City Rep Wants Albano Here

Jean Quan, our city council representative, seems to be picking up the torch for Claudia Albano – the city coordinator who has been actively supporting and nurturing Oakland’s neighborhood watch groups.

Yesterday we reported on the uproar surrounding the firing of Albano and re-assignment of Felicia Verdin.  It didn’t make any sense to Montclarions and others who develop grass-roots neighborhood groups.

Community Triptych

Apparently Albano will interview for another city position next week.  We’re still not sure whether she will continue to be in the driver’s seat regarding neighborhood services.

Quan clearly wants to push the matter, even though the City Council is limited in its authority.  She said “We are concerned that some front line services may be cut by the reorganization.  I expect there will be more discussion between the Mayor, Administrator and Council over the next two weeks.”

Here’s the full, uncut response from Representative Quan this morning.

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Montclarions Denounce Albano’s Firing

Some bad news was hidden in Mayor Ron Dellums’ announcement about new city appointees:  the quick firing of Claudia Albano, Oakland’s neighborhood services manager, who is much-loved among all neighborhood organizers.

Additionally Felicia Verdin, who coordinates the neighborhood watch program and community policing training, has been re-assigned to another department.  These changes are supposed to be effective by close of business, today.

Oakland Administration Gears

What the heck is this about?

When a politician or business executive first rides into town, you expect some housecleaning.  In this case, a new city administrator who isn’t new to the city, Dan Lindheim, may have some reasons to sack Albano and Verdin – or simply wants to create his own team.  We don’t know.

Yet this current team has made a difference for community volunteers.  They organize regular trainings, provide guidance and are touted as “what works” in Oakland city government.  There’s been a huge outpouring of grief from Montclarions, who have found them to be quite helpful on all safety matters (read here.)

Let’s see what happens today.

In this case, it makes sense for Mayor Dellums and City Administrator Lindheim to swallow their pride and reverse course.  Our neighborhood crime watch groups are based on volunteers and voters who value the support they have received over the past few years.  If it ain’t broke, then why break it?

Frankly I feel sorry for the new appointee, who is caught in the crossfire.  The Tribune reported that “Dorlista Reed, who helped develop the city of Berkeley’s Neighborhood Services initiative among other programs, [has been named] as public safety coordinator.”  She may be a qualified and wonderful person, but has a very hard act to follow.

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Bicycle To The Village Instead

Maybe it’s time to think about your bicycle as a practical means of transportation.  One way to stop worrying about Village parking is to bike there, if you can handle the hills near your home.

Oakland has long supported efforts to bicycle within city limits, and passed a new planning ordinance last summer regarding short-term and long-term parking – see bicycle parking requirements.

Even valet bike parking is part of the act, for major civic events with more than 5,000 people.  I remember grinning about this service at last fall’s Jazz & Wine Festival, and it’s proudly promoted again.

Valet Bike Parking

On a more regular basis, Oakland Police have been spotted with Cannondales in Montclair Village.  While cars are used to patrol the hills for would-be burglars, it’s nice to see these trusty steeds appear in town.  (There’s also an Oakland Bike Patrol, which accepts volunteers to help monitor the park trails.)

Oakland Police Bikes

From a commuting perspective, around 18% of 94611 residents say they live under 15 minutes from work – but only two percent bicycle to their workplaces.  Maybe the increased focus on bike parking plus shower facilities (in large buildings) will begin to change behaviors.

Many pieces are in place to support increased bicycle use.  Walk Oakland Bike Oakland keeps tabs on all the local news, and generally encourages us to hop on our two-wheelers throughout the city.  There’s also a local shop, Wheels of Justice, which provides the equipment and moral support.

Where are the riders?  We are creatures of habit, but should get off our collective duffs when going to the Village or other nearby spots.  I’m willing to give it a spin, next weekend.

Holiday Parking All Year Long

Remember those great holiday days, when you could park free in Montclair Village?  Unfortunately, the world has reverted back to its ugly self.  If you manage to arrive back at your car after meter time has expired, then be prepared to cough up a whopping $75 fine – I know first-hand.

Time for confession: Well, I headed to the Village with only an errand or two in mind, and ignored the garage option.  Instead, I pounced on a coveted LaSalle spot.  After quickly cursing the new-fangled meter, it produced a receipt which I gently placed on the dash.  This should be a fast one, I thought.

Parking Meter-Machines

The problem begins: My errands included minor visits to UPS and the ATM, and yours might be equally riveting.  Mission accomplished, I wandered over to both bookstores because they were calling my name.  Yes, the meter was completely forgotten.

When I ventured back to the car, the “envelope of doom” was tucked under the windshield wiper.  The ticketing officer seemed to be quite efficient and clearly won this round.

No real winners: I understand that meters are an income source for the City of Oakland and our dollars can help the cause.  At the same time, these time constraints also mean we have to shop quickly and get out of Dodge.  This doesn’t feel like the right way to attract business and support our local shop-keepers during a recession.

By encouraging and rewarding loitering, we surely would spend more shekels in the Village.  Let’s return to holiday parking – or at least move beyond free Sundays for starters.  What do you think?

Oaklanders and San Franciscans Are Pretty Fit

Recently, Men’s Fitness released their annual listing of the fittest and fattest cities across America.  They ranked the 50 largest cities, including all three Bay  Area metros.  San Francisco and Oakland were among the fittest (#12 and #20) places, while San Jose landed in the fattest ranks (#15) overall.

That makes sense when you add up all the different criteria below.  San Franciscans log fewer hours with their TVs, have places to work out, can access healthcare, and aren’t as overweight as folks in other places.  Interestingly, Oaklanders receive top grades for their junk food and overweight criteria.  All three cities share great geography and state obesity initiatives.

Men's Fitness Cities

However some of these fitness results are head-scratchers, because they don’t reflect realities of available resources.  We found details about survey criteria, which describe calculations falling within strict city limits – and that explains a lot.

  • Parks: Take a look at the grades for parks and open spaces in Oakland (C-), San Francisco (D+) and San Jose (F), which seem off-kilter.  We know that many Oaklanders take advantage of the East Bay Regional Parks.  Likewise, San Franciscans use the access trails along the Pacific Ocean.  Even San Jose residents escape to nearby regional and state parks.
  • Junk Food: The junk food grades also seem a little counter-intuitive, showing Oakland (A-) and San Jose (B+) beating out San Francisco (C).  Perhaps there are more fast-food joints per capita in San Francisco, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.  At the same time, nutrition rankings redeem San Francisco (A) when compared to Oakland (B) and San Jose (C).
  • Air Quality: Finally, the air quality rankings are suspect.  Oaklanders don’t lack for fresh air, and Montclarions literally revel in their mountain-like environs.  We see a lower grade (C+) than San Francisco (B+) , while San Jose’s grade (D) makes sense in the valley.

Yet this Men’s Fitness list provides valid, apples-to-apples comparisons among major U.S. cities.  Assuming these quality-of-life indicators are priorities, we should try to improve some of these grades.  Access to health care and exercise facilities are common goods, right?

White Elephant Sale Celebrates 50th

2011 Sale Update: Yes, the 52nd Annual White Elephant’s alive and well, and it’s called the Wild, Wild WES.  The preview sale takes place on Sunday, January 30th from 10 am – 4 pm.

Ticket prices have increased this year, running $20 at the door.  In advance, you may buy a $15 preview ticket by snail-mailing this form (through the 25th) or by visiting the Oakland Museum’s reception desk (through the 29th).

Of course, you can chance it and wait for the main sale which doesn’t charge admission. But cool your heels, since that takes place on Saturday and Sunday, March 5-6th, from 10 am – 4 pm.

Oakland White Elephant


2010 Sale Update: Yes, the 51st Annual White Elephant’s alive and well. The preview sale takes place on Sunday, January 31st from 10 am – 4 pm, and costs $15 at the door. Then the main sale doesn’t charge admission, and takes place on Saturday and Sunday, March 6-7th, from 10 am – 4 pm.


In Oakland, the best-known White Elephant Sale is about to celebrate its 50th birthday!  There’s a preview sale tomorrow, followed by the full event in March.

The Oakland Museum Women’s Board (OMWB) organizes this annual extravaganza to raise funds for the museum.  They raised only $500 back in 1959, the first year the sale was held.  Fast forward, and the OMWB hauled in a whopping $1.28 million last year.

When’s the event?

The official White Elephant Sale takes place on March 7-8th, and admission is free.  However true aficionados know they can pay for earlier access, during this Sunday’s preview sale.  For a $15 entry fee/person, you get “first dibs” at this huge rummage event.

Doors are open from 10 am – 4 pm tomorrow, down at the White Elephant Warehouse – 333 Lancaster Street (map, directions).  Kids under 12 are free, but strollers must be checked at the door.

There’s some paid parking at the Fruitvale BART station or you can take BART.  There will be a shuttle running between the station and warehouse, which begins an hour before doors open.

What will you find?

Some 17 different departments of goods are presented in the 96,000 sq ft warehouse.  The sale depends on donations from Oaklanders and other East Bay residents, which are collected all year.  There are estate items along with all kinds of cast-asides (see photos), plus strict guidelines about items not accepted too.

Last year, the Women’s Board reported that furniture, jewelry, art and books/photos/music were the four largest departments, which jointly contributed over a half-million to the total $1.28 million sales.  Who knows, this could be your chance to discover a future Antiques Roadshow winner.

Yet this White Elephant draws attendees from the entire Bay Area, because you can find practical things you want or need too.  There’s a huge array of household items, which can help furnish your apartment or house.  Of course, loads of adult clothes and kids stuff are available as well.

What’s great is that all the proceeds are for the Oakland Museum – so you can’t go wrong here.

Mountain Lions Traveling North

Okay, get ready for the mountain lions to make their appearance in the Montclair Hills soon.  They seem to be traveling north these days.

Last Sunday, there was a lion sighting in Hayward.  The Hayward Daily Review reported that residents watched the lion in the grass near little league playing fields.  According to Carolyn Chew, “I was watching it and was just fascinated.  It was watching three deer. The deer ran and got away. I felt like I was in a National Geographic movie.”

KTVU News reported another mountain lion sighting today, this time near Keller Avenue.  They interviewed a witness who watched a lion lounging in a tree for a while – but this feline disappeared before Oakland’s animal control folks showed up.

Mountain Lion Warning

It’s not the first time there have been lions visiting Oakland. According to the Tribune, there was a sighting near Broadway Terrace in December 2004 and several appearances right on the Mills College campus during mid-2003.   Yet these creatures aren’t usually parading around our neighborhoods.

Typically the lions just hang out in more rural reaches, including the protected areas nearby.  East Bay Regional Park officials believe the lion population is doing well, as many local hikers have spotted and reported the cats over the years.  In addition, there’s a strong supply of deer and even feral pigs available for their meals.

Back in 2007,  Redwood Park Ranger Dee Rosario explained that “none of the rangers have seen [lions] because we are always working or making noise.”  Still the warning signs are there for a good reason, because the felines are nearby and ready to surprise park visitors.

Lions don’t understand park boundaries when pursuing prey, however.  They could set their sights on the deer roaming our hills, but we’ll have to see what happens.  Welcome to Animal Planet, Montclair edition.