Final Thoughts

Starting this project, I felt fortunate that I had been assigned a neighborhood that I would like to spend time in. I had ventured into Temescal a few times before and always wanted to explore more of it. The neighborhood’s infamous restaurants and trendy stores had always interested me.

I also felt fortunate that I had relatively small neighborhood, because I wanted to find a community that was close together and that was easy to cover.

In the beginning of the semester I found Temescal that I had expected to discover – a peaceful neighborhood that attracted hip people from around the Bay Area. However as the semester progressed I became bored with what outsiders saw as “cool and hip”. I wanted to find something more substantial in such a historic neighborhood.

There’s more to Temescal beyond Temescal Alley. The neighborhood’s streets are home to various businesses and community centers that are all worth discovering.

Meeting people like Scott Nanos and talking to business owners about problems they faced, allowed me to see a different side of Temescal – one that was more honest. Whether it was eviction problems or compost service prices, it allowed me to see the reality that people in the community were facing.

The problem with places that become “cool” is that people often forget the reality of the people who are living and working in the area. With coolness comes higher rents and spikes in the price of services and products. It’s important to see past the polished new condos or the stylish retail stores, and see what else a community has to offer.

Temescal has always boasted business that make a must-visit destination in Oakland, but behind these businesses are hardworking people that really believe in making a positive impact on the community.

Whether you’re from Oakland or visiting from another city, take the time to get to know Temescal in its entirety. Explore past the most popular locations and really get to know the neighborhood.

 

Food Review: Bakesale Betty’s Fried Chicken Sandwhich

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One of the most popular destinations in Temescal is the small bakeshop, Bakesale Betty. Alison Barakat started the store after having sold her baked goods in various farmers markets. Her products are reminiscent of the foods she grew up eating in her native Australia.

It’s not unusual to have to wait in a long line to order at Bakesale Betty. The line goes out the door, as people await to get a taste of the small menu. The most popular item by far seems to be the fried chicken and cole slaw sandwich – there is also a fried tofu option.

“Everyone needs to try the fried chicken sandwich,” said Kelly Collins, a devoted Bakesale Betty fan. Collins finds herself ordering the fried chicken sandwich whenever she’s in Temescal, which she says is about 2-3 times a month.

But many of the people in line are also first-timers. Kevin Arredondo, 17, heard of Bakesale Betty from his friends at school and wanted to try the sandwich for himself.

“All my friends love this place, and I’m tired of hearing them talk about it without trying it myself,” said Arredondo.

After almost 20 minutes waiting in line, I ordered the fried chicken sandwich ($8.25) for myself. I sat outside the shop, along with other excited customers, to eat my first fried chicken sandwich.

At first bite, the crunchy breading of the chicken contrasts the soft bun. The tangy cole slaw complemented the savory flavor of the chicken. The order comes with a lot of cole slaw, it’s in the sandwich but also served as a side.

The meal was really filling as the flavors are really rich. Yet I was satisfied with how everything tasted, but I’ll admit I didn’t eat all the cole slaw.

Talking to other customers I heard mixed reviews.

“It’s bomb,” said Arredondo. “I mean it’s just a fried chicken sandwich, but it’s definitely a good one.”

Yet there were some that were huge fans at first bite.

“This was my first and definitely not my last,” said Katrina Felix, a San Leandro resident. “I’m bringing my best friend next time!”

Bakesale Betty is open Tuesday through Saturdays, but only from 11 a.m.  to 2 p.m. Get here early, because the famous sandwich is known to sell out from time to time.

 

 

A Building’s Journey Comes to an End

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After a series of eviction battles that started in 2014, the property at 4700 Telegraph Avenue has finally been vacated and is now being prepared to be demolished in order to make way for the condo project proposed by the Nautilus Group.

Last year the Nautilus Group announced their development plans to build three mixed retail and residential buildings in Temescal. The development group bought three properties in the neighborhood. One of the locations being the building at 4700 Telegraph Avenue, where the Nautilus Group proposed a 48-unit condo building over a commercial space. The other two developments will be at 5100 Telegraph Avenue and 4801 Shattuck Avenue.

It shouldn’t come to a surprise that condo buildings are popping up in Temescal. The neighborhood’s hip charm has made it a destination for dining and shopping, and now it’s becoming a prime real estate neighborhood.

Gabriela Laz, owner of Rise Above, was leasing the retail space of the building at 4770 Telegraph Avenue, when she received the first eviction notice by the Nautilus Group in 2014. Laz had been running the print shop in the space since 2005. Her business also promoted local creatives and was often an event space for artists and musicians. Laz resisted the eviction until she officially moved out in the beginning of February after being offered a retail space in the community resource center, Omni Commons.

“I resisted moving out for almost a year without paying rent. After a while the pressure from the Nautilus Group was just too much and I felt like it was time to move out,” said Laz.

During the resistance. Laz’s partner and local artist, Jim Seibold, painted a mural on side of the property to make a statement against the demolition of the building. The graffiti mural colorfully portrays a wrecking ball about to hit a small building which symbolizes Rise Above, and the other spaces being demolished as part of the three condo projects.

During this time Scott Nanos, a book vendor, had been selling used books outside of Rise Above. Nanos had been selling his books outside of Pizzaiolo, an Italian pizzeria, with the permission of the restaurant owner Charlie Hallowell. However, the property owner was not on the same page and pressured Nanos to stop selling books outside the restaurant.

Laz and Nanos provided conflicting accounts on their relationship. While Laz denied being associated with Nanos in anyway, Nanos suggests that actually Laz supported his business.

“Gabriela agreed to let me sell books outside her shop, which was a great opportunity because of the amazing foot traffic,” said Nanos.

As Laz was gradually moving out, Nanos moved inside the space in December of last year to avoid rain from hurting his business. Once Laz was completely moved out by February 2015, and the property was mostly empty, Nanos felt inspired to take advantage of the opportunity to run a temporary bookstore.

With the help of an artist friend, Nanos spraypainted the outside of the shop with the words “Books for Days: Temporary Bookstore”. It was the start of Nanos’ venture to create a space that sold used books on mysticism and racial equality but also a venue for people of color to explore art and spiritual healing.

About ten months after moving in, Nanos said he received a call from Andrew Cussen, the Nautilus Group property manager.

“Andrew Cussen called me and told me about the plans the demolish the building in December of 2015,” said Nanos. “But he said I could stay until then.”

Nanos took advantage of the time he had and filled the shop with his books which he curated and collected over the years. Nanos saw the potential to hold community events that spotlighted people diversity in the community. Nanos hosted shows focused on queer, people of color, and feminine energy during his time in the retail space.

“Books For Days was the best because it really inspired the community to have positive energy,” said frequent customer, Bethany Santos.

However, Nanos venture wasn’t welcomed by everyone in the community. Nanos mentions that there was a man with “patriarchal values” who was harassing women in the shop. Nanos claims that he confronted and banned the man, who then soon became violent and broke one of the windows of the shop.

At that point Nanos said he felt pressured to move on from the bookstore to avoid more conflict. His feelings intensified a few months later when The Nautilus Group contacted Nanos again, but this time they wanted him to quickly evacuate the building by the first of September.

“The Nautilus Group accused me of squatting, but I had remained there because they had allowed me to,” said Nanos. “Andrew had totally changed his approach with me.”

According to Nanos, Cussen showed up at the property at the beginning of September and kicked out a few young men that were helping Nanos with the store.

“He threw out the boys and locked himself in,” said Nanos. “He later left but not before he had the locks changed.”

Nanos talked to the caretaker of the property, who gave him a key to access his books and other belongings in the store. Nanos planned to empty the property and put his books back in storage, but found resistance from the young men who had been helping him run the store.

One of the young men was Daron Glenn Anderson Jr., who Nanos had met when he first started selling books on the streets of Temescal. Nanos enlisted Anderson and his friends to help him run the shop on days he wasn’t able to be in there.

“I trusted these boys. I opened my doors to them and trusted them to help me run the shop,” said Nanos.

Anderson, 23, and his friends had been staying in Nanos’ apartment, and sometimes in the shop, and weren’t ready to give up the property to the Nautilus Group.

Nanos claims that Anderson wouldn’t let him come back to the property to recover his books. Nanos accepted defeat and moved what remained of his book collection to a small space in a lawyer’s office along Oakland’s embarcadero.

Anderson used a portion of the space for retail, but closed off the rest with sheets that served as walls. The property had broken windows and there was still broken glass among the books being sold inside. The walls were graffitied with things like “Fuck gentrification”.

Regulars could still come in to buy books, but customers felt like it was a different kind of store that Nanos had been running. Santos said she stopped going to the store when she felt like it had just become a “kick-it spot” for Anderson and his friends.

“The energy just felt so different. The guys in there wouldn’t even look up from their computers to look at you,” said Santos. “But they were quick to take your money if you wanted to take a book with you.”

Anderson said that him and his friends were living on the property, but were soon summoned to court after the Nautilus Group posted an eviction notice on the door of the building in October. By mid-November Anderson had agreed to leave the property.

“I wanted to defend the building from these greedy companies for the Oakland locals, because gentrification is real,” said Anderson when questioned about his plans for the property. “Scott was whack but I wanted to really protect this historic neighborhood.”

Andrew Cussen refused to comment on Nanos and Anderson’s involvement, but confirmed that the property would be emptied early December. The afternoon of December 3rd, workers went into the property and began emptying the retail space, throwing out hundreds of books in boxes and furniture into large garbage bins.

Stevonne Ratliff who owns the store, Concept 47, across from the property at 4700 Telegraph Avenue, was present as the Nautilus Group had the space emptied out.

“I hate being across from an empty, barred up building,” said Ratliff. “At least when those kids were there it didn’t look as bad as this.

Ratliff commented on her confusion with the bookstore that Anderson was running. She mentioned that people would come in and out of the property throughout the day.

“But they weren’t there to buy books, that’s for sure. They were probably smoking and selling weed,” said Ratliff. “At least that’s what it looked and smelled like.”

Katia Burgos watched as workers threw away all the books that were left inside the building. She mentioned that they told her she could take any of the books with her.

“I was devastated seeing them throw away all those books. I wish I could have taken more, but there was just too many,” said Burgos. “They should have at least donated them, but they don’t care about that.”

The windows of the building have now been boarded up but the wrecking ball mural is still present on the side of the building, serving as an ominous reminder of the fate of the building.

View a slideshow of the conditions of the building at 4770 Telegraph and what are the plans for its future, here.

Compost Struggles

In light of the city of Oakland’s decision to amend its compost trash contract with Waste Management, restaurant owners in Temescal will see lower rates for compost service.

The Oakland City Council voted 5-2 in late September to approve a series of amendments to the Waste Management contract that would lower the price of composting for commercial businesses.

This change came after restaurant owners, especially the Oakland Indie Alliance, protested a price spike.

Protesters called out the increase in price for composting, but were also upset with the fact that Waste Management was charging more for trash than compost. This led restaurant owners to opt for standard trash disposal instead of compost.

Such was the case with Aunt Mary’s Café on Telegraph Avenue. Co-owner Nu Ho saw troubles with composting since the price increase meant they had to opt for a more affordable plan, with fewer pickups per week.

“We couldn’t afford to pay to have them pick up the compost twice a week anymore. We chose a weekly plan with less containers,” she explained, “We started finding it easier to just dispose the waste as trash.”

Fewer pickups per week resulted in compost to sitting in containers for longer periods of time, which soon began to create a rotting stench around restaurants.

“Compost would sit there for a week and would start smelling,” said Ho. “We’re so busy on the weekends and sometimes the line would reach the compost area and guests would have to stand by the stinky containers.”

Resorting to trash services to get rid of waste counteracted new compost practices that encouraged producing less waste for local landfills. The Oakland Indie Alliance highlighted this issue for business owners.

“We have become active voices and leaders in training our customers and staff to separate trash from organics, which has a significant multiplying effect through the community,” the Oakland Indie Alliance stated in a letter addressed to Mayor Libby Schaaf and Waste Management’s director of public relations, David Tucker.

“We are disappointed that these cost incentives will no longer encourage new business owners to adopt similar strategies,” the alliance further explained.

The new rates should bring down compost prices by 30 percent below trash rates until July 2016 and then to 20 percent for the rest of the contract with Waste Management.

These significantly lower rates have already inspired some business owners to adopt composting practices. Homeroom on 40th Street has begun to incorporate compost recycling to restaurant methods since the new rates went into effect.

“We’re excited to find more ways to reduce trash waste now that we’re using the lower-rate compost services,” said Bryan, manager at Homeroom.

Ho agrees, hoping for a more efficient way to dispose of compost trash that will benefit the environment without ruining customer experience.

Erik Heywood from Book/Shop

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Erik Heywood’s books and store products.

In 2013 Erik Heywood left his day job to open Book/Shop, a beautifully sunlit space that displays a variety of vintage books almost like a work of art, and hasn’t looked back since.

“Two years ago, the alley was half of what is now. When I opened this store, it wasn’t as cool and happening yet,” says Heywood. However he knew that the attention was shifting away from San Francisco and to Oakland, and so it made more sense to open a store in the East Bay.

Bustling footsteps go in and out of the stores along Temescal Alley. On a busy weekend you can overhear conversations of weekday events that people find entertaining or stressful.

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But before the idea of opening a brick and mortar store popped into his mind, Heywood was part of the blogosphere in 2007 when he wrote a blog dedicated to book shelves called Books at Home. Heywood’s background is in interior design, but he explains that his first love has always been books. The focus of his blog was largely on the nostalgic idea of the lifestyle of books. Heywood showcased different ways books were displayed on shelves, in creative, and satisfying ways.

“If you’re looking at books on your shelf at home, you’re looking at your whole life,” says Heywood. Heywood speaks enthusiastically about the importance of books. With a smile on his face he stresses the personal relationship people can have with printed books that they can’t with digital e-books.

Writing about books on shelves made Heywood want to give people access to the kind of books he was interested in books that were beautiful inside and out. He began selling vintage books and book furnishing online under the name Book/Shop.

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The website became a hit and soon became a full-time project for Heywood, who had just moved to the Bay Area from New York. He started doing pop-up shops in San Francisco and New York and they started cultivating fans. He soon left his San Francisco job in sales to venture into opening his own store.

“When it came to deciding where to open the store, I wasn’t ready to move back to New York and I felt like it was hard to strike out with something new in New York or San Francisco,” explains Heywood. “I saw that the momentum was already leaning to Oakland and I wanted people to come here and see that the misconceptions they had about Oakland weren’t true.”

Fast forward two years and Book/Shop is now a favorite destination for young locals and those visiting the neighborhood.

“Most of my clientele is pretty young. They grew up with screens in their faces. Anyone can do a digital version. By default, books become the deluxe version,” Heywood says.

On this day Heywood is dressed in a casual button-down shirt, jeans carefully cuffed at the leg, and sporty yet trendy sneakers. It’s clear that he’s savvy about modern and trending youth culture.

“I couldn’t believe how beautiful the store was when I stepped in,” says Katja Bergstrom, 22, who recently visited the store for the first time. “It feels like everything is so carefully collected. It’s like nothing I’ve been to before.”

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And it’s true, Heywood doesn’t just carry any type of book. His focus is on humanities: literature, poetry, art, film, and dance. He sources them from rare book dealers and collectors under the criteria that they must be from major authors in each field, or be compelling in their own right. But most importantly, they have to be in very good condition.

“The kinds of books that we don’t carry are in general the types of books that are made nicely and aren’t the kind of books that people get attached to,” says Heywood. Each book has a visually appealing characteristic; carefully bound in colorful covers, some featuring artistic graphics and others are more subtle. But even from far away, some of these books are begging for your attention.

“Book/ Shop is really a celebration of reading, a place where one-of-a-kind books exist alongside vintage furniture, art, and design,” says June Rustigan, a Book/Shop sales associate, in an email. “I think anyone with an appreciation for books and a curious mind will feel at home here.”

Rustigan also speaks about how the essence of Book/Shop is derived by Heywood’s own personality.

“The initial quality that struck me about Erik (and which still does today) is how incredibly fascinated and curious he is about the world around him. Anyone who meets him can tell you he is very charismatic,” Rustigan says,  “but he’s also reinforced in me the value of holding a vibrant and rich inner life full of reflection and wonder. And it’s rare to find someone with both these qualities.”

Heywood values living what he calls a “beautiful life,” which is why he never wanted to leave Oakland. On his time off he drives along the coast with his two children, and likes to visit the Berkeley Bowl for local produce.

“I live in a small cottage surrounded by fruit trees, but you can go to Lake Temescal and walk along a path picking fresh blackberries. It’s so amazing,” says Heywood.

Heywood isn’t phased by this generation’s obsession with technology. He himself has embraced it but it hasn’t replaced his love for books. He also is confident that the Internet won’t replace bookstores.

“People thought when Borders started going away, that meant that books were going away,” Heywood says. “Bookstores aren’t going anywhere, they’ll change and they’ll evolve, but they won’t disappear.”

A Drought Influence

It’s curious to see so many prickly plant options around Temescal. It seems to be the plant of choice for the neighborhood, appearing inside stores and planted in front yard gardens. When asked about them people don’t have a specific reasoning as to why they’ve chosen to adopt tall and slim cactuses.

“They’re very popular right now. I just think they’re pretty but don’t know why everyone else likes them,” explains Sandra Patino who owns two small cactuses.

So what’s driving this trend? You would think that there’s something in the water, but it might be the lack of water that has people opting for these desert plants.

The California drought is a subject that you can’t escape if you live in the state. The state government has made an effort to conserve water as reservoirs keep shrinking in water volume. Long showers, home car washes, and lush green lawns are looked down upon as they symbolize a inconsiderate amount of water use.

Cactuses require less amount of water to stay alive. The same goes for succulents and air plants which look to moisture in the air to source for water. However succulents have been popular for quite sometime now, even making their way into wedding arrangements.

Will this trend continue as hope to improve our water usage? Will thorny cactuses soon be preferred over the classic rose? It will be something to look out for in the coming months, as we continue to pray for more rain.

Indoor cactuses in Esqueleto and Marisa Mason: two jewelry shops in Temescal Alley.
Cactuses and succulents are planted along sidewalk concrete on 45th street