Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Great Article About Great Community Activism

This article in the Berkeley Daily Planet is a great piece on local level community involvement... go skaters!
Skate Park Wins Lease Agreement
By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

The Caltrans sign at the end of the back road out of the Best Buy electronics store parking lot in Emeryville gives an odd command: Left Turn Only. The odd part is that the sign sits in front of a two-way street, Hollis Street, where a right turn appears permissible.

To the left of the Caltrans “Left Turn Only” sign is the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center and the gleaming condominiums and auto-packed streets that mark the entrance to Emeryville. To the right of the “Left Turn Only” sign is Oakland.

The Oakland side is a community so much in transition it cannot be easily characterized.

The neighborhood is evenly divided between small, well-painted, older Victorian houses where old black women still put out neat flower gardens—blocks that once housed Oakland’s thriving middle class African-American community—and gritty, dirty industrial buildings. A demolition contractor’s headquarters sits on one corner. A recycling center—featuring cash for aluminum cans—sits on another.

Two churches—one a solid-built Baptist, the other a ramshackle put-up—sit a couple of doors down from the combination liquor store and check-cashing establishment. In front of the store, two black men sit on a concrete wall, drinking beer from cans barely hidden inside paper bags. Around the corner are two tiny, triangle-shaped parks where the homeless sleep and addicts come at night to shoot or snort their dope.

Intermixed with all of this is the sign of the North Oakland-West Oakland coming gentrification: condominiums, newly painted, with “For Sale” signs on their fences. One of the rows of two-story condominiums shows the schizophrenia of the area: they are made of corrugated tin, purposely constructed to look like the side of an industrial building.

This is Bordertown, the center of all the conflicting social and economic and racial trends blowing across the northwest section of Oakland where it intersects with Emeryville. In the middle, in the shadows under that part of the freeway where I80 splits east and west, Sacramento and San Francisco, sits the Bordertown skatepark.

Earlier this year, Bordertown was a rogue squatters development on vacant Caltrans land where local skateboarders had built themselves an acre-wide skate park, complete with concrete ramps and metal framework. Last July, Caltrans officials discovered the illegal park while preparing plans for construction of a new freeway on-ramp, fenced off the property, and announced they were demolishing the park. But Bordertown quickly became a political issue after the skateboarders took their story to the local media, and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente—both with tough election campaigns next year—jumped in to save it. Also intervening in negotiations with Caltrans were U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, State Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland), and State Assemblymembers Wilma Chan (D-Oakland) and Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley)....

Read the rest of the article in the Berkeley Daily Planet by clicking here.