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Here and There: The Death of a Cliché

When speaking of Oakland, it's long been fashionable for unlettered critics to apply Gertrude Stein's famous quip, "There is no there there." According to legend, Ms. Stein wished to put the town down by casting it as a non-place unworthy of San Francisco's chilly shadow.

News flash: Stein wasn't talking about the City of Oakland when she penned those words in Everybody's Autobiography. She was talking about the house at 25th Street and 13th Avenue where she lived as a child, a place she revisited in the 1930s only to find that everything had changed. The house, the garden, the rose hedge and even the eucalyptus tree she remembered so well had disappeared. The specific "there" where she had lived was no longer "there."

Literary nitpicking aside, SF Chronicle writer Dan Levy's latest story about the condo boom in downtown Oakland is great news for those interested in this town's revitalization. Formerly abandoned lots are being transformed into housing as part of the "10K Initiative."

According to Levy: Six years after Brown made his bold pronouncement, Oakland is close to fulfilling what has become known as the mayor's 10K Initiative.

With two years to go, "10K" is 85 percent complete. The chips are starting to fall in place for the Fox Theater renovation as well. The efforts of Oakland native Phil Tagami, who has taken on the task of restoring this magnificent 1920s movie palace to its former grandeur, were recently profiled in the Chronicle.

Born and raised in Oakland, Phil rose through the ranks of a construction crew to become one of the city's major developers and philanthropists. He specializes in preserving historic landmarks.

If only Gertrude Stein were here to see it all.

March 21, 2005 | Permalink


Where can I get a copy of "Oakland, My Oakland!"? You should make it the Oakland Anthem.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis | Mar 21, 2005 3:36:20 PM

Next time someone from SF says, "There's no there there," tell him he's right. "There's no traffic there, no crummy weather there, no parking problems there"....

Maybe you can't say there are no homicides there, but why miss an opportunity to brag? You're so good at it!

By the way, any effort to rejuvenate / bring people into downtown is an environmental move. The Jains believe humans should live together in large cities so as to preserve the environment and other species. Also coincides with my Bioland / Ecoland plan... which I'm sure you've fully embraced by now!

P.S. Phil's a real gem. Tell that handsome devil I say "hi."

Posted by: Charlotte | Mar 21, 2005 6:04:04 PM

For those of you who don't read the news, thus did not comprehend my joke...

Oakland is AHEAD of SF - fewer homicides.

Posted by: Charlotte | Mar 21, 2005 8:04:07 PM

If people want to quibble about whether there is a "there" there, go right ahead. I don't think a few condos and a theater qualify as a "there."

But nobody can dispute that there are a lot of people there trying to live there lives.
This alone qualifies as a "there." And these people are crushed by the paternalist marxists in our academies and media, and the race hustlers like Jackson and Sharpton whose claim on power fully depends on keeping people like those in Oakland poor, ignorant, and dependent on government.

Slavery cannot be sustained without dependency.

Posted by: HA | Mar 22, 2005 3:59:22 AM

Thanks for blogging Jerry Brown.

Posted by: Doug Kenline | Mar 22, 2005 8:28:59 AM

It's a good start. There needs to be some retail or SOMETHING to liven downtown up on the weekends. Walk downtown and then go over to the Grand/Lakeshore area on a Sat/Sun and see the difference. The Farmers' Market, the little cafes and shops in Grand/Lakeshore keep the place bustling, and I don't think it's that much further away from Emeryville than downtown.

Same could be said for Piedmont Ave.

Of course, you need some local people to support the retail...

As I stated, all in all, though, it's a good start, and a great way to eliminate abandoned lots/properties.

Posted by: David | Mar 22, 2005 9:28:08 AM

While Frisco played games with containers, Oakland jumped in to become a premier port. Jack London Square makes Frisco's waterfront look cheap. Oakland's mayor is less wierd than Frisco's.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis | Mar 22, 2005 2:18:03 PM

The same thing happened---is still happening---in Brooklyn. As the rents in Manhattan got too crazy for anyone but the elite, people built in run down areas. There are now area in Brooklyn that are beautiful. The last time I looked, San Francesspool had rents that started at about 2K per month, far outside a possibility for a low income person. In your case, Frisco has turned into an outdoor toilet, shooting gallery, and high crime homeless shelter, all things that help Oakland become a good alternative. And thanx for the Stein de-fog.

Posted by: Howard Veit | Mar 23, 2005 12:24:36 AM

Howard Veit,

So what happend to those people who lived in the newly beautiful areas of Brooklyn before it was gentrified by the elites whose trust funds were unsufficient to cover Manhattan rents?

Posted by: HA | Mar 23, 2005 4:27:30 AM

Thanks for blogging Jerry.

My friend Joe Banister is facing 16 years in prison for trying to stand up for his rights. Maybe you could send a couple of dollars to him to help him with his case.


Posted by: Doug Kenline | Mar 23, 2005 8:32:28 AM


Apologists for crime, litter, and vandalism always sound the same horn. The crime disipates, neighborhood rejuvinates, shops/restaurants open, and someone starts screaming that the 'locals' have been forced out.

With that attitude nothing is possible.

Posted by: Reality | Mar 23, 2005 11:22:22 AM

I bet a lot those "poor" locals in Brooklyn cashed out. After all, despite all the supposed travails of the "poor" communities around cities, a significant percentage own their own homes.

Or they stuck around and got a nice shiny new job, thanks to the new businesses (or started a business of their own) because crime dropped, etc.

Only idiots who never got out of socialism 101 think that capital is a finite resource, and for every winner there has to be some loser. That ain't how it works, moron.


Posted by: David | Mar 23, 2005 12:24:04 PM

Nice work Jerry. "Downtown" needs people. People need shopping. The stores will come to where the people are. It will change, slowly but surely. It will become livelier.

BUT, some of the new residential buildings are very handsome and interesting, but what is that hideous piece of crap that Signature recently built at about 12th and Jefferson? I'm not sure of the exact location, but it looks like someone put a single family house on steroids and turned it into 100 units. If I was the architect of that monstrocity, I'd throw myself in front of a BART train.

Posted by: bobdobbs | Mar 23, 2005 2:22:33 PM

Quite a leap of the imagination to understand how Marxists in academia and the media owned top 5 corporate conglomerates are "crushing" the working people of Oakland but it's a tired old right wing saw best articulated by Debbie Saunders. Scapegoat and divert from the Reality of what working people in the Bay Area have identified as their top priorities--employment and transportation--that is for those who can affording housing and the price of gas and bridge tolls to commute.

How do the Marxists figure into this equation? I guess they own the rail system and the oil companies and are in cahoots with Chevron( welll, at least he Venezuelan ones at least). Actually though, I think it's the Bush family that has the connection to the Saudi royal family oil profit.

Those Marxists are heavily invested in the banks though and are going to make a real killing when the interest rates start going up as announced yesterday. Quite possibly they will make money on top of what they benefiting from the speculative housing market whose bubble is about to burst where people are paying huge mortgages and the banks, insurance companies, and real estate industry are reaping the benefits.

The Marxists in China are really the ones to worry about though when they stop accepting the dollar and financing the U.S. debt which our Marxist president has now run up into the trillions.

I guess while Jerry Brown was governor and Willie Brown leader of the legislature, those insidious, powerful and cunning Marxists locally here must have been advising our politicians who were busily building their law practices with corporate clients and financing their runs for the presidency not to build mass transit subways so we could have gridlock on all the highways and inflate home prices.

But how did they manage to mismanagement OUSD? Because they whispered in a certain powerful senator's ear that they wanted to develop the OUSD headquarters so it was better for him to run to AG Lockyer and get him to make a special ruling barring Oakland from using monies other school districts had used?

I agree with you though on one point--it was in fact inverted Marxist theory by those who don't understand the concept of surplus value that thought it was worthwhile to spend a great deal of our tax dollars on obscene salary raises and euqally obscene pension benefits rather than invest them in business and infrastructure in Oakland that would produce jobs.

And in Jerry Brown's case, it was a way to gain some very important endorsements by snuggling up to one particular group of public workers in general. I agree with Arnold--we ought to stop treating our public workers like the "cream puff" sector and start treating them like the rest of the working people who aren't getting any raises these days and are having to pay for their own medical care and part of their hospital bills as well.

Reality l0l Capitalism--never give a raise you don't need to. And stop giving public workers better benefits, than workers in the private sector. Down with those spoiled National socialist demagogues in the unions whom we are supporting. It seems some of them just are never happy or satisfied even With higher raises, greater benefits and retirements than any other group of workers around. Now maybe aybe if we just trim some of that fat, we can return some to those shouldering a much greater crushing financial burden. Amen!

And please tell all those big corporations to stop subsidizing the NAACP, Jessie Jackson and stop providing Al Sharpton with limousines and fancy hotels and suits when he runs for president. Then maybe he'll have to go back to the streets and raise holy hell with the rest of the working rabble.

I mean, those organizations used to be a lot more capitalistic before those corporations started subsidizing them. They told people to boycott businesses that discriminated. Not ask them for free handouts.

Let's bring Robert Bobb back--he's from the old school--hard work and big fat salaries--no Marxist at all.

Posted by: Contrarian | Mar 24, 2005 12:10:17 AM

Topic suggestion: Municipal Wireless Internet. Oakland could offer free high speed Wi-Fi to every neighborhood. The city and schools of Oakland get all the bandwidth it wants from the Internet for free. If you want to talk about creating opportunities for education, small business, and community development...

See also:

SF to study muni broadband [1]

From muniwireless:

"In a precedent-setting vote on 15 March 2005, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) unanimously approved a $300,000 feasibility study for implementation of a municipally-run broadband/Internet project despite heavy industry lobbying. The 4-0 vote was hailed as a significant step forward by a broad coalition of public interest advocates working towards low-cost universal access to the Internet and other media.

"'It's time for San Francisco to catch up with the rest of the world on this,' said PUC Commissioner Adam Werbach."

Lawrence Lessig (in Wired): Why your broadband sucks[2]

Thanks to Alison Fish[3] for the citations.

[1] http://www.muniwireless.com/archives/000614.html
[2] http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.03/view.html?pg=5
[3] http://afish.typepad.com/afish/2005/03/sf_to_study_mun.html

Posted by: Phil Wolff | Mar 26, 2005 3:23:03 PM

Who's going to pay for wireless internet? Next subject please.

Posted by: Wireless Internet | Mar 29, 2005 7:09:39 PM

RE: Bob Dobbs's architectural critique. I live in the 10th and MLK building, and while it has a lovely courtyard and units are well-built, it looks really stupid on the outside. I agree - it's a _McMansion_ on steriods. If the building were a glass-and-stucco box, even still painted bright blue, it would look so much better. We should these forbid idiotic attempts by former suburban developers to make psuedo-historic crapola.

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