Our Piedmont Recreation Department's Walking on Wednesdays group walked the entire length of Grand Avenue the week before this past Wednesday. This week we thought it would be interesting to see all of another important Piedmont street too. St. James Drive is seven tenths of a mile long, flat, and easy to walk. Going all the way out St. James to its end at Park Boulevard also provided the opportunity to go to one of the least visited streets with Piedmont homes, Cavendish Lane. There was a strong turnout of 42 walkers and three K-9 best friends at the Exedra on another cloudy, mild, spring morning. Going to St. James provided other opportunities too. We could see the newly completed Highland-Guildford steps, and we could check on the construction progress of a new garage of a Crocker Avenue home. We headed out, taking a scenic route through upper Piedmont Park to the steps. This was a $155,000 renovation project that was approved by the City Council in September 2021. It was funded with $55,000 coming from the Piedmont Beautification Foundation and the Piedmont Garden Club, and $100,000 from the City. The previous wooden railroad tie steps were replaced with colored concrete, and landings, metal handrails, landscaping, six benches, and a small plaza were also added. We agreed it is a beautiful addition to the park. We went up Highland to Sheridan Avenue past a home whose large, concrete front wall was also being replaced. On we went to Wildwood and Crocker Avenues to see our next construction project, the Crocker garage. It will provide a 1906 Albert Farr designed, previously garage-less home with three new parking spaces. The project is nearing completion and workers were painting the exterior. We went past Crocker Park to Hampton's intersection with St. James Drive, where the street starts. This first St. James block may have been an extension of St. James Drive because one block further down at La Salle Avenue are two large columns that marked one of the entrances to St. James Woods, an early, large Piedmont neighborhood. It was noted the columns are missing lanterns on their tops. Mike H told the story from his days on the City Planning Commission that the neighborhood once wanted the City to put replicas of the originals on the columns. However, neither the residents nor the City wanted to pay for them, so it never happened. Mike said there is still electricity in the columns if anyone wants to install them. We took the attached group photo by one of the lantern-less columns. We also noted the distinctive four brown tiles that are inlayed in each section of the concrete sidewalks that were part of this neighborhood. Phil Witte, who lives on St. James, told us there are numerous "deer highways" along the street. Phil pointed out three of them, all on extremely steep cuts in the hill. Phil said the eat-anything deer are "cute but harmful." Further on, there was another construction project. This one is a large home made almost entirely with bricks that is being rebuilt. We came to the end of St. James at Park. Some walkers needed to head back, but down Park, just past Trestle Glen Road, is Cavendish Lane. Other walkers wanted to see it. This is a narrow street that looks like an alley. It is in Oakland, but there are four homes with Piedmont addresses at its end. The street was damaged in February 2017 after it was undermined by heavy rains and a construction project on a Trestle Glen home below. The hillside and road slipped away, and the Piedmont families were unable to access their homes by car for six weeks. The City of Piedmont made temporary fixes, but permanent repairs by Oakland were not begun until 2019, two years later. After walking a few hundred feet we saw the previously damaged roadway with a very large blue tarp covering the hillside below a retaining wall. A Piedmont Public Works notice, dated August 2021, was a taped on it and said all construction work was to be stopped because of violations of City ordinances. It was time for us to retrace our steps to the Exedra. It was a four mile walk, longer than usual. However, we had seen some interesting construction projects, and the entirety of not one, but two interesting streets.
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