Who Were The Montclarions?

Who were the Montclarions?  We all know about the Ohlones, Spanish, Gold Rush era and later settlers.  But there’s more color and dimension to these earlier inhabitants, according to Oakland historian and librarian Kathleen diGiovanni.  She brought her well-researched and clever observations to the Montclair Library today, as part of their 80th year celebratory events.

Without further introduction, here’s a bit more about the people who lived outside, camped, planted flags and established the good life here:

  • Native Americans – Sure enough, the Ohlones populated these parts and lived in small units rather than some centralized settlements.  Decades before the Spanish arrived, these newcomers transmitted their old-world pathogens and sickened many of the natives through trade.  By the mid-1800s, the remaining Ohlones were living as virtual-slaves in the nearby missions.
  • Land Grantees – To pay their military, the Spanish government handed out land grants and Luis Maria Peralta received nearly 44 thousand acres.  His four sons ranched lands from Albany to San Leandro, including Antonio Maria around Oakland.  The Peraltas spent substantial energies proving their ownership to Uncle Sam, yet their holdings were gone by the next generation.
  • Bad Eggs – There were people who leased property from the Peraltas, all above board.  There were other people who were bad eggs, and just squatted all over the place – and even sold land they didn’t own.  Our very own version of the Wild West, right here!
  • City Fathers – Well, Montclair was the place to escape for John Coffee Hays.  He built the first amazing estate in the hills, right around Thornhill Drive.  Hays was a big shot, as a Texas Ranger, before arriving in California.  Once here in Oakland, he helped found the city and wanted that (mostly unused) home outside city limits.
  • Entrepreneurs – Now this is a species we can understand.  Everyone was rather scrappy around here, but John Percy ended up living in the same general area as Hays.  He was involved in real estate and in the water business.  However, Percy was absolutely over-extended and this came to light when his estate burned down.  The guy went broke.
  • Settlers – By the 1920s, there were many workers living here who hailed from Portugal.  There were also farmers, including the Medau family at (now) Montclair Park.  In the next decade-plus, developers built homes for modest and more well-healed buyers who arrived in droves.  Various covenants restricted ownership, and they were blatantly advertised.

From afar, these Montclarions might teach us a lesson or two.  At some level, we know it’s worth preventing infectious diseases.  Please clear deeds on your property.  Don’t do land scams.  Get fire insurance that covers replacement value.  And try living within your means.

Last but not least, everyone should be welcome to live here.  History teaches lessons, and sometimes we listen.

Montclair Library Returns, Needs Help

Montclarions are pretty relieved to have the Montclair Library reopened and thriving again.  We decided to check in with Leon Cho, Montclair branch librarian, and hear how things are going.

“We had a very busy opening day, with about a 25% increase in circulation over what we do on a regular Monday,” said Cho.  “People were really glad to have us back, which was really gratifying.”

Montclair Library

Kids Have Returned

We think parents are celebrating, actually.  Everyone missed the place, which was closed from late March through early July for mold abatement.  That’s a long time to keep your kids away from their library, and traveling to nearby branches was not cutting it.

Librarian Cho reported that children have returned in “full force” to the branch.  Story time has resumed on Thursdays at 10:30am, with stories, songs and fingerplays for pre-schoolers.  For all kids, there’s a Summer Reading program and they are being encouraged to read for fun.

As part of Summer Reading, Drummm (yes, three m’s) will appear this Wednesday, at 10:30am.  These performers plan to make plenty of loud noises at the library, through their group drumming, African percussion demos and rhythm connections.

Budget Cuts Hit Montclair Library

Like all things Oakland, Montclair has been impacted by budget cuts and staff shortages – notably the children’s librarian position.  Unfortunately the second weekly story time, especially for toddlers, has been scrapped for now.  You may take your tiny tikes to the Rockridge branch (map) on Saturdays, at 10:30am.

As part of your civic duty, come support the Montclair Library!  This Saturday, the  Friends of Montclair Library are holding a grand Re-opening Party from 11am-3pm.  The party features a short welcoming ceremony at 11am, light refreshments and a bargain-basement book sale.  All proceeds help our library directly.

Of course, sweat-of-the-brow volunteers are also welcomed at the library.  There are a lot of things that need to get done, so please reach Librarian Cho about openings for adult and youth anytime.

More info:  Montclair Library is located at 1687 Mountain Blvd (map).  It’s opened daily except Sundays.  Hours are Mon from 12:30pm-8:00pm; Tues, Wed, Thurs and Sat from 10:00am-5:30pm; and Fri from 12:00pm-5:30pm.  Branch Manager Leon Cho may be reached by emailing lcho@oaklandlibrary.org or calling (510) 482-7810.

Montclair Library Cleaning Out Mold

Plan ahead!  Our local library will be temporarily shuttered from March 23 through mid-May because it has gotten moldy and needs to be cleaned up.  This isn’t exactly convenient for Montclarions, who actually read books and use reference materials – it’s not a 100% web world yet.

Montclair Library

Yes, you will have to buck up while this spring cleaning takes place.   You’ll be able to return books at the outside book drop, period.  Otherwise, plan to visit nearby library branches to look things up, take out books or pick up previously-reserved items.

Between now and March 23rd, don’t hesitate to call the Montclair Library with any questions.  Branch Manager Leon Cho may be reached at lcho@oaklandlibrary.org or call (510) 482-7810.  (Also remember that all Oakland libraries will be shut this Friday, March 13th, as part of the city-wide furloughs.)

Here are the closest Oakland branches beyond Montclair, including directions from our library:

  • Dimond – 3565 Fruitvale Ave (site, events, directions) – open Mon & Tues (12:30pm-8:00pm); Wed, Thurs & Sat (10:00am-5:30pm), Fri (12:00pm-5:30pm) – reach Branch Manager Mary Schrader at mschrader@oaklandlibrary.org or call (510) 482-7844
  • Piedmont Ave – 160 41st St (site, events, directions) – open Mon (12:30pm-8:00pm); Tues, Wed, Thurs & Sat (10:00am-5:30pm), Fri (12:00pm-5:30pm) – reach Branch Manager Sharon McKellar at smckellar@oaklandlibrary.org or call (510) 597-5011
  • Rockridge – 5366 College Ave (site, events, directions) – open Mon & Tues (12:30pm-8:00pm); Wed, Thurs & Sat (10:00am-5:30pm), Fri (12:00pm-5:30pm) – reach Branch Manager Patricia Lichter at plichter@oaklandlibrary.org or call (510) 597-5017
  • Temescal – 5205 Telegraph Ave (site, events, directions) – open Mon (12:30pm-8:00pm); Tues, Wed, Thurs & Sat (10:00am-5:30pm), Fri (12:00pm-5:30pm) – reach Branch Manager Sally Bean at sbean@oaklandlibrary.org or call (510) 597-5049

If you really need help, then we suggest reaching the main branch (site).  On many occasions, I have called different departments – especially adult reference services (510-238-3138) and the local history room (510-238-3222) – and their knowledgeable staff has ably guided me to relevant off-line and on-line resources.

Your Hills Budget Meeting, Monday at 7pm

Before the City of Oakland makes its final budget cuts, there’s one opportunity for you to participate in the discussion.  Our city rep, Jean Quan, organized a meeting for District 4 constituents tonight at 7pm, in the Redwood Heights Recreation Center (map).

Given the Oakland budget gap, this is an important opportunity to discuss where the cuts should be and should not be made.  Among other city services, our well-loved parks and libraries are at risk – and we must provide guidance in these areas.

To understand the current budget, this chart (above) shows how funds are distributed to each department.  There’s not much to work with, with some 64% that gets directed to the police and fire departments.

Late last month, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums issued a full report covering the budget and where the city recommends cutbacks.  According to the report, Dellums and his team explain that “having only $110 million in discretionary budget leaves little flexibility when attempting to eliminate a $37.4 million shortfall.”

Just like private industry, the recommendations to freeze hiring, lay off current staff, minimize salary increases, and shorten the work weeks are appropriate – if painful – steps to close the gap.

Mark Zinns, who supervises Montclair Park, confirms the cuts:  “Yes it’s true that Montclair Recreation Center and Park is facing some serious cut-backs because of the city’s financial crisis.”  He expects to shutter the Rec Center every Friday, and make cuts/layoffs to maintenance, gardening and recreation staff.

The City also plans to eliminate the remaining handful of park rangers, who specialize in park safety.  This past weekend, for example, Joaquin Miller was closed due to high winds and fire danger.  Are the replacement beat cops, who earn more than the rangers, ready to handle new assignments?

Finally, local libraries are under examination – and Montclair’s hours and programs are at risk too.  No one needs to argue about the educational resources available both online and on the shelves.  Our storybook library has been a source of pride for years, and it should stay opened six days/week.

Cutting back on parks and libraries doesn’t solve the bigger budget gap, because their numbers are quite small.  As you can see, only six percent of the budget is spent on them.  While there’s no question that some minor reductions could be made, we have to make sure that these civic resources don’t get decimated.

We live in interesting times.  Keep in mind that the WPA was busy building up these neighborhood gems during the Great Depression, and now we are thinking they are places not worthy of sufficient resources with this economic downturn.