Talk About Montclair Micro-Climates

There’s no question that weather varies across Montclair.  It depends on your altitude, whether you live in the canyons versus hills, and if the fog hits your home in a particular way.

After years of defaulting to, I decided to explore more specific sources.  Weatherbug set up a full station and reports from Merritt College.  Weatherbonk offers a weather cam, live from the Chabot Observatory.

Chabot Weathercam

Several micro-climate stations are available through the Weather Underground, including Indian Way, Piedmont Pines, and the Skyline/Snake intersection.  You can easily visit the site nearest you, and compare different Oakland results as well.

Weather Underground

Late Wednesday, the weather seemed to hold steady across Oakland.  There was at least a five-degree spread between the hills and flats, and Montclair stations all hovered between 43-46 degrees.  Most importantly the winds had completely calmed down, after the storms blew through here.

Anyway, we really like these local weather sources and the fact that you don’t have to rely on all-Oakland reports anymore.  Do you know other sources worth sharing?  Let everyone know here.

Farmers Market Is An Art Exhibit

When shopping for veggies, have you ever taken a minute to admire their sheer beauty?

One Berkeley native, Kimbar, casts an artistic eye and likes to create veggie still-lifes.  She visits the Montclair Farmers’ Market regularly, and just added several winter images to her art exhibit.

Let’s start with some freshly-harvested brussel sprouts.  Even if you are a sprout hater, the range of natural green-blue colors, shapes and sizes are oddly compelling.

Brussel Sprouts

Next we see a cornucopia of veggies, which rivals the old masters.  I wonder if Kimbar captured what the vendors presented or set the stage herself.

Veggie Art

The last work is a radishes bouquet.  If you look carefully, you will see these radishes are a close-up of the veggie cornucopia.  They look so nice in their natural and root-filled state.


There’s just something about these winter seasonals which are irresistible – whether you love to eat ’em or simply hate ’em.  This should snap us out of the storm doldrums, right?

Postscript:  Hardly anyone made it to the Farmer’s Market this weekend, except for the vendors who faithfully showed up with their goods.  The weather and holiday weekend conspired to keep the place empty.

How Home Values Look These Days

For all you armchair realtors, here are the latest home values.  Since we reported at year end, both median and average prices declined but they haven’t literally crashed.  The big adjustment was last summer, so it’s about steady malaise for now.

Within our 94611 zip code, AOL Real Estate reported the average price dropped from $939,185 in mid-December to $874,040 in mid-February, or 6.9% over two months.  Cyberhomes separately reported a $786,852 median in mid-December, down 3.2% from prior month.

Since the zip code doesn’t tell a complete story, I reached out for advice from realtor Deidre Joyner.  We ended up discussing Montclair real estate over a cuppa coffee, and she recently blogged about the district.  Suffice to say, there are special challenges when selling in the hills.

Brubeck In Montclair

Our topography creates hurdles:

Montclair conjures images of a hillside forest, with houses tucked into nooks and crannies.  Often you see homes perched on the hills, which take engineering ingenuity to remain upright.  At the far end of the scale are tree houses, like the cool place where jazz great Dave Brubeck raised his family.

We love living here, but it turns out these picture-perfect perches aren’t terribly practical for buyers.  Since we’re in the downturn, these preferences become more obvious.  One perfect home won’t sell because there are too many stairs, while another one gets picked up far more quickly.

While several comps had been listed for 80+ days, Deidre Joyner recalled a listing which “stood out from the rest and every buyer knew it.”  Sure enough this home offered easy access, a flatter layout, backyard and patio – and there were multiple offers last summer.  It’s not easy to find horizontal gems among the verticals here!

We have five distinct market zones:

When trying to figure out Montclair values, everything hinges on the topography.  There are differences based on homes situated in the forests or more open spots.  Of course, the homes vary around the district, including originals, sweet renovations, newer homes or palatial estates.

Joyner took a look at Montclair statistics including recent sale prices, prices/sq ft, days on market and overall home condition.  Although there’s no “true formula,” she was able to define five distinct zones with different home values:

  • Piedmont side of Montclair – west of Rt 13 and next to the City of Piedmont
  • Piedmont Pines – between Ascot and Shepherd Canyon roads
  • Fernwood – just off Thornhill and within walking distance to the Village
  • Broadway Terrace – between Thornhill and Broadway Terr, east of Rt 13
  • Montclair – other neighborhoods known simply as Montclair

So it’s worth tuning into this hyper-local view of the real estate market.  We’ll continue to look at the 94611 trends, along with other smoke signals from these locations – realtors, please help us.  The numbers continue to soften, and who knows how long this recession will last.

Fingers Crossed On Winter Storms

Keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best this long weekend.  The good news is that winter-like storms have finally arrived and we desperately need the rains.  The bad news is that Oakland’s city services are effectively closed through next Monday – and we may need help responding to Mother Nature’s wrath.

After The Rain

Montclarions know that torrential rains can translate into downed trees, mudslides, floods and general mayhem.  We’re already hearing about backed-up storm drains around town, and the weather’s supposed to get more severe tomorrow.

Each year, there seems to be a calamity or two around here.  Most recent messes include the Skyline slide, which blocked the ridge line and took months to fix; and the Shepherd Canyon sinkholes, which caused severe flooding from culverts that needed replacement.

Yesterday there were no grand-scale problems, but many neighbors reported storm drain blockages around the Village.  We think the biggest problem was street flooding near Taurus/Valley View, in the Merriewood area.

It’s a busy time for Oakland Public Works, although the department is now closed.  Locals are advised to call 510-615-5566 to report problems, and calls will be picked up by the Fire Department dispatch.  If the problem is considered an emergency, Public Works will send a crew to the scene.

Montclarion Barry Klezmer sought help for a storm drain yesterday.  “Our area does not have gutters or sidewalks,” he explained.  “The storm drain that is backed-up to the street level was to due the recent excessive rain that triggered a flow of mud and tree/leaf debris.”  City workers are scheduled to arrive next Tuesday.

Over the long weekend, Public Works simply can’t handle non-emergency storm drainage or tree matters.  It seems like you are on your own, so please check nearby drains and try to clear out debris.  You can also pick up free sandbags as well, at your nearby Fire Station.

With the additional stormy weather ahead, we’re wondering whether these minor problems will turn into emergencies.  We’re also wondering if there are enough emergency crews available now.  Just keep those fingers crossed this time.

Friends Gather To Protect Moraga Canyon

Lately, Montclarions and Piedmonters have focused on protecting Moraga Canyon.  While this area isn’t exactly pristine and untouched, there are a few open spaces that have been targeted for development.

Many concerned citizens decided to join forces, through their new Friends of Moraga Canyon group.  Their goal is to keep a more active and watchful eye on the canyon area, whether private or city-owned property.

Moraga Canyon

We caught up with one of the Friends of Moraga Canyon founders, Sandra Pohutsky, and asked about the group and their plans ahead.

Q.  When did the Friends of Moraga Canyon form?
The group formed in January 2009 by Piedmonters who live near Blair Park and Coaches Playfield on Moraga Avenue,  and by Oaklanders who live on and near Moraga Avenue from Piedmont to Highway 13.  They knew that they had a common interest that was not being considered by the City of Piedmont.

Q.  Why did the group form?
Concerns over the uses of Moraga Canyon, especially the short-term use of Blair Park for temporary schools, and the long term use for a sports complex that would require a 40 foot retaining wall along the canyon and a 20 foot retaining wall along a portion of Moraga Avenue, in addition to two parking lots for 90 cars.

Q: What are the rough boundaries of the Moraga Canyon?
Moraga Canyon runs downhill from Highway 13 to Pleasant Valley.  It begins in Oakland, passes through several blocks of Piedmont, and ends in Oakland. Moraga Avenue is built over and near Cemetery Creek that is channeled in culverts and comes out near Coaches Playfield.

Q.  Who are the “leaders”  of your group, and their roles?
This is truly a grass roots organization of over 70 people and growing. A remarkable group of neighbors has come together from a variety of professions to protect Moraga Canyon. Our spokespeople change as the needs arise, and we share leadership roles.

Q.  What’s the official mission of the group?
To make sure that uses of Moraga Canyon are well understood by our respective cities and other citizens.  To communicate about developments related to open spaces and parks within the canyon.

Friends of Moraga Canyon work to ensure that the tranquility and environmental well-being of the Moraga Canyon area is preserved.  We believe that issues affecting the welfare of Moraga Canyon should be addressed with reason, responsibility and consensus.

Q.  What do you hope to accomplish this year?
We are pleased that the school district has decided not to place portable school rooms in the canyon.

We would like to have a full description of [any local] project, a community-wide discussion of the desirability and necessity of such a project, and at least one workshop by the Piedmont Planning Commission to discuss the physical impacts and appearance of the project.  We hope that the Piedmont city council and planning commission will decide to erect story poles to show the size and extent of the project, as is required for even the most modest private projects in Piedmont.

Our goal is to be sure that any use of Blair Park will have low impact on traffic and noise, that it will not interfere with the wild life that live in the park and visit it at night, that the hillside is not carved away and that all the trees are not cut down.

We oppose adding night lighting and synthetic turf at Coaches Playfield, across the street from Blair Park, as it will further erode the nature of Moraga Canyon.

Q.  How many people joined so far, and what’s the mix between Oaklanders and Piedmonters?
There are about 70 Friends of Moraga Canyon as of the beginning of February who are mostly Piedmonters living in or near Moraga Canyon.  In addition there is an allied group of about 110 Oaklanders watching Piedmont’s actions and they in turn are keeping at least six neighborhood associations informed.  There are about 770 Montclair homes located on or near Moraga Avenue that would be effected by increased Moraga Avenue traffic.

We find that even people who do not live near Moraga Canyon become very interested once they hear about Piedmont’s plans and practices so this group isn’t about who lives in either city.  Friends of Moraga Canyon is discussing setting up a website (now live) to make the information more accessible to all who want to know what could happen along Moraga Avenue.

Q.  How does the group work with the two cities?
We want to work well with all government constituencies.  In Oakland, there are two city council members and their teams involved.  This includes Jean Quan, supported by Sue Piper (510-238-7042); and Jane Brunner, supported by Zac Wald (510-238-7013).  They can all be reached at 1 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612.

In response to requests by Oakland residents, the City of Oakland set up a project to monitor Moraga Avenue developments.  Project manager Eric Angstadt,  Oakland planning department,  is coordinating input from Oakland city’s traffic engineers, fire department, planning department, and any other  Oakland departments that have an interest in the impact Piedmont’s Moraga Canyon project on Oakland.

Mr. Angstadt is also the lead on developing the city of Oakland’s input to the scoping session for Piedmont’s required Environmental Impact Report.  Piedmont has not yet announced the date of their scoping session.

In Piedmont, we are speaking at the city council twice a month, and meetings of the planning commission, parks commission, recreation commission and intend to contact the Capital Improvement Projects advisory commission before its once-a-year meeting.

We have found that information has not been widely disseminated – and most Piedmonters are not yet aware of the scope, design and cost of the development of sports fields at Blair Park and Coaches Playfield.

More info: Read more about the Friends of Moraga Canyon and their Blair Park concerns on their new web site.  If you would like to join the Friends or have questions, please reach Sandra Pohutsky – at  Also check the Piedmont Neighborhood News blog, to stay informed about city happenings.