Perhaps you’ve been to Soba Ichi Restaurant to enjoy a bowl of Chef Koichi Ishii’s soba noodles. If so, you’ve experienced some of the remarkable artistry that goes on at the site of an old oxygen factory in West Oakland. Master wood joiner Paul Discos bought the property in 2000 and turned it into a model for ethically sourced small-scale manufacturing. As many as 30 artisans—builders, entrepreneurs, alchemists, and makers—now share skills, space, and equipment at this site.
“They recycle each other’s waste, they argue, and they collaborate,” says the narrator of the four-minute video made to help show what could be lost if the O2 tenants fail to pull together the support they need to purchase the facility from Discoe when he retires.
“The neighborhood is changing fast. Other light industrial spaces are being bought by developers, digital warehousers, and cannabis growers, who evict the artists and raise rents,” the narrator continues.
Many of us have had a chance to wander around the site during a public festival or popup, peeking into the Den Saki Brewery, Don Bugito Pre-Hispanic Snackeria, Daybreak Seaweed workshop, or the Common Compost aquaponics setup, where fish poop out nutrients for the plants we can buy here for the vegetable or herb garden we’re now dreaming of planting.
When Discoe first built his wood mill on the site, he used trees cleared from construction sites—trees that otherwise might have ended up in landfills. “Now they become buildings, furniture, art, and soil,” says the video’s narrator. “O2 is a living laboratory for a circular economy and an incubator for experimental enterprise.”