I’m running for BART Board

21 Mar

Two months ago I abandoned this blog, and I apologize for that. Soon after BART Director Bob Franklin announced that he would not seek reelection and would instead run for Oakland City Council, I decided to run for the open District 3 BART seat. The campaign has taken up the vast majority of free time in my life, including the time in the early mornings and late evenings that I used to dedicate to blogging.

As has happened in the past when I got busy, I optimistically thought I’d find some time to write a blog post here and there, but clearly that has not happened. So today I wanted to let Living in the O readers know that I’m taking a blogging hiatus, and I of course wanted to share the news that I’m running for BART Board. Continue reading

Two great Oakland parties for two great causes

13 Jan

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

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

A cheap, car-free New Year’s Eve in downtown Oakland

30 Dec

New Year’s Eve has never been one of my favorite nights to go out. Clubs and events are absurdly overpriced. Everywhere is at least twice as crowded as usual. It’s close to impossible to catch a cab. So many years I stay home or do something low-key with some friends.

But this year my wife and I decided we wanted to go out and when I found out that the Free Broadway Shuttle would be running its usual Saturday night schedule of 6pm-1am, I realized we could bar hop around downtown Oakland. Getting around will be super easy (and free), and if any of the places we go to are too crowded, we can move on.

I researched free or cheap bars and clubs in downtown and put together this list, which I figured I’d share here. Continue reading

Honoring Sanjiv Handa & Ron Bishop through civic engagement

28 Dec

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

Port Shut Down Resolution: (Dis)respect for the City Council

20 Dec

The last couple weeks have been super busy for me so I haven’t found much time for blogging. But tonight the City Council will be voting on a resolution that’s created quite a bit of controversy, and it’s made me think a lot about how Oakland citizens feel about and interact with their City representatives.

The resolution, authored by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Libby Schaaf, opposes any purposeful upcoming or future Port of Oakland shut downs and calls on the Mayor and City Administrator to use lawful tools to prevent future shut downs.

There are, unsurprisingly, strong opinions on both sides of this resolution. And voicing opinions is incredibly important in a democracy. But much of the opposition to this resolution I’ve heard and read in the past few days has been expressed as personal attacks against the councilmembers who authored the resolution.

Reading comments on Twitter about De La Fuente and Schaaf over the past few days reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost three years ago, which seems just as apt today. So here’s that blog post, in full:

(Dis)respect for the City Council

There’s been something on my mind for the past several months that I was reminded of on Tuesday night, as I watched the Public Safety Committee meeting. I often hear Oakland residents blaming all of Oakland’s problems on one council member (the council member varies based on the person), to the point where they accuse that council member of being corrupt or not really caring about Oakland. I try not to fall into that trap anymore, but I used to harbor such feelings towards one council member, Larry Reid. Continue reading

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

15 Dec

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

Joyce Roy: Senate Public Hearing on Regional Governance in SF this Thursday

6 Dec

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.

This is for those of you who were disturbed by the recent decision of MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) to leave the headquarters they share with ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) and use Bridge toll funds for real estate speculation by purchasing a too-big warehouse in a transit-challenged location. It was not just in itself an unwise, and possibly, illegal action, but a loud and clear symptom of the Bay Area’s transportation/land-use disconnect due to the difficulty of comprehensive planning without regional governance which would combine the functions of MTC, ABAG, the Air District and BCDC.

Here is your chance to have your concerns heard by our State Senate:

Senate Transportation & Housing Informational Hearing-
SUBJECT: Regional Governance and Bay Area Economic Development

December 8, 2011
10:00 am – 1:00 pm in the Legislative Chamber of San Francisco City Hall, Room 250

You can be assured that your comments will be given serious attention because the Chair of the Senate Transportation & Housing Committee, Mark DeSaulnier, has served on MTC, ABAG, and the Air District so he understands the dysfunctional separation of those regional agencies. Continue reading

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

5 Dec

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

Karen Hester: Show Up, Eat Up, Speak Out – Interim Mobile Food Policy Comes Before Council this Tuesday, Dec 6th

3 Dec

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.

In the scheme of things, I’m a relative newcomer to the food fights in the mobile food landscape. City staff and some local food truck operators have been pushing for a new kinder, gentler mobile food policy for almost 2 1/2 years.

Last spring Ed Manase and staff from Planning got push back from the City committee called Committee for Community Economic Development to reach out more to stakeholders and naysayers. He had tried to push through a comprehensive policy for the whole city, which makes sense, except in Oakland since Desley Brooks and Larry Reid don’t want mobile food in their districts. Which is a shame as the poorest parts of Oakland are the ones that perhaps stand to benefit the most as food trucks are a great incubator for food entrepreneurs who can develop a loyal clientele without investing in a brick and mortar restaurant. I predict that whoever replaces Larry Reid next November will realize the lost opportunity and get onboard.

So now while Ed Manase and staff work on a comprehensive policy to hopefully be adopted by the Council by March, Councilmembers Kaplan and Brunner have worked with some of us in the community to put forward an interim food pod policy that will be good until January 2013. Continue reading