Editor’s Note: Not only is the March newsletter several days late, it may be the shortest in recent memory. As an inveterate procrastinator, I’ll shoulder some of the blame but, for the balance, unattended donation bins and the Bay Friendly Garden Tour share responsibility.
How so? For the past couple of weeks, instead of taking photos and schmoozing on Grand and Lakeshore, I was busy writing an article about the controversial boxes that are proliferating throughout Oakland. When I wasn’t doing that, I was preoccupied with getting my garden ready to host an orientation for Alameda County gardeners whose yards will be featured in the annual Bay Friendly Garden Tour on April 29. It took a ton of weeding, pruning and cleaning but my garden is looking good. Not me! I desperately need a haircut and a new wardrobe–but I keep procrastinating.
GRAND LAKE MERCHANT NEWS
For the past month or so, Lakeshore Avenue business owners have been doing their best to put idled construction workers back to work. No sooner did Peet’s reopen with a revamped interior, Starbucks closed for a complete remodel–an obvious case of Peet’s Envy, if I ever saw one.
One morning, I counted at least a dozen trucks parked side by side up and down the avenue adjacent to Starbucks. They represented a host of trades including welders, plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The newly-remodeled interior looks fabulous and includes multiple chess tables. Unfortunately, I can’t provide photographic evidence since company policy requires written authorization from the corporate offices.
I did, however, take this photo of the exterior including the planters that seem to be an afterthought and vines that appear to be half dead. If you’re a Starbucks regular, please do them and us a favor and diplomatically broach the subject by suggesting that the manager check out the very colorful flower bed planted and maintained by Izek Day Spa Salon.
Speaking of which, when you’re down on Lakeshore, poke your head inside the door at Izek’s and tell them how much you appreciate their efforts and please tell them that “Ken sent you”.
Next door to Arizmendi, Chipotle has “broken ground”. On Friday, I shot this photo of the interior through the front window. They are completely gutting the insides–removing the concrete flooring and stripping off the interior plaster to expose the bare studs. The previous afternoon, I took this photo of someone atop a vertical lift working on the blade sign on the facade. A couple of days later, photographer and Social Media Maven, Paula Wirth took this Instagram image of the signage stripped down to the original.
Around the corner, 3307 Grand (which is adjacent to Monkey Forest Road) is also getting a total remodel but at a far less frenetic pace. Before I reveal what’s in the offing, let me add a parenthetical note. Several years ago, I was a member of the Grand Lake Retail Advisory Group–an ad hoc coalition of volunteers that organized a neighborhood survey that generated 705 responses. The number one item on the “Want List” in the GLRAG Report was a butcher shop.
I rashly predicted that we’d have one within the year but it’s taken nearly four. Nonetheless, it’s going to be worth the wait as we’re getting a butcher shop and a bar and a restaurant–all under one roof and the project is being coordinated under the watchful eye of building owner, Richard Weinstein and chef extraordinaire, Charlie Hallowell of Boot & Shoe Service and Pizzaiolo fame.
With Richard and Charlie’s track records, we can count on their new venture being a worthy next-door neighbor for Monkey Forest Road. We can also count on even more folks flocking to this stretch of Grand Avenue with the expectation that they’ll have to wait in line for a table at Boot and Shoe or their new (yet unnamed) restaurant across the street. Richard did, however, mention that Boot and Shoe has extended their hours and you now have the option of dining there for lunch or a weekend brunch.
The one, unfortunate downside to the above story is that Jenny’s Cafe has lost its lease and, after twelve years on Grand, will be closing at the end of the month. Jenny and Mot have been a real asset to the Avenue and, for a lot of their regular customers, this will be like losing a cherished, family member. We wish them the very best and perhaps, we’ll yet see Jenny’s Cafe reincarnated at another neighborhood location.
Back on Lakeshore, the equally disappointing news is that Juniper Tree is closing after a very long run. They are currently having a going out of business sale and will be relocating to Park Street in Alameda. I, for one, will miss their Christmas and Halloween merchandise and their always photogenic window displays.
Ergo Sleep Systems opened their new Oakland location at 3342 Lakeshore Avenue just over a week ago. They feature organic bedding including mattress sets, linens, mattress pads and, in the near future, organic pillows from the previous tenants–Sleep & Beyond. I took this photo of Manager, Leonard Laxamana and Sales Associate, Shaina Durant late last week.
Grand Avenue has been hogging the spotlight of late as acknowledged by “The Weekly Yelp” in their Lakeshore tribute published March 14. Accolades for Lakeshore businesses went to Arizmendi, Rolling Dunes, Urban Indigo, Easy Lounge, Yayu Ethiopian and Mezze. Also included (although not strictly speaking on Lakeshore) was Holy Land on Rand and (not even close) Skin and Tonic on Santa Clara just past H & R Block.
Lin Jia’s Marcia Lam was profiled in Oakland Magazine’s “March-April Secret Eats” feature. They say any publicity is good publicity but without the text, I’m not sure I would have recognized Marcia. Thumbs down for their, oh-so unflattering photo but a big thumbs-up for Lin Jia’s brand new Spring menu introducing a number of new seasonal treats including “Palace Secret Ribs”, “Flowering Chicken” and the provocatively-named, “Dragon & Phoenix”.
Easy has hung a new, “New Easy” sign and they’ve also just introduced their own seasonal Spring Menu featuring some luscious-sounding sandwiches and small plates to share. Their “Sunday Smoke” menu sounds especially tempting–particularly since their meats are all sourced from Star in Berkeley.
Last week, I stopped by Yayu and picked up their vegetarian platter which is delicious and at $11.95, a bargain. Owners, Masai and Andy told me they’re looking forward to Oakland’s Vegan Week which starts April 15. All of Yayu’s vegetarian items are Vegan, as well.
Jennie Gerard, Pat Kernighan’s Chief of Staff just advised me of two proclamations that our District 2 council member has issued in the past couple of years. The more recent honors Margene Burns whose bridal salon has been clothing blushing brides since 1961. For the last 34 years, she’s been doing so from her shop, Margene’s Bridal Salon at 3612 Grand. The second proclamation honors Gloria Orduna who has been operating Le Visage Salon at 3510 Grand since 1989.
ODDS AND ENDS:
Hundreds of California Native Irises are currently in bloom at Splash Pad Park but, unfortunately, they’re lost in a sea of weeds that have engulfed all of the planting beds accounting for the demise of about half of the Yellow Twig Dogwood. Since the park opened, we’ve also lost five Date Palms to Fusarium Wilt infections. The net result is a park that no longer looks like the pristine version that was featured in countless magazine and newspaper articles extolling Landscape Architect Walter Hood.
In last month’s newsletter, I mentioned this subject briefly, saying “I fear that Walter may be on the verge of disowning us”. In truth, my actual fear is that Walter may be on the verge of disowning me. When the park opened in 2003, we were already aware that the City of Oakland’s park maintenance staff was limited in what they could do and we had an unspoken pact that I would be the park’s guardian angel.
For the first few years, with the assistance of a hard-core group of volunteers, we did just that but, over time, we all drifted off to other projects and concerns. For me, that included the homeless, Grand Lake neighborhood issues and most particularly, this extremely, time-consuming newsletter.
On Sunday, April 22, you’ll have an opportunity to help put me back in Walter’s good graces while taking one giant step towards restoring Splash Pad as a green and colorful oasis. While the rest of Oakland is celebrating Earth Day on the 21st, we’re organizing a Sunday work day co-sponsored by Jerry Barclay’s Splash Pad/Farmers Market Advisory Group and Eric Hughes’ Grand Lake Improvement and Beautification Committee with support from the City of Oakland and the Grand Lake Farmers Market.
Plans include extensive weeding, some pruning and the addition of quantities of California Native plants along with some soil additives. The work day is scheduled from 9:00 AM to Noon. If you can volunteer on the 22nd, please email us at email@example.com so we’ll know how many tools to order and also have an idea as to what we will need in the way of food and beverages. Regarding the latter, we’d be absolutely delighted to have someone step forward to arrange in advance for food and beverage donations and handle the table set-up on the work day.
Lakeshore Avenue still has what I described last month as an “unwelcome visitor”. Theoretically, the USAgain clothing donation bin at the 76 Union Station will soon be gone as the station manager did ask to have it removed. Hopefully, the same will be true of at least the majority of the donation bins in Oakland operated by USAgain, Campus California, Reading Tree and at least one copy-cat organization.
At their meeting on March 27, the members of the City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee clearly expressed their desire to reverse the proliferation of donation bins operated by organizations with no ties to Oakland. Accordingly, they asked the Planning Department to come back with a more stringent application process and higher fees than what was originally on the table.
Thanks to everyone who responded to last month’s request for emails to the committee members. For more information on this issue, please refer to the updated version of my article posted on the Grand Lake Neighbors website.
In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been studiously avoiding discussion of Occupy Oakland in this venue. For the record, I’ve been terribly disappointed by Occupy Oakland’s embrace of vandalism and other aggressive acts under the rubric of “diversity of tactics”. I’m happy to see that the majority of the group is evolving into a movement committed to peaceful protest but they have yet to formally condemn the counter-productive actions of others protesting under the same banner. If you’re in agreement, please consider signing this online petition calling on Occupy Oakland to maintain an “unwavering commitment to peace and nonviolence in our City”.
Plans for the parklets that are slated for Lakeshore in front of Arizmendi and Foot Locker are nearing completion. The Steering Committee which had consisted of myself, Jeffrey Lim, Pamela Drake and Eric Hughes got a big shot in the arm in the last month thanks to the addition of two members. Glenn Nunez is a long-time contractor and woodworker while Elena Ion is in the process of getting a PHD in architecture at Cal. Elena’s most recent elevations and floor plans can be viewed on this link. Sometime soon, we’re going to be looking for volunteers to help with construction and with fundraising.
The long-awaited, $1.2 million Lakeshore Complete Streets Project has just begun. I’m going to be documenting ongoing construction with photos posted on this Flickr set that includes a description of the scope of the project taken from Pat Kernighan’s E-News.
Look for Point Reyes Farmstead Blue Cheese to make its debut this Saturday. I skimmed their website and this looks like a first class operation that’s home to the world’s most-contented cows. According to the Market Manager, Chris Blackburn, they’ll be setting up on the west end of the market alongside Strauss Dairy.
The Farmers Market Entertainment calendar for March and April includes one new group that should be a big hit judging by the video posted on their website. The Sadza Marimba Band is based in Santa Cruz and will be performing on May 12.
April 7: PARIS MUSIQUE
April 14: DIEGO JAMEAU
April 21: DAMOND MOODIE
May 5: BRIAN BERGERON
May 26: Anderson-Gram
April 6: First Friday Art Murmur, Uptown District
April 7: 25th Annual Lakeshore Easter Parade and Derby Contest sponsored by Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church and the Lakeshore Business Improvement District. Details are posted on Pamela Drake’s blog.
April 14: Deadline for nominations for Oakland Indie Awards using this form. The always fun, Awards Ceremony is May 31.
April 21: Oakland Earth Day.
April 22: Splash Pad Earth Day Celebration. 9:00 to Noon.
April 29: Bay Friendly Garden Tour–Alameda County. Deadline for registering for this date is mid April.