Monday, August 17, 2015

One mile north of Piedmont

Now I don’t want to get all down on the city of Piedmont, California, or anything, but what the hell is this nonsense from all those local TV stations reporting that the earthquake this morning was centered “one mile north of Piedmont, California”?

For those of you who don’t know Piedmont, it’s a lovely tree-lined place with row after row of elegant houses.  On the 4th of July they have the kind of parade that makes you think you are in Sweetcakes, Nebraska – or practically any other small American town in the 1940s or 50s.  All neat and tidy.  No trash.  No street people.  Just a bunch of fat cats who decided in 1907 that they didn’t want to be part of Oakland, California and built an invisible wall around themselves to keep the riff-raff out.  It was once the American town with the most millionaires.  Now that the average price of a house in Piedmont is $2,121,750 and the median is $2,235,000, that number must be bumping 100%.

I’m as American as the next guy, so I don’t see anything wrong in getting rich and living well.  And there’s no reason Piedmont should have a Mexican part of town.  Hell, they don’t even have billboards.  Just single-family dwellings.  Like this one:

Price History for 636 Highland Ave
Price Change
SFAR (#431189)
County Records

It just bothers me that the local television stations seem to be treating Piedmont, population just over 10,000, including 141 African-Americans  and six native Americans, as a major reference point, and ignoring Oakland, the city you have to pass through to get in and out of it, population more like 400,000 plus.  Forty times the size.

At 6:49 this morning, I was rudely awakened by my dogs barking.  By the time I got my eyes and the rest of my head working I realized we were having an earthquake.  I hopped out of bed and turned on the TV, thinking wow, this one must be close.

It was close.  Three miles southeast of my house.  And that’s by road.  As the crow flies, it’s much closer.  Right there by Holy Names High School (for girls), leading me to conclude that God must be punishing us for lesbianism again.

As might be expected, the early reports were scattered.  One said it was a 4.2 and was centered in Berkeley.  But it wasn’t long before they started reporting that it was a 4.0 centered “about a mile north of Piedmont.”

Well, honey lambs and darlins of ABC news, “one mile north of Piedmont” is Oakland!  What's Oakland, just a potted plant?

OK, maybe I'm being unfair.  First off, it’s confusing, even to us locals, to have a town completely surrounded by another town.  Not only that, but just north of Piedmont is the well-known Piedmont Theater.  Was there the day before yesterday with friend Jason to see Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes.  Marvelous movie.  Highly recommend it.  It’s on Piedmont Avenue.  And the Piedmont Theater is in Oakland.  As is the whole of Piedmont Avenue. And Piedmont Avenue doesn’t run into Piedmont; it runs alongside it.  Parallel with Oakland Avenue, which is the main street of Piedmont.   You get my meaning.

Anyway, if you trust the Earthquake Data Center (it is in Southern California, so you might not want to), the epicenter was located at
37 deg. 50.2 min. N (37.837N), 122 deg. 13.9 min. W (122.232W)
Now if you type those coordinates into Google Maps, as I did, (type in : 37.837N 122.232W) you will see that puts you just behind St. Theresa Church on Mandalay Road, in Oakland, behind some houses across from Holy Names.  Dig down three miles and you’re there. 

The San Jose Mercury writes: USGS: Piedmont-based earthquake was shallow    The article gives this detail: “A locked-up patch of rocks a mere 3 miles under Piedmont suddenly broke loose along the Hayward Fault, triggering a wake-up call felt from Santa Rosa to Santa Cruz.”

This part of Oakland is only a mile from the Piedmont line, so I guess it’s close enough for government work to refer to it as Piedmont.  But unless the Earthquake Center’s coordinates are wrong, it happened in Oakland, thank you very much. Just as it if had happened a mile east of Piedmont or a mile West of Piedmont or a mile south of Piedmont.  

Ari Sarsalari of (how’s that for a web address?) informs us there was a “4.0 Earthquake Near (sic) Oakland, California.”  “Near Oakland?  Near Oakland???”  His map shows Oakland with a big red blotch – and no other name on it.  The caption reads “1 mile north of Piedmont, California.”  In his report, though, he declares that it took place “three miles northeast (sic) of Oakland.”  About ten miles north and east of San Francisco proper.  “A lot of people live there." 

That's true.  A lot of people live in cities with a population of 400,000.  Ari, Ari, you look like a swell fellah, but you really need to do your homework.

CNBC declares “Magnitude 4.0 earthquake widely felt in San Francisco; damage not immediately clear.”   Well, that’s OK.  When I’m on the other side of the world (or in Canada) I also say I’m from San Francisco.  But this article then also goes on to say:
The U.S. Geological Survey said the earthquake struck a mile north of Piedmont, California, at 6:49 a.m. PDT. Originally reported as a magnitude 4.2, the earthquake was adjusted to a 4.0.
Piedmont is in the East Bay, 13 miles east of San Francisco, four miles from downtown Oakland and five miles southeast of Berkeley.
I think it’s time to admit this is not a battle worth fighting.  No reason why the media have to specify that the epicenter was "in Oakland, just a mile north of the Piedmont line."  To most people in the world probably even "the East Bay" has little meaning.  Only us locals are going to notice this shorthand.

We had an earthquake this morning.  They say it took place in Piedmont.  Not the part of Piedmont where the kids of Piedmont High school used to host the Leonard J. Waxdeck Bird Calling Contest every year, whose top three winners used to appear on David Letterman.

Happened in Oakland, actually.

The Oakland part of Piedmont.

Where you can find lots of houses for less than two million dollars.  Where Oakland taxpayers pay to maintain the Oakland library which Piedmont folk use, just as they use the shops on Piedmont Avenue.  Which is in Oakland.  Did I tell you that?

Nobody was hurt.  Some pictures fell off the wall.  Some broken glass.

map of Oakland, including Piedmont: source


Alan McCornick said...

posting this from Jason's e-mail. For some reason he can't get in to Blogger to post this himself:

Ha! I wondered about that, too. People around the hills do that all the time . . . Piedmont just sounds so much snootier and rich. Instead of saying they live "in the Oakland Hills" some will say they live "Piedmont side of Montclair" which means they live in Oakland between Moraga and Park, below Hwy. 13. Since the Piedmont border runs all through the neighborhood here (the top quarter of Trestle Glen Road is in Piedmont . . . one can tell by the big stone gates at the last stop sign going up the hill) Anthony and I used to pull our snotty joke of saying we lived in "Lakeshore Highlands." We knew nobody knew what that was, so we were then free to clarify with "lower Piedmont."

Piedmont is also known for being one of the first cities to install automobile license plate readers at every intersection where a road leads into the city limits. Most people don't notice them, but, for example, the corner at the top of the hill at Trestle Glen and Park looks like the entrance to Fort Knox. Over by Piedmont Avenue, just up from where you parked on Linda the other afternoon, our old corner at Rose and Linda is the same. Grand Avenue at Wildwood . . . they're all over the place.

But my favorite ever Piedmont ridiculousness was a few years back – the case of the mummy in the foyer. I first heard about it one morning when the tellers at my Piedmont Citibank on Highland were gossiping. Right on the corner of Highland and Blair, a mummy was found sitting in the foyer. Neighbors and some nearby in-laws had finally asked the Piedmont Police to investigate after they realized they hadn't seen the homeowner for "a while" – five years. The woman's daughter had been taking care of the house and garden and said her mother was "away." It is not polite for neighbors and in-laws in Piedmont to intrude before a suitable amount of time has passed.

Wait . . . it gets better. They could never find anything to charge the daughter with since the woman had apparently died of natural causes. All the daughter did was leave her where she sat. After all the hullabaloo died down, the daughter, now a Piedmont resident due to inheriting the house, ran for City Council . . . on a platform of more money for City programs helping with elder abuse.

I'm not making this up. We love Piedmont just because it makes the rest of us seem so normal.

Finally, I take personal responsibility for the most brilliant idea to "Save Blair Park" a few years back. It is the open wilderness area along Moraga Avenue, just above Highland Ave, on the right as one heads up to Montclair. It was given to the City decades ago by the Blair family as open space for the benefit of Piedmont Residents. So the City Recreation Dept. got it into their heads that Piedmont residents would benefit most if it became a huge soccer complex for the City's kiddies. They were going to build a 20-foot high wall along Moraga and fill it in all the way over to the hills behind it, with a pedestrian overpass over Moraga. Signs started popping up in yards all over town, either "Share the Gift" or "Save Blair Park."

They were becoming obtrusive. Finally, I tried to cajole the tellers and the loan officer at the bank to join me in passing out bumper stickers: "Save Blair Park! Spay a Soccer Mom."

Piedmont gave up, finally, after threats of law suits from Oakland and Oaklanders because Moraga Avenue, already a curvy, narrow, two-lane street, would have become impossible with the lines of Mercedes trying to pick up the Piedmont kiddies who, God forbid, should ever be expected to walk to soccer practice.

Jimmy Mac said...

Mercy! You gurlz sure got yore knickers in a bit of an uproar.

Do I detect more than a wee bit of envy?

Emil Ems said...

Dear Alan,
Your excellent comment made me smile, as did your first commentator's. I admire the people of Piedmont for managing to keep aloof of the rest of us, as much as I sympathize with the remainder of the East Bay for taking them as a joke.

A co-member of Club Schlaraffia (a German speaking club that you may be interested in joining, the East Bay Chapter is called "Franciscana"), used to live on Kingston Ave in Oakland. But he was very proud of the fact that his mailing address was 758 Kingston, Piedmont, CA 94611

I was lucky to be invited to Piedmont, in 2010, by a couple that lived there, due to inheriting the property from an elderly lady. My reaction to this "cosy" town can still be seen at my blog post

Yours sincerely

Alan McCornick said...

Emil: Really appreciate your contribution to the fun we're having with Piedmont, especially your account of your visit to friends there and the accompanying photos. Since this is all about hair-splitting, let me add yet one more example of common Oakland/Piedmont misconceptions. While zip code 94611 is associated with Piedmont, it actually extends all the way down behind Pill Hill to about 27th St. to the West and all the way past Chabot to Redwood Regional Park in the East. I may be mistaken, but it looks like there is more of 94611 in Oakland than in Piedmont! In territory, if not in population, at least. None of this takes anything away from the charms of that lovely collection of houses "more splendid than Beverly Hills," of course. Long may it wave as an inspiration to us all!

William D. Lindsey said...

This posting is a keeper, Alan. Just hums along with good energy and good humor, and is so fetchingly written I want to go back and re-read it all over again, though the intricacies of Piedmont as distinct from Oakland totally elude me, as someone living far away in another land.