New Snow Park Sizzles on a Hot Day

New Snow Park Sizzles on a Hot Day
by Johanna Leonard
July 2019

The culmination of Oakland’s Lake Merritt’s $198.2 million dollar renovation was officially celebrated on Monday, June 10 at 10:30 am with a heat wave. Snow Park, with its sweeping views of downtown and adjacent to Lake Merritt, is the last major piece of construction to be completed on the 2002 voter approved bond measure designed to improve Oakland’s urban waterfront.

Many City of Oakland officials came out for the Grand Re-Opening of the Snow Park Promenade, located at the corner of Harrison & 20th Streets. Mayor Libby Schaaf braved the heat and thanked the Oakland voters for approving Measure DD and appreciated the many people in the Oakland Department of Transportation and Oakland Public Works for the beautiful results. We at The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living were also thanked for our patience during the time period when lots of street parking was being renovated and not available to us.

This renovation project is nothing short of beautiful. The area along Lake Merritt has newly designed pedestrian paths and crossings, newly protected bicycle tracks paths and intersections, a newly tree -lined pedestrian promenade, a running trail along the lake, and rain gardens to treat storm water runoff. Everywhere you look, it is green, green and more green. What a spectacular oasis in this urban environment. It is a wonderful asset for those working in Oakland and is a lovely walking destination for our residents, just a few blocks from the front doors of The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living.

Snow Park itself is very inviting. For those who know dDdowntown Oakland, Snow Park was a little park near the water where workers could get out of their high-rises and soak up a little sun and enjoy a little air. It was quaint. The park had some volleyball nets, which were used, and a small golfing green. It is now so much more. There is a delightful playground for children, a new putting green, and acres of green lush grass to sit upon and picnic.

Snow Park is named after Henry Snow, an early Oaklander and big-game hunter who had a passion for animals both alive and stuffed. Oakland historian Annalee Allen writes that “Snow lived near the lake with his wild animal taxidermy collection and also had a small enclosure for live animals next to his home that became an educational feature of countless school field trips on his property.” After Snow’s death, his daughter set up a zoo in the hills. His wild-animal taxidermy collection was on display at the Cutting Mansion, located in the park, from 1922 to 1967. The collection later became part of The Oakland Museum.

We can thank the voters of Oakland who approved the bond measure for the improvements at Lake Merritt and its tidal estuary. The entire revitalization includes new parks, trails, bridges, a recreation center, an arts center, land acquisition, creek restoration, and lots more. The Snow Park revitalization was the last area around Lake Merritt to be completed, and it was well worth the wait.



Do You Have Questions About Marijuana?

by Johanna Leonard 
June 2019

Now legal in California, cannabis shops are popping up throughout the Bay Area. Many older adults have questions about its use and the medical claims being made about it.

As a service to our residents and as a community service, The Lake Merritt hosted recently a talk in our “Topics of Merritt” series by Linda Jacobsen from Elders Together and Kasana Care on the topic of marijuana and its medical applications. “I find that today’s older adults are very savvy and practical people when considering cannabis use,” Jacobsen said. “So much new scientific understanding has emerged in the past five years and current studies have demonstrated benefits from cannabis for general mental health, including cognition, mood, stress and anxiety applications,” Jacobsen explained.

“Of course, seniors should talk to their doctors about whether they should use cannabis or not,” Jacobsen said. “Yet, because Californians have been using cannabis in medical applications since 1996, if their doctor is not current on this, there are highly reputable doctors and other licensed practioners who have expertise, many with a focus on oncology, psychiatry and drug interactions, who can help. “

After the talk, one of our residents told me that she is really happy to have marijuana for older adults beginning to be discussed more widely as she uses cannabis for sleep. She told me that she was using prescription medications for sleep for years and did not like the effects. She felt she never had good sleep and knew that lack of sleep can affect other chronic conditions. Her cardiologist is fine with her using marijuana and she now sleeps up to 7 hours per night. She explained that her sleep is deeper and of higher quality and she feels that she is more rested. There is also a beneficial side effect to using cannabis for sleep, she said, which is that her arthritic hands are better.

For upcoming talks in the “Topics of Merritt” Series, which are free and open to the public, visit our Events calendar.



Geek Out

by Johanna Leonard 
April 2019


We are happy to announce an innovative partnership with the University of California (CAL) Berkeley’s “Science@ Cal program.” As part of The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living’s “Topics of Merritt” series, members of the public can enjoy free talks by many of the university’s key teachers and researchers as they tell us about new scientific activity with a focus on the creativity and innovation.

From astronomy to zoology, these “Topics of Merritt” talks will take place throughout the year and offer our residents and visitors a chance to get a first-hand understanding of some of the most important inventions and inquiries that are shaping our world today.

Many of us have heard the word STEM, which refers to the growing emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics in education for younger people. Now older adults can gain an insider’s view and a greater understanding of their world and the scientific trends which can affect them. Subjects range from innovations that are in the pipeline for medical treatment, to the latest communication inventions, to the new discoveries we are finding through our exploration of outer space and more.

“The best way for those interested in this new program is to check out The Lake Merritt’s calendar of events page for announcements related to our guest speakers,” said Ryan Wilcox, Program Coordinator, who works with the university to set up the programs.

For example, The Lake Merritt will present a talk entitled “House Plant Botany: The Inside Scoop About Your Photosynthetic Housemates!” Allyson Greenlon, Public Programs Coordinator for the Jepson Herbarium at UC Berkeley will speak about the plants we grow inside our homes and their wild history before being domesticated. In the question and answer session that follows Ms Greenlon’s presentation we might find out if talking to our plants really makes a difference in their growth rate and vitality!

The Lake Merritt has also partnered with Chabot Space and Science Center, offering talks by Rebecca Arntz, a scientist, veterinarian and docent. Her most recent talk was on America’s historic Apollo missions and humanity’s first steps on the moon.



An Insider’s Look at The Sea Ranch

by Johanna Leonard & Ryan Wilcox
February 2019

Hailed for its sweeping ocean views, shared open space and meditative tranquility, The Sea Ranch is a famed planned community on the Northern California coast.

The original sketches and drawings from the project’s designers, along with archival images, photographs and a full-scale architectural replica are featured in a major museum show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOA) through April 28, 2019.

I was lucky enough to sit down with one of The Sea Ranch’s original architects, Richard Whitaker, to discuss the exhibit, The Sea Ranch’s origins and his new home on Lake Merritt.

“The big idea of The Sea Ranch was that the built environment and the land had to be brought together in a kind of 50-50 relationship…with half the land being untouched,” Whitaker explained.

The 10-mile swath of Sonoma County on which the community was built boasts “an incredible variety of topography,” he said. The combination of rolling hills, redwood forests, beaches, plateaus, cliffs and hedgerows “forces you to think differently.”

Sea Ranch Master Planner Larry Halprin and a small team of forward-thinking planners and architects, including Whitaker’s Berkeley-based MLTW firm, wanted the community to blend into, take advantage of and call attention to the landscape’s distinctive features.

“What would you see when you opened the door?” Whitaker asked. “How would the light come in? How would you view certain trees from inside the house?” The young team thought carefully about questions like these when designing each new building. In fact, The Sea Ranch community’s design committee still often meets with architects and investors at proposed building sites for a half-day at a time – something Whitaker called “a very rare thing in architecture.”

“All too often, architects’ buildings don’t have the site in mind,” he mused. Referencing several photographs of he and his colleagues beginning the first building projects at The Sea Ranch, Whitaker says that the team would sometimes look out at the ocean and think, "You know, maybe we shouldn't build anything."

Whitaker applied The Sea Ranch philosophy of “living lightly on the land” when picking his current home at The Lake Merritt Independent Senior Living. He called the building’s Terrace Room restaurant “spectacular,” explaining how its large windows looking out on the lake let "the site make space.” “The Lake Merritt building doesn’t scream and yell at you to 'Look at me!'” he said of his new home’s Art Deco façade. "Some Art Decos are loud!" he laughed, but his new home fits right in with The Sea Ranch edict: "Don't overwhelm the place with your building."

Adherence to such environmental and architectural ideals are key themes in the new SFMOMA exhibit. The Sea Ranch: Architecture, Environment and Idealism. For more information about the exhibition visit

Photo: Courtesy of SFMOMA Press - Photo of Richard Whitaker, Donlyn Lyndon, Charles Moore, and William Turnbull in Condominium One courtyard, photographed by Jim Alinder, 1991; photo: Jim Alinder



Adventures of Merritt: A Time For Hawking

by Ryan Wilcox
February 2019

At The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living we seek out unique enrichment opportunities wherever they may be – even if they’re well off the beaten path.

Every month, our residents and I get together to talk about how things are going and what we would like to do the following month. We entertain all kinds of ideas for procedural changes (a resident movie selection committee!), in-house events (talent show!) and trips (party in Bolinas!).

In December, a resident named Kate proposed a trip to see a small play in a one-of-a-kind theater in the Julia Morgan-designed Berkeley City Club. The play, A Time For Hawking, would be a world premier by Indra’s Net Theater Company based on a fateful night in the early life of famed scientist Stephen Hawking. The crowd approved.

So, on a Wednesday night in early January, we traveled in our community’s van to the City Club and found our seats just feet from the performers. (This theater only has three rows!) After hearing the pre-show talk, which helped us brush up on some of the dense science ideas that would be discussed in the play, the lights went down and we and the rest of the audience of 30 people were enveloped in the action.

While the play could be intellectually challenging at times, the emotional chord it struck with the audience was more surprising. I spotted a number of wet eyes in the play’s second half, when (spoiler alert) Hawking connects with fellow New Year’s Eve partygoer (and future wife), Jane Wilde, while discussing his recent diagnosis of motor neuron disease.

Our own resident, Mitzi, who relies on a scooter to get around most of the time, was inspired. “I was moved by (Hawking’s) courage and how engaged he was with the world despite his physical disability…It’s inspiring to someone like me who struggles with engaging in the world,” Mitzi, , enthused. “I like going to controversial things and things that are tough,” she added. “We have a lot of people [at The Lake Merritt] who are hungry for intellectual challenge, so this was show great; we need more of that stimulation.”

We all left the little theater feeling challenged and engaged by the actors who stood just a few feet away and by the director who talked with several of us after the show.



What Sets Us Apart?

by Johanna Leonard
January 2019

We have always known that our building, as well as our location, sets us apart from the typical senior community for older adults. The Lake Merritt (TLM)- Independent Senior Living community resides in a landmark Art Deco Mediterranean beauty. What is even better, is that this beautiful building sits on the shores of renowned Lake Merritt. Yet as I sit here and reflect upon the year 2018, it has become much more obvious to me that what really sets us apart is our people.

In the last month, a family member of one of our residents wrote, “This hotel is a stunning piece of architecture and so lovingly furnished and adorned with beautiful art and architectural elements that make everyone so happy. But the most pleasing aspect is the culture of the TLM. It is the people who work here that make this communityhotel so special…. You have managed to hire such fine people from top to bottom and the good vibe and love is appreciated by everyone.”

About two months ago, a resident moved to Oregon with his daughter after living in our community for over five years. She emailed us to say "The Lake Merritt has been a fantastic home for my father and we have been extremely fortunate to have you all providing such a wonderfully warm, inviting and stimulating environment for him. The lake and the view from The Terrace Room gave him a spectacular post where he could study and follow the seasonal changes of the birds. Your staff is exceptional and we have truly appreciated their love and concern for his daily well- being. Many thanks to you and your staff and all the residents for creating such a fine place for my Dad to call home for the last five years."

The holiday spirit is alive and well at The Lake Merritt, but it lasts 365 days per year. If you would like to hear more about us from our residents and their families, please click here

All of us here at The Lake Merritt join me in wishing you and your family a wonderful New Year.



Celebrating our Resident Mitzi Trachtenberg

by Johanna Leonard
November 2018

We wanted to share this article and the beautiful art of one of our residents - Mitzi Trachtenber - from the J - The Jewish News of Northern California.  Please see the article below.

"Bay Area artist Mitzi Trachtenberg was born in 1929, the same year as Anne Frank, in the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill where 11 Jews were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue on Oct. 27.

“It is very hard for me, just to take it in, that this happened,” she said from her home in Oakland. “I used to walk past that synagogue on my way to and from school every single day.”

The Pittsburgh of her youth, the city where she married and had five children before the family moved to California, was a multicultural place where she never experienced anti-Semitism, she said. “It was a very integrated community that embraced people from all over the world. And I think Pittsburgh will reject this hatred, and remain the way it was.”

In 1995, after a trip to Budapest, Hungary, Trachtenberg created this collage using an image of Anne Frank that she found plastered all over the city for a memorial to the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The 4-by-5-foot work hangs in the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. Trachtenberg, primarily known as a painter and collagist, also has murals in the ACLU headquarters in San Francisco and in the WestCoast Children’s Clinic in Oakland."



Loving Someone Means Checking Out Their Refrigerator

by Johanna Leonard
November 2018 

As the people we care for age, it is only natural to worry about their health and well-being. How do you decide what they need? When is it time to seek help? If you plan to visit your parents this holiday season, or if a special loved one is visiting you, be prepared to evaluate how well your parent(s), aunts, uncles or grandparents are managing their lives.

As your parents age, they may begin to struggle with daily tasks that we do easily. Evaluating these tasks can help you determine whether your parents may need some additional help to maintain their independent lifestyle. A visit to your loved one’s home is one of the best ways to evaluate this.

  • Inspect the refrigerator – If you find a lot of frozen food or little food in the refrigerator, they may not be getting the proper nutrition or necessary calories that they need. Have you found expired or stale food?

  • Inspect their work area – Are you finding lots of mail scattered around? Have you found unopened mail ? Have you found notices of past due bills?

  • Inspect the bathroom – Are their medications in several different locations? Do they use a weekly pillbox to organize their tablets, but then forget to take their medicine?

  • Overall inspection – Has the cleanliness of the household declined? Is there extra clutter? Look for signs of neglect: newspapers or magazines piling up, dead plants, or are there household repairs that need tending?

  • Inspect your loved one’s hygiene and appearance – Do you notice any odors? Does the person's hair and makeup look all right? Are their clothes clean?

  • Inspect their vehicle – Take a drive with your mother behind the wheel. Are there any new dents or scrapes on the vehicle? Does your mother show signs of tension, preoccupation or being easily distracted when she drives? These can be signs of changing abilities.

This evaluation may well give you the heads up that you need to begin preparing for the possibility that you may need to have greater involvement in your parents’ lives. If you are beginning to see struggles, you can start your research into care options available in their community. These options may include a few hours of help each week, but you also might research daily care or begin discussions with them about joining a retirement community. It is best to be prepared for any eventuality. If your parents are so lucky as to never need care, this research will at least give you peace of mind.



New Boulevard Surrounds Lake Merritt

New Boulevard Surrounds Lake Merritt
A Little Bit of Paris and Copenhagen in Oakland
by Johanna Leonard
October 2018

“If you stand in our Terrace Room restaurant and look to the left, a view unfolds that makes Oakland feel like Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Paris!” said Randall Berger, who with his wife Cheryl, owns and operates The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living.

“The view overlooks where the water is located - deep in the heart of the city, yet adjacent to our vital downtown. The new boulevard which begins outside our door and runs north to Children’s Fairyland, is a highlight of urban design for Oaklanders and the entire Bay Area,” he said.

“Our already spectacular view from The Lake Merritt and our restaurant, The Terrace Room, is now even better, “ Berger continued. “There is the beauty of the water right next to the new protected bike lanes designed for those who are commuting to work or pedaling for fun. There are big wide walking paths full of people enjoying a stroll and joggers pounding the pavement. This beautiful new greenway, with its many young trees and new plantings of California grasses and flowers, unites Downtown Oakland with our unique urban lake. All of this is right outside our door and of great benefit to our residents,” Berger enthused.

We can thank the voters of Oakland who in November 2002 overwhelmingly passed Measure DD, a $198.25 million bond measure focused on waterfront improvements at Lake Merritt and its tidal estuary. The revitalization includes new parks, trails, bridges, a recreation center, an arts center, land acquisition, and creek restoration.

Many of these projects were phased in over the years, and we are happy that they are already complete, such as the new amphitheater and environs near the former Kaiser Convention Center. We here at The Lake Merritt are especially happy to see the final results of one of the last phases completed and construction in front of our community finally ended.

“It is a very exciting time to be in Oakland,,“ Randall Berger continued. “We have believed in this location on Madison Street for decades and some of the dreams from long ago truly have finally come to fruition. This area is now truly once again the jewel of our City. It has its own touch of European flavor and at the same time is entirely unique. What remains is the lake, which glitters morning, noon and night. ”



Bears in the House

Bears in the House
by Johanna Leonard
September 2018

We are very proud to announce a brand new partnership with one of the most important educational organizations around here! Together, the University of California Berkeley Retirement Center and The Lake Merritt – Independent Senior Living will host an exclusive lecture series for UC Berkeley retirees (staff, faculty and scientists) and our residents. Please note that events are for retirees only, not UC Berkeley alumnae. Residents of The Lake Merritt are also welcome to attend.

The first presentation is “The Origin of Fake News” presented by presented by Thomas Leonard, PhD, Professor Emeritus and University Librarian, School of Journalism. Journalism today is taking dizzying new forms and certainly brings new dangers to a democracy. Yet many of these dangerous features of the press were visible at the creation of our republic.

Dr. Leonard has published three books on the development of American media and led one of the largest research libraries in the United States. He taught in the Graduate School of Journalism since 1976. Professor Leonard focuses much of his research and teaching on the role of the press in society. He is the author of three books: ”Above the Battle: War-Making in America from Appomattox to Versailles,” ”The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting,” and ”News for All.” Presently he is working on a book about ”notorious Americans” and how journalists and historians have helped to build them up and tear them down.

Many of the residents of The Lake Merritt are from the Oakland East Bay community and some of them are former UC graduates or former professors and administrators. Thus, this new association seemed like a perfect match!

Top-notch, superior quality programming, taking place right here in our community, is just another reason to become a resident at The Lake Merritt Independent Senior Living! We are proud to welcome more wonderful Golden Bears to our house!