How do neighborhoods develop distinct identities? Why was San Francisco’s North Beach an enclave for poetry, for example? Or the Castro a haven for gay men in the 1960’s and 70’s? Is it possible to engineer a neighborhood scene into being?
That’s what Mike Parayno wants to do. He’s the man behind Birdland, an underground jazz club run for many years out of his Berkeley garage. It wasn’t licensed and eventually got shut down by the city. So last summer, Parayno went legit. He moved his venue to Oakland’s Longfellow neighborhood. He wants to turn the historically black, residential area into a place where late-night live jazz music brings neighbors out into the street. Sounds crazy, but he might actually be able to pull it off.