a gentle look at codes


Oakland is Everywhere

It’s been a tough week here in Northern California. 36 people died in a fire during a party at a local warehouse. Family and friends are reeling and the artist community is in great pain. This fire occurred in a warehouse that was illegally converted to studio and living space. And the couple who converted the warehouse claim these parties are one of the ways that they raised money to pay rent on the warehouse.

People are beginning to point fingers and assign blame.


Before we start assigning blame, and I’m sure there is plenty to assign, there’s a bigger issue here. Why were people living in a space that was not built for habitation? A couple of reasons come to mind:

  • Like-mindedness: people enjoy living near others who share their interests, schedules, affinities, lifestyles.
    • You are an artist who works days to pay the bills and spends nights painting. But your roommate has to be up at 6 to head to their tech job. No, you can’t play music while you work. And why is there paint all over the bathroom sink you share? And that’s just a ridiculously simplistic scenario.
  • Cost: in an area where average rent for a studio apartment tops $1600 per month without utilities, many people are priced out of the ‘legitimate’ housing market.
    • So let’s say you’re a young artist working at a local coffee shop to pay the bills and purchase art supplies. You make (generously) $15 per hour. You work 30 hours per week. You gross under $2000 per month. You definitely can’t afford that studio apartment if you plan to clothe yourself, eat, bathe, heat. And if your art requires studio space there’s that rent as well. It doesn’t take long to figure out why people in the arts are left to find ‘alternative’ housing styles.

As the Bay Area continues to grow, and as costs continue to reach stellar heights, we need to think about the many communities that are being shut out. Art is important. Artists are important. Teachers and musicians and writers and chefs are all important. We need them here. We need to find a way to make ‘here’ attainable for everyone.


My life work revolves around codes. Fire codes. Life safety codes. Health codes. Accessibility codes. Energy codes. Building codes. These codes are all in place for a reason and many of these codes keep us safe in our built environment. However complying with all of these codes costs money, which drives up the cost of housing. So people build without permits, ignoring codes, and creating hazards. The result is they can charge less rent.

a way forward

There is a two way street here. We need to have safe housing stock and we also need city departments to do their part in keeping that housing stock affordable. A paradigm shift is in order where citizens can trust their local jurisdictions to treat them fairly, apply minimum necessary code enforcement to keep them safe, and eliminate anything that resembles a ‘money grab’. This won’t originate with local building and fire departments….it will require the involvement of local governments to relax some of the laws around compliance.

The us versus them dynamic is destroying the ability of lower income individuals to remain in the Bay Area. Or in the worst case scenario we saw last weekend, it is literally destroying the lives of artists, teachers, musicians, writers, students. Continuing to lose these creative and vibrant people, whether by flight or as we did last weekend, will suck the very soul out of the Bay Area. We can’t let that happen. Not in Oakland, not in San Francisco, not in Marin, not on the Peninsula, not in the South or East Bay. Oakland is everywhere.


If you want to step up and help the victims of last weekends devastating  fire, below are a few ways I’ve found.

12/10-11: Scott’s Jack London Square is giving all proceeds from its clam chowder to the Fire Relief Fund for Victims

12/12: Duende will donate 100% of sales to the Fire Relief Fun for Victims of Ghost Ship Oakland Fire

12/14: Oakland United concert Noise Pop and Another Planet Entertainment, along with Paradigm Agency’s Oakland office present Oakland United – a night of remembrance and community. There will be performances and stories from musicians and journalists, all of which have connections to the Bay Area music scene. All proceeds for the benefit will go to the Gray Area Foundation For The Arts Oakland Fire Relief Fund.

12/14: Shakewell will donate all happy hour proceeds (4pm-6pm) to the Ghost Ship Fire Relief Fund

12-19: Cream stores in Berkeley, Oakland, and Palo Alto will donate 25% of sales to victims of the Ghost Ship fire

Encuentro will be donating a portion of their profits until next Tuesday ( for friends, neighbors and loved ones affected by the Ghost Ship fire

Peet’s will match up to $10,000 in donations made at any of its Northern California stores to the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

Drakes Brewing Company released a new beer called ‘Oakland Love’ at both locations. 100% of sales of this limited Double IPA will be donated to support the victims of the Ghost Ship fire

Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghost Ship Oakland Fire Fire Relief Fund for Victims of Ghost Ship Oakland Fire is a fundraiser organized by Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders Matching-Funds Fundraiser Assistance and relief to the victims and families of the Oakland warehouse fire the night of Friday, December 2nd. Funds are matched up to $50,000 by the Oakland A’s and the Raiders.

Ghost Ship Fire: Residents Support All donations to this fund will go to the residents of Satya Yuga, aka Ghost Ship, directly funding supplies and materials needed to support their livelihood

Resources to Support Ghost Ship If you can’t spare a cash donation but are able to help in other ways, this Google doc lists people who are able lend support and resources to those affected by the fire

Oakland Firefighters: Random Acts of Kindness The psychological toll on firefighters searching through debris for victims can be intense. The Random Acts of Kindness fund helps Firefighters mitigate feelings of hopelessness by providing them with the funds needed  to help the people they encounter.

Keep in touch, take care of each other and be safe,


wait….cats and coffee?

I was planning to tell you something about the psychology of color today, then I got another email in my box about yet another cat cafe. So I’m forsaking science for frivolity for the moment.

what it is

Every time I hear the term ‘cat cafe’ I just kind of shake my head and wonder. It’s not that I don’t care for cats. They are lovely and I’ve owned a couple over the years. I definitely prefer my dogs if given a choice, but it’s never occurred to me to combine any pet with a cafe as a thematic element. The craze has been in my peripheral vision for a few months now, so today I did a little research. It’s real and it started in the far east according to my sources (wikipedia). Taiwan was the first location of a cat cafe, followed by about a zillion in Japan where most landlords don’t allow pets and most businesses (apparently) have very stressed out, introverted employees who prefer the company of cats. If you check the crowd funding sites, both IndieGogo and Kickstarter have several cat cafe projects looking for funding all over the world. And the handful of cat cafes that are already up and running in the US are all claiming to be firsts of some sort.

why it is

Whereas in Japan the cats are permanent residents of the cafes, here in the US they seem to be mostly adoptable. And with all of our health department requirements, the cat/human play areas and food service areas must be separated. But once you’ve purchased your food and drink you can take it into the cat play area. Some places charge an hourly fee to spend time with the cats, many require a reservation, and all limit the number of people that can be in the cat area at any one time. Cat Town in Oakland ( which claims to be the first in the US) opened in late 2014 and works with Oakland Animal Services to adopt out shelter cats. Cool coffee mugs are a bonus.  Up in Portland, Purrington’s, the ‘first cat cafe in the northwest’ opened January of 2015 and even serves beer and wine. And sometime this spring, KitTea is scheduled to open in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley. They will work with Give Me Shelter Cat Rescue to adopt out their feline friends and their schtick will be tea.

it’s real

So yea, it’s real. Cat’s and coffee (and beer and wine and tea) are a thing that is growing in the US. And now that I’ve done a little research I’ll quit smirking. I’m a huge fan of saving shelter pets rather than buying from a pet store or breeder. So if I can get a great cup of tea and save a furry critter, I’m on board. Guess that’s really not so frivolous. Maybe I’ll be the first to do dogs…..want to partner up?

Keep in touch,

food fetes

photo courtesy

photo courtesy

I’ve covered most of the free events that I love in our fair city…now for a few amazing food events in the Bay Area. Some of these are also free….some not so much, but if you love food you may want to splurge.

June 22

CUESAs Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building in SF will showcase food, drink and the farmers who start it all. The event benefits the amazing work that CUESA does to promote healthy food systems. One of the greatest things that CUESA does for us little people is to provide us ongoing education at every Ferry Plaza farmers market by way of free cooking demos by superstar chefs every Saturday morning at 11. I know, run-on sentence, but I had to get it all out it a breath. Summer Celebration is June 22 and is mostly tax deductible.

July 19

AT&T Park is known to have some of the best food in baseball, but I’m afraid it won’t compare to the 7X7 food fest happening next month on the field. 7X7 Big Eat Live features the magazine’s ‘100 things you have to eat before you die’ and will benefit initiatives planned for The Garden at AT&T (opening the end of this month). This event will showcase some of the best food in SF. July 19 at AT&T Park.

August 1-3

One of my never miss favorites (although I’m weeping because I’ll be on the east coast this year for an August 3 wedding) has changed both its name and location: now called eatDrinkSF and located at Fort Mason, in past years this was SFChefs and was located at Union Square. It’s a weekend of food learning, food eating, and what they call an ‘epic foodie festival’. Although I cringe at the mention of that word ‘foodie’. It smacks of the same smugness as the ‘celebrity’ in chef and makes me want to leave the room. In this case, I forgive since I absolutely love this event. Insider tip: keep your eyes peeled for Industry Day. It’s an affordable day of learning and eating with the most knowledgeable chefs in the biz. Officially the weekend of August 1-3, there will be events as early as mid July.

August 16

We’ve already talked about the Street Food Festival, but it’s food so I’m including it here. August 16 and it’s free to enter, although a donation to benefit the organizers, La Cocina, is always welcome.

September 19-21

Oakland’s Eat Real Festival is another tasty food venue showcasing 3 days worth of amazing Bay Area food, drink and fun. It began as a food truck extravaganza but has grown to include brick and mortar restaurant’s  fare as well as education, music and some great people watching. Free to get in and vendors sell bites and quaffs for $5 or less. Not much info on the website yet unless you want to volunteer or vend. September 19-21 at Jack London Square.

Any other great food events you think I should know about?….tell me!