Tag Archives: downtown Oakland

No. 52: Kaiser Center Roof Garden

The Kaiser Center Roof Garden

The Kaiser Center Roof Garden is only open weekdays.

The story goes that, when industrialist Henry J. Kaiser considered the view from his new office in downtown Oakland, he said he didn’t want to look at the bare rooftop of a parking garage. So the Kaiser Center Roof Garden was created, using lightweight soil and strategically placing trees over the pillars in the garage below.

The garden, which covers a surprising 3.5 acres, still has a vintage Sunset Western Garden feel — the composite walks wind beneath olives, oaks and magnolia trees. Broad crescents of well-tended grass flank shallow reflecting pools and planters filled with seasonal annuals. Even on a windy winter day, people were using the garden for lunchtime walks or to read on a relatively protected bench.

The only entrances to the garden are inside the Kaiser Center garage (choose floor RG) or via the second-floor pedestrian bridge from the Kaiser Center itself, so you can only visit it when the building is open (7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday). The garden may also be reserved for private functions or weddings.

Across the street, you can also walk through the plaza of the new Catholic Cathedral of Christ the Light, an open space bordered by a row of young redwoods, a cafe and gift shop, and the cathedral itself, with its dramatic modern shape.

A few steps away are the shores of Lake Merritt, with its necklace of lights. It’s puzzling why old Henry J. didn’t just ask for an office on this side of the building, but it’s just as well for downtown that he didn’t.

Getting there: The Kaiser Center is at 300 Lakeside Drive. Buses and BART run nearby.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Besides the cathedral, the Kaiser Center is within walking distance of Uptown. The city has set up a parklet in the street outside Farley’s East and Vo’s Restaurant, at Grand Avenue and Webster Street.

More information: About the Kaiser Center.

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No. 49: Laney College

Laney College's small park straddles the estuary that feeds Lake Merritt.

Laney College’s small park straddles the estuary that feeds Lake Merritt.

“It’s beautiful out there, if you just accept the fact that it’s raining,” was how my partner summed up the morning. As the wettest week of the year drew to its close, I sought out a short, paved route: the small park that straddles the estuary feeding Lake Merritt.

Start on 10th Street, between the Laney College tennis courts and the child  care center. The half-mile loop drops below sidewalk level and follows the estuary, snaking past the art center and pool building. Landscaping is casual, but turned bright green by the rain. At Eighth Street, you’ll take a short detour up to street level, cross the estuary, and come down again next to the baseball court.

Several frankly generic pieces of modern sculpture guard the path on this side, and a complex of park benches in a stand of trees would be a shady spot to have lunch or take a break from class. The Lake Merritt trio of seagulls, coots and Canada geese is browsing in the grass; the coots, alarmed by the pedestrian, take off in a group, their stubby wings working frantically.

Once construction on 12th Street is finished, it should be easier to extend this walk along the lake. Future work on the channel will provide a better connection to Estuary Park and the Bay Trail.

Getting there: Laney College is on 10th Street near Oak Street. Bus and BART serve the campus, and street parking is free on Sundays and easily available when class is not in session.

More information: On the Laney College page.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The Oakland Museum of California is across the street; Chinatown is within easy walking distance.

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