How many Japanese city councilmembers can fit in a Berkeley City Hall elevator?
Apparently, more than the elevator is able to handle.
Approximately 15 members of a friendship delegation from city councils in Japan crowded into one of the Civic Center elevators on their way to a meeting with Mayor Bates and other city representatives Thursday—and promptly became trapped, as the elevator refused to budge and the doors would not open.
Fire Department personnel and an elevator maintenance technician were called to the scene and freed the councilmembers after several minutes.
A smaller group of about 10, who had ridden the other elevator without incident, exchanged greetings and gifts with Mayor Bates and asked questions about Berkeley’s municipal government and city services, unaware that their colleagues were trapped.
Several members of the mayor’s office searched City Hall for the missing councilors without success. After about 15 minutes, Vicky Liu, an assistant to the mayor who was with the group in the stuck elevator, used a Japanese delegate’s cellphone to place a call from inside the elevator, via Japan, to the Civic Center front desk, where she spoke with Mayor Bates.
Upon being freed, the councilors were welcomed to a conference room by city personnel, where they were provided drinking water and a moment to collect themselves before being whisked off by bus to San Francisco International Airport for departure to Japan in less than an hour. It was not known at press time whether the group made the flight.
An elevator maintenance technician at the scene said the likely cause of the problem was excess weight from too many passengers.
Steve Freedkin is chairperson of the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission, and has offered to visit the Japanese councilmembers’ cities next month and reciprocate by riding in their worst elevators.›