Town Crier: Red Oak Realty triggers Montclair Village alarm

MONTCLARION: February 17, 2012

Recently, I reported that Red Oak Realty was making a bid to move into the long-vacant Wachovia Bank building at 6450 Moraga Ave. in Montclair. It turns out not everyone is onboard with the plan.

Longtime merchant David Sarber sees it as going down the wrong path for the Montclair Village Association.

“I know of three real estate entities that will spread ground floor if the eventual OK is given to Red Oak,” he says. “Rents will skyrocket, and if you think that there is not enough retail now, just wait and see what will happen.”

Of course, this has been a long-standing struggle in the Village — how best to deal with empty storefronts, especially in an economic downturn. Does the Village Association stay resolute in maintaining as much retail presence as possible in Montclair? Or do they let landlords determine who will fill vacancies — even if it

means shifting the delicate balance of business from small shops and restaurants to service-oriented establishments.

Red Oak’s bid to move into the Village is in the hands of the Oakland Planning Commission now. Sarber says if the commission approves the conditional-use permit, he may personally contest it.

“This is the right of anyone,” he says, but in Sarber’s case — there is much at stake. It’s about family-owned businesses such as Sarber’s Cameras, founded in 1961, and how these shops might fare if the Village loses more of its small-town flavor.

Clearly, there’s more at stake here than meets the eye.

Around town: A bit of good news on the retail front — the popular boutique shop Daisy’s at 6122 La Salle is moving and expanding. I’m told they just signed a lease to move into a much larger space at 2017 Mountain Blvd. — the old Montclair Estates site.

Local heroes: Congratulations to Montclarions Jay Ward and Andrew Sigal for winning Local Heroes from Councilwoman Libby Schaaf. Ward volunteers for the Piedmont Pines Neighborhood Association, and Sigal started the nonprofit called, which collects garden goodies for local food banks.

Animal tales: Who says February isn’t fun? It’s a great month for butterflies and ladybugs — two of our favorite winged warriors. The ladybugs congregate on reeds in the swampy surrounds of Girl’s Camp in Redwood Regional Park. On days of warm sunshine, the branches literally shake with activity as thousands of red and black bodies slowly awaken.

As for the butterflies, they hang out — literally — in the trees on Albany Hill, Ardenwood Farm, Point Pinole and Monarch Bay Golf Course in San Leandro. You’ll have to hurry to catch them (they usually fly away in mid- to late February) and the best time to spot them is early morning or evening.



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