downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Posts from — May 2010

Mid-May in the DTO: Hello shuttle, buh-bye Shorenstein

May 14, 2010

Last week saw the first dry First Friday of 2010, though it was pretty chilly after the sun set. Like the rest of Oakland, Downtown shines best when drenched in sun, and it seems the rainy season has finally ended. If you’re working downtown, living downtown, or planning to hang out downtown, here’s what you need to know in mid-May.

Downtown Oakland’s second-largest property owner, Shorenstein Properties, has put its four-million-square-foot office and retail portfolio on the market. The properties include the City Center shops; Oakland’s third-largest and second-tallest building, 1111 Broadway; and an agreement to complete construction of a new high-rise at 11th and Jefferson. Though Shorenstein is a local company and a long-time investor, new energy and ambition could improve the City Center office district.

To link Oakland’s disparate office markets and transit hubs, the City of Oakland has set a date for the launch of its new shuttle serving Broadway. On Monday Jun 21, commuters can catch a free ride from Uptown all the way to Jack London Square every fifteen minutes, from 7am to 7pm. Downtown is geographically quite large for a downtown of a mid-sized city, and it’s just not a nice walk from a Midtown lounge to a Jack London Square restaurant, so many expect the shuttle to help unite different retail  nodes, over time. If the shuttle can secure additional funding, its hours can be lengthened to serve dining, but for now it’s great for commuters and Jack London Square restaurants, which suffered mightily when the City’s last Broadway shuttle ended operation in 2002.

Far from the beaten First Friday track, Jack London District’s Swarm Gallery opens a new exhibit this Second Friday, featuring photography and wood sculpture. The Mercury20 photography gallery is now open at its new location on 25th St near Broadway. Today is the deadline for Alameda County artist to submit work for ProArts Gallery’s juried annual, Bay Area Currents 2010.

The Uptown neighborhood continues to add residents and businesses at a rapid clip. City Homestead reports several new restaurants coming to the district, and recently the Planning Commission gave a new bar permission to operate at 17th and Telegraph. Oakland will spend Redevelopment funds to brighten BART’s lonely alleyway. With artsy lighting joining our rightful sunshine, it’s the season for hanging out in downtown Oaktown.

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This Friday the first to feature legal live music

May 7, 2010

This is the first First Friday since the City of Oakland’s cabaret ordinance was reformed, a long-time goal of cultural mavens. As of Wednesday, restaurants and cafes are allowed live music, and DJ bars no longer have to worry about being ticketed. The late-night permits and easier cabaret permitting process for clubs will hopefully encourage more nightlife, and tonight many are expected to enjoy the freedom to play music in public. With newly-legal live performance as the backdrop, today’s sunny First Friday offers a wealth of cultural opportunities.

Highlights of the monthly Art Murmur can be found in the OakBook’s regular article about the art scene. Uptown’s newest hotspot, The New Parish, hosts a Feria Urbana for local designers to sell their wares, ranging from art to jewelry to t-shirts to hats. More details are available at

For the Bike Month of May, cyclists will ride the map of the Art Murmur from 23rd and Telegraph starting at 6:30pm, “in a fantastic parade of hometown fashion and music.”

The Uptown Nightclub, just slightly off the beaten Art Murmur path, will host a First Friday extravaganza with no cover charge. Several bands and DJs including The Mumlers will perform, while Warner Records will play new albums from The Black Keys and The Dead Weather.

Further afield, newcomer Urban Legend Cellars winery will keep their tasting room open until 9pm tonight. 621 4th St. Nearby, on Saturday and Sunday, Jack London Square will host The Sweet Shoppe, a festival dedicated to sweets. Just in time for Mother’s Day, its probably the best place to pick up bonbons in the DTO.

Uptown’s resident pedicab service, Backseat Driver, will be out and about tonight. Check out’s video interview with urban micro-entrepreneurs Ken and Lulu Ott. Look for Ken and his rickshaw around town tonight. While Ken pedals around, The Rock Papers Scissors Collective will display of human-powered machinery, an element of their Beyond Bicycles project.

Since we’re on the topic of transportation, allow me to plug a professional project of mine. I am helping Friendly Cab offer free taxi rides on First Fridays. A $5 taxi coupon, enough for a free bar-hopping trip downtown, will be available tonight at three downtown bars: Penelope at 11th and Clay, The Layover at 1517 Franklin, and Era Artbar at 19 Grand. Stop by a bar and ask for your coupon, and enjoy a free or heavily discounted ride on Friendly Cab! Sponsored by Kapsack & Bair DUI Attorneys, the coupon can help you have fun while avoiding drunk driving. Read more about it at and the Trib’s Nightowl blog.

Whether you’re cabbing, bicycling, walking, riding a rickshaw, or even driving, downtown’s First Friday is where all roads lead. Legalizing live music this week adds to the cultural celebration.