Category Archives: grand lake / lake merritt

I ♥ Temescal Tool Lending Library – please help save…

So everyone is talking about the potential library closures… you can read all about it

And lots of great points are being made… about the need for these neighborhood resources, providing accessibility to books and the internet for all residents regardless of income, providing social gathering spots and places of refuge from the neighborhood violence in some parts of Oakland, providing a suite of services and resources that once were offered by public schools but now have been cut from there as well.  The list goes on and on, and these are all incredibly important points.

But what I don’t hear anyone talking about is the Temescal TOOL Lending Library.

I have to admit that this is my most frequently visited branch/service of the entire Oakland Public Library system.  They know me by name, and I know most of theirs as I see them nearly weekly.

I’ve always liked fixing/building/making things. I was a born DIY’er before the term DIY even existed. You can see this was either instilled early (by my grandfather – pipe in mouth), or perhaps just came naturally, by this photo of my first home building project (I think I was 6).

projects with grandpa, early DIY training

For those who don’t know, and I’m always amazed when I meet folks who don’t, this is an incredible resource exclusively dedicated to Oakland residents. Modeled after the tool lending library in Berkeley, they house thousands of tools that can be “rented” FREE of charge for short periods of time. Everything you need to tend to your home and garden (carpentry & woodworking, concrete & masonry, electrical, floor & wall, garden & digging, ladders/dollies/handtrucks/wheelbarrows, mechanical & power, plumbing, etc.) plus books and how-to videos.

I think I’ve checked out tools in nearly every one of those categories from the early days in 2000 (this was when renovating my loft in West Oakland, photo left) to more recent projects on the home here in Dimond (photo right).

bathroom tiling project, kitchen painting project

This arm of the Temescal Branch library was launched in January of 2000 (thanks to seed money from a Community Development Block Grant).  It was an outgrowth of a small “Home Resources Collection” established at this branch after the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991 to help residents with rebuilding and repairs following the disaster.

And it just makes sense.  In a dense urban environment where homes are frequently smallish apartments or “cottage” houses (read small!), who’s got the space to store all the things you need to care for your home? And more importantly, who wants to shell out the cash (tools are expensive!) for something you may use once or twice a year??

I LOVE the Temescal Tool Lending Library!  Please help save it.

According to the budget proposals currently being considered, the following library branches and resources would be slated for closure:

Asian, Brookfield, Cesar Chavez, Eastmont, Elmhurst, Golden Gate, Lakeview, Martin Luther King, Melrose, Montclair, Piedmont, Temescal, West Oakland, AAMLO, and the Tool Lending Library.

Is this not crazy?!? Especially after residents voted in 2003 for continued support of our libraries (Measure Q).

Here are five things you can do to help (from Save Oakland Libraries):

  1. Tell your friends and neighbors about the devastating funding cuts to libraries – Ask 10 of your friends to call or write the Mayor and City Council. Like the Save Oakland Library page on Facebook.
  2. Share your library experiences with city officials – Make sure that Oakland’s mayor, city manager, and city council know what libraries mean to you and your community.
  3. Attend Oakland City Council meetings – We need a big turnout. Bring signs supporting libraries. Bring children who love libraries. Request to speak. Speaker cards can be requested online one week in advance at the Office of the City Clerk page.  Next meetings 6/7 and 6/21 at 5:30pm
  4. Organize – Gather petition signatures and distribute fliers – These activities must happen outside the library locations–near branches or at community events. Fill our volunteer form and help save your library. Check our volunteer page for an activity near you. Download instructions on how to petition (PDF). Download the petition (PDF).
  5. Contact newspapers, radio stations, TV stations and local blogs – Call the media and ask if they are covering the proposed Oakland library closings. When you read related news coverage, write a letter to the editor with thanks and a message about why Oakland’s public libraries are needed

What’s your resolution?

So after nearly two weeks of traveling for the holidays… semi-invasive security scans, crappy airport food at exorbitant prices, too much chocolate (I didn’t think it was possible!), and too little sleep on too small and seriously uncomfortable beds (sorry mom)… we touched down at Oakland airport after making a glorious low swoop over Berkeley, the Bay Bridge, and then San Francisco at dusk, to loop back around and hit the runway from the reverse-of-typical direction.

It was beautiful. The city twinkling amidst its blanket of deep blue. The strand of lights stringing the bridge that stretches from one city to another, hitched at a small island in the sea, and paralleled by the new bridge, slowly but stealthily nearing completion.

And I had the feeling I always have upon returning home after travels, whether they be to frequent destinations or distant exotic places.  I’m so happy to be home.  And I’m so happy my home is here.

It’s interesting to describe Oakland to people who aren’t from here. During the holidays with my family, my brother quoted the statistic that Oakland was the fifth most dangerous city in the country.  Um… thanks Mike! And of course we do have our share of problems. Yes there is violent crime.  And blight. And devastating poverty, among other things.

But we have so much more than the grim facts delivered by sensationalist seeking so-called “news”. Thanks to smart stewardship we have plentiful protected green spaces that provide habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for us humans.  We have the best damn weather in the country (I do not miss the 6 month long New England winter!) We have a wealth of diversity of peoples and cultures that, frankly, exists in few other parts of this country.  And this diversity promotes a rich & complex smorgasbord of art and music and food that truly enriches our lives.  I really can’t imagine living anywhere else.

But times are tough these days, and I know our city is facing some serious challenges (as is our state, and our country at large),with the budgetary crises being pre-eminent.  If you listen to the news these days you hear a lot about sacrifice.  The impending “day of reckoning”.  And I’m not speaking religiously here, but rather, fiscally. Funds will be cut from schools, from health and human services, and numerous other places, but mostly from those who need it most.

People get greedy in times of strife.  The economist Benjamin Friedman identified this in his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” noting that in times of economic stagnation, voters become more concerned about protecting their own interests, more hostile towards outsiders, and less interested in social welfare. Everyone’s out to protect their own. But unfortunately, this mentality fails to recognize the obvious truth (and I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to but I don’t)… “we all do better when we all do better.”

Mayor Jean Quan, in her inaugural address, asked Oaklanders to dream.  She said that Oakland is a city of dreams and asked each and every one of us to dream big and then take concrete steps towards seeing those dreams realized.  She asked us to reject the individual protectionism rooted in fear, and rather reach beyond ourselves to promote growth and healing towards our extended Oakland “family.” She suggested the following actions:

  • Organize our Blocks (whether through a clean up, and crime watch, or general neighborly assistance) – I went to my block’s annual Night Out party last year and it was a great way to meet my neighbors. It really does make a difference when you feel connected to your community.
  • Volunteer for Oakland – she asked each of us to donate just 1 hour a week to a cause of our choosing, and there are many to choose from.  Park cleanups, youth mentoring, neighborhood watch groups, school fundraisers, the list goes on and on… And with shrinking government dollars to pay for services, volunteers can really make a huge difference.
  • Shop Oakland – this is a no brainer as dollars spent in local businesses stay in the community.  She said if Oaklanders increased their spending locally by just 25% it would increase revenues by millions of dollars that could pay for more afterschool programs, more police, and more parks.
  • Discover Oakland – she encouraged residents to step outside their comfort zones and discover new neighborhoods and new happenings in this city.  In a way, that’s partly what this blog is all about, and though I’ve been remiss during the last hectic month of December, I’m looking forward to getting back on the Oaktown express.  There’s much yet to be discovered.

What are your dreams for our city? And what will you do to help see them realized?

One week to go…

holiday lights oakland, mormon temple holiday lights

So the Oakland Temple is kind of a spectacle all year round, but with the holiday light display, it’s definitely worth a visit in December. Each night this month through December 31st also features free live musical performances in the visitor center at 7pm and 8pm. Concerts include gospel choirs, concert pianists, string ensembles and more. See the nightly schedule here.

Some other fun holiday spectacles to check out (I covered some of these last year):

  • Holiday Caroling on Lake Merritt (12/17 – 12/19) – join a group tour or grab your friends and charter your own boat… I mean, sleigh.  Water sleigh that is.
    * Friday (4pm thru 8pm every hour on the hour).
    * Saturday & Sunday (2pm thru 8pm every hour on the hour)
    The 6pm rides are the ones open to individuals.
    Call 510-238-2196 for reservations.
  • The Oakland Ballet’s 2010 Nutcracker (12/23, 12/24, 12/26) – check out the newly designed and choreographed Nutcracker ballet by the Graham Lustig (the company’s new artistic director) and his award-winning set designer collaborator Zack Brown.
    Just like last year, if you bring a non-perishable food item directly to the Paramount Theatre’s box office, you’ll receive a 20% discount on your tickets – a win-win as all donations go to support the Alameda County Community Food Bank!  Otherwise, expect a surcharge in the opposite direction if you prefer the “convenience” of Ticketmaster.
  • Fairy Winterland (12/15 – 12/23) – “Each December, for just one week, Children’s Fairyland is transformed into a sparkling festival of holiday entertainment.
    Through songs and stories, arts and crafts, Fairy Winterland celebrates the winter holidays of many cultures: Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Diwali, and Chinese New Year. After sunset, we turn on our fairy lights and transform Fairyland into a twinkling, enchanting realm of wonder.”
  • Downtown Oakland 1st Annual “Claus Crawl” (12/18, 6 – 9pm) – I’m sure this will be no Santacon, but it looks to be a fun ride nonetheless… put on your Santa suit or Santa hat and check in at these participating venues:
    * The Layover: 1517 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94612‎
    * Bar Three Fifty Five: 355 19th St, Oakland, CA 94612
    * 2022: 2022 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
    * Ozumo Restaurant: 2251 Broadway Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
    * Picán Restaurant: 2295 Broadway Ave, Oakland, CA 94612
    Receive a holiday discounted beverage when you donate an unwrapped gift for the Family Giving Tree at any of the participating “Claus Crawl venues.” Details here.
  • Oakland Zoolights (thru New Years, but closed 12/24-25) A good one for the kids… See my writeup from last year here.
  • Holiday Tradition at Dunsmuir Hellman (12/17 – 12/19) – I have yet to visit this historic estate, but it sounds like fun with ice skating, carriage rides, mansion tours, a petting zoo, and more!  I wonder if you get to pet Santa’s elves…  Details here.
  • Christmas Tree Lane – a hop skip & jump across the water in Alameda, this is the spectacle of lights in the East Bay.  Fun for xmas enthusiasts, photographers, and revellers of all shapes and sizes!  See my writeup from last year for info.

That’s all I got folks…

Let me know if you have any other fun Oakland-based plans for the holidays…  Cheers!