Oakland is a wonderfully diverse city, which is part of why so many of us love it.
Thursday I was over to Village Bottoms for an open house, a follow-up of sorts to a workshop at West Coast Green where people from a wide variety of backgrounds brainstormed ideas about how to recreate the area. It's gone through a lot of changes from a terminus of transcontinental railroad to a reemerging neighborhood today. Two of the biggest changes were the building of the Cypress Structure in the 1950s which cut off the area from the rest of Oakland, and its subsequent collapse in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Since then residents have been working to reshape the area. We started with a tour led by Marcel Diallo, community activist and businessman in the Bottoms:
I was also there to check out an open house for Central Station, a multi-part housing development in the area, centered around the 16th Street Station that once formed the hub of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Oakland. SFGate.com's Chip Johnson was there and has a nice write-up on the project. There are even some nice green features in parts of the development, like a living roof on the apartment building.
Nearby to the apartments and lofts are The Blackdot Cafe, The Soul Foods Cooperative Grocery Store, and other burgeoning businesses. Food and drinks for the event were provided by Linden Street Brewery, Brown Sugar Kitchen, and other Oakland businesses. There's still a lot of work to do such as cleaning up the old Phoenix Ironworks site, but Village Bottoms is looking up.
Then last night, K and I attended an interfaith service at Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 'Keeping the Faith'. People from a wide range of faith traditions in Oakland, from Jewish to Christian to Buddhist to Native American spoke about the keeping the faith towards a day when Prop 8 will be overturned. It was an amazing service, and a reminder for all that not all people of faith are against gay marriage. Oakland city council-member Rebecca Kaplan spoke about her experiences of being a lesbian and growing up in an orthodox Jewish household, reps from the Episcopal Church and the ELCA (Lutherans) spoke about recent decisions to open the churches to the LGBT community, and Sheilagh Brooks read a powerful poem about her struggles. Around the sanctuary there were banners about different aspects of the struggle and successes. We spotted one that told the story of a former co-worker of K's and her partner. And we all prayed for the elections today in Maine and Washington, that the LGBT communities in those states might have the freedoms that were briefly enjoyed here in California.