Thursday, July 30, 2015

Oakland Neighborhoods Map, V2.1

Speaking of a long time since posting things, it's been more than 5 years since I first posted my Oakland Neighborhoods Map. Since then numerous Oakland blogs have come and gone, the amount of time I've been able to spend on the blog has waxed and waned, but over the years, there's been one constant: my all-time most popular posts are related to maps of Oakland (you can click on the 'maps' button below the site banner to see more). And the most popular of those, by an order of magnitude, has been the neighborhoods map. At some point Google updated custom maps and broke the original. I upgraded it to the new format, added some new content, and took advantage of some of the new features of the new custom maps engine.

So without further ado, I present the Oakland Neighborhoods Map, V2.1. As with the previous version, the basic map is based on the Street Trees. With lots of time spent poring over other maps, historical documents, and vague descriptions, I added some of the informal neighborhood names like Dogtown. If your browser supports it, there should be interactive version of the map below:

But all that said, the map is far from perfect. A lot of the 'street trees' names aren't used, and with any of the names that are used, people disagree about the exact boundaries. Myself, I disagree about the concept of exact boundaries for neighborhoods, because unless there's a physical barrier like a freeway, most boundaries aren't exact, and people's perceptions are different. Exercises best left to the user include: Where is DTO? Where is East Oakland? Is Uptown a real neighborhood?

The new version adds pictures of signs of some of the areas showing what they label themselves, refines the details of some of the boundaries, and even adds some historical neighborhoods that most people have no idea existed. Finally, I added a feature for myself, but some of you may find it useful, too. Go to the relatively easy to remember URL, and it will redirect you to the Google Map page.

Unfortunately, the new Google Maps engine lost (or hid) some useful features, like the ability to load other custom maps on top this one, search for an address or otherwise use a custom map like a regular Google map, and probably some other things. Sigh.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

signs: A Taste of Denmark

It's been over 5 years since I posted a sign for the struggling Neldam's Danish Bakery. Later that year, the employees formed a collective and kept the bakery going, but the Neldams kept the name. A temporary sign went up, but it wasn't until this week that I finally saw a new, permanent sign.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

upcoming #Oakland events

It's been forever since I've done an upcoming events post, but a major work project is completed, my book, Legendary Locals of Oakland is in production and layout at the publisher, and I finally feel like I have some time. Hopefully you have some time, too, to get out and enjoy some of the great events coming up in Oakland!


Kaiser Center Roof Garden Concert - Each summer they put on free lunchtime concerts in the Kaiser Center Roof Garden, noon to 1pm. This Friday the musical group is The 415s. It's a great place to take your lunch and listen to some free music. (free)

Bicycle Fix-It Clinic - a free bicycle fix-it clinic at the 81st Avenue Library, from 2pm-5pm. And ideas on how to decorate your bike! (free)

Bites Off Broadway - my favorite food truck gathering, on 45th Street in front of Studio One Art Center.

Dancing Under the Stars - Friday's Dancing Under the Stars at Jack London Square features free lessons in the Bachata. Don't know what that is? Come down to JLS and learn! (free)


OHA "Borax" Smith Tour - Join the Oakland Heritage Alliance to learn about legendary local "Borax" Smith, creator of the Key System streetcars, partner in the Realty Syndicate that built the Claremont Hotel, and more. ($10-$15)

Urban Wildlife walk with Wild Oakland - Join Wild Oakland and Yggdrasil Urban Wildlife Rescue to learn about some of the urban wildlife of Oakland with a walk around Lake Merritt. (free)

Pedalfest 2015 - The biggest bike festival in the Bay Area takes over Jack London Square. Besides bikes and bike-related fun, there will be food, music, and more. New features this year include an E-bike test track, Crucible Bike Build, and the Brompton Urban Challenge. (free)


OHA Civil War Mountain View Cemetery - Join the Oakland Heritage Alliance and local historian Dennis Evanosky to learn some of the Civil War history at Mountain View Cemetery. ($10-$15)

Further Ahead

Love Our Dogs Day at Bites By the Lake - Bites By the Lake is a weekly food truck gathering by the Lakeview Library at the north end of Lake Merritt. On Sunday, August 2nd, the scheduled food trucks are Go Streatery, Tea and Picklets, Crepe Queen, Kancha’s Kitchen, Beulah’s Beans, and Curbside Creamery. But there will also be adoptable dogs from the Oakland Animal Shelter!

Art + Soul Festival - Music, art, food, fun. 2015 highlights include: Oaktown Throwdown BBQ Competition, Bandaloop, Kinetic Arts Circus Stage, and more. Plan to walk, bike or take transit...but not BART from SF because the transbay tube will be closed that weekend. (Saturday, August 1st and Sunday, August 2nd) ($12; seniors and youth $7; 12 and under free)

National Night Out - Meet your nearby neighbors for a street party, or join the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights for the Night Out for Safety and Liberation. (Tuesday, August 2nd) (free)

Sing-Along Cinema: Frozen - free movies to sing-along with at Jack London Square. (Thursday, August 6) (free)

Pete Escovedo: Personal Art Collection Show - closing finale of Pete Escovedo's personal art collection show at the historic Howden Building. (Saturday, August 8th)

Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan - A special reading of Julith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan at the Pardee Home Museum. Learn more about California's first woman architect, take part in the reading, and enjoy hors d'oeuvres. (Sunday, August 9th) ($25)

PARK(ing) Day - Enjoy the streets in a new way as a pedestrian or cyclist, with dozens of parking spots around Oakland converted into temporary parklets. Plus a chance to celebrate a several permanent parklets, like in front of Farley's East. (Friday, September 18) (free)

Did I forget something interesting? What can I say? I'm out of practice. Let me know...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Oakland Urban Paths: Montclair and the Sacramento Northern Railway

Note: Many of the links below are links to, where you can find more information about the subjects. At the end of the article there are some additional links to other sites I mentioned, plus a link to a map of our route.

Saturday we had about 50 people (and two dogs) turn out for a walk exploring Montclair and the Sacramento Northern (SN) Railway with Oakland Urban Paths. The Sacramento Northern was an all-electric railroad running from Oakland to Sacramento to Chico.

We started in Montclair Park near the duck pond. From there you can see some traces of railroad, including the bridge abutments on Mountain Blvd. We headed up Moraga Avenue to the nearby Montclair Firehouse. The lovely storybook structure hasn't been used since the 1989 earthquake, because it's seismically unsafe, and the Hayward fault is basically out its front door. There are some people who'd like to turn it into a firefighting museum, but without a lot of money that's not going to happen soon. From there we headed to the corner of Moraga and Thornhill Road, and I showed people a picture of an SN train crossing the bridge that used to be there.

Then we walked over to Fernwood Drive, which is named for the historic estate that once filled the valley. It first belonged to Jack Coffee Hays, who gained fame as a Texas Ranger hunting down the Comanche people. After a stint as San Francisco sheriff, he moved to Oakland. He improved the county road that is now Moraga Road to access his estate; for many years the area was known as "Hays Canyon" or "Jack Hays Canyon". After Hays' death, his widow sold the beautiful Fernwood estate to William Dingee of the Oakland Water Company.

A bit of backtracking took us to the Montclair library, another local storybook gem, and the Montclair Women's Club. We talked a bit about the controversy surrounding it. After decades as a women's club, it's been sold, and a group wants to put in a Montessori school. Nearby neighbors are concerned about the increased traffic, because there are two elementary schools within a half mile of the already busy intersection.

Then it was up our first flight of stairs to Cabot Drive. If you approached from the top, you might think you were trespassing, but the stairs are a public right of way. They're just unmarked, so you have to know that they're there. We walked down the hill to Mountain past one of the elementary schools, then climbed another flight of stairs up to Magellan Drive.

Finally, we dropped down to the Montclair Railroad Trail. This follows the actual right of way that the trains followed, and so has a very gentle grade and wide curves. We viewed one of the information signs about the SN, and another about Highway 77, the highway that fortunately was never built up Shepherd Canyon. We walked a bit further up, and I talked about the tunnel that the trains went through to get over to the Moraga side of the hills.

We backtracked, then went through Montclair Village and checked out some of the new murals. Including some in the first-ever-OUP parking garage traversal, as several of the latest murals are inside. We crossed Highway 13, climbed up to Bruns Court, then returned to our starting point via a pedestrian bridge back over Highway 13 (and Hayward fault!).

Thanks to everyone who came out for the walk and for your donations, and special thanks to those who carried the loudspeaker and clipboard for me at different points. Hope to see you on the paths again soon!

Additional Links

  • East Bay Hills Project - Stuart Swiedler's amazing web site with lots of photos of the Sacramento Northern
  • Sacramento Northern on the OB&E - Daniel Levy's great web site with photos and more, including info about the Key System and other local transit. Daniel was the Eagle Scout behind the project that placed the informative signs along the SN right of way
  • Western Railway Museum - a museum near Rio Vista on the way to Sacramento. They've preserved some of the engines and cars of the Sacramento Northern (as well as the Key System)

Our Route

A Google map of our route.

More Photos

Some more photos, both from the day of the walk and other

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kayaking by Moonlight

Wednesday was a full moon, so K and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a moonlight paddle on the estuary, led by California Canoe and Kayak at Jack London Square. The weather was warm, but perfect for being out on the water. There were clouds, but they broke up enough so we could not only see the moon, but had a spectacular sunset. Thanks to Sou and Kathy, our fearless leaders, for a great tour around the estuary.