Thursday, May 29, 2014

Lungomare + Bison Brewing food and beer pairing

Last night was a special dinner at Lungomare. Chef Craig Difonzo prepared special dishes to pair with four different Bison Brewing beers. I love Bison's beers, and K and I have eaten at Lungomare before, but this was an amazing combo. And with a fun, interesting bunch of people, it made for a great evening.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

photo of the week: Kaiser Convention Center artwork

The Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center has been an Oakland landmark since it was built in 1914. It served as a makeshift hospital during the 1918 flu pandemic. It's been used for concerts (from Elvis to the Grateful Dead), science fiction conventions, roller derby tournaments, symphony performances and public speaking events (from Bill Clinton to the Dalai Lama). But it's been closed since 2006, so more recent Oakland residents may not know it well. Hopefully it will be put back into use sometime soon. In the meantime, go look at it, and check out the seven remarkable bas relief sculptures above each of the doorways on the north side. Featured here is one titled "Wealth of the Sea", featuring Poseidon, a walrus, horsefish, a seal, flying fish, and who knows what else. Turns out these curved surfaces make great sound reflectors and focusers, too.

Monday, May 26, 2014

East Lake Music Festival

Saturday was the East Lake Music Festival, with a stage in the new Lake Merritt amphitheater, and food trucks, beer, and vendors in front of the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. In the evening there were various music venues around East Lake, including Portal, the Parkway Lounge, La Estrellita, and Rooz Cafe.

The stage overlooking Lake Merritt makes for an awesome venue, and the weather was just about perfect. I only heard parts of a couple acts, but I did discover when I was over having a beer in the shade of the convention center that the rounded archways make great sound reflectors and focusers, so you can hear what's going on over the amphitheater pretty clearly despite the distance.

I had a great time hanging out, checking out the vendors, and running into various #Oakland folks I know as well as making some new acquaintances. I very much hope they keep doing this festival!

Lots more pictures from the festival:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

signs: China Lake Express / Lakeshore Fountain Restaurant

Signs come and go, often to the detriment of cool old signs. But sometimes they get re-used. What's now Chipolte on Lakeshore has had at least two previous lives, c.2009 as China Lake Express, and further back, it was Lakeshore Fountain Restaurant.

Friend and fellow photographer Paula Wirth let me know one day in April, 2012 that they were stripping the China Lake Express sign and the older Lakeshore Fountain Restaurant sign was visible. I couldn't get down there before they'd already started priming the sign for its newest incarnation, but I got a few shots showing the old signage and borrowed one—thanks, Paula!

Anybody out there remember it as Lakeshore Fountain Restaurant?

Monday, May 19, 2014

SessionFest 2014

Saturday was the 2nd annual SessionFest, with dozens of breweries providing lower-alcohol beers to local beer fans, all to benefit Bike East Bay. "Session" beers are ones that are lower in alcohol, so you can drink more of them in one session without getting totally drunk. There's no strict definition, but it generally means less than 4.5% ABV (Alcohol By Volume).

I started the day volunteering at the free valet bike-parking station. We filled up pretty quickly with about 150 bikes, and could have used even more space. Great to see so many people riding and walking to the event. Then it was time to wander, sample lots of different beers, and dog- and people-watch. It was perfect weather; the morning fog burned off, but kept it from getting too warm. A hella fun event, and if you like beer, hella recommended.

Lots more pictures from SessionFest:

Friday, May 16, 2014

food+drink: Lost+Found

Ifinally got a chance to make a second, longer visit to Lost+Found, the new beer garden on Telegraph. On my first visit, I barely had time for a beer. This time I got to hang out with my friend Mike for a while, have a couple beers, and sample the food.

The food menu is fairly simple, but includes some vegi and vegan options so I was happy. The vegan sloppy joe was quite good, as was the definitely-not-vegan grilled cheese sandwich. Lost+Found has a great beer selection, with about 20 local and not so local beers on tap. While the beer garden is built on an old parking lot, it feels like a garden with lots of plants around the seating, plus a ping pong table and other amusements. Even though yesterday was still pretty warm (though not nearly so hot as Wednesday), the space was cool and inviting, with a nice cross-breeze.

One wall of the garden space is home to a Ernest Doty mural, though fairly tame compared with many of his works. While there's definitely a hipsterish vibe (like many new places in Uptown), it still all adds up to a lovely spot to hang out, have a beer, and a bit of food. To me the only thing missing is the presence of dogs. Someone tried to bring one in while we were there, and while I couldn't hear what was exchanged, the upshot was that the dog and its person left.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Oakland Urban Paths: Rockridge and Hills History

Special thanks to Neal Parish for not only leading Saturday's walk but doing this write up about it afterwards.

This past Saturday, about 70 people and 4 dogs joined Oakland Urban Paths for a fairly strenuous walk through Upper Rockridge. The walk was led by Neal Parish, a local attorney, former chair of Oakland’s Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, and frequent contributor to Oakland Wiki. This was the first time Neal has led an OUP walk, although he and his wife and son have participated in a number of OUP walks in the past few years. On Saturday’s walk, Neal’s son Ross helped ensure that everybody had a map of the route.

Along the walk, participants went on eleven separate paths and stairs — including two unpaved but city-owned pathways. According to the RunKeeper app on Neal's phone, the group climbed a total of approximately 800 feet during the walk — living up to the warning on the route map that participants should "come ready for an active walk." The good news is that the air was amazingly clear and the weather temperate, so the views were both outstanding and well worth the effort.

The group met in front of Chabot Elementary School. Before actually starting on the walk, Neal, who noted that he has a fascination with railroads, roads and buildings that no longer exist, showed off some of his favorite print resources for historical research, including Key System Streetcars by Vernon J. Sappers, and Sacramento Northern by Harre Demoro. Neal then shared some maps, pictures and other materials with the group, showing how the neighborhood near the school had changed between 1873 and 1945. The school itself was built in 1927, and was initially known as the Claremont Annex School. Neal noted that the road adjoining Chabot School had been variously known as First Avenue, 59th Street, Vernon Street and Pryal's Lane, before finally named Chabot Road.

Neal also shared other pictures and maps at later locations during the walk. Many of the pictures were taken from one of Neal’s favorite websites, the East Bay Hills Project, which contains hundreds of historical pictures and allows visitors to take a "photographic journey following the right-of-way of the Sacramento Northern Railroad" from Rockridge to Walnut Creek. The OA&E / Sacramento Northern first began service through Oakland in 1913, and the last freight train ran on February 28, 1957. As participants of prior OUP walks through Shepherd Canyon and the Montclair Stairs had already learned, the tracks for the Sacramento Northern (originally the Oakland, Antioch & Eastern) used to go all the way from San Francisco to Chico, passing through Rockridge, Lake Temescal, Montclair and Shepherd Canyon along the way. Other sources of the information shared along the walk included the historic newspapers available through the California Digital Newspaper Collection (for free!) and (for a fee).

The first part of the walk was definitely the least attractive section, since the group first had to walk on Patton Street underneath the 24 freeway and the BART tracks, and then took a fairly unattractive (but useful!) pedestrian overpass that rises up to the level of the adjacent freeway and allows pedestrians to safely cross Broadway. Once the group finally took the stairway from Broadway up to Margarido Drive, the environment for the walk became much more attractive. At this point, Neal shared a pair of maps from the East Bay Hills Project, showing how this segment of Margarido become a dead end due to the construction of upper Broadway between Patton Street and the Caldecott Tunnel in 1935 and 1936.

The group then walked along Margarido Drive, Ocean View Drive, and down an unnamed set of stairs and N. Rockridge Blvd. to Rockridge Park. While at the park, Neal shared a 1909 ad for the Rockridge Park section of Rockridge, and a 1912 ad for Rockridge Terrace, and the group briefly discussed the impacts of the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire. The group then turned east on Rockridge Blvd. and made the long climb up Prospect Steps and West Lane back up to Ocean View Drive. After a short rest break, the group walked up Alpine Terrace — pausing to enjoy the view of the Bay over two lots that were still vacant due to the fire — down Locarno Path to Cross Road, and then up to the large intersection of Cross Road, Acacia Avenue, and Golden Gate Avenue, where a OFD ladder truck was parked in the intersection with its lights flashing. Apparently a contractor had struck a gas line during construction, and the firemen where there to make sure the situation was safely resolved. Neal told the group that he had seen one old newspaper article mentioning that the intersection used to feature a large cluster of trees in the center, although most had since been removed.

The group then walked along Golden Gate Avenue to the intersection with Romany Road. At this intersection, the group sidewalk stamps indicating this was known as the intersection of Hays and McAdam when the sidewalk was constructed in 1913 — as previously discussed on Gene's Our Oakland blog. Neal then shared an Assessor’s maps and a series of pictures from the Key System book mentioned above, showing that the wide concrete section of Broadway Terrace from Clarewood Drive to Hermosa Avenue was originally the right-of-way for the Key System’s Rockridge Line — although the line only operated from 1907 to 1928.

After continuing down Golden Gate Avenue and crossing Broadway Terrace, the group headed up Rotondo Path — which despite being nothing but dirt, grass and encroaching vegetation, is an official Oakland path (although the street sign visible in Google Maps was missing from the pole). The group then walked along Florence Avenue and Morpeth Street before climbing Morpeth Path — which is one of Neal's favorite little paths in Rockridge, because of the very interesting landscaping and art in the yard of the house at the northwest corner where Morpeth Street becomes Morpeth Path. Many of the group members chatted with the homeowners, who were working in the backyard.

Where Morpeth Path met Proctor Avenue, the group again enjoyed the view over a lot that has been vacant since the 1991 fire, and Neal mentioned that Proctor Avenue is a prime example of a Rockridge street that includes an interesting mix of pre- and post-fire architecture. The group then walked down Proctor to Florence Avenue (again), then walked on a short section of Cochrane Avenue before turning on Sheridan Road. Here, Neal mentioned that older maps of the area show Sheridan as being a through road all the way to Broadway Terrace — although a 250 foot section of the road is missing — but a nearby property owner recently discovered that city records show that the road was never built. The group also learned about a project currently underway behind some of the houses on Sheridan near Broadway Terrace, where Caltrans was spending approximately $7 million to repair damage caused by a recent landslide and prevent further slides.

The group then walked down and up the first paved section of Sheridan, continuing past/next to the "No Trespassing" along a pathway within city-owned right-of-way, and up a set of stairs that were apparently built by the homeowners on the other end of the pathway to reach the other paved section of Sheridan. We then walked down to Broadway Terrace, where we carefully crossed the road at a crosswalk with limited sight distances, before walking down Broadway Terrace to Erba Path — where the group did the final climb of the day up to Contra Costa Road.

The group then walked along Contra Costa Road and Buena Vista Avenue along the top of the ridge, passing a lot where Temescal Regional Recreation Area adjoins Contra Costa Road, before going down an unnamed path back to Golden Gate Avenue, which we took down to Chabot Road. Along the way, the group stopped to enjoy an interesting view of the 24 freeway where Broadway passes over Golden Gate Avenue, and looked at a barely visible bridge where Golden Gate Avenue crosses Temescal Creek — a bridge that was described as a "rustic bridge" connecting Rockridge and Claremont in a 1913 pictorial. Finally, the group walked down Chabot Road back to the starting point. At Reata Place, Neal mentioned that the street was built on the former SN right-of-way, and a trestle used to carry the tracks across Chabot Road at this location.

Another great walk! The walk took a bit longer than anticipated — both due to the distance (4.4 miles) and the amount of information Neal wanted to share, but it was worth the effort. Many thanks to Neal for leading the walk and writing it up, and thanks to everyone who came out and those who donated after the walk. The donations will help OUP with our mission of spreading awareness of Oakland's urban pathways and history (and maybe get that sound system fixed). We hope to see you on future OUP walks!

Here's a map of our route.

Lots more pictures from Saturday's walk:

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bike to Work / Bike to School Day

Yesterday was Bike to Work Day and Bike to School Day. Nearly 20,000 people around Alameda and Contra Costa counties took advantage of 126 energizer stations and organized "pedal pools" to bike to work or school. Many of those people regularly bike to work or school, but the event aims to get more people to try it and consider biking as an alternative to driving.

In past years, I've volunteered at various energizer stations around Oakland, handing out goody bags, serving refreshments, counting bikes, and telling people about Walk Oakland Bike Oakland and Bike East Bay. This year I led a pedal pool from Fruitvale BART to Frank Ogawa Plaza. Other pedal pools started earlier in districts 6 and 7, and met up with us by the bike station at Fruitvale BART in district 5 for the ride downtown. The bike station provides free bike parking and is fairly busy most commute mornings, but with an energizer station set up, and people gathering for the pedal pool, it was hopping. (Special shoutout to the teachers who stopped, who were both biking to work and biking to school.)

At Frank Ogawa Plaza, various groups had tables set up with information about biking. The Oakland Public Library even brought their book bicycle trailer to help publicize biking events the library has coming up as part of Bike. The After brief speeches from mayor Jean Quan and some of the city council members who had ridden to work, it was time for pancakes!

Read more about Bike to Work Day at Bike East Bay.

More pictures from Bike to Work Day:

Working mostly from home means it was "bike away from work" day for me, at least to start. After fun in Frank Ogawa Plaza, it was then time to actually ride to work, i.e., a brief IT call in Laurel, then home to my home office.

Other coverage:

Saturday, May 3, 2014

photo of the week: Oakland Marriott

The Oakland Marriott is an oddly-shaped building, and viewing it from Broadway just south of 10th Street accentuates that. Add in the perspective from a low angle with a non-tilt and shift camera, and it starts looking like a knife blade.