Wednesday, February 18, 2009

winter's back

tree cleanup

Yesterday on my way home from donating at the Red Cross, I saw a neighbor out walking during a break in the rain, and so had to drive closer to the other side of the street. The branches over that side of the street seemed low, and after parking I saw Mike looking at the tree, and indeed it was low. It was low because it had fallen half way over, and hadn't fallen all the way only because it managed to fall against a stump. I warned the people in the houses opposite, and Mike and I went and told the people in the house where the tree was. The owners weren't home, but a nanny, child and dog were. I went in to get the number for the Oakland public works department, and before I'd gotten far I heard a truck braking. I went back out, and public works was already out there in force. Seems another neighbor had already called them a couple hours before. Given how busy public works must be, between the storms and budget cutbacks, it was amazing they got there as quickly as they did. Fortunately no one was injured, and there was no major damage done. It could have easily flattened a car or pedestrian.

The Tribune reports a large pothole on 980 at the 27th St. off ramp. It's closed off and CalTrans should be patching it soon. Residents who find potholes on Oakland city streets can report them to the public works hotline, at 615-5566.

We've got a few days to dry out, which is good. The Tribune also reports scattered power outages, street flooding, and the like. We need the rain (and snow in the mountains), but not all at once.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

accessible art

Oakland has a vibrant art community, and not just in the galleries. Living in the O pointed us to a recent show at the Awaken Café. East Bay Outtakes mentions a visual arts town hall meeting. The Oakbook has a huge run down of the month ahead in Oakland art. Oakland is home to the California College of the Arts (I still think of it as CCAC, but understand why they dropped the 'Crafts'), and the community learning center, Studio One.

Lately I've been looking at more accessible art, the kind you can walk or drive past. With all the sunshine we've been having (thankfully there was rain last night and more on the way today), colorful murals just pop off the walls. This one is near Edis' house in Fruitvale.

La Clínica mural

The Brothers market

Just up the street is this colorful market. While the artwork is crude, the bright color is awesome, and the Marinela truck with its Donald Duck-esque character reminds me of mission trips to Mexico. It's also great to see this building being used again. It was originally a gas station, but was sitting empty for a long time.

Oakland High School mural

I've watched the murals on the Park Blvd. side of Oakland High School continue to evolve over the years. While not as skillfully painted overall as the La Clínica mural, I love the variety and the spirit behind it. And some of the panels, like the unfinished one of the Dalai Lama, show some great promise.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Oakland rising

With all the bad news about (and not just Oakland; the world's economy is in bad shape), it's nice to see some good news actually make the papers. Tonight is the grand re-opening gala for the Fox Theater (great stuff on Transbay Blog, with more at A Better Oakland).

Then there's this little tidbit tucked away in the Tribune (Cafe training gives Oakland foster kids a fresh start). I have a friend with LSS (Lutheran Social Services) for Northern California, and they've got a number of transitional houses for former foster kids (when they hit 18, they're dropped by the state), but it's nice to see some job training geared for them, too.

Finally there's Why I love Oakland from Peter Hartlaub on SF Gate. Not exactly a front page piece, but still nice to see the love in print.

Monday, February 2, 2009

downtown architecture

the Fox Theater

Transbay Blog has a nice writeup of the newly restored Fox Theater in Oakland. It's a beautiful building, and a nice spark for downtown. (Read more about the Fox on the Friends of the Oakland Fox site, SF Gate and Wikipedia.) A grand reopening gala is coming up this Thursday, February 5th, and is sold out.

Oakland is fortunate to have several historic theater buildings that weren't lost to the wrecking ball. Besides the Fox, the nearby Paramount Theater in all its Art Deco glory is home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony as well hosting other events. And of course the Grand Lake Theater that anyone who's driven down 580 on a Friday or Saturday evening can't help but have seen.

Cathedral building

The building that caught my eye on one of my recent trips downtown was the Cathedral Building. I'd seen it countless times before, wedged between Broadway and Telegraph, but never looked at it that closely. Probably because I'm usually driving past, negotiating the funky jog on Broadway, or walking towards BART. I'd never even known the name of it. But on my recent trip, I was there near lunchtime, and the building was lit up with sunshine, so I snapped a quick picture. I looked a bit into its history (not as extensively as Transbay Blog's Fox writeup), and found it was built in 1913 as the federal building. It's a great example of Gothic Revival architecture, which explains why it was renamed the Cathedral building in 1969, since the top looks like part of one. It's a historic building, though has been redone as condominiums, and not cheap ones, going for $700,000 on up. You can see more pictures of it here. That's a lot of money for a 1, 2 or 3-bedroom condo, even if it is downtown and in a historic building.

One cool thing about the above buildings is that Google Earth has 3D versions of them incorporated into its imagery. So you can explore downtown Oakland, seeing the relationship of buildings and spaces, from views you might not otherwise be able to experience. Alas, the imagery of the Fox Theater isn't up-to-date, still showing scaffolding and construction netting around it (the same on Google Maps street view), but I was impressed with how much of downtown Oakland has been modeled.