On The Road Again

SOME FOLKS THINK we’re silly. Tree huggers, I think we’re called. But when Caltrans denuded our picturesque Highway 13, it raised the shackles of more than just environmentalists. Everyday motorists, just driving to work, have been calling and writing to complain.

The idea of putting in a new median area wasn’t the issue. It was taking out the foliage, native or not, without warning — all at a time when efforts were under way to win scenic highway status. It was like one hand had no idea what the other hand was doing.

The good news is that a compromise may have been reached. After two recent meetings with a half dozen neighborhood groups and several public officials, Caltrans is considering a change in the form of the median — so plants can go in along even more of the highway than before.

Though it’s not a done deal yet, I’d just like to say thank you to Jean Quan and her City Council staff (including Richard Cowan), along with community leaders from the Shepherd Canyon and Piedmont Pines homeowners associations.

Thanks, too, to Fernwood and Estate Drive neighbors, the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council and Friends of Sausal Creek for attending the meetings and giving hills folks a voice.

There’s no reason our highway can’t be safe and scenic.

Meter mania

Did you know that the city of Oakland is not offering free meter parking on Saturdays during the holidays this year? Montclair Pharmacy and Book Tree owner Joe Sullivan thinks there’s going to be a lot of confusion, because the yellow free parking stickers are still on some meters from previous years

“It’s going to be deceiving to the general public, because they’re going to read one thing on the meter and then they’re going to end up getting a ticket from the city of Oakland,” he says.

That’s not good for business or for Oakland’s public relations.

Fortunately, in Montclair the Montclair Village Association has removed the yellow parking stickers and is keeping the public garage open on Saturday for free.

Montclair memories

Thanks to reader Marta Zahn for her memories of horseback riding in the Oakland hills in the 1940s, related to my Nov. 12 column on hills horse history. She recalls saddling up every Sunday at the Hake’s Stables in Woodminster (near what is now Cesare’s Restaurant).

“The president of the Metropolitan Horseman’s Association was Mister Bemis, who owned a string of (little countertop cafés). There was one near the Grand Lake Theater, one on Third Avenue and East 12th, and another one kitty corner from the Oakland Hotel on 14th Street.”

The hills were dotted with barns in those days, and folks rode their horses through rolling landscape almost unimaginable today. Can we turn back the clock?

Bulb sightings

I can hardly wait until spring, when Oakland is awash in daffodils. With so many volunteers planting bulbs (provided by the city and Home Depot), we may look more like Holland than “the hills.”

Just last weekend, Jill Broadhurst and members of the Montclair Safety and Improvement Council (these folks are everywhere!) cleaned up the medians along Mountain and Park boulevards, and then planted 200 bulbs. They have more plans for Montclair, too, which I’ll unveil in a later column. But if you want to help — see the group’s Web site. www.montclairsic.org.

Birthday bounty

At a time when kids birthday parties are getting bigger and more expensive than ever, here’s a refreshing story. Hills grandmother Jean Stickever says her grandson Max Bratton, got a lot of great gifts at his party last weekend.

But unlike other birthday celebrations, these toys weren’t for him. The first-grader at Corpus Christi School had asked friends to bring new, unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots holiday donation drive. Max may be just 7, but he’s got an “old soul.”


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