When viewed from a short-term historical perspective, today’s announcement that Trader Joe’s will soon occupy the vacant Albertsons on Lakeshore Avenue, demonstrates an amazing symmetry. In November of 1999, the Splash Pad Neighborhood Forum began circulating a questionnaire about the future of a what had become a very forlorn and largely underutilized public park. The SPNF survey was initiated in response to a controversy that had been roiling the Grand Lake area for well over a year. It was a proposal to use the park for commercial development—presumably, a Trader Joe’s. The East Shore Park Preservation Association had already gathered some 6,000 signatures in opposition to the park conversion and the SPNF survey confirmed that over 80 percent of the residents polled objected to the loss of park space. Still, the most common response was: “Yes, we’d love to have a Trader Joe’s, but why not an empty storefront instead”.

Seven years later, that’s exactly what has happened. That it did is in many ways a tribute to what is very likely one of the most politically active and community-oriented neighborhoods in all of Oakland. In the intervening seven years, we’ve turned all the negative attention directed towards the Splash Pad into a totally renovated park that is home to the hugely successful Saturday Farmers’ Market. We’ve stopped the MacDonald’s destined for the Kwik Way location. We’ve coaxed Arizmendi’s onto Lakeshore and now Trader Joe’s.

While we can take credit collectively for the good things that have transpired, the one person who is most deserving of our accolades is Pat Kernighan. As an aide to John Russo and Chief of Staff to Danny Wan, she attended all of our Splash Pad planning sessions as well as all the community meetings hosted by Landscape Architect Walter Hood and then personally walked the project through to its completion. As the District 2 Councilmember, she found out what we wanted in the vacant Albertsons and then hung tough to make sure we got it. This should be the model for future development throughout the City.

We thank you, Pat.