Archive for the ‘Oakland’ Category

Free Range

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Free Range

Tile Style

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

For some reason I’ve been taking a lot of photos of tilework lately. Continuing to mine that vein, I took some pictures of mosaic murals in jingletown today:

While many of the murals in this cluster are mosaics, there are some painted murals too. I’ve posted shots of some of the other murals (along with those above) to a set at Flickr.

Guilt Sandwich

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Guilt Sandwich

Fixer Upper

Tuesday, January 18th, 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.

Vigil

Friday, January 14th, 2011

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.

Vigil

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.

Navigating the Strait of Caña

Monday, January 10th, 2011

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.

The Varieties of Sunset Experience

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

I’m not obsessed with sunsets over Lake Merritt—really, I’m not!—but it’s hard to resist pulling out a camera whenever I happen to walk the dog over to Lakeshore Avenue in late afternoon. And when the pictures turn out well, then it’s hard to resist posting them online.

That many of the sunsets from the east side of the lake are beautiful goes without saying, but what has struck me as I’ve photographed them over the months is their wide variety, depending on the season and the clouds and the temperature and presumably other changes in atmospheric conditions. So we sometimes get lurid splashes of color, sometimes golden halos, sometimes ominous skies, and sometimes serene reflected light.

There was no thrilling sunset through this evening’s rain, but last night’s is shown above. To be honest, my camera (or its operator, perhaps) failed to capture the color properly—it was, I think, more violet and less orange, but no less impressive. Possibly the color accuracy could be fixed if I knew more about editing digital photos, but the color as it came out of the camera will have to suffice for now.

Happy Holidays

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Looks like Christmas has already come and gone at Cleveland Elementary School here in Oakland:

At What Price?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I don’t know how long this banner has been hanging, but I only noticed it today:

Good Fortune for Sale

No matter the price, it sounds like a better bargain than the “Special Sale! Misfortunes” which are advertised a few blocks away.

Do We Have a Mayor Yet?

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Ten years and one day ago was the 2000 presidential election, which, as everyone presumably remembers, took about a month to resolve. Since I was working on the national desk of a newspaper at the time, it meant that I hardly got to take a day off. I did have one weekend free, however, and I drove overnight from New York to Ohio with my father and brother and six-month-old nephew, so that my ailing grandmother could meet her new great-grandson. Whenever someone turned on the TV to hear the latest updates in the Florida recount battle, she would call out impatiently from her wheelchair, through the oxygen tubes running over her upper lip to her nose, “Do we have a President yet?”

With the news that the Alameda County Registrar won’t have the final count of the Mayor’s race done today as expected, I feel a bit like my grandmother did. Do we have a Mayor yet? No, Grandma, not yet—ask me again tomorrow.

I’ve been saying publicly since the preliminary ranked-choice results were released on Friday that I think Perata is almost certainly toast, because I just can’t imagine a realistic scenario in which he wins enough of the remaining 10,000 or so votes in order to beat Quan. I’m not much of a statistician, though, and while I don’t see how the ranked-choice counting system fundamentally changes Perata’s long odds, it does make back-of-the-envelope calculations (which are the only kind I have the patience for) a bit more convoluted. So I’m eager to get final results not only because I care about who the next Mayor will be, but also because I’m eager to find out whether I’ll end up with egg all over my face for dismissing the possibility of a Perata victory.

Time for a Change at BART

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Those who have seen my bike know that I prefer it unadorned and minimalist—no brand name, no logos, no stickers, no extraneous parts, and no colors except black and white. So it was not without hesitation that I temporarily scraperized it and turned it into a rolling billboard for Robert Raburn’s campaign for the BART Board of Directors:

Raburn for BART Board

I don’t have the craftsmanship of the scraper bike artists, but since I lack a yard or street-facing windows, I had to do what I could. In a mostly depressing election season, Raburn’s run for the BART Board in District 4 (encompassing Alameda and about half of Oakland) is one of the few bright spots. He is well-qualified for the position, with an academic background in transportation and urban planning, and a long history of public action on urban transportation issues. He also offers a stark choice between competing visions for what BART should be. Carole Ward Allen (the incumbent) and most of her fellow directors prioritize grandiose but imprudent projects like the Oakland Airport Connector and expensive expansions to far-flung suburbs, where ridership consistently fails to meet BART’s projections. Raburn, in contrast, wants to refocus BART’s priorities on core services, putting more resources into increasing reliability, decreasing headways, decreasing blight in and around stations, and improving passenger connections between BART and other modes of transportation, whether they be bus or bike or pedestrian.

Raburn has his work cut out for him. Not only is Carole Ward Allen a 12-year incumbent who is deeply embedded in the East Bay political machine, but Raburn is pushing back against 40 years of BART history. The sad fact is that BART has always acted more like a commuter rail system than an urban subway system, so Raburn’s focus on strengthening core services in the bay area’s most densely populated areas is surprisingly revolutionary.

It may be an uphill climb, but Raburn does have some things going for him. As the longtime director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, Raburn has very active support from the cycling community (see the photo above for an example—and I picked up that yard sign at a supportive bike shop in Alameda). He will also benefit from the highly motivated, highly organized opposition to the misguided Oakland Airport Connector—there are a lot of people like me who never paid any attention to the BART board before, but who are now more eager to vote for a BART director than anyone else on the ballot.

The airport connector, which will likely provide worse service than the current AirBART bus, but at twice the cost to passengers (and a cost of almost $500 million to BART) is not only a strong argument against Carole Ward Allen, who championed the project, but it also offers a more general lesson on why these down-ballot elections are important. Advocacy groups such as TransForm (not to mention a veritable army of local bloggers) fought heroically to get BART and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) to reconsider their plan to endanger BART’s financial future by taking out loans to fund a wasteful and unnecessary tram, but ultimately the MTC deferred to the BART board and approved the project. The airport connector is a prime example of why it’s more efficient—and effective—to elect the right people to these positions in the first place, instead of having to fight long, difficult battles over every lousy project.

The airport connector appears to be a fait accompli (although BART’s “groundbreaking ceremony” last week before the contracts have been finalized was a premature piece of campaign season theater), but there will be plenty of other decisions for the BART board to make down the tracks. If you live in BART District 4 and care more about increased and improved service than another expensive extension to some doomed outpost of the cheap-oil empire, then I urge you to vote for Raburn. (And if you live in BART District 8, then I urge a vote for Bert Hill for similar reasons—with the added bonus that you would be helping to defeat the unctuous James Fang, an especially unappealing character and San Francisco’s only elected Republican.)

Truthiness in Advertising

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Looking at this glossy 8.5 X 11 inch mailer sent to residents by the Jean Quan campaign, you would probably never guess that headline of the Tribune’s Mayoral endorsement was “We recommend Rebecca Kaplan for Oakland mayor.”

Half-Truth in Advertising

This is just one more unexpected complication of our new Instant Runoff Voting system, where we forgo primaries and instead rank our top three choices on the ballot, with 2nd- or 3rd-choice votes only coming into play if one’s 1st-choice candidate is eliminated during the vote-counting process. (There still seems to be much confusion out there about Ranked Choice Voting; helpful primers can be found at the Alameda County Registrar’s website or at A Better Oakland.) Even though the Tribune recommended putting Quan as third choice (behind Kaplan and Tuman) and the Guardian recommended putting Quan as second choice (behind Kaplan), Quan has been boasting on Facebook and Twitter, and now in these mailers, that she was “endorsed” by the Trib and the Guardian. This mailer takes that misleading claim beyond those niche markets and into the mailboxes of thousands of potentially low-information voters who won’t bother to look up the actual editorials to see what they say. (The East Bay Express endorsed Kaplan, Quan and Tuman without recommending what order they should be put in.)

Personally, I think Quan should be pretty embarrassed that the Tribune put a City Council neophyte and a college professor with no political experience above her on their list of recommendations, but I suppose that the two most common ways of dealing with embarrassing facts are to ignore them, or to deny them. As political half-truths go, I don’t know where on the scale this falls—it depends on what the meaning of “endorse” is, as Bill Clinton might say. (The Guardian’s endorsement does explicitly say that they are “endorsing” both Kaplan and Quan, even though they recommend making Kaplan the first choice vote and Quan the second.)  The inside of Quan’s mailer is less misleading, saying that “The Oakland Tribune, Bay Guardian and East Bay Express all say that JEAN QUAN should get one of your votes for Mayor,” and pointing out that all three papers specifically criticized Don Perata.

Politics as usual, or over the line? That probably depends on how one feels about Quan in the first place. I’ve made it pretty clear on several occasions in the past that I am not impressed at all by Quan, so unsurprisingly, I’m not impressed by this mailer either, but I suppose that if one sees this race (and she hopes that we will) as a two-candidate horserace between her and Don Perata, then it’s perhaps less misleading to claim that she has been “endorsed” by the Trib and the Guardian.