Full Text

Lee Amosslee: Sunday’s Storm Surge
          Sunday’s storm produced a water geyser about six-feet high at Aquatic Park. The high water runoff from the late morning downpour combined with a six-foot-high tide at 12:42 p.m. to create the geyser from the creek culvert on the Bay Street approach to I-80. The storm also caused numerous power outages across the region, according to a PG&E spokesperson..
Lee Amosslee: Sunday’s Storm Surge Sunday’s storm produced a water geyser about six-feet high at Aquatic Park. The high water runoff from the late morning downpour combined with a six-foot-high tide at 12:42 p.m. to create the geyser from the creek culvert on the Bay Street approach to I-80. The storm also caused numerous power outages across the region, according to a PG&E spokesperson..


UC Regents Address Compensation Issue By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The UC Board of Regents moved this week to try to stem the bleeding in public confidence over its secret employee compensation packages. 

The board announced Monday the creation of a permanent Regents’ committee on compensation, initiating an independent audit going back 10 years and releasing the names of business, government, media, and education community members of a task force previously recommended by UC President Robert Dynes to look into the compensation issue. 

Both the task force and the auditors will report directly to the regents. 

“The regents recognize the University of California’s unique public trust,” Regents’ Chair Gerald Parsky said in a released statement. “While UC must maintain its ability to compete with top universities across the nation for outstanding researchers, teachers and administrators, we must do so in ways that are transparent and understandable to the public. These actions set us on the road to achieving those objectives.” 

The crisis began in mid-November after a series of articles appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle charging that many highly paid university employees were getting additional compensation packages not publicly reported by the university. 

The Chronicle reported that UC employees “received a total of $871 million in bonuses, administrative stipends, relocation packages and other forms of cash compensation last fiscal year,” with $599 million in such “extra compensation” going to 8,500 employees last year “who each got at least $20,000 over their regular salaries.” 

In response, a coalition of UC Berkeley and UCLA professors began circulating petitions calling for an independent investigation into the high-end compensation packages. 

In a telephone press conference Monday, Parsky said that the regents were “committed to public access to and awareness of all of the regents’ decision-making actions.” 

Parsky said the regents’ actions were designed to look both backwards and forwards, with the independent audit looking to see if the university has followed policy in compensation matters over the last 10 years, the task force reviewing present compensation policies and making recommendations for proposed changes, and the permanent regents compensation committee providing ongoing oversight. 

UC President Dynes said that he was “in full concurrence” with the regents’ actions, saying that while the university “must remain competitive” on the issue of salaries and compensation, “we are a public institution and a public trust. When there is less than total public confidence, we must regain total public confidence.” 

Dynes has already initiated an internal review by the university auditor of university academic hiring practices. 

As a first step in addressing the compensation problem, the regents have authorized a task force co-chaired by former California state Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg and Regent Joanne Kozberg to “review the current regents’ compensation policies and practices for faculty and senior managers, and recommend appropriate changes, if needed,” as well as to “review current disclosure policies and practices, and recommend appropriate changes to achieve the university’s responsibilities as a public institution while also protecting the personal privacy rights of university employees as required by law.” 

The task force was recommended last month by President Dynes. 

Named as additional task force members were former California State Senate and Assembly member Dede Alpert, UC Academic Council Chair Clifford Brunk, University of Michigan president emeritus James J. Duderstadt, Apple Oaks Partners, LLC managing partner B. Kipling (Kip) Hagopian, former San Jose Mercury News publisher Jay T. Harris, UC Regent Monica C. Lozano, and National Association of College and University Business Officers CEO and former Cornell University senior vice president James E. Morley, Jr. 

Last month, UC Berkeley Education and Public Policy Professor Bruce Fuller, one of the leaders of the professors’ petition movement calling for an independent investigation into the secret compensation packages, had said that task force co-chair Robert Hertzberg had asked the protesting professors to make recommendations to the task force, though Fuller said Hertzberg had not committed himself to placing any of those recommended names on the panel. 

Asked during this week’s press conference if the professors had made any recommendations or if any of those recommendations were named, task force co-chair Joanne Kozberg said that regents had held conversations with Fuller to “discuss the qualities of the persons that should appear on the task force,” and specifically noted that Academic Council Chair Brunk had been named to represent the professors’ interests. 

Fuller could not be reached for comment for this article. 

Parsky said that the independent audit of the university’s compensation practices over the past ten years will be handled by a special team from the university’s existing auditors, Price Waterhouse. 

In announcing the creation of a permanent regents compensation committee, Parsky said, “Committees on compensation issues are standard practice on most corporate and non-profit boards. It is our fiduciary responsibility to provide the same level of scrutiny and oversight over compensation matters at the University of California.” 




Bates Began Drive to Build Transit Villages By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The plans for a transit village development for the west parking lot of the Ashby BART station owe a lot to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. Bates could rightly be called the father of the transit village, thanks to legislation he authored that was passed in California eleven years ago. 

The decade from 1980 to 1990 had seen a significant decline in the use of mass transit in all California metropolitan areas. AB 3121, the Transit Village Development Planning Act of 1994, created transit village development districts that include all land within a quarter-mile of an existing transit station. 

Designed to offer incentives for the use of public transportation and to create more affordable housing in inner cities, transit villages have blossomed across the country, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development played a major role in promoting the developments.  

Bates’s legislation requires a city or county planning agency to design the neighborhood centered around the mass transit facility so that “residents, workers, shoppers, and others find it convenient to patronize transit.” 

As outlined in his legislation, such plans should include: 

• A mix of housing types, including apartments, within the planning district. 

• Other land use, including a retail district oriented to the transit station and community, including daycare and libraries. 

• Attractively designed pedestrian and bicycle access to the transit district. 

• Rail transit that encourages intermodal services—that is, bus or paratransit to rail, etc.—rather than single-occupancy cars. 

• Demonstrable public benefits that include 13 specific findings, later described as conditions of blight. 

The categories include relief of traffic congestion, improvement of air quality, increased affordable housing stock, redevelopment of blighted or marginal inner-city neighborhoods, live-travel options for “transit-needy” groups, promotion of infill development and preservation of natural resources, promotion of a safe, attractive pedestrian-friendly neighborhood around stations, reduced need for more travel by providing goods and services at the station, promotion of job opportunities, cost savings through use of existing infrastructure, increased sales and property taxes, and reduced energy consumption. 

The need for all 13 findings was reduced in subsequent legislation in 2004 by former Assemblymember John Dutra (D-Fremont) to a requirement that only five of the 13 findings were needed to create a district. 

Transit villages created under the older, stricter law have been created in many California metropolitan areas, the East Bay included. Oakland’s Fruitvale Village is the most prominent example. 

Construction of the Richmond Transit Village is already partially complete, with 231 units of housing already built and another 300 planned. Construction on a new transit station to serve BART, Amtrak and AC Transit began on Oct. 28. 


Spousal support 

Former Berkeley Mayor Loni Hancock, Bates’s spouse and the current occupant of his old Assembly seat, is another major supporter of transit villages. 

Her Transit Village Development Planning Act, strongly supported by BART and AC Transit, becomes law with the dawn of the new year. 

While previously the creation of a transit village required the development of a specific plan by the city or county government offering the proposal, Hancock’s AB 691 changes the equation. 

Until terms of her legislation come into effect, local planning commissions can designate existing specific and redevelopment plans as plans for new transit villages by holding a noticed public hearing, followed by another hearing and vote by the city council or county board of supervisors. 

That provision was subject to criticism by the legislative analyst for the Senate Rules Committee, who noted that by short-cutting the planning process, “this bill limits public participation. While residents and landowners had a chance to participate in the adoption of the specific plan or redevelopment plan, they had no way of knowing that the plan would become a transit village plan.” 

The city does have a specific plan which includes the proposed transit village district—the South Shattuck Strategic Plan of 1997. 


Stalled legislation 

To those existing categories, one bill now stalled in the state legislature would have added another category of blight—lack of high density development within the district. 

That same proposal would have also broadened the definition and the geographical scope of the surrounding districts. 

The measure, Senate 521 California state Sen. Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch), appears to be headed for legislative limbo, said an aide to the senator. 

Under the terms of SB 521, transit villages could also become redevelopment areas if the area they encompass meet statutory findings of blight including such factors as residential overcrowding, high crime rates, excessive numbers of bars, liquor stores and “adult” businesses, lack of neighborhood-serving commercial business and high business vacancy rates. 

Mark Stivers, a Torlakson aide, said that while the bill is still technically alive, he doubts that the senator will bring it up for a vote. 

Because the tax-increment funding used to fund redevelopment projects means a loss of revenues to county governments, counties have registered strong opposition. 

Torlakson had resolved one key source of opposition: that by designation as redevelopment districts, transit villages would be granted the controversial powers of eminent domain. 

“He amended the bill so that the transit village districts wouldn’t have the power,” Stivers said. 

Supporters of the bill included BART, the Planning and Conservation League, the Bay Area Council and the California chapter of the American Planning Association. 

Another bill stalled in the state legislature, AB 986, was written by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), Dutra’s successor. 

That measure would have required the joint policy of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments to identify and prioritize regional transit oriented development zones in the San Francisco Bay area for submission to the state legislature by Jan. 1, 2007. 


The future 

The City Council last week approved the first step toward making the Ashby BART transit village a reality. Backed by Bates and City Councilmember Max Anderson, a grant application seeking $120,000 planning grant from the California Department of Transportation won the council’s endorsement. 

Funds from the grant would be used to create a community planning process that would lay out the general parameters of the development, which would then be provided to prospective developers interested in bidding on the project._

Peralta Trustees Elect New Officers By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Vista College Construction On Schedule  


The Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees moved into a new era this week with the election of trustee Linda Handy to the position of board president and Bill Withrow as vice president during the trustees’ regular meeting. 

In addition, trustees heard representatives of the Vista College construction project in Berkeley say that the project is on track, and the move to the new building is still scheduled to be made as scheduled at the end of the 2006 spring semester. Vista Project Manager Jeff Gee, vice president of Swinerton Management & Consulting Company said of the project, “It’s been a long journey, but the end is in sight.” 

Handy was unanimously elected to the board presidency to replace Bill Riley in the board’s annual officer elections. Withrow was also unanimously elected to replace Handy as vice president. 

Handy was elected to her trustee position in November 2002 over incumbent Brenda Knight in part because of community fiscal concerns about former Peralta Chancellor Ronald Temple. Following her election, Temple was ousted and replaced by current chancellor Elihu Harris. 

Withrow is part of the four-person trustee freshman class of 2004, which includes trustees Nicky González Yuen, Cy Gulassa, and Marcie Hodge—all elected last November after incumbent trustees chose not to run for re-election. Counting Handy’s 2002 election, that means that five of the seven Peralta trustees have been elected to the board in the past three years. 

These new board members have spearheaded increased fiscal oversight and controls within a district that was plagued with financial embarrassments during the Temple years. 

That increased oversight was reflected last week in Gee’s report to the trustees at last week’s meeting on change orders in the $65.9 million Vista construction project. Such change orders have been a continuing source of board controversy over the past year and has led to a number of new board policies of fiscal control. 

Gee reported that Swinerton had approved $1.09 million of the $2.2 million in change orders submitted by Vista project contractors, and called the change order figure “well within the standard of care within the design and construction industry.” 

Gee said that some of the unapproved $1 million in requested change orders had not been rejected by Swinerton but instead were still under additional review. 

He also said that he expected the total change order figure to end up between $2 million and $2.3 million. He said that the bulk of those change orders—$648,000—had been initiated by the district itself, while only $140,000 had been requested by project contractors. 

Past discussions of Vista construction change orders had often led to long and sometimes rancorous debates among trustees, many of them led by Berkeley trustee Nicky González Yuen, who has been one of the most vocal critics of many of Vista’s past construction change orders. But in a measure of how the temperature over the change order issue has lowered, trustees asked few questions of Gee at last week’s meeting, and Yuen asked none at all. 

Remembering Maybelle Reid Allen By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Maybelle Reid Allen, 85, passed away on Friday, Dec. 9, at her home of 66 years in Oakland, California. A native of Berkeley, California, Mrs. Allen was the descendant of African-American pioneers who migrated to California from the South before the Civil War, and was the 12th of 13 children of Thomas Reid Sr. and Virginia (Jennie) Parker Reid of Berkeley. 

She was the widow of Ernest Allen Sr., the appellant in the 1952-53 legal struggle that desegregated the Oakland Fire Department. Between them, Maybelle and Ernest Allen operated Supreme Market in the East Oakland flatlands, an economic and social anchor in the community for more than 40 years and one of the most successful and beloved Mom & Pop grocery stores in the history of the city. 

Mrs. Allen is survived by one sister, Hazel Huff of Phoenix, Arizona, three children, University of Massachusetts professor Ernest Allen Jr. of Amherst, Massachusetts, author and journalist Bonnie Allen of New York City, Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor of Oakland, eight grandchildren, Malik Allen, Kamili Allen Samms, Antonio Allen, Paloma Allen-Davis, Fonta Allen, Zena Allen, Nile Taylor and Olabayo Allen Taylor, and three great-grandchildren, Aziza Allen, Gerald Polk and Desmond Allen Samms. 

Maybelle Reid Allen was a rock and an inspiration. She will be missed.

Holiday Volunteer Opportunities By Diana Talbert

Tuesday December 20, 2005

For those who like to observe holidays by helping others, the East Bay has traditionally offered a variety of opportunities. Two of the old stand-bys are listed below, but the Planet would like to hear about others by noon on Thursday for a story in our weekend issue. Send details to news@berkeleydailyplanet.com, or call 841-5600, ext. 102. 


St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room needs volunteers from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays, to help in kitchen and serving meals. Located at 675 23rd St., Oakland, between San Pablo Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Call 451-7676 to confirm. Enough volunteers have signed up for Christmas Day but more are needed other days. 

The Salvation Army is in need of toys and clothes for men, women, and children. This is an ongoing need but winter clothes/coats are in particular need now. Drop off at Salvation Army building at 601 Webster at 7th Street, Oakland. Call 451-4514.  

Man Killed on I-80 From Bay City News

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Scott Lofgren, a Berkeley off-duty emergency medical technician, was killed early Sunday morning in Albany after stopping to assist a driver involved in a solo-spinout on Interstate Highway 80, the California Highway Patrol reported. 

Lofgren, 43, had stopped to help Cassady Toles, 29, of San Pablo, who lost control of his 1999 BMW M3 while traveling eastbound on the highway near the Gilman Street exit at 2:50 a.m., the CHP reported. 

The BMW skidded off the highway and collided with a concrete bridge railing on the right-hand shoulder of the freeway. The CHP reported that Lofgren, after checking on the health of Toles, was setting up flares around the crash site when he was struck by another vehicle. 

The driver of that vehicle, 28-year-old Union City resident Danny Jackson Jr., reportedly attempted to slow his car down, but the wet weather caused his 1994 Infiniti Q45 to hydroplane and subsequently hit Lofgren, the CHP reported. 

Jackson’s car careened off the highway, also hitting the BMW and Lofgren’s Ford truck, the CHP reported. 

Lofgren was pronounced dead at around 3:40 a.m. as a result of his injuries, the CHP reported. 

Toles reportedly suffered minor injuries, according to the CHP. 

Though it was determined that Jackson had been drinking alcohol, the CHP reported that he was not under the influence at the time of the crash.


Tuesday December 20, 2005

Bears in the buff 

While technically a police matter, about 30 or so naked UC Berkeley students celebrated finals week with a nude run through the Moffitt Library Friday. The naked sprint has become a tradition at the university. 


Heist foiled 

Even a punch failed to convince a Berkeley woman to surrender her belongings Thursday afternoon in the 2200 block of Channing Way, and the frustrated robber made off by car, said acting Berkeley Police Public Information Officer Shira Warren. 


Gunman gets wallet 

A pair of bandits, one armed with a pistol, pulled their piece on a 23-year-old woman in the 1300 block of Rose Street about 8:15 p.m. Thursday and convinced her to surrender her wallet. 


Tie-dyed bandit 

A bandit in his 40s and wearing a tie-dyed T-shirt robbed a 55-year-old woman in the 1900 block of University Avenue shortly after 8 a.m. Friday. 

He reached into her pocket and extracted a $20 bill before fleeing on foot. 


Another heist 

A strong-arm bandit relieved a woman of her money outside the Wells Fargo branch in the 2900 block of College Avenue at 8:35 p.m. Friday. 


Another heist 

Another bandit relieved a 20-year-old woman of her purse as she walked along the 2000 block of Allston Way just before 1 a.m. Saturday. 


Witness calls 

A citizen who watched the forceful purse-snatch robbery of a 73-year-old Berkeley woman in the 2800 block of San Pablo Avenue called police to report the crime. The suspect had fled by the time officers arrived, said Officer Warren. 


Wallet taken 

The threats made by a menacing young man were enough to convince a Berkeley woman to surrender her wallet Thursday afternoon as she walked along the 2800 block of Benvenue Avenue. 


More threats 

Threats of violence were enough to persuade a 19-year-old woman to surrender her belongings after she was confronted by a 30-something thug in the 2500 block of Parker Street about 9:45 a.m. Sunday. 


BB attack 

A young bicyclist called police shortly after noon Sunday to report that a group of juveniles had shot at him with a BB-gun as he pedaled along the 1400 block of Sacramento Street Sunday. 


Another strong-arm 

A 23-year-old man told police that a strong-arm artist made off with his cash after confronting him in the 2000 block of Shattuck Avenue just before 3:30 p.m. Sunday. 


And another  

A bandit stole the cash of a 25-year-old woman walking in the 1800 block of Hearst Avenue just after 4 p.m. Sunday. 


Hot dog heist 

A 21-year--old woman who had been the victim of a strong-arm robber who took her computer bag and her hot dog in the 2400 block of Warring Street on Dec. 15 waited until Sunday to call police to report the crime. 


Noodle heist 

Some people steal cash, some steal cars, but the bandit who walked into the 7-Eleven at 1501 University Ave. at 11:30 p.m. Sunday was after something else—noodles. 

Not only that, but the 23-year-old bandit managed to get caught, leaving him with embarrassing explanations to offer his colleagues in crimes at the Santa Rita Jail, where noodle robbers lack the cachet of, say, bank robbers.

Fire Department Log By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Berkeley firefighters Monday evening knocked down yet another suspicious fire in the 2900 block of Shattuck Avenue—this time at the Art of Living Center at 2905 Shattuck Ave. 

Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Revilla said the fire started on the outside of the building above a front display window and spread to the structure and into the roof space. 

Flames were quickly extinguished, causing about $15,000 in structural damage, Revilla said. 

Firefighters carefully moved artworks from displays in the front of the building to prevent damage, Revilla said. 

Wheelchairs of Berkeley, located next door at 2911 Shattuck, was struck by an arsonist on Dec. 17. The suspect in that case was arrested near the scene, so Revilla said there is probably no connection between the two fires.

Editorial Cartoon By JUSTIN DEFREITAS

Tuesday December 20, 2005

To view Justin DeFreitas’ latest editorial cartoon, please visit  

www.jfdefreitas.com To search for previous cartoons by date of publication, click on the Daily Planet Archive.


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is amusing to watch the indignant UC professors protesting the larcenous bonus and other compensation packages of the school’s administration. It’s just one group of hogs trying to prevent another group interfering with their “fair share” of the public loot in the hog tray. The guy who actually earns the money these people fight over is again left to watch and pay.  

W. O. Locke 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We settled in South Berkeley in 1969 and have, like our neighbors, struggled against neglect and broken promises, or, worse, threats of well-intentioned “improvements” that would have been more of the same-old-same-old, only worse. 

The most recent assaults, hypocrisy, and betrayals of our neighborhood by some elected officials aided by the few South Berkeley residents allied with them feel like reruns of 36-plus years of outrages enabled by muddle-headed rhetoric and general indifference throughout the rest of Berkeley. 

Nothing, we tell each other, can surprise us anymore. 

But we were pleasantly surprised by the Daily Planet’s Dec. 16 editorial and op-ed pages: Becky O’Malley’s editorial facing Shirley Dean’s commentary, two passionate, eloquent statements of informed, reality-based concern for South Berkeley as—wow!—really a part of Berkeley that matters. 

We are grateful to both writers and to the Daily Planet for its staunch, even heroic, commitment to the hard work of informing us and providing a forum for debate. 

A happy new year and many more to the Daily Planet and all who make it happen. 

Bob and Dorothy Bryant 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

All lights were green for me Wednesday morning. I woke up early and put on a pot of hot water. The fresh green tea is brewed just right today. I can tell it is going to be a great day. Green light. 

The lights remain green as I drop my wife at BART for her ride to work. A quick kiss and she is hurrying off to her new job. Green light.  

I drive over to the bagel shop and pick up my copy of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Green light. 

Sit down to read the latest from Susan Parker. Red light. 

Douglas Fahrendorf 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

What a mean-spirited, stupid, unfunny cartoon you ran Dec. 16! Loni Hancock has been one of our most outstanding legislative representatives in the more than 40 years I’ve lived in Berkeley. She is a hard-working, eloquent, and effective fighter for education, the environment, labor, health services, civil rights, and the other issues that Berkeley citizens care most about. Does she deserve DeFreitas’s ridicule for a perfectly apt anecdote that illustrated both Maudelle Shirek’s longstanding concern about the connection between overuse of salt and high blood pressure and Maudelle’s habit of speaking her mind in any situation? Puhleeeze! 

Zipporah Collins  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The letters objecting to the transit village planned for the Ashby BART parking lot all assume that it would be one huge building or one mega-complex of three-hundred units. This is not necessarily true: The transit village could be designed to look like the sort of traditional neighborhood that was on this site before BART bulldozed it.  

This would mean restoring the traditional street pattern by extending Essex, Prince, and Woolsey streets through the development area, dividing the area of the parking lot into four city blocks that fit in with the surrounding street system.  

These four blocks would have room for maybe 15 small apartment buildings, the same size as the Victorian apartment buildings that were built around Ashby/Adeline and Alcatraz/Adeline a century ago. These apartment buildings should be compatible with the historic architecture of the neighborhood.  

Each building should be designed differently, so the project looks like a traditional neighborhood that was built over time and blends in with the surrounding neighborhood. If all the buildings are designed to look the same, the project will look like a mega-complex that clashes with the surrounding neighborhood.  

Environmentalists support this sort of transit-oriented development because it reduces suburban sprawl and automobile dependency. If it is properly designed, the neighborhood could also support it, because it would replace a large, ugly parking lot with a human-scale neighborhood.  

I hope the developer thinks about how strongly the neighborhood is reacting against the idea of having one mega-complex on this site. I hope he realizes that some of this opposition would disappear if local residents see visualizations of the transit village designed as a traditional human-scale neighborhood that is compatible with its surroundings.  

Charles Siegel 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those who don’t truly understand the “Putz” comment in Harry Gans’ Dec. 16 cartoon to the editor, it must be explained that a schmuck is a schmuck because he can’t help it, a prick is a prick because he wants to be, and a putz is a schmuck who’d like to be a prick. Any other interpretation is either bogus or hokum.  

Adding a medical marijuana dispensary to the ills of west Berkeley is about 360 degrees off the mark. Plus, there are in fact three additional dispensaries uptown, where property values always head toward high C. 

Also, the schmutz of West Berkeley, I believe, carries over into the rest of our fairytale town, born on the prevailing toxic refinery and I-80 winds, no? (This is how Mexican deep thinkers like John Ross say yes, no?) And is Berkeley like a mini L.A. as the air gets trapped below the hills? I’d really like to know what’s in the skies this side of Grizzly Peak.  

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing to express my objection to the planned development of a 40,000-square-foot Safeway store with underground parking and condominium homes on top at 1500 Solano Ave. in Albany. 

This proposed development, which currently houses a 20,000-square-foot Safeway store and 80-space surface parking lot, happens to be on an already busy block of Solano Avenue across from two apartment houses and surrounded by densely settled single-family homes. 

I attended a recent meeting with Safeway’s developers Security Properties, Inc. (from Seattle) who spent less than one day reviewing the planned site. They spoke at length at how bringing in more people and cars would increase our neighborhood’s “vitality.” We are already a vital neighborhood. And our existing vitality would be seriously negatively impacted by an estimated 18-month construction period, the further congestion of street traffic, the increase in the number of residents by 100 or more people (without adequate parking provided for them or their visitors in the proposed garage), and nevermind the presence of a huge, overbearing and outsized store on our very pleasant main shopping street. 

This is not about “affordable” housing or NIMBY whining. It’s about Safeway making even more money regardless of the effects on the surrounding neighborhood. According to their 2005 Fact Book, their five-year goal is to capitalize on their real estate holdings and then provide bonuses to their executives for investments that give them a high rate of return. Thus, selling condos at $300-$600K will definitely provide Safeway’s bosses with a lot of extra pocket change. 

Safeway is already a bad neighbor. Concerns voiced by residents over noise, litter, vandalism and parking have not been addressed over the past decade. Why should Safeway be allowed to build something even bigger, with greater impact on the residents, when it can’t effectively manage its existing property? 

This particular store has been woefully inadequate in serving our neighborhood for several years. The products it carries—especially produce and meat—are not on par with the items available at nearby groceries like Andronico’s and Trader Joe’s. When this issue was brought up at the meeting held with Safeway and the developers in November, Safeway’s representative admitted that this store did not reflect the shopping habits or needs of the surrounding community. Many people at the meeting offered to work with Safeway to rectify this—I personally would welcome a makeover of the existing store, it needs a thorough cleaning and updating of its product lines. However, since November, we’ve heard nothing in return from the corporation. I guess it’s a lot more lucrative for Safeway to build a “big box” store and get juicy real estate bonuses for their executives, than work with what they’ve already got. 

Sarah Baughn 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Re your Dec. 16 story, “Planning Commissioners Tighten Yard Parking Ordinance,” the 1999 revisions to the Zoning Ordinance did not (as city staff claim) ban parking in required yards. Rather, the revisions deliberately clarified an existing ban. The old code defined a yard as open space “unoccupied and unobstructed from the ground upward”; the 1999 revisions added the phrase “by any portion of a building or structure, or by the presence of a parking space.” 

Except in very exceptional circumstances, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) has never allowed parking in required front or rear yards. Staff has yet to offer a single example  

of an approved project that put new parking spaces in those locations except after a public hearing and as would be allowed pursuant to a use permit or administrative use permit under various provisions of the code. 

Also, while ZAB did tell the developer of the “flying house” project at 3045 Shattuck that she would have to find an off-site location for one of the required parking spaces (after neighbors pointed out that she had expanded the building’s footprint so far into the rear yard that there was not enough room left for the three parking spaces, landscaping, and walkways required by the code), it never relented on that issue. Instead, the developer reduced the commercial space from 1,500 to 1,149 square feet by re-labeling a portion of the first floor “owner storage,” allowing staff to waive one parking space under a loophole in the code. 

If neighbors had challenged the 3045 Shattuck permit in court we would likely have won, since the city’s approval of parking in the required rear yard was based on a specious legal argument (statuory construction in the face of clear and unambiguous language in the code). However, had we sued and won, the developer could simply have applied for a use permit to waive one or both of the remaining required parking spaces, making the project even worse for the neighborhood. Since filing suit would have cost at least $20,000, that seemed like a bad investment--especially since, after the ZAB decision, staff returned to enforcing the law as written, meaning that 3045 Shattuck has not set a precedent that would allow future bad projects. 

Robert Lauriston 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

He knows when you are sleeping. 

He knows when you’re awake. 

He knows if your are evil or good; ‘cause you’re in his database. 


We better watch out. 

We better beware. 

He’s taking our freedoms in a fog of fear. 

He’s the Pres-i-dent of the U-ni-ted States. 

Bruce Joffe 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Bush team’s tangled web of deception continues to unravel. Just as Secretary Rice was failing to put back in place the thread of outsourcing suspects to states notorious for legal torture comes the revelation that her boss authorized eavesdropping on hundreds of us. 

Shocking! Shocking! 

The New York Times tagged it “illegal” and “unnecessary.” 

The Los Angeles Times questioned why the president needed secret surveillance when he had the Patriot Act (so-called) and visa versa. 

The Washington Post declared it “gravely dangerous.” 

Our own senior Senator Dianne Feinstein was “astound[ed]” and GOP Senator Specter pronounced it “unacceptable.” 

I find this sample of reactions disingenuous, actually more shocking than the unraveling lies that caused them.   

A child can tell you that occupying the seat of power—initially on account of a single vote by an un-elected supreme—means nothing if you don’t show it. What’s the point of being “king of the hill” if you can’t keep an eye on your subjects? 

Marvin Chachere   

San Pablo  


Column: The Public Eye: The City and UC Berkeley: The Honeymoon is Over By Zelda Bronstein

Tuesday December 20, 2005

After only seven months, the ballyhooed “new partnership” between the City of Berkeley and the University of California appears to have hit the rocks. Last week Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz sent UC Principal Planner Jennifer Lawrence a 19-page letter blasting the ethics and the legality of campus planners’ initial environmental reports on the massive development slated at and around Memorial Stadium. Prepared by Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks, the letter says that the university’s descriptions of the proposed projects—the Student Athlete High Performance Center, the new Law and Business School academic commons, an 845-car garage and the stadium renovation and expansion—are so vague that the city cannot adequately comment on them.  

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Last May the city dropped its lawsuit over UC development and joined the university in an alliance that Chancellor Birgeneau and Mayor Bates hailed as a model for other California communities with UC institutions. Town and gown, they repeatedly assured us, had entered a new era of mutuality and cooperation.  

But this marriage was headed for trouble from the start. As so often happens, the two partners had disregarded some basic incompatibilities and rushed into a relationship that allowed one to dominate. After reading the litigation settlement agreement, you’d think that the university had sued the city, because the city made all the concessions. The council majority essentially surrendered the city’s legal right to plan and regulate development. The mayor has repeatedly contended that, given the university’s exemption from local zoning and planning laws, this is the best deal the city can get. Translation: If we want the university to work with us, we have to play by its rules.  

The problem is that the university’s rules are very different from the city’s. The city is governed by a democratically elected mayor and council who determine Berkeley’s land-use laws and policies based on recommendations from the planning commission, whose members they appoint. University officials, on the other hand, are appointed by and accountable to the Regents, not the public.  

The university is also internally undemocratic. UC administrators generally operate behind closed doors, without public notice or review. City officials, by contrast, are subject to California’s sunshine law, the Brown Act. It’s illegal for a quorum of any legislative or judicial city body to meet or take action in secret or without adequate public notice.  

The Brown Act, however, does not apply to city staff. Legally, staff can and do meet in secret. Consider, then, that the litigation settlement agreement lodges responsibility for preparing the new Downtown Area Plan (DAP) with the city and campus planning directors, instead of where it legally belongs, with the city’s planning commission. Every other area plan—West Berkeley, South Berkeley, Southside and the existing plan for downtown—was drafted by a broadly inclusive stakeholders’ group overseen by a planning commission subcommittee.  

The university’s disdain for open, community-based planning is scarcely news. But in the current push for UC expansion, city staff have also been sidelined. Clearly Phil Kamlarz and Dan Marks hadn’t been briefed, much less consulted, about the stadium area projects. And it’s not just UC officials who’ve left the city’s planning staff out of the loop. Marks and his colleagues have also been bypassed by Mayor Bates.  

E-mails exchanged by city and university staff last summer offer a rare inside glimpse of both UC maneuvering and Bates’ roguish style. On Aug. 23, UC Principal Planner Kerry O’Banion e-mailed Marks concerning the block bounded by Oxford, Center, Shattuck and Addison in downtown Berkeley. The east portion of the site is slated for a new University Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive and underground garage. On the western end, the university is planning a 12-story hotel and convention center to be developed by Richard Friedman’s Carpenter & Co. That portion is privately owned and thus subject to city law. In spring 2004, a citizens’ task force convened by the planning commission formulated guidelines for the hotel and conference center project. (I was a member of that task force.) 

“As you know,” O’Banion wrote to Marks, “we and the prospective hotel developers have been working with SMWM [a design firm] on an ‘urban design study’ of the hotel/museum block….The study will include suggested guidelines based to a considerable extent on the hotel task force report and the city’s downtown guidelines.” Nevertheless, he noted, “the hotel is a very sensitive issue for the city, given its scale and the mayor’s desire to exempt it from the downtown area plan. I would expect the last thing you need is for a study that describes the potential hotel project to be released to the public before you have the politics in place—particularly one that may create the impression the campus is trying to control the agenda….How ‘public’ the study becomes on the city side is an open question at this point, but we definitely do not want to prematurely ‘out’ the project.” 

O’Banion invited Marks to meet and discuss “how to position the study to serve both our interests.”  

Later that day, Marks forwarded O’Banion’s e-mail to Bates’ chief of staff, Cisco de Vries, along with a cover message. Marks wrote: “I don’t know how much contact Tom has with Friedman—but … I’m very concerned that (we) city staff have had no contact with the hotel developer in over a year. I hear thru my grapevine that Tom has told Friedman that he need not get caught up in the Downtown Plan—but I’m not sure that’s possible. I do know that if we want to try and bifurcate the hotel from the DAP, we have a lot of thinking to do—preferably with Friedman…[I]f Tom has made representations to them about process, we probably all do need to sit down together to discuss the process.”  

Apparently the meeting sought by O’Banion did take place, with Bates in attendance. Last week UC Capital Projects senior planner Kevin Hufferd announced that the university is seeking an architect for the UAM/PFA project. As reported by Richard Brenneman in the Dec. 9 Daily Planet: “Hufferd said Carpenter & Co. officials held meetings with Mayor Tom Bates, City Manager Phil Kamlarz and the city planning staff in the fall. He added that the mayor had also offered to place the hotel complex on a fast track for development independent of the Downtown Area Plan process mandated in the settlement of a city suit against the university earlier this year.”  

The first step in getting out of a bad relationship is to face the facts. Here are some hard ones. UC is proceeding with campus expansion exactly as it did before the settlement agreement—unilaterally. Mayor Bates’ shifty, Ron Gonzales-like behavior is reinforcing the university’s presumptuous attitude toward the larger community. Nothing in city law or policy authorizes the Berkeley mayor to cut backroom real estate deals, especially deals that violate city law or policy. The settlement agreement has actually weakened the city’s position vis-à-vis the university. It legally ties the city’s hands, even as it provides both UC administrators and the mayor with rhetorical cover for their imperious ways.  

These realities leave conscientious city officials with only one honorable course: Do what is necessary to nullify the agreement. Then pursue a relationship with UC that genuinely respects the rights and needs of Berkeley citizens. And tell the mayor that for any such relationship to work, he has to play by the rules—the city’s rules.  



Column: Why We Won’t Be Serving Meatballs for Christmas By Susan Parker

Tuesday December 20, 2005

For the past 12 years we have patched together a room for my husband that has become our command center, our corporate headquarters, our personal Ground Zero. This is where Ralph eats, sleeps, works, and goes about his daily business. 

We have gradually installed wheelchair accessible desks, rows of shelving, special lighting and electronic devices. We’ve covered the walls with Ralph’s favorite photographs, filled the shelves with his belongings, strung party lights around the perimeter and prayer flags in the doorways. 

We have added, added, and added but never taken away a single item. Ralph’s room is about to explode. 

Three years ago, a bedsore gone wild resulted in multiple surgeries and a doctor’s firm recommendation that Ralph remain prone as much as possible. 

So Ralph now runs our household while lying on his back in our former living room, a computer keyboard in front of his face, a mouthstick clenched tightly between his teeth. He no longer uses the desks that were custom-built for him when he spent most of his time upright in his wheelchair. Against the walls, makeshift shelves bend under the weight of too much stuff, some of it important, but most of it obsolete or unreachable. Ralph’s room cries out for a visit from Extreme Makeover Home Edition’s demolition crew. 

Recently, I studied his room from every angle. I consulted with friends, family members, and the various handymen who have helped us over the years. Everyone agreed the room needed an overhaul. Several people suggested I visit Ikea, where I could find inexpensive shelving and storage units requiring only a screwdriver and a brain the size of a pea in order to put them together. I possessed the necessary equipment. 

I went to Ikea. It was true, they had a plethora of furnishing options. They also had a lot of other stuff. Before I knew it I had a cartload of what-nots, things I didn’t really need, but wow, were they ever cheap! 

I came home sans shelves. I had to get more measurements. I took Ralph back to Ikea with me. We looked at furniture possibilities together, bought more stuff, but nothing for his room. We decided to tear out the old desks and shelving, paint the walls, and then make our purchases. 

Once we got home I realized we didn’t need half the items we had bought so I went back to Ikea again, this time to return the unnecessary acquisitions. I took a number and waited in line. I watched as a cheerful couple methodically returned the contents of an entire house. Finally, it was my turn. I gave back the too-wide bath mat, the oversized potholders, and the sheets I had bought that were the wrong size. I was too embarrassed to return the frozen Swedish meatballs. 

I came home, plugged the electric heater and oxygen machine into a wall outlet, and unintentionally fried some apparently essential wiring, resulting in major blown circuitry and imminent disaster. Ralph’s computer went down, his specialized mattress deflated, alarms went off, lights flickered, meatballs began to defrost, everything went dark. 

Using a flashlight and cell phone, I called an electrician. Seventeen hundred dollars later, Ralph’s bed re-inflated, the computer buzzed, the refrigerator hummed, lights glowed, TVs spoke. 

That night I dreamt I was sitting in the front seat of an AC Transit bus, destined for Ikea. Suddenly, the driver disappeared. I was the only rider to notice we were speeding out of control toward Emeryville. I struggled to disengage from my seat in order to take over the steering wheel, but I was stuck. I woke up in a cold sweat and had an instant epiphany: I didn’t have to go to Ikea for a fourth visit because we had given all our extra cash to the electrician! We couldn’t afford a can of paint, an Ikea storage system, or a single Swedish meatball. 

I could also forget about Christmas shopping. 

To be perfectly honest, I was relieved.

Bush’s Domestic Spying Is Old News By EARL OFARI HUTCHINSONPacific News Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The big puzzle is why anyone is shocked that President Bush eavesdropped on Americans. The National Security Agency for decades has routinely monitored the phone calls and telegrams of thousands of Americans. The rationale has always been the same, and B ush said it again in defending his spying, that it was done to protect Americans from foreign threat or attack.  

The named targets in the past were Muslim extremists, Communists, peace activists, black radicals, civil rights leaders and drug peddlers. Ev en before President Harry Truman established the NSA in a Cold War era directive in 1952, government cryptologists jumped in the domestic spy hunt with Operation Shamrock. That was a super-secret operation that forced private telegraphic companies to turn over the telegraphic correspondence of Americans to the government.  

The NSA kicked its spy campaign into high gear in the 1960s. The FBI demanded that the NSA monitor antiwar activists, civil rights leaders, and drug dealers. The Senate Select Committe e that investigated government domestic spying in 1976 pried open a tiny public window into the scope of NSA spying. But the agency slammed the window shut fast when it refused to cough up documents to the committee that would tell more about its surveillance of Americans. The NSA claimed that disclosure would compromise national security. The few feeble Congressional attempts over the years to probe NSA domestic spying have gone nowhere. Even though rumors swirled that NSA eyes were riveted on more than a few Americans, Congressional investigators showed no stomach to fight the NSA’s entrenched code of silence.  

There was a huge warning sign in 2002 that government agencies would jump deeper into the domestic spy business. President Bush scrapped the ol d 1970s guidelines that banned FBI spying on domestic organizations. His directive gave the FBI carte blanche authority to spy on and plant agents in churches, mosques and political groups, and ransack the Internet to hunt for potential subversives, witho ut the need or requirement to show probable cause of criminal wrongdoing. The revised Bush administration spy guidelines, along with the anti-terrorist provisions of the Patriot Act, also gave local agents even wider discretion to determine what groups or individuals they can investigate and what tactics they can use to investigate them. The FBI wasted little time in flexing its newfound intelligence muscle, mounting a secret campaign to monitor and harass Iraq war protesters in Washington D.C. and San Fr ancisco in October 2003.  

Another sign that government domestic spying was back in full swing came during Condoleezza Rice’s finger pointing at the FBI in her testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004. Rice blamed the FBI for allegedly failing to foll ow up on its investigation of Al-Qaeda operatives in the United States U.S. prior to the Sept. 11 terror attacks. That increased the clamor for an independent domestic spy agency. FBI Director Robert Mueller made an impassioned plea against a separate age ncy, and the reason was simple. Domestic spying was an established fact that the FBI and the NSA had long been engaged in it.  

The Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the heat Bush administration took for its towering intelligence lapses, gave Bush the excuse t o plunge even deeper into domestic spying. But Bush also recognized that if word got out about NSA domestic snooping, it would ignite a firestorm of protest.  

Fortunately it did. Despite Bush’s weak and self-serving excuse that it thwarted potential terr orist attacks, none of which is verifiable, the Supreme Court, the NSA’s own mandate and past executive orders explicitly bar domestic spying without court authorization. The exception is if there is a grave and imminent terror threat. That’s the shaky le gal dodge that Bush used to justify domestic spying.  

Bush and his defenders discount the monumental threat and damage that spying on Americans poses to civil liberties. But it can’t and shouldn’t be shrugged off. During the debate over the creation of a domestic spy agency in 2002, even proponents recognized the potential threat of such an agency to civil liberties. As a safeguard they recommended that the agency not have expanded wiretap and surveillance powers or law enforcement authority and that the Senate and House intelligence committees have strict oversight over its activities.  

These supposed fail-safe measures were hardly ironclad safeguards against abuses, but they understood that domestic spying is a civil liberties minefield that has blown up and wreaked havoc on American’s lives in the past. The FBI is the prime example. During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover kicked FBI domestic spying into high gear. FBI agents compiled secret dossiers, illegally wiretapped, used undercover plants, and agent provocateurs, sent poison pen letters and staged black bag jobs against black activists and antiwar groups.  

Bush’s claim that domestic spying poses no risk to civil liberties is laughable. Congress should demand that Bush and the NSA come clean on domestic spying, and then promptly end it.  


Earl Ofari Hutchinson is author of "The Crisis of Black and Black."?e

Challenges Ahead for Africa’s First Elected Woman President By DONAL BROWN Pacific News Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

A continent known for its subjugation of women welcomed its first elected female head of state when Liberians voted in Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a Nov. 8 runoff. She will take office on Jan. 16. But despite her hard-won victory, African analysts say, the new president’s greatest challenges may lie ahead. 

Johnson-Sirleaf was in Washington, D.C., last week to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on issues of security and development, and how to undo the country’s legacy of corruption, foreign exploitation and civil war. Johnson-Sirleaf has already met with officials of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in New York.  

Johnson-Sirleaf’s opponent, 39-year-old retired world-class soccer player George Weah, has refused to accept the election results and has declared himself the winner of the runoff. A coup attempt has already been put down. And while Johnson-Sirleaf is in Washington, she must rely heavily on the 15,000 troops of a multinational peacekeeping force still in Monrovia, the capital, to uphold her victory. 

Johnson-Sirleaf was born in Monrovia to descendants of ex-African slaves from the United States, who had returned to Africa. She earned the nickname “Iron Lady” for her courage in running against the vicious warlord and now-exiled former president Charles Taylor in 1997. Taylor won in an election considered tainted. 

Echoing the Liberians’ acceptance of Johnson-Sirleaf, African media reported widespread support for the new president. 

Notwithstanding her campaign button, “Ellen—She’s Our Man,” the 67-year-old Sirleaf made her female identity an issue in the campaign.  

As reported by Bolade Omonijo of OnlineNigeria.com, Johnson-Sirleaf was quoted as saying during her campaign, “Women are the ones who truly have heart to care and to serve, perhaps because of the role that nature has bestowed on us. A woman is naturally crafted to take care of the children and keep the home together, and our constitution is patterned toward selfless service.” 

Writing in Kenya’s East African, Charles Onyango-Obbo argues that nations plagued by war have turned to women who have distinguished themselves in national liberation struggles and taken over families in the absence of men. 

Onyango-Obbo pointed out that when men become targets in war, they hide out in the bush or go to refugee camps, where they line up with the rest for handouts. 

Women, on the other hand, maintain their ground and protect their children, scrounging for food. They take over at the expense of men. 

Onyango-Obbo cited Rwanda, where genocide killed nearly 1 million people in 1994. There is now 49 percent representation for women in Rwanda’s government, compared to a world average of 15.1 percent. In South Africa and Mozambique, women command 30 percent of the seats in parliament. In Uganda, women hold just over 28 percent of seats. 

Johnson-Sirleaf is frequently hailed as Africa’s first female ruler. Though not elected, Ethiopia’s Empress Zauditu ruled from 1917 to 1930. On the islands of Sao Tome and Principe, Maria do Carmo Silveira was appointed prime minister in June and Luisa Diogo was appointed prime minister of Mozambique last year. Including the three African countries, there are now only 10 countries with women heads of state worldwide. The others are New Zealand, Bangladesh, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Latvia and the Philippines. 

The Mail and Guardian reported that Pan African Parliament president Gertrude Mongella claimed that “gender equality is taking root in African leadership.” 

Mongella said that Johnson-Sirleaf’s election “demonstrates that Africa is on the way to realizing that women are as capable to lead as men are.” 

Indeed, Harvard-trained Johnson-Sirleaf made an issue of her education and government experience during the campaign, according to Omonijo from OnlineNigeria.com, arguing that now was not the time to turn the government over to her poorly educated opponent Weah. The country’s problems needed immediate attention by someone experienced rather than by someone learning on the job. 

Despite winning with 59.4 percent of the vote and offering to include her opposition in governance, an editorial from Liberia’s Front Page Africa says that Johnnson-Sirleaf faces fierce challenges from Weah and his supporters; from ex-combatants; and from a former anti-terrorist unit that is demanding to join her administration’s armed forces demobilization program that provides support to ex-soldiers to settle into civilian life.  

The infrastructure of the country was destroyed during the 14 years of civil war. Monrovia is still without water service. 

In the months ahead, Johnson-Sirleaf will need the support of her country, all of Africa and the world to face the formidable obstacles of rebuilding Liberia.  


Donal Brown monitors African media for New America Media.  

Commentary: Welcome to Berkeley, Casey Sheehan’s Mother By Alan Christie Swain

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Let’s all join together to welcome Berkeley newest citizen. Welcome Casey Sheehan’s mother. We honor your son, his sacrifice and the mother he made famous.  

United States Army Specialist Casey Sheehan of Vacaville was a full grown man of 20 when he volunteered for the Army. He had the right and the duty to make his own decisions. In fact, he re-enlisted in the army in 2004, some news reports indicate he wanted to make a career in the Army. Sadly, he was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004 after he volunteered for a mission to rescue other American troops that were under attack. Specialist Sheehan was most likely aware of the grand strategy for the war in Iraq, most American fighting men and women are, this is in plain contrast to the history of most other militaries around the world.  

In fact, the melding of moral force and military power has given the U.S. military a significant part of its fighting power from the Revolutionary War through to today. Only the cynical expenditure of American fighting men in a war of attrition in Vietnam shows what happens when that connection is broken. In fact, for many Americans, the campaign in Iraq has always had a moral aspect to it. Deposing a dangerous and brutal dictator who had invaded two neighboring countries and used chemical weapons on his own citizens is important by itself. But the campaign to introduce democratic rights to a nation of than 28 million and perhaps to a region of hundreds of millions more is the moral connection in this war for the U.S. military and the millions of Americans across this country that support it. 

Beyond the history and the strategy there is always the question of why. Why do soldiers risk their lives? Why do men, and women faced with horrific circumstances do their duty, and beyond their duty? Historians and researchers say that most soldiers do what they do for their comrades, for other soldiers. Soldiers in combat are part of a living thing greater than themselves and they know well each of the other members of the unit from the commanders to the lowest private. They also know that if they fail in their duty or give less than their full effort other members of the unit may well be killed. So, soldiers in combat do what they do for their country, for themselves, but mostly for the other men they know and rely on, whom they know would do the same for them. 

Casey Sheehan lost his life one day in Baghdad doing more than his duty for his country, for himself and for his buddies. It is a terrible tragedy that his mother is so convinced that he died for nothing. He was an example of the best America has to offer. He was, undoubtedly, a fine young American and any mother who could raise a son like that is very welcome in Berkeley. 


Alan Christie Swain is a UC Berkeley graduate student. 


Commentary: What Liquor Stores Do For Neighborhoods By THOMAS LORD

Tuesday December 20, 2005

In a recent to letter to the editor, Ted Vincent stakes out an interesting position about the South Berkeley liquor stores currently being pressured to change their way. I live less than a block from one of these stores and would like to take up the discussion he’s started. 

Ted argues: The troubled or troublesome liquor stores serve a vital function for the poorest of the poor, providing a walking-distance approximation of grocery stores. The owners tend to be kind (0 percent interest) lenders to their most needy customers. For all that, such stores would not be financially viable if they did not sell popular high-profit items like alcohol. 

I reply: The store near me, Black & White Liquors, is three blocks away from Berkeley Bowl and Walgreen’s. Food and household staples are available at those stores. The quality is higher and the price is lower. Berkeley Bowl sells beer at a lower price than Black & White. Black & White is also two blocks away from stores where cigarettes are less expensive. Therefore, Black & White’s unique commercial contributions to the neighborhood are (1) late-hours access; (2) hard alcohol; (3) (allegedly) short-term credit for needy customers; (4) the shopping experience of using a very tiny store rather than a relatively large one like Berkeley Bowl and Walgreen’s. 

That’s a mixed bag of offerings. I personally enjoy the small store experience and would enjoy the late hours access if they were from a store I felt comfortable supporting. I wholeheartedly agree that the credit system (whether or not Black & White actually participates) is (sadly) vital to many poor people and should not be run roughshod over and proprietors who offer that service are, in that small way, heroic. 

The reality, though, is far uglier. In the evening and late night hours Black & White, when its liquor license was intact, led to a number of ills. First, distinctly not poor people would speed down our 25 mph street quite recklessly at 40-plus mph. This would start in the after-supper hours when one would expect kids to be out playing on this otherwise quiet street and just get worse and worse as 2 a.m. approached. Second, a non-trivial subset of these patrons were quite messed up. I think the highlight of the past year in this regard was the woman trying to dowse the driver of the SUV that brought her with gasoline—evidently they had gotten into a drunken fight on their way to buy a last round of booze. The gasoline was a unique touch but a similar pattern played out on many occasions. Third, yes, poor people use the store and walk there. Yet since the liquor license has been suspended there has been to my eyes a distinct reduction in (apparently) poor people using neighboring buildings and lawns as a urinal or as the trash can in which to drop empty fifths and junk-food bags. Meanwhile, poor people who (for some reason) need to go there to buy a pint of expensive, low-quality milk on credit still have that option. (There’s only been one gunshot in the past few years so, by that metric, Black and White is doing well compared to some stores.) 

Ted frets about gentrification and calls for “subsidies” for mom and pop stores. What I have been told is that Black & White’s owner and proprietor is a major property owner in the area. As far as I can tell, his management of his property is stifling much needed development in the area. Your guess is as good as mine but I don’t think he’s suffering, liquor license or no, for want of subsidies. I think it would be an obscene insult to the poor to offer any. 

Public businesses are a public concern. Private rights of ownership and the opportunity to make profit are vital to our community. Yet when an owner exercises these private rights in a way that contradicts the public interest it is appropriate for the community to respond by exercising regulatory options. 

Ted, whatever the solution to chronic poverty is, I’m sure it does not involve cars speeding dangerously down otherwise quiet streets, perpetual littering and urination on people’s home’s and businesses, late night shouting matches between people on a bad drunken date, overpriced poor quality goods for sale on credit, occasional gunfire, the illegal wholesale purchase of bootleg liquor, and all of the other ills that have been visited upon our neighborhood. If resistance to those things is how you define “gentrification” then sign me up as a No. 1 gentrifier. 




Commentary: Library Patrons Can Sleep More Comfortably By Peter Teichner

Tuesday December 20, 2005

I haven’t read it yet, but I understand that the Patriot Act II has a provision that gives the FBI, and presumably other government domestic security organizations, easier access to patrons’ confidential library information.  

A few weeks ago I learned from a credible source that the Berkeley Public Library is destroying books and/or disposing of them without keeping a record of anything about their removal from the library system or even that they had once been in the Berkeley library. I don’t know if this methodology is a recent change instituted along with the RFID system, which, by the way, was brought in by the relatively new library director, Jackie Griffin, without public review.  

Ostensibly it is done for the reason that when books get worn out and are deemed not worthy of a new replacement they must be culled from library’s stock. But since no record is kept of the removal and all trace of the books are removed from the library tracking system there is no way of knowing which books have been removed, why they were removed or for that matter who ordered them removed/destroyed.  

This sounds so Orwellian I find it hard to believe. Assuming this to be true, it means that any book could be fair game and no one would be the wiser. It’s as if our history is being taken away in the dead of night like the “disappeared” in a U.S.-supported dictatorship. 

It seems to me that right here in Berkeley, nominal home of the Free Speech Movement where unfettered access to information has been enshrined, etc. a sea change has occurred in the public’s right to and their access to information- the foundation of our so-called democracy—and very few people are aware of it ... yet. 

The RFID (radio frequency identification system) will make it ever so much easier for the FBI or Homeland Security to tap into the Berkeley Library’s storehouse of library patrons’ personal information, such as their reading preferences—their revolutionary tendencies. The RFID was installed by a company called Checkpoint Systems.  

Thanks to Director Jackie Griffin and the Board of Library Trustees, Berkeley Library users can sleep better at night knowing their private library information will always be secure under the watchful eye of Checkpoint’s new vice president, Raymond D. Andrews, who previously served as controller of INVISTA, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, which is a huge oil conglomerate controlled by brothers Charles and David Koch, two of the country’s richest men and among the biggest backers of conservative and libertarian causes.  

If you’d like to let the Board of Library Trustees know what you think sign up for the public comment period, 3:50 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 21 at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis at Ashby. 


Peter Teichner is a Berkeley resident. 








Commentary: Somebody Turn Off The Faucet: Vote Every Day By WINSTON BURTON

Tuesday December 20, 2005

The day before Thanksgiving I was at an event where well meaning local dignitaries volunteered to help cook and serve dinner to homeless and poor people. As the sumptuous meal was coming to an end one of the dignitaries spoke to those eating and said, “I’m glad I could be here tonight and help out, I promise I’ll be back for Christmas too.” Someone yelled out, “Great, but what am I supposed to eat until then!” There was no laughter only silence.  

For over 17 years I have worked at a local non-profit agency that provides food, shelter, employment and training opportunities to homeless and disabled persons in Alameda County. In the past five years we have provided assistance to over 3,000 people annually. Not the same people every year! For many of the people we see it’s their first time being homeless, falling through the cracks and finding themselves with out the safety net they thought would protect them. While more people than ever are seeking assistance, resources to support them are shrinking, as less federal, state, and foundation funds are being made available. 

Lately I’ve noticed several trends emerging that are disturbing to me, and contradictory to the pursuit of the American Dream: 

• More intact families (mother and father with children), first time homeless, no addictions, willing and able to work, seeking shelter space—the ideal nuclear family in the American Dream.  

• More physically disabled persons, seeking shelter space—none or inadequate health care. 

• More single young adults under 25, seeking shelter space—our future workforce and taxpayers. 

• More senior adults over 55, seeking shelter space—golden years turning gray. 

This continuous increase in the number of people needing help reminds me of scooping water from an overflowing bathtub, but not turning off the faucet! To me, the biggest open faucet is in Washington D.C. We need to stop making so many people poor (bad policies), blaming them for their poverty (they’re addicted or lazy) and then ignoring them once their poor (welfare reform). I say we, because we vote the politicians in or out! Meanwhile our politicians, instead of waging a war on poverty, are attacking free speech, a women’s right to choose, the environment, and even the teaching of evolution. To turn off the faucet we’ve got to vote! 

I was somewhat encouraged by the results of the recent elections, but the coalition that came together seems fragile. Many people were voting against Arnold Schwarzenegger and his power move, not against his misguided policies. Besides, voting every four years and occasionally winning will not give poor people the relief they need in time. We need to vote everyday! Voting everyday means always being compassionate, an advocate for change, not committing or ignoring oppressive behavior, but also having the courage to interrupt those who do. 

Vote everyday. People need to eat everyday! 


Winston Burton works for Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS). 

Arts: The Genius of Aaron McGruder’s ‘The Boondocks’ By CHARLES JONES Pacific New Service

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Richard Pryor’s Comedic Legacy Lives On 


Five episodes into it, it already started. It actually started after the first episode: uppity Negroes nationwide downplayed the important intelligence and comedic genius that is Aaron McGruder’s animated series, The Boondocks (Sunday, 11 p.m. Cartoon Network)—all because of one word, NIGGA.  

What disturbs me most about situations like this is that a small group of black people feels that they have a right to police the entertainment of others.  

I’m tired of educated and financially well off black people assuming leadership roles in our assumed collective identity every time a black entertainer says or does something that they don’t like.  

It happened to Martin Lawrence when African-Americans protested depiction of black women in his hit show Martin (Remember Shanay-Nay—Martin’s super ghetto female neighbor and the comedians alter-ego). It happened to Cedric the Entertainer when he was accused of “cooning” on his short-lived Fox television series, and now it’s happening to Brother Aaron.  

What we are dealing with, with McGruder’s comic strip turned cartoon series, is more than simple ghetto philosophy or nigga-ism. It is the most poignant thought provoking and accurate depiction of Black People ever to grace the small screen.  

The Boondocks is the story of a grandfather who is raising his two grandsons due to the death of their parents and with their inheritance moves them to an affluent white community in the suburbs hoping to provide them a better future. Huey is an afro-wearing, pro-black pre-teen who speaks with a biting intelligence and thinks with a culturally conscious slant, and Riley is his corn-row braid-wearing future gangster rapper younger brother, who though nowhere near as conscious or book smart as Huey, more than makes up for it with his intimate knowledge of “the game” (street culture). Riley is a metaphor for today’s urban black youth more concerned with popular culture and trends than the struggle that it took to allow him to enjoy them.  

Grandpa is the embodiment of too many black grandparents nationwide who can’t enjoy the fruits of a long life’s labor because they have to raise their grandchildren.  

The late great Richard Pryor probably would have been proud to see that the style of comedy that he trademarked has evolved to the place that it has in state of the art animation. Black comedy is better than ever. We’re witnessing Richard Pryor’s influence play out in glorious fashion. Comics like Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, Dave Chappelle and dozens of other comedians not only make you laugh but make you think. Aaron McGruder is just as funny and just as brilliant as any other comic I just mentioned.  

The Boondocks displays the same pride in difference and makes the same lunge towards oneness that made Pryor’s comedy the standard to which all comedians aspire.  

Richard Pryor pioneered the art of ghetto character invention as a point of pride and introspection (characters such as Mud Bone) as opposed to a wise grin, foot shuffling hustler stereotypes that has predominated the black male image in Hollywood. I hope that Pryor was able to watch at least one episode of The Boondocks before he passed away, and too feel the tinge of pride knowing that it couldn’t have happened without him.  

Boondock’s is truly great, like Pryor’s comedy, not only because it is the funniest thing on television but because it doesn’t lose its social relevance—representing black people, warts and all, for the world to see.  

It might be too real for some, which is what I truly think bothers those that want Brother McGruder to tone it down or homogenize it because the Kente Kloth Klan (the Black KKK) can’t stand media depictions of black people that are not as educated as they, and because they feel their image is the “positive” image of black people. For them to commandeer my entertainment and media representation is audacious.  

The Boondocks is not the Cosby Show, but is what the Cosby Show would or should look like if it premiered in this millennium. So to all the uppity negroes nationwide that want to hate on McGruder’s genius—Nigga hush, the Boondocks is on.  


Charles Jones is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia (www.youthoutlook.org), a project of Pacific News Service. a

Arts Calendar

Tuesday December 20, 2005



“The Drivetime” a cyber-fi film by Antero Alli at 7 p.m. at Blake’s, 2367 Telegraph. 464-4640. www.verticalpool.com  


Tell on on Tuesdays Storytelling at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Cost is $8-$12 sliding scale. www.juiamorgan.org 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Ellen Hoffman with Singers’ Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bob Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Fri. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Eric Shifrin, jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



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.starryploughpub.com 


Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean, organ, at noon at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

“From the Darkness, Solace” A Winter Solstice event with musicians and video artists at 7 pm. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Donation $10-$20. 228-3207. 

“A Little Cole in Your Stocking” with Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia at 8 p.m. at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. 

Calvin Keys Trio and Jam at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. 

Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Whiskey Brothers, old time and bluegrass, at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lessons at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054.  

Orquestra La Verdad at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Sonny Heinila Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Freight Holiday Revue & Fundraiser at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $16.50-$17.50. 548-1761. 



Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Hochberg and Jonathan Callard at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Si Perkoff & Max Perkoff at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Famous Last Words, The Bottomdwellers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. 

Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Otit.org at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 


Cowpokes for Peace at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave., at Alcatraz. Free, all ages. 420-0196.  

Holiday Sing-Along with Terrance Kelly at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Swingthing Holiday Gala at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dan Zemelman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Ramon & Jessica and Mark Ray at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Kaputnik, Mike Glendinning at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Destani Wolf and members of O-Maya at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Joshi Marshal and Friends at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bob Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  



Razorblade, The Caribbean Groovers Steel Pan Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054.  

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

Clairdee at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $8-$16. 238-9200.  



The Rasatafarians, McAllan “Rocky” Bailey at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $16-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Will Durst Big Fat Year End Kiss Off Comedy Show at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $17. 925-798-1300. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Michael Zilber Wayne Wallace Latin Big Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” at 1 p.m. through Dec. 30, at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Joe Craven and Rob Ickes, bluegrass, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 

David Grisman Bluegrass Experience at 5 and 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $29.50-$30.50. 548-1761.  

Arturo Sandoval at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200.  

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Larry Vuckovich, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



Dana Smith and His Dog Lacy at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


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.starryploughpub.com 


Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Wild Catahoulas at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julio Bravo, salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pete Caragher Quartet at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 



Asheba, Caribbean music, at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


Traveling Jewish Theater “Dirt and Glory: Return of the Golem” at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Richmond Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $10-$30. 415-522-0786. www.atjt.com 


Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Dwinell and Daniel Johnson at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave., near Dwight Way. 526-5985. 


Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Gumbo at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Brunette & The Highlights at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Debbie Poryes-Fels, solo jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Witches Brew Represent at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Cold of Winter Leavened By The Joy of Watching Graceful Merlins in Flight By JOE EATON Special to the Planet

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Winter, I have to admit, is not my favorite time of year: The cold and the dark have no appeal for me. (I may have been an emperor penguin in a past life). I begin to get seasonally affected around Halloween and it doesn’t really let up until Groundhog Day. But there are compensations. The waterfowl are back in force, and the winter complement of songbirds are here. And along with them come the merlins. If winter has a single redeeming feature, it’s the opportunity to watch a merlin at work, dogging a flock of shorebirds at the edge of the bay. 

It would be nice if there was some kind of association between the falcon and the wizard, but it seems unlikely. Ernest Choate’s Dictionary of North American Bird Names derives “merlin” from the Old English marlion, the falconer’s term for the female of the species. In the hierarchy of falconry, the merlin was the lady’s bird.  

Catherine the Great flew merlins, as did Mary Queen of Scots who at one point in her difficulties with Elizabeth I was in the custody of the royal falconer, Sir Ralph Sadler. Sadler allowed Mary out of her confinement for short hawking excursions. Trained merlins specialized in hunting larks; the quarry’s tendency to evade predators by flying straight up made for interesting contests. 

These small, dark falcons have a distinctive flight profile and hunting style. In their classic Hawks in Flight, Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton comment that a merlin is to a kestrel what a Harley-Davidson is to a scooter. A merlin’s flight is strong and direct, with short, powerful wing strokes. They can be sneaky on the approach, hugging the treeline; at eastern hawkwatch sites, the typical response is “There went a merlin.” On the attack, they may fly low over the ground, tailchasing an individual target and climbing above it for the final stoop.  

At rest, merlins can be distinguished from kestrels by their more compact proportions and weaker facial pattern; the falcon mustache is present, but pencil-thin. They can also be mistaken for juvenile sharp-shinned hawks, with which young merlins sometimes associate during migrations; merlins have the characteristic falcon pointed-wing silhouette and narrower banding on the tail. 

Some years ago, there was a mockingbird in my South Berkeley neighborhood that had learned to imitate the sound a telephone makes when left off the hook. After enduring this for a couple of months, I came home one afternoon to find a merlin atop a tall conifer next door, methodically plucking something as falcons do—something resembling a mockingbird. And I never heard the phone-off-the-hook noise again.  

Although they’ll take other avian prey, including horned larks, pipits, and flickers, most of the merlins that winter in California are shorebird hunters. To a merlin, a mudflat between tides is a smorgasbord. Thirty years ago, Point Reyes Bird Observatory biologists Gary Page and D. F. Whitacre kept tabs on a female merlin at Bolinas Lagoon for an entire winter season. They estimated that she caught 264 sandpipers, along with a smattering of warblers, sparrows, and blackbirds, with a success rate of 12.8 percent on 343 observed hunts. Apart from birds, merlins hawk for large insects like butterflies and dragonflies, and catch the occasional small mammal.  

Most of the merlins we see around here are of the subspecies columbarius, or what Sibley calls the taiga form. (Sibley has an aversion to Latin, for some reason). It’s the middle-of-the-road merlin; there’s also the darker subspecies suckleyi, Sibley’s Pacific (black) merlin, which I’ve spotted a couple of times, and the rarer pale richardsoni, the prairie merlin. Richardsoni, as the common name suggests, breeds in the northern prairies, and has become a city bird in places like Edmonton and Saskatoon. Suckleyi comes from the wet coastal forests of mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. But columbarius is, in fact, a bird of the taiga, the great boreal forest of North America; other forms inhabit the same zone from Siberia west to northern Europe. 

Taiga merlins tend to avoid the deep woods, hunting and nesting in edge environments: near treeline or alpine timberline, or around lakes, bogs, and regrowing burns. Where available, they’ll take over the old nests of crows and magpies, although tree cavities are sometimes used. After a brief aerobatic courtship, a merlin pair starts its family late in the northern spring, timed to take advantage of the annual crop of fledgling songbirds (which in turn depend on the spring flush of foliage-eating insects). 

It hasn’t received nearly as much press as the tropical rainforest, but the taiga is crucial habitat for North American birds. Over 300 species—ducks and gulls as well as raptors and songbirds—nest there, and 96, including the merlin, have more than half their breeding population in the boreal forest region. It’s an ecosystem under intense pressure. Canada, which contains most of the North American taiga, fells 2.5 million acres of forest per year, mostly in clearcuts. Forestry companies own almost a third of the Canadian taiga, and oil and gas interests are also active; only 6 per cent has any form of protection. And the whole boreal community—trees, insects, birds—is vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 

The loss of taiga habitat may already be affecting bird populations. Data from Audubon Society Christmas Bird Counts shows alarming declines in several boreal-nesting species, including the once-abundant rusty blackbird. The one taiga breeder that bucks the trend is the merlin. Although their numbers plunged during the DDT years, the small falcons have made a dramatic comeback; Count numbers from 1965 through 2002 document an increase of 3.3 per cent per year. Credit their adaptability, and probably a large measure of luck. Let’s hope it holds. 



Photograph by Mike Yip 

Merlins have the characteristic falcon pointed-wing silhouette and narrower banding on the tail. 

These small, dark falcons also have a distinctive flight profile and hunting style. 

Berkeley This Week

Tuesday December 20, 2005


Birdwalk on the MLK Shoreline from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. to see the shorebirds here for the winter. Binoculars available for loan. 525-2233. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “Are Religious Holidays Obsolete?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Ave., Oakland office. 594-5165.  

Stress Less Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

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

Introduction to Buddhist Meditation at 7 p.m. at the Dzalandhara Buddhist Center in Berkeley. Cost is $7-$10. Call for directions. 559-8183.  

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 


Mid-Day Meander in Tilden Celebrate the shortest day with great views. Meet at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park at 2:30 p.m. 525-2233. 

Gingerbread House Party from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Please bring a bag of candies for the decorations. 647-1111, ext. 14. 

Winter Solstice Gathering at 4 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, at the Interinm Solar Calendar. Dress warmly. www.solarcalendar.org 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters welcomes curious guests and new members at 7:15 a.m. at Au Coquelet Cafe, 2000 University Ave. at Milvia. 435-5863.  

Entrepreneurs Networking at 8 a.m. at A’Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcatraz. Cost is $5. For more information contact JB, 562-9431.  

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

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

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley BART Station. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 


World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 


Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair between Dwight and Bancroft, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Also on Sat. 


Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $5-$7. Registration required. 525-2233. 

Kosher Movies and Kosher Chinese Food at 7 p.m. at Chabad of the East Bay 2643 College Ave. Cost is $10. Reservations required. 540-5824. 


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

Flames, Flares and Explosions The science of fire at noon and 1:30 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-5132. 


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

Healthy Eating Habits Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 


Toy Drive Sponsored by University Veterinary Hospital Bring new, unopened toys for all ages to 810 University Ave., between 5th and 6th Sts, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends to Dec. 24. 841-4412. 

Warm Coat Drive Donate a coat for distribution in the community, at Bay St., Emeryville. Sponsored by the Girl Scouts. www.onewarmcoat.org 

Magnes Museum Docent Training begins Jan. 8. Open to all who are interested in Jewish art and history. For information contact Faith Powell at 549-6950, ext. 333. 

Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League is looking for girls in grades 1-9 to play softball. To register, email registrar@abgsl.org ›

Interrupted Lives, Louisiana Couple Starts Anew After 50 Years By SARAH CORE Special to the Planet

Friday December 16, 2005

CHALMETTE, La. — Huey Borne walked across his dirt-covered driveway in Chalmette, La., a curious round-shaped box in his arms. He held out the container to his wife, Margarite, who wrinkled her nose in disgust.  

“I think I can save this,” he said, showing her a handsome gray fedora peeking out of the fragile tissue, half-covered in a chalky green substance. 

“Oh, it’ll still smell,” Margarite said, unconvinced. “Just pitch it.”  

Undeterred, Huey added the moldy hatbox to the small pile of belongings the older couple was storing in the back of their pick-up truck. This collection of their 50 years together was pitiful compared to the towering mountain of trash that sat just a few yards away in the front lawn—all the belongings they couldn’t save.  

“We come every two or three weeks to clean it out,” Margarite said. “I don’t want to come too often.” 

The good china and crystal were salvageable, but the salty, oil-filled water that sat in their house for almost three weeks ate through everything, including the knife blades on their sterling silverware. 

Huey misses everything they’ve lost, Margarite jokes, but the smell is what bothers her the most. “That smell just gets to me,” she said. “Everything just smells awful.” 

The Bornes almost didn’t leave St. Bernard Parish that late August weekend when Hurricane Katrina swept through the Gulf Coast, leaving thousands of people homeless and hundreds trapped by rising floodwaters. Huey was recovering from surgery and besides, the last time a big storm came through—Hurricane Betsy in 1965—the Bornes didn’t even get wet. It was only after Huey heard the storm had reached category 5 that they decided it might be best to wait out Katrina with their son, John, and his wife in Baton Rouge. 

“We got out just in time,” Margarite said. “I’m not sure we would be here if we had stayed.” 

The Bornes have lived in Chalmette, a suburb of New Orleans, for 49 years, moving in soon after they were married in 1955. They raised their children in this house and many of their friends, new and old, lived near them. But now no one is here. Save for Huey and Margarite cleaning out their mold-covered ranch house, where the water reached five-and-a-half feet, the streets are empty, with heavy marsh grasses still strewn across most people’s front yards and dried, cracked mud covering what used to be lush green grass. The effect is much like a cross between a ghost town and a desert. 

“I’d just like to know where a lot of people are,” Margarite said, pointing out the houses where she hasn’t heard from residents, most of them neighbors for the last 40-odd years. 

As Huey and John shut down the house for the night, lowering the garage door and tugging the side door shut through the goopy mud still inside the house, Margarite spoke of one more decision she and Huey have made. They’re buying a house across the lake in Hammond and hope to move in soon. For the Bornes, restoring their home would be far too much work and most of the memories they left in it, like their wedding album, were ruined by the floodwaters.  

“It would be years before you could get it really where you could live in it,” Margarite said. “There’s nothing here [in Chalmette]. It looks like a bomb hit it and it’s just not livable.” 

Huey, tightening the ropes on the back of the pickup truck a few yards away, talked about his plans for the house. “I’ll clean it up, dry it out, stabilize it and when the market comes back I’ll sell it,” he said. “But I’m not going to give it away.” 

And no one knows how long that will take. 

“You can’t just hang around here for two years,” Huey added. 

“Life goes on. We’ll survive,” Margarite said. “What are you going to do? We have so far. I guess we will survive some more.”e

City Council Approves Ashby BART Application By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 16, 2005

Budget Changes, Insurance Hikes Also OK’d  


City councilmembers tweaked the budget Tuesday, approved a grant application to plan a transit village at the Ashby BART station and handed off a controversial issue to the planning commission. 

Councilmember Dona Spring abstained when her colleagues voted to endorse a grant application to plan a “transit village” for the site of the western parking lot of the Ashby BART Station. 

Project Director Ed Church partially allayed some concerns of neighbors who worried because the grant application and accompanying paperwork specified a project with a minimum of 300 dwelling units. 

“We learned the development area is much smaller that we thought,” he said, “which means that the number will be reduced. Three hundred is probably more the maximum than the minimum.” 

Church said that the planning process grant would fund the proposal which developers would bid on. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that while he strongly supported new housing, the proposal raised some red flags. 

“If it’s done in the wrong way, it could be a disaster,” he said. With as many as 1,000 occupants, the project would also bring many more cars into the neighborhood, he said. 

Spring said she withheld her vote because she believed that instead of genuinely affordable workforce housing, the eventual building that would be constructed at the site will belong to a for-profit developer interested in charging market-rate rents—a concern shared by Worthington. 

Spring praised her council colleague Max Anderson, who is sponsoring the project, and added that the council has a five-vote majority that she believes will vote for any major for-profit development that adds new housing to the city. 

The item was originally included in the consent calendar but was pulled by Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, a move Anderson endorsed because the proposal “deserves some clarification because of erroneous statements” made during the public comment period.  

Anderson said that the project area map—mandated by transit village planning statues and encompassing a large area within a quarter-mile and more radius of the parking lot—does not mean that the city has jurisdiction over the included privately owned land, nor that the city could use eminent domain powers within the area. 

The council also approved a grant application for a second project at Ashby BART, the Ed Roberts Campus which is to be built on part of the station’s eastern lot. That grant application seeks $3 million from the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency Transportation for Livable Communities Capital Program. 


Budget changes 

The council approved $878,564 in new expenditures from the $1.08 million in additional revenues the city expects to receive, mostly from property-based taxes and fees. 

Spring proposed that instead of funding four new employees for the city’s Permit Services Center with surplus funds generated by that office, the city should divert half of the estimated $500,000 to fund social service programs which were cut or sharply reduced when the current budget was passed. 

“I could do that, but I might go to jail tomorrow,” said City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who said that extra revenues generated by fee-for-service programs were legally obligated to fund the programs that generated them. 

Spring said she wanted to give additional money to a variety of programs, including Habitot, the children’s museum which may be forced to leave the city because of a lack of funds, and an acupuncture program for rehabilitation clinic clients and the homeless. 

Mayor Tom Bates said that Tuesday’s action was an initial step. “We will be better able to determine” the ability to fund other programs in February, he said. 

Anderson said he supported Spring in principle, and asked that the council receive a report before the February meeting outlining the programs which had been cut so that funding could be reconsidered. 

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said that funding the Permit Service Center was critical, in part because it assists homeowners and small business people. But he also said shortened approval processes that would result from more staffing could generate still more revenue. 

“Sometimes I think we want to pick our developers, but if someone wants to build a $5 million building and we can shorten (the process) by a year, that means an additional $200,000 in property taxes, much of it for the city,” he said. 

Worthington agreed that the Permit Service Center fees belonged there because delays and problems with the permit process is a major source of community complaints. 

When it came time to vote on the proposed budget changes, the measure carried 6-1-1-1, with Spring voting no, Anderson abstaining and colleague Betty Olds temporarily absent. 


By-right additions  

Though a majority of councilmembers seemed ready to vote for an urgency ordinance that would end by-right additions above the ground floor, councilmembers instead decided Tuesday to hand the matter off to the Planning Commission. 

Currently, a homeowner can add a one-time addition to a home consisting of up to 500 square feet without needing a use permit from city government. 

Recent complaints to councilmembers about view- and sunlight-blocking second floor additions led the council to consider a measure that would end the by-right additions for second floors and higher and require an administrative use permit, which would notify neighbors in advance and allow appeals of staff-approved additions. 

An urgency ordinance, however, required eight council votes—which Planning Director Dan Marks said didn’t seem likely—so the council referred the issue to the Planning Commission with instructions to come back with an acceptable ordinance. 


Other items 

In other action, the council: 

• Approved a $2 increase in fees for birth and death certificates to raised an estimated $38,886 a year for the Domestic Violence Prevention fund. 

• Barred flower stands from setting up sidewalk vending carts within 300 feet of existing indoor flower shops. 

• Approved a 14.63 percent rate increase for the city’s Kaiser Foundation HMO health plan and a 12.9 percent rate increase for Health Net HMO. 

• Approved condominium tract maps for a 32-unit residential and commercial project at 1809 Shattuck Ave. and a similar 67-unit project at 1797 Shattuck. 

• Adopted on first reading an ordinance by the Citizens Humane Commission for the care of dogs kept outdoors.  

• Tabled without discussion a resolution by Spring that would have the council direct the city manager to advertise city events in locally produced newspapers.›

City Planner Issues Scathing Reply to UC’s Development Documents By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 16, 2005

If UC Berkeley was looking for city residents and officials to praise their massive development plans for the Memorial Stadium area, then they might be disappointed by the response. 

Most residents had little good to say about the massive expansion plans around the stadium during a scoping session last week. 

With the help of his staff and of other city officials, Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks prepared a scathing 19-page letter this week accusing university officials of serving up an ethically challenged subterfuge that offers vague, questionable and unenlightening generalities as self-evident truths. 

His letter, with the approval of the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night and under the signature of City Manager Phil Kamlarz, was dispatched the following morning to Jennifer Lawrence, UCB principal planner for capital projects/facilities services. 

The project, dubbed the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP), includes the construction of three major buildings, significant alterations to a fourth, the demolition of two landmarked buildings, and the significant alteration of a third. 

At Memorial Stadium—the renovated structure—the project plans call for a seismic upgrade and alterations to seating, as well as creation of two new levels above the existing stadium rim to house a press box and luxury skyboxes. 

The three new structures are: 

• A 132,500-square-foot Student Athlete High Performance Center building at the base of the stadium’s western wall. 

• A $60 million underground parking lot north of the stadium. 

• A 180,000-square-foot Law and Business Connection building across Piedmont Avenue east of the stadium that unites Boalt Hall and Haas School of Business teaching functions in a common structure which incorporates a sizable indoor/outdoor meeting facility. 

But Marks said the EIR should also address yet another major landmark immediately north of the project area, Bowles Hall, a massive gothic-style residential hall which is one of two sites the university is considering converting into the home of a Haas School of Business non-degree program for working corporate executives. 

His comments were drawn from the 52-page notice of preparation (NOP) the university issued on Nov. 14 announcing their intent to create an environment impact report (EIR) on the project. 


Where are the facts? 

“[T]he NOP offers vague descriptions of the projects the EIR will evaluate and their potential environmental impacts, raising serious questions about the adequacy of the assessment to follow,” Marks wrote. 

“The NOP fails to include even conceptual plans for the proposed projects, is unclear about the nature of several key aspects of the projects, and provides little or no detail as to the specific scope of the development ... and fails to present the detail that is typically provided in the project-level NOP that it purports to be,” making it “extremely difficult to make any specific comments on the scope of the analysis of potential impacts in the EIR for this project.” 

Yet, noting the NOP’s detailed parallel construction timelines for all the included projects, Marks said he found it “difficult to believe the university does not have more specific information about at least some of the projects.” 

Marks also raised the specter of legal action, noting that the “most ethical and legally defensible approach” would be for the school to prepare an EIR that evaluated the high performance center and the law and business school projects in detail and to formulate a set of policies on future developments in the area while postponing the remaining projects until they’re more fully developed. 

“Regretfully,” he wrote, “based on past experience the City of Berkeley expects that the university will proceed with this ill-defined project description.” 

Without specific plans and numbers, Mark wrote, there is virtually no way the city can estimate the project’s demands for city services, impacts on surrounding neighborhoods or potential costs to city taxpayers. 

The city isn’t without some power, he noted, because the threat of legal action remains a weapon in the city’s arsenal. Though the controversial settlement agreement ending the city’s suit against the university’s 2020 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) barred litigation over most university development, the agreement specially excludes the Memorial Stadium precincts. 


Specific critiques 

Among the concerns Marks raised: 

• The NOP contained no conceptual site plans showing the footprints of the proposed new buildings, even though the university showed drawings at a press conference and in the hallways on the day of the scoping session, held as the public comment period was coming to an end. 

• Impacts on city services can’t be assessed without specific information on the nature and intensity of uses at each site, including Memorial Stadium, where the university plans, thanks to new permanent lighting, to go “beyond football” to offer “major public-interest events.” 

“What is the average number of persons who can be expected for how many hours on how many days each year?” asked Marks. Does it mean that the stadium’s 62,000 seats “will be filled 10 times a year or 40 times a year?” A Draft EIR without that kind of data “will not be legally adequate,” he wrote. 

• While the university intends to rely on the 2020 LRDP traffic analysis for much of its projections, Marks says the new parking structure and changes to pedestrian access, changes from other, unspecified transportation improvements and changes at Memorial Stadium will have site-specific impacts that could require another look at the LRDP EIR assumptions and those in the city’s own Southside Plan EIR scheduled for next year and the EIRs of AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit plans for the city. 

• Other transportation issues which have likewise been left undescribed include vehicle access to the new facilities and mentioned but undetailed new shuttle bus service. 

• Marks also questioned the proposed demolition of two landmarked houses to make way for the law/business building and the overall project impacts on Piedmont Avenue, a landmarked streetscape, and on Memorial Stadium, for which a federal landmark nomination is pending. 

• The planning director also spotted some language on the athletic center, which the NOP notes is “currently proposed as a two-story landform building.” (Marks’ emphasis). In whatever form the university finally chooses, what will be the impacts on the stadium and the landmarked streetscape, he asked. 

• Marks noted that the vague details concerning the controversial addition of permanent night lighting for the stadium, a multi-level press box and luxury skybox additions above the west stadium rim made specific comment “very difficult.” 

• Marks also criticized information about the $60 million underground parking, which he noted would have tremendous impact on city-owned streets, “with very poor access that is virtually on top of the Hayward Fault.” 

• The most complex analytical issues involve the stadium, which “is located literally over a major high-risk fault and is in a relatively isolated location in terms of vehicle access, yet is clearly destined in the NOP for intensified use.” 

For those and other reasons, Marks wrote, “We assume the university will indicate what other options it considered besides retaining the stadium in its current location,” close to the Hayward Fault, where it could “expose even more students and other persons to very real seismic hazards.” 

• Likewise, “the city fails to understand why the university would insist on replacing existing parking and increasing the parking supply in one of the least accessible places in the City of Berkeley” at a site that abuts the Hayward fault. 

• Without specific information such as building sizes and heights, the number of night-lighted events at the stadium and other buildings and plazas in the complex, details of above-the-rim stadium additions and other facts, any assessment of aesthetic and visual impacts is impossible, he said. 

• He also takes issue with the university’s claim that the LRDP analysis is sufficient for issues of hydrology and water quality impacts. An increase in the number of major events at the stadium could significantly impact the city’s wastewater system, and the projects themselves could alter existing drainage patterns. Similarly, more events means more demands on the city’s sewer system. 

• Marks argued for expansion of the project’s traffic study area. He also asked for specific studies of peak morning and after hours as well a separate analysis of a Saturday home football game. 


Meetings, delay sought 

While the city has requested that university officials present their plan to the city Landmarks Preservation, Planning and Transportation commissions and the Zoning Adjustments Board’s Design Review Committee as soon as possible, Marks said the university should issue a new notice of preparation taking into account the concerns he raised. 

“[T]he city urges the university to better define its projects, provide a clear project description and then issue an appropriate NOP before proceeding with this EIR,” Marks concluded in his the letter. “This would allow the public and the city as a responsible agency sufficient opportunity to provide comment. As the project is currently described, the city does not believe it can make adequate comment.” ?

Youth Commission Debates Giving Vote to 17-Year-Olds By YOLANDA HUANG Special to the Planet

Friday December 16, 2005

The Berkeley Youth Commission is gung-ho on civic involvement, and wants to involve all fellow students at Berkeley High. 

On Tuesday, the commission held a fifth-period forum and debate at the Little Theatre on the Berkeley High School campus, on the merits of giving 17-year-olds the vote in Berkeley School Board elections.  

The Youth Commission, jointly sponsored by the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley Unified School District, was able to enlist the aid and participation of Councilmembers Max Anderson and Gordon Wozniak and Mayor Tom Bates. No one from the School Board or BUSD administration was present although Superintendent Lawrence was listed on the program. 

Four classes of students listened as Councilmember Anderson spoke in favor of 17-year-olds voting in School Board elections, arguing that America’s history of excluding African-Americans and women from the vote, compelled allowing 17-year-olds to vote especially since they are old enough to have a driver’s license and enlist in the military.  

Councilmember Wozniak spoke against the proposal saying he had not heard a convincing reason for the change. 

“Why 17 and not 16?” he asked. Wozniak cited statistics that said out of 106 countries surveyed, 86 of them set the voting age at 18, indicating a consensus among the majority of countries for 18 to be the appropriate voting age. Mayor Bates was enthusiastic about this civic debate and encouraged all students to be involved. 

Students also debated the pros and cons. The pro side, represented by students belonging to the National Youth Rights Association, argued for allowing 17-year-olds to vote for School Board for two reasons. The first was that it would be a good lesson in civics, and the second was that “students are way more interested in and affected by schools than the School Board,” argued Pamela Tatz. 

She cited torn apart bathrooms, graffiti and lack of desks as problems facing students and concluded by saying, “Nobody would not benefit from 17-year-olds voting for School Board.” 

The con side, presented by students from Junior Statesmen of America, argued that simply being affected is no justification for changing the voting age. 

“It [school board actions] affects kindergarteners too. And kids in private schools who are not affected will be able to vote,” said Noah Mogey. 

Mogey’s debate partner, Daniel Gleich argued that a mere change to allow for school board elections was ”unfair and unconstitutional” and said that the appropriate change would be to lower the age of all laws to 17 from 18. 

In rebuttal, Zach Hobesh of the National Youth Rights Association, stated that voting for School Board is a start. “You can’t start in Washington,” he said. 

Teal Miller, the non-voting student representative on the School Board, echoed the refrain that giving 17-year-olds the vote would “get our attention” and encourage involvement. 

Commission Chair Rio Bauce ended the forum by asking all students to sign the petition. Next week the petitions will be circulated during class. While most of the students in the audience briskly filed out, a small group continued the debate. 

Bauce said that a teacher had suggested the alternative of giving the elected student member on the School Board a vote. 

“That is definitely a possibility, if not a compromise,” Bauce said, and promised to bring this before the Youth Commission at its January meeting. 

Asked whether a voting student representative on the board would solve the problem, Miller answered that a voting member would “make sure that student needs are taken care of.” When asked to identify these student needs are, she said, “I need to learn more about issues like the health center, and get student input.” 

Miller also said that during her tenure on the School Board, there hasn’t been an issue in which the board did not take her comments into consideration. 








Berkeley School Board Report By YOLANDA HUANG Special to the Planet

Friday December 16, 2005

At the Dec. 14 meeting, the Berkeley School Board approved the contract for the environmental impact report for Berkeley High School south campus construction that includes the warm water pool.  

The board vote authorizing the $135,000 contract for Turnstone Consulting was unanimous and passed as part of the consent agenda, which means there was no discussion on the matter at the meeting.  


No comments 

Based upon summary information, the board approved, without comment or review, November payments of $22 million for outside contracts and a payroll of $5.5 million. The board also approved the landscape work completed at Washington Elementary, Arts Magnet Elementary, Thousand Oaks Elementary, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School and Berkeley Alternative High School. No dollar figures were listed for this work. 


BHS students baggin’ it? 

School Boardmember Shirley Issel reported that the high school is making substantial progress in reducing absenteeism and is moving on to address the number of students with D and F grades. Issel said that alcohol and drugs are the red flags most regularly raised in meetings on student behavior and attendance, indicating “the need for counseling in this area.” 

She said there are 206 students currently who have received at least one D or one F grade out of the approximately 2,500 students at the school. 


Money shuffle 

The district is required by the state to file a first interim budget report. The report showed that BUSD is able to pay its bills. BUSD’s general fund would be $837,359 short, but this shortfall was plugged by transfers from the parcel taxes. One contributing factor was the $702,000 general fund money used to cover deficits from food services. 

Also, the interim budget report managed to be in the black by excluding over $2.65 million of obligations, including $175,000 in costs shifted from the general fund to the maintenance fund for security, more than $328,000 that the audit found were “discrepancies in … payroll clearing account,” projected future workers compensation and liability of $1.17 million, and over $981,000 owed to the city for sewer service, maintenance and the BHS health clinic. 




Planning Commissioners Tighten Yard Parking Ordinance By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 16, 2005

Overriding the recommendation of Planning Director Dan Marks and his staff, Berkeley planning commissioners Wednesday voted to crack down on parking in rear and side yards. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman, a strong proponent of the change, said the revision—if adopted by the City Council—would give nearby residents a chance to weigh in before a property owner paves over a backyard to stow an RV or “a couple of junkers.” 

In zoning language, a yard is defined as the area between a property line and whatever setback distance is required to maintain a space between adjacent structures—although “yards” can also be on rooftops and in courtyards in larger buildings. 

Yard parking became an issue in the case of the “Flying Cottage” at 3045 Shattuck Ave. when city staff reviewed the legal history of barring parking spaces in required yard spaces. 

Though 1999 revisions of city zoning ordinances had banned parking in legally mandated yards, city staff continued to allow such parking because other sections of the code referred to yard parking. ZAB had originally intended to require parking at another site in the case of 3045 Shattuck Ave., but it relented after a planning staff report.  

The city currently requires an administrative use permit (AUP) before allowing parking in a front yard. An AUP is a document issued by city staff and requires that neighbors be notified of all proposed changes. 

Debra Sanderson, the planning staffer assigned to serve as secretary to the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), also noted that no use permits of any kind were required to build or demolish a garage or carport in the setback areas. 

“ZAB also noted that (the revision) creates an incentive to build more visible structures” than allowing continued by-right paving in the yards, Sanderson said. “They’re also concerned about keeping back yards open.” 

Enforcement, too, could be an issue, she said. 

Marks said requiring a permit would also place more demands on staff at the Permit Center. 

Robert Lauriston, who lives near the Flying Cottage and is a fixture at ZAB debates about the building, said he disagreed with many of the city staff’s contentions. 

“We don’t see any discussion of what’s the best policy in the staff report. By-right is not the best policy,” he said. 

The debate touched on a number of issues, including parking requirement for so-called accessory dwelling units permitted under state law. 

At one point, Commissioner David Stoloff suggested holding off on the issue for several months so the commission could handle other issues on an overcrowded schedule recently expanded by the City Council. 

But the issue was scheduled as a hearing and a vote was required. 

Stoloff moved to accept the staff recommendation to leave parking in side and rear yards on a by-right basis, and was joined by Samuels, Chair Harry Pollack and Larry Gurley, the newest commissioner. Helen Burke, Sara Shumer and Poschman voted no, with Susan Wengraf and Mike Sheen abstaining. 

The numbers for the vote on the administrative use permit requirement were exactly the same, with Poschman, Burke, Shumer and Sheen voting yes, Pollack, Stoloff and Samuels voting no and Wengraf and Gurley abstaining. 

It was then that Wengraf changed her vote to the yes column—“in the interest of not having another meeting on this”—and the change passed. 

“Staff may have an alternative recommendation to the council,” said Marks, to which Poschman replied, “As George Bush says, ‘Bring it on!’” 


Gorman Furniture Building 

In a much less controversial case with virtually no discussion before a unanimous vote, commissioners approved conversion of the Gorman Furniture Building at 2259 Telegraph Ave. into condos. 

Owner David Clahan restored the venerable landmarked building, constructed in two phases in 1877 and 1906, and reconfigured the interior. 

The building consists of six condominium units—two dwelling units on each of the two upper floors, with two ground-level commercial spaces.

Zoning Board Approves Jazz Club Plans By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Friday December 16, 2005

Without discussion, the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board has approved plans to open a jazz club inside the UC Theatre building. 

Gloria Mendoza and Michael Govan were granted permission to transform the spacious interior into a dinner theater and jazz club with combined seating for 600. 

The landmarked building at 2036 University Ave. is Berkeley’s oldest surviving motion picture showcase, built in 1917 and designed by noted Berkeley architect James W. Plachek. 

The plans call for no changes to the structure’s exterior, which is the only portion of the building governed by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. 


Landmark houses 

Two other landmarks were also discussed at last week’s meetings, the Ellen Blood and John Woolley houses, which developer John Gordon places to relocate on a lot he owns at the southwest corner of Regent Street and Dwight Way. 

The Ellen Blood House, listed as a city structure of merit, is a Queen Anne Victorian built in 1891 at 2526 Durant Ave., where a developer wants to build a five-story mixed-use project with ground floor commercial and four floors housing 44 apartments. 

The John Woolley House, built in 1876, sits on UC Berkeley-owned land at 2509 Haste St., one of five parcels near the northeast corner of Telegraph Avenue and Haste Street where Rasputin Music owner Ken Sarachan plans to build another mixed used residential-over-commercial project. 

Gordon stepped up with an offer to move both structures to his lot, and he says final plans may be ready for ZAB action within 60 days. 

“We like old buildings,” Gordon explained in a telephone interview. “The Blood House is in good condition, and we’ll be restoring the original wood exterior,” which is now buried beneath a layer of stucco. 

Preservation architect and former Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Burton Edwards is working on the plans, he said. 


Herbivore moving to Fine Arts Building 

ZAB members also approved a liquor license for a new restaurant, Herbivore, which will be opening in the Fine Arts Building at 2451 Shattuck Ave.  

Proprietor Adham Nasser said that after operating his business for nine years in San Francisco it was time to move to Berkeley, “which I always thought was a good fit.” 

Nasser said he expects to open his vegetarian restaurant in nine to 12 months.  


Pauline Bartolone contributed to this report.›


Friday December 16, 2005

An article in the Dec. 13 issue gave the wrong name for Andrea Faber, owner of Hula in Montclair Village and former owner of a clothing store in Berkeley’s Elmwood District.


Friday December 16, 2005

First, the Police Blotter offers a tip of the hat to now-Sgt. Joe Okies, who was awarded his stripes Thursday when graduated from his role as the Berkeley Police Department’s public information officer to a sergeant of the night patrol. Felons beware! 


Bottle and punch 

Police are looking for the tall, thin fellow who stormed into L K Liquor Store at 2495 Sacramento St. last Thursday night, threatened the clerk with a bottle, then landed a punch instead. He’s now wanted for assault and brandishing a deadly weapon, said the former Officer Okies. 


Ho ho humbugs 

Two young men wearing dark hoodies tried to swipe the packages that a 30-year-old woman was carrying outside the Claremont Library early last Thursday evening. When she refused to relinquish her belongings, the thieves were left in search of another way to acquire their holiday presents. 


Ups ante on a deuce 

When Berkeley officers made a deuce (drunk driving) stop in the 900 block of Adeline Street at 11:34 p.m. Friday, they also discovered the intoxicated 39-year-old driving was also driving with a license that had been suspended or revoked for reckless or negligent driving—all violations of the state vehicle code.  

If that weren’t bad enough, the outraged inebriate then said some something to officers that led them to charge him with violation of section 422 of the California Penal Code—threatening to “commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person.” 

“It’s not surprising that someone who has been arrested for driving under the influence might be unhappy about it,” observed Okies. 


Second attack 

Wheelchairs of Berkeley, the victim of a window-smashing attack by a brick-and-cane-wielding bandit on Nov. 23, was targeted again Saturday—this time by an arsonist. 

Police and firefighters rushed to the 2911 Shattuck Ave. facility after a 911 call reporting fire. 

Emergency workers arrived in time to extinguish a blaze set on the outside of a garage at the business and to apprehend a 33-year-old man police booked on suspicion of setting the blaze. 

Okies said there appears to be no connection between the two crimes. 


Hospital heist 

The 28-year-old man arrested on suspicion of robbing a purse at the Berkeley Dog and Cat Hospital at 2126 Haste St. early Saturday afternoon also faces charges of domestic abuse stemming from the same crime, as well as one count of probation violation. 

The purse and its contents were recovered and returned to their rightful owner. 


211 Trio 

Police are seeking three young men who robbed a fellow shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday in the 1300 block of Sixth Street. 


Wrong move 

After police were called to a residence in the 1200 block of Berkeley Way just before 11 p.m. Sunday, they found a very angry and disturbed 18-year-old fellow who expressed his displeasure by punching his fist through a wall and then pulling a knife as officers moved to arrest him, a significant felony to lay atop a count of vandalism from the fist-in-the-wall thing. 



Editorial Cartoon By JUSTIN DEFREITAS

Friday December 16, 2005

To view Justin DeFreitas’ latest editorial cartoon, please visit  

www.jfdefreitas.com To search for previous cartoons by date of publication, click on the Daily Planet Archive.


Letters to the Editor

Friday December 16, 2005


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just have to answer Stuart Davis’s letter that was in the Dec. 9 edition of the Daily Planet. 

Yes, UC needs to cut costs by cutting waste, but not at the cost of necessary good service, local or not. 

My company, ALKO office supply, is local and does have special low prices for UC that I guarantee are not at “very high margins” as Davis says. Office Max’s current prices to the university are competition busters and cannot be permanent; their stockholders will not allow it. 

You think Zelda Bronstein should compare? Fine then, let’s compare, first, we do hire local people; in fact we have a decade’s long mentorship program with Berkeley High School students and are very proud of some of the results. Secondly I will gladly compare my employee’s salaries with Office Max’s and I will win again. Thirdly, my employees enjoy child care right here in the store and every one of them has full medical coverage with Mr. Davis’ employer, Kaiser Permanente, that I pay for 100 percent. I have no idea what Office Max offers, but I bet you that I win again! 

As for lining my pockets, the downturn in retail in downtown Berkeley has caused my business five consecutive years of losses, and I am quite sure that the salary that I take is far less than what Kaiser Permanente pays Mr. Davis. 

Finally, I don’t necessarily agree with Zelda Bronstein’s comparison of UC as Wal-Mart either, but I do think that Office Max is mimicking some of the infamous retailer’s unfair tactics. 

Gary Shows 

ALKO office supply 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just learned that last Tuesday the City Council voted to censure the mayor for secret back-room dealing. Well, it’s about time the council stood up and did something about that terrible agreement which Mayor Bates negotiated in secret with UC which will allow massive university expansion and destroy our quality of life. And not only that, the vote was unanimous—all 10 councilmembers voted for censure! Wait a minute, we don’t have 10 councilmembers. Oh, that was San Jose City Council! I forgot that in Berkeley we promote secret back-room dealing. Darn! 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her Dec. 9 letter to the Daily Planet, Cyndi Johnson expresses her inability to understand why the University of California is “run so immorally” and then describes a number of its plans inimical to most people in Berkeley or in California. 

The underlying cause of UC’s behavior is quite simple. 

For decades, governors have appointed regents on the basis of one over-riding criterion: that they serve corporate interests whenever these are in conflict with those of the students, teachers, or the rest of us. 

The regents in turn chose the UC president in precisely the same way and pay him handsomely for doing as expected. 

This is further compounded by legislatures that, instead of taxing corporations and providing the university an adequate budget, do the opposite. Thus the university has an excuse to accept money with many strings attached from the practically untaxed, corporate owners and CEOs. 

The University of California is perhaps still a “noble institution,” and certainly many marvels come from it, but too often corporate interests take preference over the benefits it could provide for all. 

Richard Wiebe 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some questions about the Ashby BART “Transit Village”: 

Why would people in the local workforce (teachers, nurses, and firefighters) want to live at a “transit” hub, when they aren’t going anywhere? A transit hub residence makes sense for people who transit somewhere else to work during the day, and just come back to Berkeley to sleep. 

If we want to provide lower-cast housing for the local workforce, why are only one fifth of the units going to be “affordable”?  

The grant for $120,000 is only a drop in the bucket for something that will cost upwards of $100 million. 

Do people realize what a building with 300 units will look like? It will dwarf the giant Gaia building, which only has 90 units.  

Finally, what is more important, meeting an Oct. 14 deadline for a grant application, or involving the community at the outset in helping to decide the future of their neighborhood? 

Anne Wagley  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m troubled by the proposal to put a “transit village” on the Ashby Avenue BART station. It’s not the fact of a transit village that troubles me, but the size of the project: 300 units. I thought that such projected villages were more in the range of 50 to 100 units. 

None of my friends in Mr. Anderson’s district (including my daughter) has received any mailing or other communication from his office about the project. With such a huge project it seems odd that the Daily Planet article was the first any of them heard about it. Is this, I hate to suggest, another move to place a large project in South Berkeley without consulting the people who live in the area? 

It has a direct impact on all homeowners and renters in the district. The designation of the transit village somehow automatically changes the zoning within a quarter-mile radius around the village to allow high density building. This, once again, brings the prospect of changing a largely single-family home area into a crowded enclave. Would such a project have reached this stage without neighborhood knowledge around North Berkeley BART station? Once again, South Berkeley is being treated as a sub-marginal area not worthy of being informed or consulted.  

I’m also puzzled by reference to the SBND Commission. I thought it was disbanded some time ago. Is it in existence again? Are its meetings public? 

This may be an excellent project, but the development of the plans seems to have gone on without the kind of consultation and transparency we expect from our elected officials and appointed boards. 

Phyllis Brooks Schafer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A project of over 300 units at Ashby BART’s West lot is not major but massive! 

Many neighbors would welcome a 10- to 30-unit housing development above commercial space at the West Ashby BART lot. Many are avid supporters and users of public transit. But 300-plus units seems extreme. Do we have to ask if anyone would have the audacity to push a project of this magnitude through in North Berkeley or Central Berkeley? Building the Ed Roberts campus on the other side of Bart at the same time will lead to major changes, likely congestion and traffic problems during the construction process as it is.  

I am disappointed that our council member and mayor have missed opportunities to inform local neighborhood groups or newspapers about this project prior, seemingly trying to purposely push it through quickly without informing the neighborhoods. Councilmember Max Anderson, I am glad you are a member of our Lorin District neighborhood list serve who spoke at our last three meetings. I hope you will be a representative of the constituents you serve. I am disappointed that you did not share this plan when you spoke at our last three neighborhood meetings. I spoke to several active members of the community who had no inkling of this plan before the Daily Planet article.  

Mayor Bates, we know you have been in favor of transit villages since 1994 and that your wife, Assemblymember Hancock, just drafted legislation to allow a city to use an existing specific development as a plan for a transit village. Couldn’t you and Loni have taken time to let us know of your plans for our neighborhood.? 

Project director Mr. Church applied for the grant funds on behalf of the South Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation on Oct. 14. Seems like the SBNDC, and sponsor Councilmember Anderson have big plans for our neighborhood. Few know anything about the SBNDC or their plans for our neighborhood. Mr. Church says that, “the neighborhood can only be a neighborhood again when there is a great infill housing project in there.” Funny, it has always felt like a neighborhood to me. If I had wanted to live among massive condo projects with no heart and soul, I would have moved to Emeryville.  

Robin Wright 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was shocked and horrified to hear that our (alleged) representative in city government, Max Anderson, had moved a personal proposal for a massive-scale housing development to a stage where its grant application is to be voted on, without a single word to the entire community. Unless the article reported in the Daily Planet was some kind of bad joke or an attempt at fictionalized news (think the radio broadcast of some generations earlier, purporting to announce the invasion of aliens on Planet Earth), Max Anderson and all of the Berkeley City Council are due for a major reality check. No thank you very much, we do not want an enormously over-scaled housing development in the midst of an established community, whether to house rich, poor or a band of displaced Bantu Pygmies. Max Anderson has conspicuously, a-hem, overlooked the necessity to speak with the people who already live here, in this brazen assumption that our opinions, needs, and even survival can be discounted as unimportant to the decision-making process. He is badly mistaken. 

For the years I have lived in South Berkeley, I innocuously assumed that elected officials from the COB would never broach decisions of such import to the community without some form of prior accord with the residents they were elected to serve. Clearly, that assumption was tragically naive. We are left with few opportunities to redress a situation badly out of sync with the surrounding community. All they had to do was ask, and they would have learned that few, if any residents of South Berkeley are interested in building a leviathan of a structure in our midst. It is amazing to think that the reasons why not to do so need to be spelled out. 

No, it is the effrontery with which some take our passive compliance for granted that is infuriating. Rather than waste breath and ink explaining the obvious reasons, let me cut to the chase. I, for one (but one among thousands, I’ll wager) are sick to death of the paternalistic, presumptuous, policy-making that substitutes for true representation in the City of Berkeley. I am tired of being treated like a doormat, and this will not be allowed to pass into being without a serious challenge. Should the City Council adopt this ill-conceived plan, I intend to mount a class action suit against the city, and any and all employees party to the proposal. With a required minimum number of 50 signatories with similar claims, I could easily sign up that many from one or two blocks. I have already spoken with a couple of attorneys willing to represent us in Superior Court for such an eventuality. I will insist that the Department of Justice investigate such a usurpation of our rights. I will make certain there is news coverage that is heard nationwide. And—trust me—the cost to the city will be exponentially higher than building the development itself. This is not a threat; it is a promise. Those who have worked with me before know I mean what I say. 

Sam Herbert 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a long-time Berkeley resident, I’m hoping that the front page story on Dec. 13, “Downtown Retail Taxes Down by 10 Percent,” was an attempt at humor. No one could really be surpassed that retail taxes are down because consumers don’t need the hassle of shopping in downtown Berkeley. If Internet sales are to blame as was suggested, then presumably the retail sales of all other jurisdictions such as Emeryville and San Francisco should be down by a like amount. I doubt that they are! Then to suggest that the cause may be too long blocks, turning cars, too many property owners, and lack of inviting public spaces suggests the city might want to look for help in solving their problem elsewhere. 

I don’t shop anymore in downtown Berkeley, or go to restaurants there, or go to movies there, because it is faster, cheaper, easier to drive to north Berkeley, Emeryville, El Cerrito, or even to a BART station to go to San Francisco, than to hassle with going to downtown Berkeley. The city has made it clear that they don’t want shoppers to drive downtown. Finding a parking spot takes too much time, and the garages cost way too much. The city put the cart before the horse—discouraging cars before they provided mass transportation. If a city has mass transportation, like New York City, Paris, or London, it makes sense to discourage cars and to not provide parking and access to the downtown. But if it doesn’t, then be prepared for a drop in customers and a very unamazing, though alarming, drop in retail sales tax. A no-brainer! 

David Weitzman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I got a chuckle when I read that the Saturday Farmer’s Market was “partly conceived as a way to attract customers to downtown (but) has only succeeded in attracting customers to the Farmers’ Market” and attributes the failure somehow to lack of trees. It seems to me, as someone who shops the Saturday market and makes occasional forays on foot to Shattuck, that there has been little or no thought ever given to enticing the market’s customers into the downtown. Center Street, the most obvious route from the market to Shattuck, has never been a pleasant street known for its verdant greenery. Now, for many months in the past and evidently many more months in the future, the sidewalk on the south side is blocked by construction on the new Vista building—from all appearances a to-the-curb, looming structure that is already blocking the sun. On the north side of the street, rather than interesting shops that might lure the shopper along, there are empty and underutilized storefronts, waiting, I take it, for the next phase of high-rise development.  

Planning in Berkeley? Get real. There are more cows. 

Joanne Kowalski 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A message for the Berkeley Unified School District and the City of Berkeley: 

We are writing regarding the proposed move of the south Berkeley Farmers’ Market. We know that you are weighing various options that would accommodate a baseball field and the needs of other sports as well as the market. We are hopeful that a proposal can be found that will accommodate the needs of all, but we are concerned that the Farmers’ Market may get overlooked in the shuffle of available funds, space and expediency.  

Full Belly Farm has been attending the South Berkeley Farmers Market year round since 1989. We also deliver our organic produce to several restaurants and stores in the east bay including Monterey Market, Market Hall Produce, Star Grocery, Oliveto, Chez Panisse, Venus, Lalimes and many others. Our farm membership of 550 families in the east bay also receives a weekly box of produce. It is the combination of all of these venues that make it possible for us to attend the Berkeley Farmers Market. In order to make an economically viable run, we combine the deliveries to individuals, restaurants and stores with a day at the Berkeley farmers’ market. If one element of the strategy falls away, the future of all these elements is jeopardized. 

The presence near Berkeley of a farm belt of growers who live within driving distance means that the city is blessed by a local food economy in which many of the profits are staying local rather than being sucked into the faraway pockets of international food distributions and marketing businesses. Local farms also bring educational opportunities. Several annual events at Full Belly draw large numbers of people from the east bay: Our Hoes Down Harvest Festival in October 2005 drew 4,000, the majority of whom were from the east bay and a huge number of whom were families with young children. In addition we offer various classes, kids-camps and on-farm activities that are in high demand. We believe that the steady, year-round presence of mid-scale farms like Full Belly at the market provide a stabilizing anchor. We offer a diverse array of fruits, nuts, vegetables and flowers picked the day before the market. This is an important part of what makes the market work for the customers.  

A partnership must exist between the market and the city in order for the market to work. A market can be a wonderful addition to the quality of life in a city, building civic capital and pride of place. Or it can be a statement about the lack of those things. A market without parking, without bathrooms, without lights and with only a few token farmers reflects poorly on a city. 

The Ecology Center has provided an excellent list of major needs of the South Berkeley Farmers’ Market. These include: parking for customers, the handicapped and overflow farmers; visibility and accessibility; restrooms with running water; and lighting. We hope that these needs can be accommodated in the plans for expansion of the school district sports program. 

We would be happy to discuss these issues further. 

Judith Redmond on behalf  

of Full Belly Farm 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Music is my daily pleasure at home. Since the main public library has a great collection of DVDs—everything from Bach to pop—my CD changer is always full of silver discs. No problems. But since the RFID magnetic strips have been added to every disc there are now frequent glitches in the sound. In the last two borrowings three discs have had defective strips—or strips that became defective from being played. The music will stop at a certain point and may pick up 30 seconds later—or not. When I check there are missing chunks of strip that appear to be causing the silence. 

Was this technological innovation necessary? I also noted that the casings for the dvds have been simplified and no longer require the hand motion to unlock that had supposedly caused repetitive stress injury for library workers. So what is the point of all this technology if the net result is technical trouble. 

At a recent library trustees meeting a representative of the RFID manufacturer was asked about the advantage of the tags over the simple strips. His reply: “It’s faster.” If this is the main criterion of the possibly $2 million plus that has been spent so far for this system I would say this money has been totally wasted. As a tax payer and a strong supporter of everything else the library does, I protest the colossal waste of our money on expensive—and unnecessary—tech toys. 

I do not want to live in a world of machines. I like talking for 30 seconds to the people at the circulation desk. They are often interested in the books and music I borrow, have read the book or not and want to know what it’s about. Such a pleasant and human exchange. 

If this inane tech trend continues it may very well end up with robot readers who won’t complain about other machines checking them out, and since there won’t be any privacy issues to deal with and no health hazards, they will live in the perfect world that the next tech thing is always promising. 

Joan Levinson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Keith Winnard’s highly critical letter of Assemblymember Loni Hancock’s proposed legislation to adopt public financing of campaigns on a state-wide basis (Letters, Dec. 9) is excellent in that it voices the fears many voters have of their tax money going to political candidates to run their campaigns. These fears are, however, based upon misconceptions. The public financing concept does not enable candidates to spend more money. If they qualify for public financing by obtaining a set number of small contributions, candidates can spend only the money they receive from the state and each candidate gets the same amount. This puts all candidates on an even playing field, and enables people who ordinarily would never consider running for office qualify and run. True, thanks to a Supreme Court finding that “money is free speech,” a candidate with lots of personal or special interest cash can chose to run without public funds, but, as Mr. Winnard points out, the amount of money spent does not necessarily determine the winner —and in states that have adopted public financing (Maine, Arizona and, a few weeks ago, Connecticut) politicians who chose to run with their own money have not done well. 

As for the cost to the taxpayer per election, it’s about the price of a movie ticket. This cost can soon become a savings when legislatures are controlled by politicians who owe their allegiance to the voter and not to special interests. California prison guards, for instance, invested approximately $1 million in political contributions and reaped over $500 million in benefits—no wonder Warren Buffet says he has never found a financial investment which will produce a return as high as a political contribution. Public financing “goes for the jugular” of a political system that operates under the myth that political contributions do not influence politicians. 

Another benefit is time. California state legislators spend as much as 70 percent of their time raising money after they are elected. Politicians elected through public financing spend a minimal amount of time raising money and must devote their time instead to serving the voters if they wish to be re-elected. 

But don’t take my word. See what voters and politicians—both Republics and Democrats—have to say in states that have tried public financing. Information can be found at publicampaign.org and takebackca.org. 

Tom Miller 

Advisory Board Member, TakebackCa.org 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My family and I will live closer to the West Berkeley Bowl than almost anyone. I have also been included in meetings about the Bowl, with the architect (who is a friend and former neighbor), the Yasuda family and neighbors from the beginning, many years ago. All of these years, and all of these many, many meetings later, the immediate neighbors have asked for one thing: a neighborhood-friendly store. That’s all. 

From the start, we worried about parking and traffic and our safety on our streets. We have asked to retain the quality of our little neighborhood, Potter Creek. And, everyone agreed that this was a good thing. We have provided maps and diagrams and traffic solutions and suggested buffers and barriers from our Eighth and Ninth and Tenth streets. But instead of including any of these solutions into the current plan, we have been asked to accept a much larger store than originally was proposed, and been told that one traffic signal will be the solution to all of our traffic worries. This is crazy. 

I understand that residents who are a little further off, and would be driving to the store, are very excited about the prospects of a new Bowl. I would be too. I drive to the original Bowl. But, for those of us who will see this complex of buildings from our front porches, our concerns are large and our lives (and that of our children) will change because of it.  

Could we please construct a neighborhood-friendly store? 

M. Sarah Klise  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gov. Schwarzenegger has allowed his life to imitate his art, if his former acting career could be so called. With the execution of Stanley Tookie 

Williams, he has misused his power to kill in real life, instead of just in the movies. 

In the 1600s we Americans burned witches at the stake in public. In the 1800s audiences watched hangings while munching on popcorn. Today, we are no different, only the technology has changed. When will we as a society advance? When will we elect a true leader who is brave enough to lead us in a discourse about the morality of murder by the state? 

For now we remain stuck with “Conan the Barbarian.” 

Heather Merriam 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The corporate owners of the huge toxic dump site in Richmond, in a recent letter to the editor, wrote “It is not true... that a residential development is currently planned for Campus Bay. Cherokee Simeon Ventures, LLC has withdrawn our development application as we continue to work with DTSC.” Nevertheless, Cherokee Simeon continues to send out slick full-color, multi-part mailings about how wonderful their housing development will be (warm, fuzzy photos of school buses, happy children, lush trees). Communities in Richmond are targeted with this sophisticated advertising, which includes a postage-paid card asking anyone who might support the development project to get in touch with the developer. 

Thank you, Daily Planet, for your lifeline of information about what is really going on in Richmond. We count on you. 

Soula Culver 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your thoughtful Dec. 13 editorial about religious hypocrisy revealed an interesting irony: Have evangelical conservatives gotten so busy suing and boycotting inclusive, secular institutions that they have no time left to actually practice religion? 

As your editorial (and the San Francisco Chronicle) reported, some evangelical high schools are suing the University of California for rejecting the skewed, academically deficient content of some of their courses.  

Meanwhile, other evangelical lawyers are suing UC for creating an online teaching guide about evolution. Their jaw-dropping complaint is that UC is unconstitutionally promoting the “religion” of Darwinism. 

Yet as you also pointed out, much of the evangelicals’ actual clerical wing—“megachurches” that each give thousands of members marching orders before elections —is declining to hold Christmas services this year. That’s even though Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.  

For shame! Shouldn’t someone sue to revoke the religious exemptions enjoyed by these “churches,” on the grounds that they’re failing to practice religion?  

Religious institutions are not only tax-exempt, but are now shielded from many local land-use laws. If these huge “churches” are really just secular political lobbies, shouldn’t they be subject to the same laws that Tom DeLay’s other lobbyist benefactors were supposed to observe? 

Conservative evangelicals’ aggressive adoption of litigation and boycotts is clearly payback for the decades they spent playing defense. Secular mainstream groups like the ACLU have successfully relied on the Constitution to protect minority faiths, unbelievers, and even mainline Protestants and Catholics from evangelicals’ real goal of establishing a conservative Protestant state religion. 

That’s why today, many of the evangelicals’ legal claims sound like parodies of the arguments they’ve lost. But progressives should take their efforts seriously, and should sue them right back with just as much imagination and whimsy.  

Spiritual freedom is indivisible. It’s preserved only when everyone is free to seek knowledge and to worship (or not) according to their own calling, without government coercion or endorsement. Keeping government out of religion (and vice versa) is exactly what has helped religion flourish here like in no other industrialized country. 

Oh, and Happy Kwanzaa to all. 

Marcia Lau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Assuming this letter is published, given Editor O’Malley’s persistent and virulent anti-Zionist views, i.e. denial of the right of the existence of a national Jewish homeland, I respond to Conn Hallinan’s Dec. 9 column pointing to the plight of Palestinian Arab residents of the Gaza strip after the Israeli withdrawal. 

Hallinan repeats the familiar Arab concept that whatever misfortune befalls Arabs is not of their own making but of the nefarious actions of others, usually Jews. He does not examine the reasons for the success of Jews from Europe, the Middle East and Africa in constructing a modern, vibrant and democratic society, whatever its shortcomings. This is so, even though the vast majority of those immigrants came from impoverished backgrounds. The contrast with Palestinian, by and large, living in squalid refugee camps for more than half a century, despite generous world-wide financial assistance, is inexplicable. 

In any event, the Gaza “problem” is easily solvable. Adjacent to Gaza is the Sinai peninsula, a tiny outpost of the Egyptian land mass. When Israel occupied this land between 1967 and the Israeli-Egyptian peace accords in the 1970s, thriving Israeli settlements were built in this previously undeveloped area, e.g. Yamit on the Mediterranean and the resort developments on the Gulf of Aqaba coast. These settlements were ceded by Israel after Egyptian President Sadat (who was murdered by his fellow Arabs for his efforts) negotiated a peace agreement with Israel. 

Why not open Sinai to a similar development by Gazan and other Palestinian Arabs? Surely Egypt would welcome these Arab brethren to its underutilized frontier lands. Most assuredly Arab OPEC members would provide financial assistance on behalf of the unified “Arab Street.” Thus the settlers of this land could develop a modern, economically thriving political democracy to be emulated by all Arab states in the region. 

Milton Gordon 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Professor White brought up many issues in his commentary on the Justice for Palestine art exhibit at the Berkeley Art Center. Professor White is a strong advocate for the policies of Israel. He doesn’t like certain customs of Arab cultures; he doesn’t like the Middle East Children’s Alliance; he doesn’t think Arab countries do enough to resettle Palestinian refugees; he reminds us of the needs of Jewish refugees from the Holocaust.  

I’ve read other letters where many of these points are brought up, when Palestine is discussed. 

But, we are talking about an art exhibit, not those other things. The art exhibit centers on the feelings of the artists on the subject of occupation and the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza, by a foreign nation, Israel. 

When you throw up all these other side issues, you obscure the big problem. You make it seem so complicated that most people feel they could never figure it out, so why try. 

In a conversation with a friend, I realized that she thought the West Bank was in Israel, rather than an area that was part of the land designated for Arabs, who were displaced buy the foundation of Israel, in 1948. It’s not that complicated. There are many sources of information. 

I like the web site of “If Americans Knew.” This is a pro-Palestinian site. Another good one that puts out the Zionist position, is the Young Zionists of America website.  

Many people feel that this occupation is part of the answer to the question asked after 9/11: “Why do they hate us?” Whether it is or not, it’s big and it’s going on right now, and all of us have the ability to be part of the solution, but we have to educate ourselves, and we have to be able to talk about it. 

Barbara Henninger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Gale Garcia’s article about “new developments in West Berkeley” was most interesting, particularly about the marshlands filled in that area. 

About 25 years ago, my brother was working on a construction project in the filled area west of the freeway in Emeryville in those apartment complexes. Part of this project was to re-pave the parking spaces under the apartments. The foreman of the paving crew told him that this was the “umpteenth” time they had paved these parking spaces, and that the asphalt was now about 15 feet deep. Maybe the mud fill depth was the case at that one location, but then again... 

Gordon Cavana 


Column: The Pubic Eye: The Terrorists Are Coming! The Terrorists Are Coming! By Bob Burnett

Friday December 16, 2005

Imagine if Massachusetts’ residents weren’t paying attention when Paul Revere made his famous ride that chilly evening in 1775. Consider where we would be if citizens decided that his cry, “The British are coming! The British are coming!” wasn’t worth bothering about. Revere’s warning is comparable to that issued last week by the 9/11 Commission. They’re bellowing, “The terrorists are coming!” and most Americans could care less. 

On Dec. 5, the “9/11 Public Discourse Project” issued a report on the efforts of the Bush administration and Congress to prevent another attack on the homeland. The original 9/11 commission, five Republicans and five Democrats, went out of business last year, after it delivered its final report. In an unusual move, they garnered private funding and reconstituted themselves as the Public Discourse Project, so they could track progress enacting their recommendations. 

The project concluded, “We are not as safe as we need to be … there is so much more to be done. ... Many obvious steps that the American people assume have been completed, have not been… Some of these failures are shocking.” 

The group’s Republican chair, Thomas Kean, observed, “We believe that the terrorists will strike again. So does every responsible expert that we have talked to … If they do, and these reforms that might have prevented such an attack have not been implemented, what will our excuses be?” 

Of the 41 grades given, there were 17 D’s or F’s. The government’s overall grade was a C-. There were two particularly disturbing findings: One was the “administration’s woeful record in strengthening global counterproliferation efforts to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists.” The other was the failure to adequately fund first responders. Particularly those police, fire, and public health departments in high-risk locales. 

The 9/11 Project observed that the response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that the first-responders were not ready for another attack. There has been no progress providing a system “that allows emergency response personnel to communicate reliably and effectively in a crisis.” Similarly there has been inadequate progress establishing a “unified incident command center.” Amazingly the first-responder funding has become a mechanism for dispensing pork to small states. Rather than allocate funds based upon potential risk, Congress has relied on a formula that does not send money where it’s needed. Thus, Wyoming receives $27.80 per resident in homeland security funds, while California receives $8.05 per resident. 

A glaring example is Washington D.C. According to Washington Post columnist Steve Pearlstein, the region has no credible plan “to respond to an attack or a natural disaster, or even an agreement of who will be in charge.”  

Four years after terrorists attacked America, we have not learned our lesson. Despite claims that we have the strongest defense in the world, we remain startlingly vulnerable. Whose fault is this? 

Many blame the Bush administration. The 9/11 Project observed, “Our leadership is distracted.” The administration decided that an invasion of Iraq was the answer to the threat of a domestic terrorist attack. Despite bipartisan warnings that this is disastrously wrong-headed, that remains their focus. 

Congress must also take responsibility. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs sets the formula for allocation of first-responder money to the states. The committee—headed by Maine Republican Susan Collins and Connecticut “Democrat” Joe Lieberman—has been satisfied with a formula based on pork rather than risk. Further, the Senate has buckled to the chemical industry and refused to pass reasonable standards that would help secure chemical plants from attack. 

Finally, the media must take responsibility. The day after the 9/11 Project issued their alarming report, most American newspapers and TV news programs buried this item. Writing in Editor and Publisher, Greg Mitchell characterized the media response as “underwhelming.” 

Only six of the 40 major U.S. newspapers carried the 9/11 report on their front pages. The Houston Chronicle led with, “Concerns Over Face Transplant Grows.” 

Thomas Jefferson famously cautioned Americans, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” Recently, Jimmy Carter warned about the devastating impact of fundamentalist Christianity on our society. This has impacted preparation for a terrorist attack. Many fundamentalists—about 36 per cent of Americans according to Bill Moyers—believe that America’s problems, such as terrorism, are irrelevant, as we are in the final stages of the “end times.” 

President Bush is a fundamentalist Christian. Perhaps this explains why his administration isn’t protecting America. It’s not the terrorists but the end times that are coming. 

Whatever Bush’s reasoning, the majority of Americans aren’t in the grip of systemic myopia. We still have the time to exercise “eternal vigilance.” If George won’t respond to the 9/11 report, then it’s up to us to demand that Congress take action. Before it is too late. 


Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer and activist. He can be reached at bobburnett@comcast.net.  




Surprise—Europeans Approve of Immigrants, Study Says By PAOLO PONTONIERE Pacific News Service

Friday December 16, 2005

Among all Europeans, the French have the most positive view of immigration and minorities. Huge majorities of Germans and Italians would give immigrants, legal and illegal, free access to their health care systems. Americans are the most trusted foreigners in Europe.  

These startling findings emerged in a study done by a prestigious Italian university just months before riots in France’s suburbs left officials pondering what to do with the country’s restive non-white minorities and immigrants.  

The Fifth Report on Immigration and Citizenship in Europe was prepared between June and September by the University of Urbino, one of Europe’s oldest higher education institutions, and by Fondazione Nord Est, an Italian foundation focusing on social policy, economics and immigration.  

“The research results seem to contradict the current debate on immigration in Europe, particularly after the recent events in France,” says Ilvo Diamanti, lead investigator for the University of Urbino. “It’s even more surprising considering that the lowest degree of anti-immigrant alarm was found in the metropolitan area of Paris.”  

According to the poll, 71.7 percent of French citizens perceive immigration as a positive social and economic phenomenon. Furthermore, 82.1 percent believe that immigrants who pay taxes should be allowed to vote in local elections, while 67.1 percent would let them vote also in national elections.  

Contrary to the widely held belief that Old Europe is unflinchingly xenophobic, the study found that countries like Germany and Italy are, in fact, coming to terms with their need for immigrants and with the idea that immigrants should enjoy the same rights and legal protections enjoyed by their own citizens.  

In Italy’s urban centers with more than 500,000 residents, less than 30 percent of the population view immigration negatively. In Germany the percentage rises to 32 percent while in France it drops below 13 percent. In general, Western Europeans affirmed that immigrants are assets to the economy, contribute to the cultural diversification of their countries and widen Europe’s cultural horizon.  

While 75 percent of Germans would give health coverage to legal and illegal immigrants and their families, 97.1 percent of Italians favor extending free access to their national health care system.  

Diamanti believes the French riots resulted more from France’s economic problems and social disparities than directly from anti-immigration sentiments. He believes that economic pressures on the standard of living continent-wide, caused by the introduction of the euro, has fueled fears of invasions by legions Southern and Eastern migrants in search of work, housing and social service.  

But Jean Baptiste Su, a correspondent for La Tribune, France’s largest financial daily, takes a dim view of the research, especially in light of the recent riots.  

“The revolts have marked a real fracture in race relations across France and strengthened the repressive hand of the government,” Su says. “People are really scared. They have seen cars, schools and houses going up in flames and they don’t like it. And unfortunately, true or not, Muslims have been scapegoated for the chaos that ensued.”  

Su believes that although across Europe the riots may lead to the adoption of more tolerant policies toward immigrants, in France “they will be used—for the moment—to curb immigration and stiffen naturalizations laws.”  

Jochen Siegle-Kling, a German free-lance journalist and frequent contributor to Der Spiegel, is heartened by the research.  

“The study confirms that Europeans have finally awakened to the fact that they need immigrants, both socially and economically, more than immigrants need them,” Siegle-Kling says. “It appears also that they are trying to cope with the necessity to integrate them, expressing good will on a series of fronts ranging form heath coverage to political rights.”  

But Siegle-Kling also says the banlieue riots should serve as an “alarm signal.”  

“Time is ticking away. Great Britain and Italy should pay particular attention because they’re next in line for a revolt,” he says.  

Indeed, in Rome 30,000 people—immigrants and natives—marched in freezing rain to the Parliament to ask for the passage of laws granting equal rights and work permits to immigrants and their families.  

“After the French riots Italians are no longer arrogant. They have stopped acting like immigration isn’t their problem,” declared Andres, an illegal immigrant from North Africa who gave journalists only his first name.  

The study also disproves the notion that “New Europe” tends to be more modern than the Old one: Significantly more Central Europeans than Western Europeans view immigration as a threat. In the Czech Republic, 61.1 percent see immigrants as a threat to their national security.  

In Hungary, 72.3 percent believe immigrants destabilize the labor market, lower the wages and compete for the same jobs sought by the native population. In Poland, only 12 percent view immigrants as an asset to the national economy. Germany emerges as the most trusting of immigrants; Hungary is the least trusting.  

The trust question netted another of the most surprising findings. The study appears to dispel the perception that anti-Americanism fueled by anger at U.S. foreign policy has seized Europe. The findings show that U.S. citizens are the most trusted foreigners throughout the continent, with Germany giving them top marks (74.5 percent) and Hungarians (46.9 percent) the lowest. Immigrants from Arab countries are the least trusted—51.1 percent trust them in Germany and only 8.4 percent in the Czech Republic.  


Paolo Pontoniere is a correspondent for Focus, Italy’s leading monthly magazine. ›

Commentary: 1610 Oregon St.: A Problem That Touches All of Us By SHIRLEY DEAN

Friday December 16, 2005

Monday, Nov. 28, was supposed to be the last day that the story of 1610 Oregon St. unfolded in small claims court. I’ve heard every word spoken in all three of the court sessions held regarding this sad story, read all of the thousands of words written in newspapers, letters and reports, and served as mayor during the time the city made an effort to solve the problem through a coordinated multi-service approach. I think this qualifies me to write this. 

Too many people make the mistake of thinking this is a story of a problem in some neighborhood that is far removed from their own lives. The truth is that this kind of muddled thinking couldn’t be further from the truth. This story touches every one of us because it reflects the very values on which any community is built.  

Berkeley takes pride in our diversity and sometimes downright quirkiness. However we look at our community there should be no question that we share the value that the rights of any individual must not impinge on the equal rights of another. So how does a City tolerate the situation at 1610 Oregon Street for so many long years? Why is it that 15 courageous neighbors have to put aside their fears for their personal safety and bear the hurt of public criticism to solve the problem by using in their desperation the only tool available to them, the small claims court?  

These questions deserve real answers. Over two years ago, in October 2003, I asked on the pages of the Daily Planet where was the City Council on the issue of crime in South Berkeley. The only response I received was from a School Board member who said how beneficial it was to raise children to be “street smart.” Then the council discussed crime in Berkeley recently and spent a whole lot of time celebrating that violent crime is down and discussing ways to re-assure residents that our high crime rate is only due to Part II—or so-called “quality of life” crimes like burglaries, vandalism, drugs and auto thefts. Well, we all should and do greatly appreciate the fact that our murder rate is not high, but frankly the rest of it is pretty worrisome. Let’s understand that “quality of life” crimes (but not forgetting the shootings and killings that have occurred there) are what we are talking about for the most part impacting the Oregon, Russell, California corner. My experience is that these kinds of crimes set the stage for, then define “blighted” neighborhoods, and eventually greater violence.  

The 1610 Oregon St. neighborhood is a model of diversity—racial, age, backgrounds and interests. People live here in neat, modest single-family homes. Most work, pay their taxes and mortgages, and send their children to Berkeley’s public schools. Neighborhoods like this one are the backbone of any community. What residents in this neighborhood want, exactly like all of us, are things like being able to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, to sit comfortably on their porches, to work or play safely in their yards, to interact peaceably with their neighbors, to sit by their windows in the security of their homes, and to walk unafraid to the store, school or park. For more than 20 years the fulfillment of these basics of every day life have been denied to them with many of the problems having a direct connection with one property in the 1600 block of Oregon.  

At various times, some have claimed that: 1) this problem should be settled by everyone sitting down and having a friendly chat; 2) the elderly woman who owns the house either doesn’t know what is going on there or is so busy caring for her frail husband and big family, working at a part-time job, and doing good works that she can’t control what is happening; 3) the owner is doing everything she can to cure the problems but she is neither responsible for problems in and around her home nor for what occurs in the neighborhood; 4) the real purpose of the neighbors is they just won’t accept that diversity means different cultures doing different things; or 5) the small claims court process violates the owner’s constitutional rights. Probably the most outrageous of all is that statement that complaining neighbors should simply move if they don’t like what is happening! 

It’s true that everything that goes on in the area can’t be attributed to that one address, but look at just some of what is documented by the city and courts as being connected. Multiple police calls, raids, and arrests at that address for drug related activities over many years right up to even just few weeks ago. A Berkeley police officer stated in recent sworn testimony that drug activity in the area was operated and controlled from this address. A court ruling in 1992 awarded some 30 neighbors $155,000 in compensation for the “nuisance” caused by drug dealing at the address, a judgment that was appealed and upheld by a higher court. Payment was avoided by transferring title of the house and declaring bankruptcy. The home of the lead plaintiff in that case was later firebombed by unknown persons. A resident of the house was shot and killed around the corner of the home. Surrounding properties have used condoms, bullets and needles thrown into their yards by persons who are coming and going from the house. Neighbors are disturbed late at night even when windows are tightly closed, by noise that comes from the house. Five years ago there was so much of a problem with visible deterioration of the home and so many cars, machinery, and trash on the property that the city did an inspection and found 22 code violations that were so serious that not only were repairs ordered but the building had to be vacated while they were made. The repairs were made but not without incident in which the contractor had his jaw broken in an altercation at the site. Charges were not pressed when the contractor did not identify his assailant.  

A pattern was established of things getting better for a while, but then reverting back to the same old, same old. The length of time this problem has persisted, flying bullets and shouted threats ought to be enough proof that this is not just an annoying neighborhood spat. To put it mildly, the claim that the owners of the property in question were unaware of the problems is simply unbelievable what with shootings, police raids, the various legal actions and paying for the attorneys to represent them in court and undertaking various property transactions.  

The claim that the small claims court process is some violation of constitutional rights stretches the imagination. It’s been on the books for many years and has been used many times in Berkeley mostly by renters against landlords who refuse to deal with noisy, drug dealing tenants. Throughout the years, I’ve never heard a single word from any civil rights advocate, community activist or newspaper about the process being in violation of anyone’s constitutional rights. It most recently was used by neighbors fed up with the activities at the student co-op, Chateau.  

Even the claim that filing restraining orders against the owner’s own family is proof that the owner is doing everything possible to correct the situation is misleading because those restraining orders were not filed until after the current small claims action was filed. When one of the people who was under such an order was found to be in violation, the police officer noted in his written report that he was told by the owner that she didn’t want the order enforced! There is no question that the owner, for whatever reason, cannot deal with the problem.  

Neighbors have three choices: they can move away, sit back and try and ignore it or come together to reclaim their neighborhood. These neighbors, none of whom are new to the area, of different ages and backgrounds, chose the brave course of trying to reclaim their neighborhood and “brave” is what they have had to be. They’ve been called names, photographed when leaving the courthouse after testifying in court, endured glares, comments, threats and people sitting on their front stairs. One even had his employer asked to review his activity as a plaintiff in the case!  

My heart went out to them as I sat in court and heard their statements given under oath about what they had endured. Powerful statements were made by parents who told of how the innocence of their young children had been stolen by what was happening on their street. One asked in anguished tones what kind of father am I that I can’t protect my child in her own yard. An older woman told of how her once peaceful and pleasant neighborhood had been shattered by the drug trade. A mother who had helped her daughter buy her house told how she now feared just sitting at a table near a window that looked out on the street. People told about how they cannot even walk down the sidewalk or how they could not even invite people to their homes. 

Well, we didn’t get the court’s answer on Nov. 28, so that won’t be the end of the story. The question remains for the rest of us: If we want Berkeley to remain a city of diversity, how can we ensure that every neighborhood is one where people can live in comfort and safety? The question is as simple as that. We read about stronger answers coming from other cities, but hear only silence from ours. It is time that we asked our city to step up to dealing with these problems and to do it now. When one neighborhood goes down, we all lose something because our City is no stronger than all of its neighborhood parts. We once maintained that Berkeley was a city of neighborhoods, yet everyday we hear of those neighborhoods being under attack. It is time to put our money and our policies into preserving and protecting our valuable and basic assets, our neighborhoods.  


Shirley Dean is the former mayor of Berkeley. 



First Person: Vigil at San Quentin By OSHA NEUMANN

Friday December 16, 2005

We wait, packed up against the gate to San Quentin Prison. We are a diverse crowd of many colors and many ages, standing bundled up against the cold, holding our candles and our signs. Off to one side are two counter demonstrators. One holds a large sign that says “Thou shalt not kill applies to Tookie Williams.” The other holds a smaller sign that says “For details read the Bible.” 

The black cables laid down by the media to feed electricity to their equipment are strung along the pavement beneath our feet. In the middle of the crowd, a little space has been carved out by a TV crew. A cameraman holding a camera on his shoulder points it at a reporter doing a stand up. The reporter has short cropped white hair. He’s wearing a white shirt and a tie with a leather jacket. He looks like he’s made of wax. His makeup gives his face an unnatural blush. His expression is blank and unreadable as he waits patiently for the signal to begin his 15 second sound bite.  

To the left of us is the bay, a dark body of water, with the miniature lights of the San Francisco and the Bay Bridge at its outer edge. To the right, two-story frame houses sit on a hillside. They have steps climbing towards porches. One has Christmas lights wrapped around the railing. We are in what the road sign calls “San Quentin Village.” 

Time passes. A woman with a baby sits against a concrete retaining wall. Protesters climb onto the roof of a garage to get a better view of the stage. A man comes out of the adjoining house and announces somewhat half-heartedly “This is private property, you know.” Then he goes back inside. One of the people on the garage roof throws a cigarette butt into a clump of ivy, where it continues to smoke. The smell drifts towards a woman standing next to me. She’s worried it will start a fire. Two men try to allay her fear. They forage for burning butt without success. The smell goes away. 

We had been told the execution would begin at a minute past midnight. Midnight arrives. On the stage, a woman is drumming and singing a Native American chant. The crowd joins in. Then a man leads us in “We Shall Overcome.” 

More minutes pass. Children from Richmond read sections of Tookie Williams’ children’s book A woman assures us that as soon as the organizers know anything they will tell us. The children keep reading. No one leaves. And then finally—finally?—the announcement from the stage: a San Quentin spokesman says that Tookie Williams has been executed. I hold my friend Brian’s hand. He has been a good friend for many years. Two woman next to us embrace and begin to cry quietly. At the edge of the crowd an angry chant begins: “They say death row, we say hell no!” It is not picked up. The crowd does not seem to be in a shouting mood. Slowly we begin to leave. 

At what moment did he die? What precisely were we doing? As my legs got stiff I looked at my watch to see how much longer I needed to be out here. I quickly reproached myself: “Am I anxious for the moment of his death to come? Because my legs are little stiff? 

We say: “I can’t wait till the day will come.” And yet we must wait. We say: “I dread the day that’s coming.” And yet it comes. Time marches on. It’s like an army, trampling through the fields, flattening the grass. Nothing can stand in its way. It is disciplined. It looks neither right nor left. It cares not a whit for the wishes of those who would halt its progress or speed it along. We say it marches because it is relentlessness. It permits no deviation, no side trips into the past, no scouting expeditions into the future. And while we stood, that march goose stepped past Tookie Williams, and we, whether we would or not, joined the parade. And we left his lifeless body behind as we headed for our cars. 

We did not know the moment that he died or even that he was dead until we were told. There was no shift in the light, no change in atmospheric pressure. No tremor passed through the earth. His death did not register on any Richter scale. One life gone, and the universe weighs the same as it did before its passing. It does not seem right that such a monumental event should leave so little mark.  

I had brought along in my satchel a copy of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s statement denying clemency. It took just six pages to print it out from the governor’s website. Unlike most of my friends I thought in the end he would grant clemency. I thought that anyone who has in his hands the life of another human being, would feel the weight of that life. Even a politician as crass and artificial as Arnold. I thought he would know that when all the hoopla had died down, and he was left alone with his memories his decision would be there with him, leaving its mark on his soul. But reading that statement I knew that Arnold never imagined such a moment. For him the hoopla would always be there. Those thin six pages that threw away Tookie’s life read as if written not by a human being but by a clever machine that collated soundbites, bits of boilerplate, and talking points. The words had been chosen, not for their relation to reality, but for their effect. I realized Schwarzenegger lives in an eternal present. He can’t imagine an end to the party. Or the power. But time will eat Schwarzenegger as it has eaten Tookie. And while Tookie’s life will feed other lives, all that will remain of Schwarzenegger will be a bitter memory.  


Osha Neumann is an attorney and activist.

Commentary: Underneath the Shady Tree By WINSTON BURTON

Friday December 16, 2005

I was sitting alone in downtown Berkeley, lost in thought, when my friend Martin the mailman approached.  

“Hey Winston what are you doing?” he asked.  

“I’m sitting here under this shady tree watching the kids playing in the fountain in front of the hotel and convention center,” I responded.  

“I don’t see any tree. What hotel, what fountain?” he replied.  

“Over there (pointing), next to the new university art museum and film center. Since they daylighted Strawberry Creek, and all of those new sidewalk cafés have sprung up, downtown has become a real jewel. I especially like the foot bridges that span Oxford Street, connecting the university with the city. It makes me feel as if we’re all one community. See the lighted dome, hanging vines and flowers at the BART Plaza? It’s a wonderful place to read while you’re waiting for friends. Now that they closed Addison Street to vehicles the arts district has truly come to life. There’s live outdoor music almost every night, sidewalk art shows and free workshops for children every weekend. You can enjoy yourself without spending any money, except for food. Smell that? (Sniffing) Ummm, barbecue. There’s finally a rib joint downtown!”  

Martin looked at me like I had lost my mind.  

“Winston you’re sitting on a Berkeley Farms milk crate, in an empty parking lot by yourself. What are you talking about?”  

“The future! The future of downtown Berkeley,” I explained. “Before you can enjoy some things you have to imagine them. Next comes planning, construction, permits, City Council meetings, environmental impact reports, commissions, public hearings and so on. I often like to eat dessert first because I’m impatient! Sometimes imagining things is as far as I get—so I’m enjoying it now.”  

“By the way”, said Martin. “Why is this parking lot almost empty on a Saturday afternoon when people always complain about not enough parking downtown?”  

“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask someone else. That’s too much in the now for me,” I answered impatiently. My imagining interrupted, I started walking away.  

“”Where are you going now?” Martin asked.  

“I’m walking over to the gift shop in the Berkeley Community Theater to buy some tie-dye shirts and scarves,” I replied.  

“Where’s that?” he asked.  

I told him, “Next to the statue of Jimi Hendrix, where else?!” 


Winston Burton is a member of the Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee. 

Arts Calendar

Friday December 16, 2005



Aurora Theatre “Marius” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St., through Dec. 18. Tickets are $28-$45. 843-4822.  

Berkeley Rep “Brundibár” A musical fable at the Roda Theater through Dec. 28. Tickets are $15-$64. 647-2949.  

Masquers Playhouse “Dear World” Jerry Herman’s musical, Fri. and Sat at 8 p.m. through Dec. 17 at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. Tickets are $15. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Cabaret” Thurs. - Sun. at 8 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Through Jan. 29. 841-6500.  


Luthier’s An exhibtion of tradition guitar and ukulele making at the Addison Street Windows Gallery, 2018 Addison St., through Jan. 15. 981-7533. 

“Italian Landscapes” paintings by Anthony Holdsworth. Reception at 5:30 p.m. at Caffe 817, 817 Washinton St., Oakland.  

Turn of the Century Fine Arts Winter Salon at 5 p.m. at 2510 San Pablo Ave. 849-0950. 


The Battles of Sam Peckinpah “Cross of Iron” at 7 p.m. and “The Osterman Weekend” at 9:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. 642-0808.  


“The Nutcracker” by Berkeley Ballet Theater at 7 p.m. at The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $20. 843-4689. www.berkeleyballet.org 

Woman’s Antique Vocal Ensemble ”What Sweeter Music” English and Spanish Christmas music at 8 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave. Tickets are $5-$15. www.wavewomen.org 

The Christmas Revels at 7:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 1 and 5 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$42. 415-773-1181. www.calrevels.org 

Cowpokes for Peace at 7 p.m. at A Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcatraz. Free, all ages welcome. 420-0196. 

North Indian Classical Music Benefit for Himalayan Earthquake Survivors at 7:30 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, One Lawson Rd., Kensington.  

Michael Jones, violin and John Burke, piano, at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $12. 848-1228.  

Tito y Su Son, traditional Cuban dance music, at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568.  

Robin Gregory & Max Perkoff Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Beth Waters with Adrianne at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Al Stewart at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761.  

Danny Caron Duo at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

David Gans, Mario DeSio and Jeff Pehrson at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Scott Amendola Band with guest Jeff Cauthier at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082.  

Abi Yo Yos, Inpect Her Gadget, Set Off at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Blow Fly at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $5-$8. 548-1159.  

Wayward Monks at 8:30 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 644-2204. 

Loosewig Jazz Trio, contemporary jazz, at 8 p.m. at Ristorante Raphael, 2132 Center St. 644-9500. 

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

Charlie Hunter Trio, featuring John Ellis & Derrek Phillips at 8 and 10 p.m. through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$22. 238-9200.  



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


Marcel Pagnol’s Provence “Marius” at 6 p.m. and “Fanny” at 8:20 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808.  


“Fragments of Time” Paintings by Ireneusz Ciesiolkiewicz from 1 to 4 p.m. Sat. and Sun. at 6525 Shattuck Ave. Oakland. 415-756-0951. 

Silver Jewelry Show from noon to 6 p.,m. at Elixir Salon, 1599 Hopkins Ave. 


“Dick ‘N Dubya Show: A Republican Cabaret” Sat. and Sun. at 7 p.m. at The Marsh Berkeley, 2118 Allston Way, through Dec. 18. Tickets are $10-$22. 800-838-3006.  

Moshe Cohen and Unique Derique “Cirque Do Somethin’” Sat. and Sun. at 1 p.m. at the Marsh, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$15. 800-838-3006. www.themarsh.org 


Rhythm & Muse Young Performer’s Night with Lily Stoner, John Farley, Afi Adjene Nkhume, Mehrnush Golriz and others at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. 527-9753. 


“The Nutcracker” by Berkeley Ballet Theater at 2 and 7 p.m. at The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $20. 843-4689. www.berkeleyballet.org 

Brazilian Jazz and Capoeira Dance at 8 p.m. 2026 Addison St. A benefit for King Middle School delegation to Washington D.C. Cost is $5-$20. 666-1349. 

Kali’s Angels and New Spirit Voices, original songs, ecstatic chants and holiday music at 7:30 p.m. at Pacific School of Religion Chapel, 1798 Scenic Ave. Suggested donation $10-$20. 704-7729. 

Berkeley Music Co. Players at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $12-$15. 848-1228.  

Navidad Flamenca at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $18-$20. 849-2568.  

Quanti Bomani, saxophonist, at 8 p.m. at Linen Life, 1375 Park Ave., Emeryville. Tickets are $20. 1-866-468-3399. 

Fred Randolph Jazz Group at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Moot Davis and the Cool Deal at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Oak, Ash & Thorn at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Carribean Allstars at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

David K. Matthews Duo at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Sharon Knight and Megan McLaughlin at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Moment’s Notice A salon for improvised music, dance and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Cost is $8-$10. 415-831-5592. 

Girl Talk Band, bluesy jazz, at 8 p.m. at Ristorante Raphael, 2132 Center St. 644-9500. 

The Ravines at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Iron Lung, Unpersons, Laudanum at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Brazuca Brown at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Julia Lau & Anna Laube at 8:30 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $5-$10. www.epicarts.org 



“Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia and Deco” guided tour at 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Museum, 2625 Durant Ave. 642-0808. 


Marcel Pagnol’s Provence “Fanny” at 3 p.m. and “César” at 5:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $4-$8. 642-0808.  


“The Nutcracker” by Berkeley Ballet Theater at 2 p.m. at The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $20. 843-4689. www.berkeleyballet.org 

Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra, “Gloria” by Poulenc at 4:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. Admission is free, donations welcome. www.bcco.org 

Christmas Concert and Carols at 2:30 p.m. at First Church of Christ, scientist, 1701 Franklin St. 832-2364. 

Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at 4:30 p.m. at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way at Ellsworth. Donations accepted. 845-0888. 

A Medieval Christmas with the San Francisco Choral Artists performing Britten’s Ceremony of Carols at 4 p.m. at St. Pauls’ Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave. Tickets are $18-$25. 415-979-5779. www.sfca.org 

Carolyn Plummer CD Release Party at 4 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $7. 841-JAZZ.  

Carlos Oliveira & Brazillian Origins, featuring Harvey Wainapel at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Cascada de Flores, music of Mexico and Cuba at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15. 849-2568.  

Holly Near at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761.  

Soj’s Upward Spiral Kiirtan Benefit Concert for recent natural disasters at 7 p.m. at Yoga Mandala, 2807 Telegraph Ave. www.yogamandalastudio.com 

Ross Hammond at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Monte Hatch and Floating World at 7:30 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $5-$10. www.epicarts.org 



PlayGround “Resolutions” Six emerging playwrights debut new works at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Pre-show panel discussion at 7 p.m. Tickets are $16. 415-704-3177.  


Poetry Express with Pasadena Poets at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. berkeleypoetryexpress@yahoo.com 


West Coast Songwriters Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $5.50. 548-1761. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Frank Jackson 80th Birthday Party at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$10. 238-9200.  



“The Drivetime” a cyber-fi film by Antero Alli at 7 p.m. at Blake’s, 2367 Telegraph. 464-4640. www.verticalpool.com  


Tell on on Tuesdays Storytelling at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Cost is $8-$12 sliding scale. www.juiamorgan.org 


Sauce Piquante at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Ellen Hoffman with Singers’ Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mike Stern with Dennis Chambers, Victor Wooten & Bob Francescini at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Fri. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Eric Shifrin, jazz piano, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810. 



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.starryploughpub.com 


Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean, organ, at noon at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

“From the Darkness, Solace” A Winter Solstice event with musicians and video artists at 7 pm. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Donation $10-$20. 228-3207. 

“A Little Cole in Your Stocking” with Meg Mackay and Billy Philadelphia at 8 p.m. at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. 

Calvin Keys Trio and Jam at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ. 

Ned Boynton Trio at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Whiskey Brothers, old time and bluegrass, at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473.  

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lessons at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054.  

Orquestra La Verdad at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Sonny Heinila Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277. 

Freight Holiday Revue & Fundraiser at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $16.50-$17.50. 548-1761. 



Nomad Spoken Word Night at 7 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Word Beat Reading Series with Carol Hochberg and Jonathan Callard at 7 p.m. at Mediterraneum Caffe, 2475 Telegraph Ave. 526-5985. 


Si Perkoff & Max Perkoff at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Famous Last Words, The Bottomdwellers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. 

Duncan James, solo jazz guitar, at 8 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Otit.org at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 848-8277.X

Berkeley Community Chorus Offers Free Sunday Show By KEN BULLOCK Special to the Planet

Friday December 16, 2005

The Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra will present a free concert featuring François Poulenc’s “Gloria” this Sunday at St. Joseph The Worker Church. 

The program also includes J. Mueller’s “23.5 Degrees” and Ernst Bacon’s “Hymn to the United Nations” under the direction of Arlene Sagan. Sunday’s 4:30 p.m. show is the finale of a three-performance series at the church at 1640 Addison St. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. 

The selection of Poulenc’s “Gloria” (1959) for the concert is a tribute to Arlene Sagan for her 16 years of leadership of the Community Chorus and Orchestra. The piece is a late composition by the composer, who lived from 1899 to 1965, which consolidates a lifetime of musical influences and explorations. 

“Gloria” is “remarkable not only for its wide range of emotions, from teasing impudence to pensive reverence, but for the sheer amount of material it packs into its 25 minutes,” according to critic Peter Gutmann. “Of grand scope and intensely human focus,” Poulenc’s masterpiece “reaches back at the very beginning to the past with a majestic and exciting fanfare, which immediately recedes into a warmer, richly harmonized register ... probing chords add a sense of quest ... as the chorus builds a rising affirmative figure over swirling strings.” 

Poulenc debuted as one of “Les Six,” the group of French composers sponsored by Erik Satie, which also included Darius Milhaud, later resident at Mills College. Considered unusually melodic for an avant-gardist, Poulenc returned to Roman Catholicism in the 1930s, and commenced a new career as composer of sacred works from 1936, a surprise to those who considered him essentially a “boulevardier.” 

Other choral and operatic works include “La Figure Humaine” (1943), concerning the French Resistance; “Les Mamelles de Tiresias” (1944), from the play by Guillaume Apollinaire; “La Voix Humaine,” from the play by Jean Cocteau, and “Dialogues des Carmelites” (1955). Cocteau hailed Poulenc as a composer who set poetry perfectly to music for singing—he set pieces by Cocteau himself, Apollinaire, Paul Eluard and Federico García Lorca. 

Ernst Bacon, American composer (1898-1990), composed “Hymn to the United Nations” in 1951. Jerry Mueller, composer of “23.5 Degrees,” teaches music theory at San Francisco City College, where he founded the electronic music studio, an early music group and a composers’ collective. Besides choral works, Mueller has composed for piano and organ, sound tracks for short films and the incidental music for nine theater productions. 


Berkeley Community Chorus and Orchestra presents Francois Poulenc’s “Gloria,” J. Mueller’s “23.5º,” Ernst Bacon’s “Hymn to The United Nations,” and other music highlights Sun., Dec. 18, 4:30 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. Admission is free; donations accepted. www.bcco.org.›

Take a Stroll Through Historic Petaluma By MARTA YAMAMOTO Special to the Planet

Friday December 16, 2005

Free time in December is as rare as unsold chocolate hazelnut scones from Cheese Board. Time disappears with scheduled activities and holiday responsibilities. But wait, a dim light glows ahead—one open day. 

Fancy a walk? Or several? Away from muddy trails and dripping leaves. A change of scenery, interesting architecture, handsome Victorians, a soothing river and a plethora of unique shops. One destination, all within easy walking distance. 

Downtown Petaluma retains its 19th century heritage amid present day small town charm. Spared from damage from the 1906 earthquake, both commercial businesses and homes seem timeless. 

Include the Petaluma River and enticing rural backroads and you’ll find a single visit not long enough. 

It’s obvious that Petaluma is proud to share its attractions. Excellent visitor services make excursions a breeze. Well-described self-guided walking tours, information kiosks and directional signs are plentiful. So leave your tasks behind for a day and join me as I explore historic Petaluma. 

Commerce beckoned so I headed to Putnam Plaza Park, the site of Petaluma’s birth and the first stop on the Historic Downtown Walking Tour. With bubbling brick fountain, arched entry and shaded benches this pleasant spot is a natural meeting place. As I followed Petaluma Boulevard the brochure described unique architectural features. The American Trust Building’s stone-like façade is actually terra cotta. Atop the Masonic Building pops Petaluma’s landmark clock, easily visible above the skyline. The massive McNear Building complex is eye-catching with its street-side Saloon and Dining House occupying the former Mystic Theater. From the attractive tricolor scheme of deep maroon, tan and gold to an outdoor patio and full wood interior, McNear's seemed the place to be. Too difficult was the choice between a Linguisa Scramble and a BBQ Beef Sandwich with Fries. 

At B Street the route led to the Petaluma River where new construction harmonizes with the old. Arched detailing, brick walls and interesting rooflines all blend to one attractive statement. The imposing Great Petaluma Mill’s grain shoots overlook the river; inside is a complex of shops and eateries. The Apple Box proved to be the first of many browse-worthy distractions. Country-style crafts vied with appealing pastries, hand-brewed coffee and lunch specials for my attention. Brightly painted ceramics, linens and aprons would brighten any winter day. Cozy seating inside and riverside tables on the deck above gliding kayakers complete the picture of an interesting stop. 

The windows at Moreda’s outdoor lifestyle store again drew my eyes away from architectural details. Attractive displays and warm staff were spot-on to what a country shop should be like. Printed flannel shirts for him, souvenir chicken sweatshirts for her, dog and horse goodies for your best pals, fishing and hunting supplies for granddad—something for everyone!  

Another tribute to Petaluma’s “Egg Basket of the World” fame beckoned from Chelsea Market. Wonderful welded metal sculptures of chickens and their young’uns, some over three-feet tall, were painted in bold yellows, blues and reds. I wanted to adopt the entire flock. 

Returning to the guided walk I learned that Kentucky Street also owes its existence to the booming poultry industry. Small shops, narrow tree-lined street, metal awnings, benches and flowered planters create a relaxed charm. In Copperfield Books’ children’s area dads sat atop big floor pillows, kids and books in their laps, seeming in no hurry to leave.  

The buildings on Western Avenue, known as “Iron Front Row,” handsomely display their cast iron fronts, believed to serve as fireproofing in the 1880s. At walk’s end was Petaluma’s Historical Library and Museum, where it was difficult to determine what was more impressive—the exhibits or the building itself. Constructed in 1903 with donations from Andrew Carnegie, the stately exterior combines sandstone and white pressed brick, classic columns and arched windows. Center stage inside on the vaulted ceiling is an exquisite sunburst leaded glass dome in reds, gold and blue. Beautifully maintained wood paneling and shiny brass railings on the mezzanine level signal the care afforded this treasure.  

Exhibits reflect Petaluma’s past lives. Poultry memorabilia occupy a good portion of floor space. I was intrigued with the Whirlway egg cleaner. With two long rollers on a wood frame farmers could wash and dry 2500 eggs per hour, important to accumulating the 600 million eggs sold every year. Alongside this stood the egg carton presser, vital to the safe transport of Petaluma’s “gold” crop. Ingenuity reigned upstairs in the floorless chicken coop. Hitched to a horse, farmers would simply move it to a new location when conditions inside warranted. 

The Kickerbocker Number Five pumper, room-size looks into early kitchens, schoolrooms and sitting rooms lead me back to simpler days. Exhibits on the river’s role in Petaluma’s origin and growth and contributions by early Chinese immigrants peaked my interest and lengthened my stay. 

Entering Petaluma I had enviously marveled at the wealth of showcase Victorian homes. Another self-guided walk brochure highlights a six-block area around A Street, pointing out the variety of architectural styles present in this neighborhood. From the Greek and Gothic Revivals of the 1860s through the Colonial, Georgian and Queen Anne homes of the early 1900s, there are enough columns, towers, balustrades, porticos and gables to thrill any home buff. Actually, any wander around Petaluma’s historic neighborhoods will find you admiring lovely period homes and their well-tended gardens. 

At this point I knew another visit was somewhere in my future, hopefully next spring when costumed docents lead all the walks. Additional walks would await my return. The River Walk highlights the docks on the east side of the river and includes a stroll through Cavanagh Park. Four separate tours are needed to view the diversity of Petaluma’s trees, over 50-species. This alone warrants a springtime return. 

Before I left Petaluma, nature’s calls and chirps directed me to Shollenberger Park. This restored wetlands along the Petaluma River attracts over 160 bird species yearly. Believe it or not, yet another self-guided tour with fifteen nature stations forms a two-mile loop. A pleasant asphalted path skirts the perimeter of dredge spoil ponds teeming with mallard, coot killdeer, sandpiper and curlew. Newly planted trees, native cattails and bulrushes, tree swallow birdhouses and benches line the shoreline and marsh habitats. While some visitors studied the trail brochure, a mini-course in wetland ecology, others came to briskly walk or jog the scenic trail. If your feet are still tapping after two miles, the Alman Marsh Trail connects to Petaluma’s attractive marina, an additional two-mile round trip.  

Petaluma’s warm cheer followed me home. The feeling persisted that people enjoy residing there. Outdoor café seats and benches; attractively landscaped streets and homes; friendly voices and helpful clerks signal a pride and contentment that make Petaluma more that the sum of its parts. Walk your way around Petaluma; discover it for yourself. 



Getting there: Take Hwy. 101 north and exit at Petaluma Blvd. South. Follow signs for Historic Downtown. Distance about 40 miles. 

Petaluma Visitors Center: 210 Lakeville St., (877) 273-8258, www.visitpetaluma.com 

Historical Library and Museum: 20 Fourth St., (707) 778-4398, www.petalumamuseum.com. Open Wed.-Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sun. noon-3 p.m.  

Shollenberger Park: Take Lakeville Hwy (116) north. Turn right on McDowell Blvd. South and right on Cader Lane. 

Open dawn to dusk, admission free, (707) 763-3577. www.petalumawetlandpark.com.?

Berkeley This Week

Friday December 16, 2005


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Phillip Elwood “All About Jazz - Part 2.” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $13.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 526-2925. 

The WAL-MART Film: Destroying Locals, One Main Street at a Time at 7 p.m. at BFUU’s R.E. Bldg. upstairs, 1606 Bonita at Cedar St. Donations accepted. 410-0638. 

Berkeley Chess Club meets Fridays at 8 p.m. at the East Bay Chess Club, 1940 Virginia St. Players at all levels are welcome. 845-1041. 

Celebrate Humanistic Shabbat and (early) Chanukah with Kol Hadash at 7 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Potluck dinner. For food assignment email info@kolhadash.org  

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

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


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

Women on Common Ground Holiday Decorations Help make decorations for the Women’s Drop-In Shelter of Berkeley, and for yourself also, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Bring a pair of small hand-clippers and a bag lunch. Followed by a hike to Wildcat Peak. Cost is $15-$17. Registration required. 636-1684. 

Lorin District Neighborhood Cleanup Meet at 9 a.m. at South Berkeley Community Church, corner of Fairview and Ellis. Refreshments provided. 287-5874. 

Kid’s Garden Club for ages 7-12 to explore the world of gardening, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Area, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 636-1684. 

Candle-Lit Rally at Berkeley Honda at 4:30 p.m. at Shattuck and Parker, in support of the striking workers. Bring a large paper decoration for the rat.  

Habitat Planting Party Help restore the West Stege Marsh in southern Richmond from 9 a.m. to noon. For directions call 665-3689. Bayshorestewards@thewatershedproject.org 

“Playing With Fire” Berkeley Potters Guild Holiday Sale from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 731 Jones St. at Fourth St. www.berkeleypotters.com 

Fine Silver Jewelry Show and Sale with works by Austene Hall, Marlene Friedman Walters, Diana Divecha and Phyllis Dolhinow from noon to 6 p.m. at Elixir Salon, 1599 Hopkins Ave. 

BHS Communication Arts and Sciences Calendar Sale Wall, desk and enagement calendars on a variety of topics for only $5, from noon to 2 p.m., also on Sun. at 2310 Valley St., 3 blocks west of Sacramento St., off Channing Way. 843-2780. 

Holiday Bake Sale from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Interactive Resources, 117 Park Place, Point Richmond. 236-0527. 

Berkeley Farmers’ Market Holiday Crafts Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Center St. at MLK Jr. Way. 548-3333. 

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

Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair between Dwight and Bancroft, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sat. and Sun. 

“What Do Zoo Animals Eat?” a workshop for ages 6-8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Oakland Zoo. Cost is $40-$50. For reservations call 632-9525, ext. 205. 

“Iraq? Liberated?” with Prof. As’ad Abu Khalil, at 7 p.m. at the Home of Truth Center, 1300 Grand Ave. Alameda. Sponsored by The Alameda Forum www.alamedaforum.org 

Historical and Botanical Tour of Chapel of the Chimes, a Julia Morgan landmark, at 10 a.m. at 4499 Piedmont Ave. at Pleasant Valley. Reservations required 228-3207.  

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


Free Video Emails for Families Displaced by Hurricane Katrina and military families to send to their loved ones, from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1910 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda. 523-0659.  

Discover Jewel Lake Learn the history of the area and watch the water fall. Meet at 12:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Gingerbread House Building and Cookie Decorating from 4 to 6 p.m. at Arizmendi Bakery, 4301 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. Also on Mon. from 3 to 5 p.m. Small charge. 

Break the Silence Mural Project Report Back from Gaza and the West Bank at 6 p.m. at Berkeley Arts Center, 1275 Walnut St. 

Tibetan Meditation Book Launch of new works by Tarthang Tulku at 3 p.m. at Dharma House, 2910 San Pablo Ave. at Ashby. 548-0270. 

Hanukkah Family Program with music and activities for children from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St. 549-6950, ext. 332. 

Free Sailboat Rides between 1 and 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club in the Berkeley Marina. Bring warm waterproof clothes. www.cal-sailing.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712.  


Free Small Business Counselling with SCORE, Service Core of Retired Executives at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. To make an appointment call 981-6244. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 


Birdwalk on the MLK Shoreline from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. to see the shorebirds here for the winter. Beginnners welcome, binoculars available for loan. 525-2233. 

Berkeley Salon Discussion Group meets to discuss “Are Religious Holidays Obsolete?” from 7 to 9 p.m. at the BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. 527-1022. 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Ave., Oakland office. 594-5165.  

Stress Less Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

Free Handbuilding Ceramics Class 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. John’s Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Materials and firing charges not included. 525-5497. 

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

Introduction to Buddhist Meditation at 7 p.m. at the Dzalandhara Buddhist Center in Berkeley. Cost is $7-$10. Call for directions. 559-8183.  

“Ask the Social Worker” free consultations for older adults and their families from 10 a.m. to noon at BRJCC, 1414 Walnut St. To schedule an appointment call 558-7800, ext. 716. 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 


Mid-Day Meander in Tilden Celebrate the shortest day with great views. Meet at Inspiration Point in Tilden Park at 2:30 p.m. 525-2233. 

Gingerbread House Party from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Please bring a bag of candies for the decorations. 647-1111, ext. 14. 

Winter Solstice Gathering at 4 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, at the Interinm Solar Calendar. Dress warmly. www.solarcalendar.org 

Berkeley Communicators Toastmasters welcomes curious guests and new members at 7:15 a.m. at Au Coquelet Cafe, 2000 University Ave. at Milvia. 435-5863.  

Entrepreneurs Networking at 8 a.m. at A’Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcatraz. Cost is $5. For more information contact JB, 562-9431.  

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

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

Sing your Way Home A free sing-a-long at 4:30 p.m. every Wed. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley BART Station. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 


World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Sleep Soundly Seminar at 7 p.m. at New Moon Opportunities, 378 Jayne Ave., Oakland Free, but registration required. 465-2524. 


Toy Drive Sponsored by University Veterinary Hospital Bring new, unopened toys for all ages to 810 University Ave., between 5th and 6th Sts, between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends. until Dec. 24. 841-4412. 

Warm Coat Drive Donate a coat for distribution in the community, at Bay St., Emeryville. Sponsored by the Girl Scouts. www.onewarmcoat.org 

Magnes Museum Docent Training begins Jan. 8. Open to all who are interested in Jewish art and history. For information contact Faith Powell at 549-6950, ext. 333. 

Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League is looking for girls in grades 1-9 to play softball. Season runs March 4-June 3. To register, email registrar@abgsl.org or call 869-4277. www.abgsl.org 


Commission on Aging meets Wed. Dec. 21, at 1:30 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. William Rogers, 981-5344. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/commissions/aging 

Library Board of Trustees meets Wed. Dec. 21 at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Jackie Y. Griffin, 981-6195. Closed session at 4 p.m., public comment at 5:30 p.m. This meeting is rescheduled from Dec. 14. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ 


About the House: That 300-Year-Old House By MATT CANTOR

Friday December 16, 2005

One of my favorite comments to share with clients is that water isn’t all that damaging to wood. After all, they build boats out of it, don’t they? “Hmmm,” my client will say and make that light-bulb look. It’s so contrary to our typical thinking, but it’s true. Water facilitates wood damage but isn’t actually the perpetrator.  

I remember watching one of these marvelous TV science specials recently in which they had discovered the remains of a Viking ship. Somehow they managed to bring the thing up off the ocean floor where it had lain for the least 1,000 years and, lo and behold, it was in pretty good shape (at least the framework). 

There isn’t all that much oxygen in the water (OK, there’s some or fish couldn’t breath) so oxidation is fairly limited (oxidation is responsible for a lot of the destruction of material on the earth’s surface and our homes are no exception). Ultraviolet radiation, which facilitates oxidation by providing an energy source, also does plenty of damage by cooking materials apart. This, too, is very limited at the bottom of the ocean. 

If a Viking ship can remain under water and remain largely intact for a thousand years then water might not be the problem, at least not all by itself. The thing that water does, though, is provide an essential nutrient for organisms that do destroy wood. In fact, they eat it. And, as with us and our morning cereal, the right amount of milk helps wash it down. Just like funguses, we’re not going to make too much headway if we’re swimming in milk. We just need a little to make our cereal soft, and so it is with funguses and wood. They don’t do so well when they’re inundated with water, but if the moisture level in the food is about right, they do very nicely and proceed to eat your house a little at a time. 

This means that we have to be on the lookout for places where moderate dampness is generated and maintained. If water is getting into the wall behind the stucco and the wall is nicely sealed, this creates a persistently clammy environment and funguses have a field day. 

If water pours over the same wood lying in the sun, it dries fairly quickly when the rain stops and the growth is minimal. 

This is why lumber yards can leave lumber stacked outside for weeks on end with little or no damage. When wood comes home from the lumber yard you may notice greenish or blackish funguses on the surface but these do not grow if wood is kept at a low moisture level (less than 18-20 percent) and so remain as nothing more than discoloration. If you look in your attic or under your house, you’ll be able to see some of this even if many years have passed.  

This also illustrates how funguses get growing in the walls of homes when moisture becomes available. The dead spores of various funguses, which are essentially seeds, are present on most of the wood in our homes, and once wetted, they begin to grow and propagate. One of the reasons that I find mold issues so exasperating is that most people just don’t understand that mold is everywhere and that mold problems have to do with massive propagations or extreme sensitivities. 

The point of all this is not that you don’t have to be concerned about water, just that the time and conditions needed to damage significant amounts of a wooden structure are such that I don’t see as much of it as you might think. Also, when I do, it has to do more with the type of system that holds the water than the actual volume of water. To be sure, leaks damage plaster and sheetrock and make wooden floors warp, but much of the worry that people have about structural damage caused by leaks is unwarranted.  

All that said, keeping the water out of a house is a darned good idea, and if we were all just a little more attentive to this we might have houses that lasted for 300 years or more instead of the common longevity of 100 years or less. 

It might sound simplistic, but if the average house got a roof and a paint job when each was needed, this average house might well survive several centuries. The houses that I see that are beyond repair are mostly ones that didn’t get either roofing or paint when it was time. 

Once a roof or a paint job has failed and water begins to get inside, things start to warp, nails corrode, plaster, wires and interior details get damaged, and floor-boards discolor and shrink. If we can keep these things from occurring in the first place, a house can be kept looking youthful and fresh for a very long time. Every once in a while I get to inspect a house that has been adequately attended to over the long haul and there are no signs of leaks or superficial damage caused by paint failures. It makes me want to rent a film crew and use the place as a 1940s movie set. We actually have quite a few of them around here and many of them happen to have been owned by one family for most or all of its life.  

No matter what the tenant history may be, these houses share the lucky historical attribute of having been owned by people who always replaced the roof when it was time and had regular repainting (with lots of prep) as often as was needed. 

Paint jobs also need some amount of maintenance in the form of caulking and better paint jobs. Better, longer-lasting paint jobs lead to fewer failures simply because the periods of the house’s vulnerability are fewer. Therefore, if one is interested in the long-term value of a house, it is absolutely the best policy to hire really good painters and roofers and to replace these two shields as often as is advised by prudent experts. 

So, I guess you could say: Painting and roofing, like sunscreen and hats, help our abodes to defy all the stats.


Friday December 16, 2005

Dear Matt: 

I have an inside chimney that acts as a vent for my old O’Keefe Merritt kitchen stove (the kind with the trashburner that I do not use), my hot water heater, and also probably the floor register in my dining room. You can tell I live in a house built in 1910. 

Can I—should I—have someone put in a liner of some sort? If so what sort of cost am I facing? I have been in this house for 42 years but that doesn’t protect me from the next earthquake! 

Thanks for your attention. Your column is always of interest. 

Pat Cody 


Dear Pat: 

A liner isn’t really going to do much for you when the earthquake hits. What I hope you’ll consider is having the current gas appliances, including the stove (please God, don’t use the kindler to burn trash—or anything else) vented with modern double-walled steel vents, which are cheap and lightweight and removal of the inside chimney.  

When we do get hit by a local earthquake of real size (which hasn’t happened in the life of your house) it will almost certainly be a real mess and might really hurt someone. 

Best of luck, 

Matt Cantor  


Garden Variety: Holiday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Gardener By RON SULLIVAN

Friday December 16, 2005

Gardeners are the easiest people to buy gifts for because you don’t have to buy gifts for us. Creative scrounging can produce treasures with the fine patina of age: mossy brick, artfully limed pots, pre-lichened rocks, rusted machine parts: the sort of ornament a respectable garden demands as old money demands old family silver, even if it’s someone else’s family.  

A gift of service always fits; every gardener has chores she puts off too long. No gardener is good at everything; chances are you can build a better trellis, prune a more difficult tree, reach or climb higher than some gardener on your list. You might pledge some hours on your food dehydrator when your friend’s tomatoes all ripen at once, or canning lessons and help. Child care while your friend works on something blissful or dangerous might be welcome.  

Gardeners always have something to give each other. The economy of gardens is one of plenty. If you have rosemary or oregano, you probably have more than you can use, and someone could use some in the garden or kitchen. If you have something rare, you might be able to give away cuttings and starts. You might have a family heirloom to pass on and spread around: one of my personal favorites is the walking onion our friend Robbie’s Aunt Evelyn brought me all the way from Ohio some years back. (Oh, dear, was that legal? Auntie Ev was the soul of gentle propriety and it never occurred to me to quiz her about it.) She’d got it from her mother, who’d got it from her mother, etc.  

If you give someone an unusual plant, give him enough information to do right by it. A note on culture and the plant’s origins and history, printed out handsomely, makes the offering ceremonious. 

A stack of plant catalogues and a gift certificate is a good combination; in the middle of winter, it’s immediately gratifying as garden porn. A membership to a local arboretum or botanical garden is redeemable whenever the weather’s decent. Plant societies exist for iris lovers and rose partisans, fuchsia or orchid growers, bonsai addicts, and native plant advocates in many states.  

A box of worms, a composter with a difference, is gratifying in a more concrete way. This is a gift that a minimally-skilled giver doesn’t have to buy; your own already-thriving colony will supply the worms, and a box can be built or improvised. To be thorough, throw in a book on the subject and a bag of finished worm castings. The truly inspired will present these in a Godiva chocolates box.  

I suppose most of my friends and family will have read this column before the holidays. I can’t wait to see what I’ll get. (Come to think of it, I can’t wait to see what I’ll give.) Whatever it is, I suppose it’ll serve me right. 






Editorial: Keeping the Home Lights Burning By BECKY O'MALLEY

Tuesday December 20, 2005

On Monday morning I made a mistake that I don’t often make. I listened to the radio broadcast of a press conference held by and for the current president of the United States. It was a profoundly depressing experience. Not only is the man a dolt, he’s a vicious, systematic dolt. 

He’s been chatting up the public for the last few days now, with a series of talks which seem to be aimed at counteracting the precipitous drop in his ratings in the polls. His plan for Iraq can be summed up in a word: “victory.” What would victory in Iraq mean? A stable democratic government seems to be what he’s dreaming about. Well, that’s something they’ve never had in that part of the world, and there’s no reason to think they’re going to start now or in the near future. If he’s really serious in thinking that U.S. troops will have to stay in the Middle East until Iraq becomes a settled constitutional democracy, it’s going to be a long winter, or a series of long winters.  

And in the meantime, the executive branch of the federal government at home thinks that it has carte blanche to ignore the many laws which were enacted to protect the civil liberties of American citizens. Let’s just trace the tortured logical chain one more time. The attacks on key U.S. targets in 2001 by 20 or so militants in the U.S. who had links to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi hiding out somewhere in Afghanistan, meant that the Bush administration was authorized to (1) take over the government of Afghanistan; (2) immediately violate the 1978 law which forbids eavesdropping on U.S. telephone conversations in the name of security without search warrants authorized by a court; (3) invade Iraq, using as cover a number of fabricated intelligence reports claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons he didn’t have, and that he was a co-conspirator with Osama, for which there was no proof.  

And now, he’s claiming that the U.S. invasion of Iraq provides on-going justification for a whole series of assaults by the federal government on what we might call, in jest, the American Way of Life. Such assaults range from violating international law and treaties by torturing prisoners, to the aforementioned eavesdropping on phone calls, all the way down to harassing library patrons about the books they check out. (A correspondent forwarded a story from a small Massachusetts paper about a student who requested Mao’s Little Red Book through interlibrary loan for a paper he was writing and was visited at home by the Department of Homeland Security inquiring why he wanted it.)  

In the next two or three days, the Senate will be deciding whether or not to re-authorize the so-called Patriot Act (called by cynics the Scoundrel Act, remembering Dr. Johnson’s quip that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels). Sensible people are trying everything they can think of to communicate their dislike for the Scoundrel Act to the swing voters in the Senate, a few weak-as-water Democrats like Joe Lieberman, who lag behind their own party in standing up to Bush, and some courageous Republicans like John McCain. The Daily Planet receives many little letters on such topics from well-meaning writers, some of them local people we know. These sound bites seem to emanate from some central Internet source, since they all have the same sentence at the end in square brackets authorizing publication. We don’t print them—we’re not a sound bite kind of paper, though there are plenty of papers which do insist on letters under 200 words. It’s not clear what good campaigns like this do, when we’re dealing with a president who boasts that he seldom reads more than one paper, and then only the headlines.  

But then, it’s not clear what good anything will do any more. Demonstrations? Been there, done that, no one’s watching. Tax refusal? This administration is scarcely bothering to collect taxes, just running up a huge tab for our children and grandchildren to pay off. Electoral politics? Is anyone running against Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary? Lowell Wiecker, a one-time Republican, is offering to run as an anti-war independent, but do independents ever win? And how many swing seats are there in Congress any more? Court challenges? To an administration which increasingly boasts that it’s outside the law? Here we’ve had a few small successes (charges dropped against Padilla, Supremes to take up Texas re-districting) but as the Bush administration tightens its control over the legal system these will become less effective.  

For the first time in my life I’m beginning to have some sympathy for the “good Germans” who watched helplessly as Hitler took over. I’ve always imagined what heroic deeds I would have performed if I’d been in their place. But before the opportunity for heroism comes up, there are hundreds of individual acts by an incipient Fascist regime which conspire to destroy a democratic system of government, the classic “death by a thousand cuts.” Where does resistance start, and where will it end? Shall we find out where torture apologist Professor John Yoo lives and throw tomatoes at his house? If we fight them in the libraries, can we avoid having to fight them at the barricades?  

It’s close to the winter solstice, and such dark and depressive thoughts could perhaps be attributed to Seasonal Affective Disorder. The best strategy might well be to eat, drink and be as merry as possible under the circumstances for the next couple of weeks, with the expectation that as the days get longer we’ll think of something. We do have before us at this time of the year as inspiration for perseverance the edifying story of the Hanukkah light kept burning against all odds. So keep those cards and letters coming, folks, and keep the lights on, and maybe 2006 will be the turnaround year. I certainly hope so. 



Editorial: Privatizing the Commons With Condos By BECKY O'MALLEY

Friday December 16, 2005

“The tragedy of the commons” is a metaphor made famous by a 1968 essay on overpopulation. It refers to the practice in many past and some current societies to maintain a tract of land in common where everyone in town could allow their animals to graze. The moral of the story, which has many variants, is usually taken to be that eventually the grass will be exhausted by too much grazing, and everyone will starve. 

Land use in the fully built-out cities of the Bay Area is beginning to demonstrate characteristics of this classic dilemma. In the densely settled cities around the bay there are relatively few flat open spaces left, and the competition among those who want to monopolize them for their preferred use is getting fierce. On an aerial map, classic movie theaters look like big flat building sites. Flea markets look like the parking lots they become when the market’s closed. In fact, anywhere that a number of people can now freely gather for a shared activity seems like fair game for privatization. 

We see this all over the East Bay, where would-be builders of casinos and shopping malls lust after our expanses of shoreline. Berkeley is especially squeezed, because it’s one of the oldest cities and therefore is one of the densest. For reasons getting harder to understand, promoters of all kinds think that this density makes our city a candidate for even more density. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard about “smart growth,” a mantra which was originally invented by PR types to push Al Gore’s presidential campaign, but which has taken on a malevolent life of its own. What’s smart about making our built-out cities increasingly uninhabitable by stuffing in ever more inhabitants? Did the availability of a two-bedroom fourth-floor condo in Berkeley ever prevent someone from buying a four-bedroom home on a big lot in Tracy? 

The recently revealed scheme to turn the Ashby BART parking lot into a 300-unit condominium behemoth is the worst example yet of thoughtless privatization of common space. The Berkeley Flea Market provides a cheerful site for small, mostly minority entrepreneurs to serve the needs of low-budget buyers, with everyone getting some fresh air and exercise in the transaction. And the consequences of losing the parking there in the rest of the week will be serious. Does anyone really believe that the drivers who now park there to take BART into the city won’t be tempted just to get on the bridge if there’s nowhere to park? Or that they won’t be adding to the already impossible on-street parking problems of the neighborhood residents, who now enjoy the kind of pleasant single-family bungalows with small yards which do keep people from moving to Tracy?  

Getting a substantial a-mount of low-cost housing for families might seem like an acceptable trade-off, but this project isn’t that. It’s also been hyped as “workforce housing” for “Berkeley’s teachers and police officers,” but if they have families, do they want to live above a BART station? Many of Berkeley’s police and firefighters live far away on the urban fringes out toward the Gold Country, just because they like the wide open spaces. What the 240 market-rate condos and the 60 so-called “affordable” but still expensive ones will turn out to be, yet again, is crash pads for yuppies with jobs in the city and luxury students. Those are already overbuilt in Central Berkeley—notice the number of for-rent signs there, and the declining sales tax revenues. (On the other hand, pizza sales are up.) 

And “ground floor retail”? If you don’t think more ground floor retail is a joke, call the brokers whose names and phone numbers are prominent on vacant shop windows all over town. The Fruitvale “transit village” is much more attractively designed than this monster, but many of its new storefronts are still empty.  

The area between Martin Luther King and Milvia at Derby is another case in point. This common space has been amicably shared until now by the kids at the Berkeley High alternative school, the Tuesday Farmers’ Market, and people who used the open field for all kinds of exercise at all times of day. Now there’s a push, primarily by aging jocks, to take over the largest portion of the common space, plus a now-public right of way, for a single use, a regulation baseball diamond for a limited number of high school students. Regulation baseball fields by definition are not suited for multiple uses. The farmers with their pickup trucks and canopies are not going to set up in the outfield on Tuesdays. Pickup soccer, the favored sport of most of the rest of the world, won’t be allowed on the diamond. It will be fenced and locked, and the old folks’ tai chi group won’t have a key. (And let’s not even get into the discussion of cost. No one is fooled.) 

How about the Berkeley Unified School District’s West Campus? Will most of what is now open space be consumed for offices, shops and condos? Stay tuned for this one.  

What’s needed, and soon, is for some public interest organization to do a complete inventory of the remaining common open space, both in Berkeley and in the rest of the East Bay, and then to devise a plan for conserving it. Our urban living areas will continue to decay, and residents will continue to move to the fringes, unless the small remaining amount of common ground in older cities is preserved for the common good.