Linden Park Playground

Longfellow Community Association celebrates its first anniversary

on March 28, 2011

In between Rockridge, Emeryville, Temescal and the 580 freeway lies a neighborhood that people often mistakenly refer to as West Oakland or even Lower Rockridge – but in fact, they are speaking about Longfellow.

“It’s almost like trying to come up with a brand for this neighborhood,” says Leslie Cleaver Wood, president of the Longfellow Community Association (LCA), which gathered on Saturday at the North Oakland Community Charter School to celebrate the first anniversary of their neighborhood group and look ahead to future projects.

Longfellow—which lies between the Temescal Creek in the north, Highway 24 in the east, the 580 freeway in the south, and Adeline Street in the west—has always been a very diverse neighborhood. Most of the houses were built in the 1920s and were initially home to an Italian population. In the 80s, African Americans increasingly called the neighborhood their home. Over the last few years, say association members, more artists and gay couples have moved in. Recently, fostered by the financial crisis, an increasing number of foreclosures and consecutive turnovers have resulted in more and more young couples and young families moving to Longfellow.

Raffle

LCA's president Leslie Cleaver Wood watches while Iris Lai Costa draws raffle prices at LCA's 1st anniversary celebration.

The association traces its roots to late 2009, when some volunteers decided to clean up and replant some of Longfellow’s street medians. One and a half years later, a strong neighborhood community has grown from this initial spark.  Today the organization counts over 100 members who are dedicated to making Longfellow a better place to live, and hosts five committees on topics like green business, security, and transportation.

“Oakland is a grassroots city,” says Garlynn Woodsong, transportation committee commissioner for the association, adding, “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.“

The group has devoted a lot of time to the beautification of the Longfellow neighborhood. The association adopted two parks in the neighborhood and cleaned up all medians.  With the help of a county grant, twenty trees have been planted, and twenty more are supposed to follow soon.

After a Community Development Block Grant got approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the group was actively involved in planning the refurbishment of Linden Park located at 998 42nd Street. As a result, the play surface of the playground as well as the lawn will soon see some changes—Instead of a plain lawn, surface “zones” will add some excitement for the kids who play at Linden Park in the future. “There will be different zones,” Wood explained while walking across the park on Saturday, “a slow zone with boulders and turf ground and a fast zone with natural grass.”

The group plans to hold a community workshop in June to identify long-term projects and goals, including improving the economic infrastructure of the neighborhood. Business outreach committee coordinator Mason Martin says that the association would like to help with “creating a periphery of local businesses.” He considers Longfellow—located close to Emeryville and only 15 minutes by car from San Francisco—a good place for business development, but notes that there are currently a lot of vacant storefronts and the majority of businesses are scattered around the neighborhood instead of concentrated in one central retail area.

Longfellow Community Association's 1st anniversary

Members of the Longfellow Community Association gather to celebrate their organization's first anniversary.

Crime is also a problem that the association hopes to address. Although the neighborhood lies within the boundary of the North Oakland gang injunction, two people have recently been shot to death on the open street. Also, says Wood, “home break-ins are a huge problem.” The association is trying to implement a neighborhood watch group.

To celebrate what the group has accomplished over the last year, at Saturday’s gathering association members held a community picnic and a pot-luck barbecue, a book and bake sale, a plant exchange and a raffle. Community members also thanked Wood for her commitment over the last year as the group’s president.

The next group event will be on April 16, when the association members will gather to remove graffiti and litter from the neighborhood in honor of Earth Day.

More information about the Longefellow Community Association can be found on the group’s website. People interested in getting involved can also send an e-mail to the association.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
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