Monthly Archives: June 2009

Beautiful Lake Merritt on a hot Sunday afternoon.

Ah, a half hour jog around the Lake today turned instead into a two hour walk and gawk. I must be turning into a pigeon. There must be a least a metric ton of birds at the lake.

If you go to the lake regularly you already know everything about the lake so can skip this paragraph on birds. There are hundreds of Canadian geese chewing the grass on the northern lawns of the lake. Enough people ignorantly hand out old bread to the geese which keeps them here instead of totally partying it out in Alaska during the summer. I guess animals can become lazy and domestic too. There are hundreds of pigeons and seagulls too. The most exotic birds I’ve seen are diving ducks and some type of white bird that looks like a squat puffin, but with long skinny black legs instead of ‘happy feet’ and spiky ‘hair’ in the back. I don’t know what these are.

The walk was beautiful. Full sun, hot, lots to see. I’ve never been inside the Lakeside Horticultural Center but it’s completely worth visiting. And, it is free admission. I didn’t see more than four people in the entire garden when I was there around noon today. It’s  the size of a football field and entirely mazey like some of the gardens at Golden Gate Park.

Next to a red Torii gate dedicated to former city councilman Frank Ogawa, there’s a Japanese style bonzai garden run by volunteers. I was in a hurry but you can borrow a laminated guide to all the species of bonsai there. I think I spotted a bonsai ginkgo tree. The water fountains by the red gate are dry.

There’s an impressive community garden planted and maintained by Merritt College students. Compost bins. Edible gardens. Check out the grape leaves taking over a conifer tree! The grapes must make squirrels — and homeless guys — sufficiently happy in late summer. (I’m guerrilla gardening some in the Uptown area.)

I can see people easily taking in the garden for an hour: there’s just so much to see. If you are a rose fan, it’s not as fancy as the Oakland Rose Garden (also worth visiting) but you’ll see a few varieties. There’s a sundial which is from the 1920s and runs an hour late. I also really dig Alameda County/Stopwaste’s Bay Friendly Garden demo. Crushed glass “sand.” Plastic bag-reclaimed wood Trex lumber benches and bins. A shed made out of wood reclaimed from the former Oakland Army Base. That ought to pique the interest of some Temescal, hills and Dimond homeowners.

Then walk around the lake some more. I dropped by the boat house; apparently you can take all kinds of lessons in paddle boats and sailboats of various sizes for between $80 and $110 for 1-3 days of lessons. Sunfish, lasers and larger craft are available. I don’t knwo when the Gondola Servizio is up and running but that looks like a hoot. The boat house lady was really nice. There are even after work boat races from 5:30pm every Tuesday.

The sidewalk pavement is still being poured in various places. I can see the lake becoming an ever larger attraction due to the influx of higher-income (still upper “middle class”) residents.

The view from the East side of the lake is gorgeous: city skyline of downtoown buildings, the boat house and lakeside restaurant-to-be, the water fountains, the estuary bridge and gates. If you aren’t at the lake to jog, you should dress nice. You don’t have to, but it is a bit of a dapper, scenster type place if you’re into that. I wore normal thrift shop clothes though, except for my G hat.

If you get hungry, I saw two Mexican guys pushing ice cream carts today so that’s an option, plus there are restaurants on Lakeshore. (On Saturdays there is the Grand Lake Farmers Market under highway 580 on Grand Ave.)


City page: Lake Merritt

Gondola  Servizio

ps: I went to the Dunsmuir Estate movie night on Friday to see “My Fair Lady” but halfway thru the speaker system blew up. It was totally worth going though and I’ll be going again next time! It’s only five bucks admission. Everyone’s out on this gigantic lawn with lawn chairs, blankets, food, wine etc facing a big projector screen. You can see the stars overhead. It’s pretty quiet except for highway 580 which is muffled by many stands of trees. I envy the people who work at EBMUD HQ right down the block. They could eat lunch inside Dunsmuir every day if they wanted to.

~Last night in Uptown~

This is a report onThursday  June 18th’s “Uptown Unveiled” street festival. Better posted late than never. Life gets busy. 🙂 -Ed.

Skateboarding contest

Skateboarding contest (Photo: Stephen Loewinsohn)

Last night’s street festival in Uptown was beautiful.

Fire truck

Nearly beyond words. Here are a few money quotes:

“Tonight’s event wasn’t publicized very well or in publicized in advance at all but it was a smashing success.” –Tom Murphy, D1 resident

“This is called traveling in style… I feel rich!” –passengers in my pedicab (the blue one)

Oh, the pedicab. I ferried more entertaining drunk single women last night than the NYMTA. Everyone seems to like mua because it’s super hip. I had a good time at Ozumo myself. Luka’s was also off the hook. I’m sure Somar had a good night and Van Cleef looked happening as usual.

Speaking of pedicabs/rickshaws whatever you want to call them, there were two others out last evening: a green one owned by a long-time resident (he was here in the 80s before Jerry Brown’s dto redev plans happened, named Jengis(?)) with a cool name I can’t remember and cute kids in tow, and a yellow Oakstercab from the Oaksterdam guys. These two pedicabs worked more of the “early shift” while I took the night shift.

Oakland blogger Becks posted some photos here.

Scenester Report:

  • Every bar and restaurant in the area was packed on a Thursday night
  • Pulse-raising bmx and skateboard competitions featuring local kids
  • V Smoothe and crew doing the pub crawl
  • Nancy Nadel enjoying the main musician stand
  • tons and tons of people… literally!! 🙂
  • light shows
  • kettle corn people
  • Crucible’s fireball flare-off special (using their “fire” truck)
  • Mike & Allison & “baby betty”
  • my old neighbors from Temescal
  • people on stilts and skates in funky costumes
  • Samba dancers. Yay!
  • people trying out a Segue (why are there so many Segue enthusiasts in uptown? 🙂

According to one city staffer I spoke with, putting on the event cost around 60k and change. This means that unfortunately the city can’t afford to do it every month. I think if the city did do it every month during the summer, Oakland’s downtown resurgence would happen faster. The local BID and businesses chipped in too, though not sure how much. I’d say the latter put in at least 400 man hours preparing for Uptown Unveiled, extending  hours or increasing staffing.

(Photo: Stephen Loewinsohn)

A big thank you is much deserved for City of Oakland staff, DTOA and LMUA business association staff, including street sweepers and security (hey, Kevin!); OPD/ACS; Phil Tagami of FOX Oakland redev fame, The Uptown apartment’s staff, performers and community members who put on a neat show; The Crucible’s burrningmanish peeps; local media for helping advertise from the early morning hours; and everyone who came for having a great time and starting no brawls and enjoying Oakland. It’s been a long time coming.

As it is, many happy out of towners will probably be coming back for more. I know, because as a rickshaw driver I had the opportunity to ask folks where they were from. Alameda, Oakland, East Bay (over the hills), Fremont… definitely a regional “East Bay” event, not sure if any SF bridge-and-tunnel people made it. Is DTO the new Walnut Creek or San Ramon? Haha. I guess we don’t have our own Santana Row yet — not that I like the place much. (Wonder how they are doing now, with luxury no longer “in.”)

Everyone I talked to after the event was too exhausted to send out thanks yous or write up reports like this. That includes me. Ultimately thought it was worth it!!

Upon a later retelling of the event, someone was amused by there being a “giant cotton plant” in the middle of Oakland. Oh geez 😉

Suggestion for next time: post route signs for “cable car” and pedicab shuttle stops and a map beforehand, not during the event


I see patterns: murders around Value Inn; Oakland women

“I see dead people”

Rump Temescal is bounded by 40th St by MacArthur BART, so I wouldn’t consider West MacArthur Temescal. It’s more Kaiser-BWay or SO40.

On SFGate today, the two women murdered by bullets at Value Inn makes me think either
(a) a John didn’t want to pay his for his “hobby”; or
(b) family or drug-related violence due to money problems.

There was another murder in this area just two weeks ago.

Crime seems to follow freeways and main streets out of west oakland (nancy nadel’s financially poor city council political district 3).

~ * ~

Oh but wait. Another woman shot in the head in East Oakland now.

So three women shot in Oakland in 12 hours. Is that a record?

Let the record also show that women only gained rights with the advent of fossil fuels… so women may not want to “go green” – because that means back to the fields and toilsome labor! (and patriarchy!)

Wells Fargo’s Shady Subprime Units Targeted “mud people”

I wonder if Wells Fargo Oakland has acted the same as their sister offices in Baltimore. Hm. Paging John Russo?

As if you needed another reason not to bank with gigantic dinosaur taxpayer-m0ney devouring corporate banksters.

City Uptown Lot Proposal: Grow Hemp


[6/15 update: Just two days later after this post, Alternet has a “legal pot in CA” article featuring Oaksterdam. We are so bleeding edge here! 🙂 ]

As you know, City of Oakland is pretty broke now, and not getting any richer. That’s just like most other US cities, and we aren’t in some measly two-year recession here. Oakland’s need for revenue is great.

V Smoothe and other Oakland bloggers have covered a potential pot tax on our July ballot in some detail. What I haven’t seen anywhere is discussion of the city actually growing and selling its own marijuana to raise revenue. This idea may not be as crazy as you might believe. (Or maybe it is!)

As noted at Alternet, hemp has many beneficial uses other than as medicine. It is sold as cereal at Trader Joe’s, is made into rope (a competitor fiber of which is sold at Long’s Drugs: sissal) and is even made into clothes and grocery “eco-bags.” Finally — and this ought to shock and awe you — even the U.S. Constitution was written on hemp paper. That’s according to author Michael Ruppert in his new, seminal work A Presidential Energy Policy (May 2009).

[Plug: every Oakland city councilmember, business owner and citizen advocate/ activist should read Ruppert’s new book, above. This month would be a good time for it!]

There’s some discussion in the comments of Sharon Astyk’s collapse blog about how State of CA is staying alive only with marijuana sales/proceeds and associated industry. I doubt that, but it’s certainly already a part of our state’s tax base.

So, my proposal.

Uptown’s empty non-parking lot is brown and empty. Dust from it comes into my apartment through the window screen when I have it open. Nobody is using the space. What a waste! (Same goes for other empty city lots.)

Even weeds would be better than dusty Martian-like soil. Weeds improve soil quality, prevent soil erosion, clean our air, keep down dust, provide habitat for birds. A few are growing on the perimeter.

Now instead of sporting a do-nothing dirt field, imagine if:

  • City of Oakland put a hemp farm contract out to bid;
  • Oaksterdam University was chosen to administrate subplots  in the large empty lot, not to exceed 50% of the space;
  • Oakland residents and or the most expert pot growers in the state donated compost, soil and plants to begin growing the stuff right here next to Uptown;
  • The city received 70% of all proceeds; the growers and administrator received 30% to pay for landscaping, a beautiful wrought iron fence all around, security and lighting, benches and chess tables and;
  • Proceeds also paid for a public night market/ farmers market/ art space/ bowling alley or billiards or karaoke boxes in the Newberry across the street;
  • OSA kids and other students learned hands-on how to farm marijuana as well as other beneficial plants including fruit trees and vegetables (on the other 50% of this lot)

Why do I propose this?

Great Depression 2.0 is going to be “L” shaped. Not V shaped or U shaped. The economy will NEVER, EVER return to its pre-2009 state. That outcome is neither possible nor desirable. Richard Bernstein, former chief investment strategist at Merrill Lynch says in Bloomberg Markets (July 2009 issue) that “I don’t think we’re going back to the credit-based global economy that we saw… if one disagrees with that and says we are going back to a credit-driven economy… I strongly doubt that’s going to be the case.”

(Credit aka debt is how we’ve been paying for a lot of things… homes, new cars, ipods, college educations, city budgets, state budgets, federal budget…)

The state of California is in no position to help cities. The federal government needs to cut its own spending. There is no free lunch. The city budget needs all the help it can get. We must depend on ourselves.

Back to basics, people!

We can live without derivative flipping and house flipping, but not water or food or natural resources or energy. Our young people need to learn farming skills for our oil-free future, to grow food.  People’s Grocery could admin the food growing demo garden here.

So there it is. I’m not a pot smoker, not daily weekly nor monthly. This just seems like a common sense proposal to me. It will at minimum teach. At maximum it would provide jobs, green our gray concrete drab downtown, and provide cashflow for essential city services such as water/sewer delivery, pothole repair along essential transit routes (defined as bway/tele/sanpab, e14th/international in my mind), and police/fire services. The way things are going, I can see Oaklanders paying occasional bribes to police within a decade or so, just to receive service. This would offset that.

That’s not what I want to see, but it seems inevitable. We’re not Cambodia yes… yet even Cambodians are making things of value in factories, whereas in Oakland I don’t know that we create very many physical things of value aside from some culinary items, artwork and some music.

So back to planting a useful agricultural crop within the city. This in no way should be a giant, centralized monocrop. That invites pests and lowers soil quality. I’m suggesting a demo project on the Uptown lot to teach everyone else in our region “how it’s done.” Then, people can go dig in the dirt at home and grow hemp there, or grow other things.

Why in Oakland?

We have the brains (experts at Oaksterdam and various cannabis clubs; ag expertise in Davis and Berkeley), money (local buyers, and said purveyors), and the test pilot incubator: cash-strapped City of Oakland, or just the area of Oakland.

It’s probably a reality that the state will legalize growing marijuana and regulating it further for tax reasons, within several years. This is according to Matt who I spoke with at Oaksterdam.

Now, what is the profit potential — does it cover lighting/security costs as well as the other goodies I outlined?

The uptown lot is small: under 60,000 sq ft.

I’d use up to half, or 30,000 sq ft as a hemp demo garden.

The rest would be processing shed, small warehouse, compost pile, education center (rudimentary, thatch roof and that’s it, no water/light); there’d also be a public market space and additional food production.

Hemp Production Estimates
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
Competes with cotton and wood
Lot size utilization for hemp:
30000 sq ft
equals .27871 hectares
equals .68871 acres
$Production value per harvest
$209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
$137.74 hemp (paper)

These figures are old, so the production value is likely higher. It doesn’t take into consideration actual “medical marijuana” – these are prices for fiber only.  Then there’s the benefit of not having to truck the stuff down here from Mendocino County of up from Mexico alongside our organic safeway juices. I’d also rather eat hemp cereal from Oakland than nori made in China’s polluted waters.

Before planting ANY “pot” one of the conditions would be for the growers to plant a handful of fruit and nut trees FIRST, since these take years to start producing. I mean, that might be better than receiving no stimulus money at all.

hemp production estimates
$750 gross per hectare for hemp stalk, 1994
$200 per acre for hemp, 120 days, to produce paper
competes with cotton and wood
30000 sq ft $Production value
is .27871 hectares 209.03 hemp stalk (fiber)
is .68871 acres 137.74 hemp (paper)

Busan Telegraph

The 20s on Telegraph have always had Korean shops – well for the last ten years anyway. Renaming it? OK it’s maybe annoying but so what?

If the now rich man behind Busan Plaza (er, Koreana) paid off city hall officials, good for him. That’s like everyone asking to have some of the bread the red hen baked, when they didn’t do the work.

If people are complaining now, they should read my blog’s about page.

Yes, one dollar equals one vote. Always has. This is just more obvious, as the Korean biz owner (cw reporter referenced him as a “godfather of koreatown”) does not have a PR flack like Obama or any corporation.

If people want to die over this name change to part of Telegraph, more power to them. However, I think we have more important things to talk and blog about.

Crime Management: Beat 4x, Uptown

Just FYI, everyone probably already knows this who cares, but OPD’s web listings of who the current PSO and NSC staff are for each beat is outdated and wrong. Just call the numbers on their page and you’ll be told the correct info.


Current PSO: Marcus Campos (listed incorrectly as Albert Smith)
Current NSC: Michael Sze (listed incorrectly as Monique Tsang)
Monthly NCPC Meeting: 2nd Wednesdays, 6pm, City Hall Hearing Room 3

Monique says the department is aware that it needs to update its website. This problem has existed as early as 2007-08, when I let PSO Everett in my old hood know that the site listed someone else as our PSO. (Maybe the PSOs are shifted around the city too frequently for IT to keep track?)

Current issues at athe NCPC meeting which is prioritized for the PSO, per my conversation today with Michael Sze:

  1. Prostitution on Jefferson bt 8th and 15th streets
  2. Robberies at Broadway on both sides of 14th street
  3. Graffiti around 15th~17th streets

Next meeting of the Uptown NCPC is next Wednesday the 11th.

Make sure to hit up for their new and improved crime incident maps.


NCPC: neighborhood crime prevention council. the city has a bunch of these, administrated by city staff (NSC)

NSC: coordinator for local NCPCs

PSO: problem solving officer – a veteran OPD officer assigned to work on quality of life problems in a particular beat of Oakland; not the same as a “walking officer.”

Walking Officer: an OPD officer assigned to walk in and get to know business owners, residents and others in a particular neighborhood, ie Temescal or Rockridge. Acts as publicly funded mall cop for a business district, but better.

Beat: A sub-division of Oakland which is patrolled by our police department, under a larger “area command.”  Oakland is still(?) under former Police Chief Wayne Tucker’s “geographic policing” management style.