Chris E. Offutt - General Manager for the Waterfront Hotel, Jack London Square

Chicago native Chris E. Offutt has been General Manager at the Waterfront Hotel since January of this year. She is easing into her new role with years of hospitality industry experience working in Chicago, Seattle, Sacramento, San Francisco and now Oakland.

How do you interpret your role here at the Waterfront as General Manager?

My role is really to understand the brand and our values as a company and getting to know how we want to position the hotel, and how to make it better, special, and different. That means making some aesthetic changes such as redoing the pool area so it is a place where people want to hang out. It also means being more involved in the community. I believe that a good hotel gives back to the community in a meaningful way. We are now hosting small internal fundraisers, where people pay five bucks so that they can wear jeans on Fridays and we donate that money to a local charity. We are continuing to find more ways to participate and give back to the Oakland community.

Tell us something about the Waterfront that most people don’t know.

The Waterfront used to be known as a “boatel” because it was originally designed for people to dock in their boats and check in for their stay. There even used to be a giant “B” at the bottom of the pool that stood for boatel.

What is your favorite thing about working in Jack London Square?

It is definitely the view, it puts you in a good mood right away.

The Waterfront hosted a Cinco De Mayo party hosted by General Manager DJ Black Velveteen. Can you share with us a little about your musical background?

Yes, that’s me! It all started when I was a kid. I used to make playlists and go back and record my voice over the songs. I did that until I realized that people don’t really want to hear you talk over the songs the whole time! Then after I started working in the City I was connected with a colleague who taught me how to DJ on a vinyl turntable. Shortly after that I started doing opening performances for DJ’s then started booking my own gigs, and the rest is history.

If we went back in time and sat in your first car, what music would be playing?

I always liked listening to DJ mixes and at that time I would probably have had Chris Fortier’s club recordings playing. 

What do you like to do for fun?

DJ’ing really is my passion and it’s nice to have my passion and interest intersect with my work. I also belong to the Air Pusher Collective, which is a local collective of artists based in the Bay Area. In fact, there’s a Steam Punk Masquerade in Alameda that we are participating in coming up this summer which is our big yearly event. 

Amy Tharpe - Director of Social Responsibility, Port of Oakland

Amy Tharpe is the Director of Social Responsibility with the Port of Oakland. The Port operates, the seaport, the Oakland International Airport, as well as local real estate. Amy is a UC Berkeley and Harvard alum who is passionate about promoting Jack London Square as a center for community activity.

What does it mean to be the director of social responsibility?

I ensure that the business yields a community benefit through local hire practices and community engagement.

For example, on our construction projects, we make sure that workers are hired locally and that they are paid a living or prevailing wage.

For the community engagement part, we are inviting the community to come out and learn more about the Port of Oakland. Starting in May we are hosting free narrated harbor tours, that take you right up to big container ships which is a view few people get to see! We also sponsor events that occur in Jack London Square where local businesses can highlight their products. For example, we sponsor Eat Real, as well as events at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park and the local public schools. Recently we started another program called Good Neighbor Breakfasts, where we give updates and get feedback from the community.

You’ve been in this position since 2013, what would you say is your biggest accomplishment?

I am most proud of our new focus to expand our definition of local hire to include people who are most disadvantaged in our community including: unsheltered folks, the formerly incarcerated, and single parent households.

What is your favorite thing about Oakland?

The diversity. There is innovation that comes around every corner. Through our diverse perspectives, we have become a model for the rest of the country, where we can really lean on our differences to achieve something greater together.

What three words best describe Oakland?

Diverse. Soul. Feisty.

What is your best hidden talent?

I am a pretty good double-dutcher!


Visit the links below for more information about the programs mentioned in this story

Free Harbor Tours

Good Neighbor Breakfast Series

Middle Harbor Shoreline Park

Eat Real Fest



Francisco Pena - Co-Owner of Narrative Oak

Francisco,  a Seattle native with a background in interior design, is one of the owners of Narrative Oak in Jack London Square – a fun, eclectic store where you can buy mid-century modern and other one-of-a-kind treasures. 

Tell me about the store and what’s with the name “Narrative”?

“Sure, so the store is split up into 5 sections. Each section is curated in a different style. For example, I like the modern industrial look, and you can see that in the pieces that I present. All five of us curators go out into the world and hunt of our pieces, and each piece tells a story, hence the name “Narrative.”

Why did you decide to move to Oakland?

“I heard about the art scene, and the cool old industrial spaces to rent here. As an interior designer, the fit was perfect.”

Have you encountered any particularly interesting patrons, whose stories stick with you?

“Yes, there are a lot of creative people who own businesses here in Jack London Square, and they come into my shop. There is an architect who had some pieces by Frank Lloyd Wright. He let us show the pieces in our store. We’ve also had prop buyers and photographers come in to find unique textures for their sets.”

Do you host any activities here?

“Yes, we just had a jewelry truck show, and we are open late on First Fridays. We want to do more activities because we like to be active in the community.”

What do you do for fun?

“I like to listen to music. I curate music playlists that we play here in the store. I am always out hunting for pieces and I visit museums in the area to give me inspiration.”

What is your favorite museum to visit?

“Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the newly opened MOMA in the City yet, but I have recently gone to the Berkeley Art Museum. They had a Hippy Modernist Exhibit, that was really cool. The Oakland Museum of California is always fun.”

Do you have any hobbies other than collecting?

“I recently took up a painting class at Laney college. I find that my work is reflected in my paintings”


Alex and Sean - Le Vice

Living in Oakland, we are lucky to participate in a vibrant and changing indie music and arts scene.

Alex Lee and Sean Stillinger are the founders of Le Vice, an urban alternative 4-piece band, equipped with vocals, bass/keys, guitar, and drums.

Le Vice has performed at many music centers throughout the Bay Area and nation. When they are not recording in the studio or performing on stage, they visit Jack London Square because it is fun and funky.  

Why did you choose to pursue your musical career in the Bay Area?

Alex: “We moved to the Bay Area in 2007, we knew that we needed to move to a big city. Our choices were between Los Angeles and the Bay, and at the time, the Bay had a thriving indie music and art scene.”

 Sean: “There were a lot of good concerts [in San Francisco], a lot of great underground music artists, and it was also good for up and coming artists.”

Have you seen a change in the indie music scene from 2007 to now?

Alex: “Everyone moved to the East Bay”

Sean: “There was a mass exodus to the East Bay, to Portland, New York, Austin, and other places like it.”

What is unique about performing in Oakland?

Alex: “The people, especially now, they are a very supportive tribe of humans. The love is real in Oakland!”

Sean: “People do their own thing and they support other people doing their thing.”

What brings you to Jack London Square?

Alex: “Barbeque and five dollar movies at the movie theater, there was a time when we would come down almost every week on a Tuesday or Sunday.”

If you could have a drink with any music artist alive or dead, who would it be and why?

Alex: “Wow, that’s a hard question. Jimmy Hendrix, because it would turn into more than just a drink…”

Sean: “James Brown, he looks like he really likes to party.”

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Maria and Claudia – El Sabrosito


El Sabrosito, located on 3rd and Broadway, was started by two El Salvadorian sisters to pursue their lifelong passion project –  a restaurant. El Sabrosito specializes in pupusas and tamales - combining compassion, local ingredients, and El Salvadorian culture into a business on wheels. You can find them locally in Jack London, Off-the-Grid, or catering a special occasion.

How long have you had the food truck?        

My sister Claudia and I have had the truck for one year now! We officially started the truck December 3rd, 2015 – so our anniversary actually just passed. I can’t believe it’s already been a year.

What was your motivation to start the truck?

We both have always loved food ever since we were little. We crafted all of these recipes based on family secrets passed down from generations of El Salvadorian families. Right before we opened the truck my sister actually went back to El Salvador to relearn cooking techniques, and re-immerse herself in our traditional culture.

What are some challenges you’ve faced?

One of our biggest challenges is people don’t know what a pupusa is! So we explain to them what it is, and some of the history surrounding the El Salvadorian specialty. Another challenge is people are always assume we are selling tacos. Sometimes if they are hungry they get frustrated and ask us, “well, why don’t you sell them?” I just tell them we just sell what is true to us – Salvadorian food.

How did you and your sister find your way to Jack London Square?

My sister and I were born in El Salvador and lived there until I was around 10 years old. After that we lived in Montreal, Canada for a while. My sister Claudia has lived in the Bay for over 20 years, so we were talking one day and I just asked her, “do you want to sell food like we’ve always talked about?”

So I moved to the bay last September, to be closer to my sister and to finally start our restaurant.

What are your goals for the restaurant moving forward?

We would like to add some more things on the menu. We experiment from time to time, and really just see how our customers feedback. Our goal is to one day open a restaurant. It would be nice to have a big kitchen and some more room to store and prepare food.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to go hiking in nature and walk around the outdoors. But lately I just like relaxing when I’m not in the truck.

Are you on social media?

Yeah!  We have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat – all of them. Right now that’s our only way of advertising - social media and word-of-mouth.


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Allen Ingram – Marina Life


The Oakland Marina has been a staple landmark in the East Bay for well over 100 years. Now a large shipping passage for cargo, the location also provides a scenic viewpoint for tourists, aquatic travelers, and business meetings by the water. Allen Ingram, a cheerful and content 45-year-old, is one of a handful of people who reside on a house boat and call the Oakland Marina home. 

Are you an Oakland native?

I’m from Louisiana, but I moved to East Oakland when I was seven. I’m not really sure why we moved to the Bay, but my mom wanted to so. I actually went to Berkeley High School, and then really I’ve just been living here ever since. 

Do you live or work near Jack London Square?

I work in the Oakland Marina, and I’m one of four employees who maintain and manage the docks. It’s nice that I get to listen to music, be outside, and keep to myself!

I also live in a house boat docked right here in the Oakland marina. I’ve lived there for about one year now. It’s very nice and quiet. I like it a lot! 

What’s the most interesting aspect of living in the marina?

I love having my own private space away from any commotion and I like being able to fish directly off of my boat. And I really like the boat community that lives here. There are about 10 of us out here. We are a small, respectful group. 

How did you get the opportunity to live in a house boat?

I was looking for housing and my boss offered to let me live in his boat. The house boat is close to my job, and a genuinely nice quiet place to live. I never thought I would live on a boat.  I had only been on a boat for four to five hours before I moved in! (smiling)

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I really don’t do too much. I just like to just chill out, relax, and watch movies. I like watching all the new movies. Most recently I saw the movie Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. It was pretty good… I also like listening to music – especially R&B. Right now, my favorite artists are Future, Trey Songz, and Kem. 

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

I would live right here in Oakland!

Lynette McElhaney - Oakland City Council, President

 Photo: Malik Photography

Photo: Malik Photography


Lynette McElhaney is President of the Oakland City Council and has been a member of the Council since 2012. She represents District 3, which includes Jack London Square. In 2015, she was named one of the Most Influential Women in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Business Times and one of the Top 25 Leaders in Northern California by the Sun Reporter. She is passionate about improving the world through service and firm believer in delivering on one’s promises. 

What is your earliest memory of Jack London Square?

Oh, we’re going way back. I remember visiting the (Jack London) Village during a college tour when I was 15. It was an entire weekend and we stayed in a hotel down by the Buttercup. I just adored Butterflys & Critters, a delightful curio shop that had cards, gifts and something for everyone.

The Village back then was so quaint, scenic and alive – with its beautiful garden along the waterfront. It’s unfortunate it’s no longer there.

I also distinctly remember, years ago, when I first walked into (The Home of) Chicken and Waffles on Embarcadero, where Ms. Kelly would heartedly welcome everyone and anyone who came in and took a seat. Hands down, she had the best biscuits in town!

What is Oakland’s best hidden gem?

There are several. On the east side, the Mormon Temple is just so special. The great views of San Francisco. The bridges. It really is a spectacular Oakland gem. We’re lucky the grounds are open to the public and offer such unbelievable scenic views. Lake Merritt Garden and the Children’s Fairyland are also fantastic locations.

In the west, Lake Chabot is incredible. You can rent a boat, enjoy the shoreline, take advantage of recreational activities, and appreciate the area where the Ohlone lived for so many years.

How do you envision Jack London Square 20 years from now?

We need to restore the vibrancy and eclectic nature of the area. That includes diverse shopping with price points for everyone – from sandwiches to Scott’s. 

I’d also like to see the Square better integrate folks and make it more kid friendly. We should find ways to people of all walks, so that everyone can feel like they belong, afford something, and truly enjoy the experience, regardless of how much money is in your pocket. Hold on to our diverse community. It’s what makes us truly special. The Square should reflect that.

Where would someone most likely find you on the weekend?

In my neighborhood, at Lake Merritt, Sprouts – I really love Sprouts, or at community events. I enjoy walking to Shoreline Park, and very commonly at the Oakland Grill for waffles! It’s ridiculous how good they are! Because sometimes you just really want a waffle.

If you could go on a road trip with anyone, who would it be and where would you go?

President Obama. We’d need to drive cross-country, so that we could spend the most time together and get his undivided attention with no distractions. I’d want to talk about the media, our society’s divisiveness, how we got to this point and how do we move beyond it? It’s just so personal these days, and his perspective would be priceless insight.

Of course, the trip would end here in Oakland, and I’d show him all of our arts, entertainment and culture so that he, too, would fall in love with the City. But of course, I couldn’t let the trip go by without some intense networking, so that we’d be Facebook friends and he’d introduce me to Stevie Wonder! (laughing)

I’m proud of Oakland because ________.

Because she has “Love Life.” That adopted motto speaks volumes about our resiliency. It speaks to our diversity. It speaks to our inclusion. It speaks to our vision. 

As Maya Angelou said, “we are more alike than we are unalike.” It’s so true.

What always makes you laugh?

Babies. And I’m ridiculous about it! I go up to complete strangers and ask to hold their babies. They’re juicy and they are adorable. Everything about those little ones are authentic. The first few seconds you can see they’re trying to get a read on you and then, when they smile, you just want to eat them up.

Rocky Rios - Rocky's Hot Dogs

For four years, Rocky’s Hot Dogs has been a staple along Jack London Square’s waterfront. The man behind the stand is Rocky Rios. Rios, born and raised in Mexico, came to the U.S. when he was 17, married at 28, and now welcomes his customers from his stand nestled near the Ferry Building. Rios is an unassuming, shy, yet approachable figure, who most locals seem to know. “Everyone knows Rocky,” stated one passerby. “Everyone loves Rocky!”


Playing sports all day in the sun. Baseball, soccer, anything. You can be with friends, no responsibility and just having fun running around.

What’s your idea of a “perfect day” in Oakland?

Enjoying an entire day with my family. Doing anything, really. Because when you’re with family, that’s the best part. 

What do you consider your best achievement to date?

Definitely graduating high school! I worked so hard and proved to myself I could do it here. And I did!

What’s your favorite smell?

Strawberries. My mother always had fresh strawberries in the house and made jams, desserts and fruit salad. That smell reminds me of her, my childhood and growing up.

How would you like to see Jack London Square 10 years from now?

 Less vacancy on this side of the Square, with more restaurants, stores and places for people to live. There are too many empty places, so fewer people are walking around. This is such a beautiful place, and has so much to offer.

What always makes you laugh?

Anything! I’m always laughing!