Blair Park Development, Fait Accompli?

It looks like the City of Piedmont will likely approve development of Blair Park, possibly tomorrow night.  This five-acre undeveloped area, located in Piedmont with an Oakland border, has been under review for several years now.  Some Piedmonters want more space for playing fields.  A mix of Piedmonters and Oaklanders are still concerned about traffic, environmental, seismic, sound and other impacts.

During this past year, there have been revisions made to the Master Plan.  Most notably, the plan calls for one synthetic playing field rather than two fields.  The remaining space would be filled with a grass glade, a restroom, an off-leash dog area, and two parking areas for 20 cars.  There would be lowered concrete walls, new sidewalks, and some traffic calming efforts.

Piedmont City Council has scheduled a public hearing tomorrow night, to hear comments about the latest plan.  More specifically, the Council will be considering approval of this 65-page addendum to the final environmental impact report (FEIR).  The agenda calls for reviewing overall conditions to approve/deny the project or parts of the project.

  • What:  Piedmont City Council — Public Hearing for Moraga Canyon Sports Field Project
  • When:  Monday, December 5th — at 7:30 pm
  • Where:   City Council Chambers —  120 Vista Drive, Piedmont (map)

In addition to the environmental review and mitigation program, the Piedmont City Council is also addressing other approval conditions.  These range from financial arrangements, such as leasing the site to the developer and getting initial fees paid, to making sure construction costs, plans and schedules are hammered out.

Tomorrow’s agenda covers both Blair Park and existing Coaches Playfield elements, Blair Park modifications proposed by the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization, filing the project with the Alameda County Recorders Office, and reading of an ordinance about leasing the Blair Park site to the developer.

Based on the agenda alone, it sounds like the train is about to leave the station, the starting gun will be shot — or pick the metaphor that works best for you.  Assuming there’s money to develop Blair Park, some development is about to get approved tomorrow.

Update:  The Piedmont City Council meeting lasted until Tuesday morning, at 2:30am.  During the proceedings, Oakland Council Rep Libby Schaaf voiced her concerns to city council reps.  As expected this Blair Park development was approved, by a 4-1 vote.

Okay Everyone, Time For Surveillance Cameras

Montclarions have been contemplating measures to help deter potential burglars and catch perps for a while.  Under the auspices of the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council (MSIC), neighbors recently decided that surveillance cameras might do the trick.  And ABC7 News (KGO) ventured into the hills to ask about our plans.

It’s simple:  purchase several surveillance cameras and install them around your property.

With many home invasions lately, why not try something?  After all, Oakland police are focused on their downtown efforts and generally drive up here for in-progress, life-and-limb crimes.  With under 650 cops for the whole city, they aren’t able to patrol in the hills or visit homes that have been hit.

On Saturday morning, there’s an opportunity to figure out how to install and use these specialized cameras.  The Montclair SIC group has organized a meet-up at Montclair Elementary School (map), starting at 10am.  Right in the parking lot,  Logitech camera reps and Oakland police are scheduled to discuss how this program can work for Montclair.

Whether you are ready to install cameras or not, all curiosity seekers are invited to learn more tomorrow.  For those ready to give it a try, you can sign up for cameras and even arrange a house-visit to connect cameras to your home computer.  According to Montclair SIC reps, “we have over 100 participants registered for this program, which is phenomenal for a new community-based program.”

Fire Prevention By The Professionals

When milestone years come around, people take notice:  it’s one score for the Oakland Hills fire disaster on October 20th, 1991.  To commemorate the destruction of our northern neighborhoods, Oakland held many events to share memories and fire prevention tips.  When Mother Nature strikes again, with her Diablo winds and fires, we should be able to reduce the damage.

Our favorite mitigation efforts are performed by goats annually.  The City of Oakland and East Bay Regional Park District engage the goat herders and their charges, who chew hillsides clear and also serve as goodwill ambassadors.  (Yes, the goat escapees provided additional entertainment this past spring.)

Less visible?  There are coordinated efforts among East Bay cities, park districts and fire departments, through the Hills Emergency Forum.  Every year, the Forum joins together and creates specific priorities to assess, prevent/mitigate, prepare and respond to fires.  Please click and read this PDF file!

Active members include Oakland and El Cerrito along with the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Moraga Orinda Fire Prevention District (MOFD) and the University of California, Berkeley (UCB).  Of course, some 14 city fire chiefs are also members.

Hills fires happen regularly, with recorded events in 1923, 1931, 1933, 1937, 1946, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 1991, 1995 and 2002.  Along with homeowners and citizen group efforts, the Hills Emergency Forum needs to do their job.  We hope all these East Bay jurisdictions stay focused on their shared responsibilities for fire prevention and response — assuming they have sufficient funding.

Piedmont Pines: Patience Pays Off

Piedmont Pines neighbors have exhibited the patience of Job, while awaiting undergrounding of their utilities. The Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association (PPNA) first requested undergrounding some 24 years ago, and it looks like the work might take place…soon.

Some 251 homeowners, living at these addresses, are scheduled for phase one.  And there’s more good news for these residents, who will not be on the hook for electrical panel upgrades.  The PPNA worked with the City of Oakland and PG&E, and now the utility’s required to pay for all upgrades — effectively saving $2,500-$5,000 per homeowner.

We think all the pieces are in place, including approvals, financing and work plans.  But that neighborly patience could still come in handy, during months ahead.

Update: On Monday, October 24th, there will be a groundbreaking ceremony at Piedmont Pines. Current District 4 Council Rep Libby Schaaf and Former Rep Dick Spees will be there.

Montclair Village Asssociation Changes Guards

The Montclair Village Association (MVA) provides much-needed glue connecting Montclair’s denizens, merchants and the City of Oakland.  The group listens to all concerns, and its leader wears multiple hats including retail business developer, graffiti ranger, party host, urban planner and overall visionary.  Now we are changing the leadership.

MVA’s most recent administrator-director, Roger Vickery, did a great job herding all the constituencies.  We especially appreciated the practical and patient approach he used to improve life in the village.  Despite the elected dog mayors, he truly served as the de-facto Mayor about town.  We’re sure that Vickery will be missed after his retirement.

Tomorrow, the torch gets passed to long-time Oaklander Daniel Swafford.  We spent time with him when he announced and ran for District 4 council rep  last year.  With his enthusiastic leadership of Dimond’s safety group (like Montclair SIC) and the Oaktoberfest, we should be in different but very good hands.  Now that steins have been cleaned and put away, Swafford is ready to focus on all-things Montclair.

Please celebrate the changing of the guard, tomorrow.  After the regular MVA meeting wraps, around 7:15pm Wednesday, you’re invited to Italian Colors (map) for the celebration.  For those who have worked with Roger, come and raise a glass to him.  While there, you will also have an opportunity to meet Daniel as well as many caring Montclarions.  Stop by!

Whew, Oakland Looks Pretty Good

At the Moneyball movie premiere,  we received kudos from the stars.  Brad Pitt, who plays Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, declared  “Man, I hope [all Oaklanders] like it.  I think it’s a love letter.”  His Oakland A’s number-cruncher, played by Jonah Hill, added “I love the Bay Area, I love Oakland.”  That’s great, but we needed to see the love letter for ourselves.

After watching Moneyball this opening weekend, we felt uplifted about the A’s and pretty good about Oakland.  The Coliseum is a central backdrop, where Billy Beane places his bets on affordable hitters and their performance plays out.  Other city locations were used sparingly, and here’s the line-up:

  • The Coliseum – Yes, it appears realistically during most of the movie.  You see the playing fields, the locker room, offices and entry ways.  We think the locals who filled the place did a great job.  The real footage of the decade-old games looks just fine, too.
  • The Home – Billy Beane lives in a quiet, nice home.  The scenes take place in a comfortable-looking kitchen that would fit well in our Montclair homes.  One misfire?  There are collectible plates on the walls, which seems strange in an earthquake-prone locale.
  • The Port – Of course, when Beane is trying to figure things out, he goes for a drive and ends up in an open, empty lot.  The Port’s cranes are right there, trying to tell him that he’s protected in Oakland.
  • The Bridge – Yes, our Bridge just had to be in the movie, with the lights twinkling from San Francisco.  (We can’t wait until the new bridge emerges and there’s a view of our hills in future flicks.  Wishful thinking here.)
  • The Airport – There are a couple scenes at the gate, when Beane collects or drops off his daughter.  These small bits could have been filmed at Oakland or anywhere, and thus were too neutral for our tastes.

Moneyball primarily sticks to its Oakland A’s storyline, including the immediate business and sporting activities at hand.  There were no place-setting efforts to show off downtown landmarks or other great spots around the city.  Beane could have taken his daughter to Chabot Science, Lake Merritt or even the Zoo.  Alas, this movie isn’t a Oakland tourism promotion.  As Brad Pitt promised, it’s a true-love note to the Oakland A’s.

P.S.  Did you see District 4 Rep Libby Schaaf’s recent love letter to Oakland?  It does articulate the charms and challenges of Oakland quite well.  Check out Oakland:  The Self-Made City and find Schaaf’s letter in the right hand column.

Another Death On Grizzly Peak Boulevard

On Saturday, just before noon, a 53-year-old bicyclist lost his life on Grizzly Peak Boulevard.  The unidentified accident victim was riding with a group, fell as he pedaled downhill, ditched his bike and then got hit by an oncoming car.  Apparently an uphill driver had rounded a blind turn, with little time to react.

Here’s the grim news, first reported by the Oakland Tribune:

The collision happened at 11:30 a.m. on Grizzly Peak Boulevard about a mile west of Claremont Avenue, Oakland police acting Lt. Robert Chan said. The bicyclist, who has not been identified pending notification of his family, was pronounced dead at the scene at about 11:48 a.m., Chan said.

We could argue about whether the driver was cruising too quickly to take action.  Particularly on nice days, like Saturday, Grizzly seems like the filming location for car commercials that warn “professional drivers” only.  The boulevard invites speeders beyond the 25 mph posting, so this driver could have been above the limit.  However this accident happened right after a blind spot, which makes the speed issue a bit moot.

More importantly, there’s a history of near-misses, bad accidents and deaths on Grizzly.  Remember last year, when a women drove off the ridge and died, due to fog and slippery conditions?  There could be more barriers to prevent drivers from falling down the ravines and hills.  Maybe there could be more signage, too.  It’s hard to know exactly how to fix the winding road.

Grizzly Peak Boulevard is a marvel, with amazing views and a feeling like you almost live in the mountains.  Anyone using the curvy or exposed portions of this ridge line road surely knows they are accepting higher risks and responsibilities up there.