Archive for January, 2011
Water views. Satellite TV included.
I walked by this scene today at Union Point Park. I daydream about moving onto a boat sometimes, but every time I hear about a boat sinking in the Oakland estuary, I am reminded of the virtues of solid ground—even solid ground which shakes and rolls under our feet every once in a while.
I wrote half of a post the other day about the Tucson shootings and related matters, but it wasn’t really coming together as I hoped, so I’ve set it aside for now. Maybe after my thoughts jangle around in my head for a little while, they’ll emerge more fully formed at some later date. Meanwhile, I walked the dog over to City Hall on Wednesday evening and attended the second half of a candlelight vigil for the victims in Arizona and victims of violence more generally.
At one point, a speaker asked us to turn to the people around us and tell one another what we would do in the future to reduce the violence, of all kinds, which plagues our society. The guy next to me happened to be a reporter covering the event, so he joked that the first thing he was going to do was write a story about the vigil. We had a little chuckle about that and never really got around to what I planned to do. Just as well, perhaps, since all the quick answers that popped into my head seemed either hopelessly vague, or totally inadequate to the enormity of the problem. That’s just how it goes with eternal problems such as violence, I suppose, but the “What will you do?” question is one that can always bear more consideration. If you’re at all like me, one thing to keep in mind is that it’s almost always better to do something than to worry excessively about which particular something you should do.
I’m all for new businesses opening up in vacant storefronts in nearby neighborhoods, and I’m all for sidewalk seating in front of restaurants and cafes too—almost anything that encourages people to be out and about on the streets and sidewalks of our neighborhoods seems like a good thing to me, whether they are walking to the post office or sipping mojitos with friends at a sidewalk table.
That said, I was a bit taken aback when I saw the outdoor seating area for the (not yet open) Caña, a new cuban restaurant and cabaret:
My first reaction was, “WTF? Could you have made your sidewalk seating area any more obtrusive and obstructive?” More than half of the sidewalk is blocked, right next to the bus stop and garbage can, so there is only a 30-inch gap through which people have to pass—in the 2 minutes I was standing there gaping at this new fence, I saw several pedestrians stop to let oncoming walkers pass through this Strait of Caña before they themselves could proceed. A woman pushing a regular stroller through the gap used careful navigation, since there were only a few inches on either side.
My second reaction was, “Well, I know that they are going to be widening this section of sidewalk soon as part of the Lakeshore complete streets project, so this fencing off of a public walkway for private use will presumably be a lot less obtrusive once the sidewalk is larger.” Of course it might have been nice, I told myself, if they had waited for the sidewalk expansion before they blocked a busy pedestrian strip with a fence for a seating area which isn’t even being used yet, but whatever, it will only be temporary, and it might be nice once the sidewalk widening occurs.
My third reaction came after I got home and saw that they plan to expand the sidewalk seating area from 6 feet to 10 feet after the sidewalk is widened. So the current fencing was apparently designed for the currently configured sidewalk, not the more commodious sidewalk of the future. I returned to my first feeling of “WTF?”
I note that Lanesplitter Pizza, which is right next door, also plans to expand their outdoor seating. But Lanesplitter seems to be waiting for the sidewalk expansion before fencing off a large part of a moderately sized sidewalk in a fairly busy pedestrian area. For now, Lanesplitter has simply been placing a few tables out on the sidewalk during business hours, and the pedestrian right of way remains clear (until, of course, you hit the Caña property line, where you suddenly run into a metal fence).
As I said, this problem is probably temporary, because (I hope) the expanded sidewalk will be wide enough and presumably designed to accomodate the outdoor seating at Caña and Lanesplitter and other restaurants on that strip, and once the sidewalk is wider and Caña actually opens, the benefits of outdoor seating will probably outweigh the impediment to pedestrians. Even if I might prefer a less obtrusive seating area without a big fence around it, the streetscape redesign will surely be a big improvement over the status quo.
I don’t mean to pick on Caña, which I hope will be a lively and valuable addition to the neighborhood, but it’s still somewhat galling that a business which hasn’t even opened yet can erect a fence which indefinitely blocks pedestrian traffic, while a business such as Farley’s East can’t appropriate a small piece of the automobile’s turf for customer seating for a single day without being forced by the police to remove their temporary seating area from the street.
I see that “Caña Outdoor Seating” is listed on the agenda of the Grand Lake Neighbors’ monthly meeting tomorrow (as is the contentious proposed dog park next to MacArthur Boulevard), so I wonder if I’m not the only person who was a bit surprised by how obtrusive the sidewalk fence is.