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A worker power washes the sidewalk Tuesday morning on Telegraph Avenue. Sprucing up the sidewalks is part of a plan to bring business back to The Avenue. Photograph by Judith Scherr.
A worker power washes the sidewalk Tuesday morning on Telegraph Avenue. Sprucing up the sidewalks is part of a plan to bring business back to The Avenue. Photograph by Judith Scherr.
 

News

First Person: Telegraph 2007: Making it Work

By Judith Scherr
Friday August 17, 2007

I didn’t go up to Telegraph Tuesday to find mellow—to watch flowers bursting out in carefully tended gardens at People’s Park, to hear merchants talking happily about businesses growing or to watch the moms and dads with kids in tow join students and graying elders moving in and out of shops.  

My original plan had little to do with the smile I received from the old bearded man sitting on a street corner or the song sung for me by the youth with a guitar.  

I went up to Telegraph Avenue looking for the trouble I often hear about as I take copious notes at City Council meetings—the acting-out, aggressive, mentally ill person who chases nice Walnut Creek women away from The Avenue.  

And I didn’t find it. 

In my role as city hall reporter I’ve sat through multiple sessions where the community shared its angst at the closing of Cody’s on Telegraph one year ago. City officials suddenly realized The Avenue was sliding downhill fast. 

It’s been more than a year since the Cody’s crisis catapulted Telegraph into the headlines, and my day on The Avenue made me believe that people are ready to take a broader look at what’s truly troubled Berkeley’s most famous street, applaud efforts that have succeeded and pinpoint what needs to be done. 

As I hung out in the area for almost 10 hours Tuesday, I saw no yelling or screaming—the only really loud annoying sounds came from the amplified Save Our Streets Christian ministries streetcorner songfest and speechifying.  

I looked for it, but saw no one out of control. With one blaring exception, everyone was mellow and polite.  

I didn’t even get a grouchy remark when I explained to the 20-something man sitting on the street with the dark glasses and tattoos up and down his arms that I wouldn’t exchange money for the interview he‘d given me. He just smiled and said, “That’s O.K.” 

The only hostile and rude person I encountered the entire day was a Berkeley police officer. 

At about 10 a.m. I’d just finished a walk around the business district with Dave Fogarty of the city’s economic development division and left him as he got on the bike he’d parked next to the popular new Peet’s at Dwight Way and Telegraph. With the recorder I use for walking interviews still in hand, I went over to two bike officers standing near the doorway, introduced myself and asked if they had a couple of minutes to talk about what they were seeing on The Avenue.  

To my dismay, one of the officers angrily ordered me to turn off the recorder and told me it was illegal to record him without first asking permission. (I was on a public sidewalk with the recorder in plain view and was later told informally by an attorney that the officer was mistaken.)  

One merchant, who did not want to be quoted for this story, said what is needed on The Avenue isn’t police who threaten or intimidate, but a kinder, gentler breed of officer, a sort of officer-psychologist who can relate to disoriented street people, young aggressive punks, college drunks (and reporters, I might add). 

I am told there are such individuals within our police department. 

 

Avenue lookin’ good; sales going up 

Most of what was happening on The Avenue was pure mellow. Unlike the rush of crowds flying through malls where the purchase is key, people on Telegraph seemed to meander. I ran into Italian tourists window-shopping for shoes, moms and dads with first-year students in tow looking for the right place to eat, teens admiring handcrafted silver jewelry and even Assemblymember Loni Hancock enjoying the sunny day after a “very good” Thai meal. 

Things are looking up, said Roland Peterson, who heads both the Telegraph Business Improvement District (TBID) and the Chamber of Commerce. 

Dirty sidewalks are no longer an issue. They sparkle. Morning and evening crews sweep and scrub and even power-wash sidewalks (though the drought-conscious water district might cast a disapproving eye) and graffiti is removed frequently. It’s a combined effort by the city, TBID and BOSS, Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency. 

In the evening, street lights glow brighter—among the city’s contributions—and for the last couple of months, cars can park in the yellow zones from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. as long as drivers can figure what the two signs mean, one saying the yellow is a loading zone from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the other saying there’s no parking from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

“The minute there were cars on the street, it made people comfortable walking in the evening,” said Al Geyer, who owns Annapurna, the 40-year-old shop he describes as “multi-denominational.”  

Geyer heads the newly-formed Telegraph Avenue Merchants’ Association and sits on the TBID board. 

“We celebrate religions, we celebrate philosophical opinions, we celebrate political expression, sexual expression,” he says of Annapurna. “We basically celebrate diversity, but try to shake people up, juxtapose many different things. We try to open people’s minds.” 

An addition to The Avenue is the new express bus that can turn red lights green and is bringing people to Telegraph, Geyer said.  

With two city bike officers back on the streets—eliminated during a bad budget year, but returned as part of city efforts to revitalize Telegraph—police visibility is another plus, making the area appear safer, merchants say. (At the same time, advocates for street people told me they question police practices in the area.) 

The city has helped business by making it easier to get some permits. It used to take months to get use permits on Telegraph when one business was to be replaced by another whose use was different. With the change in permit policies, Fred’s Market will replace the old Rexall Drugs with a simple across-the-counter permit, Fogarty said.  

“Restaurants have been the sector that has defied the trend in terms of the downturn,” Peterson told me. That was apparent as I watched people line up all day to eat at the Intermezzo. Smart Alec’s healthy fast food was doing a brisk business most the day and customers also seemed to favor Mario’s La Fiesta, a fixture on The Avenue for almost 50 years.  

Geyer sees signs of business returning to the area. Within a day of Cody’s closure, his incense and card sales dropped by one-third; people who shopped at Cody’s also stopped by at Annapurna, he said. “But in the last two months our incense sales are better than they’ve ever been and our card sales are going up. People who traditionally came to The Avenue have to be returning for that to happen,” he said. 

And with the demise of Cody’s, “People are rediscovering Moe’s and Shakespeare’s,” he added.  

Despite horror stories of struggling shops on Telegraph, Craig Becker took over the Mediterranean Caffe—best known as “the Med”— a year ago. According to Fogarty, the previous owner lacked control over what was going on in front of his business. “There were fights, there were people drunk, there were tables and chairs scattered all over the place. It was in general an attractive nuisance,” Fogarty said. 

Becker is trying to restore the old ambiance he found when he would frequent the Med in the ’80s. “I’d always come by here and there’d be someone I knew,” he said. He has plans for an art gallery upstairs and sometimes hosts music downstairs—but nothing loud enough to interrupt conversation, he says.  

As for keeping order on the sidewalk, Becker says anyone can sit at the tables and chairs, but if they’re engaging in inappropriate behavior, he reminds them the tables are reserved for customers. “We have a right to do that,” he said. “We always treat people with courtesy and respect.” 

Becker’s work is paying off: “We’ve had three record weeks in a row,” he said. 

Another success story is Jeff Goldberg’s Framer’s Workshop, on Channing Way off Telegraph tucked under the city’s parking structure. The business is 30 years old and has found a niche. “We are one of the few do-it-yourself framing places in California,” Goldberg said, though they also do custom framing.  

“The baby boomers used to do a lot of do-it-yourself framing and they’re reaching retirement and coming back to do do-it-yourself framing,” he said. 

Like many businesses on The Avenue, Goldberg takes advantage of the web: www.framersworkshop.com. Geyer’s gone to the next level with an Internet Radio station at www.annapurna.com. Much of the eclectic music played there comes from Amoeba Music. 

Amoeba is successful where other music stores fail because it sells hard-to-find CDs and vinyl. The store now anchors the business district, Peterson said. 

 

Problematic street behavior 

Goldberg at the Framers Workshop said problematic street behavior was much worse a couple of years ago; that seems to be the general consensus. From time to time people act out in front of his store and he’ll call the police, but that’s not often, he said. 

In other years the street scene included more aggressive and hostile people, he said. “Now I think it’s just people who are mentally ill and have no place to go and plump themselves down.”  

He’s among those who have worked to create the detox center slated to open in San Leandro in December. It will be a short-term place to get sober or withdraw from drugs. 

Fogarty said he’s concerned with behavior reported to him, such as panhandlers following middle class people.  

But in general, “If [the street people] were drowned in a sea of students and middle class, they wouldn’t be a problem,” he said. “When they stand out, there gets to be a reputation of marginal people, a skid row.”  

Worthington was among those who called for an increased police presence. He got more police, but he had wanted beat police willing to walk and talk to merchants and street people, getting to know the regulars, he said. 

The councilmember reflected as we walked along The Avenue: “Most people walking up and down the street think that it’s quite positive and we haven’t had to create 20 new laws to do it. Some people of course would be deeply offended that this gentleman is sitting here,” he said, pointing to a white-haired man seated at Telegraph and Bancroft asking for spare change. “They may think he‘s a threat to civil society.” 

I asked Osha Neumann, an attorney whose clients are often homeless and poor, why I hadn’t seen any aggressive street behavior. 

“I don’t think that the problem is up here,” Neumann said, as we sat at a table outside Peet’s in the late afternoon. “Generally the people up here sit or stand on the sidewalk and have a sign. It’s really rare that I see someone hostile.” 

Neumann opposed the mayor’s proposal for harsh laws against sitting on the sidewalk and similar statutes, a proposal the council will address in the fall. There may be fewer people panhandling these days, because they have been intimidated, Neumann said.  

“The police have really done quite a job of getting people off The Avenue by various means: ticketing, citations, threats, warnings,” he said.  

“What really concerns me now is all the stories I’m hearing from different sides about the kind of harassment that’s going on. People are told by certain officers up here that they can’t sit on The Avenue, they can’t sit in front of a restaurant because it sells liquor, that they can’t sit in a place that a vendor might use—it’s all made up. That is really troubling to me. The message it seems to me that the police have got from City Council is that their marching orders are to clean up The Avenue and get rid of the kids. And that’s what they’ve been doing. These are the people who are most vulnerable—all they’ve got is the public space.” 

Earlier, Neumann and I had spent time with a friend of his in People’s Park. He introduced me to an older man sitting peacefully under a tree wrapped in a sleeping bag. Neumann plopped himself down and I followed.  

It wasn’t your everyday conversation that we engaged in, but a thoughtful one about the levels on which people relate to one another. I wouldn’t have known how to start a conversation with the man without the introduction.  

And that made me think about my own hesitations around people who look and live differently from me.  

What would happen on Telegraph if people pushed themselves beyond their comfort level and engaged people who make them uncomfortable— it could be with homeless people, business people, or disabled people. 

“With more imagination, people could come together to figure out how to make The Avenue work without the violation of people’s rights,” Neumann said. “It’s a beautiful day and The Avenue could absorb more people asking for change politely. The easiest thing to do is to blame the homeless. They don’t vote; they don’t have a constituency; they are not ‘stakeholders.’”


Putting Telegraph in Perspective

By Judith Scherr
Friday August 17, 2007

The hysteria of Cody’s closing having subsided, merchants and city officials have had time to evaluate what’s caused customers to frequent Telegraph Avenue less often. Chain stores going belly up, high rents and city bureaucracy are among the problems cited. 

“Sometimes there are reasons that have nothing to do with Telegraph,” said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District. One is the impact bankruptcy of national chains have had on The Avenue. A big loss was when Tower Records, a regional draw, went out of business last year, Peterson said. It’s left a large empty building on Durant Avenue off of Telegraph.  

Another was Berkeley Athlete’s Foot. While the local store was profitable, the chain was not, Peterson said. And when the Gap sold off some 20 percent of its stores, the Telegraph Avenue store was among them. 

Another problem is the high rents charged on Telegraph, said Jeff Goldberg, whose business, Framer’s Workshop, has been on The Avenue 30 years.  

“I think the market rate has forced a lot of businesses to go elsewhere or in some cases, not really make it,” said Goldberg whose store is city owned, part of the municipal parking structure. Goldberg says his rent rate is “quite good.” 

While the city has been helpful in some ways, bureaucracy sometimes gets in the way of progress on Telegraph, such as the vacant storefront at Bancroft Way and Telegraph, directly across the street from the university. Councilmember Kriss Worthington said that the owners had brought retrofit plans to the Planning Department four different times; each time the city came up with a new requirement.  

“These people are willing to spend three-quarters of a million dollars to seismically upgrade the building and the city is throwing obstacle after obstacle in their path,” Worthington said. “The city has to get better at telling people what it wants them to do the first time.” 

Reached Wednesday, Planning Director Dan Marks confirmed the problem, but underscored how difficult it is to retrofit a historic building and bring it up to code for disabled access. The city had been working with outside plan checkers and he was only recently informed of the problem, Marks said. 

Now he is bringing the project in-house to speed it along. “It’s complicated. Maybe it should have been in-house earlier,” he said. “We are bending over backwards to get this thing going for them.” 

Dave Fogarty of the city’s economic development division points to changing demographics in Berkeley as one reason for fewer people shopping on The Avenue. The middle class is getting older and more conservative, he said.  

And, there’s been a change in the student body—they’re more interested in computers and technology, Fogarty said: “Telegraph has not adapted.” On Peterson’s wish list is an Apple Store on Telegraph Avenue. 

Fogarty pointed to competition, which has grown over the years—especially Emeryville. He also said he thinks the emergence of other shopping areas has changed how people perceive shopping. In a mall, for example, panhandling can be outlawed. People then become used to shopping in that environment, he said.  

Peterson said Telegraph has missed out by not taking advantage of the 15,000-strong faculty and staff with disposable income. He’d like to see a better mix of businesses, such as a Men’s Warehouse-type store and some slightly higher-priced restaurants—“somewhere between McDonald’s and Chez Panisse,” he said..


Library Gardens Sold

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 17, 2007

The year 2007 will go down as the year downtown Berkeley’s biggest developments passed into the hands of some of America’s biggest corporations. 

Two months after Patrick Kennedy and David Teece sold their seven downtown apartment complexes to Sam Zell’s Chicago-based Equity Residential, Library Gardens was sold to New York-based BlackRock properties, a financial titan with $1.23 trillion in assets, at the end of June. 

“We were able to contribute another million dollars to the city budget before the end of the fiscal year,” said John DeClercq, chief operating officer of Equity Management Group (EMG), which sold the 176-unit building in June. 

DeClercq said the sale represents “another commitment to the City of Berkeley, another investment by the large real estate investment community, a commitment to mixed housing with good amenities, parking and retail, all designed into the project and deemed valuable by the real estate community.” 

Formerly known as TransAction, EMG involves the same players and properties, though with the sale, the firm no longer has a presence in Berkeley, DeClerq said—having decamped to Oakland. 

The sale of Library Gardens represents the end of a 23-year history, which started with acquisition of the old Hinks Department Store in the southern end of the Shattuck Hotel building along with its parking structure, located just across Kittredge Street at western end of the Berkeley Public Library. 

Under TransAction’s ownership, the vacant store was transformed into the Shattuck Cinemas, storefronts and a basement complex that includes the Habitot children’s museum. 

But the fate of the parking structure remained in doubt.  

“It had been the preferred site of a new courthouse after the state wanted the courtrooms in Berkeley consolidated into one building, so a potential cloud of eminent domain had kept us from development,” DeClerq said. 

Then, in 2000, California voters approved consolidated the state’s justice, municipal and superior courts into a single superior court system, which meant that most Berkeley cases would be heard in courtrooms in Oakland or Hayward. 

“We were then able to begin unfettered development,” he said. 

One controversy was the fate of the 362 parking spaces in the former Hinks parking structure, slots popular with people who came to see films in downtown theaters. 

Originally, TransAction was to replace all the spaces in a two-level underground lot. Then controversy erupted when the company submitted plans calling for only 116 ground-level spaces, with all but 11 reserved for tenants. 

The Zoning Adjustments Board approved the project when another 124 underground spaces were added, but in the final version of plans given the city’s blessing in Feb. 2004, the number had dropped again, this time to 130. 

In November, 2004, Roy Nee, who owns a spa in Marin County, had purchased the theater, consolidating ownership of the entire hotel building for the first time in decades—leaving TransAction with the site where the excavations had already removed much of the earth for the remaining underground parking. 

Flush with cash, DeClerq handed the city a $1,028,000 check to pay for his building permit. 

The building was ready for temporary occupancy late in 2006, then opened formally in December. 

Evening before construction had been completed, GMH Communities Trust, another major national real estate investment firm, had signed a non-binding letter of intent to add the building to its portfolio of apartments geared for college students. 

DeClerq said several major firms had expressed interest through a broker, but in the end it was BlackRock that came up with the cash. 

“There were about a dozen companies circling Berkeley,” he said. “The crop had matured.” 

The Panoramic sale—estimated at about $145 million—netted the city $2.1 million in transfer tax, with the addition of another million from the Library Gardens adding frosting to the cake at the close of the city’s fiscal year. 

One estimate placed the value of the sale to EMG at about $65 million. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz said that without the sale of Library Gardens and the Panoramic Interests buildings, the city wouldn’t have been able to meet its revenue projects for the last fiscal year. 

“It helped a lot,” he said. 

Residential sales had fallen over the year in the downtown area, and a general sales decline is likely for the current fiscal year, given the ongoing crisis in financial markets, Kamlarz said. 

Library Gardens, which dominates the block between the library and Berkeley High School, remains somewhat controversial, and Matt Taecker, the city staffer working on the development of the new downtown plan, used photos of the project as seen from the sidewalk in a presentation to the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee as an example of designs to be avoided. 

DeClerq, a man with a ready smile despite the criticism his project generated, said he had learned two things when working on real estate development in the sometimes humid political climate of the city by the East Bay. 

“You need patience and good humor,” he said, along with the help of good people. 

A former employee of the state Department of Real Estate before jumping to TransAction/EMG and the private sector 23 years ago, he said Library Gardens was his first development project. 

“It’s been a real education,” he said. 

DeClerq said he and EMG are looking for more “good dirt” in the Bay Area to begin their next project. 

“We are looking for good infill development on transit corridors,” he said..


Controversial Planner Hailed On Departure

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 17, 2007

Mark Rhoades, Colossus of Berkeley? 

Though not so physically imposing as a long-vanished harbor-spanning statue of Helios (another hot name in Berkeley these days), he looms just as large in the minds of folks on either side of a major political divide. 

So when he announced last month that he was leaving his post of city zoning officer and current planning manager, the plans for parties began. 

Colleagues at the city’s Permit Service Center gave him a festive sendoff on the 9th, but the heavy hitters from in the city’s development battles gathered—on opposite sides of the same street, appropriately—to hold their own farewells. 

While some of the biggest names in Berkeley development—think Patrick Kennedy, John DeClerq and Ali Kashani for openers—hoisted farewell toasts at Epicurious Garden at 1513 Shattuck Ave., some of his heartiest detractors were celebrating his departure with “Roads to Recovery” at Cafe de la Paz less than a block to the south at 1600 Shattuck. 

Pressed with deadlines and a 7 p.m. meeting, a Daily Planet reporter was able only to attend the former event, sponsored by the Downtown Berkeley Association, represented at the meeting by President Mark McLeod and Executive Director Deborah Badhia. 

A sizable number of Berkeley citizen officials were on hand, including Planning Commissioners Harry Pollack and Susan Wengraf, Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee Chair Will Travis and member Victoria Eisen and Design Review Committee members David Snippen and Burton Edwards. 

Former Zoning Adjustments Board chair Dave Blake, a sometimes critic of the honoree, was also on hand with some accolades of his own. 

Among the developers on hand were: 

• Patrick Kennedy, his wallet recently fattened by the sale of his downtown apartment builders to Sam Zell, 

• John DeClerq, also flush with new cash from the sale of Library Gardens, 

• Ali Kashani, recently stymied by some of the folks celebrating across the street from his plans to erect a mixed use project on the site of Iceland, 

• James Peterson, developer and one-time City Council candidate. 

“Mark is probably better than anyone else in the city at explaining our arcane ordinances in ways that anyone can understand,” said Pollack who served two terms as chair of the Planning Commission. 

“Henry Kaiser said, ‘When a man’s work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt,” said Patrick Kennedy, praising Rhoades as a force for hope and reason. “I always thought he was doggedly, obsessively neutral,” said the man the folks down at the Roads to Recovery party love to hate. 

“I have no idea what the future’s going to be like without him,” said Wengraf. 

“I’ll never get my project through now,” quipped James Peterson, developer of the long-proposed Prince Hall Arms senior housing building at 3132 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

“You have elevated the level of professionalism of the planning staff to a level never before seen in Berkeley, and you have also elevated the level of discourse,” said David Early, a planning consultant and the founder of Livable Berkeley, an alliance of infill development advocates, also much disparaged by many of the Roads to Recovery partisans. 

When the toasts had finished, it was up to the departing planner to have his say. 

“I’m overwhelmed,” he said. Working for the city, he said, had consumed a fourth of his years and half of his professional life. 

His decision to leave began when he took a leave of absence with the birth of his second son 10 months ago. 

“I was gone,” he said, spurning phone calls about work and trips to the office. 

“About four weeks into it, Erin (spouse Erin Banks, a former employee of Early’s planning firm and Livable Berkeley board member) looked at me and said, ‘You’re a different person.’ At that point I realized this job was probably not the best place for me now. 

“That’s unfortunate,” he said, “because I love this job. This may be a crazy-assed place, but it’s still a great place.” 

But Berkeley could even be a better place, he said, “and it all boils down to housing. Not buildings, but housing. We’re diverse, but we’re also the least diverse community in Alameda County. 

“Hopefully, we’ll all step up to the plate, because the idea that there should be any change, or that all buildings should be two or three stories, is killing us. All the noise comes from a few folks, a few who are interested in neighborhood issues, but in the worst way. They do not want any change,” he said. 

Rhoades called for an overhaul of the city zoning ordinance, citing a quip by Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman, a sometimes adversary, that referred to the state of city zoning law as “50 years of scar tissue.” 

And while Rhoades is gone from City Hall, he said, his voice breaking for a moment, “I intend to maintain my focus on this community, for all the reasons standing here, and for those out there in the community—to make it a better place for them and their kids.” 

Applause and raised glasses followed.


St. Joseph School’s 130-Year History Comes to an End

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 17, 2007

There will be no pitter-patter of tiny feet at St. Joseph the Worker School this fall. No giggles or hushed whispers along its long winding corridors. 

The 28 students who would have returned to the school’s hallowed portals to witness the very last bit of the Catholic school’s 130-year-old-history will not do so anymore. 

The school, which was scheduled to close next June due to financial constraints, announced its premature closure last week and cited an abysmal drop in student enrollment. 

“We just couldn’t keep up with the dwindling numbers anymore,” said Fr. Stephan Kappler, parochial administrator of the parish, as he walked down the school’s silent parish hall Wednesday. 

“Over the last six or seven years, enrollment has been consistently low. Last year it was 128, the year before 112. The school building holds 350 students. We had to pull the plug when we saw that only 28 students were returning in the fall.” 

Since the majority of the students were attending classes at a reduced tuition rate, the school was running at a huge deficit. 

“Last year the Diocese of Oakland contributed $100,000 to make up this deficit, and we poured in $50,000,” said Fr. Stephan. 

“We were losing $169,000 dollars every year. We thought that we would keep the school open one final year to find alternative schools for our students and employment for our staff. That was our hope, but it was not to be.” 

Adriana Betti, a former Berkeley High teacher who directs an after-school native dancing program at St Joseph’s school during summer, said that the closure meant a big blow to the Latino community. 

“Most of my students either graduated from here or are here right now,” she said, practicing Aztec dance steps in the school’s parish hall. 

“I remember celebrating the Day of the Virgin with them every year on December 12. The church is a very big part of the families I work with. They either work here or send their kids to school here. To have the school taken away from them is a big piece.” 

Some parents have enrolled their children in the Berkeley public schools, leading to an increase in student enrollment in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) this year. 

“A new kindergarten class has been created to make room for more students,” said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. “I am assuming the increase is due to the St. Joseph’s students coming to our schools.” 

There are some like St Joseph’s sixth-grader Kevin Gorrostieta who have no clue as to where he will land up after summer break. 

“My parents said they would talk to me about it,” he told the Planet Thursday. “I don’t know anything else.” 

Founded by the Presentation Sisters in 1878, the school was established at 2125 Jefferson St. to provide K-8 Catholic elementary school education. 

A convent was built across the street for students who wanted to enroll in high school, and that initiated the golden age of catholic education in Berkeley. 

“It was blooming back then,” said Fr. Stephan. “The schools were full of students. But then the sisters moved to San Francisco and the convent was turned into UC Berkeley housing about twenty years ago.” 

With the high school gone, families were less eager to send their kids to the elementary school. 

“Before the church and the school were like one unit,” said Fr. Stephan, who took over as pastor since last year. 

“People were proud to send their children to St. Joseph’s. That has changed. Only a third of the students left in the school were Catholic. Most were from outside the parish.” 

The cost of tuition, Fr. Stephan explained, was something else which kept the predominantly Latino community who attended church at St Joseph from sending their kids to its school. 

Without financial aid, the cost of tuition came to approximately $5000 every year. 

“I never thought of putting my daughter there because of the money,” said Angelica Hernandez, who had her communion at St Joseph’s church. 

Angelica, who works as a care provider in Berkeley, sends her daughter to a public school. 

“Public schools have a lot more programs. My daughter is traveling with Barbara Lee in Washington D.C. right now, talking about the problems of the Latino community. That would not have been possible at St. Joseph.” 

“We called but it was the cost,” said Alicia Contreras, who wants to enroll her 3-year-old daughter in Cragmont Elementary School because of its Spanish program. 

“We heard good things about St. Joseph so we compared it with another religious school in Albany. This one was cheaper but it was still far too expensive. It’s like $100 every month with the waiver and I couldn’t afford it.” 

Memories of happier times appear on the school’s orange walls, its cabinets filled with trophies won in regional and local competitions from a not so distant past. 

The class of 2005 St. John’s Christmas Tournament champions rub shoulders with the 1996 West Contra Costa League winners, their surfaces dusty yet reflecting the glory of bygone days.  

Murals created painstakingly by small hands adorn the second floor stairway with vibrant colors evoking special dates, festivals and people. 

Lily, class of ’05, remembers Mrs. Soria with red and yellow hearts while Damajeria Dubose cheers the school mascot, the mustang. 

As Fr. Stephan donned his collar for evening mass, he added that there was still hope for St. Joseph in the near future. 

“It may not reopen as a Catholic school in 2008, but it might reopen as a charter school,” he said. He added that his experience as a pastor with the Aspire Charter School at St Louis Bertrand in East Oakland had been good. 

The parish is currently in negotiation with the Aspire Charter School to lease out the school site starting next year. 

“It’s sad to close 130 years of Catholic education, but at least we are not turning it into an apartment complex,” he said, looking at the rows of university housing that had replaced the convent decades ago. “We’re just turning it into a charter school.” 

 

Photograph: Riya Bhattacharjee 

Father Stephan locks the doors of St. Joseph the Worker School Wednesday. The 130-year-old Catholic school closed this month after citing financial crunches and abysmal enrollment rates.


Berkeley Schools Gain in State Standardized Testing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 17, 2007

At first glance, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) showed a point gain over last year in the 2007 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) program released by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell Wednesday. 

School district administrators and principals, who were away on a retreat till Wednesday, are still poring over the results, said BUSD superintendent Michele Lawrence. 

A statement from O’Connell called statewide results encouraging but at the same time troubling. 

“This year’s results offer both encouragement and reason for serious concern,” he said. “We can be pleased that gains in student achievement made over the past five years are either increasing or holding steady. This progress means that hundreds of thousands of California students will have a better shot at success. But the data also show the persistent achievement gaps in our system that California simply cannot afford to accept—morally, economically, or socially.” 

Berkeley Unified English scores were above the state average, which helped to move the number up to 50 percent, one percentage point more than 2006. 

Students also met the state average score in math, and the number increased one point from the previous year’s 42 percent. 

While half of the students earned proficient or better marks in English, 43 percent of students tested proficient or better in math. 

Lawrence told the Planet that the school district would analyze the results over the next week. 

“Nobody’s had a chance to see it yet,” she said. “I was away at the retreat with 70 of my staff, we haven’t spent any time on it.” 

Assistant superintendent Neil Smith handed over the overall school report and individual student reports to all the principals at the retreat, which was held at His Lordship’s in Berkeley. 

The STAR program tests proficiency levels in English and math for every student in California according to one of five levels of performance on the California Standardized Tests for each subject tested: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic.  

According to the State Board of Education, the desired achievement goal for all students is “proficient,” which is consistent with school growth targets for state accountability and the federal No Child Left Behind Act. 

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools could suffer federal sanctions if a certain number of students in each district do not pass the English and math tests. 

Although only 47 percent of sophomores and 48 percent of juniors scored proficient or advanced in English, the numbers are above the statewide scores. 

At Malcolm X Elementary School, which was named a California Distinguished School in 2006, English and math scores rose by six and eight percentage points over last year respectively. 

“I am still in the process of looking at the results for my school,” said Berkeley Arts Magnet principal Kristian Collins. 

“I am going to be looking for growth and the areas that need to be uncovered for progress. The STAR tests have become very important for schools. There is an accuracy system that tracks how we do. It’s not only a measure, but we also want our children to do well in it. It’s a reminder of what we need to do to make our children successful.” 

In his statement, O’Connell repeatedly drew attention to the lack of progress in closing the achievement gap among racial groups. 

The test scores reflect that while student subgroup populations continued to improve since 2003, achievement gaps between African Americans and whites as well as Latinos and whites remain unchanged. 

"Once again, these annual test scores shine a glaring light on the disparity in achievement between students who are African American or Hispanic and their white or Asian counterparts,” he said. 

“We know all children can learn to the same high levels, so we must confront and change those things that are holding back groups of students.”  

Lawrence commented that one of the important things to be considered was the number of new non-native English speakers who came to California to attend a public school every year. 

O’Connell, in his statement, pointed out that that the achievement gap could not “always be explained away because of the poverty that has been so often associated with low performance.” 

“The results show this explanation not to be universally true,” he said. “In fact, African American and Hispanic students who are not poor are achieving at lower levels in math than their white counterparts who are poor. These are not just economic achievement gaps, they are racial achievement gaps. We cannot afford to excuse them; they simply must be addressed. We must take notice and take action.” 

An Achievement Gap Summit—which will examine strategies to close achievement gaps—is scheduled to be held in Sacramento from Nov. 13 to14.


Berkeley, Albany Win Marin Avenue Lawsuit

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 17, 2007

A California tribunal handed an unqualified defeat this week to Ray Chamberlin and his lawsuit challenging the reconfiguration of Marin Avenue by Berkeley and Albany. 

Chamberlin, a retired engineer and Berkeley hills resident, had won a partial victory in Alameda County Superior Court, but even that was stripped away in the opinion written by Associate Justice William D. Stein, with Justices James J. Marchiano and Douglas E. Swager concurring. 

Both the City of Berkeley and Chamberlin had appealed the Jan. 13, 2006 ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Sabraw which handed a victory to Albany and a partial defeat to Berkeley. 

Arguing his own case against lawyers for the two cities, Chamberlin sought to convince the court to order both cities to prepare environmental impact reports (EIRs) examining the full implications of the fait accompli which had transformed the avenue from four lanes to two, adding a two-way center turn lane and a pair of bike lanes. 

Sabraw ruled that Chamberlin had acted too late to sue Albany, filing suit on Feb. 28, 2005, more than two months after Albany approved the project and just making the 30-day period for appealing Berkeley’s Jan. 28 decision. 

Sabraw didn’t require Berkeley to prepare a full EIR, but only to conduct further studies to the degree the city considered appropriate. 

In his argument before the court Chamberlin didn’t seek to enforce his victory against Berkeley absent a finding that would bind both cities to a review of what he argued was a single, integrated project rather than two separate projects. 

While the two cities didn’t prepare a full EIR, they did join in a lesser document, the EIS, or initial study, which the three justices ruled was adequate to justify adoption by both cities of a finding called the Negative Declaration, which holds that there are no adverse affects that can’t be remedied. 

The justices also rejected Chamberlin’s argument that the cities had “piecemealed” the project in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act. 

The term applies to large projects that are slipped through the administrative process piece by piece, to avoid an analysis of cumulative impacts. 

“Clearly they didn't care to decide my abstract legal issue,” Chamberlin said. 

The one concession the justices made was to order that their ruling would not be included in the court’s published findings, cases that may be cited as precedents in future lawsuits. 

“We are pleased,” said Deputy City Attorney Zach Cowan. “Now we’re done with that, hopefully, and staff can continue to monitor the traffic situation just as they have been doing all along.” 

The next move is up to Chamberlin. The decision becomes final Sept. 13, leaving him 10 more days to decide if he wants to appeal to the California Supreme Court.


Richmond Activists Fight Cell Phone Antenna Installation

By Will Allen
Friday August 17, 2007

A fight between community activists and real estate developers partnered with a cellular phone carrier is shaping up in Point Richmond. The point of contention is a recently installed high-power cellular phone antenna array on an apartment complex on a hilltop at 260 Water Street in Point Richmond, disguised by an orange-painted flat case which is visible from far away.  

A group calling themselves RAP4 Richmond (Responsible Antenna Placement and Planning for Richmond), led by locals Andy Olmstead and Robin Carpenter, contends that the antenna installation is ugly and bad for the neighborhood. 

The property owners, Richmond real estate developers Jerry and Jan Feagley (represented by their lawyer, Kathleen McKinley) and their business partner in this venture, the T-Mobile Corporation, defend the antenna placement as unobjectionable, legally and ethically. 

Residents worry that having high-powered radio equipment nearby will be harmful and make their property less valuable. 

The 1996 Telecommunications Act blocks any legal challenges to cellular phone installations on the basis of health objections. Neighboring property owners claim that some tenants have already moved out because of the antennas, and say that the installation is a commercial use in a residential zone.  

RAP4 Richmond is trying to use the controversy over the antenna installation as a launching point for advocating bigger policy changes regarding cell-phone antenna placement in Richmond and throughout California.  

McKinley contended that although the Feagleys and T-Mobile obtained their permit for the antennas “over-the-counter” with limited public notice, the Feagleys have broken no Richmond City planning ordinances. The city’s planning department decided that the Feagleys’ permit application met the requirements for an over-the-counter permit under Richmond law and granted the permit without a public hearing. 

In response, RAP has gathered roughly one hundred signatures from people in the community on a petition. The group used the petition on July 31 at a Richmond City Council meeting to persuade the City to stop issuing any more over-the-counter permits for antennas for six months—essentially a moratorium on further new cell-phone antenna placements in Richmond. According to McKinley, “the Feagleys don’t have any problems with someone trying to change the way antenna installations are approved.” 

RAP’s petition demands that T-Mobile and the Feagleys either apply for a conditional use permit or remove the antennas. Conditional use permits allow for some flexibility within zoning laws following a public hearing. Prior to the public hearing, T-Mobile and the Feagleys would have to have an environmental study of their installation done to ensure that they are not violating the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A proven violation of CEQA in this case could be used to block further residential antenna installations around the state. 

One factor that affected the City’s decision to grant the permit was the covering the Feagleys had built around the installation so that the antennas themselves were out of sight. For example, Pat Crowther, an elderly local resident who lives within view of the covered antennas, said that she was not aware for a long time after the installation that there was anything unusual about 260 Water Street: “They put [the covering] up a while ago, but I had no idea what it was.”  

RAP claimed that the Feagleys disguised the antennas as a solar panel covering in order to circumvent City ordinances. McKinley insisted that this is fully within the law: “The City of Richmond does not prohibit residential antennae ... they’re allowed if the antennae are enclosed.” 

Carpenter said she feels that the Feag-leys “use this loophole to get around any problems with safety ... if they camouflage it, they can do whatever they want there.” McKinley, on the other hand, asserted that “the RAP4 Richmond group misunderstands City ordinances.” She says that “regardless that the individuals spearheading this campaign don’t like [the installation], [the Feagleys] complied with the City’s guidelines.” 

Further complicating the situation are a number of personal attacks RAP4 Richmond has leveled at the Feagleys. For example, on the RAP4 Richmond website www.rap4richmond.org, the group asserted that the Feagleys “are blinded by greed and love money more than their fellow human beings.” McKinley was quick to respond that while “it’s OK to raise an issue about cell-phone tower installations, it’s not appropriate to attack fellow citizens.” On the other hand, in a letter to the City of Richmond, McKinley described the way RAP represented their health objections as “Frank-Capra-esque appeals for truth-telling and loving your neighbor” and “shamelessly maudlin and sentimental appeals to babies and the elderly.” Moreover, she said, “T-Mobile approach-ed the Feagleys.” 

The combative RAP4 Richmond also claimed that the Richmond planning department is, essentially, bad at its job. Said Carpenter, “I keep praying [the department is] corrupt, because it’s a shame if it’s just incompetence.” A recent internal audit of the department, called the Zucker report, has spotlighted several problems with the department. Carpenter claims that “the planning department constantly breaks its own ordinances.” McKinley said that the city planning department alone made the decision to allow the installation after the department determined that it met the requirements for an over-the-counter permit. 

A representative of the office of the mayor of Richmond, Gayle McLaughlin, said the mayor supports RAP 4 Richmond in their quest for a moratorium on further residential antenna placements, particularly if the community wishes for such a moratorium. 

Although scientists are still researching the health effects of such installations, Richmond is not the first town where residents have feared that cell-phone antenna installations are dangerous. In a similar case last year, residents of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, successfully blocked Verizon from building a cell-phone tower near a school.


UC Sets Sept. 11 Deadline for BP Fuel Project Lab Bids

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 17, 2007

UC Berkeley issued a final call for bids today (Friday) on the building designed to house the $500 million alternative fuel project funded by a British oil company. 

Only four prequalified bidders will be allowed to compete for the building project, which will cost an estimated $125 million. 

Other figures released by the university point to a final cost, including improvements, of $160 million.  

Three nationwide firms are in the running, DPR Construction, Hunt Construction Group and McCarthy Building Companies, Inc., and one firm with offices only in California, Rudolph and Slettin, Inc., which has its headquarters in Redwood City. 

The bidding documents became available this morning, and bidders are required to attend a conference on campus on Aug. 21. 

Bids are due by 2 p.m. on Sept. 11, and will be opened at 2:02 p.m. 

The building will be located on the slopes of Strawberry Canyon at the western end of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

The largest tenant will be the Energy Biosciences Institute, the entity created by the university to run research under the half-billion-dollar grant from BP, the former British Petroleum. 

That project has been the target of protests and teach-ins, and involves extensive use of genetic technology to modify both crops and microorganisms to break them down into the components of fuel for internal combustion engines. 

Lab officials held a scoping session Aug. 8 to receive comments to address in the project’s Environmental Impact Report—a document that won’t be completed until January, shortly before the UC Board of Regents is to vote its final approval. 

Construction would begin the following spring and be completed by the fall of 2010.


Youth March Against Violence in Southwest Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 17, 2007

Armed with trash bags, notepads and pens, thirty teens walked the streets of Southwest Berkeley Wednesday to protest rising violence in the neighborhood and to bridge divisions within the community. 

Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) and Berkeley United Youth in Action (BUYA) joined forces with the City of Berkeley to discuss issues ranging from crime to cleanliness during the walk. 

“This is just the beginning of what we want to do to build a better community,” said Ariana Casanova, BOCA member and a assistant to Mayor Tom Bates. 

“There is a perception among adults that youth are the main perpetrators of violence. But youth are also the victims of violence. We want to show the community that the youth can also make a difference.” 

Students, neighbors, city officials and plainclothes police officers got a chance to connect and learn more about the neighborhood that was rocked by eight shootings over the summer.  

“This is the first time I have seen a real spike in crime in Southwest Berkeley since I moved there eleven years ago,” said councilmember Darryl Moore in a telephone interview to the Planet from Southern California. 

“I wish I could have been there for the walk, but I am sure the kids will do a great job in making their concerns heard to the city. Youth have to feel comfortable and be a part of the neighborhood. It’s important that the city work toward providing youth employment to keep kids occupied during summer.” 

Moore said the recent surge in crime would be best solved by increasing police protection. He called neigborhood watchgroups the city’s best “eyes and ears.” 

On Wednesday, Berkeley High graduates Netza Ramero and Ariadne Jorrostieta helped pick up stray pieces of paper littering the pavements as the walk progressed north to Sacramento from San Pablo Park. 

“We are also noting down things that should be improved,” said Ramero, 18, who lives on Russell Street. Ramero joined BUYA after his friend Salvador Villarreal was killed in a drive-by shooting in Oakland.  

BUYA offers tutoring, lecturing and dance lessons to students every week as part of a pilot program. The majority of their students are Latinos and African Americans. 

“We want to show people that unlike what they see on the streets and in the newspapers, the youth are not bad. Half of our neighbors are not even aware of our efforts to build a better relationship with the community. We’d like to see more interaction between adults and youth. We want to change things for the better.” 

Jorrostieta, who will be going to Diablo Valley College in the fall, said that she felt like a stranger in her own neighborhood. 

“Some neighbors never talk to me or say hi and I feel weird because I know they are my neighbors,” she said. “We need to have more communication. That’s the only way things will change.” Two of Jorrostieta’s friends were shot outside her house on Russell Street about a year ago. 

“Yes, crime has definitely gone up in Southwest Berkeley,” acknowledged BPD spokesperson Lt. Wes Hester. “Most of them have occurred around south of Ashby. Shots have been fired on people’s property. We are currently developing a strategy to find out who the culprits are.” 

Hester added that the walk had helped him meet the faces behind the emails and phone calls he receives from neighbors everyday. 

“Graffiti vandalism has also gone up in the area,” he said. “The city has organized a citywide task force to address graffiti vandalism, which includes the police, public works, code enforcement, parks and recreation and the city manager’s office. Outreach is also being done to Berkeley and Albany middle and high schools.” 

Councilmemer Max Anderson, who organized a similar walk in his district, also walked on Wednesday evening. 

“We are talking about the same issues, so it just makes sense,” he said.  

“This walk is meant to encourage people to take part in anti-violence. We want to address crime as well as the underlying issues that drive crime. The lack of education and job opportunities, especially for youth of color, is a big problem. The community can make a difference by providing opportunities for young people to express their interest in a safe place.” 

Anderson added that the 2007-08 city budget provided summer job programs for young people. 

“The mayor, councilmember Moore and I are also trying to beef up the economic development department to make job training available to the youth. That way they can earn some money and understand what it takes to hold a job. We are also trying to figure out how to create a youth center. We have recently had a lot of complaints about the lack of recreational and after-school programs for kids.”


SF Supervisors Landmark UC Buildings

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 17, 2007

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to landmark three of the buildings at the UC Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus at the San Francisco City Hall Tuesday. 

The landmarking of Richardson Hall, Woods Hall and Woods Hall Annex means that the proposed UC Berkeley and AF Evans mixed-use project would now have to go through the LPAB’s Certificate of Appropriateness process in order to alter the structures and to construct adjacent new facilities. 

Middle Hall Gymnasium—the oldest building on the campus—and Richardson Hall Annex were not landmarked although they were deemed “contributing” to a potential California Register Historic District by the Planning Department and the State Historic Preservation Officer.  

If the Planning Commission approves the demolition of the buildings, as is proposed, the campus may become ineligible for listing in the National Register. Other preservation incentives and tax credits may also be lost. 

The current gymnasium building houses a brand new professional-dance-troupe-quality floor and a state-of-the-art computer center. The Richardson Hall Annex has a community room with a large fireplace and Richardson Hall contains a tiered theater. 

Preservationists who oppose the demolition would have to file a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act to save these structures. 

The move to landmark the buildings signaled a partial victory for the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, San Francisco Heritage, the San Francisco Preservation Consortium, the Friends of 1800 and the Save the UC Berkeley Extension Laguna Street Campus group, who have been advocating to preserve the National Register-eligible former San Francisco State Teacher’s College at 55 Laguna St. 

First used as a city orphanage from 1854 until the San Francisco State Normal School was established in the 1920s to accommodate public school teachers, the campus also served as the original home of the San Francisco State University. 

After citing prohibitive maintenance costs, UC Berkeley closed its Laguna Street campus in 2004 and leased it to private developers AF Evans to turn it into a mixed-use development featuring residential rental units and retail space. 

The Planning Commission is scheduled to hold a hearing on the final Environmental impact report for the proposed project this fall.


DAPAC Tensions Continue Over Downtown Landmarks

By Richard Brenneman
Friday August 17, 2007

With their deadline fast approaching, eight Berkeley citizen-policymakers are setting the stage for an almost certain showdown over the fate of old buildings in the new downtown. 

Four members each from the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) and the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) gathered Monday night to hammer out the final draft of a key chapter in the new downtown plan. 

DAPAC members are under the gun to come up with a draft plan by the end of November, and the DAPAC/LPC subcommittee is only one of several working to come up with critical language before the deadline expires. 

Three frequent critics of some of the panel’s proposals were in the audience for the start of the meeting: DAPAC Chair Will Travis, Planning Commission Chair and DAPAC member James Samuels and committee member Jenny Wenk. 

The divisions were apparent in the paperwork before subcommittee members as they began their line-by-line revisions of their proposed Historic Preservation & Urban Design Chapter. 

“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and I know we’re not very far apart,” said Victoria Eisen, a DAPAC member who is not part of the subcommittee. 

The subcommittee’s focus was the latest revision of the chapter, prepared by DAPAC members Patti Dacey and Jim Novosel. 

“I’m just a little confused,” said Samuels, speaking from the audience. “”I thought the operative version was the staff review. I’m a little confused now, because I see another chapter.” 

The chapter Samuels hoped to see was a revision of an earlier subcommittee draft that he had amended with suggestions from DAPAC members Travis, Wenk, former City Councilmember Mim Hawley and retired UC Berkeley development executive Dorothy Walker. 

The version had been dubbed the “minority report” at the subcommittee’s last meeting, a term chair Steve Winkel said Monday night hadn’t been intended as a disparagement of Travis and his four colleagues. 

“The staff tried to accommodate the views of others, then the subcommittee prepared another draft. I think some things were omitted I would like to see the subcommittee include,” said Matt Taecker, the city planner hired to oversee the planning process. 

Seeing the new Dacey/Novosel version, Travis said, “It appear to me” the Taecker revision “was rejected out of hand. It would be very helpful to walk through it and see ‘here’s why we rejected this or that.’” 

As they worked through the first two sets of goals—of a total of six—subcommittee members added some of suggestions from the staff revisions, but on the whole members kept to their own version. 

The first critical vote was unanimous, rejecting the proposal from the Travis/Taecker draft to rename the chapter “Historic Preservation & New Construction.” 

The committee then made a concession, to adopt a preamble drafted by Eisen, Dacey and Travis, incorporating it into the chapter’s opening strategic statement. 

The subcommittee was adamantly opposed to Travis’s suggestion that the document not call for creation of a new historic district in the downtown, a designation that recognizes both specific properties and the district they share as legally significant embodiments of an historic era. 

“You don’t need a historic district if you have these other policies,” said Travis, only to be greeted by an immediate chorus of “nos” from subcommittee members. 

The tension between strong infill development activists and preservationists reaches a flashpoint over landmarking, which gives legal protections to designated buildings and places restrictions on nearby properties. The protections are more extensive in a district, affecting all structures, new and old, within its boundaries. 

During his earlier tenure on the landmarks commission, Samuels often found himself voting against designations supported by the majority, a tension that carries through to his role as a DAPAC member. 

Subcommittee members insisted on keeping in the chapter a sentence mandating city support for any LPC effort to create a new downtown historic district. 

“I keep looking ahead to bringing something out of this subcommittee DAPAC can accept,” said Travis.  

“I would like this chapter to be adopted without any disagreement, but that’s unlikely to happen with any chapter,” said subcommittee and DAPAC member Jesse Arreguin, a supporter of the proposed district. 

Carrie Olson, an LPC representative to the subcommittee, said she was concerned about the hostility to the idea of creating a historic district, suggesting that some on DAPAC wouldn’t be satisfied until they “level downtown and build a new one.” 

The subcommittee will get back to work on Aug. 27.


Oakland School Board Asks State for New Fiscal Plan

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday August 17, 2007

With Oakland Unified school board president David Kakishiba calling his district’s financial situation “precarious,” the newly-empowered OUSD school board issued a sharp criticism last week of the district’s fiscal condition under state receivership, directing state-appointed administrator Dr. Kimberly Statham to adopt a new five-year financial recovery plan to put OUSD’s fiscal house in order. 

“The board wanted to provide direction to the state on how the district can meet the important fiscal challenges that lie ahead, and we wanted to go on record to show that we are profoundly concerned about the present fiscal situation,” Kakishiba said this week by telephone. “The current budget represents a step backwards in moving towards solvency.”  

In its first official meeting following the return of limited authority after five years of full control of the district by the office of State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, board members passed a resolution saying that while the original fiscal recovery plan developed after the state takeover called for a positive fund balance and a restoration of the district’s state required 2 percent reserve fund by the 2006-07 fiscal year, “the state-appointed Administrator adopted a 2007-2009 fiscal budget that includes a $1.4 million negative fund balance, and a $1.5 million shortfall” in the 2 percent reserve.  

Last week’s board resolution directed Statham to present a new five-year recovery plan to the board by January 30 of next year. The board wants the recovery plan to include, among other factors, the impact of declining enrollment on the district and the financial, instructional and human resource impacts of proposed school closures and the Expect Success! program that was introduced by Statham’s predecessor, Randolph Ward, that Ward once called “essentially a redesign of OUSD.” 

Kakishiba said that the district’s current budget problems comes from “assumptions made by the state that were clearly wrong,” including “failure to take into account the impact of charter school competition on the district. That was the biggest wrong assumption.” 

Under state control, the number of public charter schools operating in Oakland under OUSD administration has increased dramatically.  

The Oakland school board recently won return of control over the area of “community relations and governance,” with the state administrator retaining control over all other areas of district operation, including finances, personnel, facilities, and educational instruction. Kakishiba admitted that the ability for the school board to “direct” the state administrator under such circumstances was “murky,” but noted that the board took its authority for the action from the language of the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team reports outlining professional standards for community relations and governance. Kakishiba also said that the administrator told board members at last week’s meeting that “she intended to get the plan together.” 

Statham’s office did not return a telephone call by deadline asking for a comment on the resolution.  

Statham was hired a year ago by State Superintendent Jack O’Connell to run the Oakland school district after the original state administrator, Randolph Ward, resigned to take the post of Superintendent of the San Diego County School District. Many of the fiscal problems detailed in the board’s resolution had their beginning’s in Ward’s administration. Critics have charged that Ward left the district deeper in debt and in worse financial shape than when he took over in 2003, and that the former administrator concentrated more on changing the district’s education program than on righting its finances.


Bailey’s Alleged Murderer’s Confession Challenged

Bay City News
Friday August 17, 2007

The attorney for the man accused of murdering journalist Chauncey Bailey two weeks ago claimed today that his client is innocent and was ordered by a Your Black Muslim Bakery associate, in the presence of Oakland police, to take the fall for the shooting incident. 

After a brief court hearing for DeVaughndre Broussard, 19, a handyman at the bakery, San Francisco defense attorney LeRue Grim told reporters he was “astonished” when Broussard told him in a jailhouse interview Wednesday night that police were present when another bakery associate told him to take the blame for the shooting. 

The Oakland Tribune is reporting today that Grim said that the bakery associate made the statement to Broussard after being brought into the police interrogation room by Oakland police detectives. 

Broussard had earlier claimed in a television interview that his original confession to Bailey’s murder came only after Oakland police beat him while he was in custody. 

Grim, who officially entered the case today, said Broussard “could be completely innocent” based on the limited information he has on the case at this time. 

Grim said he knows the name of the person who Broussard says ordered him to take the fall but declined to identify anyone. 

Oakland Police spokesperson Officer Roland Holmgren released a written statement shortly after Grim’s press confrerence, saying, “The case is in the hands of the District Attorney’s office. We are not going to make any comments regarding his statements at this point. I believe the Oakland Police Department has some of the most professional and ethical investigators. The homicide investigators have done an excellent job with investigating this case. They have done so with dignity and respect for all parties involved.” 

Grim said Broussard “feels betrayed” by his bakery associates and he's concerned about his client's safety in jail, where he's being held without bail. 

Bailey, 57, was shot multiple times on 14th Street near Alice Street shortly before 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 2 as he was walking from his home near Lake Merritt to his job as editor of the Oakland Post several blocks away at 405 14th St. 

Oakland police say Broussard told them that he murdered Bailey because he didn’t like stories Bailey had written and researched about the bakery.


Conference Strives to Break Walls of Silence

By Judith Scherr
Friday August 17, 2007

Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies, and Sandy Tolan of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and author of “The Lemon Tree” will highlight a weekend conference entitled “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: Voices We Need to Hear.” 

The conference dedicated to peace in Palestine is sponsored by Friends of Sabeel, an international peace movement initiated by Palestinian Christians, and will include the appearance of the parents of Rachel Corrie, crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. 

“At a time when so many people find the situation beyond a solution, a lot of people here see hope and ways to solve this peacefully and nonviolently,” Barbara Erickson of the Friends of Sobeel planning committee told the Daily Planet on Thursday.  

Erickson underscored the importance of the group’s bringing together Jews, Christians and Muslims to work for a peaceful resolution in Palestine. “It’s got to change,” Erickson said. 

The conference will take place from 1–9:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24 and 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25 at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Registration is $70. 

Register online at www.fosna.org or by calling (925) 324-4595. 


Media Blames Black Mayors for Rising Homicides

By Randy Shaw
Friday August 17, 2007

As federal budget priorities starve urban America, the outcome has been predictable: rising murder rates from Newark, New Jersey to Oakland, California, and virtually no low-income African-American or Latino neighborhood has been spared. Who is to blame for this problem? According to the media, it is the nation’s black mayors. From the New York Times castigating Mayor Booker in Newark to the San Francisco Chronicle’s absurd attack on Oakland’s Ron Dellums, the message is clear: black mayors, not the white elite in Washington D.C., are failing to serve the needs of minority communities. Where is our Martin Luther King, Jr. to speak out against such nonsense? 

Two recent murders have brought renewed attention to the rising violence in African-American communities. And in both cases, the media has exempted the federal government from responsibility, while blaming recently elected black mayors. 

In Oakland, the murder of journalist Chauncey Bailey by individuals connected to Your Black Muslim Bakery led Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson to engage in another attack on Mayor Ron Dellums. According to Johnson, Bailey’s killing “signaled the abysmal failure of the city’s elected leaders to come up with a strategy to address the violence.” 

After unfairly criticizing Dellums’ handling of the garbage lockout—for which all sides praised him to the hilt—Johnson now claims Dellums lacks a strategy to reduce violence. Rarely has a journalist made such a demonstrably false and unfair statement. 

It is fair to say—and I do not make this statement lightly—that since Ron Dellums entered Congress in 1971, no federal elected official has fought harder, longer and more consistently to redirect federal spending toward the needs of low-income communities. 

Dellums was so committed to addressing the problems in poor communities that each year he created an alternative budget. A budget that took from the military and gave to jobs, schools, health care and other programs central to fighting the root causes of violence. 

If Ron Dellums’ alternative budget had been enacted in the 1970’s or 1980’s, America’s current prison population would be dramatically smaller. Nor would our low-income communities besieged by violence today. But the nation elected Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, both of whom sent a clear message to these communities not to expect any help. 

The Chronicle’s Johnson appears to have forgotten this history, as well as the fact that Ron Dellums has advanced an anti-violence strategy for forty years. He is the last person in the United States who should be blamed for the federal government’s refusal to fund this strategy. 

Dellums announced an anti-violence strategy in his January 2007 inaugural address as Oakland’s mayor. Seven months later, Johnson sees an “abysmal” lack of mayoral leadership for Dellums not to have bucked national trends and turned the city around. 

Dellums has been operating under former Mayor Jerry Brown’s budget. But Brown never took the kind of heat from the Chronicle that Dellums has already been subjected to. 

But Brown is white. And he got elected California attorney general despite Oakland’s murder rate. 

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is also white. San Francisco city has also seen a homicide wave in multiple neighborhoods. 

But neither Johnson nor any Chronicle columnist has blamed these murders on Newsom’s lack of leadership, nor should they. Newsom gets no blame despite being mayor for nearly four years, while Dellums is castigated after seven months. 

Of course, any Chronicle columnist attacking Newsom the way Johnson goes after Dellums would quickly be looking for a new job. The paper’s editors simply would not tolerate it. 

As for Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker, his city witnessed an execution-style murder of three African-American college students, and the wounding of a fourth. This nightmarish squashing out of some of the best and brightest of the community’s youth horrified the city, and infuriated Mayor Booker. 

Allies of former longtime mayor Sharpe James—and the DVD, “Street Fight” about his 2002 mayoral campaign against Booker, is a must—understandably used the brutal killings to attack the new mayor. But even the usually pro-Booker New York Times argued in an Aug. 10 editorial that “when Mr. Booker took office 13 months ago there were high hopes—in Newark and nationally—that he would bring the city together and turn it around. The killings have dimmed those hopes and further divided the city.” 

So forget about Newark’s lack of a tax base, its rundown federally-funded public housing, and the lack of federal economic development investment in the city: it is up to Booker, not the President or Congress, to turn the situation around. 

And what should/can Booker do? According to the Times, “he owes it to everyone to renew his efforts to end the mayhem and crack down on the underlying problem of gang activity. Mr. Booker can start by going from neighborhood to neighborhood and asking ministers, community leaders, parents and others for their help and suggestions on what to do. 

Think Booker already has not done this, particularly during his mayoral campaigns in 2002 and 2006? 

Does the Times really believe that such action would have stopped a sociopath (since captured) from engaging in these senseless killings? 

Times columnist Bob Herbert has been among the most insightful and persistent voices on the rising violence especially plaguing black communities. Herbert has frequently predicted that the lack of federal investment in these communities would result in rising violence and gang activity. He also holds African-American parents and community leaders responsible for not doing more to instill anti-violence attitudes in youth. 

But Herbert has never been foolish enough to blame black mayors for the violence in their cities. He understands that mayors’ have no power to raise the billions of dollars necessary to solve the problems faced by their low-income constituents. 

Nor do mayors decide where federal dollars are spent (and if they did, as evidenced by the annual report of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, federal urban spending would be dramatically higher). 

Americans are delusional if they believe that the nation can spend billions on overseas invasions without paying a steep price at home. And holding local black mayors accountable for these priorities, while ignoring the true wrongdoers, is shameful. 

 

Randy Shaw is editor of BeyondChron.org, where this article first appeared.


Pagodas? on Telegraph?

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Eclectic Building Plan Certain to Stir Up Plenty of Free Speech 

 

If he gets his way, Ken Sarachan will revolutionize Telegraph Avenue. 

And if he doesn’t accomplish anything else, the plans he’s shown to city officials, calling for a pagoda-bedecked architectural extravaganza on the vacant lot at Telegraph and Haste Street, has set tongues wagging. 

“They’re something, “said Greg Powell, the city’s principal planner assigned to shepherd the project. 

“But it’s an incomplete submittal,” he said, “and we are not prepared to act until he submits a whole bunch of stuff.” 

“I haven’t really looked closely at them,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington, whose district includes Telegraph Avenue. “I’m not sure what to say.” 

But if Ken Sarachan has his way, the pagodas will crown “Berkeley’s greenest building,” housing businesses on the first floor, a Free Speech Movement museum on the mezzanine, a grassy rooftop park doubling as a venue for live entertainment and public events, and a collection of pagodas accommodating a restaurant and what could become Berkeley’s most unique apartments. 

He calls it the Free Speech and Architectural Expression Building, “the Free Speech Building for short.”  

It’s certain to cause plenty of both speech and expression, not unfamiliar occurrences to a man who first cast eyes on The Avenue when he transferred to Berkeley from the University of Toronto in 1970—when Berkeley was boiling over at President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. 

 

Buildings, builder 

Sarachan’s plans cover a long-vacant northeast corner and the site now occupied by the landmarked 1876 John Woolley House at 2509 Haste, which Sarachan has acquired from the previous owner, UC Berkeley. 

His bold vision comes at a time when Telegraph Avenue has been struggling with both an identity crisis and mounting economic worries. 

As founder of the Rasputin Music and Blondie’s Pizza chains and the owner of two other buildings on The Avenue, Sarachan ranks as the avenue’s preeminent entrepreneur, as well as something of a character. 

“He’s always amusing,” said Worthington. 

Asked if he thought the project was serious, Berkeley Principal Planner Gregg Powell, the city official designated to oversee the permitting process, didn’t hesitate. “He knows how to get things built,” he said. 

Sarachan rehabilitated the Rasputin’s building at 2304 Telegraph and what he calls “an ode to steel and glass—the Deco/Modern glass and stainless temple of commerce at the southwest corner of Telegraph and Durant that currently houses Bear Basics, Futura clothing and a basement-level T-Shirt Orgy. 

For his third project, “my first thought was to build a really modern kind of building which would involve modern technology and ideas,” he said. “But then I got the idea that what Telegraph really needed was a mystical building, and a mystical building is built on a myth, and a myth has a story behind it, a legend.” 

Finding inspiration in amateur British historian Gavin Menzies’s controversial 1421: The Year China Discovered America, Sarachan tells the story of shipwrecked Chinese sailors who explored the Southwest, then settled in Berkeley, intermarrying with local tribesfolk and creating their own village, a fusion of Asian design and Native American motifs. 

For what he called “my third and final building,” he chose architect Robert McGillis of the Emeryville firm of Philip A. Banta both because they’d worked together on an earlier Telegraph and Haste project, and because he’d been spurned by other local architects. 

 

Exuberant plans 

A quick glimpse at Sarachan’s exuberant plans reveals a phantasmagorical scheme, crowned by two 65-foot-tall pagodas marking the two corners facing Haste. It’s certain to draw both attention and more bodies to the legendary street. 

A single commercial floor covers all of the property, Sarachan said, “and I imagine we’ll have two or three tenants.” 

A ramp and the smaller mezzanine floor that it reaches will house a Free Speech Museum. “We have collected over 5,000 artifacts for it,” he said. Exhibits, including books, films, posters, journals, “Communist Party cards and other ephemera,” and will cover Berkeley’s radical history “from the turn of the 20th century up to the 1980s.” 

“It will be marketed like a museum, and we’ll have a computerized data base for research,” he said. 

But it’s what lies above, rising from a central grass-covered park-like central gathering place—complete with a flowing stream arising from atop an artificial hillside—that’s certain to draw the most eyes and spark the most spirited conversations. 

Above the grassy sward to the east and west are two artificial and landscaped ridgelines, broken by airy, ornamented pagodas, joined at the northern end by a temple-like building. 

In realty, the ridges hide apartments, as well as a restaurant dining room with three tall mullioned windows overlooking the Telegraph street scene. The eatery’s kitchen occupies most of the “temple’s” ground floor. 

“The unique feature is that the upper structures are based on a trapezoid rather than a box,” Sarachan said. “That makes it possible to create a hillside.” 

The pagodas, as well as the upper floors of the temple, will house more apartments, most with windows on three of their four walls, and all with movable wall panels allowing internal space to be configured to the tenant’s desires. “It’s like a loft in that respect,” he said. “They’ll be able to decide on how many bedrooms they want, or if they want to leave it open.” 

The only open vista is found on Haste, where the courtyard overlooks the street between the two four-story pagoda towers that anchor the ends of the eastern and western ersatz ridgelines. 

The commercial base structure will be concrete construction, Sarachan said, while the upper structures will be made of lighter material, incorporating “a lot of wood, tile and glass, and carved wood on the exterior. 

Plans call for the housing to be about 90 percent complete when tenants move in, with the skills for the artistry and craftwork of the finish—including tile work and railing ornamentation—to come from the pagoda-dwellers themselves. 

 

Green scheme  

The Telegraph Avenue entrepreneur acknowledges that the full implementation of his plans could be expensive, especially when he promises to erect “the greenest building ever in Berkeley.” 

“It’s going to cost way too much, and I’m looking for co-investors who want to lose a lot of money for sure,” he quips. “So far I haven’t found any.” 

As his first mixed-use development, Sarachan’s proposal calls for something quite different from what he calls the basic boxes built in Berkeley in recent years. 

“Sometimes the box has another section that’s cantilevered out three or four feet and painted in different colors,” he said, “and maybe there’re some other architectural enhancements. But they’re all boxes.” 

A key element in greening the building is the grassy plaza that occupies the central area of the roof. “The U-shape with the opening to the south is the best way of getting warmth and maximum sunlight for the residential tenants,” he said. 

“There’s also no better insulation than soil. It’s cool in the summer and warm in the winter,” he said. The soil itself will vary in depths between three and eight inches, except for pockets where greater depths are need for trees. 

The ridges themselves will feature hundreds of species of native California plantings. “Basically,” he said, “it’s a botanical garden.” 

Green materials will also be used for construction. “It will be green,” he said, “Although the way that word is used in television ads by companies like BP [the former British Petroleum] and [corporate agriculture giant] ADM, I’ve decided to be blue instead.” 

 

Rooftop venue 

The concept for the project arose “because I’ve had tremendous affection for Telegraph Avenue for 35 years,” Sarachan said, “but my affection for The Avenue and all its issues and attributes has been diminishing of late. I care a little bit less than I did a few years ago.” 

A lack of spontaneity and the complexities of getting permits, arranging for streets closures and other red tape has restricted street fairs on The Avenue. 

“Since the decline of commerce began, basically in the last five years, I have tried to organize closures of the street on weekends, and I’ve tried to organize book fairs, spring and Easter festivals and other events, but there have always been problems with organization, insurance, bathrooms, paying for the police—it’s been hard to get things accomplished. 

“The way it is now, two festivals a year—the Christmas Fair and the World Music Festival—do not sustain the avenue for the other 50 weeks. Telegraph needs some sort of attraction,” especially given the decline in book and music stores and The Avenue’s vacant storefronts. 

“So I want to do something with a little flare, with special events to bring in business for the stores and the street vendors. We’ll do a lot of advertising for special events, and I think I have the expertise to make that possible,” he said. 

 

Site history 

A city document prepared by staff nine years ago described the site’s troubled past: 

For decades, the now-vacant property had housed the Berkeley Inn, a single-room-occupancy hotel catering to low-income residents. Two fires, one in 1986, which gutted 77 units, and another in 1990, destroyed the building. 

The city demolished the ruins following the last fire, and after repeated efforts to collect the costs from the owner, Sutter Land and Development Co. Inc., filed liens which were sustained through a series of lawsuits. 

The city next tried to buy the site in partnership with the nonprofit Resources for Community Development (RCD), formulating a plan which called for 39 units to be built, 32 of them reserved for low-income tenants, with ground floor retail space for Amoeba Music. 

That plan died with the election of Mayor Shirley Dean, who objected to the high unit costs and the use of $3 million in public funds, half from the city Housing Trust Fund. 

When RCD’s option expired, Sarachan bought the site for $800,000 and assumed the liens. 

After a series of attempts to develop the property with help from city housing funds and plans that called for a significant number of low-income units, Sarachan told the City Council in 1997 that the economics would work out. 

After the Telegraph Area Association urged development of the site together with the possible lot occupied by the landmarked John Woolley House, then-City Manager Weldon Rucker ordered staff to prepare plans for a mixed-use development. 

A year later, city staff suggested waiving the liens to spur Sarachan into action, though it took nearly five years before a final agreement was adopted in February 2003, setting Sept. 22, 2004 as the deadline for submission of plans. 

However, they were submitted incomplete and filed away, leaving the project in a state of suspended animation until the new plans were submitted last month. 

Sarachan’s plans come as real estate broker/developer John Gordon is completing his plans for moving the Woolley House and the landmarked Ellen Blood House at 2526 Durant Ave. to a lot at the southwest corner of Regent Street and Dwight Way. 

The new plans are still incomplete, planner Greg Powell said. 

“We need better drawings,” he said. “We need a full set of architectural plans, full site plans, complete floor plans. We need to know how he is going to comply with the city’s inclusionary ordinance.” 

The inclusionary ordinance requires developers of buildings with five or more apartments or condos to either set aside 20 percent of their units for low-income tenants or median-income buyers or pay compensatory fees to allow construction of units elsewhere. 

“If he pulls it off, it could become quite a local landmark,” Powell said. 

 

Bottom line 

So is Sarachan really serious? 

“I’m serious in that I’ve spent a lot of time and money on it, but that doesn’t mean it will actually occur,” he said. “There are about a hundred ways it could not get built, and about a hundred things would have to go right for it to get built. If I were a betting person, I would bet that it never gets built.” 

But if he builds it, he wants to do it well. 

“I figure that every builder should build one really good building for every nine or 10 bad ones he builds. When this is over, I’ll have to build nine or 10 really bad buildings,” he said, offering a rare smile.


Dynes to Leave Top UC Post, Replacement Search Begins

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday August 14, 2007

University of California President and UC Berkeley Physics Professor Robert Dynes announced his resignation Monday as head of the nation’s leading public university system. 

While the official announcement by the university’s 64-year-old Canadian-born executive said the announcement would take effect June 30, a “Dear Colleagues” letter from Dynes addressed to the university community said he had already asked Provost Walter R. Hume to assume a day-to-day role as UC’s chief operating officer. 

Dynes wrote that he would formally step down earlier if a replacement is named before the announced date, the end of four years at the helm of the UC system. 

“I will be returning to my faculty position next year,” he wrote, “but over the next 10 months I will continue to focus on a number of UC properties,” including an expansion of the system’s “research, development, and delivery portfolio and its impact.” 

UC Board of Regents Chair Richard C. Blum endorsed Dynes’ designation of Hume as acting chief operating officer. “This will allow Bob to focus his attention on further strengthening the university’s position as the state and nation’s premier higher education research partner”—a possible allusion to finalizing the still-unsigned $500 million agrofuel research pact between BP (once known as British Petroleum) and a consortium headed by UC Berkeley that includes Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the University of Illinois. 

The regents appointed Dynes to the presidency on June 11, 2004, and he stepped into the job from his previous post as chancellor of UC San Diego. 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger added his praise for the outgoing chief, hailing Dynes as “a great partner in working with my administration to ensure educational excellence for our students.” 

In his letter to the regents, Dynes hailed the compact he had negotiated with the governor and noted that “on my watch, the Regents and I have created a new staff representative to the Board. . .recruited six new chancellors, two provosts, three national laboratory directors and numerous vice presidents with critical functions.” 

One of the lab directors is Steve Chu, the Nobel Laureate physicist who has played a crucial role in landing the BP project. 

Blum, the spouse of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, announced that a replacement committee would be formed to select a new president. 

Members of the public who would like to suggest a nominee can write to board Secretary Diane Griffiths, Attention: Presidential Search, 1111 Franklin St., 12th floor, Oakland, CA 94607-5200.


Coalition Protests Museum Changes

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Reorganization Hurts Native American Repatriation Efforts, Critics Say 

 

To Lalo Franco of the Tachi Yokut Tribe, the fragments of human remains collected at the UC Berkeley anthropology museum are ancestors and deserve a burial “so that they can continue their journey and be part of the earth again.” 

But some scientists at UC Berkeley’s Phoebe A. Hearst Anthropology Museum consider the biological remains and artifacts as scientific matter, material for the study of the earliest people of the nation. 

“These remains at the Phoebe Hearst Museum are remnants of ancient ancestors, the very people that gave me life,” said Franco, director of the Cultural and Historic Preservation Department of the Santa Rosa Rancheria Tachi Yokut Tribe.  

“They have been uprooted from their eternal rest,” he said. “To me, they are my ancestors, to the scientists, they are bones.” 

A five-person unit at the museum charged with helping to return sacred and significant objects to their Native American owners — and required by the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA)—was disbanded in June, according to Franco and other members of a coalition calling for the reinstatement of the museum’s NAGPRA unit. 

Not disbanded, Museum Director Kent Lightfoot told the Planet, “It was reorganized.” 

Lightfoot said the unit was restructured because the museum’s work to inventory Native American artifacts and remains has been completed. When continuing NAGPRA-related work becomes necessary, members of the former unit and others will be called upon, he said. 

Corbin Collins, spokesperson for the coalition calling for reinstating the unit as it had been, said the inventory is far from complete. The museum possesses the second-largest collection of Native American objects, second only to the Smithsonian Institute, with more than 300,000 pieces, among them 12,253 biological individuals. Objects come from 100 California tribes and others across the nation. 

When the inventory was done, 80 percent of the collection was “dumped” into a category called “unidentifiable,” Collins said.  

Franco explained that happened because the university was “under the gun” to comply with the law and hurriedly categorized the remains and the artifacts. 

“Now we’re asking to go back to consult with them,” reviewing some of the remains and artifacts in the “unidentifiable” category, he said, adding that the way Native American objects and remains are treated stems from the invasion of the Spanish, the Russians and others that oppressed the Indians and attempted to obliterate their culture and language. 

“Because we are a conquered people, they think they can do anything,” Franco said. 

“It is crucial to understand that many inventories fall under [the rubric “culturally unidentifiable”] simply because the museum would have been out of compliance with the federal mandate to have the collection inventories for NAGPRA completed by June 2000,” wrote former Interim NAGPRA Coordinator Larri Fredericks in a letter to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau. Fredericks, who was reassigned to other tasks at the museum, was on vacation and not available for comment on Monday. 

An Athabascan from Alaska, Fredericks holds a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in medical anthropology. 

Her letter to the chancellor goes on to say there was insufficient time for the museum to perform a complete review of the museum collections; “hence, large portions of the collection were categorized as culturally unidentifiable, with the expectation that many tribes would contest these classifications and present evidence…to support claims of cultural affiliation,” Fredericks wrote. 

Relics still need to be considered “on a case-by-case basis,” Collins said, arguing that at issue are “people who want to keep the collection intact,” and not return it to the tribes where the human remains or artifacts originated. 

Lightfoot told the Planet that he understood the tribes would want to evaluate some of the “unidentifiable” objects and remains and that former members of the NAGPRA unit and others would be available to help them. 

He also said he understood the tension between the way Native Americans and scientists view the objects and remains. “We try to look at all different sides,” he said. “We try to be as balanced as possible.” 

Calling the reorganization “a betrayal of trust,” Fredericks condemned the decision made by Vice Chancellor Beth Burnside, arguing that it was “based on a report written by two archeologists who represent research interests that often conflict with tribal claims on the museum’s collection of Native American ancestral remains.”  

Fredericks further wrote, “The review was conducted with a few days notice— before the tribes could be notified and respond—and Native Americans were completely and deliberately excluded from the process, despite my vigorous insistence that they be represented.”  

In an Aug. 6 letter to Birgeneau, the coalition asks for the museum to stop the reorganization, reopen the review process and include Native Americans in the review process.  

If the chancellor does not answer in a satisfactory way, “We will be escalating our protests with peaceful demonstrations,” Collins said.  

“It’s a very complicated and complex issue, with a lot of emotions,” Lightfoot said. 

 

RESOURCES 

• From the coalition: http://nagpra-ucb.blogspot.com 

• Coalition phone number: (510) 652-1567 

• The U.S. Department of the Interior also has an FAQ on NAGPRA at www.nps.gov/history/nagpra/FAQ/index.htm 

• Museum: http://hearstmuseum.berkeley.edu


UC Students Tapped for City Commissions

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday August 14, 2007

There’s a new kind of campaign at Berkeley City Hall. It aims to tap Berkeley’s best and brightest young minds to solve problems in the city. 

Spearheaded by District 7 Councilmember Kriss Worthington, this effort to get more student commissioners on board first began in 2005.  

Outreach to college students started anew last week when two forums were held at UC Berkeley by Worthington’s office in collaboration with the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC). 

“It’s about promoting diversity, racial, age and gender,” Worthington told the Planet in an interview at his fifth floor City Hall office Monday. 

“Students are not the only group that are left out. Asians and Latinos are also drastically underrepresented in who gets appointed, elected and hired.” 

Worthington said that the 2005 study had revealed that some politicians in Berkeley had never appointed any students, Asians, Latinos or African Americans. 

“The study played an educational role to alert politicians and communities of the lack of representation,” he said.  

“As a result of the study, commissioners who had never appointed any students, African Americans or Latinos began appointing students, African Americans and Latinos. We haven’t progressed to where things ought to be, but it’s less dreadful than it was before the study.” 

Worthington, who has appointed more student commissioners than any other councilmember since being elected in 1996, has ten of the city’s current 22 student commissioners as his appointees. 

Mayor Tom Bates—with five student appointees—boasts the second best record. 

The 2005 study revealed that there were three times as many Asians and two times as many Latinos in Berkeley as there were on commissions. College students had only 8 percent representation on commissions. 

“Once it’s clear to students what commissions do, it doesn’t seem as daunting as before,” Worthington said. “That’s why we encourage them to attend commission meetings and get an idea about how the process works. I am looking for people who have volunteered in the community and who will study up on the issues that will affect real world policy.” 

Under the Fair Representation Ordinance, each councilmember gets one appointee in each commission. 

On Monday morning, Worthington’s office was a flurry of activity as he discussed student appointment strategies with ASUC external affairs officer Dionne Jirachaikitti and legislative aide Denise Velez. 

Jirachaikitti and Velez are both working on getting students to join commissions. Velez is also responsible for updating the 2005 study. 

“Are there any students on DAPAC?” Worthington asked, scanning a page filled with pi charts and graphs. 

‘No, not anymore,” replied his aide Jesse Arreguin, who until his recent graduation was the only student on the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Commission (DAPAC). 

Arreguin, who graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and City Planning in May, first got involved in Berkeley politics when he started working with ASUC.  

After serving on the Housing Advisory Commission, Arreguin was elected chair of the Rent Stabilization Board in his senior year. 

Worthington also appointed him to the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) in 2006 to replace Andy Katz, the first student to serve on the board. 

Juggling sixteen units at school with commission meetings was not easy for Arreguin, but he took it up as a challenge. 

“The more involved I got the more demanding it got,” he said. “But I definitely learned time management skills. Realistically, with the exception of the rent board and ZAB, the other commissions are not as demanding, but I still felt I had an obligation to be involved.” 

Arreguin said that a big problem was that people often didn’t take him seriously. 

“They think that since I am twenty-two years old I don’t have as much to offer as someone who is three times my age,” he said.  

“Just like any other city, racism is also alive in Berkeley. The only way to combat that is to work harder. You should be judged on your qualifications and abilities and not on your race, gender and age.” 

Arreguin, who wants to “serve on more commissions than any human being,” also has an active social life. 

His interests on Facebook include Coldplay and the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou among other myriad activities. 

“It’s possible to enjoy yourself and be on a commission as well,” he said. “It’s not all about hiding your face behind the Zoning Ordinance.” 

“Being involved with commissions sometimes helps with homework,” said recent UC Berkeley graduate Nick Smith who was the first African American student to chair the Commission on Labor. 

“Some assignments require students to study public policy or government and as a commissioner you are already intimately involved.” 

Smith, like most of the other student commissioners, agreed that diversity was hugely lacking on commissions. 

“Diversity includes more than being a student,” he said.  

“However, I didn’t serve as an African American, but as someone who ensured equal representation to all residents, including students and other underrepresented parties. The solution is simple: Councilmembers need to ensure that they reach out to appoint commissioners from diverse points of view. I give Kriss extensive credit here. He appointed the most students over his 10-year-plus council career.” 

Although Worthington said that the main problem with student commissioners was that they often graduated and went their own way, some complain that student appointees miss meetings, don’t read their packets or make site visits necessary for decision making. 

However, students also end up taking credit for some of the best work ever done on city commissions.  

Smith helped co-author the “Sweatshop-Free Berkeley” initiative which was passed in September 2006 and a consumer protection “Right-to-Know Ordinance” which was passed in February 2007. 

Mike Sheen, a recent UC graduate who was on the Planning Commission from 2005 to 2007 and also chaired the Police Review Commission, initiated valuable conversations about the process of civilian review and represented students on various issues such as housing and zoning changes to the Telegraph Avenue commercial district. 

“Councilmembers need to make a better effort to engage students,” said Sheen, who also served as Worthington’s legislative aide. 

“Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, whose district has more than 40 percent students, claims that he just doesn’t work with students or isn’t able to meet them, but I think one would argue that it’s the same with everyone else without initiative. There are plenty of students who do apply to become commissioners through the city clerk, but most councilmembers don’t keep the applications, don’t read them, or don’t pick up the phone regardless of whether or not they have a vacancy. That has to change.” 

The next generation of local leaders don’t want to take “no” for an answer. They are confident, determined and ready to take charge. Arreguin wants to revise the city’s housing inclusionary ordinance; labor commission chair Igor Tregub plans to update the decades-old Labor Commission Bill of Rights. 

Tregub, who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Political Science, has even laid out a five-point plan for 2008. 

As for the city’s youngest commissioner Rio Bauce (a Daily Planet Planet intern), next week signals the dawn of a new responsibility.  

Bauce, a senior at Berkeley High, was appointed by Worthington to the city’s Youth and Planning commissions. He was recently elected as the Berkeley Unified School District’s new student director. 

“I am excited,” Bauce told the Planet before leaving for a summer program in France last week. “I can’t wait to work on stuff that will help my fellow students. I want to make sure that all their voices get heard.” 

 

Photograph by Riya Bhattacharjee. Councilmember Kriss Worthington discusses future student commissioner appointments with legislative aides Denise Velez, Jesse Arreguin, ASUC external affairs officer Dionne Jirachaikitti and student intern Adriana Ramirez at his office Monday.


Locked-Out Workers Picket West Berkeley Store

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Charges and countercharges are flying between workers locked out by the owners of West Berkeley’s Metro Lighting. 

The immediate question for the seven workers of the retail store and manufacturing plant at 2121 San Pablo Ave. was the cleaning of a drum containing allegedly hazardous materials. 

Speaking for the workers, metal fabricator Gabe Wilson said cleaning the drum created hazards for others in the workshop and should have been done by a professional outside firm. As a consequence, the workers walked out.  

They picketed the business last week and said they will be there again today (Tuesday). 

“Powder can get into the air and cause chemical pneumonia and skin rashes,” Wilson told the Daily Planet on Monday. 

The workers left the building and owners Lawrence Grown and Christa Rybczynski then locked them out. 

Metro Lighting owners, however, said the concern about drum cleaning was insincere. The workers were looking for a way to assert the union, Grown told the Daily Planet. 

Grown said he called in the city of Berkeley’s toxics department (which looks more at records than at worksite operations) and called both California Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the manufacturer. None of them said the way the drum was cleaned could present a health hazard, he said. 

The dispute is not over the cleaning issue but over wages and union questions, Grown said. 

Six of the seven workers, according to Wilson, have declared themselves unionized, a part of the Industrial Workers of the World, something they say is legally binding without a National Labor Relations Board election or a simpler card check, where a majority of workers sign cards to become unionized. (The employer must agree to a card check.) 

Workers on a job site can get together for mutual aid. “It’s a protected union activity,” said Bruce Valde, an IWW organizer. 

The owners do not recognize the union, but say they are open to negotiation on a variety of issues. 

One of the issues concerns an older worker with 25 years experience who Wilson said makes about $4 per hour less than others. “Everyone felt he was doing an exceptional job,” Wilson said. 

The workers asked the owner to raise the older worker’s pay, but were told that since his health care costs were elevated because of his age, they could not. 

Grown said they had begun mediation with the worker. “We are trying to come to a resolution,” he said. 

Grown pointed to the high wages earned by the fabricators—between $15 and $19 per hour. “We pay 100 percent benefits for the workers and 50 percent for dependents,” he said, noting that is better than most small businesses do. 

Retail employees earn a base pay of $10 per hour and get collective commissions, amounting to about $5 per hour, he said, arguing that he and his wife started the business—now 100 percent solar—in their garage 14 years ago with credit card debt. He said they are not wealthy people and treat their workers well. 

“We’ll continue to picket until they meet our demands,” Wilson said. 

Grown said he recognizes the right to picket, but not to defame the business. If they do, “There will be consequences,” he said. 


Media News Ends Newsroom Union’s Status

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Media News Group—the chain has captured a near-monopoly of the East Bay newspaper world—busted its newsroom union Monday. 

The announcement came at the end of a lengthy e-mail from John Armstrong, president and publisher of the newly consolidated Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB). 

By merging the 130 union jobs in some newsrooms with the 170 non-union positions in other papers, the company now claims less than 50 percent representation—enough, said Armstrong, to end recognition. 

The newly consolidated East Bay media enterprise joins key newsroom operations of all the East Bay papers owned by newspaper baron Dean Singleton and his Media News Group. 

The chain has encircled the Bay Area after its buyout of the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News and affiliated papers once owned by Knight-Ridder, a chain that vanished in a buyout by Sacramento-based McClatchy Newspapers and a sell-off of unwanted papers. 

Media News now owns every daily newspaper in the Bay Area with the exception of the two San Francisco papers, the Chronicle and the Examiner. 

Other Media News papers include the Oakland Tribune, the Marin Independent-Journal, the Vallejo Times-Herald, Fremont Argus, Tri-Valley Herald, San Mateo County Times, the Hayward Daily Review and the Monterey Herald , along with the Daily News and Hills newspaper groups, which include small locally distributed papers like the East Bay Daily News, the Berkeley Voice and the Albany Journal. Identical articles frequently appear in many or all of the outlets Media News now owns. 

Other regional papers in the MNG fold are the Vacaville Reporter and the Woodland Democrat. 

“We’ve filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board,” said Dean Cuthbertson, president of the newspaper union, Local 39521 of the Newspaper Guild-CWA. 

“There was a labor board representative taking testimony today,” he said. 

“We were expecting it,” said one shop steward. “I was disappointed that we didn’t do more today.” A proposal to hold a march on the offices of the Contra Costa Times and Hayward review was rejected by another union leader. “Instead, we’re all supposed to be wearing something red today,” said the steward. 

The Bay Area, once a bastion of the newspaper union, has been hard hit by the wave of consolidations and downsizing that have swept the industry. 

In a letter to BANG corporate counsel Marshall Anstandig, representative Carl Hall of the Northern California Newspaper Guild/Typographical Union called the move “a grave error. Your citing of numbers and percentages doesn’t mask what I consider to be a blatant attempt to destroy a 20-year tradition of progressive labor relations in the East Bay news industry.”  

Gloria LaRiva, who heads the union’s typographical sector, said the move follows others at the San Jose Mercury News, which is owned by the same chain. 

“Dean Singleton is a disaster who turns out cookie-cutter newspapers” and kills jobs, she said. 

Typographers lost 22 positions in San Jose when MNG outsourced production work to India and to non-union sectors of the paper, LaRiva said. 

The union lost 34 jobs at a unionized plant in Hayward when it was shut down and printing shifted to a new plant in the same city “where the mailers now earn $2 an hour less,” she said. 

Along with drastic newsroom cuts previously announced at the Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle, Singleton’s move represents a major blow to organized journalism in the Bay Area, said one union member. 

Armstrong buried the bad news at the end of a 18-paragraph e-mail sent to BANG-EB that announced the formal start of the consolidated newsroom, revealed that operating profits should increase by three percent in the current fiscal year following a 10 percent decline the year before, and the announcement of a $7 million investment in new technology to help make the merger more efficient. 

He took up the union in the closing three paragraphs, dropping the bombshell in the penultimate paragraph: “Accordingly, we withdrew recognition from the Guild effective today.” 

LaRiva said more bad news lies ahead for union workers. Teamsters who print the Chronicle will lose their jobs in two years when printing is outsourced to a Bay Area plant operated by a Canadian firm. 

While the new move combines editing functions into centrally administered desks, the papers have been consolidating reporting functions since shortly after Singleton acquired two Knight-Ridder papers. 

While once reporters from different papers would attend the same event and write individual stories, many papers no carry the same story and the same byline—reducing the diversity of coverage of community news.


Oakland School Board Considers Censure Resolution Against Dobbins

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday August 14, 2007

The Oakland Unified School Board is preparing to discuss and take action on a proposed censure resolution against Board member Chris Dobbins at a special meeting to be held later this month, but the date of the special meeting and the form the resolution will take have not yet been released to the public. 

OUSD Board President David Kakishiba said by telephone that “all I can say is that in all likelihood, a special meeting will be held to take action on a possible censure resolution sometime before the Aug. 22 regular meeting. Beyond that, I can’t comment. There has not been a written proposed resolution submitted as of this moment.” 

Last week, officials with the Youth and Family Services Section of the Oakland Police Department said that no criminal charges would be filed surrounding Dobbins’ relationship with a 17-year-old OUSD high school student because “there was nothing criminal to prosecute.” 

Oakland police began their investigation last month at the request of OUSD state administrator Kimberly Statham after Statham’s office contacted them in response to a complaint. In an article in the Oakland Tribune last month, Dobbins said that he was acting as a mentor for the student, exchanging e-mails with her and sometimes taking her to meetings and having dinner conversations with her afterwards. 

“I didn’t realize how this would appear,” the Tribune quoted Dobbins as saying. “I should have exercised better judgment.” 

At last week’s board meeting, the first to be held after the district achieved limited local control four years after the state takeover, board members paved the way for a possible Dobbins censure by unanimously approving a policy “establishing a procedure for action against a governing board member for violation of legal, professional or ethical standards.” Dobbins voted in support of the policy. 

Kakishiba said that to his knowledge, the board did not previously have a policy allowing or governing censure or other actions against board members. 

Wednesday’s board meeting was packed with Dobbins supporters, several of whom spoke in his behalf and against board members who had earlier criticized Dobbins. 

Marta Leon praised what she called Dobbins’ many years work as a mentor of Oakland youth, saying, “we shouldn’t be picking on people who are trying to help students.” 

A woman identifying herself as Dobbins’ former girlfriend, Anita Longoria, said that she had read some of the e-mails between Dobbins and the 17-year-old student and that they did not demonstrate any misconduct on Dobbins’ part. “The allegations are not true,” Longoria said. “I wouldn’t be speaking on his behalf if I didn’t believe him. He is not the monster he is being made out to be.”  

Quoting a Tribune article in which board member Noel Gallo said “There is no excuse, no reason and no way to justify an adult having any kind of relationship with a young girl like that. Chris is a public official and a teacher. I think he has no choice but to resign.” Sylvia Johnson said that “Mr. Gallo must have missed the part in the United States Constitution that says a person is innocent until proven guilty. He has chosen to embarrass a 17-year-old girl. Even though her name was not mentioned, everybody who works around the schools can easily find out who this girl is. Mr. Gallo, your actions are un-American.” 

Dobbins’ supporters hung a large banner at the board meeting with the name of the Green Stampede organization, which is described in its website as an organization “dedicated to the support of the Oakland Athletics as well as the students of Oakland. Through mentoring, community action, and passionate fan support, the Green Stampede will be a force in the community as well as the Oakland Coliseum.” Dobbins’ picture is published several times on the website, which is still under construction. 

 


Nelson Mandela’s Daughter to Speak at Event Commemorating Tookie Williams

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday August 14, 2007

The daughter of former South African President Nelson Mandela will speak this Thursday afternoon at Contra Costa College, keynoting a summit conference calling for a continuation of the street peace legacy of the late Stanley Tookie Williams. Maki Mandela, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Amherst College in Massachusetts, is the child of Nelson Mandela and his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko.  

Williams, the former Crips gang leader who turned his life around on San Quentin’s Death Row after a murder conviction to write children’s books and win a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in attempting ending youth violence, was executed by the State of California in December of 2005. 

The First Annual Stanley Tookie Williams Legacy Summit will be held at the College, 2600 Mission Bell Drive, San Pablo, from 1:30-4 p.m. Admission is free. The summit is being sponsored by the newly formed STW Legacy Network (www.stwlegacy.net). 

A spokesperson for the network said that the purpose of the summit “is for action on the twin goals of advancing street peace and reforming our criminal justice system. Following Dr. Mandela’s keynote speech and the panel presentations, participants will break out into smaller group sessions to come up with action plans.” 

Along with Mandela, panelists for the summit will include Richmond political and social leader Barbara Becnel, Minister Abdullah Muhammad of the National Prison Ministry of the Nation of Islam, Donald Lacy of the Love Life Foundation, Elizabeth Terzakis of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and Alice Kim of the Illinois Humanities Council. 

Becnel, who met Williams while he was on Death Row, co-authored several of his books, led the unsuccessful movement to prevent his execution, was named the executor of his estate, and established the STW Legacy Network following Williams’ death. 

“Five years from now, ten years from now, even twenty years from now the recorders of history will not be able to report that we did nothing after Stan’s execution,” Becnel said in a prepared statement announcing the summit. “Instead, history will report that our support allowed the legacy of Stanley Tookie Williams to continue, uninterrupted by his death.” 

Becnel said that the organization was established to carry out Williams’ last wishes, including providing resources and funds for violence prevention education for organizations and institutions serving at-risk youth, improving literacy and discouraging gang involvement by at-risk youth, supporting groups and projects that advocate what Becnel calls a “fair” criminal justice system, and abolishment of the death penalty. 

 

 


Zoning Board Approves Fidelity Bank Building Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Hearing on Blood House Postponed 

 

The Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) gave the historic Fidelity Building on Shattuck Avenue a new lease on life Thursday when they approved a project there in spite of its parking deficit. 

The board voted 5-3 to grant applicants Prasad and Rani Lakireddy a use permit to preserve the existing 4,000-square-foot structure and convert the two-story bank space into a restaurant and a dwelling unit. 

The project includes a new five-story building, to be built in place of the existing three-story building adjacent to the Fidelity Building at 2323 Shattuck Ave., which would have 2,609 square feet of commercial floor area and 15 dwelling units. The project proposes to have sidewalk seating and eliminate the eight existing on-site parking spots. 

The board also directed staff to come back with findings that would support their decision.  

“One of the findings should be that it’s not possible to replace the parking spaces on site and restore the historic building,” said commissioner Bob Allen. “The vast majority of retail and residential buildings on Shattuck Avenue don’t provide parking.” 

The project as proposed violates the zoning ordinance, which states that new developments are forbidden from removing existing parking. 

The board also voted unanimously to ask the City Council to amend the current zoning ordinance and to explore the possibility of an in-lieu fee for future projects which would be applied toward creating more downtown parking. 

Although the majority of the board members were in favor of the proposed preservation and reuse of the historic building, they faced some stiff opposition.  

Matthew Mitchell, who was substituting for board member Michael Alvarez Cohen as Councilmember Gordon Wozniak’s appointee, said that the developer should provide seven off-site parking spaces. 

“We need to make sure that we don’t lose sight of a very good proposal here,” said Allen.  

“The city attorney makes it clear that an in-lieu fee does not provide the basis to support the variance. While I support the concept of downtown parking and a fee to increase parking, it’s really not our role to pick out one project and say we start from here.” 

ZAB Secretary Debbie Sanderson said that the board was on a very slippery slope.  

“The ordinance is very clear,” she said. “Our objective is to enforce the ordinance as it is written.” 

“How do you justify losing hundreds of parking spaces for the Brower Center?” Allen asked Sanderson. 

“We did lose hundreds of cars on those two projects but that project was challenged, appealed and went through extreme scrutiny from the city attorney before it was approved,” Sanderson replied. 

Commissioner Sara Shumer said that it was possible to mitigate the parking problem by proposing alternatives. 

“We find the project attractive but that is not grounds for approving it,” she said.  

“Alternate resources such as transit passes for residents, nine off-site parking spaces and valet parking should be considered.” 

Shumer’s suggestions were approved by the board. 

“Yes, we would reduce the existing parking,” said commissioner Jesse Arreguin, “but the mitigations are reasonable and would make up for the loss of parking and allow people to use alternate forms of transportation.” 

Tim Perry, who was substituting for vice-chair Rick Judd, called the mitigations a poor way of handling the parking policy. 

“The only way to change these things is to pressure the council,” said board chair Christiana Tiedemann. 

 

The Blood House 

The board voted unanimously to continue the hearing for the proposed removal of the historic Blood House from 2526 Durant Ave. to make room for mixed-use development. 

Berkeley developers Ruegg and Ellsworth have requested a permit to construct a 34,158-square-foot, five-story building with 44 apartments, 18 parking spaces and retail space after moving the historic structure to a different lot. 

Built in 1891 for Mrs. Ellen Blood by architect Robert Gray Frise, this stately Victorian near Telegraph Avenue is flanked by two landmarks—the Albra and the Brasfield buildings—on each side. 

The Blood House itself was declared a structure of merit by the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission in September 1999. Ruegg and Ellsworth’s appeal of the designation failed at the City Council a month later. 

Unable to make the findings necessary to approve the demolition of the historically designated structure in 2005, the zoning board directed the developers to explore other alternatives which would help preserve the landmark structure. 

At a Dec. 8, 2005 ZAB meeting, staff was directed to prepare an addendum to the certified environmental impact report (EIR) for the Blood House in order to come up with the required findings. According to staff, the addendum to the EIR, which will be presented to the ZAB at the September 10 meeting, meets CEQA requirements.  

Under CEQA, moving a structure designated as a historic resource is equivalent to demolishing it. 

After reviewing the addendum, the board will direct the staff about whether or not they should go ahead with the building proposal.


The Dangers of Reporting on Your Hometown

By Abi Wright, New America Media
Tuesday August 14, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: The death of Chauncey Bailey highlights how deadly the news business can be. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) monitors the killings of journalists all over the world. Since they began tracking these deaths in 1992, CPJ found that on average more than three journalists are killed every month in the line of duty. Seven out of 10 of the murdered journalists were killed in direct retaliation to the stories they have done. Abi Wright is the communications director for the Committee to Protect Journalists. She spoke to Sandip Roy on the New America Media radio show UpFront. 

 

Does Chauncey Bailey’s death show that though reporting in a war zone like Iraq is dangerous, doing investigative reporting that takes on your own community’s icons is just as dangerous?  

 

Our research certainly shows that journalists in their own hometowns who take on a tough topic such as corruption or crime are much more at risk of physical reprisal than even a journalist covering a conflict far away from their country.  

 

Could you tell us some stories of some of the other journalists killed while reporting on stories in their hometowns? 

 

Iraq, of course, comes to mind, where over 112 journalists have been killed since the beginning of the war there, since March 2003. Of those 112 journalists, the vast majority have been local Iraqi journalists covering the conflict in their own home country. One journalist from the northern city of Mosul was gunned down on her way to the market in June of this year. She had been covering local militia groups.  

There’s the Turkish-Armenian reporter, Hrant Dink, who was targeted and assassinated in Istanbul in January of this year after he was questioning various issues with the Armenian minority in Turkey. There was also investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya of Russia who was assassinated in Moscow last year on her way home while carrying the groceries.  

All of these cases show another parallel to the Chauncey Bailey case—a chilling one—which is that the killers tend to stalk their victims. I was reading a news report that the suspect arrested in that case said that he tried two other times to kill Bailey and had been following him for a while. This kind of chilling pre-meditation in these killings is a familiar trait that we have seen in other countries around the world.  

 

Does the fact that [Bailey] was killed on his way to work fit into that profile? The assumption many have is that it could happen in Russia, Colombia or Iraq, but it doesn’t happen in America. 

 

I think it’s important to underscore that while this murder has so shocked the journalism community in the U.S., it is a chilling crime without question. It is very rare. 

The last assassination of a journalist that we have documented here at CPJ was in 1993. Thank goodness it is a rare occurrence. Although whenever it happens it is shocking and justice must be served in this and every case.  

 

What happened in 1993? 

 

In 1993 it was actually a Haitian immigrant journalist in Miami who was targeted. Our information shows that the majority of the journalists killed in the United States are usually journalists in immigrant communities such as Haitian, Latino and Vietnamese. It is in these more isolated immigrant communities that journalists covering them have been the most at risk traditionally. But again the last time a journalist was targeted and assassinated in the United States was 1993.  

 

How many of these cases ended up with their killers being found or facing justice? 

 

Well that’s another very important difference. Happily, justice has been very swift thus far in the Chauncey Bailey case. The fact that a suspect was apprehended so quickly is welcome news and is very different from these other cases that we have documented inside the United States. Granted it has been many years since these crimes took place, but we have not documented a successful prosecution in any of the dozen cases of journalists killed for their work over the last 30 years in the United States. But that is in fact the case with the majority of murders of journalists in the world today. According to our information, in more than 85 percent of the cases when journalists are killed no one is ever successfully prosecuted. Focusing on impunity is going to be a big focus of ours in the coming year.  


A Bounty of Rosy, Crunchy Fruits

By Shirley Barker, Special to the Planet
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Recently I read a novel in which the heroine “rose” from a hammock to greet a visitor. The author must surely have lacked the hammock experience, that necessary adjunct to the life of the gardener, for one can roll out of a hammock, but I defy anyone to rise from it without putting a foot through the mesh. 

I hung my hammock ($14, from REI on San Pablo at Gilman, classic simple construction, easy to install) just north of the vegetable plot in order to take a breather while at the same time surveying what (if anything) is coming up. It gently swings its elegant parabola beneath a grape vine ordered by mail, a Thompson’s Seedless. 

To be put in as a bare-root rather than a potted plant, the vine arrived on my doorstep tiny and frail, a waif living in a cardboard box. Given my capacity for neglect, I wondered how well it would do. I dug it into ground near a north fence for maximum sun. A baby plum tree was growing a few feet away. 

This being California, both plants grew like gangbusters. After very few years the plum screened the sun from the vine. Apparently undaunted, the vine twined itself into the plum’s branches, hiding deep and high within the plum’s foliage. 

One day as I was lolling in the hammock, I looked up as I often do through the plum branches to the sky behind the leaves. As I gazed, I was astonished to see dangling inches from my nose a nicely formed bunch of grapes. It turned out that quite unobtrusively, the vine had gone berserk, producing so many bunches that I toyed with the idea of making wine. But there was no need for a change of career. The grapes may be smaller than those we find at Monterey Market, but oh, the flavor: solid globes of white wine that actually taste of grape.  

Fruits are a desirable addition to the garden since vegetable growers like to eat as well as reap what they sow (although I did meet one once who could not bear to harvest, let alone eat, what she grew). Fruits need not take up much space. An early and a late apple will supply the larder for six months or longer. I ordered mine from the same nursery as the vine’s. The red Gravenstein, productive in July, grew huge, but harvesting has never been a problem, because Gravensteins drop their fruit as soon as it is ripe. It is delicious raw, and as everyone knows, it makes the best applesauce. The Cox’s turned out to be a different variety and the tree remained tiny, barely waist-high. If I had read the nursery’s fine print right away, I would have noted that if they run out of stock, the nursery substitutes something comparable. So much the better, for every other year the tiny tree is laden with crisp green apples that keep until March. If it needs alternate years off, it has earned them. 

The nursery recommended a Seckel pear. Larger than the green apple tree, it has matured to a manageable size, free of pests and resistant to fire blight. It reliably produces a bounty of rosy, crunchy fruits that can be eaten right away. All these grow in an ordinary backyard space. 

Blackberries have taken over the perimeter fencing. Apart from cutting off streamers in mid-summer so that I can reach them, and in winter, cutting back branches that have fruited, I leave them alone. Of all the berries one can grow, these are my favorites. They are so reliable, so trouble-free and delicious, they make wonderful jams, syrups, pies and cobblers, they are loaded with vitamins and are especially rich in fiber. Even though there is no fruit quite so splendid as a ripe raspberry, if I had to choose one or the other, the blackberry would be it. Unlike raspberries, blackberries require no irrigation. If winter and spring rains are just right, the berries will be huge, like goloboshes, a word from a childhood book. Later in the summer they struggle to ripen. These half-red ones make the best jam. 

Once when I was car camping on the way to meet friends in Oregon, I drove up a washboard mountain road looking for a campsite. Halfway there the car overheated, a not unusual occurrence. The solution being to wait, I wandered along the road with my dogs (keen travelers both) and found such a profusion of berries that I’d soon filled my hat. Hurrying back to the car, I boiled them on my small camp stove with some sugar, and soon had enough jam to last the trip. By that time the car’s temperature had dropped and we could coast downhill to smoother, cooler pastures. 

There is no doubt that this hunter-gatherer aspect of the blackberry is partly responsible for its appeal. Blackberries are not the only free fruits, and some are close to home. In the hills near one of the entrances to Redwood Park grow apple trees, not wild of course, but cultivated survivors of some great estancia or old farmstead. Walnut trees grow just inside this entrance, originating from the same source perhaps. Walnuts have so many uses, from the sauces, candies, pickles and oils beloved by the Georgians of the Eastern Mediterranean and described in recipes by food writer Paula Wolfert, to the permanent dye their green husks yield. Wear gloves when handling these. 

Elderberries can be found in Tilden Park. The elderberry bears either red or blue-black fruits, one of which is poisonous, and since one can never remember which one it is, it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave both for the birds. 

None of these really compares to the grape, the cultivated European Vitis vinifera in my garden, and the wild American grapes, such as V. labrusca and V. rotundifolia. There is even a V. californica. It is a refreshing surprise to find this by accident during a long hot hike in the Sierra foothills. Its soft round slightly furry leaves are distinctive. 

The Vitaceae family has few members or genera, all twining vines bearing berries. It turns out that their tendrils are negatively phototropic, actively seeking crevices in which they expand and stick. V. vinifera has been in cultivation for at least 8,000 years. It is thought to be native to Western Asia. This grape has prospered all over Europe, in the Middle Ages even in England until a change in politics, the dissolution of the monasteries, and a change in climate, from warm to cool, caused its decline. Grapes need enough winter chill to go dormant, but not so much that the root is damaged. 

Catastrophe struck vineyards in the 1800s when Phylloxera vitifolia, a tiny insect that feeds on grape roots, emerged from eastern North America, and traveled to Europe and California, where it devastated Vitis vinifera. Its original habitat provided the cure, for native American vines have built up considerable resistance to these pests, and are now used as rootstock. 

Dessert grapes ripen faster than wine grapes, which require higher levels of sugar to make good wine, only reached after days of hot, dry weather. For this reason wine grapes also make the best dried fruits, the raisins, sultanas, and currants that are so useful in winter, and in baking, camping, and lunch boxes. 

Let us not forget the leaves, too. Blanched in lightly salted water and stuffed with cooked rice and nuts, they can be baked with spicy tomato sauce or served cold with dips, with none of the vinegary taste of the commercially bottled leaves. A touch of lemon, or verjus (made from unripe grapes), is pleasant. If I abstain until the grapes have been picked, even leaves close to turning color in late summer are edible. 

Still, nothing can beat lying in a hammock on a sunny afternoon, in the dappled shade of the vine and the plum, and gently tugging on a tendril, lowering a bunch of grapes close enough for a taste. Ah, sweet idleness.


Healty Living: Staving Off Alzheimer’s Through Improvisation

By Mary Barrett
Tuesday August 14, 2007

I think I’ve discovered an effective way to stave off Alzheimer’s. Tacked on to the tasks of solving New York Times crossword puzzles, learning ballroom dancing, and attending repeated sessions of Conversational Spanish, I’ve begun attending an improvisation class at Berkeley Repertory’s School of Theatre. 

Seventeen of us showed up for a three-hour stint, Monday night, in a practice space adjacent to the theater on Addison Street. We were greeted by an enthusiastic teacher, Rebecca Stockley, and put through a series of “ice breaker” activities. Her direction was to discover three things you had in common with the person next to you. My partner and I not only had 23-year-old sons and had just eaten dim sum; but, we’d also, now and then, smoked a cigar.  

That done, we moved to a new partner and repeated the task, only narrowed the commonality to things about theater. Not hard. We’d both been in high school plays, liked French movies, sang in public.  

Then, without fanfare, we practiced telling a story, alternating one word at a time, with a partner. 

That was an exercise in spontaneity. Each of us had a story we wanted to tell but couldn’t control our partner’s words. We were told to say yes to the word the partner offered, to say yes‚ and go with the flow. The object was not to be clever but to get to the end of the story. I could feel my brain neurons crackling. 

Harder exercises were to come. One was like dodge ball but used words and physical contortions instead of a ball. For example, if you were told “pirate” you stood with one hand over your eye, one hand crooked, one foot lifted, as though pegged, saying “Argh” before the challenger rapidly counted to ten. You had to be fast, really fast. And what you wanted was to be out of, not in, the circle. At one point, I was flooded with childhood dread of being stuck in the circle because I was slow. Ms. Stockley was so observant she gave me a new technique that immediately worked me from in to out.  

Finally we mimed little scenes extemporaneously. Very rapidly, we had to decide what we could add to a scene of two actors. I became a soccer goal post, a mother, a band aid. The trick was to add something visually recognizable. One practiced participant became a vibrating cell phone in a scene next to a woman who played Paris Hilton.  

The class moved rapidly. My mind and body were pushed to high alert; there was no slack. Even though I was the oldest, by far, in the class, it only mattered once in the circle game. Most of the time I was as competent as every one else. I learned to wear sneakers not sandals the next week.  

The diversity in the group amazed me. There was a 2007 grad from Cal, a pregnant couple who are engineers, a lawyer and a man who feels old at 46. Nearly half have English as a second language, and are from a variety of countries including Uganda, India, and Rumania. A few were obviously theater types, intense, practiced, eager. The rest of us could be any conglomeration of average folks. Some hung back a bit, others were confused at first but then jumped in. Ms. Stockley urged and demonstrated. She wasn’t a critic, she made it all fun. It felt safe to fail; in fact, we practiced a little “I failed” cheer thrusting our arms into the air and angling our chests out like a gymnast who’s just stuck a landing. 

Alzheimer’s research demonstrates the need to combine social interaction with brain stimulating tasks. In ballroom dancing, the woman has to follow the lead. In Improvisation, women are on an equal footing with the men. Men do not have to bear the heavier burden of leading. We are creating the steps and moves each moment, not practicing what others created decades ago. It is the liveliest way I’ve discovered to be fully present and vibrant.  

 

Mary Barrett is a Berkeley resident.


Opinion

Editorials

Editorial: Clinton v. Obama Shapes Up

By Becky O’Malley
Friday August 17, 2007

First, let me vaccinate myself: “The left is ... easily distracted, currently by the phantasm of impeachment. Why all this clamor to launch a proceeding surely destined to fail, aimed at a duo who will be out of the White House in 16 months? Pursue them for war crimes after they’ve stepped down. Mount an international campaign of the sort that has Henry Kissinger worrying at airports that there might be a lawyer with a writ standing next to the man with the limo sign. Right now the impeachment campaign is a distraction from the war and the paramount importance of ending it.” 

That’s Alexander Cockburn in The Nation, nobody’s limousine liberal, a man who has devoted his life to being lefter-than-thou and funnier about it to boot, and he’s not pushing impeachment. Nor is he even urging anyone to run against the poor bedraggled congressional Democrats, though he can’t resist roasting them because they haven’t managed to get much done with their thin majority (quelle surprise!). So please don’t jump on me for agreeing with him that impeachment is a foolish fantasy. 

But getting down to brass tacks, electing a Democratic president instead of the Bush-Cheney-Rove-Gonzales axis is bound to make some difference. I’m doing my periodic poll of some of the opinion leaders in my print universe. In brief, Bob Scheer, George Lakoff, Alex Cockburn, Katha Pollitt and Barbara Ehrenreich have all said publicly that they don’t find Hillary Clinton very appealing, but that they do find Barack Obama surprisingly so. They all express skepticism, in varying degrees, about the Democratic party, the Democratic Leadership Council and the Democrats in Congress, but realistically, no one denies that the Dems are what we’ve got to work with if we want to dump the bad guys. 

There’s a lingering undercurrent of affection for John Edwards’ populist rhetoric, and some think Richardson might be a possibility. Scheer, however, speaks strongly against Richardson because he was energy secretary when Wen Ho Lee was kept in solitary for many months for something he didn’t do, which Scheer blames on Richardson. The sentimental favorite is Al Gore, who might descend from policy-wonk heaven at the last minute as a deus ex machina to save the day, but probably won’t.  

That leaves Obama as what used to be called in less enlightened times The Great White Hope, though it’s obviously inappropriate here. The Obama candidacy isn’t really about race at all, oddly enough, despite his African father. To his credit, he has embraced the experience of the African-American descendants of slaves who share his genetic background, but his history is not theirs. His family of origin was white and upper middle-class, with the attendant privileges, including education at private schools like the excellent Punahou School in comfortably multi-ethnic Hawaii. Nevertheless, it would be a very good thing for America to finally have a person of color in the bully pulpit, if he gets there. 

The cynic is tempted to view him as just another Harvard Law Review president: smart as a whip, ambitious, a smooth talker, but aren’t they all? But the recent dust-up with Hillary Clinton shows him from another angle: quick to speak from what seem to be deep-seated principles, not a fence-sitter or an artful dodger like many another smart lawyer (including Bill Clinton.) Hillary C. came off poorly in the exchange, jumping all over Obama for saying that he might be willing to sit down and talk to the miscellaneous bad actors now visible on the world stage. Whatever happened to the great line someone wrote for JFK’s inaugural address: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate”? Maybe Hillary was still a Goldwater Girl at that point.....or was she in junior high in Illinois? Either way, she should know about it, and she doesn’t seem to. 

Then there was the back-and-forth about who’s ready to nuke and who’s not. Again, Obama’s reflex answer to a poorly-phrased question—that he doesn’t favor the nuclear option—was criticized by Hillary and her supporters. But he’s right and she’s wrong. Period.  

Both of these exchanges reveal more about her than about him. Many a candidate has talked peace in the campaign and made war later, including John Kennedy, but the ones who talk war even on the pre-election circuit usually find a way to use force later on. Sadly, women are often tempted to act macho just in case anyone suspects them of not being men: viz. Dianne Feinstein, police groupie, or Margaret Thatcher, who went to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. (Who can remember where the Falklands are anymore?) 

The DLC crowd, the centrists who believe that trying to please everyone is the sure road to electoral success, have been quick to praise Hillary for blurring the lines between herself and the average Republican. The problem with that is that there are few average Republicans any more. The voters are now exhibiting an overwhelming anxiety about the ongoing Iraq war which crosses party lines and brings together many strands of opinion. Isolationism, the traditional Republican fear of foreign entanglements of every kind, is kicking in, and is being woven together with the traditional pacifism of the otherwise internationalist Democratic left.  

Henrik Hertzberg, a good writer and often a clear head, makes light in the current New Yorker of the Clinton-Obama clashes, dismissing them as “squabbles” and looking forward to more substantive debates. But the world now moves faster than we might like it to, and on a fast track reflexes count—and Obama’s look pretty darn good.  

He seems to be too smart to let himself get run down in the middle of the road. Hillary on the other hand, who after all did vote for the Iraq invasion and stuck with that bad decision for way too long, seems to be to continuing the dead armadillo posture. For the two or three of you who might not know what that is, Jim Hightower wrote a book entitled There’s Nothing in the Middle of the Road Except Yellow Lines and Dead Armadillos. More Democrats, the Clintons included, should read it and take its wisdom to heart.  


Editorial: Cynicism Damages Tenant Cause

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday August 14, 2007

There’s been a lot of hoo-hah lately, including some in these pages, about the recent airing in the Matier-Ross gossip column of the old rumor that Berkeley Rent Control Board member Chris Kavanagh is seldom seen in the Dwight Way apartment which he rents, and that in fact he might really “live” in a charming cottage in Rockridge, just over the border in Oakland. Why the ironic quotes around “live”?  

Well, what those complaining about the peripatetic Kavanagh are annoyed about is that they think he probably spends most of his time in Oakland, even though he votes and was elected to the Rent Board in Berkeley. The problem with this, the probable reason why the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office has been reluctant to charge him with any crime, is that “domicile” for the purpose of voting and by extension for holding office, is not the same as what is called “his residence” in ordinary language. 

Kavanagh has always told naysayers—and he’s never kept this a secret—that his girlfriend lives in Oakland, and he spends a lot of time, including (shocking though it may seem) nights and weekends, with her at her home. We even saw him riding his bicycle across Alcatraz at Colby on his way to Berkeley one morning recently—he’s never been particularly secretive about where he hangs out. The new wrinkle is that his name has shown up on the lease of what might be called “her residence,” where eviction now threatens him—or them. But from a strictly legal perspective, that probably doesn’t make much difference. 

Traditionally, voters have been allowed to designate their domicile for voting purposes on very subjective grounds. The student rights movement starting in the late 1950s strengthened this principle. For at least 30 years students in California have chosen whether they wanted to vote in their parents’ home town, from their college dorm, or from either one when they were staying elsewhere for extended periods. Bed-checks are not part of the analysis. There’s even a respected body of law arguing on constitutional grounds that people should be allowed to vote in more than one place of “residence,” since so many people own and pay taxes on second homes, but generally voters are forced to choose only one place to vote.  

Astute Alameda County prosecutors, more knowledgeable than the Berkeley city attorney’s office, are well aware that if they try to charge Kavanagh with committing a crime they’re likely to lose, or at least to face an extended and expensive legal battle. And certainly if he’s never claimed domicile for voting purposes anywhere but Berkeley, regardless of where he spends his nights and regardless of what leases he’s signed, they will lose the case. 

Does that justify what he’s done? The answer is not the slam dunk many of his critics would like it to be. After all, many Berkeley citizens of our acquaintance have more than one residence: apartments in New York and Paris, cabins in Tahoe and Napa, even villas in Tuscany. David Teece, a part-time faculty member at UC’s Haas Business School (the proud tenant of the Mitsubishi Bank Chair in International Business and Finance and the moneybags behind the condo-ization of downtown Berkeley) is rumored to have at least five homes besides his Claremont District compound, including one in his native New Zealand. If Teece is a U.S. citizen (and dual citizenship is now possible) would his many mansions disqualify him from registering to vote in Berkeley or even from serving on the Rent Board? Probably not.  

So should Chris Kavanagh be prosecuted for sleeping over in Oakland, even if it’s most of the time? Probably not. And should signing two leases in adjacent cities be treated differently from owning two or more homes around the world? Probably not. We’ll even go out on a limb and predict that Supervisor Ed Jew will never be convicted of doing something similar or perhaps even more egregious in San Francisco (though he might be convicted of other crimes.)  

The question of what Kavanagh’s done wrong, ethically if not legally, still lingers, nonetheless. The loudest complainers against him have been Berkeley’s organized small landlords, which is odd considering that he ran on a platform supporting tenants’ rights. He wasn’t elected to defend landlords, though he was supposed to provide a fair shake for both sides in landlord-tenant disputes. If he hadn’t run, another pro-tenant candidate would have taken his place on the winning slate. 

It could be argued that David Teece has actually done more harm to Berkeley’s small landlords. The cash-register multiples that his surrogates have built to warehouse student renters seem to be out-competing local housing providers. 

If Chris Kavanagh’s harmed anyone, it’s tenants. He’s probably no worse than any of the other cynical baby boomers who have stockpiled and sublet rent-controlled units in Berkeley and Manhattan though they can and do afford to live elsewhere. (Yes, we know you’re out there.) But that doesn’t justify his quasi-public thumbing his nose at the voters’ justified expectation that he live in Berkeley. He risks giving the whole tenants’ rights movement a black eye in the public consciousness, and he’s not doing the Green Party any good either. 

 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday August 17, 2007

TAXPAYER WASTE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Let me get this straight; The Berkeley Housing Authority decided to have a meeting at the plush Doubletree Hotel in Berkeley. 

Public speaking started at 8:45 a.m. and some preachers were there in praising the lord didn’t seem to get it that “to do unto others” is a fair and honest thing to do. Some people who have Section 8 housing vouchers called me and said they were upset because they could not get to the meeting in time because they didn’t have a car or cab fare. The meeting could have instead been held at the Berkeley Housing Authority. 

The average Section 8 tenant receives about $10,000 a year while the director of the Berkeley Housing Authority makes $100,000 a year. 

What’s next? Meetings and/or banquets at Chez Panisse? And why not? It’s only taxpayer money! 

Diane Villanueva 

 

• 

FRIENDS OF BUS RAPID TRANSIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Friends of BRT supports the rerouting of the No. 19 bus line from University Avenue to Cedar Street in Berkeley because the rerouting improves transit service, at little extra cost to AC Transit, for residents along the Cedar Street corridor in Berkeley who are either unable to drive, bike, or walk—or prefer not to do so, by providing bus service to downtown Berkeley, the North Berkeley BART station, the Fourth Street shopping district, and other destinations along the Cedar and Sixth Street corridors in West Berkeley, as well as in Emeryville and Oakland.  

The voters of Berkeley recently passed Measure G which calls for Berkeley to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. Public transit has an important role to play in reducing these emissions. According to a report released by the City of Berkeley in June, “Climate Action in the City of Berkeley: A Framework Report for Community Review and Engagement”: “Gasoline and diesel consumption in our automobiles accounted for 47 percent of Berkeley’s total emissions in 2005, almost 293,000 tons of greenhouse gases. In fact, emissions from gasoline engines alone account for more emissions than all the residences in the City. This may well be the most difficult area for our reduction efforts. While overall population in the City has actually decreased in the last few decades, the number of vehicles has increased. 

Vehicle emissions are not just a problem from the perspective of global climate change, they also have serious local health impacts. Air pollution from cars contributes to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In the United States, as many as 100,000 deaths a year are blamed on vehicle emissions. Serious reductions in emissions from our automobiles will require an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency, a shift to cleaner fuels and a change in lifestyle. That is, we should expect technological improvements, but will still need to drive less.” Report is available at www.cityofberkeley.info/sustainable. See page 12 of report. The improved bus service will hopefully encourage some residents on the Cedar Street corridor who have lacked convenient access to transit to leave their cars at home and use public transit, thereby reducing pollution and congestion in Berkeley. 

Len Conly 

Co-Chair, Friends of BRT 

• 

KAVANAGH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is simple.  

In what city does Chris Kavanagh sleep at night? 

Bob Marsh 

 

• 

KAVANAGH’S RESIDENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have read the stories in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Daily Planet about Rent Board Commissioner Chris Kavanagh living in Oakland. Certainly, if he does not live in Berkeley, he should be forced to give up that job. 

What is also disturbing is that he appears to be represented in the eviction action by an attorney who received considerable funding from the Rent Board. It sounds like the contractor who does a big job at City Hall also doing a room addition for the mayor’s house. Someone should investigate that as, hopefully, Berkeley’s public money is not paying for any portion of a Rent Board member’s legal costs in a matter arising in Oakland. 

William J. Flynn 

 

• 

TAKING THE CHALLENGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Doug Buckwald finished his piece in the Tuesday Planet with the following: “I say we’ve had enough misrepresentation and argument by logical fallacy. Why not debate the issues and stick to verifiable facts? I hereby challenge Mr. Geller or Mr. Siegel or anyone else, for that matter to participate in a public debate on this issue. All I ask is that we choose an impartial moderator. Will anyone accept my challenge?” I accept that challenge. But after watching Doug Buckwald in action at numerous public meetings, I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with his interruptions, grandstanding, calls for a show of hands, speaking past his allotted time, poetry and general buffoonery. After his dishonest criticism of Sarah Syed, I don’t think any moderator would be willing to take the job. 

So I’d be delighted to debate Doug Buckwald right here on the pages of the Planet, where there will be a public record, and the editors can use their blue pencils to do the moderating. 

I’ll even start off the debate right now, with an issue of verifiable facts. Mr. Buckwald, his neighborhood friends and numerous fear-mongers among the Telegraph merchants have been claiming that the BRT will somehow harm retail business. I would like to know the factual basis of this claim. Are there any BRT implementations in the US which have harmed retail business along the route? This does not appear to be the case in Eugene, OR, for example. The dedicated lane for the N-Judah line in San Francisco does not appear to be destroying the shops and restaurants along Carl, Irving and Judah. 

I think the only real business harm could come from loss of parking, and AC Transit has promised to replace parking taken by BRT. If a BRT’s dedicated bus lanes harms business, I would like to know where this has actually happened. 

OK Doug, your bluff has been called. Since you want to stick to verifiable facts, tell me in what city has a BRT has hurt business by taking away car lanes. 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

SAVE THE OAKS AND  

STRAWBERRY CANYON 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Saving our mature trees is the most important thing we can do to stop global warming and save our planet. This is because trees grow by absorbing CO2 from the air and they produce the oxygen we breath in the process. The destruction of one 70-year-old tree returns over 3,000 tons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to the International Society of Arborculture, and the USDA Forest Service. 

Our mature trees are in big trouble all over the world because of development, ignorance, and global warming. These trees lower the air temperature by evaporating water during photosynthesis, and provide amazingly cooling shade. Save our trees! 

Merrilie Mitchell 

 

• 

A FEW STEPS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is going to take a major effort to solve Oakland’s ongoing crime and violence problems. Adding CHP officers to the streets will do little; it is akin to throwing a couple of bricks into a flowing stream, the water will simply flow around these additional barriers. Rededicating city parks to “peace” will do little, if anything. 

We have thousands of poor people, mostly minorities, who are uneducated, jobless and severely depressed.  

We need to:  

1. Decriminalize possession, use and sale of all plant-based drugs (opium, marijuana, coca). We need to end our Puritan attitudes about personal use of drugs for pleasure and pain relief. Drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem, for that is what it is. Prices of agricultural commodities such as opium, marijuana and coca, will fall to very low levels, if they are decriminalized. This will end drug-dealing as a source of profit and conflict and violence. 

2. We need to remove all guns: hand guns, shot guns and rifles from the inner city neighborhoods of Oakland and from all other Oakland neighborhoods, too. We need to move to the Swiss model of arms control and have all weapons stored in local armories, where they can be signed out for target practice or for hunting purposes. Guns will not protect us from the threat of internal tyranny and government dictatorships; only the respect and enforcement of our Constitutional rights and rules will protect us from governmental tyranny. 

3. We need to ensure that every adult resident of Oakland has a full time job, at a living wage, say $12.50 and hour, with full benefits, including health care, vision care, hearing care and dental care and four weeks paid vacation per year. Having full-time employment will keep people busy, occupied and relatively happy. The crime and violence rate will quickly fall to near zero when steps I, II and III have been taken. 

Of course, there will be massive resistance by the illegitimate Bush regime to decriminalizing plant-based drugs and removing all guns. Who will pick up the trash along the freeways every weekend, if not our millions of prisoners in jails across America? 

The Bush gang will probably not care if we increase our taxes to fund a jobs program for all Oakland residents. And obviously, raising property taxes to fund this 100% jobs program for all adult Oakland residents will cause many to cry out against it. The real question is, are we willing to pay the price to end crime and violence in Oakland? Or do we prefer continuing with our traditional liberal lip-service and hand-wringing? 

James Sayre 

Oakland 

 

• 

DISHONESTY IN GUN DEBATE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is not Michael Hardesty’s opinions that provoked my comment about his honesty, it is that he presented them as facts: “The fact is that guns are used in self-defense millions of times every year in the United States.” Presenting opinion as fact is dishonest, and is all too common in political discourse. It is pernicious, in that it cuts off debate because you supposedly have the facts. Even worse is when people lose the distinction between fact and opinion, and feel entitled to dismiss the arguments and competence of anyone who challenges their assertions. Every one of Hardesty’s gun self-defense letters has at least one sweeping dismissal that is suggestive of this attitude: “... an example of the liberal mind taken to its reductio ad absurdem. ... even a brainless lib can figure this out. ... the essence of modern collectivist liberalism in all its intellectual bankruptcy. ... laughable on its face. ... another left liberal excuse to rationalize crime.” 

I am aware that there are many unreported crimes, and in my last letter explicitly described why I felt that this did not prove that guns make people safer. I did not say people without guns are more able to walk away from bad situations. I said they were more likely to. There used to be a murder a year within a block of my house, and I have waited for help at the side of a man who had been shot a minute before. I have had the need to avoid potentially dangerous situations (although in one case I had to move at a lot faster than a walking pace), so I know that it can be done. It won’t work in all situations, but then neither does having a gun. 

I listed some of the social factors such as poverty and unemployment that are correlated to murder rates in my first letter. An expert could probably list more. 

Mea culpa with regards to my attribution of the fraction of adults with guns. I took Hardesty’s numbers, deducted out children from the total, and rounded the fraction up to account for assisted living adults who are not exposed to most felony crimes. The attribution should have been to the numbers, and not the computed fraction. I agree that people should take lessons in gun safety, and that no victims is a desirable outcome. I applaud Hardesty’s ability to protect himself with a gun without injuring anyone, but I must confess wonderment that he would encourage, and not just trust, “brainless libs” to be able to do the same. 

Robert Clear 

 

• 

HILLARY CLINTON 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Democratic leaders are worried that Hillary Clinton, as a presidential choice, will drag down other party candidates in the 2008 election. You bet she will, from top to bottom. The Republican evangelical base will be energized and they will vote overwhelmingly against everything Democratic.  

Hillary is a polarizing figure, no fault of her own, and will lose big in middle and conservative America, in white religious communities around the country. Clinton will be a nightmare for Democratic congressional and state legislative candidates and it will translate into a voting resurgence for the GOP. There will be no love lost on Hillary when it comes to the Jesus Is Lord crowd. 

What is wrong with Democratic leaders—Hillary is viewed unfavorably by 49 percent of Americans—are there no other candidates in the party with less negative numbers than this?  

But hey, I could be wrong. I spent a whole year before the 2000 presidential election writing that George Bush was a menace. 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 

 

• 

THE EVOLUTIONARY  

RULE OF JOURNALISM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a consumer of journalism rather than a practitioner I can enunciate unrestrained by professional standards the Evolutionary Rule of Journalism: All news evolves and the longer it survives the more layers of meaning it acquires. 

Watergate began as a third rate burglary morphed into a popular televised series staring Senator Sam Erwin and ended with the first and still the only resignation (abdication?) of a president.  

Katrina began as a hurricane then, on account of weakened levees, became a flood and after that, because of incompetence, it evolved into a federal management debacle and currently it is a shabby weave of ineptitude and greed with corruption.  

When it comes to Iraq the Evolutionary Rule of Journalism yields more levels of meaning than Watergate and Katrina combined for Iraq has endured as a leading news event for four and a half years.  

At first Iraq was reported to be threatening us with WMDs and “mushroom clouds,” so we ousted its dictatorial leader, then its freedom became “untidy” (Rumsfeld), its insurgency entered “the last throes” (Cheney) and its government endured “birth pangs” (Rice). At the moment we’re waiting for General Patraeus to tell us how well or poorly the troop surge is working.  

The sad part about the evolution of news from Iraq is that through all of its excretions Iraq is in worse condition today than it was before we invaded. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 

 

• 

THE UNIVERSITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I certainly agree with Ms. Susan S. Pownwall that the university is “our city’s greatest asset.” But in her letter, hostile to those of us who want to save the oak grove, she does not refer to the teaching, learning and research, but to the football stadium and the controversial athletic facility. Is that what higher learning is about? 

Peter Selz 

 

• 

BUS PASSES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am deeply disappointed that the Alameda-Contra Costa Transportation District still has the price of a bus pass at $20 a month, for both the seniors and the disabled. Both seniors and the disabled use the bus as their only transportation. With a price of $20 a month, they have to make a choice: buy a bus pass or buy food. 

The majority of seniors and the disabled are loyal passengers. Because they take the bus instead of cars, they are playing their part in fighting global warming. So I urge the district to show some balance by lowering the price of the bus pass for seniors and the disabled. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 

Oakland 

 

• 

UNIVERSITY AVENUE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

What’s up with sticky sidewalks on University Avenue? Any comments? 

Kathy McCarter 

 

• 

WHAT IF? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Suppose they gave a press conference and no one came? 

Phil Allen 

 

• 

MOVIE THEATER ADVERTISING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I recently attended a film at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, and, as per usual, a substantial portion of the small audience booed an on-screen advertisement for a Mercury hybrid SUV. 

I would like to propose to my fellow moviegoers that, pending the revolution, Landmark’s marketing of advertising space might not be such a bad idea. Given the current pressures (Netflix, cable, home video) upon public commercial cinemas, especially those like Landmark which still show decent films, such advertising might represent the only way to remain open. Particularly for those of us who support the union at Shattuck Cinemas and its effort to obtain decent wages, benefits and job security for Landmark workers, opposition to Landmark’s efforts to seek additional revenue sources (besides raising ticket prices yet again...ouch!) seems counterproductive. I’d happily sit through five more corporate ads in return for a dollar off the ticket price and decent jobs for those tearing the tickets! 

Ironically, the only other on-screen ad that night was for HBO, which is one of the main threats to public cinema. It was rather like the PA system for K-Mart running an ad for Target. Yet nobody booed the HBO ad! Hmmmm. 

Dave Linn 

• 

ELMWOOD THEATER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The movie house at the Elmwood has opened under new management and promises a new mix of films. A recent screening of a documentary on the life of Simon Weisenthal delivered on that promise. This fine movie made me realize how poor has been our opportunity to see the world’s documentary films over the years. I hope we get a chance now. 

Bennett Markel 

 

• 

TRUTH IN PETITIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Please read a petition’s summary before signing it. A current petition being circulated is entitled “Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property” — ie, eminent domain, but the third line of the summary states that it “prohibits rent control and similar measures.” 

This tip is brought to you by TIPP—Truth in Petition Presentation. 

Catherine Barnett 

 

• 

SUPREME COURT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

You and other papers decry the Supreme Court’s recent pro-Bush 5-4 decisions, but neglect mention of an easy action the Congress could now take to prevent Bush’s compounding the imbalance by placing a sixth Bush adherent on the court—or totally replacing the court if were wiped out at once. 

Except to establish the court and a chief justice thereof, the Constitution leaves other important details to action by Congress. Without amending the Constitution, Congress can by majority votes in both houses pass law, even to apply to incumbent Bush, to forbid any president’s replacing more than two Supreme Court justices—three in the event of court extinction. If a justice resigns or dies before November 2008, a third Bush justice will surely be rejected by our Democratic-majority Senate. Knowing this, Bush would sign the proposed bill. 

We should limit presidential replacements now and then in 2009 impeach at least one justice. Thomas comes to mind as the easiest; at his confirmation hearings he proved he is not suited to be a lawyer, let alone a judge. Asked why he signed a policy paper he later disavowed he said he didn’t first read the paper! 

Judith Segard Hunt 

 

• 

POINT ISABEL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In 1985 Point Isabel was a wild, weedy, windswept place favored by drug dealers. It was a good place to run your dog and let them have a swim in the canal. A woman ranger was menaced by one of the dogs and the East Bay Regional Park District ordered all dogs on leash. In response to this restriction a meeting of dog owners was called and 75 dog owners came. Officers were elected and the organization known as Point Isabel Dog Owners and Friends (PIDO) was born. 

The officers requested a meeting with the Operations Committee of EBRPD. Head Ranger John Perry and Assistant General Manager Jerry Kent and other district employees met with PIDO frequently. We settled on the dog rules for the park. PIDO promised 1) to buy biodegradable bags and place them in all the containers on a daily basis, and 2) to educated the park users to responsible dog ownership and to obey the park rules, especially the picking up of poop to keep the park clean. 

The park district was to maintain the boards, poop bag containers and benches and promised never to spray herbicides or pesticides at Point Isabel. This was a verbal agreement, and for 22 years the promise was kept. This summer, without discussion with any members of the public who use the park on a daily basis, a contractor hired by EBRPD has sprayed the area with Roundup Pro on several occasions, the first time without the required 24-hour notice, the second and third times when the wind was gusting through the area. 

We are told that there is no record of our agreement, but I was at the negotiating meeting and this promise was made to PIDO. Their claim is that Roundup is “safe.” We have documents from the Environmental Protection Agency stating that it is not safe for birds, fish, dogs, wild life and many humans. The chemical, glyphosate (Roundup), causes the most damage to workers of any other herbicide now in use. Two experts from the University of California are willing to testify to that. Another spraying is scheduled for later on. I have also learned that EBRPD is responsible for the upkeep on sections of the Bay Trail in the East Bay and they regularly use Roundup. The public should be aware. 

Sylvia Schild 

 

• 

BICYCLE TRAFFIC LAWS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Hallelujah! At last the Berkeley police are enforcing the bicycle traffic laws! However, your citizen commentator Michelle Larager, either thinks she is above the law, or else is truly unaware that California law does indeed mandate that bicyclists come to a full stop at stop signs, as indeed they should. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had bicyclists go whizzing through intersections, right in front of my car, with no warning whatsoever. 

Can you see what it would be like if automobile drivers decided not to stop at stop signs anymore? It would be like the incident I once witnessed at the intersection of Le Conte and LeRoy one morning at 5 a.m. That intersection had a four-way stop sign. There were two cars, each proceeding at a great rate of speed along their respective streets. As they approached the intersection, neither car slowed down. Each driver assumed there would be no cross traffic at such an early hour. The drivers neither saw nor heard each other. The two cars zoomed through the intersection, missing each other by only the barest of margins. 

Martha Colburn 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

STOP SIGNS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is my very strong conclusion that most of the stop signs in Berkeley should be changed to yield signs. Except those on major streets, of course. 

Having to stop when there is no one coming from either side, on the chance that there might be a policeman nearby, is an utter waste of time and effort.  

In the case of the small circles, everyone else in the world already has yield signs at all entries. 

We do it now, so why not make it official? 

Charles Smith 

 

• 

ALLSTON HOUSE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve been in the Allston House apartments almost 20 years and like growing pains, people will complain. But never before has this place been this quiet and feels safe (relatively) in the time I’ve been here. The renovation is uncomfortable for a lot of people just like it was to clean it out. The reward though—wow—it is finally getting done. 

Michael Timberlake 

 

• 

B-TOWN DOLLAR STORE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley City Council recently voted to uphold the Zoning Board decision to close the B-Town Dollar Store (Daily Planet, July 20). The article reports that neither neighboring residents nor business owners attended the Council meeting. Instead, six Berkeley police officers and a code enforcement officer made the case to close the store. The article mentions that the property is managed by a San Francisco police officer. 

With the present state of Berkeley property development the actions of the Berkeley police officers is curious. Twice recently the Fire Department inspector has found extensive code violations that served the interests of the property owners. The decision to close B-Town appears to be another case in which city employees are using their office to assist their associates. 

Greg Wells 


Commentary: Bus Rapid Transit Means Reduced Traffic, Reduced CO2

By Rob Wrenn
Friday August 17, 2007

In his latest attack on AC Transit’s planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service, Doug Buckwald (Planet Aug. 14) once again misstates the facts, this time claiming that the environmental impact report (EIR) for BRT “shows” that BRT will not lead “many people at all” to shift from driving to taking the bus. 

In fact, the EIR estimates that BRT will result in as many as 9300 new transit trips each weekday. These are trips made by people who formerly were not using transit. I’d say that’s “many people.” 

The EIR further estimates that weekday automobile use would decline by 20,700 vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per weekday as the result of drivers shifting to transit.  

Each driver who switches from driving to transit will reduce his or her emissions of CO2. City staff have estimated that 47% of greenhouse gas emissions generated in Berkeley are generated by transportation (cars, trucks, etc.) and that calculation was made without including CO2 generated on the portion of 1-80 that passes through Berkeley.  

It’s not hard to understand why BRT will reduce the number of automobile trips and, by doing so, contribute to the city’s Measure G goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 80%. Surveys show that travel time and reliability are factors in why some people choose driving over public transit. Improve reliability and reduce travel time and more people will choose transit. 

Bus ridership has increased in other cities where BRT has been implemented such as Eugene, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  

Providing buses with their own lanes has also played an important role in efforts to reduce automobile traffic and to improve transit service in Paris and London. And New York City is among many other U.S. cities that are moving forward to implement BRT. Giving buses their own transitway and separating them from the flow of automobile traffic clearly works. 

Mr. Buckwald makes the unsubstantiated claim that the limited bus improvements that he favors instead of BRT will result in 90 percent of the “gains” that BRT would provide. His sketchy “alternative” would add Eco Pass transit subsidies, free shopper shuttles, “better transfer policies” and advance ticket purchase to the interim Rapid Bus.  

Improving transfers between buses is difficult to achieve as long as buses travel in mixed flow traffic lanes rather than in dedicated bus lanes. With BRT, buses will be far more likely to arrive on schedule, which will facilitate transfers to and from other bus lines. 

Eco Pass (employer-provided free or low cost transit passes) is something that I and others have been lobbying for for years. (Where was Mr. Buckwald?) It’s a great program, but it will not improve transit service and reliability. What it does is give people an incentive to use whatever level of transit service exists at a given point in time.  

But if incentives like Eco Pass encourage people to try transit, the percentage who stick with transit will be smaller without BRT than with BRT. If Eco Pass recipients try the bus but find it slow and unreliable, some will give up and go back to driving. More Eco Pass holders will stick with transit if they have both the improved service of BRT and a transit pass.  

Shopper shuttles, if well planned and designed, and if frequent and adequately funded, can be a good supplement to the transit service that AC and BART provide. But they don’t work for commuters and for trips outside Berkeley; like Eco Pass, they are not a substitute for BRT. 

In short, we need both better service and incentives to use that improved service. Eco Pass and shopper shuttles would complement BRT; they are not an alternative. It’s not either/or. And funds available for capital projects like BRT can’t fund a shuttle or Eco Pass. 

Eugene, Ore. had a shopper shuttle linking its downtown, its bus hub and the University of Oregon with the city’s large shopping mall and with its downtown shopping district. And the University of Oregon has had its own version of Eco Pass; students, staff and faculty can ride the bus for free by showing their U. of Oregon IDs.  

But Eugene also recently added a Bus Rapid Transit line that also serves its downtown and the University and picks up many riders who have the University’s version of Eco Pass. BRT has increased ridership beyond expectations, even though it serves some of the same areas served by the shuttle. Plans are under way to expand BRT there. Shuttles and Eco Pass complement BRT. 

As for the idea of Rapid Bus plus advance ticket purchase, it would still fall short of the service improvements that would be achieved by BRT. The EIR clearly shows that BRT will increase ridership much more than rapid bus will. And including proof of payment with Rapid Bus, if that were a real possibility, would not change that reality. 

While the interim 1R Rapid Bus service on the BRT corridor is expected to increase “average weekday boardings” by 21 percent, implementation of BRT could increase boardings by 100 percent or more, according to the EIR. It would be far superior to Rapid Bus with respect to increasing ridership. 

The EIR predicts that the reduction in bus travel time could be more than double the reduction with the 1R Rapid Bus service. With Rapid Bus, the reduction in travel time is the result of having fewer stops, so if you don’t live near a Rapid Bus stop, you have to walk further to get to the bus.  

With BRT, the greater reliability and more substantial reduction in travel time result, to a substantial degree, from buses having dedicated lanes. 

If any growth occurs in Berkeley or Oakland, the benefits of BRT vis-à-vis more limited improvements favored by Mr. Buckwald, will increase. Buses stuck in mixed flow traffic lanes will move more and more slowly over time if the number of people needing to get around the area increases. Having dedicated lanes for buses will become more and more important over time. 

Doug Buckwald has taken full advantage of the many opportunities that members of the public have had to comment on BRT. He has stated his opposition to BRT at numerous public meetings in front of at least three commissions. He had come out in opposition to BRT before the EIR provided valuable data on BRT’s impacts.  

It’s unfortunate that he comes to meetings to trash BRT rather than to participate in the discussions about the impacts of BRT on parking and traffic and the adequacy of proposed mitigations. The city has yet to choose a preferred alternative for BRT routing; he could offer his opinion on this as many others are doing. That would be more productive than his entirely negative approach to improving transit service in Berkeley. 

 

Rob Wrenn is a member of the Transportation Commission and the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and lives in one of the neighborhoods that would be served by BRT. 


Commentary: Planning in Berkeley: Doing Our Job

By Dan Marks
Friday August 17, 2007

Mark Twain is supposed to have said “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” I have followed that adage for most of my career, choosing not to respond to articles and editorials in newspapers, and especially not the Daily Planet, which has shown antipathy for my department, my staff and my profession. Despite my concern with the forum, as the director of Planning and Development for the city, I feel compelled to respond to Ms. O’Malley’s editorials of Aug. 7 and 10 and Mr. Wollmer’s commentary of Aug. 10.  

First, there seems to be some confusion as to who pays for the Planning and Development Department’s work. Some people seem to believe that a significant portion of the department’s budget comes from fees for major development, making staff prone to support big projects. I would estimate that 95 percent of our work reviewing and permitting projects is for homeowners and businesses improving their homes; remodeling offices and restaurants; establishing new businesses and modifying old ones. Big projects get a lot of attention, but if there were a moratorium tomorrow on them, the Planning and Development Department would still be very busy. Although I have never calculated it (because it is irrelevant to me), I would estimate that these high-profile projects occupy the time of two to three full-time employees—around 3 percent of the department’s total staff time.  

Second, there is a tendency to blame the messenger about decisions that are made on development projects. The Planning and Development Department’s job is to evaluate projects in light of the General Plan, Zoning Ordinance and other laws, and make a recommendation based on our assessment of the conformance of a project with those policies and laws. We also describe the constraints placed on decision-making by state law. In short, staff is expected to provide the information necessary for the public, the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), and the City Council to understand how we applied the law and the choices before the decision makers. There is no lack of opportunity in the public review and hearing process for anyone to point out any alleged errors in city staff’s analysis or recommendations. The ZAB and City Council are ultimately responsible for the city’s projects and city staff members have no vote either place.  

But even if we did, there would still be no excuse for the personal, vitriolic attacks I have seen on my staff. These attacks contribute to a poisonous, disrespectful environment in the city and make it difficult for all residents to engage in substantive, civil discourse about honest policy disagreements.  

Finally, let me address “smart growth.” “Smart growth” is popular shorthand for a number of very old planning ideas that are held by not only professional planners, but by elected officials, local, national and international environmental leaders, and many residents of our community and our state.  

Those ideas are based around the central idea that land is valuable and scarce, and if we are going to preserve the open space and beauty of the Bay Area, reduce our collective carbon footprint, and accommodate the two million people who are projected to live here over the next 30 years, we must accommodate growth in cities where there is already infrastructure, transit and jobs. The suburban dream may be alive and well, but not everyone can afford it, and not everyone wants a two-hour commute to Stockton. We can and must provide alternatives in places such as Berkeley where the jobs and the transit are located. 

Of course, allowing for new development in a built-out community such as Berkeley presents some serious challenges. It’s one thing to say “Down with Sprawl!” and another to imagine a new apartment building near your home. We’re all subject to that “not in my back yard” feeling, and we all occasionally feel a little overcrowded in the Bay Area. Some people seem to think that Berkeley doesn’t need any more growth because Berkeley has done its share. They claim that Berkeley is already more dense than most communities and that more development will fundamentally change Berkeley’s character.  

These are all valid concerns. However, having worked in a few cities in my career, I can say with some authority that virtually every community thinks the exact same thing: anywhere but here. No one wants the impacts of new residential development: more congestion, more overcrowded schools, more strain on infrastructure. That is exactly why we must plan so carefully. The city’s General Plan calls for sensitive infill. And despite the opinions of some people, I believe we’ve done a pretty good job. The new development that has occurred in Berkeley over the past 10 years, primarily on major transit corridors and in downtown, is not destroying its character—in fact, the City of Berkeley today has about as many non-UC housing units as it did in 1970. Moreover, new housing and retail businesses add vitality to the city’s business districts and major boulevards. If the character of the city is changing, which it probably is, it’s because the city is aging. The young faces of 1970s Berkeley are now middle-aged faces with middle-aged concerns and objections. There are also new young faces with new visions of what Berkeley is, and what they hope it will be. Some of those faces are just passing through, and some are the next generation of Berkeley leaders. The character of a city is always changing.  

It takes all of us— the City Council, the staff, residents and business owners—to work together in good faith to plan a good future for Berkeley. I am very proud of the work of my department. We work hard to represent the General Plan, the city’s ordinances and the City Council, and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability.  

 

Dan Marks is director of the City of Berkeley’s Planning and Development Department.


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 14, 2007

A SUGGESTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding “Popular Car Wash Faces Eviction” (Aug. 10): I know that business reality for small firms is always richly complicated—there’s no such thing as a “simple” idea. But, really, am I the only one struck by the thought here that a detailing shop and a biofuel depot could make fantastically great partners to co-locate at Ashby and Sacramento? These seem to me to be services that complement one another and that should have only a little bit of logistical trouble sharing the space—if some business structure/system of contracts, etc., can be worked out.  

Just a suggestion, anyway. 

Thomas Lord 

 

• 

RULES OF THE ROAD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Cyclist Michelle Lerager’s letter complaining about the alleged severity of the Berkeley police was plaintive, a bit sad and, well, repetitive. I’m not sure you were justified in taking up three columns with it since she said the same thing at least three times. 

I will just make a couple of points, once. For the sake of good cyclist-motor vehicle public relations, and your own safety as a cyclist, it is always a good idea to obey the rules of the road. As far as police are concerned, you use your eyes. You do not ride through a stop sign or a red light when you have any whiff of the presence of a police officer. If there is no police officer, in a quiet backstreet situation, for example, then you use your common sense, and hope for the best. You are not obligated by law to get off your bike, ever, while legally on the road. 

Andrew Ritchie 

 

• 

TRADER JOE’S 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mr. Parman’s concern over the cost of shopping at Trader Joe’s is not consistent with my experience. Over the past year my household has averaged $25.33 per person per week for food and household supplies (toilet paper and so on). This includes meals at restaurants, so our household definitely meets the USDA thrifty budget of $31.10 per week for a single man. Ninety percent of my expenses were approximately evenly split among three stores: Trader Joe’s, Berkeley Bowl, and the Grocery Outlet. Less than 4 percent of our expenses went to a supermarket (Safeway). For the items that I am interested in, most of the prices at the supermarket are simply not competitive with the prices at the other stores. I shop at several stores because no one store has the best prices or products for the range of items that I buy. I wouldn’t be surprised that for some people the food they buy is more expensive at Trader Joe’s than at a supermarket, but that by no mean implies that this is true for all of us. 

Robert Clear 

 

• 

ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND PLANNING? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Charles Siegel, in his Aug. 7 letter about the July 24 Transportation Commission meeting on Bus Rapid Transit, presents a grossly distorted view. Other than city staff, city commissioners (led by the flagrantly biased Sarah Syed), and AC Transit employees, I counted only three supporters of BRT (that is, until one of them stomped out). Contrary to Siegel’s letter, citizen opponents of BRT vastly outnumbered supporters.  

Mr. Siegel seems to think the election process in Berkeley is a perfect expression of democracy, rather than a money-soaked political machine specializing in mendacious last-minute hit pieces.  

Regarding the unsuccessful referendum of the giveaway of the Oxford parking lot for the “Brower” project, Mr. Siegel fails to mention the vicious disinformation campaign against it, led by employees of the site’s developers. While gathering signatures at the Farmers’ Market, we were often surrounded by aggressive disinformers, including Chris Kavanagh, well-known champion of campaign truthfulness. Even the Sierra Club engaged in misinformation; I have lost all respect for this organization. 

I bike down Oxford Street to work, and therefore had to witness the destruction of 12 large trees for the “Brower” construction project. A convoy of trucks then lined up for weeks, spewing diesel exhaust, to remove an astounding amount of Berkeley soil. The crater that was formed will soon be filled with concrete. 

By the time this development is complete, I’ll bet the term “green building” will be considered little more than the greenwash spin of the times. Construction is intrinsically polluting—the reuse of existing buildings is what makes ecological sense in a mature town. 

If the “Brower” project doesn’t turn out to be what was promised (and which development in Berkeley has?), then it will be just another polluting construction project with a $90 million price tag. Ninety million dollars could have gone a long way to benefit Berkeley citizens; instead it is benefiting developers, consultants, lawyers and concrete companies. 

Gale Garcia 

 

• 

AC TRANSIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was glad to see Zelda Bronstein’s article on the AC transit re-routing. Has AC transit gone mad? On Cedar Street, we have been re-routed to get the No. 19 bus, which originates in Oakland-San Leandro. The bus is needed there, but not on Cedar! This bus is destroying our community on Cedar Street, A big, huge, lumbering diesel-fueled bus lumbering down Cedar Street with fewer than five passengers is wasteful and unnecessary! Even the bus drivers realize that this huge bus is not necessary for narrow, tiny Cedar Street. Why has AC transit created this mess in my community and why has the Berkeley city government been complicit with this? Before the re-routing there was a bus that ran up and down the street, at less frequent times. It was for commuters and worked well. Now, this bus is a constant force on the block. I hope that someone at AC transit can stop this neighborhood wrecker and will realize that progress does not have to mean diesel pollution and destruction of a community. 

Meryl Siegal 

 

• 

WHAT THE ANTI’S ARE UP TO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mark Rhoades is moving on! That’s great to hear, maybe I’ll apply for the job, after all I’m highly qualified for it, and a Berkeley native to boot. But I wouldn’t expect to make friends of the likes of Becky O’Malley who wrote the recent article that characterizes the planning profession in a very poor light.  

I pick up the Superman rag every now and again to see what the “Anti’s” are up to, but could not resist writing back after reading the hit piece by Becky, who attacks an entire profession based on her limited opinion and experience. Planners throughout the region should be offended, if one can conceive we have the power she thinks we have.  

First, no planning department is perfect, since it really is after all made up of humans, and their human supervisors, and their human political heads. It also bears pointing out that Becky is ignorant of how planning departments are funded since you would be hard pressed to find one that is cost-covering—permit fees don’t cover our salaries and most have to dip into the General Fund. Although most finance directors don’t like this, it is a fact of life that if we wanted to be cost-covering we’d have to charge $10,000 for a simple use permit—not a real option.  

Secondly, planning is not science, but more like an art. That’s why it’s its own college up at Cal. It’s a set of ideas on how to grow cities, design buildings, and make land-use decisions to improve the quality of life for all—not a few, for all. This means the urban fabric and the spaces between buildings become very critical in how they create or hinder opportunities for inhabitants to reach public self fulfillment. Good city planning is something you feel! 

Finally, I don’t know Mark Rhoades, but I think Berkeley has gotten much better in the last several years. I love the mini-Manhattanization of downtown and all the high-rise going in along San Pablo Avenue. I eagerly await more of it—that is Smart Growth. Yes Becky, putting more people in downtown so they don’t need a car is a smart idea. Could affordability be better? You betcha, but that is more a failure on all us for not looking out for the less fortunate.  

I too would probably be friendly with developers. It comes with the job. After all, they are getting something accomplished with their precious time and being productive. I’m so sick of what I hear in this paper coming from the angry, crunchy liberal elites of Berkeley who are constantly fighting development. If you were in Mark’s shoes, which group would you want to sip a latte with?  

Albert Lopez 

 

• 

OBAMA IN OAKLAND 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m impressed with Obama’s Oakland visit and cooperation, for the “Walk A Day In My Shoes 2008” campaign. Also asked about Oakland’s violence, he echoes what we all know: “If we can strengthen these communities with jobs, education, preventive healthcare, that will make all the difference.” 

He could have added that a first step in that endeavor could be decriminalizing drugs; the present laws providing a major crime incentive! This is another seemingly endless ineffective “war,” which wastes billions for drug-crime apprehension and incarceration—funds which could provide us with these obvious solutions. Obama apparently joins our other lawmakers in being blind to this ongoing obscenity. 

Gerta Farber 

 

• 

43 MORE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Forgive my incessant ravings about the heat in Iraq. That subject has been foremost in my mind year after year, summer after summer, since the start of the war. My blood pressure rose to alarming heights when I read that the Iraqi parliament is taking a month-long vacation, that Congress has left for its traditional August recess and that Himself is headed for the cool climes of Kennebunkport, not a care in the world! So our soldiers are suffering in blistering heat? Ho hum, it’s a matter of little consequence. And my spirits were definitely not lifted Sunday morning when ABC’s “This Week” announced the death of 43 American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Dear God—43! I’m praying for the day that American citizens finally shake off their lethargy and demand the return of our troops now—before they come back in flag-draped coffins. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

TALK RADIO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Woe is me! Woe is us! No, I was not left laughing by Peter Laufer’s command of his most mundane trivial pursuit of Becky O’Malley’s socks concluding his chat with her last “Some Day.” What utterly thoughtless use of priceless KPFA air time! 

Does ironic even apply to Laufer using Einstein’s claim of not wearing socks as taking up valuable daily time needed to put them on and take ‘em off? And Laufer being such a disciple, zealot. Becky, I wish at that time you had just said “Thank you for the people’s time,” and hung up. 

Personally particularly galling was for months I have been proposing to Laufer, an experienced radio guy and author of Talk Radio, and admirably a dozen or so more books, that last weekend was rife ‘n’ ripe to discuss the state of morning radio, as the annual Morning Show Boot Camp (!) was gathered in Chicago—thousands of Imus/Stern wannabees. 

Talk Radio are the Titans to the historically overwhelmingly talented and programming leading Morning Show Gods. (Described in 1936 by Variety as “a typically American, or typically American radio aberration, wacky humor in the morning.”) Yet, this depiction and currency seems to be taboo for even media worthies.  

How We Hate To Get Up In The Morning just isn’t given any consideration—even as Imus departs and Sacramento wake-up ha-has kill a woman in a how-much-water-can-you-drink-without-pissing contest, ad nauseum. Like an aging academic who cannot bear or afford to have his field of study rethought, Laufer won’t incur to get it—even if I’m wrong.  

There is an expression “You can’t talk about the music business without sounding a little mixed up.” Maybe also the 75-year legacy of cock’s crow, time crying morning radio—if talked about. 

Beats me, says my heart. 

Arnie Passman 

 

• 

ANOTHER VOTING  

OPPORTUNITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Middle-mush Kitchen Democracy has posed another “voting” opportunity, this time about the institution used to further stratify our citizens, UC Berkeley. Capitalism’s requirement for excellence is ruinous for too many of us. Many people achieve excellence at what they do—sometimes at several things they do. These go comparatively unacknowledged as the STARS super-achieve. Concentration on one achievement as the way to do well leaves us thinking, as did the Chinese of the Cultural Revolution, that all must be given over to that one path, kind of like the yeshivah-bochers, the so-called students at yeshivah, at Jewish school—the men—and only men—who only “study”—make up/develop/support the oppressive rules of that caste—and are supported by the surrounding people, rather than actually working. 

Yes, some will say their study contributes to the community. But it’s being discovered that this is a more-or-less willing self deception, that good work is the production of ways of maintenance for all in the community, not the elevation on some hallowed pedestal of what might or might not be an actually worthy activity. 

I suggest that super-perfectionist performance is of questionable value—to the performer as well as to the people around. A whole life involves many behaviors. Working at an assembly line 40 hours a week is also undesirable. We are all violinists, ball players, students, producers all our lives, and all deserve the opportunity to do all, and to change what we do. 

There needs to be profound questioning of the system to which we’ve enslaved ourselves. This is one place to look—the elevation of a very few people to a stardom we’re to venerate while we keep on at our middle-level of functioning as though we are less than they. 

Norma J. F. Harrison 

 

• 

HEALTHY FOOD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today the public is rejecting “American food” in favor of ethnic and health food, while a venerable company, that represented both, folds. Violence, corruption and mismanagement have ended Your Black Muslim Bakery. Three decades ago, when many a present day “health food” enterprise was but a pipe dream, the bakery had its wares in “hip” places such as the Berkeley Coop Grocery. In its inception, Your Black Muslim Bakery also represented the movement for equality. It was the “self-help side to the struggle for economic uplift, and was founded not long after Bay Area sit-ins that integrated many a retail establishment.  

The protest side won “equal opportunity” hiring at such places as Safeway, Albertson’s, Denny’s and Mel’s Drive-in, not to mention at the low-pay fast food outlets. On the “self-help” side, however, regarding the “step up” that is entrepreneurship, the family owned Your Black Muslim Bakery remained a rarity in a community where despair is rampant and a high incarceration rate makes a steady job appear more practical than saving to buy a business. Meanwhile, other ethnic groups spout a profusion of family run businesses and it seems almost monthly that another nation is added to the dozens represented among East Bay eateries. 

Regrettable, as more food outlets go ethnic and mom and pop take their revenge on Safeway, opportunities for African Americans in food service employment are increasingly relegated to the low prestige world of fatty, greasy, sugared, chemicaled “American food.” 

Ted Vincent 

 

• 

END OF STORY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For those who like their news short and simple, here in 14 words is the cause of California’s current budget crisis: Tom McClintock and his posse of redneck Republicans have bushwacked the state budget again. End of story! 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley  

 

• 

PUZZLES ABOUT ISRAEL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This might be a good venue for voicing some puzzles about Israel. In the late forties, my college classmates thought that Israel would be a good place to have a reunion sometime, in one of those utopian socialist kibbutzim. Like many ignorant Americans (and our president at the time) we thought it was a healthy response to the Holocaust. We didn’t know what Einstein and his Jewish intellectual friends knew in 1948, and wrote on Dec. 4, 1948 to the New York Times, that one of the founding political parties was based on the Irgun, “a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization” “similar to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”  

They preached “an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority.” We didn’t know about the massacre at Deir Yassin, as Einstein did. Only recently have Israeli historians discussed these events. Now, we have to ask some questions about what Israel stands for, besides the reaction to European racism which incorporated its own form of racism. Israel welcomes and provides land and housing for two categories of people: Jewish believers and new converts, and non-believers whose ancestors were Jews—like the Nazi definition. Within Israel, Arabs are unable to get permission to build housing for their families or to serve in the army. The houses they build on their own land for their families can be destroyed even within Israel. Israel is praised as a democracy, but it commits ethnic discrimination, so its democracy is tainted. As the demographics within Israel continue to change, it can only retain this kind of dominance by ethnic cleansing. Yet in 1948, in its declaration of independence, it was said: “it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants... it will be based on freedom, justice and peace... it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex...it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture... it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.” How naive we were to believe these statements in 1948. From 1987 Israel has repeatedly violated United Nations resolutions in continuing the occupation of Palestine in violation of the Geneva conventions. It was Nazi practice in occupied territories to dispossess the locals from homes and to confiscate land. While Palestinians were once respected for their education, the Israeli occupation and checkpoints have destroyed access to schools and universities. And death has rained down on West Bank and Gaza homes, as B’Tselem has documented, through state terrorism against civilians. How can Israel be the model of democracy for the rest of the middle east when it violates its own founding principles? Can anyone justify these anomalies?  

Susan Tripp 

 

• 

GUNS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

To respond to Dorothy Snodgrass’s rhetorical question with my own, do I believe that a potential attacker is deterred by armed victims ? Yes, I do. Readers can consult Chicago scholar John R. Lott’s book More Guns, Less Crime for details.  

Michael P. Hardesty 

 

• 

SECOND AMENDMENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“Weakness allures the ruffian, but arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding citizens deprived of the use of them, and the weak will become a prey to the strong.” Yes! None can say it better than Thomas Paine, our founding father. People having the freedom to own guns is a people power issue. Why let the government monopolize the possession and use guns? Let people have the power too.  

The Second Amendment says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” But some people completely subvert the Second Amendment when they mis-interpret it by claiming that since we have state National Guard, they are the “militia.” Actually, militia means a people with arms or “posse comitatus.” And the idea was that if the government turned tyrannical (like the British colonial administration in America had been), the people with arms or the “militia” would use their guns to overthrow the oppressive government (like what the minutemen did).  

Irshad Alam 

 

• 

PENALIZE THEM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

From my seat in the retirement bleachers I see things that make me numb with rage. Here’s one.  

Near the end of its play the Bush team has done more than any before it to hasten the demise of open government. It hurts to see Bush/Cheney stamp “the end” on an experiment that has survived, despite ups and downs, for over two centuries. They must be impeached.  

But history offers little encouragement. The House voted bills of impeachment only sixteen times and the Senate had enough “yeas” to remove just seven judges from office. It didn’t have enough to remove presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton.  

Given this record it is unlikely that the current White House residents will be removed. They have so little time left maybe it’s better just to leave them to heaven.  

There is plenty of time, however, to penalize them.  

Speaker Pelosi must reverse herself and allow the House to vote on a bill of impeachment regardless of the sad fact there are not enough vertebrates among them to win it. The alternative, no action, would make the peoples’ representatives complicit in executive abrogation of authority, the equivalent of legislative suicide 

No action allows the next president to inherit a situation in which the fears of the Founders are realized, the Bush/Cheney regime having shredded checks and disrupted balances with tyrannical effect.  

No action means the Bush/Cheney team leaves behind autocratic powers: to lie the country into war, to evade “quaint” humanitarian commitments, to disdain world opinion, to process “enemy combatants” in military tribunals, to enrich the rich, to suppress dissent, to spy on citizens and, with the collusion of the mass media, to create whatever reality will justify executive actions.  

The Congress must find some way to punish Bush/Cheney or else we can wave “goodbye” to our most cherished ideals. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 

 

• 

BARRY BONDS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I just have to comment on the hoopla surrounding Barry Bonds’ besting Hank Aaron’s home run record. Even President Bush, the great prevaricator, congratulated Bonds on breaking the home run record. I hope that San Francisco will think twice about giving the key to the city and a celebration to a steroid user. 

Remember, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Dec. 3, 2004, that Barry Bonds testified before a grand jury that he used a clear substance and a cream given to him by a trainer who was indicted in a steroid-distribution ring. Bonds claimed he didn’t know they were steroids. Some have argued that because Bonds has not admitted to the knowing use of steroids, there is a Constitutional presumption of innocence. While this may be true in a court of law, it is not necessarily true in the court of public opinion where Bond’s lack of credibility and the substantial circumstantial evidence have persuaded me and others, that Bonds knowingly took steroids. See “The Truth About Barry Bonds and Steroids” by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, in the March 7, 2006 issue of Sports Illustrated (excerpted from their book Game of Shadows.) In 1991, Fay Vincent, then baseball’s commissioner, released a Commissioner’s Policy that said “the possession, sale, or use of any illegal drug or controlled substance by Major League players and personnel is strictly prohibited … This prohibition applies to all illegal drugs and controlled substances, including steroids.” 

But does it matter? In this age of wide scale cheating and lying by public officials, researchers, students, etc., Bond’s use of steroids appears irrelevant to a lot of people. After all, baseball is just entertainment and “everyone” was doing it anyway. It does matter because steroid use is up among high school students and even eighth graders. 

I suggest that San Francisco reconsider celebrating Bonds for breaking the home run record because of the message it sends to our young people. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 

 

• 

WWW.511.ORG 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. Bronstein could drop some of her anguish (and venom) if she’d only tried www.511.org. 

Once on their site hover on the “Transit” drop-down menu and select the first entry “Take Transit Trip Planner,” which will take you to the “Plan Your Trip” page. From there you fill in your starting and ending points (or nearest intersection), when you want to start or arrive, and a few more options; select “Plan Your Trip” and then check the results—you may wish to change some of the options (“Revise Your Trip”) if something seems disagreeable.  

Hope this is helpful to all public transportation riders. 

Gregory Poynter 

Richmond 

 

• 

AC TRANSIT TRIP PLANNER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reference to Zelda Bronstein’s The Public Eye column in the Aug. 10 issue regarding finding bus routes and schedules: 

Ms. Bronstein: It’s too bad that when you pulled up the AC Transit home page (actransit.org) you didn’t notice that under “Maps and Schedules” was “Trip Planning.” If you had clicked that category you could have keyed in where you wanted to leave from, where you wanted to go, what time you wanted to leave or what time you wanted to arrive, and your routing preference. In response you would have received detailed instructions on what bus to take, where to catch it, what time to catch it, the fare, and an icon to click if you wanted a map. It’s a great system. I’ve been using it for the three years I’ve lived in Berkeley. The only confusion I’ve ever encountered was when I didn’t know if a street name was Avenue, Boulevard, etc. But it gives you its computer’s best guesstimation, and you can click on that or give it more information. When I’ve asked to see a map, however, I’ve sometimes been disappointed—even confused—with the result. 

If you do want to start using the bus more frequently, if you click on the “Customer Assistant” category, then on “Request Timetables,” you can order up to 10 maps and schedules to be received in the mail within five working days. The System Maps are indispensable for figuring out what bus to take to your destination. 

I agree that it would be nice to have real, informed people available to answer questions, but in today’s world I guess we have to give up that nicety. Another one of your suggestions is to have copies of the schedules available on the bus. AC Transit does attempt to do this, but I more often find the schedules for routes other than for the route I’m on. This is most annoying. Some bus stops do have schedules posted, and yes, it would be nice if they all did. But rather than more schedules posted, as I acquire more aches and pains of aging, I’d like to have more bus benches. 

Hope you, and others, find this helpful. 

Diane Capito 

 

• 

A BIT MORE ON THE  

AC TRANSIT TRIP PLANNER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest Zelda Bronstein’s frustrating transit experience in her Public Eye column, “I’m Trying to Get On the Bus” (Aug. 10-13). 

From my own experience, traveling by public transit in the Bay Area isn’t so difficult. In Ms. Bronstein’s case, I believe that instead of starting with “Maps and Schedules” from the AC Transit website and then getting bogged down using the call center, she should have instead gone directly to “Trip Planner” (the bar directly below “Maps and Schedules”). “Trip Planner,” which you can access from the AC Transit website or 511 Transit, (http://transit.511.org/tripplanner ) is easy to use. You don’t have to read charts or pour over maps. Here’s how to do it: 1. You enter in your starting and ending address, when you want to leave or arrive, and a couple trip specifics, like how far you’d be willing to walk; and 2. Trip Planner tells you the fastest way to get there on public transit. The systems works faster if you enter the full name of the street. For example, enter “Solano Avenue,” not just “Solano.” Ms. Bronstein wrote about wanting to take a bus from her house near Solano and Colusa to downtown Berkeley to see a movie. I tried Trip Planner, using her case example, to see if I could get better results. I entered in her approximate information: starting at Solano Avenue and Colusa Avenue and ending at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street in downtown. In that instance, the system identified AC Transit Bus No. 18 as the one to take from the southeast corner of Solano and Colusa. The trip, including walking and waiting time, would take 17 minutes and cost $1.75. It took me less than a minute to get this information. If I’d wanted to, I could have from there called up specific maps and schedules which conformed to my request. 

I commend Ms. Bronstein on her efforts to support and use public transportation over the private automobile when she can. I’ve been pretty much car free for over two years now. I live near a good grocery store and have a folding bicycle that I take on BART. If I really need a car, I rent one for a day or two. I live in a neighborhood with a high percentage of car free residents, many of them seniors and students, and even some families with kids. It works for them, and me, because most everything we need is within walking distance. 

Kirstin Miller 

Executive Director 

Ecocity Builders 


Commentary: Psychologists Protest Professional Association Over Ethics

By Ruth Fallenbaum
Tuesday August 14, 2007

In an unusual expression of outrage, a coalition of psychologists will stage a rally outside the annual convention of the American Psychological Association at the Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco, Friday, Aug. 17, at 4 p.m. 

Under the banner of Psychologists for an Ethical APA, we represent a growing number of the approximately 150,000 members of the American Psychological Association who are profoundly disturbed by our organization’s official policy of allowing psychologists to participate in U.S. military interrogations at Guantanamo and other military and CIA facilities, where suspected terrorists are detained without due process. 

Last year the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association declared unequivocally that there are no legitimate roles for psychiatrists or physicians in such interrogations; they insisted that participation violates basic international human rights and the ethical imperative to do no harm. Noting the APA’s cooperation with the U.S. government, the American Anthropological Association voted unanimously to condemn the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical or psychological torture.  

The APA’s position has been condemned by human rights groups, by Britain’s medical journal The Lancet, by journalists covering the story; and by many of its own members, but the elected and appointed leaders of the APA have defended their positions. To be clear, the official APA position, like the official position of our national government, condemns torture. Yet, as always, the devil is in the details, and APA policy has continued to maintain that psychologists have a legitimate role to play in interrogations of detainees, even in sites like Guantanamo and CIA prisons. 

Psychologists for an Ethical APA are confronting the leadership of APA on the following issues:  

• The current APA Ethics Code (Ethical Standards Section 1.02) allows psychologists to violate its principles, including that of “do no harm,” in order to “adhere to the requirements of the law.” As APA member Stephen Soldz has asked, “What sort of experts on ethics write the Nuremberg defense into their code of conduct?” (The Washington Monthly, Jan/Feb 2007) 

• The APA. 2006 Resolution Against Torture opposes use of torture, yet allows psychologists to continue to consult on interrogation strategies at Guantanamo, even though the U.S. government deprives detainees of due process and operates the prison in open violation of international law. 

• Officers of the APA contend that the presence of psychologists at Guantanamo promotes the practice of “ethical interrogations,” as if interrogations conducted in the context of forced, indefinite and extralegal detentions can be ethical. 

• APA is allowing our profession to give credibility to unacceptable detention and interrogation practices, thereby undermining the integrity of our profession worldwide 

Speakers at the rally will address the history and consequences of the use of psychological knowledge and research in the service of interrogations, torture, and the so-called war on terror. Speakers will also report on their attempts within the organization to change APA’s disastrous course.  

In addition to the planned rally, the group will leaflet and demonstrate at the convention sites during the four days of the meetings. Approximately 100 members have withheld their 2007 dues or pledged to withhold their 2008 dues until, as they claim, “APA reaffirms unequivocal adherence to the Ethics Code’s first principle: do no harm, and insures that its Code of Ethics conforms with human rights standards set by international law and the Geneva Conventions.”  

 

Further information is available at www.ethicalapa.com. 

 

Ruth Fallenbaum is a member of Psychologists for an Ethical APA. 


Commentary: Criticisms of BRT Workshop Are Unfair

By Fran Haselsteiner
Tuesday August 14, 2007

When I was editing books for a major, Washington D.C.-based environmental organization, there was always a chapter on public process. The basic process is that participants work together in small groups and then report back to the whole group. It operates on the principle that community members’ coming together to discuss the issues and develop consensus results in good community decisions. 

That was the intent of the Transit Subcommittee’s July 24 workshop on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the Southside. After an initial group discussion on obstacles to BRT, people would go into small groups to hear other community members’ views and discuss goals and issues. Afterward, one member from each small group would report to the whole group. This was not a public hearing with the usual comment period. It was a public workshop for discussion of the options proposed in the draft environmental impact report, not whether the BRT concept should be rejected out of hand. The meeting agenda was published in advance, and I should note that items cannot be added to agendas after distribution or at the meetings. The Transportation Commission used the same workshop format for a BRT Workshop on Downtown issues, which went off splendidly but received no press coverage.  

In his opinion published in the Planet last week, BRT opponent Doug Buckwald attacked the Transportation Commission’s chair, Sarah Syed, on her handling of the Southside workshop. Mr. Buckwald, who last year distributed anonymous flyers full of misinformation about BRT, came to the workshop with, in my opinion, a clear intent to sabotage the process at the outset, poison the meeting, and control the discussion. Employing his usual brand of bullying theatrics and obviously intending to enflame, he declaimed that the Transportation Commission was trying to get people out of their cars and was engaging in “social engineering.” In his column he restated pretty much verbatim what he said at the meeting. He and several other BRT opponents used up a lot of time in their unsuccessful attempt to derail the workshop.  

In fact, during the Southside meeting many important issues were raised, and AC Transit officials promised to follow up on questions they were not able to answer at the workshop. Despite the breakdown in civility the commission chair made every effort to treat all members of the public fairly and with respect to ensure that all who were present were able to participate.  

I’ll note that only two of the small groups were headed by city staff, not all of them, as Mr. Buckwald stated. Three groups were headed by volunteer commissioners, none of whom works for the city. A member of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition and two city staff members headed the other three. We did not use the meeting to express our own opinions. We heard from other community members and recorded their concerns. Mr. Buckwald did not participate. At my table the discussion focused on two business owners’ objections to BRT; we never got to the workshop questions. One merchant feared that her business would suffer if customers could not park directly in front of her store, and both rejected consideration of even a single transit lane. 

Indeed there are difficulties in shoehorning this system into an area not built to handle the traffic it now has and will have. That’s why we commissioners wanted to provide this opportunity, as well as others, for thoughtful discussion of the options proposed in the draft EIR. 

Many—if not most—of us can agree that one of Berkeley’s most significant problems is ever-increasing car congestion in the face of not only UC expansion but also global warming and the serious cancer risks caused by automotive emissions. As I have learned during my nearly eight years on the Transportation Commission, the most effective way to control traffic congestion is to get regular commuters to use transit. If BRT isn’t built, the available federal funding will go somewhere else, and probably not to transit. What assurances can opponents give us that the money will be available when things get bad enough? And can they provide evidence that improved transit will result in greater degradation of commerce on Telegraph Avenue? This has not happened in other cities where transit service has been upgraded with Bus Rapid Transit or light rail. 

Also during my tenure on the commission I have repeatedly heard that people will not use transit unless it is fast and convenient. BRT will accomplish that. Right now buses do not have the right of way; cars do. As a regular transit user I routinely experience six to eight cars’ passing the bus as it is attempting to leave a stop. BRT will give us low-emission buses providing more frequent, on-time service. Transit users don’t have to search for parking. With BRT and Translink we will finally have the connection from Downtown BART to the campus. BRT will provide a convenient way for people living in the neighborhoods along the Telegraph corridor to get to jobs and shops in downtown Berkeley, on Telegraph, and in downtown Oakland. The Draft EIR estimates that as many as 9,300 people may switch to transit as a result of BRT’s faster, more reliable service. The BRT project is, I hope, the beginning of a new transit system, one that can be built upon to provide truly fast and convenient transit. 

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, bus travel is poised to increase because buses “have the highest passenger-per-mile, per-gallon profile of any transportation mode. The group figures that buses provide 184 passenger miles of service per gallon of fuel and that carbon dioxide emissions are reduced by an average of 85 percent per passenger mile compared with people driving their cars solo.” And according to the city’s own statistics, 47 percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by transportation. 

I would like to remind readers that the BRT—not Rapid Bus—is part of our city’s adopted General Plan, policy fully vetted by the community in public meetings and adopted by the City Council. 

This is, purportedly, a progressive community, one with a high profile nationally. Change in response to the needs of the future requires us to put aside the assumptions of the past. If BRT fails here, what does that say about our community and our priorities? And how can we hope to meet the goal, set by voters when they passed Measure G, of reducing 80 percent of Berkeley’s greenhouse emissions by 2050? It is my hope that we all can adopt a cooperative, problem-solving approach to BRT as well as all the other issues so critical to our shared future. It’s in everyone’s best interest.  

 

Fran Haselsteiner has lived on Dwight Way since 1984 and has represented District 2 on the Transportation Commission for almost eight years. 


Commentary: Local Communities Are Not Dumping Grounds

By Keith Carson
Tuesday August 14, 2007

On July 23, Judges Thelton Henderson and Lawrence Karlton called for the formation of a three-judge panel to develop recommendations to address the issue of overcrowding in California state prisons. The formation of the panel is essentially a no confidence vote in AB 900, the band-aid approach put forward by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature. The legislation primarily calls for the construction of the 53,000 new jail cells. Judge Karlton has been widely quoted as saying “From all that presently appears, new beds will not alleviate this problem but will aggravate it.” 

Many of the concerned parties are speculating that the recommendation from the three judge panel for reducing the jail population will be to place a cap on the number of inmates that can be incarcerated. Strategies being discussed to meet the anticipated cap include implementing changes in the current parole system, so violators do not return to jail for technical violations; and/or the early release of some inmates.  

Citizens should know that further examination of the situation causes concern for local government. There is the possibility that the state may “dump” inmates on counties citing the need to follow the federal decree sent down by the three judge panel. Past experiences show counties have not been fairly compensated for their costs. Essentially, the state would pass their dilemma to the counties, without adequate compensation, or giving the counties the proper amount of time to build the necessary facilities to meet the increased demand, and without additional money for the drug and alcohol programs or other supportive services that the inmates will definitely need. 

If inmates are released early, many will have serious mental health issues, and will not be prepared to compete in the Bay Area job market. Many do not have a stable network of family or loved ones that they can count on, all of which may drive them back towards criminal activity in our communities which will have a negative impact on our public safety.  

I have always been and will continue to be an advocate for formerly incarcerated people as they struggle to re-enter our communities, but you can’t release people into our neighborhoods without creating a re-entry system that includes a clear roadmap that will help them to succeed in life. If inmates come back to Alameda and other California counties, will there be an assessment of their job skills? Will there be referrals to appropriate mental health and job training programs? These issues and many others must be considered and addressed if a large number of people are to be released to counties from our State penal institutions. 

California has a long history of dumping their problems on local communities, many of us can recall the 1980’s when then Gov. Regan closed state mental hospitals and dumped the patients into our neighborhoods without adequate resources or sufficient time to implement a plan. Local government should not be asked to take on the statutory responsibility of the State of California. Local governments and local communities are not dumping grounds. 

 

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson represents District 5.


Commentary: Your Black Muslim Bakery (Or What’s Left Of It)

By David Nebenzahl
Tuesday August 14, 2007

You’re gone now, it looks like for good. That’s a shame, at least for me personally. Let me explain. 

For the past five years or so, my breakfast has invariably consisted of a single cup of strong coffee, home-brewed, and one of your sweet rolls. The same thing every day for five years. Actually longer: When I lived on the Peninsula in the 1990s, I used to buy these same rolls from the now-departed Palo Alto Co-op. Back then they seemed somewhat exotic, coming from a place called “Your Black Muslim Bakery” and labeled “A Taste of the Hereafter.” 

In any case, they were damn good sweet rolls. I also treated myself to your excellent fish sandwiches from time to time.  

So even though I will definitely not miss the actions of the thugs who were part of your organization—the terrorizing of small liquor store owners, the Carrie Nation-like smashing of refrigerated cases, the over-the-top, racist ideology, the ersatz pseudo-religious mish-mash of Islam, fundamentalist Christianity and black nationalism—even though I found myself stepping into your shop with a lot of trepidation of late—I will miss your bakery and its products (and even its historic San Pablo storefront). 

I hasten to add that even though I witnessed your black-suited thugs smashing their way through local businesses on the TV news, and read about the criminal activities of your organization, I was always treated courteously in the bakery. The young people who worked there were very businesslike and treated their customers respectfully, no matter what color they were, and they all seemed genuinely concerned with running a neighborhood business properly. That, too, will be missed. 

(I leave speculating about the cause and implications of the demise of your organization to others, as will be unavoidable in the weeks to come. To me, it appears to be yet another case of a well-meaning group of people, struggling against injustice, who fall victim to the usual human shortcomings—greed, hubris, religious mania and messianic visions, and plain old corruption—in a spectacular, Shakespearean drama, leading to a final implosion. You’re not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last.) 

So let me ask some of you, perhaps naively: Is it possible that you might be able to regroup yourselves, shake off the dust of this scandal and reopen your bakery? Preferably in, or somewhere near, the old location (I say selfishly). If you could somehow shed the ideological aspects of the operation, and just concentrate on producing sweet rolls, fish sandwiches, bean pies, cookies, cakes, and all the other good stuff you used to make, I think a lot of people would appreciate it. I know I would. 

And if running a bakery just happened to advance the cause of black economic empowerment in a depressed, predominantly black neighborhood, that would only be further to your credit.  

 

David Nebenzahl is an Oakland  

resident.


Commentary: Independence for Kosovo? Why?

By Fred E. Foldvary
Tuesday August 14, 2007

President Bush is promoting the independence of Kosovo from Serbia, but why? Kosovo has been under the administration of the United Nations. The Kosovars, as ethnic Albanians, seek to be an independent country, while the Serbs consider Kosovo to be an important part of their history and territory. Do the Kosovars have a natural right to independence? The answer becomes clear when we realize that countries and nationalities have no natural rights. All natural rights are inherent in individual persons. Each human being has the moral right to be sovereign, to be independent of the mastership of any other person. 

The problem with national independence is that if there is a minority that opposes independence, then those individual are forced be under an authority not of their choosing. So the Kosovars have a moral right to be independent only if they in turn let those not wishing to be under Kosovar rule to be independent of Kosovo. 

But there is also another complication. There are historic Serbian churches in Kosovo. These belong to the builders, the Serbs. Complete independence would put these properties in the hands of not just those who did not create them, but who are indifferent or even hostile to these buildings. 

Kosovo was the national and religious heart of the medieval Serbian empire. Serbs venerate the epic 1389 battle in Kosovo in which Prince Lazar Hrebeljanovic and many Serbs were killed, after which Serbia became ruled by the Turkish Empire. Serbians honor this battle like Texans remember the Battle of the Alamo. Kosovo taking control of that hallowed ground would be like Mexico gaining sovereign rule over San Antonio and the Alamo, only more so. 

This intertwining of ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians can be resolved by a Confederation of Serbia and Kosovo. The old Yugoslavia could be resurrected as the Confederation of Yugoslavia, with Serbia and Kosovo as members. The Confederation could then take control of the historic Serbian places. Individuals in Serbia and Kosovo would be able to choose which of the republics they wish to affiliate with. Ideally there should be a third choice: to be a citizen directly under the Confederation rather than under Serbia or Kosovo. 

Because of the historic conflicts, a Confederate army made up of both ethnic groups would not be feasible at first. The Confederate government could pay the United Nations to continue to keep the peace in Kosovo, but under Yugoslav authority. Serbian and Roma (Gypsy) refugees who fled from Kosovo after 1998 would be able to return to their home locations. The old Yugoslav constitution had provided autonomy for Kosovo. This self-governance was overturned in 1989 by the tyrant chief of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic. The Kosovo Liberation Army then conducted a violent campaign for independence, including attacks on civilians. The Serbian government then fought the KLA, also inflicting harm on civilians. The Rambouillet Conference of 1999 proposed that Kosovo’s final status would be set by an international conference. This was rejected by Milosevic, which then led to NATO’s war against Serbia by an international coalition, including the United States under president Clinton. 

The fate of Kosovo has to be seen in a global context. If the principle of national independence for minorities is to become a basic principle, then it would have to be applied globally, including independence for national minorities everywhere, and for the minorities within the minority national territory. For example, if Quebec is to be independent from Canada, then the native Indian nations within Quebec should be able to secede and be independent also. But what about those individual Indians who do not wish to be citizens of the native Indian country? They should have the right to be citizens of Quebec or Canada or some other native Indian country. And if an individual seeks complete independence from any country, to be consistent, any person should be able to be his own independent sovereign entity. 

Such anarchism if applied globally and peacefully would indeed be a wonderful policy. But in our world today, majority peoples oppose breaking up their territory, and so independence for Kosovo, which would spur other national minorities to also become independent, would exacerbate conflict world-wide. Independence would reward violent rebels such as the KLA, and would in effect legitimize violence by insurgents world-wide. Confederation is a compromise that would prevent such conflict, as it would grant national self-governance, allow all people to choose their governmental affiliation, while preventing the majority group from resenting a loss of territory. The U.S. government has been hypocritical about national self-determination. On one hand, it grabbed the Philippines in the Spanish war of 1898 and fought against a national independence movement there. On the other hand, after World War I, President Wilson foolishly promoted independence for the nationalities of eastern Europe, which later let Nazi Germany conquer these countries one by one, so in the end, there was no national self-governance but domination by Nazis and Communists. 

National independence is a good goal provided it is applied consistently, peacefully, and sustainably. None of these apply to Kosovo today, so the U.S. government should stop advocating independence for Kosovo. This has done nothing to make Muslims hate America any less; it is not applied as a consistent policy; it would legitimize violent insurgency; and it would hurt the interests of the other nationalities. The policy with the least amount of damage is confederation. 

 

Fred Foldvary lives in Berkeley and teaches economics at Santa Clara University. This article also appeared in the online journal The Progress Report: www.progress.org.


Commentary: Bus Rapid Transit Debate — Any Takers?

By Doug Buckwald
Tuesday August 14, 2007

Charles Siegel and Steve Geller certainly respond promptly and with great vigor to anyone who suggests that there might be flaws in the massive and expensive Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal put forward by AC Transit. The problem is, these two men usually shed more dust than light on the issues involved. In their separate letters in last Tuesday’s issue of the Daily Planet (August 7), they both ignore two essential facts: First, there has not been any city forum held to debate the issue of the approval of the BRT proposal, nor has there been any decision by our City Council on this matter. Mr. Geller’s and Mr. Siegel’s efforts to assist groups like the Transportation Commission in squelching public debate on this important issue are profoundly undemocratic. They are just as guilty as the Transportation Commission in perpetrating the falsehood that BRT is a “done deal”—a cynical strategy intended to hoodwink the opposition into accepting the program. Second, it is AC Transit’s own study (the Draft Environmental Impact Report) that shows that BRT will not motivate many people at all to shift from driving cars to riding the bus. Therefore, Mr. Siegel and Mr. Geller should be criticizing AC Transit for failing to provide a better alternative to automobile transportation—rather than leveling their contempt and disdain at citizens who are struggling to find transportation choices that work.  

Regarding Steve Geller’s “straw man” argument that the Rapid Bus system currently in operation on Telegraph Avenue will not be good enough: I quite agree. In fact, nobody I know is suggesting that it would be. (That’s what makes his argument a “straw man”; it is not put forth by anybody as a serious proposition, and it is quite easy to knock down.) In fact, what most opponents of BRT are proposing as an alternative is a package of improvements to Rapid Bus that will offer 90 percent of the gains of BRT without any of the major detriments caused by traffic lane removal and loss of business and residential parking. We recommend the use of expanded Eco-pass programs, advance ticket purchase (also called “proof of payment”), free shoppers’ shuttles, and better transfer policies and connections to improve bus performance and increase ridership. These improvements could be implemented at a small fraction of the cost that BRT would incur, currently slated at a staggering $400 million of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  

For his part, Charles Siegel has tried to tar certain individuals with the label “disruptor.” I think it is a shame that he has chosen to resort to such ad hominem attacks (that is, attacking the person rather than the issue)—especially in light of the fact that he himself was guilty of highly disruptive behavior at the Transportation Commission meeting on July 24. While most of us were trying to address substantive issues, Mr. Siegel chose to interrupt a speaker to level a blatantly personal attack. It was this outburst that provoked a rebuke by the chair. In his letter to the Planet, Mr. Siegel reveals that he didn’t really learn his lesson. He has unfortunately chosen to escalate his ad hominem attacks to try to smear a whole community of dedicated volunteer civic activists. This is a very unfair tactic. And, just for the record, it is inaccurate to label as a “distinct minority” a group that includes, to the best of my knowledge, the vast majority of the informed residents in the Willard, LeConte, and CENA neighborhoods—not to mention the Downtown Berkeley Association and almost all of the merchants on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Rather, I would suggest that this group appears to be a distinct majority. In fact, I have found that the more people learn about BRT, the less they like it. And opposition is growing daily because the plan is so flawed. At the BRT-related meetings I have attended, I have noticed that it is generally the proponents of BRT who are in the minority, usually outnumbered by BRT opponents by a large margin. 

I say we’ve had enough misrepresentation and argument by logical fallacy. Why not debate the issues and stick to verifiable facts? I hereby challenge Mr. Geller or Mr. Siegel—or anyone else, for that matter—to participate in a public debate on this issue. All I ask is that we choose an impartial moderator. Will anyone accept my challenge? 

 

Doug Buckwald is a Berkeley civic activist, and a frequent rider of AC Transit, BART, and SF Muni.


Columns

Column: Dispatches from the Edge: Targeting Africa with Guns and Free Trade

By Conn Hallinan
Friday August 17, 2007

When President George W. Bush announced the formation of a military command for Africa (AFRICOM) this past February, it came as no surprise to the Heritage Foundation. The powerful right-wing organization designed it. 

The Heritage Foundation, founded in 1973 by ultra-conservatives Paul Weyrich and Joseph Coors and funded by such right-wing mainstays as the Scaife Foundation, has a strong presence in the Bush administration. While not as influential as the older and richer American Enterprise Institute, it has a higher profile when it comes to Africa policy.  

Back in October 2003, James Jay Carafano and Nile Gardner of the Heritage Foundation laid out a blueprint for how to use military power to dominate that vast continent.  

“Creating an African Command,” write the two analysts in a Heritage Foundation study entitled U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution, “would go a long way toward turning the Bush administration’s well aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality.” 

While the Bush administration says the purpose of AFRICOM will be humanitarian aid, not “war fighting,” the Heritage analysts are a tad blunter about the application of military power: “Pre-emptive strikes are justified on grounds of self-defense…America must not be afraid to employ its forces decisively when vital national interests are threatened.” 

Carafano and Gardner are also quite clear what those “vital interests” are: “The United States is likely to draw 25 percent of its oil from West Africa by 2015, surpassing the volume imported from the Persian Gulf.”  

The two also proposed increasing military aid to African regimes friendly to the United States and, using the language of pop psychology, confronting “enabler” and “slacker” states that threaten U.S. security. “Enabler” states, according to the authors, are those—like Libya—that directly aid terrorists and “slacker” states are failed nations—like Somalia—where terrorists can base their operations. 

Their recommendations are almost precisely what the administration settled on, albeit the White House wrapped its initiative in soothing words like “cooperation,” “humanitarian aid,” and “stability.”  

In a sense, AFRICOM simply formalized the growing U.S. military presence on the continent.  

The United States currently deploys 1,800 soldiers in Djibouti as part of its Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. Special Forces and air units operating from Djibouti were instrumental in Ethiopia’s recent invasion of Somalia.  

According to a recent Congressional Research Service report, the United States has bases in Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome/Principe, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. The Sao Tome/Principe base lies 124 miles off the coast of Guinea and the oil fields of Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.. 

Through the Trans-Sahal Initiative aimed at supposed terrorist groups operating in the Sahara, the United States has roped Mali, Chad, Niger and Mauritania into an alliance. Chad and Mauritania have significant oil and gas deposits. 

And, lastly, the Pentagon’s Africa Contingency Operation Training and Assistance program supplies weapons and training to Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia. 

Exactly as the Heritage proposal recommends, the United States has recruited client regimes like Ethiopia, Chad and Uganda that are willing to support U.S. policy goals. In the recent U.S.-sponsored invasion of Somalia, Ethiopian troops overthrew the Islamist regime and Ugandan soldiers helped occupy the country. 

Controlling resources for U.S. corporations is a major impetus behind AFRICOM, but it is also part of the Bush administration’s fixation with China. The Chinese “threat” in Africa has been a particular focus for both Heritage and the American Enterprise Institute. The later held a conference last year entitled “Beijing Safari: The Challenge of China’s growing ties to Africa.”  

Peter Brooke, Heritage’s “Africa hand,” has led the way in hyping the dangers China is said to pose in Africa. “Amid festering concerns about China’s burgeoning global power, Beijing has firmly set its sights on expanding its influence in Africa,” writes Brooke in a Heritage analysis titled Into Africa: China’s Grab for Influence and Oil.  

Certainly China is active in Africa. Some 30 percent of China’s oil comes from the continent, and Beijing has invested in the energy industries of Nigeria, Angola and Sudan.. In 2006, Beijing dispensed $8 billion in aid to Angola, Nigeria and Mozambique alone. In comparison the World Bank gave $2.3 billion in aid for all of sub-Saharan Africa.  

Military power is not the only arrow in the United States quiver. And once again the Heritage Foundation has played a key role in promoting the Bush administration’s other strategy for controlling Africa: free trade.  

In a major Heritage Lecture, entitled “How Economic Freedom is Central to Development in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Brett Schaefer argues that developing countries must lower their trade barriers in order to grow. The Bush administration’s Millennium Challenge Account ties aid to such reduced barriers. 

But as University of the Philippines sociologist Walden Bello, director of Focus on the Global South, points out, “free trade” is a Trojan horse that ends up overwhelming the economies of developing countries. “From the very start, the aim of the developed countries was to push for greater market openings from the developing countries while making minimal concessions of their own.” 

Because of subsidies, U.S. wheat sells for 46 percent below production costs, and corn at 20 percent below cost. The World Bank and Oxfam estimates that the developed countries’ trade barriers cost developing countries $100 billion a year, twice what the latter receive in economic assistance. 

The impact of such one-way free trade has been to collapse rural economies. U.S.-subsidized corn has driven some two million southern Mexican farmers off their land, accelerated rural poverty, and helped fuel immigration to the United States. American subsidized soybeans and rice respectively control 99 percent and 80 percent of the Mexican market. 

Such subsidies have a particularly devastating impact in Africa, where 50 percent of a country’s GNP may be in agriculture. 

A 2005 study by the World Bank found that while the effect of developing countries dismantling trade barriers would increase their income by $16 billion over 10 years, that would translate to a grand total of two dollars a year for the world’s one billion poor. And there might well be a net loss. 

Bello says a recent United Nations trade and development study predicts that tariff income losses for developing countries could range between $32 billion and $63 billion annually. “This loss in government revenues—the source of developing country health care, education, water provision, and sanitation budgets—is two to four times the mere $16 billion in benefits projected by the World Bank.”  

Bello cites research by the Carnegie Endowment and the European Commission suggesting that the impact of free trade on Africa will be profound, and small African farmers will be unable to compete, exactly what happened to small corn farmers in Mexico. 

Indeed, Bello points to a study by the United Nations Development Program that suggests the best strategy for developing countries is exactly the opposite of the Heritage Foundation’s formula. According to the analysis, countries like Japan and South Korea were successful because, rather than embracing “free trade,” they protected their industries from outside competition. 

The AFRICOM initiative is creating some unease in both the United States and Africa. “Some initial reaction to the locating of the African Command on the continent has been negative,” says the Congressional Research Service, because some African countries see it as a device to increase troops there.  

Nicole Lee, executive director of the TransAfrica Forum, called AFRICOM “neither wise nor productive,” and suggests that the U.S. should instead focus on “development assistance and respect for sovereignty.” 

Not so long as U.S. policy in Africa is driven by think tanks like the Heritage Foundation.


Column: Undercurrents: Oakland Police Catch Citizens in Criminal Sweeps

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday August 17, 2007

Three years ago, I wrote a column about a friend of mine, Frank, whose family has been living across from mine in the same flatlands neighborhood for more than 30 years. With my family having moved here before the U.S. entry into World War II, our two families are, by far, the longest continuous residents on this block, by far. 

That doesn’t help with Oakland police, however, many of whom are new to Oakland, and know little about our neighborhood. The 2004 column was about Frank and I sitting out in front of his house one unseasonably warm evening, swapping stories, when a police officer rolled up in his car, shining his spotlight into our eyes for no other reason we could fathom than we were two middle-aged Black Men sitting on an East Oakland sidewalk. Highly suspicious, of course, and certainly cause for investigation. 

It took three years, but now there is an addendum. 

Frank has since passed away and last week, on his birthday, his family decided to remember him with a birthday celebration at the family house. They cooked barbecue and greens and potato salad and all the things you’d expect from an African-American family that settled in Oakland after migrating out from the South, and while old school music sounded out from a portable cd player, the backyard and adjoining sidewalk filled up with several generations of family and neighbors and old friends, from 70-year-olds to what the Southern folk used to call “arm babies,” children so young you have to carry them around in your arm. 

About midway through the party, a police helicopter started circling overhead. 

It’s nothing unusual to have a police helicopter circling overhead in our neighborhood. This is the flats of deep East Oakland, after all, and the police are often up there, looking for somebody on the ground. But instead of moving away the police helicopter stayed in a circle pattern directly above Frank’s mother’s house, dropping lower and lower in the sky, until, finally, you could look up and see the operator looking down at us. 

The talking and the laughing at the party gradually slowed and fell to a stop, as people began to look up at the helicopter, and realize what was going on. 

“What’s up with him?” somebody asked. 

Nobody at the party could answer, because nobody knew. A few people made nervous jokes. A few others said some things that weren’t jokes. 

This must have gone on about fifteen minutes or so, the helicopter slowly circling over my neighbor’s backyard, watching the scene below. Finally, two police cars rolled slowly down the street from a couple a blocks away and approached the house. They stopped at the intersection and sat there for a long moment, the two police officers watching us through the windshields, not getting out of their cars. Then, either satisfied that what or who they were looking for wasn’t there, or instructed from a radio directive, they suddenly made slow u-turns, and left. Shortly afterwards, the helicopter broke off its pattern over the house, and left as well. 

What they were looking for? A drug dealer fleeing a warrant? A car thief or someone who had just robbed a liquor store and was trying to escape through our area? Was it something so dangerous we should have gotten the youngsters and the elders into the house for a while? We’ll never know, since the Oakland police we come in contact with out here in the Deep East rarely give the impression that they believe it is us they are protecting the neighborhood for.  

Meanwhile, most of the rhetoric flowing on all sides of Oakland’s violent crime issue comes to a confluence on the point that police can’t handle the crime situation on their own, and Oakland violence won’t be abated until we figure out a way to develop cooperation between the community and the police. 

And that is why I think the request by the office of Mayor Ron Dellums to bring in California Highway Patrol officers to supplement OPD—and the recent announcement by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to answer that request—has the potential of making Oakland’s violent crime situation worse in the long term, rather than better. 

I think I understand and appreciate the difficult position the mayor, Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, and the Oakland City Council find themselves in with the OPD manpower situation. Putting more police officers on the street is one important step towards getting a handle on Oakland’s violent crime. But getting more police officers on the street has proven to be easier said than done, even when the money is available. 

In 2004 Oakland voters passed the Measure Y violence prevention bond that in part allowed for the hiring of new officers, but a Police Reform White Paper released by Tucker, Dellums, and Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan last month says that “despite an aggressive recruitment program and an expedited hiring process,” the department is still 70 officers short of authorized capacity. It’s been hard, in fact, to miss the stepped-up OPD recruiting effort in the last couple of years; it comprises, among other things, ads, billboards, and a heightened OPD recruiting presence at job fairs and other public events. But the Police Reform White Paper says that new hirings have been offset by an increase in retirements; in addition, we know that the Oakland Police Officers Association has been blocking the chief’s proposal to reorganize the department’s time shifts, a reorganization the chief says would put more of the existing officers on the force out on street patrol in any given time. 

There has been an intense, ongoing, internal struggle over these issues since the Dellums Administration took office and the Oakland-OPOA police union contracts expired, but it is the political time that has now expired, with the assassination of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey earlier this month. The national uproar over Mr. Bailey’s murder was almost certainly what triggered the timing of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s announcement to answer Mr. Dellums’ request to send in the Highway Patrol. 

In the short-run, in theory, the added police manpower is supposed to free Oakland police officers to flood high-crime areas and conduct more investigations. And in the short run—like the surge in Iraq—that might cause a temporary dip in Oakland’s violent crime. But what about the long-run? 

To understand that, my friends, you must read, carefully, from the August 8 Oakland Tribune article “Governor Sends Anti-Gang Task Force to Oakland” to see what the Highway Patrol officers will be doing in Oakland, and where they will be doing it.  

“CHP officers will be made available to assist in high-traffic areas such as the International Boulevard corridor, according to Roland Holmgren, Oakland Police Department public information officer,” the Tribune article reads. “They will operate in non-patrol functions, according to Karen Stevenson, director of communications for Mayor Ron Dellums. … The CHP officers, who will be paid out of the department’s existing overtime funds, will join Oakland police and Alameda County sheriff’s deputies in cruising gang-plagued areas. Providing additional traffic enforcement, we come across folks who have guns (or) drugs in their cars and we assist by taking those folks off the street, said CHP spokeswoman Fran Calder.” 

The Highway Patrol officers, in other words, will assist in law enforcement by “traffic enforcement” along International Boulevard and other “gang-plagued” and “high traffic” areas—that is, stopping drivers for traffic violations—and arresting those who are found to have guns or drugs in their cars. 

Where have we seen this before? 

In fact, this is what the California Highway Patrol has been conducting along International Boulevard and other areas inside the Oakland flatlands for several years now, twice in the massive Operation Impact projects that involved several law enforcement agencies, and again, from time to time since then, in smaller actions that we have written about in this column. 

In these operations, the California Highway Patrol conduct intense traffic patrols, stopping cars for minor, non-moving violations (expired tags, etc.) that normally get overlooked while police are tied up with more serious matters. And, yes, a lot of legitimate stops and ticketing will take place, and some middle-age, middle-class white citizens will get tickets for violations that they otherwise will get away with. But because the purpose of the Highway Patrol Oakland operations is not merely to give out tickets, but to uncover cars with drugs or guns inside, the patrols are concentrating on cars driven by the people the Highway Patrol officers think will most likely have such things: young African Americans and Latinos. Doesn’t take much imagination to figure that one out. 

Most of the young African Americans and Latinos driving Oakland streets are not breaking the law, and are not carrying drugs or guns, and so aside from some fix-it tickets and a car tow now and then, along with some general embarrassment and minor harassment, most of them are going to be stopped by the CHP and let go. Some may think that this is a case of no-harm, no-foul. But aside from making it harder for law-abiding young African Americans and Latinos to easily make their way across a city that is already far too difficult for them to traverse, these are the same young people who the city is counting on to cooperate with the police in anti-violence efforts, and even to join the police department themselves. Is indiscriminately—or discriminantly, actually—stopping these young people of color going to make them more amenable to cooperating with the police, or less? 

Although I understand the political necessity of doing something about Oakland’s violent crime situation in the short run, the doing of this particular something, I fear, is going to make the problem more difficult to solve. Out here in the Deep East flats, we’re already having a problem with Oakland police officers’ inability to differentiate between the people they are protecting and the people they are protecting us from. The California Highway Patrol officers doing traffic patrol on Oakland streets have been, and, I’m afraid, are going to be, worse.


Healthy Living: Using Sugar to Prevent Tooth Decay

By Melissa Harmon
Friday August 17, 2007

The bridge in my mouth was bad. The engineer of the bridge was a dentist in a hurry who had already busted a cap in my mouth... so to speak. (one of his crowns had failed ). So I didn’t want to go back to him. Besides, the bad bridge had cost $1,500 back in 1999, and I couldn’t face another dentist who would now charge gangsta prices of $3,000 and up.  

So, I went to the University of the Pacific Dental school. It was as I remember it from more than a decade ago; patiently waiting patients, and lots of infant dentists, serious and helpful and fearfully meticulous.  

So the first thing my student dentist said when he looked at the xray of my bridge with its rotting anchor teeth was that it was built way too high off the gums, letting food get under there... and had I flossed under there every day? Uhh, well, no, I hadn’t. I flossed once in awhile, using that loop of fishing line to thread the floss beneath the bridge, but it was a lot of trouble.  

I had gotten in the habit of using toothpicks, sticking a flat toothpick under the bridge to push out all the detritus. He told me how toothpicks don’t clean the tooth surface at either side or underneath the bridge very well, though they are very useful for massaging the gums between teeth if they aren’t used like crowbars to destabilize crowns.  

But then he asked me if I had heard of xylitol sugar? He was chewing gum at the time; he held the gum blob in his front teeth and showed it to me... “this is xylitol gum”. He said. 

It looked like regular gum to me, sticking out of the front of his perfect grin.  

I told him that sugar had gotten me in trouble in the first place. I used to go trick or treating, come home with a grocery bag full of candy, then sit down and eat all the red candy lipsticks first, then the Tootsie Rolls, the M&M’s next, and on down the line, totally absorbed in sugar. 

He said that xylitol sugar has been shown to drastically slow down or stop tooth decay, that flossing and using xylitol may keep the new bridge from rotting away like the old one.  

I was skeptical; was this dental student being a flack for some bogus remedy? If xylitol really keeps down decay, why hadn’t I heard about it, and why aren’t the toothpaste companies rushing to market it? 

I have to admit, decay isn’t something I want to do. So I went home and searched the net, and found a ton of stuff.  

Xylitol is a natural fruit sugar found in strawberries, raspberries and plums. Studies have shown that beyond a doubt, regular use will prevent cavities. The Texas A&M website: www.csmedcenter.com has a comprehensive report on the findings of many reputable studies, and has a long list of them, some by the World Health Organization.  

A study of 4,000 people, showed that xylitol can prevent cavities and that the best way to deliver it is in gum. You have to take from 4.3 to 10 grams per day, and if you get that much every day it will block the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in your mouth, the bacteria responsible for tooth decay.  

Another study showed that ear infections in children can also be blocked by using the gum. This is useful for parents whose children would love to chew a lot of gum during the day. A child’s mother may pass on cavity causing bacteria to her child, and if she uses xylitol regularly, she may protect her child from that bacteria. What a discovery! If my dear Mom had that information, and all my Halloween candy had been made of xylitol, and we had the internet back then... Evolution, it’s happening so fast!  

Right now, I keep a little jar of the sugar in the bathroom and brush my teeth with it. That’s the cheapest way to get the 4-10 grams a day if I brush twice. I did buy some of the gum, and now I chew it several times a day too. At times I dip the already been chewed gum into the sugar jar and chew it again. 

Once in a while I go get the jar from the bathroom, sit down to watch TV, dip my finger in the jar and just eat the sugar. It’s delicious, and good for me too, right? How many calories is half a jelly jar?  

It’ll take years to know if I’ll get any more cavities, and I’m hoping for less rot in other areas as well.  


Garden Variety: Picking Winners at the Nursery

By Ron Sullivan
Friday August 17, 2007

As it’s almost planting time (for leisurely values of “almost”) I’ll talk about how to pick your posies. Some of us are on-the-ball enough to do all our planting from seeds and/or divisions and cuttings of our own, but most of us are the sort of people who keep nurseries in business by letting them do the early stuff.  

I have no guilt about not being an early bird because I’ve noticed what happens to the early worm. 

So you walk into a nursery or, more perilously, into a hardware or big-box discount store, and you’re looking at appealing baby plants. Which ones are you going to take home? Which ones are most likely to prosper in your house or garden?  

It’s like choosing your puppy out of a big litter. Ideally, you look for the most friendly and interested one, neither the most aggressive nor the shy runt. OK, some of us take in runts just because. I seem to accumulate them here at the South Berkeley Plant Hospice and Hortatorium. But take my advice, not my example, unless you have a capacious composter. 

Here’s a batch of four-inchers looking cheerful and flowery. It’s good to see one in bloom so you know what you’re getting; it’s generally best to take one that has more buds than blooms. Lots of plants, annuals included, are repeat bloomers, but you don’t want one who’s not ready to retire already. 

Read the tags, either on the plants themselves or on the shelf. (Find out for sure that the shelf tag matches the plant. Things can get deranged even before you take them home.) Learn if it’s an annual or a perennial. Usually an annual will give you faster bloom, fill-in, and effects in general; perennials are slower-yielding investments.  

Tags should also tell you whether the plants like shade or sun, water or drought. “Tolerant” means it’ll get by; look again for its preference and be sure you know what you’ll tolerate yourself in its “performance.” “Full sun” doesn’t mean it gets direct sunlight for an hour or three a day; it means it casts a shadow for most of the daylight hours.  

Also, most of us west of the Berkeley hills get less sun than our eastern neighbors anyway. Many plants that are labeled for “light shade” will be fine in as much sun as you get—at least after the hottest days of September.  

Pick up the plant container. Roots emerging from the bottom holes suggest that the plant’s been there almost too long. You’ll lose those when you take the plant out anyway, and that’ll be a setback. Look for the one that balances healthy foliage with firm white roots inside the pot.  

The soil should be firmly against the pot walls; if there’s a gap, the plant’s been dried out completely and then revived. Might not be as healthy in the long run as it looks now. Brown edges or tips on leaves would suggest the same thing.  

Take the healthiest plants home and give them good lives. There’s no point in paying live-plant prices for compost. 

 

Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in the Daily Planet’s East Bay Home & Real Estate section. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Daily Planet.


About the House: No Professionals Need Apply

By Matt Cantor
Friday August 17, 2007

Every once in a while I meet someone who reinvigorates my excitement about what I do. This encounter reminds me that remodeling is not so much a business as it is a passion for a lot of people like me. 

The fellow I met (we’ll call him Miles) was in last throes of a multi-faceted home improvement project in Oakland just last week. If you’re looking at houses, you might be lucky enough to meet him. He proudly thrust his album of photos into my arms at one point and waited, like a kid in the tenth grade, to hear what I had to say. What I had to say was that his work was truly outstanding. 

Now, Miles is not a construction professional. He’s a regular person who just happens to be incredibly excited about houses (well, they are exciting, aren’t they?). Miles had actually done a little construction work here and there as a helper in the last few years and, like his father before him, took an everyday interest in fixing things. But there was more. Miles had the vision to take each job a little further than most people would. He sought out advice, read books, looked at other people’s work and did each job with care, genuine curiosity and zest.  

He told me that when he met with his municipal inspector, he got the fellow’s number and called him scores of times with small questions about the best way to do something—he estimated at least 40 times! Now most people are afraid to meet their city inspector once. Miles was so far outside that box that he wouldn’t have been able to read the label.  

He saw the city inspector as a collaborator and—guess what?—the guy was probably so flattered that he couldn’t touch the ground for a day. Remember that city inspectors take a lot of abuse when, for the most part, they’re just interested in preventing bad things from happening. 

Miles didn’t rush. He worked slowly, cleanly and deliberately. That’s important. He hadn’t actually done a huge amount of work but it sort of seemed like it because each job was so beautifully done. He also did something else that was very smart. He knew, somehow, that his aesthetic sense (his ability to pick colors and such) was not as refined as other people he knew and so he got help. He sought out someone (or several someones) who picked really GREAT colors and some amazing tile (the bath employed at least three kinds of glass tile, which I personally love). 

It was clear that he hadn’t just gone down the Home Despot and picked out what was cheap, what was easy to install or what they happened to put on the end-cap that day. He took the time to plan out each phase. He worked out tiny details at doorways and counter-to-wall junctions so that they all looked just so. This sort of thing does not necessary require any special education. What’s most needed is patience, thoughtfulness and a bit of creativity. Contractors often fail at these details in pursuit of a quickly finished job and final check. It’s also why the best contractors are easily twice the cost of the cheap ones. You could say the devil is in the details but I’d like to thing that there are angels there instead. The details (and this is what ultimately wowed me by Miles’ remodel) are not exactly everything, but they get darned close. Actually, I think that ordinary tile, sheetrock and lumber can make for fabulous rehabs if the tiny details are well managed, but if one adds in some nice shopping choices, it can send the whole thing right over the top. Again, this never happens by rushing or by following the standard playbook. It happens by staring at something for half an hour until it’s clear just what needs to be done. It happens by being willing to take it apart and do it one more time so that it’s just right. 

One thing that was really fun for me on Miles’ job was the fact that he was just as dedicated to the mechanical as to the aesthetic (this is where I live). I get very excited (medication may be advised in such cases) about a fully re-routed gas piping system that employs the minimum number of fittings, is well clamped in place, and tightened so as to never leak and arranged to make it easy to connect all the appliances. Welcome to my world. The water piping was similarly done. This was a fairly new skill for our hero but the truth is that this is not actually all that trying a task for any reasonably intelligent individual. Learning to “sweat” pipe takes about an hour or two for the basics and a few days for the more complex parts. 

Miles could have shopped out many of these jobs or, as far too many do these days, tried to get a day-labor crew off the street to perform tasks that are simply beyond their ken. You know, construction really isn’t rocket science. There are enormous opportunities to refine, improve and generally raise the bar but most of what remodeling and construction entails is not beyond the average school-teacher. If you can learn to do algebra, you can remodel a bathroom. If you can sew a quilt, you can re-wire your house. Most of what’s required is patience and curiosity. 

Miles has been working on this house for about 18 months and is getting ready to sell. He’s put his heart and soul into this project and I earnestly hope that he’ll be fairly compensated. I don’t think he over-improved for the neighborhood, but it’s a genuine concern. I’ve seen it done and there are sometimes tears and regrets.  

If you’re thinking about Being Miles, be sure to look at closing costs, comparable values, interest rates and the whole financial picture. Be a SMART artist so that when it’s all over, you’ll be a happy little Picasso, ready to go out and commit verve once again. 

 

Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net. 

 

Matt Cantor owns Cantor Inspections and lives in Berkeley. His column runs weekly. 

Copyright 2007 Matt Cantor


Quake Tip of the Week

By Larry Guillot
Friday August 17, 2007

A Week Without Your Bathroom?  

The more conservative of the disaster preparedness experts tell us to be prepared to be without running water, electricity, gas, roads, fire protection, and, yes, sewer service for a week (think Katrina). 

People around Northern California who are prepared (alas, very few of us!) have thought through most of the above, with the exception of the lack of workable toilets.  

 

Not a fun topic, but extremely important, wouldn’t you say? We will discuss how to address this issue in future QuakeTips, but a word to those who want to be prepared: you might want to think about this. 

Here’s to making your home secure and your family safe. 

 

 

Larry Guillot is owner of QuakePrepare, an earthquake consulting, securing, and kit supply service. Call him at 558-3299, or visit www.quakeprepare.com.


Wild Neighbors: Developers Strike Back: Arrowhead Marsh at Risk Again

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday August 14, 2007

All our victories are temporary; all our defeats are permanent,” David Brower is supposed to have said. Case in point: Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh, the crown jewel of the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Regional Park. Friends of Arrowhead were relieved in 2005 when the Lower Lake Rancheria Koi Nation dropped their plans for a casino complex next door to the marsh. Now the developers are back: this time it’s at least one, maybe two trucking terminals. 

The Port of Oakland is doing all it can to grease the wheels for this latest project. In a meeting on Aug. 7, the Port Commission brushed aside an appeal by Golden Gate Audubon Society and the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, unanimously approving the developer’s permit. Kansas-based Swann LLC owns the land, now a little-used parking lot, and plans to lease it to Roadway Express, headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Roadway already operates a terminal in West Oakland, but they want a bigger facility. Waiting in the wings is RLR Investments LLC, which owns adjacent property that may be developed for a second trucking terminal. 

What’s so special about Arrowhead Marsh? For starters, this triangle of pickleweed and cordgrass jutting into San Leandro Bay is home to one of the estuary’s densest populations of the endangered California clapper rail. Most of the year these rare chicken-sized birds are invisible, rarely even heard. But visit on a high tide in early January and you’ll see dozens of them, sitting disconsolately in little islands of pickleweed, trying not to be noticed, or sneaking along the edges of tidal channels. Every now and then they’ll exchange their trademark clappering calls.  

California clappers rails used to range from Humboldt Bay to Morro Bay, with enough in San Francisco and San Pablo bays to keep the market hunters busy. They were almost wiped out by overexploitation, recovering a bit after the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1913 gave them some protection. By the 1970s their numbers had built back up to an estimated 4,200-6,000. 

Then came the red fox, an exotic predator that doesn’t mind getting its feet wet, and the rail population crashed again. At their nadir, in 1990-91, there may have been as few as 300 left. Fox control was implemented and the rails rebounded, but the current estimate of 1,500 is still well short of where they were three decades ago. The 110 California clappers counted at Arrowhead on this year’s High Tide Survey would be something like 7 percent of the total global population.  

The clappers are the stars, but winter high tides also roust out soras and Virginia rails; even the elusive yellow rail has been spotted. Ducks abound, including such uncommon species as Eurasian wigeon and blue-winged teal, and the resident Canada geese are joined by cackling and greater white-fronted geese. Marsh wrens, Alameda song sparrows, and salt marsh common yellowthroats pop in and out of the vegetation, where endangered salt marsh harvest mice hide. Overhead, northern harriers, peregrine falcons, and the odd merlin cruise for prey. 

The rails and mice also use the new tidal wetlands created as mitigation after settlement of a suit over illegal dumping by the Port of Oakland. That restoration cost $2.5 million and drew in volunteers from Save the Bay and other organizations. And the mitigation marsh is right across the fence from the future trucking terminal. “It’s a habitat so much time, money, and effort have been invested in protecting,” says Golden Gate Audubon Conservation Director Eli Saddler. 

You can imagine the impact of a 24-7 trucking facility next door to this rich natural community. Saddler says many studies document the adverse effects of light and noise pollution on birds, and the developer’s mitigation proposals are vague at best. 

So now what? There are other permits pending approval, and questions as to the adequacy of the Port’s environmental analysis (which addressed Arrowhead Marsh proper but not the restored mitigation marsh, and didn’t consider cumulative impact on wildlife), whether proper public notice was given, whether the development violates the consent decree that resolved the earlier lawsuit. The attorney general’s office has recommended a full environmental impact report. The Port dropped the ball and now, Saddler says, “all of us are going to have a long headache.” Audubon is considering legal action under either the Federal Endangered Species Act or the California Environmental Quality Act. 

While all this plays out, public pressure couldn’t hurt. Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums and the City Council were unresponsive to Audubon’s concerns and might need a bit of prodding. Or you could go directly to Roadway Express’s president Terrence M. Gilbert: 1077 Gorge Blvd, PO Box 471, Akron OH 44309-0471; terry.gilbert@roadway.com. 

 

 

 

Contributed photo. A California clapper rail: shy, cryptic, and endangered. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Friday August 17, 2007

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17 

THEATER 

California Shakespeare Theater “The Triumph of Love” at the Bruns Ampitheater, 100 Gateway Blvd., Orinda, through Sept. 2. Tickets are $15-$60. 548-9666. www.calshakes.org 

“Citizen Josh” with monologoist Josh Kornbluth, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., through Spet. 2. Tickets are $25-$30. 647-2949. 

“Jane Austen in Berkeley” a spoken-word performance by Andrea Mock at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Stage Door Conservatory “Oliver” A Teens On Stage Production, Fri. at 7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 521-6250. 

TheaterInSearch “Epic of Gilgamesh” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Sept. 2. Tickets are $12-$20. 262-0584. 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

Max Ophuls: Motion and Emotion “The Earrings of Madame de ...” at 7 p.m. and “The Tender Economy” at 9:05 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Shut Up and Sing” the documentary about the Dixie Chicks, with live music by Hali Hammer, at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. 665-3306. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Ike Levin, saxophonist, at 8 p.m. at Free-Jazz Fridays at the Jazz House, 1510 8th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$15. 415-846-9432. 

Alexa Weber Morales at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Dave Matthews Blues Band at 8 p.m. at The Warehouse Bar, 402 Webster St., Oakland. 451-3161. 

Danny Mertens Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Lady Bianca Blues Band at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sambada, Alfred Howard & the K23 Orchestra at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Martine Locke at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Nell Robinson & Red Level, with the Mountain Boys, bluegrass and country music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

Yung Mars and Scott Waters at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Pat Nevins & Ragged Glory, a tribute to Crazy Horse, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Trainwreck Riders, Pine Hill Haunts, Abi Yo Yo’s at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

The Ghost at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Albino at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Parallel 23 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Lee Ritenour & Friends at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Passionistas, Greg Ashley, Logo Moi, folk, acoustic indie rock, at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 

CHILDREN  

Mexica: An Axtec Tale Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. and Japanese Folktales at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave. 452-2259. 

THEATER 

“MYethiOPIA” with David Schein in a benefit for the Ethiopian based One Love HIV/AIDS Awareness Theater, at 8 p.m. at Wildcat Studio, 2525 8th St. Donation $25. For reservations call 415-861-4330. awassachildrensproject.org 

Shotgun Players “The Three Musketeers” Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkle Park, Southampton Ave., off The Arlington, through Sept. 9. Free. 841-6500. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Homeland Obscurity” Works by Catherine Richardson and Will Tait. Artist reception at 6 p.m. at the Float Art Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116, Oakland. 535-1702. 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

A Theater Near You “Fires on the Plain” at 5:45 p.m. and Abbas Kiarostami “Close -Up” at 8 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Watershed Poetry Festival featuring poets Robert Hass, Michael McClure and Sandra Alcosser and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit from noon to 4 p.m. at MLK/Civic Center Park. 526-9105. www.poetryflash.org 

Reading to Celebrate Fold Magazine, a journal of poetry, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Sally Light, mezzo-soprano, and Chris Salocks, pianist, in a recital of works by Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and others at 3 p.m. at St. Albans Church, corner of Curtis and Washington, Albany. Suggested donation $20. 527-2057. 

Rhythm & Muse with singer/ 

songwriter Philip Rodriguez at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts. 644-6893.  

“Mantra Rock Concert” with Kirtan, and Prayer Circles from 1 to 5 p.m. in People’s Park. Free. 310-754-5884. punyatma@gmail.com  

Concert for Peace & the Bees with Diane Patterson, Marca Cassity, ChoQuosh Auh’Ho’Oh and others at 8 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $10. 464-4615. 

Hali Hammer with Randy Berge at noon at Cafe Zeste, 1250 Addison St. at Bonar, in the Strawberry Creek Park complex. 704-9378. 

Concha Vargas with David Serva, flamenco guitarist, at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $30-$35. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Carla Zilbersmith & Allen Taylor at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Inspector Double Negative & The Equal Positives at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Noah Grant and Christopher Hanson at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Steven Emerson Band at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Phil Marsh at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Marcos Silva and Intersection, featuring Chico Pinheiro at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20-$25. 845-5373.  

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

Clockwork at 9 p.m. at Downtown Restaurant, 2102 Shattuck Ave. 649-3810 

Resistant Culture, Under PRessure, Eskapo at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

USA for LSD, Cupids, Childhood Friends, electronics, indie rock, at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

Royal Hawaiian Serenaders at 9 p.m. at Temple Bar Tiki Bar & Grill, 984 University Ave. 548-9888. 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 

CHILDREN 

Asheba at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey through Russian Fantastik Cinema “Ruslan and Ludmila” at 6 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Wendy Schlesinger, author of “Young Girl’s Diary” written in 1969 about political and cultural events in Berkeley, reads at 2 p.m. at People’s Park. Benefits the Gardens on Wheels Association.  

Kate Schatz, Douglas Wolk, and Shawn Taylor, authors of books written about important and/or seminal music albums at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Count Basie Tribute Orchestra, a 20-piece Big Band from the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak at 10th St. Cost is $20-$50. 238-2200.  

Ancient Future at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $7.50 children, $9.50 for adults. 548-1761.  

Son de Madera from Mexico at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Grupo Falso Baiano at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tiny Strips of Heart Tissue at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged: The Whiskey Brothers at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Rachid Halihal, Middle Eastern, North African at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Arc Hive, Moe, avant garde jazz at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

MONDAY, AUGUST 20 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Barry Gifford and Al Young read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Conney Williams from Los Angeles at 7 p.m., at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Zaedno, Bulgarian folk songs, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 849-1100. www.lebateauivre.net 

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

Jesus Diaz y QBA at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10 238-9200.  

TUESDAY, AUGUST 21 

CHILDREN 

Puppet Art Theater for ages 3 and up at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave, Kensington. 524-3043. 

FILM 

A Theater Near You “High and Low” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Herb Kohl describes “Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth” at 7:30 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Scraptet, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Jackie Ryan, featuring Red Holloway, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22 

FILM 

Eco-Amok: An Inconvenient Film Fest “Meet the Applegates” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Writing Teachers Write” Teacher/student readings from the Bay Area Writing Project, with Jane Juska, Meredith Baxter and Claire Noonan at 5 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

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 AND DANCE 

The Snake Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Karl Perazzo, Bobby Allende & John Dandy Rodriguez, percussion salsa, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Brass Mafia at 5 p.m., Natasha Miller at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Mikie Lee and Amber at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

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

Robert Glasper at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23 

FILM 

Abbas Kiarostami “ABC Africa” at 7 p.m. and “Five” at 8:45 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Oakland Out Loud Poetry Reading with John Curl, Trena Machado, Jeanne Lupton and Rosa Martin Villareal at 6 p.m. at the Oakland Public Library, 125 14th St., Oakland. 238-3134. 

Dana Ward, Alli Warren and David Larsen, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Eric Gower describes experimentation in the kitchen in “The Breakaway Cook” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

Victoria Tatum reads from her novel “The Virgin’s Children” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Winard Harper Sextet at noon at the downtown Berkeley BART station. info@downtownberkeley.org 

Goat Hall Productions Cabaret Operas “The Playboy of the Western World” and “Dionysus” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 7 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 201 Broadway at Jack London Square, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$25. 415-289-6877. 

“Our American Cousin” an opera about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with the University Chamber Chorus at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864. 

Freight 19th Annual Fiddle Summit, with Alasdair Fraser, Annbjørg Lien, Catriona MacDonald and Laura Risk at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Eric Jekabson & Darren Johnston at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Temescallionaires, old-time tunes, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Dark Smile, Friendship First, Daniel Popsickle Orchestra, The Noodles at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Antioquia at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

James Carter at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Terrence Brewer Trio at 5 p.m., Space Heater at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277 

Zadell at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Hot Club at 6 p.m. at La Note, 2377 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $40, includes dinner. 843-1525. 

Maldroid at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 


Goat Hall Cabaret Opera at Oakland Metro

By Jaime Robles, Special to the Planet
Friday August 17, 2007

Goat Hall Productions, normally housed in a theater on Potrero Hill (also known as Goat Hill), is presenting two premieres at Oakland Metro Theater in Jack London Square during August 23-26.  

Quirky, robust, and engaging, this cabaret-opera company features original work written by up-and-coming composers in new stagings that run the gamut from traditional to experimental. Their performers are energetic young singing professionals working collaboratively with the directors and composers. According to artistic director Harriet March Page, the work has to be “happening.”  

A fine and powerful vocalist, Page slipped into the edgier world of new opera when, after a hiatus from singing, she returned to her voice teacher and the two disagreed over her vocal categorization. She thought herself a character mezzo-soprano, he said she was a dramatic soprano. He wanted her to sing Brunnhilde; she wanted to sing Marcellina. That impulse to follow her own heart rather than others’ expectations is what brought her finally to produce her own opera series.  

Goat Hall’s aptly titled “Fresh Voices” is an annual summer event of two weekends of short narrative operas usually 15 to 30 minutes in length. The Oakland Metro premieres, however, are two hour-long fully staged operas back to back—composer Steven Clark’s Dionysus and composer Mark Alburger’s adaptation of J. M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World. 

Clark’s Dionysus is loosely based on the dramatic events that comprise Euripides’ The Bacchae. Fascinated by mythology since childhood, Clark read The Bacchae in his early twenties and earmarked it as a story he wanted to come back to: “It showed the dark side of gods and was symbolic of the two-sided coin of life and death.” 

He was especially taken by Dionysus, who has been linked with the Hindu Krishna and the Egyptian Osiris, as well as with Christianity’s Jesus. Dionysus, a fertility god, is a resurrection god, one who dies and returns to life. The 50-minute long opera is a reimagining of the ancient Dionysian Mysteries, rites long lost in the past that are thought to reenact the cycle of birth and rebirth exemplified by the life story of the god.  

Dionysus opens with Pentheus, the King of Thebes, and his mother Agave worrying over the appearance of a priest who has enflamed the local female population with his Dionysian practices. Agave decides to infiltrate Dionysus’ followers, the maenads, and is soon lost to their ecstatic rites. The priest, who is the god Dionysus, convinces Pentheus to join the women, dressed in female robes. During their rituals Pentheus is killed and dismembered by the maenads. An earthquake destroys Thebes, and Agave returns to her destroyed city bearing the head of her son, whom she had not recognized during the ritual’s frenzy.  

Following the ancient Greek practice of having tragedy interrupted by the appearance of satyrs, who flooded the audience, playing tricks and telling bawdy jokes, Clark inserts a comic interlude just before the opera’s darkest moment. The comedy, an animation by Garth Kauffman projected onto an onstage screen, is woven into the plot. 

One of Clark’s concerns is that the audience will think Dionysus is a comedy. His previous short operas have been humorous and satiric: “Eye Eye Sailor,” a charming fantasy devised for sock puppet theater and “Amok Time,” which juxtaposed a video projection of an episode of Star Trek with live singers singing an original libretto in sync with the TV characters. In Dionysus, the maenads enact women giving birth, Clark comments that reenactments of “sexuality and reproduction tend to make people get giggly.”  

Clark’s intent, however, is “to create a piece of theater exposing, explaining, celebrating and practicing ritualistic theater drama.” 

The music of Dionysus combines recorded electronic music with live guitar and percussion. Although the music is inspired by progressive rock, its structure and harmonic material are seeded from transcriptions of Greek music, of which there are 120 existing fragments. “I’ve used the crazy changing rhythms, the quarter tones and the non-diatonic scale,” explains Clark, who has also scored the opera for the contemporary descendants of the ancient Greek kythera, the ancestor of the guitar, and the two-reed two-pipe flute: harps, guitars, flutes, oboes. The approach to the vocal line, he adds, is more like Wagner than Verdi, with a continuous flow of music making little distinction between recitative and aria, and sitting on a central key for long periods: “It’s not” he adds, “a numbers opera.” 

Mark Alburger believes he’s written 20 operas, 10 of which have been produced, but he’s lost track. His adaptation of The Playboy of the Western World was originally conceived as an accompaniment to performances of Riders to the Sea, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 1927 setting of Synge’s one-act tragedy of life in the fishing villages in the Aran Islands.  

Set in a village in remote western Ireland, The Playboy of the Western World tells the story of Christy Mahon, a young man who tells the habitués of a pub that he’s killed his father with a shovel. The locals are impressed by his tale, which gets more elaborate with each retelling, and the young women, especially the tavern owner’s delectable daughter Pegeen Mike, are entranced by the daring of his lawlessness.  

Alburger finds the tragicomic aspects of Synge’s play his kind of theater— “heckafunny with great resonant themes.”  

The libretto, written by Alburger, is set to heckawild music. Alburger began his compositional career by using collage as his principal technique. Now he composes by taking another composer’s piece and “whittling away at it,” rather in the style of Bach and others who have used pre-existing themes as compositional inspiration. In this case, Alburger has used Puccini’s Turandot as the basis of his setting—relating its exoticism to Synge’s portrayal of western Ireland as a remote and wilder world.  

Turandot opens with big strident chords that shift into a melodic recitative. Alburger likewise uses opening chords but instead shifts into an Irish jig. He uses the Irish pentatonic and hexatonic scales throughout the piece, deriving his understanding of Irish music from the Chieftains’ score for the movie Barry Lyndon. To that he adds the rhythmic structures from the second tableau of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and “a heavy dose of minimalism.” Overall, Alburger claims, “I do default tonal and throw in enough dissonance because it’s fun.” 

 

Goat Hall Productions presents two new mixed-media, one-act cabaret operas: Steven Clark’s Dionysus and Mark Alburger’s The Playboy of the Western World, at 8 p.m. Thursday Aug. 23 through Saturday Aug. 25, and at 7 p.m. Sunday Aug. 26. Oakland Metro Operahouse, 201 Broad-way, near Jack London Square. $25 per person for a cabaret table; $20, single seat; $15, students and seniors. For reservations and information, call (415) 289-6877. 

 

Photograph: Jaime Robles 

Karl Coryat as Pentheus, the King of Thebes, and Meghan Dribble as Queen Mother Agave are watched by a maenad, Lisa McHenry, in Steven Clark’s opera Dionysus, a Goat Hall Production at Oakland Metro Theater.


Cal Poet Laureate Al Young and Barry Gifford Read at Moe’s on Monday

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday August 17, 2007

California Poet Laureate Al Young and well-known novelist and screenwriter Barry Gifford, both Berkeley residents, will read together in a felicitous doubleheader at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Ave. this coming Monday, August 20, at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Mondays at Moe’s series coordinated by Owen Hill. 

“I first met Al in 1970 when we read together at the Sonoma State Poetry Festival,” recalled Barry Gifford, “that was the weekend Ronald Reagan closed all the college campuses, so we had to move the reading to a barn on a farm nearby. I’ve stopped doing a lot of readings, but Owen called me and said Al had asked if I’d read with him at Moe’s, so I’ll make an exception. And since it’s a poetry reading, that’s what we’ll read!” 

Al Young remarked, “Barry and I have read together before, and it’s always been a hit, taking turns reading ... it’s always uproarious. He writes about eccentric people in weird situations, so people expect me to follow suit! I don’t—but my voice seems to compliment his.” 

Better known for his prose and screenplays, Gifford has published a fair-sized poetry bibliography, including some unusual editions which Moe’s will have on sale. A current publication is Las Quatras Reinas/The Four Queens, a bilingual edition from Mexico City (also published in Madrid), with photos by David Perry with whom Gifford worked on Border Town. 

“The translations are by Lara Emilio-Pacheco, daughter of the well-known Mexican writer Jose Emilio-Pacheco,” said Gifford. “It’s my first full-length bilingual poetry book, though I’ve been translated before, especially into French, by Nouvelle Revue Francaise.” I’ll read some other poems; it’s not often I’ve the chance to read poetry. And I never know what mood I’ll be in! But it’s a good occasion, and I’m glad the series with Owen has been ongoing.” 

Al Young will read from his new collection, Something About—“poems and prose poems centered around blues and jazz themes in particular. There are a lot of new and some older pieces in the book, which Source Books asked me to put together. Those themes run so heavily through everything I write, it was like shooting fish in a barrel.” The collection includes an audio book with both solo readings and readings backed by a band, including saxophonist Ralph Jones (”who played with Cannonball [Adderley]”), Detroit pianist Kenn Cox, Edwin Livingston on bass and Charles Eisenstadt on drums, performing at CalArts to an audience of high school students. He’ll also read from Coastal Nights and Inland Afternoons and The Sound of Dreams Remembered, which won the American Book Award in 2002.  

“I sometimes get asked when I’m going to come out with a real book—meaning another forgettable novel,” Young said. “It lets me know just what the questioner thinks about poetry. It’s in poetry that the most important things get said. I’ve yet to hear somebody read from a novel at a wedding or a memorial service. Our society today is so narrative and graphic-oriented. And serious poetry is now mostly academic. Most poetry is personal narrative written in skinny lines. And then there’s vernacular poetry, hip-hop and performance poetry, which is unpredictable, always doing something strange—like blues, the irreducible radical in American society. You never know where it’s going to go.” 

Some of Gifford’s out-of-print poetry books will be available at the reading. “Barry opened up his archive,” said Owen Hill. Gifford explained, “When a poetry press sells, say, 500 copies, they don’t know what to do with the rest, so they give them to me in a box. Al’s published lots of books, and his house is filled with them. When he schleps off to Pakistan or someplace, it’s with a bag over his back like Santa Claus! I write poetry when it comes to me, then throw it in an envelope ora box. I don’t know what’s going on in poetry now. It’s receded back into the hands of the academics. Al and I are certainly independents.” 

Al Young will also read Sat. Aug. 25 at the Berkeley Jazz Festival.


Two Fine Photographers on Display at Berkeley Art Museum

By Peter Selz
Friday August 17, 2007

Abbas Kiarostami is known primarily as an innovative filmmaker and the Pacific Film Archive is currently presenting a retrospective of his films. The inventive confluence of documentation and fiction has produced a new direction in cinema, prompting Werner Herzog to assert,”We are living in the era of Kiarostami but don’t know it yet.” In addition to working as a film director, the Iranian artist is also a writer, a poet, an editor, screen writer and photographer.  

To coincide with the film series, BAM displays “Abbas Kiarostami Image Maker,” a show of still photos, which comes to Berkeley from MoMA’s P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center. These stark black-and-white photographs are of roads and trees and were often the result of his walking thousands of miles in search of suitable backgrounds for his films. The film director is known for his panoramic long shots, used often as a Brechtian device to create distance from the audience. In the still photos Kiorastami shows isolated or silhouetted black trees and their gray shadows against vast snow fields or there are empty roads that snake through the land and seem to go nowhere. Some photogaphs focus on tree trunks and study the roughness of their textures in closeups. And there are pictures of large crows walking among the trees. A short silent film in the exhibition shows the movement of branches in the wind. No narrative needed. He wrote: “One single picture is the mother of cinema. That’s where cinema starts, with one single picture.” 

David Goldblatt is an acclaimed South African photographer and writer. He is the author of many books, including one with the novelist Nadine Gardiner. On one floor at BAM we see black-and-white photos of desolate empty, endless landscapes, as well as land-scarred asbestos mines, which refer to the environmental damage caused by the miners and the government that protected them. After the end of apartheid Goldblatt began using color in his documentary work. But they still show the misery that prevails. There is a primitive shack isolated in the countryside, there are black hawkers in the townships, there are billboards advertising “accommodations” or hand-written notes of people looking for any kind of work. He provides explanatory labels for his photos, such as the picture of the “Monument to Abraham Essau,” a gravestone by the road for a black man who was executed by the Boers for asserting limited civil rights. The gravestone was unveiled in 2003, but was soon pushed over or collapsed. 

Life may have improved in South Africa, but misery still prevails.  

In Iran, Kiorostami’s films—he produced over 40 of them—cannot be screened in his country, and when he was invited to New York to see his films in the 2002 film festival the US denied his visa. 

 

Abbas Kiarostami: from the series Rain, 2006; C-print; 28 1/2 x 41 1/4 in.; collection of the Iranian Art Foundation, New York.


Garden Variety: Picking Winners at the Nursery

By Ron Sullivan
Friday August 17, 2007

As it’s almost planting time (for leisurely values of “almost”) I’ll talk about how to pick your posies. Some of us are on-the-ball enough to do all our planting from seeds and/or divisions and cuttings of our own, but most of us are the sort of people who keep nurseries in business by letting them do the early stuff.  

I have no guilt about not being an early bird because I’ve noticed what happens to the early worm. 

So you walk into a nursery or, more perilously, into a hardware or big-box discount store, and you’re looking at appealing baby plants. Which ones are you going to take home? Which ones are most likely to prosper in your house or garden?  

It’s like choosing your puppy out of a big litter. Ideally, you look for the most friendly and interested one, neither the most aggressive nor the shy runt. OK, some of us take in runts just because. I seem to accumulate them here at the South Berkeley Plant Hospice and Hortatorium. But take my advice, not my example, unless you have a capacious composter. 

Here’s a batch of four-inchers looking cheerful and flowery. It’s good to see one in bloom so you know what you’re getting; it’s generally best to take one that has more buds than blooms. Lots of plants, annuals included, are repeat bloomers, but you don’t want one who’s not ready to retire already. 

Read the tags, either on the plants themselves or on the shelf. (Find out for sure that the shelf tag matches the plant. Things can get deranged even before you take them home.) Learn if it’s an annual or a perennial. Usually an annual will give you faster bloom, fill-in, and effects in general; perennials are slower-yielding investments.  

Tags should also tell you whether the plants like shade or sun, water or drought. “Tolerant” means it’ll get by; look again for its preference and be sure you know what you’ll tolerate yourself in its “performance.” “Full sun” doesn’t mean it gets direct sunlight for an hour or three a day; it means it casts a shadow for most of the daylight hours.  

Also, most of us west of the Berkeley hills get less sun than our eastern neighbors anyway. Many plants that are labeled for “light shade” will be fine in as much sun as you get—at least after the hottest days of September.  

Pick up the plant container. Roots emerging from the bottom holes suggest that the plant’s been there almost too long. You’ll lose those when you take the plant out anyway, and that’ll be a setback. Look for the one that balances healthy foliage with firm white roots inside the pot.  

The soil should be firmly against the pot walls; if there’s a gap, the plant’s been dried out completely and then revived. Might not be as healthy in the long run as it looks now. Brown edges or tips on leaves would suggest the same thing.  

Take the healthiest plants home and give them good lives. There’s no point in paying live-plant prices for compost. 

 

Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in the Daily Planet’s East Bay Home & Real Estate section. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Daily Planet.


About the House: No Professionals Need Apply

By Matt Cantor
Friday August 17, 2007

Every once in a while I meet someone who reinvigorates my excitement about what I do. This encounter reminds me that remodeling is not so much a business as it is a passion for a lot of people like me. 

The fellow I met (we’ll call him Miles) was in last throes of a multi-faceted home improvement project in Oakland just last week. If you’re looking at houses, you might be lucky enough to meet him. He proudly thrust his album of photos into my arms at one point and waited, like a kid in the tenth grade, to hear what I had to say. What I had to say was that his work was truly outstanding. 

Now, Miles is not a construction professional. He’s a regular person who just happens to be incredibly excited about houses (well, they are exciting, aren’t they?). Miles had actually done a little construction work here and there as a helper in the last few years and, like his father before him, took an everyday interest in fixing things. But there was more. Miles had the vision to take each job a little further than most people would. He sought out advice, read books, looked at other people’s work and did each job with care, genuine curiosity and zest.  

He told me that when he met with his municipal inspector, he got the fellow’s number and called him scores of times with small questions about the best way to do something—he estimated at least 40 times! Now most people are afraid to meet their city inspector once. Miles was so far outside that box that he wouldn’t have been able to read the label.  

He saw the city inspector as a collaborator and—guess what?—the guy was probably so flattered that he couldn’t touch the ground for a day. Remember that city inspectors take a lot of abuse when, for the most part, they’re just interested in preventing bad things from happening. 

Miles didn’t rush. He worked slowly, cleanly and deliberately. That’s important. He hadn’t actually done a huge amount of work but it sort of seemed like it because each job was so beautifully done. He also did something else that was very smart. He knew, somehow, that his aesthetic sense (his ability to pick colors and such) was not as refined as other people he knew and so he got help. He sought out someone (or several someones) who picked really GREAT colors and some amazing tile (the bath employed at least three kinds of glass tile, which I personally love). 

It was clear that he hadn’t just gone down the Home Despot and picked out what was cheap, what was easy to install or what they happened to put on the end-cap that day. He took the time to plan out each phase. He worked out tiny details at doorways and counter-to-wall junctions so that they all looked just so. This sort of thing does not necessary require any special education. What’s most needed is patience, thoughtfulness and a bit of creativity. Contractors often fail at these details in pursuit of a quickly finished job and final check. It’s also why the best contractors are easily twice the cost of the cheap ones. You could say the devil is in the details but I’d like to thing that there are angels there instead. The details (and this is what ultimately wowed me by Miles’ remodel) are not exactly everything, but they get darned close. Actually, I think that ordinary tile, sheetrock and lumber can make for fabulous rehabs if the tiny details are well managed, but if one adds in some nice shopping choices, it can send the whole thing right over the top. Again, this never happens by rushing or by following the standard playbook. It happens by staring at something for half an hour until it’s clear just what needs to be done. It happens by being willing to take it apart and do it one more time so that it’s just right. 

One thing that was really fun for me on Miles’ job was the fact that he was just as dedicated to the mechanical as to the aesthetic (this is where I live). I get very excited (medication may be advised in such cases) about a fully re-routed gas piping system that employs the minimum number of fittings, is well clamped in place, and tightened so as to never leak and arranged to make it easy to connect all the appliances. Welcome to my world. The water piping was similarly done. This was a fairly new skill for our hero but the truth is that this is not actually all that trying a task for any reasonably intelligent individual. Learning to “sweat” pipe takes about an hour or two for the basics and a few days for the more complex parts. 

Miles could have shopped out many of these jobs or, as far too many do these days, tried to get a day-labor crew off the street to perform tasks that are simply beyond their ken. You know, construction really isn’t rocket science. There are enormous opportunities to refine, improve and generally raise the bar but most of what remodeling and construction entails is not beyond the average school-teacher. If you can learn to do algebra, you can remodel a bathroom. If you can sew a quilt, you can re-wire your house. Most of what’s required is patience and curiosity. 

Miles has been working on this house for about 18 months and is getting ready to sell. He’s put his heart and soul into this project and I earnestly hope that he’ll be fairly compensated. I don’t think he over-improved for the neighborhood, but it’s a genuine concern. I’ve seen it done and there are sometimes tears and regrets.  

If you’re thinking about Being Miles, be sure to look at closing costs, comparable values, interest rates and the whole financial picture. Be a SMART artist so that when it’s all over, you’ll be a happy little Picasso, ready to go out and commit verve once again. 

 

Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net. 

 

Matt Cantor owns Cantor Inspections and lives in Berkeley. His column runs weekly. 

Copyright 2007 Matt Cantor


Quake Tip of the Week

By Larry Guillot
Friday August 17, 2007

A Week Without Your Bathroom?  

The more conservative of the disaster preparedness experts tell us to be prepared to be without running water, electricity, gas, roads, fire protection, and, yes, sewer service for a week (think Katrina). 

People around Northern California who are prepared (alas, very few of us!) have thought through most of the above, with the exception of the lack of workable toilets.  

 

Not a fun topic, but extremely important, wouldn’t you say? We will discuss how to address this issue in future QuakeTips, but a word to those who want to be prepared: you might want to think about this. 

Here’s to making your home secure and your family safe. 

 

 

Larry Guillot is owner of QuakePrepare, an earthquake consulting, securing, and kit supply service. Call him at 558-3299, or visit www.quakeprepare.com.


Berkeley This Week

Friday August 17, 2007

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17 

Impeachment Banner Fridays at 6:45 to 8 a.m. on the Berkeley Pedestrian bridge between Seabreeze Market and the Berkeley Aquatic Park, ongoing on Fridays until impeachment is realized. www. Impeachbush-cheney.com 

Conscientious Projector Film Series “Shut Up and Sing” the documentary about the Dixie Chicks, with live music by Hali Hammer, at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. 665-3306. 

“Know Your Rights!” Workshop Learn what to do if confronted by the police or if you are observing the police, at 6 p.m. at the Grassroots House, 2022 Blake St. Free, donations accepted. berkeleycopwatch.org 

“Resist to Exist” Benefit for Indigenous Gathering with a shwoing videos from the struggles in Oaxaca and Atenco at 8 p.m. at the Intertribal Friendship House, 523 International Blvd., Oakland. Donation $6. www.encuentroindigena.org 

Financial Advice for Seniors at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Call for appointment. 981-5190. 

“Basic Training in Gemology” with Baird Heffron at 6 p.m. at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland. 655-5952. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St at University. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253.  

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 

Watershed Poetry Festival with former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Michael McClure and Sandra Alcosser, cultural historian Rebecca Solnit and others from noon to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park. 526-9105. www.poetryflash.org 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of the Waterfront Warehouse District Meet at 10 a.m. at the intersection of 3rd and Franklin. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Walking Tour of Oakland Chinatown Meet at 10 a.m. at the courtyard fountain in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza at 388 Ninth St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Plants for the Water Garden” with propagation specialist Brian Gabbard at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

Boot Camp for Nonprofits, sponsored by the Craigslist Foundation from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at UC Campus. Cost is $50. To register see www.craigslistfoundation.org/bootcamp 

“Night Souk” Oakland’s Summer Night Bazaar with performances, activities, food and local crafts, from 6 to 11 p.m. at 9th and Washington.  

Lead-Safety for Remodeling, repair and painting of older homes. A HUD & EPA approved class held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 2000 Embarcadero, #300, Oakland. 567-8280. www.ACLPPP.org 

Hopalong Animal Rescue Come meet your furry new best friend. Dogs and puppies available for adoption from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 4101 Piedmont Ave., Oakland and cats and kittens from noon to 3 p.m. at 3974 Peidmont Ave., Oakland. 267-1915, ext. 500. 

Tips for Travel with Children at 2:30 p.m. at the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Ave. 597-5017. 

Bears Fast Pitch Travel A Softball for girls age 10-18 tryouts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clayton Valley High School Varsity Field, Concord. For information call 748-0611. 

Fast Pitch Softball for Adults at noon on Saturdays in Oakland. For information call 204-9500. 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 

Alameda Architectural Society Annual “Woody Walk” Explore Alameda’s West End with author and historian Woody Minor from 3 to 5 p.m. Meet at the parking lot on the corner of Webster St. and Taylor Ave. Coost is $5. 986-9232. 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of Oakland Airport North Field Meet at 10 a.m. at the business jet center, 9351 Earhart Rd. to visit the hsitoric avaiation sites. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby & Stuart. Everyone welcome. Wheelchair accessible. 526-7377. 

Bike Tour of Oakland around Lake Merritt on a leisurly paced two-hour tuour that covers about five miles. Meet at 10 a..m. at the 10th St. entrance to the Oakland Museum of California. Reservations required. 238-3514.  

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Berkeley Cybersalon “The Science of a Meaningful Life” with psychologist Dacher Keltner, founder and research director of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley; sociologist Christine Carter McLaughlin, the center’s executive director who researches ways to raise happy children; and Jason Marsh, co-editor of Greater Good, the center’s magazine, at 5 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $15. whoisylvia@aol.com 

East Bay Atheists meet with Marc Adams, author of “The Preacher’s Son” a chronicle of growing up in a fundamentalist household, while struggling with being gay, at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 222-7580. 

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 Peace walk around the lake at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712.  

MONDAY, AUGUST 20  

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

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

TUESDAY, AUGUST 21 

“Koyaanisqatsi” or “Life out of Balance” a film on the collision of the urban/technology world and the natural environment at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.HumanistHall.net 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Advanced sign-up is required. 594-5165.  

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

Community Sing-a-Long every Tues, at 2 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. 524-9122.  

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

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland around the restored 1870s business district. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of G.B. Ratto’s at 827 Washington St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Recording African American Stories Add your voice to the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History, Wed. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment, at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, through Sept. 12. For appointment call 228-3207. 

Green Chamber of Commerce Mixer at 5:30 p.m. at LJ Kruse Company, 920 Pardee St., Cost is $5-$15. RSVP to chivachuca@yahoo.com, www.greenchamberofcommerce.net 

GPS Training for Mapping Creeks with the Contra Costa County Mapping Program at 7 p.m. at 4191 Appian Way, El Sobrante. To register call 665-3538. www.thewatershedproject.org 

Pax Nomada Bike Ride Meet at 6 p.m. at Nomad Cafe for a 15-25 mile ride up to through the Berkeley hills. All levels of cyclists welcome. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

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

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, AUGUST 23 

“UC and BP: The Energy Biosciences Institute” with Prof. Daniel Kammen at the League of Women Voter’s Community Luncheon at 1:30 a.m. at Hs Lordships, Berkeley Marina. Tickets are $75. 843-8828. office@lwvbae.org 

“24 Hours on Craigslist” A documentary by Michael Ferris Gibson at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Donation $5. 843-8724. 

Art Workshop for ages 5 and up at 3 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Origami at the Library for students in grades 6-12 to learn how to fold a butterfly, heart, wallet, and sailboat, at 6:30 p.m. at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. RSVP to 526-7512.  

Baby and Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave, Kensington. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. at Theta Chi Fraternity, 2499 Piedmont Ave. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com (Code: UCB) 

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 

 


Arts Calendar

Tuesday August 14, 2007

TUESDAY, AUGUST 14 

CHILDREN 

P&T Puppet Theatre performs The Adventures of Spider and Fly at 3:30 p.m. at the North Branch, Berkeley Public Library. 981-6250. 

FILM 

From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey through Russian Fantastik Cinema “Stalker” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

William Poy Lee will give a talk on his book “The Eighth Promise : An American Son’s Tribute to his Toisanese Mother” at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave. El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

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

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

Jenny Ferris & Laura Klein, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

George Kuo, Martin Pahinui & Aaron Mahi at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

At Night & Lonesome Architects at 7:30 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 644-2204. www.epicarts.org 

Kash Killion at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15 

CHILDREN 

Dogs and Tales! Hear stories and meet a pet from the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society at 10:30 a.m. at Central Berkeley Public Library, 3rd Floor, Community Meeting Room. For ages 5-10. RSVP to 981-6223.  

FILM 

International Latino Film Festival “Rosita” at 7 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. 620-6555. 

Eco-Amok: An Inconvenient Film Fest “Silent Running” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Café Poetry hosted by Paradise at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Donation $2. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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 AND DANCE 

Skye Steele at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Solo Cissokho, Senegalese Solo Kora at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Lecture demonstration on the Griot Culture and the Kora at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Rumbache at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Tapwater at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Matt Lucas at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Mel Martin and the Benny Carter Centennial Tribute Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$20. 238-9200.  

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Homeland Obscurity” Works by Catherine Richardson and Will Tait opens at the Float Art Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116, Oakland. 535-1702. 

“Women by Women: The Dynamic Feminie Aspect” works by Jennifer Downey and Susan Matthews. Perfomance at 5 p.m. and artist talk at 7 p.m. at the Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Building Atrium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. Exhibit runs to Aug. 31. 622-8190. 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

Abbas Kiarostami: Image Maker “Ten” at 7 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Murray Suid describes “Words of a Feather: A Humorous Puzzlement of Etymological Pairs” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Tony Trigilio and Andrew Demcak, poets, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Rosa Los Santos at noon at the downtown Berkeley BART station. info@downtownberkeley.org 

Rachael Sage at 8 p.m. at Epic Arts Studios, 1923 Ashby Ave. 644-2204.  

Kelly’s Kitchen, Project Greenfield at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8. 525-5054.  

Biscuit Burners, mountain music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

Jack Gates Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

Saul Kaye at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

La Muneca y Los Muerteos, Fast Heart Mart, Samvega at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $5. 841-2082. 

Milagro at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17 

THEATER 

California Shakespeare Theater “The Triumph of Love” at the Bruns Ampitheater, 100 Gateway Blvd., Orinda, through Sept. 2. Tickets are $15-$60. 548-9666. www.calshakes.org 

“Citizen Josh” with monologoist Josh Kornbluth, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St., through Spet. 2. Tickets are $25-$30. 647-2949. 

“Jane Austen in Berkeley” a spoken-word performance by Andrea Mock at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Stage Door Conservatory “Oliver” A Teens On Stage Production, Fri. at 7 p.m., Sat. and Sun. at 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 521-6250. 

TheaterInSearch “Epic of Gilgamesh” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Sept. 2. Tickets are $12-$20. 262-0584. 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

Max Ophuls: Motion and Emotion “The Earrings of Madame de ...” at 7 p.m. and “The Tender Economy” at 9:05 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Shut Up and Sing” the documentary about the Dixie Chicks, with live music by Hali Hammer, at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. 665-3306. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Ike Levin, saxophonist, at 8 p.m. at Free-Jazz Fridays at the Jazz House, 1510 8th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$15. 415-846-9432. 

Alexa Weber Morales at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Dave Matthews Blues Band at 8 p.m. at The Warehouse Bar, 402 Webster St., Oakland. 451-3161. 

Danny Mertens Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Lady Bianca Blues Band at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sambada, Alfred Howard & the K23 Orchestra at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Martine Locke at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Nell Robinson & Red Level, with the Mountain Boys, bluegrass and country music, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

Yung Mars and Scott Waters at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Pat Nevins & Ragged Glory, a tribute to Crazy Horse, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Trainwreck Riders, Pine Hill Haunts, Abi Yo Yo’s at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

The Ghost at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Albino at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

Parallel 23 at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Lee Ritenour & Friends at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Passionistas, Greg Ashley, Logo Moi, folk, acoustic indie rock, at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 

CHILDREN  

Mexica: An Axtec Tale Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. and Japanese Folktales at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave. 452-2259. 

THEATER 

“MYethiOPIA” with David Schein in a benefit for the Ethiopian based One Love HIV/AIDS Awareness Theater, at 8 p.m. at Wildcat Studio, 2525 8th St. Donation $25. For reservations call 415-861-4330. awassachildrensproject.org 

Shotgun Players “The Three Musketeers” Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkle Park, Southampton Ave., off The Arlington, through Sept. 9. Free. 841-6500. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Homeland Obscurity” Works by Catherine Richardson and Will Tait. Artist reception at 6 p.m. at the Float Art Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit #116, Oakland. 535-1702. 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

A Theater Near You “Fires on the Plain” at 5:45 p.m. and Abbas Kiarostami “Close -Up” at 8 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Watershed Poetry Festival featuring poets Robert Hass, Michael McClure and Sandra Alcosser and cultural historian Rebecca Solnit from noon to 4 p.m. at MLK/Civic Center Park. 526-9105. www.poetryflash.org 

Reading to Celebrate Fold Magazine, a journal of poetry, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Sally Light, mezzo-soprano, and Chris Salocks, pianist, in a recital of works by Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, and others at 3 p.m. at St. Albans Church, corner of Curtis and Washington, Albany. Suggested donation $20. 527-2057. 

Rhythm & Muse with singer/ 

songwriter Philip Rodriguez at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts. 644-6893.  

“Mantra Rock Concert” with Kirtan, and Prayer Circles from 1 to 5 p.m. in People’s Park. Free. 310-754-5884. punyatma@gmail.com  

Concert for Peace & the Bees with Diane Patterson, Marca Cassity, ChoQuosh Auh’Ho’Oh and others at 8 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $10. 464-4615. 

Hali Hammer with Randy Berge at noon at Cafe Zeste, 1250 Addison St. at Bonar, in the Strawberry Creek Park complex. 704-9378. 

Concha Vargas with David Serva, flamenco guitarist, at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $30-$35. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Carla Zilbersmith & Allen Taylor at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Inspector Double Negative & The Equal Positives at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Noah Grant and Christopher Hanson at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Steven Emerson Band at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Phil Marsh at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Marcos Silva and Intersection, featuring Chico Pinheiro at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20-$25. 845-5373.  

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

Clockwork at 9 p.m. at Downtown Restaurant, 2102 Shattuck Ave. 649-3810 

Resistant Culture, Under PRessure, Eskapo at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

USA for LSD, Cupids, Childhood Friends, electronics, indie rock, at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

Royal Hawaiian Serenaders at 9 p.m. at Temple Bar Tiki Bar & Grill, 984 University Ave. 548-9888. 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 

CHILDREN 

Asheba at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

FILM 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival at the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. 814-2400. www.clubrimshot.com 

From the Tsars to the Stars: A Journey through Russian Fantastik Cinema “Ruslan and Ludmila” at 6 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5-$8. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Kate Schatz, Douglas Wolk, and Shawn Taylor, authors of books written about important and/or seminal music albums at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Count Basie Tribute Orchestra, a 20-piece Big Band from the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak at 10th St. Cost is $20-$50. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Ancient Future at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $7.50 children, $9.50 for adults. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Son de Madera from Mexico at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Grupo Falso Baiano at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tiny Strips of Heart Tissue at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged: The Whiskey Brothers at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Rachid Halihal, Middle Eastern, North African at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Arc Hive, Moe, avant garde jazz at 9:30 p.m. at the Stork Club Oakland, 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Cost is $5. 444-6174. 

MONDAY, AUGUST 20 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Barry Gifford and Al Young read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Conney Williams from Los Angeles at 7 p.m., at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Zaedno, Bulgarian folk songs, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 849-1100. www.lebateauivre.net 

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

Jesus Diaz y QBA at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10 238-9200.  


The Theater: Calshakes Stages ‘The Triumph of Love’

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday August 14, 2007

All this web of deceit was woven to win you, proof of my devotion.” So speaks Princess Leonide of Sparta (Stacy Ross), free of her disguise as a man and decked out in royal—and feminine—splendor, to Prince Agis (Jud Williford), son of a monarch whose throne was usurped by Leonide’s uncle, and object of her much, but never directly, professed devotion. 

But it’s the web of deceit and its weaving, as much as the sometimes violent eruptions of passion by all concerned, which prove the real heart of the matter in Pierre Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love, as translated by Frederick Kluck and adapted and directed by Lillian Groag, at CalShakes in Orinda, a joint production with San Jose Rep. 

The setup looks familiar enough, straight out of the ancient romances, as adopted by novelists and playwrights over the centuries for their own purposes, as familiar as Shakespeare’s comedies that feature cross-dressing and exile, or domestic potboilers which make the bittersweet point of innocent love being won through cynical machination. 

But there’s more than one twist of the blade in this somewhat malign fairytale in which most of the players leave empty-handed—and broken-hearted—in the wake of the de rigueur happy ending. 

At the start, two tricorn-hatted male forms slip through the gate (emblazoned with Descartes’ “Cogito ergo sum”) surrounding the garden of reclusive philosopher Hermocrates (Dan Hiatt). They are actually the Princess and her lady-in-waiting (and miniature painter) Corinne (Catherine Castellanos) in disguise as gentlemen to effect the capture of Prince Agis’ heart, and his installation upon his rightful throne, as the Princess explains to Corinne. 

That much is simple, and unchallenged by the audience, though Corinne, the auditor, wonders that the Princess doesn’t wish to do away with her seeming rival. But Leonide has seem Agis in the wood—and lost her heart. 

This too goes unchallenged. But what quickly cuts loose from a simple—even hackneyed—deception, pitches and yaws every which way, as the audience is treated to a truly comic spectacle: every heart, no matter how carefully guarded or seemingly remote, male or female, falls to the fast-talking Princess, disguised as one “Phocion,” as she maneuvers to be allowed to stay in the philosopher’s retreat, to make her shot at his prize pupil and companion since childhood, throwing rustic calm into chaotic disorder. 

“There’s not a man on earth a woman can’t bring down if she sets her mind to it!” 

So declares the Princess in the first (or second or third) flush of amorous success. But her conquests, in cross-dress as Phocion, also cross the line from declarations of friendship, intimations of her real self and true and false revelations, to wooing the philosopher’s sister, Leontine (a wonderful Domenique Lozano, extraordinary in her timing, gestures and expressions—and fluttering walk), for the purpose of, well, shilling “Phocion” to Hermocrates, so that the suppliant would-be (and false) scholar might stay to study how to abandon his own passions! 

The comedy gets fast and furious, from low slapstick to high comedy of repartee—though, especially at first, the detritus from old “I Love Lucy” and Warner Bros. cartoon schtick smothers Marivaux’s truly bittersweet irony. 

Maybe the deepest ironies never set in, but the show is a triumph all of its own, mostly due to a marvellous cast, one mostly familiar to CalShakes—and many Bay Area—theatergoers. Ross, after starting out a bit rough for a princess, has wonderful exchanges with the others in repartee. Hiatt, who walks on in a kind of oriental snood, carrying a tome of Spinoza (which he drops, never really to pick up, at the unmasked lady’s first amorous declaration), is a constantly amusing spectacle of a distant, haughty “philosophe” (who sees through the Princess’s drag as a disguise, but not her declaration as a ruse), transformed into a lovesick tyro, his academic distain for the gentler emotions evaporates ... 

But everybody’s good here and contributes to the comic malaise—and the essential comedy of Marivaux comes across. The underlings fare well, too. Ron Campbell as Dimas, the anachronistic Gabby Hates of a gardener in a French setting, puts in one of his most controlled, nuanced performances yet—a talented comic actor with a tendency to fly off the handle, mug and saw the air. But there’s none of that here—even in unnecessary routines involving a mysteriously valved mannequin-pis ... Danny Sheie as Arlecchino works well with Campbell in particular, but his insoucient style and strident voice isn’talways a fit, even for a Commedia clown. 

“You say you’re in love with virtue, but you come here as its sworn enemy!” —“Aye, the enemy of what I adore.” Marivaux, the lightness of whose comedies belies a sometimes steely-eyed vision, has a few successors, like Giraudoux (sadly, hardly performed here anymore). His comic characters may seem to be more types than flesh and blood at first glance, but underneath the laughter, their hearts can truly break as they pantomime their way toward love. 

 

Photograph by Kevin Berne. Catherine Castellanos, Danny Scheie and Stacy Ross in The Triumph of Love.


The Theater: SF Theater Group Brings Noir Classic to the Stage

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday August 14, 2007

I’ve been around plenty, and ‘around’ wasn’t pretty ...” So intones a hard-boiled chorus girl with a beautiful visage, who teams up with “a cop too tough to be crooked” in Cornell Woolrich’s celebrated noir thriller, Angel Face, originally published in the pulp mag Black Mask, and now translated onstage by Word For Word in their inimitable combo of acting and self-narration, at Theater Artaud in San Francisco’s Mission District, through Sept. 3. 

And giving the backstory on Cornell Woolrich and the tradition of noir fiction and film at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night (Wednesday, Aug. 14) will be Alameda resident Eddie Muller, “writer and cultural archaeologist,” best-known for his opus Dark City, and his Noir City Film Festival held annually at San Francisco’s Castro Theater in late January. 

“There’s nothing too subtle about Cornell Woolrich,” Muller said, “though it depends on who’s watching, how they’ll react. Word For Word gives a great lesson in how writing gets adapted—different than in the big media. Leaving everything [of the text] in is a great lesson. It’s tricky to do this kind of material without winking at the audience, being ironic and trying to rise above it all.” 

Muller praised the Word For Word cast and director Stephanie Hunt for “the courage to take it back to the source, to cube noir iconography and translate it to the stage in a clear and effective way. It’s not oversold. They’re not banging you over the head with it. And a lot of intriguing decisions were made on parsing out the exposition from the story to the various actors. It’s kind of ‘follow the bouncing ball’—and it’s pretty invigorating.” 

Muller said he’d been in touch with the Word For Word people for some time, contemplating some sort of collaboration, “and for Angel Face, the company dramaturg used Dark City in working with the cast to give them background.” 

Muller himself can relate to the experience of adapting noir fiction to performance. He recently finished shooting a short film he directed, The Grand Inquisitor, based on a short story he was commissioned to write for a forthcoming noir anthology titled A Hell of a Woman. The film is a five-day wonder, “like a Twilight Zone episode,” says Muller, that features a return to the screen by Hollywood actress Marcia Hunt.  

“As soon as the last period was put on the story, it was a film,” Muller said, “and the film might well be finished before the story’s in print. Everything just seemed to line up.” 

Working with Hunt, who Muller dubbed “the ultimate trouper,” was “a revelation ... I was often taken out of the moment on set, I was so in awe of her ability. She had the sharpness to call me on the script—not as a prima donna, but to restore dialogue I’d cut for the other actress, Leah Dashe [a 2003 UC Berkeley graduate], who’s at the beginning of her career. Marcia is 89, a famous blacklisted Hollywood actress, who was directed by Jules Dassin, Fred Zinneman, Anthony Mann ... friends with people like Orson Welles, Bernard Hermann. And Marcia plays, well, not a good woman, but one who drinks, takes drugs ... I think when the last minute of the film plays, people will be slackjawed.”  

Muller found his metier through his fascination with the culture of the ’40s and ’50s, predicated by his relationship with his father, a boxing writer for the San Francisco Examiner whose byline also read Eddie Muller.  

“Sometimes I feel like I’m an imposter, and my father the genuine article,” said Muller. “Watching, say, Sam Fuller’s Pickup On South Street feels like watching my dad’s home movies. Not of the world he lived in; the world he worked in. At home, it played like a domestic comedy, but it was film noir when he went out into the San Francisco nightlife and sports world. 

“He was older,” said Muller of his father. “I was born late in his life, and was always around older people, who were more interesting to me than the younger ones. I didn’t know them in their prime, and I became obsessed with that world of their time.” 

Looking into noir fiction and film, and then writing about it, Muller said “I didn’t feel too many others were trying to build a cultural bridge between past and present. Most in the media were trying to burn the bridge down! I was the guy trying to build it back up again.” 

His first book was Grindhouse, on “Adults Only” cinema, then Dark City, his breakthrough, though originally planned as a follow-up to Grindhouse, but “a book about movies I actually like!” 

“I was trying to explore how we got from there to here,” Muller said, “Trying to explore how the culture creates its iconography.” 

In 1999, the American Cinematheque invited Muller to do a program in its annual film fest, and “I was exposed to people who worked in, acted in noir films—it was an eye-opener! My exploration took on a real human aspect. Critics often come up with their opinion, then twist everything else to fit their thesis. From that point in particular, I’ve been trying to go deeper, to understand the people who made noir film and fiction.” 

The book that followed, from interviews that were initiated through his encounters with surviving film noir actresses, Dark City Dames, “was a significant book for me, less for learning about the movies than learning about human nature. A valuable thing for a young man to write! And what prepared me to work with Marcia Hunt.” 

Hunt was a special guest at last year’s Noir City fest, an event that has traveled to Seattle and is beginning to garner national recognition. “When [Berkeley resident] Anita Monga was at the Castro, she saw clearly the value of the American Cinematheque festival in Hollywood, and asked, Why not here? So it’s Anita’s doing. And she’s the producer of my film!” 

Muller, a San Francisco native, moved to Alameda some time ago when his wife visited on business and mentioned it to him. “I never set foot in Alameda the entire time I was growing up in San Francisco! The third break-in of our car decided it—we left the Haight and moved to Alameda. I love it. It’s a great place for a writer, easy to work here. I just pray they don’t overdevelop it.” 

Ruminating on the staging of Angel Face, Muller asks, “Have we approached with noir now a sort of post-ironic stage? Word For Word’s commitment makes Angel Face a flesh-and-blood production. They really inhabit Woolrich’s text. His stories became the basis for films by Hitchcock, by Truffaut, but he could be so melodramatic, almost like a cartoon parody at times ... it’s interesting about noir today—it’s become so familiar, it can be trotted out to get a laugh, corny old movies and so forth. Or you can bore back down to the basics and rebuild from the ground up ... I don’t want to appeal to converts, I want to make converts. When a 15-year-old kid comes into town from the suburbs and buys a ticket for the Noir City festival to see his first black-and-white movie on a big screen, I call that a triumph!” 

 

For more information, see www.eddiemuller.com or Word For Word’s website at www.zspace.org. 

 

Photograph by Andrew Taylor. Eddie Muller will introduce Word For Word’s presentation of Cornell Woolrich’s Angel Face.


Wild Neighbors: Developers Strike Back: Arrowhead Marsh at Risk Again

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday August 14, 2007

All our victories are temporary; all our defeats are permanent,” David Brower is supposed to have said. Case in point: Oakland’s Arrowhead Marsh, the crown jewel of the Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline Regional Park. Friends of Arrowhead were relieved in 2005 when the Lower Lake Rancheria Koi Nation dropped their plans for a casino complex next door to the marsh. Now the developers are back: this time it’s at least one, maybe two trucking terminals. 

The Port of Oakland is doing all it can to grease the wheels for this latest project. In a meeting on Aug. 7, the Port Commission brushed aside an appeal by Golden Gate Audubon Society and the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club, unanimously approving the developer’s permit. Kansas-based Swann LLC owns the land, now a little-used parking lot, and plans to lease it to Roadway Express, headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Roadway already operates a terminal in West Oakland, but they want a bigger facility. Waiting in the wings is RLR Investments LLC, which owns adjacent property that may be developed for a second trucking terminal. 

What’s so special about Arrowhead Marsh? For starters, this triangle of pickleweed and cordgrass jutting into San Leandro Bay is home to one of the estuary’s densest populations of the endangered California clapper rail. Most of the year these rare chicken-sized birds are invisible, rarely even heard. But visit on a high tide in early January and you’ll see dozens of them, sitting disconsolately in little islands of pickleweed, trying not to be noticed, or sneaking along the edges of tidal channels. Every now and then they’ll exchange their trademark clappering calls.  

California clappers rails used to range from Humboldt Bay to Morro Bay, with enough in San Francisco and San Pablo bays to keep the market hunters busy. They were almost wiped out by overexploitation, recovering a bit after the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1913 gave them some protection. By the 1970s their numbers had built back up to an estimated 4,200-6,000. 

Then came the red fox, an exotic predator that doesn’t mind getting its feet wet, and the rail population crashed again. At their nadir, in 1990-91, there may have been as few as 300 left. Fox control was implemented and the rails rebounded, but the current estimate of 1,500 is still well short of where they were three decades ago. The 110 California clappers counted at Arrowhead on this year’s High Tide Survey would be something like 7 percent of the total global population.  

The clappers are the stars, but winter high tides also roust out soras and Virginia rails; even the elusive yellow rail has been spotted. Ducks abound, including such uncommon species as Eurasian wigeon and blue-winged teal, and the resident Canada geese are joined by cackling and greater white-fronted geese. Marsh wrens, Alameda song sparrows, and salt marsh common yellowthroats pop in and out of the vegetation, where endangered salt marsh harvest mice hide. Overhead, northern harriers, peregrine falcons, and the odd merlin cruise for prey. 

The rails and mice also use the new tidal wetlands created as mitigation after settlement of a suit over illegal dumping by the Port of Oakland. That restoration cost $2.5 million and drew in volunteers from Save the Bay and other organizations. And the mitigation marsh is right across the fence from the future trucking terminal. “It’s a habitat so much time, money, and effort have been invested in protecting,” says Golden Gate Audubon Conservation Director Eli Saddler. 

You can imagine the impact of a 24-7 trucking facility next door to this rich natural community. Saddler says many studies document the adverse effects of light and noise pollution on birds, and the developer’s mitigation proposals are vague at best. 

So now what? There are other permits pending approval, and questions as to the adequacy of the Port’s environmental analysis (which addressed Arrowhead Marsh proper but not the restored mitigation marsh, and didn’t consider cumulative impact on wildlife), whether proper public notice was given, whether the development violates the consent decree that resolved the earlier lawsuit. The attorney general’s office has recommended a full environmental impact report. The Port dropped the ball and now, Saddler says, “all of us are going to have a long headache.” Audubon is considering legal action under either the Federal Endangered Species Act or the California Environmental Quality Act. 

While all this plays out, public pressure couldn’t hurt. Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums and the City Council were unresponsive to Audubon’s concerns and might need a bit of prodding. Or you could go directly to Roadway Express’s president Terrence M. Gilbert: 1077 Gorge Blvd, PO Box 471, Akron OH 44309-0471; terry.gilbert@roadway.com. 

 

 

 

Contributed photo. A California clapper rail: shy, cryptic, and endangered. 


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday August 14, 2007

TUESDAY, AUGUST 14 

Readers Theater Program for children ages 7-10 at 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6223.  

Family Storytime for preschoolers and up at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Community Sing-a-Long every Tues, at 2 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. 524-9122.  

Tuesday Documentaries at 7 p.m. at the Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Donation of $5 benefits the Berkeley Food and Housing Project. 665-0305. 

Games Club Games designers meet at 6 p.m. and games lovers meet at 8 p.m. to discuss board, strategy and social interaction games at at Dr Comics and Mr Games, 4014 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. To RSVP call 601-7800. 

Baby-Friendly Book Club meets to discuss “The Third Man” by Graham Greene at 10 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

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

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15 

Walking Tour of Historic Oakland Churches and Temples Meet at 10 a.m. at the front of the First Presbyterian Church at 2619 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Recording African American Stories Add your voice to the Library of Congress and the National Museum of African American History, Wed. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., by appointment, at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, through Sept. 12. For appointment call 228-3207. 

“Under the Radar” Israelis and Palestinians Working Together against Occupation and for Human Rights at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Donation $5-$20, no one turned away. Sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace. 465-1777. 

Lead-Safe Painting & Remodeling A free class to learn about lead safe renovations for your older home, from noon to 2 p.m. at Lakeview Branch Library, 550 El Embarcadero, Oakland. Presented by Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. 567-8280. www.ACLPPP.org 

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Book Discussion at 4 p.m. at the Central Berkeley Public Library, 4th Floor, Children’s Story Room. 981-6223.  

“What the Bleep Do We Know?” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.HumanistHall.net 

“Insights to Wellness” Demonstrations at 7:45 p.m. at Takibi Yoga Studio, 4550 San Pablo Ave., Suite D, 2nd Floor, in Emeryville. Cost is $5. 

Pax Nomada Bike Ride Meet at 6 p.m. at Nomad Cafe for a 15-25 mile ride up to through the Berkeley hills. All levels of cyclists welcome. 595-5344. 

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. 548-9840. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16 

Free Diabetes Screening Come find out if you might have diabetes with our free screening test and make sure not to eat or drink anything for 8 hours beforehand, from 8:45 to noon at the Downtown Oakland Senior Center, 200 Grand Ave. 981-5332. 

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.  

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club meets at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost.info 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 17 

Impeachment Banner Fridays at 6:45 to 8 a.m. on the Berkeley Pedestrian bridge between Seabreeze Market and the Berkeley Aquatic Park, ongoing on Fridays until impeachment is realized. www. Impeachbush-cheney.com 

Conscientious Projector Film Series “Shut Up and Sing” the documentary about the Dixie Chicks, with live music by Hali Hammer, at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. 665-3306. 

“Know Your Rights!” Workshop Learn what to do if confronted by the police or if you are observing the police, at 6 p.m. at the Grassroots House, 2022 Blake St. Free, donations accepted. berkeleycopwatch.org 

Financial Advice for Seniors at North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst. Call for appointment. 981-5190. 

“Basic Training in Gemology” with Baird Heffron at 6 p.m. at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland. 655-5952. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St at University. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 18 

Watershed Poetry Festival with former US Poet Laureate Robert Hass, Michael McClure and Sandra Alcosser, cultural historian Rebecca Solnit and others from noon to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park. 526-9105. www.poetryflash.org 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of the Waterfront Warehouse District Meet at 10 a.m. at the intersection of 3rd and Franklin. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Walking Tour of Oakland Chinatown Meet at 10 a.m. at the courtyard fountain in the Pacific Renaissance Plaza at 388 Ninth St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Plants for the Water Garden” with propagation specialist Brian Gabbard at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens Nursery, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

“Night Souk” Oakland’s Summer Night Bazaar with performances, activities, food and local crafts, from 6 to 11 p.m. at 9th and Washington.  

Lead-Safety for Remodeling, repair and painting of older homes. A HUD & EPA approved class held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program 2000 Embarcadero, #300, Oakland. 567-8280. www.ACLPPP.org 

Hopalong Animal Rescue Come meet your furry new best friend. Dogs and puppies available for adoption from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. at 4101 Piedmont Ave., Oakland and cats and kittens from noon to 3 p.m. at 3974 Peidmont Ave., Oakland. 267-1915, ext. 500. 

Tips for Travel with Children at 2:30 p.m. at the Rockridge Branch of the Oakland Public Library, 5366 College Ave. 597-5017. 

Bears Fast Pitch Travel A Softball for girls age 10-18 tryouts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Clayton Valley High School Varsity Field, Concord. For information call 748-0611. 

Fast Pitch Softball for Adults at noon on Saturdays in Oakland. For information call 204-9500. 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19 

Alameda Architectural Society Annual “Woody Walk” Explore Alameda’s West End with author and historian Woody Minor from 3 to 5 p.m. Meet at the parking lot on the corner of Webster St. and Taylor Ave. Coost is $5. 986-9232. 

Oakland Heritage Alliance Walking Tour of Oakland Airport North Field Meet at 10 a.m. at the business jet center, 9351 Earhart Rd. to visit the hsitoric avaiation sites. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby & Stuart. Everyone welcome. Wheelchair accessible. 526-7377. 

Bike Tour of Oakland around Lake Merritt on a leisurly paced two-hour tuour that covers about five miles. Meet at 10 a..m. at the 10th St. entrance to the Oakland Museum of California. Reservations required. 238-3514.  

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