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As young as age 15, Libby Schaaf took to the streets to promote Oakland. This photo shows her passing out fliers on Broadway for the Wee Pals Concert Series with Morrie Turner.

Today Oaklanders approach voter booths with three-page, two-sided ballots. The flurry of mayoral debates alone has crowded public discourse in the past months, with little attention paid to the candidates for Oakland City Council. I urge you to support Libby Schaaf, who is running for Jean Quan’s soon-to-be vacant District 4 seat. Her signage may not dominate the cityscape, and recent reports indicate she has raised less than half of her opponent, but Schaaf is a resident model of progress.

Born and raised in District 4, Libby has lived in Oakland her entire life, including three neighborhoods within the district. She has worked as a city activist since joining the Girl Scouts in kindergarten, and helped form a habitat restoration project in Redwood Heights and restore the Sausal Creek Watershed.

“My whole life, I have done an amazing amount of community volunteer work,” Schaaf said. “And all this touched or took place in District 4.”

A recent campaign mailer details her volunteer history and a several bloggers and writers have endorsed Schaaf for the job. Her experience in city government as Chief of Staff for City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and as a Chief Aide to Mayor Jerry Brown adds to her credentials as a lifelong proponent of Oakland.

“I really am an optimistic, upbeat person who truly gets along with a lot of people,” Libby said. Her plan for City Council is to mediate the in fighting and expedite progress. “Oakland gets held back because we’re squabbling with each other so that golden opportunities pass us by.”

In keeping with her neighborhood spirit, Libby hopes to organize and empower residents to better protect the city.

“A crime puzzle has three parts to it: Neighborhood (you need organization and physical improvements to communities that discourage crime and enhance a sense of safety; Crime prevention and intervention (there are lots of critics of Measure Y but I believe the prevention money has been spent well, including Project Choice that I oversaw that yielded some positive statistics); Fiscal reform (we need to change the way we spend our money).”

Of her plan for fiscal reform, Libby wants to start with the pension plans for Oakland Police Officers. She plans to open a second tier system of benefits for new hires that requires they pay more than 0% toward retirement.

She also claims that city government needs to tighten its belt in fatter economic times. “We shouldn’t yield to the temptation to add more programs and staff but instead save the surplus for capital improvement.”

Financial mismanagement has certainly led the refurbishment of city infrastructure down a dead end road.

“The roads and sidewalks don’t show up at city council meetings with tears in their eyes,” she said. “Infrastructure is not sexy but that is one of the main priorities of this city. I have concrete ideas that are practical and doable and know how to make things happen.”

One needs to look no farther than the drawing still posted in the Paramount Theater. In the belly of this Broadway establishment, on the other side of a stage door, is a brown piece of butcher paper. A giant sun wearing shades smiles over the words, “Libby Schaaf, age eight.”

Over the sun are the words, “The Paramount Theater is on the sunny side of the street.”

Vote for Libby Schaaf: for District 4, for a sunnier Oakland.

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My article on a rare, East Bay hills plant posted today in Oakland Local. I originally fell in love with the pallid manzanita as a kid, while playing at my best friend’s house on Manzanita Drive. The red bark was smooth to the touch and bushy leaves would yield pink blooms in the winter. In the spring, the fertilized flowers would grow into what poet Gary Snyder called “little apples”:

What I didn’t realize then was that the migration of the human species has largely displaced the pallid manzanitas. As Oaklanders built their homes, they’d raze whole colonies, or chop stray plants down for fear of fire. The pallids that remain—some 1,200 total in the East Bay hills and also the world—struggle in an increasingly shaded landscape. What residents may not realize is that the Oakland hills have not always grown into a green jungle, but frequently burned and regenerated as a largely sun-lit region.

In the article, I mention the efforts of the Friends of Sausal Creek, who have ventured into the far reaches of Joaquin Miller Park to find and restore this rare chaparral. They regularly host events where volunteers tend to Oakland’s many ecosystems, improving trails, tracking trout, monitor birds, collecting seeds and caring for native plants. Their work cultivating pallid manzanita at Big Trees has been a successful experiment so far. It also requires constant maintenance. A FOSC map shows the status of the Big Trees pallids as of April, 2010:


Oakland’s backyard needs weeding and trimming just like any green space. Future plans to propagate pallid manzanitas is underway at Chabot Space & Science Center, in partnership with the City of Oakland and the Wildfire Prevention District. They have plans to begin carving a sunny place for pallids very soon.

If you’d like to check out a thriving patch of the endangered chaparral, check out the Huckleberry Trail off Grizzly Peak. You’ll find them a few yards down the path. Take a left up a small incline and you’ll find yourself bathed in sunlight and surrounded in pallid manzanita splendor.

The green light is on for Sushi Park, the newest addition to the "Gourmet Glenview."

A hand-written note still sticks to the door at 4209 Park Blvd. Its message, saying that PG&E still needs to run an inspection, is thankfully moot.

That’s because Sushi Park owner Zandong Guan said by phone today that the soon-to-be restaurant has passed the test.

“We hope to open at the end of the month,” he said.

For weeks, brown butcher paper has covered the storefront, leaving neighbors to wonder what had happened to the shuttered Design Framing space.

Tony, the manager of the laundromat next door, says he looks forward to the opening. “It will be nice to try the sake,” he said with a smile.

Rice beverages will count for part of the menu at Sushi Park. But hopeful connoisseurs may want to study Beau Timken’s Web site, True Sake. He keeps his “first American sake store” in San Francisco.