Jewel Lake in Tilden Park replenished by recent rains

jewel lake 12 2015 by Marta Yamamoto

Jewel Lake in Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley hills is ” is back and lovely as always,” reports our correspondent Marta Yamamoto, who took the photo above. As she reported in September, the prolonged drought had reduced the lake, popular with park visitors and wildlife alike, to what many were referring to as “Jewel Puddle.”
As that story noted, the lake “originated as a reservoir known as Wildcat Creek Diversion Dam, finished around 1921, when water reached East Bay cities via its concrete aqueduct.”

Jewel Lake as it looked in its dried out state in September. Staff photo by Kristopher Skinner.


Richmond commission announces community art grants

Eighteen proposals out of 28 applications that were submitted were accepted for neighborhood public art mini-grants, the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission announced this week.
Here is the announcement with details on the projects receiving portions of the $84,000 in funding:

Richmond Arts & Culture Commission Announces 2016 Community Art Grants

The Richmond Arts & Culture Commission (RACC) selected eighteen community art activists for the FY 2016 Neighborhood Public Art (NPA) Mini-Grants. Twenty-eight applicants made grant proposal presentations to the commission on October 29th and November 5th and eighteen finalists were selected on Dec. 3. The 2016 grantees represent a wide range of innovative, creative new voices in Richmond with projects ranging from visual arts, media, literary arts, murals, and more.

Funding in the amount of $84,000 is being provided by the City of Richmond’s General Fund, and a Community Development Block Grant thus demonstrating Richmond’s commitment to investing in local arts. . The City of Richmond established its public art program in 1987, and its Neighborhood Public Art community grant program in 1997. This year’s grants were awarded to the following projects:

1. Visual Arts: “Freedom’s Expressions: What Was Before and What is Now”

Project Manager: Rebecca Brown

This will be a participatory project joining formerly incarcerated people, their family members, and a professional artist into a Core Artistic Team to create a focal piece of artwork that will be permanently installed at the new Reentry Success Center, 912 Macdonald Avenue at 9th Street in downtown Richmond.

2. Performing Arts: “Fairytale: A Richmond Cinderella Story”
Project Manager: Molly Raynor
This theater production will be an adaptation of the classic Cinderella story – Richmond style. It will combine mixed media with live performance, using film clips of visuals, spoken word, theater, music, dance, and visual art. Cast members will write their own poems and songs, choreograph their own dances, and create visual art based on themes laid out in the original screenplay. Participants will engage in workshops on the script theme, and interview community members to gather stories.
3. Literary Arts: “The Scribbler Artist”
Project Manager: Tatiana Ortiz
Ms. Ortiz will work with Richmond elementary schools where participating students will write and illustrate their own books for publication. She will go into classrooms to teach students how to conceptualize their own book, write it, and illustrate it. Each student’s book will be sent to a publishing company and the students will have them back in a month. A book dedication reception will be held to honor each child for his/her work. The project is meant to encourage reading and to develop interest in art and writing.
4. Media Arts: “QWOCMAP Film & Freedom Academy”
Project Manager: Kebo Drew
The QWOCMAP Film & Freedom Academy will be a free intensive filmmaking workshop providing professional training, equipment and coaching. It will teach emerging filmmakers concrete technical skills, tangible artistic knowledge, and applied leadership tools. Participants will create 3-5 new films in an environment welcoming LGBTQ people of color. The project is in partnership with Richmond Rainbow Pride.
5. Visual Arts: “The Peace Dove Project”

Project Manager: Keiko Nelson

Ms. Nelson will implement her 2nd NPA grant to install her Peace Dove Project in Richmond. Students, clients of NIAD, the mayor, community members at local events, and residents from Shimada, Japan (our Sister City) have all painted several hundred 5” x 8” “peace doves” designed by the artist. Each dove has a unique, decorative image and a message of peace. All the doves will be collected, and hung in a public art installation in the lobby of the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

6. Media Arts/Visual Arts: “The Storyteller Project”
Project Manager: Lisa Foote
This project will create a semi-permanent, kinetic mini-mural in a high-traffic, public space. The project will involve a series of community members’ portraits printed on ceramic tiles, and place permanently on a wall to create a mural of local faces. Youth and senior citizens will be paired together for a dialogue on video, sharing personal stories that define each of them. They will then photograph each other, and those photos will be used for the mural.
7. Visual Arts/Crafts: “9th Street Park Mosaic Project”
Project Manager: Daryl Henline/Linda Whitmore
This project will engage Santa Fe Neighborhood’s elementary school students in creating 142 individual 6” mosaic decorative medallions for the fence surrounding the park at 6th Street and Virginia Avenue. Mosaic artist, Daud Abdullah will go into local classrooms lead the students in the design process, providing materials and doing the final installation. Each student will complete a worksheet describing his/her piece. Santa Fe Neighborhood council will host a Saturday open house at the playground to celebrate the students’ work and their schools.
8. Performing Arts: “Assemblies in the Schools”
Project Manager: Eugene Rodriguez
This grant will support five separate student assemblies in Richmond schools in the WCCUSD. The assemblies will include concerts and interactive arts learning activities in traditional and popular Mexican music and dance. Prior to the assemblies, teachers will receive study guides with lessons tying Performing Arts Standards and students’ personal experience to the traditional Mexican art forms at the assemblies. Performances will be done by members of Los Cenzontles Cultural Arts Academy, serving Richmond and San Pablo for more than 20 years.
9. Literary Arts/Visual Arts: “Richmond’s Little Free Libraries”
Project Manager: Cristal Banagan
The “Richmond Little Free Libraries” (LFL) project will use their 2nd NPA grant to continue building, designing and installing more small, freestanding LFLs in areas of Richmond that are not near public libraries or Bookmobile services. Local community members will learn construction and art skills, and will decorate each LFL with their own designs. The LFLs will be stocked with used books, and “stewards” will replenish them on a regular basis. The LFLs will encourage reading and literacy at the neighborhood level for both children and adults.
10. Media Arts: “Richmond Rides, a Photo Cyclist Project”
Project Manager: Josue Hernandez
Funded by an NPA grant last year, Josue Hernandez documented over 40 bicyclists in and around Richmond through photographs and interviews, assisted by participants who currently have little to no skills in photography. The resulting exhibit was so successful that he wanted to take it to the next step. This year Josue will work with a professional videographer to document Richmond’s vibrant, emerging bicycle culture.
11. Visual Arts: “We Are Richmond”

Project Manager: Erick Morales

This is a mural project designed to project unity, freedom, and family/neighborhood unification. Artist Erick Morales began mural painting in Guatemala, and came to the US in 2002. His goal is to inspire youth and elders to celebrate life through his mural. He will target youth not currently participating in other youth programs. The theme of the mural is to reflect Richmond as a city of diverse cultures, ethnicities, colors, foods, and music – and celebrate them all. He hopes his project will create unity, discourage racism, and bring people together.

12. Visual Arts: “Young Designers Group”

Project Manager: James Shorter

Project manager, James Shorter and his team of artists will offer the opportunity for youth 15-20 years to join their Young Designers Group workshops. Areas of focus will be: design & apparel; photography & video; spoken word & public speaking; and drawing & painting. The goal is to create future artistic business professionals by introducing youth skills in photography, videography, painting, drawing, poetry, fashion design, and more. Upon completing the workshop, participants will present what they have learned at a celebratory community event.

13. Visual Arts: “Organic Shapes Wall Art”

Project Manager: Ronald Blodgett

This is a mural project consisting of organic shapes and pastel colors that will adorn the outer walls of the Bayview Library and surrounding brick wall. A portion of the mural will include a positive quote written by artist Ronald Blodgett, and its style will complement the existing mural in the Youth Computer Room in Crescent Park’s Multi-Cultural Center, entitled “We’re the Future”. Blodgett hopes his project will reveal the hidden talent of Crescent Park, and he believes that culture is the sum of positive expression of thought, love and art.

14. Literary/Performing/Media Arts: “Digital Storytellers”

Project Manager: Kevin Holmes

The mission of Digital Storytellers is to engage under-served youth in becoming a generation of inter-culturally informed, technologically skilled, outspoken and creative leaders. They will do this by learning how to harness the power of media through innovative tools in writing, choreography, poetry, art, and video. Participating schools will be Richmond and Kennedy High Schools, Making Waves Academy, and RYSE Youth Center. Students will work with artist mentors during workshops over a four-month period. A project showcasing youth will be written, choreographed, and created by youth.

15. Visual Arts: “An Installation on Wheels: Cinco de Mayo Floats”

Project Manager: Rebeca Garcia-Gonzalez

The goal of this project is to acquaint Richmond families with the arts by having them design, create and install a float for the Cinco de Mayo parade. Local families will be recruited to attend a once-a-week class over ten weeks. They will learn the history of the holiday, and will receive instruction in collaborative design, drawing, construction, budgeting, and use of materials. The bilingual class is free to the families, and offered at two locations: The Latin Center, and Richmond High School. Teens will earn community service credit, and the float will use recycled materials.

16. Visual Arts: “Inner Peace – A Richmond Community Mural Project”

Project Manager: Ross Holzman

This will be a large-scale community mural project at a prominent location in downtown Richmond. It will engage people on the street and invite local groups and prominent members of the community to the process of creating an “Inner Peace” mural together. This will be an organic process where participants will “freely express themselves” on the wall. The question: “How do we create peace?” will be asked before painting begins. Painting instruction will be provided.

17. Literary: “The Richmond Anthology of Poetry (RAP)”

Project Manager: Daniel Ari

The RAP project will be a vehicle to presenting, publicizing and preserving the voices of Richmond’s poets. Through the art of poetry, an art form that can create soulful connections between people whose lives may appear very different, Richmond residents can come to better understand each other. Participants will create a book of poetry that will be on sale to the public. Participants will submit 2-4 poems each, and will be inclusive of race, gender, and age. The goals of the project are to honor and share the diverse voices of Richmond, and to add to the cultural depth of the city.

18. Literary/Visual Arts: “Senior-Youth Connections Through Art & Correspondence”

Project Manager: Lauren Ari

Through letter writing, art making, and sharing, this project will give cross-generational participants a way to meet and share their stories through a collaborative, creative project. Under the direction of local artist Lauren Ari, participants will generate a selection of letters, ceramic bowls, and photos of the project that will be shared with the community through displays at City Hall, the Richmond Art Center, and senior community centers.

Each grant recipient will each be assigned a liaison from the Arts & Culture Commission or the Public Art Advisory Committee. That individual will serve as an advisor throughout the duration of their project to help with the budget, timeline, outreach, promotion, and other issues. Grantees will complete their projects by August 31, 2016, working with the art commission as the oversight body. The projects will have different completion dates, but there will be an exhibition highlighting all of them in fall of 2016.


Stream video of National Tree Lighting Ceremony featuring Richmond park ranger Betty Soskin on Dec. 3


Above is the link to stream video of the National Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 3. The ceremony will feature Betty Reid Soskin, a Richmond resident and ranger at Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, who is attending the ceremony by special invitation.

The ceremony will also be rebroadcast during December by PBS stations, including KQED in San Francisco, which has airings planned at 7 p.m. on Dec. 15 and 20.


Monarch butterflies return to Albany Hill

Monarch migration

Along with sightings of monarch butterflies overwintering at Aquatic Park in Berkeley (see below) the beloved creatures have made their annual return to the eucalyptus grove on Albany Hill.
This photo was taken by El Cerrito resident Steve Crawford, who reports, “They are harder to get to this year since they have taken up residence in a tree about halfway down the steep west side.”

Monarch butterflies huddle together on the branches of a tree at Aquatic Park in Berkeley on Nov. 24. Bay Area News Group photo by D. Ross Cameron.


Richmond: Salesian College Preparatory celebrates Native American Heritage Day


The students, faculty and staff of Salesian College Preparatory gather in the school’s gym to honor the Native American. This Heritage Day celebration brought together representatives from 8 tribes. Special activities included Fancy Shawl dancing by Lakota Holder (Lakota, Tlingit, Navajo), drumming by Michael Bellanger (Sac and Fox/Kickapoo), storytelling by Jessie Riddle (Pit River/Apache), corn husk doll-making by Diane Dierking and a special guest, Tommie Postoak, from the The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma. Also, Richmond resident Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney (Cherokee) offered a beautiful Cherokee prayer song. The governor of The Chickasaw Nation, Bill Annouatubby, sent a flag to the school in support of this event.
“It’s important that we keep the Native American spirit alive and thriving,” said Salesian senior and event organizer Ellissa Thompson, an enrolled member in the Chickasaw Nation. “By doing so we help preserve this vital culture and help others understand the richness and vitality of the Native American way of life. With November designated as Native American Heritage Month, it was important that the culture be brought to life, and not brushed off as another notation on a calendar.” Governor Bill Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation sent a Chickasaw flag and a letter of support in recognition of the event. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)


Fancy Shawl dancer Lakota Holder mesmerized the audience as she demonstrated various kinds of powwow dances. Michael Bellanger, Bay Area drum teacher and singer, accompanied Holder while she danced, beating traditional powwow music. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Jessie Riddle regales the audience with her vibrant Native American tales. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Tommie Postoak from the Department of Culture and Humanities flew out from Oklahoma to share the rich culture of the Chickasaw Nation. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney ended the assembly with a Cherokee blessing song. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

The performers pose together after the sharing of Native American culture (left to right: Michael “Raccoon Eyes” Kinney, Jessie Riddle, Carol Thompson, Tommie Postoak, Ellissa Thompson, and Lakota Holder). Both Carol and Ellissa Thompson wear “traditional regalia” from the Chickasaw Nation, including beaded tribal collars and dresses that were adopted by the tribe just after the era of Indian removal in 1837. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Ellissa Thompson and student helpers serve traditional Chickasaw “pashofa” (cooked cracked corn, a staple of the Chickasaw tribe for thousands of years) and fry bread tacos for lunch. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Diane Dierking (Pit River/Apache) sets up a table to teach students how to make corn husk dolls. Although commonly referred to as “Pioneer dolls”, this type of doll was first made by Indians and then shared with the settlers. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

One of the many student-recreated pieces of artwork that were on display throughout the hallways. This piece is representative of the Tlingit tribe. (Native American Heritage Day, Nov. 6, 2015 at Salesian College Preparatory, Richmond, CA)

Photos and text courtesy of Carol Thompson and Salesian College Preparatory.


1978 article shows El Cerrito’s Sundar Shadi in his floral element

shadi gazette 1978

Above, the Berkeley Gazette/Richmond Independent looks at Sundar Shadi’s floral displays on his hillside property on Arlington Avenue in early June of 1978.

A free showing of the documentary on the life of Sundar Shadi will be held Saturday at the Rialto Cinemas Cerrito in El Cerrito.
The organizers of the annual Sundar Shadi holiday display need volunteers to help staff and watch over the display on Moeser Lane at Sea View Drive from Dec. 12 to 26.


West County can give transportation priority input at call-in event tonight

West County are being asked to help shape transportation priorities in the county by taking part in a Telephone Town Hall call-in event from 6-7 p.m. today, Nov. 12.
To join the discussion and learn planning efforts now taking place, call toll-free to 877-229-8493 and enter access code 112664 when prompted.

The event is hosted by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee.

High-capacity transit provides substantially higher passenger capacity than local transit. It is the type of transit that people often use for their daily commute to work. This 15-month study will evaluate public transportation options and identify funding opportunities to improve the quality and effectiveness of transit in West County and expand alternatives to driving on congested streets and highways.

During the Telephone Town Hall Call-In Event, you’ll learn more about the Study and concurrent planning efforts. Experts will be on hand to answer questions. You’ll also be asked to respond to a few quick polling questions through the touch of a button on your phone.

The Telephone Town Hall Call-In Event will be the first of several opportunities to provide your input. The first round of public meetings will be held in February, with a second round anticipated in Spring 2016.
To stay involved with the project, sign up to get future emails about upcoming ways to participate, visit www.WestCountyTransitStudy.com.


1964: Berkeley developer behind El Cerrito Plaza buys half-interest in Cliff House, Sutro Baths

Who knew? A 50 percent stake in the world famous Cliff House and other valuable oceanfront property in San Francisco was sold by the George Whitney family to a Berkeley developer behind El Cerrito Plaza and El Portal Shopping Center, among other properties, 51 years ago this month. As revealed in an Oakland Tribune article that also discusses reasons behind the financial decline of Playland at the Beach.

cliff house 10 2 1964
Article in the Oct. 2, 1964 Oakland Tribune.


El Cerrito High School also had a rocky time completing its original football field

Grading work being done in 1945 for the original athletic fields at El Cerrito High School — plus a glimpse of the second incarnation of Fairmont Elementary. From home movies taken by Arthur Hopkins and digitized by his son Tom, courtesy of the El Cerrito Historical Society.

El Cerrito residents have had nearly two years to watch the extensive work being done on the new football stadium at El Cerrito High School. The project is The original field, built in 1945 and opened in 1946, did not require environmental reports, seismic and geotechnical studies, or even the design costs of the modern version. And there were hardly any neighbors in the immediate area to object to the project.
Even so, the football field had its own long and literally rocky road to completion.
When El Cerrito High opened in 1941, it had a gymnasium, but no fields for baseball, football or track. That was partly by design, because ECHS opened as a junior and senior high school, with sophomores being the highest class level in 1941, so there were no varsity teams.

echs uniforms 1941
The decision to purchase football uniforms in 1941, two years before El Cerrito High had its first varsity football team, proved financially sound. Restrictions were already in place, as noted in the Berkeley Gazette item above that mentions a new 10 percent excise tax. Wartime rationing would be even more severe by 1943.

For its first two years, the school had junior varsity football only.

ECHS still had no field of its own when the first varsity football team played in 1943, and home games were at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club dog racing track on the historic Castro rancho property where El Cerrito Plaza stands today. The field was leased from racetrack owner John “Black Jack” Jerome, who had turned down a similar request from Albany High School before World War II to lease the site for school sports after the racetrack was closed by the state in January of 1939.
The racetrack grounds had no turf, meaning the first El Cerrito Gaucho teams had to play home football on a field of dirt and rocks. It did, however, provide a nice big grandstand for the fans.

Plans for building athletic fields at El Cerrito High were announced in January of 1945 and they were completed in 1946. It was originally known as Memorial Field, a name largely forgotten today.

An early aerial view of El Cerrito High shows the new campus and the area where the athletic fields would go.

echs field bg 01 1942
The Berkeley Gazette reports in January 1942 that El Cerrito High plans to proceed with its plans for a varsity football team the following year despite wartime constraints.

This 1944 ECHS yearbook photo shows football action at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club.

Another view of football at the former El Cerrito Kennel Club, which was surrounded by a trailer court for war workers.

echs field 09 26 1944
Plans for the new field are announced in January of 1945 (Berkeley Gazette).

echs field bg 01 10 1945


When it opened after the war, the new football facility at El Cerrito High was known as Memorial Field, which also hosted the school’s track events.