Lake Merritt has four main residential areas: the Lakeside Apartments District, in the area around Jackson and Madison Streets; Adams Point/Grand Lake, off Grand Avenue and behind the Grand Lake Theater; Haddon Hill/Cleveland Heights, off Lakeshore Avenue; and the area below 18th Street, on the southeast side of the Lake.
For my first ‘Health of the Hood’ piece, I wrote of 18th Street being a dividing line between a relatively affluent neighborhood and one that seems more depressed.
Since then, I’ve moved from the wealthier side, across the tracks.
Hidden behind the currently abandoned Kaiser Convention Center, the crumbly Oakland Unified School District headquarters, and in stark contrast to the luxurious condominiums at 1200 Lakeshore, blight is more common on this, the sometimes more odorous drain end of the Lake.
But it has been a focus of city funding and redevelopment efforts. Along with the Lake Merritt BART Station Area Plan, work to open the Lake to the Estuary and Bay, and efforts to improve business opportunities along International Boulevard, Eastlake is also the site of the future Oakland Unified School District’s Downtown Educational Complex.
It’s also a space for toxic excavation and removal. Days after moving into the neighborhood, the Department of Toxic Substances Control sent a work notice informing us of the toxic removal that would begin on October 15, 2012.
For two months, I have been fascinated by the machinery and destruction. When home, I bring my camera out with me on every cigarette break so I can snap photos of the ongoing process.
Past a motorcycle repair shop, the old Mutual Creamery building, and two aging houses on the corner of 10th Street and 4th Avenue, the Willie D. Harper Building, former site of MetWest High School is now site of what will be the new OUSD Downtown Educational Complex. But first, as many as 565 truckloads of contaminated materials must be removed from the site. (Toxic on Tenth. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
The chain-link fence surrounding the toxic site did little to deter local taggers. Every morning, the OUSD auto shop at 1032 4th Avenue seemed more colorful than it had been the night before. (Tagged for Demolition. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices, 2012)
The shell of the OUSD auto shop with Downtown Oakland and two large residential buildings now visible in the background. (Auto Shop Shell. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Sprayed on the shell of a toxic school site, the “stay in school” cliché is given an amusing twist. (Irony: Stay in School. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012)
Sitting atop a mound of boulders and pulling on snakes of steel, this demolition worker remains poised and calm. (Boy and his Tonka/Man and his Bulldozer. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Three excavators lined up and ready for a hard day’s work. (Three Excavators. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Hollering was necessary in order to coordinate man and machine. (Man and Machine. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Red “Danger” tape on the site’s shattered windows cautions would be trespassers. (Red Ribbon of Danger. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
The Removal Action Workplan (RAW) that was approved requires “dust suppression during work to prevent airborne dust contamination.” Watching the one worker spray the growing pile of toxicity with his garden hose, I wondered if it was enough to protect the neighborhood from airborne toxins. (Hosing the Toxicity. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Regular police patrols along 10th Street deterred taggers on this side of the site, but even as I took this photo I could hear people fumbling in the unlit building salvaging what they could from the former high school. (Unlit Invitation. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
On an inner wall, a mural for children depicts Don Quixote’s battle against his dragon(s). (Quixotic Mural. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Cords, wires and other pieces of school dangle before the ‘dozers come through. (Dangling Lessons. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
Worker flame cuts metal piping. (Flame Cutter. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)
A pile of rubble grows outside the soon-to-be demolished Harper Building. At least three feet of toxic soil will also be excavated from the site – future home of OUSD’s Downtown Educational Complex. (Toxic School Site in Oakland. Edward Cervantes, Oakland Voices 2012.)