened to complain about how deceived they feel over Measure DD and the lack of visible improvement and particularly the lack of any movement on the 12th Street project for so many years. And even when I have tried to be encouraging (“Well, you know, they’re still working on it. They’re trying to get some Federal grants. And hey, DD isn’t all bad. They’ve done a lot of work on water aeration!), I usually find my exceptionally weak attempts to defend the City met with eye-rolling. Which I suppose is probably fair, since, to be honest, for a long time, I really didn’t believe it was ever going to happen either.

But now it actually is! And if you just so happen to have nothing to do at 2 PM on a Thursday, well, you may want to stop by tomorrow’s groundbreaking ceremony:

12th Street Reconstruction Groundbreaking Invitation

Oh, and Navigator I’m sure will be thrilled to know that I was passing by there just yesterday and saw a whole bunch of people out picking up trash. So hopefully the setting for the ceremony won’t be too humiliating for Oakland.

Taste of Spring

I work near the Lake, so depending on how I feel tomorrow, I may try to take a late lunch and go check out the 12th Street ceremony. But I have to admit, commemorative shovels and ribbon cuttings and stuff like that isn’t really my thing. There really isn’t all that much to do, the speeches usually tend to be way too long, too numerous, and pretty boring. There’s only so much self-congratulation from politicians any reasonable person can be expected to voluntarily listen to, right? Especially while sober.

Basically, I prefer events that involve alcohol.

And conveniently, tomorrow, you have a second opportunity to celebrate and support Oakland’s beautiful parks and open spaces at the 2010 Taste of Spring, probably more frequently referred to as the Friends of Parks and Rec party. Like the groundbreaking, there will be speeches. And unlike the groundbreaking, this event costs money to attend. But your money goes to a really good cause. And also unlike the groundbreaking, it will have drinks and cool entertainment. Oh, and it also doesn’t conflict with most people’s jobs.

What do you get for your $50? Well, I’ll let the Friends make the pitch. From the Facebook event page:

Come enjoy a spectacular night and help raise money for our beloved yet underfunded parks and recreation centers.

Our seventh annual Taste of Spring event will feature delicious hors d’oeuvres, rare wines, an auction…and special entertainment including acrobatics, aerialists and more! Our special honoree this year is former board president Don Walls, and our corporate honoree is Alta Alliance Bank. And don’t miss this year’s community award presentation to our hometown team the Oakland Athletics.

Taste of Spring is especially important this year due to City of Oakland Parks and Recreation cuts and layoffs. All proceeds from this year’s event will go toward:

  • Capital improvement projects for parks and recreational facilities in Oakland.
  • Grants and scholarships for children of Oakland to take swimming and boating lessons.
  • Supplies and equipment for youth, adults and seniors to participate in educational and recreational programs.

The party goes from 5:30 to 8:00 tomorrow night at the Rotunda Building in downtown Oakland (300 Frank Ogawa Plaza). Tickets are $50 if you buy online in advance or $65 at the door. Hope to see some of you there!

32 thoughts on “Two opportunities Thursday to celebrate Oakland parks

  1. Ken Lupoff

    Thanks for the Shout-out V!

    I hope that folks can attend the Friends of Oakland Parks and Rec event tomorrow night. The price is admittedly a bit hefty, but it is for a great cause (as you mentioned), raising money to support our parks and give scholarships to our city’s kids! Also, local hero Tyson Ross of the Oakland A’s will be on hand as well!

    Ken Lupoff, Marketing Chair
    Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation

  2. Naomi Schiff

    And thank you, V, for posting about the 12th Street project. Park mavens can attend BOTH these things: cake in the afternoon, drinks in the evening, for a balanced diet. I wrote a piece about the genesis of the project and plans for 12th Street, in case folks want more info:

    In addition to the city dignitaries, a number of the architects who brainstormed the plan will definitely be there. The visionary local professionals who in 2001 volunteered an amazing reconfiguration for 12th Street and its new park: James Vann, Chris Pattillo, Cathy Garrett, Alan Dreyfuss, Mike Pyatok, and Ron Bishop.

  3. Freddy

    From oaklandnet:

    “The construction duration will be 500 working days, which is about two years. But when normal weather delays over two winters are considered it is likely that the work will extend until late 2012.”


  4. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, it is a big project. But then, I waited 34 years from the day that the owners of the Fox Oakland decided to demolish it for a surface parking lot, until its rehabilitation and reopening, so this one seems relatively speedy to me at only 11 years.

    The bond measure was passed during the building boom. By the time they put out the original requests for 12th St. bids, construction prices came back considerably too high. So the city held off. This time when they put the project out to bid, it came in about 4-5 million dollars UNDER the estimate. It will make some construction jobs at a time when they are much needed.

  5. livegreen

    Thanks, Naomi, for you & other long time citizens (Robert of the EBBC, I believe, is another) for hanging in there and working towards a better day.

  6. Naomi Schiff

    And thanks to you as well! Robert is a stalwart indeed! We do have to remember that not only bad things happen. Great things happen too, and we can appreciate Oakland and its citizens at least as often as we complain about them!

  7. Robert

    Daniel, while I think I understand your thinking, the “we’ve got extra money, lets find something to spend it on” is exactly the reasoning that has been a primary driver behind the current budget problems. While I realize that capital funding is separate from the operating funds, the line of thinking is the same. If there is money left over, don’t you think it would be better to reduce the public indebtedness and reduce the amount the property owners have to pay in taxes to pay off the bonds?

  8. Daniel Levy

    I wasn’t implying anything about the money. I was just wondering what it’s use it would have whether it is lowering public debt or lowering taxes, or whatever.

  9. Freddy

    This question may be more pertinent: how are they going to come up with extra money when this thing goes overbudget?

    And for those of us who walk Oakland & bike Oakland and travel through this corridor daily: what provisions will be made for us over the next three years while this area is fenced off?

  10. Robert


    A) Sorry, misunderstood.

    B) An excellent question, and very typical of the city over many years now of building capital improvements without any plan about how to pay for upkeep over the years.

  11. Naomi Schiff

    The Measure DD funds are quite clearly allocated into particular projects. Funds have to be used within each category. There is plenty of work to sop up any additinal funding, but we can’t move big chunks from one category to anothr. In this case, the project has expanded some due to infusions of funds form Coastal Conservancy and Federal government. We won’t know fr a while how this project is doing with comparison to its budget, because as they take down the old structure no one quite knows what they will find. I hope it will be done to budget or for less.

    Upkeep is a very serious concern and does not at present have a great answer. Some of us have been talking about establishing a conservancy similar to what Central Park in NYC has. (If only Yoko Ono lived on Bellevue Avenue instead of in the Dakota on Central Park West!)

    There are other pieces of DD improvements that will also be going forward.

    The plan for traffic during the interim is to put a temporary roadway through the parking lot at Kaiser Auditorium. No doubt it will be somewhat confused for awhile.

  12. Ralph

    Daniel, you can google NYC Central Park Conservancy for more info. It is worth your time.

  13. Navigator

    I can’t believe this is actually happening. It’s unfortunate that its taken this long and we still have two more years of construction until we can enjoy the final product. Having said that, this project has the potential to have a transformational effect on the quality of life in Oakland. If we can link Lake Merritt directly to the Oakland Museum and possibly a new ballpark down the Lake Merritt Channel on Victory Court, we will have changed the cultural and economic dynamics in Oakland.

    We will also need to find a way to maintain these fantastic improvements. Naomi has a great idea with patterning ourselves after Central Park by establishing a conservancy. We have enough Oaklanders with money to make this happen. We can also ask “good corporate citizens” like Lew Wolff, or maybe Clorox, Ask, Signature Properties, Kaiser, Jack London Partners, Lake Chalet, as well as other successful Oakland restaurants, Cost Plus, Dreyer’s, etc. for some help. An improved and beautifully maintained Lake Merritt will be a regional and even National draw for Oakland. All of these businesses stand to gain from a beautiful lake and park in the middle of downtown.

    The finished product should be visually stunning. I’m looking forward to the new four acre park with the pedestrian footbridges and the arced pier overlooking the beautiful skyline and the green cascading hills of Oakland. Can you folks picture evening concerts being held at this new park with that gorgeous backdrop? They have outdoor concerts in Austin TX with a view of downtown Austin and the State Capitol. Why couldn’t we do the same thing in Oakland in that beautiful setting? We could even use some of the funds for the Lake Merritt Conservancy.

  14. Naomi Schiff

    Here, here! I also think this means new life for the Kaiser Auditorium. Imagine some indoor-outdoor linked activities using all the amenities we will have around there. And the cool thing is, it is not right in anyone’s front yard. And close to BART and some day the BRT too. Okay, we need to get this conservancy thing off the ground. It’s time!

  15. livegreen

    Outdoor activities: So are there alternative plans for outdoor concerts? Both Manhattan & Brooklyn had regular summer outdoor Symphonies in the Park under tents (Central or Prospect Parks –the latter is more beautiful BTW). I really really miss those.

    Brooklyn did other outdoor concerts at their Bandstand. Is there a possible way to have one? Or a less expensive alternative? (Tent or otherwise).

  16. Naomi Schiff

    Let’s talk with Michael Morgan! We do have a longstanding series of quite excellent municipal band concerts at the historic bandstand near Fairyland, during the summer. Have you ever gone?

    My guess is that the venue is less of a problem than a budget for paying musicians, but it is just a guess.

  17. Livegreen

    No, Ive heard of a lot of other live music festivals but never seen anything advertised for the bandstand. But I want bigger. Having a lot of people outdoors watching the symphony with the lake in the background would b beautiful.

    Besides that Brooklyn has a whole series of world music musicians. At regular intervals artists from all over the world come through. With a similar great diversity hear in Oak-Town we need a space to do big outdoor events in the summer. & there appears to b plenty of room in this new park area.

  18. Naomi Schiff

    You are right, plus there is a fine theater inside the Auditorium building, in addition to the arena part. The concerts in Prospect Park are fantastic. Of course, it is a lot warmer on a New York evening in summer than it is here, and everyone is outside late into the night, strolling around to enjoy some air after a day of deprivation!. In some months, particularly June, we might do better with daytime events.

  19. Max Allstadt


    Friends of mine have been putting on concerts in the Mosswood Park amphitheater for quite some time now. We bring our own generators, but all we have to do to get the space is pay Parks & Rec 250 bucks.

    It isn’t perfectly maintained, but it’s great space, and it’s in a very accessible and central location.

  20. Robert

    Naomi, we have concerts in the band shell? Who knew! They could have done a better job of publicizing this.

  21. Naomi Schiff

    The Friends of the Municipal Band group is a shoestring nonprofit that can use your help: Anne Woodell and Ron Bishop are two stalwarts I’m aware of. The fiscal sponsor is Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation (If you would like to send a check with a suggestion for more publicity it would no doubt be welcome). It is a very lean budget, and yet they manage to put it together. Help them out if you feel so inclined!

    The below was about last year’s concerts: scroll down till you see the Edoff bandstand. I haven’t seen this year’s schedule yet.

    The Edoff bandstand was damaged in the 89 earthquake, then restored. Now it is also handicapped-accessible. It is in a lovely place for a small-to-mid-sized performing group. The East Bay/Oakland Symphony wouldn’t fit, though, so Livegreen’s suggestions still hold: we need a bigger space for such a large group.

  22. Livegreen

    If a bandstand along the Lake is too big a deal to build then we need a more modern alternative that interacts with it’s surroundings. For example, some outside ampitheatre seating facing the lake, with a level area where performers can set up.

    When the NY symphony sets up in Central or Prospect Parks they don’t use the bandstands but giant tents. And when they have Earthday, Paul Simon, Pavarotti in the Park (all on the misnamed Great Lawn) they construct a stage just for the event. In the case of both people just sit on blankets in the grass.

    So we don’t need a permanent stage or bandshell to make it work. Only a well designed park so we’re prepared for the option. Naomi, is it to late for this in the planning? Or is the “muti use open space” already amenable to this?

    Which reminds me, across from the Great Lawn is Shakespear in the Park. Another event that could b regularly staged at Kaiser Convention (HJK)? & People buy season tickets for that…

  23. Navigator


    How about having the Oakland Museum Board in charge of a Lake Merritt Conservancy? Those ladies really know how to fund raise. The White Elephant Sale for the Oakland Museum is a huge success. In addition to fund raisers and corporate support, we can solicit donations from Hollywood celebrities with Oakland roots. Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood for example, seem to have a soft spot for their former hometown. A while back Tom Hanks donated $100,000 to help refurbish the Skyline High School Auditorium and Clint made sure “True Crime” was filmed in Oakland.

    Another idea for incorporating the improvements at 12th Street and at the Lake Merritt Channel with a ballpark for the Oakland A’s on Victory Court, would be to turn the channel into a River Walk type of attraction similar to what they have in San Antonio TX. Of course, this would be a more natural river walk without the bars and chain restaurants. We could transport fans who wish to park near Lake Merritt, via small decorative barges similar to those used in San Antonio, right to the center field gate at a new ballpark on Victory Court. Fans could have an early dinner at Lake Chalet and hop on a barge or gondola down the Lake Merritt Channel and be dropped off at the center field gate. The River Walk in San Antonio is a very festive place with arced stone footbridges. However, the “river” which runs through downtown is very narrow channel with concrete banks and many bars, restaurants, and hotels. By contrast, the Lake Merritt Channel is wider and much more natural.

  24. Navigator

    Let’s try this link

  25. Andrew

    I was pleased to see that the front yard of the County Courthouse, on Fallon Street facing the lake, will be upgraded too. I walked there the other day and was touched to see an old bust of Lincoln dating from 1926 sitting there all alone.

    This project is gonna be awesome, and if the Festival at the Lake can be revived on top of that, as Naomi pointed out in today’s Trib, that would be even more awesomer. My last FatL t-shirt is almost worn out.

  26. Navigator


    On your 12th Street article above you mention a new ” two acre park.” Is the new park going to be two acres or four acres? Also, in earlier drawings I remember seeing an impressive arced pier just west of the proposed new park. I didn’t see that arced pier in the new drawings. Has that pier been taken out? That was a really great addition.

  27. Naomi Schiff

    I used an earlier estimate. I’d trust the public works estimate of 4 acres, as they have the large-scale maps. I haven’t done any calculation from the small maps to try to do it myself. The arced pier did disappear from the plans, due to concerns about liability and access, expense, and interaction with birds and boats.

    You could imagine it being a cormorant perch as much as a human perch! The remaining “waterfront outlook” is curved too, but attached to the shore. It should provide a wide enough paved area to set up a gathering or performance area.

    I think the more recent plans are now upon on the city’s measure dd website. I’ll look for the best one and post it here.

  28. Born in Oakland

    The California Bluegrass Association (CBA) has large numbers of East Bay members and bands and the President of the CBA lives in Oakland. There has always been CBA interest in producing concerts or a small festival in Oakland but planning has never gotten off the ground secondarily, in part, to a good location to hold such. Bluegrass and Old Time Music would fit right into the lakeside location with independent organizations doing the work instead of the City of Oakland.

  29. Naomi Schiff

    I look forward to hearing some bluegrass at the lake, and other kinds of music too. One great thing about the 12th Street area is that it is not right next to too many dwellings. If the sound is carefully managed (that is, not aimed across to Lakeshore apts.), maybe it will be possible to have live music events and not make anybody unhappy! Or, we could start with acoustic and see how it goes.