Lately I have been enjoying the dissonance at Jack London Square between watching tanned boaters aboard their crafts at the water’s edge and pop music from the temporary ice rink under the palms at the end of Broadway. Most Sundays I walk from near downtown to the square and back again, a return journey that deflates my mood because the highway overpass at Fifth Street, which pedestrians and motorists can’t avoid (in most directions). The walkway is ugly, dirty and noisy. It doesn’t really do anything to lure people to the waterfront, either. I have often thought how great it would be to at least have a shuttle, especially at night. I even thought about launching a Mexican Bus style of transportation. Now comes good news that Oakland is launching a free shuttle that will run about 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays between the Uptown District and Jack London Square. The route: Amtrak station along Broadway to West Grand loop around the Uptown via Telegraph Avenue. The days and hours might expand later if there is more money. The shuttle is geared toward getting downtown workers to other neighborhoods and encouraging people to use the ferry. I guess that’s how they got the $1 million grant to fund it. But restaurants and bars are going to be disappointed to hear that it’s not a nighttime service. I know I am even though I am glad for even limited service. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. But Read the rest of this entry »
Bench and Bar, the lounge that brought you the world famous Coochielicious and Gay Caballero etc., is moving to the old @17th space near the Fox. But the owner is not abandoning the little neon boit incongrously placed in the downtown business district on 21st and Franklin. The nightclub is going to become Club 21. This will all happen soon but an exact date is hard to pin down because Alameda County inspections are notoriously Kafkaesque and drawn out.
I noticed on A Better Oakland there were a few comments about my coverage of Uptown Unveiled, some of them questioning why I downplayed the story. Well, the simple answer is: I didn’t. Here’s the rest of what I wrote in response to the comments:
Hello people. Most of you are wrong about why the story about Uptown Unveiled was what it was. Since no one bothered to ask me let me correct a few of your comments, which all are based on conjecture.
No. 1. I had a 7 p.m. deadline and only 12 inches in the paper. That’s about 400 words. I arrived at 5 p.m. and crawled off into a semi-quiet place at 6:30 p.m. to write. I returned to the event at 7:15 p.m. and stayed until 10 p.m. I covered 16th St. to West Grand along Telegraph and Broadway twice throughout the evening. I didn’t impose the deadline and didn’t like it any better than anyone else. Talk to the publisher.
No. 2 There were hundreds of people around at the start. What if I had written projected to what it would be like at 9 p.m. and people didn’t actually turn out of the event? Hmmm.
No. 3 The photo is not from the Tribune if you would look at what I wrote you would see someone donated it. That’s what the streets look like.
No. 4 The Chron just had another round of layoffs, including Christopher Heredia. Where was Chip Johnson, you might ask, since he lives here and is supposed to report about Oakland.
In any case, next time you like or don’t like something about my coverage, e-mail me to check your facts. The domain is at the end of every story.
I should add though that I was ultimately disappointed with the event compared to the hype, at least the press releases sent to the media. But I didn’t discover the issues until after I had filed the story. For one thing, the poetry slam was charging $10 to enter, although the city advertised everything as free and made it sound like food and drink would be offered freely at every turn. Not a chance. There were other issues but the poetry slam fee really bothered me.
I am recovering from last night’s Uptown Unveiled and don’t want to drag on with a bunch of details that don’t really matter now that the event is OVER. Thank you to Katie Chabot for the photos taken from the top of the Cathedral building.
The penthouse goes for nearly $1 million. It’s cozy even for a pied-a-terre but the view is amazing as you can see from the snaps here. The bottom floor lobby is filled with Crucible art until the purchase goes through. And I am told that the potential buyer has plans for some sort of cafe, restaurant or bar. Imagine sitting in Latham Square sipping a glass of wine!!! Speaking of wine, Penelope, the little bar on Clay Street, opened last night and was packed with a business/city admin sort of clientele. I think it’s a minor miracle because just last week there was nothing but dust in there from the buildout.
I don’t suppose anyone has missed the news that Uptown Unveiled is tomorrow. I alone have written several blogs and if I’m not mistaken three articles. I will be writing a story from the event. But in case you are among the two individuals without a mile of downtown who do not know about the street fest starting 5 p.m. along Telegraph from 16th Street to West Grand you should read this:
Damon and the Heathens were rockin out tonight at the Uptown lounge. Molto baritone sax and trombone. Wunderbar. The neighborhood was slow waking up tonight compared to First Friday night. The street was crawling with people. But I was an early bird tonight. The night owls were just waking up when I had to leave. Sounds like glam rockers Sir Lord Von Raven were a no-show but didn’t understand why…
So it looks like the city is moving a bit closer to the idea of using an empty lot next to the Fox Theater for public art instead of a parking lot.
Which is to say, city staff has not ruled it out as infeasible, anyway, according to an email from Jonathan Bair, chair of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee. Bair was at Wednesday’s Planning Commission meeting when city staff gave an update.
Developer Forest City is supposed to build housing on the lot at 19th Street and Telegraph Avenue, but asked for an extension due to the economy. In exchange, the city asked Forest City to construct and operate a temporary parking lot there.
That idea didn’t fly with the community members who want more pedestrians and fewer cars on the streets around the Fox and other uptown venues. They lobbied City Hall and lo and behold, the council voted to let the community come up with an alternate plan.
Right now it looks like the desire is use the space to display large public art….. what better way to get pedestrians to hang around and enjoy the street-level view???
So I was wandering around Downtown and Lake Merritt last night and heard all out the grand plans for Uptown Unveiled, June 18. It’s going to be quite a show. Or, carnival, if Peter Van Kleef is done with his share of the debutante ball for the area’s community benefit district and celebration of the wild success brought to you by The Fox, Flora, Van Kleef’s, Uptown Lounge, Somar and other existing and soon-to-be places like the second outpost of Bench and Bar. The club is taking over the old @17th lounge and the London Studios Gallery (I think was the name) is also new. Not far away, Town Hall is going in where Sweet Jimmie’s used to be along with the Hibiscus restaurant, from what I heard. (Their hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for May 20. I can’t seem to find Bench and Bar’s online.) As for the Uptown Unveiled event…it’s going to be something to remember with four stages along five or six blocks of Telegraph and the area. “Lovers, hookers, muggers and thieves,” as Peter put it. He was joking about the hookers. He hired Shred Zeppelin and the Unauthorized Rolling Stones to play. (In the meantime, Van Kleef’s is offering lunch, a drink and massage for $25 – the massage for a limited time only.)
NIMBY Gallery and the Crucible will be working their magic. The ice skating rink will be open to all gratis and a skatepark will be outside along with K Dub and his gear. The plans are still being finalized but I’ll be putting out a full rundown June 5.
Thanks to LOTS of public pressure from assorted bloggers (dto510, Becks from Living in the O, etc…) and downtown neighbors, Oakland’s elected leaders decided late Tuesday night that maybe a temporary (until June 2011) surface parking lot with only 110 spaces wasn’t perhaps the best use of a prime piece of property on Telegraph Avenue next to the Fox Theater. Especially since it was gonna cost $400,000 or $500,000 (paid by developer Forest City) and be months before it would be ready for use.
Besides the wealth of alternate ideas that folks had for the space were just so darn great (park, plaza, large sculpture space, pee-wee golf), the council couldn’t help but take notice, apparently.
So last night the council voted to give the community two weeks to develop a plan to transform the dirt lot into a spot to display large public art, a la Burning Man-sized creations. Like IT by Michael Christian??? How cool would that be???
Could great art like this be headed downtown? Stay tuned.