Montclair Equals Measure WW

The November 4th election is really important, at least in our beloved East Bay backyard.  Yes there’s a presidential race and all, but Measure WW matters directly – because it improves local parks by extending the “existing East Bay Regional Park District bond with no increase in tax rate.”

You can’t avoid the wilderness/urban interface living in Montclair, and Measure WW helps preserve more non-renewable, open spaces throughout the East Bay.  Check out this interactive map, where you can insert any address and see what projects are planned nearby.

We’re lucky to live in a bucolic outpost, with the parks right up the hill.  As quick inspiration, here are some familiar Redwood and Briones scenes by local artist David Miller.

We’re unabashedly pro-WW at Today in Montclair, aligning with all the arguments for the measure and supporting the range of land acquisition and other benefits for East Bay residents.  After all,  we’re blessed with Redwood, Sibley and Huckleberry nearby, and see them as gems.

What about the folks who say no on WWW in November?  They just received an unintended boost when the ballots forgot to print the Measure WW title and description, which is a shame.  Generally, they believe trails are mismanaged, feel they are overly grazed, and want more places to bike as well.

While some of the Park District’s trail practices or fire suppression activities might raise valid concerns, it seems like we should all agree that establishing conservation funds is a common good.  Plus it costs $10 max per $100k home value, nothing different than rates that are expiring now.

We don’t literally live in the wilderness, and are lucky to have open spaces at all.  When you fly over the hills, there’s a noticeable difference in the Bay Area versus any other major urban area – so let’s try to save the open spaces, however imperfect.

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Flipper’s Works For Us

Normally we rely on readers to judge food places, but we just have to comment on Flipper’s Gourmet Hamburgers.  It sits in a can’t-miss location (map), which lures you with their pricey burgers and beer.

Most of the time, I tend to go down-market for burgers and hit In-N-Out near the Oakland Airport, Wendy’s on Broadway, or even Nation’s Giant Burger in Orinda.  All these hot spots fulfill carnivorous cravings beyond Mickey D’s and Burger King.

Yesterday, I decided to take my out-of-town guest for a real hamburger and gave Flipper’s another shot.  Even though I pass by countless times while running errands in the Village, I hadn’t eaten there in a long time.  It was a pleasant surprise that puts it in big-burger leagues with Barney’s (Yelp).

Of course, you can get all kinds of hamburger variants at Flipper’s.  The burgers use Niman Ranch beef, which means better underpinnings than in years gone by.  The veggie sandwiches and other options are pretty darn tasty too, and we had a tomato, mozza, eggplant and pesto combo that worked well.

As expected, Flipper’s serves huge portions.  There’s nothing quaint about your plate filled with a big greasy main item, toppings, fries and a little side salad mix.  I think about Flipper’s as a local diner, a sibling and alternative to the Montclair Egg Shop (Yelp) if you want to feed yourself plus your kids.

The Yelp reviews for Flipper’s are pretty mixed but that hasn’t been my experience, at least recently.  Full disclosure is that I have no friends here or conflicts of interest.  Like other Montclarions, I often ignored the place and now realize those big-burger and big-breakfast urges can be satiated right here.

Do you agree?  Are you thumbs up, sideways or down?

Pulled Asunder By Community Meetings

It’s a tough decision.  We’re pulled asunder by the two community meetings tomorrow, and frankly wondering which one to attend.

Option One:  Neighborhood Watch Steering Committee Meeting

Hear from Jeff Israel, who serves as Deputy Chief of the Oakland Police department (OPD).  He will address Oaklanders who are active with community safety groups, and provide guidance about recent burglaries and crime.

According to Montclair’s Nick Vigilante, the deputy will cover “how OPD is responding to the increases via investigation, patrol, outreach, and enforcement activities; how Neighborhood Watch and NCPC Groups can help OPD; and what you and your neighbors can do to make your neighborhoods safer from such crimes.”

Details:  Wednesday, 6:30-8:30 pm – City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, in Hearing Room 4 – Validated parking at Clay Street Garage (14th/Clay) – You’ll need to RSVP to Felicia Verdin at fverdin-at-oaklandnet.com or 510-238-3128.

Option Two:  Neighbor-to-Neighbor Community Town Hall Meeting

See Vice Mayor Larry Reid and special guest Mayor Ron Dellums in action, in a town-hall meeting tomorrow.  This event is open to all, and is interesting timing after the Oakland budget meeting today.

The invitation says it’s “your opportunity to share issues you care about.  Join your neighbors in an informal and insightful exchange of ideas,” with focus on the budget, economic development, public safety, etc.

Details:  Wednesday, 6:00-8:00 pm – Castlemont Community of Small Schools cafeteria – 8601 Macarthur Blvd – Any questions, please call 510-444-CITY.

Even if you aren’t able to make these events, I’m sure there will be plenty of reports and opinions – and we’ll pass them along if interesting for Montclarions.

Political Reminder: Monday Deadline To Vote

Monday is the final day to register to vote!  Just complete this form and mail it by tomorrow.  Or register in person at the Alameda County Registrar’s office, which stays open until midnight Monday – at 1225 Fallon Street, G-2, Oakland (map).

On the national front: We have the privilege of voting for the 44th U.S. president, and this matters even though we’re a “done-deal” state which supports Obama over McCain.

California’s still an important financing whistle stop.  Yesterday, Veep candidate Joe Biden collected a reported $2.3 million at Atherton, Piedmont and Sea Cliff events for the Democratic National Committee – all in a day’s work.

On the local front: Besides the U.S. prexy race, there are other important California propositions and more local measures on the ballot.  Let’s focus on all Oakland and Alameda County measures:

  • Measure OOOakland Fund For Children and Youth Act – League of Women Voters Says No
  • Measure NOutstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act – No Position By League
  • Measure NN2008 Oakland Police Services Expansion Measure – No Position By League
  • Measure VVAlameda County, AC Transit Parcel Tax Measure – League Says Yes
  • Measure WWAlameda County, East Bay Regional Park Bond Measure – League Says Yes
  • At Large Councilmember No Selection By League

There’s no doubt that Montclarions chat and clearly care about local issues like community services, kids, teachers, cops, transportation and parks.  Make sure you have registered, so you can cast your ballot on November 4th.

Walking Montclair’s Steeps

While there are all kinds of great ways to view the topography of Montclair, the most practical one is Walk Oakland! This cool map shows the specific pitches of streets, and helps you get around on foot or bicycle.

Click here to see the map, and magnify any Montclair neighborhood.  You’ll notice the streets are graded by color, with deeper pinks as you head up the hills:  0-3% white; 3-6% light; 6-9% medium; and over 9% dark.

Take a closer look at this Montclair snapshot.  If you know your area, then you’ll agree the pitch colors are remarkably accurate – depending on whether they head up or transverse the hills.

What I like best about this map is that is reveals some ideal walks.  Why do I always restrict to walking up to Skyline?  Probably nothing more than habit.  As an avid walker, the map encourages me to check out some other places rather than my typical routes.

This walking map also manages to label the streets and neighborhoods clearly.  While we don’t commonly use the original neighborhood names, they honor our history.  In addition to Hiller Highlands, Montclair and Piedmont Pines, you can zoom into Forestland, Merriewood and Fernwood too.

Of course, it’s fun to fly around Google Earth and see actual satellite images.  It’s even more useful to have these pitch measurements – and there’s no other place to find them.

How Montclarions Respond To Burglaries

What a range of reactions to the recent uptick in burglaries!  From the online boards, coffee shops, and neighbors walking their dogs, here’s an unscientific recap.
Defend Yourself: Most of the hits happen when we’re not home, but folks seem to be scared because sometimes the robberies are at night too.  All kinds of ideas have been suggested, from baseball bats to firearms.
One interesting suggestion was to learn basic self-defense.  There’s a class for women starting tomorrow, at the Redwood Heights Recreation Center (map).  It costs $41 and will run on Saturdays, from 3-6pm, through November 8th.  Either show up or reach instructor Titus Taylor:  ttaylor@oaklandnet.com, 510-238-2384.
Make Home Improvements: Update your locks, replace old garage door openers, and install alarms inside or outside your home.  Why bother?  At the recent community meeting with Oakland Police, Sandra Pohutsky took great notes and shared six things that Montclair break-ins have in common.

1. The burglars will leave if they hear an alarm after breaking in, so consider getting one of some type.
2.  Doors kicked in are often 1970’s doors which have become brittle with poor framing.  How strong is your door?
3.  Dead bolt locks in old doors may have been installed with small screws that are now loose.
4.  A sense of complacency may have resulted in using only the little door handle locks, leaving the dead bolt locks unused.
5.  Front doors may be hidden from street view; cut down bushes and trim trees.
6.  Inspect your house and beef up security.

Call The Cops: We are starting to help the Oakland Police track burglars more frequently now, said Montclair SIC’s Nick Vigilante, by calling and reporting suspicious people.  Problem Solving Officer (PSO) Maureen Vergara, who covers Beat 13Z, asked for these details if possible:

1.  license plate information – number and state
2.  vehicle descriptions – make, model, color, and year
3.  suspect descriptions – gender, race, as much as possible

Quit Oakland: Some people want to give up and join Piedmont and/or declare independence from Oakland.  This was quickly pushed away as irrelevant or untenable by some, who have looked into the possibility before.  Others are still hopeful.

What Montclair Might Look Like

Did you see what Montclair might look like with a renewed streetscape?  Recently the Montclair Village Association (MVA) provided some before-and-after images.

Here are the “after” images with various sidewalk, crosswalk and banner concepts superimposed on village streets.  Those banners seem to honor our hills and trees, in purple and yellow hues.  Montclair already feels like a friendlier destination!

At the behest of the MVA, landscape architect Leslie Golden was brought into the planning process early.  Her firm has done all kinds of streetscapes and parks, which reflect the sense of place.  You know that island and palm entrance to the Oakland Airport?  That’s Golden Associates at work.

Anyway, the MVA held initial meetings where Golden was able to solicit ideas from merchants and villagers alike.  She asked what kinds of improvements were desired, and then shared preliminary ideas for our consumption.  The plans were not getting dictated or handed down to us.

A few weeks back, I wondered what would happen next and how improvements might get funded – which was putting the cart before the horse.  We’re not quite ready yet.

“Having a Master Plan to work towards is needed before any funding can be solicited,” explained Roger Vickery, MVA executive director.  The Association is trying to establish a long-term vision, with improvements rolled out over several years.

The MVA is requesting your reactions to the preliminary plans now.  Everything is up for review, right down to Village logos shown on their site.  Please email them at montclairvillage-at-sbcglobal.net.