Eucalyptus, As Political Hot Potato

Eucalyptus has become the newest political hot potato.  While the opinions aren’t exactly this cut and dry, there are three main camps:  folks who want to save the trees; others who call for selective pruning; and still others who want to cut them down.

We wanted to pay a little homage first, and walked in the hills today.  The eucalyptus are everywhere, standing sentinel on many hillsides.  We noticed these trees, below, while ambling along the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  Within East Bay MUD territory, these specimens were quite tall and there were a couple tree stumps here and there.

The Hills Conservation Network (HCN), which aims to save trees, filed a suit against the East Bay Regional Park District last Tuesday.  The group is looking to prevent any tree removals, until there’s sufficient environmental study about the 20-year impact of removing half a million trees.  According to HCN’s press release:

Large scale removal of pine, eucalyptus and acacia trees is a radical plan to restore the landscape to the way it may have looked 200 years ago.  Removal of thousands of trees eliminates their ability to absorb carbon dioxide, a main culprit in global warming.  This is poor forest management and ineffective fire prevention — and it harms the environment.

Meanwhile, there are concerns about limiting the impact of the next firestorm.  The hills are part of the Wildfire Prevention District where, like clockwork, the Diablo Winds fuel fires every two decades or so.  Ever wiser since the 1991 firestorm, we’re all trying to mitigate the fire fuels – whether on public or private lands.

Homeowners know the drill each summer, as we’re required to maintain “defensible space” between the greenery and our homes.  Everyone keeps things under control or else gets fined, and must adhere to very tight regulations.

The eucalyptus have become a real point of contention, with different opinions about whether or how to clear them on public lands.   Other plant species may or may not grow successfully near them.  Various chemicals might be acceptable or not, when clearing eucalyptus and other growth.  And some selective de-limbing and chopping might be useful.

To shake this all out, it comes down to what is best for supporting the natural environment and for reducing potential fire damage.  There’s plenty of human sparks coming from scientists, arborists, environmentalists and fire marshals who are debating here – and we’re curious where you stand.

Top Ten Memorable Stops In Montclair

When you live in a place, it’s easy to forget what strikes visitors as unique, precious, entertaining or picture-worthy.  Most of the time, we end up showing our guests a few things from our tried-and-true list of memorable stops in Montclair.  Although this week’s tourists are aiming for San Francisco and Napa, at least we’re giving them a couple Oakland memories.

Top Ten Memorable Stops In Montclair

1.  Sibley Preserve – The volcano, mazes and seasonal flowers are crowd-pleasers.

2.  The Egg  Shop – Every village needs their old, traditional breakfast spot.

3.  Mayor’s Race – During elections, the candidates will shake paws at our Farmers Market.

4.  People Watch – Hitting one of the coffee shops at Mountain and Antioch is required.

5.  Shepherd Canyon – No time?  Torri Gate, on Escher Drive, provides a city-water view.

6.  Hills Drive – Taking any circuitous route through our narrowest streets, always memorable!

7.  Oakland Museum – When kids are around, we’re visiting those California exhibits.  (OL)

8.  Paramount or Fox – Getting tickets to anything (!) so you can oogle the ornate with guests.  (OL)

9.  Crogan’s – Just because it’s here, but steer clear if your guests are true foodies.

10. Library – Declaring “storybook” as you head past the library, firehouse and Fernwood area.

(OL) or Outside Limits:   Yes, yes, we know.  These two Oakland stops fall outside the Montclair District, but are included in the Top Ten Memorable Stops list…while visiting here.

Got Safety FUD?

Got Safety FUD?  Do you feel a little fear, uncertainty and doubt about living safely in the hills?  These sentiments are often expressed by Montclarions who have experienced home break-ins, and are starting to be shared by their neighbors.

What we do know is there’s been a crime wave in the hills.  Since the perpetrators aren’t visible and ready to catch, our Oakland Police aren’t going to come running – there’s no threat to life and limb.  Let’s review a typical Montclair story, as reported through Montclair Safety’s Yahoo Board:

The police never responded to the call.  They got the first call right as the break in happened from the alarm company around 1:30 pm.  They got another call about 30 min. later from the alarm company.  I phoned them from the driveway 45 min later, when I discovered the shattered door, and did not want to go in alone.  I waited one hour, called again, then called my mom to come help me enter the home with a buddy.  At 7 pm, when the police still had not arrived, I phoned to cancel the 911 call.

Should you throw up your hands? That’s a typical reaction when your home has been burglarized and no police show up – whether your worldly possessions are intact or gone forever.  Still you should call in all hits, because keeping track of the activities enables police officers to connect the dots.

What if there are strangers around? This is so tricky, really.  One Monday-morning quarterback wondered if he should have called the police department when he saw suspicious folks, after learning they were likely perpetrators later that day.  It’s quite hard to know what to do.

Should you get armed? Well, you may exercise your Fourth Amendment rights and own a gun.  Keep in mind that most of our hills crimes happen when you aren’t at home.  Maybe an alarm, more crime-resistance door or dog would come in handy.

What’s apparent is that fears, uncertainties and doubts are rising lately.  These feelings are not only due to the crime wave but also the likely evisceration of the Oakland Police Department, to close our city’s budget gap.  While we won’t get 100% abandoned, more discussions about private security are starting to come up.

If you are concerned and curious, then pencil in the upcoming Montclair SIC Community Meeting:  June 3rd, from 7-9pm, at the Montclair Rec Center (map).  You’ll be able to hear from Area 1 Commander Captain Anthony Toribio and Beat 13Z Problem Solving Officer (PSO) Maureen Vergara.  Neighborhood Community Supervisor Jacque Long and Police Service Technician Eddie Smith will also be on hand.

At the very least, maybe some of your Safety FUD will dissipate.

More info:   KTVU Channel 2 aired a news report about the Montclair District’s crime wave – click here.

We’ll Take Some Rumble Strips

Rumble strips are supposed to alert drivers, when regular warnings or signals just won’t do.  Come to think of it, we’ll take some strips to slow down Moraga Avenue speedsters leaving the Warren Freeway.  Nothing else has worked yet!

Unfortunately, new strips installed on the Oakland Bay Bridge haven’t been greeted with open arms.  “This is the last place you want to put rumble strips, because rumble strips cause very serious vibration,” declared Hassan Astaneh, a Berkeley mechanical engineering professor.  And vibrations contribute to possible bridge failures, like last year’s eyebar collapse.

According to ABC7 News, Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney begged to differ.  “There’s nothing about the rumble strips that cause any type of damage to the east span of the Bay Bridge,” explained Ney.  “The addition of a 3/8 of an inch doesn’t cause any measurable short-term fatigue. ”  But we’re already fatigued, and will keep our fingers crossed.

P.S.  We weren’t kidding about rumble strips for Montclair arterials, like Moraga Avenue.

Worth The Hornet’s Tour

On a whim, we went down to the U.S.S. Hornet yesterday afternoon.  Getting the full tour is  completely worth your time!  When you are guided by old steam room workers and fighter pilots, active on similar-class ships during Vietnam, the experience comes alive.

You don’t need to be a war or ship buff to appreciate the magnitude of this vessel.  After walking below deck for a couple hours, it’s hard to imagine being stuck there for months.  One of the tour guides had worked six-hour shifts – that’s six hours on, six hours off – in the steam rooms.  Even without war-time threats to life and limb, we’re impressed.

The other guide had been a top-gun type, looking fit and ready to pilot a jet right now.  He showed us what took place throughout the upper tower, where the ship captain and flight controllers performed their duties.  We marveled at what it took to ensure that different sized-jets could take off or land safely, out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

By combining two walking tours, you’ll get a bead on how things operated on commissioned ships.  We checked out an engine room, the kitchen and mess hall, marines-only munitions storage, a six-man brig and catapult operations below deck.  Above these warrens, we toured the ship’s bridge, air traffic control area, and ultra-windy flight deck.

Like all good tourists, we have to share some photos taken there – which can’t replace visiting in person!  Fortunately, the Hornet Museum operates with a large volunteer force who mans the vessel seven days a week, from 10am – 5pm.  Admission runs from $6/kid (ages 5-17) to $14/adult, and helps refurbish this military treasure.

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