On 19th Street next to Snow Park, behind an iron gate marked “A.S.,” you can peek into a 100-year-old garden which was originally part of the August Schilling estate. (Do you remember those small containers of spices?) With tall redwoods, and a very unusual arbor of concrete-sculpted tree trunks, the garden is the subject of a dreadful mistake by city staff, and now the target of a planned development.

In October 2005, the land was offered to the city as a donation. Staff members demanded a huge endowment as the price of accepting the donation, and so the donor withdrew. The city council was never alerted to this valuable offer, and citizens had no opportunity to see whether funds could be raised for a park project. The owners sold the parcel.

Now San Francisco developer David O’Keeffe wants to build a 40-story residential tower, twice the height of the Essex, wiping out the old garden, blocking views from two adjoining historic apartment buildings, and making a highly visible intrusion into the skyline from most of Lakeside Park. (The Grand Lake Guardian would have to change its masthead, as the building would rise well beyond the lettering!)

Councilmember Nancy Nadel has put this on the Public Works committee agenda for Tuesday, September 12, at 12:30 p.m. Neighbors, preservationists, and Lakeside Park advocates are urging everyone to attend this hearing, to ask city council to save the garden, and to move the development to another site. This garden can be preserved as a public amenity and park space. For more information, please call Oakland Heritage Alliance at 763-9218 or email info@oaklandheritage.org.

You can download the staff report justifying the unpublicized rejection of a proposed donation of the land.