Tag Archives: Fox Theater

October 26-November 1 Oakland Political & Community Events

26 Oct

Tuesday, October 27th – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

You may not have thought about it this way, but walking and biking are climate action! Attend WOBO’s October Volunteer Meeting this Tuesday night to discuss opportunities for advancing walking and biking within Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan. The discussion will be led by WOBO Board President Carli Paine.This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website. (Note that in November, WOBO will change its meeting date to the 4th Thursday of the month, which lands on November 19th.)

Tuesday, October 27th – Sierra Club Meeting on Oakland Energy & Climate Action Plan

Sierra Club East Bay energy activists are holding a meeting for Club members interested in learning more about the Oakland Climate Action Plan and how to advocate for real change that will make Oakland a climate leader. Be a part of the team that will make Oakland a leader in the green economy. The meeting will start at 6:30pm at the Temescal Branch, Oakland Public Library, 5205 Telegraph Ave., at 52nd Street. Contact: Al Weinrub, (510) 531-6692, or al [dot] weinrub [at] comcast [dot] net for further information.

Tuesday, October 27th – San Leandro Community Forum on Bus Rapid Transit

San Leandro will be holding several community meetings over the next few weeks to discuss AC Transt’s bus rapid transit (BRT) project.  Though these meetings will be focused on the San Leandro segment, since Oakland’s community meetings have not yet been scheduled, this will be a great chance for Oaklanders to learn more about the project. At the upcoming San Leandro meetings, AC Transit will provide detailed information on the San Leandro draft plan for BRT and collect feedback to present to policy makers. Light refreshments will be provided and there will be a drawing for free AC Transit bus tickets. The meeting will be held from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, with the presentation at 7, at Bayfair Mall, Second floor, near center escalator, 15555 E. 14th Street. The mall is very easily accessible by the 1/1R or the Bayfair BART station.

Thursday, October 29th – Uptown Masquerade Bash

Uptown Masquerade Bash is a great opportunity to support Oakland’s newly restored Fox Theater. This is a benefit event with proceeds going to Friends of the Oakland Fox, who advocate and support the historic preservation of the Fox Theater, as well as proceeds supporting The East Bay Emergency Relief efforts. The event will be an evening of live music, dancing, drinks, food and festivities. Come in costume or purchase a mask at the venue and dance the night away. The event takes place from 7:30pm-midnight at the Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Avenue. General Admission: $20; VIP: $100. Find out more info and RSVP on Facebook.

Friday, October 30th – Roll Up Bike Joust IV

The first Roll Up bike joust took place October 18th, 2008. Since then Roll Up has had 2 more. So this is going to be the 4th Bike Joust we’ve had in the streets of East Oakland, outside The Roll Up bike shop. Grand prizes for the competitors, as well as raffles and prizes for spectators, 2 varieties of tall bike jousting, unicycle olympics, explosions, and more. The event takes place from 8pm-2am outside of Roll Up, 4401 San Leandro Street. Find out more and RSVP on Facebook.

Saturday, October 31st – 23rd Annual Piedmont Avenue Halloween Celebration

Join the Piedmont Avenue Merchants Association on Saturday, October 31 for a family friendly Halloween celebration. Activities throughout the day include a parade at 11am, a pumpkin carving contest hosted by Oaklandish, music, and a pet costume contest. The event takes place on Piedmont Avenue from 9:45am-3:30pm. Visit the Merchants Association website for more details and the full event schedule.
Sunday, November 1st – Fruitvale Dia De Los Muertos

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a one-day celebration of ancestors, deceased loved ones and community. This year’s commemoration of “Celebrating the Spirit of Community” will be a gigantic event loaded with activities and displays for the entire family to enjoy! You will be able to view altar making, an interactive display and traditional ceremonies presented in partnership with the Oakland Museum of CA. Over 25 sacred artist and community altars will be displayed, and traditional music can be enjoyed in the area around the Fruitvale Village. The BART parking area will be transformed into a vibrant “Plaza Musical.” In the Plaza, Oakland Parks and Recreation will offer children’s activities; in addition, Fun n’ Games rides, retail vendors and tasty ethnic foods will be available. International Boulevard will be filled with arts and craft vendors that will offer Dia de Los Muertos and other ethnic merchandise. This eclectic Day of the Dead celebration is a safe, family oriented, non-alcoholic event that is FREE to the public. The event will take place from 10:00 am-5:00 pm along International Boulevard between Fruitvale and 35th Avenues and will be expanded to the area around the Fruitvale Plaza and down 12th Street to 37th Avenue. For more info, visit Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente’s website.

May 11-16 Oakland Political & Community Events

11 May

There is a LOT going on this week, particularly on Thursday, when there will be events throughout the morning, day, and night. I hope to see you at some of these events.

Monday, May 11th – Get Out the Vote with the East Bay Young Dems

EBYD is teaming up with Oakland Rising, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Just Cause, Urban Habitat, and EBASE to defeat Props 1D and 1E.  Come phonebank with us on Monday, May 11 at the Ella Baker Center (344 40th Street, Oakland).  Training at 5:30pm, phoning for justice from 6:00pm to 9:00pm and cocktails to follow at Marc 49 in Temescal.

Wednesday, May 13th – Special City Council Meeting to Discuss Dellums’ Budget Proposal

Last week, Dellums unveiled his budget proposal, and this week we’ll get to find out what the City Council thinks about it. For background, I highly recommend checking out V Smoothe’s coverage of the budget, which is really the only in depth budget coverage you’ll find anywhere. The meeting will be held from 4-7pm at the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Thursday, May 14th – Bike to Work Day

Though I don’t bike in Oakland, and Bike to Work Day makes me feel lame, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t celebrate. There is a ton going on. Via the City of Oakland:

All eight Oakland City Council members are scheduled to bike downtown for Oakland’s 16th Bike to Work Day celebration at City Hall, Thursday, May 14, 2009. They will be joined by Nate Miley, Vice-President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Over five hundred bicycle commuters are expected to ride in for the annual affair, which features an assortment of enticements for those participating, including:

  • Pancake breakfast (7-9am), courtesy Palapas Taco Bar, Tully’s Coffee and Whole Foods Market
  • Club One Day Pass for showers
  • All-day valet bike parking, courtesy of East Bay Bicycle Coalition (7am-6pm)
  • Bike mini-tune-ups, courtesy of Bay Area Bikes and Wheels of Justice Cyclery
  • Canvas bag with goodies and bicycling/transit info
  • Raffle with 18 great prizes including round-trip tickets for two to Santa Barbara on Amtrak
  • Displays on low-impact commuting, bicycle-friendly projects and programs, and sustainable transportation and land use, including AC Transit bus-bike rack demonstrations
  • Press conference (8:30am) with remarks by Council Members and Supervisor Miley
Find out more at Oakland’s Bike to Work Day site.

Thursday, May 14th – BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector

After you grab a pancake breakfast in front of City Hall, head Uptown to to the BART Board meeting to speak out against the wasteful rail Oakland Airport Connector and in favor of a rapid bus solution.

Please join us at the BART Board meeting to reclaim transit funding for BART, AC Transit, and other Bay Area transit agencies and to secure a project that make sense for the region:

What: BART Board Meeting on the Oakland Airport Connector

When: Thursday, May 14th @ 9am (TransForm recommends showing up by 8:30 if you’d like to get a seat in the Board room; if not, there is an overflow room.)

Where: Kaiser Center – Third Floor, 344 20th Street in Oakland

If you cannot make it to the meeting, but want to tell the BART directors how you feel, please send an email via TransForm’s action page. You can find a pre-written message there, but I encourage you to take the time to personalize the email, as non-form letters are always more effective.

For more information, check out my post about the meeting and TransForm’s RapidBART proposal.

Thursday, May 14th – Mix It Up East Bay
Join us for a monthly happy hour bringing together young activists, organizers and leaders in the East Bay. In honor of Bike to Work Day, this month’s event will focus on alternative means of transportation. Speakers include:

  • Rocky Fernandez, President, AC Transit Board of Directors
  • Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS)
  • Walk Oakland Bike Oakland (WOBO)

Please note the new location for 2009.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, May 14th – The Oakland Builders Alliance Presents at Night at the Fox with Don Perata

The Oakland Builders Alliance presents “An Eye on the Oakland Mayor’s Race” with former Senator Pro Tem and Mayoral Candidate Don Perata at the historic Fox Theater.  This event is sponsored by OBA members PG&E and Architectural Dimensions. The event will be held from 5:30-8:30pm at the Historic Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Avenue. RSVP via Facebook.

Friday, May 15th – 3rd Annual Oakland Indie Awards

The Oakland Indie Awards are hotter than ever this year!  Join us at The Crucible on Friday, May 15th as we celebrate Oakland’s innovative, socially- and environmentally-responsible businesses and artists. Winners will be announced at the event—come help us celebrate! You’ll get to taste Oakland wine, beer, chocolates, teas, baked goods, dips, sauces, tapas and so much more! Talk to hundreds of other Oakland lovers, and chill to Oakland tunes. The event will be held from 5:30-8:30 pm at the Crucible, 1260 7th Street, Oakland, 1260 7th Street. Tickets are $20 and you can find out more at the Indies website.

Saturday, May 16th – TransForm’s 12th Annual Summit
WINDFALL FOR ALL: Saving Our Economy, Pocketbooks, and Planet with World-Class Public Transportation and Walkable Communities

This year, the Summit will focus on the critical role of transportation and land use in the health of our economy, pocketbooks, and planet – and highlight solutions that can help on all three fronts. Between the devastated stock market, unemployment rates, and impending climate doom, it’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. But we do – and it’s because we sense that all three of these challenges can be addressed by the very things we’re working for: world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and beyond. The summit will be held from 8:30am-4:00 pm at Laney College 900 Fallon Street. Registration is $25 and more info can be found on TransForm’s website. This event is accessible by Lake Merritt BART station or by AC Transit lines 11, 13, 14, 15, 35x, 36x, 40, 59, 62, 82.

CED Committee approves surface parking lot, but changes overall outlook on parking and transit

29 Apr

Yesterday, after hearing from nine advocates who opposed the surface parking lot and two business owners that supported it, the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee voted 3-0 (with Ignacio De La Fuente absent) to approve the surface parking lot in Uptown. The meeting was a bit maddening, but our efforts were not a failure, and there will still be at least two more opportunities to amend this project.

Before jumping into the frustrating comments from the committee members and business owners, I want to thank everyone who emailed them about the surface parking lot. Your emails were mentioned several times during the meeting. And I want to especially thank those who spoke so eloquently at the meeting – we came together as a community, and it was inspiring to see the blogoaksphere speak out with a unified voice. So thanks.

Unfortunately, we were no match for the Uptown business interests. They wanted a parking lot, and that’s what they got (for now). During the hearing, Melissa Fitzgerald from the Oakland Ice Center and Greg Perloff from Another Planet Entertainment (which operates the Fox), spoke out in support of the lot. Normally I can respectfully disagree with opponents on issues, but their arguments were absurd!

Fitzgerald claimed that on nights that the Fox had shows, admission at the Ice Center was way down because people couldn’t find street parking. She made the argument that if people didn’t find a spot immediately, they’d just leave. You know, because there are tons of other places in the East Bay to go ice skating that have ample parking. Really, this argument makes little sense – there are tons of lots in the area and it’s the Ice Center’s job to educate its patrons about parking and transit options.

Perloff made even less sense. He complained that the Fox’s patrons were having a hard time finding parking and that the Fox feared that for new patrons, “if you blow it the first time, you blow it forever.” When pressed by Larry Reid though, Perloff joyfully stated that attendance is “better than we’ve ever imagined” and that 80-90% of the shows have sold out. So yeah, clearly people are so fed up with parking that they’ll never come back to the Fox. And yet neither Perloff nor the committee members seemed to realize how absurd his argument was.

The statements by Fitzgeral and Perloff were not the most maddening of the afternoon because we expected as much from them. After all, the only reason they want this lot is for employee parking (with 120 spaces at most, those are the only people this lot will serve) so they’re going to say what they need to to get it approved. The statements made by the committee members, who are supposed to be looking out for all Oaklanders and not just business owners, were what made me so frustrated.

Jane Brunner spoke first, proposing a “compromise” that is really no compromise at all. She started talking about how the farmers market at the Claremont DMV parking lot is so great (and I agree because I go there nearly every Sunday) and how we should replicate that in Uptown. Brunner said she supports the lot but would vote for it only if they reserved a day for a market. “That’s a solution,” she said. Um, really? That is not a solution. First, that only covers up the blight of the parking lot for a partial day per week and only mitigates the traffic impacts during those few hours. Second, the area is already saturated with farmers markets – Friday in Old Oakland, Saturday at Lake Merritt, and Sunday in Jack London Square. A farmers market in Uptown right now would either fail or significantly hurt the other markets in the area. Further, as Brunner admitted, it took two years for the Temescal farmers market to really catch on and become a vibrant market. Great, so by the time this Uptown market becomes popular, it will have to be shut down or moved so Forest City can build condos.

Pat Kernighan followed. She said that she had given this a lot of thought and had read the blogs, comments, and emails that claimed this was a step backwards. But she hadn’t seen any viable use that would be better than a parking lot. Wow. This comment made me want to explode. What Kernighan was suggesting is that it is our (bloggers and blog readers) responsibility to come up with detailed proposals for alternatives for this lot! Yet she didn’t seem to be concerned that the committee had directed Redevelopment Agency (RDA) staff to come up with alternative proposals and they came back with nothing. Yeah, you read that correctly. Paid staff comes up with no alternatives, so it’s up to us to develop alternatives. If one of us had come up with a business plan for a mini-golf course (which she mentioned) or a sculpture garden, then maybe we’d be having a different discussion. I cannot tell you how ridiculous I think this expectation is, though I suspect that it was just an excuse to vote for the lot and that even if we had developed detailed proposals, they would have been shot down.

OK, done with that rant and on to the positive aspects of the meeting. Even though the CED committee unanimously voted to approve the parking lot, our emails and comments had an incredible effect on their thinking and discussions about Uptown parking and transit. All three committee members had questions about keeping the surrounding lots open later, creating better signage for parking lots and BART, and providing more lighting. So they’ve directed staff to look into this and hopefully will make some improvements to wayfinding in Uptown. This in itself is a huge win because the big problem on Fox show nights is not lack of parking but cars circling in attempts to find parking because out of towners don’t know where to look.

And there’s more good news – we still have at least two more chances to amend this project. The full City Council will be hearing this item, likely next Tuesday. And after that, the parking lot needs to get a conditional use permit from the planning commission. I’ll be sure to post the meeting information here and will ask you to send just a few more emails (you can resend the ones you’ve already written) and to appear just a couple more times. This fight is not over, and advocate are not willing to concede defeat. Thanks again to everyone who’s helped so far, and please look out for future alerts.

Check out Future Oakland for another take on the hearing and the structural causes of the committee’s decision.

Take Action: Stop the Council from approving a surface parking lot in Uptown!

20 Apr

Next week, the Community and Economic Development (CED) Committee will once again consider allowing a surface parking lot to be developed between the Fox Theater and the Uptown apartments. This decision will have far reaching impacts on the Uptown area, and judging from the comments that I received on my last post about this issue, many of you realize this.

If you haven’t read that post or still aren’t convinced, here are my main reasons for opposing the surface parking lot:

  • The Uptown neighborhood is very pedestrian oriented and a surface parking lot would be a nightmare for pedestrian travel, as cars drove in and out of the lot and through the pedestrian right of way.
  • There are multiple public transit options to get to Uptown and until we fully promote those, with the help of businesses in the area, we should not build more parking.
  • There’s already plenty of parking in Uptown! There are several parking structures and lots within a few blocks. The only thing that might be needed is keeping some of these lots open later to better serve the burgeoning nightlife.
  • Even if there wasn’t enough parking in Uptown, this lot is not the space to put more parking. It would only create 127 spots, basically enough to serve the employees of the Fox, Flora, the ice rink, the Uptown nightclub and surrounding businesses. It’s very unlikely that there would be enough spaces for patrons to park there. (Oh, and don’t quote me on the exact number of parking spots as it’s likely to change in the forthcoming, updated proposal.)
  • A surface parking lot would be a blight on this vibrant neighborhood. The Planning Commission seems to agree – as V Smoothe wrote last week, the new zoning they’ve just passed on to the Council for the Central Business District bans surface parking lots throughout downtown.

    The vote on this issue may be a very close one, which is why I need your help in convincing the CED committee members to vote no. You can help out in two ways:

    1. Email and/or call the committee members. Their contact info can be found below. Explain to them why you think the surface parking lot is inappropriate for the area (feel free to use any of the points I provided in this post), and, if you’d like, share with them your idea for a different temporary use of the lot. (You can find lots of great ideas in the comments to my previous post on this.)
    2. Come to the CED committee meeting on Tuesday, April 28th at 2pm in City Hall, Hearing Room 1. The item is the first on their agenda so it should come up relatively quickly. If you’ve never spoken at a Council meeting, I recommend reading V Smoothe’s guide. Committee meetings are a bit different than the full Council though in that you do not have to turn in your speaker card before the meeting starts – you just need to turn it in before your item comes up.

    If you need help with your emails or speeches, feel free to contact me at oaklandbecks at gmail dot com – I’d be more than happy to assist. And keep in mind that your input could be incredibly important. Going into the last committee meeting on this issue, the members all intended to approve the surface parking lot, but the emails they received and the comments we made that day swayed them to reconsider. Your message could be the one that swings a critical vote!

    Here is the contact info for the committee members:

    Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
    JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

    Patricia Kernighan, District 2
    PKernighan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7002

    Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
    IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

    Larry Reid, District 7
    LReid@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7007

    Thanks, and I’ll post an update after next week’s committee meeting.

    First Friday Adventures

    2 Apr

    We all know about the art murmur, which is a great way to spend the first Friday evening of the month, but this first Friday, there are lots of other options to get out and enjoy Oakland, especially if art galleries aren’t your favorite place to hang out. Here are some adventures you can take tomorrow night:

    Adventure 1: Celebrating Bikes & Small Bites in Temescal

    Tip Top Bike Shop is turning 2, and to celebrate the store’s birthday, they’re having a party, complete with cake, music and beer. But it gets better than that – though the party is free, they’ll be accepting donations, all to benefit Walk Oakland Bike Oakland. The party starts at 6pm at their shop at 4800A Telegraph, and you can find out more details at WOBO’s blog. Once you’ve had your fill of cake and bike talk, head across the street to Barlata, the recently opened but already popular Spanish tapas bar. I’ve yet to go there, but City Homestead gave it a great review (A-, which is pretty much as high as her ratings go). Stop in to have some wine and nibble on small plates. When you’re done, hop on your bike or the 1 bus to get home.

    Adventure 2: A Night at the Museum

    Can I just say that I love the trend of museums staying open at night? And tomorrow night, the Oakland Museum of California will be open after hours, from 5-9pm, as it is every first Friday. Swing by 1000 Oak Street to catch a lecture, enjoy some jazz, watch a movie, or just wander the museum. But 9pm is far too early to end a Friday night, so afterward, walk three blocks up Oak Street to 14th to grab a drink at Ruby Room.

    Adventure 3: A Classic Evening in Uptown

    Every other Friday, the Paramount screens classic movies for only $5! Tomorrow, they’ll be showing An American in Paris, featuring Gene Kelly as an ex-G.I. who just wants to paint (and, of course, dance). Catch the movie at 7pm, and when you’re done, head from Broadway to Telegraph to check out the Den at the Fox Theater. The Den is the bar attached to the Fox, which is open to the public (without paying for a show). The space is gorgeous, filled with sofas, tables, and a piece of the ceiling from decades ago that’s apparently fake (but still nice to look at). My favorite parts are looking out the windows on the second floor and checking out the old switchboard, which is still very much in tact. Grab a cocktail or a bite to eat and enjoy being transported back to the 1920s for an evening. And while you’re gazing out the window, see if you can imagine any more uses for the empty lot across the street.

    Imagining an alternative to a surface parking lot in Uptown

    30 Mar

    UPDATE: The Community and Economic Development Committee will be voting on this issue on Tuesday, April 28th. Check out my action alert to find out how you can influence their vote.


    As dto510 mentioned in a post about Uptown, he and I and a couple other advocates testified last week at a Council committee hearing against the permitting of a temporary surface parking lot on Telegraph, in between the Fox Theater and the Uptown apartments. We argued that a surface parking lot would not fit in this pedestrian oriented neighborhood and that there is already ample parking in nearby lots. We successfully convinced the committee, comprised of Jane Brunner, Ignacio De La Fuente, and Pat Kernighan to not immediately approve the surface parking lot. Instead, they’re bringing the issue back before the committee on April 7th and have asked the Redevelopment Agency to present alternative proposals to the parking lot.

    So yesterday I decided to walk around the now vacant lot to try to imagine how a parking lot would feel in the area and how other possible uses might feel. Above is a view of the fenced lot from Telegraph. From this vantage point, a surface parking lot would bring a suburban feel to this up and coming urban neighborhood. Below is a view from 19th Street, next to the Fox, looking towards the Uptown apartments:


    I then walked into the park that’s sandwiched between the Uptown apartments and the Fox, behind this empty lot. Somehow I’d never been there before, and I was stunned not only by its beauty, but also the serenity and quiet that could be found there, in the middle of the not so serene and very noisy downtown Oakland:


    I sat down for a while, enjoying the sun and the quiet, before returning my attention to the empty lot. Looking at the fence, I imagined how a surface parking lot would endanger the peace and quiet that could now be found in this park. The parking lot would be just a few steps away from where I was sitting:


    I have a few ideas for what this lot could be used for temporarily, instead of a surface parking lot, but I’d like to hear some of yours. Keep in mind that this use must be temporary, as ultimately condos will be built on this lot. So a park is a non-starter with the committee members; as Pat Kernighan explained, parks are never temporary and if one was built, the community would never allow it to be replaced by a building.

    And remember that this is not just a fun thought exercise. The committee members are asking for ideas so your dream could end up becoming a reality.

    A magical night in downtown Oakland

    9 Feb

    Friday night in downtown Oakland was a bit magical for me.

    For several years now, I’ve been in love with downtown Oakland. I love the varied historic and modern architecture. I love that though there are tons of people around, it feels like a small town because I can’t help but run into people I know and even the restaurant and store employees say hello to me on the street. I love the restaurants and I love the nightlife.

    Yet there was always something that bothered me about downtown Oakland – most people just didn’t seem to get how great the DTO is. I’d practically have to beg friends to meet me downtown for a drink after work. And forget dinner downtown – even many of my friends who work in the DTO never stuck around past dark.

    Slowly, I’ve noticed a change in attitudes towards downtown, but on Friday night, the DTO finally felt like it was reaching its potential.

    There were people everywhere! From 14th Street all the way down past the Art Murmur on 23rd, there were thousands of people on the street and inside art galleries, music venues, bars, and restaurants. People on foot, people on bike, and people in cars. At many points, I witnessed gridlock on the streets, something I’ve never seen downtown at night.

    And they were there for good reason. The Fox, though I’ve yet to go inside, is radiant, and the detailed restoration I could see from outside just made me want to see more. The dueling marquees of the Fox and the Paramount lit up Uptown, and the spotlights on top of the Fox could be seen from anywhere downtown and beyond. Even for those without a lot of money to burn, there was plenty to do for free.

    There were dozens of people inside and outside of Awaken Cafe, enjoying music and paintings that celebrate downtown Oakland. The center of the Art Murmur, at 23rd and Telegraph, was jam packed. At one point, it was nearly impossible to move inside Johansson Projects because there was an a cappella group singing. No problem for me – that just cut down on the taco truck line so I could grab a bite to eat.

    As the Art Murmur dwindled down, many headed to the Uptown to catch a free night of music. Though it wasn’t overly crowded, there was always a wait to get a drink, and the energy was high. I sat for a while near the front door and watched the rain fall, illuminated by a lamppost on the sidewalk outside. I sat back and smiled and I think a few tears welled up in my eyes. This was downtown as I always saw it – vibrant, fun, and sometimes unpredictable – but now this was the downtown so many others were experiencing, and I knew they would return.

    Fatefully, I left the Uptown just as the show at the Fox was getting out. There were so many people on the sidewalks that it was difficult to walk for a couple of blocks. People were wandering about, many of them looking for something to eat, though there was no food to be had at that hour. So most of us ended up in the bars nearby. I tried to go to Radio, but it was packed like I’ve never seen it before. Forget finding a seat – you would have been lucky to find a wall to lean on.

    There’s still more to be done to improve downtown Oakland. As dto510 mentioned last week, the City needs to complete its sidewalk improvements in Uptown. We need more restaurants, especially some that stay open past 10pm. And we need to encourage public transit usage, biking, and walking so that there isn’t so much congestion on the streets on busy nights.

    But even without these improvements, downtown Oakland is finally the place to be. And that makes me so happy that at least for one night, I was able to forget about Oakland’s troubles and enjoy what this incredible city has to offer.

    The Fox Theater & downtown Oakland’s future

    3 Feb

    I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a bit down about Oakland during the past few days. It’s sometimes easy to forget about the beautiful parts of this city when you get mired in city politics. But sometimes the beauty just won’t be ignored.

    Last night, as I left downtown Oakland, I just about screamed when I saw the Fox Theater’s marquee all lit up:


    After years of watching construction progress on the Fox, keeping track of the sign that estimated days until opening (it was more than 500 days when I first started paying attention), it’s almost hard to believe that the Fox will finally open once again on Thursday night. Eric wrote a detailed history of the Fox at Transbay Blog, in which he reminded me that there is hope for Oakland:

    To be sure, fully revitalizing Downtown is a multidisciplinary task that exceeds city planners alone, and it is bigger than any single development project. But the restoration of the Fox Theater exemplifies what creative minds and committed civic pride can accomplish. Oakland could use more of both these days, as some of the current crop of city politicians (starting with the chief executive and his poorly-chosen appointment to the City Administrator post) do little to inspire confidence in the future. Indeed, it can sometimes be tempting to reminisce on decades long gone — when Broadway and Telegraph were vibrant, lined with theaters and active retail uses, and the streets were crowded with both people and streetcars — as opposed to the somewhat forlorn feeling Downtown sometimes still exudes today. But why should we fixate exclusively on the past? We’re sure of it: Downtown’s best days lie ahead, and it is both exciting and somehow comforting that the Fox Theater will play a key role in ushering in the renaissance.

    Even as our city struggles, I agree with Eric. I’m glad he reminded me that there’s so much to look forward to in Oakland’s future.

    Replay 8/10/07: Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City

    26 Aug

    It’s that time of year when I just can’t get Burning Man off of my mind, but lately I’ve been realizing that Oakland’s a lot like Black Rock City. Sure, a good chunk of burners are from the Bay Area so it makes sense that the Bay would be similar to the third largest city in Nevada, but Oakland in particular brings me back to the desert.

    The other day I got off the 1 bus several blocks early, at West Grand and Telegraph and walked down Telegraph to work. Maybe it was the hot sun beating down on me or the sublime beats, bass, and ambiance of Matrix and Futurebound on my iPod, but as I walked through uptown, I couldn’t help feeling that I could almost as easily be in BRC.

    The Artwork…

    Large cranes towered over me, slowly bring up the walls of the new Uptown apartment-condominium complex at 20th and Telegraph. The Fox Theater simultaneously is being deconstructed and reconstructed, preserving what the Friends of the Oakland Fox describe as “an interesting [architectural] mixture of styles: Indian, Moorish, Medieval (the gargoyles at roof level), and Baghdadian.”

    Photo of Oakland's Fox Theater

    Photo courtesy of Friends of the Oakland Fox

    Above me loomed several massive pieces of architectural artwork, all incredibly unique. It reminded me of biking through the open playa at Burning Man, remaining fixated on a piece of artwork ahead of me, only until another art piece a few hundred feet to its left distracted me and pulled my bike in the other direction. Like Passage, a 30′ mother and 20′ child sculpted out of literally tons of scrap metal, or Sugar Cube, a 20’x20’x20 cube with three levels to stand on that started out blank and invited artists to paint, draw, write, and graffiti on its surfaces:

    Sugar Cube, Burning Man 2006

    The art’s not all massive. Like the bike-shaped bike rack featured on the header of this blog that I pass by several times a week. Or murals on walls and garages:

    North Oakland Garage Mural

    Or graffiti on highway overpasses. Or the various art cars found in both cities. Or the dozens of small art pieces scattered around the playa, like the Web of Hope and Fear or Phoenix and the Man:

    Phoenix and the Man, Burning Man 2006


    Though it’s a big city, Oakland often feels like a tight-knit community. Restaurant owners know my name and wave at me on the street. At the Temescal Farmer’s Market, which I frequent religiously, many of the farmers already know what I want. A couple weeks ago, as I approached the Hodo Soy Beanery stand, I was told that they had run out of tofu jerky (my favorite), but I could call him if I wanted him to save me some for the next week. And sometimes, random people on the street or bus say hello or start up a conversation.

    I have to admit, though, that Black Rock City tops Oakland on community any day. There, a conversation turns into a friendship. As I bike down the street, my neighbors call out to me, inviting me over for a drink, something to eat, or a game of mini-golf. When a structure my camp mates built started blowing over in a terrible wind storm a couple years ago, two strangers who had just arrived came to my aid and helped me save the PVC and parachute from flying away.

    The Unexpected Should Be Expected…

    If you’ve ever been to Burning Man, you probably know that this is about the only thing you can count on. If you haven’t been, here’s some idea of what this is like: finding a life-sized chess board a half a mile out in the middle of the desert, running into a friend you haven’t seen since high school, a breeze-less sunny day turning into a harsh wind and dust storm, dancing to a nine piece jazz band playing on top of a hundred foot flower, stumbling into a bath tub filled with yarn, or discovering a literal oasis during the midday heat – complete with umbrellas, couches, and cold beer.

    Bathtub of Yarn, Burning Man 2006

    And you know what? Oakland’s catching up to BRC. In previous posts, I wrote about the Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival that brings a massive scale of fire art to industrial West Oakland – the passer byers on BART were certainly surprised by huge flame throwers and fire dancers – and about being lulled to sleep in North Oakland by a neighbor playing the banjo. Sitting on the bus bench at 14th and Broadway recently, someone behind me put a hand on my shoulder and kissed me on the cheek. While this freaked me out for a second, I soon realized it was an ex-coworker and close mentor who I hadn’t seen for a long time. A few months ago, I was having a really hard time coordinating lunch with a friend of mine. We had been trying to make plans for weeks, and then one day, we both went out to lunch alone and ended up meeting up and finally having lunch together at Ichiro.

    Greening the City…

    This year, Black Rock City will join Oakland in its efforts to become a more environmentally-friendly city. Burning Man has been big on “leave no trace” for many years, employing staff and volunteers to clean up at the event and throughout the year. But for 2007, they’re taking it to the next level with the theme of The Green Man. The Burning Man infrastructure will be powered by large solar panels, which will be donated to the neighboring town of Gerlach after the event. A long time burner convinced some large market chains in Reno and other Nevada cities to host 24 hour recycle drop-offs after the event, while CoolingMan is attempting to offset the entire carbon footprint of the the 2007 event. A lot of the funded art this year will also be green, and there’s going to be a giant “green pavilion” under the man, highlighting renewable energy technology. Pre-event, BM’s hosting an Enviroblog to help burners make their camps greener. Some ideas from the blog: ditch disposable plastic watter bottles, run power off of a car instead of using a generator, and leave nut shells and live plants at home.

    Still, it will take a while for Burning Man to catch up with Oakland. In April, Oakland was ranked #1 in the production of renewable energy, out of all U.S. cities, according to RenewableEnergyAccess.com:

    Leading the nation with 17 percent of its electricity produced by sources such as solar, wind and geothermal, most renewable energy generation in the city comes from commercial and residential photovoltaic (PV) systems.

    According to City of Oakland Energy Engineer Scott Wentworth, the city is undertaking many important projects including: working with San Francisco State University, Marin County, and the City and County of San Francisco to create tools for assessing solar potential of commercial and residential properties; conducting wave and tidal power studies in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute and other California cities; and outfitting new municipal buildings to accommodate solar systems — even if the resources are not available to install the system immediately.

    Oakland’s currently in the process of updating its Bicycle Master Plan, to be issued this fall, as part of its robust program to encourage Oakland residents to bike and walk. There’s also the city basics, like recycling, waste diversion, hazardous material cleanup, green building, and air cleanup, all of which you can read about on Oakland’s website. Not to mention, Oakland is full of farmers’ markets, organic and local food, mass transit, and many residents who are concerned with environmental sustainability. Both cities certainly have a long way to go, but it’s clear that the environment is not simply an afterthought for their citizens or government officials.

    Feeling at Home…

    Ultimately, what I most love about both of these cities is that I feel at home. I can be myself and feel like a part of a community. So while I’m getting impatient for my trip to Black Rock City, I have Oakland to comfort me and keep me busy.

    Watching Uptown Transform

    9 Nov

    For months now, I’ve had the same thought every morning on my bus ride into downtown – “Damn – I really should bring my camera down here and take some pictures.” I knew it would be too much of a tease to just write about Uptown’s transformation without sharing some photos.

    Luckily, I don’t have to curse myself anymore because Eric over at Transbay Blog has visually documented the loads of construction happening in Uptown and a bit deeper into Downtown. Here are a couple of my favorite photos:

    That’s the Uptown project, which will in January bring 665 apartments to Oakland. And here’s Browadway Grand, which is already selling condos:

    And the favorite part of my bus ride is passing the Fox Theater, which is looking more and more beautiful every week. I don’t know why, but it started feeling much more complete when they installed the window glass last month:

    Eric has a lot more photos and great analysis of downtown Oakland construction on his blog, so go check it out.

    The DTO also posted an update recently about Uptown facades, and V Smoothe posted a review of Flora, an Uptown restaurant brought to you by the owners of Dona Tomas.

    I think the three of them have pretty much covered it all. I’m really excited about the rapid transformation of Uptown (and much of the rest of downtown Oakland). We’re starting to see a solid night life and a very walkable neighborhood develop and I think that will only get better as more residents move in. Now I just need to find some time to get off the bus and explore Uptown. And when I do, I’ll write all about it here.