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The Uptown art park Bike Bridge sculpture on the horizon

28 Sep bike-bridge-student-web-293x440

This guest blog post was written by Josie Schimke, the Program Development Associate for the Black Rock Arts Foundation. Through her administrative and program support over the last five years for BRAF, Josie has had the privilege of watching promising art proposals mature into exceptional achievements of public art.

The Black Rock Arts Foundation (BRAF) is close to fulfilling a dream and needs the community’s help. We have art. We have a place to put it. We have 12 extraordinary young artists worth celebrating. All we need now is a few more dollars to make it happen!

Donate to the Kickstarter campaign for The Bike Bridge!

If you’ve been following this blog, then you’ve heard mention of The Bike Bridge. We can’t say enough about this project, and it’s so close to becoming a reality. The City of Oakland has approved the installation of the sculpture in a new park on Telegraph Avenue, between 19th and 20th Streets, adjacent to the beautifully renovated Fox Theater. Continue reading

Uptown art park to open this fall, City puts out call for art

7 Sep glowing balls

Throughout my blogging hiatus this year, I’ve many times been tempted to blog about things happening in Oakland (particularly upcoming decisions at the Planning Commission and City Council). I’ve stopped myself because I just don’t have the time to start blogging again while I’m campaigning for BART Board and maintaining my full-time job. But I came across news on Facebook yesterday that was far too exciting not to share, since this blog, other Oakland blogs, and dozens of blog readers made this news possible.

The Uptown lot that we saved from becoming a parking lot back in 2009 is finally becoming a public arts space!

I know, I know, I’ve shared this news a couple of times here already. Unfortunately there were major delays due to funding issues after the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency. But now it really is happening. And by now I mean that construction should start this month, and if construction stays on schedule, the art could be installed as early as mid-late October.

The City of Oakland Public Art Program has put out a call for art, with applications due on September 18th. With such a short timeline for submission, acceptance, and installation, they’re currently looking for existing artwork, to be displayed for 6-12 months. After that, they might commission some new artwork. From the call for art: Continue reading

Exciting news & Sierra Club City Council candidate forum

6 Jul Sierra Club candidate forum

Last night my wife was cleaning out some boxes that we hadn’t looked through in years, and she found a box that was full of a bunch of papers from my high school years, including some sweet hand written letters from friends and my sisters. In this box I found several drafts of the personal statement I submitted to get into UC Berkeley, full of hand written notes (no tracked changes) from my mom and dad. Reading my personal statement made me realize that though I have changed quite a bit since my senior year in high school, my values were very similar. (My writing issues apparently haven’t changed much either – my dad’s notes on one draft say “too many commas” and “too many transition words”.)  Here’s one paragraph from a draft of the statement:

Once issue that I have felt strongly about since childhood is ecology. In elementary school, our classes held an annual fund-raiser to buy and preserve several acres of the rain forest. I also participated in my school’s ecology club during eighth and ninth grade. Each year we organized an ecology fair and disseminated information covering issues ranging from vegetarianism to fuel conservation. We also instituted a recycling program, which the school still uses.

Being a longtime environmentalist, I was so excited this week to receive the news that the Sierra Club had endorsed my candidacy for BART Board. The decisions made in the next decade at BART are crucial not just for BART, but also for the Bay Area’s environment for decades to come. I’m just as eager as I was in elementary school to address the environmental challenges we face.

The City of Oakland also faces a myriad of environmental challenges, and next year we will have at least two new city councilmembers to address these issues. The Sierra Club and the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) recognize the importance of the open seat races in districts 1 and 3 so they’re holding a forum on Monday featuring nearly all of the candidates running for these seats (a few couldn’t make it). From the Facebook event description: Continue reading

Living in the O’s Fifth Birthday

8 Jun Sunset City Hall Federal Building

Though Living in the O is on hiatus, I couldn’t let my blog’s birthday pass without acknowledging it here. I’ve really wanted to write lately. It’s taken self-restraint to not write about the June election, so many fantastic restaurants and other businesses opening, and most of all, everything I’m learning about BART and the East Bay through my campaign. I haven’t blogged because I’ve needed to focus on campaigning to be elected to the BART Board.

But today I felt compelled to write because writing this blog and building a community around Oakland blogs is part of why I’m running for office.

Five years ago, many things rapidly changed in my life. Over a span of three or four months, my sister (who I’m very close with) and my two best friends moved away from the Bay Area. And right after that, my girlfriend (now wife) was diagnosed with a major health issue. To say it was a tough year would be an understatement.

I needed something positive to focus on outside of work, so I decided to start blogging, but I couldn’t have imagined how much blogging would change my life for the better. Continue reading

Two great Oakland parties for two great causes

13 Jan Emerge Logo

In the next few days there are two fundraising events happening in Uptown for causes that I care deeply about. I hope you’ll consider joining me at one or both of these events.

Emerge California East Bay Reception
Saturday, January 14th from 6:30-8:30pm at Make Westing

I wrote about Emerge California when I graduated from the 2011 class back in June. Emerge California is the premier training program for Democratic women who want to run for office. The goal of Emerge is to increase the number of Democratic women in public office.

I learned so much through the seven month training program and met some amazing women leaders from throughout the Bay Area. I want to do everything I can to make sure women – particularly Oakland women – have the same opportunity as I did, which is why I’m on the host committee for this Saturday’s East Bay reception. Continue reading

Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Cafes

2 Jan Farley's Tiles

Several weeks ago I promised to restart my Rediscovering Downtown Oakland series and asked for suggestions on what categories to cover. I’m starting off with Cathy’s request: “how about coffeeshops? with room to sit in?” I was a bit surprised, looking back at my 2009 series, that I had not covered cafes, especially since there are several fantastic places to sip coffee and tea downtown. It seemed like an appropriate place to start, since as many of us return from vacations to work this week we might need or benefit from some extra caffeine.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Note that besides being great cafes to enjoy with friends or colleagues, all of these places also offer free wi-fi so they’re great places to work too.) Continue reading

Honoring Sanjiv Handa & Ron Bishop through civic engagement

28 Dec Sanjiv Handa

Updated with memorial service information for Sanjiv and Ron at the bottom of this post.

Yesterday I found out that Sanjiv Handa had passed away from this tweet from Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila:

Larry Reid just told me that Sanjiv Handa, a fixture at Oakland Council meetings, passed away. Don’t know much more. #oakmtg

I was in complete shock for several minutes. I had heard that Sanjiv had looked sick at last week’s Council meeting, but I had a hard time grasping that he was gone. I had an even harder time imagining what City Council and other meetings would be like without him.

I was equally saddened and shocked a few weeks ago when I found out that Oakland bicycle advocate Ron Bishop had died. I hadn’t seen him at Oakland Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meetings for a few months, which – now that I’m looking back – should have alerted me that something was wrong, as he had been a founding member of the BPAC, was chair for many years, and rarely missed a meeting. But reading the news on Facebook surprised me and brought tears to my eyes.

Oakland is so lucky to have benefited from the watch-dogging and advocacy of these two men. I could write pages about each of them, but I won’t, since others have already done that. I highly recommend reading Dave Campbell’s blog post about Ron Bishop on the East Bay Bicycle Coalition website. For more on Sanjiv Handa, read this 2006 East Bay Express in depth piece about him.

And if you’ve never seen Sanjiv in action at a Council meeting (though I have a hard time believing that’s possible), watch this video of him speaking for 8+ minutes at a Council meeting last year: Continue reading

Marla Wilson: Building a Better Broadway – Signs of life along Oakland’s Main Street

15 Dec Broadway at 27th

This guest blog post was written by Marla Wilson, Sustainable Development Associate with Greenbelt Alliance, the Bay Area’s advocate for open spaces and vibrant places. She has served on the Community Stakeholders Group for the Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan since the planning process began in 2008. Oakland is one of Greenbelt Alliance’s top priority cities for infill development in the region.

It’s easy to miss anything that happens this time of year. Things fall through the cracks in the crazy crunch between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. That’s why you may not have noticed that the City of Oakland has released a key document with a vision for revitalizing a neighborhood that has, like several parts of the city, fallen upon hard times.

From the beginning, the City’s stated goal in creating the Broadway-Valdez Specific Plan has been to address Oakland’s retail “leakage” – the fact that only $1 of every $3 an Oakland resident spends is spent in Oakland. The City’s goal has been to create a district similar to San Francisco’s Union Square or Emeryville’s Bay Street, with at least 1 million square feet of retail – that’s equivalent to roughly 2.5 Bay Streets!

Without leadership, this vision will not happen. Property owners would prefer to sell their land for uses like housing that command a larger price tag, not to mention that there are 140 property owners who need to agree in order to assemble sizable properties necessary to attract major retailers. Yet, the economic downturn has meant that this stretch of Broadway, between Grand Avenue and 580, has become more desolate, with many “Auto Row” car dealerships leaving or going out of business. Some new businesses have arrived, like 3000 Broadway and Shashamane, but they could really flourish if more people lived nearby. Meanwhile, online sales continue to rise, leaving retailers reconsidering the role of bricks and mortar locations.

Earlier this year, Greenbelt Alliance teamed up with several other organizations to announce a bold yet realistic vision for a better Broadway. This fall, we recognized and applauded the positive impact this vision has had on Oakland’s Draft Plan Concept for the Broadway-Valdez area. Sure, there is lots this plan does not yet describe, including policies to attract quality jobs. Although it’s still largely at the 30,000-foot level, the plan is definitely headed in the right direction. Continue reading

Suzanne L’Heureux: The Show Must Go On – Community Film Series Struggling to Continue Without Funding

5 Dec Temescal Street Cinema

This guest blog post was written by Suzanne L’Heureux, an Oakland resident, artist, and art historian with an interest in community building and art as social practice. She is a cofounder and organizer of Temescal Street Cinema, which she views as part block party, part public art intervention.

I think many readers of Living in the O will agree that in large part, it’s the lively, creative community events and small businesses that make Oakland a rich and wonderful place to live in spite of some of our larger problems as a city.

This is why four years ago, my neighbor Catarina and I started Temescal Street Cinema – a free outdoor movie night featuring films by Bay Area artists. We wanted to highlight the work of Bay Area artists, while bringing people together in a dynamic community event that fosters connections in our community.

Our series has run for six Thursdays every summer for the last four years. Since we began, we have steadily grown to an audience of 200+ per week. We have received a great deal of positive press and we have supported the work of 100+ artists through a combination of live music, shorts and feature length films. This past season, we were voted Best Local Film Event by The East Bay Express.

Continue reading

Rediscovering downtown Oakland… again

29 Nov Oaklandish Store Sign

Nearly three years ago, after dozens of downtown establishments were vandalized after Oscar Grant protests, I started a series called “Rediscovering Downtown Oakland,” in which I highlighted Oakland businesses that I loved in hopes that others would support them. Since I ended that series, so much has changed downtown. Many of the businesses have closed or moved, and so many more have popped up in their places. Looking at my post on where to grab drinks after work made me realize just how much downtown has changed, since I rarely go to any of those places anymore, and I have a full new rotation of bars I frequent.

I’ve been meaning to rewrite the series for at least several months, but I never got around to it. For the past few weeks in particular, I’ve been realizing I really needed to restart this series.

But something happened last night that pushed me over the edge. A group of people brought a resolution to the Occupy Oakland General Assembly calling for the active support of local businesses. Continue reading

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