Montclair Mayor: Voting Open Through Sunday

Montclair Village has been represented by a furry mayor for several years now.  Montclarions have been ably led by Murphy, who hails from Crogan’s, for the past two years.  He has served us well.

While we usually hold elections annually, our polling officials were busy launching a fair election down on Piedmont Avenue last year.  All is hereby forgiven, and we welcome the opportunity to find eager and fresh leadership here.  The virtual voting booth is open through Sunday at 1:00 pm — vote here.

The top vote-getter is the candidate who receives the highest, ahem, financial donations.  The top pet becomes our mayor.  He or she will be responsible for representing Montclair.  Our mayor mostly makes appearances in the Village, typically at the Farmers Market as well as the Halloween Parade.

There are nine candidates who made it through the primary election and are seeking your votes now.  The candidate with the highest votes, aka dollar donations to the Montclair Veterinary Pet & Wildlife Fund, wins the mayoral contest.  Runners-up are also assigned other responsibilities in the local government.

So who’s running?  The finalists include these furry or feathered candidates:

  • Five Dogs Marley (Golden Doodle), Snow (American Eskimo), Chewbacca (Pomeranian), Murphy (Mixed Breed), Tigerlily (Lab/Terrier Mix)
  • Three Cats — Freida (Siamese), Stomper (Grey/White Mix), Lil’ Dude (Black Domestic American Shorthaired)
  • One Bird — Butter (Sun Conure)

Vote now.  Simply click to read about each candidate and make your donations.  Again, all proceeds go to the Pet & Wildlife Fund.  It’s a good cause, helping to mend and heal wild critters in need.

Pinhole Camera Captures Oakland Hills Sun

Sometimes toys can show you a different perspective of the world, one that’s even better than what grown-up tech gadgets can reveal.  Our case in point is solargraphy, which records the path of the sun.  And it’s wonderful to view the sun’s trajectory through a homemade pin-hole camera.

The solargraph captures movement through a single arc or multiple arcs of light, from sunrise to sunset.  We uncovered and wanted to share some interesting, experimental results aimed at our Oakland Hills sky.

Photographer Heather Champ has been an image booster by trade, running Flickr’s community efforts during its heyday.  Lately she’s continuing her image-sharing mission through Pinwheel, a start-up by former Flickr folks.

Anyway, Champ took her experimentation tasks to heart, working with both Quaker Oats and 16mm film canisters.  She had to figure out how to operate these pin-hole cameras and patiently await results.

Victory!  The images do show the sun’s path for a single day and for six months below.  The first one shows the sun on Sept 22, 2010, using the Quaker Oats canister.  For this single day, we think the spectrum of brown, green, white and blue is very beautiful.

The six-month image, below, is a tour de force.  The film canister-sized camera records the sun as it moved seasonally, from September 22, 2010 though March 20, 2011.  With so many days captured, the arcs merged to look like clouds or jet streams — and seem otherworldly.

If you want to try documenting the sun yourself, then follow these “recipes” for the Quaker Oats or 16mm film canister cameras.  Also here’s a link for setting up a six-month exposure, to capture an entire season or two.  It’s best to follow Champ’s lead (read post), by using multiple cameras to check results early and prevent failure.

Make Monarchs Feel At Home

On Martin Luther King Day, there’s a special opportunity to restore monarch butterfly habitat in Montclair. As part of a joint park clean-up, throughout Shepherd Canyon, volunteers can help restore the old dump site before the monarchs return to lay their eggs.

With sufficient milkweeds, monarch caterpillars are able to thrive.  So volunteers will help weed and carefully plant milkweeds, placing protective cardboard collars around them.  Through these efforts, we’ll continue attracting some awesome creatures to the neighborhood.

The Shepherd Canyon area has already made progress, as a registered monarch weigh station. We can only imagine each of the caterpillars lining up and getting ready to beat their competitors (but we digress).

On Monday at 9:00am, volunteers will join forces to work on the butterfly habitat, restore a wildflower meadow or work on drainage problems along the rail trail. Some 25 volunteers are needed for butterflies, 75 for the meadow and another 25 for trail work.

What a great way to give back on MLK Day!  All volunteers, including kids, are encouraged to meet at Escher Gate, 5881 Escher Drive (map).  Be prepared to work from 9:00am through 12:30pm.  While there are several project teams, you may want to secure your monarch spot by reaching Adrienne Bryant at or 510-339-0985.

This community event is organized and run by Friends of Montclair Railroad Trail, Shepherd Canyon Homeowners Association and Service for Peace volunteers.

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.

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.