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Join us for Jane’s Crawl this Saturday to celebrate the ideas of Jane Jacobs

3 May

Every year, in cities throughout the world, organizations host Jane’s Walks to honor the ideas of writer Jane Jacobs. The City of Oakland will be hosting a Jane’s Walk, as it usually does, but there’s also something a bit different going on this year. Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO) is hosting a Jane’s Crawl.

At the A Better Broadway event last month, Ruth Miller, Karen Smulevitz and I were all chatting. I had just been talking to Ron Bishop about a bicycle ride he was hosting and lamented to them that there were so many awesome events planned for bicyclists, but not so many for walking enthusiasts. I said we should have a walking pub crawl some time. And that sparked an excellent idea from Ruth Miller of WOBO – why not host a pub crawl to coincide with Jane’s Walk?

So this Saturday, we’re hosting the first Jane’s Crawl, where we’ll be walking from downtown to North Oakland, visiting some of the best bars along Telegraph to enjoy drinks, food, and discussions about Jane’s ideas. Continue reading


Come play in the streets at Oaklavia this Sunday

22 Jun

I mentioned Oaklavia in my events listing yesterday, but I thought it deserved a post of its own, since it’s shaping up to be a pretty incredible event.

You might have guessed by now that I love it when streets are closed down to cars for pretty much any reason. I love walking down the middle of Telegraph, Broadway, or any main thoroughfare during street fairs and other events. But during those events, there’s usually a lot of stuff in the street – music stages, vendors, tables, and more. And because they’re typically concentrated on a couple of blocks, they’re crowded, so it’s not easy to walk through quickly and it’s even harder to bike.

Oaklavia – a project of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland – will finally provide an opportunity for Oaklanders to just enjoy the street and the surroundings in Uptown, Downtown, and Old Oakland. You can stroll through slowly, chatting with people along the way and snapping photos of the gorgeous architecture along the route, or you can speed by on your bike, all the time not worrying about cars.

Even though Oaklavia is centered around enjoying and appreciating the bicyclist and pedestrian experience, there will be plenty of activities along the way as well. There will be dance and martial arts classes, music performances, art viewing, plenty of food, and of course bike safety and bike repair classes. You can find the full listing of activities and a detailed route map in this large PDF or in the pull out ad in the East Bay Express tomorrow.

So whatever your plans are this Sunday, take at least an hour between 10am-2pm to play in the streets at Oaklavia.

Just a few more days until the Car Free Challenge starts

28 May

I don’t know how this crept up on me so quickly, but TransForm’s Car Free Challenge starts next week! I was reminded of it because yesterday I opened my mailbox and saw a package from TransForm. I had forgotten that one of the perks of joining the challenge is this awesome shirt:

If you want one of these, the only way to get one is to join the Car Free Challenge. And when you do, please join the Blogoaksphere Team. I had hoped to have time over the past few weeks to do individual outreach to bloggers, but alas, my life’s been keeping me pretty damn busy so this post will have to suffice. So far there are just two of us on the team, and I know there are many more bloggers and blog readers who support TransForm and alternatives to driving. And it’s just a week long commitment to stop driving or to drive fewer miles – I know many of you can do it!

So don’t procrastinate any longer. Join the challenge, join the team, and look out for an awesome package from TransForm, which should be a nice respite from all the campaign mail you’ll be receiving next week.

February 8-14 Oakland Political & Community Events

7 Feb

Wednesday, February 10th – Walking Tour: New Era/New Politics

If you missed Saturday’s walking tour, not to worry because it’s being held again this week (and on February 27th). Stroll through downtown and discover the places where Oakland African American leaders have made their mark. Learn how Lionel Wilson, Delilah Beasley, Robert Maynard, the Dellums family, Josephine Baker, and others changed the Bay Area and California. This free tour begins at 10:00 a.m. in front of the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, 14th Street at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Visit Oakland’s walking tour site for more info.

Wednesday, February 10th – AC Transit Board Meeting (in person or via audio!)

As V Smoothe announced last month, starting this Wednesday, AC Transit will be audio-casting their Board meetings and standing committee meetings and will be posting archived audio of all meetings. I couldn’t be much more excited about this, as it means it will now be very convenient to keep up with AC Transit business. At this week’s meeting, the Board will be addressing the very important issue of what to do about service reductions if AC Transit is unable to transfer Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funds from BRT to operations. They will also discuss a contract for on-board video surveillance and receive an update on BRT. This meeting will take place at 6pm in the 2nd floor board room, 1600 Franklin Street. You can read the agenda and see the relevant memos here and you can listen online here.

Thursday, February 11th – Mix It Up East Bay

Join us for a monthly happy hour bringing together young activists, organizers and leaders in the East Bay. ‘Tis STILL the Season for Giving! The holiday season is over but issues of hunger are still dire. Come hear (brief) presentations on eradicating hunger in the East Bay:

  • Betsy Edwards, Alameda County Food Bank
  • Lisa Sherrill, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
  • Eric Manke, CA Association of Food Banks

Mix It Up East Bay is held every 2nd Thursday of the month from 6-9pm at Shashamane at 2507 Broadway. It’s accessible by 19th Street BART station or by AC Transit lines 1/1R, 51, 59.

Thursday, February 11th – Oakland Heritage Alliance Lecture: The New Deal and its Impact on the East Bay

As part of the monthly OHA lecture series, popular lecturer Gray Brechin will once again highlight the New Deal’s cultural and historical contributions to the East bay landscape. This lecture will be held at 7:30pm at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. in Oakland. Admission: $10 OHA members/$15 non-members. Find out more about this lecture series at OHA’s website.

Friday, February 12th – Estuary Art Attack

First Fridays are not the only day of the month to check out art galleries. Jingle Town and Alameda artists have joined together to start the Estuary Art Attack, a monthly event held on second Fridays to showcase the area’s galleries, restaurants, and bars. The Art Attack will be held from 6-9 pm throughout Jingle Town and Alameda. Check out their website for more details.

Saturday, February 13th – Inside Buffalo Screening

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) will screen Inside Buffalo, an award winning feature film documentary about the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division, the all-African American segregated combat unit that fought with outstanding heroism in Italy during the Second World War. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Fred Kuwornu. Writer Tullio Bertini, author of Trapped in Tuscany: Liberated by the Buffalo Soldiers, and 92nd Infantry Division veteran Ivan Houston, author of Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II, are also scheduled to appear and sign copies of their books. The screening will take place at 1:15pm at AAMLO, 659 14th St. Find out more at AAMLO’s website.

Sunday, February 14th – Valentine’s Day

Love it or hate it, there’s tons to do on Oakland on Valentine’s Day. If someone doesn’t beat met to it, I’ll post a round-up of events later this week. If someone does beat me, I’ll post the link to it here. So check back later in the week if you’re looking for something to do.

Replay 5/11/08: San Diego/Oakland Reflections: Sprawl, Transit & Walkability

5 Sep

I spent last weekend in San Diego, and as usual when I travel, I couldn’t help myself from comparing the city to Oakland. It’s been a couple years since I’ve visited San Diego, and I realized that though I’ve been there at least a dozen times, I’ve never spent even 24 hours there in one visit and I’ve never really gotten to know the city.

When remembering San Diego, I often thought of the one factor that’s true in the southern California cities I know better – sprawl. And this part I remembered correctly. San Diego is incredibly spread out, and it seemed difficult to get between most neighborhoods without a car. Oakland’s not the most compact city, but I feel like it’s fairly easy here to get from almost any neighborhood to the next, as long as you’re willing to hop on the bus or BART and maybe even transfer to another bus.

And just as I had remembered, it did seem as if pretty much everyone in San Diego had a car. Parking was sometimes difficult in popular neighborhoods – not San Francisco difficult, but certainly more competitive than most parts of Oakland.

But there were a couple things about San Diego that surprised me. Though much of the city was difficult (or at least very time consuming) to navigate by public transit, there is a trolley system that covers the downtown area and a few of the surrounding areas. So if you live in one of these areas, it does seem like you wouldn’t need to use a car very much. Considering that we’re having trouble even implementing bus rapid transit in Oakland, I’m a bit jealous that central San Diego is way ahead of us with rail.

Also, many San Diegans commute to Los Angeles, and unless they like sitting in traffic for 3 or 4 hours, many of them use the Metrolink train, much as some Oaklanders commute by Amtrak to Sacramento. So though there’s still tons of driving that’s symptomatic of southern California sprawl, I learned that there are alternatives to driving in San Diego that are fairly widely used.

Another thing that surprised me was the walkability of individual neighborhoods. Though it’s mostly inconvenient to walk between neighborhoods, there are several neighborhoods in San Diego where it’s possible to walk to just about everything (markets, shopping, parks or the beach, restaurants, bars, etc.). In fact, my friend’s apartment in Ocean Beach has the same walk score as my apartment in Oakland (88). On Sunday, we went to a friend’s house that is in between neighborhoods (near Hillcrest) and I was a bit shocked when we did not get back into the car and instead walked a few blocks to a restaurant (her house’s walk score is 89). It really seemed to me that it was just as easy to find a walkable neighborhood in San Diego as it is to find one in Oakland. This surprised me because I always had assumed that San Diego was much like LA in that respect, and though there are a few walkable neighborhoods in LA, it’s usually not so easy to find a walkable neighborhood that’s affordable to live in.

It was nice to clear up some of my misconceptions and to find out that San Diego isn’t quite as car-centric as I had assumed. But don’t worry, I’m not planning to move to San Diego anytime soon. I still think it’s a whole lot easier to be carless in Oakland than it is to be carless in San Diego.

Replay 4/12/08: Berkeley/Oakland Reflections: Downtown

4 Sep

I spent the day in downtown Berkeley today, and it really got me thinking about the hurdles downtown Oakland has to overcome before it becomes a more vibrant and contiguous neighborhood.

Though there’s plenty I don’t like about Berkeley, downtown Berkeley has transformed into a bustling area, filled with people and plenty to do. Today, I got my haircut, picked up a prescription, grabbed some raw food to eat in the park, perused herbs and plants at the farmers market and bought some kiwis on my way out, browsed through DVDs, tried to find my way around the new Cody’s, and finally snagged a cold, caffeinated drink. There were dozens of people on every block, walking, talking, sitting on benches, and there were two separate jazz bands entertaining the crowds.

Somehow, I’m guessing my day would not have been quite so lively or varied if I had been walking through downtown Oakland.

So on my way home, I tried to figure out what it is that downtown Berkeley has that the DTO doesn’t. And ultimately I realized that the DTO has no main artery. Sure, there are some vibrant sub-neighborhoods (Old Oakland, Chinatown) and ones that are on their way (SOBO, Uptown), but to me they all feel somewhat disconnected.

You might wonder, aren’t they all connected by Broadway? Well, sure, physically, Broadway runs through nearly all of the neighborhoods in the DTO and a good portion of AC Transit lines run down or cross Broadway at some point. Driving down Broadway is pretty simple, but people driving doesn’t make for a vibrant neighborhood (or good business). It’s easy to ride the bus or BART to the DTO, but riding the bus within the DTO from neighborhood to neighborhood rarely makes sense. Walking seems to be a great way to get around, but when I do this, I tend to walk from destination to destination, without lingering in between. I think a reason for this is that Broadway (and many other main streets in the DTO) lacks the critical mass of shopping, restaurants and services to entice one to linger, walking slowly down the street and deciding on a whim to stop in somewhere.

In stark comparison, downtown Berkeley is connected by the main arteries of Shattuck and University. Shattuck takes you all the way through downtown, up into the Gourmet Ghetto in north Berkeley and down to at Dwight Way into south Berkeley. Throughout this area it is filled with places to visit, and, naturally, tons of people. University is not filled in so densely, but it’s not too difficult to walk from UC Berkeley all the way to west Berkeley without getting bored.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m well aware of the parts of Broadway that are vibrant (just north of Jack London, the City Center, and hopefully soon, Uptown), but again, there’s no continuity. Besides that, even in those areas that have more businesses, many of these areas shut down on the weekends and in the evening. A couple weeks ago, after eating dinner at Ichiro in downtown, I tried to go to the Walgreens (at 8:30pm) and was frustrated to find out that it was closed. If even a large, chain store shuts down so early, how can the neighborhood remain vibrant (or even just safe to walk in) in the evening?

I do think that things are generally getting better in the DTO. The new condo and apartment buildings that are being built retail space included on the ground floor, plans are being made for further density in at least certain parts of the DTO (though this plan needs to be improved, and hopefully will), and the Fox Theater reopening in a year or two will hopefully serve as a complementary anchor to the expanding arts district.

I also realize that the DTO will never be the same as downtown Berkeley, nor would I want it to be. Downtown Berkeley is right next to UC Berkeley, so there’s a built in amount of foot traffic and tourism. Berkeley’s also much geographically smaller than Oakland so it’s downtown is more easily accessible to other neighborhoods.

Still, I do look forward to a time when I want to spend a day or evening wandering through the DTO and am able to do so without getting bored or feeling unsafe.

Replay 11/23/07: DC/Oakland Reflections: Urban Walking

3 Sep

So I know I promised to write a series about my Oakland and Los Angeles inspired reflections on urban space, but the truth is that I compare just about every city to Oakland and I almost constantly think about the intricacies of urban space. So I’m going to broaden this series to include urban reflections about other cities.

Last week, I went to DC to spend some time at the DC office of the organization I work for. I’ve always loved visiting our nation’s capitol, but I’m not sure I ever realized until this trip how walkable the city is. During my three days in the city, I easily walked 10 miles, at one time trekking 2 miles uphill to reach a bar.

I used to think Oakland was pretty walkable too, and I often walk a mile or two to reach a store or restaurant. DC has an advantage though that I fear Oakland will never have – it feels safe to walk around at night. And I don’t just mean on the main streets, but even on many of the neighborhood streets. In my neighborhood in North Oakland, I start walking much quicker as the sun sets and never walk more than a few blocks alone at night.

What’s interesting is that DC is certainly not a crime-free city. What makes walking around at night feel safe is that there are lots of other people walking around. I think some of this has to do with the fact that DC residents rarely drive around the city. So they walk too and from the Metro station or bus stop. And they often walk a few blocks to a main street to catch a cab.

Even at 10pm, I was never alone on a street in DC. Conversely, at that time in my neighborhood, I would always be walking alone if I chose to do so. And I’ve unfortunately heard too many stories of armed robberies happening after dark just a few blocks away from my apartment building, on the darkest, emptiest streets.

Some of my fears in Oakland in contrast to my general feeling of safety in DC might also have to do with the differing police presence. In DC, there are 65.3 police officers per 10,000 residents, vs. only 18.1 in Oakland! (Thanks to V Smoothe for sharing this figures.)

My only hope for a neighborhood in Oakland becoming this walkable after dark is Uptown (and maybe later other parts of Downtown). I think as it transforms and recenters life around public transit and walking, I might feel safe walking there at night. Otherwise, I think I’ll save my evening walks for my trips to DC.