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Joyce Roy: MTC stealth action contradicts sustainability policy

16 Aug

This guest post was written by Joyce Roy. As a retired architect, Joyce has raised her sights (or sites?) to the whole city of Oakland and so has been active in advocating for better transit, the right development in the right place and the reuse of existing structures.  She is an active member of ULTRA.

With little public knowledge or input, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted on July 27 to purchase a 1940’s warehouse in a desolate San Francisco area, a half-mile from BART, for a new headquarters to share with other regional agencies.  This violates their own land use policy of locating ”job centers within a quarter mile of transit.”  And it will take many years and more than the $180 million allocated to transform this 8-story humongous plug-ugly warehouse into humane habitable office spaces. No matter how much money is sunk into this building, it is doubtful it can be rated a Class-A office building because of its location.

MTC has another choice, a superbly sustainable one, for $153 million—a proposed new, fully entitled, 20-story Class-A office tower above the 12th Street BART Station at 1100 Broadway in downtown Oakland which will be LEED Platinum certified! With 310,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of public/retail space on the ground floor, it would more than meet the needs of all three (or four?) regional agencies—it would become a signature regional center.  And the façade of the attached Historic Key System building, the birthplace of Bay Area mass transit, would be restored! What better demonstration of sustainable development could there be? Continue reading

Karen Hester: Bites off Broadway – Mobile Food and Family Fun

21 Jul

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

When I started Bites on Broadway last June, I wrote a pretty optimistic blog as it seemed pretty straight forward. We had permission from the Oakland Unified School District  to use the Oakland Tech Plaza for a weekly food pod event, I had a partner in the venture and we had plenty of food trucks lining up to participate.

What a difference a month makes. The risk manager for OUSD ended up denying our permit to use the plaza because of “liability issues” and I got an email from their legal counsel noting that I was engaged in “criminal activity” by trespassing on their lawn. Trespassing in this case means folks sitting to eat their pulled pork sandwich. I kept the event going because I believe that neighbors should be able to enjoy the public lawn that we pay for through taxes and that in fact the connection between Oakland Tech and the community was a positive thing. Continue reading

Ruby Reid: I’m not a cat lady, I’m an animal ally!

14 Jul

This guest post was written by my neighbor Ruby Reid, MSW, a Community Organizer and lifelong animal advocate. She has worked on local, state, national and international campaigns for animal rights, human rights and the environment. Her work is informed by her training and experience as a professional social worker. She is currently writing a “Do It Yourself” guide for new activists, The Organizer’s Cookbook, which will be available soon.

I asked Ruby to write this post when I heard about the East Bay SPCA Adoptathon happening this Sunday in Jack London Square. Over 30 animal shelters and rescue groups are joining together to adopt out hundreds of cats, dogs, rabbits, reptiles and more. Not convinced you adopting is for you? Read Ruby’s story and it just might change your mind. If so, head to Jack London Square this Sunday from 10am-3pm for the Adoptathon.

Ok, so right now there are 4 kittens in our bathroom and 2 resident cats in our house. It all started with a trip to the dry cleaner.

While my partner ducked in to pick up our clothes, a black cat in the window of a neighboring pet shop caught my eye. He stretched out his paw. The tag on his cage said “Dexter.” Drawn by a powerful and inexplicable force, I went inside.

Dexter reached out through the wire cage, batting at me with a soft paw and meowing loudly. The shop attendant opened the cage. Without a word, she placed Dexter in my arms. He snuggled up and started purring. Continue reading

Caitlin Gesell: Being a Trendsetter

23 Jun

This guest post was written by Caitlin Gesell, Coordinator, Development and Marketing for Wardrobe for Opportunity.

Hello “Living in the O” readers! My name is Caitlin and I am a new resident here in the Bay Area. I’m here from Minnesota serving as an AmeriCorps Vista at a wonderful non-profit in downtown Oakland.

At Wardrobe for Opportunity, we support low-income individuals in the Bay Area in their journey to find work and move up in their jobs by offering professional clothing and other professional development resources. I love seeing the transformation that our clients go through after they have received clothing from us or after they call me with news of their new job! Continue reading

Jim Ross: Redistricting, What Just Happened? And What’s Next?

16 Jun

This guest post was written by Jim Ross, the owner of Jim Ross Consulting, a Political Consulting and Public Relations firm located in Oakland. His firm has run dozens of campaigns including those of Mayor Gavin Newsom (D-SF) and Governor Ted Kulongosk (D-OR).

The first California legislative district draft maps have been released. After months of public testimony, the California Redistricting Commission has unleashed what is being called a political “earthquake” or “tsunami”. What the Commission members have done fundamentally changes the political make-up of CaliforniaContinue reading

Karen Hester: Bites on Broadway – Mobile Fun and Family Fun

3 Jun

This guest post was written by Karen Hester, an events producer who lives in Temescal Creek Cohousing and often cooks dinner for her community of 25 folks. You can subscribe to her event listings by signing up on her website. She is a board member of Destiny Arts Center, a bike enthusiast and loves to eat almost any street food, including fried crickets in Cambodia.

Bites on Broadway is my latest attempt to actually do something about the blight I experience everyday along Broadway, especially between 49th and up to College Avenue. I am an events organizer so it seems natural that the idea of a local homegrown mobile food meetup combined with urban games would excite my interest.

I teamed up with Guerrilla Grub co-owner Elizabeth August whose healthy California comfort food I relish. We come out of the same mold as community organizers. First, identify the issue: lack of healthy affordable food, especially around 45th and Broadway, where fast food is king. Broadway, a main thoroughfare in Oakland that has become the ugly step child of Telegraph, College and Piedmont Avenues, a boulevard no one in the City seems to even remotely pay attention to, except for the few tried and true businesses like Art Tile and Bay Appliances and newbies like Oakland Karate and New Style Motherlode, opening a much needed dance studio once all the City permits are navigated. Continue reading

Alethea Harper: Help chart a course for the future of urban agriculture in Oakland

13 May

This guest post was written by Alethea Harper, the Coordinator of the Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC), an organization housed at Food First. Alethea holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley where she focused on food systems and urban agriculture through her award-winning thesis and a research trip to Latin America.

The Oakland Food Policy Council has identified support for and expansion of urban agriculture (UA) through local policy and coordination as one of our top goals.

Broadly, UA encompasses the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, plants, flowers or herbs, and/or raising animals and livestock in cities. Oakland is already home to a thriving community of urban farmers and gardeners who contribute to our city’s culture, health, environment, and economic vitality.

However, our planning process identified a number of areas where Oakland residents could benefit from clearer, updated, and streamlined local policies related to urban agriculture – especially in our zoning code. Continue reading

Margaret Schultz: Netroots Nation, here I come!

29 Apr

This guest post was written by Margaret Schultz, who is alive and well and living in Oakland with her musician husband BZ and her two boys, Max and Aiden. In addition to holding down a job, keeping the family fed and watered, Margaret has picked up a running habit and loves discovering new routes throughout Oakland, preferably in the flats. Margaret also volunteers at the local elementary school and calls Bingo with her 8 year old son at an Oakland Senior living facility once a month.

My name is Margaret Schultz and I am competing in Democracy For America’s scholarship competition to attend Netroots Nation in June, 2011. Netroots Nation is a great annual event that trains Progressive activists to better use our online resources to reach out, create communities and  to influence change. I am competing for one of the last 8 scholarships being offered. I’d like to represent Oakland at this international conference and I would love your vote. Often people think that since Oakland has such a Progressive leaning that it needs no attention politically. But as you know, that is simply not true. It may seem that someone like Rep. Barbara Lee is always a shoe-in for office, but none of our office holders are safe from the crazy money and tactics of the far right. There are also plenty of local issues that need fighting for every day.

I am hoping to go to Netroots Nation to get further trained as an activist, to meet other activists from all over the country (and the world), to combine our efforts on and off line to move the political line back toward center and then hopefully back further to the left. Actually, I don’t really think of it as left but just toward people, toward us regular citizens who just want and deserve a good job, a roof over our heads, good education for our kids and maybe even affordable healthcare. Oh and yeah, equal rights would be OK too. Continue reading

Christopher Waters: Community mourns and mobilizes in support of family of murdered child care provider

26 Apr

This guest post was written by Christopher Waters, a North Oakland resident and founder of the Nomad Café. He serves on numerous boards, committees and community groups in Oakland.

In the early morning hours of Monday, April 25, as Adam Williams and a friend were bringing their Easter Sunday to a close at a late-night establishment near Jack London Square, Adam’s life was brought to a sudden end by a gunman who opened fire on innocent customers with an automatic weapon.  Adam was 22.

Adam was well-known and loved by Peralta Elementary School students and families.  Until his death, he worked at P.E.A.C.E., Peralta’s after-school program.  He is described by his supervisor, Sherice Tyler, as “a responsible, caring, and professional young man,” and by Peralta’s Principal, Rosette Costello, as “a very peaceful, very generous and positive person committed to making the best of his life.”  He was a role model to many young Peralta students, many of whom remained in touch with him after they had moved on to middle school and beyond.

Adam’s own son, Amari Williams, is 4 years old and will be celebrating his 5th birthday on May 21.  Adam and his family had been hoping to have Amari attend Peralta next school year.  The impact of Adam’s death on this and many other family decisions will only be determined over time, but it is still distinctly possible that Amari will be in Kindergarten at Peralta next year. Continue reading

Ann Dunn: Big Cat Rejects Small Cage, a Cat Town Story

11 Apr

This guest post is written by Ann Dunn, the president and founder of Cat Town. In addition to being passionate about cats, and a cat volunteer at Oakland Animal Services, Ann is a mentor for at-risk youth. Professionally, she has worked in affordable housing for over 20 years, focusing currently on policy and fundraising for public housing redevelopment and related economic development programs.

I am excited at the opportunity to tell you about Cat Town, a new, Oakland-based cat rescue organization formed by several long-term volunteers from Oakland Animal Services (Oakland’s municipal shelter) along with a former board member of the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. The word “rescue” suggests we are saving cats from certain death at the hands of an unfeeling bureaucracy, but the truth, as always, is more complex. Oakland Animal Services (OAS), under Director Megan Webb, herself one of the original OAS volunteers, is very well run, and stretches its very limited resources to do the most and best for the animals in its care.

Cat Town is wholly independent of the shelter but works in close collaboration with OAS to take the cats who are least likely to be adopted there, because they are unable to handle the stress of the shelter environment, or because they are older (and, so, wait much longer to be adopted). We focus on semi-feral kittens, older cats, and cats who are extremely stressed, shy or undersocialized. Through our partnership with OAS, we receive incredible support on the front end – OAS does all necessary spay/neuter surgeries, and provides other medical services prior to transferring the cats to Cat Town. The result is that we can serve far more cats because, as a fledgling organization, we simply couldn’t afford to provide these services on our own. Continue reading