Town Crier: Park in Oakland hills like life depends on it; it does


Welcome to September — where the days are warm and the fire danger critical.

We’ve seen this before. The sun seems relentless as it bakes the hills into a barren brown landscape of tinder dry scrub. And with fire season upon us, are we any more prepared than we were on that fateful day 26 years ago this Oct. 19? Some would argue no.

Former Montclarion correspondent Mimi Rohr went to last week’s hills meeting of the Montclair Neighborhood Council and North Hills Community Association on fire safety and saw tempers flare over street access goals that still haven’t been met. Pick almost any hills street, and you’ll find cars jammed along both sides, leaving precious little space for emergency vehicles to squeeze by.

Rohr says it’s this reality — in direct conflict with a 17-month-old pilot program designed to ensure street access for fire trucks — that had hills folks hopping mad.

“The audience was outraged,” she says. “One member of the audience pointed out that people’s lives continue to be endangered because city officials were hesitant to enforce their own laws — because of complaints from residents.”

Sound familiar? There are laws on the books but no backbone to enforce them. The pilot program for emergency vehicle access, which was first unveiled in April 2016, has been stalled by pushback from neighbors who say they have nowhere to park but the narrow, winding streets in front of their homes. Yet it’s these very streets that turned deadly in the Oakland hills firestorm. On one street alone, 16 people died because the roadway was impassable.

So what’s the answer? For one thing, the city needs to follow through and put up signs, where necessary, warning residents that parking laws regarding emergency clearance will be enforced. Then we all need to do our part.

“Park like someone’s life depends on it,” Oakland Firesafe Council President Sue Piper told Rohr in April 2016. “Use your garage or your driveway. If you do park on the street, make sure there is 14 feet between your car and the other side of the street. That’s what it takes.”

Around town: Meanwhile, where has the gaggle of rent-a-goats gone? They grazed the brush down to the nubbins last month in Shepherd Canyon Park, but there’s so much more to be done on both sides of the road. As in past years, city-owned property seems to be the last to comply with weed abatement laws.

Animal tales: And speaking of goats, 4-H mom Andy Hawkey says someone snuck into the club’s Skyline Drive pen on June 28 and stole two newborn Nubian goats. Both babies were being bottle-fed and were very friendly.

“They had been locked in with about 16 other goats,” says Hawkey, adding that there were no signs of blood or a struggle with a predator.

“It is just so sad,” she says, “and (it’s) left our 4-H group feeling so vulnerable and disheartened.”

The dairy goats have those distinctive pendulous ears, tattooed for identification. “Curry-Charlie” is brown and “Blossom” is black and gray with gray ears and a brownish underbelly.

“Whether one wanted them as pets, food or as a practical joke/senior prank, we want them back — no questions asked,” says Hawkey, who adds there’s a reward for their safe return. If you have any information, call her at 510 926-0661.

Last word: Thanks to everyone who checked in over the past few months, concerned that I was dropping my column. After 17 years of penning my missives weekly — I took the summer off to spend quality time with my family and friends. Autumn is a time for rejuvenation. With your tips and observations, I’m ready to roll into 2018.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at


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