What’s An Oakland Neighborhood?

No true shock:  Montclair really isn’t an Oakland neighborhood.  The latest maps reveal our ragged geographic demarcations, in what’s collectively called the Montclair District by its denizens.

Despite the ambiguity, we still share a sense of place as defined by hills and canyons, catastrophic events, historical real estate developments and whomever lives next door.

Recently Our Oakland took a stab at mapping every single extant neighborhood throughout the City of Oakland.  We relish this effort, which combines many different sources.  What’s more, because it’s on Google, you can play around with different overlays and views.

So where are we?

Let’s start with the largest definition of the Oakland Hills, which represent “our claim” on the Berkeley Hills.  Some of the Oakland Hills are called the North Hills, which tries to smooth over the Berkeley divide as well.   These northern reaches include Panoramic Hill, Claremont Hills and Hiller Highlands.

Moving south of the Caldecott Tunnel, the labeled neighborhoods include Merriewood, Glen Highlands and even portions of Upper Rockridge.  We’re not sure anyone says they live in “Glen Highlands” these days.  And while Rockridge isn’t considered Montclair, it shares a tight bond from the devastating Oakland Firestorm of 1991.

Traveling down to the southern reaches, the large Piedmont Pines development is nestled between Shepherd Canyon and Skyline.  And much like Michigan, this neighborhood’s bifurcated:  a small section exists on the far side of Joaquin Miller Park.

Parts of the Hayward Fault, running along Highway 13, also mark our borders successfully.  However the “Montclair core” jumps the line here, with many homes sited between Moraga Avenue and Park Boulevard.  We weren’t around before the highway was built, and it probably felt like a unified area back then.

How else are we defined?

The City of Oakland likes to call us Beats 13Y and 13Z, essentially north and south of Thornhill.  It’s a neat definition based on the original canyon road used by Hiram Thorn for logging operations, and likely divides up the patrolling duties.  But there are no real differences among Montclarions on either side.

We are clearly unified by the 1991 firestorm.  When asked where you live, neighbors residing in the rebuilt zone will often mention that fact in casual conversation.  If your home was destroyed, then you let other people know about it.  Even if you lived in untouched areas back then, you were touched by an experience that brought everyone together.

In the end, the people probably define Montclair District best.  A few of the earliest homeowners or their descendants are still living here, who pass on their stories.  It’s not only about the fire, either.  If you remember the one snowfall in the early 1970s, then you are a true-blue Montclarion too.  On my block, there are some old-timers and their memories help us live here – maps or not.

Favorites Today In Mountain View

After the rains, it was time to get out and enjoy the two-bridge view from Mountain View Cemetery.  We had only ventured to this monumental cemetery with tour groups before, and decided to visit untethered this afternoon.

Today in Mountain View, we were able to wander around and take in the whole place.  It was a wonderful experience, though we naturally started at Millionaires Row and paid homage to chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli before walking up and down the hillsides.

We’ll spare you the gorgeous views (!) and share our three favorite memorials.

We came upon this very cool family memorial, with tablets arranged around the cross rather than lined up on the group plot.  It reminded me of a Swiss mountain top, complete with that large cross and a rocky jumble.  The Wetherbee clan will never be forgotten by Mountain View visitors!

While walking downhill, one of the stones just looked unnatural among the traditional neighbors.  On inspection, we discovered a stone tree trunk with the branches chopped off.  The memorial honored a lumberjack named Jesse L. Smith, with this inscription:  here rests woodman of the world.

Nearby was a monumental pillar and statue that could have been honoring a U.S. founding father.  Tip of the hat to one Dr. Washington Ryer, a 19th century New Yorker who practiced medicine in California.  He was a pillar of the community, so there’s nothing wrong with ostentatious displays for eternity.

While Mountain View Cemetery has interesting memorials and a storied history, it’s not frozen in time.  Today I ran across some bereaved parents honoring their 32-year-old daughter.  “I come here twice a week to tend,” explained the father, “because the grass grows so quickly during the spring.”  Her grave was properly situated at a high point with great views, and festooned with lovely flowers.

It was a beautiful and peaceful day in these hills – stop by for a walk sometime.

Don’t Ticket The Hills Folks

Today’s local news cycle featured news about parking ticket discrimination, and protests down at City Hall.  “We were trying to make an accommodation,” explained Dan Lindheim, City Administrator.   Guess this didn’t work out too well.

In Oakland, it’s illegal to park in the wrong direction, or on sidewalks.  We recall discussions at City Council meetings last year regarding narrow streets and whether these laws needed to be relaxed.  What would happen in another hills firestorm, when the emergency vehicles needed to pass by?

At that time, Council members directed parking officials to use their discretion.  Fast forward, and that discretion is seen as a classic and discriminatory hills versus flats divide – not cool at all.  Apparently Montclarions are given warnings while folks who park on narrow streets elsewhere have tickets in hand.  Obviously this needs to be equitable!

So get out an Oakland map and identify narrow streets, now.

P.S.  In honor of this parking ticket ruckus, your faithful blogger was asked to contribute to the City’s coffers today in Montclair.  My sinful, ticketed behavior was neglecting to update the license registration sticker.  Sighs.

Tree Falls Leave Messy Wake

Another tree falls and knocks out power, pretty ho-hum.  During our extended rainy season, these outages happen so frequently that we don’t even report them all.

Yet we hadn’t considered their messy wake, until walking by one of the major falls today.  You can see the scene is still in bad shape, in this image below.

The tree detritus poses no threats to power lines, roads or anything else.  However the evidence is everywhere, weeks later.  We’re not singling out this homeowner because you can discover the same trunks, stumps and/or destroyed properties scattered in the hills.

Now look up from the ground, and you can see more trees that are ready to keel over.  We can envision the next storm and tree fall here, so maybe it’s worth waiting for the “timber…” before doing anything much!

First Impressions: Mayor’s State Of The City Address

After watching Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums deliver his annual address this evening, we know he needs a better speechwriter or at least some practice time beforehand.  The Mayor rambled from grandiose goals to program details, and back again.  He highlighted the grant money hunt and barely pointed to the elephant in the room – the tough budget cuts and potential taxes ahead.

The most cringe-worthy moments arrived when Mayor Dellums uttered the words  “model” or “model city.”  We regret not keeping a running tally, but estimate at least 50 times or so.  Not surprisingly, he escalated to “the model city is our destiny” at the wrap.

On the flip side, we liked when Dellums threw out hella-love for Oakland because that’s what a mayor should do.  One highlight was when he bragged about our new-found restaurant hipness, declaring that “Oakland is nobody’s country cousin.”  Here, here!

We trust our first impressions, so here are address highlights:

  • Most “come on” moment – The Mayor proclaimed his four years as a foundation and starting point.  Like all politicians, he wanted to burnish his legacy, claiming the 10 percent reduction in crime along with hiring Police Chief Anthony Batts.
  • Truly transparent words – Dellums admitted that local politics are different than D.C., because true cooperation’s needed here.  He pointed to civic-minded, common citizens as the linchpins connecting elected officials and city bureaucrats.  Yes, the Mayor called ’em bureaucrats.
  • Rah, rah for home team – Hey, we might keep the Oakland A’s in Oakland.  The City recently pitched to Commissioner Bud Selig “with dignity, respect and confidentiality,” reported the Mayor.  Now we’ll wait and see.
  • Yup, the port city – We kinda liked this part, when the Mayor declared “let’s stop the City and Port dichotomy.”  He wanted the port to grow by serving the middle of the country, a worthwhile sentiment.  And he dissed Seattle, saying it’s nice competition but too far away.
  • We beg the best – Dellums bragged about our $19 million COPS money from Uncle Sam, the most received by any U.S. city.  He continued to highlight many, if not all, local programs receiving federal stimulus money.  It’s good but old news.

Since Mayor Dellums doesn’t do public appearances that often, we relished watching his very long address on KTOP (Channel 10) this evening.  He should have quit while he was ahead rhetorically, rather than develop a supremely bad case of logorrhea.

Happy New Year To You

Here’s to a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year to you, in the year of the tiger!  This weekend, we went to a special Chinese celebration of Oakland volunteers and it was so heartwarming.

Traditional lions danced to their large drum, with front and backseat drivers directing them through the audience and up to the stage.  The hungry felines expected an offering, and District 4 Council Rep Jean Quan presented a lettuce head to them.  Properly and fully satiated, our lions departed for other New Year’s celebrations throughout the city.

Then it was time for honoring an amazing volunteer line-up.  Rep Quan introduced some 45 individuals and groups who, in turn, described their motivations with the audience.  Generally, these volunteers improved their physical environments, focused on local kids, or brought together neighborhoods.

Several volunteers received small monetary awards, which go a very long way for people who really need them.  One winner, Tony Colman, runs a non-profit bike shop where city kids learn all about bikes and repairs.  Winner Cora Sue Anthony heads A Season of Change, which recruits youth to do home staging – and their floral decorations even made it to the White House!

Also we appreciated the long-term contributions of Eddie Dunbar, who oversees the Insect Sciences Museum of California, and Dale Hagen, who serves as Peralta Hacienda’s president.  And the Cleveland Cascades, near Lake Merritt, were nearly forgotten until Barbara Newcomb and Jim Ratliff began their reclamation work.

What hit me is that volunteers share a certain indescribable spirit.  It’s a marvel to see how many people are motivated to contribute for years and years, simply because they want to improve our city.

The Pothole Chronicles

In this episode of The Pothole Chronicles, you will learn whether the lowly potholes get ignored, pointed out, wait-listed, or emergency treatment.

Poor road conditions are a fact of life in Oaktown.  We know there aren’t sufficient Public Works resources to maintain the city thoroughfares, and certain stretches of the city get roundly ignored.

In Montclair, the roads regularly suffer due to rain, mud, stream culverts and shifting sands known as the Hayward Fault.  The arrival of potholes is a seasonal thing, and generally the biggest and baddest bullies get filled at some point.

With very-real budget cuts, neighbors are erupting over this year’s potholes lately.  There’s no true consensus on the Montclair SIC chat board, but the discussion’s lively and worth quoting:

Do It Yourself: Here is what I did! I found some dirt on the hill plus a few decent sized rocks and filled up the pot hole. The weight of the cars going over the hole have compacted the rocks and dirt and wahlaw, no more car damage!  In the one near my home, I filled it with some left over granite pieces from an art project.

Wait For Sunny Skies: The Call Center has been advising the public that the Agency is currently funded for pot hole repair only and that this service  will begin as soon as the weather conditions change (spring, summer & fall – pot hole blitz in addition to routine maintenance) .

Get ‘Em Marked: If we are going to appropriately wait until the weather conditions are good for asphalting, then the crews should be sent out right now to mark the big pot holes with orange paint.

Ask Council Rep For Help: Jean – If there’s anything you can do to get Telegraph Ave repaved between 45th and 55th St and the 2000 block of Mountain Blvd. in Montclair repaved (near Pet Food Express/Union 76), it would be appreciated. There are a lot of streets in Oakland that are extremely bumpy and these are just a few.  Thank you.

Give A Shout Out: Just a note to say thanks for all the noise about potholes.  I was coming up Mtn. to Ascot at 1:30 pm and the crew was out filling some of the HOLES.  So, thanks to all of you and to the crews!

Act Cynical, Always: We should all light our candles and do our part.  And stop cursing the dark.  I guess we get what we get and shouldn’t speak up or become frustrated.  I’m going to light my candle tonight and in the morning go out and spray paint all the pot holes pink, then [Do It Yourself] can go fill them in with granite.

Near my home, there’s a big hole with a lovely orange spray-painted marking.  Everyone slows down and passes by gingerly.  We all think that Public Works will make it there sometime, and ultimately fill the worst gashes.  Hang tight.