Back On The Montclair Beat

Earlier today, several Oakland policemen caught three criminals who were trying to escape from our neighborhood.  The police said they would respond to crimes underway, and lived up to their promises — even though the department remains grossly understaffed.

One eyewitness posted this report, on Montclair’s Yahoo board:

Passed by Thornhill and Mountain at 11:45 today and 6 police cars had a car surrounded at the traffic light. On the trunk of one of the police cars was someones nice flat panel TV and the police were taking fingerprints off it.

According to Carolyn Winters, who chairs the Montclair Safety and Community Council (MSIC), three burglars were arrested after breaking into a home on Merriewood Drive as well as one other location.  And there was some drama, as one of these burglars “ran the wrong way” down Highway 13 before getting captured on Fernwood!

While we’re not thrilled about the crime, at least the bad guys were apprehended.  Be thankful.

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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.”

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.

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.

Neighbors Share Their Service Providers

In the olden days, you might have turned to neighbors to ask about the most humane bee remover or least intrusive roof repairer.  Nowadays you likely start by searching online, at places like Angie’s List, Service Magic, or even the Berkeley Parents Network.

But there’s nothing like asking a trusted someone.  The North Hills Community Association (NCHA) has an open forum, where locals share all kinds of topics, ask for advice and get responses quickly.  With so many recommendations, the group recently decided to issue their handy service providers list.

Check out the wide range of service providers:

Air Conditioning (Portable), Appliances, Arborist, Auto Repair, Awnings, Bees, Bookkeeping, Cable & Wiring, Carpet Cleaning, Caterer, Chair Caning, Chimney Sweep, Chiropractor, Contractor, Dentist, Dog Trainer or Walker, Drain Cleaning, Drainage, Dryer Duct Cleaning, Elderly Living, Electrician, Elevator Repair, Energy Audit, Exterminator, Fence Builder, Furnace, Garage Doors, Gardener, Gutters, Handyman, Hardwood Floors, House Cleaner, Insurance Broker, Internet, Landscaper, Leak Specialist, Mailboxes, Movers, OB/GYN, Painter, Paving, PC Repair, Pest Control, Pet Care, Plumber, Roofer, Sewing Machine Repair, Shingles, Skylight Repair, Solar Heating or Panels, Structural Pest Inspector, Tile, Transportation (Airport), Upholstery, Veterinarian, Welder, Window Cleaning, Window Replacement and Windshields.

While this service provider list isn’t comprehensive, it seems very useful.  These recommendations have been made by your neighbors, who also offer color commentary about their experiences.  We like the altrustic and ever-changing nature of this list, too.

If you have any requests, then please join the Open Forum here — and trust the answers.

Ode To Montclair School Renovations

As you know, Montclair Elementary School is getting an $18 million makeover.  Renovations began this summer, and continue through next year.  Most notably, two painfully-old portable classrooms and the cafeteria have been demolished.  Good riddance!

While the original school footprint is a nice deco-style building, the school campus has seen far better days.  It’s a top-notch school, filled with teachers who educate kids really well.  But the overcrowding is palpable.  When asked to envision and paint Montclair Elementary, one fifth grader simply created a portable classroom.

John Esposito, senior project manager for Oakland Unified School District, has overseen this summer’s activity.  He does have plenty to get done before the school year begins, and here’s the project schedule for this week:

1.      Fencing
2.      Installation of portable landings and ramps
3.      Cleaning and waxing of portable floors
4.      Moving of earth quake container
5.      Testing of new gas line to old portables
6.      Waiting for PG&E’s change out of existing gas meter for old portables – no date as yet from them
7.      Architect/other consultants preparing their punch lists – corrections, items missing
8.      Installing basketball poles

In only two weeks, all Oakland public schoolers head back to school.  Although Montclair Elementary’s a work-in-progress, students will return to an operational campus.  Their new building, which houses ten classrooms and a rec room, gets built next.

And let’s hope that students view their school differently, when the transformed campus emerges (fingers crossed) in 2012.

More info:  Check out the school expansion Q&A, new building, architectural renderings and group updates.

Poor U.S. Bankers!

Did you hear the news?  This morning, there was a stick-up at the U.S. Bank branch in Montclair.  Fortunately, the bankers are fine.

Yes, just like the old days, the descendants of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid came into the Village and left quickly.  We’re guessing they haven’t left the country, this time.

The U.S. Bank branch, right in the heart of our Village, feels local.  Their employees had worked at a smaller bank, which was purchased by this major institution a couple years ago.   They continue to support and participate in all kinds of community activities.

Roger Vickery, Montclair Village Association (MVA) director, was able to speak with staff.  “No one was hurt but all were pretty shaken-up as you might expect,” he reported. “The bank was closed for the rest of the day while the OPD [Oakland Police Department] reviewed video and the crime scene.”

Go get ’em, OPD.