Mellow Strikers At The Schools

This morning, the teachers and their strike supporters began their day-long vigils in front of the local schools.  We stopped by Montclair and Thornhill Elementary schools to ask how things were going.

For all intents and purposes, the hills schools were closed today.  While the strikers couldn’t confirm precise counts, they estimated between 20-40 kids at each school.  We heard similar statistics from Joaquin Miller Elementary as well as Montera Middle School.

Here’s a group of strikers standing in front of Montclair School, around 11am or so.  Perhaps half of the drivers honked as they passed by, on busy and highly-visible Mountain Blvd.

Over at Thornhill School, there were at least a dozen strikers and supporters actively chanting during commuter hours.  By late morning, drivers continued slowing down and shouting to the sign-holders.

As you know, there are very tight relationships among parents, teachers and principals at our local schools.  Quite recently, Montclair and Thornhill were awarded 2010 California Distinguished School Awards.  Given to fewer than ten percent of all California school,  these awards are based on top parental satisfaction and academic performance index (API) scores.

No one is really winning here. Interestingly, no one standing outside the mostly-shuttered schools today was chanting about raises.  When we spoke with the picketers, they brought up issues related to crowded classrooms – plus the associated stresses on kids and teachers.

Here in the hills, everyone is taking the strike day in stride.  Local parents are accommodating the one-day strike, and seem to be out and about with their kids.  We know the discussions will continue with Oakland Unified and there are tough decisions ahead.

Filing Deadline For Montclair Mayor

If your pet doppelganger is interested in representing Montclair District, then you must take action pronto.  For the seventh year, candidates living in the district are invited to run for our mayoral post.  The filing deadline is this Friday!

The pet election raises funds for a real-world cause, namely the Pet & Wildlife Fund.  Over the past year, veterinarians have healed wild animals including an opossum, hummingbird and cormorant.

Your Montclair Reps At Work

Last year, a brand-new politician arrived on the scene and beat all the seasoned pros.  Little Bear has admirably served as mayor of Montclair, making appearances and generally improving the quality of life in our district.

In addition to Little Bear, another seven animals served on the 2009-2010 mayoral team.  Bella, Molly, Gracie, Alice, Rico and Nitro served in traditional roles as canines.  Alex, the first turtle ever elected, served as conservation commissioner.

Our representatives have been dealing with all sorts of local matters, whether they related to parking meters, city beautification or safety concerns.  We think they listen and respond to local needs.

How To Field Candidates

There are several easy steps to nominate your canine, feline or other species candidate:

  1. Find a local and willing business sponsor.
  2. Take a candidate photo, and save it on a CD.
  3. Be prepared to spend $25 for the entry fee.
  4. Complete this nomination form in full.

Given the Friday deadline, please hand deliver everything to the Montclair Veterinary Hospital (map).  If you have questions, then reach the official registrar at or 510-339-2400.

Montclair nominees should support paws on the street.  The primary takes place from May 3rd-30th, and winners run from June 1st-20th.  At the Sunday Farmers Market, shoppers visit the voting booth to meet candidates and cast votes for a buck each.  We believe that online voting will also be available.

The 2010-2011  mayor and team will be announced on June 20th, at 1pm.

Take One Of Jane’s Walks

In honor of Jane Jacobs, there are several walking tours planned around Oakland this Saturday.

You should set aside a couple hours and join one of the neighborhood tours, to appreciate all the human-level interactions in an urban setting – and to understand how Oakland presents a perfect case study of older, transitional centers.

Meet Urbanist Jane Jacobs, RIP

Almost fifty years ago, Jane Jacobs pushed against the old-school urban development parlance of high-rises surrounded by open spaces.  She recommended street-level retail and mixed uses in neighborhoods, and challenged the orthodox zoning concepts which separated uses.  She believed people would properly populate these mixed environments, and make them vibrant and safe.

In her seminal work, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs explained:

The bedrock attitude of a successful city district is that a person must feel personally safe and secure on the street among all these strangers.  He must not feel automatically menaced by them.  A city district that fails in this respect also does badly in other ways and lays up for itself, and for its city at large, mountain on mountain of trouble.

Tour Oakland On Foot, This Saturday

What kind of Jane’s Walks have been planned this Saturday?  Some trace stairways and hidden pathways, mostly in the hillier areas.  Others examine the remnants of our Key System train routes.  Still others embrace and celebrate Oakland’s original core.

All the walking tours are free to the public, and are well-organized by Walk Oakland Bike Oakland, Oakland Urban Paths and the City of Oakland’s Tourist Program.  Here’s the official line-up:

  • Old Oakland – Walk through what was once the western terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad!   See great, restored commercial buildings. – Runs 10:00 am – 1:00 pm.  Starts at G.B. Ratto, 821 Washington St (map), ends at La Borinquena, 582 Seventh St (map).
  • An Advocate’s Walk – Ever thought a scenic walk was too far away?  Walk from BART through Temescal, Echo Creek, Rose Garden, Whole Foods and Lake Merritt. – Runs 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm.  Starts at 555 40th St (map), ends at 1900 Broadway (map).
  • The Oakmore Stairs – The four sets of stairs in Oakmore were rebuilt as part of the original development.  Hear stories from residents and get a primer of the Key Route System. – Runs 10:30 am – 1:00 pm.  Starts and ends at Leimert and Arden Place (map).
  • Lake Merritt, Roses and Glen Echo Creek – Take several footpaths criss-crossing the city, connecting some of the city’s most stunning settings. – Runs 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  Starts at Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Ave (map), ends at Grand Tavern, 3601 Grand Ave (map).
  • Mills College, A Creekside Oakland Gem – Learn about current efforts to restore the creek, then tour around the college campus. – Runs 10:00 am – 12:00 pm.  Starts and ends at Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd (map).
  • Crocker Highland, Grand Lake Stair Walk – Check out four historic neighborhoods, and traverse secret stairs and paths that were cut-throughs to the Key Route. – Runs 10:00 am – 12:00 pm.  Starts and ends at Azirmendi, 3265 Lakeshore Dr (map).

Honor Oakland’s Heritage All Year

Well beyond a single tour day, Oakland offers a terrific series of historical and cultural walks each year.  The Oakland Heritage Alliance organizes fee-based walking tours which are top-notch, attracting historians and experts as local docents.  Last summer there were over 20 weekend events, capped off by a neighborhood open-house in Storybook Fernwood.

In addition, the Mountain View Cemetery leads interesting docent tours twice monthly.  Introductory tours visit Millionaire’s Row and get a lay of the land.  Other tours are surprisingly creative, based on who’s resting there for eternity.  You really must check out this Frederick Law Olmsted creation.

The City of Oakland also organizes twice-weekly, free tours around the city for visitors and residents.  Local historian Annalee Allen oversees these tours with volunteers, but the whole program might get cut at this Thursday’s City Council meeting.  If you’re a tour-lover, then email your council rep now:   Jean Quan at, or Jane Brunner at

Oakland’s still fortunate to have many residents who revel in our local heritage.  These experts make sure our historical, cultural and other local knowledge doesn’t vanish from memory – and you can meet some of them during Jane’s Day!

America Sees Our Eastern Span

Your faithful blogger has been on a quick trip east, talking up Oakland as usual.  No one really cared much about Oakland, until 60 Minutes came to the rescue last night.  They aired a story about the urgent need to earthquake-proof the Bay Bridge, slinging superlatives about the new Eastern Span under construction.  We were so proud!

Of course, the TV segment considered the grandparent and grandchild bridges side-by-side.  Caltrans Spokesman Bart Ney received plenty of airtime and he showed the new bridge in ways we have already seen.  The original bridge was rigid, and a marvel for its time.  The new bridge enables movement, and certain parts can bend and break so the whole remains intact.

In typical 60 Minutes style, the piece played up the current risks of living with the grandparent Eastern Span.  The facts are undeniable, since the Hayward Fault quake and the replacement bridge are both well overdue.  Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission almost shrugged his shoulders, responding to the concerns in a hopeful yet realistic manner.

This TV program didn’t touch on what Bay Area residents think or do about earthquake preparations.  Oaklanders even ran a major drill in Oakland this past weekend.  Residents are learning, finally, where to turn off their gas and what they should do to be self-sufficient for a couple days.  There’s no point in living with hysterical fear, que sera, sera.

By 2013, the Eastern Span will likely open for business.  In the meantime, all of America glimpsed this gorgeous engineering marvel and acknowledged the Contra Costa and Oakland – at least for a few fleeting minutes.

Violent Crime, Never Mind

Bring in the SWAT team and roving helicopter.  Shut down the street.  Yesterday in Montclair.

We learned that an armed man was spotted around Broadway Terrace, late yesterday afternoon.  The Oakland Police Department jumped on the lead, which ultimately turned into a false alarm.  Yet we shouldn’t mind the practice drill, not one bit.

On Montclair Safety’s Yahoo board, Natalie Henrich passed along the neighborhood scoop:

I just heard from a neighbor that all of the police activity that occurred today from 5-6 pm near Mountain and Broadway Terrace was for naught.  It turns out that it was a “kid” with a pretend gun.  I don’t know more than that, but I am relieved that it was not what everyone thought it to be.

Without knowing the full details, we’re still comforted by the Oakland Police’s response to this priority call.  Our area is best known for property rather than violent crimes, but you never know when there might be a threat to life and limb.