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Jakob Schiller:  
          Debra Pryor, Berkeley’s new fire chief, was the guest of honor at the Berkeley Black Property Owners Association’s holiday party at the South Berkeley Community Church on Thursday. She jokes with association boardmember James Sweeney and the Rev. M. Gayle Dickson. u
Jakob Schiller: Debra Pryor, Berkeley’s new fire chief, was the guest of honor at the Berkeley Black Property Owners Association’s holiday party at the South Berkeley Community Church on Thursday. She jokes with association boardmember James Sweeney and the Rev. M. Gayle Dickson. u
 

News

Critics Assail Proposed West Berkeley Bowl By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 17, 2004

West Berkeley home and business owners told planning commissioners Thursday that when they endorsed the notion of a new Berkeley Bowl on their turf, they weren’t reckoning on a heavily trafficked super-store. 

While a few endorsed the idea of the 91,060-square-foot three-building complex at Ninth Street and Heinz Avenue, most of the speakers weren’t so obliging. 

And most of those who endorsed the project faulted the city for failing to reach out to the community to explain the proposal and its potential ramifications. 

“This is not the place to put that store,” said Primo Facchim, founder of the West Berkeley Association. Because of the high volume of traffic the store is certain to generate, Facchim said, streets would have to be widened to allow the flow of customers from Ashby and San Pablo avenues. 

The city staff report cited studies by the Institute of Transportation Engineers that grocery stores typically generate 102 average vehicle trips per day for every 1,000 square feet of floor area. 

With 54,735 of retail surface floor, the store would then be expected to draw at least 5,583 additional vehicle trips into the heavily traveled Ashby and San Pablo corridors. A study by transportation consultants Fehr & Peers said the only significant impact would be at the San Pablo Avenue and Ninth Street intersection—where they suggested a new traffic signal and crosswalk. 

Before the complex can be built, commissioners must amend the West Berkeley Plan land use map and change the zoning on the site from Mixed Use-Light Industrial to C-W, West Berkeley Commercial. 

Final approval of the specific building plans for the project fall under the purview of the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). 

The proposal as it now stands is more than three times the 27,000 square feet originally proposed, prompting Mary Lou Deventer of nearby Urban Ore and the West Berkeley Industrial Committee to liken the project to “a welcome mouse that’s now grown into an elephant.” 

Deventer charged city staff with “railroading” a project that would generate enough traffic to swamp the intersection of Ashby and Seventh Street. 

“You’re about to drown the river if you add this much traffic,” she said. 

Antoine Portales, business manager of the East Bay French-American School (Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley) at Ninth and Heinz, said he was another early proponent who’d grown sour as the project size expanded. 

“At first, we were really supportive,” he said. “We are not in support of the project any longer.” 

Along with other neighbors, Portales had urged that access to the store be restricted to Ninth Street via Ashby Avenue and Anthony Street via Seventh Street, with no access from Heinz Avenue or Ninth Street to the north of the site. 

“The city traffic engineer said it would cause too many problems to close them,” Portales said. 

The school official said his main concern was student safety, both from increased traffic on Heinz, where parents typically drop off and pick up their charges, and from the effects of increased air pollution caused by heavier traffic. 

Ranil Abeysekera, who lives in the area and works at Inkworks, a nearby business, said he, too, initially supported the smaller scale project, “but it has become a larger project altogether in an already congested area. It’s totally out of control even as it stands now.” 

Abeysekera said he was also concerned about the health impacts of increased pollution and the negative effects of traffic on other nearby business. 

John Curl, a West Berkeley woodworker, also endorsed the notion of restricting store access to the south and west. “The community almost to a person wants no access through Ninth and Heinz,” he said. “What we’ve got is a rock and a hard place.” 

Curl called the city approval process “a steamroller” and urged commissioners to hold a community workshop to provide a forum where concerns could be fully aired. “If you give us enough time, we’ll have hundreds of people here.” 

“The staff report seems to me like everything’s being spun like Alice in Wonderland,” Curl said. “For the community, it’s going to be a disaster.” 

“It’s the scale of this project that frightens me,” said Susanne Hering. “It’s four times the size of the Andronico’s on University, and their restaurant is larger than any other in West Berkeley.” 

Hering then raised an issue that other critics said they also endorsed: “It sounds like this is not so much for Berkeley as for the surrounding communities.” If so, she said, traffic could be even heavier. 

Harpsichord-maker John Phillips said he was troubled by the growth of the proposal from a neighborhood store into “something like K-Mart, except with better vegetables.” 

Fran Haselsteiner of the Dwight Way Neighbors told the commission, “We don’t need a superstore in West Berkeley. What we need is a neighborhood store on the scale of Andronico’s on University.”  

Haselsteiner urged commissioners not to amend the General Plan “to accommodate a store that will have traffic impacts as far away as Dwight Way.” 

Ron Wichmann told the commission he too had had concerns but they had been resolved by a discussion with city Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. 

“My main concern is that this meeting was not noticed,” he said. 

The city sent formal notices to property owners within 300 feet of the project, but not to the larger community, Rhoades said. 

Susan Libby of Libby Labs said she was concerned at the erosion of industrially zoned land in West Berkeley. 

“You’re missing the boat in handling all these changes from industrial to commercial. Cody’s was supposed to be the line, and there wasn’t supposed to be any retail north of Cody’s. I don’t see how you can let it go on like this,” she said 

She too endorsed Curl’s call for a workshop. 

Project proponent Karen Hexem said she would be “delighted to think there’ll be that quality of store in our neighborhood.” Nonetheless, she said. “I would like to see more meetings to educate the neighbors.” 

Hexem’s remarks were echoed by fellow proponent Daniele Hellman, who said, “the city is not known for its process, for having a good lead time for the public.” 

Diana Keena, another Berkeley Bowl advocate, said, “I don’t live there, so I’m not concerned about the traffic.” 

Marvin Lipofsky was the only nearby resident to endorse the project without reservations. “It’s a great project. I’m all for Berkeley Bowl coming in. We need this, Berkeley needs this. This is a plus for Berkeley and a plus for the neighborhood, and we don’t need any more blocked off streets.” 

Stephen Dunn, a neighbor of Lipofsky, said he wouldn’t mind so much if the Berkeley Bowl were the last project built in the area, but “there are big things, very dense things coming down the pike in that neighborhood which would be terrible mistakes.” 

Gianni Ranuzzi, a member of the LeConte Neighborhood Association who lives near the existing Berkeley Bowl on Shattuck Avenue just north of Ashby, said her group had worked very hard to keep the store in their neighborhood and expressed fears that the new complex could lead to the closure of the older store. 

With Ranuzzi the public comment period closed and it was the turn of commissioners to ask their own questions. 

Because owner Glen Yasuda has avoided public meetings on his proposal—his name wasn’t even mentioned Thursday—Helen Burke and other commissioners posed their questions to project architect Kava Massih. 

When Burke asked why the original plans for the 27,000-square-foot store had been abandoned, Massih said the owner had determined that anything smaller than the current plan wasn’t economically viable. 

It was Burke who also took up Curl’s proposal for a public workshop, moving to hold a workshop at the commission’s next meeting on Jan. 12, followed by a hearing at a later meeting. 

Commissioner Joe Fireman endorsed the workshop proposal, as did Sara Shumer and Nancy Holland. 

There was immediate opposition from colleague David Stoloff. 

“Workshops turn out to be negotiating sessions,” he said. “I don’t know what would be gained.” 

After further discussion, Stoloff agreed to a workshop, but only if it were combined with a public hearing. “Double notification drags it out,” he said. Fireman immediately endorsed his alternative, as did Chair Harry Pollack and Commissioner David Tabb. 

Burke’s motion for two separate forums failed on a 4-3 vote, with only her colleagues Sara Shumer and Nancy Holland voting with her.  

A second vote on the combined workshop and hearing carried on a 6-0-1 vote, with Holland abstaining, placing the combined workshop/hearing on the Jan. 12 agenda. 

Commissioners also devoted some discussion to proposed changes in the city’s Landmarks Preservation ordinance but took no action.


Controversial Laney College Contract Put on Hold By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 17, 2004

Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris revealed Tuesday that he has halted negotiations on a plan to develop commercial uses for Laney College properties because of a perceived conflict of interest for one of the participants. 

Former Laney Physical Plant Director Ineda Adesanya’s consulting firm, IPA Solutions, was to be retained under contract to develop a facilities management plan for the district but was also listed as part of the team for developer Alan Dones’ Oakland-based Strategic Urban Development Alliance (SUDA). Harris said the contract offer has been withdrawn. 

The disclosure surfaced as the newly-elected Peralta Board of Trustees discussed the chancellor’s proposal for a contract with a third firm to produce a comprehensive land use development report for the district. The board then tabled Harris’s proposal. 

The Harris announcements and the board action came in rapid succession during the first meeting of the new Peralta board, signaling a new era of skepticism by trustee board members. 

Four of the seven Peralta trustees are first-term members, elected last month. 

With no advance notice, the outgoing board of trustees gave Harris approval last month to negotiate an exclusive, one-year contract with to put together a plan to develop the Laney fields and parking lot and the adjacent administration building. 

As part of his development team, Dones listed powerful developer Signature Properties, as well as Adesanya’s IPA Planning Solutions. Earlier this fall, a month after Adesanya left her job with Peralta, the trustees authorized Harris to negotiate a $90,000 contract with IPA to draft a strategic plan for the Peralta District facilities. 

The SUDA proposals brought immediate opposition from representatives of various Laney College constituencies. 

At this week’s trustee meeting, before Harris announced that the SUDA deal was on hold, Laney College Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Stan Peters told the board that the Laney College Faculty Senate, the Associated Students organization, and the Laney Classified Senate had all passed resolutions opposing the SUDA contract. They requested that the Peralta Community College District “not give away Laney College education land to special interest groups.” 

According to Peters, developing the field and parking lot would “destroy the education environment, athletic fields, and green areas of Laney College. These are not under-utilized or surplus lands, but green areas that make Laney look and feel like a college campus.” 

The proposed development would “turn Laney College into an asphalt jungle,” Peters said. He declared that the Laney Faculty Senate would call for a grand jury investigation “into this illegal affair” if the district went through with the contract. 

Meanwhile, more controversy was surfacing about SUDA itself. A check of SUDA associates listed on its website revealed that one of the principals in SUDA is controversial San Francisco bond financier Calvin Grigsby. Grigsby, who has close ties to State Senator Don Perata (D-Oakland), was indicted in 1996 for an illegal campaign contribution to former Alameda County Supervisor Mary King. 

King, now a consultant and lobbyist for SUDA, was part of SUDA’s presentation at the November Peralta trustee meeting. In 1999, Grigsby was indicted—but later acquitted—on federal charges of misusing $1.5 million in Port of Miami funds. In 1999, Perata was fined by the California Fair Political Practices Commission for failure to report $65,000 in income from six clients to his Perata Engineering consultant firm. Grigsby was one of the clients whose payment went unreported. 

Harris proposed a six-month, $45,000 contract with Scala Design & Development Services of Oakland to develop a district-wide facility land use and bond measure report. Newly-elected trustee Cy Gulassa questioned Harris’s proposal because it failed specify how it would coordinate with the SUDA and IPA contracts. 

“The IPA contract was withdrawn because of a conflict,” Harris told him. “The board approved it, but it was never executed. There is no contract with IPA Associates.” 

When Gulassa said that he wished the announcement of the contract’s withdrawal had come sooner, Harris told him, “The opportunity did not present itself before,” adding that “I’m making it public now.” 

Harris said the conflict occurred because IPA had been listed by Dones as part of the Laney land development project. 

He then announced that the SUDA contract itself was on hold because of “the controversy.” 

“There’s been no negotiation with Alan Dones and there’s been no effort to move forward,” he said. “We did not move forward because I believe that entering the contract was premature.” 

The trustees also deemed Harris’ proposed contract with Scala incomplete. Following a brief presentation by Scala principal Atheria Smith, the trustees approved, 4-3, a substitute motion by Trustee Nicky Gonzáles Yuen to table the Scala proposal. (Trustees Yuen, Gulasa, Clifton, and Withrow in favor of tabling, while trustees Linda Handy, Marcie Hodge, and Bill Riley voted against the tabling.) 

Yuen said he made the motion “because we need to take a slight step back in this process.” Under Yuen’s motion, the proposed Scala contract will first go to the facilities committees of Peralta’s four colleges, and then return to the trustees at the end of January. 

In another signal that the new trustees plan to keep Harris on a short leash, the board killed his proposal to increase the amount of changes the chancellor can make in large construction projects without trustee approval. The vote was 3-3-1 (Alona Clifton, Handy, and Riley voting aye, Gulassa, Hodge, and Bill Withrow voting no, Yuen abstaining) 

Currently, the chancellor is limited to making $200,000 in changes before coming to the board, but Harris wanted that limit to be raised to 5 percent of the original contract price. 

Harris said the proposal was aimed specifically at the $40.2 million construction of the new Vista College Permanent Facility in Berkeley, which would allow him to make a little over $2 million in contract changes without board approval. 

He was backed by Vista president Judy Waters. 

Before the vote, Harris said, “I want you to give me enough authority so that you won’t blame me for any untimely construction delays if we come up with unexpected contingencies.” 

He said that he would live with the decision taken by the trustees. 

In one of the trustee board’s non-controversial actions, they unanimously elected Bill Riley as board president and Linda Handy as vice-president. 

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Challenge to Point Molate Casino Filed by Open Space Advocates By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 17, 2004

Eastshore State Park supporters Wednesday filed legal papers in an attempt to block the casino and resort complex planned for Point Molate. 

Citizens for the Eastshore State Park (CESP) seeks to overturn the City of Richmond’s award of the property to Berkeley developer James D. Levine’s Upstream Point Molate LLC on the grounds that the transaction was made without an environmental review as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

At least one other environmental organization may enter the suit, said CESP President Robert Cheasty, and the East Bay Regional Parks District is also contemplating its own filing. 

“I’ve been in contact with the park district, and it’s my understanding that they are considering filing tomorrow (Friday),” Cheasty said late Thursday.  

“A gambling casino is certainly not the highest and best use of the land,” Cheasty said. “It was a desperation move by the city to solve their financial problems.” 

CESP contends that the city was obligated to perform a full Environmental Impact Report before the transfer to address the full range of impacts the project could create. 

Under CEQA, environmental impact analyses are mandated at the earliest possible stages of the planning process to ensure that the project is designed to minimize impacts on the environment. 

The legal action, a petition for a writ of mandate, was filed in Contra Costa County Superior Court by Oakland attorney Stephan C. Volker. 

Levine, in partnership with gambling giant Harrah’s and the Guidiville Band of the Pomo tribe, plans to build a massive casino with 2,500 to 3,000 slot machines and 125 to 160 table games, along with four hotels, a major shopping center and a major live entertainment venue on land that was once a U.S. Navy refueling station. 

Upstream beat out a rival offer from petro-giant ChevronTexaco, which sought most of the site as a security buffer for its Richmond refinery, just over the ridge from the casino site. 

When an oil company official announced the firm’s offer for the site, he shared the platform with Cheasty and other environmental activists, who are calling for the majority of the site to be incorporated into the Eastshore State Park. 

“This is and has been public land and it shouldn’t be privatized,” Cheasty said. “It’s shoreline, and it should be preserved for the public, not just the rich and famous. There were lots of alternatives that should’ve been explored by the city, and there was no need to rush into the agreement. It could’ve been done slowly and thoughtfully.”  

The San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed the CESP’s legal move, said chapter legal chair Norman LaForce. 

Volker said the next legal move is to serve the city and Upstream with formal summonses notifying them of the action and calling on them to respond. A process server was expected to deliver the legal notices today (Friday), he said. Another copy will be delivered to the California Attorney General’s office, which has the authority to intervene. 

The central issue, he said, is that the Land Development Agreement signed by the city requires Richmond to support the transfer of the land to the tribe. 

“Once the land is transferred, the city and the state lose regulatory control over the land except for their services agreement, which is a far cry from full control,” Volker said. “An Environmental Impact Report prepared after the transfer will not restore the authority the city gave up. It’s locking the door after the horse has left.” 

“I’m convinced we’re correct as a matter of law,” he said. 

“Our goal is a shoreline park, but we not opposed to some development at the site,” Cheasty said. 

“With regard to Indian casinos, we believe the issue of urban gambling needs to be put to a statewide conversation. The rent-a-tribe orientation taken by Harrah’s flies in the face of the original intent of tribal gambling proponents.” 

Calls placed to developer Levine were not returned. ›


Oakland Village Offers a Glimpse of the Past By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 17, 2004

There’s a time warp in Oakland, nestled on the gentle slopes at the base of Dunsmuir Ridge, overlooking San Leandro to the west. 

It’s called Sheffield Village, though a film buff might immediately think of Pleasantville, the 1998 Gary Ross movie contrasting the black-and-white small town sitcom world of the ‘50s with today’s more conflicted reality. 

And today, it’s on its way to becoming Oakland’s newest landmark. 

Like Pleasantville, Sheffield Village is a world of modest, immaculately maintained two- and three-bedroom homes, of white picket fences and meticulous landscaping, making it a perfect setting for a film set in the era of the post-World War II boom. 

Lots are generous, 5,000 square feet and more, and each one unique according to its placement on the gently sloped terrain and along the pleasantly winding streets. Sheffield Village lies just east of Highway 580 about a mile south of the Oakland Zoo, and consists of about 300 homes. 

“It truly is a village,” said Chris Barker, a three-year resident who bought his home in January 2001, from the original owner, who had lived in the house for 60 years. 

“People know each other and participate in the homeowners  

association,” Barker said. “There’s an annual picnic, Christmas caroling and food drives. People love their homes and they want to preserve the look and character and feel of the neighborhood.” 

The move to landmark the community began eight months after Barker moved in “when one homeowner basically leveled his house to build something much larger and totally out of character with the neighborhood. It sparked a lot of outrage.” 

The proposal sailed through the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board and now rests in the hands of the city’s Planning Commission, which holds the landmarking authority in Oakland.  

All Sheffield Village homes feature hardwood floors throughout, built-in bookshelves, glass-fronted china cabinets, fireplaces and a host of other amenities—and if buyers made their purchases before their homes were finished they could pick and chose color schemes, paint and wallpaper. 

The builders even allowed for design modifications for those who bought before construction had commenced, so that rooms could be made larger or smaller. 

And then each home received its own unique ornamentation, details ensuring that no two structures were alike. 

As Irwin Johnson, one of the subdivision’s architects, told a researcher for the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey in 1991, “Embellishments didn’t cost much then. Many tradespeople were available then to do craftwork.” 

Completed homes with landscaping installed cost $4,750 to $5,950 when built, and buyers could move in with a ten percent down payment. 

Today those same houses sell for close to 100 times the original sales price—when they come on the market. A recent weekend tour of the subdivision didn’t produce a single “For Sale” sign sighting. 

Launched in 1939 to great fanfare in the Oakland Tribune, the 98-acre subdivision was built with $1.5 million in Federal Housing Administration funding, a noteworthy sum in the waning years of the Depression. 

At the time E.B. Field and his construction company launched the project, they boasted that it was “the greatest single group housing project in the West.” It was the largest FHA project of its day. 

While some homes have been expanded and second floors added, Sheffield Village remains largely intact, save for the 23 homes that were demolished in 1968 to make room for Interstate 580. 

There is one notable change from the original plans, as explained in a 1941 brochure distributed to prospective home-buyers. 

“First and foremost at Sheffield Village you have the guarantee of home protection. Everything has been done and is being done to safeguard your investment. You have the guarantee of a Declaration of Restrictions to be in force for 40 or more years. . .You are protected against the incursion of undesirable neighbors or unsightly homes.” 

Any possibility of mistaking the intent of the passage was resolved in the following page, which laid out the pluses of living in the development: “High type Caucasian neighbors proud of their homes.” 

Racial covenants were actually required by the Federal Housing Administration in all housing projects they financed. 

The Supreme Court ruled 6-0 in 1948 that the covenants couldn’t be enforced in court, but it wasn’t until 20 years later that Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which outlawed discrimination in housing sales. 

Architect Johnson became one of the most prominent architects in the East Bay, with commissions including the home of Alameda County District Attorney and future U.S. Supreme Chief Justice Earl Warren, the San Leandro City Hall and the Salvation Army Building in downtown Oakland. 

Johnson designed many homes in the Piedmont and Rockridge neighborhoods, and several in Berkeley. Gail Lombardi of the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey described him as “a significant architect in the Bay Area.” 

Some of his homes were destroyed in the 1991 fire, but many others remain. One of his San Leandro creations was featured in the September 1939 edition of House Beautiful.  

“We think very highly of him,” Lombardi said. “The Mid-Century architects are only now starting to be valued.” 

One of Johnson’s Berkeley buildings is currently up for consideration by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, the 1946 Colonial Revival style office building at 2040 Fourth St. that now houses Celia’s Restaurant. 

The architect kept working right up until he died in 1998, at the age of 95. Lombardi predicts he will become more prominent with the passage of time. 

One thing is certain: For anyone old enough to remember the 1950s, a trip to Sheffield Village is certain to evoke waves of nostalgia. 

For more information on the village, see the neighborhood website, www.sheffieldvillage.org/index.html.


Council Postpones Marin Avenue Plan, Approves Expansion For Elmwood Clothier By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

The City Council Tuesday opted to postpone a vote to reduce traffic lanes on lower Marin Avenue until after residents get a second chance to chime in. 

The push to delay the vote until after a public hearing on Jan. 18 came from North Berkeley Councilmembers Betty Olds, Laurie Capitelli and Linda Maio, who were inundated with dozens of e-mails from opponents to the plan. 

If adopted, the city would re-stripe four blocks of Marin Avenue—one of North Berkeley’s most heavily traveled east-west traffic corridors—removing two automobile lanes and replacing them with two bike lanes and a center turning lane. The plan, which would go into effect for a one-year trial period, would reduce average speeds from 31 mph to 26 mph and improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety, according to a report from transportation consultants Fehr & Pierce. 

In addition to delaying the vote, the council requested that city staff include before and after traffic counts on potentially impacted streets so the city could evaluate the project. 

The council must make a final decision on the plan by the first week of February in order for the city to be competitive for a grant application, said Assistant City Manager for Transportation Peter Hillier. The re-striping project will cost $30,000, he said. 

Besides concerns that the plan would lengthen rush hour commute times and push traffic on to side streets, opponents have argued that they weren’t aware of the proposal when it went to a public hearing before the Transportation Commission in October. 

“No one on the south side of Sonoma Avenue received a notice,” said Deborah Moore, who added that cars already speed down Sonoma. 

No such opposition emerged in Albany, which last month approved the redesign for its share of Marin Avenue from Stannage Avenue to Tulare Avenue—the main access road for two city elementary schools. 

Berkeley’s participation in the plan would push the redesign four blocks east to The Alameda and avoid creating a merge at Tulare, which several members of the council feared could cause as much congestion as reducing lanes. 

“If we don’t do this we’re going to stack up cars anyway,” said Mayor Tom Bates. 

Also Tuesday, the council gave the final go-ahead for Jeremy’s, a popular College Avenue clothing store, to expand its shop into a storefront occupied by a neighboring real estate business. Several Elmwood area merchants and residents fought the expansion sought by Jeremy Kidson, who owns both the clothing store and the building at 2963 College Ave., citing that the shopping district’s quota for apparel retailers was full. 

The matter was appealed to the council, after the Zoning Adjustment Board last August voted 5-3 for Kidson, finding that the expansion did not add an additional clothing retailer and thus didn’t violate the quota system. 

The quota rules, which were designed to preserve retail diversity serving local residents, have been haphazardly enforced since they were implemented 23 years ago. Kidson, in fact, was allowed to violate the rules when he first opened his store in 1990. 

Speaking on behalf of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, Dean Metzger asked the council to delay a vote and set a new public hearing on the appeal. 

“Neighborhood groups want to have input on what is going on with the quota system,” he said. 

Metzger was backed by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the lone dissenter, who warned that by refusing to grant the public hearing, the council would perpetuate the perception that the city didn’t fairly enforce its laws. 

Instead, the council, not wanting to hamstring a successful store on College Avenue, chose to deny the appeal and ask the Planning Commission to review the city’s quota regulations for commercial districts. 

By a unanimous vote, the council approved changes to the city’s taxi scrip program, which offers taxi vouchers for elderly and disabled residents. To reduce staff overhead, which now consumes 36 percent of the $453,000 budget, the city will no longer sell taxi scrip or other paratransit tickets. The move is expected to save $36,000 in reduced staff time. 

Under the new plan, the city will distribute free scrip to eligible customers, who are over 70 and earn under 30 percent of the Bay Area’s Average Median Income (AMI). Current customers who earn under 50 percent of AMI will be grandfathered into the program.  

In an amendment proposed by Councilmember Dona Spring, the city will also distribute fee vouchers for the county-run East Bay Paratransit vans. Berkeley had been selling subsidized tickets along with the taxi scrip. 

The council also voted unanimously to expand the city’s Voluntary Time Off Program. Non-essential city services will be closed Friday, Jan. 14, Thursday, Feb. 10, Friday Mar. 25, Monday, Mar. 28, Friday, May 27. 

Voluntary time off (VTO) is designed to save money for the city which faces a $7.5 million budget shortfall and cut down on forced vacation payouts, which last year cost the city approximately $500,000. 

The first VTO day, Nov. 12, resulted in the use of $118,000 in vacation leave and a direct cash savings of $22,000 from workers who took the day off without pay, according to City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

The next VTO days are Dec. 27 through 31. 

 

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Council Calls for Presidential Vote Investigation By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

As a recount proceeds in Ohio, Berkeley has become the first city to add its voice to the chorus of skeptics demanding an investigation into alleged voting irregularities in last month’s presidential elections. 

On Tuesday, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution requesting the Government Accountability Office undertake an investigation and calling for national election reforms. 

“Democracy is on the line,” said Phoebe Anne Sorgen of the city’s Peace and Justice Commission, which recommended the resolution to the council. 

Although she doesn’t expect the Bush administration or the Republican-controlled Congress to heed the city’s call, Sorgen hopes other municipalities and organizations call for investigations. 

Already Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has held informal hearings into irregularities reported in Ohio. Along with Democratic colleagues, Conyers has demanded that Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell respond to 12 irregularities in vote counting and election procedures disclosed during the sessions. 

On Wednesday, Conyers upped the ante, requesting that the FBI and an Ohio county prosecutor investigate possible election tampering in Hocking County, Ohio. The charges are based on a sworn affidavit by the county deputy director of elections, Sherole Eaton. According to the affidavit posted on Conyer’s website, Eaton said that a representative of Triad Governmental Systems, the firm which designed and manages vote counting software in Ohio counties, adjusted the tabulator in Hocking County last Friday in advance of this week’s scheduled recount. 

The recount, which under Ohio rules requires that 3 percent of the vote in each county be tallied by hand, is being funded jointly by the Green Party and the Libertarian Party. 

Closer to home, UC Berkeley Professor Michael Hout and a team of graduate students found that irregularities in Florida electronic voting machines may have awarded up to 260,000 votes to President Bush, who won the state by a margin of over 380,000. 

Berkeley’s resolution calls for, among other things, requiring that election day become a mandatory holiday or moved to the weekend, early voting throughout the county, a voter-verifiable paper trail of every vote cast, public access to election machine computer codes, consistent national standards for security and access, and that states appoint non-partisan officials to run elections. 

Councilmember Dona Spring pushed for the council to pass the resolution before its Christmas recess to show support for Conyers and others in Congress who are challenging the election results. 

“As time passes, the Congress will feel less pressure to deal with voting irregularities,” she said. 

At the request of Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, the council stripped the resolution of one section that noted that up to one-third of Berkeley ballots weren’t counted until three weeks after the election. The delay was due to a county policy that all write-in ballots submitted on election day be classified as provisional ballots, which require county officials to confirm that the voter is properly registered. Wozniak said he thought the matter was trivial compared to the other allegations in the resolution. 

 

 

 


Around Town

Jakob Schiller
Friday December 17, 2004

Tony McNair takes a break from panhandling outside the Walgreens in downtown Berkeley Monday morning..


New City Fire Chief Ready for the Challenge By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

Berkeley’s new fire chief Debra Pryor was greeted with more hugs than handshakes as she took the reins of the Fire Department this week. 

A Berkeley native, who in 1985 became the city’s first female firefighter, Pryor, 43, held court Wednesday in her new office, which was still barren except for two bouquets on her desk and a shelf full of welcome-back gifts. 

“It’s extra special for me to come back to the community I grew up in and where I already have so many special relationships,” Pryor said. 

Even though Pryor is enjoying her homecoming, she is aware that pending budget cuts and sour relations between the firefighters union and city leaders could shorten her honeymoon. 

“I know I’m walking into a challenging situation,” Prior said.  

She pledged to work with the union on policy issues and empathized with their frustrations. 

“They are my group of workers and they are standing up for what they believe,” she said. “They don’t want their safety or the safety of the community compromised.” 

The firefighters union is still steaming from a series of budget cuts, arguing that the cuts pose safety risks and were made in spite of several alternative measures suggested by the union. Also there is lingering animosity between the union and city leaders after the city handed police officers a more generous contract. 

This year the firefighters were the only large city union to refuse a one-time reduction in scheduled salary increases to help Berkeley balance its budget, prompting the City Council to recoup the savings by reducing a fire truck company to part-time. 

In November a majority of voters rejected a union-backed tax measure that would have spared the truck and lessened future cuts. 

“Right now people are considering transferring to other cities,” said incoming union head Gil Dong, who added that firefighters have been frank with Pryor about their concerns. 

With 17 years in the department, Pryor already has strong relations with many Berkeley firefighters. 

“I’m really overjoyed that she’s coming back as chief,” said Tyre Mills III, a BFD apparatus operator. 

As his training officer, Mills III said Pryor never accepted mediocrity. He recalled her reaction when he told her that he was satisfied with a string of B grades. “She lit into me and demanded I study harder,” Mills said. “I look back on that whenever I test for a promotion.” 

After working her way up to the department’s deputy chief position, Pryor, who was passed up for Berkeley chief in 1997, said she decided to leave for Palo Alto in 2002 to work with then Chief Ruben Grijalva. 

“He reorganized the department to create a space for me and gave me a chance to learn a different system and face different challenges,” she said. 

Dan Firth, Palo Alto’s acting fire marshal, credited Pryor with engaging colleagues who needed to buy into changes she implemented. “In meetings she always found a way to build support and get other departments to help us out,” he said. 

Pryor, who started in Palo Alto as fire marshall and director of fire prevention and left as director of operations, said she would try to import some of the city’s professional development and training programs to Berkeley. She also hoped to bolster BFD’s budget with more revenue generating programs like ambulance transport services between hospitals. Palo Alto, she said, has a similar program and also receives money from Stanford University to help pay for the department. 

Pryor also wants to expand outreach in the community. She said she regularly attends career days at Malcolm X Elementary School, where she had been a student and where her mother worked as an administrator, and Willard Middle School, from which she graduated before attending Holy Names High School in Oakland. 

Growing up in Berkeley, Pryor, a Hayward resident, said she never considered fire fighting as a career that was available to women. It wasn’t until after she graduated from Arizona State University and was working as a temp for the Berkeley Rent Board that she stumbled upon a recruiter. 

“I looked at it as an opportunity to give back to the community,” she said. 

After months of training, where she proved she could run up stairs with 250 pounds of equipment, hoses and a dummy victim, Pryor made Berkeley history and began her rise through the department’s ranks. 

Pryor, who also has a masters degree in public administration from Cal State Hayward, is the second African-American Fire Chief in the country. Although she describes herself as “a chief who happens to be a women of African American descent,” she said the distinction means a lot to her. 

“I think it shows what’s possible for women in all walks of life.” 

 

 

 

 


Interim Report Says School Budget is Back on Track By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday December 17, 2004

The board of directors of the Berkeley Unified School District received a guardedly optimistic first interim budget report at this week’s board meeting, showing that the assumptions in the district’s 2004-05 budget are on track. 

That budget, which projected unrestricted general fund revenues at $46.9 million, expenditures at $46.1 million, and an operating surplus of $743,000, was approved three months ago by the Alameda County Office of Education. 

And that is without the inclusion of recently-passed Berkeley School Measure B, whose funds will not begin kicking in for another year. 

This week’s meeting was the board’s last before the holiday break. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 12. 

Recently re-elected directors Joaquin Rivera and John Selawsky, who were criticized by opponents for the district’s past fiscal difficulties during the election campaign, expressed pleasure at the updated budget report figures. Rivera welcomed the news. 

“It’s been so long since we’ve heard anything positive,” he said. 

But Selawsky noted that the district was “barely balanced.”  

“We are not flush,” he said. “We are going to be operating a bare bones budget for the next couple of years.” 

Director Shirley Issel added that “we’re still in a fiscal emergency. It’s survivable, but we’re still not in a strong position fiscally.” 

Even Berkeley school finances are in the black, Board President Nancy Riddle said a continued declaration of fiscal emergency is necessary “because the general fund cannot meet our fiscal responsibilities on its own.” 

District staff representatives said that added state average daily attendance revenue from a 300-student enrollment increase since the budget was approved in July were offset by related costs, including the hiring of new teachers. 

Director of Physical Services Song Chin-Bendib said that the district will still have to borrow money this fall in order to meet expenses until tax revenue comes in next January. Chin-Bendib said this was not unusual, calling the fall “normally a difficult period.” 

In other action at this week’s meeting, the board: 

• Gave qualified approval to revised site plans for Willard Middle School and Berkeley Alternative High School. Rivera, Riddle, and student Director Lily Dorman-Colby all abstained on acceptance of the plan. Following the meeting, Rivera said that the submitted plans were “less than acceptable,” a criticism he had made of site plans submitted by other schools at previous board meetings. The site plans for student achievement are required by the California Department of Education. Site plans have now been approved by the board for all of BUSD’s schools. 

• Unanimously approved a plan to add lights to the east parking lot of the Franklin Adult School “contingent on the funding being available.” The lights have been proposed because of concerns about safety and vandalism at the adult school, which relocated to the Franklin Street site, and operates its parking lot until 10 p.m. Director Terry Doran noted that there was general approval of the lighting plan from residents in the surrounding neighborhood. 

• Accepted, for information purposes, reports on the West Campus and East Campus properties. 

In regards to the West Campus site, where the district is projecting to eventually move its administrative offices, board approval of a planner is scheduled for February of next year. Community meetings are planned for March and April. Superintendent Michele Lawrence said that she is in the process of forming a staff committee to begin internal planning, with a site committee “a little ways off.” Construction of the new administration building is scheduled to take place between July 2007 and July 2008, with a move from the district’s present Old City Hall offices projected for September of 2008. 

At the East Campus site, where the district wants to tear down existing buildings and build an athletic field, a demolition site committee has already been formed and met. An athletic field site committee meeting has been scheduled for January of next year. 

 


Locals Open Wallets for Berkeley Public Library By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

Boosters of the Berkeley Public Library have raised $100,000 to help the cash strapped institution buy more books. 

The Berkeley Public Library Foundation and the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library each raised $50,000 as part of an ongoing fundraising drive to plug the $300,000 shortfall in the library’s book-buying budget. 

“This makes up a third of our book-buying deficit. That’s really huge fur us,” said Library Director Jackie Griffin. 

The fundraising drive began this summer, said Berkeley Public Library Foundation Boardmember Michele Rabkin, but gained momentum after voters rejected Measure L, which would have erased the library’s total $1.2 million debt. 

After the vote, the foundation received its biggest pledge—$40,000 from Berkeley resident Alba Witkin. 

Griffin said the library began fundraising before the election because even if Measure L had passed, the library still would have faced a shortfall in this year’s book-buying fund which it slashed from $1.2 million to $900,000. 

“We’re trying to avoid a hole in our collection,” Griffin said. 

She said the extra funds would pay for second copies of popular materials and more small press and independent literature. 

The Berkeley Public Library Foundation, which raises private funds, and the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library, which raises money book sales, both formed in the mid 1990s to raise money to furnish the central library after renovations were completed in 2003.›


Independent Study Program Offers Model for State By ANNIE KASSOF

Special to the Planet
Friday December 17, 2004

On a balmy December morning, a student with dreadlocks and headphones sits in a sun-dappled courtyard, reading a book. Another student, with a green backpack and hair to match, strolls into a nearby classroom where a handful of kids sit at computers. Others work at round tables or talk quietly with teachers.  

Welcome to Berkeley’s Independent Study and Home School Program, whose high school operates under the umbrella of Berkeley High School. 

Sara McMickle, the energetic director, is passionate in her belief that Berkeley’s Independent Study model is an effective alternative for self-directed students, or for those who might otherwise slip through the cracks in a traditional school setting. A former English teacher at both BHS and Independent Study, McMickle, whose minuscule office is dominated by comfy chairs and crowded shelves, took over as administrator in 2002 after former director Carl Brush retired. 

McMickle describes Berkeley’s Independent Study program as “a small school with a strong commitment. People work here because they believe in the value of alternative education.”  

With 15 credentialed instructors who teach only the subjects they are proficient in (as opposed to some independent learning programs where, for example, an English teacher might also teach math), Berkeley Independent Study is gaining statewide recognition in the rapidly growing small schools movement. 

McMickle laments the misconceptions many have about nontraditional education and is quick to point out the numerous “bright, talented” kids who truly shine when given the chance to take more control of their education. The range of students in Independent Study is broad. From students who hold jobs–even full-time ones, to students whose involvement in athletics, music or theater takes precedence over regular class attendance, Independent Study provides a viable way for youth to take charge of their education and learn through life experience.  

McMickle urges people to see beyond the assumption that Independent Study is just an easy way out for kids who don’t want to be in school, and describes the dedication of students who have been accepted at Ivy League universities, including Yale and Harvard. 

The tiny campus, situated at the east end of the Berkeley High Alternative School on Derby Street, consists of two airy classrooms filled with tables, computers, and books. Here, high school students (there are presently 165 enrolled, and there is a waiting list) have weekly meetings with teachers, and may also use the classrooms to study and complete assignments during the week. 

In addition, the program includes resources and support for about 15 homeschooling families with children in kindergarten through eighth grade. (Children in these families participate in teacher meetings with their parents.) 

The Independent Study high school curriculum meets all the course requirements for graduation, including advanced placement science, and even physical education. (A P.E. student can get credit for taking, say, a martial arts class, or a swimming class at the YMCA, or may also be required to write about health and fitness.)  

Studio art classes are offered, and students can take lab classes at Berkeley High, or attend classes at local community colleges. They are not permitted to take more than two classes at BHS, but are allowed access to its resources, clubs, and activities. 

Students are given weekly assignments which they must complete before their next teacher meeting, and just as in a regular classroom, quizzes and tests are administered, or sometimes small group seminars are held. Socialization opportunities abound, with monthly museum trips and other educational activities. A trip to Mexico to study Spanish is in the planning stages.  

Although criteria for acceptance in Independent Study is based on a genuine belief in alternative education and an understanding of the way it works, teachers, who work closely with students to design appropriate lesson plans, view unexcused absences or failing grades harshly. They can result in reassignment to Berkeley High, or support to find an education plan that will work better.  

Sometimes life’s circumstances play a role in acceptance into the program. 

“We have many teen moms,” says McMickle. Being in Independent Study allows the young mothers more time to spend with their babies while completing high school graduation requirements. 

McMickle also emphasizes that, although considered a program of BHS, Independent Study is a small school with its own community and its own philosophy. Course work can be as academically rigorous as at the regular high school. But a crucial difference for many students is the level of individual attention they get from teachers, who give out their e-mail addresses and sometimes even home phone numbers. Students who felt lost and alone at BHS are supported to recognize strengths or skills they may never have known they had. 

The Berkeley Independent Study Community handbook is an invaluable resource in its own right. Filled with student artwork, it’s packed with a wealth of resources: websites, organizations, and volunteer opportunities through which students can get involved to help shape their futures. Some volunteer positions even offer class credit. And it’s chock full of inspiring quotes, from people like Mark Twain, who declared “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” or Gandhi, who said “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” 

Debates over the pros and cons of independent studies programs parallel arguments over the success or failure of homeschooling. Opponents wonder if lack of a socialized learning setting and little contact with instructors will adequately prepare kids for the rigors and routine that lie ahead, in college and as adults. They worry that kids won’t learn enough. 

Proponents argue that the discipline required for self directed learning can increase productivity and self esteem, with less of the peer pressure and “pecking order” inevitable in traditional school settings. They reason that students can learn more than they would sitting in a classroom with thirty or so other restless teenagers, and benefit from the one-on-one attention like the kind that Independent Study students get.  

The pressures of adolescence can be tremendous. For some–not all–programs like Independent Study can make the difference between a positive, rewarding educational experience, or dropping out. 

The philosophy of the Berkeley Independent Study program is perhaps best summed up by the quotation on a plaque in the reception area outside McMickle’s office: “If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it.” 

 

Annie Kassof is a writer and a parent of a student in Berkeley High School’s Independent Study Program. In a subsequent article she will profile some Berkeley Independent Study students. 

 

 




Let’s Name All the Bridges By GAR SMITH

Special to the Planet
Friday December 17, 2004

San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Phil Frank recently used his pen to draw attention to a sad fact: When it comes to naming our bridges, the Bay Area has responded with an uncharacteristic lack of panache. The Golden Gate stands alone as the one span with a memorably gilded moniker. Can you imagine how diminished that epic stretch of steel would be were it known simply as the San Francisco-Marin Bridge? 

And speaking of puzzles, why is it the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and not the San-Rafael-Richmond Bridge? Is there some unwritten Go-West Bias? That would certainly explain the Hayward-San Mateo Bridge but, then, how do we account for the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge? When bridges are named after opposing points of departure, who gets top billing? This problem is easily resolved by naming our five major spans after deserving Bay Area heroes.  

New York has the George Washington Bridge. LaSalle, Illinois has the Abraham Lincoln Bridge. Louisville, Kentucky and Jeffersonville, Indiana share the John F. Kennedy Bridge. But in San Francisco, only the land-locked Third Street bridge consecrates the memory of a local hero—baseball legend and tavern-keeper Lefty O’Doul. 

But wasn’t there a Mister Dumbarton? Well, actually, no. That South Bay bridge was never officially named. Its commonplace title derives from the fact that the bridge’s eastern edge rises from Dumbarton Point (named, in 1876, for a Scottish town on the north bank of the River Clyde). 

Happily, we do have one stirring example of a major suspension span that jauntily bears the name of a true Bay Area legend. The newest bridge over the Carquinez Strait bears the name of Al Zampa, a 95-year-old steelworker who helped raise the first Carquinez Bridge. And who can argue that “Al Zampa” is not the perfect name to hang on a bridge? 

In the spirit of honoring Bay Area legends, let’s sound the trumpets and declare an Invitational Bridge Naming Competition. Whose names would we want to see enshrined on the Bay’s Bridges? 

Phil Frank and Robert J. Chandler have kick-started a worthy campaign to rename the Western flank of the Bay Bridge after Emperor Norton, Fog City’s most colorful eccentric. The good citizens of Oakland may wish to respond by rechristening the eastward wing the Jack London Bridge. 

Naming each section of the connection would give us the London-Norton Bridge (or the Norton-London). Another option would be to dub the two crossings in memory of the great labor leader who dominated the longshore workers unions on both sides of the Bay. What could be more resonant than collectively renaming the two portions of the Bay Bridge the Harry Bridges Bridges? 

Perhaps the Richmond-San Rafael (which connects the Point Reyes National Seashore with roads leading to Yosemite) could be renamed the David Brower Bridge. Should the Hayward-San Mateo become the Barry Bonds Bridge or the Owen Spahn Span? Should the Dumbarton become the Carol Channing Southern Crossing? Or—and I confess this is a totally beyond-the-pale suggestion—we could re-paint the Golden Gate in chrome and re-christen it the Steve Silver Gate. 

But why stop at the bridges? Howzabout: The Dianne Feinstein Incline; The Ram Dass Overpass; The Alan Watts Overcrossing; The Wavy Gravy Cloverleaf; 

The Danielle Steele Cantiliever; The Wynona Ryder Divider; The Herb Caen Expresslane; The Lawrence Ferlinghetti Ferry Jetty; The Scarlot Harlot Car Lot; The Mickey Hart Bypass? 

And no re-naming binge should be called complete until the Great Highway is renamed the Grace Slick Highway. (Complete with warning signs reading: “Caution: Slick Highway Be a-Head.”) 

 

Gar Smith is editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal and Associate Editor of Common Ground Magazine, which announced a “Name the Bridges” contest in its 

November issue. 

 

 


Cody’s Workers Approve Contract By JAKOB SCHILLER

Friday December 17, 2004

Employees at Cody’s bookstore voted unanimously, 41-0, to approve a new union contract earlier this week. The vote comes after almost three months of heated contract negotiations. 

According to Amity Armstrong, a employee shop steward and member of the negotiating team, the new contract cuts health care costs in half for employees with families and freezes premium costs for everyone until the two-and-a-half year contract expires. It also guarantees employees’ cost of living raises of up to 2.75 percent.  

According to both employees and owner Andy Ross, health care was the major sticking point during negotiations. 

“I think everyone is happy with it including Andy, which is nice,” said Armstrong. 

Employees are represented by the Service Employees International Union local 790. 

 

—Jakob Schiller 

 


Homefinders Bankrupt By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday December 17, 2004

After 34 years of service, mounting debt and a sudden illness plummeted Berkeley’s longest running rental referral service into bankruptcy. 

“I just can’t borrow any more money,” said Homefinders President Dana Goodell, who took over the business five years ago from her father and uncle. 

Goodell said the last straw came in October when appendicitis kept her out of work for a month. 

“I thought, I’m just killing myself doing this,” she said. “I can’t do it anymore.” 

Word of Homefinders’ demise began spreading last weekend when its website disappeared and clients complained that their telephone calls had gone unanswered. Over the past four years the company reduced its workforce from 30 employees to three and earlier this year moved into a less expensive office space on Shattuck Square. 

Clients might have to wait a while for a subscription refund. Goodell said she is in the process of filing for bankruptcy and that the court would decide which creditors—bankers or clients—Homefinders would have repay first. 

Meanwhile, MetroRent, a San Francisco-based rental referral service with East Bay listings, has offered to honor the subscriptions of Homefinders customers. 

“We didn’t think it would be good for the rental referral business to leave the customers in a lurch,” said John McWeen, a MetroRent principal. 

Goodell said that she has sent e-mails to Homefinders customers and has already given full $60 refunds to those who signed up in the past week, several of whom, she added, had already found homes. 

Goodell blamed her company’s collapse on the rise of craigslist as a free alternative to rental referrals and the soft rental market that turned record profits in the late 1990s into unsustainable losses since 2001. 

“I don’t think it’s a viable business model anymore,” Goodell said. “Now that there are more resources, you can’t be just a rental listing service.” 

Berkeley is now down to one such service, eHousing, which Goodell said has done a better job at reducing overhead. 

Although technology has offered tenants and landlords new avenues to do business, Berkeley property owner Darleen Dhillon, who arrived at Homefinders office Wednesday to try to find out why her calls weren’t being answered, said the service was still essential. 

“Not everyone is going to go to craigslist,” Dhillon said. “Homefinders found me my best tenant.” 

 

—Matthew Artz 

 

 

 

?


Letters to the Editor

Friday December 17, 2004

GIVING THANKS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

People of Berkeley: Thank you for your generous support to the George W. Bush administration and the Republican Congress. When President Bush first came to office, we sent out requests to every American household through the Internal Revenue Service requesting (OK, demanding) donations to help pay for our agenda and our expensive overseas wars. 

About 75 percent of those who responded pledged a donation, averaging $6,878 per household. But Berkeley put the rest of the nation to shame, with an 82 percent response rate and an average pledge 66 percent higher than the national average: more than $11,000 each! Thanks, Berkeley! We couldn’t do it without you!  

Berkeley has a reputation for being full of unpatriotic people with nothing better to do than protest the war and bad-mouth the nation’s leaders. But the numbers don’t lie. The people of Berkeley may like to march around and chant and complain, but when that hundred-billion-dollar war bill comes due and it’s time for someone to pick up the tab, nobody is more reliable. 

When you see the president announcing our next war, take pride in knowing that when Berkeley was asked to help make it possible, it did more than its share. 

Ishmael Gradsdovic 

Oakland 

 

• 

MARIN AVENUE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Raymond Chamberlin’s piece in the Daily Planet (“Two Lanes on Marin Avenue? A design for Road Rage!” Dec. 14-16) sounds mostly like the opinion of a guy who cares a lot more about his car than about pedestrian safety. Why is it that some people think automobile traffic is sacred? A guy down the block is of that ilk and accordingly he boycotts all businesses on Solano Avenue because one day a year they block off the street for the Solano Stroll, thus impeding his free access by car. I suspect it’s a mutually agreeable arrangement, however.  

I’ve seen some traffic engineering analyses that say that the four- to three-lane conversion can actually improve the flow of traffic, because people don’t get stuck behind non-signaling left-turners. It is documented that crossing three lanes is safer for pedestrians than crossing four. 

Putting in all those signals Mr. Chamberlin suggests would cost many times the amount of the proposed re-striping. Mr. Chamberlain offers no suggestion as to where that money would come from. Maybe the local Hummer owners group? 

It’s an experiment. Let’s try it. If it fails, re-think and try something else. Los Angeles and San Jose are proof enough that simply adding more lanes is not going to raise the quality of life for motorists, pedestrians, or anyone else. 

Bob Muzzy 

 

• 

MORE ON MARIN AVENUE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Raymond Chamberlin’s commentary posits that part of the problem with a Marin Avenue bike lane has to do with “1) today’s scarcity of public money, 2) excess in laxity in criteria for public grants, and above all 3) inadequate resistance to infiltration by bicycle extremists into positions in city and district governments.” 

Taking his third point first, bicycle advocates apply to and are appointed by elected officials. Chamberlin lives in Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson’s district and can take up the matter with Carson in case he’s dissatisfied with his appointee (which happens to be me). 

Chamberlin’s second point regarding “excess laxity in criteria for public grants” can be addressed to Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) in Oakland. Staff there will be Glad to invite him to our next meeting where we will explain the criteria we use for public grants. 

Chamberlin’s first point regarding “scarcity of public money” overlooks Measure B from the November 2000 election. That’s when voters voted to use sales tax revenue for bike and pedestrian projects and programs. Part of each dollar spent in this county during the past four years and for the next 16 years will be used for projects such as a Marin Avenue bike lane.  

Joe Kempkes 

Vice Chair, Bike and Pedestrian Committee 

 

• 

ED ROBERTS COVERAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am concerned about what appears to be either a negative bias or sloppy reporting to the coverage of the Ed Roberts Campus project in the Planet.  

I am a person with a disability. I have, for years, been active in the independent living movement for people with disabilities. I have found activism on this issue to be necessary to my survival. The independent living civil rights movement has improved the lives of millions of people. The Ed Roberts Campus (ERC) project honors one of our movement’s founders and greatest heroes.  

The group (ERC) working on the realization of this project is comprised of agencies founded and staffed by people with disabilities and their supporters. We are of and by the disabled community. We are not developers. We have never built a building such as this before, but the idea was such a compelling one: Imagine a one of it’s kind, first in the world building, designed by and for folks with disabilities using universal design principles and keeping access for humans of all abilities in mind. This building is something for us and by us. But, has also been designed with the immediate neighborhood and our greater community in mind. It can also serve as an example to the world; a model to show what could be, if the guiding principles of building design were the inclusion of those of us who have been formerly locked in or out of older historical buildings. Modernization and technology have assisted the independent living movement: elevators, wheelchairs, computers, etc. So…. 

We propose to build a new building, one that admittedly does not look like buildings of the past. Those buildings did not ever have us in mind. The building we propose I expect to become an historical building; a part of the history of the disabled community and of the City of Berkeley, which is the birthplace of the Independent Living Movement. Buildings of the past, even the recent past, have been part of our oppression. We are hoping to change history and move to a brighter future.  

Historically, we who are visibly disabled have often been unacceptable because of our “looks.” Ironically and perhaps symbolically, the current opposition to the Ed Roberts Campus is choosing to say that they do not oppose the project, only the way we “look.” They say they do not want to delay the project, but since that is the result of their actions, I think the actions belie the words. I don’t believe that the result is an unintended consequence of their actions. 

Your paper has referred to the opposition as “the neighbors,” but our experience working with the neighbors over a number of years has been that there is a greater number of neighbors in favor of our project than opposed. Has your reporter been in touch with the supportive neighbors? South Berkeley is a very diverse community, both architecturally and attitudinally, I believe there is room for at the least, tolerance, and at the best, a welcome for what we propose to add to the community. Your reporter should take the time to do the research to get a more complete and accurate, or at least a more balanced picture.  

Stephanie Miyashiro 

 

• 

FERRY SERVICE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Paul Kamen’s Dec. 14 letter claims, at some length, that it’s just fine for city commissioners to ignore public comment and their constituents’ opinion, and to instead simply vote their own preferences on an issue. (Mr. Kamen is trying to defend the Transportation Commission, which did just that on Oct. 21, when it endorsed the widely-opposed plan to remove lanes from Marin Avenue.) 

If Mr. Kamen, of the Waterfront Commission, has such a thoroughly undemocratic view of city office-holders’ role, perhaps this explains why he has been so eager in advocating a highly subsidized Berkeley ferry terminal. 

Diesel-guzzling ferries would serve only a tiny fraction of Berkeley commuters, at huge cost. They would do absolutely nothing to reduce the city’s energy consumption or its air-pollution impacts.  

For the many more Berkeley commuters who rely on buses and rail, ferries would simply dry up scarce transit funding. Those funds would provide many more trips if preserved for wheeled transit. 

That’s why ferries have generated such little enthusiasm locally. And why ferry passengers should enjoy their relatively luxurious ride, but pay its full costs — without subsidies. 

Marcia Lau 

 

• 

FORGOTTEN BAKERY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We are writing in response to your article “Berkeley Bakeries Offer Array of Holiday Treats” (Daily Planet, Dec. 10-13) by Kathryn Jessup. 

We were surprised to see that Virginia Bakery, which recently celebrated our 50th Anniversary as an existing bakery at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Virginia Street, was omitted from your article. 

Virginia Bakery also specializes in numerous holiday treats including many German favorites such as stollen, bush noel, decorated gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses. We offer a wide assortment of decorated cookies and melt in your mouth Danish butter cookies which are beautifully packaged in holiday boxes and trays which are excellent for gift giving. We also have an assortment of sweet breads including their extremely popular cinnamon nut bread, cranberry loaf and pumpkin loaf. 

Many of these recipes have been passed down from generation to generation of German bakers and continue to be popular with their customers over the last 50 years. 

We are wondering why Virginia Bakery was not included in Ms. Jessup’s article. Wasn’t this an article about Berkeley bakeries? 

John Erdman 

Owner, Virginia Bakery 

 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

Thank you for publishing the responses to my piece of Dec. 7-9. I will address each of the writers’ concerns. 

To encapsulate, I claimed that rent control violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states that no property shall be taken for private use without just compensation. I stated that a property under rent control is worth less in the open market hence rent control is unconstitutional. I also claimed that it is unconstitutional because of the provision found in the bill of rights which states that no state shall pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts. Clearly an agreement to rent an apartment is a contract between a landlord and a tenant and the state has no right to interfere. 

Neither of the letter writers, Peter Mutnick nor Mr. Chris Kavanagh offer a rebuttal to the above. I maintain that they cannot find fault because - to paraphrase one of our founding documents—these are self evident truths. 

Mr. Kavanaugh cites two Supreme court cases defending rent control. However, the Supreme court itself has reversed its own decisions in other areas and brought the law closer to the original intent. 

For example, for years blacks could not attend white schools; the Supreme Court decided eventually that it had to reverse its separate but equal position on the issue of segregated schools. When reading the constitution, no amount of obfuscation on the part of the Court could take away the fact that whites and blacks should have equal protections. In other words, even the Supreme Court gets it wrong. It is particularly wrong in ruling rent control constitutional. 

I am going to say it again: a landlord and a tenant are free to enter into a contract and the state should not interfere according to the US Constitution. What is so hard about owning up to the simplicity of the statement? 

Just think of the implications: Mr. Kavanaugh is basically saying that it is illegal for two people to enter into a contract (the apartment lease) they both agree to! 

The only place you would find that kind of thinking is in a George Orwell novel. 

Mr. Mutnick asks why judges and courts have reached the conclusion that rent control is constitutional. But this question has as much validity as asking why the Supreme Court upheld separate but equal for so long.  

If this was 1950 and the argument were about blacks not being able to attend white schools, somebody would have stated that it was because the Supreme Court had upheld it (even though it violated the plain language found in the Constitution). 

The Court was wrong in its separate but equal ruling just as it is wrong about its ruling on rent control. 

I am puzzled why Mr. Mutnick brought up Searle because the Court judged in his favor and it forced the rent board to compensate owners for the years of low yearly increases granted. It is not impossible to conceive that at some future point the Supreme Court may not rule rent control unconstitutional. 

That day may be closer than neither Mr. Kavanaugh nor Mr. Mutnick would care to admit. On Oct. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the petition filed by the state of Hawaii in Lingle vs. Chevron and will consider its merits next year.  

Hawaii, joined by the City of San Francisco is challenging the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals’ ruling that gas station rent control is an unconstitutional taking. 

The case only applies to gas station rent control but it could have far reaching implications. Judge William Fletcher in his dissent stated: “virtually all rent control laws in the Ninth Circuit are now subject to [a heightened test of constitutionality under the Takings Clause] and many of those laws may well be unconstitutional under that test.” 

Also Mr. Kavanagh claims that trailer park rent control is constitutional. That is wrong. The Ninth Circuit recently followed Lingle in Cashman v. City of Cotati holding that mobile home rent control is unconstitutional.  

Although the Ninth Circuit has not declared all rent control unconstitutional, the tide is turning against the courts’ previous approval of rent control. It is a matter of time that what it did for blacks and women, the Supreme Court will someday do for owners of real property. 

Robert Cabrera 

 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

In the Letters to the Editor section of your Dec. 14-16 issue, Chris Kavanagh of the Berkeley Rent Board joined me on p. 12 in refuting the absurd claims of Robert Cabrera.  

I mentioned, however, that the pro-tenant stance of Berkeley politicos was not sincere, and I will provide in this letter some documentation of what I meant. In the motion copied below, passed with Chris Kavanagh's yes vote, the Housing Advisory Commission endorsed a Rent Board version of a ballot measure that is positively Orwellian. In every case, it weakens eviction controls over what they had been, while boldly proclaiming in the title to strengthen them.  

I can testify from personal experience that these weakenings of eviction controls, most of which went into effect, under false pretenses, are having real negative consequences for tenants facing eviction today. The following can be found on the City of Berkeley website: 

 

HOUSING ADVISORY COMMISSION 

Regular Meeting 

Thursday, June 1, 2000 

MINUTES 

5. DISCUSSION AND ACTION ON TWO PROPOSED BALLOT MEASURES (45 Minutes) 

a. Strengthening Eviction Controls 

After considerable discussion it was MSC (Rossi/Lopez)to recommend that Council approve the Rent Board version of the ballot measure to strength (sic) eviction controls in Berkeley with the following changes: 

- Occupancy requirements for landlord move-in be changed from 36 months to 24 months. 

- That the underlined words be added to the section which states: “The landlord may not recover possession under this subsection (13.76.130A) if a comparable unit, owned by the landlord in the City of Berkeley, was, at the time of the landlord’s decision to seek to recover possession of the rental unit, already vacant and available, or if a comparable unit, owned by the landlord in the City of Berkeley, becomes vacant…” 

- Change the age of protected seniors from 60 to 65 years. 

- Change the criteria in Section 9h(iii) to extend eviction protection to any tenant who has resided at the property for five years or more and the landlord has a 50 percent (rather than a 10 percent)or greater ownership interest in any form whatsoever, in ten (instead of 5) or more rental units in the City of Berkeley.  

The motion passed (Yes: Commissioners Gee, Kavanagh, Lopez, Rossi, Chairperson Turitz. No: Migdal. Abstain: None. Absent: Pietras, Vega). 

Peter Mutnick 

 

F



The Battle for Control of Oakland’s Public Schools By J.DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

UNDERCURRENTS OF THE EAST BAY AND BEYOND
Friday December 17, 2004

The great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass once cautioned us that “power concedes nothing without a demand, it never has, and it never will.” While this may be small comfort to Oaklanders agonizing over the present state of their public schools, one of my old ministers used to say that “if you want to get yourself up out of your bed of affliction, children, you must first pull off the covers.”  

This week Randolph Ward, the state-appointed administrator of the state-run Oakland public schools, has announced a new round of potential school closings because, according to the explanation in the Oakland Tribune, of “low enrollment, terrible test scores, or both.” Jonah Zern, an Oakland Education Association member and an activist with Education Not Incarceration who regularly sends out e-mailings on this stuff, puts the list of potential closings at five: Lowell, Golden Gate, King Estates, Carter, and Washington. That would equal the number of schools Mr. Ward has already closed in a little over a year since he was dropped on Oakland. Longfellow, Foster, John Swett, Tolar Heights, and Burbank have already closed their public school doors. 

In addition, Mr. Zern lets us know that 13 other Oakland schools—McClymonds, Bunche, Edna Brewer, Manzanita, Calvin Simmons, Havenscourt, Highland, Claremont, Allendale, Hawthorne, Stonehurst, Sobrante Park, Cox, Lockwood, Webster, Jefferson, Melrose, Whittier, Prescott, Horace Mann, Elmhurst, Manzanita, Madison, Rudsdale and Village Academy—may be radically transformed by the Ward Administration because they have failed to meet up with the standards of President Bush’s Control Of Education Law (it’s officially/unofficially called the No Child Left Behind Act, but why should we go around repeating Karl Rove’s talking points?). 

Under Mr. Ward’s proposed plans, those 13 schools will most likely be put into the hands of some charter school organization, who will be asked to transform the schools using the same meager finances available first to the Oakland Unified School District and then to Mr. Ward. That seems to guarantee continued chaos, confusion, and more school closings. 

It is the lack of full available funding for public schools that got Oakland into this trouble in the first place. The problem is that if you’re given a list of groceries to buy and not enough money to buy the groceries, you’re never going to be able to balance things out, no matter what you try. 

Like all other school districts in the state, the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) was charged with providing adequate education for its students. The state collects money from citizens in its various municipalities and then returns a portion of that money—in the form of a per-pupil average daily attendance stipend (called the ADA)—back to the school districts of those municipalities. Berkeley—a city of bright people directly to Oakland’s north—determined long ago that the amount given back by the state was not enough to do the job properly, and so voted in their own supplementary tax in the form of something called BSEP (the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project). Oakland parents love their children as much as Berkeley parents do, but thanks to Proposition 13 voting in local taxes is a difficult two-thirds hurdle that Oakland was unable to overcome, and so Oakland schools languished. 

One of the results was that for years, OUSD did not have enough money to pay its teachers properly, and so in the last year of local control, the administration of former Superintendent Dennis Chaconas—trying to jump-kick Oakland education into the 21st century—granted Oakland teachers a pay raise large enough to make Oakland competitive with other school systems in the Bay Area. The district later discovered that it did not have enough money to make those payments and the state stepped in. There is evidence and allegation that other factors contributed to OUSD’s fiscal problems, but without the teachers’ pay raise, those other problems could have been managed, the district’s budget would have remained balanced, and Oaklanders would have still been running their own schools. 

And so Oakland’s schools were seized because of “mismanagement.”  

Going back to the grocery store analogy, it is like the parent (in this case, the state of California) punishing the child (in this case, the citizens of Oakland) for not bringing back enough groceries, even though it was the parent who failed to provide enough money to buy the things on the list. 

And that leaves Oaklanders fighting the battle against the Bush Administration with someone else’s general in charge, a general who may not even be interested in saving Oakland’s schools for Oaklanders. 

Initially, we were told that Mr. Ward’s charge from the state legislative action taking over Oakland’s schools was to balance the budget and repay the line of credit advanced by the state so that the Oakland schools could be returned to Oaklanders. 

But in the year-and-change since Mr. Ward took over, we have heard less and less about his plans for loan repayment and return of local control, more and more about his own ideas for how Oakland’s schools should be managed, as if he is settling down contentedly in the job, with no end in sight. In fact, if there is, indeed, a timetable existing someplace which shows how and when the schools will be put back in Oaklanders’ hands, I haven’t seen it. 

Mr. Ward’s style of management appears to be like that of someone running a chain of banks or supermarkets; that is, close down any outlets that prove unprofitable. We have seen how such corporate thinking has affected Oakland, which has large stretches that the Wells Fargos and the Safeways of the world have abandoned. But public schools are not profit centers. They are services, with larger-than-education functions to anchor and stabilize the neighborhoods in which they exist. Maintaining them is a cost of retaining community. 

Oaklanders—being reasonable people—have spent the past year trying to reason with Mr. Ward over this problem. But perhaps the Age of Reason is coming to its inevitable conclusion, withering over its own lack of appropriateness to the actual situation. This is a struggle over power—the power of who shall control Oakland’s schools—and power concedes nothing without a demand, so said Mr. Douglass. True when Mr. Douglass. Still true, today. Perhaps some more direct-type of action is in order, like in the old-school days. 

 


Police Blotter By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 17, 2004

Gunman Foiled 

A hooded man packing a pistol confronted a 53-year-old woman walking along Page Street between Fifth and Sixth streets a few minutes before 8 a.m. Tuesday, said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

When she refused to hand over her cash, the heister hoofed it. 

 

Rat Pack Strikes 

A gang of six to eight teenagers surrounded a 40-year-old man on Allston Way at Strawberry Creek Park early Tuesday evening. 

After striking their victim with a piece of wood, the gang grabbed his cash and departed. 

 

Good Samaritan Official 

A felonious fellow who attacked a customer leaving the newly opened Spud’s Pizza at Adeline Street and Alcatraz Avenue Tuesday evening got more than he bargained for. 

A Good Samaritan in the personage of Taj Johns, a neighborhood liaison in the city manager’s officer, stepped into the fray and the batterer fled, with Johns in pursuit. 

She was able to trail the fellow until police arrived and arrested him for two counts of battery—one against the pizza buyer, the other against Johns—and one count of probation violation. 

The fellow was a familiar face to police, who had busted him early the previous day for trespass at a service station in the 1200 block of University Avenue. 

 

Belated Robbery Report 

A teenager called police during the lunch hour Wednesday to report that he’d been robbed of his cell phone nearly four hours earlier. He was able to identify the suspect, another juvenile, whom police then arrested. 

 

Anniversary Promotion 

Officer Lester Soo was promoted to sergeant Thursday on his 31st anniversary with the Berkeley Police Department. Among his many duties had been service as a field training officer teaching newly minted officers the ropes. 

One of those he trained was Officer Okies.)


They Say Kofi Annan is Scandalous? By NICHOLAS SMITH Commentary

Friday December 17, 2004

OK, as an early aside, I feel like I really need someone, anyone, to dedicate this letter to. I’ll just call my fictional recipient “Andy D. Quinio.” Sounds good. 

Anyhow, it has been revealed that Saddam Hussein has exploited the United Nations’ “Oil for Food” program, which allowed him to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies. Apparently the dictator channeled much of the money into his personal coffers at the expense of the Iraqi people. To make matters worse, Secretary General Kofi Annan’s son Kojo was allegedly being paid by a Swiss firm, Cotecna Inspection Services, which bought Iraqi oil through the U.N.’s “Oil for Food Program.” It seems that the firm was granted a “no-bid” contract of sorts. 

In response to these and other allegations, freshman U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) has called for the secretary general to resign his post because the scandal occurred “on his watch.” The good senator says that “Over the past seven months, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, has conducted an exhaustive, bipartisan investigation into the scandal surrounding the U.N. Oil-for-Food program” and “. . .[A]s long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes [and] kickbacks. . .that took place under the U.N.’s collective nose.” 

This particular United States senator seems to be very serious about eliminating fraud that occurs this particular government body. This is a highly admirable goal. If indeed the esteemed secretary general or anyone else is found to have committed fraud, resignations should be of the first order.  

However, the senator from Minnesota and his friends seem to salivate at the chance to dethrone General Annan, but they aren’t practicing their own assertions. Since Coleman is a “United States” senator, it seems that he should also be concerned with fraud that occurs right here in the United States, right? Well, it seems that Coleman would answer “no” judging from his absence on blatant fraud occurring inside the U.S. 

Has the man ever heard of Halliburton? Coleman’s Senate Boss, Dick Cheney, was CEO of Halliburton, as is well known. Not only has Halliburon allegedly inflated its profits with respect to cost overruns in Iraq, but it also has been accused of overcharging American taxpayers for services rendered in Iraq. In addition, they received their contract in terms that can be describes as “no-bid.” Somehow, the company that Cheney left in order to become (vice) president was the only qualified corporation to do reconstruction work in Iraq, a country that we should not have destroyed in the first place. 

If one needs another example of corruption in the highest levels of government, there are a plethora of them. A few of them are: The vice president’s meeting with Enron officials to write the energy policy of this nation behind closed doors, the name-leaking of a CIA agent’s wife, and the reliance on false intelligence which has lead to the deaths of thousands of our American troops. With respect to the illegal war, John Kerry said it best: “How can you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”  

These scandals are only a few of the many that have been committed on the watch of George W. Bush. We’ll see what happens in the next four years. 

Norm Coleman and his fellow Republicans have somehow not warmed up to the idea of rooting out corruption within the White House, but they sure are adamant about resignations in the preeminent international body, the United Nations. World leaders left and right are coming to the Secretary General’s defense, rightly. “I believe Kofi Annan is doing a fine job...I very hope much he is allowed to get on with his job, “ says British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Take it from Blair, an incredible Prime Minister, and not an ideologically driven freshman conservative. 

If Coleman and his ideological colleagues want Annan to resign because of scandal that occurred on Annan’s watch, logic dictates that they would have called for the resignation or impeachment of George W. Bush long ago. They haven’t, thus their efforts to dethrone the secretary general is a continuation by conservatives of lacking something needed to be successful in the long term: credibility. 

 

Nicholas Smith is a sophomore at UC Berkeley.›


Rent Control is Fully Constitutional And Good Public Policy By PAUL HOGARTH Commentary

Friday December 17, 2004

I normally don’t waste my time responding to anti-rent-control hit pieces by Berkeley landlord and former BPOA President Robert Cabrera, but his latest attack on rent control (“Berkeley’s Rent Control Violates the U.S. Constitution,” Daily Planet, Dec. 7-9) contained so many lies and inaccuracies that even a second-year law student can easily refute them. So I’ve decided to take time out of studying for final exams to write a response.  

First, rent control does not violate the constitutional right to contract. As the courts have repeatedly ruled, the Contracts Clause in the U.S. Constitution only prevents government from interfering with pre-existing contracts. Berkeley’s Rent Ordinance was enacted in 1980, so any tenancy that began afterwards was clearly operating under existing law that the voters had overwhelmingly approved. 

As for tenancies that started prior to 1980, government can still regulate such contracts when (a) it serves a legitimate and significant goal, (b) the industry has been regulated before, and (c) the law is reasonable in light of that goal. Back in the late 1970s, rents were spiraling out of control, tenants were getting evicted for no just reason, and Berkeley was losing its precious diversity. It was only reasonable then to enact controls on a powerful industry that had always been familiar dealing with regulations. 

If rent control violates the right to contract, as Mr. Cabrera claims, so does the minimum wage, the eight-hour workday, and child labor laws.  

Second, rent control does not violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits government from taking private property without just compensation. Upset that landlording is a less profitable business than he would like it to be, Mr. Cabrera confuses basic regulatory laws like rent control and zoning restrictions with actual takings of private property like eminent domain (where the government does have an obligation to fully compensate the owner.)  

As the Supreme Court said in Penn Central Station v. New York (1978), the mere fact that a government regulation diminishes a property’s value does not make it a taking. If a local government feels the need to enact proper zoning regulation or control rents so that they are affordable, they can do so as long as the property owner gets a “fair return on his investment.” It only becomes a “taking” under the Fifth Amendment if the regulation makes it completely worthless. 

Fortunately, the Berkeley Rent Ordinance does not make a property completely worthless. Enacted in 1980, when landlords were already making enormous profits, the Rent Ordinance guarantees that all property owners maintain the same profits (adjusted for inflation) that they made in 1980. Any landlord can petition the Rent Board for an upward adjustment in rent if they can prove that their net operating income (total rental income minus operating expenses) has decreased over time.  

Furthermore, with the advent of Costa-Hawkins, landlords are now able to set initial rents in at market value, and with Cal students who move frequently making almost 50 percent of the tenant population, owning real estate in Berkeley will always be a highly profitable business. What Mr. Cabrera and other landlords really complain about is that they can’t make even more of a profit than they are now making under rent control.  

As the number one affordable housing program in Berkeley, rent control is a vitally needed program that helps the entire community. Low-income tenants who can never hope to afford owning a home in the Bay Area need rent control so that they can still live here and contribute to our culture. Young upwardly-mobile tenants who have not worked long enough to accumulate savings also need rent control, so that they can eventually have enough money to make a down payment and become homeowners.  

As real estate becomes more and more expensive in the Bay Area, and homeownership becomes a more difficult goal to accomplish, it is only sensible public policy to have rent control in a place like Berkeley.  

 

Paul Hogarth served on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board from 2000 to 2004, and is a second-year law student at Golden Gate University.‰


Holiday Gift Ideas From Two Berkeley Neighborhoods, and Then Some By ZELDA BRONSTEIN

Special to the Planet
Friday December 17, 2004

Elmwood District 

 

The goods at Global Exchange (2480 College Ave., 548-0370) are even more special than they look (which is pretty special). This is one of the three fair trade stores run by Global Exchange, an international human rights organization that works with communities across the country to build a greater awareness of global trade issues and to translate that awareness into Fair Trade activism by promoting exchange based on economic justice.  

Paying explicit homage to those goals, Global Exchange is selling “No Sweat” sweatshop-free sneakers made in unionized shops in Jakarta. Choose between Converse-style knock-offs in black and white ($38.50) and “Code Pink” high-tops in pink—what else? ($42)—or get and give some of both!  

Global Exchange has a large stock of exceptional scarves. Two standouts: gorgeous, naturally dyed, shimmery striped silk scarves made in women’s cooperatives in Laos and Thailand ($48-$68); and jewel-toned beauties knit out of silk sari scraps in India. Hats and gloves also available ($23.50).  

Also noteworthy are fanciful Haitian tin objects birds and geometrical shaps—made out of old oil drums ($32-$53).  

 

Your Basic Bird (2940 College Ave., 841-7617) has a huge selection of toys for all manner of pets. I was particularly charmed by the amusing (at least to this human) Polly Wanna Piñata biodegradable, bird-sized, eight-inch high paper piñatas filled with dehydrated banana, hemp seed and other avian goodies. Snowman, Santa, reindeer and candy cane shapes ($9.99).  

 

The Tail of the Yak Trading Company (2632 Ashby Ave., 841-9891) is always filled with extraordinary, exquisite things. Specially for Christmas: beautiful ornaments from Germany shaped like vegetables (artichokes, endive, garlic, nuts, peaches), fruits, birds with bushy tails, flowers, a string of acorns plus whimsical forms ($5-$40), as well as glass tree-toppers delicately rimmed with rows of hanging bells ($39). The Tail of the Yak also has excavated amber from West Africa ($50 a strand), Dosa purses made of sumptuous fabrics trimmed with lace ($190), and glass Petri dishes ranging from 1-1/4” to 10” in diameter, which make elegant storage containers ($5-$19). Much nicer than plastic boxes.  

 

At the Elmwood shopping district’s charming tea house, Far Leaves (2679 College Ave., 665-9409), you can get some of the best tea in the world at good prices. The teas, all from Taiwan and India, are personally selected by the shop’s owner. Craft Boxes, containing tea and biscotti or conserves ($15-$25) would make nice gifts. So would tea ($13.50-$27/oz.) and any of the store’s lovely tea pots and cups. Gift certificates available.  

 

For the robot fanciers on your gift list, check out Boss Robot Hobby (2953 College Ave., 841-1680). At this small but well-stocked shop, Ultraman Bad Guys—Kai Ju, in Japanese—can be had for $7.99 apiece or $48.99 for a bag of ten. Robocraft creatures by Tamiya include a rabbit, a beetle, a mouse and a walking triceratops, among others ($14). Boss Robot Hobby also has a range of Gundam model kits by Bandai ($10-$150). A child could take pleasure in building and maintaining one of the radio-controlled cars on sale here ($32.99 and up).  

 

Sweet Dreams, on the southwest corner of College and Ashby (2901A College Ave., 549-1211) has been making its own delectable candies for over thirty years and also sells candy from all over the United States. The shop has one of the best selection of handmade, sugar-free (sweetened with Sorbitol and Malitol) candies in the East Bay, including dark and milk chocolate, caramels, dark peanut butter cups (“To die for,” says the store’s owner), and milk chocolate pretzels. Gift boxes come in 1/2-lb., 1-lb., and 5-lb. sizes. For Christmas only, Sweet Dreams offers milk chocolate Santas filled with caramel (1/4 lb/$3, equals about nine or 10 Santas).  

 

North of the Elmwood District, at The Craftsman Home (3048 Claremont Ave., 655-6503), you can find Dianne Ayres’ fabulous Arts & Crafts period textiles. Ayres’ north Oakland studio fashions pillows, table linens, curtains and bedspreads out of flax canvas linen that is hand stenciled and then hand embroidered in pearl cotton or hand appliquéd. The motifs and some of the overall designs were created by Gustav Stickley’s Craftsman Workshops and other original purveyors of Arts & Crafts furnishings. The Craftsman Home has a nice selection of Ayres’ pillows, adorned with stylized pine cones, ginkgos, roses, California poppies or other stylized motifs ($60-$220). Kits cost $45-$50. Ayres’ textiles can also be ordered through her website at www.textilestudio.com.  

 

Upper Solano Avenue  

 

Two great Solano sources for beautiful scarves are By Hand (1741 Solano Ave., 526-3212) and Persimmon (904 The Alameda, just around the corner from the top of Solano, 524-3220).  

By Hand’s big and varied stock includes 100 percent cashmere scarves, and stole-sized silk velvet, Pashmina styles in a silk cashmere blend or 100 percent silk jacquard priced at $18 to $165. Scarves of chenille, wool blends and lightweight silk are selling for $20 to $100. Also at By Hand are cotton/acrylic and acrylic gloves in a rainbow of colors, all with matching hats, and some with scarves to match ($20).  

Among the many notable scarves at Persimmon are the ones made of fine Indian wool with subtle, woven patterns ($24, $49). Others are fabricated out of “eyelash yarn” ($36). My favorite was a multicolored (tomato red with mustard fringe), slightly chunky and totally striking number from France in a wool blend ($48). Also at Persimmon: eye-catching, whimsical jewelled stick pins, key rings and tack pins made of resin in Israeli. Insects and teddy bears. A dragon fly pin has a long whiskery tail. Wonderful. (Pins $18, key rings $12).  

 

Harmonique Home (1820 Solano Ave., 559-3229) is a beautiful new boutique that stocks quality objects from around the world, with a focus on Asia. One of its most popular offerings is a box of tea bags made of silken mesh shaped like an elongated pyramid and topped with a stemmed leaf holder that can be hooked over a cup. Black, green or herbal varieties ($10 for a six-pack, $15 for a mixed set of 12). Harmonique also has one-of-a-kind pagoda-shaped offering bowls made in Burma of lacquered bamboo ornamented with gold leaf and tiny mirrored tiles. Produced in the early twentieth century, these striking vessels, 11”–28” high, were originally used as food receptacles ($40-$798). The Christmas tree in the shop is hung with a variety of fetching decorations, including pretty cloisonné ornaments from China in the shape of bells, stars, trees and angels ($8).  

 

Finally, if you’re looking for Christmas music, it’s hard to beat the vast selection at Down Home Music Store (10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, 525-2129), which includes Christmas sounds rendered in jazz, rock ’n’ roll, folk, bluegrass, Motown, gospel, Latino, reggae, Norwegian, Slovenian—the list of choices goes on and on. One unclassifiable CD, recommended by a guy behind the counter, is Woody Phillips’ A Toolbox Christmas, featuring favorite carols played on hand and power tools. There must be somebody on your gift list who deserves this item.  

 

 


Local Merchants Promote ‘Green’ Holiday Gifts By PATRICK GALVIN

Special to the Planet
Friday December 17, 2004

For many people, the thought of shopping at a crowded shopping mall or big-box store fills them with dread. In addition, many Bay Area shoppers are concerned about the state of our local landfills in this age of consumer excess. 

In response, many independent Berkeley area merchants encourage people to shop for recycled gifts. Berkeley stores offer an eclectic mix of “gently used” clothing, furniture, architectural fixtures, books and music.  

“For music, I head to Telegraph Avenue because the selection is unparalleled,” said Reid Edwards, head of public affairs at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. With stores like Amoeba Music, Rasputin Music and Funky Riddms Records carrying the largest selection of used CDs, LPs, and tapes anywhere in the country, there really is something for everyone …whether your preference is classical, hip hop, reggae, funk or punk. 

Telegraph Avenue also has the Bay Area’s highest concentration of shops selling fashionable used and vintage clothing. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, only 16 percent of all usable clothing is recycled. The rest ends up in landfills, a compelling reason to shop for gifts at secondhand clothing stores. 

Stores like Buffalo Exchange, Mars Mercantile, Time Zone Vintage, and Happy Beats offer shoppers a treasure hunt for one-of-a-kind clothes, shoes, and accessories. Each store has an expert team of clothing buyers to guarantee a stylish selection. It’s economical and each item has its own unique character, not unlike the people you are shopping for. 

Telegraph Avenue has a long history as a hub of independent book stores. Moe’s Books, for example, is a four-story Berkeley landmark offering hundreds of used and out-of-print books. “We add to our inventory of used books daily, covering every imaginable subject,” noted owner Doris Moskowitz. 

Shoppers who can’t find the perfect book at one store have several options, including Shakespeare & Co. Books, University Press Books, the Cartesian Bookstore and Book Zoo. Each carries an extensive selection of used books in subjects from natural history to philosophy, religion, and art. 

The Wooden Duck in West Berkeley makes furniture and accessories out of recycled wood. Co-owner Eric Gellerman says that dining room tables made out of recycled wood from the bleachers at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium, former home of the San Francisco 49ers, are popular holiday items. 

“One woman told me she couldn’t imagine a better Chrsitmas gift for her husband, an avid Niners fan, than a piece of the stadium where they used to play,” said Gellerman. 

The wood bleachers at Kezar Stadium were installed in 1922 and torn out in 1989 when the entire place was demolished after being irreparably damaged during the Loma Prieta Earthquake. “You can’t find better wood than the thick vertical grain Douglas Fir lumber that was used to build those bleachers. After we are done planing and staining it, you really appreciate the wood’s beauty and strength,” added Gellerman. 

The Wooden Duck also sells smaller “green” items made out of crushed coconuts and recycled wood from Indonesia. These include small bowls, trivets, and boxes. Gellerman remarked that gift certificate sales are up 500 percent this year over last since many people want to buy recycled Christmas gifts but want to make sure that the recipient gets something useful that doesn’t get “re-gifted.” 

Since 1976, Steve Drobinsky, the owner of Ohmega Salvage, has built his business while adhering to the value of recycling. His San Pablo Avenue store is a leading supplier of restoration materials to architects, contractors, and homeowners, and its goal is to save architectural materials that are still useful to others and essential to authentic restoration projects. 

“During the holidays, many of our customers realize that recycled gifts are environmentally sound and unique. Recently, a woman came into our store and purchased 20 pounds of assorted hardware that she needed to make gift boxes for the holidays,” said Drobinsky. 

With so many recycled gift choices, it is easy to reclaim the holiday spirit while saving money and preserving natural resources. You will feel better about contributing nothing to the local landfill, while Uncle Bob will be spared another tie and Aunt Edna will be grateful for a Christmas without another pair of fuzzy slippers. 


Arts Calendar

Friday December 17, 2004

FRIDAY, DEC. 17 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Sufi Chocolate” works on paper by Josephine Balakrishnan Reception at 6:30 p.m. at Red Oak Realty, 1891 Solano Ave. 527-3387. 

THEATER 

Aurora Theatre “Emma” at 8 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $36. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Repertory Theater, “Polk County” A musical about aspring blues musician, Leafy Lee, at the Roda Theatre to Jan. 2. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org  

Bill Santiago’s “Spanglish 101” total immersion comedic excursion at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Shotgun Players “Travesties” by Tom Stoppard, at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Thurs.-Sun. at 8 p.m. through Jan. 9. No performances Dec. 23-26. Free with pass the hat after the show. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

FILM 

Indy Film Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Also on Sat. and Sun at 2 and 7 p.m. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $18. 845-4689. www.berkeleyballet.org  

California Revels “The Winter Solstice” music dance and drama of 18th century Scotland. Fri. at 7:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 1 and 5 p.m. through Dec. 19, at the Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$42. 415-773-1181. www.calrevels.org 

Organ Recital “Celebrating the Winter Solstice” with organist Angela Kraft-Cross at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway, Oakland. Suggested donation $10. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

Oakland Opera Theater “Rake’s Progress” by Igor Stravinsky, at Oakland Metro, 201 Broadway. Thurs. - Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $22-$32. www.oaklandopera.org 

Women’s Antique Vocal Ensemble sings Christmas music at 8 p.m. at St. Leo the Great Parish, 176 Ridgeway Ave. at Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10. 233-1479. 

Barry Syska at the 1923 Teahouse at 8:30 p.m. Donation $5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Houston Jones at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. Donations accepted. 548-5198. 

Stompy Jones at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson with Nick and Shanna at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fishbone, ska, funk, rock, at 9:30 at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $15 in advance, $18 at the door. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Asylum Street Spankers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $14. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Scotty Rock & Roll at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Michael Bluestein Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Brown Baggin’ at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Luna Groove at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Look Back and Laugh, Lights Out, The Answer, Last Priest at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Charlie Hunter Trio at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, DEC. 18 

CHILDREN  

“A Christmas Carol” the Dickens classic performed by Berkeley Public Library’s Teen Playreaders at 3 p.m., at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda. Free, appropriate for ages 5 and up. Refreshments and carol singing will follow the performance. 981-6109. 

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Bonnie Lockhart at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $4 for adults, $3 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Rhythm & Muse featuring singer/songwriters Anthony Jerome Smith & Hassaun Jones-Bey. Open mic sign-up 6:30 p.m., reading/performance 7 p.m. Admission free. Piano & 2 mics available. Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts. 527-9753. 

Phyllis Whetstone Taper reads from her new novel, “On Kelsey Creek” at 7:30 p.m. at the Leaning Tower of Pizza, 498 Wesley Ave., Oakland. 

Starhawk presents her new book “The Earth Path: Grounding your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature” at 7 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. www.belladonna.ws 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Pacific BoyChoir Academy “Harmonies of the Season” at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Oakland. Tickets are $15. 452-4722. www. 

pacificboychoiracademy.org 

Trinity Chamber Concert Karen Melander-Magoon sings the story of Clara Barton at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864.www.TrinityChamberConcerts.com 

San Francisco Early Music Society “A Venetian Christmas” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Dana and Durant. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

Kairos Youth Choir “Welcome Yule” with carols from many traditions at 7 p.m. at St. Marks Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $8-$10. 704-4479. www.kairoschoir.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies Christmas holiday program featuring liturgical music from many traditions at 7:30 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $10-$15. 866-233-9892. www.berkeleybach.org 

The Magnolia Sisters at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Diana Castillo at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Domeshots, Desa, Dexter Danger, hard rock, at 9:30 at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $10. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

The Sugarhill Gang, in a free hip-hop concert at 5 p.m. at Hilltop Mall, Lower Level, Center Court. 223-1933. www.shophilltop.com 

Jahi & The Life, Baby Jaymes, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

J-Soul at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

CV1 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Beth Robinson at the 1923 Teahouse at 8:30 p.m. Donation $5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Rachel Garlin at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

www.freightandsalvage.org 

Shelley Doty X-tet, Sistas in the Pit at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Collective Amnesia at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

The Warriors, Make More, Set Your Goals, Greyskull at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, DEC. 19 

CHILDREN  

Princess Moxie with Charity Khan and Jamband at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra “A Ceremony of Carols” A free concert at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. 964-0665. www.bcco.org 

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, based on the tradition from King’s College, Cambridge, England with St. Mark’s Choir Association at 4:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way at Ellsworth. Donations accepted. 848-5107, 845-0888. 

Bach’s “Magnificat” sung by the Temple Choir at 1 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” at the 10:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. services at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 526-3805. 

Pappa Gianni & The North Beach Band, opera and Italian songs at 2 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198. 

ACME Observatory “Fluxus Night” conceptual music at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St., Oakland, near 19th St. BART. Cost is $5-$10 sliding scale. http://music.acme.com 

Johnny Otis Living Tribute Band at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Magnolia Sisters, Cajun quartet, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mirah, Dear Nora, Athens Boy Choir, Bye and Bye at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

MONDAY, DEC. 20 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

PlayGround, readings by emerging playwrights, at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $15. 415-704-3177. www.PlayGround-sf.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Trovatore, traditional Italian songs at 6 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Secret Santa Show at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $8-$10. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

African Roots of Jazz featuring the music of Elvin Jones and John Coltrane at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, DEC. 21 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Solstice Night of Noise, with noise artists, amplified plants, mutant instruments, and voltage made audible at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St., Oakland, near 19th St. BART. http://music.acme.com 

Zydeco Flames at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Diana Castillo at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Laurie Lewis’ Holiday Revue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50- $16.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Peter Barshay & Murray Lowe at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Anton Schwartz Quintet with Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lange at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazz- 

school at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 22 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryplough.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit A Christmas concert with unusual Christmas Carols at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Jules Broussard, Ned Boynton, and Bing Nathan at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Universal, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Noah Schenker Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

The Ghost Next Door, Blue Sky Theory, Musashi Quartet at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Clairdee’s Christmas at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, DEC. 23 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Word Beat Reading Series at 7 p.m. with featured readers Allen and Ann Cohen at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Brian Kane, solo guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Ledisi at 8 and 10 p.m., also Fri., Sun. and Mon. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, DEC. 24 

THEATER 

Berkeley Repertory Theater, “Polk County” A musical about aspring blues musician, Leafy Lee, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St. to Jan. 9. Tickets are $15-$60. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Gary Rowe, solo piano, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Ledisi at 8 and 10 p.m. also Sun. and Mon. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, DEC. 25 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Sister I-Live, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

SUNDAY, DEC. 26 

CHILDREN 

Opera Piccola “Stolen Aroma” an interactive African folk tale with youth players at 2 p.m. followed by Kwanzaa concert, at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $5-$6. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Fireproof at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freight- 

andsalvage.org 

Odd Shaped Case, Balkan music brunch, at 10 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

MONDAY, DEC. 27 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Poetry Express theme night “Between the Holidays” open mic from 7 to 9:30 p.m., at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. berkeleypoetryexpress@yahoo.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Songwriters Symposium at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

TUESDAY, DEC. 28 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Courtableu at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Cheryl McBride at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Stephanie Bruce and Brad Buethe at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Joshua Redman Elastic Band featuring Sam Yahel and Brian Blade at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Through Jan. 2. Cost is $26-$100. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazz- 

school at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 29 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryplough.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Jules Broussard, Ned Boynton, and Bing Nathan at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Mal Sharpe’s Big Money and Gumbo, New Orleans jazz, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

QBA, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Riley Bandy Group at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Vienna Teng at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The American Roots Music Show with The Shots, Red Rick & Friends, Stuart Rosh & the Geniuses, at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

THURSDAY, DEC. 30 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Word Beat Reading Series at 7 p.m. with featured readers Dillon and Stephanie Manning followed by an open mic, at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave., near Dwight Way. 526-5985.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Singing for Your Life with members of SoVoSó, from noon to midnight at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. at 27th. Suggested donation $10 and up, no one turned away. 444-8511, ext. 15. www.artsfirstoakland.org 

Bhangra Mix at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mimi Fox, solo jazz guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. ™


Literature of the Plant Hunters in the Giving Season By SHIRLEY BARKER

Special to the Planet
Friday December 17, 2004

As the season for exchanging gifts approaches, presenting something to read to an experienced gardener is a challenge. How-to books for beginners must surely number in the thousands. What book would most please the expert who has long gone beyond the double-digging and the companion planting, who requests a gardening book with humorous or scientific clout, who wants, in short, reading matter that rises above the mundane? 

My mother, lover of words as much as of gardening, allowed me as a child to sit in the herbaceous border among the lupines and oriental poppies while she weeded. I would lisp after her the floral mantras we both enjoyed, mesembryanthemum, dimorphotheca, eschscholzia. Afterwards, during a siesta, she would read. A favorite was Greenfingers, a series of books on the perils of gardening, that would wrench from her, like most mothers a woman of uncertain response to childish jokes, deep chuckles. I only remember one couplet: “There was a girl / who was so pure / She could not say / the word manure.” These books unfortunately are no longer in print. 

A comparably humorous writer in prose is Henry Mitchell, whose The Essential Earthman is also out of print. 

This out of print business is a problem in the more arcane reaches of the gardening world, it seems. A serious but no less entertaining genre concerning plant hunters can also be hard to find. Yet without these benign, intrepid, and often ambassadorial collectors, our nurseries and private gardens would lack the abundance of species that now prevails. Indeed in England, such is the paucity of its native flora, there would be next to no flowering plants. When one thinks of Sissinghurst and Kew, this is hard to imagine. 

It behooves us then to exert ourselves to search for these elusive authors as diligently as they looked for their plants. There are numerous titles. Mea Allan’s books on the topic, The Tradescants, The Hookers of Kew, and Darwin and his Flowers, although not available in bookstores, can be found online at abe.com, where prices diverge from $16 to over $80. Excellently written and researched, her books are highly recommended. 

A more readily available starting point is with the generic title The Plant Hunters. Several authors, or groups of authors, have used this title. Such books tend to be compilations of descriptions of the lives of the heroes who suffered privation in the name of horticulture, such as David Douglas (who gave Californians a certain fir), “Chinese” Wilson, and Frank Kingdon-Ward. This type of book helps one to decide whether to pursue the field, or a specific collector, in greater depth. Often there is an extensive bibliography for further reading. Musgrave, Musgrave and Gardner’s version of The Plant Hunters, subtitled “Two Hundred Years of Adventure and Discovery,” lists over seventy related books. This volume can even be found in local bookstores, including Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts on College Avenue. 

Kingdon-Ward’s own writings are also out of print—unfortunately, because he was brave, insouciant, had much to say and said it with charm. In 2003 an edited collection of his writings, In the Land of the Blue Poppies, appeared under the Modern Library imprint. This is available from Cody’s in paperback at a modest price. Kingdon-Ward’s second wife joined him in his later expeditions as photographer. Judging from a picture of the state of her shoes and the look on her face, she enjoyed every minute of their shared hardships. 

Plant books of any kind tend to be difficult to digest. Just as the everyday manual of basic gardening lore often elicits agonies of guilt and frustration, so can tomes by renowned designers such as Gertrude Jekyll produce yawns of ennui. Plant hunting strikes a more compelling, more rewarding note. It combines real-life detection and adventure without loss of connection to the natural world. 

Plant hunters were often away from home for years. Conditions were frequently horrible and occasionally lethal. After the invention of the Wardian case, a huge glass structure that provided live plants with the necessary freshwater humidity for their long voyage, vast quantities of seeds and plants were successfully shipped to the United States and Europe from the more exotic realms of the globe, such as Nepal. Many previously unknown species survived, thanks also to the skills of the horticulturists awaiting their arrival.  

How the collectors kept good notes and good spirits in freezing or soaking (or both) weather at dauntingly high altitudes with food running low is pleasurable to learn, so long as one is sitting cozily by a fire or tucked up in bed. Their prose is often witty, as well as gently discursive. Like an after dinner liqueur, it is literature for sipping, savoring, and soothing. 

What could be more appropriate for the festive season? 




Berkeley This Week

Friday December 17, 2004

FRIDAY, DEC. 17 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Brett Schneider presenting a Magic Show. Children are welcome. Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $13, reduced price for children. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For reservations call 526-2925 or 665-9020.  

Philippine Textiles on display and for sale by the Filipino American National Historical Society from noon to 5 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center. 499-3477. 

Holiday Healthy Gift Sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Health Dept., 2180 Milvia St., 1st floor. Items include pedometers, bike helmets, bike accessories, and much more. 981-5367. 

Support Medical Aid for Iraq and a Peace Camp on the Iraqi/ 

Jordanian Border with Cindy Sheehan of Military Families Speak Out, Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, Country Joe McDonald, Karen Pickett of BACH. At 7 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1924 Cedar, at Bonita. 495-5132. 

Community Based Solutions to Ending Violence Against Sex Workers at noon at Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University at McGee. 981-1021. www.swop-usa.org 

Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the North Berkeley Senior Center Celebration at 1:30 p.m. with entertainment and refreshments for all.  

Berkeley Chess Club meets Fridays at 7:15 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Players at all levels are welcome. 652-5324. 

Women in Black Vigil, from noon to 1 p.m. at UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph. wibberkeley@yahoo.com 548-6310, 845-1143. 

Meditation, Peace Vigil and Dialogue, gather at noon on the grass close to the West Entrance to UC Berkeley, on Oxford St. near University Ave. People of all traditions are welcome to join us. Sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. 655-6169. www.bpf.org 

Overeaters Anonymous meets every Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Northbrae Church at Solano and The Alameda. Parking is free and is handicapped accessible. For information call Katherine, 525-5231. 

SATURDAY, DEC. 18 

Candlelight Vigil for Tibetan Monk facing execution in China, at 5 p.m. at the downtown Berkeley BART. Sponsored by Tibetan Youth Congress and Bay Area Friends of Tibet. 

“George Shrub with Dave Lippman” the world’s only known singing CIA agent at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens Community Room, 2951 Derby St. at Claremont Blvd. 548-6310.  

The Season for Slugs for youth age 7-11 to discover the cold and wet climate where banana slugs flourish. From 10 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Winter Blooms!” Free garden tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. 845-4116. www.nativeplants.org 

Bayshore Stewards Tidal Marsh Restoration from 9 a.m. to noon at the UC Richmond Field Station, near the Bay Trail in Richmond. We will install the native plants along the marsh edge and help create habitat for endangered species. We will provide tools, gloves, rain gear and refreshments. Heavy rain will cancel the event. 231-9566. 

Succulent Wreaths A class on how to make your own succulant wreath and keep it healthy throughout the year, at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. www.magicgardens.com 

Women on Common Ground Help make holiday decorations for the Women’s Drop-In Center, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Followed by a Nearly Winter Solstice Hike up to Wildcat Peak. Bring your lunch. Cost is $15-$18, registration required. 525-2233. 

Berkeley Alliance of Neighborhood Associations meets at 9:15 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, Sproul Conference Room, 1st Floor, 2727 College Ave. www.berkeleycna.com  

The Crucible Open House and Arts & Crafts Sale, including demonstrations in welding, blacksmithing and glassblowing, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. at 1260 7th St. at Union, Oakland. www.thecrucible.org 

Berkeley Potters Guild Sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. through Dec. 19. 731 Jones St. 524-7031. www.berkeleypotters.com 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. and Thurs. and Fri. Dec. 23 and 24. 

Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios Sat and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Fireside Story Hour Have a seat by the hearth to hear Native American stories about animals in winter at 1 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. For ages 12 and under. 525-2233. 

Holiday Benefit Sale for Middle East Children’s Alliance with carpets, kilims and textiles, olive oil soap and handicrafts from Palestine from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 901 Parker St., corner of Parker and 7th. 548-0542. 

Holiday Crafts Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Potters Guild Sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 731 Jones St. 524-7031. www.berkeleypotters.com 

Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios Sat and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. to Dec. 19, and Thurs. and Fri. Dec. 23 and 24. 

The Earth Path with Starhawk at 7 p.m. at Belladonnna, 2436 Sacramento St. 883-0600. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 

SUNDAY, DEC. 19 

Gray Panthers Holiday Party with Linda Hodges of the Rockridge Institute, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. 548-9696. 

WinterFest: Kwanza, Ramadan, Las Posadas, Chanukah Explore the winter traditions from different cultures. For children and their families from noon to 4 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at the Willard Community Peace Labyrinth, on the blacktop next to the gardens at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart (enter by the dirt road on Derby). Free and wheelchair accessible. Sponsored by East Bay Labyrinth Project. 526-7377. 

Plants at Winter’s Edge Learn how plants get ready for winter, cope with the cold and set-up for spring at 10 a.m. at Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Short Day, Short Hike Learn about the role of light in the life-cycles on animals and plants from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

MONDAY, DEC. 20 

Tea at Four Taste some of the finest teas from the Pacific Rim and South Asia and learn their natural and cultural history, followed by a short nature walk. At 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. Cost is $5-$7, registration required. 525-2233. www.ebparks.org 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group for people 60 years and over meets Mondays at 10:15 a.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. Join at any time. 524-9122. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. 548-0425. 

TUESDAY, DEC. 21 

Morning Bird Walk at 7:30 a.m. in Sibley to see the birds of an extinct volcano. For information call 525-2233. 

Winter Solstice Celebration at the Interim Solar Calendar, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina, promptly at 4 p.m. 845-0657. ww.solarcalendar.org 

Winter Solstice Celebration from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chabot Space and Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. 336-7300. www.chabotspace.org 

“Chiapas Montes Azules Biosphere: Coveted by Corporatations” with Mary Ann Tenuto Sanchez and John Steinbach on Conservation and Ecotourism at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar, at Bonita. Suggested donation $5 to Benefit Chiapas Solidarity. Wheelchair Accessible. 495-5132.  

Berkeley Youth Alternatives Basketball Jamboree, Tues. and Wed. at 6:30 p.m. at 1255 Allston Way. Team Entry Fee $50. for details call 845-9066. www.byaonline.org 

“Hard to be Merry” Service for those feeling disconnected from the celebrations of the season at 7 p.m. at Loper Chapel, at Dana and Durant. Sponsored by Trinity United Methodist Church, First Congregational Church and First Baptist Church. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “Should People Keep Pets?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Please bring snacks and soft drinks to share. No peanuts please. 601-6690. 

Organic Produce at low prices sold at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets every Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. This is a project of Spiral Gardens. 843-1307. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 22 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. 548-9840. 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

Prose Writers’ Workshop An ongoing group focused on issues of craft. Meets Wed. at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 524-3034. georgeporter@earthlink.net 

Fun with Acting Class every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Free, all are welcome, no experience necessary.  

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 

vigil4peace/vigil 

THURSDAY, DEC. 23 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  

FRIDAY, DEC. 24 

Reduced City Services Today Call ahead to ensure programs or services you desire will be available. 981-CITY. www.cityofberkeley.info 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  

HOW TO HELP 

Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Annual Food Drive accepts donations of non-perishable food in the red barrel at any Safeway or Albertson’s. 834-3663. www.accfb.org 

Firefighters Toy Drive Donate new, unwrapped toys and canned food to any Berkeley fire station. For information call 981-5506. 

United Way Bay Area is recruiting volunteer tax preparers and greeters/interpreters in Alameda County to assist low-income families who are eligible for free tax assistance and refunds. No previous tax preparation experience is necessary. There is a special need for volunteers who can speak Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Training sessions begin Jan. 8. Register now by calling 800-273-6222. www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org5


ZAB Approves San Pablo Condos By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 14, 2004

With only two dissents, Zoning Adjustments Board members Thursday approved construction of a five-story condominium project at 2700 San Pablo Avenue. 

The building is the latest in a series of condo projects recently announced for the city. Most controversial is the Seagate building, a nine-story project recently approved for Center Street, a half-block west of the Wells Fargo building on Shattuck Avenue.  

San Francisco developer Charmaine Curtis and architect David Baker presented plans for their five-story building at the corner of San Pablo and Carleton Street. 

Curtis bought the site from developer Patrick Kennedy, whose earlier project for the site had foundered on neighborhood opposition. 

While Kennedy’s proposal had called for a four-story building, Curtis offered a structure that city staff classified as five floors because ground floor live/work units have an upper level, though the heights of both incarnations are identical. 

When she bought the site from Kennedy, Curtis also inherited the use permits previously awarded, paving the way for a potentially speedy approval. 

In the eyes of city staff, the new plans constituted a modification of the earlier versions, though the number of units had been reduced and the project had been changed from an apartments plus commercial to condos and commercial. 

The Kennedy version had sparked strong neighborhood opposition as well as a lawsuit, prompting the controversial developer to abandon the project and put the land—and permits—up for sale. 

“I knew the previous project had engendered a certain amount of controversy,” Curtis told ZAB members. 

Because of the project’s troubled history, she sent notices to 18 neighbors in September and invited them to a meeting where the most common complaint she heard concerned the project’s height, a point on which she wouldn’t yield.  

“I couldn’t eliminate one floor and still make money,” Curtis said. 

With the ZAB’s approval, Curtis said, “I’m ready to complete the design and pull permits. I can begin construction next summer and have it complete the following year.” 

While two neighbors praised the project as a source of neighborhood revitalization, six others spoke against it—including Julie Dickinson, one of the litigants who sued over the previous project. 

In addition to height, critics worried about the potential environmental, parking and traffic impacts of construction. 

Leslie Marks, who lives immediately behind the site, said she was worried about loss of privacy and garage noise. She also expressed concern about possible exposure to noxious odors and toxins when crews tear down a former gas station of the site. 

Tank leaks had polluted the soil around the station, and during the preparation work conducted during Kennedy’s ownership, contaminated soils were left uncovered on the site, which Marks said caused her health problems. 

Curtis’s use permits bar a repeat of the past incident, mandating that toxic-laced soils to be moved offsite immediately upon excavation. 

Another concern voiced by both neighbors and ZAB members centered on the four ground floor units, reduced from five in an earlier version of her plans. 

One of the original five she had planned was reserved for purely residential use and assigned for sale as an inclusionary unit to be sold at a reduced price. 

The Design Review Committee rejected the residential unit, said Senior Planner Greg Powell, so the space was consigned to four live/work units. 

Curtis said she simply couldn’t afford to sell one of those four as an inclusionary unit because construction costs were too high. 

A larger ground floor space at the corner of San Pablo and Carleton is reserved for a commercial tenant, most likely but not necessarily a restaurant, Curtis said. 

ZAB member Carrie Sprague asked Curtis why the remainder of the floor was reserved for live/work and not commercial. 

Asked why she didn’t devote the entire ground floor to businesses, Curtis said, “I would never have tried to develop 5,000 to 6,000 square feet of commercial space. It would just be dead commercial space.” 

Commissioner Sprague then asked if she could simply remove the upper level loft in the ground floor units to reduce the overall height of the building. “It just seems really high,” she said to the applause of the neighbors seated in the back of the room. 

Curtis disagreed. “Live/work space are considered high volume spaces,” she said.  

Member Bob Allen said he understood the concern over height, “but this project meets every planning criterion on the books. What I like about the building is that instead of crowding in every unit they could, they have fewer units, which means fewer cars in the neighborhood. . .It’s going to be a beautifully executed building.” 

Allen moved approval of the project and Jesse Anthony seconded. 

Deborah Matthews, in her final session as a ZAB member, said that as a longtime resident of Carelton Street, she welcomed the project, in part because it would discourage the prostitution which has long blighted the area. 

“Going from rental to ownership units is also a plus,” she said. 

David Blake said he was troubled at the loss of the first floor residential unit and by the fact that the live/work units might present a curtained or papered-over face to pedestrians along San Pablo. 

He said he was also troubled by the way the city calculated the density bonus granted to the project, which will have inclusionary units on each of the other floors. 

The San Pablo project will be the last in the city in which inclusionary bonus space is calculated under the old rules. A new state law coming into effect Jan. 1 will mandate a new basis for calculation, and Sanderson said city staff is studying the changes to bring themselves up to speed. 

Then the board voted, and barring an appeal to the City Council, Berkeley has its newest condominium project. 

One of those voting for the project was the newest ZAB member, Richard Judd, a lawyer with a degree from Harvard Law School who works for the Oakland real estate law firm of Goldfarb & Lipman, which specializes in affordable housing, redevelopment and municipal law. 

Judd was appointed by newly elected City Councilmember and former ZAB member Laurie Capitelli to fill the seat he had just vacated. 

The board delayed a decision on developer Richard Schwarzmann’s plan to build a five-unit green residential complex at 1414 Harmon Street after neighbors voiced opposition to the loss of daylight the new project would cause. Members indicated they’d be glad to approve the proposal if he submitted a new design with a lower roofline for one of the buildings. 

Members also approved plans for renovation of the industrial building at 950 Gilman St., including a reallocation of a quarter of the structure from industrial to office use. 

The board took no action on realtor/developer John Gordon’s plans to convert seven vacant dwelling units at 1952-1966 University Ave. into office space and construct 3,545 square feet of additional space for two restaurants at the site. 

Both the Harmon Street project and Gordon’s proposal were continued to ZAB’s Jan. 13 meeting. 


Fundraiser Won’t Get Mayor Out Of The Red By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 14, 2004

While many of the sharply dressed partygoers gathered Thursday at Jupiter can expect a generous Christmas bonus, their guest of honor, Mayor Tom Bates, is facing about a $60,000 loss. 

That looks to be the final cost of the mayor’s 2002 campaign to unseat former Mayor Shirley Dean. Sparing no expense, the mayor and his wife Assemblymember Loni Hancock loaned his campaign $90,000 that Berkeley’s rigid campaign rules make all but impossible to repay in full. 

Now with the Dec. 31 deadline to retire his campaign debt looming, Mayor Bates is getting a little help from friends he didn’t know he had. 

Thursday’s event, the second fundraising bash held in the mayor’s honor this year, was organized by PG&E Government Relations Manager Tom Guarino, and Clear Channel Outdoor Vice President for Governmental Affairs Michael Colbruno. The event raised $1,400. 

Although the fundraiser included several familiar faces, including developer Patrick Kennedy, land use attorney Rena Rickles, Councilmember Linda Maio and City Auditor Ann-Marie Hogan, most of the nearly two dozen people in attendance were less familiar. When one long time city political player was asked who many of the guests were, he replied, “I don’t know.” 

Neither did Bates. The party was organized mostly by friends, he said, but many of the invitees were strangers. 

Bates, who receives a pension from his 20 years in the state Legislature and declines to accept the mayor’s $34,000 salary, said he was resigned to losing about $60,000. 

“Loni and I knew that when we advanced the money it would be very difficult to repay it,” he said. 

Berkeley only allows contributions from individuals, not businesses or organizations and limits contributions to $250 per person. With a candidate’s natural base of support exhausted by election day, they have few potential contributors available to repay any lingering debt. 

The stringent rules have ensnared a second city politician. Councilmember Kriss Worthington hosted a fundraiser earlier this month to retire a $6,000 campaign debt from his 2002 race. Worthington’s event raised $3,800, leaving him $2,200 in the hole with the Dec. 31 deadline fast approaching. 

“Now I just have to call people and beg them to send me a check,” he said. 

Bates’ effort to repay some of his campaign debt has raised the ire of many of the progressives who backed him in 2002. While progressives flocked to Bates as their best chance to defeat the more moderate Shirley Dean and raised no objections when Bates spent some of his own money in his record-setting $236,000 campaign, they have winced at Bates turning to many of Dean’s natural allies, especially developers, to help him retire his debt. 

“It’s sad to me but I’m not surprised,” said Barbara Lubin, a longtime Berkeley activist. “Berkeley has moved to the middle and when you look at development stuff, Tom is close to Shirley.” 

Since 2003, Bates has received contributions from several Dean supporters, including John DeClerq, senior vice president of TransAction Companies; Robert Ellsworth and David Ruegg of the development firm Ruegg & Ellsworth; Thomas Cone, a Realtor; Rauly Butler, an executive at Mechanics Bank; Councilmember Gordon Wozniak; former Councilmember Fred Collignon; John Drew, a West Berkeley-based developer; and Kennedy, head of Panoramic Interests. 

Bates, who listed contributions from 64 people this year, attributed his wide range of support to his performance as mayor, where he has preached consensus and positioned himself towards the middle of the city’s left-center divide. 

“I think a lot of people are happy that the bickering, fighting and endless meetings are over,” he said. Bates added that contributions wouldn’t affect his priorities for the city. 

“I’ve always made decisions on what is the right thing to do, not on who gives me money,” he said. 

In a five minute speech at Thursday’s fundraiser, Bates told attendees that he was committed to streamlining the city’s process for issuing building permits, but also said that public input into new projects resulted in better developments. 

If the mayor didn’t know all of those assembled, he showed keen instincts by addressing land use issues. 

Michael McClure, an Oakland Planning Commissioner and executive for Oakland-based construction company Alarcon Bohm, was one of many people in the development business on hand Thursday. Other guests included a former football teammate and friends from Bates’ days in the State Assembly. 

McClure said he had met Bates on occasion and was asked by a friend to come to the party. 

He in turn invited Nicholas Jellins, a Menlo Park City Councilmember and land use attorney, who met Bates for the first time Thursday. Joining them was Clinton Killian, a real estate attorney who currently serves as chair of the Oakland Planning Commission. 

“Mayor Bates remembered my name. I was kind of touched by that,” said Killian, who said he had met Bates in passing several times and would soon write him a check. 

Other guests were already big fans of the mayor. Scott Donahue, a Berkeley-based public artist, said that Bates intervened with Caltrans on his behalf when the state agency objected to Donahue’s design for art that will soon adorn Berkeley’s pedestrian bridge over I-80. 

“When everyone else was afraid to take on Caltrans, he came through for me,” said Donahue, who proposed a piece that included a tribute to Berkeley’s history of protest, which he said Caltrans found objectionable.  

“Mayor Bates is a practical person,” he said. “I wish I had money to give him.” 


Homefinders Apparently on the Brink By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Finding an apartment in Berkeley may no longer be difficult, but finding Homefinders is another matter. 

The company, Berkeley’s longest running pay-for-service housing locator, has all but disappeared in recent days, sparking concerns that it has folded. 

On Monday its office at 64 Shattuck Square was locked, the blinds drawn and the company sign removed from the front door. 

“We’ve had about 10 people knock on our door today wondering what happened to them,” said Doug Pestrak, an employee at a neighboring business. 

Homefinders’ landlord, who only gave his first name, Sasha, said the company had a short-term lease and that Homefinders’ employees hadn’t visited their office since Friday. 

Across the street, Davin Wong, president of eHousing, Homefinders’ lone remaining rival, said several Homefinders customers told him that the company was closing. 

Homefinders didn’t respond to the Planet’s telephone messages left Friday and Monday. On Saturday the company’s homepage disappeared, replaced by a message from Network Solutions that the site’s account “expired on Dec. 5 and is pending renewal or deletion.” 

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they were out of business,” said Berkeley landlord Mark Tarses. “The combination of high vacancy rates plus craigslist has made their business kind of obsolete.” 

Robert Cabrera, the former head of the Berkeley Property Owners’ Association, said more than 90 percent of his prospective tenants tell him they saw his ad on craigslist, not the pay services. 

“I don’t need to list with the other services,” said Cabrera. He added that craigslist has the additional benefit of allowing landlords to post their listings immediately, include pictures, and without having to leave a telephone number. 

Homefinders, which has served tenants and landlords in the East Bay for over 20 years, in past months reduced staffing from 20 to five and moved out of its longtime home on University Avenue to a small second story office at Shattuck Square. 

Linda Muller, a Homefinders customer who hasn’t been able to contact the organization and has had her e-mails bounce back to her, feared she might lose the balance of her subscription she bought two weeks ago. “This is really lousy,” she wrote in an e-mail to the Planet. “Now I have to rely on eHousing and craigslist. And I’m probably out my $60.” 

If it has folded, Homefinders would be Berkeley’s third pay-for-service outlet to go out of business since the housing crunch ended in 2001. Rental Solutions and Berkeley Connections were both purchased by competing San Francisco companies, which ultimately folded them. 

Cal Rentals, which operates a pay service for UC Berkeley students, has also struggled in the face of a weak rental market and a new breed of competitor, said Assistant Director Becky White. 

“Housing is easier for people to find on their own,” she said. “Now you can walk around town and find For Rent signs in windows, that never used to happen.” 

Wong insisted that eHousing, which would be the last pay-service in the East Bay if Homefinders closed, remained in sound fiscal shape. He said his business appealed to a different clientele than craigslist by offering more personal attention to landlords and renters. 

“We really don’t see them as a competitor. The market is the bigger problem,” he said. “Not so many tenants need help finding a place right now.” 

In figures collected earlier this year, Cal Rentals reported that the average Berkeley Studio cost $852, down from $1,102 at the peak of the housing crunch in 2001. 

One-bedroom apartments peaked at $1,375 in July 2001 and have dropped to $1,080. Two-bedroom units peaked in at $1,822 at the same time and dropped to a low of $1,356. Although Berkeley does not maintain an official vacancy rate, White and city officials have guessed that it stands between five and seven percent. 


Marin Avenue Plan, Paratransit Changes on City Council Agenda By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 14, 2004

The City Council tonight (Tuesday) is scheduled to decide whether to shrink North Berkeley’ major east-west thoroughfare in half for motorists. 

Under a plan devised by Albany and Berkeley officials, Marin Avenue, the preferred route for many Berkeley hills residents to reach I-80, would be reduced from four lanes of traffic to two lanes, with bicycle lanes on each side of the street and a center turning lane. 

After a seven-year push from avenue neighbors, mostly in Albany, to slow traffic on the avenue, the Albany City Council voted unanimously last month to proceed with the plan for its section of Marin, from Stannage Avenue east to Tulare Avenue. 

If Berkeley chooses to join Albany, the project would extend four blocks further east to The Alameda. The current plan calls for re-engineering the avenue by the end of the summer for a one-year trial period at a cost to Berkeley of $41,000. The city is seeking grant money to pay for the project. 

In October, the Transportation Commission unanimously recommended the project to the council amid charges from opponents that they had not been properly notified of the commission’s public hearing. 

“Nobody knew about it,” said Zelda Bronstein, the president of the Thousand Oaks Neighborhood Association, who questioned why city staff limited notices to the hearing to the 750 households within a block of Marin and provided the commission with summaries of constituent letters rather than the full correspondence. 

“This has really started a fuss,” said Councilmember Betty Olds. She plans to oppose the proposal after receiving more than 20 e-mails from constituents from her district in the North Berkeley hills who were concerned that their commutes would be slowed and that they were left out of the decision making process. 

Laurie Capitelli, who represents the affected streets, wouldn’t disclose his position, but said he thought the city had limited options after Albany, which encompasses most of Marin slated for the redesign, approved the plan. 

“What concerns me most is that so many people feel surprised about this,” he said. 

Heath Maddux, a Berkeley transportation planner, held that the staff acted according to procedure by sending notices only to residents who lived a block from the affected portion of Marin and defended the decision to summarize resident letters for the commission. 

“It was just seen as the most efficient use of the commission’s time,” he said. 

At its hearing in October, the 16 residents in attendance were evenly split on the plan. Supporters like Gary Amado said his two sons had been hit by cars when trying to cross the street. 

Opponents feared that motorists would congest neighboring side streets. 

Currently, cars travel an average of 31 mph on the avenue, which is zoned for 25 mph. From 2001 through 2003, there were 114 collisions on the section of the avenue encompassed by the plan, which was comparable to the statewide average of similar avenues, according to a report by Fehr & Pierce, a transit engineering firm. 

The report also concluded that the average rush-hour trip down Marin would increase by about 80 seconds with the reduced lanes, and reduce average speeds from 31 mph to 26 mph, not enough of a disincentive to push motorists onto side-streets. 

Responding to concerns from opponents, Maddux, who oversees the city’s bicycle boulevard program, has said that the city was working on developing standards to judge the success of the program after a one-year trial run.  

He said that Berkeley and Albany began working together on the plan two years ago. They are hoping to win grant money either from the California Air Resources Board or from Regional Measure B, which set aside money for local transportation projects. 

Also on the council agenda is a proposal to reduce staff costs to operate the city’s transit service for the elderly and disabled. Currently city staff accounts for 36 percent of the $453,000 program budget, an amount Housing Director Steve Barton called “unconscionably high.” 

With the backing of the commissions on aging and disability, Barton and city staff have proposed streamlining the city’s taxi scrip program to reduce staffing by one-half of a full time employee ($36,000). 

The new guidelines call for eliminating the sale of taxi scrip, which serves as taxi vouchers for the elderly and disabled. In its place, Berkeley Paratransit Services will establish income criteria; all eligible consumers will receive scrip free of charge, while new applicants will be excluded from the program if their income exceeds 30 percent of the Area Median Income. Current customers who earn more than 50 percent of AMI, about 85 in all, will be phased out of the program. 

Also, the city will stop selling subsidized East Bay Paratransit tickets and vouchers for paratransit vans, operated by Alameda County as well as tickets for local paratransit service Easy Does It. 

Applicants who meet the new income criteria will receive nine taxi scrip books worth $360 annually. Previously, consumers who must be over 70 or certified as disabled, could buy $40 taxi scrip books valued for $14. 

“A big piece of the high administration costs was selling the scrip,” Barton said. 

Maris Arnold, a former member of the Commission on Aging, opposes the plan. “Any reform should reduce more staff time and provide more services,” she said, noting that the new policy would limit recipients to nine books of scrip annually, less than one-quarter the amount they could purchase under the current rules.  

Councilmember Dona Spring, who uses a wheelchair, said she was inclined to support the proposal, but was concerned that some users wouldn’t use the vouchers they were given. 

“There’s no way to redistribute them if half the recipients haven’t used their vouchers,” she said.


Bates Opposes Governor On Bay Bridge Redesign By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Mayor Tom Bates fumed Friday, blasting the Schwarzenegger administration’s decision to scrap an expensive tower design for the new span of the Bay Bridge. 

State Business, Transportation and Housing Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak told lawmakers of the governor’s decision Friday in San Francisco. She added that bridge tolls would likely have to climb to $4 in the coming years to help fund the project, which has been beset by cost overruns. 

Bates, in a press release issued Friday, called on the governor to “revisit his disastrous decision.” 

“It is truly an offensive design that will visually damage one of the world’s most unique and beautiful areas,” wrote Bates, adding that the change might also delay completion of the bridge, and require new environmental reviews that would swallow most of the expected savings. 

He maintained that requiring local motorists to chip in for the cost overruns with higher tolls conflicted with long-standing precedents for state transportation projects. 

McPeak told lawmakers Friday that the redesign, which is actually a replica of a 1997 proposal from then-Gov. Pete Wilson, would trim more than $300 million from the project now estimated at $5.1 million.Ã


Positions Left Vacant on BUSD Oversight Committee By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 14, 2004

A Berkeley Unified School District oversight committee designed to assist the BUSD board in monitoring school construction funds has had difficulty providing such assistance in the past year because of lack of a quorum. 

Most recently, the School Construction Oversight Committee has been charged with overseeing $116.5 million in Measure AA school bond construction money passed by Berkeley voters in 2000. 

Committee member Bruce Wicinas says that “after a pretty good record of meeting for the past nine years we have met only intermittently this year.” Wicinas explained that the committee “only had quorums three times this year,” with “a couple of more meetings held where we couldn’t make any decisions because we didn’t have a quorum.” 

BUSD Facilities and Maintenance Director Lew Jones—who provides staff support for the committee—had a different recollection, stating that the committee met 10 times last year, with a quorum for six meetings. 

The School Construction Oversight Committee has positions for 11 appointed members. Each elected school board member and the board student director has one appointee apiece, the superintendent has two appointee slots, and the board has three more slots to choose collectively. 

BUSD Public Information Officer Mark A. Coplan recently released a notice that the BUSD Board of Education “is currently soliciting applicants for ... committees and commissions,” including the School Construction Oversight Committee, and listing an Internet site address where prospective members can fill out an application. 

At last week’s reorganization meeting of the board of education, only five members were appointed to the construction committee—the same number, and the same members, who were appointed last year: Lloyd Lee (appointed by board member Joaquin Rivera), James Hallman (John Selawsky), Carl Bridgers (Terry Doran), Matt Taecker (Shirley Issel), and Bruce Wicinas (Nancy Riddle). Student Director Lily Dorman-Colby was not present at last week’s meeting, and Superintendent Michele Lawrence said that she had no recommendations to make for the committee. 

At the same meeting, the district filled only five slots on the 11-member Facilities Safety and Maintenance Oversight Committee. Superintendent Lawrence filled only one of two slots on that committee, while both board members Selawsky and Doran said that they had not identified anyone to appoint. Two of the members of the facilities committee are appointed by the Planning and Oversight Committee of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP). 

According to BUSD Facilities and Maintenance Director Jones, a quorum of board advisory committees consists of a majority plus one of the members actually appointed. That means a quorum of the currently five-member School Construction Oversight Committee is three members. 

One of the problems with filling the positions may be the specialized qualifications needed by committee members. The district’s web site lists criteria for committee membership that includes construction experience or knowledge (including familiarity with costs of construction and standard trade practices in public construction projects), maintenance and safety knowledge, and budgetary knowledge. 

Jones said that while the district desires the committee to function and is “always” interested in getting more people to serve, school construction can legally continue without it. 

“The School Construction Oversight Committee is not a statutory committee,” Jones said. He explained that oversight committees created within a bond measure—such as BSEP or the Facilities Maintenance and Security Advisory Committee of Berkeley School Bond Measure BB of 2000—must function in order for the bond money to be spent. Oversight committees created by board policy—such as the construction oversight committee—are advisory panels that are desirable but not legally necessary. “Nothing concerning school construction has to go to the committee first before it goes to the board,” Jones explained. “It’s the board which decides which items they want the committee to review.” 

But Jones stressed that the district considers the work of the oversight committee “valuable.” 

“We have good people on there,” he said, “but we don’t have as good as an analysis as we would have if there were more committee members.”›


Measure R Recount Begins, Could Cost Backers $20,000 By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 14, 2004

A requested recount of Berkeley’s medical marijuana Measure R vote could cost the Yes On R Committee about $21,000, according to an estimate by a representative of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office. 

The Yes On R Committee made the recount request last week, and recounting has already started. Assistant Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold gave a “rough estimate” that it would take a week to “sort out the ballots” and another week to do the actual counting. 

Recount costs in California are $3,000 for the first day and $2,000 for each subsequent day. 

The ballots to be recounted are 22,631 absentee ballots as well as 6,714 provisional ballots cast by paper on election day. The remaining roughly 31,500 votes were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines. Measure R proponents could have asked for a manual recount of printouts of the touch-screen votes of each voter. Instead, the group opted simply to have the machines re-run their internal vote tallies. 

Measure R—which would have raised the number of medical marijuana plants allowed in the possession of users and would have made it easier for medical marijuana clubs to relocate in Berkeley—lost by 191 votes out of more than 50,000 votes cast in the Nov. 2 election. 

That margin of difference—0.38 percent—would have triggered a mandatory, county-funded recount in 14 states, including Florida. However, California is one of 21 states that require parties requesting recounts to pay for those recounts. If the recount reverses the results of the election, the money is refunded to the requesting party. 

Representatives of the Yes On R campaign were not available for comment.


Planners to Consider West Bowl, Landmark Changes By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Planning Commissioners will get their first look at plans for the proposed new Berkeley Bowl at Ninth Street and Heinz Avenue during a special meeting Wednesday night. 

The session begins at 7 p.m. in the West Berkeley Senior Center, 1900 Sixth St. at the corner of Hearst Avenue. 

Designed by West Berkeley architect Kava Massih, the 91,060-square-foot 40-foot-high steel-clad structure will sit atop an underground parking lot. A semi-detached 7,070-square-foot structure will offer prepared food for eating there or take away. 

Because the West Berkeley site is currently zoned for light industrial use, the Planning Commission must approve both a zoning change and an amendment to the West Berkeley Plan before construction can begin. 

Massih’s plans drew raves from the city Design Review Committee during a Nov. 18 meeting in which members proposed only slight modifications, largely connected with landscaping. 

Meeting with project neighbors on Oct. 26, Massih heard criticisms largely centered on traffic flow in and out of the facility. The option favored by neighbors calls for closing all access to the store from both Heinz Avenue and Ninth Street on the north. 

The main entrance to the site, Massih told Design Review Committee members, would be from the south via the traffic light-controlled intersection of Ninth Street and Ashby Avenue. 

Also on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting is a discussion of the workshop held the week before on proposed amendments to the city’s Landmarks Preservation and Zoning ordinances. 

The proposals, the fruit of four years’ labor by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, would transform the way the city handles alterations to and demolitions of buildings 50 years and older. 

Under the new proposal, all such structures must be evaluated for their landmark potential before the city can issue permits, and once permits are issued attempts to landmark would then be prohibited.  

Many hurdles remain before an effective ordinance can be crafted, most notably a means for property owners to learn about the history of their properties. 

One possibility is a city-wide survey of all eligible properties, a process that could take years and a $1 million expenditure, said Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowan. 

Other items on the agenda include a discussion of the impact of the City Council-approved task force on revising the municipal Creeks Ordinance as well as minor changes in grammar, syntax and code references to several sections of the city code.


Feds Release Comments on North Richmond Casino By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 14, 2004

The passions stirred by plans to build a major casino in unincorporated North Richmond have been spelled out in 600-plus pages of documents released by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). 

The documents, a combination of letters, studies and news accounts, were collected in the scoping process for preparing an environmental impact statement on the project, one of three tribal casinos currently in the planning stages for the Richmond area. 

The other two are the Point Molate project of Berkeley developer James D. Levine and a plan to build a casino adjacent to Hilltop Mall backed by the same Florida casino developer who is planning another casino near the Oakland Airport. 

The proposed location of the North Richmond casino is a nearly 30-acre site along Richmond Parkway on a site bounded by Goodrick Avenue on the East and Parr Boulevard to the south. 

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomo tribespeople proposes to build the Sugar Bowl, a 225,000-square-foot casino building with 1,940 slot machines, 55 table games and 13 Asian card games on the main casino floor, plus a poker room with 16 tables and a “high-roller” room with 60 slots, five table games and three Asian card games. 

Plans also call for construction of more than 3,500 parking spaces, a 1,500-seat showroom, a 600-seat buffet, a 250-seat entertainment lounge, a 150-seat sports bar and a food court and restaurant, each seating 120. 

Other alternatives for the site include a smaller casino, a reduced casino with retail shopping and a shopping/office center with no casino. 

Fans of the project say it will create jobs, reduce crime and stimulate economic development in the largely minority and economically disadvantaged North Richmond community, while foes have visions of higher crime rates, increased traffic congestion and a drain on community resources. 

The band’s original reservation in Lake County was disestablished by the BIA in 1958 and many band members were dispersed into the Bay Area. 

The band won a victory in U.S. District Court in 1991, reestablishing their status as a federally recognized, albeit landless, tribe. 

Because so many members of the band lived in the Bay Area, the BIA designated Contra Costa County as a potential home for the tribe, based on a Gold Rush-era federal treaty which promised them land in Contra Costa County. 

The BIA has endorsed the notion of a tribal casino because the band is economically disadvantaged and has no sustained income or employment opportunities in their current Lake County landholdings, and because the federal government has cut back on funding programs for tribal government. 

To build the casino, the BIA must first take the land into federal trust status on behalf of the tribe. 

One opponent submitted a supplemental survey conducted in conjunction with the 2000 census that showed that Contra Costa County residents had the longest commute times—an average of 34 minutes—of any county is the western United States. 

Also included were surveys by CalTrans, ABAG, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Texas Transportation Institute.  

One of the major sources of opposition letters was Neighbors Against the Parkway Casino, which maintains its own web site at www.StopParkwayCasino.com. 

The group urged opponents to write individual letters, unlike the proponent groups, which, for the most part, relied on boilerplate letters with room for individual signatures. 

Among the opponents are: 

• The Bay Area Rescue Mission, which cited the high incidence of gambling troubles among its clientele. 

• Artichoke Joe’s, a San Bruno cardroom whose lawyers sent a seven-page letter. 

• Gerald D. and Carl Overaa, owners of Overaa Construction, a major East Bay builder headquartered near the proposed casino site. Two Overaa employees also wrote letters in opposition. 

• The Oaks Card Club and the California Grand Casino, two non-tribal card rooms in the East Bay. 

One opposition letter came from an 8-year-old boy from Lafayette, who wrote, “Both of my parents live in Richmond. I am worried that a drunk driver will hit them.” 

Among the proponents were the signatories of 71 identical letters from participants in an Aug. 16 meeting of neighborhood associations and community groups representing over 1,500 North Richmond and Parchester Village residents who met with representatives of the Scotts Valley Band. 

Another 50 supporting letters, all identical, gave no hint of their origins. 

Contra Costa County Administrator John Sweeten sent a two-page letter with a 13-page attachment spelling out areas the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should address. 

The cover letter noted that the county hadn’t received a detailed description of the proposal and asked that the final EIS include a worst-case scenario, detail assumptions used to determine impacts, outline mitigation measures for each of the impacts and analyze and disclose the cumulative impacts of each of the proposals. 

The remainder of the letter provided a detailed laundry list of specific impacts the EIS should address. ›


Europeans Learning to Love the Super-Euro By PAOLO PONTONIERE

Pacific News Service
Tuesday December 14, 2004

The aftershocks of the dollar’s fall are still felt far and wide by Europeans. Yet, slowly but surely, the continent is beginning to appreciate the newfound power of a strong euro.  

In factory boardrooms, European entrepreneurs still seek strategies to offset the increased cost of exporting their wares to the United States and Asia. But on the street and in the halls of government, optimism is growing. Many of the old continent’s analysts are peering around the edge of the tempest and seeing clearer skies.  

Europeans who travel abroad, for example, are feeling the same sense of power and abundance that American travelers knew before the advent of the recession and the Bush administration’s hands-off monetary policy. International airfares and hotels and meals outside the EU have become extremely cheap for Europeans. Foreign imports are cheaper by the day, American products of course, but especially Chinese and other East Asian products. Even the punishing cost of commodities like oil, since those trades are named in dollars, has been in part offset by the gain that the euro has made on the U.S. dollar.  

In fact, a strong euro even allows European exporters to absorb some of the increased cost of doing business with the United States.  

“Italian staple products and fashion nowadays have to be subsidized by our exporters to remain competitive on the American market,” say Vittorio Palladino, commercial attache to the Italian Consulate General in San Francisco. But Palladino points out that European exporters have kept prices steady for U.S. consumers, and they can do that, he says, because a strong euro enables them to absorb the losses generated by the poor exchange rate with the United States.  

European trade with the United States accounts for one-fifth of the old continent’s exports. With China, the EU registers a trade deficit of about 50 billion euros. But with the United States it still registers a trade surplus. In fact, the United States still imports more from Europe than it exports, accumulating—according to EU official sources—a deficit of about 80 billion euros a year, about $107 billion. As imports from Europe keep growing, that deficit is bound to increase.  

“If I were an American industrialist I would be worried about the strength of the euro right now, because U.S. and EU economies are highly interdependent,” says Guido Fontanelli, economy editor for Panorama, one of Italy’s leading newsweeklies. “More than a quarter of world transactions are made by firms that have investments on either side of the pond. The transatlantic relationship is still the nexus of the global economy, since the U.S. and the EU are the largest trade and investment partners for many of the world’s countries.”  

Even with securities, Europe is poised to reap the benefits of a strong currency.  

“As the dollar falters it is unavoidable that foreign investors will start to look at Europe’s securities and its currency as refuge investments,” says Jeffrey Frankel, professor of economics at the Kennedy School of Government and a former Clinton administration advisor. “The greater rate of return of European investments is compounded also by Europe’s higher interest rates. As long as the Euro stands strong, the European Central Bank (ECB) doesn’t have any incentive to reduce those rates.”  

In fact, the ECB recently signaled its intention to raise interest rates, and noted in the same announcement that currently, one-fifth of world’s monetary reserves are named in euros.  

The rise of the euro may also empower Europe’s political leaders to deal with the continent’s labor market rigidity, which has hampered Europe’s growth.  

To offset export losses, says Gary Becker, Nobel laureate for the economy in 1992, Europeans will have to increase productivity and reduce labor costs. “They’ll have to follow the American lesson of the 1980s, when Japan was flooding the U.S. with cheap electronics and automotive products,” Becker says. “The U.S. didn’t turn to protectionism, but instead increased productivity, the mobility of its work force and invested heavily in research and development and thus found again its economic edge.”  

Europe may be ready to follow suit. In Italy, air-transportation unions—the most powerful in Europe—recently agreed to layoffs and pay cuts in order to help Alitalia, Italy’s flagship airline, get out of bankruptcy.  

According to Fontanelli, Europe’s real conundrum is with Asiatic countries and countries whose currencies have been pegged to the dollar. Fontanelli believes that the dollar’s present level is tantamount to reducing China’s costs of exporting to Europe by a further 30 percent, since the value of China’s currency is pegged to that of the dollar.  

But with last July’s inclusion of nine former Iron Curtain countries into the EU, Europeans have discovered their own domestic China—that is, an area to which they can safely offshore production, gaining both low production costs and high-quality products.  

“Eastern Europe is becoming Europe’s NAFTA”, says Michele Libraro, CEO of Global StartUps, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm devoted to promoting European start-ups in the United States. “Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Baltic countries are attracting a great deal of West European investments and production. Those countries have a very good industrial base. For the first time in centuries, Europe could have a closed-circuit economy where everything is produced and consumed internally.  

“Regardless,” Libraro says, “Eastern Europe’s production keeps European products competitive internationally, notwithstanding China and the rise the euro.”  

 

Paolo Pontoniere is the San Francisco-based correspondent of Focus, Italy’s leading monthly magazine.  


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Déjà vu 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Culvert Giving Way” reads the headline over a brief article on the front page of the Berkeley Daily Gazette of June 18, 1904. “The old wooden culvert that carries the waters of Strawberry Creek from the University grounds through the business section of the city, to a point half a block west of Shattuck avenue on Allston way, is beginning to give way in places. A large cave in has occurred… The Town Board of Trustees will soon recommend replacing the wood with cement.” 

It is exactly a full century later and we are at it again. 

Jill Korte 

 

• 

VOTE IRREGULARITIES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Even before the voting machines were turned off in the wee hours of election night the American public began hearing an explanation to account for the sudden shift in election results which were in stark contradiction to the earlier exit polls showing Kerry to be the projected winner. There started what turned out to be a wave of cookie cutter analyses which swept through the TV and print media claiming that the Christian right backlash against gay marriage accounted for Bush’s slim margin of victory.  

By their timing and abundance it was almost as if these were planted by white house strategist, Karl Rove, designed in advance to explain an unlikely reversal of events. But then one would have to believe that this administration is capable of widespread deception and subterfuge. And what is the chance of that? 

Also, who the hell is Bob Burnett, anyway? He has now written two “news analysis” pieces on the stolen election in your pages that mirror other op-ed pieces in the Chronicle explaining away Bush’s suspect win of the popular vote. There are now thousands of documented incidents of fraud, vote suppression and voter abuse to indicate that in all likelihood Kerry did, in fact, win the popular vote. In his latest infotorial, Burnett’s use of confusing speculative presumptions based on an unreferenced poll suggests a somewhat more subtle but a very similar intention to explain the improbable. It does appear he’s attempting to anaesthetize a disbelieving, outraged voting public. 

Please do your readership a favor and feature Henry Norr, a well-known, trusted local writer whose substantive commentary of Nov.16 shows that he represents the predominant sentiment of Bay Area voters. I also applaud letter writer Judy Bertelsen (Dec. 10-13) who offers a cogent assessment of election irregularities backed up by references readers can check for themselves on the Internet. 

I urge the Berkeley Daily Planet to start printing some of the dozens of news stories around the country documenting instances of vote suppression, etc. which are available from newspapers such the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Columbus Dispatch. Even the Associated Press is wising up on this issue. 

Of the myriad number of websites devoteD to thestolen election, www.solarbus.org and www.blackboxvoting.org are good starting points and www.votersunite.org has a detailed partial compendium of hundreds of serious voting irregularities backed up with links to specific print media reports. 

Peter Teichner 

 

• 

COMMUNITY IS GOOD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As affairs of state coast along Mr. Bush prepares for his second term by reshaping his cabinet and prioritizing his initiatives. The reform of Social Security is at the top of his list. So, from the bully pulpit he will again direct the political equivalent of a hymn extolling privatization and his choir has already started to warm up. David Brooks, for instance, praises the power of a free market to solve Social Security’s “intractable problems”; the benefits, he sings, “vastly outweigh” the risks. 

Brooks’ melodic performance is seductive but ears accustomed to hearing common sense are sure to find his discords discomforting. 

So far the president has revealed only the direction: Increase private retirement accounts to make up for reduced benefits – a road to the past. 

Our septuagenarian system needs revitalizing but an honest effort to change it should not jettison its core principle – security anchored in community; wage earners holding up the roof to prevent it from falling on individuals. Privatization a la Bush operates the opposite way; it would take a portion of what the community now bears and distribute it onto individual shoulders. 

Community cohesion—slim threads plated into a rope—is reliable and vastly more powerful than the market, exposed as it is to capricious global influences. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 

 

• 

MAGIC THEATER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I went over to the Magic Theater in San Francisco Saturday night (Dec. 11) to see the Riot Group’s play Pugilist Specialist. There were over 100 in the audience with a few empty seats. If you like tight theater drama on the edge try and catch this play before it disappears in a week or so. You won’t be disappointed. On a sparse set of two benches, four characters somehow dramatize all of the tensions of life in the U.S. today. Like the Iraq war itself the play appears to be about a military intelligence group’s assignment to assassinate a middle east dictator—who appears to be Saddam Hussein. Ultimately the play turns out to not be about that at all but about the contradictions in the internal culture within which the four characters exist and from which they derive. These guys and the Bay Area deserve an extended run of this brilliant play and it probably won’t happen unless they get a huge surge of interest. Pugilist Specialist has received rave reviews.  

Marc Sapir 

 

• 

CHURCH AND STATE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The founding fathers of this country for the most part were very religious, spiritual people but the reason they insisted on separation of church and state is because they were fully aware of the historic abuse when the church and state are not kept separate. The federal government/Bush administration is now making this huge mistake that our forefathers warned us against and which is not even suppose to be done according to the Constitution, so history is now repeating itself with dire consequences. It is also unfortunate that through out recorded history people in position of power have used religion and God to mislead people to fulfill their own agenda which even includes starting wars in the name of God. Most people do not realize this but that was something Hitler also did, an in depth article concerning this can be found at: www.buzzflash.com/farrell/04/12/far04041.html. 

Thomas Husted 

Alameda 

 

• 

LOCAL VOTE ANALYSIS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read your weekend edition regularly but not always the weekday editions. I did pick up the Dec. 7-9 edition and found the vote tally for Kerry and Bush to be very, very interesting. Also, Rob Wrenn’s analysis was very informative. 

I would like to suggest that you reprint that article and the table of votes again in some future weekend edition. There are probably many voters in Berkeley who like me found a bit of solace in knowing that I was part of a vast anti Bush majority. 

Max Macks 

 

• 

RENT CONTROL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Planet recently carried a commentary by Robert Cabrera attacking rent control (“Berkeley Rent Control Violates U.S. Constitution,” Daily Planet, Dec. 7-9). The rather inane claim was that Rent Control violates the Constitution, specifically the Fifth Amendment. How does Mr. Cabrera explain the fact that almost all judges and courts who have considered this matter came to the opposite conclusion? Almost all of those judges, with a very few rare exceptions, were Republicans and they certainly had no political motivation in upholding rent control.  

I would like to quote you something equally inane, from a philosophy professor well-trained in logic, by none other than Bertrand Russell. Said John Searle at a public hearing of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board on Sept. 10, 1991: “The treatment of landlords in Berkeley is comparable to the treatment of blacks in the South...our rights have been massively violated and we are here to correct that injustice.”  

Considering that it is largely the black population of Berkeley that has been protected by rent control and badly hurt by its recent undermining, I think the more apt analogy would be that Mr. Searle’s objections are like objecting to the tight government regulation of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. 

However, there is a germ of truth in the attitudes of Cabrera and Searle. It is that the politicos in Berkeley government have tended to compensate one wrong for another wrong, rather than correct all wrongs at their root. This stems from laziness and from over-politicization of governmental obligations. Very few of the Berkeley law makers have had much knowledge about the law, and so they have tended to play down proper law making according to constitutional rights in favor of tit-for-tat partisan bickering. 

I do not believe, for one minute, however, that tenants have come out on the long end of that stick. Quite the contrary. It is a formula that ensures the defeat of tenants rights, which in fact depend strongly on constitutional support, even as did the civil rights of blacks in the South. Although tenants are the majority, they are not the ones with political muscle in a capitalist society. Even as a small fraction of the population possesses most of the wealth, so does it possess most of the power that derives from that wealth. 

If Mr. Cabrera or Mr. Searle or any other gung-ho enemy of tenants rights would like to engage in a mock trial over rent control, I will be glad to demonstrate to them the errors of their ways. 

Peter Mutnick 

 

 

• 

EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Only in Berkeley” again? That the La Vereda cottage, easily the most unsightly dwelling in its neighborhood, and only mitigated by Mother Nature’s 

forgiving terrain, should stir such passions is incomprehensible. If I had been Mr. Wurster (may he rest in peace), I would not have wanted my memory to be associated with it, nor with Wurster Hall, two unfortunate examples of the Post-Bauhaus geometric dreck that thrives in the Berkeley Hills, and which has ripped the soul out of most twentieth-century architecture. That short-sighted, superficial, Modernistic mania is hopefully drawing to a close. There is nothing sadder than an aging avanguard. 

Juergen Hahn 

 

• 

BUDGET UPDATE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A Nov. 4 memo from City Manager Phil Kamlarz to department directors regarding “Budget Update” is being circulated this month. It refers to the fiscal year 2005 adopted budget that “included a number of departmental and programmatic reorganization efforts. We must immediately begin implementation of these plans.” 

One of the Police Department “Adopted Balancing Options” (page 2 of the fiscal year 2006 Reduction Plan) is to “Eliminate Police Officer—Sex Crimes”—a position which appears to be vacant, a potential “savings” of $142.500. 

Here’s a suggestion with potential for genuine savings of money and lives: Post on the city website photographs and names of the johns arrested in Berkeley. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

 

• 

MORE RENT CONTROL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I must respectfully disagree with former Berkeley Property Owners Association President Robert Cabrera’s surprising claim that the city’s rent stabilization program violates the U.S. Constitution. 

Mr. Cabrera contends that municipal rent stabilization policies are tantamount to an “uncompensated” private property “taking” or expropriation. 

In point of fact, the hundred or so community rent stabilization laws across California—including mobile home parks—have been declared constitutional 

by both the California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court.  

For example, in Pennell vs. City of San Jose (1988) and Yee vs. City of Escondido (1992), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that rent controls do not constitute a “taking.” 

Further, the state and federal Supreme Courts have explicitly addressed Mr. Cabrera’s central concern: Rental property owners are constitutionally entitled to receive a “fair return” on their property investment under a rent stabilization environment. 

The “fair return” doctrine articulated by the courts is a long established legal principle. Berkeley’s rent stabilization policies fully comply with this constitutional doctrine and the court’s rulings on this issue. 

Although space prevents from addressing Mr. Cabrera’s other op-ed points, it is a fact that the Bay Area has some of the highest rent levels in the entire nation. Without the city’s rent stabilization program, Berkeley’s unique character and diversity—including the city’s thousands of low income households—would have eroded away or disappeared a long time ago.  

Chris Kavanagh 

 

• 

RUMSFELD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Donald Rumsfeld at the talk to the troops when they questioned him said “ Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I’m an old man, it’s early in the morning, and I’m gathering my thought here.” His answers certainly were inadequate.  

He was a major participant in the decision of going to war in Iraq. It is his responsibility to provide our soldiers with all that is needed to fight in this war.  

These questions are not the first time that the fighting military has asked for proper protection in this Iraqi war. Recently 18 soldiers refused to go on a mission because of faulty equipment. 

Demands need to be made for his resignation. Rumsfeld states because he is an old man he is slow in formulating his thoughts. How can he then make instant decisions that affect not only the military, but also the citizens of United States and the people of the world? How can the president have any confidence in Rumsfeld’s abilities? The military who are fighting and dying in Iraqi are questioning his leadership. What can we expect from him in four years when he is 76 years old? 

We must have someone is this vital position who is competent all the time. 

Helen and Frank Sommers 

 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zelda Bronstein’s opinion piece about re-striping Marin Avenue (“The Stealth Plan to Bicycle-ize Marin Avenue,” Daily Planet, Dec. 10-13) shows that she does not understand the purpose of this project. Its goal is to make the street safer by reducing illegal speeding.  

When a street has two lanes in each direction, some drivers use the “fast lane” to speed. When it has only one lane in each direction, all drivers tend to travel at the same speed as the safest drivers.  

Bronstein says that the re-striping will “profoundly affect” the entire neighborhood, so the city should notify everyone, not just residents of Marin Avenue.  

In fact, the plan will affect Marin Avenue by making it safer. It will have only one profound effect on other neighborhood residents: People who now drive at high speeds will have to slow down a bit and take a few more minutes to travel on this street.  

The study for this plan found that the re-striped street will have capacity to carry all the traffic that now travels there, so re-striping will not cause congestion. In fact, the study found that the average speed after re-striping will still be greater than the legal speed limit: Drivers will be slowed down only if their current speed is well above the legal limit.  

The city has already re-striped Sixth Street north of Hearst Avenue in exactly the same way that is proposed for Marin Avenue—and I have not heard anyone complain about (or even mention) the “profound effect” of this re-striping.  

Bronstein sometimes plays at being progressive and writes about “renewing” the Democratic Party. But when it comes to the decisions that affect her own ºlife, she has not moved beyond the urban planning clichés of the 1950s. Many of today’s traffic engineers have rejected the ideal of 1950s traffic engineering—to move cars as quickly as possible, regardless of the impact on the environment and on neighborhoods. Bronstein will not renew anything by advocating this sort of out-dated, reactionary idea.  

Charles Siegel 

 

• 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The commentary by Zelda Bronstein in the December 10-13 issue contains some very misleading allegations, which are reinforced by her unfortunate headline “The Stealth Plan to Bicycle-ize Marin Avenue.” 

I write as a Berkeley bicyclist (aged 67, and a daily participant in the Berkeley traffic) and as a member of the board of directors of the Bicycle Friendly Berkeley Coalition (BFBC). At a recent meeting, the BFBC Board made a considered decision not to commit resources or energy to the Marin Avenue reconfiguration project. It is indeed part of the Bicycle Plan—Bronstein at least got that right—and as such we support it in principle, but we consciously chose not to give it a high priority. 

I was disturbed by the fact that Ms. Bronstein chose to set up bicycling as a straw man. The Marin project is primarily about the safety of pedestrians and of residents backing out of driveways. Her headline suggests that it is being covertly driven by bicyclists. That is simply false. In the actual text, most of Ms. Bronstein’s substantive criticisms concerned the planning and notification processes. For all I know, some of her concerns in those areas may be well founded. However, if something is wrong with the city’s process it is not because of secret influence by a cabal of bicyclists. 

The Marin Avenue project will do a few good things for bicyclists, but it is far from the top of our wish list. It will, I think, do far more for pedestrians and residents of Marin Avenue, by reducing speeding. At the same time, the center left turn lane will allow vehicles to stop to wait for a chance to turn left without blocking a through traffic lane as they do now. Several knowledgeable observers have predicted that traffic flow will actually become smoother and easier as a result of that change. 

Ms. Bronstein ended by expressing concern about “...the Berkeleyans whose daily lives it will profoundly affect.” Think how profoundly it might affect your daily life if you were crossing Marin and were hit by a car going 35 MPH. 

David A. Coolidge 

 

• 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a North Berkeley resident, I’m seriously affected both by the proposed choking of the Marin Avenue traffic artery, and by the actual choking of public participation in the city’s decision about this. 

The core traffic problem is this: As civic policies continue to increase congestion on the overloaded Ashby, University, and Solano corridors, east/west access to North Berkeley depends ever more vitally on the Marin Avenue corridor. It’s not ideal—but the cost of constricting its flow will be more than just significant inconvenience to its many regular users. Traffic diverted to nearby streets will degrade local neighborhoods, and the increased load on the other main corridors will have disproportionate effects on their already-jammed flows and on all drivers who use them. I sympathize actively with the needs of bicyclists, but another east/west corridor can be modified for them. There’s no other alternative here for car drivers, and the impact of restricting Marin’s flow will be felt city-wide. 

This makes even worse the failures of the Transportation and Planning commissions to adequately publicize this plan, and to invite citizen participation. Though local residents have had little chance to offer feedback, their reactions have been decisively negative. To have their careful analyses digested to bland bullet-points by the Transportation Commission’s consultant has made a mockery of citizen input. This matter is being pushed to the City Council with inadequate consideration even for opinions of the local public, and none for feedback from the larger community. 

What’s at stake here is not only a major traffic decision, but the process of participation. I hope other readers will help pressure council and commission members to make both of these better than what’s portending. 

Michael Rossman 

 

• 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Earlier this year I watched my neighbor, Tom Bowen, die while crossing Marin Avenue. I have crossed Marin Avenue thousands of times at the same intersection, first as a student at Thousand Oaks School, later while heading to Ortman’s Ice Cream, or for shopping at Park and Shop. I learned to ride a bike on Marin and I learned to drive on Marin. 

I know the street well, and I support the proposed reconfiguration project. Traffic will flow more rationally on a three-lane street, due to the center turn lane. The weaving and lane shifting that occurs now will no longer be necessary. Cut-through traffic will be minimal, because Marin will still be the best route. And Marin will finally have one consistent profile, all the way from the circle down to San Pablo. 

But most importantly, with a reconfigured Marin Avenue, the type of collision that killed my neighbor will no longer be possible. Tom was killed by a common collision type called “double threat.” The car in the first lane stopped, but the car in the second lane continued at full speed. He and his small bag of groceries flew high in the air. His crumpled and broken body landed partially in the opposing lane. He died after 11 painful days in the hospital. 

Bryce Nesbitt 

 

• 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zelda Bronstein’s commentary on the Marin Avenue conversion misses the point! 

My family lives on Marin Avenue, and has to put their life (and the lives of their children) on the line to walk across this speedway each day. Yes, the Marin conversion will impact automobile traffic, yes it will doubtlessly please cyclists. But, the ultimate beneficiaries are the many pedestrians who walk along Marin Avenue and its cross streets, and to Marin Avenue schools, and library, and community center. 

As Bronstein pointed out, 20,000 cars speed down this street daily. Your writer failed to mention that earlier this year, one of those cars killed a woman as she stepped into the crosswalk of Marin. 

Perhaps the greatest failure of Berkeley government is to their refusal to adequately enforce the 25 mph speed limit on Marin Avenue. Speeds of 40-50 miles per hour are common, especially at night. For this reason, the street has become eminently dangerous—the lane conversion is a logical, and hopefully a lasting, solution. 

To your commentator, I propose: Get out of your car and try a bicycle or your own two feet! 

Philip Krayna 

 

• 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Zelda Bronstein, in her commentary about the “bicycle-ization” of Marin Avenue, implies that a handful of letters in opposition represents an accurate sample of public opinion. Not so. There are many of us north Berkeley residents using Marin as an arterial who favor the new three-lane plan. There has been a great deal of public advocacy supporting this plan, but Zelda leaves out all the voices in favor when she ads up her short public comment scorecard. The point here is that a small collection of letters is not a scientific survey of public opinion. Nor is it an accurate representation of political will. Self-selected advocacy groups, whether pro-bicycle or pro-traffic lanes, should never be regarded as speaking for the public at large. The commissions, on the other hand, derive their authority from the elected officials that appoint their members. So a commission recommendation—even though it may be at odds with what appears to be a preponderance of public comment —remains the more valid expression of representative democracy. 

The real value of public hearings and public comment is not to see who wins a skewed popularity contest. It is to bring up new ideas and focus attention on problems that may not have been apparent to the commission, council or staff. 

That said, Zelda does raise an important point about the flow of information from the public to the commissions. The problem is that a letter or e-mail to the commission’s staff secretary goes through the filter of staff. Theoretically, all communications are included in the information packet for the next meeting. But as Zelda has seen, this is not always the way it’s done in practice. Even when commission secretaries act in the best of good faith, which they almost always do, controversial material is often presented along with a rebuttal representing the staff position. In Zelda’s case, her letter and others were apparently reduced to a condensed summary. There can also be a considerable time lag before the next monthly packet goes out, and if the agenda is heavy, the communication can be buried under all the other documents in the packet and never receive the detailed attention from the commissioners that the sender intended. 

The moral: If you really want to communicate with a commission, mail to each commissioner individually. It will get full attention and bypass the staff filter. 

Only problem is, the commission web pages generally do not list e-mail or mailing addresses for the commissioners. This information is available to the public in hard copy from the City Clerk’s office, but it’s not there on the web. This is one of the reasons that I maintain an unofficial website devoted to the Berkeley waterfront. If you need to write to any or all of us on the Waterfront Commission, www.BerkeleyWaterfront.org has the contact list. I urge all commissions to make their contact list equally accessible. 

Paul Kamen  

Member and former chair of the Waterfront Commission 

 

ED ROBERTS CAMPUS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Richard Brenneman’s article on the appeal of the Ed Roberts Campus (ERC) use permit (“Roberts Center Critics Appeal Project Approval,” Daily Planet, Dec. 7-9). ERC will be designed and built for people with disabilities. It will house eight disability-related nonprofits. Some services provided are: a fitness center for the disabled and seniors, a Childhood Center for disabled and non-disabled children, computer training and lab, and accessible meeting space. 

The ERC has been a cooperative process from the beginning. We had meetings with the neighbors, before applying for a use permit. We made major changes to address their concerns. Neighbors support the ERC. Design Review supported our design 6-0. The ZAB favored our use permit 7-0. 

I’d like to support Susan Parker’s column in the Planet (“Opposition to Ed Roberts Campus Masked in Historic Design Complaint,” Daily Planet, Dec. 7-9). Those few appealing the ERC use permit say they “they don’t want to stop or delay the project”. Yet if their appeal succeeds, it can have no other result than to at least delay our project. I also find it interesting that Mr. Brenneman chose not to include a response from ERC in his article. 

We can do something beautiful to remember Ed Roberts, serve the neighborhood, and people with disabilities. I hope the City Council will dismiss the appeal. 

Guy W. Thomas,  

Ed Roberts Campus board member 

 

• 

RESPONSE TO PARKER COLUMN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a very close neighbor to the proposed Ed Roberts Campus (ERC), I want to respond to the column by Susan Parker. She said “the people who live near the proposed building site…just don’t want it in their neighborhood, and they will clutch onto any excuse not to have it”. Wrong. There are four very obsessed people, only one of whom is actually a close neighbor to the site, who have tried doggedly to highjack the right to represent our neighborhood, who have gone to such hideous extremes to avoid having a disabled presence in the area. They do not represent me or any of the other neighbors I know, but they have extraordinary amounts of time to push their agenda. They deceptively try to soften their opposition by saying they somehow support the concept of the ERC.  

At an early meeting on the proposal I overheard comments that “they (the disabled) would attract bad elements” to the neighborhood. Their true opposition is not to the design but to the people.  

Their current path to delay and destroy is the spurious claim that it would not fit in to the supposed historic character of the neighborhood. Just walk from Alcatraz to Ashby along Adeline Street and look at all the buildings on the east side of the street, the side where the ERC will be built. The majority are modern. The only buildings with character are very different from each other: the Orthodox church, the liquor store, and the Marmot store. The warehouse, the post office, the laundromat, the apartment and office complex buildings, the Children’s Hospital office building, the Black Repertory Theater, none have the slightest hint of architectural value.  

Just because a few buildings in the area are about 100 years old does not make them interesting or architecturally valuable. If you’ve been to Europe, Mexico, or even the east coast, you know that 100 years is not old. And if you wander around south Berkeley, you know that most of the aging buildings are of no historic value. The best of the lot are only mildly interesting, and no existing buildings will be torn down or altered. The buildings they select as landmarks were simply ordinary when they were built, have not yet passed the test of time (about 500 years), and are often not in great shape. There is nothing to match the Parthenon, or Palace of Versailles, Taliesin, or Hermitage, or even Claremont Hotel. And if you walk Adeline Street you will see no single theme, no consistency at all. They are making this all up out of whole cloth, hiding their ugly motives. Sadly, they have impugned the South Berkeley neighborhood and made us look like NIMBYs and bigots. 

I am convinced the Ed Roberts Campus will add in every way to the value of our neighborhood and to that of the whole city as well. It is a wonderful project and a beautiful design. The architects should be praised for the thoughtfulness and boldness and elegance they have offered. And, unlike the obsessed bigots, I believe having a strong disabled community benefits us all. 

Ronald Good?



Teaching Others Not to Cry: Zoloft and Strong Martinis By SUSAN PARKER

COLUMN
Tuesday December 14, 2004

In Nona Caspers’ Teaching Creative Writing workshop at San Francisco State, my classmates and I spent the semester exploring educational theory and pedagogy. We created curriculums and gave lectures on different aspects of craft; we read about teachers whose lesson plans worked and others who left their students confused and disappointed. Guest speakers told us about their experiences in the classroom, warned us about pitfalls and false expectations. We asked questions and took notes. We were earnest and sincere, scared and inspired.  

Nona pushed and prodded us and her workshop was stimulating and rewarding. But for our last class meeting, she suggested that we switch gears. “Instead of writing,” she said, “Let’s teach each other something we’re good at, something that has nothing to do with poetry, fiction, or theater. For instance, I’m good at yoga, so next week I’ll show you a pose.” 

Nona’s request worried me. I stayed up late wondering what the hell I was good at. I could think of dozens of skills I practiced before my husband’s accident—things I haven’t done in the past 10 years, like rock climbing, cycling, skiing, and rollerblading. I was once proficient at reading a topo map and compass, finding routes through the Sierra where there were no trails. I could erect a tent swiftly, break it down after a night in the snow, carry a heavy backpack while on skis or dangling from a climbing rope. But now I doubt that I could pull anything up a haul bag line, or even find my way out of a paper sack. I might be able to change a flat tire on a bicycle if my life depended on it, but true a crooked wheel, or prime a camp stove? Forget it. 

So what am I going to teach my fellow classmates? These days, my physical activities are limited to swimming and pushing an electric wheelchair. I could bring flippers and goggles to class but that doesn’t seem very interesting, and shoving a wheelchair takes no skill, only brute force and suppressed grunts.  

What am I good at? I’m an expert at not crying thanks to the miracle of Zoloft. I could share a few tablets with my classmates, but I’d have to explain that it takes a month of daily dosages before the tears subside. I could teach them about the Kaiser Emergency Room, how each visit there lasts a minimum of seven hours, or about what it’s like to be trapped on the third floor of a building with a wheelchair-bound companion after the elevator breaks down.  

What am I good at? A whole lot of things that I wasn’t good at a decade ago. I’m a professional, in some ways, at being patient, (see above reference to ER and elevators). Because of the people who live with me and help me take care of my husband, I know much more about other cultures and ethnic groups, racial matters and socio-economics. I used to be a whiz at saving money, but now I’m better at spending it on things I never expected to pay for: pills and domestic help, other people’s traffic tickets and child support. I’m first-rate at putting up with addictions and petty theft, tolerant of many behaviors that I once found intolerable.  

What can I teach my fellow students? Maybe I can explain to them that you never know for sure what might happen to you or someone you love; that accidents are sometimes unavoidable; that you can do things you never thought possible, stick with situations that you once viewed as unbearable; build new relationships and forge friendships with people you never would have met in your old life, the life you were forced to leave behind. Your new existence may not be one that you expected, prepared for, or wanted, but you can go on. You can survive.  

Or maybe I’ll just teach them how to make a strong, double martini, straight-up, with an olive. I’m a specialist at that. ›


Police Blotter By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 14, 2004

Reporter’s Car Stolen 

Daily Planet reporter Matt Artz stepped out his front door last Wednesday to discover that his faithful Honda Accord had been stolen. 

His insurance provides a temporary rental car, and the one available in the specified price range was a Dodge Dakota pickup, which he duly rented. 

Then came the news that General Motors had recalled the Dakota. 

Finally, a preoccupied motorist bumped into the agile reporter as he was crossing Ashby Avenue Monday morning. Fortunately, he was able to leap out of the way, and was struck only a glancing blow by the car—whose driver rolled down his window and cursed at him as he departed the scene. 

 

Vandal Hits Landmarked Church 

A vandal smashed a small pane in one of the windows of Berkeley’s most famous landmark, architect Bernard Maybeck’s First Church of Christ, Scientist at 2619 Dwight Way. 

A church member discovered the damage early Thursday morning. 

Police were unable to determine how the damage was done and have no suspects in the crime, said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies.  

 

Cab Jacker Busted 

A 50-year-old man opted for a do-it-yourself cab ride Thursday evening, pulling a knife on the driver near the corner of Queens Road and Fairlawn Drive. 

After the driver departed, the man headed for the hills, where police arrested him and recovered the stolen vehicle on Grizzly Peak Road.  

The ride could end up costing the suspect considerably more than the fare, as officers booked him on suspicion of carjacking, a crime that carries a prison sentence of from three to nine years. 

 

Gunman Grabs Purse 

A gunman in his late teens approached a 38-year-old woman near the corner of Gilman and Fourth streets shortly before 8 p.m. Friday and demanded she hand over her purse. 

The woman complied and the bandit split. 

 

Stupid is as Stupid Does 

When an anonymous caller phoned in a tip of a purported drug deal underway at Allston Way and San Pablo Avenue, officers dispatched to the scene were greeted by a belligerent fellow who showed his discontent by attacking one of the officers. 

The 30-year-old man was arrested on charges of battery on, and willful obstruction of, a peace officer. 

 

Robber Thumps Victim, Flees 

Two felons in their 20s approached a man in the 2400 block of Haste Street shortly after 11 p.m. Friday and demanded he fork over his money, 

The man refused, and one of the pair thumped him on the head before the duo departed, sans loot. 

Hammer Whammer 

A dispute between two South Berkeley men took a nasty turn Saturday morning when one of them pulled out a ballpeen hammer and struck the other in the leg. 

The 45-year-old victim identified his assailant to police, who are actively on the lookout for him, ready to make an arrest on charges of assault with a deadly weapon. 

 

Melee at the Med 

Police were summoned to the Caffe Mediterraneum at 2445 Telegraph Ave. 3:30 Saturday afternoon, where they found at least 10 fellows embroiled in fisticuffs. 

Before the dust settled, a 62-year-old disputant had pulled a blade and inflicted a minor stab wound on one of his fellows. 

The injured man was treated at the scene by Berkeley Fire Department paramedics and the knife-wielder was hauled off to the pokey, where he was booked for assault with a deadly weapon. 

 

Nasty-Bator 

A 30-year-old man threatened two women and invited them to lend him assistance after they spotted him masturbating in the 1900 block of Russell Street about 6:15 p.m. Sunday. 

Police were summoned, and they arrested the fellow on two charges each of solicitation to engage in lewd conduct in a public place and uttering “offensive words in a public place which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.” 

 

“Blade” Meets Gun 

A cinema buff watching a showing of the vampire flick Blade Trinity at the Shattuck Avenue Cinema Saturday evening noted that a fellow seated nearby appeared to be packing holstered heat. 

After receiving a strange answer to his question of why his fellow theatrical patron appeared to be armed, the citizen called police. 

When officers arrived, they discovered that the 25-year-old cineaste was indeed carrying a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol. 

The man was booked on one charge each of carrying a concealed weapon and carrying a loaded weapon. 

 

Spat Ends in Assault Busts 

An argument in a pickup truck between a 40-year-old man and his 40-year-old female companion took a serious wrong turn shortly after noon Sunday. 

One of the pair called police to Second and Gilman streets, where things got complex. 

The woman said the man had tried to run her down after she got out of the truck in the course of the verbal altercation, and that man said the woman smashed a truck window and stabbed him with a nail file. 

Their stories earned each of them an arrest on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, said Officer Okies.›


Why Appeal ZAB’s Roberts Campus Decisions? By ROBERT LAURISTON

COMMENTARY
Tuesday December 14, 2004

Readers of the Daily Planet’s Dec. 7 issue could easily come away with the impression that NIMBYs appealed the Zoning Adjustments Board’s recent decisions on the Ed Roberts Campus in an attempt to block the project. In fact my co-appellants and I support the project: this appeal is part of the ongoing fight for fair and open permit approval practices. 

In 1998, the ERC presented its original three-story, 130,000-square foot design in a series of community meetings. Many neighbors said that proposal was out of scale with the neighborhood, provided insufficient parking (only 100 spaces), and would exacerbate existing traffic problems. Naturally some of these neighbors were NIMBYs, but those were real issues that needed to be addressed. 

At that time, some neighbors suggested the building would make more sense in another location, such as downtown Berkeley, where it would not be out of scale, or on the other side of Adeline, where the much larger lot would allow a lower, less bulky building. The North Berkeley BART station was also mentioned, not as a practical alternative but expressing longstanding South Berkeley resentment: BART gave North Berkeley greenbelt parks and open space, we get asphalt and big buildings. 

Over the course of these community meetings, the ERC modified its plans to respond to complaints about parking and traffic, but didn’t back off an inch on height and bulk until mid-2002, after the current architect took over the project and worked with the partner organizations to figure out how much space they really needed and what they could afford to build. The resulting two-story, 80,000-square foot design ended most neighbors’ concerns about the project’s height and bulk. Unfortunately, a lot of people thought the new design was ugly, a complaint they’ve made that complaint at every meeting and public hearing since. 

The Design Review Committee took up the project in late 2002. By their last hearing in January 2003, involved neighbors and the ERC were on accord on almost every issue. The plan to move the BART parking lot entrance would reduce traffic through the neighborhood. The ERC would build a 143-space garage to meet its own parking needs and reduce the current 250 BART spaces only as necessary to save trees (an architect neighbor estimated that might mean losing 20 spaces). The main remaining point of contention was the design of the facade: a majority of attending neighbors complained that it was ugly, too modern, and wouldn’t fit in the neighborhood. The DRC disagreed, and voted 6-0 to recommend approval. 

This year, the project finally came before the Zoning Adjustments Board. In August there was an informational preview, on October 28 a public hearing with no clear purpose (scheduled by mistake?), and on Nov. 15 the public hearing at which ZAB made the two decisions we are appealing. 

ZAB’s first decision was to adopt the “negative declaration” required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Per CEQA, the negative declaration and supporting documents (including an initial study prepared by staff and 21 documents referenced by that study) had to be available for public review for 20 days before ZAB could adopt it. Members of the public alerted ZAB at both the Oct. 28 and Nov. 15 hearings that staff had failed to make the documents available as required, giving ZAB two chances to delay its decision and allow the full public review required by law. 

CEQA also required ZAB to check the negative declaration for accuracy and omissions, discover public concerns, and disclose agency analyses. The ZAB failed on all these counts, most notably in regard to the section of the initial study regarding impact on historical resources. Members of the public alerted ZAB prior to its decision that the initial study failed to disclose that the city had received a letter from the state Office of Historic Preservation disputing staff’s conclusion that the ERC would have “no impact” on historical resources. 

In sum, the main reasons for our appeal are that ZAB virtually ignored the state requirements, acted prematurely, and approved an inadequate negative declaration without identifying and addressing fatal defects. The City Council should reverse that decision and take steps to avoid similar errors with future projects. ZAB should hold a new hearing to determine properly whether the project meets CEQA standards as is, or if to avoid significant adverse impact on surrounding historical resources the facade should be revised to look less like a 1960s-era airport terminal. 

 

Pro-democracy activist Robert Lauriston lives across the street from the Ed Roberts Campus site. 




Two Lanes on Marin Avenue? A Design for Road Rage! By RAYMOND A. CHAMBERLIN

Tuesday December 14, 2004

On Tuesday, Dec. 14, the Berkeley City Council will be asked to approve city staff’s recommendation to re-stripe Marin Avenue west of The Alameda for only two auto lanes, plus a center left-turn lane and two bicycle lanes, absent an environmental impact report (EIR). The City of Albany has already approved the project for its portion of Marin.  

The Dec. 14 date was selected to keep most of Marin’s users’ objections to the project out of the loop. Only a small fraction of such users were ever officially notified, by the cities of Albany and Berkeley, of how each was to modify Marin within its respective boundaries.  

This project is a thrust of the East Bay bicycle lobby to expand its bike-route system under the veil of a 5-mph speed reduction on this arterial. The current high speeds and dangerous driving on Marin certainly needs curtailment, but it’s clear from the official write-up of the project, still online at www.albanyca.org/news, that the redesign will 1) jam up traffic during commute hours, 2) cause cars to divert onto feeder and residential streets, and 3) likely create a more hazardous course for pedestrians crossing Marin.  

Albany’s police chief, having given up on using speeding tickets to slow Marin traffic, insisted only an engineering solution would do the job. But traffic crowding and physical impediments to speeding are inherently hazardous and not substitutes for law enforcement. With curb changes visualized in the next phase, this “study” phase is offered as only a simple, reversible pavement-striping project. However, some 40 concrete structures must be removed from the centerline of Marin to accommodate the advertised left-turn lane, with their replacement upon any decision to revert after the trial period. 

Fire and police personnel have stated their concerns about emergency-vehicle travel on the reconfigured Marin, but their concerns were disregarded in the consultants’ writings on the project, as noted in residents’ letters to the Council. 

Most of the traffic and noise data claimed as excusing the need of an EIR are either inadequate or based on inappropriate computer simulations. Often single results are differently massaged to read “more than one-minute” or “up to one minute,” depending on the particular political point of the moment. I drove Marin and two other routes that would bypass the projected traffic-riled version of it. My times on the alternate routes equaled the consultants’ calculated longer travel times on a lane-reduced Marin. See www.znet.com/~raych/MyEvaluation.htm , a more technical discussion than this. Apart from the issue of time, these routes would avoid the constant start and stop on the modified Marin. 

On this wholly residential arterial, the opportunities for turning left into driveways are very frequent. Envision two well-calmed drivers in the center lane, each unaware of the other’s choice of targeted driveway. Oops, their projections overlap, so it’s back to their respective through lanes or executions of dangerous diagonal left turns.  

And all that pedestrians get to improve their safety in crossing Marin is a potential bone-breaking impact speed claimed as 5 mph lower than before. No overpass, an admittedly expensive item, but one feasible and not unaesthetic as erected at the Marin BART crossing. No additional pedestrian-controlled traffic lights. Removal of all centerline safety features in order to permit the center-lane hazard of left-turners streaking across crosswalks while looking for holes in oncoming traffic, or of others misusing this lane for passing—likely worse than the second-travel-lane problem pedestrians currently face.  

Even most bicyclists are slighted by this project’s design! Still cramped by cars traveling at probably the same speed as before during non-commute hours, pedestrians poking out from between cars to get into their parked cars and doors opening for drivers entering or leaving their parked cars would continue to threaten them. Only substandard bicycle lanes will fit into the reshuffled Marin. Only daredevil cyclists would use the reconfigured Marin. The commute diversion routes referenced above would be superior to a bike-laned Marin for your ordinary bicyclist. How has this easily foreseen fiasco been so smoothly dumped upon us? By 1) today’s scarcity of public money, 2) excess laxity in criteria for public grants, and above all, 3) inadequate resistance to infiltration by bicycle extremists into positions in city and district governments and green organizations. 

Presently, bicycle activists run Berkeley’s Transportation Commission, known around City Hall as the Bicycle Commission. The bicycle recreational lobby, which sees itself as a church of ecological salvation and its fanatic disciples as superheroes in Spandex, seeks a flexing of its muscles, not paths needed by civilized bicyclists. These zealots see road constrictions not as safety measures taken in the interest of pedestrians, but as means to get large numbers of motor vehicles, eventually all of such, off all the rights of way they feel are their inheritance in this, as they perceive it, post-private-automobile era. The Internet is filled with the fantasies of these vastly overspoken, underwheeled ideological blokes who, in most of their power plays, are not seeking safety, not even their own. They fantasize that choking traffic will cause a significant number of commuters to switch to public transportation or. . .you guessed it. . .bicycles! Give me a brake (but no derailleur)!  

One source of funds for this game is grant money from clean-air-seeking organizations such as the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), a source Albany has tapped for implementing their initial phase of the Marin project. The BAAQMD bit on the road dieting line a few years ago, when Oakland was to change its portion of Telegraph Avenue from four to two lanes. But the bikers had overstated, in their grant application, the number of transportation-mode switchers, and the grant was withdrawn. May Albany’s present grant likewise be reconsidered.  

City staff claim the Marin project will be subject to dismantling at the end of one year. But at the Berkeley Transportation Commission’s October 21 public hearing, staff conceded that no limiting criteria had been set for determining continuation of the project after its yearlong trial.  

So raise your voice at the City Council meeting of Dec. 14—or better still, use your City Hall connections to move this Marin issue to a City Council meeting after the holidays, when it can be addressed by many more of those it would affect. Don't just peg this project as another politically correct Berkeley happening.  

 

Raymond Chamberlin lives in the Berkeley hills. 

 

 

 

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Berkeley High Jazz Alumni Home for the Holidays By KEN BULLOCK

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 14, 2004

Four of the Berkeley High jazz program’s most illustrious graduates are coming home to the East Bay for a series of holiday gigs. And the teenagers now in the school’s Jazz Ensemble are doing all they can to follow closely in their footsteps. 

Four famed alumni of Berkeley High’s Jazz Band—Steven Bernstein, Benny Green, Charlie Hunter and Joshua Redman—are back home to groove and swing through Advent/Chanukah and Christmastide, past New Year’s to Twelfth Night. This past Saturday at the Redwood Empire Jazz Festival, the current Jazz Ensemble continued the program’s winning tradition, taking first place in its category. The judges also awarded three Berkeley High musicians the distinction of being the best on their instruments: pianist Julian Pollock, trombonist Danny Lubin-Laden and saxophonist Andy Baltazar. 

Right now at Yoshi’s on Jack London Square through Sunday, Dec. 19 is 8-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, well-known for clubbing throughout the Bay Area during the Hammond B-3 organ combo revivals of the ‘90s. Playing bass and lead simultaneously on his specially designed box, Hunter’s sound reminds at times of the great Hammond keyboard itself. With him in trio are saxophonist John Ellis and drummer Derrick Phillips, same personnel as on the Ropeadope CD, Friends Seen and Unseen. “Bluesier than ever!” 

Trumpeter/fluegelhorn player Steve Bernstein, of Sex Mob fame, will bring his quintet—reedsman Pablo Calogero, drummer Danny Frankel (Flying Karamazov Bros.), DJ Bonebrake (X’s drummer, but on vibes) and bassist David Piltch (from the Bill Frissell Quartet)—of his Diaspora Hollywood CD (third in the Diaspora series on John Zorn’s Tzadik label, following Soul & Blues) to the Jazz House at the Berkeley Fellowship Hall, Cedar at Bonita streets, for a two-show world premiere of his compositions from the CD, live, 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., on Saturday, Dec. 18. Bernstein first played Jazz House last year, sitting in with sax great Sam Rivers after dropping by to catch Rivers’ show. 

Jazz House, the innovative non-profit club that features young players, grade school to college-age, opening for—and sometimes playing with—well-known older players, has been homeless since Halloween. They lost their lease after two years’ on Adeline Street, with “the blue light above the door.” The search for a new home—and the necessary funding or sponsorship to bring it up to code as a showplace--is ongoing, says programmer Rob Woodward. 

Presenting this show at the Fellowship Hall, after a phone call from Bernstein, has Woodward elated: “I’m really a fan; his CD blew me away!” For more information, see www.thejazzhouse.org. 

Star tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman stretches out with his Elastic Band trio (Sam Yahel on organ; Brian Blade—from Josh’s original quartet—on drums) at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square over the new year. Redman is son of the great tenorman Dewey Redman (sideman to Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett) and Berkeley’s Renee Shedroff, librarian and dancer. 

Redman’s band will play the Oakland club from Tuesday, Dec. 28, to Sunday, Jan. 2, including a single, long New Year’s Eve show, starting at 9 p.m., that will be broadcast live, nationwide, on National Public Radio. Coming to prominence after winning the Thelonius Monk Award and recording for Vanguard, Josh is also artistic director for the San Francisco Jazz Festival. 

With famed pianist Benny Green (praised by Oscar Peterson) and guitarist Russell Malone (once Diana Krall’s accompanist) in a duet Jan. 3-6 (a jazz Epiphany?), Yoshi’s has cornered nine of the Twelve Days of Christmas with sounds by nationally-known Berkeley-bred players, home for the holidays—real Yule spirit. 

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd recently fingered the ever-present miasma these shopping days of Xmas tunes spinning endlessly, over and over, as the prime symptom of her own holiday malaise. For anybody down with it, the antidote is easy: celebrate locally with the festive spontaneity of live music. 


Rancho Siempre Verde Supplies Christmas Trees And a Family Outing By BECKY O’MALLEY

Tuesday December 14, 2004

If you still don’t have a Christmas tree, and would like one you can feel good about, the place to go is Rancho Siempre Verde. It’s on Highway 1 on the San Mateo Coast, about half way between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, and about five miles south of the Pigeon Point Lighthouse on the east side of the road. 

I went there last weekend with my two Santa Cruz grandchildren, their parents, their grandfather, their other grandmother, who is in her eighties, and their little yappy dog, not much bigger than a cat but much louder. A good time was had by all, each in his or her own way. 

Jon and Margaret Kosek, both doctors, bought the farm in 1960 and raised five kids there. All five (three doctors, two teachers) along with partners and 8 grandkids are still part of the maintenance and management. Jon said they knew they had to buy the piece of land when they saw their two first kids “running up the hill in joy.” 

My grandkids, along with the dog, ran up the hill in joy when they saw the giant swings that the Koseks have hung from the big eucalyptuses and pines at the top. Along with 25 acres of Christmas trees of all kinds, visitors (who are encouraged to stay as long as they want) can toast marshmallows at a campfire, ride on a tractor, crawl through bales of hay, make wreaths and picnic. Dogs are allowed to run free—the only rule is that they not be on leashes, possibly to prevent fights.  

Wreath-making is a plus for crafty types. The farm supplies wreath frames, metal circles with upstanding pegs, which are used on special tables with a device that looks like the triumph of a 19th century inventor, for $5. Bunches of greens are laid around the circle next to each peg, and a press of a foot pedal bends the pegs to hold them invisibly. The engineer in our group was delighted. Trimmings of all kinds including holly, eucalyptus, salvia flowers and pyracantha berries, are free. 

The trees themselves are the main attraction. Buyers pay a flat $40 for any and every kind of tree: Douglas firs, Monterey pines, sequoias, incense cedars and several other varieties. This includes all taxes, the use of a saw, wrapping or bailing the tree, twine, tying the tree on top of your car, free fresh boughs, and all the marshmallows you can eat. There are huge trees and small ones, shapely pruned specimens and free-form natural ones, all pungent and fresh. The Koseks plant between 1,000 and 1,500 new trees each year, after starting out by planting 10,000.  

The ranch is habitat for many kinds of wild creatures, and provides an economically feasible way of preserving open space on the development-pressured San Mateo Coast. Son Jake Kosek is a recent Stanford Ph.D. and newly-hired professor at the University of New Mexico. He has taken an increasing role in making things work as his parents have gotten older, and thinks of the ranch as having important social benefits.  

“Given what Christmas is—parking lots, long lines—this is about doing something about Christmas that is not all about consumerism. It’s more about spending time with your family, it’s a different type of Christmas,” he told us.  

The view from the hill, out over the ocean, is magnificent, in itself worth the whole trip. The weather when we were there on Saturday was spectacular, 70 degrees and sunny. Starting at the Santa Cruz/San Mateo county line, and then for about 5 miles up the coast, there is a section that Jon Kosek refers to as a banana belt, where there isn’t as much fog and the weather is warmer. My family reports that even on rainy days, as in preceding years, it’s an exhilarating spot. It will be open this weekend both Saturday and Sunday, 9 to 5, rain or shine. 

 

Staff writer Jakob Schiller contributed to this report. 

 

 


Arts Calendar

Tuesday December 14, 2004

TUESDAY, DEC. 14 

FILM 

“Weapons of Mass Deception” a new documentary by Danny Schecter at the Oaks Theater, 1875 Solano Ave. this week. www.wmdthefilm.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Owen Hill reads from “The Chandler Apartments” and other works at 7:30 p.m. at the Book Zoo, 2556 Telegraph Ave. #7. 883-1332. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mamadou Diabate, Kora master, with guitarist Walter Strauss at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lecture and demonstration at 8 p.m. Cost is $5 for lecture only, $15 for lecture and concert. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Christmas Jug Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Charlie Hunter Trio at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Michael Wilcox and Sheldon Brown at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Star Alliance Peace Flag” on display at the Berkeley Main Library, 2090 Kittredge St., through Dec. 27 along with other Star Alliance memorabilia. www.staralliance.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Political Art in California” with Dr. Peter Selz at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Center. 644-6893. www.berkeleyartcenter.org 

Café Poetry hosted by Paradise at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Donation $2. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Barbara Gates, Berkeley resident, on “Already Home: A Topography of Spirit and Place” journeys though the history of the Ocean View neighborhood, at 7:30 p.m. at Easy Going Bookstore, 1385 Shattuck Ave. at Rose, 843-3533. 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryplough.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit Organ recital with John Stump performing works by Bach at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Jules Broussard, Ned Boynton and Bing Nathan at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Cheryl McBride at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

La Peña AfroCuban Youth Ensemble at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

La Verdad, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Gaucho Gypsy Jazz at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Moonlife, Charlotte Summer, B! Machine, electric pop rock, at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

THURSDAY, DEC. 16 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Wendy-O Matik, “Redefining Our Relationships: Guidelines for Responsible Open Relationships” at 7 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. www.belladonna.ws 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

New Century Chamber Orchestra performs Bach and Vivaldi at 8 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $18-$39. 415-357-1111. www.ncco.org 

Grapefruit Ed and David Gans at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. All ages show benefit for the 2005 Jerry Garcia Birthday Celebration. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Beth Waters, contemporary folk, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50-$16.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Ligia Waib and Carlos Olivera perform Brazilian music at TIME at the Capoeira Arts Cafe, 2026 Addision St. Donation $5-$10. 666-1349. 

Jazz Mine, string swing jazz quartet, at 6:30 p.m. at King Tsin Chinese Restaurant, 1699 Solano Ave. www.jazzmine.net 

20 Minute Loop, Farma, Fojimoto at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082.  

www.starryploughpub.com 

Gary Rowe, solo piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

FRIDAY, DEC. 17 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Sufi Chocolate” works on paper by Josephine Balakrishnan Reception at 6:30 p.m. at Red Oak Realty, 1891 Solano Ave. 527-3387. 

THEATER 

Aurora Theatre “Emma” at 8 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $36. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Repertory Theater, “Polk County” A musical about aspring blues musician, Leafy Lee, at the Roda Theatre to Jan. 2. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org  

Bill Santiago’s “Spanglish 101” total immersion comedic excursion at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Shotgun Players “Travesties” by Tom Stoppard, at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Thurs.-Sun. at 8 p.m. through Jan. 9. No performances Dec. 23-26. Free with pass the hat after the show. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

FILM 

Indy Film Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “The Nutcracker” at 7 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Also on Sat. and Sun at 2 and 7 p.m. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $18. 845-4689. www.berkeleyballet.org  

California Revels “The Winter Solstice” music dance and drama of 18th century Scotland. Fri. at 7:30 p.m., Sat.-Sun. at 1 and 5 p.m. through Dec. 19, at the Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$42. 415-773-1181. www.calrevels.org 

Organ Recital “Celebrating the Winter Solstice” with organist Angela Kraft-Cross at 7:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway, Oakland. Suggested donation $10. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

Oakland Opera Theater “Rake’s Progress” by Igor Stravinsky, at Oakland Metro, 201 Broadway. Thurs. - Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Dec. 19. Tickets are $22-$32. www.oaklandopera.org 

Women’s Antique Vocal Ensemble sings Christmas music at 8 p.m. at St. Leo the Great Parish, 176 Ridgeway Ave. at Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10. 233-1479. 

Houston Jones at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. Donations accepted. 548-5198. 

Stompy Jones at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson with Nick and Shanna at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Fishbone, ska, funk, rock, at 9:30 at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $15 in advance, $18 at the door. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Asylum Street Spankers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $14. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Scotty Rock & Roll at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Michael Bluestein Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Brown Baggin’ at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Luna Groove at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Look Back and Laugh, Lights Out, The Answer, Last Priest at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Charlie Hunter Trio at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, DEC. 18 

CHILDREN  

“A Christmas Carol” the Dickens’ classic performed by Berkeley Public Library’s Teen Playreaders at 3 p.m., at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda. Free, appropriate for ages 5 and up. Refreshments and carol singing will follow the performance. 981-6109. 

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Bonnie Lockhart at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $4 for adults, $3 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Rhythm & Muse featuring singer/songwriters Anthony Jerome Smith & Hassaun Jones-Bey. Open mic sign-up 6:30 p.m., reading/performance 7 p.m. Admission free. Piano & 2 mics available. Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts. 527-9753. 

Phyllis Whetstone Taper reads from her new novel, “On Kelsey Creek” at 7:30 p.m. at the Leaning Tower of Pizza, 498 Wesley Ave., Oakland. 

Starhawk presents her new book “The Earth Path: Grounding your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature” at 7 p.m. at Belladonna, 2436 Sacramento St. www.belladonna.ws 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Pacific BoyChoir Academy “Harmonies of the Season” at 7 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, Oakland. Tickets are $15. 452-4722. www. 

pacificboychoiracademy.org 

Trinity Chamber Concert with Karen Melander-Magoon sings the story of Clara Barton at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864.www.TrinityChamberConcerts.com 

San Francisco Early Music Society “A Venetian Christmas” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, Dana and Durant. Tickets are $10-$25. 528-1725. www.sfems.org 

Kairos Youth Choir “Welcome Yule” with carols from amy traditions at 7 p.m. at St. Marks Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $8-$10. 704-4479. www.kairoschoir.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies Christmas holiday program featuring liturgical music from many traditions at 7:30 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $10-$15. 866-233-9892. www.berkeleybach.org 

The Magnolia Sisters at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Diana Castillo at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Domeshots, Desa, Dexter Danger, hard rock, at 9:30 at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $10. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

The Sugarhill Gang, in a free hip-hop concert at 5 p.m. at Hilltop Mall, Lower Level, Center Court. 223-1933. www.shophilltop.com 

Jahi & The Life, Baby Jaymes, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

J-Soul at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

CV1 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Rachel Garlin at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

www.freightandsalvage.org 

Shelley Doty X-tet, Sistas in the Pit at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Collective Amnesia at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

The Warriors, Make More, Set Your Goals, Greyskull at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, DEC. 19 

CHILDREN  

Princess Moxie with Charity Khan and Jamband at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra “A Ceremony of Carols” A free concert at 4 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. 964-0665. www.bcco.org 

A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, based on the tradition from King’s College, Cambridge, England with St. Mark’s Choir Association at 4:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way at Ellsworth. Donations accepted. 848-5107, 845-0888. 

Bach’s “Magnificat” sung by the Temple Choir at 1 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols” at the 10:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. services at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 526-3805. 

ACME Observatory “Fluxus Night” conceptual music at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St., Oakland, near 19th St. BART. Cost is $5-$10 sliding scale. http://music.acme.com 

Johnny Otis Living Tribute Band at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Magnolia Sisters, Cajun quartet, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mirah, Dear Nora, Athens Boy Choir, Bye and Bye at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

MONDAY, DEC. 20 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

PlayGround, readings by emerging playwrights, at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $15. 415-704-3177. www.PlayGround-sf.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Trovatore, traditional Italian songs at 6 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Secret Santa Show at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $8-$10. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

African Roots of Jazz featuring the music of Elvin Jones and John Coltrane at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, DEC. 21 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Solstice Night of Noise, with noise artists, amplified plants, mutant instruments, and volatge made audible at 8 p.m. at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St., Oakland, near 19th St. BART. http://music.acme.com 

Zydeco Flames at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson with Diana Castillo at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Laurie Lewis’ Holiday Revue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50- $16.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Peter Barshay & Murray Lowe at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Anton Schwartz Quintet with Taylor Eigsti and Julian Lange at 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazz- 

school at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 22 

Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5-$7. 841-2082 www.starryplough.com 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit A Christmas concert with unusual Christmas Carols at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Jules Broussard, Ned Boynton, and Bing Nathan at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Universal, salsa, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Noah Schenker Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

The Ghost Next Door, Blue Sky Theory, Musashi Quartet at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Clairdee’s Christmas at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, DEC. 23 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Word Beat Reading Series at 7 p.m. with featured readers Allen and Ann Cohen at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Brian Kane, solo guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Ledisi at 8 and 10 p.m., also Fri. - Mon. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 


Redwoods, Our Natural Christmas Trees in the City By RON SULLIVAN

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 14, 2004

There are only a few official redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, on Berkeley’s streets, but many people have planted them in yards and gardens, and there are still a few within city limits in the hills, trees that we can fancy grew there on their own. They aren’t a patch on what we used to have. Over a century ago there were redwoods in the hills big enough to be seen from ships at sea many miles away, and used as navigation markers, beckoning ships to San Francisco Bay. 

Eucalyptus have replaced many of those redwoods, though we do have some respectable second-growth stands in the regional parks. The original trees ended up as San Francisco’s Victorians, and ours too. We live in a duplex that was once a Victorian of sorts; it underwent an complete characterectomy when it was raised to two stories, but a photo of earlier owners posing in front of their cottage turned up in the attic. And when some bits of wall were cut out for switchplates, we got a look at the original structural timber: redwood with such close, tight grain it looked like fingerprints. 

Such grain and the strength it implies signify old-growth redwood. Yes, trees like media star Luna went into some of the modest, unlandmarkish elder buildings in the Bay Area. In a way, it’s embarrassing. One would like to think we’ve learned some modesty in the last century, but it’s market forces (along with financial sleight-of-hand) that are driving the last old-growth remnants toward oblivion. 

Redwood lumber is handsome and, especially when it’s a product of slow growing, bug- and rot-resistant, so it’s sought after for building and outdoor uses. Because of its rich ruddy color, it’s also used for interiors. (I’m a bit bitter that ours has been painted over so many times that the paint layer is visibly three-dimensional; stripping it would be a Herculean job.) 

Fortunately, there are places that sell salvaged lumber, so we can have redwood stuff with a clear conscience instead of a clear-cut. Good thing; the tree is worth more alive than dead, if you take a whole ecosystem into account. 

The coastal redwood forest here, once stretching from south as far as Big Basin (where a relict still stands) to well up the coast, evolved interesting and rare adaptations to its site and fostered unique flora and fauna. Among its hat tricks are the ability to sieve fog for enough moisture to thrive through long rainless summers, thick, fire-resistant bark, and wide-ranging roots that can intertwine with each other and, unusually among trees, can withstand being covered with more layers of soil after they’re mature. Most trees tend to smother under such conditions, but redwoods apparently figure out how to endure and enjoy the silt dropped by repeated flooding. 

Intact redwood forests have a cathedral stillness that belies their lively polity. They shelter birds like spotted owl, varied thrush (here for the winter—look twice at every robin!) with its melancholy whistle, and the oddball “foglark,” the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests on moss-upholstered limbs miles inland. Red tree voles, relatives of the mousy critters in fields, live almost entirely up in the treetops, dining on those unpromising needles. Others from flying squirrels to Roosevelt elk to banana slugs share the remnant forests. 

Redwoods mix with other big trees like Douglas fir and smaller species from madrone to rhododendron, and shelter understory plants: lush ferns, trilliums, huckleberry and salal, clintonia and calypso orchid. Walk through the Tilden Botanic Garden’s redwood patch in spring, for a taste. 

Redwood itself is a remnant of a formerly mixed warm-wet climate forest including other sequoia species, ginkgo, bald cypress, sassafrass, and hickory; when the climate swung toward our cooler half-drought, the other sequoias mostly went extinct, and the rest died back to remnant populations elsewhere. Sempervirens hung on to make a world of its own. 

In nurturing the coastal forests with the water it catches and showers on them, redwood is a real live Giving Tree. It’s the closest thing to a natural “Christmas” tree we have, with classic conical shape. It would be nice to think that, even in the city, there’s still room for them.›


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday December 14, 2004

TUESDAY, DEC. 14 

Morning Bird Walk “Some Gulls I Know” Meet at the Berkeley Municipal Pier at 7:30 a.m. 525-2233. 

Return of the Over-the-Hills Gang Hikers 55 years and older who are interested in nature study, history, fitness, and fun are invited to join us on a series of monthly excursions exploring our Regional Parks. Meet at 10 a.m. at Tilden’s Inspiration Point to walk the scenic ridge lands. Registration required. 525-2233.  

“Exploring Pt. Reyes and Beyond,” a slide presentation by photographer-writer team Richard Blair and Kathleen Goodwin at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“Weapons of Mass Deception” a new documentary by Danny Schecter at the Oaks Theater, 1875 Solano Ave. this week. www.wmdthefilm.com 

Berkeley High School Site Council meets at 4:30 p.m. in the school library. Agenda items include athletic eligibility requirements, report of the Positive Minds program, and data on student achievement. bhs.berkeleypta.org/ssc, bhssitecouncil@berkeley.k12.ca.us  

The Alexander Foundation for Women’s Health lecture on “Sexual Desire: From Romance to Physiology” at 6:15 p.m. at the Claremont Resort, 41 Tunnel Rd. Cost is $10-$15. 527-3010. www.afwh.org/about/ 

claremontlectures.htm  

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Dr. Robert Greer will speak about macular degeneration at 11 a.m. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters meets the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 7:15 a.m. at Au Cocolait, 200 University Ave. at Milvia. For information call Robert Flammia 524-3765. 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, for ages 4-6 years; accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $3-$5. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Ujamaa Market Fest and Crafts Sale Celebrating collective economics, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Cole School Auditorium, 1011 Union St., West Oakland. www.mocha.org/projectyield/ujamaa.html 

San Pablo Avenue Roadway Rehabilitation Project meeting at 6 p.m. at the Ocean View School, 1000 Jackson St., Albany. Sponsored by the California Department of Transportation. 286-1313. www.dot.ca.gov/ 

dist4/sanpabloave 

Argosy University Information Sessions for degree programs in Psychology, Education and Business at 6 p.m. at 999-A Canal Blvd., Point Richmond. To RSVP or for directions to the school, call 215-0277. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. 548-9840. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Vigil at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities. 

com/vigil4peace/vigil 

THURSDAY, DEC. 16 

Holiday Healthy Gift Sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Health Dept., 2180 Milvia St., 1st floor. Items include pedometers, bike helmets, bike accessories, and much more. 981-5367. 

San Pablo Avenue Roadway Rehabilitation Project meeting at 6 p.m. at the El Cerrito Community Center Council Chambers, 7007 Moeser Lane, El Cerrito. Sponsored by the California Department of Transportation. 286-1313. www.dot.ca.gov/dist4 

/sanpabloave 

FRIDAY, DEC. 17 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Brett Schnieder presenting a Magic Show. Children are welcome. Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $13, reduced price for children. Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For reservations call 526-2925 or 665-9020.  

Philippine Textiles on display and for sale by the Filipino American national Historical S0ciety from noon to 5 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center. 499-3477. 

Holiday Healthy Gift Sale from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Health Dept., 2180 Milvia St., 1st floor. Items include pedometers, bike helmets, bike accessories, and much more. 981-5367. 

Community Based Solutions to Ending Violence Against Sex Workers at 2 p.m. at Lutheran Church of the Cross, 1744 University at McGee. 981-1021. www.swop-usa.org 

Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the North Berkeley Senior Center Celebration at 1:30 p.m. with entertainment and refreshments for all.  

“Three Beats for Nothing” a group that meets to sing, mostly 16th century harmony, for fun and practice, at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 655-8863, 843-7610. CANCELLED in DEC. 

Berkeley Chess Club meets Fridays at 7:15 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Players at all levels are welcome. 652-5324. 

Women in Black Vigil, from noon to 1 p.m. at UC Berkeley, Bancroft at Telegraph. wibberkeley@yahoo.com 548-6310, 845-1143. 

Meditation, Peace Vigil and Dialogue, gather at noon on the grass close to the West Entrance to UC Berkeley, on Oxford St. near University Ave. People of all traditions are welcome to join us. Sponsored by the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. 655-6169. www.bpf.org 

Overeaters Anonymous meets every Friday at 1:30 p.m. at the Northbrae Church at Solano and The Alameda. Parking is free and is handicapped accessible. For information call Katherine, 525-5231. 

SATURDAY, DEC. 18 

Candlelight Vigil for Tibetan Monk facing execution in China, at 5 p.m. at the downtown Berkeley BART. Sponsored by Tibetan Youth Congress and Bay Area Friends of Tibet. 

The Season for Slugs for youth age 7-11 to discover the cold and wet climate where banana slugs flourish. From 10 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Winter Blooms!” Free garden tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden. Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. 845-4116. www.nativeplants.org 

Bayshore Stewards Tidal Marsh Restoration from 9 a.m. to noon at the UC Richmond Field Station, near the Bay Trail in Richmond. We will install the native plants along the marsh edge and help create habitat for endangered species. We will provide tools, gloves, rain gear and refreshments. Heavy rain will cancel the event. 231-9566. 

Succulant Wreaths A class on how to make your own succulant wreath and keep it healthy and growing throughout the year, at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. www.magicgardens.com 

Women on Common Ground Help make holiday decorations for the Women’s Drop-In Center, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Followed by a Nearly Winter Solstice Hike up to Wildcat Peak. Bring your lunch. Cost is $15-$18, registration required. 525-2233. 

The Crucible Open House and Arts & Crafts Sale, including demonstrations in welding blacksmithing and glassblowing, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. at 1260 7th St. at Union, Oakland. www.thecrucible.org 

Berkeley Potters Guild Sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. through Dec. 19. 731 Jones St. 524-7031. www.berkeleypotters.com 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. and Thurs. and Fri. Dec. 23 and 24. 

Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios Sat and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Fireside Story Hour Have a seat by the hearth to hear Native American stories about animals in winter at 1 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. For ages 12 and under. 525-2233. 

Junior Rangers of Tilden meets Sat. mornings at Tilden Nature Center. For more information call 525-2233. 

Holiday Benefit Sale for Middle East Children’s Alliance with carpets, kilims and textiles, olive oil soap and handicrafts from Palestine from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 901 Parker St., corner of Parker and 7th. 548-0542. 

Holiday Crafts Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Martin Luther King, Jr. Civic Center Park. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Potters Guild Sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 731 Jones St. 524-7031. www.berkeleypotters.com 

Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios Sat and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For map see www.berkeleyartisans.com 

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, with over 200 street artists, merchants, community groups, musicians and other entertainers, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. to Dec. 19, and Thurs. and Fri. Dec. 23 and 24. 

The Earth Path with Starhawk at 7 p.m. at Belladonnna, 2436 Sacramento St. 883-0600. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 

SUNDAY, DEC. 19 

Gray Panthers Holiday Party with Linda Hodges of the Rockridge Institute, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. 548-9696. 

WinterFest: Kwanza, Ramadan, Las Posadas, Chanukah Explore the winter traditions from different cultures. For children and their families from noon to 4 p.m. at the Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at the Willard Community Peace Labyrinth, on the blacktop next to the gardens at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart (enter by the dirt road on Derby). Free and wheelchair accessible. Sponsored by the East Bay Labyrinth Project. 526-7377. 

Plants at Winter’s Edge Learn how plants get ready for winter, cope with the cold and set-up for spring at 10 a.m. at Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Short Day, Short Hike Learn about the role of light in the life-cycles on animals and plants from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

MONDAY, DEC. 20 

Tea at Four Taste some of the finest teas from the Pacific Rim and South Asia and learn their natural and cultural history, followed by a short nature walk. At 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, in Tilden Park. Cost is $5-$7, registration required. 525-2233. www.ebparks.org 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group for people 60 years and over meets Mondays at 10:15 a.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. Join at any time. 524-9122. 

Fitness for 55+ A total body workout including aerobics, stretching and strengthening at 1:15 p.m. every Monday at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5170. 

TOPS Take Off Pounds Sensibly meets every Mon. at 9 a.m. in Albany. For information call Mary at 526-3711. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

TUESDAY, DEC. 21 

Morning Bird Walk at 7:30 a.m. in Sibley to see the birds of an extinct volcano. For information call 525-2233. 

Winter Solstice Celebration at the Interim Solar Calendar, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina, promptly at 4 p.m. 845-0657. ww.solarcalendar.org 

Winter Solstice Celebration from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Chabot Space and Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. 336-7300. www.chabotspace.org 

“Hard to be Merry” Service for those feeling disconnected from the celebrations of the season at 7 p.m. at Loper Chapel, at Dana and Durant. Sponsored by Trinity United Methodist Church, First Congragational Church and First Baptist Church. 

Family Story Time at the Kensington Branch Library, Tues. evenings at 7 p.m. at 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “Should People Keep Pets?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Please bring snacks and soft drinks to share. No peanuts please. 601-6690. 

Organic Produce at low prices sold at the corner of Sacramento and Oregon Streets every Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. This is a project of Spiral Gardens. 843-1307. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Acting and Storytelling Classes for Seniors offered by Stagebridge, at Arts First Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Classes are held at 10 a.m. Tues.-Fri. For more information call 444-4755. www.stagebridge.org 

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 22 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday, rain or shine, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and a hat. 548-9840. 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6:30 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

Prose Writers’ Workshop An ongoing group focused on issues of craft. Novices welcome. Community sponsored, no fee. Meets Wed. at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 524-3034. georgeporter@earthlink.net 

Fun with Acting Class every Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Free, all are welcome, no experience necessary.  

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/ 

vigil4peace/vigil 

HOW TO HELP 

Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Annual Food Drive accepts donations of non-perishable food in the red barrel at any Safeway or Albertson’s. 834-3663. www.accfb.org 

Firefighters Toy Drive Donate new, unwrapped toys and canned food to any Berkeley fire station. For information call 981-5506. 

Find a Loving Animal Companion at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society Adoption Center, 2700 Ninth St. 845-7735. www.berkeleyhumane.org  

United Way Bay Area is recruiting volunteer tax preparers and greeters/interpreters in Alameda County to assist low-income families who are eligible for free tax assistance and refunds. No previous tax preparation experience is necessary. There is a special need for volunteers who can speak Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese. Training sessions begin Jan. 8. Register now by calling 800-273-6222. www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org  

CITY MEETINGS 

Berkeley Housing Authority meets Tues., Dec. 14, at 6:30 p.m. in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. ww.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/housingauthority 

City Council meets Tues., Dec. 14, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Citizens Humane Commission meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Katherine O’Connor, 981-6601. www.ci.ber 

keley.ca.us/commissions/humane 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Mary Ann Merker, 981-7533. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/civicarts 

Commission on Labor meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Delfina M. Geiken, 981-7550. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/labor 

Disaster Council meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, 997 Cedar St. William Greulich, 981-5502. www.ci.berkeley.ca. us/commissions/disaster 

Homeless Commission meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Jane Micallef, 981-5426. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/commissions/homeless 

Mental Health Commission meets Wed., Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. Harvey Turek, 981-5213. www.ci.erkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/mentalhealth 

Planning Commission meets Wed., Dec. 15 at 7 p.m., at the West Berkeley Senior Center. Note location change for this meeting. Janet Homrighausen, 981-7484. www.ci.berkeley. ca.us/commissions/planning 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Anne Burns, 981-7415. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 

commissions/designreview  

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Prasanna Rasaih, 981-6950. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/faircampaign 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Dec. 16, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Peter Hillier, 981-7000. www.ci.berkeley.ca. 

us/commissions/transportation›


Opinion

Editorials

The Market Speaks: Can Berkeley Hear? By BECKY O'MALLEY

EDITORIAL
Friday December 17, 2004

It’s official. The apartment shortage is over, the apartment glut begins. The end of Homefinders, a worthwhile enterprise which served a lot of needy customers in its heyday, is the final nail in the coffin of Berkeley’s haphazard building boom. While it lasted, it lined the pockets of a few already well-fixed investors, notably UC’s B-School Prof. Teece. Its legacy is demolished landmarks (the Doyle House, the Fine Arts Theater), crumbling buildings (the Gaia Building) and vanished institutions (the Gaia Bookstore, Anna’s Café on University). In its wake are promises: Anna’s really will re-open sometime in the Gaia Building; the fake marquee on the Fine Arts apartment building touts shows which will never play there. (Red Diaper Baby Josh Kornbluth shouldn’t let his good name be used for this particular scam.) 

Unfortunately, the people who run Berkeley don’t seem to have gotten the word. And who runs Berkeley? Who really knows? All we know for sure is that the behemoth downtown Seagate project, which will dump numerous luxury condos with ample parking for the owners’ luxury vehicles in the middle of Berkeley’s transit hub, sailed through the soon-to-be-lame-duck Zoning Adjustment Board without an environmental impact report, despite the fact that it violates the city’s Downtown Plan and has many other problems. Granted, that was the pre-election ZAB, including at least one appointee who exemplified the power of developer campaign contributions and another who makes his living in the real estate industry, but there’s little reason to expect better from the new ZAB. In any event, the Seagate project is now on appeal, and the new City Council still has the power to demand an EIR, but do they have the guts? One new councilmember is the self-same realtor whose substitute voted on ZAB to skip the EIR, so it’s doubtful he’ll vote for one.  

We should not conclude that just because the apartment shortage is over, the housing shortage is over. We are still short of housing for the lower-income families whose housing needs are pushing them to Antioch and Tracy and even farther afield. The demand for subsidized housing is much greater than the amount of money available, but we have no real proposals to solve that problem except the promise of a very few trickle-down units in market rate buildings. 

It’s possible that UC students will relinquish their grip on Berkeley’s stock of converted houses with yards in favor of the new apartments, and that this will free up more housing for the less privileged. UC students are more affluent these days because they have to be. Rising tuition and other costs are squeezing out low income students, and the rest might opt for sharing luxury condos downtown, particularly those which offer ample parking for SUVs which can be used for trips to Tahoe on weekends. Financial planning magazines carry articles suggesting that well-off parents purchase condos in their students’ names, to take advantage of the generous federal tax deductions for owner-occupied dwellings, which can be passed around within the family budget for the parents’ ultimate benefit.  

But the small landlords who tend to own the older low-rise apartments and converted houses will face a financial squeeze if students choose to move into new buildings already wired for the Internet. The remnants of rent control create a perception of risk for an owner who reduces rent to adjust to reduced demand, since raising rent back again if costs go up or the market shifts is significantly more difficult. There are no easy answers to these questions, but in the face of a complexly changing housing picture it seems unwise for city planners in Berkeley and surrounding cities to continue to press for more market-rate apartment construction with no consideration of the cumulative impact of what’s already been built.  

There’s an inherent conflict of interest for city planning staffs, since their budget increasingly is derived from fees imposed on builders. If construction decreases, eventually jobs for planners will also decrease. Continued growth equals job security for many of them. 

Livable Berkeley, the growth advocacy group for development and planning professionals, is currently lobbying councilmembers new and old for seats on commissions with planning authority: the Planning Commission, ZAB, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Housing Advisory Commission. The organization claims fewer than 125 actual members, but its experienced and well-wired board members know how to leverage their strength where it counts. Among them, for example, are Ali Kashani, a housing developer who has recently shifted from non-profit to for-profit, Todd Harvey, a key player in Jubilee Housing (now being investigated by HUD) and David C. Early, whose consulting firm, DCE, authored UC’s EIR for its latest expansion scheme.  

Naïve new councilmembers (or even naïve old councilmembers) might be tempted to listen to LB’s siren song and fill up commission slots with development professionals at the expense of citizens. That would be a major error. When the dust settles, the Planet will be doing a full report on who the new appointees are, and their affiliations. It should be interesting. 

—Becky O’Malley 


Bernie Kerik: The Opera? By BECKY O'MALLEY

EDITORIAL
Tuesday December 14, 2004

Adultery (cheating on his wife with two different mistresses, simultaneously). Bribery. Mob ties. Abuse of authority. Incompetence. Shady business deals. You name it, Bernie Kerik can be, and has been, accused of it, in news reports which started surfacing over the weekend. The laws of probability suggest that he might have done some of it, if not all of it. No matter, his unforgiveable sin seems to have been paying for the hire of a nanny and a housekeeper whose immigration papers were not in order.  

According to Sunday’s New York Times “Mr. Kerik withdrew from consideration on Friday evening and said his discovery that he had employed a nanny and housekeeper who appeared to have been in the country illegally was the sole reason. White House officials say that the nanny matter was not disclosed during their background investigation, and that none of the other matters that they were aware of were sufficient to disqualify Mr. Kerik.” 

So now we know the sin which is beyond redemption for the Bush administration: nanny negligence. Land on the illegal nanny square, don’t pass go, don’t collect two million dollars, though you probably won’t go directly to jail. It’s perversely amusing to see this situation coming back to bite a Bush appointee, and a man yet, after it was used so effectively by Republicans to defeat an excellent female judicial candidate in the Clinton years. If, of course, the Bushies are telling the truth, which would be a novelty. 

Kerik is a protégé of folk hero Rudy Guiliani, whose tough guy demeanor after 9-11 cancelled out any possible opprobrium which might have attached to his own complicated sexual hanky-panky in Gracie Mansion when he was mayor of New York City. Evidently real guys like Rudy and Bernie are just expected to have fun, and no one should hold it against them. But if they hire the wrong nanny, it’s curtains. Oh sure. 

Now, which of you out there believes that Bernie Kerik selected his own domestic staff? How could he possibly have had time to do the interviews, what with the two mistresses and the back room confabs with mobsters?  

The New York Post reported on his wife’s role at the December 4 White House ceremony announcing his nomination for the post of director of homeland security:  

“Kerik’s wife, Hala, and three of his children sat in the front row of chairs facing the president. The Syrian-born Hala seemed preoccupied during most of the ceremony by her two youngest daughters, Angelina and Celine, who played with small plastic purple Easter eggs. At one point, one of the eggs fell to the floor and rolled toward Bush’s feet.”  

Does that sound like a mom who makes her husband hire the nanny? We think not. Dare we suggest that the nanny question is just a convenient out for a candidate who turns out to have a whole flock of skeletons in his closet?  

The man sounds like he should be selling his life story as the successor to The Sopranos, or possibly as the libretto for a new opera. We encountered a neighbor of the La Vereda Street Rossetto family compound in the balcony at the San Francisco Opera last week. He’d attended the Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing on the Rossettos’ latest proposed building project, and was bowled over by the panoply of slick lawyers, orotund flacks and attendant characters they had mustered for the occasion, not to mention by the Rossettos themselves. He suggested that someone ought to commission composer John Adams to do an opera score, using the commission transcript as the libretto. Seems promising.  

A similar treatment might work for the Bernie Kerik saga. The only question would be whether it should be the usual operatic tragedy, or if a comic opera would be more appropriate. Bernie will surely land on his feet—anyone as well wired as he seems to be shouldn’t have to worry about a tragic denouement. 

—Becky O’Malley