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Berkeley Skating Rink on Thin Ice By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 28, 2004

City officials are threatening to shut down Iceland, Berkeley’s World War II-era ice skating rink, if the rink’s management doesn’t act fast to address dozens of code violations.  

“They’re not anywhere near up to standards,” said City Planning Director Dan Marks. 

A city audit of Iceland performed last year found 36 violations, the most serious ones connected to the rink’s ammonia system used to chill the ice surface. 

Ammonia, a common refrigerant for skating rinks, is a toxic gas that can be lethal, and turn highly combustible when mixed with oil. Common ailments associated with exposure to ammonia include nose and throat irritation, convulsive coughing, severe eye irritation, and respiratory spasms. Iceland’s ammonia system only poses a community health risk in the event of an accidental release. 

Still, with homes and Berkeley Alternative High School just blocks away from the South Berkeley rink, Berkeley Deputy Fire Chief David Orth, labeled the rink’s refrigeration system “a distinct hazard to life or property” in a Dec. 3 letter to Iceland management. 

The city’s push to bring the rink into compliance with city and state codes comes after the rink leaked 33 pounds of ammonia in June 2003. Although the rink never called the fire department, firefighters at a station one block east of the rink at Milvia and Derby streets smelled the noxious gas and raced to the rink. The leak was later found to be caused by a faulty valve that had been replaced without city permits, Orth told the Daily Planet.  

In 1998, he said, a larger ammonia leak at the rink required the fire department to set up water streams to dissipate the cloud of ammonia being released into the atmosphere. 

In response to the June 2003 release and the audit findings the city urged Iceland to hire an engineering consultant to address the city’s concerns and has met with Iceland officials seven times since this March. A letter sent Dec. 15 from City Manager Phil Kamlarz alerting city councilmembers to the city’s concerns came after Iceland’s consultant, Katin Engineering Consulting, released a report showing several safety deficiencies remaining at the rink. 

City officials are pushing Iceland management either to upgrade its ammonia system, which can hold up to 750 pounds of the gas, or to dump it for a different refrigerant, most likely freon, which East Bay Iceland, operator of the Berkeley rink, uses in its two other facilities in Dublin and Belmont. 

Jay Westcott, Berkeley Iceland’s general manager, insisted that the rink planned to stick with the ammonia system. “The city is acting like our equipment is ready to fail immediately but the integrity of the system is excellent,” he said. 

Westcott added that Iceland is conducting tests to determine the condition of the pipes and compressors that circulate the ammonia. Even if the tests’ results, expected to be released next week, show no corrosion, Westcott acknowledged the rink needs to upgrade its system significantly. 

“We know what the city wants and we’re prepared to do it,” he said. 

Deputy Chief Orth has given the rink a Jan. 8 deadline—under threat of closure—to formulate a plan to address the fire department’s three biggest concerns. Unlike modern ammonia systems, Orth said, Iceland’s control room lacks a discharge tank to neutralize escaped ammonia by dumping it into water, a water spray system to treat ammonia contaminated air and a way for the fire department to move the ammonia away from the source of the leak by remote control. 

Without such controls, Orth said firefighters responding to a leak now have to risk their safety by entering the rink’s control room. 

Although city and rink officials haven’t settled on a timetable for repairs, Orth said the fire department’s top priorities would have to be addressed quickly for the rink to remain open. 

“If they say it will take two years, that’s unacceptable, if they say 90 days, that would be OK,” Orth said. 

Tasha Brooks, who lives across the street from the rink and smelled ammonia from the 1998 leak said she was less concerned about ammonia than late night noise from the rink. 

“If I was concerned about chemicals, I wouldn’t live in Berkeley,” she said. 

Despite the city’s concerns, ammonia has been making a comeback in U.S. ice rinks over the past decade, said Peter Martell, executive director of the Ice Skating Institute, a national association of ice rink operators of which East Bay Iceland is a member. He added that he didn’t know of any rink in the U.S. or Canada being shut down because of its ammonia system. 

“One good thing about ammonia is that it has such a strong odor, if it leaks, you know it right away,” Martell said. 

In the mid 1960s, ammonia gave way as the leading ice rink refrigerant to Freon, which was championed by its manufacturer, Dupont, and seen as a less toxic gas than ammonia. However, Freon, a chloroflurocarbon, was later believed to deplete ozone and was targeted for elimination by 2025 under The Montreal Protocol, an international treaty.  

Now, Martell said that ammonia, which is cheaper and does not deplete ozone, has made a comeback in the U.S., sparked largely by Canadian rink suppliers, most of whom never switched to Freon. 

“Freon doesn’t make sense for us,” Westcott said. He estimated that switching to the gas would cost the rink nearly $300,000—a far steeper price tag than upgrading the current ammonia system. 

As it has since Iceland opened in 1940, the system works by sending the ammonia from the rink’s control room through a loop of pipes and compressors to the roof of the rink and back. The ammonia cools the salt water brine located underneath the ice surface. 

Within Berkeley, Orth said that Bayer operates a more modern ammonia system and that the Takara Sake factory recently switched from ammonia to Freon after experiencing an ammonia leak several years ago.  

John Burley, an ice rink supplier specializing in Freon refrigeration systems, said that new forms of Freon, although they are more expensive, do little or no damage to the ozone. 

Orth said that the 64-year-old rink would never be able to comply fully with all city and state regulations if it kept its current system, but that with significant upgrades and stringent monitoring, the city could keep the rink in operation. 

“Our intent is to keep it open,” Orth said. “It’s an institution.” 

Opened in 1940, by the Zamboni family, maker of the famed ice-paving machine, Iceland in its early days hosted the U.S. National Figure Championships and more recently has served as a part-time training facility for Olympic gold medal winners Brian Boitano and Kristi Yamaguchi. 

Currently, the rink claims to draw between 100,000 and 150,000 skaters every year and has more than 300 children in its hockey programs. 

“There’s a lot of sentimentality for this rink,” said Mary and Greg Wong, who had their first date at Iceland in 1977 and were skating there last week. “Generations of families have come here. It would be devastating if it closed.”›

For the East Bay, a Year Of Urban Casino Plans By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Was 2004 the East Bay’s Year of the Casino? 

You bet.  

Hamstrung for decades by the devastating effects of Proposition 13, local governments throughout California have been tempted by the siren songs of the slot machine and blackjack table as a means of filling empty coffers and stemming hemorrhages of red ink. 

When the year began, the East Bay boasted no gambling facilities on recognized tribal lands owned by Native Americans. 

As the year draws to a close, the East Bay has one existing tribal casino in San Pablo—a card room with grand ambitions—and proposals for large-scale urban casinos have been floated for Oakland, Albany, Richmond and North Richmond, and the modest Casino San Pablo itself has the gubernatorial blessing to transform itself into a super casino. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week announced that he would refuse his blessings to all but the Casino San Pablo deal. 

East Bay Assemblymember Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley/Albany/Richmond), a leading opponent of urban casinos, called the governor’s statement “a step in the right direction.” 

“That means we can focus on San Pablo and try to find an equitable solution,” she said. 

Hancock has called a Jan. 22 hearing at Contra Costa College to examine “the whole strategy of gambling as an economic strategy for the state. We need to know who pays and who benefits.” 

Just what power anyone has to block tribal casinos remains an open question. 

Tribes that were federally recognized as of 1988 can build no more casinos because of federal legislation passed that year. But tribes that were stripped of their reservations in the 1950s and 1960s can establish new reservations and build casinos on them. 

It is these so-called “landless tribes” that gambling promoters have targeted. 

In a Dec. 20 letter to Contra Costa County Administrator John Sweeten, Schwarzenegger’s Legal Affairs Secretary Peter Siggins acknowledged that if tribes receive East Bay land as restored reservations, “the state would be required to negotiate compacts in good faith.” 

“Not only does the [g]overnor intend to honor the exclusivity of the [Casino San Pablo] compact, the [g]overnor’s (sic) is adamantly opposed to further development of any casinos in urban areas,” he wrote. 

One of the greatest beneficiaries of the casino boom could be Berkeley developer James D. Levine, whose grand super-resort proposal targets Point Molate on the Richmond shoreline. 

Levine has teamed with Harrah’s, the world’s largest casino operator, leading hotelier Lowe’s, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and the Guidiville Band of Pomo tribespeople to offer a Las Vegas-style super-resort at the foot of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. 

Richmond has endorsed Levine’s proposal and agreed to sell the land, the site of a former U.S. Navy refueling station, in a deal that could yield the city a fortune if the proposal manages to thread its way successfully through the federal bureaucracy. 

If approved, the resort would feature a massive casino installed in the landmarked Winehaven building, the site of California’s largest pre-Prohibition vintner, featuring 2,500 to 3,000 slot machines and 125 to 160 table games. 

In addition to running the casino, Harrah’s would operate its own 350-room hotel at Point Molate, with Lowe’s Entertainment running the remainder of the site’s 1,100 rooms. 

Under the terms of Levine’s deal with the city, no other tribe would be allowed within Richmond city limits if his project wins the requisite approvals. 

That would torpedo plans for a second casino proposed for a site adjacent to Hilltop Mall. But that Point Molate provison wouldn’t affect another nearby proposal, this one in unincorporated North Richmond, which is closer to winning the federal nod. 

The Scotts Valley Band of Pomos, backed by a Florida man who has emerged as a major player on the national tribal gambling scene, is already well advanced in its efforts to secure federal approval. 

The 225,000-square-foot casino building would include 2,000 slot machines, 71 table games and 16 Asian card games, a 1,500-seat showroom, plus a a 600-seat buffet, an entertainment lounge, a sports bar and a food court and restaurant. 

The largest of the casino proposals—one endorsed by Gov. Schwarzenegger—was for San Pablo, which would have transformed the existing facility into the largest casino west of the Mississippi, with 5,000 slot machines—two-thirds more than the largest Las Vegas casino. 

The compact was one of five negotiated by the governor’s staff last summer. 

The number of slots was halved after strong opposition from local legislators, with Assemblymember Hancock in the forefront  

The 9.53-acre San Pablo site is currently the only proposed casino locale already designated as a tribal reservation. The casino land was proclaimed a reservation of the Lytton Band of Pomos on June 29 by Aurene M. Martin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs. 

The Lytton casino would be run by the Wintun band of the Rumsey Tribe, which already runs the highly successful Cache Creek Casino Resort in western Yolo County. The third partner in operations is the Maloof family of Sacramento, which owns a 50-story casino resort in Las Vegas as well as the Sacramento Kings NBA team. 

Schwarzenegger endorsed the San Pablo casino in a deal which would give the facility a monopoly on casino gambling within a 35-mile radius of the giant in return for a promise to pay the state 25 percent of its earning yearly once it’s up and running. 

Because tribal lands are sovereign under federal law, states have no direct taxing authority over casinos, and the governor’s proposed monopoly could earn the state up to $200 million annually. 

The reduced number of slots means less money for the state, a sum that would be reduced still further if other casinos open within the designated turf. 

Whatever the final outcome of the other proposals, the earliest winners at San Pablo will be Sam Katz, a Republican stalwart thrice-rejected in runs for a term as Philadelphia mayor and found at fault in a civil fraud trial, and Roger Stone, a tribal gambling lobbyist and the longtime GOP operative who orchestrated the Republican protests, known as the “Brooks Brothers Riots,” that helped bring the 2000 presidential recount to a halt in Florida. 

Katz and Stone spearheaded the move to win the reservation status, helped in the end by former California Rep. George Miller, who inserted a provision initiating the declaration as a rider into a budget bill on the final day of the 2000 Congressional session. 

The duo stands to make millions when the casino is built. 

Hancock questions “the whole idea of a 2,500-slot casino blocks from I-80 and right next tot he only public emergency room within a 25-mile radius. It should still be open for negotiations, including mitigations to local communities.” 

None of the casino proposals has gone unchallenged, and the Point Molate proposal has been targeted by two separate pieces of litigation. 

The first, filed by oil giant ChevronTexaco in September, sought to block the sale on the grounds that city officials had failed to offer to sell the property to other public agencies before inking a deal with a private developer. That action was rejected by a Contra Costa County Superior Court on Sept. 24, paving the way for the sale four days later. 

Two more lawsuits were filed on Dec. 15 and 17 in an attempt to void the sale on the grounds that the city shouldn’t have sold the land without conducting an Environmental Impact Report. The plaintiffs, one the East Bay Regional Parks District and the other Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, want the majority of the site preserved as parkland. 

Yet another lawsuit doesn’t seek to void the sale but asks for a billion dollars in damages on the grounds that Levine’s Upstream Point Molate LLC and Harrah’s enticed the Guidivilles to breach an existing contract with NGV Ltd., a Florida-based partnership. 

NGV is a Florida limited partnership, with Noram-NGV LLC as the general partnership. Noram LLC is part of the multi-corporate empire which has evolved from North American Sports Management, which began as a sports talent management company. 

The interlocked corporations are the creations of Alan H. Ginsburg of Maitland, Fl., who has emerged as a major player in the Native American gambling boom, with casino ventures spanning the nation from the extreme Southeast to the far Northwest. 

After their deal with Guidivilles fell through, Noram created a new entity, Noram-Richmond LLC, inked a pact with the Scott’s Valley Pomo band, and purchased a 30-acre site between Parr Boulevard and Richmond Parkway in North Richmond, announcing plans for the Sugar Bowl Casino, a 225,000-square-foot, 2000-slot Las Vegas-style gambling palace. 

With the exception of Casino San Pablo, the Sugar Bowl proposal has advanced the furthest in the approval process. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has already conducted an environmental scoping procedure on the plan and is preparing an environmental impact proposal. Levine said a scoping session on the Molate proposal should be held within the next month or two. 

Noram is also the corporate sponsor of the East Bay’s newest casino proposal, a 2,000-slot, 100-table casino with a 1,000-seat auditorium and 200-room hotel on land adjacent to Oakland International Airport. 

Noram and its Oakland tribal partner, the Lower Lake Rancheria Koi Nation, a Pomo band, have promised city officials nearly $11 million to compensate for lost taxes, cover city services as well as fund a police administration and youth sports and gambling addiction programs. 

The Muwekma band of Ohlone tribespeople has contested the Oakland proposal on the grounds that the site in question was the traditional homeland of their people. 

Rumors of another East Bay tribal casino—this one at Albany’s Golden Gate Fields—surfaced as a result telephone polling calls made in early winter. 

The race track has been ailing for some time, and Magna Entertainment, the site’s Canadian owner, has also floated the possibility of an 800,000-square-foot regional shopping mall to be built by politically connected Los Angeles developer Rick J. Caruso.  

Magna has consistently declined to return calls about either proposal, though Magna was a major backer of a failed statewide ballot initiative last November that would have allowed existing horse racing tracks to add casinos to their facilities. 

Meanwhile, Hancock has issued a call for a state constitutional amendment that would impose a 60-day delay before legislators could vote on any new casino pacts.t

Major Berkeley Building Projects Dominated the Headlines in 2004 By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Followers of Berkeley news over the past year might rightly conclude that town suffers from an edifice complex. 

Big buildings, including a couple of giants proposed for the city center, have fueled endless controversy—and filled a significant chunk of the Daily Planet’s news pages as well. 

A Planning Commission subcommittee devoted long sessions to discussions of what could become the largest building to rise in the city in decades, a proposed 12-story-or-more hotel for the what is already Berkeley’s high-rise intersection. 

The University of California is negotiating with a private developer to build the structure at the northeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. 

If built—and the “if” remains a big one—the edifice would rise directly across Shattuck Avenue from the Wells Fargo and Power Bar Buildings, the city’s reigning high-rises. 

The fate of the project, which would be the cornerstone of a University of California complex featuring museums and a meeting center, depends on whether the university can make the hotel profitable enough to draw the big bucks of a major developer. 

Carpenter & Co., a leading hotelier, has an exclusive negotiating with the university which expires at the end of February, a six-month extension of an one-year agreement that ended without a deal. 

A half block to the west along Center Street is the site of the Seagate Building, an already approved but legally challenged nine-story residential complex with three levels of underground parking and a ground floor that will be devoted primarily to rehearsal space for the Berkeley Repertory Theater. 

The Seagate project proved controversial from the start, and the Zoning Adjustment Board’s approval of the project has been met with an appeal which alleges that the approval failed to pass legal or procedural muster. 

Work on another major downtown project finally commenced in the autumn after a long hiatus in developmental limbo. 

Library Gardens, Transaction Financial’s 176-unit apartment complex with five street-level shops, replaces the demolished Kittredge Street Garage, just west of the central library. 

Completion is scheduled for July, 2006. 

Other projects that made news in 2004 included: 


Kennedy Buildings 

2004 proved especially momentous for Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy. 

Teaming with multimillionaire UC Berkeley Professor David Teece, Kennedy has built some of the city’s most controversial structures and emerged as a lightning rod in the struggles between slow-growth preservationists and “smart growth” development advocates. 

The city also launched an investigation into heating units at the seven-story Gaia Building that replaced the old Berkeley Farms creamery at 2116 Allston Way. 

By promising to devote the ground floor to so-called cultural uses, Kennedy qualified for an additional floor of housing, though the “cultural bonus” space still remains vacant nearly three years after the building opened. A jazz cafe is now scheduled to open soon in part of the space. 

Kennedy won an additional floor by providing apartments reserved for low income tenants, enabling him to build a seven-story structure, two floors over the downtown plan’s five-floor limit. Critics said that by incorporating lofts into his units, Kennedy actually created the equivalent of a nine-floor building. 

Over the past two years, the Gaia Building has been repeatedly shrouded with plastic and screening as repair crews have battled the leaks that have caused ongoing mold problems.  

According to lawsuits filed by Kennedy, the repairs have now equaled the original construction costs. By year’s end, the Gaia Building was once again partially shrouded. 

Three other Kennedy/Teece projects opened in the fall: the Fine Arts Building on Shattuck Avenue and the Touriel and Bachenheimer buildings on University Avenue. 

Like most of Kennedy’s projects, they were funded by construction loans underwritten by ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments, which supports projects that include affordable units. 


Berkeley Bowl II 

West Berkeley’s biggest project is still in the planning stages, and sparking its own fires of controversy. 

Owner Glen Yasuda’s plan to build an upsized version of the Berkeley Bowl at Ninth Street and Heinz Avenue has provoked concerns from neighbors worried about increased traffic and the intrusion of commercial uses into West Berkeley’s manufacturing and light industrially zoned areas. 

Members of the city Design Review Committee gave their blessings to architect Kava Massih’s plans for a 91,060-square-foot three-building complex.  

Before Yasuda’s new market can be built, the Berkeley Planning Commission must first approve both zoning changes and an amendment to the city’s General Plan. 

Commissioners will hold a combined workshop and public hearing on the proposal at their Jan. 12 meeting. 


University Avenue Projects 

The heaviest action has been on University Avenue, where Kennedy’s Bachenheimer and Touriel buildings opened and plans have advanced for several others. 

Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) members approved one major project in December, a proposal by developer Alex Varum to build a condominium project at 1122 University Ave. 

Varum’s project features two buildings—a five-story structure facing the avenue which features 48 housing units, two live/work units and two retail spaces, with a three-story, 15-unit building in the back—and 74 underground parking spaces. 

Design Review Committee members gave their blessings to another major University Avenue project that same month and forwarded it on to ZAB. 

Satellite Housing’s 80-unit senior housing facility planned for 1535 University won the committee’s praises, and they sent the proposal on for action by ZAB in early January. 

Pacific Bay Investment won the city’s green light in November to build a five-story condominium and ground floor retail complex at the site of the former Tune-Up Masters facility at 1698 University Ave. 

While the original plans called for 38 units in a 64-foot-high building, after a series of meetings with neighborhood residents and city officials, project manager Ed Cress reduced the number of dwelling units to 25, and cut 14 feet off the height while increasing parking spaces from 16 to 33. 

Plans for a four-story condominium project that would occupy most of the 700 block of University remain on hold pending decisions on applications to landmark two buildings targeted for demolition on the site. 

San Pablo Avenue 

The largest project approved for San Pablo Avenue is the five-story condominium project at northeast corner of San Pablo and Essex Street. 

San Francisco developer Charmaine Curtis bought the property—along with city permits—from Patrick Kennedy, whose development plans had been hobbled by lawsuits and neighborhood opposition. 

ZAB approved her revised plans in December. 

Design Review Committee members approved plans for a three-story, eight-unit residential project at 1406 San Pablo and passed them on to ZAB for action next month. 


Shattuck Avenue  

On Shattuck Avenue, besides the UC Hotel and the Fine Arts Building, the year witnessed more battles in the saga of the Flying Cottage, the turn-of-the-century cottage perched atop a plywood shell at the corner of Shattuck and Essex Street. 

Developer Christina Sun’s first effort to finish the building was denied because she’d started work without the right permits, and neighbors are continuing to fight the project as she tries to get the requisite approvals. 

Design Review Committee members found little to like when presented with architect Andus Brandt’s latest plans in December, issuing scathing reviews and turning a unanimous thumbs-down on revisions even Brandt admitted were less than ideal. 

The committee also roasted a proposal for a five-story condo and retail project planned for 2701 Shattuck by the Choyce Family Trust, an inheritance tax shelter of the Rev. Gordon Choyce Sr., pastor of the Missionary Church of God in Christ and head of the troubled low-income housing builder Jubilee Restoration. 

The panel told builder Ronnie Sullivan, an officer in Jubilee Restoration, to come back again, this time with his structural and landscape architects. 


Ed Roberts Center 

The most significant project approved in South Berkeley this year was the Ed Roberts Center. 

Named for a noted Berkeley disability rights activist, the facility will house a consortium of organizations serving the needs of the disabled in a modernist two-story building at 3075 Adeline St. 

Neighbors said they welcomed the center but contested the design, saying the glass-fronted modernist two-story structure would be strongly out of character in a neighborhood of buildings erected a century ago 

Advocates say the glass is an important symbolic gesture—the antithesis of the blind walls behind which the disabled were housed for so long. 

ZAB approved the project in mid-November, and a group of neighbors appealed the decision to the City Council. 


Telegraph Avenue 

Developer Kenneth Sarachan, owner of Rasputin’s Records, filed plans in September to build an apartment and retail complex at the long-vacant Berkeley Inn site at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street. 

He needed to file by Sept. 22 or face paying off $500,000 in city liens levied on the site after Berkeley Inn owners refused to demolish the structure after a pair of fires had left it a gutted wreck, forcing the city to demolish it. 

Sarachan’s plans call for a two-story structure at the Telegraph Avenue end of the structure, rising to five stories at the east end. Designs call for three ground floor retail spaces and a second floor restaurant with a roof garden plus 20 one-bedroom apartments. 

Significant revisions are expected before the project ever comes to a vote. 

Berkeley’s newest apartment building opened in December, the four-story Telegraph Bays apartment and retail complex at 2616 Telegraph Ave. 

The building features one-, two- and three-bedroom units with rents ranging from $745 for a one-bedroom 472-square-foot inclusionary unit to $2300 for a three-bedroom, 1087-square-foot apartment. ”

Looking for Night Life In A City That Likes to Sleep By MATTHEW ARTZ

Tuesday December 28, 2004

New Year’s Eve, the biggest party night of the year, and UC Berkeley Junior Adam Weiss knows where he’ll be hours before the clock strikes midnight. 

“On the BART platform getting ready to party...in San Francisco.” 

Weiss said one of his toughest challenges in attending UC Berkeley has been finding local venues that he would want to go to or that would invite him, a 20-year-old, in. 

“I’ve learned that being a college town and a party town are two very different things,” he said. 

Berkeley, home to one of the largest universities in the country, has avoided the glut of bars, clubs and late night eateries that typically accompany other schools. 

In Chico, Ca., for instance, home-base for the 15,000-student state university, there are 13 nightclubs featuring live music or a DJ within a 20 block radius, according to Becky Watner, assistant director for the Downtown Chico Business Association. Berkeley has eight. 

Since the 1980s several of the city’s top venues have folded or been shut down by the city. They include Keystone Berkeley and Berkeley Square on University Avenue, the Jabberwock on Telegraph Avenue, the Longbranch on San Pablo Avenue and Earl’s Solano Club, a North Berkeley Jazz house. 

“Berkeley used to have so many more clubs,” said Billy Jam, owner of Hip Hop Slam Records and a radio host on UC Berkeley’s KALX Public Affairs. “Touring bands used to have a San Francisco date and a Berkeley date, but now Berkeley doesn’t have a big enough venue to attract national acts.” 

Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks said a combination of police apprehension towards new bars and neighborhood concerns about noise had kept Berkeley’s youth-oriented nightlife in check. 

“There aren’t a lot of locations where people getting out of a club at 2 a.m. aren’t going to disturb someone” he said. 

The police department wields heavy influence in granting permits to would-be club operators in Berkeley. Under State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control rules, Berkeley has surpassed its quota for alcohol serving establishments so any new bar or club seeking a use permit requires the Zoning Adjustment Board (ZAB) to make a finding of public convenience and necessity. Although the police declined to comment for this story, several city officials said the police typically oppose the permits on grounds that the BDP doesn’t have the staff to deal with more drunken youth leaving clubs early in the morning. 

“Because of police objections to late night drinking, the city has become increasingly restrictive in its zoning review process for late night venues,” said Dave Fogarty of the city’s Office of Economic Development. 

He recalled several cases where applicants were either discouraged from operating a nightclub or told not to bother trying for the hours of operation they wanted. 

Anna De Leon, who is preparing to open a Shattuck Avenue jazz cafe in the coming weeks, said she didn’t ask for a 2 a.m. closing time on weekends—the latest hour allowed for an establishment that serves alcohol—because she knew she wouldn’t get it. 

De Leon, who will close her club at 1 a.m. on weekends, faced neighborhood opposition seeking a permit to open her cafe both on Shattuck and at its former home on University Avenue. 

“I have a hard time understanding the level of quiet people seem to need,” she said. 

Country Joe McDonald, who moved to town and joined Berkeley’s folk music scene in 1965 said, “Berkeley has never been a late night town. 

“Whenever friends would visit and ask what there was to do late at night, I’d just laugh.” 

Now, along Telegraph Avenue, there appears to be some will among city leaders to allow bars and restaurants to keep their doors open later for nearby students. This fall, against the recommendation of the police department, the ZAB approved later hours for Kip’s a popular student bar on the southside of campus. That ruling came on top of similar decisions allowing the Durant food court to stay open later and Raleigh’s, a Telegraph Avenue bar and restaurant, to keep its outdoor patio open during late night hours.  

The city’s draft land use plan for the south of campus area calls for allowing all eating establishments including cafes to remain open until midnight without a use permit and conditionally allowing 24-hour cafes near the UC Berkeley campus. Currently, without a permit cafes must close at 10 p.m. 

“The direction the city is moving in is that nightlife is encouraged,” said ZAB Chair and UC Berkeley graduate student Andy Katz.  

Katz said that extending hours for cafes and bars along Telegraph would improve safety and increase business along the corridor. The biggest problem so far, Katz said, has been convincing the mostly family owned sit-down restaurants to stay open into the earlier hours of the morning, when the relatives who run the restaurants would rather be sleeping. 

If Telegraph Avenue does adopt later hours, not all of the residents will be pleased.  

Doug Buckwald, a south campus resident, said he is frequently awakened on weekend nights by students shouting and singing as they walk back to their homes from Telegraph Avenue.  

“It’s absolutely a quality of life issue,” said Buckwald, who feared that later hours for bars and restaurants could discourage families from relocating to the area—another goal of the draft land use plan. 

Pat Romani, the co-owner of Blakes On Telegraph, the south campus’ only dance venue, didn’t think relaxed city regulations would help the Berkeley club scene, whose decline he attributed to market forces. 

“It seems that a lot of students are more into socializing with their friends or drinking than seeing live music,” he said. “Right now a lot of clubs in the area are closing or hanging on by their fingernails.”  

When it comes to live music Berkeley still offers a variety of options. Blakes has rock and hip hop music, the Shattuck Down Low has a mix of DJs and live rock and hip hop acts, the Freight and Salvage offers a predominantly folk line up, Ashkenaz specializes in world beats, 924 Gilman is a youth oriented punk club, the Starry Plough offers rock music on weekends and Jupiter also hosts live acts. Live jazz can also be seen at Downtown and at the Jazz School. 

If Berkeley were ever to create a concentration of clubs, like in Chico, the downtown area would seem like the likeliest location. But with a slew of new housing development, the downtown might not be so fertile anymore. 

Councilmember Dona Spring, who represents the area, fought Berkeley Square and fielded numerous complaints about the Shattuck Down Low when it first moved in, isn’t eager to see many new arrivals. 

“If you want to go dancing you should go to Ashkenaz,” she said. “The regular population prefers a play or a concert to boozing it up.” 

Looking Back on Cal Football’s Golden Season By STEVEN FINACOM

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 28, 2004

I know where old sportswriters go when they die. They become the creative muses of publicity writers for college football teams.  

A search through the archives and press guides of any team, the California Golden Bears included, yields reams of overwrought prose, delightfully arcane and overwrought adjectives, verbs, and analogies, and a deluge of statistics to emphasize the strengths of a program and minimize any weaknesses.  

This year the publicists for the Bears have had an easy time of it without the need for much exaggeration. Cal finished a ten-win, one-loss season with a No. 4 national ranking in the Associated Press and ESPN / USA Today polls.  

Even in the unlikely event that the season comes to a disappointing end this week with a loss in the Dec. 30 Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, this year’s Golden Bears have played remarkably, memorably, and successfully. 

They also earned near-icon status for third year coach Jeff Tedford, who now has a 25-12 record at Cal. 

The Golden Bears had the best win-loss record for a Cal football team since 1950, when the team went 9-0-1. This was also Cal’s first ten-win season since 1949.  

Their single loss against USC was assuaged by the fact that the Bears came within one play and nine yards of beating what was then, and still remains, the number one team in the country. A further consolidation is that the Bears beat USC last year, the only team in two years to do so. 

And, for traditionalists like me, even Cal’s last-minute exclusion from the Rose Bowl was not irredeemably bitter, since historically it’s the Pac-10 champion who plays there and Cal came in second in the conference this year, behind USC. 

Cal was the only team to finish the season ranked in the top six nationally in both defense and offense. There were two defensive shutouts and two wins where the opponent was held to less than a touchdown, while on offense the Bears regularly scored more than 40 points per game.  

Cal fans were able to enjoy not only a great team effort, but also remarkable individual performances. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a national record-tying 23 consecutive pass completions against USC and was, statistically, one of the best passers in the country.  

Tailback J.J. Arrington was arguably the best runner in the country and freshmen running back Marshawn Lynch may become the best if he has other years like this one.  

Defensive end Ryan Riddle, Arrington, and receiver Geoff McArthur all set career records at Cal, the last two coming quite appropriately in the Big Game against Stanford. 

Things were particularly charmed this year for Memorial Stadium spectators. Cal was unbeaten at home for the first time since 1950.  

Veteran Cal fans, used to years of clenching the edges of their splintery seats during the fourth quarter and hoping that the Bears could either catch up, or not find a way to fumble away a fragile lead, were treated to one decisive win after another. 

There have never be so many season-ticket holding Cal fans—nearly 35,000. And total game attendance was nearly double that number, despite kickoff times that jumped all over the afternoon and evening due to television demands. 

Memorial Stadium crowds averaged 64,019 for the season, the highest average in Cal home game history. On Sept. 11 Cal had the largest home opener crowd ever in Berkeley, while nearly 70,000 showed up for the Oct. 16 home game against UCLA.  

Particularly sweet for home game fans was the sold-out the Big Game on Nov. 20, when Memorial Stadium was a pulsating lake of blue and gold seamed by only a few small, largely silent, wedges of Cardinal red.  

Cal won by a score of 41-6, the greatest margin of Big Game victory for the Golden Bears since 1930.  

Perhaps best of all, at least from the perspective of long-time Cal fans, was the fact that this was a third consecutive win over Stanford, some recompense for the seven consecutive losses Cal suffered before Tedford arrived as coach.  

Success on the football field was complimented by a revival of participation in old and new campus spirit activities, organized by the student Rally Committee.  

The Big Game Rally on the evening of November 19 drew a standing room only crowd of students and alumni to the Greek Theatre. 

Memorial Stadium was graced by some of the best card stunts—mass, changing, displays of colored cards in the student rooting section—for decades and Sather Tower was lighted blue and gold during Big Game Week. The Cal Band delivered crisp and entertaining performances on and off the field. 

Although some Berkeley residents and officials viewed the large home game crowds and attendant traffic congestion with mixed emotions, Saturday home football games represent what may be the Berkeley community’s oldest annual mass cultural tradition.  

College football has been played in large stadiums in the southeast part of the Berkeley campus for a century.  

California Field, an angular wooden stadium designed by John Galen Howard, preceded Memorial Stadium. It sat some 17,000 spectators on the present-day site of Hearst Gymnasium and North Field. 

That seems small today but was plenty large at a time when there were just 2,839 students at the Berkeley campus and the whole town’s population was less than 15,000.  

Less than two decades later California Memorial Stadium was opened when, under Coach Andy Smith, Cal was a fully successful participant in national college football mania. The Golden Bear “Wonder Teams” were in the midst of a run of five undefeated seasons. 

Since that time Cal has enjoyed a number of great seasons and bowl appearances, but only one other truly sustained period of national football success, the Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf era from the late 1940s through the late 1950s. 

Given the results of this season and Tedford’s increasing success in his first three seasons, not a few Cal fans hope for a continued Golden Bear presence in the very highest ranks of college football. 

In recent years the Golden Bears have banished almost all of the disappointments that have marked the football program since the Waldorf era. Only three long-standing objectives remain: beating Washington State in Pullman and thus lifting the “Curse of the Palouse”; winning the Pac-10 championship outright; returning to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1959. 

Can a prospective Tedford era come to equal the Waldorf and Andy Smith years? Perhaps, although we will need to experience six or seven more seasons to tell.  

Tedford certainly has made a good start, and the season concluded with a much ballyhooed contract renewal, as well as more than a few raised eyebrows at an annual salary more than three times that of the Chancellor. 

Is Cal football likely to become a perpetual national power under, and after, Tedford? Bear fans may dream, but the odds are long.  

Division 1A teams in major conferences that have undefeated or only one-or-two-loss seasons year after year are few and far between. Even those ranked highly for decades can fall on hard times. This year the football programs at Washington, Penn State, Notre Dame, and Nebraska are among the cautionary examples. 

Many critics would also say that level of college football success is a decidedly mixed blessing, with programs acting more like mini-NFL franchises and less like part of a genuine college athletic tradition. 

Nonetheless, Cal football has had a truly golden existence this year and, even if it proves to be an anomaly, Bear fans and Berkeley experienced a season to remember. 


Berkeley resident Steven Finacom attended his first Cal football games in the mid-1970s. He is a career staff member at the University, but is not affiliated with the Intercollegiate Athletics Department.›

Thousand Oaks Strives to Make a Home for All Students By ARWEN CURRY

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 28, 2004

Debra Smith, 55, has watched over Thousand Oaks Elementary for 16 years. As cafeteria supervisor, she keeps the school’s kitchen and dining area polished to an immaculate gleam. She also teaches a cooking class to kids in the after-school program, and puts flowers on the tables in the warmly elegant, oak-paneled cafeteria.  

“We dress it up,” she says. “We decorate for all the holidays and special occasions. I plan to put plastic tablecloths on all the tables. That’ll make it more homelike.” 

Making the school more homelike is a passion Smith shares with staff, teachers, and parents at Thousand Oaks. 

The campus, rebuilt in 1999 with Measure AA earthquake safety funds, is an architectural welcome mat, bright and open. Students have free access to the sch ool’s garden, which overflows with pumpkins, sunflowers, and tomatoes. 

Thousand Oaks occupies a block of Colusa Avenue in North Berkeley, one block off of eastern Solano Avenue, with its shops, restaurants, and historic theater. But many students commute from other Berkeley neighborhoods to take advantage of the school’s Transitional Bilingual Program. 

The program is unique in the district because it allows children to study exclusively in Spanish from kindergarten through the third grade. By the fourth grade, they make the transition into English-speaking classes. The Transitional Bilingual model is based on the idea that strong literacy in a child’s first language provides a solid foundation for second-language learning.  

Of the 429 students who atte nded Thousand Oaks in 2003, 38 percent were still learning English, five percentage points higher than the state average. Of these students, most were Spanish-speaking. When first enrolling a child in the Berkeley Unified School District, parents whose ch ildren have limited English proficiency may choose three of Berkeley’s four bilingual programs for placement consideration. 

Le Conte, Rosa Parks, and Cragmont have dual-immersion programs, in which Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students attend cl asses together from kindergarten through the fifth grade, and are taught in both languages. 

Thousand Oaks third grade bilingual teacher Andra Tom supports both types of programs. The Transitional Program is not perfect, she admits; ideally, it would extend into the upper grades. And it separates native Spanish-speaking kids from other students. 

“One of the benefits of dual-immersion is that it blends different kids,” Tom says. But, she added, English- and Spanish-speaking classes interact several times a week for activities like cooking, gardening, physical education, and art classes. 

More than anything, Tom says, the strong support of the staff at Thousand Oaks makes the Transitional Bilingual program successful.  

“We look at all of the kids as our k ids,” she says. 

Before coming to Thousand Oaks four years ago, Principal Jesse Ramos, 42, was an administrator for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, where he watched a budding bilingual program die after voters approved Prop. 227, which required schools to switch from bilingual programs to English-only immersion in 1998. 

Parents may request waivers that allow children to participate in bilingual programs in spite of the proposition. Still, “a traditional bilingual program like we have at Thousand Oaks is unique even at the state level,” existing in large part because of community support, says Ramos. 

“The community aspect is very good,” agrees PTA president Cherry Van Meurs, in a telephone interview, although she says the PTA could better represe nt the racial and ethnic diversity of Thousand Oaks’ students, an issue she plans to address this year. Van Meurs, who has had children enrolled in Thousand Oaks on and off since 1994, also hopes to make meetings more accessible to Spanish-speaking families. 

“Of course, we’re always looking for ways to improve,” says Principal Ramos, as he knelt down to scrape with his fingernail at a bit of graffiti in pink grease pen on one of Thousand Oaks’s broad elevated walkways. “But we have a fabulous team here. We’re very fortunate.” 


This is the fourth in a series profiling the Berkeley elementary schools. The reports are written by students of the UC Berkeley Journalism School. m

Local Supermarket Workers Keep Close Eye on Sacramento Agreement By JAKOB SCHILLER

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Workers in the Sacramento area will soon be voting to ratify a new union contract at three large California supermarkets, but Bay Area markets are still in doubt, according to Matthew Hardy, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers’ union. 

UFCW Local 588 in Sacramento, which represents 19,000 workers at Safeway, Kroger and Albertson’s, announced the agreement last week, but would not release the details of the contract until after workers have voted. The union had threatened to strike if an agreement was not reached. 

Some 30,000 more workers in the Bay Area are still negotiating their own contract which expired later than the one in Sacramento, according to Hardy,  

“We still have yet to put our health and welfare proposal across the table,” he said. 

Nonetheless, he said, workers are preparing for a possible strike if negotiations do not go well. Workers all over California as well as in other states have prepared for strikes after Southern California grocery workers went on strike for four and a half months during their contract negotiations. 

Hardy said workers and their supporters including the California Labor Federation stood outside 54 Safeway stores in 25 Bay Area cities last week asking customers to sign pledge cards saying they would support workers in the event of a strike.   

“Even though Sacramento settled, we are still going to continue on with our program,” said Hardy. 

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 28, 2004


Editors, Daily Planet:  

As reported in your Dec. 21 article (“Design Panel Slams Latest ‘Flying Cottage’ Plan”), architect Andus Brandt told the Design Review Committee that a city employee looking over Christina Sun’s plans to improve her two-story rental property at 3045 Shattuck Ave. by building out the first floor / basement suggested she could add a third story. Public records on file with the Alameda Superior Court and the Berkeley Planning Department cast doubt on this version of events. 

In her legal complaint against Delta Construction and Remodeling, Sun says she negotiated contracts with Delta for both two- and three-story projects before submitting either plan to the city. On April 19, 2002, she submitted her zoning permit application for the two-story project, and on May 30, the city issued a permit. The next day, Sun executed the contract for the three-story project. Over the next two weeks, she completely demolished the first floor, leaving the second on blocks. Demolition accomplished, on June 14 she submitted plans for the three-story project. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

A belated response to Bob Burnett’s article which gave his conclusion that election “irregularities” did not cause enough vote changes to make the recent election a “stolen” election. 

I would ask a different question. Do we know that the past election was honest?  

We know that the person in Ohio in charge of the election proceedings was Kenneth Blackwell, head of the Bush campaign in Ohio. We know that in heavily Democratic inner city precincts there were not enough voting machines, and that people had to wait hours and hours to vote. Many had to leave without voting. We know that some voters were given incorrect information about places to vote, and even that voting could also be done Nov. 3. We also know, as Burnett says, that some people, after finishing their voting, checked their touchscreen votes, and their “Kerry” vote had been changed to “Bush.” 

Knowing that the above very very “irregular” and I would say “illegal” things have been done by the people in charge of voting in Ohio, and also by people in charge of other swing states, do I believe that those in charge made sure that the voting machines with no paper trail gave honest results? I cannot so believe. Right now I feel that the United States of America has lost its democracy. 

Julia Craig  




Editors, Daily Planet:  

There are too many instances of fraud and abuse in the U.S. election, especially in Ohio and Florida. Electronic voting machines can’t be audited. There is no way to determine if the vote was correct. The only way for the U.S. to have an honest election that we can all agree on is to re-do it with punched-card ballots, that can be checked by independent auditors. Until then, we should stop trying to pretend to Afghanistan, Iraq, Ukraine, and other countries that we know what democracy is. 

Mike Vandeman 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

My thanks to your paper and LA Wood for the commentary on our sewer and storm drain situation (“Berkeley’s Stormwater Property Tax: Where’s the Money?” Daily Planet, Oct. 29-Nov. 1). He answered all of the questions that plague me whenever we have 15 minutes of steady rain. Though I have lived here many years, I am not fluent in the politics of Berkeley. Though I am long past being naive, I am appalled nonetheless. How is it that the city can divert monies from a specific, voter-approved purpose to cover something else entirely? Why was this done and who did It? Is that information available in the public record somewhere? Isn’t there something we (taxpaying citizens and residents of Berkeley) can do about it? This seems wrong to me, and more so because it’s Berkeley. It appears that we pride ourselves that our differentness is a superior thing; that we are better informed, more thoroughly educated, of higher awareness than average. Don’t we see ourselves as standing up for free speech, diversity, peace on the planet, social justice, good government and greener practices for the health of the individual and the health of the planet? Or have I gotten it altogether wrong because the fix is in, like everywhere else, and that’s just the way it is?  

April Corsiva 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

My comments are directed towards Susan Parker’s Dec. 21-23 column, “Teaching A Child to Swim: A Fun, Wholesome and Righteous Activity.” In her fine essay Susan chronicles her experience teaching swimming to a young African-American girl friend named Jernae. Due to Susan’s and Jernae’s persistence the child successfully learned how to swim. As Susan rightly points out, “I had always thought that swimming was a skill everyone should know. It’s easy to learn, develops self-confidence, and promotes safety.” As it turned out all of Jernae’s friends at school were not as “lucky” to have a friend to teach them how to swim. 

From my point of view, as a public pool activist in the United Pool Council, Jernae’s friends at school should not have to be lucky to have a friend like Susan to teach them how to swim. The public schools with the use of our wonderful public pools (Willard, West Campus, and King) should teach all kids not only how to swim but why to swim for health and recreation. Why is it that only middle class white kids get to experience the joys of swimming through such enriched and expensive private aquatic programs such as the Bears? 

The answer to that question is that BUSD, in its frenzy to cut all non-academic programming, has eliminated swimming from its physical education program at King and Willard middle schools, to save on paying for life guards etc. Many in the school and pool communities are trying to rectify that situation. At the same time that BUSD is cutting swimming from its curriculum the City of Berkeley is closing public pools (in South Berkeley) to meet budget cutbacks. The city and BUSD are each cutting aquatic programming for poor people in West Berkeley while at the same time not talking to each other about how to save the pubic pool system for everyone. The kids, the parents and teachers who know better and the pool community must insist that the city of Berkeley and BUSD sit down and work out a plan to save and improve our public pools for the benefit of all of pool users. We are all in the same boat. Highly paid city and BUSD administrators must use some of their exceptional brain power and creativity to figure out how to preserve a very valuable city/school resource for all of us. 

The citizens and taxpayers of Berkeley spoke very clearly and loudly in the last elections. Highly paid administrators must earn their living solving vexing problems not by creating them. 

Bill Hamilton 

United Pool Council 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Thank you Susan Parker, for bringing up the importance of teaching kids to swim. The Berkeley public pools were built so that the children would learn to swim as part of the public school curriculum. The programs were cut a couple of years ago, and we must urge the city and school administrators to cooperate to bring the programs back. Swimming is appropriate for any fitness and skill level. The water absorbs tensions, creates a zone of pleasure and equality. It’s hard to dislike people you are in the water with, frustrations dissolve, you get a fresh perspective. A friend told me that he swam six hours a day while on a college swim team in Sri Lanka. I asked him how he had time to study, and he said that because of swimming he didn’t need to study endlessly. He reviewed what he was learning while swimming, and was able to solve problems quickly as a result. Another reason why swimming. 

Gael Alcock 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I just completed writing a long article summarizing statistical evidence of large scale irregularities in the Nov. 2 election. Here’s a simpler approach.  

According to David Leip’s Election Atlas, which uses official state voting data, 122,293,782 people voted for president. That was 16,876,524 more votes than in the 2000 race. George Bush improved his total from 50,460,110 to 62,040,237 or approximately by 11.6 million votes. John Kerry improved over Al Gore by a few more than 8 million votes, receiving 59,027,612 votes. There were about 2 million Ralph Nader voters from 2000 that deserted Nader in 2004. New voters in 2004 favored Kerry, who received more than half of the 16,876,524 million new votes cast, accounting for more than his 8 million improvement over Gore. If we ignore all the exit polls and give Bush half the new votes, he still needed 3.2 million more votes from people who voted for Gore in 2000 or Nader. But Kerry won most former Nader votes. And from that alone Kerry should have at least a million more votes than his reported total! And so for Kerry’s reported total to be correct Bush would have had to have taken away as much as another 2 million former Gore votes. So, who are the 3-5 million people across the U.S. who voted for Gore in 2000 and switched to Bush in 2004? In particular states, who are the many thousands who apparently voted for Democrat Betty Castor for U.S. Senate in Florida but for Bush for president; and who are those many thousands who voted for Ellen Connally, the African American liberal, for state Supreme Court chief justice in Ohio, but for Bush for president. I doubt such voters exist, but without those voters across the U.S. the final numbers don’t compute.  

Marc Sapir  





Editors, Daily Planet:  

George Bush likes to say that history will be the judge of his Iraqi policy. 

It’s an easy thing to say when your opponents are incompetent and don’t challenge you, and it certainly fits with the M.O. of his so-called business life—avoid all responsibility and let others pay the price for your failures.  

In this case, that means the many thousands (civilians do count) of dead, wounded and grieving. Nine hundred American children (a wide age range?) have reportedly lost a parent, which of course must translate into many more Iraqi children.  

But what is to be done? Memory itches to take over the conversation: It’s just about the end of the sweetest times, flying through the night down the New Jersey turnpike in a green Plymouth, dozing in someone’s arms, awaking to see the rings of people around the White House, a wonderful sight.  

It’s not time for memories. There’s no sense in dwelling on a time that could pretty hard and bitter and isn’t always relevant to what’s going on now. 

But is anyone else feeling this large void between the news from Iraq, which could not be worse, and the need to bear witness and to somehow bring it home to Bush in a big way, to see if Congress can be stirred?  

For all sorts of reasons, the witnessing and the protesting have all but vanished. The die has been cast, Kerry and Congress were/are spineless, there’s the disconnect between public and government a volunteer army creates (aka the lack of a draft), maybe we haven’t reached some critical mass of American dead, there are our own all-consuming lives. 

If that’s to be part of the history of this war, then that’s what the history will be. History’s full of wars that just go on and on. And that ignorant, dangerous little son of a bitch will never be challenged for what he’s doing. 

Doesn’t feel right, does it? Gnaws at you a little bit? 

Maybe it’s time to take some readings of the groups out there—which are still viable, which have a big enough tent, which have good communications with the vets’ and parents’ groups, which are planning. 

Washington can be awfully nice in the spring. 

James Day 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

On Dec. 25, this Gentile drove down to Solano Avenue at around 9:30 a.m., planning to buy bagels. No luck: Noah’s is closed—for Christmas! 

I guess true Jewish culture is dying in Berkeley. You people, instead of slicing lox, were you singing carols around the tree I saw you smuggle into the house? 

Nigel A. Renton 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

It seems obvious that Bush and his administration is part of the problem not part of the solution. In just the past four years his policies, budgets, and legislation have lead to record level federal deficit and debt while at the same time giving a trillion dollar federal tax cut to the very wealthy; he started an unnecessary war with Iraq which is costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars; we have lost hard earned civil liberties; there is a record fall in the U.S. dollar to major currencies along with an all time high trade deficit; we have an all time low U.S. world image; and finally, we have had two very questionable presidential elections, so do I need to say more? And now he wants to “reform” social security, which will mainly benefit his friends on Wall Street and cost a couple trillion dollars to do along with being very risky. He also wants to “reform” the tax code which again will mainly benefit the very wealthy and big corporations. And finally he wants to cut the debt in half within a certain number of years without raising taxes, if anything he wants to make the trillion dollar tax cut to the very wealthy permanent. This all of course means Bush and his administration will most likely want to make massive cuts in services and programs that help the average American in order to reduce the debt that him and his administration ran up. All this and he has not even started his second term yet so at this rate Bush will take us back a hundred years to the days of the robber barons. So if you think Bush and his administration did a lot of damage during the last four years it may just get even worse during the next four years unless We The People do something about it. And at this point I feel secession is the most viable solution to get us out of this mess as it is both legal and peaceful; for more information on this check out the grass roots secession movements at www.moveoncalifornia.org or www.vermontrepublic.org.  

Thomas Husted 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

Sooo, President Bush and Wall Street wants to privatize Social Security. 

Of course, there’s no doubt that Enron and Global Crossing fully approve of the scheme. 

It appears that the Bush administration’s phony Social Security crisis scenario being played out is nothing more than a scam meant to frighten the public into allowing Social Security to be privatized.  

This is known as elder abuse.  

Sounds like that boy who cried wolf once too often, when I consider who it was that took this country into the mess created in Iraq. 

The Bush family has a poor track record when it comes to taxpayer dollars being needed to bail out their failed schemes.  

Iraq has cost America a fortune in blood and dollars. 

Let’s not forget how Neil Bush and his schemes turned into a $1.2 billion disaster at the Silverado Savings and Loan in Colorado. 

Then it was Jeb Bush that was caught up into a massive $100 million fraud scheme with the International Medical Centers in Florida.  

I am opposed to the privatization of Social Security, and suspect that the elderly would be better served by trading in their Social Security checks for some lottery tickets, rather than to trust the Bush administration to have their best interests at heart. 

Lynda Carson 





Editors, Daily Planet:  

I love the story about Mark Tarses, the landlord who gives candy to his tenants ( “Landlord Sweetens the Deal for Tenants,” Daily Planet, Dec. 21-23). It’s so refreshing to find something like that when most of your news concerns outraged citizens complaining about bureaucratic decisions made behind their backs. 

Is it possible to have more such feature stories? How about other ingenious businessmen, cultural leaders and the people who run our schools and libraries? The list is endless. 

Rose M. Green 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

You carried a commentary by Paul Hogarth in Dec. 17-20 issue (“Rent Control is Fully Constitutional and Good Public Policy”). Although you say that Mr. Hogarth was a member of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board from 2000-2004 and is now a second-year law student at Golden Gate University, and although Mr. Hogarth starts out by claiming that a previous commentary by Robert Cabrera “contained so many lies and inaccuracies that even a second-year law student can easily refute them,” Mr. Hogarth’s own commentary also contained a critical lie and inaccuracy. 

Mr. Hogarth cites a case as Penn Central Station v. New York (1978). There is no such case. The proper citation is Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104 (1978). This is significant, because one could not find the case if one looked for the citation given by Mr. Hogarth. Secondly, and more importantly, Mr. Hogarth claims that “Mr. Cabrera confuses basic regulatory laws like rent control and zoning restrictions with actual takings of private property like eminent domain,” and that “it only becomes a ‘taking’ under the Fifth Amendment if the regulation makes [the property] completely worthless.”  

Mr. Hogarth speaks contrarily here. At first he denies the existence of “regulatory taking,” and then he acknowledges it backhandedly by stating an entirely false criterion for it. It is true that in the case he cited, the New York Court of Appeals had denied the existence of “regulatory taking,” but that was not the conclusion of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor is there any statement to the effect that a property must become worthless for a regulatory taking to occur in the case cited or anywhere else. Below are the relevant quotes from the case that Mr. Hogarth miscited. 

At page 120: The New York Court of Appeals affirmed. 42 N. Y. 2d 324, 366 N. E. 2d 1271 (1977). That court summarily rejected any claim that the Landmarks Law had “taken” property without “just compensation,” id., at 329, 366 N. E. 2d, at 1274, indicating that there could be no “taking” since the law had not transferred control of the property to the city, but only restricted appellants' exploitation of it. 

At page 127: It is, of course, implicit in Goldblatt that a use restriction on real property may constitute a “taking” if not reasonably necessary to the effectuation of a substantial public purpose, see Nectow v. Cambridge, supra; cf. Moore v. East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 513 -514 (1977) (STEVENS, J., concurring), or perhaps if it has an unduly harsh impact upon the owner's use of the property. Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393 (1922), is the leading case for the proposition that a state statute that substantially furthers important public policies may so frustrate distinct investment-backed expectations as to amount to a “taking.” 

Peter Mutnick 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

It seems that all Washington officials, government spokesmen and also 9/11 commissioners are intent on causing the public to be in constant fear and panic. “We are safer than we used to be but still in danger of attack from an implacable enemy (who is declared to hate us because of jealousy).” 

However, just a couple of weeks ago, Osama bin Laden gave a speech that conveyed a quite reasonable message: “If you and your Israeli agents stop mistreating and robbing Arabs, we won’t attack you.” He also made it clear in a subsequent speech that his principal argument was with the government of Saudi Arabia, which keeps its people in a state of poverty and ignorance for the exclusive benefit of a host of Saudi princes (not to mention their American business connections). 

Our current government benefited greatly by producing fear in the American population. Shall we continue to live in fear of imagined danger or try to live a normal life? And perhaps with a less extreme government that will respect the basic rights of all members of the population?  

Max Alfert 














At Christmas Dinner, a Baby Gives A Sense of Hope for the World By SUSAN PARKER Column

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Christmas day at our house. Sixteen adults, one 7-year-old, a toddler, and two babies gather around a food-laden table in the dining room. Kanna Jo Nakamura-Parker, six weeks old, and smaller than a bread basket, lies quietly in her mother’s arms. It is her first visit to our home, her first Christmas, her first time competing for attention with an overcooked, over-stuffed turkey. 

“Pass the baby to the left,” says my husband Ralph. “And the turkey to the right.” So we begin. Kanna is slipped into the arms of her mother’s friend, Sagiri, who whispers in Japanese that soon she’ll introduce Kanna to her flying squirrels, MoMo and MiMi, who she keeps as pets in her apartment. Then Kanna Jo is handed to Rick, who says something loud and Republican. “Give the baby to me,” shouts Rick’s wife, Dee, “And stop with that Republican stuff.” Dee espouses Democratic party policy to Kanna, than passes her on to me. I give Kanna a soft kiss and hold her face up close to Ralph’s. He breathes in her baby smell and rubs his cheek against hers. “I’m the only one who’s had a flu shot,” he says. “So I’m really the only one who should be kissing you, Kanna Jo.”  

“I’ve had a flu shot,” says my mother, reaching around Ralph’s electric wheelchair for Kanna. But the tremble in her outstretched hands prompts my dad to help with Kanna’s transfer. Mom presses Kanna to her chest, to keep her close and warm, and the Parkinson’s from shaking them both.  

Annie waits patiently to hold Kanna Jo next. “Where’d your momma get this cute pink dress?” she asks. “You look just like a candy cane.” 

“She looks like her mother,” says Lynn, who lifts Kanna from Annie’s arms.  

“There’s no denying that,” adds Harvey, peering over Lynn’s shoulder. Everyone nods in agreement.  

“Except for the eyebrows,” says Rachael. “What’s up with those?”  

“Bad brows,” says my brother sadly. “It’s the Parker curse.” 

“May I have the baby?” asks Irit. She holds Kanna Jo gently and murmurs a secret prayer in Hebrew. Perhaps it is to ward off the eyebrow curse, but before she can finish, Kanna’s brother, Bryce, tugs on Irit’s sleeve. “I want my sister back,” he says.  

“Say please,” instructs his daddy.  

“Please,” says Bryce. “Give her back. Now.”  

Kanna Jo is placed in the hands of her father, who holds her like a football before passing her back to her mother. Everyone has been too busy watching Kanna’s progress around the table to begin to eat. But now it is time. We bow our heads and give thanks for the meal before us and the friends we are gathered with. We wish for peace, good health, and safety. We pause a moment in silence to reflect upon those who have less than ourselves, for those who are hungry and sick, for those in the midst of conflict and war. Then we raise our heads and make a toast to one another. Glasses click, knives and forks clatter against full plates. Multiple voices sing out in overlapping conversations: about politics and pets, football and weird eyebrows, Brussels sprouts and flu shots. Kanna Jo Nakamura-Parker never wakes up, but the rest of us know that she is here in the room, tucked against her mother’s breast, silently offering to us the ultimate gift this Christmas—a glimpse at the future, a hope for a better, more understanding world.  




Campaign 2008: Democrats Must Work Smart By BOB BURNETT News Analysis

Tuesday December 28, 2004

In Silicon Valley folklore, a typical project goes through five stages: unwarranted enthusiasm, unmitigated disaster, search for the guilty, persecution of the innocent, and promotion of the uninvolved. Evidently, the Kerry-Edwards “project” has advanced to the fourth stage where many, including Berkeley’s MoveOn.org, are being blamed for the Nov. 2 loss. 

If Democrats are to learn the difficult lessons from the defeat, they are going to have to stop whining; quit claiming that they lost because Republicans cheated or because certain individuals or groups were incompetent. Democrats need to face reality: Republicans won because they ran a better campaign; one where the GOP made fewer mistakes and did a superb job of getting out their base. Democrats worked hard, but did not, alas, work smart. 

There are five big lessons to be learned from the Kerry defeat. Democrats must take in each of these lessons if they are going to work smart in the future. 

Lesson one is that the Democratic Presidential candidate must be perceived as authentic; someone who is not easily typecast as a free-spending liberal or a member of the cultural elite. Neither John Kerry nor Al Gore was seen as authentic, but Bill Clinton was; and many contemporary Democrats, from Barney Frank to Nancy Pelosi, are viewed as authentic by their constituencies. 

To be regarded as authentic, it is usually the case that a presidential candidate must be seen as an outsider, someone not easily associated with the Washington beltway. In this past election an example of such a candidate was Howard Dean, who gained early support because he was an outsider claiming to represent, “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” Many new Democratic faces, who won on Nov. 2, carry the same sense of authenticity; for example, Brian Schweitzer in Montana and Barack Obama in Illinois. 

Lesson two is that a successful Democratic presidential candidate must run as an unabashed economic populist. In 2000 Al Gore seemed to be embracing this as the centerpiece of his campaign, “They’ re for the powerful, and we’ re for the people,” but inexplicably backed away. In 2004 the Kerry-Edwards campaign flirted with populism, most notably in John Edward’s evocation of the “two Americas,” only to retreat into wonkdom. Once again, most of the new Democratic victors won because they espoused a basic populist message, for example, Obama in his rousing keynote address at the Democratic convention, “it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we are all connected as one people.” 

The point is that Democrats must not let themselves be suckered by Republicans into fighting America’s class war on cultural grounds. The GOP has been successful diverting the masses with a media campaign that warns of a liberal attack on ill-defined moral values. Real Democrats understand that standing up for Americans in need, honoring our commitment to be our brother’s and sister’s keeper is an authentic moral value. When Democrats engage the GOP on the vital issues of class warfare, they should fight it over economic issues; they should fight it on their home turf—populism. 

The third lesson is that Democrats must move beyond their historic focus on identity groups, such as African-Americans, and forge new alliances with affinity groups, as MoveOn has done. In 2004 Republicans ran an affinity-group-based campaign, skillfully utilizing multilevel marketing techniques with conservative churchgoers, gun clubs, and chambers of commerce. In the future, Democrats should forge new relationships with natural allies such as environmentalists, progressive Christians, and small business people. 

The fourth lesson is that Democrats must recognize that while presidential elections only occur once every four years, America has entered the era of the permanent campaign. Bush won in 2004 because from the moment he took office, in 2000, Karl Rove began planning his reelection. The Democratic Party needs to start organizing the 2008 Presidential campaign now. 

The final lesson to be learned is that from an organizational viewpoint, comparing the Republican Party to the Democratic Party is like comparing a traditional relationship to a one-night stand. The Republican National Committee is hierarchical and disciplined; it runs the state and county committees with an iron hand and demands conservative ideological purity. In comparison, the Democratic Party is a loose coalition of groups that range in capability and ideology. The Democratic National Committee is primarily a collection of fundraisers lacking overall organizational competence. Meanwhile, the state and local committees go their own way, supplemented by independent groups, such as MoveOn, and the political wings of advocacy groups such as the Sierra Club. Every four years there is an attempt to patch together a “Party” for the purpose of electing a Democratic president. 

It’s clear that to be competitive in 2008 Democrats need to take in these five lessons: find authentic candidates who run as economic populists, embrace affinity groups as well as identity groups, and wage a permanent campaign with a real national party—one that provide a substantial infrastructure that supports precincts in every state. In other words, Democrats have to learn to work smart. 





Tuesday December 28, 2004

Normal Hours Resumed 

After a week of money-saving closures, the front counter at the city Public Safety Center resumed normal hours today (Tuesday). 


Carjack, Rape 

Police are investigating the carjacking and rape of woman who was abducted at the corner of San Pablo and Ashby avenues shortly after midnight on Dec. 20. 

The woman was forced into the back seat of her car and taken to an unknown location where she was sexually assaulted, said Berkeley Police spokesperson Officer Joe Okies. 

The suspects then fled with the woman’s car. 


Fence Fire 

Police responded to an arson report in the 1300 block of Neilsen Street at 4:40 a.m. Dec. 21. When they arrived, they found that the property owner had already extinguished the blaze, which had consumed part of a fence. 


Stabbing Suspect Booked 

Officers arrested a 46-year-old woman on charges of assault with a deadly weapon after she allegedly stabbed a 30-year-old woman in the arm at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 21. 

The incident occurred in the 1500 block of Tyler Street, said Officer Okies. 


Bottle Bashing Bust 

When a 54-year-old Berkeley man arrived at a hospital emergency room later on Dec. 21 suffering from a head wound, he told a nurse that an acquaintance had thrown a bottle at him. 

The nurse called police, and in the ensuing investigation arrested a 46-year-old man on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. 


Abuse Arrest 

Police arrested a 25-year-old man for child abuse late in the afternoon of the Dec. 21 after receiving a report of an incident at the Habitot Children’s Museum in the basement of the Shattuck Hotel Building. 


Brick Basher Sought 

A South Berkeley woman called police just after 9 p.m. on Dec. 21 to report that her spouse had been struck in the head with a brick after he told a young man he was tired of having him hang out in the area, near the corner of Harmon and Idaho streets. 


Gas Station Robbed 

A husky young man with a gun walked into a gas station at 1250 University Ave. just after 9 p.m. Thursday and demanded cash. 

The station attendant complied, and the bandit fled with his loot. 


Auto Arsonist 

A felon armed with a knife and a flare walked up to a car parked in the 2900 block of Oak Knoll Terrace Friday morning, slashed a hole in the cloth convertible top and dropped the flare inside. 

Police have no description of the arsonist. 


Scrooge Strikes 

A Christmas Eve Scrooge did a dastardly deed in the 1300 block of 67th Street sometime before 9 a.m. on Friday, making off with various Christmas decorations, including three seven-foot-high reindeer. 


Jewel Heist Reported 

A 55-year-old Berkeley woman called police Friday afternoon to report that she been burglarized of jewelry worth $23,000. 


Yuletide Fracas 

An Elmwood Christmas morning dustup between two brothers ended with battery arrests for both. 

Officers were summoned to a home near the corner of Russell and Piedmont streets, where they found the pair, ages 65 and 56, still angry and unwilling to yield. 

They were hauled off to the city cooler to contemplate their lack of Christmas spirit. 


Harried Krishnas 

Berkeley Police were summoned to the Krishna Temple at 2334 Stuart St. Sunday afternoon after a man walked into the building and refused to leave. 

When temple members tried to escort him out of the building, a fracas broke out in the kitchen. 

Temple members said the 43-year-old intruder battled their attempts at eviction, throwing cookware and otherwise disrupting their culinary scene. 

Police booked the man on suspicion of battery and malicious mischief.”

Democracy Derailed On KPFA Board By BRIAN EDWARDS-TIEKERT Commentary

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Two weeks ago I was elected to KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB) with 43 percent of the KPFA staff’s first-place votes—more than twice what any other candidate received—in an election that, though unquestionably flawed, had the second-highest staff turnout in the five-station Pacifica Network. This Saturday, at what was to be the first meeting of the newly-constituted LSB, I was kept from assuming my position by what I believe to be an illegal move by the majority faction of the old LSB.  

Here’s what happened:  

Miguel Molina, who was serving as a staff representative on the old board, introduced a proposal requesting a re-vote in the staff election on the grounds that he lost his bid for re-election by a small margin (roughly 1.3 votes) and at least two of his colleagues had not received ballots. The issue was not on that meeting’s agenda, nor had Molina’s appeal been distributed to Board members ahead of time, as is customary. 

Carol Spooner, a listener-elected representative, amended the resolution to prevent any of the newly-elected staff representatives from being seated on the board—and keep the old staff representatives in place—until the appeal had received an official ruling by Pacifica’s National Elections Supervisor. As there is no longer a Pacifica National Elections Supervisor (his position has ended and will not be filled until the next election two years from now)—that could be a very long time. 

The motion passed, 11 to 10, in a vote along party lines established some eight months ago during a contentious fight over changing the timeslot of Democracy Now! Every staff representative except Molina voted against it. 

The net result? The winning faction in that vote held onto a majority it would have lost had the newly elected staff representatives been installed, replacing Molina. So much for democracy: The majority faction of the old board effectively chose its own successor. 

The LSB continued to conduct business for some three hours after that vote—with the old staff representatives still in place. If the issue is not resolved by the first week of January, they will elect the national directors of the Pacifica Foundation.  

The move appears to be a violation of Pacifica’s bylaws, which stipulate that Pacifica’s National Elections Supervisor is responsible for certifying the fairness of the election—which he did—and do not give the Local Station Boards any power to adjudicate disputes in their own elections. The bylaws also require that newly elected members of the Local Station Board take their seats in the December meeting. 

This leaves me deeply concerned that the board as presently constituted is an illegal entity, and its activities as such leave the station open to costly and damaging litigation.  

I encourage you to bring any concerns you may have directly to the next meeting of the Local Station Board, which is scheduled for Sunday, January 9, at a yet-to-be-determined location that will be posted at www.kpfa.org/lsb. 

Meanwhile, if you wish to receive updates on further developments, you can subscribe to an announcement list I’ve set up: Send an e-mail to KPFA-LSB-INFO-subscribe@topica.com; you can also visit the blog I’ve set up at http://kpfa-info.blogspot.com. 


Brian Edwards-Tiekert covers the Environmental Justice Beat for KPFA’s News Department; his freelance work airs on the nationally-syndicated programs Making Contact and Free Speech Radio News.

First of its Kind Egyptian Protest Signals Hope For Democracy By SHADI HAMID Commentary

Pacific News Service
Tuesday December 28, 2004

It was a rare moment in modern Arab political history. Earlier this month in Egypt, 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the country’s Supreme Judicial Court, protesting President Hosni Mubarak’s plans to run for a fifth six-year term.  

It was the first explicitly anti-Mubarak rally ever, in a region of the world so resistant to change. The 76-year-old leader has been in power for nearly a quarter-century.  

Protesters stood in solemn defiance, with yellow stickers stuck to their mouths that read “enough.”  

“This is a historic protest,” said protester Magdi Ahmed Hussein. “We’ve entered a new phase.”  

Some might ask why only 1,000 people turned out in a bustling metropolis of more than 15 million. But demonstrations, rallies, and protests -- unless they have received prior government approval -- are banned in Egypt, where Emergency Laws have been in effect since 1981. Public expressions of anger are rare, though the government and the ruling party are widely disliked.  

The protest is cause for hope. But it would be dangerous to see this as a harbinger of great things to come. This is not Ukraine, where hundreds of thousands rallied in the icy cold in jubilant solidarity. In much of the Middle East, the status quo maintains its authoritarian grip.  

If anything will break the status quo, it is the imposing shadow of 9/11. There is a new global consensus that change in the Arab world is no longer a luxury, but an imperative of the highest order. The United States has realized, in its own clumsy way, that promoting democracy is in keeping with not only its ideals, but also its national strategic interest. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that brutal Arab dictatorships have created a poisonous atmosphere conducive to the rise of extremist violence. In other words, the war on terrorism and the struggle for greater democracy are two sides of the same coin.  

Today, the United States has the opportunity to prove in practice its rhetorical commitment to the promotion of democracy in one of the most undemocratic region in the world. This is, of course, complicated by the fact that Mubarak, like so many other Arab strongmen, is supported by America, to the tune of more than $2 billion in annual economic and military aid. But the very fact that Washington provides Egypt with so much aid gives America the leverage needed to exert diplomatic pressure on Mubarak’s regime in the months ahead.  

Those who care for the future of democracy, in both Egypt and America, must capitalize on this small but significant opening. Real political reform will only come about with a potent combination of external prodding from the United States and the European Union on one hand, and internal pressure from pro-democracy secularists, nationalists and Islamists on the other.  

Hopes for greater democracy in the Arab world have sprung up before, only to be crushed. Dr. Saad Eddine Ibrahim, a noted Egyptian activist, said in 1989 that there were “beginnings of democratic transformation” in the Arab world and that Egypt was “on the road to democracy.” More than a decade later he was languishing in the notorious Tura prison, home to countless Egyptian dissidents. Ibrahim was released in early 2003, due partly to pressure from Washington.  

I spoke with Dr. Ibrahim—a former professor of mine and as sprightly as ever despite his declining health—a few days ago at a conference in Amman, Jordan. He still holds his indefatigable belief in Egypt’s potential for change.  

The Arab world is frequently rocked by alternating currents of hope and despair. Yet today, something different is in the air. For those of us who have watched the dreams of a proud and resourceful people shattered time and again, we hold on, ever so tightly and now with renewed vigor, to the belief that a new, democratic Egypt will one day come about.  


Shadi Hamid, an Egyptian-American, has lived and traveled throughout the Arab world. He is currently a Fulbright Fellow, conducting research on democratization and political Islam in Amman, Jordan.

Winter in California By STEVE KOPPMAN Commentary

Tuesday December 28, 2004

The saddest thing about California has to be its pathetic winters. Winter here is virtually meaningless. Whatever we may say about the East, at least there winter meant something: Crashing to the ground on ice-coated sidewalks, skidding happily across tractionless freeways, freezing to faintness as the bitter early morning cold cut off circulation to fingers and toes, friends calling from apartment windows before dropping snowballs in our faces, long hard afternoons of snow shoveling, Santa Claus hurtling through the slush in a one-horse open sleigh to Grandmother’s house to munch potato latkes. Like everything back East, there was so much to relish in retrospect, no matter how hard it may have been to take at the time. 

Our kids grow up on the West Coast without any of these unforgettable winter memories. To properly winterize our posterity, we need to develop, out of our own unique regional ecology, a wintry mystique appropriate to the stubbornly temperate clime in which we find ourselves. 

Webster’s, in fact, tells us the word “winter” comes from the root “to make wet,” NOT “to make cold.” Did Webster live on the West Coast? What a watershed this can be in California history, freeing us once and for all from the clutches of Eastern cultural imperialism. 

There’s no reason at all, for example, why Santa Claus should dash through snow, pulled by a bunch of stupid reindeer. Just like us, the land that gave birth to Christmas has no snow nor reindeer either. 

California Santa will wear a bright Gortex rainsuit and red and green flip-flops and hold an umbrella proudly aloft as he’s dragged through the wet winter night by a team of dogs in matching yellow rainhats. In the background, carolers will sing the great Irving Berlin song: 


I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas 

Like I remember in my brain 

Where treetops glisten and children listen 

To hear the foghorns in the rain 


I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas 

With every Christmas card I get 

May your days be merry, and yet 

May all your Christmases be wet. 


What glistening memories might the season evoke in our properly winterized descendants? Rainbows and rainbow trout, rain checks and water polo, buses racing through giant gutter puddles, merrily scattering passers-by, boots squeaking as they dash through the downpour in panicked flight; driving through pea-soup fog, water-fights with friends, wading meets and puddle poker, water witches and water nymphs, waterbugs and water rats, watermelons, water chestnuts and watercress. December showers bring March flowers. Children going door to door, salamanders in hand, offering to drain their neighbors’ walks, measuring the rainfall for school with their trusty buckets and rain gauges. 

And picture your classic California family on their yearly trek to a Christmas tree farm to chop down their own tree. Their rainshoes echo as they carry their recently claimed evergreen, bedecked already with brightly colored ornaments and beads of drizzle. As they emerge one by one out of the thick mist, a deep familiar voice intones: 


Chestnuts roasting in the open fog 

Rob Rain dripping on your den 

Yuletide carols sung by choirs 

Folks dressed up like firemen . . . 


Steve Koppman is an Oakland resident.

S.F. Chamber Orchestra Rings in the New Year With a Free Concert By IRA STEINGROOT

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 28, 2004

If you think being locked in an aluminum shack on a hot afternoon with a life insurance salesman sounds more interesting than celebrating New Year’s Eve by going to a classical music concert, you don’t know Benjamin Simon, the music director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. He wants people to feel that “Classical music is fun, accessible and not stuffy.” 

Judging by the first recording this group made live two years ago, a lyrical medley of classical and neo-classical pieces by Mozart, Haydn and Stravinsky along with some of Astor Piazolla’s Nuevo Tango compositions, this orchestra is not just fun for the audience, but fun for the players as well.  

Where jazz is free, loose, improvised, classical music requires great precision in performance. That’s the point of having a conductor, to make sure that everyone stays together. But precision alone does not make a great performance. Artur Rubinstein used to talk about freedom in handling the classics, but this is usually more honored in the breach than in the observance. 

Too often, string sections seem satisfied with exact mechanical reproduction. You won’t find mere metronomic playing on these live performances. The musicians not only play together, they seem to breathe together, indeed even achieving a kind of classical swing—and not just on the tangos. There is the occasional error, but they are the errors of passionate, not inept, performance.  

It was Adrian Sunshine who formed the original San Francisco Chamber Orchestra back in 1952 using players from the San Francisco Symphony, which in those days was a part-time gig. When he left to live and work in Europe in 1958, Edgar Braun, who’d been guest conductor since 1955, picked up the baton and held on to it until his retirement in 2002. He championed the free concerts that have been the hallmark of this group ever since. 

That is when violist Benjamin Simon took over as director. Lying down where all the ladders start, he re-created the ensemble with entirely new players from the best orchestras and chamber groups in Northern California, but continued Braun’s practice of not charging for the music. 

Well-known and critically acclaimed for his work with the New World and Stanford String Quartets; Orpheus, Los Angeles and New Century Chamber Orchestras; and Buffalo, Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras; Simon has also shown a genius for music education. He is currently music director of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra, a top Bay Area youth orchestra. When he was the director of Berkeley’s Crowden School, he established the Sundays at Four chamber music series at the school. The Crowden School is deservedly esteemed for making the playing of an instrument as integral to learning as the reading of Shakespeare.  

This New Year’s Eve, for the twentieth year in a row, the Orchestra kicks off its new season with a free concert in Berkeley. In fact, remarkably, all of their concerts are free. The concerts are subsidized by membership and grants. This year’s event is particularly to be recommended for its presentation of the world premiere of Harold Meltzer’s Concerto for Two Bassoons, especially commissioned for internationally reknowned bassoonist Peter Kolkay. He will be joined by Rufus Olivier, principal bassoonist of the San Francisco Opera and Ballet. Simon told me he had just received the final draft of the fifth and last movement of the piece which he described as beautiful and accessible.  

Also on the program is the Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major (K.364), an early Mozart masterpiece from his 23rd year, featuring violinist David Abel and violist Lesley Robertson. The back and forth movement and weaving interplay between the “male” violin and the “female” viola is one of the most ravishing achievements of any music in the world. 

Two pieces by Luigi Boccherini (1743-1805), a cellist and follower of Haydn, round out the set. The Quintet for Oboe and String Quartet (G.431) should give some idea of his light touch with classical concepts. The Sinfonia in D minor (G.506), known as “from the house of the devil,” is noteworthy for its recasting of a movement from Gluck’s ballet Don Juan, which Gluck also used as the Dance of the Furies in the opera Orphée. Boccherini’s symphony gains substance from his use of Gluck’s material which is full of diminished fifths, that is, slightly discordant tritones, the so-called devil’s interval. All in all, with two bassoons, two Boccherini pieces and a concerto for two strings, this should be a delightful way to open the double-faced doors of Janus on New Year’s Eve. 


Fractal Video Adds Berkeley Touch to Unique Works for Unique Artists By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 28, 2004

Chris Odell’s created the perfect job. 

As proprietor of Fractal Video, the 28-year-old techie gets to hang around musicians, performance artists and other colorful folk—and he gets paid for his time. 

Thanks to the never-ending cornucopia of modern technology, he can do with a small camera, a computer and a healthy investment of his own time what once was accessible only to those with considerable cash, bulky equipment and endless labor. 

“I’ve done videos for fire-breathers, contortionists and other strange, oddball and unlikely acts who probably wouldn’t have been able to afford them” had they gone to other, more conventional producers, Odell said. 

“I could’ve gone after the commercial market, but that just isn’t us,” he said. “I like our clients quite a bit.” 

Odell grew up in Santa Barbara, where he learned the basics of video production in high school. “They wanted to make shows about football,” he said. 

But instead, he created his own show, posing questions to students and capturing their answers. 

“It aired after the student bulletins, but sometimes it was a little too controversial,” he recalled. 

He tested out of high school and began working with Macintosh commuters. He came to the Bay Area to take an editing course at the University of San Francisco and liked what he saw. 

Early jobs included stints as a production assistant for local cable companies and shooting surgeries for a medical company. 

He got the idea for his own company when he realized “there were enough artists and unlikely acts in the area who could use videos.” 

Right about the time he was planning his career change, Apple Computers released a piece of video editing software called Final Cut Pro, which allowed a Mac user to perform full-scale editing operations on one machine. 

The software is so sophisticated that Hollywood studios are using it. “They used it to edit Cold Mountain,” Odell said. 

His initial clientele was limited to artists and musicians, but he and partner Peter Hyoguchi have since expanded to local business, producing streaming video segments for websites. 

And the few weddings he’s shot haven’t been exactly traditional either. 

“In the last one, the father came dressed up as Darth Vader, and about half the people were in costumes,” he said. 

Odell will work for corporate clients, but only if he likes what they’re doing and they treat their employees responsibly. 

His highest-profile client is Inman Real Estate News, for whom he has been shooting a series of documentaries the firm hopes to sell as a made-for-cable series. 

The series will show how people live in various surroundings. For one of the first segments, he focused on an old brewery in Los Angeles that had been divvied up into living quarters. A future shoot might focus on a New York penthouse, another on low-income housing. 

He also does occasional work for a Santa Barbara company that’s developed a device that concentrates oxygen from the air, relieving people with serious breathing problems from the need to cart around bulky oxygen tanks. 

“It’s a good company, I like the people and they’re doing good things. They’re not out there clubbing baby seals,” he said, smiling. 

Another corporate client is Specialties in San Francisco, which produces cookies, breads and sandwiches. 

But most of his clients are typically less strait-laced. 

Consider the Stupid Fun Club, the creation of computer gaming magnate Will Wright, whose series of “Sims” lifestyle simulation creations have captured a healthy share of the market. 

Wright gives money to young techies to develop robotic creations, and Odell produced a series pilot segment about the creation of a self-learning mechanical creation powered by an artificial intelligence program. 

“Right now, they’re doing it for fun,” Odell said, “but who knows what they might come up with?” 

Another client bills himself as The Yo-Yo King, a 400-pound virtuoso of the stringed spinning top who opens his act with Black Sabbath music. 

Then there’s Rubber Boy, a world renowned contortionist. 

Others include: 

• Experimental Dental School, a small rock band Odell describes as “like a cross between Mr. Bungle and the Butthole Surfers.” 

• Atta Boy and Burke, “a couple of white guys who do rap with a rock background.” In another incarnation, Atta Boy is an Albany illustrator who makes toys on the side. 

• Mongoloid, a long-standing and popular Devo cover band who performs the groups hits in identical costumes. 

• Molotov & Felicity, a duo specializing in circus acts featuring flaming dagger and a bed of needles. 

He’s also edited the features of Berkeley underground filmmaker Antero Alli with a small but dedicated following. In addition to creating visually rich videos, Alli has drafted horoscopes for Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown.  

Fractal’s latest venture is in another medium altogether. 

Shortly after the election, Odell walked into the Odeon, a San Francisco bar that’s a favorite hangout for artists. “Everyone was upset about the outcome between Bush and Bush Lite,” he recalled. 

Then he remembered a graphic floated on a German web site and quickly echoed throughout the blogosphere, depicting the “blue” states grafted onto the country to the north, now relabeled “The United States of Canada,” the “red” states now consolidated as “Jesusland.” 

“I though I might cheer my friend up and make a little money at the same time,” he said. 

Odell’s version, printed on a shirt, adds one twist not in the original, the superimposition of the Confederate battle flag over Jesusland. 

For more information on Fractal Video and the shirt, see fractalvideo.com. 

Beauty, Truth and Bibliomania By JUSTICE PUTNAM

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 28, 2004

“Why do you have four books by Bukowski?” She seemed disturbed as she closed The Most Beautiful Woman In Town. 

“I’d have more of his opus,” I answered, “I’m slowly re-building my library. 

“But I don’t understand, you like Bukowski?” 

“Sure,” I responded, a little tentative, not quite understanding her question, “I’ve always been attracted to his writing style. He is very spare.” 

“But Bukowski is a misogynist and you have four of his books!” she pointed at my bookcase. South Of No North, Factotum and Women, plus the one she was returning to the shelf indeed totaled four. 

I thought of all the other books I used to have, lost now from bad love affairs and bad finances. I used to have all of Will and Ariel Durant’s tomes, even a rare, Mansions Of Philosophy. I had all of Jack London’s books and stories. I had all of Cooper’s Leather Stocking Tales. 

I had most of McMurtry’s work from the ‘60s and ‘70s, All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers prominent among them. I had Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poems and stories. I had H.G. Well’s Outline Of History. 

I had everything by Virginia Woolfe and Janet Flanner. I had obscure poems and letters by Gertrude Stein. I had most of Phillip K. Dick, Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. I had most of Clifford D. Simak. I had a first printing of The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre by B. Traven. 

I had everything by Hemingway. I had everything by Orwell, including Down And Out In Paris And London. I had all the works of De Sade and Thackeray. I had a dozen volumes of Eugene Field. I had Dickens and Marlowe. I had Melville, Chaucer, Defoe, Voltaire, Swift, Virgil, Plutarch and Donne. I had all the English translations of Mishima. I had Kobe Abe’s Woman Of The Dunes. 

I had volumes of Dryden, Pope, Shakespeare and Spencer. I had Balzac and Fante. I had Baudelaire and Fitzgerald. I had poems by St John Of The Cross and essays by Annie Dillard. I had all of Henry Miller. I had some of John Rechy. I had volumes of Linda Paston and Marge Piercy. 

I had some of Sharon Olds and all of Jack Kerouac. I had all of Gary Snyder’s work and volumes of Eric Hoffer. I had Kahil Gibran and Rilke. I had Ovid and Nietzsche. I had Berkeley, Hume, Kant and Ghandi. I had Autobiography Of A Yogi. I had the Kama Sutra and the Upanishads. I had The Analects and The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. I had Byron. I had Percy and Mary Shelley. 

I had Ten Days That Shook The World by Jack Reed and I had volumes of Emma Goldman. I had Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and volumes of Faulkner. I had Conscience Of A Conservative by William F. Buckley Jr. and I had The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. 

“I take Bukowski’s work,” I began, though I feared she was having none of it, “to be stories and characters that show us how not to be. He is taking a snapshot of life as it is, in all of its dirt and grime; in its violence, bigotry and selfishness. But I don’t take his life of the gutter milieu to be a blueprint or affirmation of bad behavior.” 

“Oh,” she said, pulling out a volume of the Alexandria Quartet, “you have Durrell. Now this is beautiful.” 


Justice Putnam, a Berkeley poet and songwriter, submitted this piece for our reader contribution issue.

Arts Calendar

Tuesday December 28, 2004



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. 



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 


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 




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.  


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.  



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  

Shotgun Players “Travesties” and Dada Party at 8 p.m. at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $35, reservations required. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Classical celebration dedicated to the memory of Edgar Braun at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Free. 415-248-1640. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

Johnny Steele’s Hilarity Hoedown and Jocularity Jamboree at 9:30 p.m. at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Tickets are $22-$28. 925-798-1300. www.juliamorgan.org 

José Roberto and Friends at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $20-$22. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

New Year’s Eve Balkan Bash with guests Tzvetanka Varimezova, Ivan Varimezov and Kalin Kirlov at Ashkenaz. Cost is $18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

New Year’s Eve Flamenco Fiesta with a traditional Spanish dinner at 9 p.m. at Café de la Paz, 1600 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $65-$95, reservations required. 843- 0662. www.cafedelapaz.net  

Art and Music Salon from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. For details on the event and for tickets see www.CHARISMAfoundation.org 

Bluegrass Gala with High Country at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freight 


The People at 9:30 at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $12 in advance, $15 at the door. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

New Year’s Eve with the Naked Barbies at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

David Jeffrey Fourtet in a New Year’s Eve Party at 10 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Gary Rowe at 6:30 p.m. and Danny Caron and Friends at 9:30 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Kool Kyle, hip hop, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

That 1 Guy at 9 p.m. at Jupiter. Cost is $10. 848-8277. 

Rock ‘N’ Roll Adventure Kids, Sacramento 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. 

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 



“A Cocktail of Glamour and Anarchy” works by Carl Linkhart, Michael Johnstone, David Faulk, Bill Bowers, Gustavo Villareal, Joshua Friewald. Reception from 1 to 4 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. at Ashby. Exhibition runs to Jan. 30. 848-1228. www.giorgigallery.com 


Nepalese Cultural Dance and Music at 5 p.m. at Taset of the Himalayas, 1700 Shattuck Ave. 849-4983. 

Wadi Gad & Jah Bandis at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8-$10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Braziu, Leo Do Cavaco, Compaia at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10-$12. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

The Girlfriend Experience, The Bobbleheads at 9:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $6. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Stereo Blasters, Humanzee, The Dead Bull Fighters at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Nika Rejto Quartet at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Killing the Dream, Go It Alone, Shook Ones, 7 Generations 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. 



“Actors Reading Writers” Celebrating writing through live readings at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. 845-8542, ext. 376. 


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

Songwriters Symposium at 9 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 

Benny Green & Russell Malone at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Thurs. Cost is $10-$14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



The Tanglers at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Two-step and waltz lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Peter Barshay and Jeff Buenz at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 

Benny Green & Russell Malone at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Thurs. Cost is $10-$14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“The Bright River” written and performed by Tim Barsky and the Everyday Ensemble at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. through Jan. 16. Tickets are $12-$35 available from A Traveling Jewish Theater, 415-285-8080. www.atjt.com 


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 


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

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

Whiskey Brothers at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Zero Mass The Warren Teagarden Band, Serene Lakes at 8:30 p.m. at Blakes on Telegraph. Cost is $4. 848-0886. www.blakesontelegraph.com 



“The Bright River” written and performed by Tim Barsky and the Everyday Ensemble at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. through Jan. 16. Tickets are $12-$35 available from A Traveling Jewish Theater, 415-285-8080. www.atjt.com 


Word Beat Reading Series at 7 p.m. with featured readers Clive Matson and Gail Ford at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985.  


Utah Phillips with Bodhi Busik at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Frank Jordans, Carter Tanton, The Proles at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryplough.com 

Eric Swinderman at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.?

Pear Tree Blossoms of White And Red After Cold Nights By RON SULLIVAN

Special to the Planet
Tuesday December 28, 2004

I’d been hearing it all day, as I worked: an odd, low, chuckling call, from somewhere outside my house. Not a bird, or at least none I could remember hearing; a dyspeptic cat? A toy? A really odd phone? A musical instrument, played badly? 

After dinner, I sat down to check my mail and Joe started the dishes. Then I heard a sort of strangled yawp, and a distressed call: “Come out here and tell me if you see this too…?”  

Our kitchen, on the second floor, has a big window that faces the gallery and stairs of the apartment block next door. Strolling calmly along that gallery was a chukar. I uttered my own strangled yawp—and then the chukar chuckled, and I realized what I’d been hearing all day. 

Now, the chukar is by no means native here. There are a couple of feral populations that were stocked for grouse hunters, but the closest I know of is way down around Panoche Valley, a long drive and a bad road from Berkeley. So seeing this big gray-and-tan chicken walking around the fire escape was a bit like seeing, oh, a zebra or a pangolin. It descended the back stairs and strolled around the parking lot, then our garage roof; it didn’t flee when I approached it with a handful of birdseed, but it never let me get closer than 20 or 30 feet either. It finally disappeared somewhere up the street, and I never saw or heard it again. It might have ended up where it might have been meant to, in somebody’s dinner. 

Only in hindsight did I realize I should have escorted the poor wandering bird around the corner to Grant Street, to the row of pyrus trees there. What else could a chukar be doing on the streets of Berkeley? Clearly, this was a partridge looking for his pear tree. 

Yes, there are lots of pear trees in Berkeley, but most of them don’t bear edible fruit. They’re flowering pears. Some of them are flowering right now, in fact, just a few white blossoms along with a sparse scattering of green leaves. Others have turned bright red and deciduous after the series of cold clear nights we’ve had. 

The difference is mostly in the species—Pyrus kawakamii, “evergreen pear” and Pyrus callyreana, which occurs in a bewildering variety of cultivars, the most famous being ‘Bradford.’ For a neat compare-and-contrast, check out the two blocks of Acton Street on both sides of Allston Way. 

There are pears a-plenty all over town, including in gardens. They’re handy to plant because, at least theoretically, they’re small enough to fit under powerlines. PG&E runs a “SafeTree” program that urges people to plant only short trees under powerlines; you can find their reps handing out rulers and erasers and such trinkets at garden shows and sales. They’re entirely correct, of course, in that planting a small tree will save some decidedly ugly and unhealthy pruning to clear the lines, years later; the problem is that evidently some lines are hung so low that you couldn’t count on a rosebush’s being short enough. Between that and the apparent necessity of making every residential lane safe for hugely top-heavy freight trucks, there seems to be less room for anything so gracious and inconveniently alive as a tree in our cities. 

If you have one in your garden, give it a little summer water, watch out for fireblight, and prune out only dead or crossing branches. 

Many flowering pears, especially Bradfords, do have one vice, a tendency to grow branches at narrow angles with included bark—bark that grows into the angle instead of rolling outward at the crotch. This weakens the limb, because it forces it away from the trunk and replaces sound wood besides. That’s why you’ll see older pears (especially ‘Bradfords’) pruning themselves, leaving nasty torn wounds. They generally aren’t big enough to be dangerous to those below, at least. 

I like them anyway. They flower in winter and early spring, when we need encouragement, and/or they sport glossy red foliage, also late in the year, like right now. The leaves are even pretty when they’re scattered on the ground. It’s not litter; it’s confetti! 

Berkeley This Week

Tuesday December 28, 2004


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

Morning Bird Walk Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the end of Tennant Ave. in Bayfront Park in Pinole to see shorebirds. 525-2233. 


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

Red Cross Mobile Blood Drive from 1 to 7 p.m. at St. Mary Magdalen Parish, 2005 Berryman St. 1-800-GIVE-LIFE.  


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

Singing for Your Life, improvised community circlesinging, 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 


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

New Year’s Eve Tea Tasting Learn the culture and natural history of tea. Bring your favorite cup. At 1 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. Fee is $10-$12, registration required. 525-2233. 

New Years Party at 1:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center with romantic songs from Your Hit Parade, with popular musician Toru Saito. 

New Year’s Eve Hike Learn the customs and traditions from around the world on this annual walk at 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop at precisely 4 p.m., (midnight Greenwich Mean Time) at Chabot Space and Science Center, 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland. 336-7300. www.chabotspace.org 


Animal Tracks Search for tracks and traces of animals on a short walk to Jewel Lake. Make a mold of a track to take home and be prepared to meet some mud. Meet at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. For children 8-12 years old, registration required. 525-2233. 

One Special Salamander Salamanders abound in the Nature Area, but what makes a newt so special? Try to find a newt (but leave it here) on a walk through the park rain or shine. At 2 p.m. at the Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“VoterGate: Is Our Democracy at Stake?” A community forum at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar, at Bonita. Donation requested, no one turned away. 528-5403. 

Tea at the Historic Vistorian Cohen Bray Home, 1440 29th Ave, Oakland. Seatings at 1, 2, 3, and 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 and reservations required. 843-2906. www.cohenbrayhouse.info 

Personal Theology Seminar with Sarah Lewis on “A Contemplative Approach to the New Year” at 9:30 a.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302. 


Legacy of Bay Environmental Pioneers Cindy Spring and Sandra Lewis, founders of the Close to Home series, speak on the pioneering work of East Bay Regional Parks, Save the Bay, and Save Mount Diablo, with photos of hills and Bay by Bob Walker and others, at 7 p.m. at at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

National Organization for Women, Oakland/East Bay Chapter meets at 6 p.m. in the Boardroom of the Oakland YWCA, 1515 Webster St. The speaker will be Alexis Reeves who has been called to active duty by the California National Guard. 287-8948. 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group for people 60 years and over meets Mondays at 9:15 a.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. Join at any time. Cost is $2.50 with refreshments. 524-9122. 


Mid-Day Meander on the Carquinez Strait to learn about John Muir’s father-in-law Jack London and “The Octopus” of Frank Norris. Meet at 2:30 p.m. at the Bull Valley Staging Area. 525-2233. 

“AgriCulture: Roots of Resistance in the Midwest” Join Katharine Jolda and Ingrid Evjen-Elias for a reportback of their three-week bicycle trip in the land of corn, soybeans, and Wal-Mart, at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-2220, ext. 233.  

Winter Backcountry Travel Safety and Survival with Mike Kelly of the National Ski Patrol’s search and rescue team at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Training workshop for volunteers interested in helping in Berkeley Public Schools at 7 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. 644-8833. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “New Year’s Revolutions” 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. 



Global Disaster Plan Needed By BECKY O'MALLEY Editorial

Tuesday December 28, 2004

News of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Asia has shocked and scared those of us who live with the knowledge that it could happen here. When 3,000 Americans died suddenly in the World Trade Center, it seemed like an unimaginable number of deaths, but in Southeast Asia 23,000 deaths had been counted by Monday morning, with more to come as information continues to trickle in from remoter regions. For many Berkeley residents who have come here as students and stayed to become citizens, the fate of friends and family members back home caused immediate anxiety. Others of us have made friends through our travels to these countries and are worried about them now. Former Berkeleyans have settled in the affected countries, too—a good friend now lives in Bangkok, but often goes to beach resorts for vacations, and we haven’t heard from him yet. We heard from another friend who was on an island off the coast of Thailand that she was safe because she was on the landward side of the island, and we didn’t even know she’d gone there for a vacation until she e-mailed that she was all right.  

It’s not the first time that a disaster of this scale has struck somewhere in the world in our lifetime, but it’s possibly the first time that the new kinds of media which now criss-cross the globe have brought the disaster home with such immediacy. CNN’s web site, just one of many, offers news stories, maps, videos of victims and even e-mail accounts sent directly from people on the scene—just regular people, not reporters. We know more about this event two days later than we did about what was happening in Santa Cruz two days after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.  

Scientific pundits are already saying that a decent warning system for the Indian Ocean, similar to the one which has been in place for the Pacific for the last 50 years, could have alerted many shoreline residents to the impending tsunami far enough in advance to allow them to seek high ground. According to a report in The Scotsman newspaper in Britain early Monday, Commonwealth Secretary General Don McKinnon has called for talks on creating a global early-warning system. New Zealand, his home country, has been protected for many years by such a plan. Local leaders in the affected area have said that the cost would be prohibitive for their individual countries, some of them very poor, and that they were caught off-guard because tsunamis are relatively rare in the Indian Ocean.  

This is why it’s crucial to create a new meaning for the word “globalization”, which has developed needlessly negative connotations. Dealing with risks like tsunamis, global warming, ocean depletion and other world-wide problems is simply impossible with the new nationalism which the President of the United States has been pushing throughout his term in office. We need to learn how to globalize risk, so that sub-sets of humans are not left to go it alone just because they happen to have been born in the wrong country. Developed countries like Japan, New Zealand and the United States have learned a lot about how to prevent needless loss of life in natural disasters, and their know-how should become the common property of humanity.  

The United States’ go-it-alone attitude in the international arena has had disastrous consequences for people in Afghanistan and Iraq, where we’ve made more havoc in our ham-handed attempts to help. International cooperation is what’s needed, especially when it’s a question of proactive efforts to prevent excess damage from natural disasters. It would be good if the response around the world to this most recent catastrophe could serve as a catalyst to developing a world-wide system to extend warnings equally to all threatened countries regardless of whether they’re rich or poor. 


—Becky O’Malley