Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category


Updating the blogroll

March 8, 2011

In the last year of neglecting this poor blog, I haven’t been paying much attention to the blogroll. But since many of these blogs are the same blogs I read on my own feed (which I’ve also not been paying much attention to), I realized recently that it’s woefully out of date. Many of these are gone or on hiatus, and there are a bunch of new ones that ought to be on this list, too.

So this month, I’m going to try to clean up this list. What’s missing? Any favorite Oakland, house, or garden blogs you’d like to see included? (I can’t list everything, but I know there are lots that I haven’t discovered or have forgotten to add, so I’d love some help on this!) I’ll also take off any blogs that have gone dark, so there will be room for some fun new ones.



What we’ve been doing: Getting married!

July 7, 2010
Ceremony at Oakland’s Lake Temescal (Photo from Steve)

Ukelele vows!Ukelele vows! (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Exchanging the ringsExchanging the rings (Photo from Oliver & Nicole)

Among the many things we’ve been busy with while this blog has been on hiatus for the past five months is, of course, our wedding! A very big thank you to everyone who made our wedding day amazing:

  • Our wonderful friends and family, of course (and especially our fantabulous parents, siblings, and friends-turned-officiants, who really went the extra mile to make the weekend incredible!)
  • The East Bay Regional Parks District staff and Lake Temescal Regional Park, home to the Beach House, which turned out to be a practically perfect venue
  • Carrie Dove Catering in Emeryville/West Oakland and especially Kelly and Adam, who not only did a terrific job running the show before and during the reception, but even left a goodies basket on our doorstep a few days beforehand to get us through the last hours of planning
  • Pizza Politana and especially Joe, who cooked us tasty pies that we’re still hearing about (and remembered to bring anchovies for D!)
  • Moonbaby Cakes in San Francisco, who baked up a beautiful sea of cupcakes
  • Oak Barrel Winecraft in West Berkeley, who hooked D. up with his homebrew supplies to make half the beer, and Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, who handled the rest
  • Slanted Door in San Francisco and their amazing sommelier, who handled the wine (thanks J!)
  • Fran Guidry, who serenaded the crowd with his slack-key guitar
  • DJ Tim, who not only jumped in on an eleventh hour recommendation (thanks J & K!), but managed to please just about everyone…and all without playing the Chicken Dance!
  • Christina Richards, who took an amazing number of photos (with an impressive array of cameras!) that we can’t wait to see (Update: first pics are posted here!)
  • Western Sun Floral at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, who supplied the beautiful flowers and bouquet (which my parents, aunts, and uncle turned into incredible arrangements!)
  • The Wedding Party in Rockridge, where Clara and Jennifer hooked me up with a lovely dress
  • Philippa Roberts on Piedmont Avenue, where we found the perfect rings (made by Carla Caruso) and jewelry (from Philippa’s collection)
  • Entourage Spa in Orinda, who not only handled our bunch of girls with grace, but also got bonus points for letting us watch the U.S. battle Ghana at the same time…
  • The Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square, where our friends and family had a great stay
  • Cocina Poblana in Jack London Square, where D.’s parents hosted a delicious welcome dinner (with amazing margaritas!) for friends and family, and where we may have convinced at least a couple of people to move to California for the food!
  • The Claremont Hotel, where we successfully pretended to be a million miles from home on the wedding night thanks to a wonderful gift from D’s parents

Thank you, thank you, thank you—we love you all!

Trivia prizesCeremony trivia prizes! This is what happens when your best friends are artists… (And it was awesome—thanks J, N & D!)  (Photo from Steve)


Helping Haiti

January 14, 2010
The devastation in the wake of the Haiti earthquake is obviously touching people around the globe, but it’s been particularly poignant here in earthquake country, where we are acutely aware of the destruction that the moving earth can bring. There are a number of national organizations funneling resources into Haiti, but I just wanted to plug a few local efforts for anyone looking to get involved in the relief effort. Feel free to add others in the comments.

California Nurses Association
The Oakland-based California Nurses Association is coordinating with National Nurses United and other nursing organizations to send desperately needed registered nurses to Haiti to provide medical care in the aftermath of the earthquake as part of the Registered Nurses Response Network. Over 4,500 7,000! nurses have volunteered to go nationally, but CNA still needs money for flights to get people there. You can make a tax-deductible donation here. They are also accepting in-kind donations of supplies; call for more details.

First Christian Church of Oakland (111 Fairmount Avenue at 29th Street)

FCC is creating much-needed hygiene kits, which they’ll be assembling during worship. If you’d like to contribute supplies, each kit will need the following:

  • One hand towel measuring approximately 16″ x 28″ (no fingertip or bath towels)
  • One washcloth
  • One wide-tooth comb
  • One nail clipper (no metal files or
  • emery boards)
  • One bar of soap (bath size in wrapper)
  • One toothbrush (in original packaging)
  • Six Band-Aids
You can drop any donations off in the front foyer between 9 and 11 am on Sunday mornings. For more information, contact Sandhya Jha, Pastor, at the church.

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund
The East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, a Berkeley support and advocacy organization for refugees and immigrants, runs the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. They are collecting funds both for the immediate crisis and for the future rebuilding of the nation. You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Finally, please remember to think of Haiti not just today and tomorrow, but in the coming weeks, months, and years, as well. Like the Gulf Coast, Haiti will be rebuilding for years to come, and it’s critical that this already extraordinarily vulnerable nation gets the support it needs to prevent tragedies like this one in the future. In the words of Tracy Kidder (from his excellent piece on Haiti for the New York Times this week), “while earthquakes are acts of nature, extreme vulnerability to earthquakes is manmade.” Help make sure Haitians have the resources to rebuild right this time!

The blog in review: 2009 reflections and 2010 resolutions

January 3, 2010

One of the things I find intriguing about blogging is seeing who reads what, where they come from, and how they found their way to this under-the-radar blog. City Homestead began as a journal of sorts to chronicle our adventures as first-time homeowners; the main purpose at the beginning was just to have a place to post photographs of our meager attempts at home improvement for our families, with an occasional photo of our then-new dog thrown in for good measure. In the past year and a half, though, this blog has morphed into a more multi-purpose space for thoughts and reflections on a wide array of things.

Since 2009 marks my first full year blogging, I thought it would be interesting to put together a top-ten hit list. This is a little skewed towards posts earlier in the year because mid-year I switched the blog feed to allow people to read full posts without clicking through to the site, but it still gives a taste of what’s on people’s minds. Here’s what you’ve been reading about this year:

10. Big Black Dog: Our dog continues to be infinitely more popular than just about anything else I write about (which is funny given how infrequently I post about him!) Yes, I promise—more photos in the year to come!

9. Where to get married in Oakland and Berkeley: Okay, I put this up primarily because the legwork to put this list together for our summer wedding was so exhausting that I didn’t want anyone else to have to reinvent the wheel. Who knew so many people wanted to know?!? Astoundingly, this post—which went up in November—has drawn more visits in two months than most posts draw over a year. Huh. I’ll continue to add to it as we learn more about various venues and other local resources.

8. All about Auto Row: The two-year Auto Row planning process launched this past year, and I’ve been excited by the number of people who are extraordinarily interested in the future of our little corner of Oakland. I like writing about planning and I like writing about the ‘hood, so obviously I love writing about this project (and there will certainly be more to come on that front in 2010).

7. Rain barrels: We’ll get these done soon, I promise! The posts on rain barrels, lawn replacement, and other eco gardening strategies draw a lot of readers from out in the wide blue yonder. I’ve also seen the number of people searching for these topics rise month by month, which I suspect (hope?) reflects growing concern and interest in living more sustainably. As we tackle more projects along these lines, I’ll post more on them, and will also try to get some better step-by-step guides up in the future.

6. Mapping Oakland: If I combined the numbers for all of the Oakland mapping and neighborhood posts, they would probably trump some of the things higher on the list. A lot of people out there were especially intrigued by Robert Lemon’s neighborhood boundaries project, and I’m excited to finally see his results in the not-too-distant future. It’s also nice to know people like reading about things like this, because I love writing about them (and researching Oakland history in general—it’s good to put that history degree to work!) so it gives me a good excuse to spend some quality time at the library.

5. Dine About Oakland: The Dine About Oakland series continues to be one of the more popular things I write about. That works out well, because it’s also one of the things that’s really fun to write about (and of course you can’t beat the primary research involved!) My main challenge here is to avoid posting back-to-back restaurant reflections, which is a nice problem to have!

4. The Parkway Theater: The closing of the Parkway was a big deal in Oakland and especially in the neighborhoods around the lake, and the series of posts last spring here and on other Oakland blogs drew a lot of readers. I still get periodic hits on this one from the I Love the Parkway site, which makes me happy because it’s good to know people are still thinking about the theater and its future even as it sits shuttered nearly a year later.

3. How to earthquake-proof your home: Not surprising in earthquake country, I guess, but this 2008 post got a lot of love this year too. I still haven’t posted photos from our seismic retrofit, so I’ll try to snap some soon. I often forget about old posts after they’re up, so it’s good to have a reminder to revisit and reflect on them.

2. Building a bungalow garden: This is an interesting one at number two for the year. This post gets almost daily hits months after it first went up, which may be due in part to the fact that with a couple of notable exceptions, no one is really writing about bungalow gardens. (Hey landscape architects and historians, here’s a great book idea!) I got a little sidetracked on garden planning this year, but as I return to it and get deeper into the research, I’ll put up more historic plans.

And last but not least:

1. Thoughts on a fractured city: One of the first posts of 2009, this essay got picked up by a lot of fellow bloggers, who are largely responsible for drawing so much traffic to it. Writing this in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant killing was a really a therapeutic process for me as I worked through my own feelings and frustrations about the shooting and its aftermath. Initially, I didn’t intend it for the blog at all and posted it on a whim, so I was a little surprised to see the reception it got—I heard from a lot of people both on and offline, and it helped to discover how many other Oaklanders struggled with the same emotions. This post had the interesting side effect of drawing a lot more local readers to the blog, though; up until then the majority of readers had been folks from the house blogger community. That’s given me an incentive to broaden the scope of what I write about to include a lot more posts about Oakland history and planning, two things I love to learn about.

So there you have it. This year, I’m resolving to try to write, and therefore post, more regularly, in part because 2010 promises to be filled with craziness (of the good kind, hopefully), and in a funny way writing and other forms of journaling go a long way in keeping me sane and happy. I’m also hoping to carve some time out to delve a little more deeply into some of my history projects, and to do a better job documenting our house projects in general. (Okay, and also to do a better job finishing the house projects I start…) That should be more than enough to keep me busy with all the other projects running this year.

Happy 2010!


Snow: It’s not just for WordPress blogs anymore! (Or: A winter primer for Californians)

December 9, 2009

Okay, so temps just below freezing aren’t exactly considered a “deep freeze” anywhere else in the country. But around here, where we just planted all our winter seedlings and the citrus harvest is about to start, the frozen soil was  a bit of a shocker, and the snow-covered hills caught just about everyone by surprise.

Once I dug all my warm wool clothes out of storage, I remembered that once upon a time I used to know all about winter. However, my New England know-how never covered topics like what to do if the oranges on your tree are frozen solid or your December lettuce starts are wilting, so I had to hit the interweb to figure out what on earth you’re supposed to do when California freezes over.

How can I keep my garden from being damaged by the frost?

  • Water your plants, especially veggie starts, before the frost. If there’s a frost in the forecast, water your plants well and make sure the soil is moist. Spray the leaves with water, too. Don’t water them after the frost, though—just let them “defrost” on their own.
  • Protect plants physically. In places where temperatures are regularly below freezing, people build frames and other devices to warm plants up. But around here, a simple covering is more than sufficient, since the freeze isn’t likely to last too long (I hope!) Blankets, newspaper, cardboard boxes, and milk cartons all work well. Try not to have the covering in direct contact with the plants—it should be more like a little tent of warm(er) air around the plant.
  • Help your trees out too. Small trees can be covered just like other plants. Larger trees can be warmed up with things as simple as Christmas tree lights (but not the schmancy new LED ones!) Trees should be kept moist just like plants (though it’s not really an issue given all the rain that came with this storm!)

How do I know if my plants were damaged by the frost?

  • First and foremost, wait it out till warmer weather returns. Then you’ll be able to assess the signs. On citrus, damaged fruit will get swollen and puffy and the rind will separate. Damaged leaves may get brown spots. Don’t start pruning off any damaged wood till the spring, though—the tree may surprise you!
  • On vegetables, frost damage isn’t subtle. The plants will wilt, look like they’re water logged, and then turn brown and die. There’s not too much you can do once the damage is done, though, so again—just wait and see. Generally, the hearty winter vegetables should hold their own in this (relatively!) mild cold, but if you have lots of lettuce starts in like we do, you may lose some of them.

Other wintry weather tips

Black ice = bad. And there’s been some in various parts of the Bay this week. First, know that you can’t always see black ice on the road. If you hit it, you’ll feel it. Don’t brake quickly. Definitely don’t accelerate! Just ease onto the brake slowly and try to use the steering wheel to control the car, rather than the brakes or the gas. If you start to skid, don’t panic—just turn the wheel into the skid to regain control of the car. And leave lots of space between the car in front of you, just in case you do hit a patch of ice.

Heat = good. This is the part where the East Coasters’ and Midwesterners’ eyes start to bug out, but there are still a decent number of houses in the Bay Area that don’t have heat, since it’s not needed most of the year. But it’s obviously a good idea to have some heat flowing right now, especially in areas where, say, pets are sleeping that may not be heated normally. Also, frozen pipes are not fun. I don’t think it will get cold enough for long enough in Oakland for this to be an issue, but Contra Costa County’s already under a frozen pipe alert. You can insulate outdoor pipes somewhat by wrapping them in rags or newspaper or the pipe insulation stuff they (hopefully?) sell at local hardware stores. On the off chance they do freeze, you can run water to try to get them moving again (assuming you’ve got at least a trickle coming through—but around here you probably do!), or use an iron or hair dryer on low to warm them up a bit.

Warm winter food = the best. Hot chocolate! Steel cut oats! Cream of wheat! Root vegetable pot pie! These are a few of my favorite things…and I eat them far too infrequently in sunny California. Perfect winter snow food—yay!

    Anyway. While we Californians have fun with our measly little snow piles, our storm is apparently headed east with a fury (or maybe a flurry?) As it gets past the Rockies, it should drop some real snow. Have fun!


    Where to get married (or host other large events!) in Oakland and Berkeley

    November 3, 2009

    So, as a lot of people already know, we recently decided to get married (because clearly that is a smart thing to do when you’re about to blow $15K on a kitchen remodel…) We thought picking a nice place nearby would be a relatively simple endeavor, especially since D. was set on avoiding the Wedding Industrial Complex at all costs. Turns out not so much—so this has consequently been consuming way too many free evenings and weekends over the last six weeks (one of several reasons I haven’t been posting much lately!)

    We’ve finally settled on a place, but now I have  a ridiculous amount of research on wedding venues in the East Bay. So, with apologies to people who read this blog because they like houses, gardens, Oakland, or our dog, I’m going to take a quick side trip to Wedding Land so that the next person to go venue hunting in Oakland and Berkeley won’t have to dedicate quite so many hours to it. (I promise this will be just about the only wedding-related post!)

    This list of venues focuses on Oakland and Berkeley, mostly because we figured if we were going to have to drive over the hill to Lamorinda, we might as well head further afield and go to Marin or Sonoma. I thought it was important to keep our festivities local in spaces that were meaningful to us—there are some gorgeous destination spots across the Bay Area, but I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of visiting someplace for the first time to have a wedding there.

    Prices listed here are current as of October 2009. Except where noted, all venues were priced for eight hours on a summer Saturday evening for a group of 100 with kitchen use; many venues offer discounts for other days of the week or for winter events. Some park spaces also allow you to mix and match rooms and charge accordingly. Prices do not include liability insurance or sound and alcohol permits, which many of these venues require. Asterisks indicate that the venue has catering restrictions, usually a list of approved caterers from which you can choose.


    Dimond Park (Dimond): Tucked between the Glenview and Dimond Districts, Dimond Park offers two large picnic areas, Redwood Grove and Sequoia. Both can be reserved for events. No alcohol is allowed.
    Cost: $75 per day per picnic area

    Estuary Park (Oakland Estuary): A waterfront park near Jack London Aquatic Center, this spot offers gorgeous views and more grassy lawns for picnics. No alcohol is allowed.
    Cost: Varies by number of guests ($50 to $250)

    Joaquin Miller Park (Oakland hills): Beautiful WPA-era park with several popular wedding sites and some picnic grounds available as well. Owned by the City of Oakland, but very close to the EBRPD parks; I have trouble keeping track of which parks OPR runs and which parks EBRPD runs! Alcohol and amplified sound require permits. (This is also the only city park in Oakland that allows alcohol.) Picnics must be done by 10 pm.
    Cost: Varies by specific site ($100 to $200)

    Kaiser Rooftop Garden (Uptown): This amazing garden up on the roof of the Kaiser Center garage is one of Oakland’s best-kept secrets. If you haven’t been, you must go—it’s an absolutely incredible, huge  space with mature trees, paths, landscaping, and more. Contrary to what we’d initially heard, they do rent the garden for events despite the fact that the restaurant has closed. There are no rules beyond providing proof of insurance and paying the security guard, but the flip side is that there are also few amenities offered. (They provide access to the building’s bathrooms for your guests, but you need to arrange everything else and coordinate with them to bring things like tables and chairs up the freight elevator.) Still, this made our short list and I really, really wanted to make the numbers work, because how often can you get married in a secret garden?!? (Sadly, the gap between this option and the next contender was over $1,000 so I just couldn’t justify the added expense.) Update: This space  is now being managed by a new company that requires all-inclusive catering, flowers, and more. Ah, well. So much for the great creative option!
    Cost: $1,600 $155/head

    Lakeside Park (Lake Merritt): Ringing the north end of the lake, Lakeside Park offers both grassy lawns (once the construction is finished!) and a bandstand that’s popular for ceremonies. Both can be reserved. No alcohol is allowed.
    Cost: Varies by number of guests ($50 to $250); additional fee to reserve bandstand

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline (Oakland Estuary): Beautiful views at another EBRPD park. My main hang-up there was that I’ve run community meetings there, and right off the bat I ruled out any place work-related (as did D., which was somewhat sad because he actually works at one of the more popular wedding spots in Berkeley!) Picnics must be done by sundown.
    Cost: Varies by site capacity ($100 to $200)

    Morcom Rose Garden (Piedmont Avenue): This is a gorgeous spot for a wedding ceremony. Unfortunately for us, we’re doing a pretty low-key ceremony and there’s no place near the Rose Garden to host a reception outdoors, so it didn’t make a lot of sense as a location. But if you’re doing a larger ceremony, it would be among my top picks. (Notably, it is walking distance to Camino, and they do buy-outs for large receptions, which could be a pretty tasty affair!)
    Cost: $115 per hour for residents/$135 per hour for non-residents

    Mountain View Cemetery (Piedmont Avenue): A little weird, yes. But the Olmsted-designed space was originally intended to be “churchyard, graveyard, park, and garden”—and they rent their chapels for wedding ceremonies and allow receptions on the open lawns in their beautiful historic space. Plus, a lot of cool people are buried here—who wouldn’t want the likes of Julia Morgan, Samuel Merritt, Bernard Maybeck, Henry Kaiser, and more as witnesses?

    Redwood & Roberts Regional Parks (Oakland hills): Two more pretty EBRPD Oakland hills spaces. A little warmer than the Berkeley hills, but still a bit unpredictable on the weather front. Most EBRPD group picnic grounds allow alcohol. Picnics must be done by sundown.
    Cost: Varies by site capacity ($100 to $200)

    Snow Park (Lake Merritt): Just across from Lake Merritt, Snow Park has huge grassy lawns that can be reserved for events. No alcohol.
    Cost: Varies by number of guests ($50 to $250)

    Tilden Park (Berkeley hills): Tilden Park, owned by the East Bay Regional Parks District, has a number of picnic sites throughout the park. Four of them can accommodate large groups: Willows (100), Padre (150),  Laurel (150), and Mineral Springs (200). This is my top pick for picnic spaces because Tilden is such a phenomenal park, with the Botanical Garden, Merry-Go-Round, Little Farm, Steam Train (that allows dogs to ride!), Lake Anza, and more. Picnics must be done by sundown. Some sites require park catering permits.
    Cost: Varies by site capacity ($100 to $200)

    There are a ridiculous number of these in Oakland and Berkeley, and many of them are gorgeous. Unfortunately, the gorgeous ones tend to be a) expensive (well, at least relatively speaking!) and b) booked well in advance. Many of the sites also have catering restrictions, and at most you can’t serve hard alcohol, if that’s a factor.

    *Brazilian Room, Tilden Park (Berkeley hills): Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous—its reputation is well-deserved. The Brazilian Room was originally built as the Brazilian Pavilion for the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island. When the exposition ended, the country of Brazil presented it to the East Bay Regional Park District as a gift of friendship. However, because it’s so amazing, it also falls into the booked-way-in-advance category. So, a no go for us. (Notably, EBRPD opens its spaces to residents of Alameda and Contra Costa Counties before opening them to the general public, so if you’re looking for a venue for 2011 and you’re a resident, you can reserve the Brazilian Room beginning this week. Reservations open to the general public after the new year.)
    Cost: $2,150 resident/$2,580 non-resident for seven hours; $3,800 resident/$4,560 non-resident for twelve hours

    Jack London Aquatic Center (Oakland Estuary): Lovely waterfront views, though the banquet room itself is rather utilitarian (because, after all, this is an aquatic center!)
    Cost: $1,800

    Joaquin Miller Community Center (Oakland hills): This is a huge community center up in Joaquin Miller Park; it wasn’t really my style, but does provide plenty of space and a nice connected deck with a view. Additional rooms can be added to expand the capacity well beyond 100.
    Cost: $1,530 resident/$1,874 non-resident

    Lake Merritt Sailboat House (Lake Merritt): Not to be confused with the Lake Merritt Boat House, which now houses Lake Chalet, the Sailboat House is a 1960s-era facility used most of the time for boat rentals of various types. The upstairs features a large banquet-style room with a deck that overlooks the lake, though. It’s beautiful, but the space itself has a very 1960s-vibe, and on the day I visited it, was also very damp and sailboat-smelling. (In fairness, it was right after the massive rains, though.) I think you could spin that into a great nautical theme of some sort, though, and the view at night has got to be incredible.
    Cost: $750 resident/$870 non-resident

    *Lake Temescal Beach House, Temescal Regional Park (Upper Rockridge): For some reason, this lower-key EBRPD facility is off of people’s radar, even though it’s lovely in its own right. That’s nice, though, because it means it’s easy to book! The beach house overlooks Lake Temescal and has a terrace behind it, and there are pathways leading up to a small waterfall and down to the lake itself. Like the Brazilian Room, though, the Beach House has caterer restrictions and a few other idiosyncrasies.
    Cost: $1,500 resident/$1,800 non-resident

    Lakeside Garden Center (Lake Merritt): The Garden Center, another Lakeside Park gem, has a mix of rooms that have a pretty typical community center feel. Like most of Oakland’s community centers, this is another 1960s-esque building—but it has a beautiful Japanese garden behind it, and the Garden Room has a wall of windows and doors that open up into the garden itself, allowing events to flow between indoor and outdoor areas seamlessly. The major caveat: Oakland garden clubs get preference for this venue and don’t schedule super far in advance, so you theoretically can’t book this space until six months before your event. (In practice, they do sometimes bend the rules and book this space earlier than that depending on who picks up the phone, which we learned the hard way! So it’s wise to submit your paperwork well before the six-month mark, despite what OPR may tell you.) For larger events or banquets there are multiple rooms that can be combined.
    Cost: $1,170 resident/$1,350 non-resident
    for Garden Room with Japanese Garden

    Leona Lodge (Montclair): In the end I didn’t look at this one in person inside, but I did find out that it’s newly-renovated, and they’ve stripped the wood back to natural so it’s apparently much lighter inside than Sequoia is. Leona also has an outdoor BBQ pit, which could be a nice plus. (We wandered around the outside on a walk one day and didn’t love the disconnect between the indoor and outdoor spaces, though.) It also holds a slightly larger crowd than Sequoia.
    Cost: $750 resident/$870 non-resident

    Oakland Asian Cultural Center (Chinatown): Another spot we’ve used for work….ah well! Huge and good for large banquets, though.
    Cost: $1,650 plus $550 for kitchen access

    Piedmont Community Hall (Piedmont proper): Wonderful—and crazy expensive unless you’re a Piedmont resident. Has a sweet little tea house that can be rented for an additional fee. (Maybe I can take all our misaddressed mail—we share a zip code with Piedmont and frequently get junk mail listing Piedmont as the city—and pretend?!?) Actually it’s pretty expensive even if you do live there, and it books up light years in advance.
    Cost: $2,400 resident/$3,500 non-resident

    Piedmont Veterans Hall (Piedmont proper): As Piedmont venues go, this one is a bit more reasonably priced, but it just didn’t strike me in the same way the Community Hall did. (I imagine that’s the case for others, too, which explains the big discrepancy in price!)
    Cost: $1,545 resident/$1,900 non-resident

    Sequoia Lodge (Montclair): I love this little lodge, tucked up in Montclair. It’s a very rustic space under the redwoods, complete with a stone fireplace and conversation circle inside. It fell off the list only because it was so dark and we’re getting married in June, so it didn’t seem like a good fit. Outdoor space was also really important to D., and the extensive deck at Sequoia is all covered by a wood overhang, making it dark and not especially outdoorsy. I’d do a winter wedding (or a winter anything!) here in a heartbeat, though. All City-owned Oakland venues provide tables and chairs and rent linens, which was a big plus.
    Cost: $750 resident/$870 non-resident

    Studio One Art Center (Temescal): This is another newly-renovated facility (Oakland tax dollars at work!), but the only outdoor space is the courtyard out front, which is very, very public. Not quite what we wanted. Studio One also requires more extensive permits for special events (probably because it is located in a residential neighborhood), although they do at least seem to have a fairly streamlined process for getting these. This seems like a great spot for fundraisers, though—they even have a theater.
    Cost: $1,260 resident/$1,700 non-resident

    *UC Botanical Garden (Berkeley hills): Beautiful, but a little close to work for D.’s taste. A wide range of spaces for rent, though; on Saturday you must book the center in its entirety, but on other days of the week you can opt to book smaller rooms and gardens, so it would be perfect for a wedding of 30 or so.
    Cost: $2,200 plus $250 for Redwood Grove and Amphitheatre; $250 buyout to use outside caterer

    Assorted other Oakland community centers: Most of the recreation centers in the city can be reserved for a fee. Since I’ve never been to most of them, it seemed silly to write anything much about them….but some popular picks include Dimond Recreation Center, Redwood Heights Recreation Center, and the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, among others.
    Cost: Varies by number of guests ($75 to $250)

    Again, lots of local options here, many of them beautiful. A constraint with some of the more popular museum venues is the catering restriction, though.

    Camron-Stanford House (Lake Merritt): I thought this would be a top contender, but it turns out that it’s much better suited to an all-indoor or all-outdoor event, because the spaces are not especially well connected to one another. This house museum has a formal dining room, a veranda, and a backyard that are all lovely—but we wanted the three to be connected so that people could flow. Another sticking point was that this used to be one of the least costly venues, but prices have gone way up. At $1,500, it was hard to justify—especially since this is also the only venue we looked at that doesn’t provide chairs and tables, so renting those would be an additional cost. You must also get your own alcohol permits.
    Cost: $1,500

    *Chabot Space & Science Center (Oakland hills): Another City-owned venue. This is a good time to pause and say I think it is really pretty astoundingly cool that my city owns so many phenomenal spaces, from Children’s Fairyland (which, by the way, you can also rent for weddings) to Feather River Camp up in the Sierras. Generally, I forget to appreciate this. Anyway, this one was a cool idea, but again, blew our budget out of the water. Although $1,600 gets you a planetarium show, which is pretty awesome! (This is another venue that can take a lot of people—up to 1,000.)
    Cost: Varies by space; ranges from $2,200 for the café to $11,000 for the entire museum. Caterer buyout is $1,000.

    Children’s Fairyland (Lake Merritt): Yes, you too can get married (or have another fun event) in Old Mother Hubbard’s shoe, with Cinderella looking on. This Oakland classic, which is coming up on its 60th birthday next year and purportedly inspired Disneyland, makes an exception to its “no unaccompanied adults!” policy for after-hours weddings. (They also do birthday parties with catering from Loard’s and other kid-related festivities like campouts, which I would have loved as a kid!)
    Cost: Varies depending on spaces reserved

    *Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate (Oakland hills): City-owned historic home and grounds that are operated by a nonprofit. Gorgeous. And priced accordingly—we would have blown half our budget on the site alone! Plus, they have catering restrictions, too. This is one of the few venues in the area that accommodates very large groups, though—they can take up to 600—so it’s a good option if that’s what you need. They also get points for a much more diverse catering list than most spots, with options for barbeque, Indian food, and Southern cuisine in addition to the usual suspects.
    Cost: $4,275 resident/$4,500 resident for South Pond Lawn and Garden Pavilion (up to 200 guests); $2,375 resident /$2,500 non-resident for Historic Carriage House and Lawn (up to 80 guests); $800 buyout to use outside caterer “for religious or ethnic situations only”

    Lawrence Hall of Science (Berkeley hills): Can’t beat the view of the Bay Area, but this was off the list before we even started because D. could not imagine getting married here (although he did contemplate trying to negotiate a trade with the Exploratorium!) It was way too expensive anyway, though, even with the discount.
    Cost: $3,500 with a $500 discount for UC affiliates (campus departments, UCOP, and LBL) and a $250 discount for “Friends of LHS” (UCB staff, students, and alumni; LHS members at the sponsor level)

    Oakland Museum of California (Downtown Oakland): I love this (also City-owned!) space—the grounds are expansive and the museum is coming off a multi-million-dollar renovation—but D. wasn’t such a fan. They have an open catering policy and allow hard alcohol, though, which makes them particularly unique among East Bay venues. Update: When the museum reopens in May 2010, they will have a single exclusive caterer for all spaces, a big departure from their old policy. You will be able to buy out the caterer for $1,000.
    Cost: Check with OMCA for new rates beginning in 2010.

    *Oakland Zoo (Oakland hills): The Snow Building is pretty, but it was a bit of a haul from our neck of the woods. I didn’t go look at it, but the photos are lovely and the views must be stellar.
    Cost: $1,720 for the Snow Room or $250 for a group picnic site (picnic area fee does not include zoo admission)

    *Preservation Park (Downtown Oakland): This restored Victorian neighborhood in the heart of Downtown Oakland was a top contender since the buildings and grounds are gorgeous, but in the end it was just too expensive for us. It’s an amazing space, though!
    Cost: $2,650 for Bandstand, Fountain Circle, and Nile Hall; $500 buyout to use outside caterer

    Western Aerospace Museum (Oakland Airport): An alternative to the more traditional venues!


    *Bellevue Club (Lake Merritt): We didn’t look at this space because you have to use their in-house chef and we wanted a little more control over the food, but it’s an intriguing option given its stellar location right on the lake, particularly because guests can stay overnight at the club as well. It’s also been an institution on the lake for generations, which is pretty cool.

    *Berkeley City Club (Downtown Berkeley): A beautiful Julia Morgan-designed space in Downtown Berkeley. Like the Bellevue Club, this one is all-inclusive so the catering is in-house. Guests can stay here, as well.

    *Berkeley Faculty Club (Downtown Berkeley): The Faculty Club has one large room and a number of smaller spaces, including outdoor areas and terraces. You must use their in-house catering team for everything except the wedding cake.
    Cost: $800 for the Heyns Room and Patio; $2,000 for the Great Hall and associated spaces

    Gaia Arts Center (Downtown Berkeley): A relatively new space in Downtown Berkeley, the Gaia Center has a rooftop deck that is pretty amazing for parties. (I went to a fundraiser there a few years ago and was wowed by the views!) Notably, their fees are significantly less on Friday nights than on Saturdays, so this could be an inexpensive option for a weekday wedding or event.
    Cost: $2,600 including access to the rooftop terrace, plus $320 for required Gaia staff representative

    *Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club (Montclair): Beautiful space—but, again, priced accordingly. They had a helpful little section of their website telling us that basic amenities for a party of 100 would run us $10K. Oy—that’s our entire budget before the caterer is even in the mix! So goodbye, beautiful building…
    Cost: $3,500, plus extra for tables, chairs, tents, etc.

    *Reinhardt Alumnae House (Mills College): This is a beautiful space on the campus of Mills College. The building itself was designed by Maybeck near the end of his career, and opens up onto a beautiful patio and lawn. While they do have a caterer list, the buyout is extremely reasonable, making it one of the more flexible venues. Parking is free, too, which is a bonus. The one downside is that Mills sits just under the 580, and you can hear the freeway from the patio—but if you’re looking at Mills Chapel, a gorgeous ceremony site, it’s still a compelling option.
    Cost: $1,200; $100 buyout to use outside caterer

    *Rotunda Building (Downtown Oakland): I’ve been to some receptions here in the past, and it’s a gorgeous building. However, it’s way too big (and consequently too expensive) for many weddings, ours included. It holds 500, though, so perfect for something large.
    Cost: $5,600 (based on $700/hour for eight hours)

    *Sequoyah Country Club (Oakland hills): As with every spot in the hills, this one has a beautiful view. Downsides are that you must use their in-house catering, and there are a lot of additional charges for just about everything, from chairs to screens to cake cutting. On the upside, they are pretty much all-inclusive. We didn’t go look at this in person either.
    Cost: $1,950 for a five-hour event

    Other private venues offering wedding spaces:

    Wineries in the city? Yep, surprisingly there are a number of wineries with tasting rooms nearby, and a couple can be rented for events. They don’t grow the grapes in the city (yet!) so you’ll get more of an urban vibe than a vineyard vibe, but you don’t have to make the trek up to Wine Country, either.

    JC Cellars (Jack London Square): This artisan winery provides tables and chairs plus access to a prep kitchen. You must purchase all of your wine from the winery; there’s a 10 percent discount for 12 bottles or more.
    Cost: $500 for the evening plus wine

    Periscope Cellars (Emeryville): Periscope offers urban space with tables, chairs, A/V equipment, and more. They’re next-door to a caterer, too (though you can use anyone you like). Plus, as with JC Cellars, you can’t beat the price.
    Cost: $600 for eight hours plus wine

    There are several churches in Oakland and Berkeley that rent their event halls (and in some cases chapels or sanctuaries) to anyone, regardless of creed. We didn’t vet these options since we aren’t planning a formal ceremony, but some of them are lovely. Here Comes the Guide has a solid list of them. Note that in a several cases, they do not permit alcohol.

    Not really our speed so I didn’t actually price any of these, but they offer ceremony and reception space that looks reasonable.

    A good option if you’re going for the cocktail reception feel. We didn’t price any since in the end I didn’t find any with outdoor space or gardens, but I imagine they’re generally pretty reasonable. One challenge is that you have to get the single-day alcohol permit on your own, though. (For park spaces and City-owned facilities, they handle the process and you just pay a fee.) The Art Murmur list is probably a good place to start if you’re looking for a gallery to rent.

    A number of local restaurants have spaces to host large groups, or will arrange buyouts at the right price. Here are a few that we considered. Our main criteria were 1) really good food and 2) nice outdoor patio, which limited us significantly. (Even so, I’m sure there are some spots missing from this list that we just didn’t think of!)

    À Côté (Rockridge): À Côté is one of our favorite restaurants, so I figured I had to give them a call. The good news was that their prices were very reasonable. The bad news is that the biggest group they can accommodate is 55 since they don’t do full buyouts, and that was too small for us. However, they’re now on my list for the next time I need to organize a large dinner! (And I secretly like that they don’t do full buyouts, just as I like that they reserve many of their tables for walk-ins…that’s what a good neighborhood spot should do!)

    Bocanova (Jack London Square): This spot is brand-new and overlooks the Oakland Estuary at Jack London Square. The outdoor space is lovely but not especially private. We’ve only eaten here once (though it was excellent!) so that was another concern.

    Doña Tomás (Temescal): Doña Tomás has a great patio behind the restaurant with yummy food; we’ve been to some nice group dinners there in the past. They also have a back room beyond the patio that would work well for smaller dinners, too. They came off our list for some reason that I can’t remember now.

    Lake Chalet (Lake Merritt): Another amazing location. They have two spaces that can accommodate large groups: the Gondola Room, which is inside but has three walls of windows that overlook the lake (and open!), and the outdoor patio, which has its own bar and grill. They’re also relatively reasonably priced, with a $3K minimum and no room fee. (Menus to choose from ranged from $24-$52 a head, which isn’t bad.) We weren’t wowed by their food the one time we ate there, though, and the alcohol is pricey and charged per drink, so it had the potential to add up quickly. However, this would be my top pick if we were having a traditional “ceremony-followed-by-reception” wedding. You could even get married on the lake at the bandstand in Lakeside Park and head to the Chalet afterwards.

    La Note (Downtown Berkeley): Again, neither of us has had dinner there, though we love their brunch, so it seemed like a gamble to try something out for the first time. But they do take large groups, and they do have a patio.

    Pizzaiolo (Temescal): This was actually my top pick because they have a sweet little garden (with chickens!) in the back that was perfect for the ceremony. They’ve hosted weddings before, and had a pretty clear vision for how to make it all work, which was great. We’d also been to a friend’s birthday party here, so we knew they could do a large event well. The main downside was the price, which is a set fee (it is, after all, a buyout) and was way more than we had budgeted (but, granted, still less than the average cost of a Bay Area wedding these days!) As you can see, this was a running theme in our search….

    Other restaurants with large event spaces:

    Our search was pretty focused on Oakland and Berkeley, but if you go a little further afield, there are some nice spots to discover. I’m not going to get into them because Here Comes the Guide gets paid to do that, but it’s definitely worth checking out city parks (San Francisco and Marin have a lot of great spots, and EBRPD has several venues in other nearby cities) and various museums. Also, boats! Several cruise lines run out of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Sausalito, and beyond, and you can host events there, too. Generally, there was a markup if you crossed the Bay Bridge (and an even bigger one if you kept going over the Golden Gate!) which is one of many reasons we decided to stay East Bay. (The flip side of that is that the rates keep dropping if you head through the Caldecott or up into Contra Costa County, though!)