That Undesired Traffic Light

Yesterday, Oakland City Council members green-lighted a Public Works department request to study La Salle / Mountain traffic.  Public Works can now apply for $100k in grants, which helps them assess the installation of a traffic light – one that’s undesired by locals.
Apparently the Public Works momentum won’t be derailed.  They noticed a few accidents and decided a traffic light was a priority to improve public safety.  Back in March, they held a hearing which covered the Montclair intersection.  Although support wasn’t clear, they moved forward through a City Council subcommittee yesterday.
Based on my chats around town, there seem to be many Montclarions opposed to the light and virtually none who think it’s a good idea.  Some villagers even showed up to protest Public Works’ efforts yesterday, including Derek Liecty, Jim Dexter and Claudia Falconer.
City Council members also agreed the traffic light isn’t necessary and yet authorized grant applications anyway.  According to Claudia Falconer, “Of the three Council members present, two stated outright that it seemed wasteful to place a signal in a neighborhood where most people didn’t want it, and the third suggested other intersections that might need it more.”
In the Montclarion (paid access), Michael Gourhan had framed the Montclair problem differently:  “So how do you reduce the number of people relying on Montclair as a stop on the way home?”  He suggested reductions by placing key services on Thornhill or outside downtown.
Meanwhile, there are efforts underway to beautify the Village and make it more walkable.  The Montclair Village Association (MVA) has arranged for a landscape architect to draft and develop changes now.  After getting inputs from citizens, MVA doesn’t recommend any radical changes but does support more amenities in the next year.
Thus, installing a traffic light should not be considered on an independent or isolated track.  Everyone’s intentions are good, but forging ahead doesn’t make good sense.

Coffee Chess: Starbucks Stays

Around Montclair, people were buzzing about the Starbucks closings list distributed by the Seattle behemoth.  Everyone I spoke with seemed curious about the Montclair store, which will remain opened after all – right across the street from Peet’s.

The stakes are not terribly high, so why are the emotions?  Local pride, as reported by the East Bay Business Times.  They identified seven East Bay locations slated to close, and gloated about one store that’s closing near the original Peet’s location in Berkeley.

Maybe we want Starbucks to slink away, but that’s not happening soon.  Much like how fast food outlets congregate together, our mix of coffee chains and indie shops means there’s plenty of demand.  Starbucks drafts along with these other shops, and also provides decent jobs and benefits for its employees.

When aliens land in our Village, they’ll likely be scratching their heads about all the coffee places here.  They will learn these shops aren’t only about dispensing coffee – they are about checking in with neighbors too.  Depending on the time of day, they are filled with commuters, moms and kids, local workers and retirees.

Montclair has six options, so where should you go?  That depends on what criteria matters to you:  location, seating, coffee, food or attitude.  Here are some of the choice Yelp reviews below.

  • Peet’s:  Hometown chain and coffee central – Yelp – 2066 Antioch Ct  (Map)

“The montclair village would totally suck if it weren’t for peets.  my husband and i never talk about it but i believe it’s proximity to peets (like 50 yards) is one of the main reasons we bought our house.  (oh… and er… the schools).”

“I love the way there are always giant friendly doggies outside, just waiting for you to pet.”  “The regulars seem to know each other.  I suppose it’s like a 21st century Cheers — where everybody knows your name.”

  • Starbucks:  Megachain, decent cold drinks –  Yelp – 2059 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“The Montclair one is smaller and the employees are pretty annoying, but I tend to enjoy sitting on their bench”  “For real, the best thing about this starbucks is the window seating and the bench out front.  From there, you can look across the street to see people drinking yummy Peets coffee!”

  • Nelly’s Java:  Mainly coffee plus Wifi –  Yelp – 1952 Mountain Blvd (Map)

“There was a woman (presumably one of the staff) who wiped down the cream/sugar station before leaving for the day and offering her farewells to her coworkers.  When I asked, my suspicions were confirmed…THAT was Nelly.  Having the owner take a few seconds to do a simple task – and not pass that task on to a subordinate – really shows a lot of class!!”

  • Thornhill Coffee House:  Coffee, food and companions –  Yelp – 5772 Thornhill Dr  (Map)

“I love small, locally owned coffee houses, and so was obviously a sucker for Thornhill Coffee House from the very start.  I’m a bit of an idiot some days, and on this particular day, I walked to Thornhill Coffee House without my wallet.  the shop owner handed me the coffee and sandwich, and told me to go ahead and take it, and that I could pay her next time.  This never happens in Oakland!”

  • Noah’s Bagels:  Food first and impersonal – Yelp – 2060 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“This might be the worst Noah’s anywhere. My bagel is never fully toasted, they often don’t follow the directions on the order form, and the employees don’t really know their products that well.  They’re usually good about fixing mistakes.”

  • Montclair Malt Shop:  Former Royal Ground barista – Yelp -2066 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“Most cities would love to have a malt shop like this.”  “This is a mom and pop shop … not a chain.   It is very expensive to run a business in Oakland. No wonder prices are not bargain basement.  And Montclair Village is special. It is a jewel in the bay area. There are few places like it.”

2009 Updates: A new coffee shop has opened in the Royal Ground space, after big renovations were made.  We added them to the Montclair Coffee Chess list below.

  • Metro Cafe & Bar:  Individually dripped, lunch spot – Yelp – 2058 Mountain Blvd  (Map)

“I had a cup of drip coffee, I think it was Mocha Java, and it was definitely the best cup of coffee I ever had.  I am not a coffee snob.” “Metro serves beer on tap and excellent ice tea.  The lunch menu is a little pricey for a cafe, but the food is better than you’d expect….I like this new addition to Montclair.  It’s almost, sorta, nearly hip.”

Mountain Biking Detoured In Redwood

This summer, you will have to plan ahead for your Redwood Regional Park biking trips – especially if you are a novice rider or are bringing your kids to the trails.

The most popular route for bicyclists, East Ridge, will be closed at Skyline Gate, from 8am – 5pm weekdays.  The good news is you can go mountain biking on weekends or after 5pm weekdays.

From now through September, the East Bay Regional Park District is cutting down old trees for fire prevention purposes.  While no one can argue with the importance of this “hazardous tree and fuel mitigation project,” the summer trail restrictions are a bummer.

What’s closed? The East Ridge Trail will be blocked between Skyline Gate and Prince Road, along with closures on Phillips Loop and Eucalyptus as well.

If you want to cycle from Skyline, then you would drop down to Stream Trail and ride up Prince Road to gain access to East Ridge traveling south.  This route’s challenging for novice riders, including steep and narrow terrain (see detailed map).

As Bay Area denizens, there are a few opportunities to protest the closures and detours.  The Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay (BTCEB) and East Bay Bicycle Coalition (EBBC) encourage all interested riders to show up and make their views known:

  • July 22 at 2 pm – Attend the Executive Committee meeting of the East Bay Regional Park District, where there’s scheduled time for public comments (map).
  • July 29 at 7 pm – Attend a special meeting arranged for bicyclists and Park District staff, which will be held at the Trudeau Center (map).

My two cents?  It’s restrictive but not worth the protest.  While open access would be ideal, it’s just more important for the Park to deal with fire prevention measures.  I’m not fully informed on these matters, and welcome comments and debate here.

2009 Update: Starting September 8th, the East Ridge Trail will be closed from 8am – 5pm weekdays.  The closed portion runs between Skyline Gate and Prince Trail, where East Bay Parks says they are removing hazardous tree debris and diseased Monterey Pines.  This work is expected to wrap up by December, and you can read more here.

Faded Memories Back At Yoshi’s

Back in the 1980s, I remember thinking that Spyro Gyra was so cool.  At least their brand of jazz seemed to stand out, as bland pop-rock played all around.  I’m no music snob, but what happened?

Listen to these MP3 tracks available on the group’s website, like Harbor Nights and Breakfast at Igor’s.  They are still nice enough, but start to sound the same.  The music doesn’t seem special anymore.

Based in NYC now, Spyro Gyra continues hitting the road.  They will be performing at Yoshi’s in Jack London Square, over the next three nights.  Tickets are completely reasonable, for the six scheduled shows.

Anyway, am I alone with these faded memories?

Creative Crooks Fit In

What happens when you mix Montclair homes-for-sale with a few creative crooks?  A new heist that seems to pay dividends through furniture sales.

These smart guys take advantage of realtors’ open houses.  They can tell if the sellers have moved, and also make sure there’s “staged” furniture worth stealing.

Witnesses have spotted an innocuous, white moving van driving up to homes.  Of course, the crooks are loading up the furniture and neighbors don’t think anything is amiss.

According to police reports, the furniture movers have robbed at least four homes successfully.  One home on Colton was hit for $50k alone, which is quite a pay day.

Local realtors say the attempts are even higher.  At one home, Mary Dresser noticed her lock-box was missing and discovered furniture moved into the garage.  As if on queue, she also saw that white van driving by.

Mary’s advice to us:  “Please keep an eye on your neighbors homes if they are for sale. These thieves are brazen… even saying hi to the neighbors. They look like they belong, but they could easily be thieves.”