Thursday, May 31, 2012

SoundWaves - Free Music at JLS


If the Oakland Indie Awards or ACCFB's Empty Bowls aren't your thing, check out the free music at Jack London Square tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 as part of their SoundWaves concert series.

Last week's artist was Crystal Monee Hall. While it was a little windy at times, Crystal and her band put on a great show. More pictures from Crystal's concert last week:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

After a relatively quiet week, there's just way too much interesting stuff going on this week in Oakland. Friday is June 1st, so that makes it First Friday, with the ever-expanding Art Murmur and other events like Jack's Night Market and the return of Dancing Under the Stars.

Party for a Purpose - Wednesday, May 30, 5-10pm. 50% of proceeds go to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

SoundWaves at JLS Thursday, May 31, 5:30-7:30pm. Live music performance at Jack London Square. This week's artist is Tim Hockenberry. (free)

ACCFB Empty Bowls - Thursday, May 31, 6-8pm. Annual fundraising event for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. An evening of art, nourishment and advocacy. ($25+)

Oakland Indie Awards - Thursday, May 31st, 5:30-10:30pm. Come celebrate local businesses and artists at the annual Oakland Indie Awards. Lots of Oakland favorites have been nominated, from Actual Cafe to Uptown Body and Fender, and Annalee Allen to Tina Tamale. Read more at Oakland Local. ($10)

Great Oakland Public Schools End of Year Party - Friday, June 1, 5-8pm. Join Great Oakland Public Schools in celebrating teachers and others who make Oakland schools better. Next to Jack's Night Market. (free)

Jack's Night Market - Friday, June 1, 6-10pm. A fun evening market at Jack London Square, featuring food, fun, vendors and more (free)

Temescal Art Hop - Friday, June 1, 6-9pm. First Friday fun in the Temescal. Collect stamps from 8 or more participating galleries and businesses, and get a chance to win prizes. Read more at Oakland Local. (free)

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday, June 1, 8:30-10pm. The return of the popular event kicks off with salsa dancing. (free)

East Bay Open Studios - June 2-3 & 9-10, 11am-6pm. The annual East Bay Open Studios art tour. Check out and support artists all over Oakland and beyond. (free)

Jingletown Open Studios - June 2-3 & 9-10, 11am-6pm. Lots of open studios with lots of different artits. Read about last year's holiday walk in Jingletown. (free)

Projet En Vue showing - June 2-3. A display of photos and interviews from the truly amazing Projet En Vue. (free)

Dimond Night Out - Tuesday, June 5, 6-8:30pm. Sample your way through 17 different Dimond restaurants and merchants. ($20)

looking further ahead:


(Cook)Book Club - Saturday, June 9, 1-2:30pm. Make a dish from DIY Delicious and join author Vanessa Barrington and East Bay Dish blogger Christina Mitchell for a DIY potluck. (free)

Urban Farm Tours - Saturday, June 9, 11am-5pm. Join the Institute for Urban Homsteading for a tour of various urban farms in Oakland. ($5/location or $25-$30 for all)

Temescal Street Fair - Sunday, July 8. The annual street fair in Temescal features food, music, art and fun for the whole family. (free)

Community Arts Festival - Sunday, July 29. Art show at Mosswood Park. Music, snacks, art and more. Contact HellaCity@rocketmail.com if you'd like to participate.

Pedalfest - Saturday, August 18, 11am-8pm. The second annual Pedfalfest at Jack London Square. Last year's Pedalfest was hella fun, for cyclists and non-cyclists alike.

ongoing events:

Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)
OMCA Summer Nights (last Friday of the month)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Observance at Mountain View


Hundreds gathered in Mountain View Cemetery to remember and honor the soldiers who gave their lives in the service of their country. As people gathered, a brass trio played. After the presentation of the colors, a variety of veterans and active servicemen and women spoke. One speaker called upon people to not only remember the fallen, but to remember and honor vets who've made it home, too, and one way to honor them is to encourage the Veterans Administration to speed up processing of benefits for the vets who need them. The ceremony finished with the placing of a wreath at the veteran's memorial and a 21-gun salute. About 50 people stayed for a tour of the three veteran's plots at Mountain View led by docent and historian, Dennis Evanosky.

More photos:

Friday, May 25, 2012

New Bay Bridge Progress


Idon't think about the Bay Bridge very often; I don't drive much anymore, when I do it's very rarely into San Francisco so it's generally only when I see the bridge from West Oakland or the hills that I think about it at all. But on Wednesday I took part in a special tour of the bridge with the local chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology. A very knowledgeable CalTrans PIO named Vic showed us a short video and answered questions, then took about 25 of us out on a boat to see the old and new east spans up close and personal.

It may seem like ancient history to recent Oakland residents, but it was almost 25 years ago that the Loma Prieta Earthquake destroyed the Cypress structure in West Oakland and damaged the Bay Bridge. A 50-foot section of the upper deck collapsed, leaving the vital link in Bay Area transportation impassable for a month and half.

Part of why it's taken so long for the project to be completed is that it's actually several projects. Besides building the new east span, they also needed to retrofit the west span, rebuild the San Francisco approach to the bridge, and temporarily retrofit the existing east span so that the bridge could remain open while the new span is being built. The new east span is made up of an approach in Oakland, the skyway, the signature suspension span, as well as the transition on Yerba Buena to the existing two-layer tunnel.

And part of why it's taken so long is that as vital as the bridge is, CalTrans and various contractors have done a lot of work to try to ensure the updated bridge won't fail again, and that has required inventing some new ways of building bridges. For example, the skyway has a number of large joints connected by hinge-pipe beams. They look like huge dowels, and each can make small moves with temperature changes and large moves in an earthquake. In the event of a really large earthquake, the center of each 'dowel' is designed to break to keep the structure of the bridge intact. The joint can then be replaced. Similarly, the tower of the Self-Anchored Suspension (SAS) span has shear link beams between the four legs. The beams are designed to flex in the event of an earthquake, and can be replaced if damaged.

It was a fascinating tour, and a nice chance to see the old east span as well as the progress on the new. Unlike a lot of people, I actually like the old span. If I had the money, I'd get the Oaklandish t-shirt of it in a flash. (Well, and a half dozen others like Typehoods, Train Tracks, Silver Skull, Sugar Skull, Cranes Reflection, and East Oakland signs, if somebody is feeling generous.) But seeing it first-hand, I'm impressed with the design of the new span. It's got clean, elegant lines, though those are harder to see with all the falsework (temporary supports), a unique asymmetrical design, and features for everyone from pedestrians to nesting cormorants.

Lots more pictures from the tour:


For the latest updates on the Bay Bridge project, and more pictures and video, check out the Bay Bridge Info website. They've also got some great photos and other items from the construction of the bridge and the celebrations for the opening in 1936.

The slideshow includes a picture of the "Bay Bridge Troll" on the existing east span that was installed by ironworkers repairing the collapsed section of the upper deck. For a closeup picture of it and more info about it, see the Wikipedia page.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

Asurprisingly quiet week. Or maybe I just haven't heard about all the good stuff going on? Let me know in the comments!

SoundWaves at JLS - Thursday, May 24, 5:30-7:30pm. Live music at Jack London Square. This week: Crystal Monee Hall - Folk/Gospel. (free)

Memorial Day Hike - Monday, May 28, 9am. Join Friends of Sausal Creek for a vigorous hike through Joaquin Miller Park. Meet at Joaquin Miller Court at the Palos Colorados Trailhead. (free)

Memorial Day Commemoration at Mt. View - Monday, May 28, 10am. Dennis Evanosky will lead a guided tour of the refurbished Civil War plot and other areas of notables that are buried in the cemetery. Join us in remembering our veterans on this special day! (free)

looking further ahead:

Party for a Purpose - Wednesday, May 30, 5-10pm. 50% of proceeds go to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.

ACCFB Empty Bowls - Thursday, May 31, 6-8pm. Annual fundraising event for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. An evening of art, nourishment and advocacy. ($25+)

Great Oakland Public Schools End of Year Party - Friday, June 1, 5-8pm. Join Great Oakland Public Schools in celebrating teachers and others who make Oakland schools better. Next to Jack's Night Market. (free)

Jack's Night Market - Friday, June 1, 6-10pm. A fun evening market at Jack London Square, featuring good, fun, vendors and more (free)

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday, June 1, 8:30-10pm. The return of the popular event kicks off with salsa dancing. (free)

Jingletown Open Studios - June 2-3, 9-10, 11am-6pm. Lots of open studios with lots of different artits. Read about last year's holiday walk in Jingletown. (free)

Dimond Night Out - Tuesday, June 5, 6-8:30pm. Sample your way through 17 different Dimond restaurants and merchants. ($20)

ongoing events:

Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Lake That Isn't


You may already know that Lake Merritt isn't a lake, but a tidal slough that various creeks and countless storm drains feed into. What you may not know is that it was originally freely connected with the estuary via a 600' wide opening, and early Oakland and nearby towns took advantage of the tidal action to use it as a sewer.
The lake covers about 140 acres, but is only 10 to 15 feet at the deepest during high tide. The areas closer to the shore are 4 to 8 feet deep, although in 1962 over 9 inches of rain fell in 24 hours, raising the water level by 7 feet and flooding surrounding streets and sidewalks.

In the 1860s, Dr. Samuel Merritt proposed financing a dam and cleaning up the new 'lake'. An early developer, he built a striking Italianate Victorian (Camron-Stanford House) along the shore and other wealthy landowners followed suit. In 1870 he moved to have the lake declared a wildlife sanctuary (the first in the U.S.), in part so residents wouldn't be bothered by the noise of hunters.

In the 1910s, the center of the boathouse (now the Lake Chalet) was built as a pumping station for the Oakland Fire Department. In 1913 the wings were added, and the same year the pergola at the north end of the lake was built.

The 1920s brought more changes. In 1920 the bandstand was constructed; in 1923, the Cleveland Cascade; and in 1925, the famous necklace of lights was completed. The necklace was dimmed during WWII for blackout conditions. The current necklace was relit in 1985 after a long campaign.

In 1950, building the Frickstad Viaduct turned a simple boulevard into "world's shortest freeway", destroying the gardens near the Kaiser Auditorium in the process. Originally they planned to build more of the civic center buildings there, but that never happened. Ironically, the useful life of the road widening was less than 10 years. At the time, it reduced a traffic bottleneck, but with the building of I-880 (then CA-17) and I-580, it was no longer as useful.

Now the 12th Street Project is working to restore some of the original water flow and natural beauty of the area. For the latest on the 12th Street Project, check out Erik Niemann's 12th Street Project blog. He contributed photos of the project for the new edition of Oakland: The Story of a A City and has a great time-lapse of the progress so far.

Update: If you thought the 12th Street freeway was bad, imagine if they'd built this monstrosity of a bridge, the "viaquadrome," that the Oakland Standard from the Oakland Museum recently posted.

Related links:

Top photo © Gene Anderson. Other photos courtesy of the Oakland Heritage Alliance.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oakland: The Story of a City

If there's a "must read" for people interested in Oakland, it would have to be Oakland: The Story of a City, by Beth Bagwell. In order to fully understand Oakland in the present, it helps to know the story of the people and events that shaped it. As Living in the O blogger Rebecca Saltzman says, "it should be required reading for anyone who cares about Oakland." Unfortunately for Oakland supporters and history lovers, it's been out of print for many years, but thanks to the Oakland Heritage Alliance, not only is it back in print, but it's been updated to bring the story of Oakland up to the present.

This place we call Oakland was very different when the Ohlone lived here, with huge oak trees, towering redwoods in the hills, numerous creeks draining 1,000 acres of wetlands, and even grizzly bears roaming the area. Bagwell's book begins there and traces the formation of Oakland, from the Spanish land grants to Luis Maria Peralta to the murky dealings of Horace Carpentier, Edson Adams and Andrew Moon up through the early 1980s when the book was first published.

The new edition adds 17 new images and a 32-page afterword, written by local historian Erika Mailman. It begins with Elihu Harris defeating Lionel Wilson to become the second African American mayor of Oakland, proceeds through significant events like the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and the 1991 Oakland-Berkeley Hills Firestorm, and finishes by noting recent additions like the Art Murmur and Oaklandish. The OHA also re-scanned the original photos and re-set the text for the new edition, so it's clearer than ever.

The new text also describes the restoration of Oakland. After the 1989 quake, city hall was damaged and was in danger of being demolished. Now it's restored and sits on 112 base isolators to help protect it from future quakes. The Fox Theater was abandoned in the 1970s and falling apart. The theater and its amazing marquee sign were restored, and reopened in 2009. The 12th Street Project is working to restore some of the natural beauty and water flow between Lake Merritt and the estuary and should be done later this year.

Although the book is "the story of a city", it's not just about the place. It's about the people and events that have shaped the place we call home. Bagwell's book helps bring those stories to life so we can understand Oakland's present. If you're interested in a copy of the new edition of Oakland: The Story of a City, see the Oakland Heritage Alliance website. The book can be pre-ordered through the OHA for $22 (regularly $25), and should be available at independent Oakland bookstores soon.

Thanks to Naomi Schiff of the OHA for photos and information about the updated book.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

SoundWaves at JLS - Thursday, May 17, 5:30-7:30pm. Live music at Jack London Square. First up: Brass Mafia - New Orleans Style Brass Band. (free)

Oakland Greek Festival - May 18,19,20. The annual Greek festival returns with food, music, dance and more. ($6).

Learn How to Be A Garden Mentor - Saturday, May 19, 10am-12. Learn about the City Slicker Farms Garden Mentor program and how to be a garden mentor. RSVP to (510) 763-4241 or byg@cityslickerfarms.org

Walk to End Poverty - Saturday, May 19, 9am-1pm. Join the Alameda County – Oakland Community Action Partnership to raise awareness of the conditions of people who live in poverty. First 500 receive t-shirt and lunch.

Malcolm X Jazz Arts Festival - Saturday, May 19, 11am-7pm. Lots of live music, dance and food in San Antonio Park. Supports the Eastside Arts Alliance. (free)

The Devotion Project - Saturday, May 19, 4-6pm. Screening of four short films celebrating LGBTQ families. A fund-raiser for the Childrens Hospital new palliative care program. ($20)

See Oakland's Affordable Housing by Bike - Sunday, May 20, 10am-2pm. Celebrate Affordable Housing Week and see Oakland's affordable housing. (free)

looking further ahead:

ACCFB Empty Bowls - Thursday, May 31, 6-8pm. Annual fundraising event for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. An evening of art, nourishment and advocacy. ($25+)

Great Oakland Public Schools End of Year Party - Friday, June 1, 5-8pm. Join Great Oakland Public Schools in celebrating teachers and others who make Oakland schools better. Next to Jack's Night Market. (free)

Jack's Night Market - Friday, June 1, 6-10pm. A fun evening market at Jack London Square, featuring good, fun, vendors and more (free)

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday, June 1, 8:30-10pm. The return of the popular event kicks off with salsa dancing. (free)

Jingletown Open Studios - June 2-3, 9-10, 11am-6pm. Lots of open studios with lots of different artits. Read about last year's holiday walk in Jingletown. (free)

Dimond Night Out - Tuesday, June 5, 6-8:30pm. Sample your way through 17 different Dimond restaurants and merchants. ($20)

ongoing events:

Bites off Broadway (Fridays)
Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Temescal Photo Walk

The Temescal neighborhood is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Oakland, and is bordered roughly by highway 24, 40th Street, and Broadway. It was named for Temescal Creek which flows through it, but that's mostly underground these days. The creek was named for the Ohlone sweat lodges that were nearby when the Don Luís María Peralta was given the land by the last Spanish governor of California in 1821. His son, Vicente Peralta, built a modest home there in 1836.

Today, Temescal is largely a residential area, with a mix of single family homes and small to medium apartment buildings. But what it's received a lot of attention for in recent years are the quirky shops and burgeoning restaurant scene in its commercial districts along Telegraph Avenue and 40th Street.

You can walk, ride a bike, take BART to MacArthur, or an AC Transit bus to begin your walk on Telegraph Avenue near 40th Street. Or click through the photos to take a virtual tour of Temescal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

signs: Greyhound Bus


Greyhound Bus

The Greyhound station on San Pablo Avenue has been there forever.

But there is something new in the world of Greyhound. Seems they've started a new service called Greyhound Express, featuring shiny new buses with more legroom, wireless, power outlets, and fares starting at $1. Looks like it's just between larger hubs like Oakland, San Jose, Los Angeles, etc.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Oakland Food News

News about food and drink in Oakland for your gustatory reading pleasure.

A great combo of food from Tina Tamale, beer from Linden Street Brewery, and lively company from Eat Drink Oakland and other Oakland folks made for a fine Friday evening at the informal Cuatro de Mayo celebration. And I got to see the Tamale Transporter sporting its beautiful new paint job.

The popular Bites off Broadway returns for the 2012 season. The opening lineup includes Tina Tamale, Doc's of the Bay, and Nick's Breakfast Truck. Read more at the East Bay Express.

Phat Beets Produce, the Oakland-based CSA is introducing a fruit box in addition to its regular 'beet box'. I can't find details on their website, but an email said it will begin June 21st and cost $15 per week.

On Saturday is the annual Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail with tastings, food and more at wineries in and around Oakland. K and I went last year and it was a lot of fun. tip: Start early, as it gets crowded later.

I saw on Twitter that a new food truck pod based on Clay at what would be 15th Street has started, beating Bites off Broadway as the first pod under the new city regulations. Read the lineup at Oakland Local.

I've heard good things about FuseBOX, a new affordable lunch spot in West Oakland. Read more at Oakland Local.

Still just the one trip and no chance yet to write up a review, but I really liked the new vegan restaurant downtown, Banana Soy. I was there on the first full day—so new they didn't have their credit card machine yet or their desserts.

At some point Kitchen 388 closed down because of a family emergency, but I saw on Twitter that they're open again and serving dinner. Their website says they have Sunday brunch and serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday. I liked it on my lunch visit last summer.

Across the street at the Room 389 bar, they're serving Cameroonian food on Tuesday nights. Read more at the East Bay Express.

Despite a lukewarm review on SFGate, I saw a full house at Haven enjoying their dinners last Friday during the inaugural Jack's Night Market. The latest issue of Oakland Magazine has a nice review.

Something else I'm looking forward to trying, and considerably less expensive than Haven is Organic Soul Live in Chinatown. Yep, more vegan soul food in Oakland, this one sharing space in the Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt shop on 9th Street. Read more at the East Bay Express.

Another recent addition is Nick's Pizza on Shattuck near Alcatraz. Sourdough crust? Local ingredients? Sounds good to me. Read more in the SFoodie column.

In the mystery column, I saw a store front with papered-over windows on Lakeshore near El Embarcadero and a "coming soon" sign. I didn't have a chance to stop and take a closer look—anyone know what's planned for that spot? It used to be a hair place.

Fans of Actual Cafe will be happy to hear that owner Sal Bednarz is planning to open a burger place next door. It will be called Victory Burger, and Sal has started a Kickstarter campaign to help with the launch. The restaurant name draws on the WWII campaign of 'victory gardens', and will serve burgers and other sandwiches made from sustainably-raised meats, artisan breads, and organic produce, served street-food style, i.e., casual. Check out the video of Sal talking about the plans, and see if you don't get excited about it, too.

Finally, I saw on Twitter that Cocina Poblana in Jack London Square has closed down. I haven't confirmed it yet myself, but the phone was no longer in service.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

The big event this week is Bike to Work Day! Besides energizer stations, group rides, and pancakes at city hall, there's a great after party in Old Oakland. But there's lots of other interesting stuff going on around Oakland, too, like the return of Bites off Broadway.

Bike to Work Day - Thursday, May 10. Whether you already bike to work every day or this will be your first time, Bike to Work Day is a lot of fun and a great alternative to driving. (free)

Bike to Work Day After Party - Thursday, May 10, 5-8:30pm. Join EBBC in celebrating Bike to Work Day with music, beer, pinball, bicycle bingo and more. (free)

Bites off Broadway - Fridays, 5:30pm-8:30pm. Bites off Broadway returns for the 2012 season. The opening lineup includes Tina Tamale, Doc's of the Bay, and Nick's Breakfast Truck.

East Bay Bike Party! - Friday, 7:30pm. The monthly rolling bike party rides again! This month't theme is...pajama party! (free)

Passport to the East Bay Wine Trail - Saturday, May 12, noon-4pm. Tour Oakland's wineries and sample wines from lots more. Read about the 2011 Passport event—it was a lot of fun. ($40-$50)

"Paintings are Poems, Poems are Paintings" Saturday, May 12, 1-4pm - Artists Reception with Thomas Painter at the Dimond Gallery, 2812 Hopkins Place.

Lloyd Gregory at AAMLO - Saturday May 12, 6pm. Hear jazz musician Lloyd Gregory at the African American Museum and Library of Oakland. ($10-$15)

looking further ahead:

Learn How to Be A Garden Mentor - Wednesday, May 16, 6-8pm or Saturday, May 18, 10am-12. Learn about the City Slicker Farms Garden Mentor program and how to be a garden mentor. RSVP to (510) 763-4241 or byg@cityslickerfarms.org

Jack's Night Market - Friday, June 1, 6-10pm. A fun evening market at Jack London Square, featuring good, fun, vendors and more (free)

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday, June 1, 8:30-10pm. The return of the popular event kicks off with salsa dancing. (free)

Jingletown Open Studios - June 2-3, 9-10, 11am-6pm. Lots of open studios with lots of different artits. Read about last year's holiday walk in Jingletown. (free)

Dimond Night Out - Tuesday, June 5, 6-8:30pm. Sample your way through 17 different Dimond restaurants and merchants. ($20)

ongoing events:

Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Oakland Urban Paths: Jane's Walk


Sunday, 22 people gathered for a special Oakland Urban Paths walk to honor the work of writer, activist and urban planner Jane Jacobs. The walk was the flattest OUP walk I've been on, with only one stairway and a gentle grade down to Lake Merritt. But it was a great walk as we hooked up with the people behind three very interesting art and history projects around Oakland, and we couldn't have asked for better weather.

The group met in front of the mural on the Key System headquarters building on 11th Street near Broadway. Many of the stairs and paths in Oakland were built to connect people in different neighborhoods to the Key System, so it was an appropriate starting point.

10,000 Steps

10,000 Steps marker

First we heard about the 10,000 Steps project which explores Oakland's historic parks and marks points of interest around downtown Oakland. There's an accompanying audio tour, with interviews of different people in the neighborhoods and explanations by local historians. Artists Sue Mark and Bruce Douglas researched Oakland history, interviewed people, and spent countless hours designing and placing fifty sidewalk markers around the 5 remaining parks from the 1800s. While 2 of the original 7 parks are gone, many of the historical points of interest are still around, and the husband and wife team captured stories of people who know and lived the history of those areas.

For example, marker #26 outside the Hong Lok Senior Center in Lincoln Square reads:
Dorothy Eng's Oak-Chi Center
blossomed Chinese daughters' worlds
"Our soldiers had somewhere to go."
Hospitality & Friendship
1943
If you listen to the oral history for that marker, Dorothy Eng and Beatrice Wong talk about Chinese American soldiers coming home on leave from WWII and having no place to go—they weren't welcome at the USO. Eng, Wong and others formed the Chinese Young Women's Society, and made their own version of the USO there. We also learned from Sue that the bricks for the Hong Lok center came from an older iteration of Oakland High School which were repurposed for the building that was used as the clubhouse.

Given the limited space for text in each 10,000 Steps marker, the text is frequently like a haiku, expressing a complex idea in a few words. Others, like the marker outside the Oakland Museum of California have one word: transform. But reflecting the history of Oakland, 'transform' is written in Ohlone, Spanish, English and Chinese. Although the markers are numbered, the tour is designed so that you can do all of it or part of it or just one.

Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After

One Upon a Time...

From the OMCA, we walked the short distance past Camron-Stanford House to Lake Merritt. There we met with Scott Oliver, the lead artist of the Once Upon A Time, Happily Ever After project. The project is centered on Lake Merritt and title phrase comes from the sign outside Children's Fairyland. It's a three-part project: audio tour, interpretive signs, and Lake Merritt souvenirs created by local students and artists.

There are four interpretive signs around the lake. The sign between Camron-Stanford House and the Lake Chalet shows points of interest around the lake, and labels the various neighborhoods. Another sign explores the watershed, showing the depths of the lake and indicating where storm drains feed in to the lake. As part of the project, 62 markers were embedded in the walkway around the lake showing the location of the drains. Another component is Lake Merritt souvenirs created by local students and artists. Scott was sporting a t-shirt that combines drawings by different students of the iconic lampposts around the lake. That shirt and other items are available from the Once Upon A Time web store.

The third component of the project is an audio tour. The tour begins at the Rotary Nature Center. On the audio tour you'll hear from supervising naturalist Stephanie Benevidez. She started there as an animal keeper in 1974 taking care of the center's small zoo, which included wolves, raccoon dogs (from Oakland's sister city, Fukuoka, Japan), porcupine, skunk, and a number of birds. These days all the live animals are outside, and Stephanie is the last full-time employee, but the mission of the nature center hasn't changed. You'll hear more about the goals at the second stop near the five islands that provide a safe roosting spot for hundreds of birds.

Of 21 planned stops, seven have been completed, and Scott is hoping to have the rest of the audio tour stops completed by September. At the other stops you'll hear about the history of Lake Merritt and Oakland from a wide variety of people, as well as a wide range of music and sounds: an Ohlone song; honking Canada geese; the bells at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. (NOTE: the audio files are currently offline, but Scott is working on restoring them.)

Cleveland Cascade

Cleveland Cascade

After a brisk walk around the south end of the lake, we stopped at our final point (and #5 on the Once Upon a Time audio tour), the Cleveland Cascade. There we heard from Jim Ratliff and Barbara Newcombe of the Friends of the Cleveland Cascade about the re-discovery of the cascade and the plans to restore it. Based on photos from the 1930s, it was originally an amazing structure. Designed by landscape architect Howard Gilkey, it had 3 levels of 7 steps each. Each step had a bowl that made a curved sheet of pouring water. At each side were shell-shaped brackets, behind which were lights running through the colors of the rainbow.

By the 1950s, the cascade had fallen into disrepair. Some time after that it was buried completely. In 2004, a group worked to clean up the park which was then full of nasty stuff, as Barbara said. Jim and others worked to uncover the pools of the cascade. Since then, the park has been restored, and become one of the busiest little parks in Oakland. The Friends of the Cleveland Cascade has raised funds and replicated the bowls and shells, and are now trying to raise additional money to install plumbing and lighting and fully restore the cascade. As a step towards that, they had LED lighting installed under the handrails which helps illuminate the steps. That's been in place for only a short while, but I'm looking forward to seeing it.

That was the end of the directed part of the tour, and people returned to our starting point by various routes. Thanks to everyone who turned out for the walk. Special thanks to Paul for leading the walk, and to Sue, Bruce, Scott, Jim and Barbara for sharing about their various projects. And thanks to Annalee Allen who publicized the event in a recent column. Sorry I couldn't make it to your Jane's Walk in the afternoon!

More pictures from our walk:


Related links:
All the walkers we saw with CEID t-shirts were part of a walk-a-thon for the Center for Early Intervention on Deafness.

Our route in Google Maps:

View Oakland Urban Paths: 2012 Jane's Walk in a larger map

Thursday, May 3, 2012

upcoming Oakland events

Sorry for the late events post, things have been busy. The big event this week is First Friday! The Art Murmur has expanded to other locations, Jack London Square is introducing the 'Night Market' to go with it, KoNo is celebrating new artwork, banners and trees, and all sorts of businesses are getting into the act. Awaken Cafe will have an artist reception and live music, Caffe 817 will be open late, and lots of other stuff will be going on. Oakland winds up its 160th birthday celebrations and the California Preservation Foundation conference gets rolling.

Cuatro de Mayo Celebration - Friday, May 4, 5-8pm. Tina Tamale, Linden Street Brewery, and Eat Drink Oakland join forces for some First Friday fun at Linden Street. (more info)

JLS Night Market - Friday, May 4, 6-10pm. During the First Friday Art Murmur, the Farmers Market at Jack London Square will be holding a night market.

Friends of Montclair Library Book Sale - Saturday, May 5, 10:30am-3pm.Stock up for summer reading at the Friends of Montclair Library Spring Book Sale! Recent fiction and non-fiction, children's books and more. Most books are priced between $.50-$2.00—find great deals all day and fill-a-bag discounts from 2-3pm. All proceeds directly benefit the Montclair branch of the Oakland Public Library. (more info)

Learn to Curl with an Olympian! - Friday, May 4, 5:45-8pm. The Bay Area Curling Club continues its lesson series, but this time with special guest, Olympic medal-winning curler Christoffer Svae of Norway. ($20)

Jane's Walk with Oakland Urban Paths - Sunday, May 6, 10am. Join Oakland Urban Paths in celebrating the life and contributions of urban planner Jane Jacobs with a walk from downtown around Lake Merritt. (free)

Celebrate Oakland's 160th Birthday - Friday, April 27 - Friday, May 4. A week of events celebrating Oakland's incorporation May 4th, 1852. Different events will feature arts, games, music and history. More info on Oakland Local. (free)

California Preservation Conference - May 3-6. The California Preservation Foundation's annual conference is being held in Oakland this year. There are tons of related tours and events of interest to historians and Oaklanders alike.

looking further ahead:


Bike to Work Day - Thursday, May 10. Whether you already bike to work every day or this will be your first time, Bike to Work Day is a lot of fun and a great alternative to driving. (free)

Learn How to Be A Garden Mentor - Wednesday, May 16, 6-8pm or Saturday, May 18, 10am-12. Learn about the City Slicker Farms Garden Mentor program and how to be a garden mentor. RSVP to (510) 763-4241 or byg@cityslickerfarms.org

ongoing events:

Piedmont Avenue Art Walk (3rd Thursday)
Art Murmur (1st Friday)
Saturday Art Stroll (Saturdays)
Mt. View Cemetery Tours (2nd and 4th Saturdays)

Artists Help Brighten Koreatown/Northgate


Oakland is full of art, and some of the newest is helping brighten Koreatown/Northgate (KoNo) and Pill Hill along Telegraph Avenue. Sponsored by the Koreatown/Northgate Community Benefit District, it's part of a larger beautification project which includes dozens of new street banners, newly-planted trees, and 13 painted utility boxes.

Friday, May 4th, 4pm-6pm will be the official unveiling of KoNo's "birthday present for Oakland's 160th". There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony, an unveiling of the new banners, and an art "walk and talk" to view the murals and hear the artists' inspirations.

The art is as varied as the neighborhood, with 13 different artists using different styles and techniques to create their works. I talked with Lynn-Rachel Altman about her work, which covers a utility box at Telegraph and 20th. She called it a "conversation with Victorian artists", and is inspired in part by Victorian wallpaper with decorations reflecting the diversity of the KoNo neighborhood. The oak leaves and acorns in fall represent Oakland, of course, but also plenty. The pink flowers are Hybiscus syriacus, more commonly known as the Rose of Sharon, which is the national flower of South Korea. The small yellow flowers are the Ethiopian meskel flower (Yadey Abeba), which bloom after the life-giving monsoons and celebrate the new year.



Further up Telegraph near West Grand, artist Eddie Colla was working on his assigned utility box. After scraping off old posters and priming and painting the box, he was using a variety of techniques to create his work. To give the whole thing an aged, weathered look, he stained it with tea. Then he was using a burnishing tool to transfer toner from an image to the box. The images include scenes of the devastation from the 1906 earthquake combined with more modern items, and the transfer technique preserves some of the depth of the original photos. While all of the works will get a protective coating, he's designed his work to be able to "age gracefully".

I asked people at local businesses and passersby what they thought of the project. A few had seen several of the boxes, and already had favorites, like the PopDot electric outlet by Lisa Hoffman at 30th and Telegraph. One passerby said of Altman's work, "It looks lovely...I hope it can stay that way." That's a common problem with public art, whether officially-sponsored or not. In any event, the art is a big improvement over the old boxes. At best, they're plain metal boxes, but more often they're covered in layers of paint, old posters, and graffiti tags. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of them completed.

Whether you attend the unveiling or are in the area later for Art Murmur, be sure to keep your eyes open for these new murals. Each box will get a QR code which links to the artist's statement about the work and their website. For more info about the unveiling, see the Koreatown/Northgate Community Benefit District website.

More photos:


Here's a complete list of the artists and approximate locations of the boxes along Telegraph:
Aisha Tymous - 20th Street
Lynne-Rachel Altman - 20th Street
Eddie Colla - West Grand
Stevan Guiterrez - 23rd Street
Jack Eastgate - 24th Street
Franz Fishcher - 24th Street
Momoku Sudo - 26th Street
Joanne Ludwig - 27th Street
Desi WOME - 29th Street
Lisa Hoffman - 3007 Telegraph (at 30th Street)
David Kim - 33rd Street
David Polka - Hawthorne Street
Fulani Carter - 34th Street

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oakland Scenic Tour Map

In honor of Oakland's 160th Birthday, all this week I'll be running articles about Oakland history. For more about some of the events going on, check out my article on Oakland Local. See past posts about Oakland history here.

If you've spent any time in Oakland, you've probably looked up at some point and seen a sign like this one. And if you're like me, you've wondered, "Where are the others? Can I get a map of them? Where does the tour go?"

To find out, I talked to local historian and writer, Annalee Allen. First the good news: there is a map of 52 signs marking hundreds of points of interest, including historical sites, shopping districts and vistas. Now the bad news: the map has been out of print since the late 90s. And while most of the sites are still there, some notable ones are gone, like Jack London Village which was demolished in 2001.

It turns out Annalee did the historical research for the map, and her boss, Samee Roberts, was in charge of the project for the city, so she was very familiar with it. It was created by the Oakland Office of Marketing and Public Information, and the Oakland Convention and Visitors Authority, which is now the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau run by the Chamber of Commerce. The map cover features a lovely Art Deco style rendering of some of the points of interest like the Tribune Tower and the Paramount Theatre. The iconic signs were designed by Oakland artist Sharon Gayton.

The tour begins in downtown at Oakland City Hall (#1), goes all over Oakland, then returns to nearby Oakland City Center (#52). Not surprisingly, the majority of the map points are near downtown and Lake Merritt, but there are points as far west as West Oakland District (#48), as far north as Claremont Resort (#26), as far east as Dunsmuir House and Gardens (#38), and as far south as Oakland International Airport (#39). The last may seem an odd thing to include on a scenic tour, but it becomes clearer when you read the subpoints included, namely the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline and the Western Aerospace Museum at the historic North Field. And remember that the map was produced with the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau, and that the signs were paid for by various corporate and other sponsors, which also helps explain why the map includes the Oakland Convention Center (#3) and various businesses are listed in the subpoints.


The map I got is copyright 1995, and wasn't the first version of the scenic route map. I went to the Oakland History Room at the main library to see if I could find the earlier ones. While I didn't find any earlier versions of this map, I did find other Oakland scenic tour maps, and discovered that this wasn't even the first tour of Oakland with signs. An editorial from the Tribune from July 24, 1967 describes "Oakland's Tourist Drive":
Within the next week or so, signs bearing a colorful oak leaf emblem will begin sprouting in Oakland. The markers will designate a 45-mile "Scenic Tour" through and by the city's oldest and newest attractions."
It then goes on to talk about the importance of promotional efforts at attracting visitors and getting them to spend money in Oakland.

I found even earlier Oakland tour maps, though no indication they had accompanying signs. There were no copyright dates on them, but based on the listed population and various geographic clues, I believe this one is from the late 1940s:

If I were creating such a map, I'd include more listed subpoints in West Oakland, like 16th Street Station; and various neighborhoods like Jingletown. And ignoring the problem of sponsorship, not include the Oakland Airport (or move it to North Field) or the APL Building as listed points. What points would you include on a scenic tour of Oakland?

note: I'd love to see the 1967 map and signs. Anybody have a picture of one or one of the maps?

A Google map showing the approximate location of the 52 signs and the labels they were given on the map:

View Oakland Scenic Tour in a larger map