Last Minute Holiday Lights

2011 Lights Update:  These displays are all-aglow now.  Zoolights run through January 1st and prices are $7.50/adult and $5.50/kid, and members receive a $1 discount.  The  Mormon Temple is free as usual, shining through the New Year.


After Christmas passes, it’s not too late to check out the last minute holiday lights – but it does take more than just driving by and noticing them.  You do have to stop, take a breath and walk around a bit.

The Zoo: First check out Zoolights, which is filled with animal and nature scenes honoring the Oakland Zoo’s residents.  As a preview, look at this beautiful display with elephants wandering around the place.

Luckily the Zoo (map) runs this show through January 4th.  It opens at 5:30 pm all week, and closes at 9:00 pm  (Mon-Thur) or 9:30 pm (Fri-Sun).  It costs $7.50/adult and $6.50/kids, and parking is free.


Oakland Zoolights - 2008

The Temple: Another pit-stop should be the Mormon Temple in Oakland, just a five-minute drive down Highway 13 (map).  While this YouTube video is sort of shaky, you see the huge palm-trees and other lights on a very grand scale.  Regardless of your own religion or politics, this amazing display is worth seeing in person.

The Streets: You can’t go wrong just wandering Montclair streets, with all the lights hidden in nooks and crannies.  Generally the decorations are fairly understated but even a few strings of outdoor lights – on fences, garages, a few trees, and houses – make things feel nice and festive.

If you haven’t scoped your own block or two, then bundle up and wander around tomorrow evening.  For the more ambitious, try this great walking map, so you can plan your route beforehand.  It’s all pretty ephemeral, but we have time to slow down and appreciate things throught the holiday season.

When Will House Values Dive?

The short answer is…we don’t know.  Lately we have been reading about the major declines in overall house values, so we dug into what’s been happening for the 94611 zip code.  Prices are not dropping here yet.

Let’s began by checking out values right now.  AOL Real Estate reports $939,185 average and $850,500 median house values in December, which still seem pretty high.

The heated market becomes quite clear when you see the three-year trends from Cyberhomes, comparing our zip, city and state.  Prices in 94611 jumped at the beginning of 2008, dropped down quickly and have held steady for the past nine months.  Meanwhile, Oakland and overall California median prices have slowly declined since 2006.


Home sales have bounced around, and Cyberhomes even shows a slight upward price trend since last summer.  Of course, what’s really happening is the number of 94611 properties for sale has dropped considerably between 2008 and 2007.  There are fewer buyers and sellers out there, period.


Because the housing numbers still remain high, we wanted to look beyond medians.  During 2007, City Data shows that 69% of our homes were worth more than $1 million, 17% between $750k-$999k, and 7% from $500k-$749k.  So perhaps there will be some downshifting among these buckets this year, while the medians hold steady.


At least for now, we’re still watching the real estate market plummet all around the Bay Area.  Just like when we looked into local foreclosures, things are sort of steady around here – as long as folks meet those mortgage payments.

Private Yoga Class, Unintended

There’s a first for everything.  Tonight I showed up for a yoga class, and was the only one present and accounted for.

My instructor soundly rejected my offer to leave and seemed happy to lead a private class.  It turns out that Mountain Yoga (map) sticks to scheduled practices, very nice!


Usually I’m one of the crowd, trying hard to relax and not stick out.  So having a private class – really a one-on-one session – made me nervous.  Of course, that anxiety vanished about five minutes into the 1.5 hour class.

Okay, I think that I may be hooked here.  Was this because of the attention or due to Anja Borgstrom’s approach?  She leads pre/post natal classes, as well as other relaxing practices for folks who want some of that yoga bliss.  All I can say is this feeling was delivered in spades tonight.

After class, I decided to check out Anja’s website and discovered her artwork too.  It’s time to repay the kindness by sharing the yoga poses above – or click here to see a more complete art gallery.  Namaste and all that stuff.

Blue Political Views In Montclair

When you live in Montclair Village, you can’t avoid the running chatter and obvious influences of living in Oakland and playing next-door neighbor to Berkeley.

If an archeologist landed here, would he or she be able to understand the political zeitgeist by the evidence we leave in our wake?  The easy answer is yes, and he doesn’t have to dig very deep either.

Let’s look at some of the left-leaning signs around town.  This first photo is located at Montclair’s ground zero:  the Mountain and Antioch intersection.  You may have walked by the stop sign a thousand times, and it actually says “Stop Bush.”


The next piece of evidence is a cryptic message scribbled outside McCalou’s Department Store.  There’s pretty much zero graffiti around town but this little message must mean something.  Does it say Joker?  Remember the outside world?  Is it meaningful or just a little tease?


The last evidence relates to our newspaper choices.  While the Oakland Tribune is probably nearby, there are other options here.  First, the Berkeley Daily Planet appears to be empty.  You can see the San Jose Mercury News peeking out and still available.  There’s also a broken door from the New York Times, which could mean the news isn’t getting delivered?  Not sure.


With these three pieces of evidence, perhaps there might be something pretty funny to say about Montclarions.  We are obviously left-leaning on the political spectrum – and it’s entertaining to see this play out in the Village.  There are red and blue people here, but the bias is clear.

Should Montclarions Commune Virtually?

Should we commune virtually, and have a social network to call our very own?

Today in Montclair limits the two-way conversation, due to the blog format.  We find something interesting to share almost every day, and are amazed by the traffic from Montclarions and other Oaklanders.  You send over all kind of ideas and questions, and I try to post items based on what’s interesting to you – but that’s only one posting a day.

Where do you go to ask a quick local question?  It feels like our virtual options are limited today.  Montclair Safety (MSIC) runs a Yahoo group that focuses on safety and crime matters.   Yelp provides user-contributed reviews about restaurants and some retail shops.  There seems to be a gap here.


Let’s try out a real Montclair social network, where anything goes.  We just set up this site – – and encourage you to join and post messages to everyone.  It’s a pretty simple way to share questions, comments, events or even photos.  You even have “your own” pages to use.

Right now, your faithful Montclair blogger is there with a few others – and I’m officially rolling out the welcome mat.  Remember this social network succeeds if you and your neighbors have reasons to use it.  I’ll report back here about what happens…stay tuned.

More info:   Check out the specific resources on the site, through this quick tour.