Berkeley: In the Fog


Buena Avenue, at McGee Avenue. It’s been foggy here the last couple of mornings (and again today). Last night the fog came back in just after dark. Pretty dramatic. After dinner, “The Colbert Report,” the 10 o’clock news, and walking The Dog, I went out to try take some pictures around the neighborhood. Slideshow to come.

The King’s Daughters Home for Incurables


Broadway in Oakland, between 40th Street and MacArthur Boulevard. I have been up and down this block hundreds of times driving, on the bus, on a bike, and on foot. Late this afternoon, while waiting for a prescription to be filled at one of the Kaiser pharmacies nearby, I took The Dog for a walk. On our way back, just below 40th Street and on what you’d call more or less accurately the east side of Broadway, we crossed a driveway and I looked up. A spare and striking archway said “The King’s Daughters Home.” I went back to the car, grabbed my camera, left the dog, then walked back to the gate. The name alone suggests there’s a story there.


The building, not pictured, is now owned by Kaiser and houses at least part of the organization’s psychiatric and counseling practice. What was it before? To me, “King’s Daughters” suggests what used to be called a lying-in (or maternity) hospital; maybe one for what used to be called young women in trouble.

The actual history: The Broadway facility was indeed a hospital, designed by architect Julia Morgan (perhaps best known as the architect of William Randolph Hearst’s castle on the Central California coast). A gallery of the Kings Daughters Home pictures gives its completion date as 1912, so we’re on the eve of the centennial. What kind of hospital was it?

First, the home took its name from the International Order of Kings Daughters (later “Daughters and Sons”), an interdenominational Christian organization that started in New York in 1886. According to the order’s history, the movement spread rapidly and had 50,000 members across the United States, Canada, and overseas within the first year. The group’s mission was to undertake good works in the name of Christ. If you look for the phrase “King’s Daughters” now, you come across many hospitals across the country that apparently began as projects by local King’s Daughters circle.

In 1890, a San Francisco circle organized The King’s Daughters Home for Incurables. In July 1895, the San Francisco Call detailed the home’s workings, including the high demand for services, the difficulty finding money to provide it, and rates for long-term patients (“life memberships can be secured for those above 60 years of age for $500…”). I’m not sure how long the San Francisco home lasted; I find references to it, first on Francisco Street in North Beach, then on Golden Gate Avenue in the Western Addition, through 1917.

A second home, sometimes called the Alameda County King’s Daughters Home for Incurables, opened in Oakland sometime in the late 1890s (were the two operations connected? I don’t know). A story in the September 3, 1902, edition of the San Francisco Call suggests the home’s first East Bay location may have been at 11th and Oak streets (near the current location of the Oakland Museum). The story mentions a fatal fire there, and the May 10, 1902, Journal of the American Medical Association reported: “The north wing of the King’s Daughters’ Home for Incurables, Oakland, was destroyed by fire, April 28. Despite the heroic efforts of the matron, nurses’ and attendants, one inmate was fatally burned and another will probably die from injuries received.” (The San Jose Evening News published a more complete account under the headline “Awful Fire in Oakland Hospital.” The story says: “That so many inmates were rescued is due to the prompt and heroic action of some of Oakland’s most prominent society ladies who resided in the vicinity of the Home.”)

The fire prompted the home to move to the property at 3900 Broadway, which contained both a building that could be used for temporary quarters and room for a new, permanent hospital. In subsequent years, the Call reported on plans for the new facility (“King’s Daughter Will Erect New Home for Incurables,” March 31, 1906) and a redoubled fund-raising effort to obtain the $100,000 needed to finish the project (August 23, 1910. The story says “Every home in Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda is asked to contribute at least one dollar. Coin envelopes are being distributed from house to house by specially appointed workers, who may be identified by a badge they wear, with ‘King’s Daughters’ printed upon it. Every family is asked to donate what it can, inclosing the amount of the gift in the envelope, which will be called for Thursday, August 25, between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m.” )

Who were the incurables? Those who medical science could not treat: stroke victims, the disabled, patients diagnosed with tuberculosis. One patient in the 1930s and ’40s is said to have been Bess Maddern London, Jack London’s first wife, Bess, who had suffered a crippling stroke. Where did they end up? Mountain View Cemetery, less than a mile away (and designed by another notable architect, Frederick Law Olmstead), reportedly has a section devoted to Kings Daughters patients.

Among the many things I don’t know: When the facility ceased being the Kings (or King’s) Daughters Home for Incurables. Still on the hunt for that, but I’ve got to get to bed.

[Update: One interlocutor asks: Where did the name “King’s Daughters” come from? The order’s history says a Mrs. Irving, one of the founders, suggested that title. “The King” was to be understood to be God. An 1888 poem by an early member spells it out:

“…Her Father sent her in his land to dwell,
Giving to her a work that must be done.
And since the King loves all his people well,
Therefore, she, too, cares for them every one.
Thus when she stoops to lift from want or sin,
The brighter shines her royalty therein. …”]


Berkeley Parking: $516 an Hour

ticket102411.jpgAbout a month ago, I had an errand to run on Berkeley’s Solano Avenue. I needed to go into the bank to get cash to pay our local after-school dog-walker. A row of spaces outside Andronico’s, the grocery near the top of the avenue, was empty. Paying for parking here is a matter of going to a machine that serves the whole block and paying for the time you think you need. The machine dispenses a receipt that displays an expiration time. You put that on your dashboard as “proof of purchase” for the city’s roving parking attendants, and then you go on your way.

I’m usually pretty good about taking care of this; I don’t trust my luck in trying to beat a meter, usually, and I have an aversion to parking tickets. But for whatever reason, I walked into the bank, about 50 yards away, without paying for parking. There was no waiting at the ATM, and I was headed back out to the car no more than three minutes after I’d gotten out. At that point, I saw someone else buying a parking receipt and thought, “Oh, shit.” As I approached the car, the parking attendant came around the rear of the car. She had already written the ticket. I said, “Is it too late?” and she said, “Yes.” I told her I’d intended to pay, which was true enough in a general sense, but didn’t change the fact I’d forgotten this time. I was not happy. She reached out to hand me the ticket, and I refused to take it. “Put it on the windshield,” I told her. And she did. When she walked away (to ticket another car that had just parked), I got out and took the ticket. Forty-three bucks. Making allowances for the possibility I had been gone for five minutes instead of just three, that’s $516 an hour. I’ve paid more; last fall, I paid about $60 for five minutes in an Oakland space that I didn’t realize was timed parking, for a rate of $720 an hour. It’s still galling. (And of course I managed to pay $30 extra this time by not paying the fine immediately.)

One thing I was surprised about in this case was the officer’s arrival immediately after I had parked. I asked a friend whether the attendants lie in wait around that location (as opposed to circulating through the neighborhood, which in theory would give you a chance to get away with a three- or five-minute violation). She said they do. And not only that, one officer has drawn complaints for writing tickets while newly arrived drivers are in the process of purchasing their parking receipts.

Yes, I’m crying over spilt milk, and none of this comes as a surprise to anyone who lives in a big city. Financial times are tough for cities that are still expected to deliver services. Still, you can’t help feeling a little shaken-down when a five-minute lapse of attention winds up costing you this much. Grace period, anyone?

Further reading:

San Francisco Chronicle: S.F. parking meter rates, fines among the priciest

San Francisco schedule of parking fines (you can get a $105 fine for removing parking control chalk marks)

Oakland’s schedule of parking fines (note you can get a $45 ticket for leaving a key in the ignition)

City of Berkeley: Last year’s proposed increases in parking fines (city manager recommended a $5 across-the-board increase, City Council adopted a $3 increase. One reason for the hike: the state Legislature, in perennially courageous pass-the-buck fashion, has passed a series of bills that skim ticket revenue from cities and counties for courthouse construction; the cities and counties in turn have been raising fines so that they can pay the new state levy).

Morning Sky Show: Hawk vs. Crows


I’ve read that in other parts of the country, West Nile virus has had a devastating impact on crows, with 90 percent of the population dying in some places. In the small piece of California I see regularly, it’s a different story. The crow population seems not only healthy, but ascendant, with crows for now crowding out songbirds and less aggressive species. It’s not at all uncommon to see crows, usually in pairs or small groups, take on hawks–red-tailed hawks in particular, which are one of the most common raptors in this part of California. On our way out the door this morning to walk The Dog, five crows were harassing a red-tailed hawk high over the street. This scuffle went on for several minutes, with the hawk circling higher and higher into the sky and the crows keeping up their attack. One by one the crows dropped away until just two were chasing the bigger bird. The hawk finally stopped circling and made a beeline to the southwest. (Click images for larger versions.)



Old Business

1. Anniversary week: This here blog turned eight years old (56 if it was a dog blog) on Tuesday, the 22nd. I was thinking of writing a post on the Top 10 Things I Have Learned blogging, and maybe I still will. For now I’ll just say thanks to the happy few regular readers out there.

2. A falcon makes it home: A while back I pointed to a site that was following a site that was following a peregrine falcon on her migration from Canada’s Baffin Island to the central coast of Chile. The update: She’s made it home.

3. Aftermath of apartment house fire at Telegraph and Haste in Berkeley: There’s been some good follow-up coverage:

Daily Californian: Open letter to mayor from tenants displaced by fire
Berkeleyside: The Sequoia Building: At heart of Berkeley’s rich heritage
Berkeleyside: Friday’s fire another ‘hit in the face’ for Telegraph Avenue
Berkeley Daily Planet: Sequoia fire investigation ongoing

4. Happy Thanksgiving: Well, that’s not old business. And if you’re still facing that cooking thing, some advice:

PM Getaway, Holiday Eve


I almost never drive to work in the city (San Francisco) at regular commute hours. I go in at midday, usually, and return home well after the last of the evening commute. But today I drove because it was the day before the holiday and the morning rush hour was light. I waited a little too long to start home, till almost 3:30, and this is what happened: a long (but standard) jam on the western approach to the Bay Bridge. The stop-and-go and merge after merge after merge slows you down so you can reflect on why you love living here.

Tree vs. Car


While walking The Dog in the rain and wind late Saturday night, I heard the sound of heavy equipment somewhere in the neighborhood. I wondered if the noise was carrying all the way from Telegraph Avenue, where a big apartment building had burned the night before. Was it being demolished already? But while circling back toward home, I spotted what looked like a city tree-maintenance crew working on McGee Avenue south of Cedar. We detoured to investigate, and the crew turned out to be one guy who was cutting up a fallen liquidambar tree as a police officer and several bystanders looked on. In the dark, it was hard to see what had happened; the tree appeared to have snapped off about six or seven feet above the ground (it was windy out, but not that windy). Oh, and it looked like there was a car under the fallen tree.

Next day, our morning walk took us back by the spot. The car: worse for wear, a condition the owner apparently had yet to discover. The tree: still a little mysterious how it came down, though a neighbor passed by and said the truck had split and the crown of the tree had fallen in separate directions. I’m not a tree guy, so I don’t know if they’re prone to a sudden failure like this. But seeing that one tree down has changed the way I look at all the other liquidambars along the street. (Click pictures for larger images.)


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Blue 99 Percent Obama


I’ve meant to get a picture of this only-in-Berkeley muralette for a while. I finally snapped it yesterday while I was taking pictures of a neighborhood mishap (tree vs. car) across the street. Not sure when this piece was done, but the first time I noticed it was at night, when it had a spotlight on it, probably around the time Obama was inaugurated. I like the way it’s been updated with the sign in the window. (Below, the mural in situ.)


Berkeley Retail Wars: ‘Occupy Hopkins Street’


Berkeley is blessed with several lovely neighborhood shopping districts. A couple of those areas feature stores that started out as world-class produce markets and have turned into big groceries. One of those is Berkeley Bowl, so called because it opened in an old bowling alley on Shattuck Avenue in South Berkeley. The Bowl now has two big stores, a fanatic following, and its share of idiosyncrasies (a few years ago, when a Los Angeles Times ran a piece on the sometimes frenetic strangeness of the Berkeley Bowl scene, including its practice of lifetime bans for shoppers who sample produce without buying, the writer himself was banned).

In our neighborhood, the Monterey Market is a legendary produce emporium. Its proximity is a real-estate selling point. I will say that perhaps I have not taken full advantage of this resource. It’s ridiculously crowded most of the time and often the produce hasn’t seemed like the greatest (we all have standards by which we judge; I’m attuned to the condition of the yellow and red onions). The store is not without its own peculiar baggage: A couple years ago, a falling out among members of the family that owns the half-century-old market led the brother who had managed the store to step down. At the time, it was hinted that a desire among some members of the owners, the Fujimotos, wanted the enterprise to become more profitable (my friend and former San Francisco Examiner colleague Carol Ness wrote about the situation here: Ethicurean: “Fujimotos’ departure from Monterey Market a tough blow to local food chain”).

The market has changed visibly since the management changed. Nothing radical–it just looks a little spruced up. At the same time, there has been some unease in the Hopkins Street neighborhood about the new management’s practice of more aggressively stocking items also sold by local specialty stores. Last year, I ran down to the market to buy flowers from the guy who had a little floral business on the street outside the market. He’d been there for years, always had a nice selection, and made beautiful bouquets. He complained that the store had begun selling flowers and was doing so much more cheaply than he could and was driving him out of business. He felt it was a little unsporting and complained that the owners had other plans, such as opening a to-go coffee window that would compete with the cafe across the street. “I don’t understand,” he said. “Why can’t there be enough for everyone out here? Why do they feel like they need to take it all?” I don’t know the current status of the flower-seller; I haven’t seen him since that day.

But apparently that sentiment is spreading. This morning, a friend forwarded an email about a petition that’s being circulated in one some of the other shops on Hopkins Street. The email’s subject line: “Occupy Hopkins, aka there’s enough for everyone.” It says, in part: “MM (Monterey Market) has expanded its supply of wines and the liquor store on the corner is really suffering. They have added a large variety of gourmet cheeses and sausages…the same varieties as Country Cheese….and have reduced prices below what Country Cheese can afford to do, causing a reduction in the cheese store’s business. They also have added a large variety of plants and flowers and herbs in direct competition with Berkeley Hort Nursery, the flower vendor on the street, and Freshly Cut.”

The petition aims to get the attention of the Monterey Market owners as well as encourage people to patronize all the shops in the small retail district. At bottom, this is the Wal-mart vs. Main Street battle in miniature–a bigger competitor with bigger purchasing power threatening smaller, limited rivals. We know how the Wal-mart fight usually goes, I think. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in microcosm.