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Code Pink protesters, dressed as witches of war, bloody marines and other ghouls, gathered outside the Marine recruitment center in downtown Berkeley on Halloween to kick off a month-long protest against the facility. Photograph by Lisa Pickoff-White.
Code Pink protesters, dressed as witches of war, bloody marines and other ghouls, gathered outside the Marine recruitment center in downtown Berkeley on Halloween to kick off a month-long protest against the facility. Photograph by Lisa Pickoff-White.
 

News

Downtown Skyline Compromise Erodes

By Richard Brenneman
Friday November 02, 2007

The easygoing truce that prevailed during much of the debate over downtown land-use policy blew apart Wednesday, fissuring along familiar fault lines. 

The key issue, as always, is height: just how tall a skyline should be allowed for Berkeley’s city center in the new downtown plan. 

With considerable work left to be done, the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee Land Use Subcommittee is lobbing the political grenade up to the full DAPAC for its meeting next Wednesday night. 

While subcommittee members had seemed near a compromise that called for a lower skyline than some wanted, by the end of Wednesday morning’s meeting the search for what subcommittee chair Rob Wrenn called a “super-majority” had collapsed. 

The sticking point came near the end of the session after the panel had defined the boundaries of the core district where taller structures will be allowed. 

DAPAC is charged with drafting the basics of a new plan mandated in the settlement of a city lawsuit against UC Berkeley that challenged—among other things —the university’s off-campus expansion plans into the heart of downtown. 

The citizen planners have until the end of the month to finish their work, which will then pass on to the hands of city planning staff and the Planning Commis-sion, before eventually winding up for final decisions by the City Council and university administrators. 

From the start, the clearest divisions within DAPAC have been around the question of tall buildings. 

City staff has pushed consistently for high-rises in the form of 16-story “point towers” as a way of generating the population growth that advocates say will spark a cultural renaissance in the heart of the city. 

Critics charge that new housing will simply be filled with more UC Berkeley students, and not the families all sides say could bring a new vitality to the commercial district. 

Adding to the incentive for boosting the downtown’s population is a regional government quota for allowing new housing that city officials say must be accommodated to avoid the possible loss of some of the state and federal funds administered through the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). 

ABAG has set a preliminary figure of 2,431 new units of housing Berkeley must be willing to permit between 2007 through 2014. 

City Planning Director Dan Marks said he prefers to locate as many of the mandated units as possible downtown because of a history of opposition in other neighborhoods to new major housing projects. 

To accommodate all of the apartments and condominiums, Matt Taecker, the planner hired with university and city funds to steer the downtown plan to fruition, has been consistently urging DAPAC to approve 16-story “point towers,” each as tall as the Wells Fargo and Power Bar buildings which now dominate the downtown skyline. 

The Land Use Subcommittee was a last-minute addition to the DAPAC process after committee members voiced their frustration with the repeated resurgence of the point towers in a staff-proposed land use plan section. 

Planning Commissioner Gene Posch-man, a consistent critic of the towers, has argued that all the ABAG units can be accommodated within the existing plan’s height limits. 

By the end of Monday’s subcommittee meeting, members seemed to agree to eliminating the point towers from the plan if the holdouts could be convinced the needed numbers could be housed within lower-profile buildings, with a few buildings allowed to rise to ten stories. 

But the compromise fell apart when it became clear that some members had different understandings of what would be the baseline heights for all other buildings in the expanded downtown core area—the maximum height all buildings would be allowed without special conditions. 

It was Jesse Arreguin who raised the question, insisting he would only back the existing five-story limit, quickly backed by Juliet Lamont. The two have raised the most consistent resistance to the taller skyline, while retired UC Berkeley development executive Dorothy Walker has been the most consistent advocate of more height. 

The subcommittees other three members—Victoria Eisen, Jim Novosel and Wrenn—have been more ready to compromise. 

When Wrenn made a final plea for a compromise as the meeting drew near its close, Lamont responded, “That’s not going to happen.” 

In the end, DAPAC members will have to decide Wednesday whether to: 

• Keep the current baseline maximum building height in the downtown core to the current 65 feet, or five stories, with a limited number of exceptions to 100 feet [eight stories]; 

• Raise the baseline height to 100 feet;  

• Decide how many, if any, buildings should be allowed to rise over 100 feet, and by how much. 

Members did agree to bring forward a suggestion by Walker to set a review period that would allow for a reconsideration of height limits. 

While Walker wanted five years, the majority sentiment seemed to favor eight. 

Setting a review period length and adopting the boundaries proposed as the limit for taller buildings will also be on the agenda. 

The subcommittee did agree on allowing for 100-foot structures on Shattuck Avenue at the southern corners of the Durant Avenue intersection if a developer agreed to include a full-service grocery store in the project.


DAPAC Approves Economic, Housing Chapters

By Richard Brenneman
Friday November 02, 2007

While Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee members have waged prolonged struggles over landmarks and tall buildings, they voted unanimously twice Monday night, approving two more chapters of the new downtown plan. 

With minor changes, DAPAC gave the green light to chapters on Economic Development and Housing and Community Health and Service. 

Joining the committee as it rushes toward its mandated Nov. 30 shutdown was Erin Banks, named by City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli to replace his former council colleague Mim Hawley, who stepped down from the committee. 

Banks, who filled in for Hawley during DAPAC’s last session, is the spouse of former city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. 

Lisa Stephens urged the committee to add a provision requiring the university to pay fees whenever they leased office space off campus to compensate the city for revenues lost when the property was automatically removed from the tax roles. 

“It’s a nice idea, but it’s pie in the sky,” said Terry Doran. “I don’t believe we as a city have the power to require the university to pay fees.” 

Emily Marthinsen, the UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor who represents the university as a non-voting DAPAC member, urged the committee to reject the proposal, because no one on the Berkeley campus could approve it. The decision ultimately would be up to the university’s Office of the President. 

DAPAC Chair Will Travis said that approval might imperil the spirit of cooperation he said had prevailed throughout the downtown planning process. 

“If they don’t want to have such an agreement, then there should be no office space,” said Wendy Alfsen. 

“I kind of agree,” added Patti Dacey. “The taxpayers of this city have to pay every time they flush a toilet.” 

“Let’s not try to pick a fight,” said Travis. 

In the end, members thought it better to ask than to require. 

Another suggestion, urging cooperation with the university athletics department to encourage student athletes at Berkeley High, was rejected because it might violate National Collegiate Athletic Association recruiting rules. 

Language for another proposal, to encourage the Haas School of Business to locate its executive education program downtown, was removed after Marthinsen said the school had opted to change the program’s format so it could be taken to distant corporate offices rather than bringing the executives to Berkeley. 

Haas had originally tried to take over Bowles Hall, the first residence hall in the University of California system and a nationally- and city-recognized landmark, for the program. 

Alumni of the all-male hall were quick to mount a protest, encouraging the use of the Shattuck Hotel instead, a move seconded by local preservationists. But in the end the university opted for the off-site version of the program, leaving Bowles in its traditional role. 

Committee members also struck language from the plan that would have encouraged the city to use arts and cultural bonuses to allow developers to build bigger buildings in exchange for providing space for exhibitions, performances and similar uses. 

The language was eliminated in light of the ongoing battles over the use of the city’s cultural bonus at the Gaia Building. 

Members rejected a request from Marthinsen to strike language calling for a 100-feet-deep business zone along the Shattuck Avenue frontage of the university’s building site at the old Department of Health Services property. 

Members cited other policies already adopted that called for the space to be used to generate sales tax revenues for the city. 

Adoption of the housing and services section was rushed through in the closing minutes of the meeting over the objections of Billy Keys, who said the committee should spend more time looking at the chapter in detail. 

DAPAC will face critical decisions during its next session Wednesday night, when it considers questions of building height and population density. Members of the committee drafting that chapter were not able to come to consensus. 

At the following session on Nov. 12, members attending the committee’s 47th meeting will take up the environmental sustainability chapter, which will buttress what members have agreed will be the plan’s overarching theme. 

That session will also begin the review of chapter revisions as worked out by the city’s planning staff, with the final review including all of the chapter set for Nov. 26. 

Drafts of the proposed chapters are posted on the city’s web site at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/planning/landuse/dap/reports.html


Berkeley High Scraps Photo ID Plan for Visitors

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 02, 2007

Berkeley High School has dropped a plan to ask visitors to provide photo identification to enter the campus after some parents complained that it was unwelcoming and discriminatory. 

The proposal, devised by the school administration last month, was to have contributed to added security measures at the high school, following a survey of high school safety in neighboring school districts. 

Principal Jim Slemp had told the Planet that photo IDs would make the school safer and help keep tabs on who was on campus. He did not return messages Thursday asking for comments on the demise of the plan. 

Slemp’s secretary Richard Ng said the school’s Governance Council rejected the proposal for checking identification of all campus visitors. The council instead voted on Oct. 23 to approve the current visitor policy, which requires all visitors make an appointment at the front desk to meet with a teacher, though they do not have to show any identification. 

“We are not going to ask for IDs because we are not sure what would be accomplishing with it,” parent volunteer coordinator Janet Huseby told the Planet. “We are trying to do a balancing act between security, safety and welcoming, and the idea of an ID check didn’t seem particularly welcoming.” 

Parent Teacher Student Association president Mark Van Krieken said that the ID policy would have been potentially discriminating against immigrant parents who might not have photo IDs. 

“It just creates more emotional distance between the families and the school,” he said. 

Most teachers and parents on the council agreed that the identification check would set an unfriendly tone for the school. 

“It was not enforceable,” said council parent representative Jon Marley. “We do not want to put people at the front desk, as police officers and ID checkers, some of whom are parents themselves. Signing in and checking what their business is is enough ... As a parent, I would not be okay with passing through a security process. It is intrusive and discourages people from coming on campus.”  

Phil Halpern, council teacher representative, said he understood the desire for a more secure visitors’ policy. 

“It made some sense to assert some control on visitors because we’ve had some scary incidents on campus,” he said. “Some of my colleagues have been through the uncertainty of a stranger walking in their corridor. That can get to you. I would like to have an open institution, but I think the well-being of teachers and students is also important.” 

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, another parent representative, said that the protocol should be put in all languages in the parent handbook. 

Berkeley High parent Laura Menard said that requiring all adults to present a photo identification wouldn’t have im-proved campus safety much since she believed the real threat comes from young non-students hanging around the campus to sell drugs and cause trouble. 

“Students should wear IDs off campus at lunch,” she said. “Police often fail to identify suspects involved in fights.” 

Dean of Students Alejandro Ramos and Berkeley High beat officer Casimiro Pierantoni did not return phone calls for comment. 

 


City Council Workshop Looks at Making Condo Conversion Work

By Judith Scherr
Friday November 02, 2007

The law governing Berkeley’s condominium conversion, revised multiple times over some three decades, is likely to undergo more changes in the next month or so.  

“[The ordinance] hasn’t been very successful and you have to ask why,” Don Holm, who sits on the Berkeley Property Owners Association Board of Directors, told the Daily Planet Wednesday. 

Although Condominium Con-version Ordinance revisions of 2005 were supposed to facilitate conversion and the eventual sale process, no rental apartments converted to condominiums have actually sold under the revised law, according to Jay Kelekian, executive director of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. 

The question of revamping the ordinance will be discussed Tuesday at a 6 p.m. workshop before the regular City Council meeting at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The council is slated to address some changes to the law in December and consider other changes next year. 

Topics discussed at the workshop will likely include the planning staff’s suggestion to simplify the steps it takes to convert a unit and a property owners’ group’s recommendation to lower conversion fees. 

Berkeley’s Condominium Con-version Ordinance regulates conversion of apartment and tenants-in-common buildings (TICs), in which a number of individuals have purchased a building together and live in separate units, to condominiums.  

It aims at ensuring that the Berkeley’s rental housing stock is protected and that middle- and low-income renters are not forced out of Berkeley. The ordinance also raises funds for the Housing Trust Fund, the city account which was set up to pay for low-income housing. 

Berkeley’s original ordinance prohibited conversions, which are considered by some to be a source of gentrification.  

Since 2005 a revised Condominium Conversion Ordinance has facilitated conversion of TICs. TICs are problematic, says Rent Board Executive Director Jay Kelekian, because if one partner has a crisis—say, a bankruptcy—all partners are jointly responsible.  

TICs “also create incentives to evict tenants through the Ellis Act [which allows landlords to go out of business and remove tenants from their properties] in order to sell a building as a TIC project,” says an Oct. 12 report by the ad hoc Committee on Condominium Conversion, comprised of Planning and Housing departments and Rent Board staff and the city attorney. 

Holm of the BPOA believes, however, that problems associated with TICs have been overstated. 

Beginning in 1992, the ordinance allowed conversion of apartments, but required a fee that amounted to about 70 percent of the selling price. While the ban on conversion had been lifted, the law’s intent was to discourage conversion. 

In 2005, the ordinance was modified to allow property owners to pay fees of 12.5 percent of the selling price, if, in return, the seller agreed to give sitting tenants who do not want to purchase their unit a lifetime guarantee of tenancy with guaranteed moderate increases in rent. The tenant would have the right of first refusal for a year to purchase the apartment. 

No such fee is associated with the conversion of TICs. 

It was expected that this plan would generate millions of dollars for the Housing Trust Fund that would be matched with federal low-income housing dollars to provide affordable housing. 

But while 230 property owners have applied for conversion since 2005 and 20 to 30 have actually converted, none have sold, Kelekian said. 

The reason for the slow pace of conversion depends on whom one asks. 

 

Fee question 

Holm cites a number of factors. One, he says, is the “burdensome” fees established by the ordinance. At 12.5 percent of the selling price, fees for a $500,000 condominium would be at $62,000. 

A more “reasonable” fee would be set at $8 to $12 per square foot, Holm said. “If the mitigation fees were lower, in the end we would have more units and more revenue,” he said. (Fees for an 800 square-foot-condo at $10 per square foot would be $8,000.)  

But Kelekian points out the instantaneous increase in value which property owners attain by converting. For example, he said, a four-unit property may have the value of $600,000, or $150,000 per unit, but when those units becomes condominiums, their value can go as high as $500,000 each. 

 

Process revision 

Holm said another reason the ordinance has been ineffective is that the planning staff is not familiar with the conversion process. 

“Sometimes staff doesn’t know what to do next,” he said. “It’s partly because the ordinance has changed so many times,” he said. 

 

Numbers 

In the current ordinance, 100 units per year can convert to condominiums. But Holm said among the suggestions made by BPOA is that more than 100 units should be allowed to enter the process, especially given that few actually are converted and sold.  

“There are 150 units in the pipeline,” Kelekian said, adding that not many property owners want to get in line. 

 

Local law compliance 

One of the demands of the ordinance that sidelines some potential converters is the requirement that if work has been done on the property without permits the owner is required to have the work inspected and brought up to code.  

“It’s a big issue,” Kelekian said, noting that he thinks there are good reasons to inspect the unit and bring it up to code for health and safety issues. Work done that does not affect health and safety should be noted and shared with the buyer, but not necessarily brought up to today’s codes, he said. 

Kelekian gave the example of a bathroom where a door was slightly too narrow: The owner had to spend $20,000 remodeling the bathroom, when this was not a health or safety issue. 

Staff will likely ask the council to consider making some changes in December, such as streamlining the ordinance and changing the code compliance requirement, while other questions could wait until March.  

A question that needs more time is how to treat inclusionary units in a building where the units are slated for conversion. One unit out of five in new buildings under state law must be affordable to relatively low-income people. Kelekian said the city should find a way to preserve inclusionary units in converted buildings.


Dow’s Presence Triggers Berkeley Campus Protest

By Richard Brenneman
Friday November 02, 2007

A dozen protesters gathered Tuesday morning outside the building where UC Berkeley was celebrating its embrace of Dow Chemical. 

For Kamal Kapadia, a doctoral student from India, the $10 million “Sustainable Products and Solutions Program” joining Dow with Berkeley’s College of Chemistry and the Haas School of Business was nothing more than another example of corporate greenwashing. 

“This program allows Dow to use our name and claim to be sustainable,” said Kapadia. 

Pointing to campus police who showed up at the invitation-only event in an upper floor meeting room at Haas, Kapadia said, “It should say something about ‘sustainabilty’ that we have to have police at this event, and that they have to do it in secrecy. What does this say about the kind of sustainabilty we are signing on to? But this is not about sustainability. This is about making things.” 

Still, the turnout was a far cry from the mass protests that targeted Dow four decades ago, when angry demonstrators and a widespread boycott forced the company to stop selling napalm to the government—the chemical used in the massive firebombing campaigns of the Vietnam War. 

Some of those gathered for Tuesday’s protest were members of Veterans for Peace, who had seen the effects of the bombings firsthand. 

Paul Cox, a white-haired veteran, said he was especially concerned about Dow’s role as a manufacturer of Agent Orange, a chemical plant killer sprayed on thousands of square miles of jungle during the war to lay the land bare to expose Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troop movements. 

The Veterans Administration has linked the disease with a wide range of cancers and other ailments, while Dow insists there has been no established link to disorders. 

The veterans’ group is helping Vietnamese residents in their quest for legal damages from Dow. 

Soft launch 

The program, funded at $2 million annually over five years, was unveiled at the luncheon meeting by deans Tom Campbell of Haas and Charles Harris of the College of Chemistry, joined by David Keppler, Dow’s chief sustainability officer. 

Serving as the program’s director is Tony Kingsbury, another Dow executive who recently served as the company’s global public affairs leader. His new title for the unsalaried position at Haas is director, Sustainable Products & Solutions Program. 

According to the university’s invitation to what it described as a “soft launch,” the program will create “a new multidisciplinary learning and research environment when the foundations of sustainability—business, science, environment, and society—are all considered simultaneously as new products and solutions are explored.” 

Among the program’s features will be sustainable product research fellowships, case studies and the facilitation of links to corporate grant and internship sponsors. 

“Ultimately the program will involve future collaborations with several UC Berkeley schools and corporations,” the invitation announced. 

The university’s announcement of the Dow program comes just a week before the anticipated signing of another controversial corporate deal, the $500 million research grant linking UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and the University of Illinois in a collaborative effort to mine new transportation fuels and energy sources from plants, microbes, coal and nanotechnology. 

 

Bhopal tragedy 

Dow inherited the legacy of one of the world’s worst industrial disasters when the company bought Union Carbide six years ago. 

Because of a systemic failure at Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, a massive leak of deadly methyl isocyanate gas triggered by a Dec. 3, 1984, explosion killed as many as 8,000 people. 

Another 100,000 people, many elderly and children, sustained permanent injuries, and victim advocates claim that as many as 20,000 of them have died as a consequence of the damage done from the chemical exposure. 

When Dow bought Union Carbide the company refused to accept any liabilities stemming from the disaster, and the Supreme Court of India had upheld an earlier settlement. 

Advocates fought the settlement, and have demanded that Dow pay for all costs of remediating the still-contaminated soil and groundwater. 

The Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley adopted a 2004 resolution asking the company to accept responsibility and carry out a cleanup. 

According to an Oct. 28 article in the Calcutta Telegraph, thousands of students and some of the faculty at the seven Indian Institutes of Technology have signed petitions demanding that Dow stop recruiting on their campuses.


Early Rains Damage Books At Library Bookstore

By Judith Scherr
Friday November 02, 2007

It was just a little rain three weeks ago, but enough to stop up a drain and cause flooding at the Friends of the Berkeley Public Library bookstore in city-owned Sather Gate Mall. 

Carpets and piles of books were ruined.  

“It was an unseasonable rain,” said Hallie Llamas, property administrator for the city. The city has scheduled maintenance of the drains, but the storm came sooner than expected, she said. 

Llamas said the city unclogged the drain and advised the Friends of the Library about how to make claims for damage with the city. 

“We’re back up and running, though we don’t have any carpet,” Ruth Grimes, Friends of the Library volunteer and board member, told the Daily Planet. The store has been reopened for one week, after two weeks of closure. “Sales were definitely up” after the store reopened, Grimes said, noting, however, that she didn’t know if they were up enough to make up for two weeks closure.  

The Friends of the Library are still calculating loses, said Amy Ross, president of Friends of the Library. 

The Friends of the Library used bookstore in the Sather Gate Mall is at 2433 Channing Way. 

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Guardian-SF Weekly Lawsuit Can Move Forward

By Tim Redmond
Friday November 02, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is reprinted with permission from the San Francisco Bay Guardian. 

 

The Bay Guardian has presented enough evidence of predatory pricing by the SF Weekly that our lawsuit against the paper and its chain owners can go forward to trial, a judge ruled Oct. 25.  

Judge Richard A. Kramer denied three separate motions by Village Voice Media, the Phoenix-based 16-paper chain, that sought to dismiss the case.  

In a suit filed in 2004, the Guardian charged that the Weekly and the East Bay Express had engaged in a pattern of selling ads below cost in an attempt to put the locally owned alternative paper out of business.  

VVM sold the East Bay Express this year to local owners.  

The case was filed under the state’s unfair business practices law, which bars the sale of any good or service for less than the price of producing it if that cut-rate selling is aimed at hurting a competitor.  

VVM’s motions for summary judgment argued that the Guardian couldn’t prove any intent by the Weekly or VVM to injure the local competitor. In briefs and oral arguments, VVM lawyers claimed that the chain’s CEO, Jim Larkin, had denied any predatory plans or intent. And VVM insisted that the evidence collected by the Guardian so far was inadequate to take the case to trial.  

The chain lawyers also argued that the Guardian’s suit was a threat to the First Amendment rights of the Weekly, because if the paper was forced to quit selling discounted ads it might have to cut editorial space and staff.  

Ralph Alldredge, a Guardian attorney, noted that the Weekly had admitted selling ads below cost. And he said the evidence collected so far in the case shows strong indications of predatory intent.  

Alldredge acknowledged that selling below cost isn’t always illegal; start-up businesses, for example, often lose money at first trying to attract customers. But he said the Weekly has been losing money every year since New Times/VVM bought it in 1995, and those losses have only increased over time, to as much as $2 million a year. It’s hard to imagine any good reason why a business would set its prices so low that it operated at a loss every year for more than a decade, Alldredge argued, unless the goal was to use chain resources to starve out a locally owned competitor.  

Alldredge cited a deal between Clear Channel, which owns the concert promoter Bill Graham Presents, and the Weekly under which the Weekly paid to have its name on the Warfield theater, a BGP venue - and in exchange, the Weekly would get almost all of the advertising money that once went to the Guardian. He cited a memo showing that the deal would give the Weekly 85 percent of the ads, and the Guardian would get “15 percent to zero.”  

James Wagstaffe, arguing for the Weekly, said that forcing the chain paper to sell ads at a higher rate would be the equivalent of the government deciding how much of the finite space in the publication could be devoted to news. He said an economic expert hired by the Weekly, Harvard professor Joseph Kalt, had determined that the ad market in San Francisco was so soft that the only way to increase revenues enough to cover the Weekly’s operating costs was to cram more ads onto every page.  

Alldredge countered that courts have always agreed that basic economic regulations can apply to newspapers without a First Amendment threat.  

“One hundred years of cases say that the mere economic regulation of newspapers is not unconstitutional,” he said. “There is nothing in the First Amendment that says you can engage in predatory behavior.  

He also noted that Jed Brunst, the top finance officer for VVM, had testified in a deposition that the chain had prepared projections in 2005 to present to investors. Those projections showed that the Weekly could become profitable - if it raised ad prices. The paper would lose some ad volume to the Guardian, but would be able to retain the same percentage of editorial space to ad space and would be a profitable operation, Brunst’s report to the investors said.  

In other words, the top people at the chain knew they could make money by ending their below-cost sales - but they continued with the predatory practice. That, Alldredge said, created a pretty reasonable presumption that the chain was out to harm a competitor.  

Kramer rejected all of the SF Weekly’s claims. He said that the First Amendment didn’t allow newspapers to engage in “impermissible anticompetitive” behavior. And the question of intent, he said, was a fact for a jury to determine—and “a denial of improper activity by itself is not enough” to dismiss this case.  

New Times Executive Editor Mike Lacey and Executive Associate Editor Andy Van De Voorde came from Phoenix to attend the hearing, and Van De Voorde wrote a lengthy piece that appeared on the Weekly’s website calling the Guardian’s three-year-old lawsuit “looney.” The piece put the chain’s spin on the hearing and laid out the Phoenix operators’ opinions on the Guardian claim.  

But in the end, only one opinion mattered, and that was the opinion of Judge Kramer—who didn’t buy one bit of the Weekly’s argument.  

Trial is set to begin early in January 2008.  

The Guardian is represented by Ralph Alldredge, E. Craig Moody and Rich Hill. Three VVM lawyers—Ivo Labar and James Wagstaffe of the San Francisco firm Kerr and Wagstaffe and Don Bennett Moon of Phoenix—were in the courtroom representing VVM.


Neighbors to Wear Tin Foil to Protest Verizon Suit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday November 02, 2007

A group of South Berkeley neighbors will picket the Verizon Wireless store on 1109 University Ave. from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to protest the company’s plans to install cell-phone antennas atop the UC Storage building at 2721 Shattuck Ave. 

The protesters said they will be wrapped in tin foil.  

“We are making costumes of aluminum because at the last council meeting, [Councilmember] Gordon Wozniak suggested that people could protect themselves from the antenna radiation with aluminum foil,” said Laurie Baumgarten, a member of Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union. 

The group will ask the cell-phone giant to withdraw its lawsuit against the City of Berkeley alleging that the city violated the Telecommunications Act prohibiting health concerns as a factor in weighing approval of wireless facilities. 

The Berkeley City Council had asked the Zoning Adjustments Board to make a decision on the antennas based on a third-party engineering review, parking concerns and illegal construction, instead of health issues.  

“The idea that neighbors should live with metal blinds drawn down all the time and not go out into the garden is absurd. It’s not acceptable that the neighborhood lives in fear,” Baumgarten said. “The city is obligated to protect the community from potential health hazards. We want the city to support the ZAB and fight this lawsuit.” ZAB’s decision stated that it was “unable to make the necessary finding based on substantial evidence that the towers were necessary to provide personal wireless service in the coverage area, since service is currently being provided and since no evidence has been presented that existing service is not at an adequate level.”  

The question of whether the antennas should be permitted on UC Storage has bounced back and forth between the council and ZAB a couple of times, with the council splitting its vote last week over whether to uphold an earlier ZAB rejection of the cell-phone antenna application. The council will vote again on the issue at Tuesday’s meeting. 

Verizon attorney Paul Albritton told the council that were no other suitable sites for locating the cell-phone antennas and asked them to “to look beyond emotional appeals” of the community.  

Although city staff have said that the lawsuit could cost around $250,000, community members contend that it could be fought for less.


Day to Help Clear Criminal Records

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday November 02, 2007

Formerly incarcerated individuals will have the chance to learn how to clear up their criminal records and “put the past behind them” when Congressmember Barbara Lee and several East Bay officeholders and agencies host the third annual Clean Slate Summit this weekend. 

The event will be held Saturday 9 a.m.–3 p.m. at Berkeley High School, 2223 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Citizens with criminal records who wish to have records cleared will be able to attend workshops to learn how that is done, as well as begin the process under the guidance of volunteer attorneys and service providers who will be available at the event for consultation.  

According to Margaret Richardson of the East Bay Community Law Center, no record purging will take place on Saturday. “That involves a process that includes going to a judge and getting a court order,” she said.  

Criminal records are considered one of the major impediments for formerly incarcerated individuals to obtain the employment needed to keep from committing criminal acts to support themselves. 

Along with Lee, co-sponsors of the event include Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Gordon Baranco, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Trin Thompson, and representatives from the Alameda County Superior Court, Alameda County District Attorney's and Public Defender's Offices, All of Us Or None, and the East Bay Community Law Center.


Police Blotter

By Rio Bauce
Friday November 02, 2007

Robbery 

On Sunday at 9:58 p.m., a young man evaded local authorities after he stole cash and a pack of cigarettes from Andronico’s at 1501 University Ave. 

 

Walgreens robbery 

An elderly Berkeley man stole items from Walgreens on the corner of Stuart and Adeline streets at 3:39 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. When the automatic door didn’t open on his exit, an employee detained him. He pulled out a knife and ran from the store. Local police stopped a man fitting the description a mile away from the scene and arrested him. 

 

Road rage incident 

Shortly past 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, two men got into a fight near Grocery Outlet on the 2000 block of 4th Street. One male struck the other male and escaped.  

 

Witness/victim scare 

On Saturday, two men approached a UC student. While one hit him, the other went through his pockets. The men took a cell phone and a wallet containing cash and credit cards. The injured student ran by a witness who asked if he should call the police. After the young student said yes and the witness began to call, one of the suspects noticed and chased the witness down to the bottom level of the Downtown Berkeley BART station, where station agents called the police. The student went to the hospital. No suspects have been taken into custody. 

 

Fight 

At 1:20 p.m. on Friday, two adults fought each other at the corner of University and 8th Street. No arrests were made, since the battery was mutual, said Lt. Wes Hester, spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department.


Burmese Desperate to Hear from Silenced Leader Aung San Suu Kyi

By Aung Zaw, New America Media
Friday November 02, 2007

CHIANG MAI—The world needs to hear from Aung San Suu Kyi—even if it’s just a three-minute statement.  

In the wake of the recent army crackdown, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad has urged that detained opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Suu Kyi be allowed to talk to the U.N. Security Council.  

Undoubtedly, the Oxford-educated daughter of Burma’s national independence hero Aung San would deliver a powerful speech. The world needs to know where she stands following the regime’s bloody response to the September demonstrations. But the question remains: Is this opportunity to address the world realistic?  

I was recently told that Suu Kyi, 62, was distressed to learn about the deaths and brutal crackdown on monks. U Ohbasara, one of the monks who led the peaceful march to Suu Kyi’s house, told The Irrawaddy over the phone last week that she had asked the monks to carry on their peaceful march. “She was in tears,” the monk said. “She told us she wanted to enjoy freedom.”  

When U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari visited Rangoon at the height of the crisis, she met him twice but there was no public statement from her. During her first term of house arrest, from 1989 to 1995, Suu Kyi managed to send out occasional messages to the outside world through U.N. envoys, visiting U.S. congressman Bill Richardson and her late husband Dr. Michael Aris.  

Over the last four years, however, there has been little news from Suu Kyi, let alone any indication of where she stands vis-à-vis this ongoing political stalemate. In March 2004, a diplomatic source disclosed that she had sent a personal letter to Than Shwe, proposing a dialogue. It could have been a sign that Suu Kyi was ready to forgive what had happened in Depayin the year before, when government thugs attacked her convoy, killing some of her supporters.  

Despite the occasional signals emerging from her sealed-off Rangoon home – and the rumors and speculation about her state of mind, health and political stance – the regime has been able to cut her off from the outside world while stepping up its diplomatic offensive. With her aging “uncles” now in ineffective control of the National League for Democracy, the need to hear from Suu Kyi remains vital.  

Suu Kyi, the politician, may not be perfect or shrewd enough to deal with the manipulative generals, but she remains a beacon of hope in Burma.  

Among the latest rumors surrounding Suu Kyi was a report that a black sedan had driven up University Avenue and had taken her to meet some high-ranking officials. Rumor has it that Thura Shwe Mann, the regime’s number three, wanted to meet her to sound out her views and had asked his aides to take her to a government building. But without Than Shwe’s blessing, Shwe Mann won’t dare meet her.  

Last week, Suu Kyi was taken out of her house for a meeting with Labour Minister Aung Kyi, who was recently appointed as “liaison minister.” No details of the hour-long meeting have been released, although images were broadcast on state television – a rarity in a country where Suu Kyi spent years out of the public eye. Suu Kyi gave a pensive and worn-out impression, but her captor looked normal and attentively engaged the camera.  

We’re used to this staged drama. Since the first meeting between Than Shwe and Suu Kyi in 1994, the regime has released photographs and video footage of rare meetings between the generals and her, but there has never been any accompanying sound. The images raised false hopes and speculation among critics and apologists alike, but we all realized that was part of the game.  

The hands of Than Shwe, the former psychological warfare officer, could be seen in this diplomatic offensive. He is not giving up, and is as determined as ever to launch domestic and international diplomatic offensives from his dusty Naypyidaw. With the release of film material on the meeting between Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi, Than Shwe might be trying to buy more time and more breathing space. He wants his allies and friends to welcome the meeting and issue encouraging statements.  

Just after the crackdown, some Western diplomats and sources in Rangoon told me that Suu Kyi no longer wanted to participate in party politics, but would be happy to be a figurehead and a force for national reconciliation. No one would confirm that these ideas emanated directly from Suu Kyi, however.  

“It would be terrific for her to be in circumstances to come to the United Nations and to address the Security Council or other organs of this state,” Khalilzad said. “We would like for her to be released, we would like for her to be able to be in circumstances that she can consult with her party members, with her leadership of the political movement, with experts, to be unencumbered and able to travel.” 

The generals would certainly be delighted to allow her to leave the country, for then they would be able to bar her from returning. When her husband died in 1999, they asked her to leave but hinted that they would not let her back in. Suu Kyi declined to leave the country for fear that she would never be allowed to return. 

However, it is not a bad idea to propose hearing from her at this time of political crisis. This is surely something that U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari could arrange on his next visit to Burma, planned for later this week. It is crucial that we all hear her voice and learn where she stands.


First Peson: Finally: A Sonata on Important Things

By Marvin Chachere
Friday November 02, 2007

… poco maestoso  

On Monday evening, May 20, 1968, Harvard Professor George Wald, a newly crowned Nobel laureate in Medicine and Physiology, contributed to the Centennial Celebration at the UC Berkeley with a public lecture titled “The Origin of Death” [Google this title and you will find the text of his lecture]. 

He demonstrated convincingly, as I recall, that death does not exist in the non-human world and must therefore have meaning only among humans, not as a chimera or illusion but as concept. Although it is not relevant to the expanding body of biological knowledge the idea of dying pervades human consciousness and exerts important influences over our lives.  

In 1849, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, a young political dissident, was imprisoned in the Peter/Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg and came within hours of being executed. One can easily imagine how such a close call would inspire the great writer to create characters obsessed with death. For Ippolit in The Idiot—and to a lesser degree for Alyosha, the youngest of the Karamazov brothers—suicide was an alluring choice; a man could rise above his natural state by killing himself because in doing so he’d be performing an act reserved only for God, the taking of a human life.  

The burden of this essay is to use Professor Wald’s thesis and Dostoyevsky’s proto-existentialist theme—the non-existence of death, except as an idea, and death as an act characteristic of God—to shed light on my own end and by extension on yours too. Though I consider my approach to be philosophical, I am too much of a maverick to abide by its traditional norms or, indeed, by any other. 

 

…poco vivace 

The arc of any human life can be traced and its features scrutinized using various and ever more sophisticated scientific disciplines—e.g. psychological for Dostoyevsky, physiological for Prof. Wald—and yet life’s critical points, its inception and termination, its take off and landing, once precise, have become indeterminate. Since the middle of the last century advances in biomedical sciences have increasingly destroyed confidence and blurred what was once very clear; we can no longer be sure exactly when a human life begins nor when it ceases.  

It is clear that the moment of conception, a sperm penetrating an ovum, initiates the first tick of an individual biological clock but it disturbs us that the womb of a mother is no longer necessary for this initiation. Conception can now be reproduced in the laboratory.  

Human life ends, the biological clock stops ticking, when cell growth ceases and decay starts. That slowing down or “dying” process can be arrested today with feeding tubes and respiratory devices.  

In a manner of speaking, therefore, science has given rise to Science, the creator and sustainer of life.  

Looked at from a rational and impersonal perspective a human life does not exist at or outside its end points (before conception or after decomposition) but does exist at every point in between. Human life is finite but open ended.  

[Aside: A mathematically literate reader will recognize a geometric analogue: life’s span is like a closed line segment, continuous between fixed terminals. Paradoxically, although the segment contains infinitely many points none can be identified that is immediately next to any other; no point is adjacent to any other.]  

 

…molto vivace 

All beings, including humans, are composed of the same stuff. In Genesis God revealed to Adam his worthless composition, “Dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.”  

Life at conception begins with pre-existing inert atoms and at death life ends leaving behind essentially the same inert atoms. The thing existing between these two clumps of inert matter is a living thing. Is life, therefore, that finite interval between two indistinguishable inert clumps?  

Professor Wald cited several non-human species to illustrate this overlapping at the portals of life. He showed pictures of copulating preying mantis—immediately after conception the female kills her mate by biting off his head—and underwater photos of salmon at the end of their life cycle, decaying even as they spawned.  

Deduced from the principle that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, Professor Wald made it clear that biochemical changes accompany the transformation from inanimate stuff to animate stuff and back again. Death, he surmised, must be an abstract notion peculiar to humans for it is incompatible with the life cycle of other living things and useless in understanding them.  

Reflecting on the relevance of this “brave new world” to one’s own life, one may cry out with St. Paul: O death, where is thy sting. O grave, where is thy victory. 

The will to live is universal and super-strong, but although it is suggestive it does not necessarily imply a fear of dying.  

 

… scherzo  

Throughout history people, regarding their own death, have sought to capture its meaning and importance in religious, metaphorical, and cultural language. In the 17th century John Donne wanted to subdue the fear of death by personifying it: Death be not proud, though some have called thee/ Mighty and Dreadful, for though art not so…  

People everywhere, with objective detachment, distinguish the living from the non-living, animate from inanimate – basically, live things react to external stimulus, non-living things do not. The difference between a carcass and a stone lies in the fact that the former consists of decaying cells whereas the cells of the latter are static. In common parlance we talk of “my life” and “your life,” as if life is a substance like money, an attribute like hair or a condition like pimples.  

Logically considered, life and death are opposites; one cannot be understood independently of the other; one is light and the other is darkness, one is sound, the other silence. Life comes first and with age vital organs deteriorate and death eventually and inevitably follows.  

Death is not a simple occurrence like a fall or a blow, nor is it a willful act like throwing, walking or eating. Common sense tells us that death is basically a state of permanent, irreversible unconsciousness.  

Metaphorically, death is the end towards which life is directed, a land from whose bourn no traveler returns, a loss—you had something and now it’s gone and it’s never coming back. It is personified in the Grim Reaper; it is transmogrified by devouring monsters, prefigured by excruciating pain, euphemized as eternal rest (requiescat in pace). With innumerable rhapsodic images people strive to render unknowable death knowable.  

And we fear death; some are advised to “not go gentle” and others feel such trepidation that they will not use the harsh sounding words and say instead, “He (or she) passed (or passed away),” conveying an image of death as a unique and final journey. Still others accept Donne’s cloak of religious piety as a shield against the fear of death.  

A couple of millennia earlier, the Greek thinker Epicurus quieted fear with a nakedly secular observation. Noting the incompatibility of self with death, he wrote, “while we exist, death is not, and when death exists, we are not.” To an atheist or anyone not inclined to seek the shelter of religious faith fearing death is no more rational than fearing the devil or the boogy man or an earthquake.  

Finally (so to say), if death is an invented concept then to define it is no more meanignful, nor less creative, than to define an angel or a Martian or a unicorn. Even so, it seems likely that it is precisely the fear of death that compels us to define it. To define something is to tame it. 

 

… allegro 

Aristotle taught that we extract the universal from the particular—man from Socrates—and the non-material from the material—beauty from the Mona Lisa—and the spiritual from the physical—thought from brain. Since death implies the absence of consciousness, do I extract my death from my own consciousness? Can my non-existence be deduced from my existence? Ummm! Am I immortal?  

 

…solo 

On a Sunday in the fall of 1947 I entered Novitiate and looked ahead to a full year of spiritual training at the end of which I would be invested formally into the religious class. When it was over I vowed poverty, chastity and obedience and was forthwith transformed by the Church from layman to cleric.  

On a day in March, 1954, I commenced military training that ended after nine weeks in the award of a shoulder stripe designating me a private in the US Air Force. The following September I started Officer Candidate School that, after six months of more hellish training, ended with the award of a gold bar signifying my commission as a second lieutenant.  

I cite these periods of my life to emphasize a common experience: for all of us life’s continuity unfolds in periods or interludes, each framed between a start and a finish and each contributing its special something to our lives.  

At the start we use our imagination to “foresee” the end and at the end we use memory to “record” what we went through. Imagination (not fantasizing or wishful thinking but experience-based vision) looks ahead. Memory, like a mental camcorder, looks back. 

I am now in the first year of my ninth decade and thus without doubt nearing the end of my life; the final tick is not far off. At one time I believed with Dylan Thomas that “Old men should burn and rage at close of day” but not any more.  

If my life is coincident with my consciousness, and as explained by Prof. Wald there is only inert matter before the Alpha of my conception and inert matter following the Omega of my death, then Ippolit and Alyosha were wrong about the divine significance of suicide. Furthermore, death is not a victory, nor is it dreadful. The inescapable truth is much simpler:  

It is impossible to remember living before conception or imagine living after death.  

 


Judge Hits Berkeley Tree-Sitters With Injunction to Leave

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

On Monday a Fremont judge granted an injunction that broadens his earlier order, which banished one named tree-sitter, to include all occupants of the trees, as well as to bar their supporters from the Memorial Stadium oak grove. 

The order signed Monday declares that, pending a trial of the university’s request for a permanent injunction, all tree-sitters “are hereby enjoined from lodging in, scaling, climbing, or sitting in or standing on or in, any of the trees.” 

“This doesn’t really change anything,” said Zachary Running Wolf, who kicked off the tree-sit last Dec. 2 when he ascended the branches of a redwood on Big Game Day. 

“We really think today’s ruling will make it all the more difficult to consider this a benign protest,” said Dan Mogulof, executive director of the university’s Office of Public Affairs. “We are hoping that the community and political leadership in Berkeley will help bring an end to this dangerous and illegal occupation.” 

Joined by a collection of other protesters, many of whom have been subjected to occasional trespassing and other arrests by campus police, Running Wolf has been fighting the planned elimination of the grove to make way for the Student Athlete High Performance Center. 

Running Wolf is a Native American activist and a once and future Berkeley mayoral candidate who is currently gathering signatures in an effort to force a recall of incumbent Mayor Tom Bates. 

A partly subterranean four-story complex that will house both a high-tech gym and athletic department offices, the center is the first in a planned series of developments at and near the stadium that are being contested in a second court case. 

The case brought back to Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller in Hayward is a follow-up to the judge’s earlier ruling Oct. 1, which restricted a broad injunction sought by the university against the one tree-sitter the school’s lawyer had named in their papers. 

Three days later, university lawyers Charles F. Robinson and Michael R. Goldstein filed a motion for reconsideration, which was the subject of Monday’s action. 

Running Wolf said that at any given time during the day, there are six protesters occupying the perches in the Coast Live Oaks and other trees in the grove. At night, the number rises to about 10, he said. 

“We’re gearing up for an assault by campus police,” he said. “We have heard rumors that they are exercising a training plan to go for an extraction any day now.  

“We are developing our plans to hold our ground,” he said. 

Mogulof said there are no plans for the military-type effort Running Wolf fears. 

He said the course of events depends in part on the outcome of the Hayward case now before Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller, who is being asked to rule on the legality of the process by which the university approved the gym and the other construction projects included in the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

Miller, who must issue a ruling by mid-December, could either pave the way for construction or order a new environmental review process that would continue the status quo at the grove. 

Mogulof said he hopes that the current tree-sitters will follow the lead of David Galloway, the only sitting protester named in the order Keller approved earlier in the month. 

“He’s no longer there,” said the university official. 

But Running Wolf said the protest will continue.


City’s Creative Financing May Help Residents, Businesses Go Solar

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday October 30, 2007

The number of Berkeley homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar collectors could multiply in the next few years, if a complex financing proposal pans out. 

The concept of the city providing funds to loan to property owners was first proposed by Councilmember Dona Spring in 2002 “after rolling blackouts yanked up our energy bills,” Spring told the Daily Planet on Monday. However, city staff did not come up with an effective way to support financing at the time, Spring said. 

There are now about 383 sites in Berkeley with solar panels. The project is expected to add about 125 energy-efficient and/or solar sites with estimated construction costs at $4.4 million. 

On Nov. 6 the City Council will be asked to conceptually approve a Sustainable Energy Financing District put together by Cisco DeVries, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates, the city’s energy division and a number of financial consultants. The project would finance solar panels and solar hot water systems for both residential and small commercial properties. 

A finalized plan will be before the council next year. 

“We’re doing what Berkeley should do—innovate,” DeVries told the Planet Monday. 

In a phone interview, City Manager Phil Kamlarz told the Daily Planet the financing would work this way: An assessment district would be formed, comprised of property owners who want to be part of the program. The city would borrow the funds to pay for the program from banks or other sources. 

The interest rate charged to the city would be less than the interest rate at which many property owners would be able to borrow as individuals. 

The financing is intended to cost property owners the amount they would have been paying in higher electric bills—that is, the cost would be equal to their savings by going solar or becoming more energy efficient. The loans would be repaid through property taxes; the city would place liens on the properties in the program; the property owners would pay the cost of their solar system over 20 years, which is about the life of the equipment. If a property were sold, the added assessed property tax would remain with the property until the loan was paid off. 

While she is enthusiastic about the idea, Spring pointed out that the financing would work only if the city could truly borrow the funds at a lesser rate than an individual can. 

DeVries acknowledged the plan isn’t for everyone. “Some property owners, based on their means, can write a check,” DeVries said. Others may be able to obtain more favorable rates than the city can. 

The details of the program are still being hammered out, which likely accounts for some of the differences in the program as described by Kamlarz and by Alice La Pierre, building science specialist, with the city’s energy division. 

One of the questions still to answer is the relationship between the solar contractor and the property owner. 

La Pierre says that under the city financing program, the city would certify contractors with whom the property owners would contract directly. Under this scenario, costs could be regulated by the city.  

But Kamlarz says that if the city were to certify a contractor, Berkeley could be liable if the contractor did not perform as required. He prefers a plan where property owners choose their own contractors, without certification by the city. 

The city plans to fund the work to create the Sustainable Energy Financing District with about $160,000 from an Environmental Protection Agency grant proposal written by the city’s energy division. The grant has not yet been formally approved by the EPA. Details are being worked out between the agency and the city, DeVries said. In addition to the grant funds, some city staff time—city attorney and energy division time—would be devoted to putting together the program. 

Part of the work would include having the city of Berkeley create a booklet explaining to other cities how to go about replicating Berkeley’s model, DeVries said. 

The grant proposal emphasizes the pre-solar phase: Before a contractor could evaluate the size of the solar system that a property requires, energy-saving efficiencies would have to be achieved.  

The grant application says that “[t]he audit will meet and exceed the basic criteria required by the State of California prior to the use of state solar incentives. Unlike the state-required audit, this program will also require work be performed to meet a baseline energy efficiency standard.”  

Under this scenario property owners would be required to meet efficiency standards of homes sold in Berkeley, as prescribed by the Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance (RECO) and the Commercial Energy Conservation Ordinance (CECO).  

“In addition,” says the application, “we plan to require property owners install Energy Star appliances to replace appliances more than 15 years old.”  

DeVries underscores that the details of what would be required may change. 

For some people, such as La Pierre herself, reducing energy use is enough. La Pierre said her household pays an average of $20 per month for home energy costs, and they do not have solar panels. Their attic is insulated; their fireplace has been sealed off to prevent air leaks; they own energy-efficient appliances. LaPierre turns off power strips before leaving for the day.  

La Pierre points out that electricity is regulated by the state, but the price of natural gas is not. Since most people use gas for heating, it is important to thoroughly insulate, including walls and floor, La Pierre said. Double-paned windows also prevent heat from escaping.  

La Pierre cautioned that “not every home is suitable [for solar panels]. Some have too much shading.” And, she added, while tenants have little input into what their landlords do, they can make their apartments more energy efficient. 

The Sustainable Energy Financing District would not include city-owned property, DeVries said. That would require a different funding mechanism since the city does not pay property taxes and could not place a lien on itself.  

According to the grant proposal, the city would put together an advisory committee to guide the work. The committe would include Steve Chu, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Arthur Rosenfeld, member of the California Energy Commission, Daniel Kammen, a climate change policy expert and proponent of nuclear energy and Dian Grueneich, a member of the California Public Utilities Commission.  

The proposal further says that the city would contract with the Berkeley-based nonprofit Build It Green to hold workshops with contractors and solar installers “to develop and market the initiative.” Build It Green would also be asked “to produce a brochure and web page…issue press releases and promote the program.” 

The board members of Build It Green include Judi Ettlinger, director of marketing for Truitt and White, Stephanie Kiser, territory manager for Building Materials Distributor, Inc. and Gary Gerber, president of Sun Light & Power, a solar installation company in Berkeley. Gerber’s praise for the program is quoted by DeVries in an Oct. 23 press statement: “Nearly every day we meet potential customers who think they can’t afford a solar energy system. With Berkeley’s financing plan in place, just about any home or business owner who can afford to pay their utility bill every month should be able to go solar.”  


Confusion Continues to Plague Peralta District Measure A

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday October 30, 2007

The citizens’ oversight committee for the Peralta Community College District Measure A facilities bonds, which has not issued required minutes or a report on its activities for the year and a half since the bond measure was passed, descended into something close to disarray this month with confusion over its membership. 

Meanwhile, with or without citizen oversight, Peralta continues to move forward with projects funded by Measure A bonds, with the board approving requests for $2.7 million in 17 contracts and change orders at its Oct. 9 meeting and $2.1 million in three contracts at its Oct. 23 meeting. 

Peralta’s citizen oversight—or rather, the lack of it—contrasts sharply with that of nearby Chabot-Las Positas Community College District, which passed a similar facilities bond in 2004 and has a fully functioning committee that regularly meets and issues reports and minutes that are easily available on the district’s website (see sidebar). 

The seven-member Peralta Measure A Citizens’ Oversight Committee is specifically required in the ballot measure language by which the $390 million bond was passed by Alameda County voters in June 2006.  

Under that language, the committee was supposed to be formed within 60 days of the certification of the election results, with one member representing business interests, two members representing the community at large, one representing students, one representing an organization supporting the college district, one representing a senior citizens organization and one representing a taxpayers association. The committee’s organizational and community representations are specifically spelled out in the California Education Code section referenced in the bond measure. 

Under Ed. Code Section 15280, “all [oversight] committee proceedings shall be open to the public, and notice to the public shall be provided in the same manner as the proceedings of the governing board. The citizens’ oversight committee shall issue regular reports on the results of its activities. A report shall be issued at least once a year. Minutes of the proceedings of the citizens’ oversight committee and all documents received and reports issued shall be a matter of public record and be made available on an Internet website maintained by the governing board.” 

No public notices of committee meetings appear to have been ever given, no report has been issued, and no minutes or other documents from the oversight committee appear on the Peralta district website. 

Meanwhile, Peralta has not even fully formed the oversight committee. 

The district appeared to have filled all but one of the oversight committee positions last June, when Vice Chancellor Tom Smith announced that former California Assembly member Wilma Chan had accepted an appointment as one of the two community at-large positions. 

The remaining five committee members listed at that time were Bay Area World Trade Center President and CEO José Deans (business), Berkeley-Albany-Emeryville League of Women Voters Community College Chair Helene LeCar (community at-large), Laney College student Scott Folosade (students), Peralta Foundation President Bill Patterson (organization supporting the college district) and Polly Amrein (senior citizens). 

Chan’s appointment left only the taxpayers association representative position on the oversight committee vacant. In November of 2006, Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris requested the appointment of San Francisco certified public accountant Hyacinth Ahuruonye to “serve as a citizen from a taxpayers association that supports a college or the district.”  

Ahuruonye once served as the campaign treasurer for former Oakland City Councilmember Moses Mayne. Neither district officials nor Ahuruonye himself ever identified the qualifying taxpayers association to which he belonged, and Peralta later dropped him from the committee after saying that he was not a taxpayer within the community college district. 

Chan was later removed from the committee, according to Trustee Board member Abel Guillen, after he informed district officials that the former assemblymember was ineligible for the oversight function because she has been working for the district under a short-term contract as a teacher. 

And the agenda for the Oct. 9 trustee board meeting of this year indicated that by this time, the committee had lost its business community representative, José Dueñas, and was now three short. Chancellor Elihu Harris said he was now looking for representatives from a local taxpayers association, the local business community and the community at large. 

At the Oct. 9 meeting, Harris said that the district “has been asked to call the local Chamber of Commerce so they can identify a taxpayers organization” to be represented. 

It is hard to understand why the district is having difficulty identifying such an organization. The long-standing Alameda County Taxpayers Association, with offices in downtown Oakland, has representatives on several local bond measure oversight committees, including the Alameda County Health Care Measure A Bond, the Alameda County Transportation Measure B Bond and the Chabot-Las Positas Measure B Bond. 

Arthur Geen, the association’s executive vice president, who serves on the Alameda County Measure A Oversight Committee, said that “nobody has contacted me” from Peralta concerning the Peralta bond committee. 

And there is other confusion concerning the Peralta committee. 

In answer to a query two weeks ago about the current oversight committee membership, Peralta officials sent a document entitled “Measure A—Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee” that mentioned eight members: Amrein, Patterson, Scott, LeCar, two positions labeled “vacant” (taxpayers organization and business organization), and two Peralta employees, Vice Chancellors Tom Smith and Sadiq Ikharo. 

In a follow-up call to Jennifer Lenahan, a staff worker with the Peralta Finance and Administration Department who serves as the oversight committee secretary, confirmed that Smith and Ikharo are members of the committee, serving as the “co-chairs for the district.” 

Smith and Ikharo’s membership on the committee would appear to violate the same state law that precluded Chan’s membership. “No employee or official of the district,” says the law, “shall be appointed to the citizens’ oversight committee.” 

Two members of Peralta’s board of trustees said that the listing was in error and that Smith and Ikharo are, in fact, not committee members. After checking with Smith, Board President Bill Withrow said that “nobody from the staff is on the committee. Sadiq Ikharo is the point of contact for the bond projects. He is definitely not on the committee. Tom Smith functions as staff support. He is there to provide information on audits and other financial matters.” 

And trustee Abel Guillen, who works as an educational finance advisor for a company that helps California schools and college districts conduct bond measure campaigns, said that after talking with district officials, he learned that Smith and Ikharo only function as staff members on the committee. “The district is well aware that no one on staff or contracting with the district can serve on the independent citizens’ oversight committee.” 

But if that is true, the committee numbers don’t pan out. On Oct. 9, Chancellor Harris said that the seven-member committee was short three members. No new members were added to the committee list sent out two weeks ago that included Smith and Ikharo, and the at-large vacancy is no longer listed as it was on Oct. 9.  

Meanwhile, if Smith and Ikharo are not considered by the district to be committee members, the filled membership and vacancies in the current district committee list only add up to six, one short of the seven specifically required in the 2006 bond measure. 

Lenahan said by telephone last week that the oversight committee has had tours of several of the district’s campuses to review construction activities and is preparing to meet by the middle of November. 

 

 

 

Peralta Oversight Committee Contrasts With Chabot-Las Positas 

 

In March of 2004, two years before the passage of Peralta’s Measure A, voters in Alameda County and a small portion of Contra Costa County passed the $498 million Chabot-Las Positas Community College District capital improvement (construction) bond to “repair leaky roofs, worn wiring and plumbing; renovate aging, deteriorating classrooms and libraries; and repair, acquire, construct and equip college buildings, and computer labs at both Las Positas College in Livermore and Chabot College in Hayward.” 

The Chabot-Las Positas Measure B bonds were passed under the same authority as the Peralta Measure A bonds, California Proposition 39, which governs the project and oversight requirements for 55 percent-passage California education facilities bonds. 

Chabot-Las Positas operates a separate website for the bond at www.clpccd.org/bond that includes separate links for bond projects for Chabot, Las Positas and for the whole district, as well as links for the program management team, professional service providers and the citizens’ oversight committee. 

The oversight committee has eight members, including a representative of the Alameda County Taxpayers Association, and adopted bylaws that are posted on the website. It has met four times a year since September 2004 (14 meetings in all), with agendas and minutes posted, and has issued two annual reports, one in December 2005 and a second in December 2006.  

The Chabot-Las Positas bond measure pages can be accessed by a “bond program” link in a directory prominently displayed at the top of the district’s main web page.  

By contrast, there is nothing on the Peralta Community College District’s homepage that indicates a location of bond information. To find Measure A bond information on the Peralta page, a visitor must first go to the District Service Centers link on the homepage directory, then through a link to the district’s Department of General Services webpage, and from there to the Measure A page. The page contains no information on the Measure A citizens’ oversight committee but does contain links to spreadsheets of short-term construction projects for three of the four colleges, as well as reports on furniture and instructional equipment needs allocations. 

 

—J. Douglas Allen-Taylor


Downtown Advisory Panel Rules Out Point Towers

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Point towers are out for downtown Berkeley and 10-story apartment buildings are in—or eight floors for office and commercial buildings. That’s the solid consensus emerging from Monday morning’s meeting of DAPAC’s Land Use subcommittee—the six-member panel tasked with writing the new downtown plan’s central chapter. 

With chair Rob Wrenn’s gentle nudging, members reached a near-consensus on the 120-foot maximum height limit, though just how many such buildings would be allowed remained an issue to be resolved when the group meets again at 8 a.m. Wednesday. 

Beyond the limited number of 120-footers, the rest of the downtown core would be restricted to the present maximum of 100 feet, or eight floors for residential buildings and six for commercial structures. 

The main dissent came from Dorothy Walker, a retired UC Berkeley development executive, who has consistently pushed the tallest, densest city center profile. Other members who initially argued for taller buildings were able to accept the lower figure. 

The outcome of their deliberations will be presented to the larger Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee for adoption Nov. 7. 

Juliet Lamont and Jesse Arreguin were adamant that they’d not accept more than four 10-story buildings—in addition to the planned 220-foot high Berkeley Charles Hotel at Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. 

The possibility of raising an extension of the Shattuck Hotel to more than the 10-floor limit would be considered, but only if the new owners gave the city concessions in return. 

Wrenn chaired the city’s UC Hotel Task Force, which led to a recommendation that the city approve the hotel, to be named the Berkeley Charles, in exchange for concessions. 

Developer Ali Kashani contended that for buildings over five floors, projects only became economically viable at greater heights—with a 14-story minimum if projects were required to devote 20 percent of the lot to open space. 

Walker said she could only vote for the 10-story limit if she saw reliable numbers proving that developers were able to afford to build at that height, adding that she was waiting for data from experts. 

Otherwise she wanted a provision that calls for nine of the 160-foot point towers. 

But the other five members all said they were willing to accept the 120-foot limit, with a base height of 100 feet. 

Kerry O’Banion, the UC Berkeley planner who sits on the subcommittee in a non-voting role, said the university would be satisfied with those height restrictions. 

Lamont said that some environmental experts had questioned where buildings taller than that were even practical given the power needed to run elevators and pump water to upper floors. 

While Wrenn said he could accept up to eight buildings of 120 feet, including two higher hotels, Lamont was adamant, even when Wrenn asked, “What about seven?” 

Arreguin concurred. 

The subcommittee seemed willing to accept one possible compromise: a provision calling for a review of the plan, including a look at the public’s receptivity to additional tall buildings. 

The review would be triggered either by the construction of a specified number of the taller buildings or the end of a time period. Walker said five buildings or ten years would be fine with her. 

Members also agreed that heights would step down to five stories bordering residential neighborhoods, and remain at the present limits in the neighborhoods themselves.  

Two planning commissioners who sit on DAPAC but not the subcommittee have attended the land use meetings, Gene Poschman and James Samuels, who chairs the commission. 

Poschman argued that the existing downtown plan would accommodate all the growth required to receive funds through the Association of Bay Area Governments. 

The figures he presented challenged numbers from the planning staff, prompting a response from Matt Taecker, the planner hired with city and university funds to oversee the planning process. 

“I object to you casting uncertainty about these numbers,” Taecker said. 


Dow Comes to Berkeley, Sparking Student Protest

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Dow Chemical, the company whose very name sparked violent student protests during the Vietnam War era, is coming back to the UC Berkeley campus. 

This time, the controversial firm has teamed up with Haas School of Business and the College of Chemistry to launch a “Sustainable Products and Solutions” program which kicks off with a faculty meeting and lunch this morning (Tuesday). 

And just like in the 1960s protesters will be on hand. 

While the focus on those protests of yore was the company’s role as manufacturer of napalm for the fire bombs used to blast the terrain of Southeast Asia, this week’s protesters are looking at the company’s response to another disaster. 

Organized by the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, protesters are targeting the company’s activities in India. 

A Dec. 3, 1984, explosion at a pesticide plant owned by Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, killed as many as 8,000 people in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. 

Another 100,000 people, many elderly and children, sustained permanent injuries. 

When Dow bought Union Carbide six years ago, the company refused to accept any liabilities stemming from the disaster. 

The Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) at Berkeley adopted a 2004 resolution asking the company to accept responsibility and clean up the site, where soil and groundwater are still contaminated. 

In September, Dow sent Tony Kingsbury to the Haas Center for Responsible Business to launch the new program, where he will serve as executive director. 

The program will focus on research aimed at developing sustainable chemistry and products, and additional corporate funding is being sought. 

According to the school’s website, Kingsbury has worked for the company for 24 years, most recently at corporate headquarters in Michigan where he headed a task force on plastics sustainabilty and global industry affairs. 

The program’s dedication begins at 11 a.m. in the school’s Wells Fargo room. 

One of the organizers of today’s protest is Kamal Kapadia, a doctoral student who has also been active in the student movement criticizing the university’s $500 million research pact with BP. 

“There is considerable opposition developing among faculty,” she said. “And last semester the student Energy and Resources Collaborative returned a $1,000 grant from Dow.”


West Branch Library Re-Opens After Refurbishment

By Phila Rogers, Special to the Planet
Tuesday October 30, 2007

On a typical foggy Friday morning, just before 10 a.m., mothers and a few grandmothers wheel their toddlers to the front of the West Branch Library, waiting for the doors of the library to open admitting them to the toddler story hour. Once inside, strollers are deposited along the short hallway into the community meeting room. 

The Children’s Librarian, Nora Hale, is perched on a low seat ready to orchestrate the hour with stories, games, and songs that appeal to the short attention spans of an audience aged six months to 36 months. Other patrons descend on the computers or choose one of the daily newspapers from the racks.  

The West Branch Library, located a half block above San Pablo Avenue at 1125 University Ave., is Berkeley’s oldest branch library, the original building being built on that site in 1923. The library has been closed for refurbishing for the past couple months and will reopen this Friday with a celebration from 5-7 p.m. 

Warren Middleton, who first started working for the Berkeley Public Library’s West Branch 40 years ago, checks out a stack of books while fielding questions. When Middleton first worked at the library, it was in the original building before the extensive remodeling in 1974.  

“A friend of mine who was working there was going into the Army and asked me if I would like to apply for his job,” says Middleton. “He introduced me to the branch librarian and she hired me as a library page. A year later I transferred to central branch, where I stayed until I was drafted into the Army in 1968. Coming back to the library two years later, I worked at different branches until 1995 when I went back to West Branch. I’ve enjoyed working here, and I still do.” 

Middleton, now a supervising library assistant, hires the pages (now called library aides) in the same kinds of jobs he had when he started his long tenure at the Berkeley Public Library. “Over the years, I’ve served under seven library directors,” he notes. 

Marge Sussman, the branch manager at West Branch, arrived on her bike at 9 a.m. and works in her small office, attending to often pleasurable chores like reviewing and ordering books. Once the library opens, she’s apt to be at the Information Desk answering the phone and assisting patrons. 

Sussman’s association with the Berkeley Public Library began in 1989 as the children’s librarian at South Branch. Two years later she transferred to West Branch in the same position. “I did lots of pre-school programs like the Baby Bounce, Toddler Tales, and family story times along with visiting the local public schools to read stories in the younger grades and talk about books in the older grades,” she says. 

“But three years ago I became the permanent branch manager here at West Branch. Now my job is to consider the needs of all our patrons. I love getting to know the community in this way. I’ve seen lots of children grow up at West Branch, and a few have even brought their own children in to use the library,” says Sussman.  

The library staff at West Branch includes two full-time librarians (Sussman and Hale, the Children’s Librarian), Middleton and several part-time employees 

Each of Berkeley’s four branch libraries has its own distinct character representing, in part, the neighborhoods in which it is located. The adult literacy program, Berkeley Reads, is located at West Branch. During the day, participants in the program often come into the library, some to meet their volunteer tutors, others to use the special computers equipped with educational software that helps them with their reading and writing skills. 

The West Branch, in a neighborhood of shops, motels and restaurants on a heavily traveled street, feels like a refuge. Inside, it has a certain welcoming neighborhood coziness like a friendly pub— except with books instead of ale. 

Other patrons come from the Berkeley Adult School, which opened recently several blocks away on Virginia Street.  

Later in the day, teens come to visit their own alcove. Latino and Asian families have corners with round oak tables well-supplied with Asian and Spanish-language magazines and books. Children are served by a large area with pint-sized furnishings, a story-well surrounded by carpeted sitting stairs and shelves full of books for all ages.  

 

West Branch: In the Beginning 

When the Ocean View community in West Berkeley’s industrial district decided in 1895 that they wanted a branch library, a building at 845 University Ave. was rented for $15 a month. A table, a few kitchen chairs, a hat rack, and two maps on the wall made up the furnishings—plus a few books. The room was heated with a small, coal-burning iron stove. 

In 1923, an elegant new building, designed by William K. Bartges, was built on the present site at 1125 University Ave., just above San Pablo Avenue, then the only highway into town. Visitors were welcomed by an arch announcing “BERKELEY.” One hand, like an arrow, pointed west to the Manufacturing District, another toward the hills to the University of California. Another sign indicated the direction to the San Francisco ferry. Never a structure of beauty, the arch ended up as scrap metal during World War II. 

The new library, embellishing Berkeley’s gateway, was designed in the Classical Revival style with a Roman arch at the entrance. The small building was filled with light from windows on all sides and a large central skylight. 

In response to the need for more space, and in keeping with the then-current preference for the “modern” style, the building was extensively remodeled in 1974. It was given a concrete ramp, a side entrance and decorated with two murals. Several large redwood trees remain in the back, part of what once appeared to have been a garden. 

Once inside the present library, you can find the original entrance in the center of the building, now flanked by magazine racks. The arched window above the doorway still admits light from over the newer stucco wall fronting the street. 

Though the era of Carnegie-funded libraries had recently ended, the original West Branch Library was designed in the “Carnegie-style” where you mounted a staircase from the street, entered through elegant doors, to approach that altar to knowledge—the circulation desk. 

—Phila Rogers 

 

 

 

 


Letter Mistakenly Sent to County’s Party-Affiliated Voters

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Alameda County election officials are saying that letters sent out to county voters this week indicating the recipients were not registered by party was done by mistake, and no changes have been actually made to registered voters’ party affiliation. 

“It was a human error,” Alameda County Registrar of Voters spokesperson Guy Ashley said by telephone. “The letter went out to many people who should not have gotten it. We’re sorry for the confusion this has caused.”  

Ashley said that the letter, which advises voters they must send in a form in order to qualify to get a ballot from either the American Independent or Democratic party for the February 2008 presidential primary, was intended to be sent to those voters who declined to state their party affiliation when they registered to vote. 

Instead, “somebody pushed the wrong button,” Ashley said, and the letters went out to a list of voters who had actually chosen a party affiliation. 

One of those voters was Berkeley City Councilmember Kris Worthington, who said he has been a registered Democrat since 1972. Worthington said he had received calls from several worried constituents who had also gotten the letters. 

The list was sent to a third-party vendor in Washington State who actually did the mailing. Ashley said the error only involved a list mistakenly sent out to the vendor. He said a follow-up letter would be sent to the same voters later this week advising of the error. 

Ashley said he had no information on the number of voters who received the erroneous letter. There were reports of letters received by both Democratic Party and Green Party voters. 

 

 


LeConte Neighbors Protest Proposed Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday October 30, 2007

A group of LeConte neighbors turned up at the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) meeting Thursday to protest a proposed three-story second unit at 2837 Fulton St. that, they said, was out of character with the neighborhood and would have visual and shadow impacts on the adjacent LeConte Elementary schoolyard. 

The board voted 8-1 to approve the proposed building, whose owners said they would be planting large trees to screen the building from the rest of the neighborhood. The proposed development would be located at the rear end of the lot along with an existing single-family dwelling unit. 

Some LeConte parents said that the proposed building would adversely affect the appeal and quality of education at the school, whose yard was the only park in the neighborhood. 

They contended that keeping density low adjacent to elementary schools was important to the success of a public school system. 

“A three-story accessory building does not exist in the neighborhood, and this would defy that historical trend and create a precedent to future builds,” said LeConte resident Mark Leverette. 

LeConte parent Susie Bluestone said that LeConte parents found it strange that the Berkeley Unified School District had not objected to the building’s height. 

“Would a three-story structure be something you would allow at Emerson or Thousand Oaks?” she asked. “LeConte wants the respect other schools get.” 

The LeConte Neighborhood Association voted against the proposed project- stating that it would tower over all the other houses in the neighborhood and add to inadequate off-street parking. 

“I met with Superintendent Michele Lawrence, and she didn’t express any concerns about impact on students,” said board member Terry Doran. “On the other hand, I am concerned that there might be complaints from the residents of the building about noise from the students.” 

“It’s just noise,” said Paul Toan, the owner. “It’s been great living next to the school and the playground and I don’t think we will have a problem.” 

Board member Jesse Arreguin voted against the project since Toan had not seriously considered a two-story alternative. 

“There are no other three-story second units in the neighborhood,” he said. “It is not keeping in character with the neighborhood ... While some changes were made to the design, they don’t really address the major issues.” 

Board member Bob Allen lauded the project. 

“If we are going to be increasing housing, it’s not going to be through high-rise buildings downtown or in the student dorms,” he said. “It’s going to be in the low-density, residential neighborhoods ... I have heard of the ominous shadows that this building will cast, but I don’t know why the neighbors are so gung ho about it. This is not the Arctic Circle, this is California. I can’t think of any house in my neighborhood that doesn’t throw a shadow.” 

Arreguin replied that he hoped housing would not be limited to low-density neighborhoods. 

“Family housing should be built downtown and in other parts of the city too,” he said. “And it’s true all buildings have shadow impacts, but it’s ZAB’s responsibility to determine whether this is the right design or if there is a design that minimizes the impact on neighbors.” 

Board member Jesse Anthony said that it was regrettable that children had been used to protest the proposed development. 

“It’s kind of an unfortunate house,” said Vice Chair Rick Judd. “Unfortunate because of the height, not the design. But unfortunately, it’s not enough to vote against the house.” 

ZAB chair steps down 

Board chair Christiana Tiedemann announced Thursday that she would be stepping down from ZAB after the meeting. 

Tiedemann—who was appointed by Mayor Tom Bates in January 2003—will be replaced by former San Francisco assistant director of planning George Williams at the next meeting on Nov. 8. 

Tiedemann, who represents the Coastal Commission for the California Attorney General’s office, said that she was leaving because of time commitment problems. 

“I have been doing it for the last four years and as it is I don’t have any free time,” she said. “I think there are plenty of talented people out there who can do this.” 

Vice chair Rick Judd will be acting chair at the next meeting when a election will be held to name the new chair and vice chair. Board members need five votes to win. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Signing of UC-BP Biofuel Pact Is Imminent, Say Lab, UCB

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

The half-billion-dollar biofuel contract between a British oil company and UC Berkeley, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), and the University of Illinois should be signed “within the next couple of weeks.” 

The signing will come within weeks of another BP signing—this one of an agreement to pay the largest fine ever levied by federal regulators for price-fixing and criminal fraud. 

The $373 million includes $166 million in criminal fines and penalties stemming from a March 23, 2005, Texas refinery explosion that killed 15 workers and injured more than170 others. 

The other fines stem from a February 2005 propane price-fixing conspiracy and damages caused by oil leaks from the Alaskan pipeline. 

The U.S. Department of Justice and BP announced the settlement Thursday, the same day a federal grand jury in Chicago indicted each of four BP employees on one count of conspiracy, 12 counts of market cornering and price manipulation and 16 counts of wire fraud. 

 

Final form  

LBNL spokesperson Ron Kolb and university spokesperson Robert Sanders confirmed that signing is imminent. 

“We’re hoping for the week of Nov. 5,” said Sanders. “It’s almost in the final form for review by BP and the (UC system) Office of the President.” 

The resulting Energy Biosciences Institute will research alternative fuels from crops, waste and coal, and pursue genetic modification of crops and microbes to create biologic refineries for transportation fuels. 

Research will also focus on reducing atmospheric carbon. 

Tad Patzek, an engineering professor who came to the university from the oil industry, said he wasn’t surprised the deal is near completion, but he worries about the consequences. 

“The university is getting itself into corporate relationships of the sort and extent of which it has never done before,” he said. 

“There will be a steep learning curve, and there will be some collateral damage,” said the Polish-born researcher. 

“The greatest impacts may be felt on the type of faculty the university hires, the types of subjects we teach, the graduate students we have and the kinds of research that will not be done,” he said. 

A small but active group of students and faculty have protested the BP research pact, but the concept received the formal endorsement of the majority of the university’s faculty senate and the blessing of its president, journalism professor William J. Drummond (who did not return calls). 

Protesters have raised concerns about the institute’s plans to engage in genetic modification of plants and microbes to produce transportation fuels, and about the potential threats of energy crops to farmlands in the Third World now used for food supplies. 

Another concern raised by Patzek and other scientists is the diversion of funding away from other possible energy sources, including solar. 

 

Second lab 

If the pact is signed as now scheduled, BP’s ties with the university will be solidified less than a month after the UC Office of the President and the Department of Energy signed a lease for another biofuel lab—this one funded by the Department of Energy. 

The director of the new Joint BioEnergy Institute lab in Emeryville—researcher Jay Keasling—initially served as a member of the executive committee of the BP project and was singled out along with EBI director-designate Chris Somerville by Chancellor Robert Birgeneau for his role in drafting the EBI proposal. 

Both scientists are founders and part owners of private labs researching biofuels. 

One university source said the school and the oil company had reached an agreement weeks ago, but that the contract was held up by government lawyers concerned about the implications of using public labs and scientists on a contract with a major private industrial firm.  

If the signing occurs as scheduled, the campus will have welcomed two controversial chemical giants within days of each other. A reception at the Haas School of Business today (Tuesday) will mark the formal welcoming of Dow Chemical to the Berkeley campus. 

Besides being a favorite target of pickets and marches protesting the company’s manufacture of napalm during the Vietnam War, Dow is being targeted today for its refusal to pay damages stemming from the Bhopal chemical disaster in India. 

 

Troubled past, fines 

British Petroleum, the former corporate name of BP, has an equally checkered past, including its central role in fomenting and financing the 1953 coup that ended Iraq’s only democratically elected government and its alleged backing of death squads in Latin America. 

The price-fixing charges stem from a series of ploys by officers of BP Products North America to corner the market on the main propane line supplying the nation’s Northeast and Midwest. 

According to the consent order signed by corporate officers, BP’s traders cornered the propane markets of two of the nation’s most populous regions in February 2004, selling the fuel at inflated prices. 

That effort, in turn, built on a bid to corner the market 10 months earlier.  

Though the firm managed to gain possession of all the available fuel the following year, its financial gains from the market cornering were thwarted by unseasonably warm weather and a pipeline break, ultimately costing the company $10 million. 

In admitting to the scheme, BP agreed to pay $100 million in criminal penalties, a $25 million fine to the U.S. Postal Inspection Consumer Fraud Fund, restitution to other companies of $53 million and civil penalties of $125 million to the Commodities Future Trading Commission. 

The criminal charges against the four BP traders were deferred as a result of the company’s agreement to pay the massive fines. 

The Alaskan pipeline leak cost the company $12 million in criminal fines and payments of $4 million each to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation and the State of Alaska in exchange for an agreement to forestall criminal prosecution.  

 

 


LPC to Vote on BHS Historic District Nomination

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday October 30, 2007

The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will vote on whether to nominate the Berkeley High School (BHS) Campus Historic District, at 1980 Allston Way, to the National Register of Historic places Thursday. 

Some Berkeley High buildings were designated as local landmarks in Dec. 1992. According to the City of Berkeley Landmark Application for Berkeley High School, the landmark designation protects the shop and science buildings along MLK Jr. Way, the Schwimley Little Theatre and the Berkeley High School Community Theatre. 

Six years later the buildings were included in the National Register of Historic Places, along with the other buildings that surround Civic Center Park. 

The other two important structures on the campus, Building C and the Old Gym, were placed on the landmarks commission’s list of potential historic buildings almost ten years ago. 

The Old Gym was recently landmarked locally, making all buildings on the BHS campus local or potential local landmarks. Nevertheless, the Berkeley Unified School District is going ahead with its plans to demolish the Old Gym and its warm water pool to build classrooms and sports facilities. 

Staff first received the nomination of the high school campus historic district on Sept. 23, followed by a revised nomination on Oct. 16. 

Since the City of Berkeley is a Certified Local Government, the city’s landmarks commission has been asked to prepare a report on whether the property meets the criteria for the National Register or not. 

Staff recommends against the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. According to them, the property fails to meet the criteria for the National Register based on the information in the application. 

 

1050 Parker St. 

The commission will vote on whether to designate a building at 1050 Parker St. as a local landmark. 

A group of Berkeley residents was perplexed in August, when the building’s windows were dismantled prior to a demolition use permit having been issued by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB). 

Demolition permits for any building over 40 years old in a commercial zone must first be reviewed by the landmarks commission to determine whether it has any historic significance. 

Neighborhood business owners and residents expressed concern when the tall metal-sash, multi-light windows went missing from the unoccupied one-story World War II-era building in July. 

The property, formerly owned by Pastor Gordon W. Choyce Sr., was recently purchased by San Rafael-based Wareham Developers. 

Landmarks commissioner Carrie Olson told the Planet that the multi-light windows had been the character-defining features of the building. 

Darrell de Tienne, who is representing Wareham, told the Planet in August that the windows were removed as part of an asbestos abatement process. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Police Blotter

By Rio Bauce
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Robbery 

On Sunday at 9:58 p.m., a young man evaded local authorities after he stole cash and a pack of cigarettes from Andronico’s at 1501 University Ave., said Lt. Wes Hester, spokesman for the Berkeley Police Department. 

 

Walgreens robbery 

An elderly Berkeley man stole a bunch of items from Walgreens on Stuart and Adeline at 3:39 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. When the automatic door didn’t open upon his exit, an employee detained him. At this point, he pulled out a knife and ran from the store. Local police stopped the man a mile away from the scene and arrested him. 

 

Road rage 

Shortly past 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, two men got into a fight near Grocery Outlet on the 2000 block of 4th Street. One male struck the other male and escaped. The suspect is not in custody. 

 

Witness / victim scare 

On Saturday, two African-American men approached a UC Berkeley student. One smacked him, and the other went through his pockets. The two men took a cell phone and a wallet containing cash and credit cards. The injured Cal student ran and passed by a witness who asked if they should call the police. After the young student said yes, and the witness began to call the police, one of the suspects noticed and chased the witness down to the bottom of the Downtown Berkeley BART station, where station agents called the police. The Cal student went to the hospital. No suspects have been taken into custody. 

 

Fight 

At 1:20 p.m. on Friday, two adults fought each other at the corner of University and 8th Street. No arrests were made.


Opinion

Editorials

Editorial: Remembering the Dead With Joy on Their Day

By Becky O’Malley
Friday November 02, 2007

Today, Nov.2, is the date called All Souls Day in my childhood. There was a two-tier system for remembering the dead in those days. All Saints’ Day, Nov. 1, was a Holy Day of Obligation, a day when everyone was supposed to go to church to honor the superstars, the church-certified superstars like St. Francis of Assisi. The next day, an optional church day, was for the regular folks, no better or worse than anyone else, who had departed for Heaven before our time, who might be there already or were perhaps having a temporary layover in Purgatory to get ready for the big time. We were supposed to try to speed them on their journey with our prayers on All Souls Day. 

As we became more sophisticated (high school and above) it was acknowledged that the fun and games of Halloween were derived from its Oct. 31 date just prior to All Saints and All Souls, and the really sophisticated among us spoke knowingly of the Celtic traditions around this time of year which predated the Christianizing of the British Isles. On Halloween we indulged ourselves in fantasies that the Dead (or the Undead) were still among us in some scary way, but only the little kids really believed that was true. 

My New England ancestors had a typically sober way of thinking about the dead, as exemplified in the Longfellow poem that I memorized as a child: 

 

Lives of great men all remind us 

We can make our lives sublime, 

And, departing, leave behind us 

Footprints on the sands of time;” 

 

Readers were exhorted to live meaningfully in the present, not to obsess about death: 

 

Let the dead past bury its dead. 

 

In more recent times, starting here in California but now spreading around the world, all kinds of people have become acquainted with the traditions inherited by the Mexican people from their indigenous ancestors. The Dia de Los Muertos festivities celebrate the lives of those now dead in many colorful ways, notably with elaborate displays memorializing through art what the departed did in life. Even though these offerings prominently feature skeletons, they’re not scary, solemn or sad, but cheery, or even comic. Adding this joyful note to the way we think about the dead is a wonderful contribution to our contemporary culture. 

In the spirit of the day, in my restrained Anglo way, I’ve been building altars in my head to the memory of those now gone whose lives cheered mine while they were here. I’ve been thinking about my friend Ann Tondu, who revived my interest in jazz and taught me to love opera. When it became clear that the breast cancer which seized her in her forties, much too young, was likely to take her away, she began, at top speed, creating a series of lovely pastel portraits of friends and family. Her picture of my youngest child at 11 or 12, which hangs in the living room, is an uncanny forecast of what my daughter would look like as a young woman.  

I’m remembering Elsa Knight Thompson, from whom I learned that there’s no such thing as “the news,” but that news is the concert of many voices, though only some of them are singing on key. Oh, and “establish and maintain a constant relationship with the microphone” when you’re on the radio, if you want to sound authoritative.  

Our mutual friend Pele de Lappe, who died recently, outlived Elsa by 20 years. Pele always seemed to me to be acting out the song of Mehitabel the Cat:  

 

my youth i shall never forget 

but there s nothing i really regret 

wotthehell wotthehell 

there s a dance in the old dame yet 

toujours gai toujours gai 

 

The last time I say her she was attending an exhibit at the de Young in a wheel chair, enjoying every minute of the experience. 

And while we’re talking about enjoying life from a wheelchair, I think of my mother-in-law, the painter Mary Holmes, who had crippling arthritis in her last two decades, but went on painting beautiful pictures from her chair even when she could no longer stand at her easel or hold the brush as she used to. The secret of life, with all due deference to the New England ancestors, seems to be finding joy wherever you can.  

The artists among us are the lucky few who can leave tangible monuments for future generations, but we shouldn’t undervalue the contribution of those who simply were good company at parties. Our cousin Christopher’s partner Glen could always be counted on as an extra pair of hands in the kitchen on Christmas, and he was a great source of amusing comments on family idiosyncracies.  

Some people are remembered because of what they do for others, in public or private contexts. My rowdy neighbor Judy was the hub of a durable commune for many years, and was a mainstay of Food Not Bombs in her still-radical middle age. Another neighbor, Roseanne, supported equally good causes in a much more ladylike way, encouraged a number of young people to share her love of music, and took loving care of her husband for many years after he survived a disabling stroke. 

When you start reminiscing about the departed, in fact, there’s no end to the list of those who are still in living memory. The glory of the Mexican tradition is that the dead are not simply memorialized by stone monuments, but their lives are displayed in an active, vigorous present-day context.  

And judging by the kids who rang my doorbell on Halloween night, here in California, those traditions should be part of all our futures. Many children who were wearing Superman and Snow White costumes were saying “Trick or Treat” in English even as their parents were reminding them in Spanish not to be greedy and to say thank you. Let’s hope that besides insisting on good manners, their parents are also teaching them to continue the Dia de Los Muertos idea of celebrating those who have gone before us, who live still because we remember them. It’s become one of the best parts of our complex shared culture. 

 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday November 02, 2007

A CHANCE FOR COMPASSION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Believing that credit should be given where credit is due, in all fairness I have to credit President Bush for visiting the Southern California wildfire area last week. With all that’s on his mind these days, like World War III—(oh, yes, he and Vice President Cheney dropped that little bombshell last week!)—it was very generous of him to take time out from his busy schedule to offer comfort to the people left homeless. Now you’ve got to admit that George W. is a master at comforting—be it parents of a 19-year-old killed in Iraq, visiting double amputees at veteran’s hospitals, and, in this case thousands of people whose homes burned to the ground. Yes, the man fairly oozes compassion! “We want the people to know there’s a better day ahead...tomorrow life’s going to be better. And to the extent that the federal government can help you, we want to do so.” 

OK, Mr. President, here’s your chance. Having sent Congress a $45.9 billion emergency funding request last week, on top of the $147.5 billion sought earlier this year, could you not siphon off one or two billion dollars for the rebuilding of that devastated area? I’m speaking as a taxpayer who’s frankly fed up seeing my dollars spent on destruction. I want that money to build and restore and give hope to people left with nothing! Would you do that, Mr. President? I know it will hurt, but please, please consider granting that $2 billion for citizens desperately in need of your compassion. 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I didn’t mean to over-simplify the illegal immigration issue with my one-paragraph letter to the editor. Considering how the United States was founded from the beginning—taking the land from the Native American Indians—a strong moral argument could be made questioning who’s land this really is in the first place. And considering the names of some of our American cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, etc.), well, its obvious someone else was also here from the beginning. (Perhaps the “English only” crowd could start a drive to rename Los Angeles “The Angels, and San Francisco “Saint Frank.”) All I’m saying is: If we’re going to continue to allow endless millions of mostly poverty-level immigrants to flood into California’s already swamped low-income housing market every year, then we need to take a very close look at all the ramifications of that. 

Ace Backwords 

 

• 

BUS RAPID TRANSIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I found Bob Piper’s Oct. 26 letter on Bus Rapid Transit nothing short of amazing. 

Nothing could more clearly show how our so-called transit “experts” are completely clueless, and one of the major reasons the transit systems in the Bay Area are not as good as they could be. 

His statement about traffic spillover should BRT be installed on Telegraph: “The allegation that such spillover with BRT would be worse than without it lacks analytical or logical support” is at such variance with reality I had to read it twice to make sure I read it correctly! 

Let look at this logically: You take a heavily traveled street such as Telegraph Avenue and take out two of the four lanes for BRT. You have halved the capacity of that street, so logically the traffic load will double on the remaining lanes. Let’s be extremely generous and say that 25 percent of the drivers originally on Telegraph decide to take the BRT (I don’t think any sane person thinks that ALL the displaced drivers will take the BRT). Therefore you have increased by 75 percent the traffic load on an already heavily traveled street! The gridlock this will create will be stunning, and remember that local bus service will be stuck in that gridlock as well. Drivers will look for alternate routes and this will obviously be though neighborhoods. This is not rocket science! 

As an AC Transit Bus operator I love the idea of BRT, I would enjoy working such a route. But by taking lanes away from thousand of cars (and local bus service) you would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. It will destroy reliable local bus service, and, most importantly, anger thousands of taxpayers who will be asked to pay for further transit projects. 

Dean Lekas 

 

• 

PROPERTY THEFT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today two men in a white utility truck marked as belonging to the university stopped on Dwight Way to take a bicycle and attached trailer parked on the sidewalk and filled with someone’s personal possessions and put them in the truck. They were moving very fast, as if they did not want to be observed. This is one of the most ignoble and mean-spirited attacks on a homeless person I have seen.  

Glen Kohler 

 

• 

BLOCK SCHEDULING AT BHS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a parent of a son who has attended two high schools with block scheduling and having discussed this issue with friends who have kids enrolled at BHS, I thought I would add my views to the debate. Neither school—one in Canada and the other El Cerrito High School—had advisories. On the other hand, teachers were able to get to know students and their parents better because they were teaching 90 students instead of 180. At both schools we had a “progress report” night in addition to the usual back-to-school night. Here, you could sit down with each teacher and spend about five minutes reviewing your child’s first month of course work and initial grade. This initial meeting helps parents connect with the teacher and feel more comfortable contacting them later if there are problems. I think this would be more useful than an advisory because it encourages the parents to get involved in their child’s education. 

The big downside of block scheduling is for kids who take AP classes—and for the teachers of those classes. At ECHS, our wonderfully dedicated staff spend after school and evenings between February and early May reviewing all of the material they covered in fall semester classes so kids are ready for the AP tests. Similarly, teachers for spring AP classes have to hold special sessions to cover all of the material of a course about six weeks before the end of the semester. Both kids and teachers are stressed out and I think it places an unrealistic (and uncompensated) burden on the teachers. Finally, switching the schedule from day to day is very confusing to kids, especially to those who may not have a first block class. They forget when they are supposed to come to school and often show up late. 

I urge the BHS school board and school community to talk to people at other high school with block scheduling and perhaps hold forums for students and teachers from these schools to share their views before committing to major changes. 

Gail Bateson 

 

• 

DEPRESSED AMERICA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just a thought regarding Bob Burnett’s Oct. 20 Public Eye column, “Depressed America”: Intentionally or not, acceding to the use of (prescribed) antidepressants, coupled with the constant media campaign about the “huge numbers of persons with undiagnosed and/or untreated mental illness” is better for the economy (e.g., PhRMA, campaign coffers) than a population or press that looks behind the headlines and questions the research. 

Kathie Zatkin 

 

• 

IN DEFENSE OF  

THE RENT BOARD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Mr. Sukoff’s letters of Oct. 5 and Oct. 26: The Rent Stabilization Board was created by a vote of the Berkeley electorate in 1980. The vote was overwhelming, and support for rent control and habitability procedures has received ongoing and consistent support from the residents and voters of Berkeley since that time. Nothing has changed, indeed, the stakes are even higher today. Tenants face eviction and displacement from such legal tactics as tenants in common, from sale of a property, and from redesignations to condominiums. The long-term, family-unit rental base in Berkeley has declined as new developments have catered to either students or to high-end, market-rate condominiums. This trend is squeezing long-time residents, the elderly, the disabled, and the middle class out of Berkeley. These are some of the market forces and some of the dynamics that the Rent Stabilization Board deals with every day, and I am glad they are here to oversee such important work. 

John Selawsky 

 

• 

GIVING VS. ENABLING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here comes that time of year again, corporate America along with the upper class and even some local church organizations just giving and giving and giving, so that we all feel so much better about truly helping those in need.  

The real truth and therefore the trouble is that this over-abundance of “giving” can often turn into extreme enabling, thus merely keeping the very people we’re trying so hard to help, down! Absolutely, the gift of giving brings so many smiles to young and disadvantaged faces for a brief time, but what is this actually doing to empower and enhance the lives of those we give to? Do we expect them to turn around and give back in return from the “other side of the line” the following year, thus eventually helping the less fortunate for the next time around? It sounds nice, however, what are we really creating here? 

The hard truth is that studies will show that most of these “just down on their luck” or folks experiencing “hard times” are becoming more enabled by these so-called “do good” corporate charity giveaways and end up being more dependent on the system, eventually doing less and less for themselves, while continually in search of more free handouts.  

Personally, I’ve known people “working both sides of the line” and it’s becoming a much bigger business on both sides with each passing year. Please choose your charities carefully and wisely so as to help those actually in need to benefit from and even be encouraged by the many good things which do happen during this upcoming time of year.  

M.J. Parker 

 

• 

ABAG’S IMPACT ON BERKELEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m delighted to learn that former ABAG Executive Director Revan Tranter loves what makes Berkeley unique (“Berkeley’s Population,” Oct. 30). Nonetheless, capital funding contributions from ABAG have had a devastating impact on the character of the town. 

ABAG loaned $72 million to Patrick Kennedy to build seven apartment boxes, all big and mostly ugly (and all sporting “Now Leasing” or “Now Renting” signs). By far the ugliest is the Touriel Building at 2004 University Ave. (it looks like it has a case of mange). It replaced a part of Berkeley’s former charm—the Doyle House, a historic structure made of clear-heart redwood that Kennedy destroyed long before construction began, even though a nearby landowner expressed interest in moving the house to his property. 

Kennedy has now sold the seven buildings for approximately $150 million to Chicago-based Equity Residential, the largest owner of apartment buildings in the United States. This sale was a logical outcome of the funding—Kennedy wasn’t building for love of Berkeley (I think it was about the money, after all).  

National corporations add nothing to the character of a town—they only subtract. Is there any possible benefit in having a major portion of Berkeley owned by a huge mega-corporation? Time will tell. 

Gale Garcia 

 

• 

McGEE-SPAULDING-HARDY 

HISTORIC DISTRICT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of the McGee-Spaulding-Hardy Historic Interest Group, we could like to express our long-standing and deep concern about the future of Old City Hall.  

This gem of Beaux Arts architecture is not only a much-loved city landmark but is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is presently used as the administrative building for the Berkeley Unified School District whose lease will expire soon. We understand that because the City of Berkeley has declared the building unsafe, it will need to be retrofitted to meet earthquake safety standards. Because the obvious time to retrofit would be as soon as BUSD moves, we’d like to know what plans the city has to determine the level of earthquake safety needed.  

We believe that ideas for the future use of Old City Hall should be explored now in public proceedings. We understand that a committee has been appointed to discuss future plans for Old City Hall. Who are its members? We have never seen an announcement of its meeting place or schedule. We believe that the use should be a civic one, such as City Council offices; various cultural and educational uses have also been suggested. Since the City Hall is located in the historic McGee-Spaulding District, we would expect to be notified of any committee meetings and to be able to participate in them.  

We are also concerned about the maintenance of Old City Hall. For instance, last winter we noticed that a downspout on the building’s north side broke off its mooring near the roof. It was eventually removed, but never replaced. This winter the rainwater from the roof will drain down the exterior wall. The damage caused by this kind of neglect is far more costly than the maintenance that would have prevented it. 

Old City Hall will be 100 years old next year. We would like to see a real celebration of this fact. What better occasion could there be to ensure that it stands for another 100? 

Carrie Sprague 

Lynne Davis 

J. Michael Edwards 

 

• 

AIR RIGHTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It has belatedly come to my attention that the city is selling an air rights interest in the Center Street garage. I believe that the City Council is making a terrible mistake by selling this valuable publicly-owned asset to a private party. I hope the City Council will consider the information contained in this letter before adopting the second reading of the ordinance. 

1. Did the city err in approving the project and should the city approve this easement to correct some mistake? 

No. The plans approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board do not indicate operable windows along the western property line. SNK is a sophisticated real estate developer that should have known that the project, as originally designed, would require the construction of fire-rated windows along the project’s interior property lines. Even if SNK claims not to know about building code issues, it is the city’s long-standing policy that mistakes made by a developer and/or developer’s architect are not the responsibility of the city (this can be confirmed with Jan MacQuarrie). 

2. Is this city receiving a fair price? 

No. First, while the easement describes the actual area being “sold” as 1,780 square feet, it is actually 2,180 square feet because the 20-foot long area immediately south of the fire separation will become unusable. The city’s appraisal indicates a value in excess of $800,000. SNK appears to have paid more than $6 million for its property (a $3 million-plus profit to the original developer, Seagate Properties), implying a value of $556,000 for the city’s property ($255 per square foot). Why is the city accepting $200,000? 

3. Should the city sell its air rights? 

No. The Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee has identified the city’s garage as a potential location for a point tower. A point tower could be 180 feet tall. By selling its air rights, the city is foregoing the potential value and re-use of this publicly owned property forever. No private sector land owner would make this deal. 

4. Does SNK need a 20-foot easement? 

No. The Arpeggio building could be constructed with fire-rated windows located three feet from the property line pursuant to the California building code. If the city decides to proceed with the sale, it should sell SNK no more than a three-foot wide easement. 

5. Has the city been compensated for its costs of negotiating this deal?  

The City Council should demand that SNK’s purchase price also include the significant staff costs associated with the negotiations of this bad deal. 

It seems to me to be poor practice for the city to sell easements to publicly owned property because of a mistake made by developers. No private sector property owner would ever agree to such a significant encumbrance for such a small payment. Once the City Council adopts this ordinance, it cannot be undone. The city will have permanently relinquished its rights to its own property. 

Charles Smith 

 

• 

THEN AND NOW 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I first moved here in 1968, at the age of 26, the cars on the streets were compact models, at that time foreign-made. Previously, I was back in Michigan after a spell in London, where the cars were small. Look at us today: one SUV after another. What are we thinking? 

H. Grayer 

 

• 

SIGNS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Recent correspondence in these pages about stop signs and cyclists calls to mind some road advisories that don’t convey an accurate message. 

“Falling Rocks,” states one. The last time I stopped at such a sign I waited for more than an hour, and not one single rock fell. 

“Blind Persons Crossing,” warns another. Nonsense! Observation over an extended period revealed that not one person, blind or sighted, used the crossing. 

Truth or consequences: Misleading statements like these have the consequence of inciting general skepticism of road advisories. 

Ross Morton 

 

• 

VAN HOOLS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a resident taxpayer of the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, and a regular rider of its buses, I would like to see the Alameda County Grand Jury investigate AC Transit’s purchase of Van Hool buses. 

The grand jury should look into the possibility of a conflict of interest, should anyone in AC Transit’s top management be related by blood or marriage to any representative of Van Hool 

There’s something rotten in Belgium—and in Oakland. 

Paul Slater 


Commentary: Children’s Hospital Bait-and-Switch

By Robert Brokl
Friday November 02, 2007

Thanks to J. Douglas Allen-Taylor for his ongoing coverage of the tensions between Children’s Hospital Oakland and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors over the private hospital’s unilateral—and successful—effort to get a bond measure for their seismic improvements onto the ballot, potentially jeopardizing the Supervisors’ own plans for a bond measure for Highland, the county’s public hospital. If the powerful Board of Supervisors feels blindsided by CHO’s tactics, which deliberately left them out of the loop as CHO quietly wrote a bond measure and hired signature gatherers to qualify for the ballot, imagine how the nearby neighbors of CHO are being treated. We were just as surprised as the supervisors at a recent public meeting called by CHO, where they announced their plans for a 12-story tower in the R-40, single family home area north of the hospital campus, between 52nd and 53rd and the parking garage on MLK and the freeway. 

We have known for some time about CHO’s need by the state-mandated “deadline” of 2013 to retrofit the “Original Baby Hospital,” which is gutted and engulfed by other structures on the campus. We feared the Baby Hospital was toast. But for CHO to justify this 12-story tower—a “state-of-the-art” facility with single occupancy rooms, as tall as the Kaiser Permanente tower on MacArthur—because three other buildings need work, was a shock. The classic bait-and-switch! 

CHO already owns and occupies several of the structures in the area selected for the tower—the Family House and Foundation building would be torn down, in addition to several family homes they’ve bought and emptied out. But the area also includes several houses with reluctant sellers, and CHO representatives, including the CHO President Frank Tiedemann and Vice President May Dean, refused to rule out asking the city to use its powers of eminent domain. 

In Berkeley, livable, indeed desirable, blocks of residences, can co-exist next to Alta Bates Hospital, which has been forced to buffer its impacts with street closures and small parks. The City of Berkeley blocked Alta Bates’ attempts to expand its emergency room with the threat of litigation. 

The neighbors of CHO are not likely to be so lucky. Historically, CHO has expanded ruthlessly by buying nearby family housing, keeping them long enough to become blighted, and them knocking them down in another wave of expansion. At this rate, we should expect to see CHO gobbling homes to 55th Street and beyond. 

The previous CHO CEO, Tony Paap, had a verbal pact never to expand (other than to the Research Center at Old Merritt) north of 53rd. In the new Tiedemann regime, we understand CHO has just acquired a charming craftsman duplex (formally home to two families—now empty) on the north side of 53rd and more purchases may be on the way, including perhaps the Public Housing Authority residences at the end of 53rd. But who knows truly what CHO’s short or long-range plans are? The neighbors (and North Oakland Councilperson Brunner, weakly) have asked CHO to come up with a master facilities plan for their properties spread throughout North Oakland. They have not complied. 

This is what we know so far: the 180-foot, 12-story tower will dwarf neighboring family houses, and lights from the tower will be a poor substitute for the sunlight, views, and privacy that will be lost. Construction will be a two- to three-year nightmare; parking, traffic and crime a permanent bad dream. CHO plans to move their helicopter landing pad to the top of this tower, so we will be bombarded with hospital uses by land and sky. 

Ironically, CHO has selected a staffmember to handle community relations who himself chose to sell his house to Kaiser rather than live in the shadow of their new parking structure now under construction. What advice will he have for us? 

CHO quickly got Mayor Dellums, Brunner, and City Council Precedent De La Fuente to endorse their plans, although Dellums suggested recently some consensus-building process should be followed. Brunner’s aide for this area told me he wasn’t even sure CHO would be required to do an EIR, although Kaiser did. 

The hospital and these elected officials trumpeted the Good News that CHO would be staying in Oakland after all, at a joint press conference, although Tiedemann, at a recent meeting, said that moving out of Oakland was never really on the table, since they had such an investment in infrastructure at this site. 

But why, as several neighbors have suggested, shouldn’t CHO expand by opening satellite buildings elsewhere in Oakland? Serving children’s needs IS important, but keeping affordable housing around for families who already live there is also critical. Does a hospital get to destroy a neighborhood of families with children for the sake of “The Children”? 

 

Robert Brokl is a 36-year neighbor of Children’s Hospital.


Commentary: Bus Rapid Transit Success in Oregon

By Steve Geller
Friday November 02, 2007

From Oct. 8 through 11, I visited Eugene and rode their BRT. This is a brief summary of the longer trip report on my website, http://berkeleybus.mysite.com.  

The “Emerald Express” (EmX) makes a 20-minute one-way trip between transit malls in Eugene and neighboring Springfield. EmX uses dedicated bus-only lanes (“busways”). People are riding the EmX and businesses along the route are doing fine. The route starts at Eugene Station, a transit mall in the middle of downtown, with bays for 19 buses. There are public rest rooms and a convenience store. EmX is a green articulated bus with two doors on both sides. The bus was custom-built by New Flyer, in Winnipeg, Canada. 

The EmX leaves the station and comes onto the first busway, a one-vehicle-wide strip of concrete marked “Bus Only.” Only the EmX uses the busways—not cars, trucks or even other buses. To make turns, cars cross the busway, but cars must yield to the EmX. Traffic lights nicely control this in most places. I saw an EmX driver give a warning honk to a car flashing its left-turn signal in the lane to the right of a busway. Because it’s free and there are two doors, the EmX doesn’t spend much time at the intermediate stations. Service seems to stay at the advertised every 10 minutes during most of the day (6 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and 15-20 minutes at other times, including weekends. EmX runs until 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and to 8 p.m. on Sundays.  

Eugene has two types of busway. One is a single lane of concrete. The other is two concrete tracks, with a strip of grass between the tracks. Part of the route is on a highway—three lanes in each direction. The bus shares lanes with cars, and pulls out of the left lane into the busway next to a station. Springfield has no busways, but there are only two stations there. I often noticed traffic congestion near the Springfield station. I didn’t see very many street people in either Eugene or Springfield—or on the buses. I got panhandled only once: a guy wheeling a bike asked me for 75 cents—that was in Eugene. Downtown Eugene looked prosperous and lively. In some places, EmX has a single busway for both directions. The change-over is at a station, where one bus pauses, and the other bus exits the single busway and veers onto a busway at the side of the station. 

The EmX is supposed to receive priority at signal-controlled intersections. This was not clearly evident to me. I did notice that the EmX got through intersections fairly quickly. In some places downtown, there were loading zones on the streets paralleling the busways. I didn’t see any serious conflict with delivery vehicles or parked cars. The EmX is an impressive and successful BRT. I think Berkeley has something to learn from Eugene. 

 

Steve Geller is a Berkeley resident.


Commentary: Political Criticism, Review of the Record Do Not Amount to Mud-Slinging

By Richard Phelps
Friday November 02, 2007

Exposing people for their true values and politics by showing what they have done versus their rhetoric is fair play in politics. Have you noticed that with all the hyperbole from Hallinan, Gendelman and their anonymous allies, they have not debunked any of the things we put in the campaign booklet. The reason that they are so hot is that they have been exposed for their duplicity. I have offered to debate any and all of them and they have declined because they are afraid of what the listeners will find out if their true positions are exposed. They like to stay with the controlled attack, e-mails behind our and the voters’ backs, and personal attacks with no facts, and the expensive mailer that says nothing in particular. 

Why don’t they have a position on the Program Council or the Democracy Now! time change issue or the unpaid staff issues in their campaign literature? Because if they published their actual anti-democratic, top-down positions they would be exposed. What would you think of a candidate for president who didn’t have a position on health care or the occupation? Trying to hide something, right. All they have said are general platitudes and on their slate mailer, conspicuous in its absence are the words “democratic process,” “transparency” or “accountability.”  

Compare Peoplesradio.net’s program with the Concerned Listeners. Most of the points below have been with us since 2004. We don’t want to control or run anything. All we want is a transparent level playing field with a democratic process for listener input (the folks that donate all the money). We want it to be “your station” all year long not just during fund drives. While they wrongfully accuse us of micro-managing, they have applauded their ally, Dan Siegel, for trying to prejudice the election in their favor in violation of Pacifica Bylaws and any one’s sense of fair play. 

Our 10-point program — a brief synopsis (see website for original):  

1. KPFA with no corporate underwriting. Listener sponsors the primary source of financial and political support.  

2. A democratically elected Program Council with listener representation equal to staff, and with the authority to make programming decisions by majority vote. Webcast the Program Council meetings, post the meeting minutes. 

3. Broader diversity in programming as well as increased outreach to underserved communities, including more labor/workplace coverage, progressive analysis of world events, and enhanced coverage of developing political parties and movements. 

4. Newscasts should be based primarily on progressive sources, and should include coverage of news and community events for areas outside the immediate Bay Area. 

5. Democracy Now should be broadcast twice a day, once at 7 a.m. (prime time) and once in the evening. 

6. Transparency in all station affairs, with an accountable process for management decisions at the station.  

7. Strong, effective and transparent elected boards at KPFA and Pacifica. Meetings web cast and archived, agendas and minutes promptly available on the KPFA website. The LSB e-list should be open to listener observation.  

8. Unpaid staff allowed to organize for representation on the Program Council, and to negotiate with management. Unpaid programming staff should be reimbursed for the out-of-pocket expenses of producing their programs. 

9. The station should restore a Folio with listener comments to inform and unite the listener community.  

10. Fundraising must be treated as a means to accomplish the Pacifica Mission. Fundraising must not inhibit the Mission or make information a commodity to sell, as is currently done.  

They only way to hold a slate accountable is to know where they have stood in the past, something Concerned Listeners conveniently leave out, and when Peopleradio brings it up they want to kill the messenger instead of dealing with the issues. I am embarrassed that some “progressives” could fall for these attacks with no facts and Siegel’s unlawful and unprincipled attempt to sway the election. Did Ohio in 2004 or Florida in 2000 inspire him?  

Matthew and/or Sherry, let’s debate the issues in public for all to see and hear. Or are you afraid of the history of CL and KPFAForward, your predecessor? You don’t want people to know about Sarv’s and other allies votes with Justice and Unity on the PNB against transparency, and to allow them to control WBAI despite the fact that they were destroying the listener base? Etc., etc., etc.  

 

Oakland attorney and mediator Richard Phelps is candidate for re-election to the Local Station Board.


Commentary: The KPFA Local Station Board Election

By Bob English
Friday November 02, 2007

The Pacifica Bylaws establish a collaborative, democratic process between listeners, staff and management with specified and shared powers and responsibilities, but not everyone gets the concept or wants it to happen. In fact, Concerned Listeners (CL) and their management/staff power allies are committed to the business as usual and status quo imposed by the old regime’s NPR/Healthy Station model and program grid, and are organized and funded to block and dismantle the transition to a democratic KPFA, to control what they can’t disable or destroy, including our elections.  

People’s Radio (PR), unlike the CL slate, doesn’t rely on financial resources to conduct a campaign in the fashion of the corporate two-party system; we don’t have the money raised through private events attended by KPFA staff stars, to send a mass mailer to all or segments of the 26,000 KPFA voters precisely timed to the arrival of ballots during the three-week election blackout at the station (no candidate recordings or statements or election information allowed on air or the website during the always numero uno fund drive--that is the only time it’s referred to as “our station,” when they ask for our $). What we do have and what we used to reach the same listeners is the free speech, democratic election opportunity of our candidate statements. Instead of the traditional individual “vote for me, here’s why” statements, we decided to do something unique and more informative with integrity: a collective continuous narrative statement, within the limits of the voter booklet format and random alphabetical order, to give truly concerned listeners a point of view, information and analysis which most can’t get anywhere else without being more actively involved or dedicated LSB watchers.  

We understand that whether we (as individuals and members of a pro-democracy caucus at KPFA) are elected or not, or whoever is elected, nothing will change at KPFA and Pacifica until listeners have access to and understanding of the developing crisis and continuing anti-democracy actions, presented and demonstrated with examples and analyzed in our statements--that is, the current top management, key staff, and CL control of important station and board positions and their domination, dismantling or disabling of every democratic or semi-democratic institution put in place by the Bylaws, including the Program Council, Unpaid Staff Organization, Advisory Board and the Local Station Board. Reading the CL version of a very limited advisory, fundraising role for the LSB (as Stan Woods puts it, like “Friends of the Ballet"), we can see that they, like the interim managers they support, aren’t rooted in and don’t understand or care about the history and principles of the listener movement and the mandated function and powers of a unique, historical democratic governing Station Board.  

There are few means available and rare opportunities to let listeners see through what is effectively a gag rule veil that covers up station affairs, governance activity and issues, informal power blocks and cronyism--the continuity and preservation, that is, of the status quo that allowed the old hijacker regime to gain power in the first place (while hundreds of progressive/radical programmers and volunteers were banned and fired in the 1990s and never returned) and that has replaced our once great progressive community radio. For an in-depth history and background of the hijacking, Take Back KPFA, followed by the SavePacifica movement, see Maria Gilardin’s “Why Did the Staff Not Prevent the 10 Year Corporate Raid, “ the “Chronology” and other pieces posted on www.peoplesradio.net.  

To those not yet familiar with the history or who can’t share or accept my analogy or summary assessment of current realities above, please look at another timely example and Pacifica media issue now being exposed and discussed: ask the organizers of this Saturday’s peace march, and ask station management and their staff front persons like Brain Edwards-Tiekert, why KPFA refuses to let them tape and play a recorded “cart” on air promoting the peace march and mobilizing listeners to attend. As LSB candidate and PR member Mara Rivera notes, this is such a disgrace to Pacifica and KPFA. This was, but clearly no longer is, the community radio station and network dedicated to peace and social justice.  

 

Vallejo resident Bob English is a People’s Radio candidate for the KPFA Local Station Board. He was active from 1999 in Coalition for a Democratic Pacifica, FreePacifica/listener democracy movements).  

 

 


Commentary: KPFA Elections: The Real Issues

By Brian Edwards-Tiekert
Friday November 02, 2007

Carol Spooner’s Oct. 30 commentary in the Berkeley Daily Planet states that the “People’s Radio” candidate statements in the KPFA election “. . . are not attacks on anyone’s character. They are factual assertions and strong arguments concerning the positions and actions of other candidates. . .” 

Perhaps Spooner should re-read the statements in question. In lieu of any substantive discussion of how KPFA can better fulfill its mission, they engage in name-calling (repeatedly referring to myself and their opponents as “the dismantlers"), launch petty attacks on the character of KPFA staff and boardmembers (“They only want your money, not your thoughts and input on how to improve the station”), and propose a paranoid conspiracy theory that puts me at the center of a plot to destroy KPFA’s elected board. (This last, Spooner writes, “should be of concern to the voters.”) 

To be clear: In 2005, when I thought KPFA’s board was charting a course that jeopardized the future of the station, I wrote an email to a group of people who care about KPFA that suggested topics we might discuss at a meeting—a meeting that, in fact, never happened. One of those topics was “recalling LSB members / dismantling the LSB”—asking KPFA’s members, via recall petition, to clean house on KPFA’s board. (I had just read a paper on nonprofit governance entitled “Boards Behaving Badly"—which suggested the only remedy for some boards made dysfunctional through infighting was "dismantling” them by stripping them down to the legal minimum number of members, then building them back up with fresh faces). 

I did not pursue that idea—instead, I’ve worked diligently as the KPFA Board’s elected Treasurer to build unity on the station’s budget (approved unanimously this year) and press for financial accountability from the Pacifica National Office. That has not, however, prevented some members of KPFA’s Board from alleging every action I, and anyone copied on that email, have taken since then has been part of an elaborate plot to destroy democracy at KPFA (how they consider a recall vote anti-democratic is still beyond me). 

The treatment of that email, which was dug out of the trash at KPFA, published on the internet, and has been used as election propaganda for two years running, demonstrates a central problem in KPFA’s internal politics: the tactic of demonizing one’s opponents based on their alleged motives rather than debating their positions based on their merits. There is simply no room for dialogue, compromise, and consensus-building when one party holds that the other’s positions are part of a secret conspiracy. 

What troubles me about Carol Spooner’s commentary is that the slates she endorses include some of those principally responsible for the KPFA Board’s culture of attack. 

Richard Phelps, running on the “People’s Radio” slate, has left me voicemail comparing KPFA’s staff to Nazis, flipped me off during a committee meeting (and then, when confronted, told me I deserved it), and dogged me with abusive and sometimes profanity-laced phone calls at my home and workplace. 

Joe Wanzala, running on the “independent” slate, has widely circulated an email insinuating that Larry Bensky is a CIA asset, published another statement calling former KPFA manager Nicole Sawaya “an integral, albeit passive, part of the long-term effort to subvert Pacifica” and, during the last KPFA board election, ghost-wrote and distributed an endorsement email that purported to be from Dennis Bernstein—which Bernstein promptly and vociferously denied. Beyond their conduct, members of those two slates have openly taken positions that would destroy KPFA as we know it: attacking KPFA’s award-winning news department; proposing to eviscerate KPFA’s music offerings; advocating for drastic cuts to KPFA’s staffing; attacking the very notion of professionalism while promoting a fringe political agenda sure to marginalize our radio station—“People’s Radio” candidate Bob English has publicly defended Pacifica station WBAI for selling copies of a conspiracy theory documentary directed by holocaust denier Eric Hufschmid. 

KPFA needs to do better. That’s why I’m endorsing the “Concerned Listeners” slate, a group of candidates who represent the diversity of experience that one hopes for in an organization like KPFA—combined with a commitment to bring civility to KPFA’s fractious board. They are people who will roll up their sleeves and work to improve KPFA—rather than sniping from the sidelines. The candidates are Sherry Gendelman, Warren Mar, Susan McDonough, John Van Eyck, Diane Enriquez, Antonio Medrano, Matthew Hallinan, and Paul Robins. You can read more about them, and their other endorsers, at concernedlisteners.org. If you’re a KPFA member, remember to get your ballot in by Nov. 15. 

 

Brian Edwards-Tiekert is a staff representative on KPFA’s Local Station Board. 

 


Commentary: Disputing Gendelman, Hallinan on KPFA

By Virginia Browning
Friday November 02, 2007

First, I’ve been watching the board operate at KPFA for over two years. I’ve gone to almost every board meeting. I started this to try to figure out how much screaming to attend to. That’s not a style I appreciate, but sometimes I understand people express themselves in less-than-optimal ways under pressure. 

While I am uncomfortable with some of the tone of globalizing and attributing of motives in the “People’s Radio” combined statement, I have come very reluctantly to feel that our beloved KPFA staff members are not operating as openly as I would like. In fact, I have come to find it very frustrating to unravel some seeming inexplicable moves on the board and realized the only way I could come to understand them is to realize some board members seem to be working extremely carefully to keep the board from functioning efficiently. My opinion: There may be some truth in the idea that some People’s Radio board members presentations at times end up seeming critical. However, stepping back and looking at things in a larger context, the frustration level of trying to get resolutions discussed and acted upon by board members and chairs whose tones are snide and whose studied “passing” and obfuscating stalls things probably takes its toll. 

As the deadline for getting this in arrives: 

1. Carol Spooner was also a lead plaintiff in wrenching the old hijacking Pacifica board back to KPFA and other local station control. 

2. “Sectarian” applies at least as much to the staff-recruited people as to anyone of the other candidates. 

3. There IS a link between the people named in the “People’s Radio” statement and the “concerned listener” block. To sign onto the “Concerned Listener” slate meant agreeing to precepts put forth by the recruiters of that slate. 

I do not want to demonize any staff members—beloved staff members. But a conversation does need to take place. Richard Phelps, LaVarn Williams, and their allies got access to Pacifica financial records for the first time since the hijacking just last year. They did this despite the efforts of Sherry Gendelman’s slate. 

The significance of getting access to financial records, as Phelps and Williams finally did, is that the new bylaws ironed out after winning back the station were supposed to give access to board members, such as Phelps, Williams and all board members, so that listener/sponsors had at least some say in where their money was going. 

 

Virginia Browning is an Oakland resident. 


Commentary: The Struggle for Listener Democracy at KPFA

By Noelle Hanrahan
Friday November 02, 2007

The situation at KPFA radio, some encouraging signs notwithstanding, remains grim. The idea of participatory democracy was conceived as a response to the crisis of the ‘90s, but has yet to take hold. Many members of the KPFA staff, who embraced the concept when it helped save the station, do not support it now that listener members have been given real governing power. In other words, while the 'savepacifica' era was characterized by solidarity between staff and listeners, the 'save(d)pacifica' era has been characterized by polarization between these two groups. 

The station management, as well as some staff, perceives KPFA’s listener members and the Local Station Board (LSB) as a threat to their control of the airwaves. Those in charge would prefer that the “unprofessional” volunteers” who help run the station take no active role in station governance or programming decision-making. They function autocratically and consider such entities as the Program Council to be a mere obstacle they can easily bypass. When Larry Bensky retired the Program Council which had been making programming decisions at KPFA for the last four years was not consulted about what to do with his time slot. Out of a pool of over 60 candidates, mainstream political pundit Peter Laufer (another older white male) was selected. Apparently no thought was given to dividing up the time among younger, more diverse, non-white voices. 

History is repeating itself and the agenda of the old Pacifica National Board (PNB) is still manifest among some who were ostensibly involved in the effort to save Pacifica. In October, 2005, Fred Dodsworth of the East Bay Daily News quoted current board member and Concerned Listener candidate, Sherry Gendelman as saying: "the board is bitterly divided…’undemocratic' is the mantra they're using to bring the network down. They're attacking the paid staff. They want to reduce the staff and move in more esoteric conspiracy theorists. Nonprofit community radio is still a business and it needs to be run professionally, by professionals...". 

Gendelman's advocacy against “unprofessional volunteers” at the station suggests that she, and her allies on the LSB and on the staff, either do not grasp what the struggle to save Pacifica was about or have resolved, without irony, to lead the station down the same path that the old PNB tried but failed to do. In many respects, we are again where we stood a decade ago. This time the effort is to drive the “community” out of community radio. 

The Concerned Listener group has sought to increase their power and influence on the KPFA LSB by cultivating ties to the local Wellstone Democratic Club. For the second year in a row they are running a slate of candidates for the LSB. While some LSB members who were part of last year’s Concerned Listener ticket seem to be charting their own paths, there remains a core group who are closely linked to KPFA’s interim General Manager (iGM) Lemlem Rijjio and interim Program Director (iPD) Sasha Lilley. Significantly this latter group abstained when the LSB, at its August, 2007 meeting, voted to support a resolution requesting that the iGM rescind her decision to de-certify KPFA’s 17 year old unpaid staff organization. 

Beyond seeking to eviscerate democratic governance, the Concerned Listener group has also sought to re-write the history of the Program Council. The 'Orientation Packet for Concerned Listeners,' a document apparently put together by the group's leaders, contains talking points which misinform the otherwise uninformed Concerned Listener candidates about recent station history. For example, the packet tells the candidates that the Program Council never had decision-making power, and that the dispute between the iGM and the unpaid staff organization has been resolved. Both pieces of this false mantra have been repeated on the air and elsewhere by Concerned Listener candidates who do not appear to have performed their own independent due diligence about what is really going on at the station. 

In closing let us urge you, who are eligible to vote in this election, to support independent, progressive-minded candidates. It is important that you select independent candidates who best epitomize listener democracy and who want to achieve it through collaboration and consensus with those on both sides of the political divide. 

Please consider voting for the I-Team: Integrating Independence and Integrity (names listed in alphabetical order): Steve Conley, Chandra Hauptman, Joe Wanzala and Tracy Rosenberg. For more info check out their website: www.radiopoetics.org. 

 

Noelle Hanrahan 

Adrienne Lauby 

Henry Norr 

Sepideh Khosrowjah 

Akio Tanaka  

Hep Ingham  

Perrine Kelly 

 

References: 

www.zmag.org/CrisesCurEvts/Pacifica/endgame.htm 

www.counterpunch.org/pacifica.html


Commentary: Redaction and Consequences in the Board Election

By Marc Sapir
Friday November 02, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the original letter referred to by Matthew Hallinan in his Oct. 30 commentary in the Daily Planet.  

 

Dan Siegal, the lawyer who was president of the Oakland School Board when that District was placed under the control of a state Monitor for mismanagement, has become involved in controversy at Pacifica Radio as interim Executive Director (while the newly appointed ED, Nicole Sawaya waits in the wings). Siegal, responding positively to KPFA management and Concerned Listener slate pleas to censor and censure the ballot pamphlet statements by members of the Peoples’ Radio slate, redacted the slates elections statements from the Pacifica web site. Suggesting that Peoples’ Radio election pamphlet statements are akin to “hate speech”, Siegal acted unilaterally without consulting Pacifica’s election commission. The Pacifica elections commission, after evaluating the situation, agreed—in part--with KPFA managers, that in naming names when criticizing managers and staff in their statements, the Slate had behaved inappropriately by violating the spirit of rules governing the local board elections but also found that there were no obviously slanderous comments, nor examples of hate speech. (my own reading, too, was that Peoples’ Radio had used this venue inappropriately but I find no inaccuracies of fact). The election panel ordered Siegal to return the statements to the Pacifica site. While Siegal’s initial actions gave a PR boost to the pro-management Concerned Listener slate, the impact of the reversal is unclear.  

Carol Spooner, well known listener activist, lawyer and leader of the successful Listeners’ law suit of 1999, responded pointedly to Siegal’s actions, claiming them to be prejudicial interference against a group of candidates in the election. Where Spooner had previously endorsed a different group of candidates—the independent or “I” team made up of Chandra Hauptman, Joe Wanzala, Tracy Rosenberg and Steve Conley—Siegal’s actions caused Spooner to urge people to add some members of the Peoples’ Radio slate to their list after they prioritize the I team. In a related minor incident, key Wellstone Democratic Club members, despite my protests, labeled me a supporter of the Peoples’ Radio slate—which they have repeatedly alleged aims to wreck KPFA and with having only a disruptive impact on governance, management and staff. When I protested that I too had some criticisms of Peoples’ Radio and so had endorsed the “I” team and not endorsed the Peoples’ Radio slate the Club was told by one of its leading members that I was lying, and later by that leader and another that there is really no difference between the Peoples’ Radio slate and I team lists since both groups are equally critical of current management.  

Clearly anyone critical of the policies or behaviors of current interim managers and core staff—even if their criticisms are reasonable, submitted at an appropriate place and time and factually based--is being labeled a disruptive element and an enemy of KPFA. These challenges reveal a battle over who gets to define KPFA, to represent it’s history, its program continuity and it’s future with respect to the political movement in the region. I have argued that no political grouping—not the interim managers, the core paid staff and the Concerned Listeners slate organized with management support, not the peoples’ radio, the justice slate, nor the I team group have any exclusive right or authority to lay claim to KPFA’s legacy or to control its future. KPFA’s strength has been it’s inclusiveness and eclectic character. Until there is a more formally united movement in the region, the left political movement in the Bay Area needs that this important independent station remains independent. And independent in this context means not only independent of corporate money and the power of the two major political parties but also independent of groups of a few hundreds or thousands of people attempting to use Board elections to establish an exclusive agenda or dominance allowing them to claim to speak in the name of the extensive non-participating KPFA audience.  

All the protagonists around KPFA readily recognize sectarianism, even plots, by their adversaries. But few recognize their own side to this dialectic. While being accused of concealing my (nonexistent) support for the Peoples’ Radio slate, I was similarly also being chided for faking the appearance of an aloof neutral “Olympian” (presumably the Greek gods). However, I have not been aloof, nor concealed my views of management behaviors such as the attack on the on-air advocacy of a protest that occurred this year. That I have written several critical articles in the Daily Planet does not mean, per se, that this critic is unwilling or unable to work with or compromise with those he or she criticizes. Like the I team members I have more than once offered my assistance to KPFA’s managers—current and past--and likewise repeatedly offered to help Wellstone Democratic Club set up a public forum to focus on differing visions of KPFA’s future (not on past controversies). If KPFA’s station board will only be allowed the role of a ratifying body for the management and core staff, growth and diversity at the station will remain seriously hampered, if not stagnant. KPFA’s future in this complex political environment of reaction requires a kind of diversity and inclusivity that can foster trust and cohesion with powerless communities. That is why listeners ought to elect representatives to the Board who express a clear vision of KPFA’s future role with which they agree. I hope that this vision for KPFA will reflect serious evaluation of criticisms, as well as inclusivity, dialogue and compromise.  

 

Marc Sapir, a local physician, previously directed the alternative polling group, Retro Poll, which focused attention on how Corporate Media distorts public perception.  


Commentary: Elektro-Smog and the Politics of Class Injustice

By Laurie Baumgarten
Friday November 02, 2007

Welcome to South Berkeley. With its 14 cell phone antenna locations and an unknown number of actual radiation emitters at each location, South Berkeley has become Berkeley’s elektro-smog ghetto. Any Berkeley resident who lives in a neighborhood without antennas is probably using ours! As far back as1996, the Communications Workers of America stated in their pamphlet called Your Community Guide to Cellular Phone Towers, “ In some cases, companies have chosen poorer sections of a town to build towers. Is this part of town being asked to house the eyesore and health hazard so the other side of town can use the phone?” 

Elekro-smog is the term German citizens have given to ambient RF radiation coming from cell phone antennas. These antennas pollute the environment continuously with low- level radio frequency emissions. RF radiation has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and cause cell damage in lab animals. Studies done in Spain, Germany, Israel, Austria, Egypt and the Netherlands indicate significant adverse health effects from living near cell antennas. In September, the European Environmental Agency urged precaution. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has classified electromagnetic fields as Class 2B carcinogens, as has the World Health Organization.  

The recent BioInitiative Report (http://www.bioinitiative.org/report/index.htm), published in August, 2007, written by 14 scientists and public health advocates states, “There may be no limit at which exposures do not affect us. Until we know if there is a lower limit below which bioeffects and adverse health impacts do not occur, it is unwise from a public health perspective to continue “ business-as-usual” deploying new technologies that increase ELF and RF exposures, particularly involuntary exposures.”  

Many scientists with excellent reputations have found ill effects from exposure to RF radiation only to have their funding cut off and their reputations ruined. The case of Robert Becker is an example of a giant in this field who had his lab closed and his career smashed in the 1980’s when he started alerting the public to the connection between power lines and leukemia. How can studies be replicated and refined if funding is denied and researchers fired? Louis Slesin (MA in Chemical Physics from Columbia, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Policy from M.I.T.), who is the editor of Microwave News says in an interview in October, 2007 with the Institute for Inquiry, a non-profit web-based organization and journal, “A new generation of scientists comes along, asks the same question, finds the same effect and publishes the results, but then the funding dries up and the issue remains unresolved….The major player is industry (electric utility and telecommunications), and its principal objective is to shut down all health research.” 

We need the health questions answered if we want our government to set emission standards that are protective. Instead, our FCC standards were set by representatives of the industry and the military, but there is a growing consensus that those standards are too low. Countries such as Switzerland, which both honor the precautionary principle and have good cell phone service, operate within standards that are 100 times more protective than our own. Must we in South Berkeley live in a degraded environment because we live downtown? How is Berkeley going to sell the concept of infill and density if living in these multi-use neighborhoods means being exposed to harmful radiation?  

There is also a growing consensus about cell phones themselves. The Karolinska Institute of Sweden has found a 39% increase in brain tumors on the side of the head radiated by cell phones among people who have been using cell phones for 10 years or more. Recently, Marcus Antonietti of the Max Planck Institute, one of Germany’s most renowned scientific research facilities, warned of greater danger than previously thought from these emissions. He has limited his daughter to no more than five minutes a day on her cell phone!  

The City’s own health officer, Fred Medrano, submitted a report in July, 2006, after reviewing the literature, that states that he does not know whether RF radiation is safe or not. Are the chances 50-50? 70-30? What percentage of chance makes it acceptable to irradiate people, young and old, people who happen to live in the flatlands? To date, there has been no measuring of these emissions to find out if South Berkeley is out-of-whack with other neighborhoods. 

Verizon is presently threatening to sue the City of Berkeley. If our local ordinance is thrown out in court, even those of you who live in more affluent neighborhoods may be effected. If tall buildings are the desirable hot spots, why not the Claremont Hotel, or the Lab up the hill? Perhaps you will find the trade-off of having towers close by worth it: The closer the antenna, the weaker the signal, and the less radiation going into your head. 

Personally, I want no part of this devil’s bargain. I prefer my low-tech cord phone, and I don’t like being a guinea pig. Class divisions aside, all of us are in this boat together. Our environment needs repair in many ways, and this issue of wireless technology is one of them. The insanity of the present type of irrational development gets even worse when guided by the proprietary interests of the telecom companies. According to law, when a company puts up cell antennas in a particular location, every other company can put up antennas in the same location in order to compete for business. This is called collocation, which increases the health risks to a particular neighborhood. If these microwaves can go through our walls, then they also go into our bodies, and no amount of tin foil on our windows, as suggested by Gordon Wozniak at our last council meeting, is going to protect us. 

So what is the way out of this horrible conundrum? 

We have to stand up for our democratic right to control the health of our community and protect our children and ourselves. Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna Free Union (BNAFU) believes that our city should not be intimidated by the threat of a lawsuit by Verizon or by nay-saying attorneys and technocrats who are afraid to challenge existing telecommunications law. We need to assemble a team of people who are passionate about this cause and who have legal knowledge from all angles: Is there no constitutional, environmental, or public interest law that could be brought to bear on this case? Has the whole issue of need vs. capacity and transmission of voice vs. film and music data been explored legally? We want our city officials to do EVERYTHING in their power to pressure the courts: We want them to use connections to Boalt Law School, to mayors and attorneys in other cities, to national Democratic Party officials and representatives to help us stand up for what is right. When we allow the corporations to muzzle the free speech of our government representatives, as The Telecommunications Act of 1996 does, then it is time for both moral courage and outrage.  

We saw that courage and leadership in Max Anderson, our council member, who spoke up for the people of South Berkeley at the October 23rd City Council meeting. He put forward a motion to support our local zoning board’s refusal to grant the antenna permit on U.C. Storage Building. Yet, because he mentioned his obligation to protect the health of his constituents, Verizon appealed once again to the federal court in Oakland to have our local ordinance immediately thrown out. We believe that our government officials, and city staff workers and managers should have the right to freely and publicly respond to the issues of health concerns without risking a lawsuit or compromising a positive outcome in court. The right to free speech should not be curtailed in anyway! The laws of the FCC are ripe for change by Congress but unless we denounce the Telecommunications Act, and take it to the courts- and the streets- Congress will not get the message. 

New technologies exist that do not emit RF radiation and are actually much faster. One such example is underground fiber-optics. From all I have read, I hope that wireless technology, which relies on radio frequency microwaves, goes the way of the Edsel. But more than that, I hope and pray that we are mistaken. Wouldn’t it be nice to have our cake and be able to eat it too? In the meantime, with cancer rates as high as they are, our bodies are saying NO. There are too many different kinds of environmental triggers for us to go into denial about this one. Our city council is still waffling on whether to grant Verizon a permit. Please support us by showing up once again-yes, folks, it’s a drag, but we need you once again- at Old City Hall at 7:00 on Nov. 6 to say to our representatives: DON’T SELL US OUT. STAND UP AND LEAD. 

 


Commentary: The Movement Against Cell Antennas in South Berkeley: Grassroots Democratic Activism Versus Verizon-Style Domestic Imperialism

By Michael Barglow
Friday November 02, 2007

As we come down to the wire at the Berkeley City Council this coming Tuesday evening, we face a dilemna that one city council after another around the country regularly faces. The telecommunications industry is shoving cell antennas into neighborhood after neighborhood with a very powerful economic and legal fist to back it up. The fist need only be raised when a community dares to seriously question a telecommunications companies’ corporate plan. This plan aimed at profitk results in pollution of our airways with continuous radio frequency radiation. In Berkeley’s case, Verizon threatens to eliminate our entire ordinance governing the siting of cell phone antennas, that is unless we bow down to their current demand for antennas at three separate Berkeley locations. Is this a form of economic blackmail? 

 

This corporate control creeps and slithers throughout our cities, slowly increasing invisible radiation and other forms of electro-smog into less affluent urban neighborhoods. Meanwhile the U.S. war machine murders civilians and lays waste to their cities and towns in countries like Iraq. The connection between the two shows up in Verizon’s collusion with the U.S. government in voluntarily mining and then quietly transmitting data, gathered through monitoring our private phone conversations, to our national government.  

 

The 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act has had the consequence of stripping local governments of any significant power to determine placement of cell phone antennas. The act also makes it impossible for our representatives to protect their constituents because it states that antenna permits cannot be denied on the basis of health. This federal law must be changed. But in order to bring about that change, community after community must find the moral courage to stand up. City Councils like Berkeley’s must find the wherewithal to back their communities both politically and legally. The Civil Rights law of 1964 never would have passed without the grassroots work of civil rights activists.  

 

A week and a half ago, thirty neighbors demonstrated in front of Mayor Tom Bates’ house to ask him to stand up against Verizon. The following evening, sixty citizens from all over Berkeley also took the time to attend a three hour public hearing to implore our City Council to stand up and lead. Following a and informed passionate and passionate speech by Councilmember Max Anderson, both the mayor and Donna Spring backed the Zoning Board’s denial of the Verizon application. Two more votes are needed this coming Tuesday to oppose Verizon once and for all.  

 

We neighbors care about our environment; we care about our community. We care about our children in ways that Verizon never will, in ways that the Piedmont developer and owner of the proposed site, Patrick Kennedy won’t either, apparently. Yet because of their economic and legal clout, both Verizon and its local landlord beneficiary have more to say about what our neighborhood needs than we do. This is neither fair nor democratic.  

 

South Berkeley does not need more cell phone antennas. That has been thoroughly documented.  

 

Support the Berkeley Zoning Board’s decision to deny Verizon twelve more antennas on South Shattuck Avenue: 

 

1. Join our demonstration at the Berkeley Verizon store on University and San Pablo this Saturday, November 3, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.  

 

2. Attend next Tuesday’s last City Council meeting at which a decision will be made to reject Verizon or to bow down to its demands. The meeting will take place Tuesday, November 6, 7 p.m. at Old City Hall, 2134 MLK Jr. Way in Berkeley. There will be an opportunity for any of us to speak at the beginning of the meeting. For more information, contact the Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union at: qubana99@hotmail.com. 

 

 

 


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday October 30, 2007

UC EXPENDITURES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Oct. 23 article, “Alko Ready to Take On Staples, Owner Says”: 

While it is correct that the University of California, as part of efforts to reduce expenses (every purchasing dollar saved makes additional dollars available for teaching, research, and public service), has negotiated special purchasing contracts with vendors such as OfficeMax, it is also correct that UC Berkeley continues to support Berkeley businesses, including Alko Office Supply. 

A recently released study of the economic impact and social benefits of the UC Berkeley campus (www.berkeley.edu/econimpact) reports that in 2005-2006, UC Berkeley purchased more than $31 million in goods and services from Berkeley vendors, and UC Berkeley students, staff, and visitors spent more than $300 million in the city annually. 

Glenda Rubin 

Manager, Community Relations 

Office of the Chancellor 

 

• 

SMART GROWTH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Will Travis’s Oct. 19 memo to DAPAC members: Smart growth might gain more acceptance if it were more of a rational theory and less of a textbook-based ideology. But then if its proponents addressed the real issues head on, they might have to acknowledge that smart growth is not an infallible solution. For example:  

Smart growth is generally associated with urban growth limits which restrict sprawl; in Portland these limits are state-mandated (in both Oregon and Washington). How likely is it that infill development will prevent suburban sprawl in the absence of any growth limits?  

Affordability varies tremendously across real estate markets (along with other factors such as demographics, climate, topography). In a market where close-in detached homes are virtually unaffordable to first time buyers, how likely is it that demand for suburban/exurban detached homes will lessen? And given the demographics of first time buyers, how likely is it that expensive condos will lessen the demand for detached homes?  

(And as for condo prices: The Chronicle’s Oct. 14 real estate section reports that the largest units in Oakland’s new “Broadway Grand” complex are priced at $901,900 for 2,108 square feet. That’s comparable to the median price per square foot in San Rafael.)  

Furthermore, many cities have unique circumstances that cannot be accounted for in a study, no matter how comprehensive. Berkeley is home to a major university, which generates tremendous traffic and ever-increasing demands on the city’s infrastructure. UC’s expansion plans, current and future, are unpredictable and largely beyond the city’s control. The city of Alameda has a different problem: it’s on an island with very limited access via aging bridges and tunnels—and the construction of a new bridge or “tube” is not at all likely. How much more density can either city accommodate?  

Why are smart growth proponents so consistently unwilling to acknowledge these circumstances and to work within their limitations?  

This discussion goes on and on and yet somehow never arrives at reality.  

Darcy Morrison  

Alameda 

 

• 

BULLIES ON THE  

BUSINESS PLAYGROUND 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A couple months ago in the Planet there was a brief story regarding picketers at Metro Lighting on San Pablo. Apparently they were striking because they wanted to unionize and join the Industrial Workers of the World, an organization dedicated to ending “wage slavery.” My immediate thought was, “This must be a joke,” but then I remembered this was Berkeley, where there are people who actually take this sort of thing seriously. But really, the Wobblies?  

Further inquiry revealed it was not a joke to the owners of Metro Lighting, who are now being forced to spend a great deal of money on lawyers. Here is a locally owned business that makes quality products, pays its employees higher wages than most small businesses ($15-$19 an hour), as well as fully paid health insurance and two week vacations, which few small businesses can offer. If that’s wage slavery, sign me up!  

Apparently this is the new unionizing tactic: harass small businesses that don’t have the money to fight back, and ignore large businesses that are far more guilty of wage slavery and bad treatment of employees. It’s the same tactic being used here in Oakland by the UFCW against Farmer Joe’s. Why are unions picking on small businesses and ignoring non-union companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s? If the striking Metro Lighting employees and their supporters at the IWW are so worried about wage slavery, perhaps they should be picketing the local fast food restaurants or national retail chains. Oh, except those companies might be in a position to fight back. 

Owning a small business is rarely a path to riches—it’s mostly a path to stress, and the ability to, as the joke goes, choose WHICH 80 hours a week you work. If these idiots and their ideologue friends at the IWW succeed in driving Metro out of business, then who will gain? The owners will be out of a livelihood, and all the employees, including the strikers, will be out of a job. According to the IWW, working people should be entitled to the fruits of everything they produce. Fine. If the strikers would like to have all the money from everything they produce, let them give up working for others and go into business for themselves. Then they too will know the joys of wondering where the rent is coming from, being turned down for health insurance, having customers who don’t pay their bills on time, products that don’t sell, and all the other joys of self-employment. 

For those of us who are not anarchist ideologues, perhaps now would be an ideal time to show our support for a small local business that is being harassed by purchasing a nice light fixture.  

Jane Powell 

Oakland  

 

• 

BERKELEY HIGH SCHOOL ADVISORY PROPOSAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week’s school board meeting was telling. Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp presented an advisory proposal that lacked a curriculum, a budget, any research supporting the proposal, and any mention of the one and a half hours of weekly academic instructional time that would be lost. And when asked about what he would do to find an extra 45 classrooms for advisory, Mr. Slemp could only hem and haw. (That makes me wonder about our recent $100 million school bond measure that was supposed to replace the 26 classrooms lost in the BHS Building B fire—that building was never rebuilt and a lawn has replaced it.) One school board member referred to the experience of a similar high school in Cambridge, MA that nearly lost its accreditation after implementing advisory. Another school board member asked why advisory teachers would only check student grades once a semester, if advisory was supposed to help them do better in school. Other school board members asked equally important questions for which there were no answers. Thank you for doing your job, Berkeley School Board. 

Peter Kuhn 

 

• 

WAR AND REPUBLICANS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

War and Republicans go together. The “war president,” Bush, in his rush to drag the United States into another war before his term ends, brings on the specter of World War III in a fit of insanity.  

Death and destruction seem to mean nothing to the president as he plays with unsubstantiated facts and figures. Every time W. tosses out more uncorroborated information about Iran, U.S. intelligence agencies are quick to step in and contradict it. 

Bush’s phony facts about Iran’s weapons of mass destruction are as non-existent as they were about Iraq’s WMD’s. 

Will Americans be duped again by Bush and his cabal and its propaganda? 

Ron Lowe  

Grass Valley 

 

• 

BERKELEY’S  

POPULATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I appreciate Robert Lauriston’s and Gale Garcia’s Oct. 26 replies to the Oct. 23 letter in which I challenged the claim that Berkeley’s population is declining. But their viewpoint still presents problems. Mr. Lauriston says Berkeley was larger 37 years ago, and that’s true. It’s also true, however, that (as in the rest of the country) average household sizes have declined considerably, so that any given population would need more housing units compared to four decades ago. I acknowledge Ms. Garcia’s correction about the availability of annual U.S. Census Bureau estimates, but would like to make three points:  

First, I don’t think the care and effort that goes into them across the country compares with that of the State Department of Finance, whose varied tools, from driving license information onwards, it would take too long to list. Second, we all know of the U.S. Census’s historic undercounts (especially of central city populations). The Bush administration is of course content with that, and has quashed attempts to give the Bureau the tools to reduce the problem.  

Second, these undercounts may well apply to estimates as well. We’ll have to wait till the 2010 census to find out, but it’s noteworthy that the Census Bureau’s 2006 estimates are lower than the state’s in Oakland by 14,300, San Francisco by 56,100, San Jose by 28,000, and Los Angeles by 131,000. Is it surprising that the U.S. estimate for Berkeley would be less than California’s? 

Third, the Census Bureau, just to confuse matters, also publishes (although not for everywhere every year) a sort of snapshot of changes, called the American Community Survey. It gives Berkeley’s 2006 population as 106,230—which does indicate growth since 2000! 

Finally, there is the curious and gratuitous matter that Gale Garcia raised—the fact that for many years (though not since 1995, when I retired) I was executive director of ABAG, the Association of Bay Area Governments. Apparently in some Karl Rovian kind of linkage, this is supposed to link me with rapacious developers: “ABAG’s power is about capital funding—largely for construction.” Anyone who thinks a program that reduces the public costs of worthy projects (UC’s headquarters, the BART extension to SFO, schools and health facilities throughout the state, non-profit housing efforts, and so on) makes ABAG into some kind of handmaiden of the construction industry is either disingenuous or naive. This is a program I’m extremely proud of, because, besides saving (like the insurance and risk management plan I also introduced), not only has it saved hundreds of millions of dollars, but it saved from extinction an all-too-modest regional planning program when Proposition 13 and huge federal cutbacks both landed on us at the same time. 

One last point. Ms. Garcia objects to the term NIMBY and says she’s “tired of the name-calling directed at those who try to preserve what is left of Berkeley’s charm, its revenue generating small businesses, and its wholly unique small-town—yet cosmopolitan—flavor.” I’ve lived in Berkeley for nearly 35 years, and it is preposterous to imply that those of us who think population growth in today’s metropolitan areas should, as much as reasonably possible, take place near major transportation facilities, have any less respect and love for what makes Berkeley unique than those who differ with us.  

Revan Tranter 

 

• 

FIRE DISASTER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

To all those citizens who fear socialism, a reminder—our federal disaster responses, which may be saving some of your homes as we speak, are socialistic. 

Gerta Farber 

 


Commentary: UC and BP: A Step in the Wrong Direction

By Ignacio Chapela
Tuesday October 30, 2007

When our students look back in time, it will be easy for them to recognize this as a key moment in history. The signing of the “bioenergy” agreement between British Petroleum and the University of California, Berkeley for a reported $500 million will be clearly visible then, in the future, as a very big step indeed, a decisive step in the wrong direction. 

At Berkeley, the bare promise of money has dulled the capacity for critical thinking and transformed our public institution into a secretive society manipulated by special interest grouplets. I shudder to think about the further consequences that the arrival of this money, and the BP associates carrying it, will have on our campus. Before today, the chancellor would already speak of “we” to refer only to those on campus who identify with his ideas, while the others, like me, are already defined as “them.”  

Any disagreement continues to be suppressed, dismissed as simply part of the colorful character of our campus, and the signing of the contract will directly fund the mechanisms necessary to entrench this suppression. Nevertheless, biofuels are now known to have been the wrong answer to the global warming puzzle, and the approach to biofuels into which Berkeley will be locked by signing a contract with BP is also already known to bring with it serious problems for human and environmental health. This reality is clear for anyone with eyes to see, most certainly for those unfortunate enough to live under the immediate consequences of its pursuit in places like Argentina and Indonesia. Time, wind and water will bring those consequences back home to us. With information available today, the only reason one could have to go into the biofuel program of BP and its Berkeley associates is to make personal progress, financially for sure and maybe scholarly, from the very flare of public support created by one’s own propagandizing. 

Other core values have been sacrificed already in the process of bringing BP to our campus and the ink in the contract with BP will seal their fate. Our chancellor and all the promoters of this agreement have systematically avoided reckoning with the destructive force brought about by this contract against academic freedom and also against an unencumbered public voice for the university. By hijacking the Academic Senate through brute force and parliamentary sleight of hand last spring, BP boosters have minted a new definition of academic freedom as the freedom not to be questioned on their financial associations, no matter how damaging for the university or the public. In other times this Orwellian definition would have been rejected as a grab for unaccountable profiteering, and so it shall be recognized in the future.  

But today any question relating to conflict of interest is swept under the cover of this new definition, making it possible for BP associates to carry out research, provide guidance in public policy, teach and train from the halls of our university while standing to gain most of their personal wealth from the consequences of their very research, teaching, and public opinion. The promotion of diversity and true academic freedom and the avoidance of conflict of interest are the most delicate values of our profession because once we lose them it becomes practically impossible even to see that we have: as we open our doors to BP employees and their associates, as we use the money that they bring to recruit professors and students who will by definition agree with the New Order for the university, a flood of acquiescence will drown out any memory of what a truly open and diverse campus could have achieved. In this process, society as a whole may gain a few upward ticks in the stock markets but it certainly loses irretrievably the values sown into the university as seeds for the future over many generations. 

This tragic moment for the public university and for biology represents, paradoxically, the natural but unfortunate culmination of Dan Koshland’s dream, a dream that became by deed of Koshland’s fortune Berkeley’s and the nation’s. Koshland can be credited more than any single individual for his obstinate dedication to transform the discipline of biology into what he defined as Big Science, just as it had been done by others for the field of physics that he so admired. In this effort, he conceived of his home, Berkeley, as the ideal place to bring that dream to reality. While this goal may have looked as desirable back in the ’80s, by the dawn of the 21st century it is clear that it represents the sacrifice of a whole discipline, biology, in the hands of a small, monopolistic political group which has successfully captured the name of science for their own visions, including the vision of Big Money. Whether Professor Koshland was able to see the tragedy in the natural consequences of his dream will remain an interesting question for his biographers. But now without Koshland his dream forges ahead by bringing the biggest players and profiteers in the geopolitical arena to dictate what we, and by consequence, society, should do with the Big Science that we have wrought. 

Koshland was wrong, however, in modelling biology after physics, and the jury is in on that judgement. While physics was able to speed from nuclear particle theory to nuclear war in the briefest three decades, biology continues to resist, half a century and many billions of dollars later, the proposals of physicists and chemical engineers. The New Biology going into the BP era at Berkeley may have new names and new faces, but it has not been able to change the fundamentals of living systems, most poignantly those in the open, public space: the loss of biological and cultural diversity, the spread of epidemics and invasive species, the emergence of new diseases for humans and their companion domesticates, all these problems continue not only unabated, but racing at increased pace.  

The interventions by our BP-Berkeleyans have already shown what a staggering power they can have in furthering, not solving, all these problems. Physics as an abstraction provides necessary but not sufficient understanding to deal in real life with living individuals, species or ecosystems, and those living systems will continue to resist from their complex biological reality. Part of that biology-in-resistance shows up at Berkeley every year in the form of faculty, students and many others who want to sustain the idea that we can do much better than proposing to steer the world through engineers and lawyers. A lobby of BP boosters, half-a-billion-dollars louder, will most likely overlook to our peril the power of resistance of those living systems which they wish would fade away. But the public would do well to remember, on the day that the contract is signed in their name, that it is from that very suppressed biology that they can expect any real answers to the questions conveniently shelved away for the BP press conference. 

 

Ignacio Chaplea is a professor of ecosystems sciences at UC Berkeley. 


Commentary: Support Free Speech and Open Debate in KPFA Election

By Carol Spooner
Tuesday October 30, 2007

We fought a long hard fight to win democratic elections for KPFA’s Local Station Board (LSB). One of the most important reasons for that was so that listeners could be informed by the candidates of the issues and problems and their proposed solutions. Imagine, if back in 1999 we had had the ability to communicate with all the members and to elect—and recall—the board of directors (through our elected delegates on the LSB). 

In 1999 Pacifica silenced its critics, fired them, took them off the air, arrested them, put armed guards in KPFA, boarded up the station and piped in music from Houston. 

Today, supposedly, the candidates have the right to lay it out as they see it, and the voters have the ability to contact the candidates (those who give contact information) and ask questions and make up their minds who to vote for. This isn’t perfect, but it is a hell of a lot more than we had back in 1999 when we had to ask the California attorney general for permission to sue to remove the Pacifica board of directors. 

I say supposedly because Pacifica’s current interim executive director, Dan Siegel, is now trying to silence a group of candidates for the KPFA LSB and to prejudice the election against them for their revelation of certain issues of real interest to the KPFA membership. Based on complaints from KPFA’s interim management and members of the “Concerned Listeners” slate of candidates for the KPFA LSB, all of the KPFA listener candidates’ statements have been removed from the “official” Pacifica elections web page at www.pacificaelections.org. (I have just learned that they will soon be reposted but with non-alpha characters inserted in the names of persons mentioned in the statements. That will certainly make them far less helpful to voters in deciding how to vote.) In addition, the interim executive director has posted an “Open Letter to the Pacifica Community” on the KPFA Elections web page at in which he characterizes as “abusive” and “hateful speech” the statements of “a group of candidates running for the KPFA local board” whose statements, Siegel says, “contain little more than personal attacks on their opponents and station staff.” He has also conflated the KPFA “Peoples Radio” candidates statements with a racially inflammatory statement made by a WBAI candidate, and has smeared the KPFA candidates with the same stinky fish-wrap.  

First, Pacifica management is prohibited by law and the Pacifica bylaws from making prejudicial statements about the candidates. They are not permitted to use Pacifica resources (including web pages) to the advantage or disadvantage of any candidate or group of candidates. 

Secondly, the “Peoples’ Radio” slate candidates’ statements cannot by any standard be characterized as “hate speech” or “abusive” or “personal attacks.” They are not attacks on anyone’s character. They are factual assertions and strong arguments concerning the positions and actions of other candidates and the station manager and program director concerning station policies and the LSB. Vigorous debate about these issues is the proper purpose of the elections forum, so that the membership can make informed decisions when they vote. 

It is true that in September 2005 Brian Edwards-Tiekert (a staff LSB member currently running for reelection) sent an email to a group of people to schedule a meeting to discuss, among other things, “dismantling the LSB.” Among those people was Sherry Gendleman (a listener LSB member currently running for re-election on the “Concerned Listeners” slate), Lemlem Rijio (who was then KPFA’s development director and is now KPFA’s interim station manager), Sasha Lilley (who was then a producer for “Against The Grain” and is now KPFA’s interim program director), and Bonnie Simmons (who is a staff LSB member, the current LSB chair, and an endorser of the “Concerned Listeners” slate of candidates). 

This is a matter that should be of concern to the voters. “Dismantling” the LSB is not the way to get good governance for KPFA and Pacifica. I am glad that the “Peoples Radio” slate chose to publish it in their joint candidates’ statements. That e-mail was widely circulated among those close to the station when it first came out, and the fact that it is now a campaign issue should be a surprise to nobody. 

It is an outrage that the interim executive director is issuing prejudicial statements and taking candidates’ statements off the web page.  

So, while I believe more strongly than ever that it is essential that the “I-Team” candidates be elected to serve as a core of civility and sanity on the LSB and a “buffer zone” between the opposing factions, I also believe it is important to repudiate the executive director for his outrageous acts, and “Concerned Listeners” slate for demanding this censorship of other candidates’ statements. That can be done by ranking “Peoples’ Radio” slate members after the “I-Team” candidates. This will also preserve some balance on the LSB, as the “Concerned Listeners” hold a majority of the seats that were filled last year and are not up for re-election this year. I would certainly prefer that candidates be elected who support free speech and open debate, rather than those who are seeking to silence and censor it. 

Here is my recommended order of ranking: 

No. 1-No. 4 — the “I-Team” listed in alphabetical order—you choose your order of preference: Steve Conley, Chandra Hauptman, Tracy Rosenberg and Joe Wanzala. 

No. 5-No. 11 — the “Peoples Radio” slate listed in alphabetical order—you choose your order of preference: Bob English, Dave Heller, Atilla Nagy, Richard Phelps, Mara Rivera, Gerald Sanders and Stan Woods. 

No matter how you vote, please do be sure to vote so the election makes its 10 percent quorum. The ballots must be received (not postmarked) by Nov. 15. 

For more info on the candidates and their slates see their web pages: 

• The I-Team: http://radiopoetics.org. 

• Peoples’ Radio: http://peoplesradio.net/election2007.htm. 

• KPFA Voices For Justice: http://voicesforjusticeradio.googlepages.com. 

• Concerned Listeners For KPFA: http://concernedlisteners.org. 

 

Santa Rosa resident Carol Spooner was a KPFA Local Board Member from 2000 to 2005 and a Pacifica National Board member from 2002 to 2005.


Commentary: KPFA ‘Concerned Listeners’

By Sherry Gendelman
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Concerned Listeners very much appreciates the Berkeley Daily Planet’s coverage of the current KPFA LSB elections.  

Concerned Listeners is a broad coalition of people active in labor, community organizing, and the arts. We formed because we did not want KPFA’s board dominated by sectarian groups trying to impose a rigid ideological orthodoxy on a station that has always thrived because of its diversity. Our candidates include myself, Sherry Gendelman, a long-time stawart and activist who led one of the listener lawsuits that saved KPFA and Pacifica from a hostile board in 1999-2001. We also include new faces like Dianne Enriquez, an activist with Young Workers United, and a former member of KPFA’s First Voice Apprenticeship Program. We have people active in unions and academia, like Warren Mar of the CCSF Community and Labor Studies Program. And we also have people with a history in the arts—for years, John Van Eyck sat on board of the National Endowment for the Arts as a trade union representative. Matthew Hallinan is a seasoned political organizer, and co-founded of the Wellstone Club. Susan McDonough works for the Alameda County Central Labor council, and has a strong nonprofit fundraising background. Antonio Medrano is a consummate community activist, co-chairing Concilio Latino of Contra Costa County, among his work with many, many other organizations. And Paul Robins, a software manager from the Peninsula, is tech-savvy with a solid background in labor organizing and Buddhist peace work. See www.concernedlisteners.org. 

We’re running to strengthen KPFA. We believe in a KPFA that is both radical, and diverse, embracing its original mission of using the airwaves for dialogue between contrasting points of view. We want to bring the station closer to the communities it serves, by doing hands-on outreach and organizing ourselves—not by yelling about how the station’s not doing enough.  

In this regard we welcome the statement by Dan Siegel, civil rights attorney, long-time political activist, and interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation. It is Dan Siegel’s opinion that “Pacifica’s local station board elections have taken a particularly nasty turn. A group of candidates running for the KPFA local board have issued statements that contain little more than personal attacks on their opponents and station staff. A candidate at WBAI engages in blatant race-baiting. As a community and a progressive organization we must ask ourselves whether this type of rhetoric is acceptable. “Siegel went on to say that the debate within Pacifica is often so toxic that it inhibits the ability of Pacifica to respond to the issues our time, and the in-fighting, he said, “saps the morale of our hard-working and underpaid staff, and discourages people of good will from participating in our organization.” 

We, Concerned Listeners, urge Pacifica’s members to decide if this is the nature of the dialogue they want those of us who are active to engage in. To quote Mr. Siegel yet again, Pacifica needs “leaders who will work to improve our programming, broaden our listener base, and attract needed financial support.” We, Concerned Listeners, urge all KPFA members to vote for those candidates who want KPFA to flourish. To vote for candidates who have expressed ideas about how this radio station should be run to the advantage of the mission of Pacifica. We believe that would mean votes for the Concerned Listeners slate of candidates. We want to do some of the things the board is supposed to do but hasn’t—fundraise for KPFA, organize town halls for KPFA, hire visionary permanent management. But we can’t accomplish those things if we can’t transcend the board’s petty infighting.  

 

Sherry Gendelman is a Concerned Listeners candidate for KPFA’s Local Station Board.  

 


Commentary: The KPFA Flap

By Matthew Hallinan
Tuesday October 30, 2007

When I was considering running for the KPFA Local Station Board, a number of old-time activist friends told me I was crazy. There is a sectarian fringe, they said, that has placed all their hopes for getting access to an audience by gaining control over KPFA. At the same time, they explained, there was a staff that had grown comfortable with the way things are, and that would resist any effort to change things. Anybody who would put him or herself in the middle of that minefield was just plain nuts.  

What to do? KPFA and the other Pacifica stations are a few of the last mass media outlets that belong to progressives. It’s just not possible for those of us who witnessed the mass hysteria whipped up by the media during the drive to war with Iraq to simply stand back and let KPFA slide into oblivion because we don’t want to deal with the nasty characters who are trying to take it over. All of us on the left have had to deal with nasty characters—and most had a lot more power than these folks! 

When I agreed to run on the Concerned Listeners slate, I made a pact with the other members of that slate not to run a negative campaign. Somebody had to break the cycle of mudslinging that turns off listeners and that keeps good people from getting involved with the station. We were going to be different. We were going to talk about our positive vision for bringing peace to KPFA and for mobilizing support for strengthening its signal, improving its programming, and reaching out to a broader progressive audience.  

Seemed like a good idea. We all signed the KPFA Fair Campaign Provisions, the fifth plank of which states that no candidate may use Pacifica or KPFA resources to publicly attack another candidate, station staff, management, or the Foundation. Seemed like a good way to ensure that people would talk about their visions for the station, rather than simply what they don’t like about their opponents.  

However, at the candidate’s forum broadcast by KPFA, one of the People’s Radio candidates made a series of unsubstantiated charges against some of the management, staff and board. The point of his attacks was to insinuate that the members of the Concerned Listeners slate were somehow linked to the events and people he criticized. We ignored it.  

Then, when the election pamphlets were sent out to all the voters, we were amazed to see that the seven members of the People’s Radio slate had combined their statements into a lengthy, paranoid tract. They attempted to “expose” an effort by management, backed by a “minority” of staff, and supported by our slate to “dismantle” the Local Station Board in order to seize power at the station. Management’s goal, they said, was to take us back to the “bad old days” before the listener’s revolution of 1999. The members of our slate howled foul. We were playing by the rules and got blind-sided. And when we complained of the unfairness of this, that their slate broke the rules we had all signed on to, and defamed us in the one mailing the station would make—Carol Spooner and Marc Sapir come forth to protest that our complaints are just another example of management suppressing free speech.  

I know it’s a waste of time and energy to get down in the mud with a bunch of attack dogs, but it just goes against my Irish temperament to give these folks a pass on this.  

The issues are exactly the opposite of what the People’s Radio folks claim. There is no danger of management turning the clock back to 1999. The power of the Local Station Board is now written into the by-laws of the Foundation. This charge is their equivalent of Bush’s WMDs.  

It is we, the Concerned Listeners slate that wants to bring democracy to the board and to the station. It is the People’s Radio folks and their allies who are fighting tooth and nail to keep a broad, representative local Station Board from being elected. Look at who is running on our slate and who our endorsers are! The People’s Radio folks are not interested in bringing new people on to the Board—people who haven’t participated before in KPFA and that represent progressive currents that may have different outlooks on many issues than they do.  

These folks don’t want to broaden the base of democratic participation in KPFA—they want to control the station. They think they are the “true” representative’s of the Left, and they think they should be in a position to define KPFA’s mission. But do they ever talk about this? Do they ever say what their vision is? No they don’t. They talk in vague generalities about ‘mission’ and program, and substitute paranoid and baseless attacks on others to avoid spelling out what they really want for the station.  

They are not battling an effort by management to take over KPFA. Management at the station hardly exists: the paralysis created by these people has kept a permanent station and program manager from being hired! They have demonized the management and the paid staff, and have tried to present Concerned Listener’s efforts to get the entire KPFA community working together as a subterfuge for a management take-over. These folks are true believer bullies who do not want to see KPFA become an authentically democratic station that can serve as home to this incredible, broad and diverse progressive community we have in Northern California.  

That’s what’s at stake in the LSB elections at KPFA. 

 

Matthew Hallinan is a Concerned Listeners candidate for KPFA’s Local Station Board.  

 

 


Commentary: Density: Cause or Effect

By Darren Conly
Tuesday October 30, 2007

In his well-researched Oct. 23 commentary on the cons of increasing the density of downtown and Berkeley as a whole, Neil Mayer provided me with two major negative points concerning increased density: 1) That it produces gritty, undesirable urban conditions, or 2) that increased density leads to gentrification and the ousting of working families. 

In support of his first conclusion he cites examples of denser California cities of over 100,000 people (i.e. cities that can be compared to Berkeley) such as Santa Ana, Inglewood, East Los Angeles, El Monte and Norwalk and lumps them as cities with “urban ills of every type, where low income people...crowd multiple families into a single home in order to afford the rent.” Mayer is right on in pointing out that a large number of dense cities (in addition to the ones concerned here) do have such social ills. 

However, an essential distinction that Mayer has appeared to have overlooked is between density measured as the sheer number of people per square mile and density measured as the number of people per household. For example, San Francisco, which by most measures is not seen as a “slum” (though it certainly does have its share of slums) is, according to Dataplace.org, the second densest major city in California at 16,634 people per square mile and has an average of 2.5 people per household. El Monte, which Mayer implies as fitting into the “slum” category (I have never been to El Monte myself, so I do not know how much of a slum it is) has a population density of 12,169 people per square mile 4.2 people per household. What this means is that while the presumably “beautiful” San Francisco has a higher people-per-square-mile population density, its residents are less likely to be living with as many people than in the “grittier” El Monte. 

How does this distinction apply to the impact of increased density in our city of Berkeley? Well, one key factor in how density affects the quality of a city is not the level of density itself, but rather how that density is achieved. By pushing for a denser Berkeley, one supports having more housing units per unit of land, not more people per household. If one promotes a denser arrangement of housing units in Berkeley, the resulting increase in pure population density would come about in a more positive fashion. Specifically, we could have more people per square mile in Berkeley without degrading the quality of life by cramming more people into each household. 

In answer to his second (and on a superficial level contradictory) point that increased density promotes gentrification and the ousting of working families I respond by saying that yes, San Francisco and Berkeley are suffering from a housing crunch forcing many working families out, but attributing such consequences to increased density does not logically make sense. Larger economic forces such as high-paying high-end jobs and a beautiful climate are driving up the cost of housing in all Bay Area communities, regardless of their density. San Francisco’s housing market, for example, would still be on fire even if Rincon Hill weren’t being built. In essence, density is often a consequence of gentrification, not a cause. I will agree that increased density may not help keep housing prices down, but my point is that it will not spur housing prices to go up. 

I agree with Mayer that density should not go unchecked and that 20-story luxury condos are not a good idea for Berkeley. I merely have sought to point out that attributing certain urban problems such as high living costs, crime, poverty and blight to density is not necessarily an apt analysis. 

 

Darren Conly is a Berkeley resident.


Commentary: A Moderate Position on Density

By Charles Siegel
Tuesday October 30, 2007

The debate about development in Berkeley has been polarized for decades, but a moderate position is emerging in the current debate over downtown height limits. The moderates support smart growth but oppose high-rises. I myself am a long-time advocate of smart growth. I have supported all the pedestrian-oriented infill projects built in downtown and on transit-corridors during the past 20 years, including the Gaia Building. But I am completely opposed to building 16-story or 12-story towers downtown, because I want to preserve downtown’s human scale. During the current debate over downtown density, both extremes—anti-development advocates and pro-high-rise advocates—have made misleading claims. 

First, anti-development advocates have claimed that Berkeley is already very dense, denser than overwhelming majority of American cities. But it is parochial to compare Berkeley only with contemporary American cities. Berkeley is much less dense than most cities in the world. Traditional European cities are made up of row houses and apartment buildings of three to six stories, and they are about five times as dense as Berkeley. Asian cities are filled with high-rises and are much denser than European cities. Europeans who come to Berkeley sometimes say that they expected it to be a city, and they are surprised that it is a suburb. 

Berkeley is also less dense than American cities were 100 years ago. During the 20th century, densities declined dramatically as American cities were rebuilt around the automobile. During the 21st century, our cities will have to be rebuilt at higher densities again to deal with global warming. Even in America, current low densities are a historical anomaly. 

Second, anti-development advocates have claimed that higher densities will not help solve our environmental problems, since building high densities in Berkeley will not prevent people from moving to sprawl on the suburban fringes. 

In reality, international comparisons by Kenworthy and Newman and comparisons within the Bay Area by Holtzclaw show that automobile use is inversely proportional to density. Americans who live in urban downtowns drive only about one-quarter as much as the average American. Because automobile use is the prime source of greenhouse gas emissions in California, building housing downtown is one of the most effective things we can do to counter global warming. 

Third, anti-development advocates claim that working families want houses and will not live in apartments in downtown, which will just be filled with students. 

But what would those students do if they could not find apartments? They would find houses to share, and they could easily spend more on those houses than working families, because they are willing to cram more people into one house. The result is that fewer working families would be able to afford housing in west Berkeley, north Oakland, or El Cerrito, and they would be forced to move to remote suburbs. 

Even if apartments downtown are occupied exclusively by students and by empty nesters, that will open up more houses for families in nearby neighborhoods and cities. 

High-rise advocates have made two claims that can be dismissed quickly. First, high-rise advocates claim that it will not be economically feasible for developers to build in Berkeley downtown Berkeley unless they can go to fourteen stories or more. This is obviously untrue, since the Gaia Building, Library Gardens, and other downtown developments have been built with much lower height limits. 

Second, high-rise advocates claim that higher densities will give us the revenue to build amenities such as parks downtown. This reminds me of the famous statement that a Vietnam War general made: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” If we have to destroy downtown’s character to build an extra park there, then I would rather do without the park. 

Third, and more seriously, high-rise advocates claim that, the more density we build downtown, the more we will do to fight global warming. This argument is made by planners, who tend to think in terms of abstractions. They calculate the precise greenhouse gas reductions under different scenarios, but they do not care as much about how it will feel to live in or shop in downtown under these different scenarios. 

Since Berkeley is a small city, the number of people who move downtown will have a small impact on global warming under any scenario. The most important impact we can have is to provide a model that other cities will imitate. I would like to see people come to downtown Berkeley from other parts of the region and nation, and to think that it is such an attractive downtown that they would like to see the same type of development in their own cities. Millions of American tourists go to Europe each years to experience traditional urban neighborhoods with buildings up to six-stories tall, and I think they would also be willing to build this sort of neighborhood in their own cities. Traditional European cities are dense and walkable, but they have a very comfortable and appealing human scale. 

I don’t know of any tourists who go to experience neighborhoods with buildings sixteen stories tall, and I think most Americans would not want that sort of neighborhood in their own city. If Americans believe that smart growth requires buildings that are massive and impersonal, then there will be a backlash against smart growth. 

There are high-rise neighborhoods available for the limited number of people who want them—for example, in San Francisco. 

I think the most important thing that Berkeley can do to promote smart growth and fight global warming is to provide a counter-example to San Francisco: we should create a downtown that shows other cities that it is possible to build smart growth on a human scale.  

 

Charles Siegel is a Berkeley resident. 


Commentary: Underneath the Shady Tree (Again)

By Winston Burton
Tuesday October 30, 2007

I was sitting outside at a restaurant, on Center Street in downtown Berkeley, when my friend Martin the mailman approached.  

“Hey Winston, what’s going on with downtown Berkeley and all that stuff you were dreaming about two years ago? Pretending you were sitting under a shady tree in front of a grand hotel, looking at a new museum, kids playing in a plaza, a creek on this very block, and a Jimi Hendrix statue down the street. Looks the same to me!”  

“Martin, Martin, Martin my friend, as I said before, sometimes you have to eat dessert first!” I told him. “If you mean DAPAC and the planning for downtown, we’re gradually moving forward to the end. But sometimes only visions can be enjoyed in the now, and reality can take a long time. If we had a dictatorship we could make decisions instantaneously, lop off the heads of those who object and move rapidly. But this is Berkeley! And we are striving for consensus, which takes more time, but ultimately in the end it’s worth it! Every body needs to take a deep breath and be patient.”  

“Well, what’s taking so long?” Martin said impatiently. I tried to explain.  

“People are concerned with the height of buildings, blocked views, sunlight and shaded neighborhoods, while others are focused on who or how many people should be in the buildings, open space—which every one wants, and how to pay for it! Then there’s build green, build smart and build in sustainability. Some people are passionate about preserving the charm and history of downtown, while others are convinced there’s very little history, nothing that’s charming so let’s plan for the future. Toss in the university’s role, NIMBYism, Bus Rapid Transit, classism, racism and best practices in Vancouver, San Luis Obispo and Paris. In addition to relevant topics about downtown businesses, density and capacity, over the past two years we’ve had presentations about everything else under the sun except a partridge in a pear tree or should we say oak tree! Trust me, I’ve listened and learned from them all, and I think we’ve got a lot accomplished! I’ve attended at least two three-hour meetings a month, for the last two years and have missed a lot of family time and Monday night football. Don’t you get it?” I said, my voice rising. “This is Berkeley! I could discover the solution to world hunger and Henny Penny would say I’m only contributing to overpopulation and global warming. You can’t please everybody!” 

Martin looked at me and said, “You sound kind of angry—are you burnt out?” 

“Not at all, I guess I’m a freak,” I told him. “I’ve always tried to be on time to hear the public comment part in the beginning of each meeting, which I still believe is one of the most important parts of the process. I will not be intimidated, and I’m determined to do my civic duty impartially. I actually enjoyed most of the meetings and I think that the other committee members were the brightest and nicest people I’ve ever worked with. I applaud them all for being willing to give up their evenings and family time to discuss and work on things that may never come to fruition in our lifetimes!”  

“So what’s next?” Martin asked. I told him, “Well, as the prisoner told the guard when he was being released from San Quentin, ‘My time is up, when’s yours?’ ” 

 

Winston Burton is member of the Downtown Area Planning Advisory Committee (DAPAC).


Columns

Undercurrents: Then and Now: Chron Columnist’s Take On More Police for Oakland

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday November 02, 2007

A couple of weeks ago, the Metropolitan Greater Oakland (MGO) Democratic Club held a journalists’ forum on the first 200 days of the administration of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. 

During the discussion, one of the audience members asked San FranciscoChronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson to give his opinion on whether the local media as a whole was treating Mr. Dellums somewhat more harshly than we had his predecessor, Jerry Brown. 

Mr. Johnson, of course, has been the local journalist most consistently critical of Mr. Dellums. Most recently, the Chronicle columnist has taken off after the mayor on the crime and violence issue, most particularly over the number of police needed—or wanted—to curb Oakland’s crime problem. 

In an Oct. 5 column entitled “Robberies Shut Enterprise In West Oakland,” Mr. Johnson wrote, “When I interviewed Mayor Ron Dellums two weeks ago, he said he didn’t believe residents wanted a police force so large that it represented an oppressive presence on the streets of Oakland. His answer so intrigued me that I’ve asked dozens of people about it—citizens, businesspeople, friends, family members, everyone I could think of. So far, I’ve not found one person who agrees with him.” 

Mr. Johnson expanded on that theme a week later, writing in an Oct. 16 “It’s Time For Dellums to Get Real On Fighting Crime” column that “despite Oakland’s soaring crime rate and its sinking arrest rate, Mayor Ron Dellums is being dragged into a public debate about hiring more officers. Late last month, Dellums said he believed Oakland residents didn’t want a force larger than the 803 sworn officers authorized by a public bond measure … [but] it seems the public groundswell is causing Dellums to shift his position on this issue. What gets me most about our big-picture mayor is that he continually ignores the big picture. He talks on and on about tackling big ideas and empowering big visions while continually side-stepping Oakland’s biggest issue. Public safety is the big-picture issue, Mr. Mayor. Don’t you get it?” 

Mr. Johnson goes on to say that “Dellums’ lifelong liberal politics simply will not allow him to abandon the social remedies as part of any plan to address crime, and Oakland’s crime rate and increasingly anxious residents, are not going to let him ignore the other side of the equation. The point brought home again and again by residents who attended the weekend town hall meeting was that public safety and adequate staffing levels for the Police Department should be the mayor’s top priority.” 

And then, following the MGO meeting, in an Oct. 30 column entitled “All Across Oakland, Public Safety is the Issue, Mayor Dellums,” Mr. Johnson took up the bloody shirt once more, “In recent months, “ he writes, “as I’ve repeatedly beaten the drum for Mayor Ron Dellums to step up the fight on crime, hundreds of residents have sent me e-mailed notes with their tales of horror. … Public safety is the single-most-important item on Dellums’ to-do list—more important than any redevelopment project, social movement or existing political initiative. … Oakland residents and business owners have spoken clearly and eloquently so often—and in one voice—that the city’s leadership must act now.” 

But though he has been tough on Mr. Dellums, in his answer to the question at the MGO forum, Mr. Johnson denied that he had treated Mr. Brown differently from the way he is now treating the new mayor. “My job is to hold all politicians’ feet to the fire,” Mr. Johnson said, adding that hiring more police—over and above the currently-authorized 803—is the mayor’s most important public safety responsibility right now, even asking for a show of hands from the audience to prove that the community agreed with him. 

But did Mr. Johnson feel—or write—that way under similar circumstances during the Jerry Brown years? Well, not exactly. 

In 2002 and 2003, towards the end of Mr. Brown’s first term, Oakland experienced a sudden spike in violent crime. Most noticeable, Oakland murders jumped from an average in the mid-’80s between 1998 and 2001 to 113 in 2002 and 114 in 2003. Just like today, violent crime seemed to be the subject of the day in Oakland, and on everybody’s minds. 

During the period between January, 2002 and January, 2004, Mr. Johnson wrote 181 columns, eight of them specifically on the subject of general crime issues. 

I’d suggest you read the columns yourself for your own analysis. In my own analysis, while Mr. Johnson wrote about Oakland’s crime problem as a serious issue, calling 2002, for example, “a bloody year,” and saying flatly another time that “the killings on the streets of Oakland have got to stop,” the Chronicle’s East Bay columnist never put the blame for the problem on Mr. Brown’s shoulders as he is now doing on Mr. Dellums’. 

And sometimes, in fact, Mr. Johnson appeared to go overboard in gushiness in praising Mr. Brown for doing anything about crime, even things that didn’t protect the entire city, but only Mr. Brown’s image and his own neighborhood block. 

In the summer of 2003, when Mr. Brown was loudly proclaiming the fact that he was living in a condominium in the old Sears Building in the supposedly “tough” and “dangerous” uptown neighborhood at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 27th Street, Mr. Johnson wrote two columns in the space of a month (“Brown Has A Ringside Seat For Neighborhood Crime—Drive-by Shooting Near His Apartment” on Aug. 8 and “The Mayor and the Mean Street—Brown Tackling His New, Tough Neighborhood” on Aug. 25) giving Mr. Brown props for living in the hood and trying to clean up the area around his front door.  

Mr. Brown’s “leisurely nighttime walks with his dog Dharma have been a lot more adventurous than they’d ever been along the Oakland waterfront,” Mr. Johnson wrote in the Aug. 25 column, for example. “Since a shooting occurred outside a karaoke bar near his home a few weeks ago, the mayor has brought every city agency within his reach— from the police department to the housing agency to the building department—to investigate the causes of blight and crime.” It seems to have escaped Mr. Johnson’s attention, or his criticism, that a man who had been in public life for decades—including serving two terms as governor of California and running for President of the United States—should discover the need to “investigate the causes of blight and crime” only after he moved in a neighborhood that had a little of both. At the same time, Mr. Johnson also ignored the fact that in the real violence areas and killing fields of Oakland—the Dog Towns and the Sunnysides and the lower Fruitvales—these anti-crime, anti-violence issues were not being attacked by the Brown Administration with the same zeal that they were being attacked on Mr. Brown’s own doorstep. 

And Mr. Johnson appeared to have sympathies for Mr. Brown’s challenges as mayor of Oakland that he does not now appear to have for Mr. Dellums. In January 2003, on the occasion of Mr. Brown’s second inaugural, Mr. Johnson wrote that “Brown aimed high when he swept into office, promising to fix the intractable problems of the Oakland Unified School District and put a lid on criminal activity. Four years later, he’s discovered that it’s a lot easier said than done. All the euphemisms about the hands-on work of a big-city mayor have come to pass, and Brown finds himself without the financial resources, influence and authority he held as governor.” 

Not that Mr. Johnson always went easy on Mr. Brown, it’s just that he wasn’t hard on Mr. Brown in the area of crime and violence. In July 2003, for example, Mr. Johnson wrote that the “biggest worst decision” of the Brown Administration was the firing of City Administrator Robert Bobb, with no mention of crime prevention as one of Mr. Bobb’s priorities. 

But Mr. Johnson did have concerns about crime and violence in 2002 and 2003, even if he didn’t seem to think those should be Mr. Brown’s biggest concerns, except that Mr. Johnson’s solutions at the time of the Brown Administration appeared to be 180 degrees the opposite of what he is saying now during the Dellums administration. 

It was in a March 13, 2002 column “Renaissance Doesn’t Reach City’s Poor—Police Chief May Have Solution To End Killings” that Mr. Johnson gave his most comprehensive view on how he thought Oakland’s crime and violence problem should be addressed during the Jerry Brown years. 

We quote, at length. 

Writing of Mr. Brown’s first mayoral term, Mr. Johnson said that “nothing has changed in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, where job opportunities are scarce, drugs are being sold from street corners, community spirit is waning and frustration is growing. And people are getting killed … Brown now wants a parcel tax to hire more police officers, an iron-fist approach to street crime and tighter controls on the city’s 11,000 parolees. That’s a rather predictable formula for tackling crime from a man who as California’s governor once suggested that the state launch its own satellites. What Oakland needs now is an idea as radical as that to stop the street killings before they drive the city’s murder rate higher, and its public image lower … For all that’s been said about a new, more efficient, creative local government, it’s [then] Police Chief Richard Word who is thinking outside the box this time. ‘I think the next step has to be reaching out directly to the youngsters we find on the corners who are selling drugs, not working and lacking educational skills,’ Word said … For his part, Brown has used the recent killing spree as a political soapbox to promote a parcel tax to hire more officers. … More police patrols will help law-abiding neighborhood residents for the time being, but … [I]f Brown wants to … engineer a turnaround that would be the envy of the nation, [he] will have to find a way to empower the poorest residents in a city where kids can look up at lavish hillside homes and dream—and sometimes scheme—on how to get there. “ 

Sounds like the same anti-violence programs Mr. Dellums is advocating today, the “social remedies” solution Mr. Johnson is now roundly criticizing the mayor for being unable to give up. 

Why, in Mr. Johnson’s view, were more police only a stopgap solution to Oakland’s crime problem under Jerry Brown, but now be-all and end-all under Ron Dellums? Hell if I know. You’ll have to ask Mr. Johnson yourself, about that. 

 

 

 


East Bay Then and Now: Maybeck’s Boke House: Made by One Crusader for Another

By Daniella Thompson
Friday November 02, 2007

On November 14, 1901 an item in the Berkeley Daily Gazette informed: 

 

Swiss Chalets for Hillside Homes. 

Frederick H. Clark, secretary of the Homestead Loan Association of Berkeley and three kindred associations in San Francisco, is improving the property recently purchased by him in the University Terrace tract. This scenic plat is situated at the head of Channing way on a gentle declivity and is very beautifully located. 

Mr. Clark will build for Prof. G.H. Boke, and Margaret Deane [sic], handsome Swiss chalets which are the creation of Architect Meybeck [sic]. A.H. Broad, the contractor, will begin work at once. 

 

The article was referring to the houses at 23 and 25 Panoramic Way, only one of which—the former—was designed by Maybeck. It was the dwelling built for George H. Boke, a law instructor at the University of California, who at the time was residing with his wife and three children nearby, at 2630 Channing Way. Banker Frederick H. Clark was apparently the deed holder on both “chalets,” since Boke was never listed in the assessor’s records, and his neighbor, Margaret A. Dean (grandmother of Dan Dean, our former mayor’s husband) does not appear in those records until 1908. Both houses were completed on February 14, 1902. 

George Henry Boke (1869–1929) was born in Placer County, California. His father, Nick Boke, was an immigrant from the duchy of Saxe-Coburg in Bavaria. His mother, Orange Ann, was a mere kid of seventeen when she gave birth to him. At the time, the Bokes were living in Dutch Flat, a town settled by German miners in 1851. Nick worked as a store clerk. 

Ten years later, Orange was married to apiarist Jerry Moulton, and the family resided in Saticoy, Ventura County, where the fruit orchards provided ready fodder for Jerry’s bees. Nevertheless, the apiarist turned carpenter, and the Moultons trekked up north to Nelson, in Butte County. 

The road from working-class life in the sticks to a Berkeley law professorship, remarkable as it is today, was practically unheard of a century ago, and young George Boke passed through numerous stations along the way. In 1887, he graduated from the State Normal School at San Jose, obtaining a teaching certificate. After teaching for a short while in Modoc County, he became principal of the school at Newcastle, Placer County. 

The early 1890s found him a student at Berkeley, where he graduated in 1894, in the class of Julia Morgan and Frank Norris. By 1900, Boke had spent two years at Harvard, from which obtained an M.A. and later an LL.B.. Along the way he had married Grace Sophia Bray of San Francisco and fathered three daughters. 

On May 21, 1900, Boke was appointed instructor in jurisprudence at the University of California. By 1903, he was also the head of the YMCA night school. His trajectory at the university can be traced through city directory listings that show his rise from instructor to assistant professor, associate professor, and professor in the course of four years. 

In 1906, Boke was lured to Stanford to teach a course on property. By the following year, however, he was back at Berkeley and suggested to his students the desirability of forming an anti-graft league with branches in all American universities. The inspiration, reported the San Francisco Call on April 23, 1907, came to Boke after hearing a talk by Francis J. Heney, the special federal prosecutor who had been brought to San Francisco to prosecute Mayor Eugene Schmitz and Boss Abe Ruef for bribery. Speaking at a university meeting, Heney “declared that grafters flourished because only a few voters interested themselves in the business of the municipality, and the vast majority was ignorant of what was taking place. Professor Boke believes that college men should institute a movement to promote knowledge of civic affairs throughout the country, and at his suggestion a number of students are laying the foundation for an intercollegiate league, to be used as a weapon against municipal graft and all other sorts of grafts.” 

After the attempted assassination of a witness in the graft trial, a Citizens’ League of Justice was organized, and Boke agreed to become its executive officer. In his book “The System”: As Uncovered by the San Francisco Graft Prosecution (1915), Franklin Hichborn wrote, “In spite of the fact that he was jeopardizing his position at the State University by his course, Professor Boke did much effective work in bringing the conditions which confronted San Francisco squarely before the public.” 

Boke participated in the birth of the non-partisan Good Government League and in 1908 founded The Liberator, a weekly published by the Citizens’ League of Justice. He was also instrumental in raising funds for the new Boalt Hall of Law (now Durant Hall). When the building’s projected costs mounted 50% above Elizabeth Boalt’s bequest, Boke raised the balance by soliciting the lawyers of California. It is said that the Napa County lawyers’ association specified that its pledge would be paid after the harvesting of the raisin crop. 

As it turned out, Boke’s crusading did put a stop to his academic career when the reformers’ efforts began to implicate members of the U.C. Board of Regents. Although the Regents couldn’t fire Boke, he was shunted aside and spent the rest of his life between Carmel and San Francisco. While retaining the title of Professor of Law, he engaged in independent work, writing books and articles and speaking at legal gatherings. Although his friend Lincoln Steffens would posthumously paint Boke’s life as tragic, it was hardly as lonely and isolated as portrayed.  

Maybeck and Boke had much in common. Both were crusaders and lovers of amateur theatricals. In July 1910, Boke participated in Carmel’s first al fresco stage production, playing the prophet Samuel in Constance Skinner’s biblical drama David, mounted in a pine grove. “He was a striking, picturesque figure, admirably gowned and wigged in white,” marveled Walter Anthony in the San Francisco Call. 

Maybeck’s design for the Boke house was both traditional and advanced for its time. The upper story, clad in vertical redwood boards, extends two feet beyond the first floor, where the boards are horizontal. Two wings of a broadly overhanging roof part to admit a central gable with a pair of double casement windows. A trio of casements appears just below, in a square bay projecting from the first floor façade. On the north side, an open sleeping balcony is a reminder of hardier generations. 

The living and dining rooms are arranged in an open ell with no separating doors. Both are paneled in board-and-batten redwood, with exposed posts and beams and decorative bolster blocks. Atypically for Maybeck, the fireplace is small, with a simple bracketed wooden mantel and tile surround. The four bedrooms on the second floor are equally rustic, finished in redwood, originally stained a mossy green, and exposing the ceiling framework. 

The Boke house caused repercussions in Berkeley and beyond. An exact copy of it was built in Oakland. Maybeck’s office records indicate that duplicate plans were sent to Aberdeen, Washington in 1906 for the J. B. Elston house. Berkeley houses that appear to bear the Boke stamp are the neighboring Dean house (A.H. Broad, 1901); the Warren Cheney cottage (Carl Ericsson, 1902); the de Neiman house at 21 Hillside Court (builder unknown, 1906); and Carl Ericsson’s house at 1625 Jayne Court (1909). 

Boke’s tenure at 23 Panoramic Way was brief. From 1904 until 1913 or so, he rented homes at various locations in Berkeley, never again owning a house except the one in Carmel, built in 1906. His son Richard described it as a “modern” redwood house, which “shows somewhat the Maybeck influence.” 

Boke was succeeded at 23 Panoramic Way by Clifton Price (1867–1942), a professor of Latin who would later add to his holdings the Jerome C. Ford apartment house at 77 Panoramic (A.H. Broad, 1904) and commission Julia Morgan in 1912 to build another apartment house at 5–11 Panoramic. In 1920, he was recorded in the U.S. Census as sharing the 4-bedroom Boke house with his wife, three children, a brother-in-law, two cousins, and a servant. But the arrangement was short lived, as Price regularly moved his residence from one property to another. In 1924, Price married his second wife, Wilson Holden (1895–1979), who lived in the Boke house for the rest of her life. The current owners bought it from her estate in 1980. 

 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 

 

 

 

Photograph by Daniella Thompson.  

The George Boke house, above, at 23 Panoramic Way. George Boke raised a third of the building funds for the original Boalt Hall, below, now known as Durant Hall.


Garden Variety: Take a Nursery Jaunt Up Tomales Bay

By Ron Sullivan
Friday November 02, 2007

Mostly Natives is a classic, and worth a jaunt on a nice day. If you’re the sort of traveler who appreciates dramatic and various weather shows, that would include the average rainy spell; the rolling curtains and airborne leviathans of fog and cloud that unroll across the Richmond—San Rafael Bridge and lie in the folds of Marin County, alternately dazzling and shrouding you on the road are one of our particular local pleasures.  

Aside from being a retailer, Mostly Natives is a wholesale source of California native plants. When I see its tags in other nurseries, I take it as a sign of good buying practices. 

The retail stock is exciting to native-plant mavens: rare things like fawn lily and Sierra rose (I've seen three native rose species here), and merely unusual and handsome things like ninebark, ocean spray, the natives Iris macrosiphon and I. douglasiana as well as the more commonly found Pacific Coast Hybrid irises.  

There are more species of native bunchgrass than you can shake a stick at, and they're available as gallon-size or four-inch plants. Showy and useful non-native grasses and grasslikes such as those brass-colored carexes share display space with them, always labeled as to origin. 

Native shrub youngsters are here in the four-inch size, too, to stretch your dollar and allow flexibility in use. It’s a good idea to plant small when you can, because you don’t have to dig as big a hole—less labor and less disturbance of the soil—and a younger plant tends to suffer less from transplant shock. It’ll catch up to something planted at a larger size within a year or three.  

These people clearly know what they’re doing; the stock is healthy, questions get answered, and the informational tags are a horticulture course in themselves, with details like which plants are native to the Bay Area; what their cultural preferences are, vis-à-vis water, drainage, sun, and other details; what they’ll tolerate, for example, wind and salt spray near the ocean; and which ones do well in containers. There’s great information on the Web site, too. 

“Mostly” isn’t misleading, either; there are other plants here, a small but choice assortment, and generally as robust and inviting as the natives. Herbs we’ve picked up there over the years have included classics like lemon balm, and slightly adventurous things like Thai basil; when we dropped in there last month, though, there were fewer herbs on sale than usual. I suspect this might be a seasonal thing. 

The edibles are the sort of thing you want if you have precious little dirt space to squander. Prices are good for natives and exotics both. You can get soil amendments and tools here, too, if you can resist spending your whole budget on plants.  

If your timing and budget are right, you can also stop for barbecued oysters on the way along Tomales Bay, at Tony’s or (for, as I recall, more bucks) the newly refurbished Nick’s Cove. Otherwise, the little deli in Tomales has quite decent lunches and breakfasts and thoughtful service. 

 

 

Mostly Native Nursery 

27235 Highway 1, Tomales  

Wednesday–Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  

Sunday 10 a.m–4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 

(415) 878-2009 

www.mostlynatives.com


About the House: A Few Things I Was Wrong About

By Matt Cantor
Friday November 02, 2007

This is for my wife. Actually, it’s for wives and girlfriends everywhere. Here it is. I was wrong. Wait, I’ll say it again. I was wrong. How are you feeling? Giddy? Lightheaded? Well, don’t lose control. It’s one of these construction things. Not anything important like bedspreads, hair-do’s or Angelina’s latest fling. 

There are two things in particular I’d like to confess having done 180ºs about over years. The first is plywood. When I first started studying houses, it was my impressing that plywood was garbage and shouldn’t be used. As you’ll see, and as applies to each of the things we’ll discuss, there are good arguments for and against this product but let’s start with what’s good about it and what I missed on the first go-around. 

The funny thing about my original dislike of plywood is that I had no idea how bad construction materials were going to get. I could only wish that plywood was the worst. 

What I’ve learned in the many years since I first questioned this inovative material was that plywood would turn out to be one of the premier structural advancements in construction over the course of more than a century. 

Without plywood, it would be much harder and costlier to achieve the “shear strength” that we so easily gain in constructing buildings though it’s use. Shear strength is the ability to resist tearing forces. The forces that collapse buildings or rip walls apart in earthquakes, hurricanes and even in houses that are settling severely. Plywood is made by cutting a tree in a spiral fashion, much like unpeeling a roll of paper towels. This creates very large, thin sheets of wood. Sheets of the “unrolled” tree are then glued to one another at 90 degree angles to one another.  

By turning the sheets at an angle, the grain (where tearing is easiest) is run in opposing directions and greater strength is gained. The best plywood for shear resistance is one that has many layers turned against one another, such as the popular Structural One grade used in many of the best seismic retrofitting jobs.  

But there is a downside to plywood and it’s the very thing that turned me off from early on. Aside from just being ugly (I’m the beholder in this case), plywood doesn’t handle moisture very well. Left in the rain, it tends to warp (or buckle when nailed to a wall as if struggling for its freedom) and fungi have a happy time of it munching on the many openings created through the amount of exposure all that sawing creates.  

The more you saw up a piece of wood, the more easily digested it becomes. Cornflakes are easier to digest than whole kernels of corn and the more we chew up a piece of wood the more easily digested it will be by those that eat wood. The closer we get to making houses out of cardboard, the lower the tolerance for even small amounts of moisture and the ensuing party thrown by the fungal kingdom (look, that one’s doing the lambada!) 

So, in short, plywood is a very useful material that makes the construction of buildings, easier, cheaper and quite strong but more vulnerable to moisture and fungi. Use it but be careful to keep it dry.  

Next is drywall, aka sheetrock. My early reactions to this material were pretty miserable and I’ll confess that I’m still not in love with it but I do now recognize a couple of ways in which this material is pretty incredible. The foremost of these is its extraordinary ability to retard the advance of fire. Gypsum plaster contains trapped water molecules which boil off leaving a powdery residue. This process keep the building cool and protects the areas not yet ablaze during the progress of a fire. Plaster does this too but at a much great cost and the methodologies of installation are nearly lost in our money driven construction culture. That’s the other thing I have relinquish to this former foe, drywall is cheap and that’s not a bad thing. It means that more people in the world can have clean dry enclosures in which to live. Low cost isn’t a bad thing although I think we have to look at this from both large scale and long-range perspectives too. How sustainable is a system that relies so much on centralized mechanized processes.  

While there are many benefits to industrialization and many can benefit, we all have to be wary of who benefits and from these manufacturing methods and what happens to those who have nothing. All dialectic aside, I’ve come to see drywall as a reasonable, if mundane choice. I’d certainly like to see more variation in its use and more use of plaster, whether installed over drywall or other lathings (backings). That’s the origin of my dislike for the material, the lack of imagination in its use and the superlative ability of sheetrock to make every interior in the world look exactly the same. Like laminate floorings (e.g. Pergo) and counters (e.g. Formica) as well as viny floorings and wall coverings, my true argument is with our aesthetic, not the actual material itself. 

Another thing I DO like about drywall is that homeowners and lesser-skilled workers can also install it, albeit imperfectly. Anything that’s more democratizing is alright by me. 

A similar material used on the exterior of building is stucco. Also a plastering process, although this is properly called Cement Plaster because it contains Portland Cement, the same compound used in concrete. In fact, stucco is essentially the same product as concrete allowing for smaller and more uniform aggregate (rocks or sand). 

While I initially experienced stucco, in my O’ So Bored, L.A. youth as the symbol of the Plastic People (thank you Mr. Zappa), I now see stucco in very much the same way that I see drywall. The material is relatively easy to install and has low cost and relatively low environmental impact. While Portland Cement requires large amount of heat energy to produce and contributes somewhat to global warming, it’s hard to think of alternatives that are much better in today’s world. The good news is that better energy sources, such as hydroelectric power can lower these effects and there are also plans to begin burning some nasty things as fuel that we want to get rid of anyway. These include car tires, waste solvents, slaughterhouse wastes and plastic. 

While I initially saw stucco as boring, my arrival in the Bay Area has changed all that. Stucco and concrete can live glorious lives when crafted with vision as the masters of Deco, Usonian and Brutalism have shown us.  

It’s important to note that stucco as it exists today is a material that is often the source of construction mayhem. Common misinstallation errors too often lead to leaks and law suits so if you are going to DO stucco, make sure the design professional and builders are prepared to be all they be. While the stuccos and lead paints of yore were capable of retarding water intrusion, today’s building need to employ a second “drainage plane” behind the stucco to prevent moisture entry. 

If there’s a hero in today’s story, it’s Bernard Maybeck. For those of you who don’t know Mr. Maybeck, we probably don’t get to have a Julia Morgan (at least the one we know) without him and, in a time when the Beaux Arts are dying fast, Maybeck not only brings them back to us but he does so with steel-sashed industiral windows, cast-concrete and asbestos shingles. If you’ve never seen the First Church of Christ Scientist, just off People’s Park here in Berkeley, you’ve missed what at least one critic has called the most beautiful building in North America (A. Temko). 

What we (read I) can learn from this great master is that the materials are secondary. Design is always first. While I’m often wrong, I think, on this one thing, I’m probably right. 


Column: The Public Eye: Breaking the Public Trust (Three Cheers for Dona Spring)

By Zelda Bronstein
Tuesday October 30, 2007

It was after 11 p.m. last Tuesday, and the council chamber was nearly empty, when Dave Blake stepped up to the lectern and used his two minutes of public comment to warn the council that its secretive ways were undermining Berkeley’s ability to generate revenue at the ballot box. Describing himself “as a citizen who’s been involved in raising money for the city”—Blake has campaigned for measures to fund the city’s library, parks and warm water pool—the former Zoning Adjustments Board member obliquely referred to the failure of the four city tax measures in November 2004: “A lot of people think that the reason we’re no longer successful in passing items in this city,” he said, “is that we’re not generating the feeling of trust between the council and the people in the city … I don’t think we’re going to be passing any two-thirds measures in the near future, unless we start to be open and clear about big decisions like this one.”  

The decision at hand was whether the city should accept $50,000 from the developer of the proposed downtown UC hotel/conference center, with its 19-story tower of luxury condominiums, to pay a “consultant team” to do what the staff report called “feasibility analysis and review of possible mechanisms to provide tax abatement or other subsidies to render the project feasible.”  

The project is currently unfeasible, the report explained, because it is now estimated to cost $30 million more than the revenues it’s expected to yield. The developer, Massachusetts-based Carpenter and Company, says it may be able to reduce the overrun by “nearly half” through “creative measures, including value engineering.” To close the remaining $15 million gap, the developer and the city are contemplating a “public-private partnership” that involves rebating “some portion of the Transient Occupancy Tax generated by the hotel in the early years of its operation.”  

This was a big decision, all right, and not just because of the size of the proposed bailout. Berkeley has never subsidized a project of this sort—a private, for-profit hotel/conference center-cum-luxury housing. Indeed, it was the novelty of such a subsidy that led City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, at the Agenda Committee’s Oct. 15 meeting, to defy Mayor Bates. Ever averse to public scrutiny of his backroom deals, the mayor wanted the item to go on the consent calendar, where it could be approved without any discussion. In a welcome show of independence, Albuquerque insisted that the matter had to go on the council’s October 23 action calendar. At the start of the Oct. 23 meeting, Councilmember Wozniak tried to move it back onto consent. Before the city attorney could weigh in, Councilmember Spring intervened, saying she wanted it to stay on action, and there it remained. 

It was about three and half hours later that Blake objected to having an item of such magnitude squirreled away “in an obscure part of the agenda” and then taken up late at night. He asked the council to send the proposal to the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee and to the Planning Commision for review and recommendations. Other citizens, including myself, expressed even stronger objections, recommending that the mere idea of a massive tax rebate for a hotel/conference center topped by (mostly) luxury condominiums should be rejected outright.  

In the spring of 2004, when I was chairing the Planning Commission, I helped convene and then served on the UC Hotel/Conference Center Citizens Advisory Group. The group’s extensive recommendations said nothing about tax rebates (or, for that matter, luxury condos). Indeed, the project was sold to the community as a major revenue generator. With a city budget balanced with deep cuts in staff and services, $160 million in unfunded municipal liabilities and three revenue measures under consideration by the council for the November 2008 ballot, the thought of rebating $15 million worth of taxes to a private developer of luxury condos atop a hotel/conference center intended primarily for UC clientele is unconscionable. 

But the fix was in—indeed, it’s been in for a while: According to the staff report, the consultant team has already been chosen, from interviews conducted last summer. In other words, months before the item appeared on a council agenda, city officials were moving it forward as if it were a done deal. Shades of the Ashby BART “transit village” fiasco! 

The back story helps explain why last Tuesday the council majority insisted that the developer’s gratuity had to be accepted that very night. Throwing Blake a sop, Councilmember Maio averred that the council would “share” the consultant’s “results” with DAPAC. But Blake had asked that DAPAC (and the Planning Commission) review the hiring of the consultants, not their findings. 

Mayor Bates didn’t bother with sops. “I think it was really an error,” he said, “to put in [the staff report] the $30 million hole.” (Replied the report’s author, Office of Economic Development Acting Director Michael Caplan, “That was the developer’s latest estimate.”)  

But it was Kriss Worthington, of all people, who offered the most fulsome defense of the developer and the proposal. Carpenter & Co., he said, had made all sorts of promises to the community, agreeing, for example, to build affordable housing into the project. Nobody thought to remind the councilmember, now completing his eleventh year in office, that Berkeley law requires any project of 5 units or more to include at least 20 percent affordable housing.  

Worthington’s sometime ally, Dona Spring, challenged his tribute to the developer’s generosity on other grounds. She pointed out that, far from bending over backwards to accommodate the city, Carpenter & Co. was already asking to violate Berkeley’s 7-story downtown height limit and to be granted rights to the sidewalk and part of the street adjacent to the project site as well. The consultant’s findings, she predicted, would be used to justify massive tax rebates to the developer. To Spring, that prospect was unacceptable. When the council approved the staff recommendation on an 8-1 vote, she was the lone dissenter. 

So much for restoring the public trust. Worse yet, this was the second time that night that the council majority denied their constituents an opportunity to scrutinize a very big-ticket item: They’d already disposed of the first item on their consent calendar, the new contract with the Berkeley Fire Fighters Association, in a peremptory manner.  

That the firefighters’ contract appeared on the consent calendar in the first place was deplorable. The four-year memorandum of understanding with the BFFA will have a greater impact on Berkeley’s future, fiscal and otherwise, than any other action the council will take in the next four years. With that impact in mind, Spring moved it onto the action calendar.When the item came up, she asked that it be held over until the next council meeting on Nov. 6, so that the public could study the information that the city manager had distributed at the start of the meeting. That information, which ostensibly supported the 13 percent salary raise and the various increases in benefits in the MOU, had not been provided to the public when the contract first appeared on the council agenda, on Oct. 9. It was made available on Oct. 23 only because Spring had requested it. 

Once again, her appeal “to show the taxpayers a little respect” was rebuffed by her eight colleagues, all of whom insisted that the council had to act right away, and that “dragging it out” for two more weeks, after 17 months of negotiations, was unthinkable. Yet on Oct. 9, nobody on the council uttered the slightest protest when, in response to a mysterious request from the firefighters’ union, the city manager pulled the MOU from the council agenda and held it over until Oct. 23. 

Seeking to defuse the issue, the mayor asserted that the item had “been out for at least a month.” Spring immediately disputed his claim. “The info,” she said, “has only been available since tonight. I have not had a chance to read it. The people who came to the meeting—” Bates cut her off mid-sentence with a curt rejoinder: “Then you should abstain.” Boos and hisses filled the then-packed chamber. Banging his gavel, Bates snapped, “This is not a kangaroo court. If you’re going to act like that, we’re going to ask you to move—right now—full stop!” Someone called the question, and the council voted 8-0-1 (Spring did abstain) to approve the contract. 

I wish that the mayor had cleared the room, and that the council had continued to meet and to take action in a venue from which the public had been expelled. That scenario would have made starkly palpable what’s going down in Berkeley City Hall. 

 


Column: The Public Eye: Depressed America

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday October 30, 2007

These are hard times in America. There’s broad agreement our nation has lost its way and the U.S. is no longer “the shining light on the hill.” We don’t trust our leaders or believe national politicians care about the common good. Americans are uncertain and depressed. 

Depression has become a persistent feature of our national character. One in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. It’s usually clinical depression characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in favorite activities. Depression’s symptoms include anxiety, change in eating habits, over- or under-eating, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, helplessness, pessimism, difficulty making decisions, morbid thoughts, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, and persistent physical complaints that do not respond to treatment. Depression is now the leading cause of disability in North America. 

The depression epidemic explains why Americans have been so passive in the face of the continuing outrages of the Bush Administration: It’s the reason why our fellow citizens didn’t protest the stolen election of 2000; or the invasion of Iraq; or Bush’s subversion of the constitution—to name only three misdeeds. 

In his Oct. 14 op-ed, “The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us,” New York Times columnist Frank Rich discussed our national passivity. Rich attributed it to the duplicity of the Bush administration: “It was always the White House’s plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war … [They] invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war.” 

Perhaps Frank Rich is right and Americans were lulled into lethargy by a sinister plan hatched by George Bush and Dick Cheney. It’s plausible their well-oiled propaganda machine convinced us “war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.” Perhaps. But I find it hard to accept Rich’s explanation because I don’t believe the Bush-Cheney gang is that smart or their propaganda that compelling.  

It’s also tempting to explain national apathy as a consequence of the declining intelligence of the American people. Observing the amount of media attention lavished on flea wits such as Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears, it’s easy to conclude that between watching hours of television and sucking up mega-doses of corn syrup, our fellow citizens have deep-fried their brains. This explanation suggests the Bush administration has gotten away with their shenanigans because the majority of the American public either doesn’t understand what the White House is doing or doesn’t care—we’ve become self-centered dolts. Nonetheless, while there’s certainly compelling evidence we’ve become a nation of sheep, I continue to believe the majority of our people are smart enough to see the big picture: We get it, we just don’t do anything about it. 

That leaves depression as the logical explanation for our passivity: We’ve been immobilized by our depression. The question is what caused this. It wasn’t all that long ago—the ’60s—when Americans were hopeful; when we believed: “Tomorrow will be a better day. We can build a peaceful world.” 

Then came an enervating message that bred helplessness and despair. Since the Reagan era, conservatives have broadcast a grim homily: “You’re on your own. No matter how dire your circumstances, no matter how unfairly life treats you, don’t count on government to help you.” This conservative ideology reached its nadir after 9/11 when President Bush told traumatized Americans there was nothing they could do to ease their fear and anxiety except to go shopping. As the plight of the average citizen worsened, so did the national mood: In the ’60s most of us believed the future would be better for our children, now we don’t.  

Over this same period we became a nation of depressives. It’s not only that one in four of us has a diagnosed mental disorder, but also that millions of Americans self-medicate: we take prescription drugs for depression—antidepressants are now the most frequently prescribed drugs—or use daily palliatives such as alcohol or marijuana. There are millions more who suffer from the symptoms of depression—chronic anxiety or fatigue, eating disorders, or irritability—and never seek help, who stagger through each day in a funk. And there are millions of Americans who feel chronic helplessness in the face of an Administration that doesn’t listen to the cries of the average person and seems determined to implement their evil agenda regardless of the consequences. 

These are hard times. There’s a rogue president in the White House and the good ship USA is heading into increasingly treacherous waters. There’s good reason to be discouraged but not to be defeated. After all, U.S. history teaches us that Americans have lived through hard times before: the Civil War, Great Depression, and World War II—to mention only three perilous periods.  

We can take solace in the knowledge that during historic hard times, Americans have always come together and worked for the common good. That’s what we need to do now. The next president must preach a message of hope and invite us to make a shared sacrifice for the good of the country. And to help cure our national depression. 

 

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


Wild Neighbors: Birds in Berkeley: The Owls in the Oak

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Eighty-one years ago Joseph Grinnell, director of UC’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, sat in his corner office at the edge of Faculty Glade watching a crew of arborists at work on a venerable coast live oak. Or, as he put it in his essay “Tree Surgery and the Birds,” “ ‘tree surgeons’ … under directions of a ‘landscape architect.’ ” His contempt is evident. Over the years, Grinnell had observed 46 species of birds in that oak. And he noted the removal of bits of the tree that had attracted particular species of birds: the decaying stub where the downy woodpecker drummed, the white-breasted nuthatch’s favorite foraging ground, the flycatcher’s perch. 

“My corner tree used to have knotholes,” he wrote. “One such cavity, years ago, furnished the home site for a Screech Owl, and from it each summer issued a brood of young owls … Nowadays, it seems, the tenets of tree surgery require that no such cavities be permitted to remain in any well-cared-for tree. Each and every former and even potential knothole has been gouged out and sealed up, so that only a forbidding wall of cement meets the eye and beak of any prospecting bird.” 

To Grinnell, the loss of the campus screech-owls was just part of the “local disappearance of our native bird-life.” And he was in a position to know. Hired to run the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) by the remarkable naturalist-philanthropist Annie Alexander (see Barbara Stein’s biography On Her Own Terms: Annie Montague Alexander and the Rise of Science in the American West for more on that working relationship), Grinnell was the architect of Berkeley’s preeminence in mammalogy and ornithology.  

He had been born in Indian Territory where his physician father practiced, and grew up among Red Cloud’s Oglala Sioux. His road to Berkeley led through Pasadena and Alaska. Three years after taking over the museum, he organized an epic Sierran transect that provides a baseline for contemporary studies of faunal response to climate change. During that project, Grinnell once set out from Yosemite Valley and hiked more than 40 miles over the crest to Mono Lake in a single day, shotgun and notebook in hand. 

Grinnell also pioneered some of the fundamental concepts of ecology: ecological niches, competitive exclusion. He recognized that animals shaped their environments as well as being shaped by them, and that variation was the raw material of evolution. 

The year after the attack of the “tree surgeons,” Grinnell and Margaret Wythe published their Directory to the Bird-life of the San Francisco Bay Region, under the auspices of the Cooper Ornithological Club. (His choice of a female collaborator is interesting. Grinnell respected his patron Alexander, but didn’t allow women on MVZ field trips.)  

Grinnell and Wythe documented 159 nesting species in the Bay Area but were pessimistic about their future, expecting that diversity to decline. “Species of birds are disappearing, some never to return,” they wrote; “some species are just about holding their own … On the whole, it looks as though the total number of species in the Bay region at the present time were undergoing decided reduction, due in major part to the elimination of habitats of wide diversity or of productive kinds.” 

Fortunately, their crystal ball was a bit cloudy. William Bousman recently compared the Directory with data from the subsequent 80 years of breeding bird surveys and atlas projects, and found nesting records for 215 species. Many of those were one-off attempts by vagrants; however, 19 species not present in 1927 appear to be here to stay. Some newcomers were commercially exploited species rebounding after the ravages of the plume trade. Others found new man-made habitats like salt ponds and reservoirs, or responded to the regrowth of redwood forests and the planting of urban trees. Range expansions include northern birds moving south, southern birds moving north, eastern birds moving west. 

And what goes for the overall Bay Area goes for Berkeley. Crows and ravens have taken advantage of the garbage we generate. Cooper’s hawks have moved into Berkeley’s street trees. Chestnut-backed chickadees, unknown in the East Bay in Grinnell’s time, feel at home among planted evergreens. Other birds have benefitted from an expanded urban oak population. John Westlake, a long-time Berkeley birder, has a theory that the maturing of all the oaks planted in the early 70s has a lot to do with the current abundance of oak-associated birds like the Nuttall’s woodpecker and oak titmouse.  

“The unhappy future projected by Grinnell and Wythe has not come to pass,” writes Bousman, “at least not yet.” True, there have been tradeoffs.  

If Charles Keeler revisited his old Berkeley haunts, he would miss the yellow warblers and western meadowlarks, as Grinnell would miss the screech-owls. But who could complain about the chickadees? 

 

Photograph by Ron Sullivan. 

Knothole with a view: western screech-owl in Briones Regional Park.


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Friday November 02, 2007

FRIDAY, NOV. 2 

THEATER 

Actor’s Ensemble of Berkeley”Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Nov. 17. Tickets are $10-$12. 841-5580.  

Altarena Playhouse “Morning’s at Seven” A family comedy by Paul Osborn Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Nov. 11. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553.  

Aurora Theatre Company “Sex” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St., through Dec. 9. Tickets are $28-$50. 843-4822.  

Berkeley Playhouse “Seussical, the Musical” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m., Sun. at 3 pm. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Dec. 2. Tickets are $18-$23. 665-5565.  

Central Works “Every Inch a King” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Nov. 18. Tickets are $9-$25. 558-1381.centralworks.org 

International Theater Ensemble A Propos of the Wet Snow” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Metal Shop Theatre, Willard Middle School, 2425 Stuart St. Tickets are $20-$30. 415-440-6163.  

Masquers Playhouse “Little Mary Sunshine” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., selected Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Women’s Will “Antigone” Fri.-Sun. at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. between Telegraph and Shattuck, Oakland, through Nov. 11. Tickets are $15-$25 sliding scale. 420-0813. www.womenswill.org 

Youth Musical Theater Company “Man of La Mancha” Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 3 and 8 p.m. at Longfellow Auditorium, 1500 Derby St. Tickets are $8-$15. 595-5514. info@ymtcberkeley.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Fiber Devotion” Joell Jones, soft sculpture, and Jeanne Jabbour, stitched drawings, on All Souls’ Day in honor of Día de los Muertos from 6 to 10 p.m. at 447 Twenty-fifth St., Oakland. www.oakopolis.org 

“Los Hilos de la Vida/Threads of Life” Latina-themed folkloric story quilts from Anderson Valley. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at WCRC Gallery, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 601-4040, ext. 111.  

“The Edge of Reality” Abstract paintings by Juanita Hagberg. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at The Gallery, Lavezzo Designs, 5751 Horton St., Emeryville. Exhibition runs to Nov. 30. 643-0553. 

“Four Masters of Origami” Works by Robert Lang, Bernie Peyton, Linda Mihara, and Peter Engel. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at K Gallery, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. 865-5062. 

“Push Rewind: Maafa 2007” Closing reception at 6 p.m. at Inquiry Gallery, 2865 Broadway, Unit 2, Oakland. 641-715-3900, ext. 36800. 

The Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project Works by Frank Espada. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Photography Gallery, 406 14th St., lower level, Oakland. 465-8928. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Ancient Roots/Urban Journeys Gallery talk with Aida Gomes on Dias de los Muertos at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. Free for teachers. 238-2022.  

Sam Keen describes “Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 559-9500. 

Michele Zackheim reads from her novel “Broken Colors” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Babtunde Lea’s “Summoning of the Ghost” Tribute to Miles, Cannon and Trane at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

“Side by Side” Performances by Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers, Dandelion Dancetheater, Deep Water Dance Theater, Facing East Dance & Music, and others, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. 925-798-1300.  

La Familia Son at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022.  

Illustrio, trio of clarinet, viola, and piano, at 7:30 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Donation of $15 requested. 

Keni el Lebrijano, guitarist at 7:30 p.m. at 6 Degrees on Solano, 1403 Solano Ave. Albany. Free, but reservations recommended. 528-1237. 

Stompy Jones, East Coast swing, lindy-hop, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054.  

Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Stella Royale and Padraic Finbar Hagerty-Hammond at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Morning Line at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Inspector Double Negative, Missing Link, The Harvey Cartel at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Kinsella, Fri. and Sat. at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Femi at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $7-$15. 548-1159.  

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

SATURDAY, NOV. 3 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Betsy Rose, songs to celebrate the fall season, at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. 

Duo Amaranto, folk music in Spanish and English, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 Tenth St. Cost is $7. 526-9888. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“The Works of a Year in Mexico” Paintings by Juana Alicia. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928.  

“Disappearing Honey Bees” a Day of the Dead Altar by Margo Rivera-Weiss. Reception with the artist at 1 p.m. at the San Pablo Gallery, 13831 San Pablo Ave., Maple Hall, Civic Center, San Pablo.  

THEATER 

“A Shirtwaist Tale” on American labor history, at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $15-$20. 848-0237, ext. 3.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Cheers to Muses Reading, contemporary works by Asian American women, at 3 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. 

Poetry Flash with Kirmen Uribe, Elizabeth Maclkin, and John Felstiner at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 559-9500. 

Jamie Myrick portrays Zora Neale Hurston, author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the West Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6275. 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading and contest from 3 to 5 p.m. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“Russian Romance” with Maria Mikheyenko, soprano, Dmitri Anissimov, tenor, Alexander Katsman, piano, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. at Durant and Bancroft. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864.  

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Royal Dance” with Marion Verbruggen, recorder, at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400.  

Volti “Adventures in Life, Love, and Longing” at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way.Tickets are $8-$20. 415-771-3352.  

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert at 8 p.m. at Valley Center for the Performing Arts at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are$12-$15. 849-9776.  

Sister Comrade An evening of words and music celebrating the lives of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$28. 528-3043.  

Works in the Works, a low-tech performance series for artists to show newl works Sat. and Sun. at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Tickets are $10. 527-5115. 

World Flute Fest from 1 to 5 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Donations accepted. 542-7517. 

The Ravines at noon at Cafe Zeste, 1250 Addison St. at Bonar, in the Strawberry Creek Park complex. 704-9378. 

Irvin Mayfield and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $22-$42. 642-9988.  

“Nosotras” with Lichi Fuentes, Rosa Los Santos, Fernanda Bustamante, Gabriela Shiroma, and others, at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $13-15. 849-2568.  

Mr. Lonesome & the Bluebelles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

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

Galaxy Band at 6:30 p.m. at Allegro Ballroom, 5855 Christie Ave., Emeryville. Cost is $5-$15. 655-2888.  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Eric Von Radics & Mario DeSio at 7:30 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. at Alcatraz. Cost is $7-$10. 

Amy X Neuberg & her Cello ChiXtet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Margie Baker & Friends at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $112-$15. 845-5373.  

Zoe Ellis with Maya Kronfeld at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

George Cotsirilos Jazz Group at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. 

John Howland Trio, Joel Streeter, Junior League at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Royal Hawaiian Serenaders at 9 p.m. at Temple Bar Tiki Bar & Grill, 984 University Ave. 548-9888. 

SUNDAY, NOV. 4 

EXHIBITIONS 

“The Five Magpies” Works by Priscilla Birge, Barbara Hazard, Joanna Katz, Diane Rusnak and Sarah Whitecotton. Opening reception at 2 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Exhibition runs to Dec. 2. www.giorgigallery.com 

Thangka Painting Demonstration with Rinzing Gyaltsen Yongewa at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft. 642-0808. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz introduces her new book “The Color of Jews: Racial Politics & Radical Diasporism” at 4 p.m. at Cafe Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave. Donation $10. bay 

areawomeninblack@yahoo.com 

Daniel Lyons, who started the blog “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs” reads from his new book “Option$” at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Fall Family Concert at noon at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. www.juliamorgan.org 

Shoko Hikage and Yoko Hirano-Itatani, koto, at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$15. 845-1350. 

Young People’s Chamber Orchestra Autumn Harvest Concert at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $1-$5. 595-4688. www.ypco.org  

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Royal Dance” with Marion Verbruggen, recorder, at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400. www.philharmonia.org 

Oakland Civic Orchestra at 4 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lake 

shore Ave., Oakland. 238-7275. 

Per Tengstrand and Shan-Shan Sun, pianists, at 4 p.m. at Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $30-$40. 601-7919.  

Oakland Lyric Opera “An Afternoon of Russian Romance” at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $18-$20. 836-6772.  

Live Oak Concert with William Beatty, piano, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $10. 644-6893.  

“Desert Roots” World Beat Music at 7:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Tickets are $15-$20. 547-2424, ext. 211. 

Emeryville Taiko 10th Anniversary Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $25. 925-798-1300. 

Bruce Barthol at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Beep! The Michael Coleman Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

Trance Zen Dance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

MONDAY, NOV. 5 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Actors Reading Writers: “Family & Perspective: A Tribute to David Rich” at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. 932-0214,  

“And I Was Both Tongues” with Yael Kanarek, artist, at 7:30 p.m. at 160 Kroeber Hall, UC Campus. 643-9565.  

Poetry Express with Lizz Bronson at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Nada Lewis at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 849-1100.  

DeMania Trio with Alex DeGrassi, Michael Manring and Chris Garcia at 7:30 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, NOV. 6 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Joanne Kyger and David Trinidad read their poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Joseph Lease and Lisa Robertson, poets, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Joanna Macy discusses the newly revised “World as Love, World as Self: Courage for Global Justice and Ecological Renewal at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Cost is $10. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Zydeco Flames at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco 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 Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Vishten, fiddling and step-dancing, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

deMania Trio with Alex DeGrassi, Michael Manring and Chris Garcia at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14-$20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 7 

FILM 

Behold the Asian: Videoworks by James T. Hong with the filmmaker in person at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Forces: Paintings and Calligraphy by Lampo Leong” Artist talk at 4 p.m., reception at 5:30 p.m. at IEAS Conference Room, 2223 Fulton St., 6th flr. 642-2809. 

“Shanghai Splendor: Economic Sentiments and the Making of Modern China, 1843-1949” with author Wen-hsin Yeh, in conversation with Margaret Tillman and Allison Rottman at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. 

Fritjof Capra discusses “The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

San Francisco Bay Area African Dance and Drum Festival Wed.-Fri. at 6 p.m. and all day Sat. and Sun. at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. 415-378-4413. 

Albany Jazz Band Fall Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Ocean View Elementary School, 1000 Jackson St., Albany. Free. 524-9538.  

American Ballet Theater at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $38-$100. 642-9988.  

Dave Bernstein Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

The Jelly Roll Souls at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $TBA. 525-5054.  

Mikie Lee and Amber at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Patrick Street, Celtic, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

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

THURSDAY, NOV. 8 

FILM 

International Latino Film Festival “La cuidad de las fotografos” on chile in the 1980s at 6 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $6-$8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Dahr Jamail reads from his new book “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq” at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St. Tickets $15. 548-0542.  

Javier O. Herta, author of “Some Clarifications y otros poemas” in a bilingual poetry reading at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Neva Carpenter reads from her memoir of growing up in El Cerrito “Harem Scarem in El Cerrito” at 10:30 a.m. at the El Cerrito Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave. 215-4340. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mills College Repertory Dance Concert Thurs at 7 p.m. and Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Mills College, Lisser Hall, 5000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland. Tickets are $12-$15. Free to members of the Mills College community. 430-2175. 

Holly Tannen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Palindrome at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. 841-JAZZ.  

Berkeley High School Jazz Combo and Ensemble at 7 p.m. at College of Alameda’s F Building Student Lounge, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway (Atlantic Ave.), Alameda. Free. 748-2213. 

8x8x8 Dance performance at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Andrian Gormley Jazz Ensemble at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Dionne Farris, R&B vocalist, at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $20-$26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 


Bruce Barthol Plays at Freight & Salvage

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday November 02, 2007

From Bruce Barthol’s days as bassist with the original Country Joe and the Fish, to his three decades as resident composer for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, to playing for this year’s reunion of survivors of the Spanish Civil War’s Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Barthol’s been an unstinting fount of committed and humor songs and instrumental music.  

This weekend he performs solo at Freight and Salvage. 

Born at Alta Bates Hospital in 1947, Bruce Barthol’s mother was a social worker, his father a UC professor. He started playing guitar at 11, clarinet at 13, bass at 18—and joined his first band, the original Country Joe and the Fish, at age 18. They played their first gigs at the Jabberwock Coffee House, “next door to a house where I lived with Joe and Barry [Melton],” he said. 

Barthol played bass on the three-song EP the band recorded themselves, then on Electric Music For The Mind And Body, and the following two albums, as the group shot to international popularity. He left Country Joe and the Fish in 1968. 

Barthol became the Mime Troupe’s principal songwriter and lyricist in 1976, the same year he produced an album for former Blues Project guitarist (and longtime Berkeley resident) Danny Kalb. With the Mime Troupe, Barthol worked on over three dozen shows, from old favorites like the Factwino shows, to last year’s Godfellas. During those years, the Troupe received a Tony Award. Other awards Barthol’s shared in include an Obie, a Media Alliance Golden Gadfly, and a Gold Record. He’s been given two Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Awards. 

Somewhere along the line, Barthol said, he was a Yip Harburg Fellow at New York University, where he received his MFA in musical theater.  

After playing on Paradise with Ocean View, one of Country Joe’s many solo albums, and the appearance of a song on Barry Melton’s 1997 album The Saloon Years—as well as participating in Country Joe and the Fish reunions—Barthol joined Country Joe, Chicken Hirsch and David Cohen in The Country Joe Band in 2003.  

He later remarked, “It seems right to play together again—there’s a war going on; it’s more and more like 1968.”  

His song “Cakewalk to Baghdad,” after the notorious remark by Richard Perle, was a single for the group. Barry Melton, a public defender in Yolo County, was unable to commit to the new band, so Country Joe explained the foreshortened name: “We’re Fishless!” (Melton’s nickname). 

Other musicians Barthol’s played with include Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Barbara Dane, Rosalie Sorrells, Ralph McTell, Will Scarlet, Arlo Guthrie, Dave Getz, Scoop Nisker, Bobby Keys and Paul Dresher.  

He’s annotated an album of Spanish Civil War songs and co-wrote the score for Forever Activists, a documentary on the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which was nominated for an Oscar, as well as playing for the reunion of the Brigade at the City Museum of New York this year. 

Barthol has also played at the Arts Council in Berlin, and written music or songs for or performed with the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, Make-A-Circus, The Dick and Dubya Show, the LA Theater Center, Oberlin Dance Collective (ODC) and American Conservatory Theatre (ACT).  

 

 

Bruce Barthol performs solo at Freight and Salvage, 1111 Addison St., Sat. at 8 p.m. Tickets $18.50 advance, $19.50 at door. 548-1761.


A Different Side of John Cage Tonight

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Friday November 02, 2007

John Cage’s groundbreaking music is often associated with Asian thought: the random throws of the I Ching, Taoist and Zen spontaneity. Tonight (Friday) at 8 p.m., at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., a different side of Cage’s exploration of non-European music and philosophy will be heard, when dhrupad singer Amelia Cuni sings his “18 Microtonal Ragas.” Cuni, the first performer to prepare all of these ragas for full performance, sings in five different languages, accompanied by Werner Durand, drones and electronics, and Raymond Kaczynski and Federico Saliesi on percussion. Cage’s “Solo for Voice 58” will also be performed. Italian-born Cuni has been a sensation among Indian music listeners the past few years. The concert is presented by Other Minds, founded by Charles Amirkhanian (formerly of KPFA), in association with the Italian Cultural Institute and the Goethe-Institut, both of San Francisco. $25, www.brownpapertickets. com or (800) 838-3006. 


Moving Pictures: The Grassroots Movement to Stop Apartheid

By Justin DeFreitas
Friday November 02, 2007

Berkeley filmmaker Connie Field has taken on a vast project in her effort to document the global movement against apartheid in South Africa over half a century. Have You Heard From Johannesburg? is a six-part series that examines the movement in stand-alone documentaries. Field has completed the first of them and is at work finishing the second. Apartheid and the Club of the West, which will eventually take its place as the fourth installment in the series, opens today (Friday) at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.  

The film follows the anti-apartheid movement in America, a grassroots movement that spanned more than 15 years and included the participation of the Congressional Black Caucus and countless protests at universities across the country, pressuring those institutions to divest themselves from all corporations that did business in South Africa. It’s a stirring story of the people overcoming the obstacles of political stasis, racism, corporate interests and the opposition of the Reagan administration in the pursuit of a moral stand against injustice.  

The film includes recent interviews with many of the central players in the drama, including Ron Dellums.  

 

APARTHEID AND THE CLUB  

OF THE WEST 

Produced and Directed by Connie Field.  

90 minutes. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., San Francisco. www.roxie.com. 

www.clarityfilms.org.


East Bay Then and Now: Maybeck’s Boke House: Made by One Crusader for Another

By Daniella Thompson
Friday November 02, 2007

On November 14, 1901 an item in the Berkeley Daily Gazette informed: 

 

Swiss Chalets for Hillside Homes. 

Frederick H. Clark, secretary of the Homestead Loan Association of Berkeley and three kindred associations in San Francisco, is improving the property recently purchased by him in the University Terrace tract. This scenic plat is situated at the head of Channing way on a gentle declivity and is very beautifully located. 

Mr. Clark will build for Prof. G.H. Boke, and Margaret Deane [sic], handsome Swiss chalets which are the creation of Architect Meybeck [sic]. A.H. Broad, the contractor, will begin work at once. 

 

The article was referring to the houses at 23 and 25 Panoramic Way, only one of which—the former—was designed by Maybeck. It was the dwelling built for George H. Boke, a law instructor at the University of California, who at the time was residing with his wife and three children nearby, at 2630 Channing Way. Banker Frederick H. Clark was apparently the deed holder on both “chalets,” since Boke was never listed in the assessor’s records, and his neighbor, Margaret A. Dean (grandmother of Dan Dean, our former mayor’s husband) does not appear in those records until 1908. Both houses were completed on February 14, 1902. 

George Henry Boke (1869–1929) was born in Placer County, California. His father, Nick Boke, was an immigrant from the duchy of Saxe-Coburg in Bavaria. His mother, Orange Ann, was a mere kid of seventeen when she gave birth to him. At the time, the Bokes were living in Dutch Flat, a town settled by German miners in 1851. Nick worked as a store clerk. 

Ten years later, Orange was married to apiarist Jerry Moulton, and the family resided in Saticoy, Ventura County, where the fruit orchards provided ready fodder for Jerry’s bees. Nevertheless, the apiarist turned carpenter, and the Moultons trekked up north to Nelson, in Butte County. 

The road from working-class life in the sticks to a Berkeley law professorship, remarkable as it is today, was practically unheard of a century ago, and young George Boke passed through numerous stations along the way. In 1887, he graduated from the State Normal School at San Jose, obtaining a teaching certificate. After teaching for a short while in Modoc County, he became principal of the school at Newcastle, Placer County. 

The early 1890s found him a student at Berkeley, where he graduated in 1894, in the class of Julia Morgan and Frank Norris. By 1900, Boke had spent two years at Harvard, from which obtained an M.A. and later an LL.B.. Along the way he had married Grace Sophia Bray of San Francisco and fathered three daughters. 

On May 21, 1900, Boke was appointed instructor in jurisprudence at the University of California. By 1903, he was also the head of the YMCA night school. His trajectory at the university can be traced through city directory listings that show his rise from instructor to assistant professor, associate professor, and professor in the course of four years. 

In 1906, Boke was lured to Stanford to teach a course on property. By the following year, however, he was back at Berkeley and suggested to his students the desirability of forming an anti-graft league with branches in all American universities. The inspiration, reported the San Francisco Call on April 23, 1907, came to Boke after hearing a talk by Francis J. Heney, the special federal prosecutor who had been brought to San Francisco to prosecute Mayor Eugene Schmitz and Boss Abe Ruef for bribery. Speaking at a university meeting, Heney “declared that grafters flourished because only a few voters interested themselves in the business of the municipality, and the vast majority was ignorant of what was taking place. Professor Boke believes that college men should institute a movement to promote knowledge of civic affairs throughout the country, and at his suggestion a number of students are laying the foundation for an intercollegiate league, to be used as a weapon against municipal graft and all other sorts of grafts.” 

After the attempted assassination of a witness in the graft trial, a Citizens’ League of Justice was organized, and Boke agreed to become its executive officer. In his book “The System”: As Uncovered by the San Francisco Graft Prosecution (1915), Franklin Hichborn wrote, “In spite of the fact that he was jeopardizing his position at the State University by his course, Professor Boke did much effective work in bringing the conditions which confronted San Francisco squarely before the public.” 

Boke participated in the birth of the non-partisan Good Government League and in 1908 founded The Liberator, a weekly published by the Citizens’ League of Justice. He was also instrumental in raising funds for the new Boalt Hall of Law (now Durant Hall). When the building’s projected costs mounted 50% above Elizabeth Boalt’s bequest, Boke raised the balance by soliciting the lawyers of California. It is said that the Napa County lawyers’ association specified that its pledge would be paid after the harvesting of the raisin crop. 

As it turned out, Boke’s crusading did put a stop to his academic career when the reformers’ efforts began to implicate members of the U.C. Board of Regents. Although the Regents couldn’t fire Boke, he was shunted aside and spent the rest of his life between Carmel and San Francisco. While retaining the title of Professor of Law, he engaged in independent work, writing books and articles and speaking at legal gatherings. Although his friend Lincoln Steffens would posthumously paint Boke’s life as tragic, it was hardly as lonely and isolated as portrayed.  

Maybeck and Boke had much in common. Both were crusaders and lovers of amateur theatricals. In July 1910, Boke participated in Carmel’s first al fresco stage production, playing the prophet Samuel in Constance Skinner’s biblical drama David, mounted in a pine grove. “He was a striking, picturesque figure, admirably gowned and wigged in white,” marveled Walter Anthony in the San Francisco Call. 

Maybeck’s design for the Boke house was both traditional and advanced for its time. The upper story, clad in vertical redwood boards, extends two feet beyond the first floor, where the boards are horizontal. Two wings of a broadly overhanging roof part to admit a central gable with a pair of double casement windows. A trio of casements appears just below, in a square bay projecting from the first floor façade. On the north side, an open sleeping balcony is a reminder of hardier generations. 

The living and dining rooms are arranged in an open ell with no separating doors. Both are paneled in board-and-batten redwood, with exposed posts and beams and decorative bolster blocks. Atypically for Maybeck, the fireplace is small, with a simple bracketed wooden mantel and tile surround. The four bedrooms on the second floor are equally rustic, finished in redwood, originally stained a mossy green, and exposing the ceiling framework. 

The Boke house caused repercussions in Berkeley and beyond. An exact copy of it was built in Oakland. Maybeck’s office records indicate that duplicate plans were sent to Aberdeen, Washington in 1906 for the J. B. Elston house. Berkeley houses that appear to bear the Boke stamp are the neighboring Dean house (A.H. Broad, 1901); the Warren Cheney cottage (Carl Ericsson, 1902); the de Neiman house at 21 Hillside Court (builder unknown, 1906); and Carl Ericsson’s house at 1625 Jayne Court (1909). 

Boke’s tenure at 23 Panoramic Way was brief. From 1904 until 1913 or so, he rented homes at various locations in Berkeley, never again owning a house except the one in Carmel, built in 1906. His son Richard described it as a “modern” redwood house, which “shows somewhat the Maybeck influence.” 

Boke was succeeded at 23 Panoramic Way by Clifton Price (1867–1942), a professor of Latin who would later add to his holdings the Jerome C. Ford apartment house at 77 Panoramic (A.H. Broad, 1904) and commission Julia Morgan in 1912 to build another apartment house at 5–11 Panoramic. In 1920, he was recorded in the U.S. Census as sharing the 4-bedroom Boke house with his wife, three children, a brother-in-law, two cousins, and a servant. But the arrangement was short lived, as Price regularly moved his residence from one property to another. In 1924, Price married his second wife, Wilson Holden (1895–1979), who lived in the Boke house for the rest of her life. The current owners bought it from her estate in 1980. 

 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 

 

 

 

Photograph by Daniella Thompson.  

The George Boke house, above, at 23 Panoramic Way. George Boke raised a third of the building funds for the original Boalt Hall, below, now known as Durant Hall.


Garden Variety: Take a Nursery Jaunt Up Tomales Bay

By Ron Sullivan
Friday November 02, 2007

Mostly Natives is a classic, and worth a jaunt on a nice day. If you’re the sort of traveler who appreciates dramatic and various weather shows, that would include the average rainy spell; the rolling curtains and airborne leviathans of fog and cloud that unroll across the Richmond—San Rafael Bridge and lie in the folds of Marin County, alternately dazzling and shrouding you on the road are one of our particular local pleasures.  

Aside from being a retailer, Mostly Natives is a wholesale source of California native plants. When I see its tags in other nurseries, I take it as a sign of good buying practices. 

The retail stock is exciting to native-plant mavens: rare things like fawn lily and Sierra rose (I've seen three native rose species here), and merely unusual and handsome things like ninebark, ocean spray, the natives Iris macrosiphon and I. douglasiana as well as the more commonly found Pacific Coast Hybrid irises.  

There are more species of native bunchgrass than you can shake a stick at, and they're available as gallon-size or four-inch plants. Showy and useful non-native grasses and grasslikes such as those brass-colored carexes share display space with them, always labeled as to origin. 

Native shrub youngsters are here in the four-inch size, too, to stretch your dollar and allow flexibility in use. It’s a good idea to plant small when you can, because you don’t have to dig as big a hole—less labor and less disturbance of the soil—and a younger plant tends to suffer less from transplant shock. It’ll catch up to something planted at a larger size within a year or three.  

These people clearly know what they’re doing; the stock is healthy, questions get answered, and the informational tags are a horticulture course in themselves, with details like which plants are native to the Bay Area; what their cultural preferences are, vis-à-vis water, drainage, sun, and other details; what they’ll tolerate, for example, wind and salt spray near the ocean; and which ones do well in containers. There’s great information on the Web site, too. 

“Mostly” isn’t misleading, either; there are other plants here, a small but choice assortment, and generally as robust and inviting as the natives. Herbs we’ve picked up there over the years have included classics like lemon balm, and slightly adventurous things like Thai basil; when we dropped in there last month, though, there were fewer herbs on sale than usual. I suspect this might be a seasonal thing. 

The edibles are the sort of thing you want if you have precious little dirt space to squander. Prices are good for natives and exotics both. You can get soil amendments and tools here, too, if you can resist spending your whole budget on plants.  

If your timing and budget are right, you can also stop for barbecued oysters on the way along Tomales Bay, at Tony’s or (for, as I recall, more bucks) the newly refurbished Nick’s Cove. Otherwise, the little deli in Tomales has quite decent lunches and breakfasts and thoughtful service. 

 

 

Mostly Native Nursery 

27235 Highway 1, Tomales  

Wednesday–Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.  

Sunday 10 a.m–4 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday. 

(415) 878-2009 

www.mostlynatives.com


About the House: A Few Things I Was Wrong About

By Matt Cantor
Friday November 02, 2007

This is for my wife. Actually, it’s for wives and girlfriends everywhere. Here it is. I was wrong. Wait, I’ll say it again. I was wrong. How are you feeling? Giddy? Lightheaded? Well, don’t lose control. It’s one of these construction things. Not anything important like bedspreads, hair-do’s or Angelina’s latest fling. 

There are two things in particular I’d like to confess having done 180ºs about over years. The first is plywood. When I first started studying houses, it was my impressing that plywood was garbage and shouldn’t be used. As you’ll see, and as applies to each of the things we’ll discuss, there are good arguments for and against this product but let’s start with what’s good about it and what I missed on the first go-around. 

The funny thing about my original dislike of plywood is that I had no idea how bad construction materials were going to get. I could only wish that plywood was the worst. 

What I’ve learned in the many years since I first questioned this inovative material was that plywood would turn out to be one of the premier structural advancements in construction over the course of more than a century. 

Without plywood, it would be much harder and costlier to achieve the “shear strength” that we so easily gain in constructing buildings though it’s use. Shear strength is the ability to resist tearing forces. The forces that collapse buildings or rip walls apart in earthquakes, hurricanes and even in houses that are settling severely. Plywood is made by cutting a tree in a spiral fashion, much like unpeeling a roll of paper towels. This creates very large, thin sheets of wood. Sheets of the “unrolled” tree are then glued to one another at 90 degree angles to one another.  

By turning the sheets at an angle, the grain (where tearing is easiest) is run in opposing directions and greater strength is gained. The best plywood for shear resistance is one that has many layers turned against one another, such as the popular Structural One grade used in many of the best seismic retrofitting jobs.  

But there is a downside to plywood and it’s the very thing that turned me off from early on. Aside from just being ugly (I’m the beholder in this case), plywood doesn’t handle moisture very well. Left in the rain, it tends to warp (or buckle when nailed to a wall as if struggling for its freedom) and fungi have a happy time of it munching on the many openings created through the amount of exposure all that sawing creates.  

The more you saw up a piece of wood, the more easily digested it becomes. Cornflakes are easier to digest than whole kernels of corn and the more we chew up a piece of wood the more easily digested it will be by those that eat wood. The closer we get to making houses out of cardboard, the lower the tolerance for even small amounts of moisture and the ensuing party thrown by the fungal kingdom (look, that one’s doing the lambada!) 

So, in short, plywood is a very useful material that makes the construction of buildings, easier, cheaper and quite strong but more vulnerable to moisture and fungi. Use it but be careful to keep it dry.  

Next is drywall, aka sheetrock. My early reactions to this material were pretty miserable and I’ll confess that I’m still not in love with it but I do now recognize a couple of ways in which this material is pretty incredible. The foremost of these is its extraordinary ability to retard the advance of fire. Gypsum plaster contains trapped water molecules which boil off leaving a powdery residue. This process keep the building cool and protects the areas not yet ablaze during the progress of a fire. Plaster does this too but at a much great cost and the methodologies of installation are nearly lost in our money driven construction culture. That’s the other thing I have relinquish to this former foe, drywall is cheap and that’s not a bad thing. It means that more people in the world can have clean dry enclosures in which to live. Low cost isn’t a bad thing although I think we have to look at this from both large scale and long-range perspectives too. How sustainable is a system that relies so much on centralized mechanized processes.  

While there are many benefits to industrialization and many can benefit, we all have to be wary of who benefits and from these manufacturing methods and what happens to those who have nothing. All dialectic aside, I’ve come to see drywall as a reasonable, if mundane choice. I’d certainly like to see more variation in its use and more use of plaster, whether installed over drywall or other lathings (backings). That’s the origin of my dislike for the material, the lack of imagination in its use and the superlative ability of sheetrock to make every interior in the world look exactly the same. Like laminate floorings (e.g. Pergo) and counters (e.g. Formica) as well as viny floorings and wall coverings, my true argument is with our aesthetic, not the actual material itself. 

Another thing I DO like about drywall is that homeowners and lesser-skilled workers can also install it, albeit imperfectly. Anything that’s more democratizing is alright by me. 

A similar material used on the exterior of building is stucco. Also a plastering process, although this is properly called Cement Plaster because it contains Portland Cement, the same compound used in concrete. In fact, stucco is essentially the same product as concrete allowing for smaller and more uniform aggregate (rocks or sand). 

While I initially experienced stucco, in my O’ So Bored, L.A. youth as the symbol of the Plastic People (thank you Mr. Zappa), I now see stucco in very much the same way that I see drywall. The material is relatively easy to install and has low cost and relatively low environmental impact. While Portland Cement requires large amount of heat energy to produce and contributes somewhat to global warming, it’s hard to think of alternatives that are much better in today’s world. The good news is that better energy sources, such as hydroelectric power can lower these effects and there are also plans to begin burning some nasty things as fuel that we want to get rid of anyway. These include car tires, waste solvents, slaughterhouse wastes and plastic. 

While I initially saw stucco as boring, my arrival in the Bay Area has changed all that. Stucco and concrete can live glorious lives when crafted with vision as the masters of Deco, Usonian and Brutalism have shown us.  

It’s important to note that stucco as it exists today is a material that is often the source of construction mayhem. Common misinstallation errors too often lead to leaks and law suits so if you are going to DO stucco, make sure the design professional and builders are prepared to be all they be. While the stuccos and lead paints of yore were capable of retarding water intrusion, today’s building need to employ a second “drainage plane” behind the stucco to prevent moisture entry. 

If there’s a hero in today’s story, it’s Bernard Maybeck. For those of you who don’t know Mr. Maybeck, we probably don’t get to have a Julia Morgan (at least the one we know) without him and, in a time when the Beaux Arts are dying fast, Maybeck not only brings them back to us but he does so with steel-sashed industiral windows, cast-concrete and asbestos shingles. If you’ve never seen the First Church of Christ Scientist, just off People’s Park here in Berkeley, you’ve missed what at least one critic has called the most beautiful building in North America (A. Temko). 

What we (read I) can learn from this great master is that the materials are secondary. Design is always first. While I’m often wrong, I think, on this one thing, I’m probably right. 


Berkeley This Week

Friday November 02, 2007

FRIDAY, NOV. 2 

Fiesta de los Muertos A fundraiser for the Dolores Huerta Foundation with music and dancing at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $35. Costumes encouraged. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Life and Debt” A documentary on the impact of globalization on local industry and agriculture in Jamaica at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker School, 2125 Jefferson St. Free. Not wheelchair accessible. 

Berkeley Public Library West Branch Grand Re-Opening from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1125 University Ave. with live music, storytelling and refreshments. 981-6278. 548-1240 (TTY). 

“Interested in the Future of Downtown Berkeley?” Walking tour with Matt Taecker, Principal Planner for Berkeley’s Downtown Plan from 3 to 5 p.m. Meet at Kroeber Fountain, UC Campus at 2:15 p.m. RSVP to calbussa@gmail.com  

California Historical Society Piedmont Avenue Tour with Gary Holloway, Fri. at 10 a.m. Sat. at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sun. at 2 p.m. Cost is $20-$25. For reservations call 415-357-1848, ext. 229.  

“Before the Rainbow Flag: California’s Gay History” with Jim Van Buskirk, author and former director of the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the SF Main Library, at 7 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Dia de los Muertos Craft program and stories from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge St. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

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. 

SATURDAY, NOV. 3 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour of “Lower Codornices Creek” to explore the history of the creek area from early industry to WWII housing to recent restoration. Walk is from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. To register and for information on meeting place call 848-0181. www.cityofberkeley.info/histsoc/ 

Healthcare for All Kids A MomsRising.org Event with Assemblymembers Loni Hancock and Mark DeSaulnier. Activities for the whole family from 11 a.m. to noon at Live Oak Community Center, 1301 Shattuck. www.momsrising.org/healthcareforkids 

Help Stop Neighborhood Radiation Protest Verizon's lawsuit against City of Berkeley from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Verizon store, 1109 University Ave, at San Pablo Ave. 

Councilmember Max Anderson’s Town Hall Meeting on public safety, youth services, health, education and opportunities in the community from 9:30 a.m. to noon at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. at Ashby. 981-7130. 

Alameda Literati Book Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with open mic all day at Al DeWitt O Club, 641 West Red Line Ave., Alameda Point, Alameda, at the former Naval Air Station at Alameda. 427-7974.  

Children’s Story Day at MOCHA Listen to “Snowflake Bentley” then make your own snowflake at 1 p.m. at The Museum of Children’s Art, 528 Ninth St., Oakland. Cost is $7. 465-8770. 

Samhain All Hallows Fundraiser with the Starlight Circle Players, art gallery, tarot readings, food and costumes contest, from 2 p.m. on at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar and Bonita. Tickets are $15-$35. 647-5268. www.starlightcircleplayers.com 

Political Affairs Readers Group “Immigration” A discussion led by David Bacon, at 10 a.m. at the Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Sponsored by the Communist Party USA, Oakland Berkeley Branch. Articles available at www.politicalaffairs.com 

Sister Comrade An evening of words and music celebrating the lives of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker with Angela Davis and Linda Tillery at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$28. 528-3043. www.sistercomrade.com 

Ongoing Vocal Jazz Workshop Sat. from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Abany Community Center, 1249 Marin at the corner of Masonic, Albany. 524-6797. 

Central Stage Open House A space for dance, theater, music, film, yoga, meetings, and more, at 6 p.m. at 5221 Central Ave. #A-1, Richmond. Please RSVP to mtaeed@aol.com 

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.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

SUNDAY, NOV. 4 

Cornucopia: A Celebration of Artistic and Cultural Diversity in West Berkeley A family event with live music, make-and-take art projects and market place, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Black Pine Circle School, 2016 7th St. Cost is $5, free for children under 10.  

The 25th Anniversary of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Honoring attorney Marc Van Der Hout. International food and music from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Donations accepted. 540-5296. www.eastbaysanctuary.org 

Home Greywater Systems and EcoHouse Tour from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. in Berkeley. Cost is $15, sliding scale. Registration required. 548-2220., ext. 242. 

“DIRT: The Erosion of Civilizations” with Prof. David R. Montgomery on the evolution of landscapes, at 1 p.m. at UC Botanical GArden, 200 Centennial Drive. Registration required. Cost is $7, free for Garden members. 643-2755, ext. 03. 

Drumming Workshop with Dror Sinai at 5 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Cost is $25-$35. For registration information call 547-2424, ext. 211. www.KehillaSynagogue.org 

Writing Workshop for Teens with Debroah Davis at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Old Time Radio East Bay Collectors and listeners gather to enjoy shows together at 5 p.m. at a private home in Berkeley. For more information email DavidinBerkeley at Yahoo.com. 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Tom Meade on “Skillful Means in a Productive Enterprise” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 5 to 9 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Cost is $3 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, NOV. 5 

The Future of People’s Park A discussion of the assessment and planning study of People’s Park at 7 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way. 643-5296. The report is available at http://communityrelations.berkeley.edu/mkthink_oct_2007_DRAFT_report.pdf 

The Jorde Symposium “Playing by the Rules in the Age of Terror” Professor Stephen Holmes will discuss how America misunderstands the terrorist threat and that the fight has been counterproductive to longstanding American values at 4 p.m. at Boalt Hall, Room 110, UC Campus. 642-7830. 

David Loeb on “Bay Nature” on the adventures of creating and sustaining the quarterly journal, at 7 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin, at Masonic. Free. 848 9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Johan Galtung on “The State of the World from a Mediator’s Perspective” at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Donation $15. 232-4493. www.uucb.org 

Progressive Democrats of the East Bay General Meeting on real healthcare reform at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. 601-6456. 

“Commonsense Pest Management in the Home and Garden” A presentation at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. at West Pauley Ballroom MLK Student Union, UC Campus. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com  

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577.  

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 

Teen Chess Club meets at 3:30 p.m. at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6280. 

TUESDAY, NOV. 6 

“A Unreasonable Man” A film on Ralph Nader at 6 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Independent Policy Forum: New Directions for Peace and Security with Carl P. Close, co-editor, “Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism” at 7 p.m. at The Independent Institute, 100 Swan Way, Oakland. Cos tis $10-$15. RSVP to 632-1366, ext. 118. 

“Summer of Love” film clips presented by Richie Unterberger at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel with Rabbi Arik Ascherman at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. 549-9447. 

Writer Coach Connection Volunteers needed to help Berkeley students improve their writing and critical thinking skills from noon to 3 p.m. To register call 524-2319. www.writercoachconnection.org 

“What Not to Buy for Children for the Holidays” A panel discussion with Susan Gregory Thomas and Peggy Spear at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mills College Student Union, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com  

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

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Community Sing-a-Long every Tues, at 2 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. 524-9122.  

Family Storytime at 7 p.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, NOV. 7 

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Colloquium with Galen Cranz “Body Conscious Design” at 1 p.m. at Wurster Hall, Room 315A, UC Campus. All welcome. laep.ced.berkeley.edu/events/colloquium 

“HybridStand” film on new sustainable ideas, and talk by Mark Godley of Big City Mountaineers, at 6 p.m. at Green City Gallery, 1950 Shattuck Ave. 814-937-8216. 

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon. Advanced sign-up is required; please call 594-5165.  

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

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

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

THURSDAY, NOV. 8 

¡Salud! A documentary on Cuba’s health care system at 7 p.m. at Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland. Discussion follows. Tickets are $5-$10. 601-0182.  

Presidential Mix It Up with representatives from the campaigns of the major Democratic candidates from 6 to 9 p.m. at Arsimona’s, 561 11th St. at Clay, Oakland.  

Alameda Measure A Debate on “Should Article XXVI “Multiple Dwelling Units” of the City of Alameda’s Charter be changed to exclude Alameda Point” at 7 p.m. in the social hall of Twin Towers United Methodist Church, 1411 Oak St., Alameda. www.alamedaforum.org 

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.  

ONGOING 

Donate the Fruit From Your Fruit Trees We will gladly pick and deliver your fruit to community programs that feed school kids, the elderly, the homebound and the hungry. The fruit trees should be located in or very near North Berkeley and the fruit should be organic (no pesticides) and edible. This is a volunteer/ 

grassroots thing so join in!! Please email northberkeleyharvest@gmail.com or 812-3369. 

Bay-Friendly Gardening Offers Discounted Compost Bins to Alameda County residents. In addition to the bins, they also offer free workshops, videos, brochures, and answers to your compost questions. To order a bin call the compost information hotline 444-7645. 

CITY MEETINGS 

Peace and Justice Commission meets Mon., Nov. 5, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5510.  

City Council meets Tues., Nov. 6, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Commission on the Status of Women meets Wed., Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190.  

Downtown Area Plan Advisory Commission meets Wed., Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7487. 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., Nov. 7, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950.  

Commission on Early Childhood Education meets Thurs. Nov. 8 , at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5428. 

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 8, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Nov. 8, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.


Arts Calendar

Tuesday October 30, 2007

TUESDAY, OCT. 30 

THEATER 

“Quilombo” Performance and fundraiser for Kim McMillon’s play on the Diaspora at 6 p.m. at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. 836-4649.  

FILM 

“Alternative Requirements” Works by Bay Area students at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

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

“Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol Between Jews and Christians” with author David Biale at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

“Journey in Ancient Arabia” with photographer Mamade Kadreebux at 7:30 p.m. in the Home Room, International House, UC Campus. Cost is $5. http://ihouse.berkeley.edu 

Freight and Salvage Open Mic at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $4.50-$5.50. 548-1761.  

Don Lattin describes “Jesus Freaks: A True Story of Murder and Madness on the Evangelical Edge” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Randy Craig Trio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Bluesbox Bayou Band at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054.  

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

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 31 

FILM 

“The Last Man on Earth” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Amiri Baraka, founder of the Black Arts Movement, and winner of the American Book Award reads at 6:30 p.m. at 315 Wheeler Hall, the Maude Fife Room, UC Campus. http://holloway.english.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Frederica von Stade in a benefit for the Sophia House, at noon at Oakland City Center, 12th and Broadway. www.oaklandcitycenter.com, www.sophiaproject.org 

Music for the Spirit Halloween Concert with Ron McKean on harpsichord at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Erin Inglish & Joe Ridout at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

UC Jazz Ensembles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $6. 841-JAZZ.  

Zabava!, Disciples of Markos, Yalazia at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Costumes welcome. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054.  

Orquestra Borinquen at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

The Soul Burners at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

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

THURSDAY, NOV. 1 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Goya: The Disasters of War” An exhibition of prints by the Spanish artist opens at the Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way, and runs through March 2. Cost is $3-$8. 642-0808. 

Photographs of Hill Tribe Women in Northern Thailand by Adrienne Miller opens at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

“One Way or Another: Asian American Art Now” Guided tour at 12:15 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft. 642-0808. 

FILM 

“Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad” about the people of Oaxaca, Mexico at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$20. 849-2568.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Lunch Poems with Amiri Baraka at 12:10 p.m. at the Morrison Library, inside the Doe Library, UC Campus. 642-0137 

Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny on “Observations: The San Francisco Bay Area and its Built Environment” at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Reception to follow. Tickets are $15. Sponsored by Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assoc. 841-2242.  

Joshua Clover, D.A. Powell and Juliana Spahr read in celebration of the publication of “American Poets of the 21st Century: The New Poetics” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Alan Williamson explores both Buddhism and Christianity in poems at 7 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720 ext 17.  

Lucy Jane Bledsoe reads from her new novel “Biting the Apple” at 7:30 p.m. at Laurel Bookstore, 4100 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland. 531-2073. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mud, The New Up, Phonofly, female-fronted rock, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $8. 525-5054.  

Iva Bittova, fiddler and vocalist, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  

Roberta Picket Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

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

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

Kinsella, Thurs.-Sat. at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

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

FRIDAY, NOV. 2 

THEATER 

Actor’s Ensemble of Berkeley”Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Nov. 17. Tickets are $10-$12. 841-5580.  

Altarena Playhouse “Morning’s at Seven” A family comedy by Paul Osborn Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Nov. 11. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre Company “Sex” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St., through Dec. 9. Tickets are $28-$50. 843-4822. www.auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Playhouse “Seussical, the Musical” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m., Sun. at 3 pm. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Dec. 2. Tickets are $18-$23. 665-5565. www.berkeleyplayhouse.org 

Central Works “Every Inch a King” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Nov. 18. Tickets are $9-$25. 558-1381.centralworks.org 

International Theater Ensemble A Propos of the Wet Snow” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Metal Shop Theatre, Willard Middle School, 2425 Stuart St. Tickets are $20-$30. 415-440-6163.  

Masquers Playhouse “Little Mary Sunshine” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., selected Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Women’s Will “Antigone” Fri.-Sun. at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. between Telegraph and Shattuck, Oakland, through Nov. 11. Tickets are $15-$25 sliding scale. 420-0813. www.womenswill.org 

Youth Musical Theater Company “Man of La Mancha” Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 3 and 8 p.m. at Longfellow Auditorium, 1500 Derby St. Tickets are $8-$15. 595-5514. info@ymtcberkeley.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Fiber Devotion” Joell Jones, soft sculpture, and Jeanne Jabbour, stitched drawings, on All Souls’ Day in honor of Día de los Muertos from 6 to 10 p.m. at 447 Twenty-fifth St., Oakland. www.oakopolis.org 

“The Edge of Reality” Abstract paintings by Juanita Hagberg. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at The Gallery, Lavezzo Designs, 5751 Horton St., Emeryville. Exhibition runs to Nov. 30. 643-0553. 

“Four Masters of Origami” Works by Robert Lang, Bernie Peyton, Linda Mihara, and Peter Engel. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at K Gallery, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. 865-5062. 

“Push Rewind: Maafa 2007” Closing reception at 6 p.m. at Inquiry Gallery, 2865 Broadway, Unit 2, Oakland. 641-715-3900, ext. 36800. 

The Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project Works by Frank Espada. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Photography Gallery, 406 14th St., lower level, Oakland. 465-8928. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Ancient Roots/Urban Journeys Gallery talk with Aida Gomes on Dias de los Muertos at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. Free for teachers. 238-2022.  

Sam Keen describes “Sightings: Extraordinary Encounters with Ordinary Birds” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Babtunde Lea’s “Summoning of the Ghost” Tribute to Miles, Cannon and Trane at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

“Side by Side” Performances by Anne Bluethenthal & Dancers, Dandelion Dancetheater, Deep Water Dance Theater, Facing East Dance & Music, and others, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $12-$15. 925-798-1300.  

La Familia Son at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022.  

Illustrio, trio of clarinet, viola, and piano, at 7:30 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Donation of $15 requested. 

Keni el Lebrijano, guitarist at 7:30 p.m. at 6 Degrees on Solano, 1403 Solano Ave. Albany. Free, but reservations recommended. 528-1237. 

Stompy Jones, East Coast swing, lindy-hop, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $13. 525-5054.  

Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Stella Royale and Padraic Finbar Hagerty-Hammond at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Morning Line at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082.  

Inspector Double Negative, Missing Link, The Harvey Cartel at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St. Cost is $6. 525-9926. 

Kinsella, Fri. and Sat. at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Femi at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $7-$15. 548-1159.  

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

SATURDAY, NOV. 3 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Betsy Rose, songs to celebrate the fall season, at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. 

Duo Amaranto, folk music in Spanish and English, at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 Tenth St. Cost is $7. 526-9888. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“The Works of a Year in Mexico” Paintings by Juana Alicia. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928.  

“Disappearing Honey Bees” a Day of the Dead Altar by Margo Rivera-Weiss. Reception with the artist at 1 p.m. at the San Pablo Gallery, 13831 San Pablo Ave., Maple Hall, Civic Center, San Pablo.  

THEATER 

“A Shirtwaist Tale” on American labor history, at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $15-$20. 848-0237, ext. 3.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Cheers to Muses Reading, contemporary works by Asian American women, at 3 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. 

Poetry Flash with Kirmen Uribe, Elizabeth Maclin, and John Felstiner at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books. 559-9500. 

Jamie Myrick portrays Zora Neale Hurston, author of “Their Eyes Were Watching God” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the West Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6275. 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading and contest from 3 to 5 p.m. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“Russian Romance” with Maria Mikheyenko, soprano, Dmitri Anissimov, tenor, Alexander Katsman, piano, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. at Durant and Bancroft. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864.  

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Royal Dance” with Marion Verbruggen, recorder, at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400.  

Volti “Adventures in Life, Love, and Longing” at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way.Tickets are $8-$20. 415-771-3352.  

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Fall Concert at 8 p.m. at Valley Center for the Performing Arts at Holy Names University, 3500 Mountain Blvd., Oakland. Tickets are$12-$15. 849-9776. www.ypsomusic.net 

Sister Comrade An evening of words and music celebrating the lives of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$28. 528-3043. www.sistercomrade.com 

Works in the Works, a low-tech performance series for artists to show newl works Sat. and Sun. at 7:30 p.m. at Eighth Street Studio, 2525 Eighth St. Tickets are $10. 527-5115. 

World Flute Fest from 1 to 5 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Donations accepted. 542-7517.  

Irvin Mayfield and The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $22-$42. 642-9988.  

“Nosotras” with Lichi Fuentes, Rosa Los Santos, Fernanda Bustamante, Gabriela Shiroma, and others, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mr. Lonesome & the Bluebelles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

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

Galaxy Band at 6:30 p.m. at Allegro Ballroom, 5855 Christie Ave., Emeryville. Cost is $5-$15. 655-2888.  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Amy X Neuberg & her Cello ChiXtet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Margie Baker & Friends at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $112-$15. 845-5373.  

Zoe Ellis with Maya Kronfeld at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

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

John Howland Trio, Joel Streeter, Junior League at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082.  

Royal Hawaiian Serenaders at 9 p.m. at Temple Bar Tiki Bar & Grill, 984 University Ave. 548-9888. 

SUNDAY, NOV. 4 

EXHIBITIONS 

“The Five Magpies” Works by Priscilla Birge, Barbara Hazard, Joanna Katz, Diane Rusnak and Sarah Whitecotton. Opening reception at 2 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Exhibition runs to Dec. 2. www.giorgigallery.com 

Thangka Painting Demonstration with Rinzing Gyaltsen Yongewa at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft. Part of the exhibition Pparting the Curtain: Asian Art Revealed.” 642-0808. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz introduces her new book “The Color of Jews: Racial Politics & Radical Diasporism” at 4 p.m. at Cafe Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave., corner Francisco. Donation $10. bayareawomeninblack@yahoo.com 

Daniel Lyons, who started the blog “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs” reads from his new book “Option$” at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books on Fourth St. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Fall Family Concert at noon at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. www.juliamorgan.org 

Shoko Hikage and Yoko Hirano-Itatani, koto, at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$15. 845-1350. 

Young People’s Chamber Orchestra Autumn Harvest Concert at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $1-$5. 595-4688. www.ypco.org  

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Royal Dance” with Marion Verbruggen, recorder, at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400. www.philharmonia.org 

Oakland Civic Orchestra at 4 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland. 238-7275. 

Per Tengstrand and Shan-Shan Sun, pianists, at 4 p.m. at Scottish Rite Theater, 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $30-$40. 601-7919.  

Oakland Lyric Opera “An Afternoon of Russian Romance” at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $18-$20. 836-6772.  

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone, at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $34-$90. 642-9988.  

Live Oak Concert with William Beatty, piano, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Cost is $10. 644-6893.  

“Desert Roots” World Beat Music with Dror Sinai, Rachel Valfer & Eliyahu Sills at 7:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Tickets are $15-$20. 547-2424, ext. 211. 

Emeryville Taiko 10th Anniversary Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $25. 925-798-1300. 

Bruce Barthol at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Beep! The Michael Coleman Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

Trance Zen Dance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com


The Shtetl Before the Holocaust

By Peter Selz, Special to the Planet
Tuesday October 30, 2007

We know so much about the deportation and death of Polish Jews in the Holocaust, but so little about life in the shtetl before the genocide. The exhibition of his paintings, currently on view at the Magnes Museum displays 65 pictures by an artist who has documented the joys and sorrows of daily life in the shtetl.  

Mayer Kirschenblatt has drawn on an amazing memory to tell the story. Mayer left the small town of Opatow (pronounced Apt in Yiddish) in 1934, when he was 17 and emigrated to Canada in search of a better life. In Toronto he became a house painter and eventually opened a small paint and wallpaper business.  

At age 59 he fell ill, retired and began telling his stories to his daughter, Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblet, an anthropologist and professor of Jewish Studies at NYU. She had seen some still-lifes her father had painted on a vacation in Florida, detected some talent and encouraged him to paint. On his 50th wedding anniversary in 1990 he began to paint a historic narrative, documenting all aspects of life in his hometown as he remembered it.  

Four hundred paintings and the story of the place has been published as They Call Me Mayer July by the University of California Press and serves as the catalogue of the show of 65 paintings at the Magnes. 

We see births and deaths, weddings and bar mitzvahs, holiday celebrations and burials, children playing and going to school, men praying in their prayer shawls. We see the butcher, the chimney sweep, the blacksmith, the water carrier, the bagel seller, musicians and the fellow called “The Human Fly,” who liked to climb the wall of buildings. We wonder how he was able to remember it all and how he was able to paint so convincingly.  

His style, related to folk art, used to be called “primitive” by art historians and critics. It is simply work by a self-taught painter, now often referred to as “outsider art.”  

When Mayer came to the opening of his show in Berkeley, I had occasion to ask him about his sources. He spoke with admiration of Chagall, and, indeed, there is a resemblance to pictures Chagall produced during his return to Russia in World War I. Chagall, however, was trained as a painter in St. Petersburg, absorbed the lessons of Cubism in Paris, and purposely worked in a more naive style back in Russia.  

Mayer certainly lacks the sense of color and composition we find in an artist like Chagall. Mayer also knew the photographs of the ghettoes by the Russian photographer Roman Vishniac, and he was also familiar with the renowned Yiddish writers Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Loeb Peretz, who wrote with such humor and understanding about life and culture in the Jewish shtetl, where the Jews often outnumbered the gentiles, who always saw them as “The Other” while the Jews looked at the Poles as the outsiders. 

As one would expect, not all the paintings are of equal interest or aesthetic quality. Some, in fact, are rather awkward, which is part of their appeal. I was particularly delighted with “Purim Play: The Krakow Wedding” (circa 1994). Purim celebrates the delivery of the Jews from Persian massacre. It is a holiday which often includes theatricals about Mordecai and Esther. In Mayer’s paintings we see itinerant actors with Napoleonic hats and a small band of musicians at work. And there are the kids—including Mayer himself looking into the window of the more prosperous folks who could afford to hire the actors and music players. “Exit Hamburg, 1934” (1997) shows a large picture of Hitler and a Nazi woman examining the papers of a traveler at the Humburg (sic) American Ship Lines. This is how the artist remembered his exit from Europe. This was 1934 and he remembers that “we did not personally experience anti-Semitism.” They left before it was too late. 

Forty-seven members of his family who had remained in Poland were killed by the Nazis.  

Mayer, his mother and his siblings went on their “cold and stormy crossing,” and they must have been among all the people sitting in straight chairs on the bow of the ocean liner in “Ice Fields: Arriving in Canadian Waters.” We see members of the crew, pushing chunks of ice off the prow. The Mayers took the train from Halifax to Toronto, where many years later Mayer related the reveries of his childhood world in word and picture. 

 

Image:  

Mayer Kirschenblatt’s Purim Play: The Kraków Wedding (circa 1994, acrylic on canvas).  

 

 

THEY CALLED ME MAYER JULY: PAINTED MEMORIES OF A JEWISH CHILDHOOD IN POLAND BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST 

Through Jan. 13 at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St., Berkeley. 549-6950. www.magnes.org.


The Theater: Virago Theatre Stages ‘Mankind’s Last Hope’ In Alameda

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Mankind’s Last Hope, Virago Theatre’s burlesque futuristic sitcom, through this weekend at Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Center near the Park Street Bridge, is the perfect antidote to the overcommercialization of Halloween.  

It has crazy costumes and makeup, exuberant alien bosses and eccentric, downtrodden human “craft workers,” with live and taped spoof commercials (some featuring Alameda businesses) and a general air of putting on issues serious and trivial. 

Directed by Robert Lundy-Paine, this original staged teleplay, written by Dan Brodnitz and Jeff Green, includes credits framing each of the three episodes and a loopy theme song about how The Horde invades earth in 2040, most humans dying, the rest enslaved to whittle or fashion inspirational greeting cards for Earth Industries in a New Galactic Economic Order.  

It makes Star Trek seem like the future on Prozak. But there is a human underground, somewhere, a resistance to the overly friendly, menacing but too jocular, insect-like task masters of The Horde, more grotesquely human than their sadsack slave charges, who whittle away with switchblades or spellcheck, always afraid of being eaten. 

With the enormous alien femininity of Jiggy (Angela Dant), Horde supervisor of a human work crew, and her turgid affair with the even more enormous (but never seen, though heard) “cool” Xanthor, splendidly deadpan Chloe Bronzan is introduced as “hairless monkey Bright Eyes,” nude and bound in straps, to be introduced into the crew, perhaps as breeding material.  

But she comes out of solitary in The Box as take-charge Alex, cool herself in camouflage and suspiciously speaking Horde like a nonhuman. Soon, with the eating of crewleader Burt (Tony Jonick), she’s given the job of managing her hokey human confreres: buff but puerile Hank (Kenneth Sears), grim Spencer (James Colgan) with eyepatch and blade, and ditzy (but lovable) screw-up Wally (Alex Goldenberg), who’s been given a tail, then a third nipple, secreting poisonous milk, with which he hopes to poison Xanthor, in a misguided blow for human freedom. 

But the proceedings are jovial as well as edgy, with a doo-wop number when Hank bemoans the demise of his balloon animal pet, beloved Snakey; a weird puppet show, to cheer the sentimental humans up and improve morale; and a very funny tango between Horde master Bongar (Linda-Ruth Cardozo) and unctuous human slave Wortle (Molly M. Holcomb) while scheming against his/her own kind. Hannah Gustaffson plays a young Hordette with humor and quizzical charm, presiding over The Box. 

This kind of put-on demands good acting to rise above the kitsch it spoofs, and the ensemble proves up to it with Lundy-Paine’s direction. The comic timing is fine, and neither Sci-Fi freaks nor those indifferent to the planet’s imaginary fate(s) will be bored or displeased. 

 

 

MANKIND’S LAST HOPE 

Presented by Virago Theatre at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 4 at the Rhythmix Cultural Center, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda.  

$12-$17. www.viragotheatre.org.


Spooky, Unusual Events in Celebration of Halloween

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Tuesday October 30, 2007

All Hallows, All Saints, All Souls, Samhain, Todos Santos, Dia de los Muertes ... by any other name, to us, Halloween and the cluster of celebrations around the old Celtic lunar new year after harvest, adopted by the Christian Church as holidays.  

Until recently, Halloween in particular has been mostly a North American affair, at least in modern times—a children’s holiday, and a night for imaginations (and behavior) to run riot ... carnavalesque, for northern cultures which lack that tradition. 

Lately, there’s been both controversy and mayhem, both reactions missing or exaggerating the purpose of the holiday, captured by Berkeley Renaissance poet Robin Blaser: “so eerie: ‘must get rid of Halloween—/it’s pagan,’ say these clowns of/tailor-made, cardboard transcendence,/ignorant of All hallows coming up,/deaf to this laughter with the ultimate ...” 

But in between the tailor-made consumer extravaganza of Halloween superstores and the suppressed blow-out of the Castro, the Bay Area offers a few appropriate ways to celebrate, whether en famille or as adults—or adults only. 

Though much of the action passed with last weekend, Halloween, All Saints and the next few days will see a few unique events.  

• On Halloween itself, 7 p.m. in San Francisco’s Union Square, Larry Reed’s Shadowlight Productions will present, for free, Greek shadowmaster Leonidas Kassipides, himself the grandson of a shadow puppeteer. He will be performing The Metamorphosis of Karaghiozis, with live clarinet, strings and dumbek, the comic adventures of a popular hero of the period Greece was dominated by the Ottoman empire. 

• Closer to home, Ashkenaz complements the theme with a Balkan Halloween, featuring Greek folk music and Rebetika by the Disciples of Markos and Yalozis, at 8 p.m. ($10 with costume, $12 without). 

• The silver screen, which spread spookiness, as well as gross horror, around the globe, will feature “a deadpan feast of the undead” at the Pacific Film Archive, with The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, at 7:30 p.m., and Murnau’s great silent masterpiece of darkness and light, Faust, with musical accompaniment by brilliant Dutch jazz and comedy orchestra the Willem Breuker Kollektif at the Palace of Fine Arts for the SF Jazz Festival at 8 p.m. ($10-20). 

• Truly carnavalesque will be “Frightmare on 8th Street,” Cherie Carson’s aerial dance performance, when “creatures of the night crawl, fly, float, hover.” The show is at Studio 12, 2525 Eighth St., 7 p.m. on Halloween and Nov. 2-3 ($5-13, call 587-0770 or see www.movingout.org). 

• Creaturely, but in reverse: a Pet Masquerade Party (and contest), 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at 151 Vermont, Ste. 9, in San Francisco (415) 241-9176.  

• Helen Adams’ All Souls Eve will feature a celebration of the late, fey Scottish poet, who was closely associated with Berkeley and San Francisco Renaissance poets Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan, with performances of her eerie, funny modern ballads and her (and her sister Pat’s) ballad opera, “San Francisco’s Burning” (1960). Composer Warren Jepson and many others, including poets Michael McClure and Diane DiPrima, will appear for the publication of A Helen Adam Reader, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Center, Franklin at Geary in San Francisco ($5; info on the Poetry Center’s website, www.sfsu.edu/poetry). 

• On stage Thursday and Friday, The Hypnodrome in San Francisco will feature plays drawn from the original repertoire of Parisian Belle Epoche Grand Guignol ($20; $69 for the Shock Box, (800) 838-3006). In Alameda, Virago Theatre Company stages Mankind’s last Hope and popular Teatro Zinzanni goes ZinZombie on Halloween with a masquerade ball in their tent on San Francisco’s Embarcadero. 

• Berkeley’s Starlight Circle Players hold their second annual Samhain Allhallows Concert fundraiser, with a plethora of bands (including The Questionably Sane), with masquerade, tarot, art and “taverna treats by the pyrate chefs of Drunken Dragon Inn,” Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Fellowship of Unitarians, at Cedar and Bonita ($15-35, volunteers free, www.starlightcircleplayers@yahoo.com).  

• Though the Dia de los Muertes festival was last weekend in Fruitvale, Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes has a community altar by artist Patti Goldstein through Nov. 6; families are invited to place offerings. 4499 Piedmont Ave., 9-5 p.m.  

• For a quieter alternative, African-American poet and playwright Amiri Baraka will read at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Wheeler Hall, on the UC campus, and perform next week with the Chicago Arts Ensemble’s Roscoe Mitchell at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre (see the Poetry Center Website, above).  

A Halloween connection? Baraka, writing as LeRoy Jones, in his famous “In Memory of Radio,” eulogizing Orson Welles’ broadcast character: “Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?/Only Jack Kerouac, that I know of, and me ... ‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.’/O, yes he does/O, yes he does/An evil word it is,/This Love.” 

 


Books: A Guide to the Bay Area’s Buildings and Architecture

By Steven Finacom, Special to the Daily Planet
Tuesday October 30, 2007

A long-awaited, much-needed, and up-to-date guide to the great and representative buildings and architectural history of the Bay Area debuts this month.  

An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area is authored by Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny, in conjunction with a dozen contributing authors and photographers.  

Cerny speaks in Berkeley this Thursday evening as part of a Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) lecture series.  

Her talk is entitled “Observations: The San Francisco Bay Area and Its Built Environment,” drawing on the stories told in the book and the experience of researching and writing it. Books will be available for sale, with a discount for BAHA members. The book, published by Gibbs-Smith, retails for $29.95. 

Locals will recognize Cerny’s name from her two editions of Berkeley Landmarks, the scores of articles she has authored about Berkeley buildings and history, and her decades of selfless service to the cause of historic preservation. She’s a Bay Area native, with deep family roots in the region. 

The architecture of the Bay Area ranges from 18th-century Spanish missions to modern airport terminals. Imported and homegrown architectural styles, natural disasters, human interventions from railroads to war to the silicon chip, and a unique regional geography and climate have combined to create a wonderful and complex mix of buildings, spaces, and places. 

The guide is organized geographically by county, with individual cities, districts, and structures profiled. The writers went into the field with notebook and camera as well as consulting an array of historical documents, surveys, and local experts.  

Each building is identified by year of construction and designer (where known), followed by a few sentences of history, context, and notable design features. Black and white photographs of many of the structures are included. 

Neighborhood patterns are profiled, and the entries provide useful hints for spotting structures that enrich the context, such as San Francisco buildings that may not be architecturally preeminent but survived the 1906 earthquake and fire and illustrate earlier patterns of design or development. 

If you have an omnivorous historical appetite, the brevity of the entries can sometimes be frustrating, but one appreciates the challenges of putting together a book like this. Essential basics can be included, but there’s not room for exhaustive histories or extremely detailed design descriptions.  

Architecturally, the most prominent local communities such as San Francisco and Berkeley have been well covered by previous guides (including two written by Cerny) and published architectural histories. However, many smaller or less visible Bay Area towns, cities, and neighborhoods have been overlooked. 

This book, with more than 500 pages of text and over 2,000 individual entries, rectifies the imbalance and provides a regional perspective, addressing not just the older city centers but the suburbs, and profiling their major edifices and representative structures from cattle ranching days to Gold Rush to dot-com boom. 

In the Bay Area, understanding a mid-century Eichler subdivision or a South Bay R & D office park is as important to an appreciation of regional history and development patterns as admiring the Palace of Fine Arts or a pristine row of Victorian beauties. This guide thoroughly surveys the spectrum of local history and architecture. 

Refreshingly, it avoids a failing of some other architectural guidebooks. That’s the tendency of authors, often architects or critics, to turn a guide into a showcase of their personal preferences. 

For example, some San Francisco guidebooks written in the streamlined ‘30s fairly dripped with scorn at those horrible, out-of-date, Victorian houses, while others from the 1960s tout the virtues of particular Modern era buildings that, from 21st-century hindsight, are pretty mundane.  

In contrast, Cerny and her co-authors appear to have come to this project not as cheerleaders for design from any particular era, but from backgrounds as community and architectural historians with a thoughtful appreciation of past and present. 

They brought a catholic sensibility to their writing and selection of projects, respectfully showing the whole panorama of Bay Area architectural history and urban development. 

Quite a number of recent/contemporary buildings are indeed appropriately included, but they are thoughtfully treated without genuflection at the ephemeral altars of the “starchitect.”  

For example, the brief write-up on the new De Young Museum building gives a fair and matter-of-fact overview of both its virtues and shortcomings. 

An Architectural Guidebook to San Francisco and the Bay Area is easy to use, the maps relate well to the descriptions, and the index is clear and (from my brief perusal) seems accurate.  

There’s also a chronological, illustrated, guide to regional architectural styles and trends.  

If you’re at all interested in the architecture and history of the Bay Area, this will be an indispensable reference to own. I may, in fact, get two copies; one for home, and one that stays in the car, so that on trips through the Bay Area, quick answers to “what building is that?” can finally be found. 

 

 

AN ARCHITECTURAL  

GUIDEBOOK TO SAN FRANCISCO AND THE BAY AREA 

By Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny 

Gibbs-Smith, $29.95. 

 

Susan Cerny speaks at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the historic Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Refreshments and book-signing follow across the street at Berkeley Architectural Heritage’s colonial revival mansion, the McCreary-Greer House. 

Tickets are $15. Call BAHA at 841-2242, or check the www.berkeleyheritage.com website for more details. 

Cerny’s lecture will be followed at 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 11, by the third and final talk in a BAHA series featuring local authors and historical topics. 

Mark A. Wilson, author of the newly published Julia Morgan, Architect of Beauty (Gibbs-Smith, 2007) speaks on “Julia Morgan: her Unique Place in American Architecture” at the Seldon Williams House (Julia Morgan, architect, 1928), in Berkeley's Claremont Court neighborhood. 

A reception and book-signing will follow. The talk provides an opportunity to visit one of Julia Morgan's most beautiful private homes. The cost is $25 per person. Reservations for the Wilson event may be made by sending a check, payable to BAHA, and a return envelope to: BAHA, P.O. Box 1137, Berkeley, CA 94701.


Kingdom of Shadows: The Origins of the Horror Film

By Justin DeFreitas
Tuesday October 30, 2007

As long as we've had motion pictures, we've used them to scare ourselves. The medium is perfectly suited for it. Even the earliest filmmakers saw the potential, employing double exposures, trick shots, spooky sets and dramatic lighting to illuminate the darker side of the imagination, to bring to life the ethereal netherworlds and distorted figures of the collective unconscious. 

A string of new DVD releases presents some of the greatest examples of early horror, films from the 1920s, when the genre reached its first full blossoming in both the United States and in Europe.  

In the 1920s Universal was at the bottom of the heap of Hollywood studios, an also-ran amid the likes of MGM, Paramount and United Artists. Whereas MGM may have turned out a film per week, including many big-budget blockbusters per year, Universal produced a steady diet of low-budget programmers.  

Universal chief Carl Laemmle, in an effort to stake his claim to some of the prestige and influence of his rivals, outlined a plan to produce a few big-budget films per year, spectacles with melodramatic plots, vast sets, and casts of thousands, or at least hundreds. He called them "Super Jewels." One of the first was Erich von Stroheim's Foolish Wives, a film that Laemmle relentlessly promoted as the first million-dollar film, even going so far as to mount a large ticking display outside the studio that tallied the rising cost of the production minute by minute.  

The most spectacular of Laemmle's Super Jewels, however, were the Lon Chaney vehicles. Image Entertainment has just released the first, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), in a definitive new DVD edition, following their previous excellent edition of the second, The Phantom of the Opera (1925). 

Chaney, known as "the man of a thousand faces," is the key factor in these films, transforming himself into the most hideous of creatures in each, yet maintaining the humanity of the character, and thus the sympathy of the audience, in the creation of what would be the prototype for the long line of horror film monsters to follow.  

The Hunchback disc includes a new score, commentary track, photo galleries (some in 3-D—glasses provided), and behind-the-scenes footage of Chaney, sans makeup, on the set.  

Chaney also figures prominently in another new DVD release, Kino's American Silent Horror box set. The set serves as a companion to the company's previous collection, German Horror Classics, which featured such seminal horror film masterpieces as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and Nosferatu (1922), a film Kino will soon re-release in a definitive two-disc edition.  

The American horror set features four more classics of the genre: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), The Penalty (1920), The Cat and the Canary (1927), and The Man Who Laughs (1928).  

The Penalty shows Chaney in yet another painful contortion, this time as a double amputee. Chaney's self-designed costume involved him strapping his legs back and walking on his knees throughout the film as a brutal gangster out for revenge on the quack who wrongly deformed him as a child. It is not one of Chaney's better-known films, yet it is certainly one of his finest performances, for unlike the previous films mentioned here, he is not forced to compete with the grandiosity of the production itself. Extra features include excerpts from other Chaney films and a video tour of the actor's famed makeup kit.  

Dr. Jeckyll stars the great John Barrymore in what many consider the first great American horror film. It is one of most frequently adapted stories, especially in the early years of cinema. In fact, the disc includes an excerpt from a rival version made the same year, as well as an essay on the novel's various incarnations. The original score for the film was composed and performed by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, a superb quintet that appeared at this year's San Francisco Silent Film Festival.  

The American horror film really took off once Hollywood began recruiting talent from Europe, most notably from Germany. The German Expressionists had been exploring and exploiting the full visual potential of film for years, using unusual camera angles, fantastic sets and the elaborate interplay of light and shadow to create dramatic effects that gave rise to the modern horror film. Paul Leni, director of the classic German film Waxworks (1924), was hired by Laemmle and made his American debut with The Cat and the Canary, a comedy-horror film that essentially defined the haunted house thriller. The tale had already been a huge success on Broadway, but Leni brought a distinctly Germanic touch to the film version; his use of camera movement, evocative set design and other expressionistic techniques helped bring a new level of artistry to American film.  

He followed up a couple of years later with perhaps the highlight of the Kino collection, The Man Who Laughs, starring another German émigré, Conrad Veidt. The story, based on a novel by Victor Hugo, concerns the son of a politician who is kidnapped by a rival and has his face carved into a hideous smile by a gypsy surgeon. Eventually he finds refuge in a traveling freak show before finding himself drawn back into a world of political intrigue. The film was hugely influential in the horror genre, and even beyond it, the hero providing the inspiration for the character of the Joker in the Batman comic books.  

The set also includes a 1998 documentary on the origins and development of the horror film. Kingdom of Shadows, narrated by Rod Steiger, traces the themes and techniques of the genre from the earliest days of cinema through the beginning of the sound era, using excerpts from dozens of classic films.  

Another Kino release, though not quite a horror film, adds another dimension to the genre. A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929), a British production, is more of a suspense film perhaps, or a psychological thriller with noirish overtones. Directed by Anthony Asquith, the film rivals Hitchcock for its use of suspense and the subjective camera in the delineation of a mind on the verge of collapse. The film is full of virtuoso techniques, from its flashback structure and shadowy photography to a heart-pounding scene set in a movie theater, where the mounting tension is created by dramatic close-ups and rapid-fire editing as a man's jealousy and rage build inside him until, finally, Asquith releases the tension with a satiric jab at the new phenomenon sweeping motion pictures: the talkies. And later, during the film's climax, there's a striking and innovative use of color to depict a moment of sudden violence. 

Also included on the set is Silent Britain, a new documentary celebrating the rediscovery of long-neglected silent film classics from the UK. 

 

 

 

Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) 

Image Entertainment. www.image-entertainment.com. 

$24.99 

 

American Silent Horror (1920-1928) 

Kino. www.kino.com. 

$49.95 

 

A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929) 

Kino. www.kino.com. 

$29.95 


Wild Neighbors: Birds in Berkeley: The Owls in the Oak

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday October 30, 2007

Eighty-one years ago Joseph Grinnell, director of UC’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, sat in his corner office at the edge of Faculty Glade watching a crew of arborists at work on a venerable coast live oak. Or, as he put it in his essay “Tree Surgery and the Birds,” “ ‘tree surgeons’ … under directions of a ‘landscape architect.’ ” His contempt is evident. Over the years, Grinnell had observed 46 species of birds in that oak. And he noted the removal of bits of the tree that had attracted particular species of birds: the decaying stub where the downy woodpecker drummed, the white-breasted nuthatch’s favorite foraging ground, the flycatcher’s perch. 

“My corner tree used to have knotholes,” he wrote. “One such cavity, years ago, furnished the home site for a Screech Owl, and from it each summer issued a brood of young owls … Nowadays, it seems, the tenets of tree surgery require that no such cavities be permitted to remain in any well-cared-for tree. Each and every former and even potential knothole has been gouged out and sealed up, so that only a forbidding wall of cement meets the eye and beak of any prospecting bird.” 

To Grinnell, the loss of the campus screech-owls was just part of the “local disappearance of our native bird-life.” And he was in a position to know. Hired to run the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology (MVZ) by the remarkable naturalist-philanthropist Annie Alexander (see Barbara Stein’s biography On Her Own Terms: Annie Montague Alexander and the Rise of Science in the American West for more on that working relationship), Grinnell was the architect of Berkeley’s preeminence in mammalogy and ornithology.  

He had been born in Indian Territory where his physician father practiced, and grew up among Red Cloud’s Oglala Sioux. His road to Berkeley led through Pasadena and Alaska. Three years after taking over the museum, he organized an epic Sierran transect that provides a baseline for contemporary studies of faunal response to climate change. During that project, Grinnell once set out from Yosemite Valley and hiked more than 40 miles over the crest to Mono Lake in a single day, shotgun and notebook in hand. 

Grinnell also pioneered some of the fundamental concepts of ecology: ecological niches, competitive exclusion. He recognized that animals shaped their environments as well as being shaped by them, and that variation was the raw material of evolution. 

The year after the attack of the “tree surgeons,” Grinnell and Margaret Wythe published their Directory to the Bird-life of the San Francisco Bay Region, under the auspices of the Cooper Ornithological Club. (His choice of a female collaborator is interesting. Grinnell respected his patron Alexander, but didn’t allow women on MVZ field trips.)  

Grinnell and Wythe documented 159 nesting species in the Bay Area but were pessimistic about their future, expecting that diversity to decline. “Species of birds are disappearing, some never to return,” they wrote; “some species are just about holding their own … On the whole, it looks as though the total number of species in the Bay region at the present time were undergoing decided reduction, due in major part to the elimination of habitats of wide diversity or of productive kinds.” 

Fortunately, their crystal ball was a bit cloudy. William Bousman recently compared the Directory with data from the subsequent 80 years of breeding bird surveys and atlas projects, and found nesting records for 215 species. Many of those were one-off attempts by vagrants; however, 19 species not present in 1927 appear to be here to stay. Some newcomers were commercially exploited species rebounding after the ravages of the plume trade. Others found new man-made habitats like salt ponds and reservoirs, or responded to the regrowth of redwood forests and the planting of urban trees. Range expansions include northern birds moving south, southern birds moving north, eastern birds moving west. 

And what goes for the overall Bay Area goes for Berkeley. Crows and ravens have taken advantage of the garbage we generate. Cooper’s hawks have moved into Berkeley’s street trees. Chestnut-backed chickadees, unknown in the East Bay in Grinnell’s time, feel at home among planted evergreens. Other birds have benefitted from an expanded urban oak population. John Westlake, a long-time Berkeley birder, has a theory that the maturing of all the oaks planted in the early 70s has a lot to do with the current abundance of oak-associated birds like the Nuttall’s woodpecker and oak titmouse.  

“The unhappy future projected by Grinnell and Wythe has not come to pass,” writes Bousman, “at least not yet.” True, there have been tradeoffs.  

If Charles Keeler revisited his old Berkeley haunts, he would miss the yellow warblers and western meadowlarks, as Grinnell would miss the screech-owls. But who could complain about the chickadees? 

 

Photograph by Ron Sullivan. 

Knothole with a view: western screech-owl in Briones Regional Park.


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday October 30, 2007

TUESDAY, OCT. 30 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Sobrante Ridge, Coach Drive. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Fall Fruit ‘n’ Fright at the Tuesday Berkeley Farmers’ Market with pears, pomegranates and persimmons, a Pumpkin Carving Contest, Day of the Dead festivities, and Fall Fruit Pies by Mission Pies from 3 to 7 p.m. on Derby St. at MLK, Jr. Way. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

“Volunteer at Any Age” A Peace Corps Information Session at 6 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 1-800-424-8580. www.peacecorps.gov 

“Quilombo” Performance and fundraiser for Kim McMillon’s play on the Diaspora at 6 p.m. at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. 836-4649. 

“Reincarnation and Buddhism” with Reverend Harry Bridge, Lodi Buddhist Temple from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Ave. at Fulton St. Donation $20. 809-1460. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Community Sing-a-Long every Tues, at 2 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave. 524-9122.  

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library. 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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

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, OCT. 31 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland uptown to the Lake to discover Art Deco landmarks. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Ancestor Night “Quilombo Communities of Rio de Janeiro” with Robert King at 6 p.m. at Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. 836-4649. 

Halloween Storytime and Costume Party for ages 3 to 8 at 3:30 p.m. at Claremont Branch, Berkeley Public Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. 981-6280.  

Halloween at Habitot A not-too-spooky event for infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers, from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $6-$7. 647-1111. 

Howl-o-ween Celebration with tricks and treats, for dogs and humans from 5 to 6 p.m. at Ohlone Dog Park, Grant St. and Hearst Ave. Dress up your pup and bring them out to the ball! Treats for dogs and humans, costume pageant at 5:45 p.m. Sponsored by the Ohlone Dog Park Association. 845-4213. ohlonedogpark.org 

Studio One Art Center Annual Pumpkin Potluck with sharing of squash recipes and treat bags for youth, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 1428 Alice St., off 14th St. Costumes welcome. 597-5027. 

Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Colloquium with Caroline Chen on Dancing in the Streets of Contemporary Beijing: improvised USes of Space” at 1 p.m. at Wurster Hall, Room 315A, UC Campus. All welcome. laep.ced. 

berkeley.edu/events/colloquium 

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

CodePink Halloween Protest at the Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square. Come in costume. 524-2776. 

THURSDAY, NOV. 1 

El Sabor de Fruitvale with a farmers’ market, bilingual storytelling with puppets, face painting, free books for children and information on community services from 3 to 7 p.m. at Fruitvale Village Plaza, 3411 East 12th St., Oakland. 535-6900. www.unitycouncil.org  

“Observations: The San Francisco Bay Area and its Built Environment” with author Susan Dinkelspiel Cerny at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Reception to follow. Tickets are $15. Sponsored by Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assoc. 841-2242. www.berkeleyheritage.com 

Mario Savio Memorial Lecture: “From Jim Crow to Guantanamo: Prisons, Democracy and Empire” with Angela Davis, social activist and UC Santa Cruz professor at 7 p.m. at Pauley Ballroom, Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union, UC Campus. Free. 707-823-7293. 

“Last Man Out” with William Rodriguez, a janitor in the World Trade Center North Tower who was the last person to leave the tower before it fell on 9/11, at 7 p.m. at Grand Lake Theater, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $10. 650-857-0927. www.communitycurrency.org 

“A Little Bit of So Much Truth” A film on the 2006 popular uprising in Oaxaca, Mexico at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Donation $5-$10. Sponsored by the Task Force on the Americas. 415-924-3227. www.mitfamericas.org 

“Preventing Falls for 50+ Adults” Learn about changing behaviors, nutrition and medication management at 1:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club meets at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar. 

freetoasthost.info  

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.  

FRIDAY, NOV. 2 

Fiesta de los Muertos A fundraiser for the Dolores Huerta Foundation with music and dancing at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $35. Costumes encouraged. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Berkeley Public Library West Branch Grand Re-Opening from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1125 University Ave. with live music, storytelling and refreshments. 981-6278. 548-1240 (TTY). 

California Historical Society Piedmont Avenue Tour with Gary Holloway, Fri. at 10 a.m. Sat. at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., and Sun. at 2 p.m. Cost is $20-$25. For reservations call 415-357-1848, ext. 229.  

“Before the Rainbow Flag: California’s Gay History” with Jim Van Buskirk, author and former director of the James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center at the SF Main Library, at 7 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, Oak at 10th St., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Dia de los Muertos Craft program and stories from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge St. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

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. 

SATURDAY, NOV. 3 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour of “Lower Codornices Creek” to explore the history of the creek area from early industry to WWII housing to recent restoration. Walk is from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. To register and for information on meeting place call 848-0181. www.cityofberkeley.info/histsoc/ 

Healthcare for All Kids A MomsRising.org Event with Assemblymembers Loni Hancock and Mark DeSaulnier. Activities for the whole family from 11 a.m. to noon at Live Oak Community Center, 1301 Shattuck. www.momsrising.org/healthcareforkids 

Councilmember Max Anderson’s Town Hall Meeting on public safety, youth services, health, education and opportunities in the communityfrom 9:30 a.m. to noon at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. at Ashby. 981-7130. 

Alameda Literati Book Fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with open mic all day at Al DeWitt O Club, 641 West Red Line Ave., Alameda Point, Alameda, at the former Naval Air Station at Alameda. 427-7974.  

Children’s Story Day at MOCHA Listen to “Snowflake Bentley” then make your own snowflake at 1 p.m. at The Museum of Children’s Art, 528 Ninth St., Oakland. Cost is $7. 465-8770. 

Samhain All Hallows Fundraiser with the Starlight Circle Players, art gallery, tarot readings, food and costumes contest, from 2 p.m. on at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar and Bonita. Tickets are $15-$35. 647-5268. www.starlightcircleplayers.com 

Political Affairs Readers Group “Immigration” A discussion led by David Bacon, at 10 a.m. at the Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Sponsored by the Communist Party USA, Oakland Berkeley Branch. Articles available at www.politicalaffairs.com 

Sister Comrade An evening of words and music celebrating the lives of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker with Angela Davis and Linda Tillery at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$28. 528-3043. www.sistercomrade.com 

Ongoing Vocal Jazz Workshop Sat. from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Abany Community Center, 1249 Marin at the corner of Masonic, Albany. 524-6797. 

Central Stage Open House A space for dance, theater, music, film, yoga, meetings, and more, at 6 p.m. at 5221 Central Ave. #A-1, Richmond. Please RSVP to mtaeed@aol.com 

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.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

SUNDAY, NOV. 4 

Cornucopia: A Celebration of Artistic and Cultural Diversity in West Berkeley A family event with live music, make-and-take art projects and market place, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Black Pine Circle School, 2016 7th St. Cost is $5, free for children under 10. www.balckpinecircle.org/cornucopia 

The 25th Anniversary of the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant Honoring attorney Marc Van Der Hout. International food and music from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Donations accepted. 540-5296. www.eastbaysanctuary.org 

Home Greywater Systems and EcoHouse Tour from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 to 3 p.m. in Berkeley. Cost is $15, sliding scale. Registration required. 548-2220., ext. 242. 

Drumming Workshop with Dror Sinai at 5 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. Cost is $25-$35. For registration information call 547-2424, ext. 211. www.KehillaSynagogue.org 

Old Time Radio East Bay Collectors and listeners gather to enjoy shows together at 5 p.m. at a private home in Berkeley. For more information email DavidinBerkeley at Yahoo.com. 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Tibetan Buddhism with Tom Meade on “Skillful Means in a Productive Enterprise” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 843-6812. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 5 to 9 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Cost is $3 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, NOV. 5 

The Future of People’s Park A discussion of the assessment and planning study of People’s Park at 7 p.m. at Trinity Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way. 643-5296. The report is available at http://communityrelations.berkeley.edu/mkthink_oct_2007_DRAFT_report.pdf 

The Jorde Symposium “Playing by the Rules in the Age of Terror” Professor Stephen Holmes will discuss how America misunderstands the terrorist threat and that the fight has been counterproductive to longstanding American values at 4 p.m. at Boalt Hall, Room 110, UC Campus. 642-7830. 

David Loeb on “Bay Nature” on the adventures of creating and sustaining the quarterly journal, at 7 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin, at Masonic. Free. 848 9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Johan Galtung on “The State of the World from a Mediator’s Perspective” at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Donation $15. 232-4493. www.uucb.org 

Progressive Democrats of the East Bay General Meeting on real healthcare reform at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. 601-6456. 

“Commonsense Pest Management in the Home and Garden” A presentation at 7 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 10 to 11 a.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. at West Pauley Ballroom MLK Student Union, UC Campus. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com  

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577.  

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 

Teen Chess Club meets at 3:30 p.m. at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6280. 

ONGOING 

Donate the Fruit From Your Fruit Trees We will gladly pick and deliver your fruit to community programs that feed school kids, the elderly, the homebound and the hungry. The fruit trees should be located in or very near North Berkeley and the fruit should be organic (no pesticides) and edible. This is a volunteer/ 

grassroots thing so join in!! Please email northberkeleyharvest@gmail.com or 812-3369. 

Bay-Friendly Gardening Offers Discounted Compost Bins to Alameda County residents. In addition to the bins, they also offer free workshops, videos, brochures, and answers to your compost questions. To order a bin call the compost information hotline 444-7645. 

CITY MEETINGS 

Downtown Area Plan Advisory Commission meets Wed. Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7487. 

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m., a