09.08.09 - 10.09.09: A PROFILE OF 4 SQUARES


Please join us in celebrating the completion of 10,000 Steps' first phase of green art stewardship with downtown Oakland's historic parks and surrounding communities! This multimedia exhibit, at Pro Arts at the Oakland Art Gallery (in Frank Ogawa Plaza across from City Hall) includes a wide range of exciting events, including guided walking tours and in-gallery interactive community-led demonstrations.


09.17.09: 6-8PM Artists Reception

09.18.09: 12 – 1:30PM Tai Chi Class

An all-levels class taught at the gallery by Lincoln Rec Center’s Mr. Wong. FREE

09.19.09: 11- 1PM Oakland’s Historic Town Squares

Oakland Heritage Alliance walking tour guided by Annalee Allen. Meet at the corner of 9th & Jackson Streets. Fee: $15

10.02.09: 12 – 1:30PM Mexican Lunch Con Poco Dinero

Cooking demo in the gallery by Tina Tamale, fourth generation co-owner of Old Oakland’s La Boriqueña Restaurant.FREE

10.02.09: 5:30 – 7PM Interactive Neighborhood Ecotour

Tour led by Serena Bartlett, green travel expert and creator of GrassRoutes Travel. Meet at The Pardee House, 672 11th Street. FREE

10.02.09: 6 – 8PM First Friday Reception

Save a bag & support 10,000 Steps at the same time! All September, Whole Foods Markets in Oakland will donate a nickel to 10,000 Steps every time you bring your own shopping bag. Refreshments for all events provided by Whole Foods Market.

--- onsite : 2009-08-20 ---


Read about the our latest goings-on in Oakland North, a news site that is part of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism: "We all take seriously our Ford Foundation mandate, which is to explore new ways to give communities back the coverage they’re losing as regional newspapers shrink–and also to be inventive about what digital journalism can do for all of us in the future."

--- onsite : 2009-06-18 ---


10,000 Steps has successfully completed its first phase of on-site nomadic stewardship of Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln and Madison Square Parks. We will now collaborating with the community to create Oakland’s first self-guided walking tour that will lead people to these historic parks. This walking tour will reveal the hidden cultural history of the downtown area surrounding these parks, encourage local stewardship and ecotourism, and promote a different and accessible way to engage with public green space. We want downtown Oakland walkers, residents and tourists alike, to have the chance to learn about Oakland’s vibrant community and dynamic history. We are working with an interdisciplinary team to analyze our collected materials: social anthropologist Darcie Luce, writer and artist Matthew Rana, and urban parks planner Paul Rosenbloom. The content of the walking tour will foster community dialog, making questions about the city’s open space and transformation part of the vernacular landscape. The tour will be marked with sidewalk medallions that will be steppingstones for on-going community conversations about the neighborhood: vanished architecture, current culture, history, and local ecology.

--- onsite : 2009-05-09 ---




To take advantage of the extra evening bustle that downtown Oakland’s First Fridays bring, we situated ourselves at Frank Ogawa Plaza the center point between our four target parks. The Plaza is City Hall’s front lawn and home to one of the City’s oldest and most beautiful Oak trees.



The plaza, though generally clean, needed a little TLC to take of the wind-swept debris along 14th Street. While sweeping, we spoke with people as they waited for the bus.


People parks habits are all over the map, literally and figuratively. Some use the parks every day, others see them only as they drive by, and a few mentioned that when their kids were young, they used the parks, but not any more now.


Quite a few spend a lot of time in this plaza, Lake Merritt, Snow Park, Lafayette Square, Lowell Park and Joaquin Miller Park. And people go to the parks to do a range of things, including read, meditate, walk their dog, ‘just sit there’, play time for their kids, eat lunch, people and bird watch.


One person we spoke with told us that “I moved to Oakland for the parks. They are such quiet stress relievers. You can take a walk or read a book or simply contemplate. When you are in a park, it’s like you’re not in the city anymore.”


We distributed a map of ALL of the parks in Oakland, a nifty publication put out by Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, our project partner.


Oakland boasts more than 250 parks, which provide plenty of green breathing space for our city of almost half a million people. One person we spoke with has made it her personal goal to walk in every single Oakland park!



First Fridays also happen to be the night of Critical Mass a bike movement to make the streets safe for cyclists. We were actually right in the middle of a CM parade!



Folks from the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland group also came out to talk with us. Their mission is to “improve neighborhood quality of life by making walking and biking in Oakland safe, easy, accessible and fun.” Safe, clean and accessible parks help to make a city walkable.


As we were leaving, we noticed an interesting historical plaque on the side of the building across from the Oakland Art Gallery. We hope to add more interesting historic tidbits to downtown’s streetscape through our walking tour.


When we headed back to Jefferson Street to park our cart, we couldn’t help but snap this quintessential Oakland cityscape:


--- onsite : 2008-08-01 ---



Oakland was acting downright summery for our Solstice Planting Party; it was a sultry 90+ degrees. Even so, quite a few neighbors came out to Lafayette Park to help work on the community garden.


Noel, from Keep Oakland Beautiful, stopped by to give us tools to use today and for our future park stewardship activities.

Hoang,(the one wearing the beige sash) an Old Oakland neighbor for several years and very active member of the Old Oakland neighbor group, started this community garden a few years back, after the park had its facelift in 1999. There was a scruffy patch of soil just past the horseshoe pit that was just begging for some TLC and plants. If you want to start a community garden in your neighborhood, you can contact the City’s Community Gardening program.


For now, this plot is home for a variety of flowers and low-maintenance plants. Hoang doesn’t want to introduce vegetables until the soil has been tested for lead.



Because of the waning economy, more and more people are starting to grow their own produce. There is an effort in San Francisco, spearheaded by artists, urban garden specialists and city officials, to reactivate Victory Gardens: “Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at private residences in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort.” (Wikipedia)



Some neighbors from across the street came out to help: they grow a lot of veggies in their backyard: yams, beans, greens and more. The kids like the parks because they see lots of animals: birds, squirrels and even possum. They used these words to describe the park: fascinating, exciting and amazing! They use Lafayette and Madison Square Parks.


Other people we talked to, both new and long-time residents, like to come to the park to relax, meet neighbors and walk their dogs. One neighbor told us: “ We think of the park as a living room; people may sleep at home, but then they come to the park to spend the day.” She described the park in this way: well used, well designed, and needs care. Another neighbor, who is in her 80s and grew up in this neighborhood, remembers when the Chabot Observatory was here. She also remembers when it had to relocate because downtown became too bright at night.


After we planted more than two dozen CA poppy and native grass plants (low maintenance and drought tolerant), we enjoyed a lazy picnic under the shade of an old magnolia tree.

We hung one of four 10,00 Steps banners in the park, to let people know about the project. One of the park residents told us it was ‘hella cool’.


--- onsite : 2008-06-21 ---



We visited Lafayette Square to check out Chabot Observatory’s 125th Anniversary Celebration event.


Lafayette Square was home to the observatory, built by Anthony Chabot, from 1883 to 1915. It was actually part of a public high school. After 1915 the observatory was moved because the downtown area became too bright.


For this celebration, three former Olympians participated in a torch relay to each of the observatory’s locations.


Today, for the first time, we saw kids playing in the park: a Lincoln Rec summer camp group.



We talked to some of the kids and counselors about why they like this park: it’s fun, you can run around and there’s lots of grass.


We met up with Hoang, long-time Old Oakland neighbor and one of the initiators of the Old Oakland Neighbors group. We presented her with an official 10,000 Steps sash since she is doing a lot of work to help us with the project.


Then we visited Alfonso, who owns a dog-grooming business across the street from the park. He has been there for five years and he really likes having his business in downtown. He also lives in the neighborhood. His biggest complaint: the drug dealers. He told us it’s getting better than it was a few years ago, but he wants all dealers out of the park.

We went next door to talk with Pat, who owns a framing shop. When she moved to this spot several years ago, the first thing she did was remove the bars from the windows because “this is not that kind of neighborhood and this is not that kind of store.” She loves having a full view of the park from her window: “This park ROCKS! Talking to each other is what makes community. The park is the our best kept secret.”


She sees all kinds of people using the park all day long, from the early riser exercisers to business hour lunchers (more and more) and the ‘park residents’. She believes that the ‘park residents’, how she refers to the homeless folks, have every right to be in the park. They always want to help out on clean-up days and will move out of the way to let kids play. According to her, they have nothing much to do, so they have nothing much to lose. That’s why they’ll spend a buck to pop a pill. She wants to give them some responsibility in the park. Her motto: “The Park is yours…so now you’ve got to do the work.” Pat would like to see more kids doing volunteer work in the park.


On our way to lunch at La Borinquena Mex-icatessen, we passed this hardy sidewalk garden brimming with argula, chives, tomatoes and an wide array of flowers. Want to see more of these in the city!


At the restaurant, Tina Tamale proudly showed us her recent portrait a la Day of the Dead…


--- onsite : 2008-06-20 ---

5.15.08 Survey Visit


The weather in May has been so unpredictable! When we were out at Madison Park on Sunday, it was bitter cold and misty. Today, it was a sweltering 80-plus degrees. Still, we surveyed Lafayette as planned. Lafayette Square Park, located at 11th and Jefferson, close to the Federal Building, was recently redesigned by the renowned landscape architect Walter Hood.


This former site of the Chabot Observatory has been alternately known as Old Man’s Park, Wino Park or Pill Park. While now some people are afraid to come to the park because of drug use and the homeless, it is a beautifully designed space that boasts old Oaks that offer cooling shade, chess tables, a horse-shoe pit, community garden, play areas, and a multitude of benches. It is the only historic square park that has public restrooms. (Although three of the four are locked and designated for the bus drivers’ use.) We were a little scared to go into the bathroom and it was surprisingly decent.


This excerpt from the Landscape Architecture magazine hits on the uniqueness of the park: “ ‘The biggest issue for the park,’ Hood says, ‘was to come up with a new design that looked forward but also looked backward.’ A pivotal moment in the square’s recent history occurred 10 years ago when the city made a bold decision not to design the homeless and unemployed regulars out of the park, an intent that stands in marked contrast to that of the recent redesign of Union Square in San Francisco’s shopping district, which discourages indigents and the homeless.”


The park has always been a transit hub: in the past, streetcars stopped here. Now it is the end of the line for several important bus routes that cross from West to East Oakland. One guy in the park (who was very skittish around our cameras), told us that he remembers when folks used to tie their horses up to the trees. Shirley, whose mom grew up in the neighborhood, remembers Easter egg hunts and barbeques in the park. She also told us about Mother Wright from one of the local churches who started serving food to the homeless on Sundays. In keeping with that tradition, local restaurants and non-profits bring food to the park on a daily basis. She is now concerned that ‘they’ want to take it over to build more condos. This park is surrounded by new developments, some condos and others dedicated to affordable housing.



JB, a frequent park user who just got out of the local jail that morning, wanted us to take us on a tour of the park: he showed us the community garden, a project of dedicated members of Old Oakland Neighbors. He told us that some people are concerned about the homeless hanging out in the park (he himself is homeless), but these folks just want a quiet place to chill and collect their thoughts. They don’t mean any harm; in fact, he told us, “We are all ready to help. Anything you want to do in the park, just let us know. We’ll clean, build, whatever.” Mainly, he just wants everyone to get along in the park.


Later, we met Tina Tamale, whose family has been in the neighborhood since the 1940s, when they opened the La Borinqueña Mex-icatessen. Tina told us a little of the neighborhood’s history: this area had once been home to the latino community. When she was a kid her mom wouldn’t let her play in this park, which was then known as “Junkie Park”. Tina is an ardent community activist who hopes that everyone will come to use this and other neighborhood parks. She told us, “Parks facilitate community. And in our community, all are welcome.”


Our survey of the park revealed few problems. Overall, the park is very clean and well-maintained with many trees and flowering plants. The play structures, although rarely used, are new and inviting. Some areas of concern are dead street trees, non-functioning water fountain and rusted seating.


--- onsite : 2008-05-15 ---


We will be making our first visit to Lafayette Square Park on Sunday, April 19, 2008. We will be surveying the park using the Parks Coalition's stewardship survey form. We will post our results along with some photos and GPS information after our visit.

--- onsite : 2008-04-18 ---

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