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Walter Hood describes two of his proposals for Strawberry Creek Plaza as Kirstin Miller (left) of EcoCity Builders, one of the organizations sponsoring the proposals, and Kitty McClain, listen in.
Richard Brenneman
Walter Hood describes two of his proposals for Strawberry Creek Plaza as Kirstin Miller (left) of EcoCity Builders, one of the organizations sponsoring the proposals, and Kitty McClain, listen in.
 

News

Hodge Asks Court to Put Him on Ballot for Oakland Council Race

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday March 21, 2008

Posted Mon., March 24—Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge filed a motion with the Superior Court today (Monday), asking that the court reverse the Oakland City Clerk’s decision to keep him off the June 3 ballot for the District 3 Oakland City Council race. 

A hearing on Hodge’s motion will be held Tuesday in Department 31 in the U.S. Post Office Building, 201 13th St., in Oakland. No time for the hearing was available. 

Hodge could not be contacted for comment for this story, and a spokesperson for the Oakland City Attorney’s office said that its office had not yet received a copy of Hodge’s petition and could therefore not comment.  

Assistant Oakland City Clerk Marjo Keller, who made the final determination on Hodge’s petition that knocked him off the ballot, earlier told the Daily Planet, “the only way I would be able to put him on the ballot is if I were ordered to do so by the court.”  

There is no appeal to the Oakland council on the matter. 

Hodge is seeking to challenge longtime incumbent Nancy Nadel for the District 3 council seat, which has the same boundaries as Hodge’s District 3 School Board seat. Nadel has one challenger for her seat, political newcomer Sean Sullivan, development director of the Oakland branch of Covenant House. 

With 50 signatures of District 3 registered voters needed to qualify for the ballot, Hodge turned in 74. After a week of deliberations in which the Alameda County Registrar’s office initially ruled that Hodge was three signatures short but then reversed itsself and ruled that he had a sufficient number of signatures to qualify, a final review by the Oakland City Clerk’s office determined that Hodge was one signature short. 

Hodge is asking the judge to reverse the City Clerk’s decision on one of those disallowed signatures, a ruling that would put him on the June 3 ballot. 


New Rent Board Member and Acting Housing Director Chosen for Berkeley

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 21, 2008

Posted Sat., March 22—Corinne "Corie" Calfee will fill the seat on the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board left vacant by the resignation of Chris Kavanagh, Jay Kelekian, rent board executive director, said Friday. 

Kavanagh stepped down just before pleading no contest to a felony charge related to having lived in Oakland while serving on the Berkeley rent board. He will be sentenced April 24. 

Also on Friday, City Manager Phil Kamlarz announced the appointment of Jane Micallef as acting housing director. Micallef will leave her post as the city's manager of the Housing and Homeless Services Division of the city of Berkeley’s Housing Department to take the position. She's worked in city services for the homeless since 1996. Micallef is a graduate of Boalt Law School and practiced poverty law after graduation. 

Calfee is a land-use attorney with a joint degree from Boalt and the Goldman School of Public Policy. She is a land-use attorney at Ellman Burke Hoffman & Johnson in San Francisco. 

She was selected by a unanimous rent board on March 17, Kelekian said. If she chooses, she can run for re-election in November. 

In her interview, Calfee showed a clear understanding of the mission of the rent board and the duties of the board, according to a statement by the search committee. "She also comprehends the complex nature and power dynamics of the landlord/tenant relationship. Ms. Calfee articulated how rent control functions as a vital public policy for maintaining the stability of our community and its diverse social and economic character," the search committee said in a report to the full board. 

Fourteen people applied for the rent board post. The board interviewed seven among them: Raquel Aguirre, director of Immigrant and Refugee Services, Catholic Charities of the East Bay; former Rent Board Member Judy Ann Alberti, Peace and Justice Commissioner Elliot Cohen, Former School Bard Member Terry Doran, Former Rent Board Member Marsha Feinland and Takasumi Kojima, a semi-retired architect. 

The seven other applicants were: Nasira Abdul-Aleem, Robert Blau, Max Dama, Jonathan Shane Davis, Scott Christopher Locklin, Allen Stross and Stacy Young. 


West Berkeley Speakers Say Keep Industrial Jobs

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008

Posted Fri., March 21—Workers, residents and small business owners gathered Thursday night to hear planners and labor activists offer evidence and arguments for exercising restraint in making any zoning changes in West Berkeley. 

Organized by West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies (WEBAIC), the meeting challenged proposed zoning changes now before the city's Planning Commission. 

“The (city) staff has put everything on the table ... on an extremely fast-track basis,” said WEBAIC Chair John Curl, a woodworker with his studio in the Sawtooth Building, a West Berkeley landmark. 

Sitting in the back of the room and listening attentively throughout the session was Allan Gatzke, the city planner who drafted the proposals and presentations under attack from Curl and the panelists. 

While the push for “zoning flexibility” comes from the City Council, with Mayor Tom Bates taking a prominent lead, one of Thursday night's cautionary critics was the author of a report the city is using as justification for its push for changes. 

Raquel Pinderhughes said so- called green collar businesses offered the one sure job category that could lead to living wages for those with minimal education or criminal records. Her word should carry some weight with the city, since she is the San Francisco State urban studies professor who authored the city's green collar jobs report. 

While the city planning department tour for commissioners looking at the proposed zoning changes focused on high- tech companies, most of the business categories in Pinderhughes' report are lower tech, with college degrees optional for most jobs. 

Businesses cited in her report range from landscaping and bicycle repair to energy conservation retrofits, recycling and public transit jobs.  

Only one category unequivocally matched the high-tech criteria: manufacturing jobs related to large-scale production of appropriate technologies. 

The mayor and leaders in other East Bay cities have targeted high-tech jobs that could result from two major “green fuel” projects now underway under the aegis of UC Berkeley and its Department of Energy-sponsored national labs. 

Karen Chapple, a UC Berkeley associate professor of city and regional planning who has lived in West Berkeley for the past decade, said that zoning offers the best tool “to preserve the fragile industrial ecology” of the area from the economic pressures of housing, offices and retail, all of which command higher values than industrial and light manufacturing. 

She called for a more focused approached to specific areas within West Berkeley, rather than an implementation of broader measures. 

Abby Thorne-Lyman, a planning consultant with Strategic Economics, a consulting firm working on industrial land policies in several California cities, said while there is often a push to change land uses to allow more users that command higher prices, some cities are drawing the line because of the role industrial land plays in providing jobs with better pay and benefits than are offered in the commercial sector. 

Kate O'Hara of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy said her organization did some of the basic work that paved the way for Berkeley's living wage ordinance and advocates for worker rights. 

Trade and logistics businesses, a key non-manufacturing use of industrial land, offers a median wage of $19.85 per hour, and 65.9 percent of the positions in the East Bay offer health care benefits, and many are union jobs, she said. 

The other major use, food manufacturing and processing, offers lower starting wages but raises at middle levels to a median pay of $20.40 an hour. 

These industrial uses provide the main opportunities for workers with no higher education and even past brushes with the law to find work that pays wages a adequate to support a family, she said. 

All of the speakers urged the city to tread carefully before disrupting policies that offered the chief opportunities for minorities and those who are striving to rise out of poverty. 


Two Designs Promise Center Street Changes

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008
Walter Hood describes two of his proposals for Strawberry Creek Plaza as Kirstin Miller (left) of EcoCity Builders, one of the organizations sponsoring the proposals, and Kitty McClain, listen in.
Richard Brenneman
Walter Hood describes two of his proposals for Strawberry Creek Plaza as Kirstin Miller (left) of EcoCity Builders, one of the organizations sponsoring the proposals, and Kitty McClain, listen in.
UC Berkeley officials gave the Board of Regents their first official look at architect Toyo Ito’s plans for the new Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive Building planned for the western side of Oxford Street between Center and Addison streets.
UC Berkeley officials gave the Board of Regents their first official look at architect Toyo Ito’s plans for the new Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive Building planned for the western side of Oxford Street between Center and Addison streets.

In the space of two days, UC Berkeley unveiled plans for a provocative new museum on Center Street, and a noted university landscape architect revealed his vision for the Center Street landscape it will face. 

The university presented the UC Regents with plans by Japanese architect Toyo Ito for the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive building, which will occupy the eastern half of the block of Center between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street. 

An architect with a growing international reputation, Ito has created a wavilinear design certain to provoke gapes of both admiration and indignation in a city where design issues have been known to provoke shouting matches at public meetings. 

Wednesday night brought landscape architect Walter Hood to the Gaia Building, where he unveiled alternative visions for Center Street along the same block between Shattuck and Oxford. 

Hood, who teaches at the university, was picked by EcoCity Builders and Friends of Strawberry Creek Plaza to come up with a design that would transform the block of city street into a pedestrian-friendly public space which would restore some of the creek that once flowed openly from the campus to the bay. 

Kirstin Miller of EcoCity Builders, the non-profit that hired Hood in partnership with Friends of Strawberry Creek Plaza, said funds for the design have come from private donors, including a grant from the New Jersey-based Helen and William Mazer Foundation. 

Hood said he began his design by monitoring the movement of people and vehicles on Center Street over a 24-hour timeframe, describing the process as a tidal flow that during the morning brings a stream of people into the campus, and reverses itself as the day wears on. 

With the basic premise that through-vehicle traffic would end—with only emergency and delivery vehicles allowed onto the plaza and possibly some cars at night allowed for businesses with valet parking—the questions became “How do you keep this vitality?” and “How do you slow people down ... and make them aware of the context in which they live?” 

Designs progressed from large-scale conceptions of the Strawberry Creek watershed from the hills to the bay, gradually focusing on the more immediate scale of the block itself, while embracing the nearby campus crescent and the Shattuck Avenue intersection and BART plaza across the avenue. 

Hood experimented with a variety of design schemes, starting with 28, which were eventually pared to 14, which were finally reduced to three designs he called hybrids. 

Because of the large expenses involved, Hood said none of the schemes calls for a full-scale “daylighting” of Strawberry Creek, a rechanneling and restoration of the waterway. 

One possibility involves creation of a five-stage system of pools, while another reduces the presence of water to a fountain. 

Elyce Judith of Friends of Strawberry Creek said advocates of the plaza are seeking a public site to exhibit the models in order to encourage community input before selecting a final design to take to the City Council. 

She said the project might be funded with the help of some of the $5 billion in government funding that will be available for water treatment projects in the next one to three years. 

Many members of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee were on hand for the event because creating a Center Street Plaza is a major element in the plan they crafted. 

Hood’s concepts brought praise from members who had been on opposite sides of key issues during the planning process, as was the case with Chair Will Travis and member Jesse Arreguin. 

Rob Wrenn wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, because, he said, rather than creating a plaza capable of holding large public gatherings, Hood said he had created designs to allow a number of simultaneous smaller gatherings. 

Planning Commission Chair and DAPAC member James Samuels said he was concerned that the designs overlooked the opportunity to integrate the open space in front of the art museum. 

 

Museum praised  

While Toyo Ito’s designs for the museum weren’t on display at the plaza meeting, Samuels voiced high praise for his concept. 

“I really like it,” said Samuels. “It’s a wonderful concept.” 

Ito’s fame has grown in recent decades, and he has won major commissions from Asia to Europe, but the Berkeley museum is his first major commission in the U.S. 

The Japanese architect’s designs vary dramatically from project to project, and have been described as “high concept” pieces. 

His Senda Media Center in Japan was inspired by the sight of floating columns of seaweed, and the resulting design has drawn high praise from others in the field. 

But his proposal for Berkeley is certain to draw fire from architectural traditionalists, as well as from members of the preservation community who are saddened that its construction will result in the demolition of the university printing plant where the first copies of the United Nations Charter were printed in 1946. 

The new building, budgeted at $145 million, will house the museum and film center now housed in a seismically unsafe concrete structure on Bancroft Way. 

In a press release issued Wednesday, university officials said fundraising was in its early stages. No action was required of the regents this week, since they have already approved the project. 

The board Committee on Grounds and Buildings also voted to approve two major projects on the Berkeley campus. 

The board approved designs and the environmental impact report for Campbell Hall, authorizing construction of a replacement for the seismically unsafe building, and it voted to authorize a $90 million budget for an infill building that will be constructed in the courtyard of the university’s law school, until last year known as Boalt Hall.


Protests Mark War’s Fifth Anniversary

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 21, 2008

Calling for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, participants in daylong events in Berkeley marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War on Wednesday with protests at the downtown Marine Recruiting Center and a rally in Civic Center Park. 

At its height, the protest grew to some 250 people when Civic Center demonstrators marched to the recruiting center after the noon rally, but for most of the day numbers were smaller, with police sometimes outnumbering protesters. 

The noon rally in the park featured a hip-hop band and Cindy Sheehan, peace activist turned candidate for Congress, who is running for Nancy Pelosi’s seat on the Green Party ticket. Addressing the young people, Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, said the growing debt to pay for the war will fall to them. “They’re robbing you of your future,” she said.  

“They send jobs overseas and think you’ll join the military,” she said, urging the teens to “flip burgers,” if they have to.  

“Do not join the military,” she warned, adding, “We have a right to say, ‘Marines, get out of our community.’ ” 

Calling on the crowd to become active opponents of the war, Sheehan asked, “Why are George Bush and Dick Cheney still there?” and answered, “We let them be there.” 

Organizers—the ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink and the World Can’t Wait—held a second rally in the street outside the Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square, as police blocked traffic. Demonstrators had maintained a presence all day at the recruiting center, which did not open. 

A group of five people, most of them members of the Berkeley College Republicans, held American flags and argued with some of the anti-war demonstrators. 

A counter-protester, who identified herself only as Kimberly, told the Planet she had come because the Berkeley City Council had been disrespectful to the Marines by saying they were not welcome in the city. 

She was also there to support the war effort, which she called a “defensive war.”  

“We can’t wait until we’re attacked,” she said. Asked if the Iraqis were going to attack the U.S., she said it isn’t the Iraqi people that would attack.  

“It’s a threat from the Middle East,” she said. Without the defensive war, “9-11 could happen all over again.” 

Police Chief Doug Hambleton, who spoke to the Planet while observing the scene at the recruiting center in the afternoon, said the entire police force was on duty, with officers covering their regular beats and other officers working on their days off to cover the demonstrations. 

Asked why there were so many police—at times there were as many as three dozen officers guarding the Marine Recruiting Center, with another dozen across the street and more stationed at several downtown intersections—Hambleton and City Manager Phil Kamlarz, who was also observing at the recruiting center, both said they had no idea how many demonstrators would be on the streets. 

“Even the organizers didn’t know,” Kamlarz said. 

Police Review Commissioner Michael Sherman, also at the recruiting center, told the Planet he thought the day had gone well. He had expressed concern earlier about complaints the members of the Police Review Commission heard alleging officers overreacted to demonstrations, including pushing protesters to the ground. 

Sherman said he understood why there were so many officers on duty. “It’s like an insurance policy—you’re prepared for the worst,” he said. 

No arrests were made, according to Berkeley police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss.


Mayor Speaks Against War at Chamber Lunch

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 21, 2008

Flying in the face of his hosts’ concerns regarding demonstrations at the Marine Recruiting Center, Mayor Tom Bates spoke out about his opposition to the war in Iraq and support for peaceful demonstrations. The speech was delivered Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the mayor was the featured speaker. 

Bates also painted a rosy picture of the city’s economy, with flourishing hotels and restaurants, lauded city efforts to build downtown (perhaps up to 18 stories), laid out plans to build green and more. 

Toward the end of his talk, the mayor introduced the topic of ongoing Marine Recruiting Center demonstrations on a lighthearted note: “Let me conclude with the topic of the day,” he said, “the battle of Code Pink vs. the United States Marine Corps. That’s not a fair fight!” 

Bates went on to say that beyond what people think “of this Code Pink stuff”—a recent photo on the Chamber of Commerce website portrayed CEO Ted Garrett bringing donuts to a Marine recruiter—the war, whose fifth anniversary was the next day, had caused the deaths of some 4,000 U.S. military personnel and the injury of about 28,000 Americans. Some 1 million Iraqis have been killed and 4 million displaced, he said. 

Trillions of dollars have been spent on the war. “Can you imagine what that would mean if we had that for education? If we had that for housing?” he asked. “What a waste. We were lied to, to begin with.”  

Bates placed the current demonstrations in a historical context. “First of all, this city has protested wars and recruiting stations since I was in grammar school. People lay on the railroad tracks. People tied themselves to the recruiting station door,” he said. 

Since 2003 there have been protests at recruiting stations all over the country. “It’s not like Berkeley is unique in this regard,” said Bates, a former Army captain.  

Bates said he does not support young people going into the military and noted that those who sign up have few options. 

The mayor spoke to the Jan. 29 council item calling Marine recruiters “unwelcome intruders,” which sparked a nationwide, mostly right-wing, reaction.  

The council was wrong to pass an item with inflammatory language that had not been properly vetted, he said. “It passed and I’m sorry. I’ve apologized at every forum I can think of, but I’m not prepared to apologize to the Marines who are recruiting our kids to go to this war.” 

He pointed out that Code Pink has been demonstrating in many venues other than Berkeley, including in front of Nancy Pelosi’s house and at Congress. At the same time there are counter-demonstrations by Move America Forward, billed as a grassroots organization, but which actually is “a bunch of right-wing shock jocks,” Bates said. 

Move America Forward wants to move the U.N. out of the United States and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to keep immigrants out, he added. (Move America Forward is headed by talk-show host Melanie Morgan, recently laid off by KSFO.) 

Bates said that there have been boycotts of Berkeley in the past and that the current one will pass as they have before. 

“We need to take the high road. We need to talk about what is great about this community,” he said. 

No one in the audience criticized Bates overtly, but during the question and answer session, when Bates addressed anonymous written questions, the issue was raised. One person asked about the high cost of overtime police for demonstrations, which Bates said he couldn’t answer, and another made a statement asserting that middle-class youth sign up voluntarily for military service, countering Bates’ view that people without resources join the service. 

After the luncheon, the Planet asked Chamber Executive Director Ted Garrett whether he was disappointed in Bates’ anti-war remarks, but Garrett said his primary concern was the protests’ harm to local business, especially the businesses adjacent to the Marine Recruiting Center. 

He pointed to hotels and restaurants that received cancellations recently, but conceded that it’s hard to know whether that was because of a boycott or because of the economy. Responding to a question, Garrett said he had not asked other businesses near the recruiting center whether their receipts have increased because of the increased numbers of people flocking downtown for protests. 

In response to another question, Garrett said it was too early to know whether the chamber would be making political endorsements and if so, whether it would endorse Bates, though Garrett said he works closely with the mayor to make sure the chamber voice is heard in the decision-making process. 

 

Other questions addressed 

Economic development was a key component of Bates’ talk. Speaking of business attraction, he said the city should take advantage of the $500 million UC Berkeley-BP partnership, which would create other opportunities in the city. 

“I know BP is controversial,” he said. “We have to capitalize on it.” 

Reached by phone for comment, Councilmember Dona Spring took exception to the remark. “He’s a laissez-faire capitalist,” Spring said of the mayor, noting BP’s “terrible environmental record.  

And, she said, “There’re a lot of problems with biofuels,” notably use of produce for fuel rather than for food. 

With pride, Bates told the Chamber: “Good old flaky Berzerkeley has the highest bond rating in the nation.” He thanked City Manager Phil Kamlarz, seated in the audience, and said, “I’m trying to get him to agree to a lifetime contract.”  

Any salary increase under consideration for a new contract for Kamlarz has been kept behind closed doors, with a council subcommittee reviewing the manager’s job performance. City insiders say a new contract could lead to a hefty raise for the manager. City employee unions, on the other hand, have said they’re looking at city reserves—to which the bond rating is tied—as funding for worker raises. 

Bates said the closure of downtown Ross Dress for Less shouldn’t be seen as a loss for the city, as it could be a “great opportunity.”  

“That is the perfect site for a high-rise building,” Bates said. He also mentioned the possibility of turning the long-empty UC Theater into a live-music venue. 

The best-performing sector is hospitality, Bates said, noting there is increasing revenue from hotel taxes and the mostly booked-up Double Tree Hotel, where the luncheon was held.


Emeryville, El Cerrito Say No To Apple Moth Spray Plan

By Judith Scherr
Friday March 21, 2008

Berkeley May Sue State of California 

 

A movement among cities to challenge the state Department of Food and Agriculture plan to spray the Bay Area in an effort to eradicate the light brown apple moth (LBAM) is mushrooming, with Emeryville and El Cerrito joining the fight this week and with a possible lawsuit spearheaded by the city of Berkeley, proposed by Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan. 

Meanwhile, a state scientist and UC scientist have begun a war of words, publishing dueling opinions on the spray question. 

On Monday and Tuesday, respectively, the El Cerrito and Emeryville city councils joined Berkeley, Albany and Oakland in their opposition to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) plan to spray the Bay Area in August. City attorneys in these cities have been authorized by their city councils to discuss legal options among themselves to stop the spray. 

The city attorney has placed an item on Tuesday’s City Council agenda asking the body “to file a lawsuit to enjoin aerial spraying to eradicate the Light Brown Apple Moth in the Bay Area….” Cowan told the Planet he has had conversations on the question with Oakland’s city attorney. 

In Marin County, the cities of Fairfax, Mill Valley, Corte Madera and San Anselmo have taken positions opposing the spray, but to date are not considering legal options. Sausalito will vote next week on the question of opposing the spray. 

At issue is the aerial spraying of a product whose main ingredient is a synthetic pheromone, designed to confuse male LBAMs in search of females, interrupt the reproductive cycle and eventually eradicate the non-native pest. The product, CheckMate, contains other chemicals—both known and undisclosed—that have caused concern. Moreover, in order to spray the pheromone, CheckMate is contained within microcapsules that critics say can be ingested and cause respiratory problems. 

After CDFA sprayed CheckMate over Monterey and Santa Cruz counties in September, more than 600 people reported adverse health impacts, such as nausea, vomiting and itchy skin. The CDFA plans to spray these counties again in June. Santa Cruz County has a lawsuit pending in an attempt to stop the spray. 

The state says spraying is necessary to avoid future massive crop damage—to date none has been reported—and to avoid restrictions being placed on California’s produce and cut flower sales to other states and countries. 

Speaking to the Planet Wednesday, Emeryville Mayor Ken Bukowski said he became especially concerned about the aerial spray plan when the Alameda County Conference of Mayors heard a speaker from the Water Resources Board, who said the spray could further pollute the San Francisco Bay. 

Bukowski said he plans to bring a resolution opposing the spray to the next mayors’ meeting in April. 

The controversy further heated up this week when Primary State Entomologist Kevin Hoffman issued a report contradicting a study by Daniel Herder, a UC Santa Cruz Adjunct Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum, and Jeff Rosendale, horticultural consultant. The study concludes that spraying to eradicate the moth is ineffective and ill advised. 

Hoffman says neither Herder nor Rosendale is an entomologist and they are therefore unqualified to speak on the question.  

He further says that the sources the pair cite were not studies but conversations, and therefore invalid. 

In the March 6 Herder-Rosendale study, “Integrated Pest Management Practices for the Light Brown Apple Moth in New Zealand: Implications for California,” the authors claim that it is not the serious problem that the state has alleged it is, and they point to the case of New Zealand, where the moth has been established for 100 years. 

In New Zealand, “natural predators keep LBAM in check, and it is so rare in the wild that it requires a true expert and meticulous searching to even find any sign of it,” the Herder-Rosendale study says. 

Hoffman, however, told the Planet in a phone interview Tuesday that New Zealand brought in non-native predators to attack the LBAM and that they have become destructive to the environment.  

In a response issued Thursday, however, Herder and Rosendale argue that they were not talking about importing non-native predators to California, but encouraging those native to the state. “A wide variety of potential enemies for control of LBAM are already present in California,” Harder-Rosendale say. 

The question of whether there are natural predators in California that would attack the LBAM is undetermined, Hoffman said, pointing to the case of the gypsy moth, also a non-native pest. “None of the native parasites moved over to [attack] it,” he said. 

Hoffman said the two authors were unable to find the moth in the wild during their trip to New Zealand because they lacked expertise. “Neither of the authors are entomologists, so their assertion that they had great difficulty finding LBAM could just as easily be from their lack of expertise at finding caterpillars as from the assumed lack of LBAM,” he wrote. 

Hoffman argued that the Herder-Rosendale study “displays a lack of understanding about the purpose of classifying LBAM as a regulated pest and the necessity of implementing actions to restrict its movement.” 

And, Hoffman said, the “financial and environmental costs associated with implementing those practices … are not addressed in the report.” 

In their response, however, Herder-Rosendale, shot back: “[T]he real costs at issue in CDFA’s current LBAM strategy [are] the costs to human health and the environment of a multi-year or indefinite campaign of regular aerial spraying of populated areas.” 

One more organization to speak out in opposition to the spray is the Organic Certification Trade Association. 

A March 10 statement from the organization says it supports ground applications of pheromones “and other ecologically sound organic integrated pest management approaches … . However, [the organization] does not endorse further aerial applications of pheromones in LBAM eradication efforts due to potential human health and environmental concerns.”


Hodge Fails to Qualify for Run Against Nadel for Oakland Council

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday March 21, 2008

One of the most highly anticipated Oakland election battles in years may have been knocked off the ballot when veteran District 3 Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge came up one qualifying signature short to run in the June 3 race for Oakland City Council.  

The West Oakland/Downtown District 3 seat is held by longtime Councilmember Nancy Nadel, who is running for re-election. The boundaries for the school board and city council districts are identical.  

If the ruling stands, it will leave Nadel’s only challenger as political newcomer Sean Sullivan, development director of the Oakland branch of Covenant House. 

Saying that he was “not going to take this lying down,” Hodge said by telephone this week that he intends to challenge the City Clerk’s ruling in Superior Court. That is apparently the only avenue of appeal, since the Oakland City Council has no say in the matter.  

Assistant Oakland city clerk Marjo Keller, who made the final determination on the petition validation, said that “the only way I would be able to put him on the ballot is if I were ordered to do so by the court.” 

Meanwhile, Hodge’s “Hodge For Oakland City Council 2008” website remained online as of Wednesday afternoon. 

The determination that Hodge came one signature shy of the 50 needed to qualify for the ballot was made by Keller after the Alameda County registrar of voters had reversed an initial disqualification decision and had deemed Hodge’s petition signatures sufficient to qualify him for the ballot, and almost a week of back and forth deliberations. Hodge said that 74 signatures were turned in by his campaign. 

If Hodge chooses to challenge the disqualification ruling, he said it will be in part because the city clerk’s office initially sent him a certified letter indicating that he had submitted enough verified signatures to qualify for the ballot. 

The letter, sent to Hodge by Keller by certified mail on March 12, reads, “Please accept this letter as notification that the nomination signatures you submitted for upcoming June 3, 2008 City of Oakland Municipal Nominating Election [for City Council District 3] have been verified and found sufficient.” 

By telephone, Keller said that she sent the letter to Hodge after the Alameda County registrar’s office had reversed an initial ruling to disqualify Hodge, but before Keller could review the petitions herself. Keller said that in her review of Hodge’s petitions after they were returned to her from the registrar’s office, she found enough discrepancies in the signatures herself to drop the number down to 49, keeping Hodge off the ballot. 

In separate telephone interviews, both Hodge and Keller generally agreed upon the sequence of events that led to the disqualification. Hodge’s petition was initially sent to the registrar’s office for signature verification, as is the procedure for all Oakland city and school board candidates. It was following this initial review that Hodge said he received a call from Keller saying he was three valid signatures short of the required 50. 

After Hodge raised a protest, Keller said that she offered to set up a meeting between herself, Hodge, and the registrar’s office to go over the contested signatures, but said that Hodge “went independently to the county and met with them separately.” 

Following their second review of Hodge’s petitions, Keller said that the registrar’s office informed both Hodge and Keller that they had reversed their ruling on enough signatures that Hodge was now qualified for the ballot. It was based upon this information, Keller said, that she sent the March 12 certified letter to Hodge. 

Keller said that when she received the validated petition from the registrar’s office, “there were questions raised by individuals about other signatures.” She said she did not know the names of the individuals, only indicating that they were not City of Oakland employees, and saying that the conversation in which the individuals raised the questions with her took place at the front counter of the city clerk’s office at City Hall. 

“The petition is a public document,” Keller said. “Anyone has the right to look at it.” 

Keller did not go into details in a telephone interview about the nature of the disqualifications, only saying that “there were some discrepancies.” 

Hodge himself would not go into much detail about the invalidations, saying that there were some signatures that were properly invalidated because they were signed by voters who lived outside of District 3, but that enough signatures that got him disqualified for the ballot were District 3 registered voters who were invalidated “because of hypertechnical application of the election code.” Hodge said that the city clerk’s office “has the discretion to make the call to validate those signatures.”  

Hodge said he would not go into further detail on the particular invalidations, saying he would rather have that decided in the courts than in the press. 

The spokesperson for the registrar’s office would not comment on the disqualification, referring all questions back to the city clerk’s office. 

Nadel had only a brief comment to make on Hodge’s disqualification, writing by e-mail the following statement: “I have great respect for those people who take the step to do public service by running for office. Campaigning is difficult and complicated with a myriad of rules to follow that can be daunting.” The councilmember referred any other questions to Hodge and the city clerk’s office. 

Nadel has served on City Council since 1996. Hodge first won the District 3 School Board seat in 2000 in a runoff. Both initially filed to run for mayor of Oakland in 2006, but Hodge dropped out after former Congressmember Ron Dellums entered the race. Nadel stayed in the mayoral race, eventually coming in third to Dellums and second-place finisher Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente. 

If Hodge is unsuccessful in his attempt to overturn the city clerk’s decision, it would be the third time in the last nine years that a veteran Oakland-based candidate has been disqualified from the ballot for coming up short on valid petition signatures. 

In December 1999, after serving two terms as mayor of Oakland and then losing to Audie Bock in an attempt to return to his 16th Assembly District seat, Elihu Harris came up six signatures shy of the 40 valid signatures needed to qualify for the March 2000 Democratic primary for that assembly seat. Wilma Chan was nominated in that primary, and eventually went on to defeat Green Party member Bock in the November, 2000 election. The disqualification ended Harris’ long political career, and he was later named and remains Chancellor of the Peralta Community College District. 

And in the fall of 2000, Ward 2 AC Transit Director Clinton Killian was 15 short of the required 50 signatures on his nominating petition. Killian, an attorney, challenged the Alameda County registrar of voters’ decision to the Superior Court, but a judge ruled against him. Killian was named to the AC Transit board in 1994 to fill an unexpired term, and was later elected to a four year term in 1996. Greg Harper, who currently sits on the AC Transit board, defeated Joyce Roy in November, 2000 to replace Killian.  

Killian is now one of several candidates for the Oakland City Council At Large seat in the June 3 election to replace longtime incumbent Henry Chang, who took out nominating papers, but then decided not to run for re-election. 


Ten Students Arrested at UC Regents Meeting Protest

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 21, 2008

San Francisco police arrested ten UC students who chained themselves to the doors of the UCSF Mission Bay community center Wednesday morning in an attempt to prevent the UC Board of Regents from meeting. 

About 100 students from five UC campuses rallied against the undemocratic way regents are selected at “Free the UC Day,” organized by the Coalition to Free the UC, Students Against War, and Direct Action to Stop the War. 

The students also spoke against fee hikes, UC’s involvement in nuclear weapons and what they said was the Scholastic Aptitude Test’s role in excluding under-represented minorities from the UC system. 

Protesters arrived at the Mission Bay campus at 6 a.m., some driving from Santa Cruz and Davis. Thirteen students looped bicycle locks around their necks and clamped them to doorknobs. 

“Nobody stopped us at first,” said Keith Brown, a second-year geography major at UC Berkeley. “Around 7 a.m., the police started to take people out. They used power tools while people were still chained on the doors. Eventually they took out the doorknobs.” 

Police and firefighters had to dismantle doors to take down the locks, a UC police officer said.  

Calls to the San Francisco Police Department to confirm the arrests were not returned by press time. 

The group also appealed to the regents to come out and be part of an “Alternative Regents Meeting.” 

“We wanted to show the regents how to hold a meeting,” Brown said. “But they didn’t join us.” 

About 20 students spoke at the regents’ meeting during public comment. 

“I told the regents that I had withdrawn all cooperation with the University of California until they stopped production of nuclear weapons,” said Pancho Ramos, a fourth-year Ph.D. student. 

“I don’t want to receive a title from an institution which is putting at risk our survival. I am not against science, but I am against the unethical application of science. Clearly, the university’s ethical prestige has been used to build nuclear weapons and atomic bombs ... It is the most unethical thing to do. We want to take part in the decision of the university. We don’t want to be used.” 

Free the UC member and UC Berkeley peace and conflict studies student Matthew Taylor criticized what he said was the regent’s lack of response to complaints against UC’s involvement in nuclear weapons. 

“For over 50 years, students, faculty, and community members have tried to persuade the regents to stop building nuclear weapons,” he told the Planet. 

“We’ve used normal means such as petitions. At one point, student governments from every UC campus passed a resolution asking the regents to sever ties from the nuclear weapons labs, to no avail. The regents’ lack of response has left us little choice but to escalate our dissent. We believe that the regents should be prevented from meeting and conducting the business of managing the nuclear weapons lab.” 

Taylor—one of the ten students arrested—added that Free the UC wanted to start a mass movement to empower students and raise awareness about the need for fundamental, structural change in UC. 

Students also spoke before the regents against rising tuition costs. 

“Some students have to work multiple jobs to sustain themselves,” UC Berkeley sophomore Monika Roy told the Planet. “I think that we are paying a lot of money for public education ... Those who cannot afford to pay are usually minorities or from ethnic backgrounds. In comparison, Stanford University recently announced that it would eliminate tuition for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year.”  

Students also asked the regents to release the skeletal remains of 13,000 Native Americans held in UC Berkeley’s Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. 

“People were speaking from their hearts, but I think they went unheard,” said Maya Kelmelis, a UC Berkeley senior who listened to the public comments. “One or two of the regents were taking notes, but the majority were not listening. Some were talking and laughing with each other. There was no dialogue or discussion.” 

Zachary RunningWolf—who was also protesting against UC Berkeley’s plan to raze the Oak Grove and build a student athletic center in its place—spoke at the students’ alternate meeting. 

“They are making stands that help indigenous issues,” he said of the students. “We want to keep our ancestors in the Oak Grove, we want the 13,000 bones back from the Hearst museum, and we want to stop the corporatization of UC. These kids have a very good sense of direction. They are attracting a lot of attention.”  

Taylor told the Planet that the arrested students were charged with disturbing the peace and other misdemeanors and cited and released later the same day. 

 

 


AC Transit Sets Fare Increase Hearing for May 21

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday March 21, 2008

The embattled AC Transit District is considering its fifth fare change in the last 13 years, with a possible increase in adult fares of as much as 25 cents and increases to the youth and senior passes coming as early as this summer.  

AC Transit adult fares are currently set at $1.75. A public hearing on the proposed increase has been set for Wednesday, May 21, 4 p.m., at a location yet to be determined. 

District board members are looking at several different fare increase proposals, some of which would include automatic, regular bus increases in future years. In the past, the district has always considered fare raises on an increase by increase basis. 

Meanwhile, with district operating expenses rising at four times the rate of revenues since 2005, at least one AC Transit board member—Greg Harper of Emeryville—also said last week that bus service cuts are also “inevitable.” 

In recent months, AC Transit has come under heavy criticism from riders and bus drivers over its increasing use of the Belgian-made Van Hool buses. In addition, the district has been the subject of several recent critical articles in both the Berkeley Daily Planet and the East Bay Express.  

The two-county transit district is also fighting to implement a controversial and ambitious plan to put bus-only lanes, a system known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), along International Boulevard and Telegraph Avenue between Southland, or Bayfair BART, and UC Berkeley. 

 

 

 


Progressive Campus Ministry Offers Housing to UC Students

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 21, 2008

The city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) unanimously approved last week the demolition of the 83-year-old building housing the Wesley Foundation Student Center on Bancroft Way to construct a four-story mixed-use structure with a religious assembly space, a library, six residential units and group-living space. 

The project will create a 22,200-square-foot floor area on a 7,975-square-foot lot. 

An offshoot of the United Methodist Church, the student center at 2398 Bancroft Way is a progressive campus ministry for students of all faith. The center’s executive director Rev. Tarah Trueblood told zoning commissioners that the ministry had suffered a decline in revenue over the last decade. 

“The ’50s and ’60s used to be the center’s golden years,” she said. “At one point we were also known as the Wesley dating service. But many campus foundations all over the country saw fewer and fewer students in the ’90s, including us. One way to attract more students would be to give our ministry a new look. The current building is not worth saving ... We want to let it out for housing.” 

The new development project promises “European Suites”—hybrid dorm apartments—for a “perfect blend of personal space and community living.”  

When it opens in 2009, Wesley House will offer housing to 80 UC Berkeley students and have a first-floor campus ministry called the Wesley Student Center. 

“We help students figure out what they want to do with their life and who they want to do it with,” said Rev. Trueblood. “With the opening of Wesley House, our ministry will add a new dimension: fostering intentionality of community life in and among clusters of residents above.” 

The student center will also feature a multi-purpose room, student nook, exhibit space and a country-style kitchen opening to the historical Wesley-Trinity Church courtyard, which boasts a heritage coastal oak tree. 

The fourth-floor community library will overlook the courtyard and an open-air student terrace on the third floor. 

“This was an opportunity to utilize an underutilized plot of land with a single-story building to help students who are in their formative stage,” said Vince Wong, president of the Wesley Foundation Board of Directors. 

Wesley’s neighbors—including The Berkeley City Club, the Trinity United Methodist Church and Stiles Hall—supported the project. 

Developers Ali Kashani and former Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Aran Kaufer created Wesley’s proposed design. 

Prior to founding the real estate development firm Bright Street Development, Kaufer was a project manager for Berkeley developer Patrick Kennedy’s firm Panoramic Interests. He also served as a project manager for the American Baptist Seminary of the West’s mixed-use housing project, which is near the Wesley Foundation. 

Initially, the developers had requested the zoning board to approve a permit for seven variances related to lot coverage, parking and setbacks based simply on group living. 

“They were very unlikely to get seven variances with only group living,” the city’s project planner Aaron Sage told the Planet. “I asked the developers to change the project into a dwelling unit so that they could get a density bonus. The density bonus gives the city a greater chance to approve the variances.” 

The state’s density bonus law allows the city to modify or waive development standards and limits to accommodate density bonus. 

Project architects Kirk Peterson & Associates have also designed the Gaia and Bachenheimer buildings in downtown Berkeley. 

According to Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association member Steve Finacom, the center was one of the early centers of gay and lesbian student activism in Berkeley. 

“Although San Francisco has always been the regional center of gay and lesbian activism and culture, a smaller but still vigorous gay rights movement emerged in the East Bay and on the Berkeley campus during the 1960s, in parallel with other local rights movements,” he told the city’s landmarks commission at a recent meeting.  

“Historical evidence suggests that 2398 Bancroft was quite possibly the very first space where gay students felt it was safe to gather publicly. There are scattered references in historical materials to events such as dances and meetings taking place here and to early gay student groups having offices and a telephone line at this location.” 

Finacom added that this period in Berkeley’s history deserved a properly documented place in community history


Future Uses for BHS Old Gym Discussed

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 21, 2008

Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources—the local group which sued the Berkeley Unified School District for an inadequate environmental impact report on the demolition of the gymnasium and warm-water pool within its Berkeley High School South of Bancroft Master Plan area—met with school district officials and community members Saturday to discuss the adaptive reuse of the Berkeley High Old Gym and the warm-water pool to settle the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit charged that the district had failed to consider feasible alternatives to demolition that could be developed to meet all or most of the district’s objectives and that the EIR “did not justify its findings.”  

Both the district and the Friends group agreed on a charrette the results or which will be presented before the Berkeley Board of Education during a public hearing on April 9. 

School Board President John Selawsky told the Planet that the settlement meant the district could now move ahead with deciding the future of the Old Gym. He said he had not been invited to the charette. 

“My idea is that the meeting was limited to a certain number of participants,” he said. “School board members were not present. District Superintendent Bill Huyett will give us an update Friday.” 

Marie Bowman, a spokesperson for Friends Protecting Berkeley’s resources, told the Planet that participants had discussed adapting the gym to meet the school’s academic and physical education needs as identified in the Berkeley High School South of Bancroft Master Plan. 

The district’s South of Bancroft Master Plan calls for the demolition of the landmarked Old Gym to make room for new classroom facilities, with the option of relocating the warm-water pool to Milvia Street.  

Berkeley High is facing a severe space crunch, with teachers holding classes in portables at Washington Elementary School and on the steps of the Community Theatre.  

The city is looking at ways to develop the tennis courts on Milvia Street into a warm pool but has yet to come to an agreement with the school district about its use.  

Plans to put a $15 million bond measure to construct the new pool on the November ballot are being discussed. 

“The good news is that we could accommodate everything in the building,” Bowman said. “The environmental impact report talks about building 10 to 15 classrooms to meet the academic needs of the school district. The warm-water-pool users wanted to have 14,000 square feet for the pool. The building also has to meet certain legal requirements. All that stuff fits in there plus there was room left over.” 

The Berkeley High School campus, including the Old Gym, was named a city landmark last year and a national landmark in January.  

Designed by renowned Bay Area architects William C. Hays and Walter H. Ratcliff, Jr., the warm-water pool and the gymnasium represent early seismic engineering work and are rare examples of an early 20th-century high school gymnasium. 

“The district wasn’t aware of the fact that since the building is now a national landmark, federal, state and private foundation funds are available for restoring the Old Gym,” said Bowman, who worked on the national landmark application. “FEMA funds are also available for rebuilding the gym after a natural disaster. Berkeley voters approved Measure G in 2006, promoting green and sustainable use of public assets. Rehabilitation and reuse is by far the better environmental alternatives for the gym versus the wasteful plan to demolish and rebuild. Our public officials have an obligation to implement sustainable practices in accordance with the will of the voters.” 

District officials told the Planet that the district was not legally obligated to consider the outcome of the charette.  

One Warm Pool Advocacy Group Co-Chair JoAnn Cook told the Planet that she was skeptical about adaptive reuse of the Old Gym. 

“There’s a difference of opinion within our group on what effect this charette will have because it’s not legally binding,” she said. “We are split between getting a bond measure passed for a new pool and maintaining the current pool. I think the possibility of ending up with a pool is more likely with a bond. But keep in mind that a bond is very iffy, especially with the economic situation right now.” 

Bruce Wicinas, a member of the district’s Citizens’ Construction Advisory Committee, said that the charette had made him change his mind about the demolition. 

“I was on the same page as the district on that, but the truth is that Berkeley Unified no longer has enough money to build classrooms in place of the Old Gym,” he said. “Also I wasn’t aware that people in the community cared so much about the Old Gym. It would be nicer for students to have more space, but given the uncertainty of the bond measure and the district’s lack of funds there’s no need to be at a rush to demolish the building.” 

The school district recently hired ELS Architects to redesign the bleachers outside the track on Martin Luther King Jr. Way this summer and create a timeline for the demolition of the Old Gym.  

Selawsky told the Planet that the demolition of the gym was not scheduled till 2010.


Stadium Lawsuit Arguments Finish

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008

Lawyers for both sides in the legal battle over UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium projects got in their last licks in a Hayward courtroom Thursday afternoon. 

At issue is the legal challenge mounted by the city of Berkeley, neighbors and environmentalists over the approval by UC’s Board of Regents of projects in the southeast quadrant of the Berkeley campus. 

The most immediate concern—and the focus of legal arguments Thursday—was the question of whether a planned high-tech gym adjacent to the stadium’s western wall is a separate structure or a stadium addition. 

If Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller determines that the Student Athlete High Performance Center is an addition to the landmarked stadium, it would trigger strict limits on the university’s expenditures on the project and on refurbishing the stadium itself. 

To build the Student Athlete High Performance Center, the university would have to ax the grove of trees west of the stadium, plans that sparked the ongoing tree-sit which is now in its 16th month and has led to dozens of arrests and a double layer of fencing around the site. 

After hearing final arguments Thursday, Judge Miller promised only that she would issue her ruling within the next 90 days.


Alta Bates, Herrick Nurses Stage Walkout

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008

Registered nurses at Berkeley’s Alta Bates Summit and Herrick Hospitals are walking out this morning (Friday) for a 10-day strike against the Sutter hospital chain. 

It’s the third walkout called by the California Nurses Association (CNA) since contract talks stalled with the Sutter hospitals, which negotiate contracts individually for each hospital or group. 

Alta Bates Summit includes the Berkeley hospital on Ashby Avenue, the Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Herrick Hospital. 

CNA has called two previous job actions at the local hospitals, one for two days in October and the second three years ago, a one-day action. 

In both cases Sutter locked out the nurses following the actions, extending their absence to five days—a move the hospitals said was needed to attract replacements. 

While the first walkout was supported by members of the Service Employees International Union, the two unions have since fallen out, most recently over rival organizing activities in Ohio. 

In California, CNA represents Registered Nurses, while the SEIU, as United Healthcare Workers West, represents Licensed Vocational Nurses and other hospital employees. RNs require a higher level of training than LVNs. 

A total of 4,000 RNs will walk out at Sutter’s Bay Area hospitals, starting at 7 a.m. today. 

Other hospitals affected include Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Miller-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo. 

San Francisco-based HealthSource and Colorado-based U.S. Nursing—agencies that specialize in hiring strike replacements—have both recruited nurses to fill in for striking Sutter workers. 

U.S. Nursing was offering $48 to $60 an hour for RNs, depending on speciality, with a guarantee of 84 hours of work, or a minimum of $2,880 per nurse if the strike is settled after they arrive but before they start work. 

All travel and housing expenses would also be paid. 

In one of the more unusual press releases issued over a labor conflict, Sutter blasted the union for “Promoting a ‘Party Like’ Atmosphere During the 10-Day Strike.” 

Apparently believing that strikes should be somber events, Sutter reprinted a union schedule that stated that family-oriented events would be held every day during the walkout, including face-painting, arts and crafts and a noon barbecue. 

However, Sutter’s hiring sources offer promises of their own, with HealthSource, however, noting in its call for replacements, “typically, you are housed in luxury hotels with all amenities available.”


Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008

New responders  

Berkeley firefighters have recruited a whole new crop of emergency first responders, said Deputy Chief Gil Dong. 

They’re the 200-plus UC Berkeley residents of fraternities, sororities and co-ops who will receive training under a new program formally launched this week with funding from the Department of Homeland Security. 

The $18,000 grant enabled the department to assemble six emergency equipment caches to be kept in the off-campus housing for use in major disasters, said the deputy chief. 

In addition to the caches—which include gear ranging from hard hats and shovels to emergency generators and power cords—the program will also provide training in a variety of formats. 

“We’ve teamed up with the American Red Cross to offer training online and through podcasts, and we’ll also come and offer the training in person if they give us a call,” said Dong. 

Under terms of the agreement with UC Berkeley, 10 percent of the students in the designated off-campus housing will be required to take the training, and Dong said the innovative Berkeley program—the nation’s first—may soon be replicated across the country. 

“I attended a meeting of the National Association of Fraternity Advisers in Cincinnati, and I was told they felt they needed to duplicate the program in each chapter across the country,” he said. 

For Berkeley emergency workers, the promise of an extra crew of first responders could make a critical difference in the event of a major disaster—a good thing, Dong said, especially in light of this year’s 140th anniversary of the disastrous 1868 earthquake on the Hayward Fault. 

 

Jaws rescue 

Berkeley firefighters used the Jaws of Life to extract a man injured in a two-car accident Saturday at the intersection of Ashby Avenue and Ellis Street. 

The accident happened when a passenger car broadsided a pickup, trapping the driver of the truck inside his vehicle. 

After extraction, the injured man was rushed to the Highland Hospital emergency room for treatment of his injuries.


News Analysis: Up 420 Points! Down 293 Points! Up 261 Points! Down...?

By Richard Hylton
Friday March 21, 2008

It’s called the stock market, and that’s what the past few days have been like on Wall Street. Go easy on yourself if you have no idea what is going on and who is responsible for it. Sure, you’ve heard lots of people talking about “market meltdown” and “major banking crisis,” but how did we get to a worldwide financial crisis so quickly? It seems like only yesterday that Berkeley’s 1920s shingle houses were flying off brokers’ shelves for a paltry million each. And sure, a lot of people got mortgages that they couldn’t really afford. But the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression? 

A few clarifying points: First, the crisis in mortgages is not nearly over and it is not only the so-called “sub-prime” sector of mortgages that is tallying up increases in late payments, missed payments, and foreclosures. Many well-off folks also bit off more than they can chew. Second, we are no longer facing “just” a mortgage crisis: The value of many securities in institutional portfolios all over the world is now suspect. The MIT math whizzes on Wall Street have sliced and diced all kinds of assets and liabilities and then repackaged them as securities with clever-sounding acronyms. These securities have been sold to banks, pension funds, money-market funds, hedge funds, and governments all over the world. Now that many of these securities seem to be far riskier and far less valuable than represented, every financial institution is seen as vulnerable. Result: No one wants to lend any money to anyone else. For all they know, that other guy might already be insolvent.  

If there is a single individual and a single institution that should take the lion’s share of blame for this mess they are Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve Bank. A central function of the Fed is to regulate the terms on which credit is extended in our economy. That means the Fed should have stepped in sooner to curb the reckless underwriting standards and crazy-quilt loan terms that banks were using to rake in enormous fees. But it didn’t. Neither did the comptroller of the currency, another regulator whose job is to make sure that banks are stashing away enough capital for economic dark days. These and other federal regulators, especially the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wall Street’s regulator, sat idly by for years as too much cheap capital was creating unsustainable booms in asset prices and the amount of debt throughout the financial system had risen to code-red levels.  

Only three days before the Federal Reserve felt compelled to bail out Bear, Stearns & Co., the failed Wall Street investment house, or face the possibility of collapsing banks and investors throughout the economy, Christopher Cox, chairman of the SEC, assured reporters that his team was on top of it and they had full confidence in Wall Street. He assured reporters that the SEC was monitoring Wall Street firms’ capital position on a “constant” basis. 

“We have a good deal of comfort about the capital cushions at these firms at the moment,” Cox said. Three days later the Federal Reserve agreed to buy $30 billion of the worst securities on Bear Stearns books and arranged a shotgun wedding between J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Bear Stearns. If it hadn’t, Bear Stearns would have gone down in ruins in a bankruptcy filing. 

The SEC was asleep at the wheel, but Greenspan was the main apologist for Wall Street and the banking system. He repeatedly assured Congress and the public that allowing the markets to do whatever they wanted to do was fine because an unfettered market was undoubtedly more efficient than one that had the regulators peering over its shoulder—despite the fact that history, and the Fed charter, strongly support the belief that left on their own, banks and investment houses will drive themselves and the rest of us off any precipice that promises great fortune. Does anyone remember the S&L crisis? Talk about deja vu all over again. 

Don’t expect the financial markets to settle out anytime soon. Institutions all over the world have still not recognized that they have billions in losses. Their books are still inflated by Wall Street securities that may be worth only 50 or 60 percent of what they paid. Folks with adjustable rate mortgages are still seeing their payments rising. Vast amounts of debt and hidden risks in derivative securities still loom over financial companies. And corporate pension funds are still egregiously underfunded by the companies that promised their workers secure retirement plans. 

There are a few things you can count on, though: First, more taxpayer money will be used to bail out the reckless investors, banks and financial houses, without securing any benefits for the taxpayers. And when this crisis is all over and the buying and selling and slicing and dicing begins again, Wall Street and the banks will begin whining that too much regulation is what’s wrong with America.


Council Sets Key Vote on Downtown Plan

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 21, 2008

With an economy in partial meltdown and three in five Americans predicting a severe depression of several years’ duration, what can any economic expert predict about the likelihood of new construction in downtown Berkeley? 

Yet the Berkeley City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to spend $40,000 on just that, overriding the express wishes of the majority of members of citizens who drew up the proposed new downtown plan. 

The resulting vote could forecast the fate of the most hotly contested provisions of the new plan that result from two years of hard work by a panel of Berkeley citizens. 

The latest round in the blood sport that is Berkeley development politics unfolds at the same time city officials are pushing for West Berkeley zoning changes designed to lure corporate genetic engineers trying to cash in on the half-billion-dollar BP-funded synthetic fuel bonanza Mayor Tom Bates hopes will flow from UC Berkeley’s academic labs. 

The downtown plan itself is a joint city-university effort to find the most palatable way to accommodate 800,000 square feet of new off-campus university construction in the city center, and the university will have a final say over the plan. 

The Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) was created after the university settled a city lawsuit challenging the way the university treated the impacts of its massive expansion plans on the surrounding community. 

DAPAC was charged with drafting a plan to handle UC Berkeley developments in the downtown, while drawing up policies to update the last downtown plan, done more than a decade earlier and covering a smaller territory. 

While a minority of DAPAC members wanted to approved a staff-backed plan to build 16-story “point towers” in the city center, the majority specifically rejected the notion as well as a minority proposal backed by chair Will Travis to do an economic analysis to see if the plan could cover costs of proposed improvements without throwing in the rejected high-rises. 

For the majority, opposition to point towers was the overriding concern. 

Planning Commission Chair James Samuels, a member of the DAPAC minority, joined a Planning Commission majority in recommending that the City Council go ahead with the study, and endorsing the request by city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks for $40,000 to complete the study which faces the council Tuesday night. 

For Juliet Lamont, who served as a pivotal player in the DAPAC majority, attempting a study of economic feasibility in the face of the nation’s current economic turmoil is a waste of money. 

“Conditions were different five years ago, just as they were different three years ago, and as they are different today,” she said. “They’re simply impossible to predict.” 

But some of the plan’s proposed benefits, such as mandatory green, energy-saving designs, will almost certainly become requirements in the near future, as the nation grapples with high energy us and the need to reduce greenhouse gasses, Lamont said. 

And there’s no doubt the nation faces turbulent times ahead, with 59 percent of Americans believing the nation is entering a multi-year depression. 

Even Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve and a champion of the Ayn Rand school of libertarian economics, says the nation is facing the worst economic crisis since the end of World War II. 

A host of economic indicators pointed to a prolonged economic crisis. 

With the bursting of the housing bubble and the collapse of sub-prime lenders that fueled, it followed by the collapse of a major investment house—Bear Sterns—prices of precious metals soar and the investment world quivers with uncertainty. 

• The rate of commencement of new housing projects dropped in February to the lowest rate since 1991. 

• The National Association of Homebuilders reported Monday that builder confidence for new single-family homes was at 20 out of 100, “near its historic low of 18 set in December of 1985.” 

• American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker reported on Feb. 22 that designer firms had reported “another decline in billings in January as concerns over a slower economy appear finally to be affecting the nonresidential construction sector.” Commercial/industrial architects “reported the steepest decline over the past several months,” he wrote, noting that “this could be a clear indication that there could be tougher times ahead.” 

• Construction materials costs have also soared in recent years, while the jobs picture has darkened and food costs are entering a cycle of hyperinflation, spurred in part by the demand for ethanol and in part by rapidly inflating costs of fertilizers—derived from natural gas—and pesticides. 

Given the uncertainty and volatility of the economy, “how accurate will any feasibility study be at this time?” asked Jesse Arreguin, a DAPAC member. “This is just a way of sneaking in taller buildings against the wishes of the DAPAC majority.” 

While the DAPAC-drafted plan will go to the City Council, it will be accompanied by a set of proposed revisions drawn up by the Planning Commission and city staff. 

Travis, who like Lamont was appointed to DAPAC by the mayor, said the study could provide a quick answer to one question that concerned the committee minority, the feasibility of building within the plan’s height limits. 

The central tension dominating DAPAC’s two-year effort to create the new plan centered on the character of new construction in downtown Berkeley. The university’s massive building boom was taken as a given, leaving the question of just how much private developers should be allowed to build, and what existing buildings should be spared the wrecking ball. 

Matt Taecker, the planner hired with the help of UC funds to guide the planning process, has insisted he wasn’t pushing the point towers, but he kept returning with the proposal, despite repeated rebuffs by the committee majority—and they came right back when the plan was handed over to the Planning Commission. 

The plan approved by DAPAC would keep most downtown buildings at 85 feet, while allowing four at 100 feet, four more at 120 and two high-rise hotels which could rise 100 feet higher. One of the hotels is already in the planning stages, to be sited at the northeast corner of the Shattuck Avenue/Center Street intersection. 

The second would be an expansion of the existing Shattuck Hotel a block to the south. 

Travis said the real issue is whether or not the limits included in the DAPAC plan would allow any actual construction to occur. 

While the existing five-story limit allows for reasonable construction costs, adding another story or two to reach the 85-foot limit necessitates a change to the more expensive metal frame construction, and only significantly higher structures would be likely to justify the actual construction costs, high-rise proponents have argued. 

“If you only get five-story buildings as a result,” Travis said, “you haven’t gained anything.” 

DAPAC majority members point to the seven-year review mandated in their plan, which calls for the height question to be reexamined in light of actual construction resulting from the plan’s initial years. 

The one question remaining is whether a construction-friendly City Council will back the conclusions of its own appointees to DAPAC or will side with the more developer-friendly Planning Commission.


Alta Bates Registered Nurses Stage Walkout

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Thurs., March 20—Registered nurses at Berkeley’s Alta Bates Summit and Herrick Hospitals are walking out Friday for a 10-day strike against the Sutter hospital chain. 

It’s the third walkout called by the California Nurses Association (CNA) since contract talks stalled with the Sutter hospitals—which negotiate contracts individually for each hospital or group. 

Alta Bates Summit includes the Berkeley hospital on Ashby Avenue, the Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Herrick Hospital. 

CNA has called two previous job actions at the local hospitals, one called for two days in October and the second three years ago, a one-day action. 

In both cases Sutter locked out the nurses following the actions, extending their absence to five days—a move the hospitals said was needed to attract replacements. 

While the first walkout was supported by members of the Service Employees International Union, the two unions have since fallen out, most recently over rival organizing activities in Ohio. 

In California, CNA represents Registered Nurses, while the SEIU, as United Healthcare Workers West, represents Licensed Vocational Nurses and other hospital employees. RNs require a higher level of training than LVNs. 

A total of 4,000 RNs will walk out at Sutter’s bay area hospitals, starting at 7 a.m. Friday. 

Other hospitals affected include Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Miller-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo. 

San Francisco-Based HealthSource and Colorado-Based U.S. Nursing—agencies that specialize in hiring strike replacements—have both recruited nurses to fill in for striking Sutter workers. 

U.S. Nursing was offering $48 to $60 an hour for RNs, depending on speciality, with a guarantee of 84 hours of work or a minimum of $2,880 if the strike is settled after they arrive but before they start work. 

All travel and housing expenses would also be paid. 

In one of the more unusual press release issued over a labor conflict, Sutter blasted the union for “Promoting a ‘Party Like’ Atmosphere During the 10-Day Strike.” 

Apparently believing that strikes should be somber events, Sutter reprinted a union schedule which stated that family-oriented events would be held every day during the walkout, including face-painting, arts and crafts and a noon barbecue. 

However, Sutter’s hiring sources offer promises of their own, with HealthSource, however, noting in its call for replacements “Typically, you are housed in luxury hotels with all amenities available.”


Peaceful Protests in Berkeley Mark Five Years of War

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Thurs., March 20—Calling for immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, participants in daylong events in Berkeley marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War on Wednesday with protests at the downtown Marine Recruiting Center and a rally in Civic Center Park. 

The protest grew to some 250 people when Civic Center demonstrators marched to the recruiting center after the noon rally, but for most of the day numbers were smaller, with police sometimes outnumbering protesters. 

The noon rally in the park featured a hip-hop band and Cindy Sheehan, peace activist turned candidate for Congress, running for Nancy Pelosi's seat on the Green Party ticket. Addressing the young people, Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq, said the growing debt to pay for the war will fall to them. “They're robbing you of your future,” she said.  

“They send jobs overseas and think you'll join the military,” she said, urging the teens to “flip burgers,” if they have to.  

“Do not join the military,” she warned, adding, “We have a right to say, 'Marines, get out of our community.'” 

Calling on the crowd to become active opponents of the war, Sheehan asked, “Why are George Bush and Dick Cheney still there?” and answered, “We let them be there.” 

Organizers—the ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink and the World Can't Wait—held a second rally in the street outside the Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square, as police blocked traffic. Demonstrators maintained a presence all day at the recruiting center, which did not open. 

A group of five people, most of them members of the Berkeley College Republicans, held American flags and argued with some of the anti-war demonstrators. 

A counter-protester carrying an American flag, who identified herself only as Kimberly, told the Planet she had come because the Berkeley City Council had been disrespectful to the Marines in saying they were not welcome in the city. 

She was also there to support the war effort, which she called a “defensive war.”  

“We can't wait until we're attacked,” she said. Asked if the Iraqis were going to attack the U.S., she said it isn't the Iraqi people that would attack.  

“It's a threat from the Middle East,” she said. Without the defensive war, “9-11 could happen all over again.” 

Police Chief Doug Hambleton said the entire police force was on duty on Wednesday, with officers covering their regular beats and other officers working on their days off to cover the demonstrations. 

Asked why there were so many police—at times there were as many as three dozen police guarding the Marine Recruiting Center, with another dozen officers across the street and more stationed at a number of downtown street corners—Hambleton and City Manager Phil Kamlarz, both of whom had come to observe the scene at the recruiting center, said they had no idea how many demonstrators would be on the streets. 

“Even the organizers didn't know,” Kamlarz said. 

Police Review Commissioner Michael Sherman, also at the Marine Recruiting Center, said he thought the day had gone well. “It's like an insurance policy—you're prepared for the worst.” 

There were no arrests made, according to Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkeley police spokesperson. 

 

 

 


UC Students Arrested at Regents Rally

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Wed., March 19—San Francisco police arrested 10 UC students who chained themselves to the doors of the UCSF Mission Bay community center this morning (Wednesday) in an attempt to prevent the UC Board of Regents from meeting. 

About 100 students from five UC campuses rallied against the undemocratic way regents are selected at “Free the UC Day,” organized by The Coalition to Free UC, Students Against War, and Direct Action to Stop the War. 

The students also spoke against fee hikes, UC's involvement in nuclear weapons and what they said was the Scholastic Aptitude Test's role in excluding underrepresented minorities from the UC system. 

Protesters arrived at the Mission Bay campus at 6 a.m., some driving from Santa Cruz and Davis. Thirteen students looped bicycle locks around their necks and clamped them to doorknobs. 

“Nobody stopped us at first,” said Keith Brown, a second year geography major at UC Berkeley. “Around 7 a.m., the police started to take people out. They used power tools while people were still chained on the doors. Eventually they took out the doorknobs.” 

Police and firefighters had to dismantle doors to take down the locks, a UC police officer said. 

Calls to the San Francisco Police Department to confirm the arrests were not returned by press time. Brown said he expected the students to be cited and released. 

The group also appealed to the regents to come out and be part of an alternative Regents meeting. 

“We wanted to show the regents how to hold a meeting,” Brown said. “But they didn't join us.” 

About 20 students spoke at the regents' meeting during public comment. 

“I told the regents that I had withdrawn all cooperation with the University of California until they stopped production of nuclear weapons,” said Pancho Ramos, a fourth-year Ph.D. student. 

“I don't want to receive a title from an institution which is putting at risk our survival. I am not against science, but I am against the unethical application of science. Clearly, the university's ethical prestige has been used to build nuclear weapons and atomic bombs ... It is the most unethical thing to do. We want to take part in the decision of the university. We don't want to be used.” 

Students also spoke before the regents against rising tuition costs. 

“Some students have to work multiple jobs to sustain themselves,” UC Berkeley sophomore Monika Roy told the Planet. “I think that we are paying a lot of money for public education ... Those who cannot afford to pay are usually minorities or from ethnic backgrounds. In comparison, Stanford University recently announced that it would eliminate tuition for students whose families make less than $100,000 per year.”  

Students also asked the regents to release the skeletal remains of 13,000 Native Americans held in UC Berkeley's Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology. 

“People were speaking from their hearts but I think they went unheard,” said Maya Kelmelis, a UC Berkeley senior who listened to the public comments. “One or two were taking notes, but the majority were not listening. Some were talking and laughing with each other. There was no dialogue or discussion.” 

Zachary Runningwolf—who was also protesting against UC Berkeley's plan to raze the Oak Grove and build a student athletic center in its place—spoke at the students' alternate meeting. 

“They are making stands that help indigenous issues,” he said of the students. “We want to keep our ancestors in the Oak Grove, we want the 13,000 bones back from the Hearst museum, and we want to stop the corporatization of UC. These kids have a very good sense of direction. They are attracting a lot of attention.”  

 


Mayor Speaks Against War at Chamber Lunch

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Wed., March 19—Flying in the face of his hosts' concerns regarding demonstrations at the Marine Recruiting Center, Mayor Tom Bates spoke out about his opposition to the War in Iraq and support for peaceful demonstrations. The speech was delivered Tuesday at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon where the mayor was the featured speaker. 

Bates also painted a rosy picture of the city's economy, with flourishing hotels and restaurants, lauded city efforts to build downtown (perhaps up to 18 stories), laid out plans to build green and more. 

Toward the end of his talk, the mayor introduced the topic of Marine Recruiting Center demonstrations on a lighthearted note: “Let me conclude with the topic of the day,” he said, “the battle of Code Pink vs. the United States Marine Corps. That's not a fair fight!” 

Bates went on to say that beyond what people think “of this Code Pink stuff,”-a recent photo on the Chamber website portrayed CEO Ted Garrett bringing donuts to a Marine recruiter-the war, whose fifth anniversary was the next day, had caused the deaths of some 4,000 U.S. military personnel and the injury of about 28,000 Americans. Some one million Iraqis have been killed and 4 million displaced, he said. 

Trillions of dollars have been spent on the war. “Can you imagine what that would mean if we had that for education? If we had that for housing?” he asked. “What a waste. We were lied to, to begin with.”  

Bates placed the current demonstrations in a historical context. “First of all, this city has protested wars and recruiting stations since I was in grammar school. People lay on the railroad tracks. People tied themselves to the recruiting station door,” he said. 

Since 2003 there have been protests at recruiting stations all over the country. “It's not like Berkeley is unique in this regard,” said Bates, a former Army captain, adding that  

he does not support young people going into the military and added that those who sign up have few options. 

The mayor spoke to the Jan. 29 council item calling Marine recruiters “unwelcome intruders.” The council was wrong to pass an item with inflammatory language that had not been properly vetted, he said.  

“It passed and I'm sorry,” he said. “I've apologized at every forum I can think of but I'm not prepared to apologize to the Marines who are recruiting our kids to go to this war.” 

He pointed out that Code Pink has been demonstrating in many venues other than Berkeley, including in front of Nancy Pelosi's house and at Congress. At the same time there are demonstrations by Move America Forward, billed as a grassroots organizations but which actually is “a bunch of right-wing shock jocks,” Bates said. 

Move America Forward wants to move the U.N. out of the United States and build a wall on the U.S.- Mexico border to keep immigrants out, he added. (Move America Forward is headed by former KSFO talk-show host Melanie Morgan.) 

Bates said that there have been boycotts of Berkeley in the past and that the current one will pass as they have before. 

“We need to take the high road. We need to talk about what is great about this community,” he said. 

No one in the audience criticized Bates overtly, but during the question and answer session one person-with anonymous written questions-asked about the high cost of overtime police for demonstrations, which Bates said he couldn't answer, and another made a statement asserting middle class youth sign up voluntarily for military service, countering Bates' view that people without resources join the service. 

After the meeting, the Planet asked Chamber Executive Director Ted Garrett whether he was disappointed in Bates' anti-war remarks, but Garrett said his primary concern was the protests' harm to local business, especially the businesses adjacent to the Marine Recruiting Center. 

He pointed to hotels and restaurants that received cancellations recently, but conceded that it's hard to know whether that was because of a boycott or because of the economy. Responding to a question, Garrett said he had not asked other businesses near the recruiting center whether their receipts have increased because of the increased numbers of people flocking downtown for protests. 

In response to another question, Garrett said it was too early to know whether the chamber would be making political endorsements and if so, whether it would endorse Bates, though Garrett said he works closely with the mayor to make sure the Chamber voice is heard in the decision-making process. 

 

Other questions addressed 

Economic development was a key component of Bates' talk. Speaking of business attraction, he said the city should take advantage of the $500 million UC Berkeley-BP partnership, which would create other opportunities in the city. 

“I know BP is controversial,” he said. “We have to capitalize on it.” 

Reached by phone for comment, Councilmember Dona Spring took exception to the remark. “He's a laissez-faire capitalist,” Spring said of the mayor, noting BP's “terrible environmental record.  

And, she said, “There's a lot of problem with biofuels,” notably its use of produce for fuel rather than for food. 

With pride, Bates told the Chamber: “Good old flakey Berzerkeley has the highest bond rating in the nation.” He thanked City Manager Phil Kamlarz, seated in the audience and said, “I'm trying to get him to agree to a lifetime contract.”  

What's being considered for a new contract for Kamlarz has been guarded behind closed doors, with a council subcommittee reviewing the manager's job performance, which city insiders say could lead to a hefty raise. City employee unions, on the other hand, have said they're looking at city reserves-to which the bond rating is tied-as funding for worker raises. 

Bates said the closure of downtown Ross Dress for Less shouldn't be seen as a loss for the city, as it could be a “great opportunity.”  

“That is the perfect site for a high-rise building,” Bates said. He also mentioned the possibility of turning the long-empty UC Theater into a music venue. 

The best-performing sector is hospitality, Bates said, noting there is increasing revenue from hotel taxes and the mostly booked-up Double Tree Hotel, where the luncheon was held. 


Greg Hodge Fails to Qualify for Oakland Council Race

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Wed., March 19—One of the most highly anticipated Oakland election battles in years may have been knocked off the ballot when veteran District 3 Oakland School Board member Greg Hodge came up one signature short of qualifying to run in the June 3 race for the Oakland City Council.  

The West Oakland/Downtown District 3 seat is held by longtime council member Nancy Nadel, who is running for re-election. The boundaries for the school board and city council districts are identical.  

The determination that Hodge was one signature shy of the 50 needed to qualify for the ballot was made by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office and Assistant Oakland City Clerk Marjo Keller. 

Hodge has until Friday to challenge the ruling. 

If the ruling stands, it will leave Nadel's only challenger as political newcomer Sean Sullivan, development director of the Oakland branch of Covenant House. 

Neither Hodge nor Nadel was available for comment.  

Nadel has served on City Council since 1996. Hodge first won the District 3 School Board seat in 2000 in a runoff. Both initially filed to run for mayor of Oakland in 2006, but Hodge dropped out after Ron Dellums entered the race. Nadel stayed in the mayoral race, eventually coming in third to Dellums and second to Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente. 

 


AC Transit Sets Hearing for Fare Increase

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Posted Tue., March 18—The embattled AC Transit District is considering its fifth fare change in the last 13 years, with a possible increase in adult fares of as much as 25 cents and increases to the youth and senior passes coming as early as this summer.  

AC Transit adult fares are currently set at $1.75. A public hearing on the proposed increase has been set for Wednesday, May 21, 4 p.m., at a location yet to be determined. 

District board members are looking at several different fare increase proposals, some of which would include automatic, regular bus fare increases in future years. In the past, the district has always considered fare raises on an increase-by-increase basis. 

Meanwhile, with district operating expenses rising four times as fast as revenues since 2005, at least one AC Transit board member—Greg Harper of Emeryville—also said last week that bus service cuts are also “inevitable.” 

In recent months, AC Transit has come under heavy criticism from riders and bus drivers over its increasing use of the Belgian-made Van Hool buses. In addition, the district has been the subject of several recent critical articles in both the Berkeley Daily Planet and the East Bay Express.  

The two-county transit district is also fighting to implement a controversial and ambitious plan to put bus-only lanes, a system known as bus rapid transit (BRT), along International Boulevard and Telegraph Avenue between Southland, or Bayfair BART, and UC Berkeley. 


School District Sends Out 55 Layoff Notices

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Fifty-five teachers and counselors in the Berkeley Unified School District received pink slips over the weekend notifying them of anticipated layoffs in face of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to slash state education funds by $4.6 billion. 

Dozens of parents and teachers turned up to protest the cuts in front of the district headquarters at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way Friday. They formed a human billboard spelling out “No Cuts. Raise State Revenue.” 

Berkeley Unified—which stands to lose up to $5 million if legislators approve the proposed cuts in Sacramento—could save between $3.7 and $4.5 million from the layoffs. 

“It’s very demoralizing for the teachers,” said Berkeley Federation of Teachers President Cathy Campbell. “You feel unwanted. Teachers face challenges in the classroom every day and on top of that they have to think about losing their job. The district can’t look at just teachers and counselors to solve the budget crisis. It’s just not fair ... It’s a direct hit to students. They need to look at the whole budget and cut fairly.” 

Campbell plans to organize another rally this Friday and a bigger one on April 9. 

Board president John Selawsky said that the potential layoff notices—which were issued by March 15 in keeping with state law—should not be confused with the final list of employees who will be laid off. He said that list would be mailed out in late May. 

“Increase revenues,” Selawsky said, as he joined the rally. “It all starts in Sacramento.” 

A budget advisory committee comprised of district staff and community members will work with District Superintendent Bill Huyett to recommend cuts to the Berkeley Board of Education. 

“We have worked very hard to keep cuts away from the classroom,” he said. “However, many of the reductions will be from counseling support.” 

Huyett, who has already made several trips to Sacramento to talk about the proposed cuts, said that several legislators were in support of saving Prop. 98, which the governor has proposed to cut. 

Beth Trevor, a third-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, received a layoff notice Thursday. 

“It’s horrible .... Makes me very, very sad,” said Trevor, who was with her son, a kindergartner at her school. “Two other teachers at my school also got layoff notices. If nothing changes, if the district continues with the budget cuts, then I will get my final notice in May.” 

Malcom X Elementary School parents Leigh Raiford and Michael Cohen told the Planet that both their children’s teachers had received pink slips. 

“We are both university professors, middle-class parents who moved to Berkeley to put our kids in public schools,” Raiford said. “Teachers are doing such a wonderful job, but these cuts are going to gut the system. The governor is taking money out of the public schools and using it to build prisons. This is not the society we want to raise our children in.” 

Education Weekly recently gave California a D+ for public education spending. 

“We have been looting education for a long time now in this state and in this country,” said president of the classified employees’ union Tim Donnelly. “So those law makers who say they are pro education have to put their money where their mouth is.” 

Donnelly said that classified employees will receive layoff notices in late April. 

“I am sure it’s going to be bad,” he said. “We are all very anxious. Instructional assistants and clerical staff are already cut to the bottom.” 

The district will cut positions in order of seniority for employees, which means young and recently trained teachers will be the worst hit. 

The state education code mandates that the district retain certain positions, including those with credentials pertaining to bilingual cross-cultural language and academic development, specially designed academic instruction in English and certain advanced degrees.  

Special education and single-subject credentialed teachers, including those teaching math and science, will be retained in the 2008-2009 school year regardless of their seniority. 

The Oakland Unified School District plans to freeze hiring and dip into its reserve fund in order to prevent teacher layoffs. 

A group of teachers and parents from Berkeley High’s Independent Study program requested at the last school board meeting that the board reconsider laying off Independent Study coordinator Evelyn Bradley. 

“If we lose her, we would have lost three administrators in less than two years, which would not be good for the program or the students,” said Kate Karpilow, whose daughter attends Independent Study. 

“All kinds of students—teen moms, gays, lesbians, talented dancers and musicians, students who need sanctuary from violence at Berkeley High—depend on independent study,” said Christina Balch, who teaches in the program. “I urge you to reconsider cutting the coordinator’s position ... when we have six coordinators in nine years it’s a waste of time.” 

Parents also asked the school board to pay more attention to the program itself. 

“I don’t get why it is not seen as a jewel in the crown,” said Karpilow.  

“For some reason it’s seen as a secondary status program ... It’s not honored. I am baffled by this. Just as the small schools at Berkeley High School offer a menu of options for students and families, the option offered by Independent Study is critical to graduating students and offering them a solid education.”


Thurmond Leads Fundraising In Race for Assembly 14 Seat

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Candidates in the hotly contested Democratic primary race to succeed Loni Hancock as District 14 Assemblymember are relying upon distinctly different fund-raising strategies, with a Richmond City councilmember dividing his contributions almost evenly between individual and business or labor group donors and Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and Berkeley physician Phil Polakoff taking 98 percent of their donations from individuals, but with the majority of Worthington’s donations coming from inside District 14 and the majority of Polakoff’s coming from outside. 

Richmond City Councilmem-ber Tony Thurmond was the top fund-raiser in the District 14 race in 2007 with $84,215, several of them businesses with relationships with the City of Richmond. Polakoff was second in fund-raising at $58,150 and Worthington third at $56,375. Polakoff also loaned his campaign another $31,000. 

Thurmond said by telephone that his fund-raising lead came only because he has been raising money since the beginning of 2007, and he expected the other candidates to surpass him in contributions before the election. 

Polakoff began the year with $75,570 in the bank to spend on the campaign, Thurmond had $58,470, and Worthington had $48,625. 

Two of Worthington’s largest contributors were Berkeley Daily Planet owners Michael O’Malley ($3,600) and Becky O’Malley ($4,200 in two separate donations). Individual donors may give up to $3,600 for the June Democratic primary for the Assembly District 14 race, and another $3,600 for the November general election, so long as they are donated in separate checks. 

Filings for the fourth candidate in the race, former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner, do not appear on the Secretary of State’s website list of 2007 contributions because Skinner says she did not receive any donations for the District 14 race in 2007 and did not organize her campaign finance committee until the first of this year. 

While District 14 is widely considered a “Berkeley seat”—the last three assemblymembers, Loni Hancock, Dion Aroner, and Tom Bates were all from Berkeley—the Richmond and Berkeley populations of the district are almost evenly divided, with 23.43 percent of the population coming from Richmond (99,216) and 24.27 percent from Berkeley (102,743). Other cities included in District 14 are Albany, El Cerrito, Emeryville, Kensington, Lafayette, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, and San Pablo. A portion of Oakland (7.5 percent, 30,103) is included in the district. 

Meanwhile, with a midnight Monday deadline for reported contributions to go on the next Secretary of State’s report, all four candidates were scrambling last week to pump up their donations. 

Calling the Monday filing deadline “Green Day” for both St. Patrick’s Day and finances, Skinner sent an e-mail to supporters last week saying, “Many will be watching this report to determine who can win this race. Now is the time to help the campaign send a strong message. … I am trying to raise $20,000 before Monday.”  

On Saturday she sent out a follow-up e-mail saying her campaign had reached 75 percent of that goal. 

Thurmond was also sending out fundraising e-mails last week, saying on Monday morning that the Secretary of State’s next finance reports “will drive the decisions of many groups and leaders whether to support our campaign.” 

Voting in the Democratic primary for the District 14 race will take place on Tuesday, June 3. With no Republicans or other party candidates filing (Democrats hold a 59 to 18 percent edge over Republicans in registered voters in the district), the winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly take office following the November general election. 

Thurmond raised $29,745 in donations in 2007 from business interests. 

Several of those businesses have contracts or had bid on contracts with the City of Richmond or have development interests which must go through the city’s planning process, including approval by the City Council. Thurmond was appointed to the Richmond City Council in 2005 and elected to a full, two-year term in November 2006. 

The donation for Thurmond from the most controversial source is $3,000 from Upstream Point Molate LLC of Emeryville, the company that holds a multi-million dollar option on property on the Richmond shoreline on which it wants to build a Native American-based casino and convention center complex. The project, which has been the subject of several lawsuits, is currently being held up pending Bureau of Indian Affairs approval of the status of the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians. Upstream officials have said that if the casino and convention center complex is not possible, they want to build condominiums on the site. 

Thurmond also received another $3,600 in an individual contribution from Upstream founder James Levine. 

The original Upstream development agreement with Richmond came before the City Council before Thurmond was on the council, but he said that he has since voted on “two or three” smaller issues concerning the development. 

Other Thurmond business contributors who have relationships with the City of Richmond are Veolia Water North America Operating Services of Houston ($3,000 donation), which has a $70 million contract to manage Richmond’s city-owned collection and stormwater systems (voted on in 2004, before Thurmond was appointed to the City Council); Richmond Sanitary Service ($2,395 donation), which holds the contract to recycle and collect solid waste for the City of Richmond (also voted on before Thurmond’s tenure); and W.R. Forde Associates construction company of Richmond and United Heritage Industries construction and development firm of Richmond ($3,600 donations apiece), both of which have bid on City of Richmond contracts. 

Thurmond also received a $3,600 individual contribution from Bay Cities Paving and Grading Company of Concord, which bids on City of Richmond contracts. Last January, Bay Cities won a $2,822,868.60 from the City of Richmond for the Nevin Park Improvement Project, with City Council voting 6-2 on the contract, Thurmond voting in favor. 

Thurmond said by telephone that he didn’t believe it was a concern that companies with interests before the Richmond City Council are coming to him with donations. 

“I let them know that their contribution has no bearing on my vote,” he said. “I tell them if it hinges on an expectation that I will vote favorably on their project or contract, then they should just keep the money.” 

Thurmond noted that while Chevron Corporation, Richmond’s major corporation, has not contributed to his assembly campaign, the company did give money to his 2006 City Council campaign, and “each time something concerning Chevron has come before the Council since then, I voted against their interest.” 

Thurmond has also collected $9,850 in labor organization donations, the only District 14 candidate to so far tap into that source. The total includes $2,500 from the Richmond Police Officers Political Action Committee and $2,500 from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302. 

As would be expected for the only candidate from Richmond, close to 50 percent of Thurmond’s individual donations from within District 14 ($8,925) come from that city. Close to a quarter of his individual contributions from within District 14 ($4,350) come from Berkeley. 

Polakoff, a Berkeley resident, is raising money heavily in his home town, with 63 percent ($14,150) of his individual contributions within District 14 coming from Berkeley. Fully a third of that total ($4,700) come from Berkeley physicians. But Polakoff’s single largest financial mine is San Francisco, from where fully 29 percent ($16,750) of his entire individual contributions have been received. Another $6,700 come from Oakland contributors. But because no contributor addresses are given, and only a portion of Oakland is in District 14, it is impossible to determine how many of these contributions come from inside the district or outside. None of Polakoff’s individual contributions comes from Richmond residents. 

Worthington is depending even more heavily on Berkeley than Polakoff. About 83 percent ($40,700) of the Berkeley City Councilmember’s contributions within the district come from Berkeley. Only 4 percent ($1,750) of Worthington’s individual contributions from within the district come from Richmond. 

Including Levine of Upstream, Thurmond had 10 individual contributions of $1,000 or more. They are: Remax Executive realtor Sheila Proctor of El Sobrante ($1,000), Bay Cities Paving & Grading President Ben Rodriquez of Concord ($3,600), California Assemblymember Alberto Torrico of Fremont ($1,000), retiree Clarence J. Thurmond of Palmdale, California ($1,050), developer J.R. Orton of Piedmont ($1,000), retiree Margaret McLaughlin of Melrose Park, Pennsylvania ($1,000), developer Richard Poe of North Palm Beach, Florida ($1,000), research and development specialist Brad Aronson of Avenue A Razorfish of Philadelphia ($3,600), and accountant Mia Aronson of Avenue A Razorfish of Philadelphia ($3,600). 

Polakoff had 21 individual donations of $1,000 or more in 2007: Crossroads CEO Walter Gerken of Berkeley ($1,000), consultant Peter Boland of Berkeley ($1,000), retired attorney Stanley Friedman of Berkeley ($1,000), Morethana Carpenter owner John Ferguson of El Cerrito ($1,000), attorney/developer Anthony Wilson of Oakland ($1,000), Bright Sound Energe CEO John Woolard of Oakland ($1,000), Charles Schwab Bank Manager Julia Brown of Oakland ($1,000), homemaker Darlene Gerken of Corona Del Mar ($2,000), The Westley Group venture capitalist and former governor candidate Steven Westley of Menlo Park ($1,000), Wells Fargo banker Christopher Lirely of Occidental ($1,000), Bentley School Director of Development and Communications Devereaux Smith of Piedmont ($1,000), Fleishman Hillard partner and Western Region Vice President Larry Kramer of Piedmont ($1,000), Thresold Pharmaceuticals researcher Joan Finnigan of Portola Valley ($1,000), Shartsis Friese LLP attorney Robert Friese of San Francisco ($1,000), Atherton Lane Advisors investment advisor Gary Patterson of San Francisco ($1,000), investor Alice Russell-Shapiro of San Francisco ($3,600), investor William Russell-Shapiro of San Francisco ($3,600), investor/philanthropist Stacey Case of San Francisco ($3,600), Capital Group Senior Vice President Gregory Wendt of San Francisco ($1,000), entrepreneur Douglas Carlston of San Rafael ($1,000), JP Morgan social venture capitalist Michael Dorsey of Woodside ($1,000), and New York State Budget Division Director of Budget Paul Francis of Pelham, New York ($1,000). 

Including the O’Malleys, Worthington had nine individual contributors giving $1,000 or more: retiree Ann Timmins of Berkeley ($1,000), book production consultant David Blake of Berkeley ($3,600), environmental advocate David Tam of Berkeley ($3,600), editor/consultant Nancy Carleton of Berkeley ($3,600), retiree Louise Larson of Richmond ($1,200), Cooper White & Cooper LLP legal assistant Martin Spence of San Pablo ($3,000), and Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP attorney Jeffrey Siu-Yuen Chan of New York City ($3,600). 

Worthington also gave $7,200 to his own campaign in two separate donations. 


Police Review Commission Plans Crowd Control Review

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 18, 2008
World War II vet Selwyn Jones, 86, speaks at the hearing on police response to demonstrations. Jones said police pushed him to the ground.
Judith Scherr
World War II vet Selwyn Jones, 86, speaks at the hearing on police response to demonstrations. Jones said police pushed him to the ground.

World War II veteran Selwyn Jones, 86, told the Police Review Commission at Thursday’s public hearing on the Berkeley Police Department’s response to recent demonstrations that he’d been pushed to the ground by police during a recent protest at the Marine Recruiting Station.  

Ry Cranor-Wellwood said he’d been stomped on by police at the Feb. 12 demonstration at Civic Center Park and brought along emergency room papers he said verified his injuries. 

After video documentation and oral testimony from about 30 people claiming faulty crowd control by Berkeley police during recent anti-war and anti-Marine recruitment demonstrations—one person blamed demonstrators for the problems—the Police Review Commission voted to review police policies on crowd control.  

A subcommittee will be appointed to determine if police are following crowd control procedures now in place and whether the procedures need revision. The commission may decide later to look at officer misconduct. If they do, they said they will not be able to hold hearings publicly, given a California Supreme Court decision and a pending court case involving the Berkeley Police Association that bans public discussion of complaints against specific police officers. 

And, responding to the crowd of about 60 people, many calling for immediate action, the commission promised to hold an emergency meeting with the city manager and police chief to discuss crowd control methods before demonstrations slated for Wednesday, the five-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. That meeting was slated for 4 p.m. Monday. 

Speakers told the PRC that police overreacted to peaceful demonstrations. They showed videotapes of dozens of police officers marching in formation along Shattuck Avenue, apparently pushing Jones off the sidewalk into the street and knocking over stands the demonstrators had set up on the sidewalk. Speakers said their crimes were scotch-taping signs to the Marine Recruiting Station windows and walking with picket signs on sidewalks without permits to demonstrate. 

“Over and over, the police set up awkward situations,” said Don Spark, of the World Can’t Wait. Moreover, police arrested the anti-recruiting young people “and gave the bigots a pass,” he said. 

Police did not attend the meeting. Police Spokesperson Lt. Andy Greenwood told the Planet on Monday he understood the PRC was going to establish a subcommittee to look into issues of crowd control and that the chief would cooperate with the committee.  

“The police department works very hard to insure the rights of everyone during a demonstration,” Greenwood said, noting that he could not address specific allegations. He cautioned, however, that one should beware of video footage that could be edited to remove the context of an event. 

Former U.S. Army Capt. Marca Lamore, a Berkeley resident, was alone at the hearing speaking in defense of police actions. “People were waving signs—they are potential weapons,” she said, adding, “Citizens are harassed by Code Pink.”  

Zanne Joi of Code Pink said protesters were treated differently from the Marines. While demonstrators had been cited for smoking near businesses, “a Marine came out of the office smoking and police said nothing,” Joi said. 

Army veteran Forrest Schmidt, a member of ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) said police treated the Marines and the pro-military demonstrators as “comrades.”  

“Police act as an auxiliary of the pro-war forces,” he said. 

Speakers complained that “rules” enforced were arbitrary and possibly fabricated. Joi said Code Pink was told it could not have a “honk for peace” sign. 

“We don’t know where these rules are coming from,” she said. 

“We’re looking at the general erosion of civil liberties,” said Michael Diehl, a member of the mental health commission who has been trying to get police officers to get crisis intervention training. 

Several speakers pointed to a lack of communication between protesters and police. Some said police failed to give warnings or orders to disperse before physically moving crowds with batons. One video showed protesters unsure of where police wanted them to go.  

Speakers said the number of police officers was excessive for a peaceful demonstration and police demeanor and riot gear portrayed an overreaction. “There’s never been an allegation of violence [committed] by World Can’t Wait,” one speaker said. 

“We are a peaceful group. We aren’t going to break anything,” said Cynthia Papermaster of Code Pink. 

PRC commissioners agreed there were serious problems. “I did see a marked change in crowd control,” said PRC Chair Bill White. “It’s a concern of mine.” 

Commissioner Jonathan Huang said the events described by speakers were not “isolated incidents.” Huang said he was concerned about the “culture of the police department.” 

“Some officers need to be retrained,” added PRC Vice-Chair Sharon Kidd, echoing another concern that had been raised by several speakers. 

Commissioner Michael Sherman noted that, with numerous retirements on the police force, there are many new officers in the city. Like Kidd, he said he wanted to know how police are being trained in crowd control. 

He further noted that the Crowd Management Team manual says nothing about giving verbal warnings, before pushing people out of the way.  

“Why are World War II vets being shoved in the street?” he asked.  


Tree-Sitter Arrested Upon Descending

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008
Fresh led away by campus police after ending his tree-sit.
Doug Buckwald
Fresh led away by campus police after ending his tree-sit.

UC Berkeley’s local tree-sitter Michael Schuck—who calls himself Fresh—climbed down from his leafy perch outside Wheeler Hall Friday and was promptly arrested by university police for trespassing. He was issued a citation and released later that day. 

Schuck climbed an oak tree on Feb. 28 to draw attention to several campus issues, including what he said was the undemocratic structure of the UC Board of Regents, native remains being held by the Hearst Museum of Anthropology, the lack of a living wage for the university’s custodians, rising tuition and the need to end UC’s involvement in nuclear technology. 

The Facebook group Students Against Hippies in Trees, which boasts that it has 600 members, sent out a letter Friday morning organizing a noon rally against Schuck at the site. 

The group’s message to supporters read: “The real name of the tree-sitter, ‘Fresh’ is actually Michael Schuck, so the rally cry shall be ‘Michael Schuck, you SUCK!’ An acceptable alternative is ‘F__ Schuck!’” 

Around noon Friday, supporters of Schuck turned up to counter the Facebook group and formed a circle near his barricaded tree for open dialogue. 

About a hundred students crowded near them as UC policemen kept watch. Tree-sitters from the neighboring Memorial Stadium Oak Grove—protesting the university’s plans to raze the oaks to build an athletic training center—joined local activists to support Schuck, a former UC Berkeley student. 

Although UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogoluf couldn’t confirm whether Schuck had gone to UC Berkeley, several people remembered him as a fighter for the university’s boxing team. 

“That’s Mike Schuck from Southern California,” said Gregory Pedemonte, who had worked with Schuck on the boxing team. “He fought for UC Berkeley for two years … Very bright kid … Always a crowd pleaser. Got into the semi-finals of the 2002 National Collegiate Boxing Association Championship and beat the defending champion—a Navy guy. Then he left school to go on a soul-searching journey to India with his girlfriend. When he came back, he was a changed guy. He looked like something straight out of Haight Ashbury in the 1960s.” 

A few Hare Krishnas played tambourines and Indian dhol drums as curious onlookers stopped by to ask questions. 

“He’s raising the issue right at the heart of almost every disagreement that the community has with the University of California,” said Save the Oaks at the Stadium director Doug Buchwald. “The UC regents are not accountable to anybody … Not to students, not to faculty, not to the community. The make-up of the regents is required to reflect the diversity in our state—economic, cultural, social and ethnic—and the balance of men and women. That has never been true since they were created and it is time the regents decided to obey the law and follow the requirement of the state constitution.” 

As students debated about the democratization of the regents and other related issues, Schuck moved from one branch to the other and answered questions from people. 

“He’s trespassing,” said Mogoluf. “The fact is he is not a current UC Berkeley student. The university has always been pretty tolerant to protests, but when you are taking over the university’s property, you are crossing the line. Today it’s a tree, what if they take over a lab tomorrow?” 

Mogoluf said that he had never heard of the Facebook group who had organized the rally. 

“It’s mainly made up of frat boys,” he said. “I do know that a significant number of students are perplexed by this. A small group of students are sympathetic with the tree-sitter, but the ASUC has supported the university’s position to build the athletic facility … there have been three editorials in the student newspaper condemning the tree sitters.” 

UC Police Department (UCPD) Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya told the Planet that Schuck had been given ample opportunity to climb down from the tree without facing arrest, but had ignored it. 

“He kept saying he would come down but never did,” he said. “Then we barricaded the tree to prevent individuals from contributing to the trespassing.” 

Sara Free Laughtin, one of the students participating in the dialogue, blamed the tree-sit on the police. 

“Fresh went up to put up the banner ‘democratize the students’ but at the end of the day the UC police said they would arrest him if he came down,” she said. 

“So he just stayed up there.” 

“Fresh is criminal,” posters stood side by side with banners reading “Does your grandmother know you are at a hate rally?”  

“It’s not OK that our university is wasting taxpayer money on this,” said Calum Wright, a UC Berkeley student. “I don’t want him on a tree in our campus.” 

“Would it be OK for me, a student, to climb up on a tree?” asked sophomore Suman Gupta in response. 

A little after 1 p.m., Schuck climbed down and was handcuffed by UC police officers. He was released around 2:15 p.m. with a warning to stay away from the campus for 7 days. 

His court date is set for April 16. 


Two Code Pink Members Arrested For Trespassing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Two Code Pink members who entered the Marine Recruiting Center at 64 Shattuck Square Friday and asked its officers to leave were arrested by Berkeley police for trespassing on private property. 

The group, which has been rallying to shut down the recruiting station since September, celebrated the last day of their 24-hour five-day green zone—actually covered in pink—with a press conference around noon. 

The anti-war group World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime! joined about 40 protesters, including members of CopWatch, who recently questioned crowd control measures by the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) at the recruiting station. 

Code Pink spokesperson Zanne Joi told the Planet Friday that the group had organized a “Kiss the Marines Goodbye” event and decorated the station with “goodbye” in 60 different languages. 

“Then we had a move-in crew ready who went inside the station to help the marines move around 3 p.m.,” she said. 

Sporting pink and black, Pamela Bennett of San Francisco, and Mari Blome, of El Cerrito went inside the station and sat down blocking the front door. 

“The marines just got greener and greener with envy when they saw our green zone,” Joi said. “We gave the officers a letter asking them to move. They didn’t know what we were talking about.” Then, she said, the police came and shut the door and arrested the protesters. 

BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet that the police officers had warned Bennett and Blome to leave the center several times. 

“They refused,” she said. “They were cited for a misdemeanor—trespassing on private property. They signed the field citations, then refused to leave again. Then they were arrested and booked into the BPD jail for trespassing on private property after being warned.” 

Joi told the Planet that she expected the two women to be cited and released.


Council Considers Questions of Peace and Justice

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 18, 2008

The question of how to approach matters of peace and justice took center stage at the March 11 Berkeley City Council meeting. At the meeting the council also looked at a new report on pedestrian safety, asked staff to write a graywater permit process and more. 

 

Addressing peace and justice 

The discussion of how best to address questions of peace and justice was prompted by a Jan. 29 action the council approved, then rescinded two weeks later, which asked the city manager to write a letter to the U.S. Marines saying its recruiters were unwelcome in Berkeley. In the revised version, the council underscored support for the troops and reaffirmed its long-standing support for protests against the war.  

The original resolution calling the recruiters unwelcome caused an eruption of the right-wing blogosphere, and councilmembers received thousands of e-mails—against and for the resolution.  

After the matter exploded in the press, several councilmembers said they had failed to read the item carefully. 

That’s why the three peace and justice items before the council last week were on the action calendar for discussion, rather than on the consent calendar where they might have been quickly approved. 

One resolution called for sanctuary for military resisters in Canada; another opposed the use by the U.S. government of mercenaries, and the third supported human rights in Haiti. 

The council’s vote on writing to Canadian officials to ask for sanctuary for U.S. military resisters, on a resolution authored by Councilmember Kriss Worthington, was moved from the action to the consent calendar and approved 8-0. Mayor Tom Bates was absent. 

A measure authored by the Peace and Justice Commission stated the council’s opposition to U.S. government use of the Blackwater corporation in particular and mercenaries in general, and supported the city of Potrero (San Diego County), which is on record opposing Blackwater’s establishing training facilities there. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he shared the commission’s concerns about the large number of mercenaries fighting in Iraq, but he told Peace and Justice Commission Chair Bob Meola that he would have wanted more information on the question. 

Councilmember Laurie Capitelli did not argue against the item but told fellow councilmembers that given the volume of information contained in each council packet, “I need to take my energy and focus it on local policy more germane” to Berkeley. 

“We all have a responsibility to know what we’re voting for,” Councilmember Max Anderson shot back, noting that the question of use of mercenaries “has more impact in our lives than a pothole in the street.”  

“The atrocities of Blackwater have been documented,” commented Councilmember Darryl Moore, who chaired the meeting in Bates’ absence. 

Wozniak had the council narrow the scope of the measure to include opposition to use of mercenaries specifically in Iraq, rather than more generally; the measure continued to support the Potrero council’s opposition to Blackwater.  

The item passed 6-0-2, with Capitelli and Councilmember Betty Olds abstaining. 

On the question of Haiti, the resolution, also proposed by the Peace and Justice Commission, called for release of political prisoners, the guarantee of freedom of speech and assembly, compensation for victims of United Nations’ military raids and sexual exploitation, withdrawal of foreign occupying forces, including U.N. troops, debt cancellation and more. 

Councilmembers wanted to learn more before voting on the issue. Maio said references to the United Nations as an occupying force troubled her. The United Nations “is an organization we honor,” she said. 

Wozniak echoed Maio’s concerns, though he said he supports the call for cancellation of Haiti’s debt. 

“We have photographs of elementary school children in Cite Soleil (a slum in Port-au-Prince) with their bodies riddled with bullets” from the U.N. military, said Adrianne Aron of the Haiti Action Committee, which had brought the resolution to the Peace and Justice Commission. 

Sister Stella Goodpasture, also of the Haiti Action Committee, added that in visits to Haiti, she had seen U.N. “soldiers there, with their guns pointed at you.” 

Anderson told the council he is no stranger to Haiti’s history as having the “first successful slave revolt in this hemisphere,” but that he would support the council’s getting more information on the question before taking a vote on the resolution. 

The council voted 8-0 for four of its members to meet with members of the Haiti Action Committee for further information today (Tuesday), in advance of the resolution’s coming back on the agenda, and then, at a future date, the council would hold a workshop on the question of Haiti. 

 

Pedestrian plan 

The council addressed the pedestrian plan briefly. It will be discussed in detail at a Thursday workshop during the regular meeting of the Transportation Commission: 7 p.m., North Berkeley Senior Center 1901 Hearst Ave. 

Capitelli commented on what he said was an overabundance of signs on Solano Avenue—especially the yellow sign “with the guy pointing to the crosswalk”—intended to make people drive more carefully. Capitelli said he thought that if there were too many signs, people would ignore them. 

The plan is available on line at www.altaplanning.com/berkeleypedestrianplan. 

At the meeting the council also voted unanimously to: 

• Continue the public hearing on the question of building a house at 161 Panoramic Way until March 25. 

• Amend the contract with Lincoln & Associates to $53,500 to recruit a transportation manager. 

• Ask staff to develop a graywater permit process.


Peace Notes: Bay Area Marks Iraq War’s Fifth Anniversary

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday March 18, 2008

A number of events were held last weekend leading up to the five-year anniversary of the Iraq War—among them a demonstration at the Richmond Chevron refinery, where two dozen protesters were arrested, a rally in Walnut Creek and a town meeting with Rep. Barbara Lee in Oakland. 

On Wednesday events to mark the five-year anniversary will be held in Berkeley, San Francisco, Alameda and other Bay Area cities. 

 

Berkeley 

From 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be a protest and non-violent civil resistance at the Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square. 

The sponsor, The World Can’t Wait, writes: “The war enters its sixth bloody year this week. One million Iraqi dead, four million more driven from their homes, thousands have been and are being tortured. This war is being carried out in our name.”  

At 5 p.m., Berkeley protesters will cross the Bay to join the march and rally at San Francisco Civic Center. 

 

Alameda 

At 6:30 p.m., the Alameda Peace Network, Move-On, United for Peace and Justice and others will hold a rally at Alameda City Hall, Oak and Santa Clara streets. At 7 p.m., they will march along Park Street.  

“The resignation of Admiral William Fallon, an opponent of an attack on Iran this week, as the head of the U.S. Central Command once again raises the very real possibility that the Bush administration will launch a bombing attack on Iran,” organizers say, urging people to join the march. 

 

San Francisco 

Beginning at 7:30 a.m., United for Peace and Justice and Direct Action to Stop the War will coordinate protest activities outside the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein at the Montgomery BART station. 

There will be a “War Machine Tours of Shame” visiting various businesses that profit from the war, leaving from Market and Sansome throughout the day. There will be non-violent direct action at various sites throughout the city. 

Those arrested for civil disobedience can call the National Lawyers Guild legal hotline at (415) 285-1011. 

At 11 a.m., at the Montgomery BART: Words Against War—5 Years Too Many. Poets including youth will read at the event sponsored by City Lights Books and Direct Action to Stop the War.  

At 5 p.m., there will be a “March & Rally to End the War Now!” gathering at Civic Center, Polk and Grove streets. The event is initiated by the ANSWER Coalition. 

 

At the Board of Regents 

From 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a coalition of UC Berkeley student organizations will attend the UC Regents meeting at UC San Francisco Mission Bay. 

Sponsors of the demonstration, including Berkeley Stop the War, Students for Justice in Palestine, Save the Oaks and more, say: “Five years ago, George W. Bush started a war against the Iraqi people. His justification? ‘Weapons of mass destruction.’ A lie. But we know where the WMDs are. Every single nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal was designed by the University of California. Tell the UC Regents: No more nuclear weapons! Money for education not war!” 

The coalition will join the 5 p.m. rally in Civic Center. 

 

Winter Soldier 

If you didn’t hear/see veterans and current military men and women speak out about their experiences in Iraq, the Winter Soldier gathering is archived at KPFA.org and IVAW.org. 

 

Other matters 

After the Berkeley City Council asked its city manager to write a letter to the Marines saying that the recruiters in Berkeley were “unwelcome intruders”—and despite the council’s rescinding of that action—U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint tried to strip the city of $2 million in federal funds, giving the money instead to the Marines.  

On Thursday, however, the Senate defeated the measure 57-41.“Senate Chooses Berkeley Over Marines,” DeMint announced on his website. 


Neighbors Nix Plan to Paint John Muir School Blue and Green; BHS Gets International Program

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Objections from the Berkeley Landmarks Commission and the Elmwood-Claremont Neighborhood Association over the Berkeley Unified School District’s proposal to paint John Muir Elementary School blue and green forced the Berkeley Board of Education to reject the proposed colors and stick to its original scheme instead. 

The school—a prominent structure in the Claremont-Elmwood district for the last 90 years—was designed in Tudor style by renowned architect James Placheck under the supervision of Walter Ratcliff Jr. The City of Berkeley landmarked the building in 1983. 

At its March 6 meeting, the Landmarks Commission voted to ask the school board to rethink the proposed color scheme. 

Board members said that the blue and green chessboard pattern would clash with the neighborhood’s architecture and upset residents.  

Some said that painting a building green did not mean that it would reduce its carbon footprint. 

Community members also protested the proposed changes in letters to the school board.  

District spokesperson Mark Coplan told the Planet that the school site committee—responsible for color schemes—was not legally obligated to obey the landmarks commission. 

“However, when Superintendent Bill Huyett heard that the neighbors didn’t want it, he suggested that we keep the original colors,” he said. 

In her letter to the school board, Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association secretary Doris E. Willingham quoted from Susan Cerny’s book Berkeley Landmarks. 

“For close to a century the elegant, handsome building has seen thousands of Berkeley children go through its doors since opening in 1916,” she said in her e-mail to the board. “According to Cerny, the ‘English half-timbered’ building style was ‘meant to convey a friendly and informal atmosphere, and to harmonize with the surrounding residential neighborhood.’ And indeed John Muir School projects the charm and warmth of a private residence rather than the often cold, forbidding look of an institutional building. Moreover, and again according to Cerny, the school’s setting among trees near Harwood Creek reflected the philosophy of a California ‘open air’ school that was popular in those days.” 

Willingham described the “playskool color scheme chosen for John Muir” as inappropriate for both the school building and the neighborhood. 

“It would rob the building of its dignity and beauty, defile our neighborhood, and subject the school district, and indeed the City of Berkeley, to ridicule,” she said. “We do not need this ‘only in Berkeley’ venture into color for a venerable building of this style.” 

Wendy Markel, another member of the neighborhood association, said she was “absolutely horrified” by the idea of changing the school into a “recalled Mattel Barbie doll palace.” 

“Who on earth heard of a Tudor-style building with green boxes!,” she said in her letter to the board. “And the window mullions would be painted light blue! I do wonder what advice the school district has been seeking ... John Muir is part of the neighborhood and the site principal should be aware of this. Certainly the school board has the responsibility of supervising the school site, but in the final analysis it is the tax dollars paid by Berkeley citizens that will pay the bill. We are here as stewards of the past and caretakers of what we have inherited.” 

 

International Baccalaureate program approved at Berkeley High 

The International Baccalaureate Organization authorized Berkeley High School to accredit the program within the institution’s International High School recently. 

Based out of Geneva, Switzerland, the organization has programs in 2,145 schools in 125 countries, including seven Bay Area schools.  

A three-member team visited the high school in November to interview faculty and students before approving the program. 

As a smaller learning community program within the high school, the International High School focuses on international studies. The four-year interdisciplinary curriculum—which began with the ninth-grade in 2006—focuses on global culture, history, artistic expression, and political and economic systems. It now consists of two years, ninth- and tenth-grade.  

The school plans to adopt the organization’s Middle Years Program and Diploma Programe, expanding into grades 11 and 12.  

Students would transition from the Middle Years Program into the comprehensive Diploma Program after the 10th grade.  

Students will be able either to earn certificates in any of 12 areas of study or to pursue the full IB Diploma with examinations in six subjects.  

All courses from Berkeley International High school will meet the California Content Standards and UC/CSU entrance requirements.  


Pacific Legal Foundation Appeals BUSD Diversity Ruling

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 18, 2008

The Berkeley Unified School District’s student assignment system was once again challenged by Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) Monday when the Sacramento-based right-wing public interest litigation firm appealed an April 2007 court decision which had ruled in favor of the district. 

The foundation sued Berkeley Unified for violating California’s Prop. 209 by racially discriminating among students with placements at elementary schools and at programs at Berkeley High in October 2006. 

An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the district’s student assignment system and integration system was fair and legal. 

On behalf of the American Civil Rights Foundation, the foundation asked the California Court of Appeal (Second District) to review the judge’s decision affirming Berkeley’s “use of race as a factor to determine where students are assigned to public schools and to determine whether they gain access to special educational programs.” 

“Berkeley seems to think that you are not using race in public education if you use race along with several other factors,” PLF attorney Alan Foutz said in a press release Monday. “That’s like saying you are not using flour in your cake recipe because you also have baking powder, sugar, water, and oil. Berkeley still has race in their mix of factors for student assignments. And that violates Proposition 209 ... These plans and policies use students’ skin color to help determine how individual students will be treated. That’s unfair and transmits a harmful message to our kids that skin color matters.” 

Foutz could not be reached by press time Monday. 

District superintendent Bill Huyett defended the district’s assignment system. 

“We have been successful in defending our Student Assignment Plan in court on two occasions, and we are confident that we will be successful in this appeal as well,” he told the Planet in a statement. 

The foundation sued Berkeley Unified in 2003 on behalf of a parent who charged the district with race-based assignment of students in a different and earlier Berkeley program. 

The case was dismissed by Judge James Richman who ruled that voluntary desegregation plans or ‘race-conscious’ school assignment systems were not specifically prohibited by Prop. 209.  

The attack on Berkeley public schools by PLF last year came on the 10th anniversary of Prop. 209.  

Speaking to the Planet in an interview in October, then-superintendent Michelle Lawrence said that PLF had used the Berkeley schools to make a “public splash” during the anniversary.  

The lawsuit alleged that BUSD “uses race as a factor to determine where students are assigned to public schools and to determine whether they gain access to special educational programs.”  

In the press release, Foutz said PLF was concerned about the following: the elementary student assignment plan for Berkeley Elementary Schools, the admissions policy for Berkeley High School’s small schools and academic programs; and the admissions policy for Berkeley High School’s AP Pathways Project.  

Proposition 209 was enacted by California voters in 1996 as a provision of the California Constitution, and “prohibits discrimination or preferences based on race or sex in public education, employment, and contracting.”  

The assignment system in BUSD lets parents put in their first, second and third school choices, and then a computer runs a lottery—which takes into account factors such as race, ethnicity, student background and parental income and education—to give the final placement.  


Berkeley Ladies Take Second Place— Again

Tuesday March 18, 2008

Berkeley High Lady Jackets were soundly defeated by Long Beach Poly 55-31 Saturday in the state CIF Basketball Championship Div. I game at Arco Stadium in Sacramento.  

This was the third year running that the team was defeated in the finals by Poly’s Jack Rabbits. But since this was Cheryl Draper’s first year as head coach and since most of the girls will be returning, some say the championship is theirs to win in 2009. 

Jasmine Perkins, the Washington State-bound senior guard, finished with a season low of seven points, yet encouraged her younger teammates during the game. 

Expected returners include junior Camila Rosen, who had a team-high 15 points, and freshman center Chairese Culberson, who had nine rebounds.  


Hearings This Week in Stadium, Trader Joe’s Cases

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Court hearings are slated this week in two major Berkeley land disputes, one involving the university and the other the so-called Trader Joe’s building. 

The first, at 1 p.m. Thursday in Hayward, will feature the final arguments in the battle over the site near Memorial Stadium where tree-sitters have occupied the arboreal heights for the last 16 months. 

The university wants to ax the grove west of the stadium, where it plans a four-level, semi-subterranean high-tech gym and office complex. Zachary Running wolf and others took to the branches on Big Game Day 2006, and protesters have remained in the branches ever since, much to the vexation of university officials. 

The City of Berkeley, City Councilmember Dona Spring, the California Oak Foundation, Panoramic Hill Association and others have challenged the approval by UC Regents of the environmental impact report and funding plans for the gym and other structures in what the university calls Southeast Campus Integrated Projects. 

The project has been placed on hold pending the outcome of the litigation. 

The university has only been floating preliminary plans for the gym, though the EIR also spells out the university’s proposal to build a nearby underground parking lot, a large office and meeting facility to join functions and faculty of the law and business schools, as well as other projects and renovations.  

In the case of the gym, Judge Barbara Miller must decide if the new building is an addition to or an alteration of the stadium itself. If she finds that to be the case, state law governing construction within 50 feet of active earthquake faults could severely limit the project, as well as alterations planned for the stadium itself. 

Miller’s courtroom is located in the Hayward Hall of Justice, 24405 Amador St. 

 

Trader Joe’s 

The second court session, at 9 a.m. Friday in downtown Oakland, will feature arguments in the lawsuit challenging the city’s approval of a five-story mixed-use building at 1885 University Ave. 

Steve Wollmer and other members of Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way have challenged the city’s approval of the project, which granted an additional floor in exchange for creating parking spaces for the building’s ground-floor commercial tenant. 

Developers Chris Hudson and Evan McDonald said they have Trader Joe’s, a popular German-owned grocery chain, lined up as the major tenant. 

City Staff deemed bringing a grocer to the edge of the city’s downtown a public benefit worthy of a density bonus, an increase in size beyond the limits otherwise mandated by city zoning regulations. 

Wollmer and other nearby residential neighbors challenged the project in court, charging that it would be too large and that approval was illegal. 

Concern about the city’s interpretation of zoning regulations in the Trader Joe’s and other cases prompted the Zoning Adjustments Board to form a subcommittee, later expanded by the City Council, to draft a density bonus ordinance for the city. 

That proposal is currently under discussion at the Planning Commission. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch is scheduled to hear the case in his courtroom on the second floor of the Post Office building at 201 13th St.


Opinion

Editorials

Editorial: Walking the Walk and Talking the Talk on a Spring Day

By Becky O'Malley
Friday March 21, 2008

It’s the vernal equinox again, sometimes called the first day of spring, and it’s the new year for those whose ancestors lived in places which were part of ancient Persia. That’s always seemed to me to be a better time to celebrate the new year than January, often cold and nasty, even better than the lunar new year as observed by many Asians, when the weather can also be dicey. By March 21 or so, no matter where you live in the northern hemisphere, some birds will be courting and some flowers will be blooming. (Of course in New England, where I lived for two miserable years, it has been known to snow again in May, but never mind.)  

Professor Muscatine in my undergraduate days at Cal delighted in reading the beginning of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to us in sonorous Middle English:  

 

“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote 

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote... 

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.”  

 

He’d modestly mock himself for doing this: “Here comes old ‘whan that Aprill’, they’re probably saying!” But he enjoyed it, and we enjoyed it with him. 

April’s not quite here yet, but what with climate change the weather has been Aprillish for a while now, the drought of March already pierced to the root a week early. California’s always odd—narcissi sometimes pop as early as Christmas, and the hummingbirds have been displaying their hormonal fitness since February at least. But the urge to get on the road for humans still starts round about the time of the equinox, to peak in April. Round about now people start making vacation plans, if they’re lucky enough to anticipate getting a vacation.  

And those folks around here who belong to the various sects of the modern religion of peace with justice still long to go on pilgrimages, as some of them did on Wednesday. Five years ago when we were gearing up for the insane enterprise of trying to provide a newspaper for Berkeley and environs we took time out to join the big pilgrimage up Market Street in San Francisco with hundreds of thousands of like-minded protestants around the world.  

It had roughly no effect. To this day well-meaning pols like Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, not to mention less truthful colleagues, claim that they never knew, and how could they have known, no one told them that the whole enterprise was a fraud. We told you and we told you and we told you, folks, but you didn’t listen.  

The number of true believers in the pilgrimage method of opinion change has shrunk, and the mass movement has dissipated. Demonstrations this week were conducted by splinter groups, each with its own script, costumes and agenda. Without a printed program, it’s harder and harder to remember which group is accused of neo-Communism, which one is branded with anti-Zionism (often confused with anti-Semitism), which one is castigated for bourgeois idealism, and who wears pink, orange or red.  

All current pilgrims do seem to shun that blue-state blue as being too, too mainstream. The television networks have enacted a miraculous transformation of public color imagery. In the olden days, 40 years back and more, the leftists were “the Reds,” even “the Red menace” to some. This must confuse young people watching old news footage, because now the Red States are Republican and the Blue States are not. But for old times’ sake contemporary left activists still seem to favor reddish hues.  

Marches, whether mass or boutique in scale, are still a great way to get exercise and fresh air, much better for your health than pecking away on a keyboard at home to forward internet links to the unchurched. But effective? No.  

One reason marches have gotten old is that they were formerly used to get the attention of The Media, and now many committed activists are discovering that it’s much easier just to be the media yourself. Five years ago the Chronicle fired a technology columnist for joining a demonstration. This year if you wanted to know what happened at the demonstrations on Wednesday there were many participants with cameras who just posted themselves on the Internet without benefit of mediation by the shrunken Chronicle or any other medium. Many more with opinions to share are skipping demonstrations altogether and just doing the YouTube thing.  

Barack Obama’s transcendent speech on race this week was arguably the best speech on any topic by an American delivered in the last hundred years, and certainly the best since Franklin Roosevelt’s heyday. The most remarkable thing about it is that Obama seems to have written it himself, something Jack Kennedy never did. Even Roosevelt had a bevy of named speechwriters. And it is being disseminated largely without the press as intermediaries.  

On Thurday Renee Montagne told us on National Public Radio that, “The most popular video on YouTube has no lip-synching Chinese teenagers, no babies falling over, no drunk cats: It’s Barack Obama’s speech on race. So far, the Obama speech has been clicked on 1.6 million times.” 

The official commentators are doing their best to spin his speech, as are the bloggers, but the opportunity for citizens to know exactly was said by watching the event itself is unprecedented. Even in the early days of television, when networks were naive enough to let viewers see conventions in full without a barrage of commercials or talking heads, that wasn’t often possible.  

And thanks to modern communication technology, anyone who’s curious can just pick up a telephone to find out what’s going on anywhere. Yesterday I was wondering what was happening with the Democratic primary in Michigan, where I used to live, and was frustrated by how little I could learn even from the stories tracked on Google News. From a Google search I learned that the daughter of old friends who were the backbone of the Ann Arbor NAACP in the ’60s was now in the Michigan legislature, and that her top aide was someone with whom I’d walked many a picket line. I called the aide (quite a surprise after 40 years), and learned that the legislature was still haggling as of Wednesday, but that they would need a two-thirds vote to put a primary on the ballot, and the votes just didn’t seem to be there, nor the money.  

Of course big-buck backers from out of state might offer to pay for a Michigan primary for reasons of their own, but the legislature would still have to OK it. As of Thursday, the legislators were in the process of adjourning, not to come back into session until too late to schedule a primary. Eventually I’ll read about the outcome somewhere, but I got instant gratification for the price of a phone call. 

Modern technology also makes it possible for small-time operators like the Berkeley Daily Planet to exist in an odd limbo between old and new media, another improvement over the old days. It enables us to choose to let dissident members of the citizenry express themselves at considerable length without mediation, so they don’t necessarily have to stage parades to get attention.  

On lovely spring days like the one we had on Wednesday the idea of going on a march somewhere still appeals, but I’m pretty sure that I’m accomplishing more by staying at my keyboard these days. Nonetheless, talking on the phone to my old Ann Arbor compañera made me mighty nostalgic for that summer’s worth of fragrant Monday evenings when we pushed our babies in strollers and pulled our kids in wagons on a picket line around the Ann Arbor city hall in support of the local fair housing ordinance which, if memory serves, the city council eventually passed.  

Blogging and chatrooms are fine in their place, but not really as satisfying as walking outdoors with friends and talking about the important things in life as you do it. Maybe if peace ever returns we could celebrate by holding a triumphal peace march on a spring day, just for old times’ sake. 

 


Editorial: Bubbles Come and Go, But Builders Thrive Regardless

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday March 18, 2008

On Oxford Street these days a massive pile of concrete and steel is starting to take shape. It’s already impossible to look past it to see the hills above to the east or a slice of ocean to the west. It comes right up to the sidewalk on the corner, leaving no room for a patch of green to refresh pedestrians. When the two buildings on the site are completed to the planned heights, that stretch of Oxford will become a canyon. 

There will be open space all right, but in a north-facing interior courtyard which will be dark almost all year long. And there might be play space for the family housing units on the roof—on the ROOF? Good luck, Mom and Dad, keeping the kids from going over the edge. Alternatively, they could cross six lanes of Oxford Street traffic to play on UC’s lawn.  

Oh, yes, these will be “green” buildings. Whatever that means to you. Green building expert Sandra Mendler was quoted in these pages last week as saying that the best way to build green is not to build at all, but to re-use existing buildings. 

That’s a hard concept for most Americans to get hold of, especially Westerners. Our longstanding tradition is that newer is always better. We’ve been gripped, since the first settlers showed up here, by what cynics call an “edifice complex.”  

Our politics is driven by the building industry. A cursory glance at the early campaign contributions gleaned by Loni Hancock, now looking to cap her eight years in the legislature with more in the state senate, shows that a sizeable percentage of the take came either from developers or from construction unions, and that’s almost always the case. There’s big money in big buildings, and builders are willing to share with their friends. 

The current flap over AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit proposal is another example of how the edifice complex works. There have been almost no objections to most of the plan to speed up bus trips on the route which goes roughly from San Leandro to Sather Gate. Computerized scheduling, changing lights to let busses go through, and other good ideas are already being implemented.  

But many observers have questioned the wisdom of a multi-million dollar capital investment in hardscape—dividers, islands, bus stations etc.—which will be hard to dismantle if the system doesn’t function as planned. The catch is that there’s a big pile of federal money which can only be allocated for capital improvements: building projects, that is. And which industry’s Washington lobbyists were responsible for getting transit funds earmarked that way, instead of for buses and drivers? Take a wild guess.  

But nothing deters true believers. Just to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, one long-time Berkeley transportation commissioner sent a venomous letter denouncing the councilmember who appointed him as “Kriss Worthless” for “playing political games with BRT” which the writer supports. Of course, there’s also a group of opponents denouncing Worthington for being too soft on BRT. You can’t win. 

Even benign-seeming concepts like building housing in cities near transit nodes aren’t exactly what they seem to be. Ever since the railroads went West speculators have known that it’s profitable to buy up land before the train gets there. The streetcar suburbs of the early twentieth century (e.g. Berkeley’s Claremont District) worked the same way. Do we think that the avid promoters of transit-oriented development don’t have similar financial interests, that they aren’t silent partners in the limited-equity real estate trusts which own big swaths of cities like Berkeley these days? Think again.  

And there’s absolutely no proof that building near transit nodes gets people out of their cars. Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman is fond of citing (for all the good it does) a study that shows that people who live in developments with parking garages just commute by car like everyone else, even if transit’s nearby. A recent Chronicle story by Carl Nolte, interviews with tenants of the brand-new One Rincon skyscraper, confirmed this. He quoted one guy who said that he liked living in his new tower condo because it’s so close to 280, making his Silicon Valley car commute even easier.  

Or consider culture. Jesse Green had a good piece in the New York Times entertainment section last week calling attention to the grandiose buildings being constructed, with big donor bucks, for regional theaters all over the country. He pointed out that little thought is given to how the companies are supposed to come up with operating expenses to actually put on plays. One of the theaters pictured was the Berkeley Repertory Theater.  

Then there’s the Broad Museum of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. According to Martin Filler in the current New York Review of Books, “this redundant nomenclature was adopted at the behest of the $56 million project’s mastermind and principal patron, Eli Broad, who has prospered by building tract houses and providing investment services to retirees.” There’s a good bit of tongue-clicking going on now about the project, Filler reports, because Broad has decided not to give his art collection to L.A. County, but just to lend it. The writer notes tartly that “the Los Angeles County Museum of Art receives substantial public funds and many of its staff members are civil service employees of Los Angeles County. Thus the parties who acceded to Broad’s de facto privatization of a big chunk of LACMA—the cultural equivalent of a leveraged buyout, or taking a public company private—have done a grave disservice to the taxpayers of the county, who, whether they like it or not, will be footing the bill for much of Broad’s monument to himself.” But the architect and the builders will make out like bandits on the deal.  

The latest example of the edifice complex at work in Berkeley is the sudden push to re-zone West Berkeley to build more retail, offices and condos, which has everything to do with who already owns the property there. It again reflects the American economic reality that there’s a lot more profit to be made building new stuff, needed or not, than in maintaining artists’ studios and small enterprises which provide green jobs in already-existing old warehouses and factories. West Berkeley offers what builders really like, something much better than transit access: easy on and off the freeway.  

The collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market might change some of this. Despite Berkeley’s ritual genuflection to the idea of building affordable rental housing, what we’ve actually been getting is market rate condos-in-waiting from builders who never had any intention of cultivating long-term relationships with tenants. But selling condos in the sky to gullible first time homebuyers doesn’t seem so attractive any more now that financing is tight. And if the consumer economy continues to nosedive, retail will start looking dicey too.  

What about the much-touted “green corridor” which East Bay mayors hope will bail them out of all their budget woes? Might it be a good idea to re-zone to permit alternative energy companies to build along the bay?  

The February Harper’s magazine cover story by Eric Janszen was “The Next Bubble: Priming the Markets for Tomorrow’s Big Crash.” Concisely summarized: just as the sub-prime mortgage industry was the new dot.com bubble, the alternative energy boom is the new sub-prime mortgage bubble, inflating toward yet another big bust. Read it and worry. 

 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Friday March 21, 2008

 

 

 

 

WILLARD SCHOOL COVERAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As members of the Willard Middle School newspaper, the Uptown News, we would like to respond to the Daily Planet’s coverage of our former vice principal and to the letter written by Yvette Deas concerning our school and our former vice principal, Margaret Lowry. We would like to point out that, contrary to the claims by Ms. Deas, students do in fact have voices.  

Over the past year, we have looked at the Planet as a reliable source of local news and a role model for our own publication. In the last few issues of the Planet, that respect and admiration have been greatly reduced. The articles by your reporter, Riya Bhattacharjee, about our school and our former vice principal have been biased against Mrs. Lowry and our school. Each article published about her features the same examples of complaints from parents, and contains little or no new news about her case. Furthermore, there has been nothing published in the Planet about how all charges were dropped against Mrs. Lowry.  

In the March 18 edition there is nothing about Mrs. Lowry but a passionately misinformed letter from Ms. Deas. She talked about students of our school as though we can’t say anything about what is going on with Mrs. Lowry, and made her look like a criminal based on articles that are biased against her. It is odd that the Planet would publish such a letter given the fact that Lowry was cleared of charges and has subsequently resigned. What’s the point? 

On March 14, the Berkeley Voice published an article that said charges had been dropped against Mrs. Lowry. Your edition, published four days later, mentioned nothing about this new development. As a newspaper, you are supposed to keep people informed, and you have failed to do so. Your readers are still under the impression that Mrs. Lowry is guilty, when in fact she is not. We hope that your next issue will clarify Mrs. Lowry’s case. 

Your reckless journalism has presented Willard Middle School to the Berkeley community as a school that has more problems than it does in reality. We were disappointed that you have chosen to portray only the negative aspects of our school without a mention of the good things going on at Willard. 

Sofia Escudero and Alex Wood 

Eighth grade students at Willard 

 

• 

BRAVO RALPH NADER! 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Democrat I’m enraged almost daily as Bush-Cheney secrets continue to ooze into view. A recent addition to stress overkill is uncalled-for blame piling up yet again on Ralph Nader for single-handedly putting George W. in office. 

In the year 2000 many Americans still believed that each vote cast would be accurately counted; that the Supreme Court consisted of nine soberly objective, Constitution-revering justices; and that Al Gore would not concede the presidency until all Florida votes were proven without a doubt. How to survive an insane Bush legacy for future decades would never have come up. 

Although a few Congressional Democrats have divorced themselves from the current administration, too many have followed Speaker Pelosi downhill from the time she took impeachment “off the table.” We desperately need an active third party allowed into the exclusive two-party club. Somebody’s gotta do it! 

Even so, this November I’ll “hold my nose and vote” for whichever Democratic candidate is still standing. John McCain is way too scary. Meanwhile, “Bravo!” Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez for courageously and knowingly confronting vicious attacks from all sides. 

Nancy Chirich 

 

• 

PROPER PATRON BEHAVIOR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

While I’m in complete sympathy to anyone who is in pain, I believe that Ms. Stewart’s behavior during a performance by Danny Hoch at the Berkeley Rep was completely inappropriate. I’m writing this to help improve future encounters between people with special needs attending theater performances. At the time of purchasing tickets, the box office should be notified about any special needs, including seeing-eye dogs, wheelchairs, the need to stand during a performance, or any number of other conditions. The box office will suggest the appropriate seating arrangements.  

However, the patron should also make a point to discuss these needs with the house manager upon arrival at the theater. The house manager is responsible for the well being of all patrons and volunteers; he or she may notify the cast regarding anything out of the ordinary (you can be sure that actors are very much aware of what is happening in the audience, especially in a small theater such as the Thrust, where Mr. Hoch was performing). If something unexpected or unusual is going on, the intense focus of a monologist can be destroyed. The house manager will make every effort to find an appropriate seat for someone who says beforehand that they must stand at some point, and will also point out where in the auditorium that patron can comfortably stand, without violating fire laws, annoying the audience, or disturbing the cast. I wonder why Ms. Stewart did not make her need known to the house manager? (Her independent decision to stand in the exit well is not permitted by the fire code.) Further, when Mr. Hoch made repeated requests for her to sit, she continued to stand. When the house manager was finally summoned and requested Ms. Stewart to stand in the lobby (where she could have comfortably watched the last 15 minutes of the performance) Ms. Stewart opted to sit, endure more pain, humiliation and whatever else occurred, to the discomfort of everyone in the theater that evening. 

As for the event that occurred on a previous visit to the Rep, when an usher opened the locked door on a chilly night to let Ms. Stewart into the theater before the theater was open to the public: there are several cafes up and down the street which could provide warmth to patrons arriving early. The House Manager leads an orientation meeting with her staff of ushers, which is a private meeting and not meant to be overheard by the public. The usher who opened the door was in error—when there is a real need to permit premature entry to a patron, the HM is always to be consulted beforehand. In this case, the House Manager had every right to request that Ms. Stewart leave, no matter how discreet her behavior. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I work as a volunteer for the Berkeley Rep, and I also have some house management experience elsewhere. I’ve worked in theaters most of my life in one capacity or another. I know that the well being of the patron is paramount in the view of theater personnel and it is always dismaying when a patron is made uncomfortable for any reason. To avoid any such incidents in the future, please make your requirements known in advance. 

Marilyn Goodman 

 

• 

A WOMAN PRESIDENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Why hasn’t the United States joined so many nations and had a woman president, Nino Matocinos asks in the March 18 issue. A prime factor is that we are so focused on people’s gender or race that transcendent issues and qualifications are obscured.  

Of Hillary and Barack, he wins many fans by showing us how to look beyond our fetish with gender and race, beyond with such things as the media excessive attention to a women’s physical appearance. In contrast, Barack describes in his book of memories about his father many meetings with women, and the book being autobiography, one might expect him to write, “She was a tall, lithe woman, one of those who could wear 10-inch spiked heals without falling over.” No such body identity is in the book. And yet, the mind of one woman in particular is adored intensely. And when Barack goes to Africa, we readers are conditioned to expect him to write, “As the plane approached the runway I looked out the window and saw real African grass, and then I stepped on actual African land, and with my heart beating a mile a minute I took a deep breath and breathed real African air.” No, very little of that. Instead, his lengthy African section is about the interconnected and disconnected social and political relations of his family. 

Barack talks beyond our hang-up. Hillary wants us to feel good that it will be a breakthrough if either she or the black guy is in the white house. Scoring points on gender and race is becoming a distraction in a world of unchecked capitalism and melting ice caps. 

Ted Vincent 

 

• 

RACE RELATIONS IN AMERICA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading commentary about the scandal with Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama this week, I saw that one man asserted “blacks in America are angry.” Reading the letter by Byron Delcomb in the March 18 edition of the Daily Planet, I can better understand why that is. If American blacks would agree with Byron that it is a “racist action” when police take measures to attempt to apprehend a fleeing robbery suspect, and check out someone who looks like him, or that it is a “racist action” when unruly or disruptive or otherwise problematic students are sent to the principals office, choosing to interpret these events as racist because the persons in these situations are black, then no wonder so many blacks are angry. They are reading racism into far too many situations where there isn’t any racism at all, just cause and effect. A simple solution to the problem of so much black anger, then, would be: stop trying to find racism everywhere you look. Your thoughts in part create your reality, and what you are determined to find, you will either find, or if you can’t find it, you’ll fabricate it. If you want to change the world, change your thoughts, and your world will change.  

Deborah Cloudwalker 

Oakland 

 

• 

OBAMA’S SPEECH ON RACE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Barack Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union,” recognized that many of us feel some degree of black anger and white resentment. He acknowledged these emotions while neither justifying them nor condemning them. While condemning their hateful expression, he conceded that these feelings exist. Admitting them is the first step to dissolving them and moving onward.  

Obama spoke from the heart, from his true experience of living in both our black and our white cultures. His life, indeed his DNA, embodies our truly American experience.  

Obama mapped out a vision for getting beyond the distractions of race and racism, toward solving the real problems we face: war, economy, health, education, and environment.  

An imperfect man leading us toward a more perfect union, Obama is a mensch, a real human being, the real deal. After so very many years of lesser candidates and presidents, let us hope that the American people can tell the difference. Perhaps even some political pundits, nay-sayers, and fearmongers will recognize his sensible hopefulness when they hear him. 

Bruce Joffe 

Piedmont  

• 

EFFECTS OF WAR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here’s a terrifying thought that occurs to me as I listen to the “Winter Soldier” testimony on KPFA. Young men and women who have been raised in families which promote values of decency and humanitarianism in their children, are coming home overwhelmed with guilt about what they did or didn’t do in Iraq. And, guilt produces drug addiction, alcoholism, etc. Thus, the decent young women and men who have “served,” are the ones who are being sidelined, leaving the ones who aren’t, with us.  

Robert Blau 

 

• 

GREEN BUILDINGS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley High gym contains two pools, three gyms, and huge classroom spaces, that open out onto large playing fields. The state Historic Resources Commission unanimously recommended the gym for the National Register of Historic Places—it is now listed. So of course it is a no-brainer for the School Board to preserve and rehabilitate this noted building—isn’t it? 

For the new mantra of every politician and city planner I read about is to proclaim “green, green, green.” We recently learned that half of the greenhouse gases in the United States are from buildings—not autos as most of us assume. And we citizens are encouraged to feel good about our recycling bottles, cans, and paper—this is small potatoes as compared to the ecologic effect of preserving old buildings instead of tearing them down.  

And global warming is the problem from hell, so the adaptive reuse of existing buildings should be the preferential option whenever there is a choice. When the structure is well-designed, has good use left in it, and has meaningful links to the past, it should be a no-brainer. Coincidentally, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 27 at the First Christian Science Church, Richard Moe of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle will speak on the role of historic preservation in fighting climate change. 

Well, I have surprising news for the citizens; the school board wants to tear down the Berkeley High gym. The planners and politicians, who shout “Green!”until they’re green in the face, have never seen a big new construction project they didn’t like. In Washington they call it “pork-barrel.” Locally it looks like big-time real estate and construction money that dominate land-use planning in Berkeley.  

So it’s only the concerned citizenry that can demand that the School Board call a halt to this “business-as-usual” demolition and big new construction, and remind the boardmembers that preservation is the ultimate recycling. The greenest building is the one that is already built.  

Neal Blumenfeld  

 

• 

THE ECONOMY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I realize that listening to the morning news is not particularly conducive to one’s mental health. But, as a die-hard “newsaholic,” I plant myself every morning in front of TV to watch the 7 a.m. ABC program, “Good Morning, America,” while having breakfast. (This frequently results in severe heartburn after a steady succession of lurid revelations of sex scandals, corrupt government administration, Iraq fatalities and the escalating political battles.) 

But a segment I find rather intriguing is that entitled, “Opening Bells,” originating from the New York Stock Exchange. If for no other reason, I’m fascinated by all those attractive people standing on a balcony at the Exchange, smiling blissfully and clapping their hands vigorously. Not to worry that the Dow Jones has hit an all-time low, that stocks have spiraled downwards and that the United States economy is going to hell in a hand basket. No, siree, nothing erases the broad smiles of these balcony people nor lessens their enthusiastic applause. 

Who, I wonder, are these poor misguided souls? Are they robots, wound up in back like the wooden figures on cuckoo clocks, emerging from doors when the hour strikes? Or could this merely be a case of arrested development? Granted that the market made a miraculous recovery this past week, stocks will undoubtedly plummet again in the weeks to come. But again, not to worry. The familiar balcony scene will continue to offer Americans assurance that the economy is booming! After all, hasn’t our president told us so? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

NUKES AND PISTOLS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Supreme Court is reviewing the right to bear arms, and the military is planning to refurbish our stock of nuclear weapons. 

There’s a connection. 

As I read the Second Amendment, our right to bear arms is based only on the need to form militias; beyond that, the wording is ambiguous. I don’t see that we have the right to keep automatic weapons for personal defense. The United States is refurbishing its nuclear weapons, but at the same time objects to Iran gaining the capacity to have its own nuclear weapons. Where does the right to bear arms stop? If I’m allowed to carry a loaded pistol, is my need to protect myself against attack in my neighborhood more important than the public danger I might pose? I see the pistol and the nuke as different degrees of the same proliferation problem. There haven’t been any nukes used in war since 1945, but there sure have been a lot of people killed by pistols. 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

ANOTHER AD HOMINEM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peter Josheff’s bizarre letter is a perfect microcosm of what passes for the “liberal mind” in Berkeley. 

Like the O’Malley editorial, there are no specifics, only generalized insults. I labeled O’Malley but also included a whole list of specifics of where she was wrong. And, pray tell, what is “overwhelmingly moderate”? I found O’Malley’s editorial on the Nader ticket rather underwhelming, intellectually speaking. Becky has been guilty of much, but never of writing “moderate” (a weasel word) editorials. 

And what does my rebuttal of O’Malley have to do with so-called gun control? 

I made my points on that subject at length last year to the point where I tired of repeating myself to the dim bulb statists among the readership. If your beloved Dummycrats get in November, you’ll see how little real difference it will make. But the stupid asses of pwogwessism will keep coming back for more! 

Michael P. Hardesty 

Oakland 

 

• 

STOLEN CIVICS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It would appear that thieves are targeting 1990s Honda Civics in the Berkeley area. I’ve lost my 1992 Civic VX hatchback. A friend just lost her 1990 Civic Wagon. My replacement 1995 Civic was recently broken into, but the Club stopped the thieves on that occasion. 

In both cases, the cars were stolen, stripped of just a few parts, enough to have the insurance companies consider the car a total loss. The obvious, easily-replaced parts, such as tires, basic engine parts, etc., were not taken, but unique parts that cannot be replaced at a parts store were taken, such as a door, the interior plastic panels, and a cluster gauge. 

Both cars ended up in Oakland (mine on Skyline Boulevard), and then towed to the same salvage yard. My car had the name of someone who had scoped it out and “tagged” it to be sold to him at the end of the 30 days in the yard. Many Civics were lined up with these names written the windshield. 

A trip to the yard showed dozens of these Hondas, with just a few parts surgically stripped out. I’ve since seen many of these odd parts on Craigslist. Inquiries were well received unless I mentioned that my car was stolen. Then the sellers wouldn’t respond. 

Oakland police offered no assistance, or interest in stopping these thieves by at least taking finger prints, or other information. If the police aren’t going to connect the dots, Honda owners need to protect themselves. 

Buy a Club, and use it every time. Buy one that locks the steering wheel to the clutch pedal if you can. Buy and use a car cover every time. Buy one that has a cable and lock so it doesn’t get stolen too. 

Install an alarm. One with a kill switch will stop thieves before they can get it to their strip destination. A LoJack system with GPS will allow the car to be tracked and located. 

Last of all, buy comprehensive insurance for your car with a low deductible. It will cost a bit more, but having a free rental car will help keep your life in order while you go through the process of getting your car back in order. 

Alice La Pierre 

 

• 

APPLE MOTH SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I highly urge the Santa Cruz City Council and other local governments in Monterey and San Francisco Bay Area to direct their local police departments to protect and defend the people from the aerial chemical pesticide spray bombardment that is coming again in June 2008 to our area. 

Specifically, to direct our local police departments to use lethal force to shoot down the planes and helicopters that are threatening the health, well-being and lives of our communities with the state and federal government’s illegal and harmful chemical/pesticide aerial spraying campaign. It is the mandate of the local police departments to “protect and defend” the people—by force of arms—as a last resort if all other means of solving conflicts and disputes are to no avail (i.e. pending lawsuits against the state and federal governments). The local police are ones empowered by mandate and by law in our communities to protect the people from internal and external violent attacks and to secure the peace and security of our cities. 

They have the weapons, sophisticated arsenals to tap and the obligation and the means to protect our communities from terrorist attacks. I say lets empower them to do their job.  

Take cue from the city of Brattleboro, Vermont—who have recently passed a resolution to arrest George Bush and Dick Cheney if they ever set foot in their city. 

Rafik Shakar 

Santa Cruz 

 

• 

CLINTON AND OBAMA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Democratic presidential contenders, Clinton and Obama, continue their contentious prattle while Republican nominee John McCain looks every bit presidential chatting with world leaders. 

Hillary wants Barack to play second fiddle on a Clinton/Obama “Dream Team” ticket. Hillary Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket spells disaster for the party in November. 

Hillary will energize and inflame the Republican base like nothing and no one else can. Look at what she has done to Democratic campaigning! 

What happened to focusing on the issues? Do independents and moderates want to hear Clinton/Obama party infighting. Leave hardball politics to the GOP. 

It is time for Howard Dean and the DNC to rein in the Clinton campaign or we will be witnessing the swearing in of another “war president,” John Sidney McCain III, as our 44th president, next January. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 


Commentary: A Letter to the Berkeley Community

By William Huyett
Friday March 21, 2008

As your new superintendent I have enjoyed meeting many of you as I have gone to schools and attended events in my first month on the job. Unfortunately, I come to the district in the middle of a state budget crisis caused by insufficient revenue. 

In January Gov. Schwarzenegger proposed to cut public education by $4.8 billion. Although no budget has been passed, school districts are required to submit a balanced budget by June 30 based on the governor’s current proposal. This means a need to reduce the BUSD budget by $3.7 million from our planned 2008-09 budget.  

This week, you may hear the news that the district is giving notice to some certificated staff—teachers, administrators, and counselors—that we may not continue to employ them in 2008-09. Because 85-95 percent of California school district budget expenditures are personnel related, layoffs are almost inevitable for districts in the coming year. BUSD finds itself in this position. By law, we had to give notice of potential certificated layoffs before March 15. Our board took action to approve these possible layoffs at its March 12 meeting. Giving such notice is disruptive to teacher’s lives and to the students we serve, but is necessary, this year. I wish there was a more rational way to go about this process, but we have no other choice. 

There will be notices to non-certificated employees as well. These employees are governed by different laws, and any such notices will not be sent until late April or May. 

I want to assure you that myself as superintendent, the school board, and my staff are all committed to maintaining the class size ratios passed as a part of Measure A. These are district-wide averages of 20 students to 1 teacher in grades K-3, 26:1 in grades 4-5, and 28:1 in grades 7-12. Our thanks to Berkeley taxpayers for providing us with the funds to allow us to maintain these levels at a time where many other districts are raising class sizes. 

I have asked my staff to make a preliminary list of budget reductions, which form the basis of the certificated layoff notices. This list will be reviewed by a new committee I am forming called the Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Committee. This committee, comprised of half employees and half community members, will review the proposals and will make their own recommendations to me. I then will try to put the best ideas from each group forward when I submit my recommendation to the board in May. The board will make all final decisions and must pass a balanced budget by the end of June. 

As in any school layoff process we will notice more people than we will actually release from their jobs next year. As we find out more about employees who will be retiring, going on leave, or not returning next year the number of needed layoffs may decrease. Additionally, as we make decisions about which positions and programs will funded, some of the names can be removed from the list. 

Each school’s School Governance Committee (SGC) is responsible for deciding the budget at each school. The decisions they make will not be easy, as the governor has cut categorical funds (often the ones that go to schools) even more than the revenues that fund classroom teachers. SGC meetings are open to all and thoughtful input is always welcome. 

It is tremendously disheartening to be writing a letter concerning potential layoffs as one of my first communications to the school community. I am, however, hopeful that changes will be made in the state budget before it is passed.  

Recently 20 of us made our first trip to the capital to talk with members of the Education Coalition and legislators. More pressure will be exerted on the Legislature before we are through. Each of us can make our voice heard and campaign against these unprecedented cuts. PTAs and other organizations will be organizing letter-writing campaign and other actions—I urge you to participate in these activities.  

As we go through our decision-making process to align our budget with the governor’s proposal, we will keep you informed with letters like this. I hope that we can preserve as many of the dedicated professionals and great programs found in Berkeley schools as we make difficult decisions about the budget.  

We have a long road to travel together to get through this budget crisis brought on by the state’s fiscal shortfall. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns. 

 

William Huyett is the Berkeley Unified School District’s new superintendent.  


Commentary: Food for Bodies And Souls

By Mary Lee Noonan
Friday March 21, 2008

On March 12 my husband and I paid for our dinner at a remarkable place where the dinners are usually free. Every day the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room serves an average of approximately 1,000 hot meals to people who would otherwise go hungry. That evening its large, sparkling white space was transformed for the celebration of two ongoing accomplishments: 70 years of St. Vincent de Paul’s devoted service in Alameda County and the beginning of their Kitchen of Champions job training program. The tables were set with the royal blue and white of St. Vincent de Paul and decked with yellow rose petals and votive candles. Quietly, without extensive publicity or social flourishes, a profoundly affirmative statement was being made by an extended community that cares deeply about our East Bay cities and is determined to address their problems. 

The hero of the evening was Matt Colgan, executive chef at A Cote on College Avenue, Oakland, the first in a series of outstanding guest chefs who will be preparing benefit dinners for the Kitchen of Champions project. Thanks to his generosity, that of the restaurant’s owners and staff, and the generosity of the vendors with whom they work, every cent of the ticket revenue went to the program. The prawns wrapped in pancetta were a gift. The perfectly seared chicken breasts were a gift, as were the handsome, carefully trimmed asparagus spears and the heavenly lemon almond pound cake that would support a cascade of whipping cream and sliced strawberries. Everything was a gift of our local, thriving food community to help the neediest, struggling to put their lives together, on the bottom rungs of the culinary ladder. 

Matt was assisted in the preparation of his superb, four-course meal by St. Vincent de Paul’s chef, Michael Stamm, and a team from among the Kitchen of Champions’ first graduates. The wait staff was a cheerful and very efficient group of student volunteers from St. Mary’s College. Members of the St. Vincent de Paul community welcomed the guests, escorting us from the parking lot to the dining room, introducing us to others, seating us at our tables. In a neighborhood usually associated with bleaker stories, the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and 23rd Street, the message was one of generosity, civility and warmth. At the beginning of the evening, many of us were strangers. By the end, we felt like friends. 

The goal of the Kitchen of Champions program, launched in the fall of 2007, is to give its participants a solid foundation for a career in food service. They acquire skills together with a sense of direction and self worth that will open doors to urgently needed employment. Several graduates of the first class are, for example, continuing their training with culinary courses at Laney College while others are working for Paula Le Duc Catering. If the green garlic and spring onion soup or the delicious ricotta gnocchi are fair illustrations, with guidance, confidence and effort they can meet the highest standards. Would that the Kitchen of Champions project could be an inspiration to the whole community as it grapples with other challenges in the cities of the East Bay.


Commentary: How to Help Stem the Tide of Public Education Cuts

By John Selawsky
Friday March 21, 2008

I write from a sense of immediacy, I write from a sense of continued need, and I write from a sense of both frustration and anger. Once again, after a 30-year history of underfunding of our public schools in the state of California, a governor is proposing massive cuts and reductions in the state’s contribution to local public schools. Since between 70 and 80 percent of any local school district’s funding comes directly from Sacramento, this potential loss is of major concern to the school and wider community. In a time of escalating utility costs, fuel, salaries, books, materials and supplies, the Governor has proposed a 0 perent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for 2008-09, as well as massive cuts in school funding. For a local perspective on the real price districts will pay, we are estimating that Berkeley Unified School District will lose between $3.7 and $4.5 million in the next school year! These potential cuts will impact every school and every program in Berkeley Unified. It is important for the public to know that there are no good nor easy choices for the school board to make with possible reductions in revenue that are this deep. 

There are additional costs to Berkeley and other school districts in California that will result from these proposed cuts. At a time when even state officials regularly bemoan the state’s lack of qualified teachers, particularly in the math and sciences areas, almost every school district in California will be noticing the most recently hired teachers of possible lay-offs or reductions in assignment: we will unfortunately be sending the message to our teachers that they are expendable, unwanted, and undervalued. Furthermore, some of our classified staff (custodians, maintenance, tradespeople, food service workers, bus drivers) will have reductions in hours and/or elimination of positions. Though many of our classified staff are not paid as well as our teachers, they do receive health benefits, sick and vacation time, pension fund payments, and other benefits, all of which are increasingly less available for comparable positions in the private sector. Many of our administrators will receive pink slips as well. Because cuts and reductions will be so dramatic state-wide, positions for these people will be scarce anywhere next year. This compounds our state’s economic woes, leaves individuals and families with limited options, and seriously impacts the work of local school districts. 

There are steps all of us can take to help our schools during this exceedingly difficult period: 

1) Call, write, e-mail your state representatives and the governor’s office, telling them to maintain the minimum funding that is guaranteed under voter-approved Proposition 98. 

2) Involve your neighborhood association, your union, your co-workers, any groups or associations you are a member of, and have the organization send a letter or fax to Sacramento in support of our schools. 

3) Draft a letter for your next PTA/PTSA meeting to send to Sacramento. 

4) Participate in the caravans that will continue to travel to Sacramento to talk with legislators and the governor’s office about the critical need to maintain public school funding. (One is definitely planned for the first week in May, and there will be other opportunities before then.) 

Every school district in the state of California will be severely impacted by the proposals coming out of Sacramento at this time. Districts will be looking at reducing/eliminating athletics, cutting programs, reducing staff, and increasing class-sizes to off-set the reductions in state funding (Berkeley is committed in maintaining our class-size averages, at this point). Please help us get the message to Sacramento loud and clear: no reduction in Proposition 98 funding for our public schools. 

 

John Selawsky is president of the Berkeley School Board. 


Commentary: Wilma Chan To the Rescue

By Barry Wolfsy
Friday March 21, 2008

Berkeley is fortunate to have the opportunity to support Wilma Chan, rated the most progressive California assemblymember, for state senator this coming June, in our District 9. The March 17 Daily Planet article indicated that Wilma Chan has raised almost all of her campaign donations from individual voters and citizens, which is exactly what we, in Berkeley, expect from clean, progressive candidates. On the other hand, I was shocked at the Loni Hancock-Tom Bates political machine’s campaign donations. A huge portion of Hancock’s donations came from developers who want special treatment by Hancock and Bates, corporate interests, and gambling interests such as Point Molate LLC, which wants to build a major casino on our proposed East Bay State Shoreline Park. 

Wilma Chan has always been a very effective and outspoken advocate on behalf of California’s children and families as an Assemblywoman. She focused her attention on progressive issues that matter to all of us: health care, education, housing, senior services, and environmental health. Wilma has demonstrated her leadership and her ability to get things done in Sacramento, because she works well with others. This is why Wilma is endorsed for her state Senate race against Hancock by incoming state Senate President Darrell Steinberg, incoming California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, and past Senate presidents such as John Burton. 

It is time for Berkeley to retire the undemocratic Loni Hancock-Tom Bates machine. Over the past 25 years both of them have been elected mayor of Berkeley and both have been elected as Assembly members. They have failed to get much done. The polluted air in west Berkeley from Pacific Steel continues. The street crime in South Berkeley continues. Every developer, who wants to build a massive building, is given special treatment by the Hancock/Bates machine. In return, Hancock and Bates get huge cash donation whenever they run for office from these very same developers. Do you remember the so-called good environmental development (the Brower Center) that was forced on Berkeley last year? Go take a walk or drive by the corner of Oxford and Kittredge/Addison Streets. Look up at the monstrosity that is being built there. This is not “green” development. The neighbors are calling it the “Green Monster.” 

The Hancock-Bates machine gave that Berkeley city land to their friend. It was the last parking lot in the central business district. Their friend simply cut down an entire block of trees (how green is that?) They have also used so much of the Berkeley city budget to subsidize this friend and campaign donor’s project, that the Berkelely budget is now in the red. Hancock and Bates are now planning on asking you to pay more taxes just to pay for your fire, police, and other essential services. Why are the developers backing Hancock? Why are Chevron, Bayer, Union Pacific, P.G.& E., Chlorox, Pfizer, and Waste Management backing Hancock? It is time to break with corrupt politicians. 

It is time to begin to elect clean, progressive candidates such as Wilma Chan. She is depending on citizens, like you, to come forward and help her win the June Democratic primary for state senator. Come join the campaign of “Berkeley neighborhoods and Neighbors” for Wilma Chan. You can see more at her website, wilmachan.org. 

 

Barry Wolfsy writes on behalf of the Martin Luther King/Milvia Alliance.


Letters to the Editor

Tuesday March 18, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

HOW ABOUT MOVING THE MARINES’ OFFICE? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I would like to suggest the Marines move their office to real office space that isn’t a store front. The occupants of that office themselves have casually commented that the protest didn’t bother them since they spent most of their time outside, making it clear that the Marines do not care about what’s going on. This is passive aggressive behavior. They would be much better in an unmarked office, as other federal agencies do, not attracting anyone’s attention and thereby contributing to making our city more peaceful. Perhaps their landlord has space elsewhere, and the store could become a store again. 

Guy Tiphane 

 

• 

WILLARD VICE PRINCIPAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Margaret Lowry must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Mere dismissal, or transfer, is not enough, if we want to protect our children. Ms. Lowry must not be allowed to work with any child, or in education at all, in any capacity whatsoever. 

These children do not have voices. We do. Let’s use our voices to contact Berkeley Unified School District to demand the immediate dismissal (not transfer) of Margaret Lowry, and contact the Berkeley City Council to demand criminal prosecution. 

Yvette Deas 

 

• 

DUAL OBSESSIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Freudians may speculate on the origins of Mr. Hardesty’s dual preoccupation with guns and with anuses (Letters, March 11). I am reminded of Thomas Pynchon’s observation that guns are really just a way for men to “stick it in” at a distance. Hardesty’s personal insults in response to such overwhelmingly moderate views expressed by the editor lead me to suspect Hardesty of concealing a schoolboy crush—he wishes to smile and be part of the fun but finds himself belching and farting instead. 

Peter Josheff 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

PASCAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There’s a Pascal quote which applies so well to our questionably “elected” president. “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” 

Harry Gans 

 

• 

RACE ISSUES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Its a shame that in the year 2008 America is still dealing with race issues; but that’s the way America is! That’s how America began! Even though it would appear that African-Americans have made some progress, it’s a myth! America is still as racist as it has always been! It seems as though nothing African-Americans feel or have to say or any complaints they have are heard or acknowledged! White America still comes up with a reason that it’s OK to discriminate against African-Americans! 

Herman Smith 

 

• 

ATTITUDES TOWARD WOMEN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is just an observation about the American voter’s attitude toward women candidates. Perhaps Americans have to take a good look at these countries that produced women leaders in spite of the obstacles that that these women have had to overcome. The Philippines had two women presidents already. The Philippines is a very patriarchal society where the man is the head of the family and politics is a man’s game. Pakistan had Benazir Bhutto (God bless her) and Indonesia had Prime Minister Megawatti,. These are Muslim countries! India had Indira Gandhi when just a few years back women were not given equal status, and perhaps the pioneer of all was Prime Minister Bandanaraike of Sri Lanka. Yes, the odds were against women getting elected in these countries, but because they have the intellect, education and experience, they were given by their citizenry what is due them. 

U.S. voters, the way I look at it, with the women’s movement, women’s rights and equal rights amendments, are still reluctant to elect a woman president. America has a very qualified woman candidate in Hillary Clinton. I just don’t know why, but they’d rather vote for Barack Obama, whose qualification does not compare with Clinton. Is it because women voters are jealous that she is very intelligent? Or is it because, due to her persuasiveness, she is considered a bitch? Or is it that men don’t want to take direction from a woman? Looks like no one’s got balls here in America to lift a hand to elect a woman president for a change. 

Another thing that surprises me is that Oprah got into it. Is she nuts, or was her judgment marred by color? Does she back Obama so she will not have a rival for the title of most powerful woman on earth? Or does she just not want to back another woman who is more intelligent and smarter than she? Or is it just plain jealousy again? 

America, wake up. I do not have anything against Obama but when it comes to international diplomacy, I want a president that can face world leaders eye to eye.  

Nino Matocinos 

 

• 

ARCHITECTS AND HEROES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

My Berkeley public school has outstanding issues regarding race. Your school might be in the same position. But does your principal refuse to acknowledge it? When recently asked by a Berkeley community member if our school had race problems, our principal said, “No.” 

Really? 

Race is a social construct that everyone has bought into on some level or another. Being that racism is a discriminatory practice based on one’s position within our American social construct, it is extremely difficult for the Berkeley public school community to discuss race because it might suggest that each and every one of us harbors one racist practice or another—as I feel we do: intentional or not. 

It takes a conscious effort to address our own practices that are driven by our own individual views of someone’s race. Because we may have racist tendencies doesn’t make us intentionally racist, it only exposes our consciousness about it or lack thereof. But racist we all can be. I believe that intent is a discerning factor in racism, but intentional or not, racist action is racist action. Once discrimination becomes a concept that we can all own up to, we can begin to deconstruct our fear of others and begin to pave a path to embrace one another, honestly. 

And bury the “n-word.” 

A teacher grows a voluntary two-day-a-week writing program from an attendance of 12 students to 50 students in two years time, is a special guest assistant of the Annual Holiday Double Dutch Classic at the Apollo Theatre, and is awarded a grant to begin an after-school program at his school, is African-American, but is forced to resign “not based on performance or review...but the teacher tenure policy in Berkeley Unified School District”...intentional or not, within our eurocentric predominant world view culture, yes - here in Berkeley, that is a racist action. 

An African-American student, at the same school, is presented with the “n-word” by a white teacher in the same year...intentional or not, within our eurocentric predominant world view culture, yes—here in Berkeley, that is a racist action. 

A young adult, African-American, supervisor of children from my school is stopped, has guns drawn on him, on public transportation, in the presence of students he is overseeing, is questioned as cuffs are attempted to be applied, in a case of mistaken identity two weeks ago...intentional or not, within our eurocentric predominant world view culture, yes—here in Berkeley, that is a racist action. 

African-American children at my school being sent to the office on a daily basis in disproportionate numbers to the overall racial student body makeup...intentional or not, within our eurocentric predominant world view culture, yes— here in Berkeley, that is a racist action. 

In Berkeley we take many social stances that leave the world shaking its collective head, but our racism looks like everyone else’s: painfully misaddressed. 

At my school, our racism looks like everyone else’s, but the Principal just fails to acknowledge it...hence, it may never be overtly be addressed under their stewardship. 

But we can all address our own. We can all watch what we do and begin to observe our own actions. Our own racism might teach us something about ourselves. 

Byron R. Delcomb 

 

• 

SCARY STATEMENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

“I’ve heard that the city [Berkeley] is one of the top 10 cities with a very large reserve.” 

This statement, attributed by the Planet to SEIU 1021 Treasurer Sandra Lewis, scares the daylights out of me, as it should all of us. It typifies the attitude of greedy CEOs, bankers, home loan brokers, and Wall Street Wonders and union bosses, not to forget our politicians who are always willing to spend a dollar of someone else’s money on pork. 

It is incredible that any responsible person would make such an irresponsible and incendiary statement in light of the mess the city of Vallejo has become involved in. Caving in to unreasonable union demands over prolonged periods has brought grief to a good many companies, think General Motors, Ford, Pan Am and United Airlines just to name a few. Their executives and negotiators probably thought at the time that the good times would never end, but then they did, saddling the businesses with untenable cost burdens just because they did not have the guts to hang tough. “Get yours while you can and the devil take the hindmost,” seems to be the continuing attitude of the new millennium. 

Come to think of it, the prison guards of our state seem to have similar power and influence to keep their incomes growing as well, even at a time when our education system takes budget cutbacks, despite growing enrollment. 

It is no wonder when on rare occasions, responsible public officials decide to rebate surplus funds to taxpayers, knowing that leaving such reserves will make them irresistible slush funds for any pressure group with sufficient muscle or influence. It is truly regrettable that we can’t accept the idea of maintaining reserves for hard times, but that seems to be symptomatic of our consume-now-pay-later society. Whatever money is there must be spent. 

Some of our elected city officials seem to be more interested in currying favor with union bosses and union members rather than represent the best interest of their constituents. Councilmember Kriss Worthington mentions that there is disparity between the pay and benefits of public safety employees and other employees. Indeed, the fire and police salaries, benefits and health and retirement plans are not just gold plated, they are solid gold. But our civilian employees’ salaries and benefits aren’t shabby. How did that ever come about? Oh yes of course, we take surveys of comparable cities and then try to beat their highest package. 

It is doubtful that Worthington had in mind that we should scale-back police and fire benefits for the sake of equity. So now he must be considering increasing the civilian payroll costs. Where is that money going to come from? Perhaps we can initiate a public library user fee, or a dog-walker license fee, or even close down some senior centers, that will save a few bucks. 

Peter Klatt 

 

• 

COLUMBIA 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Conn Hallinan’s column, “The Story Behind Columbia’s Attack”: Hallinan was either misinformed or extremely biased, or both. “Raul Reyes” and his gang got exactly what they deserved, and nothing less. And guerrillas, please, never sleep in pajamas (information confirmed by all of the hostages (human shields?) released in the last weeks. 

Another pearl: labeling “Reyes” as a “diplomat” is ridiculous. The thug had everything going for him except diplomacy. By the way, the president before Uribe, Andrès Pastrana, spent three and a half years talking to the guy and never got anything but more of the same: assaults on towns, drug trafficking, and destruction of the country’s infrastructure. 

That foreign military were involved in the hit? Maybe, so what! Results is what count. 

Robert Diaz 

 

• 

INSIGHTFUL ANALYSIS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Congratulations on a thoughtful, insightful, truthful piece on the reality of Colombia’s attack on FARC insurgents on Ecuadorean soil. Such writing is woefully hard to find in U.S. media. As a U.S. American living in Quito, Ecuador, I have been extremely dismayed to the extent the media in the United States has bowed to Bush’s rhetoric concerning the raid and its aftermath. 

I would like to make one comment on the column. In it Conn Hallinan states that FARC “does not pose a danger to any country outside the borders of Colombia.” It is true that FARC does not fight on Ecuadorean soil against Colombian forces. However, it must be said that some Colombian refugees in Ecuador seeking refuge after being kidnapped or persecuted by FARC in Colombia have continued to be persecuted and followed here in Ecuador. The same is true for the right wing paramilitary forces in Colombia who will also seek out people they were following and persecuting in Colombia, that they come to Ecuador to continue their persecution. So FARC’s and the paramilitary’s influence does go beyond Colombia. 

C. Morck 

Quito, Ecuador 

 

• 

CODE PINK LETTER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I received this very moving, reality letter from Ron Kovac in a Code Pink e-mail. I hope the Planet will print it because every rational, factual response to the sad, ignorant support for the MRC ought to be blasted from our rooftops. 

“I am sending my complete support and admiration to all those now involved in the courageous struggle to stop military recruitment in Berkeley and around the country. Not since the Vietnam War protests of the late sixties has there been a cause more just than the one you are now engaged in. 

Over the past five years, I have watched in horror the mirror image of another Vietnam unfolding in Iraq. So many similarities, so many things said that remind me of that war thirty years ago which left me paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for life. Refusing to learn from the lessons of Vietnam, our government continues to pursue a policy of deception, distortion, manipulation and denial. As we approach the fifth anniversary of this tragic and senseless war, I can not help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded, nearly 30,000, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and Veterans Hospitals all across our country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain damaged and psychologically stressed, a whole new generation of severely maimed who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx Veterans Hospital in 1968. 

It is time to use every means of creative nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the war machine. Military recruiters must be confronted in every high school, every campus, every recruiting office, on every street corner, in every town and city across America. The days of deceiving, manipulating and victimizing our young people must end. I stand with you in this courageous fight and I am confident your actions in the days ahead will inspire countless others across our country to do everything they can to end this deeply immoral and illegal war!” 

Maris Arnold 

P.S. I thought the City Council’s first decision on the Peace and Justice Commission resolution was a thrilling attempt by a city government to turn swords into plowshares. May it prevail before there are no schools, no libraries, no parks, but only our mighty state prison system left intact.  

 

• 

FREEDOM OF SPEECH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

What gives Kenneth Thiesen the “freedom” to espouse the nonsense that he does and gives me the right to call him a bonehead, is the very reason why we should support our troops! If we hadn’t supported our troops during World War II, Mr. Thiesen may very well be writing in German now rather than English.  

Our troops are doing their duty regardless of what we may feel about the armed conflict in which they are involved. They’re following orders, they deserve our support. I loathed Bill Clinton and didn’t care much for his foreign policy but, nonetheless, I still supported the troops in the armed conflicts in which he involved us. 

Thus, Mr. Thiesen and myself have the right to disagree. A wonderful thing, freedom, isn’t it, Mr. Thiesen? 

Marcus Beresford 

 

• 

BERKELEY VOICE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Voice seems determined to disseminate, without evidence, the assertion that a boycott due to the City Council’s stance on the Marine Corps recruiting station is costing the city’s business “thousands of dollars.” In addition to a front-page article last week (“Downtown businesses feel pinch of protests,” Feb. 29), there is Martin Snapp’s column this week (“Tolerance Should be the Top Priority,” March 14) “begging” us not to join in this boycott. What better way to substantiate something than to warn people against it? But like last week’s article, Mr. Snapp offers no evidence of any actual boycott; no businesses reporting losses due to a boycott, no cancellations of reservations, etc.  

While there could very well be a boycott that is harming Berkeley, let’s get some evidence before building a campaign against it! Otherwise it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A responsible periodical would do more than offer hearsay such as this. 

Chris Gilbert 

 

• 

RACE AND GENDER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to Becky O’Malley’s March 14 editorial titled, “How Much Do Race and Gender Matter?”: 

Since when is it not OK to be a strong white woman? The cruel criticism of Hillary Clinton is really unnecessary and it only makes some of us more protective of her. 

Diane Villanueva 

 

• 

SOLAR CALENDAR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read the March 4 commentary by Alesia Kunz, which, though well written, somehow missed the mark for me. The solar calendar that has been installed there is not at all intrusive to the surroundings. It is, in fact, an ideal location for an installation of this sort and has been put in place in a very respectful manner. There are no restrictive buildings or trees so that a 360-degree view can be had by everyone whether or not they are there to see the installation. 

Alesia seems to be angered just because there are a few stones placed in specific locations at the top of this hill. Rather than looking at them as impediments to her enjoyment she can simply think of them as objects for meditation or even to sit on while enjoying the view. She did correctly indicate that this portion of the park is outside the leash free zone so it won’t even hinder her dog from having any more fun or freedom than it would have without the calendar being there. 

The four stones she called tombstones are not at all intrusive in the area. They do not ever rise above the four rocks marking North, South, East, and West. These “large” rocks are themselves only three or four feet in size. They certainly should not cause the anguish that Alesia seems to have. Her life must be quite limited if this is all that she has to worry about. 

I have been at several of the solstice and equinox events held there during the last year or so. They have all been well attended by a group of respectful people interested in how our world fits into the larger scheme of things. It is always humbling when trying to grasp the larger picture of how we fit into the cosmos. One way to do this is to watch the sun rise or set. Hopefully Alesia can attend one of these gatherings and realize an installation like this is not just a monument to Cesar Chavez but on a larger scale is a monument to how we fit into the universe. 

Russell Nelson 

 

• 

NO NADER, NO BUSH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her commentary “Why the Nader-as-Spoiler Argument Carries Little Weight” Ruthanne Shpiner omits Florida exit polling data that would almost certainly have refuted her conclusion. In Florida, where Bush officially received 537 more votes than Gore, Nader received 97,488 votes. Based upon the assumption—unrealistically generous to Bush though it is—that, without Nader, Bush would have received 49 percent of Nader’s vote (47,769 votes) and Gore would have received 51 percent of Nader’s vote (49,719 votes), Gore would have defeated Bush in Florida by 950 votes. Based upon the more realistic assumption that, absent Nader, his votes would have split more than two to one in favor of Gore, as exit polls cited by Ms. Shpiner in Oregon and New Hampshire revealed, Gore would have defeated Bush in Florida by more than 32,000 votes. 

The outcome of the 2000 Florida election (as with all other elections usually) depends upon multiple factors. Had legitimate black voters in Florida, erroneously classified as ex-felons, not been denied their rightful vote, had the Supreme Court not ruled against a careful recount, had the judgment of people who voted for Bush not turned to mush, had Gore campaigned more effectively and so on, he would have won. In short, a number of factors caused Gore’s Florida loss; absent any one of them, including Nader running, Gore, not Bush, would have been president. 

All too many Nader defenders, when confronted with the above assertion by frustrated Gore supporters, respond selectively. They respond, appropriately enough, that Nader was right to run, but refuse to admit (as easily supported by the above statistics) that exercising that right gave Bush the presidency. 

Frank Hochfeld 

Oakland 

 

• 

CONFLICT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In his March 11 commentary (“Why I Don’t Support the Troops”) Kenneth Thiesen expresses the conflict many of us feel between disgust for our protracted occupation of Iraq and our empathy, if not support, for our personnel assigned there and in “over 700 military bases or sites located in over 130 foreign countries.” I think this must be viewed, however, from broader historical and geopolitical perspectives. 

The historical perspective: The bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan jolted the United States out of its isolationist slumber and sparked a miracle of military and industrial mobilization that saved the world from Nazi domination. Germany was marching through Europe and, but for our lend-lease aid and ultimate invasion of France, would have defeated the Soviet’s valiant defenders, then gone on to occupy China, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Ultimate occupation of the Americas may have been unlikely, but our isolation would have been crippling. This rescue mission was the template for the US role as the world’s watchdog. Through the ensuing half-century that role has often been corrupt and self-serving, notably in the Shah’s Iran, in Vietnam, and in Iraq, where our presence is tainted by our competition for oil. 

The geopolitical perspective: The world today is a tinderbox—a chaos of contending nations, cultures, creeds and collusions, from thuggish African dictators to the reawakening of Marxism in South America to the tenth century mentality of Middle Eastern jihadis seething to shed each other’s blood, our blood, anyone’s blood—all vying for economic, military, even nuclear power. Suppose we could satisfy Mr. Thiesen’s outrage at “U.S. imperialist domination of the world” by recalling all those troops. Just what other world power would you then choose to become the stabilizing force necessary to offer rapid response to the myriad political brushfires that would immediately ensue? The U.N.?—don’t be silly! Until China comes of age and inevitably assumes that governing role, the United States must continue muddling through its “manifest destiny.” 

About Iraq: The U.S. response to the atrocity of 9/11 was on one hand reasonable—sending troops to Afghanistan, the home office of al Qaeda. But through official ignorance or duplicity the decision was made to overthrow the odious but irrelevant dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. All that our hideously costly five-year occupation has achieved is the separation of Sunnis and Shiites into a hundred isolated enclaves where they glare at each other with hatred from behind their walls. They only wait for U.S. troops to leave their streets so that they may rage into a bloodbath that will be an Iraqi replay of the Hutu-Tutsi massacres of Rwanda, and will leave Iraq an all-Shiite territory open to political manipulation by Iran. Abandoning Iraq abruptly is unthinkable, however much we may wish to. The rational course is a tripartite division into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish sectors. Managed resettlement would cost less than a week of our current occupation. 

The answer to “U.S. hegemony” is not to recall or dissolve our military force, but to elect a government that will redefine its function in terms of world stability rather than corporate greed. 

Jerry Landis 

 

• 

DO WE REALLY WANT  

MORE WEAPONS? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Just before last Christmas, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced its latest plans for revitalizing and rebuilding the U.S. weapons research, development, testing and production complex of the future. One of the eight sites for this “Complex Transformation” is Lawrence Livermore Lab. It is important to understand that the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) guiding these plans is not a law, but a policy developed by the Bush administration.  

The plan essentially calls for a more efficient complex and includes the development of new nuclear and chemical weapons. The latest Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for this project, according to Jackie Cabasso, of Western States Legal Foundation, is “an attempt to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” 

Some of the issues at stake are: 

• The safety and health of the surrounding community: A terrorist attack, an earthquake or an accident (of which there have been many), could release the existing plutonium, enriched uranium and as-yet-unidentified chemicals at Livermore Lab into the atmosphere, putting the lives of seven million people within a 50-mile radius of the lab at extreme risk. 

• The safety and health of employees: In the January/February Tri-Valley Cares newsletter, Marylia Kelly documents the cases of 178 Livermore Lab employees who were exposed to Beryllium without their knowledge, their subsequent health issues and the Lab cover-up. (This toxic metal, when inhaled, can cause incurable and life-threatening lung disease.) 

• The environmental impacts: Radioactive materials can last for thousands of years, lingering in the air, the water and the earth. 

• Squandered wealth: In light of the current recession, this obsession with weapons development is insane. According to Joseph Stiglitz, “The U.S. spends as much on weapons as the rest of the world all together.” 

The good news is that the plan is not final and we have the opportunity to influence these decisions in upcoming public hearings. Public hearings on Complex Transformation: 

Tracy-Tuesday, March 18, Holiday Inn Express, 3751 N. Tracy Blvd. from 6-10 p.m. (One session.)  

• Livermore-Wednesday, March 19, Robert Livermore Community Center, 4444 East Ave. from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (Two sessions.) 

If you can’t come to the hearings, you can register your opinion by writing to Mr. Theodore Wyka, Complex Transformation SPEIS Document Manager, Office of Transformation, NA-10.1, US Dept. of Energy/NNSA, 1000 Independence Ave., SW. Washington, DC 20585. Fax: (703) 931-9222. E-mail: ComplexTansformation@nnsa.doe.gov. 

Laura Santina 

WILPF, Berkeley/East Bay Branch 

 

• 

DEMOCRATIC BEHAVIOR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The 2008 election should result in a landslide victory for the Democrats. The Iraq war is leading the nation into bankruptcy. The economy is headed into the worst recession since 1940 with millions losing their jobs and homes. And the Republicans offer nothing but more bailouts to multinational corporations and more war. But the Democratic Party is still at odds with itself. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have placed their own narrow political interests above the interests of the American people. Slash and Burn specialists Obama and Clinton are fighting about personality, race and gender when they have no significant policy differences between them. Clinton and Obama are catastrophically on the verge of handing the White House to John McCain. 

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

TRADER JOE’S CASE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Friday, March 21, the citizens of Berkeley finally get to make their arguments before a neutral party who has the duty to apply the law as it is written rather than how it can be twisted and distorted to fit a preferred outcome. Unlike the vote before ZAB that was stacked by the last-minute removal of a skeptical member or before the City Council which had one of its most forceful advocates for affordable housing removed from the deliberations because of her husband’s lease, Superior Court Judge Roesch will listen to and rule on our arguments about how the city applies its Zoning Ordinance and interprets state law. That the process has cost citizens almost $40,000 in legal fees to finally obtain a fair hearing speaks volumes about how money politics plays out in Berkeley these days. 

We are asking Judge Roesch to rule on these questions: 

Can Berkeley re-write its zoning ordinance protections for homeowners adjacent to commercial projects and give a use permit for a project that doubles the required setback to one neighbor while reducing another neighbor’s setback to nothing, finding that is an acceptable outcome because it ‘on average’ improves privacy and offers an amenity, and that it is not as bad as some other project could have been? 

Can Berkeley withhold from the ZAB, the City Council, and the public an analysis proving that the project’s 63 percent density bonus was not necessary for the financial feasibility of its affordable housing units as required by State law but was granted to compensate the developer for Trader Joe’s free parking lot?  

Can Berkeley avoid the required CEQA analysis of a new and wide-reaching city policy of paying for such “public” benefits as a foreign-owned anti-union, but popular supermarket with market rate bonus units (and granting variances necessary to accommodate them) simply by maintaining they always had the power to ignore their own Zoning Ordinance for affordable housing projects? 

Can Berkeley hide behind its own absurdly low parking standards when evaluating a project’s impacts under CEQA, or must they divulge and consider the parking demand figures from the same national body that they use to evaluate traffic coming to shop at Trader Joe’s?  

Can Berkeley dismiss public controversy about a project and citizen CEQA comments about impacts as nothing more than “hand-waving, lay opinion, argument, and speculation” to simply to avoid evaluating feasible alternatives to the proposed project that as required under a full EIR? 

Stephen Wollmer 

 

• 

AC AMBULANCE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

That’s what I call the Van Hool buses. Not because they probably serve the handicapped well. (No arguments here!) But mostly because, if you are not yet an invalid, sooner or later you will become one, take my word. 

That happened to me on my first (and only!) ride: At the first turn I flew off that ridiculous perch of a seat, arms and legs vainly flailing the air for something to hold on to, falling, hurting my wrist. “What busload of fools got us this bus?,” flashed through my mind. 

But then I calmed down, in full grasp of AC Director Fernandez’s ingenious purpose: Give the public the most perfectly politically correct bus possible. Why not turn everybody into invalids? That will teach them! Call Mr. Fernandez (or maybe his bus?) the “Great Equalizer.” 

Juergen Hahn 

 

• 

NO RABBITS AS EASTER GIFTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Over the next few days, many local adults will be tempted to buy an Easter rabbit for a beloved child, godchild, grandchild, niece, or nephew. And a few months from now, our local animal shelters will be, as they are every year, inundated by a flood of cast-off bunnies. The House Rabbit Society asks that everyone who is considering buying a rabbit this year stop and think about two important facts: 

First, although rabbits can make wonderful pets, they are naturally fragile and timid. An active child who expects a cuddly pet can easily terrify or even injure a rabbit. 

Second, a well cared for rabbit should live as long as a large dog (10 years or more) and will require just as much love, attention, and veterinary care as a dog or cat would. So don’t give an Easter rabbit to a child unless you know that the child’s parents will be happy to take on a decade-long commitment. 

If you want to make a child’s Easter happy, don’t give a live rabbit unless you know it will be loved and cared for throughout its natural life. If there’s any doubt, give a stuffed or chocolate bunny instead. 

Jack Doran 

Shelter Manager, House Rabbit Society International Headquarters 

Richmond 

 

• 

BUDGET CUTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On Wednesday, March 12, the Global Studies Club at Berkeley City College held an open mic and rally against the proposed budget cuts to education. With over 100 students in attendance, students spoke out on the topic of “What my education means to me and if I were to lose it.” One student said, “In a situation like this, it is impossible to be neutral. This affects us all.” Another student said, “There is really no excuse why our education should have to be cut in California, which is the seventh largest economy in the world. I think we can beat back these cuts. It is really up to us whether or not these proposals go forward.” Other students read their poetry of protest. A teacher addressed the issue of California’s budget crisis, alleging that, “The banks that are responsible for the sub-prime loan scam are the ones to blame for the budget deficit. We should not pay for their crisis.” Students and faculty were clad in T-shirts, made for the occasion and selling now for $5 with the message, “No cuts to education, education is a right, not a privilege,” and a fist holding a pencil. 

Another rally is scheduled for April 30th from 12-1 in the Berkeley City College Auditorium in which politicians from Sacramento will be in attendance. Currently, students and faculty are circulating petitions and writing letters to their representatives. They are currently planning to march in Sacramento against the budget cuts at the beginning of the fall semester. 

Sacramento’s budget proposals will result in the elimination of 50,000 community college students, a raise in tuition, reduction of full time employees in favor of part time employees, cuts to financial aid, grants and scholarships. Find out more at www.calcuts.blogspot.com or contact globalstudiesclub@yahoo.com. 

Jason Wins 

 

• 

STUDENTS’ NEEDS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On a recent Wednesday in February I went as a Cragmont parent representative on a Berkeley delegation to Sacramento to talk to legislators about the needs of our students in public education and learn more about the budget crisis at hand.  

We are now ranked 46th in the nation in per pupil public school funding, $2,000 per pupil less than the national average. So how is it that we are being asked to cut funding by 10 percent? Clearly these are lean times for state coffers, but I believe we must not be asking the youngest members of our society to take the brunt of our political and financial problems. If we are going to continue to compete in a global economy while creating a desirable state in which to raise families, we must understand that quality public education is the cornerstone of our society and must be given the priority it deserves.  

I learned a few things on our visit. Did you know that it takes a two-thirds majority vote in the Legislature to increase revenues through taxes, whether it be a Vehicle License Tax, sales tax on luxury boats and planes, or income tax? Without members from both political parties no new revenues are possible. To do away with a tax, the Legislature must only secure a simple majority of over 50 percent. In flush times, the governor and our Legislature has cut taxes instead of saving for lean times. Now that monies are short, we are hard pressed to convince a two-thirds majority of Democrats and Republicans to create any new revenue streams. The floor of our funding formula is too low. 

Another disturbing impact of these affairs is that instead of being able to focus on our educational priorities, our district officials have to spend precious and long hours looking to make cuts in an already tight budget that will only weaken our service to students. While our district and community remain committed to not raising class size and not making cuts in direct service to students, ultimately the cuts do affect how much we can do for our kids. It also creates personal difficulties for the staff, who make valuable contributions to the running of our schools, and who are entering a period of job uncertainty. While the state can haggle for months to come over the budget, school districts are required by law to plan for the 10 percent cuts the governor has recommended by submitting a balanced budget for the coming school year by May, 2008. 

Because of our democratic government, there are things we can do. We need to educate ourselves and each other about the crisis at hand, we must insist that our representatives actually represent our interests, and we must be heard across the state in order to affect change in Sacramento. That means writing our government officials and insisting on a no cuts stance, no matter what. It means talking to friends and relatives in more Republican enclaves of the state and asking them to do the same. Time is of the essence. Please join me in fighting any cuts to our schools! 

Lea Baechler-Brabo 

 

• 

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is absolutely horrifying to learn that the City of San Francisco, led by Mayor Gavin Newsom, plans to limit exposure and access of public space to demonstrators speaking out against the violence occurring right now in Tibet at the hands of Chinese authorities during the April 9 Olympic torch run through San Francisco. San Francisco is not Beijing. We do not censor free speech and we cannot restrict the space in which free speech is conducted. 

The Tibetan people in Tibet and their friends and families worldwide are facing one of the most frightening moments in Tibetan history since Chinese occupation and the Tibetan resistance of 1959. The Bay Area’s reputation in the global community as a beacon of progressive thought and just political action is betraying its own nature by intending to confine protesters to “free speech areas” that are “associated with” the torch route, but not on the route itself. 

It is completely unacceptable that San Francisco will inadvertently partake in what the Dalai Lama has called “cultural genocide” in Tibet by complying with Beijing’s agenda to minimize and squash Tibetan resistance against the decimation of Tibetan culture, religion, language and ethnicity. 

Heidi Basch 

Oakland 

 

• 

PROPOSITION 98 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The majority of Californians should be aware of an initiative that is on the June ballot. That initiative is known as Proposition 98. The proponents of this initiative claim it is a way to stop eminent domain here in California. However, if people look carefully, the initiative will roadblock environmental regulations in the state, such as the Clean Water Act, which preserves clean water. 

It would be a disaster for the majority of Californians who are currently fighting global warming. Also Prop. 98 would do away with rent control laws all over the state and the result would be people being evicted from their homes. For example, in Oakland, the state initiative would overturn the city’s Measure EE law, which prevents people from being evicted from their homes because of greed. 

Prop. 98 must be defeated in order for both environmental regulations to be retained to preserve clean water and fight global warming, and for working class people to still live in California. 

Billy Trice, Jr. 

Oakland


Commentary: The 20/20 Vision: How Good is Our Garden?

By Santiago Casal and Michael Miller
Tuesday March 18, 2008

The 20/20 Vision is a public declaration that sets a goal for the elimination of the “achievement gap” by the year 2020. 2020 is the year when our children who entered kindergarten in September 2007 are scheduled to graduate from Berkeley High School. United In Action (UIA), a multiethnic community coalition in Berkeley, conceived the declaration. It poses a challenging question: “On that graduation day in 2020, will we be able to beam with pride at our success?” 

According to a San Francisco Chronicle article, 10 of the 98 persistently low-scoring districts in the state are in the Bay Area and one of them is the Berkeley Unified School District.  

Currently 70 percent of African American and Latino students in Berkeley are scoring at basic or below on statewide tests, and they are not improving as they move from kindergarten to grade 12. Interesting word, “kindergarten”: of German origin, it means “garden where children grow.” How good is our garden?  

 

Testing 

By necessity we rely on testing as a measure of what we know to be the deepest problem of education today—the inability to fully engage all students in a relevant and meaningful education. However, testing is only one indicator of success, and it is flawed. 

The concept of the “achievement gap” has become so culturally pervasive, it feeds on itself as it fuels the stigmatization of children of color and the reinforcement of racial stereotypes.  

One of our UIA members was in tears recently as she shared that she was thinking of taking her child out of Berkeley High. She was struggling hard to keep her daughter engaged, looking to the future, to college enrollment only to find that her daughter seriously doubted her college potential. “White kids are smarter than us, Mom. They score so much better on the tests, don’t they?”  

Yes, they score better. But they are not smarter. Rather they have more “opportunity,” and they are expected to achieve at higher levels than black and brown children. How is that possible in Berkeley of all places? We who have so much pride in education and social justice. 

 

Is the promise of change in the air? 

We are edging up to a new season, Spring—a time in nature of rebirth and new beginnings, a time to plant the seeds of a beautiful new garden. Might we extend this metaphor to collectively kickoff a fresh and hopeful approach to the sad state of educational success in our schools and community? The promise of change may be hanging in the air. 

A new Superintendent of Education, Bill Huyett, has come into town. He was hired stating that closing the achievement gap would be a top priority for the BUSD. We all want him to be triumphant with that challenge. And UIA will diligently work with and support him. But no matter how passionate or dedicated he may be, the problem is bigger than he or any single institution can deal with alone. 

 

A Total Community approach 

United In Action is campaigning for a Total Community approach. The approach will require getting past many constraints—budgetary, jurisdictional and imaginative. It will take a galvanizing force that alters the way we look at things—one that shakes us out of our inertia or indifference and mobilizes the energies needed to sustain the effort.  

UIA’s total community approach proposes a partnership model pulling together the BUSD, City of Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley City College, Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools, Justice Matters, Policy Link, Greenlining Institute, other relevant non-profits and community based organizations, the business community, the teachers union, parents, students and the citizenry of Berkeley. It is an approach that does not look into the rear view mirror for blame but rather forward with a road map for the future.  

Such a partnership would bring together the economic, intellectual and innovative resources needed to comprehensively address what should be morally offensive to a community like Berkeley. 

According to a CEO’s for cities briefing paper on “How Business and Civic Leaders Can Make a Big Difference in Public Education, “Everybody who lives or works in a big city has a stake in the performance of the local public school system. Businesses and cultural institutions suffer when thousands of young school graduates are unprepared to do productive work or take a full part in civic life.” UIA is asking that: 

• The City of Berkeley issue a resolution and implementation plan declaring the elimination of the achievement/opportunity gap a city-wide priority. 

• The district adopt a plan with accountable yearly targets to eliminate the achievement/opportunity gap by 2020. 

• The city and superintendent invite all relevant public and private entities to become a part of a new city-wide partnership that will dedicate existing and new resources to eliminating the gap.  

• The city and superintendent convene a Community Commitment Conference to solidify a clear-sighted vision and to mobilize the will of the city. 

• The city and superintendent concurrently appoint an Equity Task Force, accountable to the city-wide partnership, which will bring together national scholars and innovative thought leaders.  

 

The clock is ticking 

Achieving the 2020 Vision will require a substantial percentage jump in equity each year. The cumulative benefits would be enormous—less time spent on remedial “catch-up,” more time spent on student advancement, and less conflict and resentment rooted in inequity. 

The 2020 generation is already seven months into it’s first year. We urge our community members to quickly support the partnership by talking with your mayor, school board director, councilmember, PTA representative, or any other appropriate individual or organized body.  

The clock is ticking. Every month is important as we move to that day in June of 2020 when we stand shoulder to shoulder with our children in a celebration of their success….and our success as a community. 

Our children are the fruits of our garden. Let us not fail them. 

 

Santiago Casal and Michael Miller are members of United In Action, representing Latinos Unidos (LU) and Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD). 

 

 

 


Commentary: The Nature of Cesar Chavez

By Rafael Casal
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Since my childhood, the Berkeley Marina has been a place of sanctuary and reflection for my wandering mind and feet. As a child I went to birthday parties there, flew kites on windy days, and rolled down the big hills with my hermana. It was a place of infinite beauty, with a panoramic view of the bay area and a sunset that no words could be tailored for. Before we’d leave, my father would always calm us to take a moment and appreciate our place in the universe. We would breathe in deep, feel the setting sun against our faces, and stare at the horizon with a humbling appreciation for the world we often forget is bigger than ourselves. To this day, I still frequent the Berkeley Marina and César Chávez Park, and am always met with the same feelings of reflection and awe during my peaceful visits. 

On the top of one of the far hills is an ancient looking arrangement of stones reminiscent of Mayan ruins or a Stonehenge—things of nature aligned to create a circle that catches your eye as you walk closer, three large boulders set along the horizon to the west, mirrored by another three lining the east. In the center is a small stone-cut pillar that only obstructs the grass around it enough for you to wonder how it got there. 

This is the César Chávez Memorial Solar Calendar, something ever so delicately lifted out of the ground to help guide your thoughts to a place of reflection. At first glance the stones seem themselves to be only loosely forming a circle, but if you read the description surrounding the center stone, it explains that every stone along the perimeter is a marker, direct alignments that provide a map of the of the seasons, the summer and winter solstice, of time, of change, and of our constant movement in the universe. It is a reminder of the very things I was told about in my childhood, about remaining humble, about appreciation, prompting self-reflection and healing from the petty damages we scar ourselves with during our mundane routines that become so irrelevant when reminded of the bigger picture.  

Engraved on four of the stones are values; hope, determination, courage, and tolerance. I can think of no better words of wisdom to guide these reflective moments. They bear such weight, and to a young man like myself amidst much confusion, such words are the daybreak of clarity I need to sort through the quarrels of right and wrong in a world of increasing grey areas.  

However, I am aware of my privilege, not all children get exposed to such wonderful experiences and spiritual guidance in their youth. I have brought many friends to the Berkeley Marina, and only since the solar calendar project have we been able to find these moments of reflection together. I see the project as the wisdom of our elders before us, forever reminding us that we must think outside ourselves. 

A big component of the project is bringing elementary school children to the park to experience it as I did as a child, using the calendar as a destination point for their break from PlayStation and Freeze-Tag. To reach young people on a common understanding of refection and contemplation, through four values carved into stones that they may have never learned or truly understood before their visit. While they are there, they will experience all of the wonders of nature that exist there, the wildlife, the spectacular view, the infinite space to run and play, but most of all, a chance for them to experience themselves in a safe calming space that few are fortunate enough to be exposed to.  

This project is about sharing the park with the next generation, passing down wisdom, providing guidance to young developing minds before the complexities of young adulthood set in. This project is for people of color who need more heroes than just Martin Luther King, for Latinos like myself who rarely find our triumphs understood and reflected in such a selfless way for us to learn from. This small arrangement in nature is a vessel for an aspect of education that is frequently passed over in the school system, and as a result leaves many without the guidance and mentoring that young people need in the most formidable years of their lives.  

In a March 4 commentary in the Planet, the author argued that someone should have checked with veteran guests of César Chávez Park before installing such a project. That it was an undeclared addition and that it obstructs the flow of nature and peace that exists when walking there. A reminder of our human footprint on the world in a place we go to try and get away from it.  

I am forever grateful that someone did not wait for my permission to give me hope, to reaffirm determination, to remind me to be tolerant. to instill me with courage when I have needed such reminders most. In a time when so much is fast paced, when young people are faced with so many obstacles, how dare someone offer guidance, offer a place to forget the day-to-day and be immersed in the change of the seasons, to watch a spectacular sunset and understand our movement through the universe, to be reminded that anyone can do great things in this world for their community, for their people, for us all. The person responsible for the solar calendar at César Chávez Park in Berkeley has done a great thing for his community, in ways that will trickle down through the generations that have and will benefit from its purpose.  

Thank you for your “obstruction.” Just the thing I need to stop me in my tracks and take a moment. If the solar calendar is a reminder of our footprint in nature, than what a huge step it is for us all.  

 

Rafael Casal is an Oakland resident.  

 


Commentary: Blame Bipartisan Collusion, Not Nader, for Hard Times Ahead

By Harry S. Pariser
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Becky O’Malley’s savaging of Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez (Editorial, March 10) is singularly unfair. Pollit’s editorial hit piece, which O’Malley cites, explicitly states that “Ralph Nader has a perfect right to run for president.”  

Then Pollit trots out the silly old canard about Nader costing Gore the election (in Florida) while neglecting to note that the Democrats have done absolutely nothing legislatively about abolishing the Electoral College, an anti-democratic instutution which reflects the most profound contempt for the American voter. This is probably because they believe that it may work in their favor in some future election. Gore lost in 2000 because he stood for little or nothing and ran a lousy campaign. He could not even carry his home state of Tennessee, and plenty of Dems voted for Bush. I might point out that Joe Lieberman, whom O’Malley accurately describes as both “smarmy and odious,” was Gore’s running mate. The Kerry campaign put out feelers to get McCain to join them as his 2004 running mate, and Lieberman is currently shortlisted for the McCain ticket’s VP spot. “Smarmy and odious” Lieberman is a former Democrat and his voting overall record is not that different from Clinton’s or Obama’s. Clinton voted for NAFTA and pushed her husband to support the socially disastrous “Welfare to Work” program; Obama supports a unilateral strike on Pakistan’s Taliban; and all three presidential contenders parrot unconditional support for the military budget, Israel, and the continuation of the military quagmire in Afghanistan. None of them will be pulling all troops, including the private mercenaries, out of Iraq. All support the death penalty while claiming, at the same time, to be devout Christians. 

While it is true that Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, and other heinous acts were Republican initiatives, plenty of Democrats both voted for them and actively support these endeavors as well as other violations of civil liberties. The Dems are too cowardly to impeach Bush, and both Clintons and Kerry have acted to give the president the power to send troops to an (undeclared) war, which is a subversion of the powers of Congress and hardly a democratic stand. While many Democrats may be pro choice, a significant number are not, and Democrats allowed John Roberts and other anti choice ideologues to ascend to the Supreme Court. Diane Feinstein, our own Republican in Democratic clothing, was instrumental in allowing the nomination of the ultraconservative Mukasey for Attorney General to go forward. Kucinich called for the impeachment of both Bush and Cheney, but it went nowhere. Left unchallenged, the Bush precedent will be undoubtedly have a rerun in a future administration, complete with signing statements that unilaterally alter the meaning of legislation and another set of undeclared invasions. 

Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez are performing a public service by running. Despite that Pollit believes that they are “Green Party candidates,” they are actually running as Independents. (Pollit should get off her ideological high horse and get her facts correct). If they were to be included in any debates, which they will almost assuredly will not be, they would be able to raise issues and problems that the Tweedledee and Tweedledum will fail to mention, such as the Dark Horseman of fiscal collapse hanging over the United States (and the world). While O’Malley maintains Gonzalez’s points about Obama are “thin at best,” she fails to substantiate this claim. Why is it that people can’t understand that having an African father and holding rather conservative positions does not somehow make you a “liberal” in the classic sense of someone who is antiwar, for reducing the military budget, and supporting social justice. Gonzalez intends to tour college campuses and educate the younger generation about ranked choice voting. As anyone who has seen the superb documentary “An Unreasonable Man” knows, Ralph has plenty to do to say that is relevant. And this is a great way for his voice (and that of Gonzalez) to be heard. 

A late entrant to the race who quickly gained momentum, Gonzalez lost the 2003 race to Gavin because the Democrats pulled out all the stops to defeat him. They poured money into Newsom’s campaign and brought in Gore and Slick Willie Clinton to stump, and Gavin was able to tap his anti-homeless PACs for funds and logistical support. For reasons unfathomable to many San Franciscans, the ineffective Gavin Newsom, a recovering alcoholic who slept with his campaign manager’s wife, remains quite popular with those who bother to go to the voting booth. None of the probable candidates believed they could defeat him in 2007. We had a good alternative, Quintin Miecke, but voters failed to rally behind him. 

As long as the United States is a society of inactive couch potatoes, so accurately described in Thomas Frank’s What’s The Matter With Kansas?, nothing will change. We all need to get on the phone more to our legislators, show up at demonstrations, write letters, and send e-mails. In Electoral College-insulated states like California, a vote for candidates such as Nader indicates that there is a constituency for change. Otherwise, nothing will happen. The “liberal” branch of the Democrats have nowhere else to go, and the party establishment will continue to target the more conservative voters. Budget deficits and Wall Street corruption and ineptitude mean that hard times are ahead, but we have to lay the blame for our current situation on bipartisan collusion. 

Most people do not vote because the candidates do not appeal. For all his emphasis on poverty, John Edwards is a multimillionaire trial lawyer who only recently discovered what it means to be poverty stricken in America. His way to “learn” more about it was to work for a hedge fund. Matt, on the other hand, is a guy you might run into in Adobe Books on 16th Street; he recently had an art opening of his collages made from found materials. He’s a genuine person, a logical thinker, and possibly the best debater ever to be a supervisor. That’s why he attracted such support and enthusiasm for his candidacy the last time around. Let’s hope Matt can bring some of this to the national arena. It is sorely needed. 

 

Harry S. Pariser is a Berkeley resident. 


Commentary: Hillary Clinton’s Shameful Vote on Cluster Bombs

By Paul Rockwell
Tuesday March 18, 2008

In her autobiography, Living History, Senator Hillary Clinton portrays herself as an advocate for children, a defender of women and human rights. In fact, the Clintons have a long history of sacrificing the rights, even the lives of children, for political expediency. It is time to set the record straight. 

On September 6, 2006, a Senate bill—a simple amendment to ban the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas—presented Senator Clinton with a timely opportunity to protect the lives of children throughout the world. 

The cluster bomb is one of the most hated and heinous weapons in modern war, and its primary victims are children. 

Senator Obama voted for the amendment to ban cluster bombs. Senator Clinton, however, voted with the Republicans to kill the humanitarian bill, an amendment in accord with the Geneva Conventions, which already prohibit the use of indiscriminate weapons in populated areas. 

All senators are expected to inform themselves on the issues before they cast a vote. The evidence is overwhelming. It is hard to believe that Senator Clinton was unaware of the humanitarian crisis when she voted to continue the use of cluster bombs in cities and populated areas. A U.N. weapons commission called cluster bombs “weapons of indiscriminate effect.” For years the international press reported the horrific consequences of cluster bombs on civilians. On April 10, 2003, for example, Asia Times described the carnage in Baghdad hospitals: “The absolute majority of patients are women and children, victims of shrapnel, and most of all, fragments of cluster bombs.” Reporting from a hospital in Hillah, The Mirror, a British newspaper, became graphic: “Shrapnel peppered their bodies. Blackened the skin. Smashed heads. Tore limbs. A doctor reports that ‘all the injuries you see were caused by cluster bombs. The majority of the victims were children who died because they were outside.’” 

Even after wars subside, after treaties are signed, after belligerents return home, cluster bombs wreak havoc on civilian life. Up to 20 percent of the bomblets fail to detonate on the first round, only to become landmines that later explode on playgrounds and farmlands. Children are drawn to cluster bomb canisters, the deadly duds that look like beer cans or toys before they explode. 

 

Clinton on landmines 

Of course Senator Clinton did not expect her vote on cluster bombs to become an issue in a presidential campaign. But that vote is one of many examples in a pattern of indifference to the welfare of children in the Developing World. 

Because Clinton is now taking credit for the White House years, when she was a partner in power, we should also look closely at the Clinton policy regarding landmines, an issue of great concern to parents, to all those who care for children. The United States is the leading manufacturer of landmines. For families across the rest of the globe, landmines are buried terror. More than 100 million landmines are deployed in over 60 countries worldwide—nine million in Angola, 10 million in Cambodia. About 20,000 M14 antipersonnel mines are buried in the mountain areas of Yong-do, South Korea. According to U.N. estimates, 26,000 people, mostly civilians in developing countries, are killed or mutilated by landmines every year. In rural areas landmines are so ubiquitous and lethal, peasants risk their lives to earn a living tilling the soil and planting crops. 

The worldwide movement to ban landmines burgeoned in the Clinton years. It was a visionary U.S. citizen, Jody Williams of Vermont, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to end the ignominy of landmines. And it was primarily in defense of children that Princess Diana, speaking from a minefield in Angola, raised international awareness about devastation caused by weapons from the West. 

In December 1997, 137 nations, more than two-thirds of the world, signed the Ottawa treaty, an agreement to ban the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel landmines. How did the Clintons respond to world opinion, to the humanitarian movement against landmines? 

President Clinton flat out refused to become party to the Ottawa Convention. As he put it, “I could not sign in good conscience the treaty banning landmines.” In “good conscience”?! 

Landmines are not good for children, Hillary. 

 

Paul Rockwell is a columnist living in the Bay Area.


Commentary: Dangerous Mind Virus Strikes the East Bay!

By Bob Marsh
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Daily Planet Executive Editor O’Malley and many of the readers of this newspaper have been affected with a dangerous infection of the mind recently identified as the “anti-Nader” virus. This virus was created by leaders of the Demopublican Party after the narrow victory of their candidate Al Gore in the 2000 presidential selection. When Republican Party apparatchiks and Cuban-American thugs barged into the Dade County elections office and forced a stop to a recount, when winning candidate Gore refused to call for a full recount, when tens of thousands of Floridians and New Mexicans of color were deliberately prevented from voting, when the Supreme Court unconstitutionally intervened to steal the election in a bloodless coup d’etat, these so-called “leaders” did nothing to defend the constitution or the right to vote. 

Instead of accepting the blame for their outright complicity in the coup d’etat and doing something (anything!) about it, they decided to blame someone else. Who better to blame than the most prominent and incorruptible advocate for the rights of everyday Americans, Ralph Nader. 

The “leaders” used the method first formalized by the Third Reich’s Joseph Goebbels (later carefully refined by the CIA/NSA etc) and started a black propaganda smear campaign against Nader and the Green Party: “It’s all Naders’ fault! If it hadn’t been for him, we wouldn’t have Bush or these horrible wars.” 

The virus that has infected so many Demos curiously has not affected many Repubs. There has been no outbreak of outraged Repubs demanding the crucifixion of that stupid egotist and spoiler, Ross Perot, for stealing votes away from the rightful President, George H.W. Bush. 

Perhaps Editor O’Malley and readers of this paper are too embarrassed by their own inaction and complicity in the coup d’etat? Perhaps they are too embarrassed by their total lack of action AGAIN in 2004 when that election was stolen again by the same Repub criminals, and when the Green Party, not the Demos, demanded a recount to expose the fraud? Perhaps they are embarrassed by their past mindless support of candidates who are war criminals, i.e. Clinton, Gore and Kerry? Perhaps they’ve forgotten that their candidates supported NAFTA, GATT, WTO, the 1996 give away of our precious airwaves, the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (aka Patriot Act #0), Patriot Act #1, the destruction of unions via Gore’s “Re-inventing Government” measures, the breaking of promises to not renew the 1872 Mining Act, torture, and warrantless spying? Perhaps they’ve forgotten that their candidates oppose single payer healthcare for all, oppose real public financing of elections or any electoral reform, refuse to say when they might end our current wars, support bloated military and secret spy budgets, and support the death penalty? Perhaps they’ve forgotten that there was no “Golden Age” in 1993-1995 when the Demopublicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress? 

If readers and Executive Editor O’Malley would awaken from their black propaganda virus-induced nightmare, they would see that it’s insane to support a Party or its candidates who oppose virtually everything most of us Berkeleyans believe in, and blame the one candidate who bravely stands for everything we think is right! 

Yes, there are important differences between Demopublican and Republicrat Parties… for example, hedge funds and stock brokerage firms give more money to Demos, whereas oil companies prefer Repubs. McCain voted to extend the Patriot Act, whereas Clinton and Obama also voted for it, oops! Repubs favored tax cuts for the rich, whereas our Demo Senator Feinstein also voted for them, oops! Repubs don’t want to impeach arch-criminal Dick Cheney, whereas the Demo Party…. oops, I keep missing those important differences that O’Malley believes are so obvious! 

In contrast, Nader understands what democracy is and why it’s important to stand up and speak out for what you believe in, no matter what. Apparently, the editor and many of the readers of this paper do not. Apparently, the editor and many readers think everyone should vote against what they believe in. Apparently, the editor and many readers think it’s just fine to denigrate those who refuse to cave in to intimidation, those who fight for our rights as citizens, those who are not dozing in a propaganda virus-induced coma. It is very, very important that each and every reader of this newspaper work to cure him/herself of the delusion that the National so-called Democratic Party stands for anything at all, or will work as a body for any real change that would improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Why support a party whose motto appears to be “We suck less!” ? 

All of us need to see that our criminal government cannot function without the active collaboration of the so-called Democratic Party. That party is responsible, and so are we if we vote for it or its candidates. 

Hope is not a strategy! If we want to live in a civilized country, we are going to have to work for it, and stop mindlessly voting for candidates who oppose everything we believe in. 

 

Bob Marsh is a Berkeley native who is mad as hell and is not listening to any nonsense from Democrats anymore.  


Columns

Column: Undercurrents: African-Americans Do Not Have the Luxury of Ignoring the Race Issue

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday March 21, 2008

My mother’s older relatives lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, an event that has no parallel in our times. One of the favorite family stories was passed down from one of her uncles, Theodore (always called Uncle Thee with a soft-sound on the “th”), who walked about in downtown San Francisco an hour or so after the quake through streets littered with overturned carriages and dead dray horses and fallen bricks, the surrounding wooden buildings just beginning to be licked by the flames that would later engulf and destroy much of the city. It must have been a scene reminiscent of hell, and indicative of God’s vengeance on a sinful humanity. So reminiscent and indicative, in fact, that Uncle Thee said that when he met up with a white fellow walking numbly through the same chaotic streets, the white fellow rushed up to him, dropped to his knees, hugged his arms around Uncle Thee’s legs, and shouted, “Save me, brother! O, save me!” 

In those days, barely a generation out of slavery, African-Americans were still considered by many white folk to be a simple, primitive, spiritual people who—because of our supposed simplicity and primitivity and our spirituality and the suffering we had endured on earth—we were thought to be closer in touch with God. 

Uncle Thee’s reaction to the white fellow’s importunation has been lost to history, though having heard tales of some of his other biting remarks, I do not imagine that the request was considered with much favor. 

African-Americans have long since lost our place as the spiritual saviors of America (I am tempted to add “thank God,” but that seems too close to blasphemy). But considering the events of recent days concerning the presidential race, our role as the nation’s racial conscience seems a cross that we are forced to continue to bear, at least for the foreseeable future. 

An African-American presidential candidate who says his campaign is not based upon race—and who has not used race as a theme in his campaign—is forced to make a major speech on the issue of—guess what?—race. Why are we not surprised? And why are we not further surprised that of all the many candidates for national public office this year, it is only the black guy who has had to touch on this topic? 

The issue of race, it would seem, continues to be a topic that African-Americans must continue to have to address, whether we want to or not, while our white friends can pick it up or drop it, at their leisure. There is no disowning or disavowing or denying it. Not in this generation. Or my parents’ or grandparents’ generations. Or my children or grandchildren’s generations, down as far as I can see. 

Some thoughts. 

Two of my daughters graduated from the University of California at Berkeley. During their time there, they learned to avoid late night walks past the white frat houses on fraternity row. Too many times, they said, they were greeted in the night with calls of “why don’t you go back where you came from?” 

Where they came from? Our family came to California before the beginning of the Civil War, one group by coach along the northern land route, the other by taking sea transportation down to Panama, trekking across the Isthmus, and catching a boat back up to San Francisco. California’s population was not even 400,000 in 1860. There is a very small percentage of families of any nationality who can claim ancestry in this state from those days. And yet, some drunken white kids hanging out a frat house window feel empowered enough to believe that the daughters of that ancestry do not yet belong while the drunken fraternity white kids, of course, do. 

One of my daughters’ boyfriends gets stopped, regularly, by police while riding his bicycle through their Los Angeles neighborhood, forced to show his identification and explain where he is going and what he is about. When he protests, he is told that he lives in a “bad” neighborhood, so he should expect such scrutiny. 

I remember being told by a Charleston, South Carolina police officer a similar thing, almost 40 years ago, that I should always be prepared to give a cop an account of where I have been and what I have been doing over the past several hours. I was put over the hood of a police car and frisked, once, by another Charleston police officer after he discovered me late at night in the parking lot of the Charleston airport with the hood of a car up. It was only after he had determined my identification, and that I was unarmed, that he learned, upon asking, that I was under the hood because I had returned on a flight to find the battery dead and that this, in fact, was my car. He left without either an apology or an offer to help me get my car started. 

In the ’90s, I did an article on successful African-Americans continuing to face racism in Silicon Valley, interviewing a Santa Clara County judge who no longer went to local department stores because she got tired of being followed around by store security while white patrons went ignored, or the African-American man in hospital greens who was asked by the elderly white patient at Stanford Hospital to empty her bedpan, the woman only learning later, and not from him, that he was actually the surgeon who was scheduled to operate on her brain the next morning. 

But that is nothing. 

On Sept. 16, 1963, sickened by the events of the day before, I went to my American History class and refused to put my hand over my heart and say the pledge of allegiance to the American flag. If you are interested enough in knowing what happened on Sept. 15, you can look it up. For my part, my mind moved forward to the words “and justice for all,” and I knew that in all good conscience, I could not repeat those words. I stood respectfully with the rest of my class that day, as always, but kept my mouth closed and did not say the words. That silent, respectful protest was not respectful enough for my teacher, however. I was booted out of my college prep class and down into the backwater civics class, where the teacher put his feet up on the desk and spent the first 20 minutes of class time, often, telling us how his wife’s pregnancy was getting along. I do not remember if we were furnished with a book. 

Thus, my punishment, for my lack of loudly professed loyalty to America. 

Older now, and having seen more in my life, I do not even bother to stand during the various public displays of the pledge. 

Anger smolders when I think of what I might answer if someone, at one of these events, were to confront me and ask me why. 

But the great African-American secret—if you need to be let in on it—is that anger smolders in almost all African-Americans of my generation, my parents’ generation before me, and my children’s generation after. There is a duality about the psychology of African-Americans that seems easy to understand—given our history and experiences in this still, sometimes strange land—but far too often seems unfathomable to clueless outsiders who wonder, “why are those Black People mad?” or, alternatively, “what do they have to be mad about?” 

To be African-American—it has often been said—is to daily, voluntarily practice lunacy. To honestly face our condition and our history in this nation would force us either into actual madness or violence. And so, to maintain equilibrium, the African-American fools himself—daily, hourly, constantly—making a pretense that the world and its conditions are not what they actually are, inducing a mild form of insanity—a denial of the world as it is—to prevent an actual insanity. 

And so I listen to the most famous sermon-snippet of Reverend Jeremiah Wright—Barack Obama’s pastor—and the words “the government gives them drugs, and builds bigger prisons, and passes a three strikes law, and then wants us to sing ‘God bless America?’ No. God damn America. It’s in the Bible.” And I hear a deep echo in my own feelings. And I know—just from the knowing, as well as from conversation and testimony—that the words have a deep resonance across African-America, as well. 

But now it is supposed to be up to Barack Obama to explain why African-Americans might have a cause to feel this way, as well as denouncing those feelings as a prerequisite for entering the presidential club. And bless his heart, he did a bang-up job of it, despite all the difficulties. 

But this has always been the difficulty—the contradiction, to use the favorite ’60s word--of an African-American running for American president. He, or she, must attempt to hold onto the two polar opposite ends of an electrically-charged duality that others are allowed to step around. 

Meanwhile, we are told we must profess our loyalty to a country that is founded upon the principle that rebellion against an oppressive government is not only a right, it is a responsibility. 

And then daily we see the jails filling up with young African-American men—their futures lost—and drugs and the accompanying theft and violence devastating our communities, and the core of many black families collapsing, and the public education system deteriorating, and we are told that these do not constitute a condition of oppression, they constitute an unfortunate social condition that has no historical roots. But then, King George III, the British monarch who oversaw the last days of England’s colonial empire in mid-Atlantic America, believed until the end of his days that he was the rightful ruler of America, a benevolent father facing ungrateful, recalcitrant children. 

We always have a different view of things, depending upon which porch we’re sitting on. 

And thus, African-Americans have a far different view of the American experience than many of our neighbors and fellow Americans, and that even with such a different view, we have remained among the most loyal of Americans, dying in every war, even when we knew we were returning to many parts of the nation that shunned us. One can do both, you know. And we have been doing it that way for quite some time. Why, in 2008, should any of this be met with such expressions of shock? It makes one believe that a lot of folks have not really been paying attention.


East Bay Then and Now: Allenoke Manor Was a Scene of Hospitality for 5 Decades

By Daniella Thompson
Friday March 21, 2008
The south elevation of Allenoke Manor faces the gardens and Ridge Road.
Daniella Thompson
The south elevation of Allenoke Manor faces the gardens and Ridge Road.

When Berkeley boosters publicized the city circa 1905, they invariably pointed to the 1700 block of Le Roy Avenue as their shining example. Situated one block to the north of the UC campus, the short stretch between Le Conte Avenue and Ridge Road boasted two of Berkeley’s most opulent and ballyhooed residences: the Volney D. Moody house, known as “Weltevreden,” and the Allen G. Freeman house, “Allenoke.” Each was designed by a fashionable architect (A.C. Schweinfurth and Ernest Coxhead, respectively) and was clad in clinker brick-a material popular with Arts and Crafts builders. 

The two estates were separated by the north fork of Strawberry Creek, which could be traversed by two clinker-brick bridges. 

Allenoke’s owner, Allen Gleason Freeman (1853-1930), was born on a farm in Flushing, Michigan, the third of seven children. As a teenager, he worked on the farm, as did his elder brothers. Eventually he migrated to Chicago and entered the firm of J.K. Armsby Co., wholesale commission merchants who would come to control the distribution of fresh and dried California fruit and Alaskan salmon. It was probably in Chicago that Freeman met his future wife, Jessie Katherine Marsh (1858-1940), who was listed in the 1880 U.S. census as a reporter living in Hyde Park, Cook County, IL. Their marriage took place on May 25, 1887. 

The Freemans appeared in San Francisco the same year. By now, Allen was general manager of J.K. Armsby Co. In 1903, the company’s office would be located at 138 Market St. and include canned fruit, dried fruit & raisin, and bean departments. The canned fruit was marketed under the Argo, Ambassador, and Red Dart labels. Later, George Newell Armsby, the founder’s son, would engineer the merger that gave birth to the California Packing Corporation (Calpak), whose most famous brand was Del Monte. 

Living in San Francisco and then in Oakland, the Freemans were active members of the Unitarian Church. In 1890, Mrs. Freeman was treasurer of the newly established Pacific Coast Woman’s Unitarian Conference. The founding of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley in 1891 gave the couple a reason to move here. 

In 1897, the congregation purchased land on the corner of Dana and Bancroft, and the following year, a shingled church designed by Schweinfurth was erected (it is now the University Dance Studio). The Freemans lived nearby, in a duplex at 2401 Telegraph Ave., which was then a highly desirable address. Duncan McDuffie would occupy the other flat in 1904, and Louis Titus lived a short block to the north. In 1902, Freeman and Titus were among the founding directors of the University Savings Bank of Berkeley. 

As the character of Telegraph Avenue was being transformed from high-end residential to apartments and retail blocks, the well-to-do began to move out. But even before the first business block went up, Allen Freeman bought a large parcel on the corner of Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue, in Daley’s Scenic Park. Volney Moody, another Unitarian, had already built a manse on the same block in 1896, and a year earlier, the Unitarian Maybeck heralded the birth of the local Arts and Crafts movement by designing a brown-shingle house for Charles Keeler two blocks to the east. 

Schweinfurth, the architect of the Moody house and the First Unitarian Church, was already dead in 1903, when Freeman engaged the firm of Coxhead & Coxhead to design his house. Ernest Coxhead (1863-1933), like Maybeck and Schweinfurth an important early shaper of the First Bay Region Tradition, was English-born and -trained. In 1886, he and his older brother Almeric (1862-1928) established a practice in Los Angeles, moving to San Francisco four years later. 

Ten years prior to the Freeman commission, Coxhead designed the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house (now Goldman School of Public Policy) a block away. It resembled a row of houses in an old English village. For Freeman, Coxhead created a large Colonial Revival house with oversized gambrel dormers on the north and south façades. 

In many respects, Allenoke owes a debt to the Los Angeles house of business tycoon and art collector Edwin Tobias Earl, who in 1890 invented the refrigerated railroad car for shipping oranges to the East Coast. An earlier Coxhead design, the Earl house was built at 2425 Wilshire Bvld. in 1895-98 and demolished in 1957. Both houses featured steep roofs set with disproportionately large dormers (albeit in different styles); a projecting front porch fenestrated with arched openings on three sides and crowned with a neo-classical balustrade; a large, rectangular windowed bay projecting from the living room; and clinker brick exteriors. As in many other Coxhead residences, the rustic exterior belies a formal, rich interior. 

Allenoke was completed in 1904 and thrown open that fall in a series of cello and piano recitals performed by Frederick Stickney Gutterson and his wife Minnie Marie, who had recently returned from Europe. The San Francisco Call described the first recital on Nov. 8 as “one of the smartest musical affairs that has taken place on this side of the bay,” adding, “Mr. and Mrs. Freeman have just finished one of the most artistic residences in Berkeley.” The audience included “Oakland’s elite as well as society of the college town,” among them professors Soule, Rising, and Haskell; notable neighbors such as the Moodys, the Keelers, photographer Oscar Maurer, and Thomas Rickard, president of the Town Board of Trustees from 1903 to 1909; architect Clinton Day, and painter William Keith. 

The childless Freemans entertained regularly and famously. A luncheon offered in March 1908 for Professor Jacques Loeb’s mother-in-law numbered among its guests the wives of developer Frank C. Havens and UC president Benjamin Ide Wheeler. “The menu was served in Mrs. Freeman’s Chinese dining room,” informed the San Francisco Call, adding, “The details of the affair were carried out in the Chinese fashion.” 

A prominent clubwoman and patron of the arts, Katherine Freeman directed her charitable impulses toward the Berkeley Day Nursery and the Fabiola Hospital in Oakland. Her husband, meanwhile, went into business for himself, founding the Continental Salt & Chemical Company (later Alviso Salt Co.). He also became an importer and traveled regularly to Russia, Japan, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. Katherine accompanied him on some of these business trips. 

In 1919, the Freemans erected a Georgian Revival carriage house across the street, at 2533 Ridge Road. Mirroring the materials of the main house (clinker brick walls, slate roof) and reviving the oversized neo-classical elements so often used by Coxhead (dormers, porch pediment), this charming two-story structure was designed by Clarence A. Tantau (1884-1943), a Bay Area architect best known for his Spanish-style buildings. The carriage house sports two decorative chimneys, two hipped and one arched dormer gables, a fanciful glazed entrance porch on the second floor, and an enormous carriage lantern appended to the façade. 

The Allenoke estate, intact to this day, boasts a formal garden designed in 1923 and featuring a pergola, two fountains, and flower beds bordered by boxwood hedges. The imposing entrance gate is constructed of the same clinker bricks used for building the house and the surrounding wall.  

Mrs. Freeman died in January 1940, leaving an estate of close to $285,000. Wishing her house to go on being used “for the pleasure of many people,” she willed it to Robert Sibley, executive manager of the California Alumni Association. Between 1912 and 1924, Sibley and his family had lived around the corner, five of those years as tenants in the house of Mrs. Freeman’s sister. 

After making various bequests to relatives and friends (including a combined $54,000 to Sibley and his wife), Mrs. Freeman willed the residue of her estate to the University of California. However, when the State inheritance tax appraiser filed his report on Sept. 27, 1941, it transpired that bequests and taxes had reduced UC’s residue to a mere $1,181. 

A notable conservationist and hiking enthusiast, Sibley (1881-1958) led the movement that resulted in the 1933 legislation establishing the East Bay Regional Park District on EBMUD surplus watershed lands. He served as director and president of the district from 1948 until his death in 1958. In Sibley’s honor, one of his favorites parks, Round Top, was renamed Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. 

During the 1940s, the Sibleys entertained countless students and alumni at Allenoke. In 1952, they published their recollections in the book University of California Pilgrimage: A Treasury of Tradition, Lore and Laughter, where they recount that “one time we had 400 people for breakfast.” 

Robert’s second wife, Carol (1902-1986), was a well-known community figure in her own right. She served as president of the Berkeley School Board from 1961 to 1971 and presided over the successful racial integration of Berkeley’s public schools (as well as surviving a recall attempt launched against her and other board members who had voted for the program, the first voluntary desegregation of a public school district in the United States). She contributed her time and energy to many civic groups, including the charitable organization A Dream for Berkeley, and was a founder of the All Berkeley Coalition (ABC), which played a key role in Berkeley politics in the 1980s. 

Following Robert Sibley’s retirement, the couple built several rental income units on the Allenoke estate. In 1949, a two-story, four-unit, flat-roofed redwood & stucco apartment building was erected in front of the carriage house by architect-builder John F. Pruyn. The following year, two similar buildings were constructed along the north portion of the main property. In 1956, the southern part of the clinker brick wall along Le Roy Avenue was replaced by four garages with a trellised roof garden. Another three-car garage was carved out of the brick wall in 1959. The same year, following Robert Sibley’s death, Carol Sibley converted the main house—made a duplex in 1952—into six units.  

The 2533 Ridge Road carriage-house property was willed to Robert’s daughter Catherine, a protegée of Max Reinhardt and responsible for bringing his famous production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Faculty Glade. In 1976, Mrs. Sibley built a Japanese-style pavilion, designed by Michael Severin, between the two apartment buildings north of the main house. There she lived until the end of her life. 

In the late 1980s, Allenoke was acquired by Dr. Frederick M. “Ted” Binkley (1924-2006) and his wife Marian. An eminent vascular surgeon at UCSF, Binkley had played varsity football and basketball as a student at Cal and lived at the Phi Kappa Psi house, located a block away from Allenoke, at 2625 Hearst Avenue. Under the Binkleys’ watch, Allenoke was restored to it original grandeur and single-family use. It was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in November 1986. 

 

 

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


Garden Variety: The Accidental Gardener Confesses, or Brags

By Ron Sullivan
Friday March 21, 2008
Salsify—“oyster plant”—is a common local weed with an edible root.
Ron Sullivan
Salsify—“oyster plant”—is a common local weed with an edible root.

I do have a modest talent for growing things. The catch is that what grows isn’t always what I had in mind.  

I accidentally raised a colony of mushrooms in my former truck’s cab—Peziza domiciliana, the North American bathroom mushroom. Fungi are commonly uninvited garden (and bathroom) guests. Sometimes they portend disaster, like armillaria around an oak. Sometimes they’re a fairy ring gracing a lawn. Sometimes they’re a pure gift. When we first moved to this house, I was in raging despair over the sullen, poorly drained clay. After a day of wrestling with it (and losing) we found a morel. One morel. It was a shill; we haven’t seen a morel since, even after soggy winters, but it was a brief consolation.  

I am also learning to eat the weeds. I suspect this is a hardwired survival trait. Before I’d made my mind up about what to put in one bare spot, a sprawly octopus of purslane-verdolaga-had homestaked it. Guess what? It tastes a bit like sorrel, and it’s crunchy. I’m not stalking the wild asparagus here (though I have seen it in ditches in the Delta) but knowing I can eat some invaders makes gardening somehow less of a war. 

I’d learned about purslane just in time. I still slap myself now for passing up that nasty-looking corn my friend Ray grew in his yard years ago. It had some ominous gray swollen kernels… Yes, huitlacoche, a.k.a. cuitlacoche, a.k.a. corn smut. That name must be designed to fend off the hoi polloi. 

At the time, Ray had one of those gardens where half the weeds are purple potatoes and half are poison hemlock. You do want to know what you’re biting into.  

I am both tantalized and appalled at the furious spread of feral Chinese chives—miles of it along roadsides in Marin, and patches in isolated parks where endangered plants live. They’re tasty; maybe we can eat them all. Just don’t admit their provenance. 

Then again, I’ve seen pickleweed going for over $5 a pound: that jointed crunchy stuff that covers most of the Bay’s salt marshes. I’m keeping an eye out for a clean wild source. I have enough water for it in my yard most winters, but it’s not saltwater.  

I started young, gardening accidentally. When I was a kid, one thing we did around Halloween was shell out dry corn kernels and throw them to rattle against people’s windows at night. (It was an innocent time.) I threw some at my own front window, and that spring Dad mulched the shrubs. Suddenly we had cornstalks. They bore a few ears: we ate some, and the rest dried and shelled out nicely.  

Sometimes, though, I have to accept the plant’s idea of placement. I dropped a potted Lady Banks’ rose by the driveway and forgot it for a month. It grew through its pot and now blooms at my second-story kitchen window. Hummingbirds and bushtits nest in it. 

My garden’s no better organized than my wardrobe, but cultivating surprise is so pleasant I’ll call it a talent.


About the House: Who’s Buried in the Yard?

By Matt Cantor
Friday March 21, 2008

I crawled out from underneath someone’s house the other day and placed in the hands of a brow-knit homeowner, a pithy black rock. Before she could form the words for what she could not quite specify, I said “Coal … Anthracite, I think” (as though I know anything about coal). Since she continued to bear that befuddled look, I explained that I’d been under the house and that there, near the furnace, I’d found a few of these black shiny artifacts of geophysics. 

“I’m fairly certain that the hulk of a furnace in the crawlspace was once a coal burning device” I said and that it had been converted from this to natural gas at some point, perhaps 90 years ago. But that wasn’t my real concern. A few piece of coal in the crawlspace aren’t particularly dangerous although the converted furnace was long overdue for replacement.  

My concern was related but only as a first cousin removed once or twice. Earlier in the day, I had noticed a pipe running up the side of the house that seemed to stop, think a while, go back down an inch or two and just give up. Oh, I said to myself. Could there be an oil tank on the property. 

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, oil tanks were being used a fair amount in our area. Fuel oil, still commonly used in the East Coast was used to run central heating systems. Some of these systems heated water and some heated air and used ducting. While virtually none of these exist in working form today (I’ve never seen one ‘round these parts) the tanks and piping may still be lurking beneath your soil. 

As regulations regarding safe ground water have developed over the past few decades, this issue has brought with it some financial hazards. As a homeowner, you may be held accountable, should a tank of this kind be found and known to leak.  

Discovery of a tank requires that it be examined to determine if it IS leaking. If a tank is found to be leaking, it will have to be removed along with enough soil to assure that the ground water is safe.  

And water is the issue. Water is an increasingly precious resource and local harvesting of water may be on its way back as the cost of water and water delivery increases in coming decades. 

Tim Hallen of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Tank Removal helped me get some of my facts straight. While most tanks are not leaking, it’s almost impossible to tell if they have, until a tank has been removed. Further, all tanks will eventually leak, so keeping one is a bad idea.  

Once your tank is removed (this may be in the ballpark of ten grand) the soil can then be tested and removed to some extent if needed. Removal of soil is generally in the three to six thousand dollar range including backfilling with clean soil. 

Communities vary in the cleanliness required in the soil around tanks. While an Oakland house may allow as much as one hundred PPM petroleum hydrocarbon, some areas allow no detectable amount and may demand increased soils replacement. 

If you’re living on a property that was used as a residence over eighty years ago, you may want to look for some of the following items as they may indicate the presence of an oil tank: 

Small diameter tubing in the area of the furnace or in an area that previously housed a furnace. This can include a pair of quarter inch copper tubes or a single small diameter galvanized pipe. Other signs are pipes that make a U-turn after they come up out of the ground near the house exterior. This is a breather for the oil tank and is essentially, an open pipe that won’t take on rain water by being turned downward. 

I’m told, but have never seen, a pump and wiring system in the crawlspace for pumping heavy oil. This may go along with the dual tubing I mentioned above. Apparently, when great grandpa bought the oil system, an array of numbered oil grades were available (ranging from Bunker oil, whatever that was, to the more familiar diesel oil). 

Lastly, there may be signs of a tank in the form of a cover, cap or medallion in the driveway or sidewalk. These are fill caps and no different from the one on your car. Remove them (if you can) and you’ll find (or smell) an oil storage system. 

Tim tells me that most tanks aren’t leaking today (his rough guess was 95 percent) but that many tank removal companies will claim higher numbers so beware of those who want to perform further soil removal when it’s not necessary. A second opinion after removal may be your only option. 

If you have a tank, it’s most likely to be near the sidewalk for the simple reason that it was easiest to install. A typical size is about ten feet long and five-feet wide (goodness!) so it’s quite a project taking one out. A backyard tank may be smaller. 

Expect oil to remain inside. The output tubing on these tanks wasn’t at the bottom so they tend to still have some oil, even if they were run to a sputter. 

While it can be a hard call deciding when to have an expert out to check the property, the cost is really quite small. For about $75 you can have an expert check your property for a tank. My feeling is that if the property you’re on is older (including those that bore a previous home), it’s cheap assurance to have this done.  

If you’re in a neighborhood that was likely to have had a large furnace in the aught through the ‘30s (larger houses generally) it’s worth the money. 

Rachel Carson said, “In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.” 

That indifference may soon become a pressing and intimately personal matter in the coming decades.  

Discovering your own role in tainting that vital resource may, today, seem an irrelevant nuisance but tomorrow may make all the difference. 

 

Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.


The Public Eye: Campaign 2008: Act III

By Bob Burnett
Tuesday March 18, 2008

The March 11 Mississippi primaries signaled the end of the second of four acts in the competition for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Act I began on Jan. 5 with the Iowa caucuses and ended on Jan. 26 with the South Carolina primary, where the race was winnowed down to Sens. Clinton and Obama. Act II began on Feb. 5, Super Tuesday, and plodded on for five weeks. Act III begins with the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 and ends on June 3 or possibly later if Florida and Michigan have to revote. Act IV will be the convention beginning Aug. 25, where the nominee will be selected. 

For many of us, the past 11 weeks have been a rollercoaster ride. If you are an Obama fan, you were exhilarated by his victory in Iowa and his string of victories from Feb. 5 to March 4. If you are a Clinton devotee, you were thrilled when she fought back from the brink of defeat in New Hampshire and Texas. 

So far 2,687 delegates have been selected: Obama has 1,403 and Clinton 1,239. A total of 2,025 delegates are needed to win and the remaining contests feature 566. Even if the 366 delegates from Florida and Michigan are reselected—a prospect that seems increasingly likely—it is improbable that either Clinton or Obama will secure the nomination before the convention. 

Obama leads in all the important metrics: pledged delegates, total popular vote, and states won. It is likely that when the Denver Democratic convention convenes on Aug. 25, his ranking will be unchanged. 

Why then does Clinton continue to pursue the Democratic nomination? An obvious answer is that in politics, as in sports, the game isn’t over until it is over. There exists the possibility that Obama may commit some dreadful gaffe that would see his popularity plummet and send delegates scurrying to her camp. But given how coolly Obama has handled himself to this point, that prospect seems increasingly unlikely. 

Another answer is that Clinton’s supporters believe she has more experience than does Obama—particularly political sophistication gained as the wife of former President Bill Clinton—and would match up better with the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain. However, this argument has not proven effective—Obama has questioned both her experience and her judgment—and most polls suggest Obama does better against McCain than does Clinton. 

In recent days, the Clinton campaign, faced with the prospect of an insurmountable Obama lead and, therefore, a seemingly inevitable Obama victory, has marshaled a new argument: the rules aren’t fair. Senator Clinton and her surrogates have asserted the traditional metrics—raw numbers of delegates won, votes cast, and states carried—are not the proper basis for the final selection of the Democratic nominee. The Clinton campaign contends some states are more important than others and, therefore, the votes of these states should have more impact. Thus Ms. Clinton speaks of Ohio, which she won, having more importance than Virginia, which he won. 

Following this line of reasoning, the Clintonistas posit that if Hillary Clinton wins Pennsylvania, the last big primary state, then she should be awarded the Democratic nomination because she will have won the states that count. (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.) 

For many of us the posture of the Hillary Clinton campaign is an unhappy reminder of concerns we had about the Bill Clinton presidency: that, on occasion, he didn’t play by the rules. That isn’t to say that Bill or Hillary Clinton are immoral, but rather that they sometimes appear to have “situational” ethics where their decisions are made on the basis of political expediency rather than on principle. For example, it’s hard to imagine that Senator Clinton voted to authorize President Bush– someone she surely recognized as a demagogue—to go to war in Iraq on the basis of anything other than a pragmatic calculation that to do so would enhance her perception as a “tough” leader. 

Some Democratic leaders, such as Speaker of the House Pelosi, are beginning to be concerned about Clinton’s desire to win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination no matter the cost, no matter what damage is inflicted on the party. Regardless of our feelings about the candidates, all Democrats should be concerned about the Clinton campaign’s seeming unwillingness to play by the rules. 

Will Rogers famously quipped, “I am not a member of any organized Party—I am a Democrat.” The quarrel about delegates threatens to divide Democrats, to cause them to lose focus on the ultimate goal: victory in the November elections. 

No Democrat relishes the notion of five more months of the Clinton campaign grousing that they want to change the rules of the game. Unless Hillary Clinton wins the April 22 Pennsylvania primary by a decisive margin—two to one—party leaders must intervene and tell her that the competition is over and for the good of the party she must concede. 

 

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

 


Green Neighbors: The Brave Little Quince

By Ron Sullivan
Tuesday March 18, 2008
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Ron Sullivan
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Ron Sullivan
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

On the median strip under the BART tracks along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, just a few blocks past the city line and into Oakland, there lives a flowering quince I’ve always thought of as The Brave Little Toaster. Aside from the fact that it’s nothing like a toaster at all, I find the name apt.  

This is a shrub that thousands of people must pass every day without noticing at all. It’s huddled up against a big concrete support pylon; it’s only a foot, foot-and-a-half tall; it’s scrubby and clearly neglected. Its branches, like those of most flowering quinces, are tangly and spiny and confused-looking. It’s not even as conspicuous as those dirty, tired-out junipers that a city crew tore out last year, farther down the street.  

I first noticed it at a most inopportune time, while being tailgated in the left lane by some bozo in a Jeep. In the corner of my good eye, I got a flash of yellow from a very odd place, and then I was back to calculating the relative positions, velocity, and likely functional driver-IQ of the three vehicles surrounding me: you know the fear-sharpened brainwork that goes on in the background when you’re on the road. 

But the odd color stuck in my head. The next time I drove past it, I had leisure for a quick look. Amid this grumpy mass of spindly sticks I could see half a dozen perfectly ripe quinces.  

It was only what remains of my good judgment that kept me from slamming on the brakes and fetching enough for a couple of koreshes and tagines then and there. In fact, I never did get around to it. 

Nevertheless I’d marked the spot and from that moment saw the little bush every time I passed it. For years I’ve watched, a flicker at a time like snapshots, as it greened up modestly—it never did look prosperous in its leaves—and shivered in its naked twigs, as it bore a mass of gloriously off-red flowers-most of them within the barbwire protection of those twigs-and then, most improbably, those offerings of big fat quinces.  

Quinces bloom at the tag end of winter, through early spring. Look around: they’re blooming now, and there’s nothing in the landscape to mistake for their bold color, a sort of salmon-red gone all high-saturation. The flowers are tissue-thin petals around a small cheerful yellow center, and they and the coral color contrast with the knuckled, jumbled, spiky dark twigs that bear them.  

They’re traditional décor here for Chinese New Year, and they’re certainly cheerful enough, encouraging to see as the winter grudgingly yields to the year’s turn. 

It’s not a color I’d wear much of, but I like seeing it on quinces. Elizabeth Lawrence, one of my favorite garden writers, didn’t share my opinion: she wrote in her 1942 book A Southern Garden: “Ranging in color from apple blossom to rose, and from palest salmon to deep red, a profusion of delicate and lovely tints, the Japan quince, Cydonia japonica, is seldom met with except in the hideous orange-red in harmony with no other color, possible only with white.” 

In fact, I do agree that the deep coral we see most often looks best against, say, a budding white flowering pear or plum. That’s no reason not to admire such a distinctive shade. The shrub can grow to smallish-tree size, pruned up to a standard. They make great bonsai, with their angular rugged trunks. Also there are dwarf varieties that stay as short as my median-strip chum. If these bear fruit, it’s of the standard fat-apple size; some bonsai artists show it off by way of aesthetic/cognitive dissonance. In fact, if the fruit ripens and falls, they might reattach it with a tiny peg.  

Making a shrub quince look more orderly is simple. Stand at your favorite viewing angle to the quince, and mentally mark its center, as if it were the center of a fan. Keep the branches that fan out from this center, and cut the ones—always at their base, where they spring from another branch!—that contradict the flow, that move toward the center from the outside.  

If you keep the varying lengths of the remaining branches, your quince will have a harmonious balance of order with “wild” randomness. The light and airflow you encourage will keep it healthier too. 

The brave little quince under the BART tracks is currently surrounded by bare dirt. Work crews killed off the grass and ripped out a lot of sick shrubs in that median, and then stopped. I don’t know what “beautification” will happen next, but I suppose the awkward little warrior will be lost in the grand operation. Well, we’re all mortal. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Friday March 21, 2008

FRIDAY, MARCH 21 

THEATER 

Altarena Playhouse “Chicago” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through April 12. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep ”Wishful Drinking” with Carrie Fisher, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St., through March 30. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Central Works “Wakefield; or Hello Sophia” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through March 23.Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. 

Impact Theatre “Jukebox Stories: The Case of the Creamy Foam” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 22. Tickets are $10-$15. 464-4468. http://impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Tartuffe” Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., some Sun. matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond, through April 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” by George Bernard Shaw. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m., through April 27, at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

FILM 

“The Invisible Forest” A film by Antero Alli, with teh filmaker in person, at 8 p.m. at Grace North Sanctuary, 2138 Cedar St. Cost is $10. 548-2153.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

David Hajdu reads from “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books at 2201 Shattuck, next to the almost open new store. 559-9500.  

Linh Dinh with Marisa Libbon, poets, as part of The Holloway Series in Poetry, at 6:30 p.m. at 315 Wheeler Hall, The Maude Fife Room, UC Campus. 642-3467.  

Norman Woods & Band, aazz poetry, followed by open mic at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Piano Club, 2724 Haste St. 843-2224.  

Faik Ibragim olgy Chelebi, Azerbaijani classical music at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 845-1350. 

Vox Flores “Pope Marcellus Mass” at 7 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., in Kensington. Free.  

“Songs of Spirit” Candlelight Meditation Concert with Norma Gentile at 7:30 p.m. at Unity of Berkely, 2075 Eunice St. Tickets are $15. www.healingchants.com 

Becca Burrington, soprano, Kymry Esainko , piano, perform works of Debussy Faure, Copland, Rorem and more at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $10. 648-1228. giorgigallery.com 

Los Materos, Latin American fusion, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Danny Caron Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Stomp the Stumps Benefit for Bay Area Coalition for the Headwaters and Earth First with Grapefruit Ed, The Funky Nixons and The Gary Gates Band at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054.  

Pam & Jeri Show, from Blame Sally, at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Pierre Bensusan, Bob Giles at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761.  

Carla Kaufman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

The Mundaze at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Amanda Abizaid, Walty at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Dave Matthews BLUES Band at 8 p.m. at the Warehouse Bar and Grill, 402 Webster St., Oakland. 451-3161. 

Darondo & Nino Moschella, soul, r&b, funk, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Little Muddy at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Jon Bibbs, Shadia P, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 839-6169. 

Kenny Garrett Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200.  

SATURDAY, MARCH 22 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Uncle Eye and The Strange Change Machine, interactive songs, at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568.  

THEATER 

Playback Theatre “In Celebration of Women” Personal stories about women shared by audience members will be transformed by the ensemble into improvised theatre pieces, at 8 p.m. at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 595-5500, ext. 25. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Tonal Words” Photographs by Misako Akimoto. Reception at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Central Catalog Lobby, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Richard Bermack on “The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” at 2 p.m. at Alta Galleria, 2980 College Ave., Suite 4. 421-1255.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

23rd Jewish Music Festival “A Night in the Old Marketplace” Jewish, jazz, rock, and world beats with a dose of Kurt Weill and Tom Waits, composed by Frank London, at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, Roda Stage, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $24-$28. 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org  

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2723 College Ave. 843-2224. www.juniorbach.org 

Rhythm & Muse Music & spoken word open mic series featuring Tracy Koretsky, spoken word, with Eliza Shefler, piano, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts., behind Live Oak Park. Free. 644-6893.  

Tommy Dorsey Orchestra at 8 p.m. aboard the USS Hornet. Tickets are $45-$95, benefits the USS HornetMuseum. 521-8448, ext. 282. 

Moment’s Notice Improvised music, dance and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St. Cost is $8-$15, sliding scale. momentsnoticeinfo@gmail.com  

Peking Acrobats at 2 and 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988.  

Rudolf Buchbinder, piano, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Think Outside the Box: Clitoris Celebration at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$20. 849-2568.  

Bayside Jazz with Dan Hicks at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ.  

Itals, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. 

Randy Moss & Friends at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

Mucho Axé at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Nell Robinson & Red Level, Matt Dudman & Richard Brandenburg at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Five Cent Coffee, junkyard blues, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Steve Carter, jazz, at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The American Economy at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Despise You, Lack of Interest, Pretty Little Flower at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 23 

CHILDREN 

Oakland Hebrew Day School “The Music Man” at 1 p.. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets rea $5-$7 at the door.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Philosophers: G.E.M. Anscombe & Celia Green for Women’s History Month” A lecture by H. D. Moe at 3 p.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St., Oakland. 528-8713, 451-5818. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Piano Club, 2724 Haste St. 843-2224. www.juniorbach.org 

Jewish Music Festival with Benzion Miller, Hasidic cantor, at 7:30 p.m. at Netviot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Tickets are $21-$25. 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org  

Rudolf Buchbinder, piano, at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Peking Acrobats at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988.  

Judy Fjell & Nancy Schimmel “Malvina Reynolds Songs & Stories” at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at 7 and 9 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

MONDAY, MARCH 24 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Leah Garchick in Conversation with Jon Carroll on Garchick’s new book “Real Life Romance: Everyday Wisdom on Love, Sex, and Relationships” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep’s Trust Stage, 2025 Addison St. Fundraiser for Park Day School Tickets are $18-$25. www.parkdayschool.org 

Rick Dakan, Jen Angel and Josh McPhee read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Tom Odeard at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Musica ha Disconnesso at 7 p.m. 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

West Coast Songwriters Competition at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. 

Benefit for Christopher Rodriguez with John Santos, Kai Eckhardt, Roger Glenn and many others at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$25. 238-9200.  

TUESDAY, MARCH 25 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Ed Coletti and Lynne Knight read their poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Eric Alterman describes “Why We Are Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Kaspar/Sherman Jazz Quartet at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

Jewish Music Festival “Ladder of Gold” with Kaila Flexer and Gari Hegedus, at 7:30 p.m. at First Unitarian Church, 684 14th St., Oakland. 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org  

Gerard Landry & The Lariats at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054.  

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Randy Craig Trio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Sasha Dobson at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Richard Price introduces “Lush Life” a new novel, at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books at 2201 Shattuck, next to the almost open new store. 559-9500.  

Writing Teachers Write at 5 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean on harpsichord at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Five Play at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ.  

Grooveyard at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Karabali at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Mikie Lee and Amber at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Audrey Auld Mezera & Andrew Hardin at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761.  

David Sanborn at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $35-$40. 238-9200.  

THURSDAY, MARCH 27 

THEATER 

“Amor Cubano” Written and performed by Maceo Cabrera Estevez at 8 p.m. through Sat. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5-$20. 849-2568.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Sustainable Stewardship: Historic Preservation’s Essential Role in Fighting Climate Change” with Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, at 7:30 p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way. Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, will also speak. Suggested donation $20; free admission for students with ID. A reception will follow the address. Proceeds go to the preservation work at the Church. For further information, contact Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association at 841-2242.  

Jim Hightower “Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com  

Daniel P. Gregory, lecture and slideshow on “Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House”at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Jewish Music Festival “Chen Zimbalista and Friends” percussion at 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church: 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $20-$24. 848-0237.  

Jeffrey Foucault at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Rick Vandevivier Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Talking Wood, Afro roots, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Fred O’dell and the Broken Arrows at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

FRIDAY, MARCH 28 

THEATER 

Altarena Playhouse “Chicago” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through April 12. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553.  

“Amor Cubano” Written and performed by Maceo Cabrera Estevez at 8 p.m. through Sat. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5-$20. 849-2568.  

Berkeley Rep ”Wishful Drinking” with Carrie Fisher, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St., through March 30. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Masquers Playhouse “Tartuffe” Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., some Sun. matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond, through April 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” by George Bernard Shaw. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m., through April 27, at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500.  

EXHIBITIONS 

“My Sister, My Sister” A personal response to homelessness, poetry by Zelma Brown, Photography by Meredith Stout. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at the Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Screening of “Walking in My Shoes” at 8 p.m. Show runs to April 25. 601-4040, ext. 111. 

“Peace is Possible” Works by artists who are changing the world through creativity, Wavy Gravy and Carolyna Marks. Reception at 7 p.m. at 4th Street Studio, 1717d 4th St. 527-0600. 

“Pet Art” from Expressions Gallery on display at Just Pet Me Country Club, 2545 Broadway, Oakland to June 30. A portion of the proceeds from art sales with be donated to the Berkeley Humane Society. 500-5595. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Richard Silberg and Thomas Centolella, poets, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

David King Dunaway reads from the revised edition “How Can I Keep From Singing? The Ballad of Pete Seeger” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

R.Black discusses his art and new book “Futura: L’Art de R.Black” at 7:30 p.m. at Book Zoo 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 654-BOOK. 

Morton Felix and Stanford Rose, followed by open mic at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Opera “L’Elisir d’Amore” at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$44. 925-798-1300.  

Tchaikovsky Perm Ballet and Orchestra “Swan Lake” at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $34-$90. 642-9988.  

Bay Area Classical Harmonies “David Rogers: Guitar and Lute” at 7:30 p.m. at The Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 868-0695.  

Thomas Pandolfi, pianist, at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 845-1350. 

Lisa B Quintet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ.  

Sambada, Afro, Brazilian, funk, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054.  

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

House Jacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761.  

Jessica Rice, Sacred Profanities at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe. 595-5344. 

The Dave Stein Bubhub at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Slydini at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Julie Dexter, Jordana, R&B, at 8 p.m. at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 839-6169. 

David Sanborn at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $35-$40. 238-9200. 

 

 

 

 

 


Berkeley Opera Stages Donizetti’s ‘L’Elisir D’Amore’

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday March 21, 2008

The village flirt tosses aside the book of the romance of Tristan and Isolde she has been reading aloud, flippantly singing, “If only I knew that recipe” for the famous love potion, as the chorus of peasants idling in the piazza picks up the refrain—and her forlorn, would-be suitor Nemorino, who’s caught the storybook as if it was the garter flung after a wedding, finds himself in the same predicament.  

Spurned by Adina the flirt, outrivalled by the bellicose sergeant of the local garrison, with no money or position, what can he do to win her fickle heart besides wish for the impossible? Is there an elixir of love that can revitalize his suit? 

Berkeley Opera’s sprightly staging of Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’amore at the Julia Morgan Center takes off from there and tells the musical tale with both insouciant zest and quiet sensitivity, firmly on opera’s original ground, a divertissement for all the sensibilities. This “Elixir” also tests the ever-famous placebo effect, when snake-oil Doctor Dulcamara shows up and sells Nemorino a ceramic flask of Bordeaux as his surefire romantic philtre, giving the young man a big shot of hope and confidence in exchange for his last coin. It also involves dubious practices in military recruitment—so it’s a timely springtime show for Berkeley, indeed. 

The complications of the plot unfold felicitously, without the usual turgid, often boffo, vertiginous operatic reversals, due to its origin in a work by Eugene Scribe, the accredited father of the “well-wrought play,” the three-to-five act predecessor to all the great commercial vehicles of the West End and of Broadway, and of the better Hollywood movie scripts, sporting that dramatic or comic “arc” reviewers talk about. (“Send your hero up a tree, throw rocks at him, then get him back on the ground again,” as George M. Cohan memorably summarized a three-act’s plot).  

But every bit as much, felicity comes from the fine acting of the singers and the exemplary stage direction by Robert Weinapple. Never static, the scenes are filled with a vigorous counterpoint in movement and gesture that’s not just an illustration of the feeling of the music or of the words of the libretto. 

The lighting design by Cameron Mock is as fluid and accurate as the performers’ style, showing the contrast between the scenes with the whole company and the smaller groups, the duets and solos, playing over a set (by Lili Smith and Kevin Keul) of the village that’s simple yet flexible, an evocative backdrop for every mood. 

Tammy Berlin’s costuming also reflects contrast, from the rustic simplicity of the peasants to the cock-of-the-walk martial dandyism of the sergeant, and the gaudy display of the montebank that the locals take for gentility. “He must be a senator at least,” the bumpkins intone as the illustrious Professor steps forward to bark in his reddish top-hat and sash. 

Elisir is a romantic comedy, containing its own burlesque, so in some respects the palms go to the buffo villain and the comic schemer, sergeant-rival and medicine show star. Torlef Borsting is an admirably smarmy Sgt. Belcore, puffed up with himself, and Paul Cheak even better, finding so many funny and sympathetic nuances playing and singing the fly-by-night Dottore Dulcamare. 

But the moods are modulated so well that the success of the comedy never blurs the romantic emotions. Angela Cadelago as Adina and Andrew Truett as Nemorino have their own, well-played and sung comic moments, coming forward more and more in the pathetic and romantic vignettes, the braver vocals saved for the arias and duets at the climax and near the happy end.  

The five principals (including a charming Elena Krell as Gianetta, “a peasant girl” who is in some ways the leader of the village chorus) and 19 chorines, both peasants and soldiers, interact well, both vocally and theatrically, often overlapping and sometimes serving as counterpoint to each other. 

Throughout, Donato Cabrera, associate conductor with the San Francisco Opera and music director for the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, presides over the orchestra of 19 with grace and alacrity.  

 

L’ELISIR D’AMORE 

Presented by Berkeley Opera at 8 p.m. Friday March 28, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 30 at the Julia Morgan Center, 2640 College Ave. $10-$44. (925) 798-1300.


Fonts, Facades, And Frolicking Femme Fatales

Friday March 21, 2008

Helvetica—a Greek tragedy? No, a typeface. Who would think of making a documentary film about a typeface? And who would attribute political significance to a font? Well, the writers of this 80-minute film did.  

The film was originally released in September for the font’s 50th anniversary. In the aftermath of World War II and the dull 1950s, two Swiss typographers decided that big corporations needed a shot in the arm to fit their efficient, go-getter, modern hype, and what better way than a typeface that represented all of those characteristics, a typeface that every consumer would glom on to without even knowing that they were being hypnotized to consume all those major products that have used Helvetica—3M, American Airlines, American Apparel, Crate & Barrel, Energizer batteries, Greyhound Lines, Jeep, Lufthansa, Marks & Spencer, Microsoft, National Car Rental, Panasonic, and Target Corporation, and many more. 

For example, Apple’s Mac OS X uses Helvetica as its default font for numerous applications, and the interface for the iPhone and newer iPods uses Helvetica almost exclusively. New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) uses Helvetica for all of its subway signs. And versions exist for the Latin, Cyrillic, Hebrew, and Greek alphabets. There are even special characters and accents for Hindi, Urdu, Khmer, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. 

Canada’s federal government uses Helvetica as its identifying typographic voice, and encourages its use in all federal agencies and websites. Helvetica is also used in the U.S. television rating system, in federal income tax forms, and even on the Space Shuttle. 

Until the ’60s and ’70s, that is, when a new generation of post-modernist designers and other counterculture people grew to detest Helvetica as a symbol of corporate and government power, the Vietnam War, etc. They wanted something more humane and emotional, more individual, in other words, more postmodern—wild. Thus, we get irregular typefaces, even handwriting “type.” 

I found the film engaging both because it was framed in this political context, but also because it was fascinating to catch up on all this manipulation that managed to pass me by. 

By the way, Helvetica is part of the Latin name for Confoederatio Helvetica, that spawned the two co-creators of this ubiquitous advertising fascism. 

Helvetica is currently available on DVD. A Blu-Ray edition will be released May 6.  

—E.C. Jeline  

 

 

Antonio Gaudi 

Antonio Gaudi is a cinematic poem, a patient, hushed appreciation of a visionary architect. Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara glides his camera around the sensuous curves of Gaudi’s structures, wanders throughout the asymmetric interiors, traces the spiraling spires of his churches and roams across each textured surface of his elaborate facades.  

The film is interrupted on a few occasions by spoken word, by the voices of Gaudi connoisseurs and historians. These intrusions may be useful in explaining some of the principles and facts behind these unique buildings, including his unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona, but they interfere with our languorous absorption of Gaudi’s sculptural art.  

The two-disc set from Criterion includes a new transfer of the film and a wealth of bonus material, including the director’s own 16mm footage from his first encounter with Gaudi’s work as a young man on a trip to Spain with his father, as well as documentaries about the filmmaker and the architect.  

 

—Justin DeFreitas 

 

 

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume II 

Warner Bros. has released the second in its Forbidden Hollywood DVD series, an collection of Pre-Code films from the early 1930s. The first set included Baby Face, perhaps the most outrageous film of the era, while the new collection includes some of the most influential Pre-Code films and certainly its most influential actress, Norma Shearer.  

The set starts off with two Shearer vehicles. The first, The Divorceé (1930), tells the story of a woman who responds to her husband’s infidelity with a pledge to live as a man lives, and thus begins a string of extramarital dalliances that the enforcement of the Code would crack down on in just a few years. Not for decades would women on screen be able to live and love as freely. Also featured is Shearer’s follow-up, A Free Soul (1931) 

Ruth Chatterton runs an automobile factory in Female (1933), taking and casting aside lovers from her stable of employees at will and transferring them to a Canadian subsidiary if they get too attached. Eventually she meets her match, and from there things go down hill a bit in the feminism department until finally crashlanding in the end with a severe cop-out in which she transfers control of the firm to her husband while setting out on her new goal of producing as many as nine children.  

Three on a Match (1933) shows Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and Ann Dvorak as they grow from children to adults, Dvorak along the way slipping into a life of drug addiction. Humphrey Bogart plays a small role as a gangster thug. 

Last is Night Nurse (1931), a strange story in which Barbara Stanwyck and Blondell do battle with an evil chauffeur (Clark Gable) in an effort to prevent a case of child abuse. The film is a mix of brash comedy, torrid melodrama and frolicking cheesecake as numerous pretenses are found for Stanwyck and Blondell to repeatedly strip off their clothing. 

Also included is a documentary, Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood, that puts these films in historical context, sketching out the scandals that led to Hollywood’s first tepid and later strident efforts at self-censorship.  

 

—Justin DeFreitas 

 

 

 

HELVETICA 

(2007) 

80 minutes. $34.99. 

www.helveticafilm.com. 

 

ANTONIO GAUDI (1984) 

72 minutes. $39.95. 

www.criterion.com. 

 

FORBIDDEN 

HOLLYWOOD 

(1930s) 

$49.99.  

www.whvdvd-collections.com. 

 


Moving Pictures: The Shakespeare Films of Orson Welles

By Justin DeFreitas
Friday March 21, 2008
Orson Welles in the title role in his 1948 adaptation of Macbeth.
Orson Welles in the title role in his 1948 adaptation of Macbeth.

With just a few exceptions, when we talk about an Orson Welles film we talk about a tangled mess of topics all at once. We talk about the film as it exists and the film as it might have been; we talk about intentions and motivations, disagreements and compromises, edits and changes; we talk about artistic integrity versus commercial considerations, about the rights of the artist contrasted with the rights of studios, stockholders, producers and distributors.  

When left to his own devices—or, more accurately, the devices of himself and his chosen collaborators—Welles created great cinema. Yet Citizen Kane is perhaps the only one of his films to reach theaters entirely without compromise. A couple of others survived with only compromised production values as opposed to compromised content, but most of the Welles filmography is the story of films that are at best approximations, and at worst mere remnants, of the dreams that gave birth to them.  

The Orson Welles of caricature—of bloated budgets and extended, meandering production schedules—would come later. In the 1940s his films were produced in the same manner in which he had produced his stage and radio projects. Budgets were relatively small, schedules were adhered to (though always pushed to the last second); planning and rehearsals were thorough but open to last-minute changes and improvisations. And in this climate he produced two of his greatest works: Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.  

After Kane nearly brought down RKO studios in 1941 by taking on William Randolph Hearst, the most powerful media mogul of his day, Welles’ career took an unexpected turn. Though RKO and Welles survived the battle with Hearst, the studio became wary of its star director. But it was ultimately the gloom of Ambersons and the freewheeling experimentalism of Welles’ South American documentary project It’s All True that finally derailed Welles, and he spent the next few years struggling to win back the trust of his benefactors.  

His reputation—some say justly, some unjustly—became that of a troublemaker, an arrogant, budget-busting, non-commercial maverick. Having conquered Broadway at 20, radio at 21 and film at 24, he was not used to failure, or to playing the supplicant. And he must have found it galling that he, whose genius had always included the successful marriage of commercial entertainment with high art, should be branded an unbankable risk.  

The Stranger (1944) was a purely commercial product, delivered on time and under budget for International Pictures. With the exception of a few flourishes here and there, it is the least Wellesian of his films and thus the least interesting. Lady From Shanghai (1947) was begun as payback for a loan that Columbia Studios chief Harry Cohn had given Welles for one of his stage productions. Shanghai too was a commercial film, with a few twists. But it was those unwanted twists that angered Cohn, who re-edited much of it and added a cheap score. 

It was at this time that Welles, looking to find a studio that would back him as RKO had with Kane, joined Republic Studios, a low-budget producer of B movies, mostly westerns. Republic was willing to support a pet project of his: a stark, spare adaptation of Macbeth. Shakespeare was his foundation as an artist: As a teenager he had published a series of guidebooks for adapting the works of the Bard to the modern stage, and as a young man he had made his reputation with the so-called “voodoo Macbeth,” a Roosevelt-era public works project in which he staged a sensational Haitian version of the play in Harlem with an all-black cast consisting mostly of first-time actors. Shakespearian tragedy underlies much of Welles’ self-written dramas, and he would return to the plays themselves on stage, radio and screen for much of his life. 

Welles concocted a multi-faceted approach to the new Macbeth that would hold down expenses while maximizing rehearsal. He took a cast consisting largely of players from his own Mercury Theater on the road to Salt Lake City, where they would stage the play three times a day for four days as part of the Utah Centennial Festival. The festival would pick up the tab for the costumes, Republic would pay for the sets. When the theatrical run was over, the company would adjourn to the studio where, with three cameras operating at all times, shooting several scenes simultanously, with the actors miming to a pre-recorded soundtrack, they would shoot the film in just three weeks. It would be a semi-radical but inexpensive experiment in stripped-down, streamlined filmmaking. (This is in marked contrast to his next project, the nomadic, globe-trotting four-year odyssey that would become Othello.)  

Welles first adapted Macbeth to a screenplay, using his own guidebooks to fashion a dramatic restructuring of the play, emphasizing the witchcraft and heightening the horror and melodrama in the creation of a sort of high-art B picture. It is not so much an adaptation as a re-imagining, for Welles had no interest in simply filming the play; his goal was to rediscover much of the brash, barnstorming fun and frolic of Shakespeare, qualities he felt had been lost over decades of stuffy academization of the Bard. His intent was to use Macbeth as a starting point for something quite different, for something purely cinematic. He then adapted the screenplay to the stage for the Utah performances.  

Much of Welles’ vaunted innovation throughout his career stemmed from necessity, from improvisation in the face of less than perfect circumstances. His radio shows conjured whole worlds on a merciless weekly deadline; the shadowy photography of Kane was conceived primarily as a method of concealing the lack of sets; and the staging of a famous scene in Othello amid the swirling steam of a Turkish bath was another inspired bit of improvisation, compensating for the fact that Welles’ supplier failed to deliver the costumes. Macbeth was essentially built from the start on a framework of improvisation amid low-budget circumstances, its design consisting of papier-maché sets rising above a bare soundstage, its staging and photographic angles organized around the necessities of the quick three-camera shooting schedule. 

Republic released the film in Europe to good reviews, but tested it only in select cities in America. They had already required Welles to cut about 20 minutes from it, but now they cut still more and insisted that as much of the dialogue as possible be re-recorded without the Scottish accents. (Welles had sought to return the play to its roots by abandoning the hybrid English accents that had become standard for interpretations of Shakespeare with a Scottish burr.) When this highly compromised version was finally officially released in the States after a lengthy delay, critical reception was largely hostile. While some of the footage has been replaced since then, and the Scottish-accent soundtrack restored, the film, like so many other Welles films, is still not quite the film he intended.  

The film still draws mixed reviews. Joseph McBride, one of Welles’ most sympathetic biographers, bemoans the lack of subtlety of Welles in the title role, the weakness of Jeanette Nolan as Lady Macbeth, and what he considers the budget-hampered photographic style, in which the actors move more than the camera. Meanwhile, David Thomson, generally one of Welles’ more critical biographers, describes the acting as “heartfelt and liberated” and flatly states that “no film since Kane had had so profoundly organized or expressive a photographic style.” 

Welles’ films, like the man himself, retain the power to polarize his most ardent fans, even after 60 years. 

 

MACBETH (1948) 

119 minutes. 2 p.m. Sunday. 

 

OTHELLO (1948-52) 

91 minutes. 4:30 p.m. Sunday. 

 

Pacific Film Archive. 2575 Bancroft Way. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.


Working With Welles on ‘Macbeth’

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Friday March 21, 2008

"What Orson always said about his career,” Richard Connema reminisced about working on Macbeth with Orson Welles at Republic Studios in 1946, “was that when he came out with Citizen Kane, he was a big shot and everybody gave him Christmas presents. During the making of The Magnificent Ambersons, they still gave him presents. But the next year, after he got back from Brazil and with all the problems with the release of Ambersons, nobody gave him presents.” 

Connema, a lively reviewer for the national website Talkin’ Broadway and a member of the Bay Area Theater Critics Circle, is a familiar face at local opening nights (he covers over 200 shows annually). He started as “camera assistant,” as he carefully spelled it out (“or chief flunky”) at Republic, after World War II. “John Russell was chief photographer. Nobody was called cinematographer in those days. And during the halcyon days of Hollywood, nobody got credit either. Nowadays, you sit for 10 minutes after a film is over, and they list whoever drove the honeybucket wagon.” 

He detailed his advent in the Dream Factory. An Air Force cameraman in the Philippines, a service buddy who had worked for Republic before getting drafted, had made a pact with Connema to get him a studio job after discharge at Travis Air Force Base. But first he decided to go back home, to see family in Dayton, Ohio.  

“Of course, it was deadly dull,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ when I got a telegram from my friend in Hollywood. It was just like in the movies. I was even waiting for the chorus girls when I got off the train with the suitcase in my hand. I guess I should’ve burst out with ‘Hooray for Hollywood!’” 

Connema started out as an apprentice, first on a Roy Rogers Western, “making sure the horses were moving, not shitting in front of the camera.”  

When he heard Welles would be directing Macbeth, he begged his friend to get him on the 23-day shoot.  

“When I was introduced to Orson, he gave me a weak handshake,” recalled Connema. “You know, like ‘Who are you?’ His ego was bouncing around the studio. I immediately told him I thought Citizen Kane was probably the best movie ever made—not to butter him up; I felt that way. Immediately, we became friends. Not buddy-buddy, but we did have lunch together a few times during production, and that’s what we mostly talked about, Citizen Kane.” 

Connema also heard Orson’s woes over the stringent budget Republic gave him, and the cutting that studio head Herbert Yates later demanded. 

“Orson desperately wanted to do Macbeth, but no one would touch it,” he said. “None of the studios wanted anything to do with Shakespeare, who they thought wouldn’t be box office in America. But Herbert Yates wanted to make Republic a first-rate studio and thought Orson’s name would help.” 

Connema continued: “It was really from Poverty Row. [Yates] tried art films, like Specter of the Rose, that went over like a lead balloon. He did make The Quiet Man in ’52. And The Red Pony. But they only lasted a few years trying to get into the majors, then went belly up, with Yates throwing money into films and nothing coming from it. With films like Wake of the Red Witch, they at least knew what the hell they were doing. That, and 55-minute musicals were the breadwinners, the B pictures that would go to Ohio, Illinois, down south...they’d eat it up there. Five lots, and only hillbillies on them, mountain views, god only knows what. And Republic relied on United Artists for distribution; Yates was irritated because they didn’t even use Republic’s eagle on them. Later, Jack Webb took over, and they shot Dragnet there. Now it’s used for sound.” 

The low production values in the film pushed Welles.  

“He had his fingers into everything, the costume design with Fred Ritter, he and Dan O’Herlihy doing the sets,” Connema said. “We all got into that, doing it as a lark. And the Republic people just didn’t know what to do. Thank god we had a western outfit when it came for the army in the Birnam Wood battle scene. They saved going into the extras pool and paying everyone $25, $30 a day by stopping a Roy Rogers film and sending me to the Western slots to go over to a bunch of cowboys in chaps, throw Scottish outfits that were more like sacks over their heads and give each a pike. ‘Cowboys for Scottish raiders?’ Orson said, and didn’t even have them muttering in Scottish as he had intended. They told me not to keep the guys very long—they had to get back to work with Roy Rogers—so those rags went right over the chaps. And they sent me running around looking for trees for Birnam Wood. On another lot I found sagebrush! They spray-painted it or something and had every cowboy handle a branch and walk towards the camera.” 

Seeing the papier-maché sets and hearing the pre-recorded Scottish voices coming over a speaker “for a lip-sync” made it “funny to be on the set. It looked like a high school play. We used to break up. Paper crowns on the heads. Orson using those shadowy, oblique camera angles of his, no full shots so you couldn’t see the phoniness of it.”  

Connema recalled a lunch with Welles and leading lady Jeanette Nolan, “a good actress, but not a good Lady Macbeth. Orson’s first choice was Vivien Leigh, but Laurence Olivier said, ‘No way you’re going to work with Orson Welles!’ [Nolan] joined us at the table, bitching about her outfit, asking why she had to climb the stairs, mouthing her lines—at the same time stumbling—and can’t we get more light in here? And I’d just listen, wet behind the ears, wondering if this is what every movie would be like.” 

The studio didn’t release Macbeth immediately. It would be the last Hollywood directorial credit for Welles for a decade, until Touch of Evil, his last studio film.  

“They had him cut out quite a lot,” Connema said. “At the first preview, Yates had a fit and walked out. He wouldn’t release it. Orson said he’d buy it, but didn’t have the $700,000. Yates made him take out the Scottish accents, and had a hard time getting actors to remouth it. Finally Orson didn’t want to either, and they had to tempt him to come back—with 50 grand. There’s a lot of narration where scenes are cut out. It only played the big cities, and the critics jumped all over it.” 

Connema later saw Welles’ stage production of Around the World in 80 Days, and spoke with Welles another time.  

“I remember him calling Republic a shit house, how he would’ve made a masterpiece if he’d been given a budget,” he said. “And I remember, too, during production, Roddy McDowell, who played Malcolm, had his camera with him, but no way, Orson told him not to bring it on set. He didn’t want photos of him directing in those cheap outfits to show up in one of Roddy’s gallery shows.”


East Bay Then and Now: Allenoke Manor Was a Scene of Hospitality for 5 Decades

By Daniella Thompson
Friday March 21, 2008
The south elevation of Allenoke Manor faces the gardens and Ridge Road.
Daniella Thompson
The south elevation of Allenoke Manor faces the gardens and Ridge Road.

When Berkeley boosters publicized the city circa 1905, they invariably pointed to the 1700 block of Le Roy Avenue as their shining example. Situated one block to the north of the UC campus, the short stretch between Le Conte Avenue and Ridge Road boasted two of Berkeley’s most opulent and ballyhooed residences: the Volney D. Moody house, known as “Weltevreden,” and the Allen G. Freeman house, “Allenoke.” Each was designed by a fashionable architect (A.C. Schweinfurth and Ernest Coxhead, respectively) and was clad in clinker brick-a material popular with Arts and Crafts builders. 

The two estates were separated by the north fork of Strawberry Creek, which could be traversed by two clinker-brick bridges. 

Allenoke’s owner, Allen Gleason Freeman (1853-1930), was born on a farm in Flushing, Michigan, the third of seven children. As a teenager, he worked on the farm, as did his elder brothers. Eventually he migrated to Chicago and entered the firm of J.K. Armsby Co., wholesale commission merchants who would come to control the distribution of fresh and dried California fruit and Alaskan salmon. It was probably in Chicago that Freeman met his future wife, Jessie Katherine Marsh (1858-1940), who was listed in the 1880 U.S. census as a reporter living in Hyde Park, Cook County, IL. Their marriage took place on May 25, 1887. 

The Freemans appeared in San Francisco the same year. By now, Allen was general manager of J.K. Armsby Co. In 1903, the company’s office would be located at 138 Market St. and include canned fruit, dried fruit & raisin, and bean departments. The canned fruit was marketed under the Argo, Ambassador, and Red Dart labels. Later, George Newell Armsby, the founder’s son, would engineer the merger that gave birth to the California Packing Corporation (Calpak), whose most famous brand was Del Monte. 

Living in San Francisco and then in Oakland, the Freemans were active members of the Unitarian Church. In 1890, Mrs. Freeman was treasurer of the newly established Pacific Coast Woman’s Unitarian Conference. The founding of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley in 1891 gave the couple a reason to move here. 

In 1897, the congregation purchased land on the corner of Dana and Bancroft, and the following year, a shingled church designed by Schweinfurth was erected (it is now the University Dance Studio). The Freemans lived nearby, in a duplex at 2401 Telegraph Ave., which was then a highly desirable address. Duncan McDuffie would occupy the other flat in 1904, and Louis Titus lived a short block to the north. In 1902, Freeman and Titus were among the founding directors of the University Savings Bank of Berkeley. 

As the character of Telegraph Avenue was being transformed from high-end residential to apartments and retail blocks, the well-to-do began to move out. But even before the first business block went up, Allen Freeman bought a large parcel on the corner of Ridge Road and Le Roy Avenue, in Daley’s Scenic Park. Volney Moody, another Unitarian, had already built a manse on the same block in 1896, and a year earlier, the Unitarian Maybeck heralded the birth of the local Arts and Crafts movement by designing a brown-shingle house for Charles Keeler two blocks to the east. 

Schweinfurth, the architect of the Moody house and the First Unitarian Church, was already dead in 1903, when Freeman engaged the firm of Coxhead & Coxhead to design his house. Ernest Coxhead (1863-1933), like Maybeck and Schweinfurth an important early shaper of the First Bay Region Tradition, was English-born and -trained. In 1886, he and his older brother Almeric (1862-1928) established a practice in Los Angeles, moving to San Francisco four years later. 

Ten years prior to the Freeman commission, Coxhead designed the Beta Theta Pi fraternity house (now Goldman School of Public Policy) a block away. It resembled a row of houses in an old English village. For Freeman, Coxhead created a large Colonial Revival house with oversized gambrel dormers on the north and south façades. 

In many respects, Allenoke owes a debt to the Los Angeles house of business tycoon and art collector Edwin Tobias Earl, who in 1890 invented the refrigerated railroad car for shipping oranges to the East Coast. An earlier Coxhead design, the Earl house was built at 2425 Wilshire Bvld. in 1895-98 and demolished in 1957. Both houses featured steep roofs set with disproportionately large dormers (albeit in different styles); a projecting front porch fenestrated with arched openings on three sides and crowned with a neo-classical balustrade; a large, rectangular windowed bay projecting from the living room; and clinker brick exteriors. As in many other Coxhead residences, the rustic exterior belies a formal, rich interior. 

Allenoke was completed in 1904 and thrown open that fall in a series of cello and piano recitals performed by Frederick Stickney Gutterson and his wife Minnie Marie, who had recently returned from Europe. The San Francisco Call described the first recital on Nov. 8 as “one of the smartest musical affairs that has taken place on this side of the bay,” adding, “Mr. and Mrs. Freeman have just finished one of the most artistic residences in Berkeley.” The audience included “Oakland’s elite as well as society of the college town,” among them professors Soule, Rising, and Haskell; notable neighbors such as the Moodys, the Keelers, photographer Oscar Maurer, and Thomas Rickard, president of the Town Board of Trustees from 1903 to 1909; architect Clinton Day, and painter William Keith. 

The childless Freemans entertained regularly and famously. A luncheon offered in March 1908 for Professor Jacques Loeb’s mother-in-law numbered among its guests the wives of developer Frank C. Havens and UC president Benjamin Ide Wheeler. “The menu was served in Mrs. Freeman’s Chinese dining room,” informed the San Francisco Call, adding, “The details of the affair were carried out in the Chinese fashion.” 

A prominent clubwoman and patron of the arts, Katherine Freeman directed her charitable impulses toward the Berkeley Day Nursery and the Fabiola Hospital in Oakland. Her husband, meanwhile, went into business for himself, founding the Continental Salt & Chemical Company (later Alviso Salt Co.). He also became an importer and traveled regularly to Russia, Japan, Scandinavia, and Western Europe. Katherine accompanied him on some of these business trips. 

In 1919, the Freemans erected a Georgian Revival carriage house across the street, at 2533 Ridge Road. Mirroring the materials of the main house (clinker brick walls, slate roof) and reviving the oversized neo-classical elements so often used by Coxhead (dormers, porch pediment), this charming two-story structure was designed by Clarence A. Tantau (1884-1943), a Bay Area architect best known for his Spanish-style buildings. The carriage house sports two decorative chimneys, two hipped and one arched dormer gables, a fanciful glazed entrance porch on the second floor, and an enormous carriage lantern appended to the façade. 

The Allenoke estate, intact to this day, boasts a formal garden designed in 1923 and featuring a pergola, two fountains, and flower beds bordered by boxwood hedges. The imposing entrance gate is constructed of the same clinker bricks used for building the house and the surrounding wall.  

Mrs. Freeman died in January 1940, leaving an estate of close to $285,000. Wishing her house to go on being used “for the pleasure of many people,” she willed it to Robert Sibley, executive manager of the California Alumni Association. Between 1912 and 1924, Sibley and his family had lived around the corner, five of those years as tenants in the house of Mrs. Freeman’s sister. 

After making various bequests to relatives and friends (including a combined $54,000 to Sibley and his wife), Mrs. Freeman willed the residue of her estate to the University of California. However, when the State inheritance tax appraiser filed his report on Sept. 27, 1941, it transpired that bequests and taxes had reduced UC’s residue to a mere $1,181. 

A notable conservationist and hiking enthusiast, Sibley (1881-1958) led the movement that resulted in the 1933 legislation establishing the East Bay Regional Park District on EBMUD surplus watershed lands. He served as director and president of the district from 1948 until his death in 1958. In Sibley’s honor, one of his favorites parks, Round Top, was renamed Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. 

During the 1940s, the Sibleys entertained countless students and alumni at Allenoke. In 1952, they published their recollections in the book University of California Pilgrimage: A Treasury of Tradition, Lore and Laughter, where they recount that “one time we had 400 people for breakfast.” 

Robert’s second wife, Carol (1902-1986), was a well-known community figure in her own right. She served as president of the Berkeley School Board from 1961 to 1971 and presided over the successful racial integration of Berkeley’s public schools (as well as surviving a recall attempt launched against her and other board members who had voted for the program, the first voluntary desegregation of a public school district in the United States). She contributed her time and energy to many civic groups, including the charitable organization A Dream for Berkeley, and was a founder of the All Berkeley Coalition (ABC), which played a key role in Berkeley politics in the 1980s. 

Following Robert Sibley’s retirement, the couple built several rental income units on the Allenoke estate. In 1949, a two-story, four-unit, flat-roofed redwood & stucco apartment building was erected in front of the carriage house by architect-builder John F. Pruyn. The following year, two similar buildings were constructed along the north portion of the main property. In 1956, the southern part of the clinker brick wall along Le Roy Avenue was replaced by four garages with a trellised roof garden. Another three-car garage was carved out of the brick wall in 1959. The same year, following Robert Sibley’s death, Carol Sibley converted the main house—made a duplex in 1952—into six units.  

The 2533 Ridge Road carriage-house property was willed to Robert’s daughter Catherine, a protegée of Max Reinhardt and responsible for bringing his famous production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to Faculty Glade. In 1976, Mrs. Sibley built a Japanese-style pavilion, designed by Michael Severin, between the two apartment buildings north of the main house. There she lived until the end of her life. 

In the late 1980s, Allenoke was acquired by Dr. Frederick M. “Ted” Binkley (1924-2006) and his wife Marian. An eminent vascular surgeon at UCSF, Binkley had played varsity football and basketball as a student at Cal and lived at the Phi Kappa Psi house, located a block away from Allenoke, at 2625 Hearst Avenue. Under the Binkleys’ watch, Allenoke was restored to it original grandeur and single-family use. It was designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in November 1986. 

 

 

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


Garden Variety: The Accidental Gardener Confesses, or Brags

By Ron Sullivan
Friday March 21, 2008
Salsify—“oyster plant”—is a common local weed with an edible root.
Ron Sullivan
Salsify—“oyster plant”—is a common local weed with an edible root.

I do have a modest talent for growing things. The catch is that what grows isn’t always what I had in mind.  

I accidentally raised a colony of mushrooms in my former truck’s cab—Peziza domiciliana, the North American bathroom mushroom. Fungi are commonly uninvited garden (and bathroom) guests. Sometimes they portend disaster, like armillaria around an oak. Sometimes they’re a fairy ring gracing a lawn. Sometimes they’re a pure gift. When we first moved to this house, I was in raging despair over the sullen, poorly drained clay. After a day of wrestling with it (and losing) we found a morel. One morel. It was a shill; we haven’t seen a morel since, even after soggy winters, but it was a brief consolation.  

I am also learning to eat the weeds. I suspect this is a hardwired survival trait. Before I’d made my mind up about what to put in one bare spot, a sprawly octopus of purslane-verdolaga-had homestaked it. Guess what? It tastes a bit like sorrel, and it’s crunchy. I’m not stalking the wild asparagus here (though I have seen it in ditches in the Delta) but knowing I can eat some invaders makes gardening somehow less of a war. 

I’d learned about purslane just in time. I still slap myself now for passing up that nasty-looking corn my friend Ray grew in his yard years ago. It had some ominous gray swollen kernels… Yes, huitlacoche, a.k.a. cuitlacoche, a.k.a. corn smut. That name must be designed to fend off the hoi polloi. 

At the time, Ray had one of those gardens where half the weeds are purple potatoes and half are poison hemlock. You do want to know what you’re biting into.  

I am both tantalized and appalled at the furious spread of feral Chinese chives—miles of it along roadsides in Marin, and patches in isolated parks where endangered plants live. They’re tasty; maybe we can eat them all. Just don’t admit their provenance. 

Then again, I’ve seen pickleweed going for over $5 a pound: that jointed crunchy stuff that covers most of the Bay’s salt marshes. I’m keeping an eye out for a clean wild source. I have enough water for it in my yard most winters, but it’s not saltwater.  

I started young, gardening accidentally. When I was a kid, one thing we did around Halloween was shell out dry corn kernels and throw them to rattle against people’s windows at night. (It was an innocent time.) I threw some at my own front window, and that spring Dad mulched the shrubs. Suddenly we had cornstalks. They bore a few ears: we ate some, and the rest dried and shelled out nicely.  

Sometimes, though, I have to accept the plant’s idea of placement. I dropped a potted Lady Banks’ rose by the driveway and forgot it for a month. It grew through its pot and now blooms at my second-story kitchen window. Hummingbirds and bushtits nest in it. 

My garden’s no better organized than my wardrobe, but cultivating surprise is so pleasant I’ll call it a talent.


About the House: Who’s Buried in the Yard?

By Matt Cantor
Friday March 21, 2008

I crawled out from underneath someone’s house the other day and placed in the hands of a brow-knit homeowner, a pithy black rock. Before she could form the words for what she could not quite specify, I said “Coal … Anthracite, I think” (as though I know anything about coal). Since she continued to bear that befuddled look, I explained that I’d been under the house and that there, near the furnace, I’d found a few of these black shiny artifacts of geophysics. 

“I’m fairly certain that the hulk of a furnace in the crawlspace was once a coal burning device” I said and that it had been converted from this to natural gas at some point, perhaps 90 years ago. But that wasn’t my real concern. A few piece of coal in the crawlspace aren’t particularly dangerous although the converted furnace was long overdue for replacement.  

My concern was related but only as a first cousin removed once or twice. Earlier in the day, I had noticed a pipe running up the side of the house that seemed to stop, think a while, go back down an inch or two and just give up. Oh, I said to myself. Could there be an oil tank on the property. 

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, oil tanks were being used a fair amount in our area. Fuel oil, still commonly used in the East Coast was used to run central heating systems. Some of these systems heated water and some heated air and used ducting. While virtually none of these exist in working form today (I’ve never seen one ‘round these parts) the tanks and piping may still be lurking beneath your soil. 

As regulations regarding safe ground water have developed over the past few decades, this issue has brought with it some financial hazards. As a homeowner, you may be held accountable, should a tank of this kind be found and known to leak.  

Discovery of a tank requires that it be examined to determine if it IS leaking. If a tank is found to be leaking, it will have to be removed along with enough soil to assure that the ground water is safe.  

And water is the issue. Water is an increasingly precious resource and local harvesting of water may be on its way back as the cost of water and water delivery increases in coming decades. 

Tim Hallen of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Tank Removal helped me get some of my facts straight. While most tanks are not leaking, it’s almost impossible to tell if they have, until a tank has been removed. Further, all tanks will eventually leak, so keeping one is a bad idea.  

Once your tank is removed (this may be in the ballpark of ten grand) the soil can then be tested and removed to some extent if needed. Removal of soil is generally in the three to six thousand dollar range including backfilling with clean soil. 

Communities vary in the cleanliness required in the soil around tanks. While an Oakland house may allow as much as one hundred PPM petroleum hydrocarbon, some areas allow no detectable amount and may demand increased soils replacement. 

If you’re living on a property that was used as a residence over eighty years ago, you may want to look for some of the following items as they may indicate the presence of an oil tank: 

Small diameter tubing in the area of the furnace or in an area that previously housed a furnace. This can include a pair of quarter inch copper tubes or a single small diameter galvanized pipe. Other signs are pipes that make a U-turn after they come up out of the ground near the house exterior. This is a breather for the oil tank and is essentially, an open pipe that won’t take on rain water by being turned downward. 

I’m told, but have never seen, a pump and wiring system in the crawlspace for pumping heavy oil. This may go along with the dual tubing I mentioned above. Apparently, when great grandpa bought the oil system, an array of numbered oil grades were available (ranging from Bunker oil, whatever that was, to the more familiar diesel oil). 

Lastly, there may be signs of a tank in the form of a cover, cap or medallion in the driveway or sidewalk. These are fill caps and no different from the one on your car. Remove them (if you can) and you’ll find (or smell) an oil storage system. 

Tim tells me that most tanks aren’t leaking today (his rough guess was 95 percent) but that many tank removal companies will claim higher numbers so beware of those who want to perform further soil removal when it’s not necessary. A second opinion after removal may be your only option. 

If you have a tank, it’s most likely to be near the sidewalk for the simple reason that it was easiest to install. A typical size is about ten feet long and five-feet wide (goodness!) so it’s quite a project taking one out. A backyard tank may be smaller. 

Expect oil to remain inside. The output tubing on these tanks wasn’t at the bottom so they tend to still have some oil, even if they were run to a sputter. 

While it can be a hard call deciding when to have an expert out to check the property, the cost is really quite small. For about $75 you can have an expert check your property for a tank. My feeling is that if the property you’re on is older (including those that bore a previous home), it’s cheap assurance to have this done.  

If you’re in a neighborhood that was likely to have had a large furnace in the aught through the ‘30s (larger houses generally) it’s worth the money. 

Rachel Carson said, “In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.” 

That indifference may soon become a pressing and intimately personal matter in the coming decades.  

Discovering your own role in tainting that vital resource may, today, seem an irrelevant nuisance but tomorrow may make all the difference. 

 

Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.


Berkeley This Week

Friday March 21, 2008

FRIDAY, MARCH 21 

Good Friday Witness at Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab at 6:45 a.m. at Vasco & Patterson Pass Rd. , Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab. Prayer service and nonviolent civil disobedience action with Father Louie Vitale. Following the action, there will be a community gathering in Livermore, to share our concerns and work. Sponsored by Ecumenical Peace Institute & Livermore Conversion Project. 655-1162. www.epicalc.org 

Support the Iraq Moratorium! Demonstrate against the war! From 2 to 4 p.m. at Acton and University Aves. Bring your signs and determination. Sponsored by the Strawberry Creek Tenants Ass’n., Berkeley Gray Panthers and Iraq Moratorium. 841-4143. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Dr. Georgia Wright on “Using Nuclear Technology to Analyze Medieval Sculpture” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 526-2925.  

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St at University. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

SATURDAY, MARCH 22 

Rainbow Ramblers Hike in Wildcat Canyon Led by naturalist Bethany Facendini, from 10 a.m. to 3p.m. Explore nature’s diversity during this invigorating 5-miler over varied terrain especially for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Everybody is welcome! Meet at the Rifle Range Road trailhead. Bring water and lunch. Call 525-2233. 

Spring Egg Hunt for ages 1-7 and treasure hunt for ages 8-10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Willard Park, corner of Hillegass and Derby. There will also be a petting zoo, and arts and crafts. Cost is $5. 981-5140. 

GPS Scavenger Hunt Follow the directions on the GPS for clues along the trails, from 9 a.m. to noon at Pt. Pinole, Richmond. GPS units and instruction provided. Cost is $12-$14. Registration required. Class #17385. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Ferment Change! A Benefit for West Oakland’s City Slicker Farms Come join us for a fermented food feast and celebration of urban agriculture at 7 p.m. at Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave., near Dwight Way. Donation of $10-$30 requested, no one turned away due to lack of funds.. 548-2220, ext. 233. max@ecologycenter.org 

Volunteer to Help Remove Non-native Plants Help remove non-native vegetation and promote the health of our recently planted native plants like sticky gumplant, California sagebrush, and marsh coyote bush. Other activities include planting native plants, shoreline cleanup, and work in our native plant nursery. From 9 am. to noon at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland. 452-9261, ext. 119. www.savesfbay.org/bayevents 

Plant Portraits and Garden Images Learn how to take better plant and flower photographs. Class designed for beginning photographers with digital cmaeras capable of close-up imaging. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Park Botanic Garden. Cost is $50-$55. Registration required. 841-8732. www.nativeplanets.org 

Safe Routes to Schools Bike Workshop for children and parents at 9:30 a.m. at Washington School. Bring your bike and helmet. Cost is $10. Space limited, reservations required. RSVP to 740-3150, ext. 332. 

Workshop for Children: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs A hands-on workshop using natural dyes to careate Easter eggs. From 2 to 3 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. Cost is $15 for one adult and one child, $8 for each additional child. 643-2755, ext. 03. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu . 

“Womens’ Power” A video by Max Danshu at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens Community Room, 2951 Derby St. Donations welcome. www.suppressedhistories.net/womanspowerdvd.html 

Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What is Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis? A presentation followed by discussion at 2 p.m. at Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline St. Cost is $10, sliding scale. 848-1196. www.revolutionbooks.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 23 

Berkeley City Club Tour of the “Little Castle” designed by Julia Morgan at 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 883-9710. 

“Cooking for Peace” Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry will talk about the history, principles and future of Food Not Bombs’ gobal work at 7 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. 540-0751. 

Philosophers: G.E.M. Anscombe & Celia Green for Women’s History Month A lecture by H. D. Moe at 3 p.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St., Oakland. Donations welcome. 528-8713, 451-5818. 

Easter Egg Hunt for children under 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharmacy, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Youth Musical Theater Auditions for “Into the Woods” for students in grades 7-12. Appointments required. 595-5514. infor@ymtcberkeley.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace 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 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Betty Cook on “Awakening to Freedom and Good Fortune” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000 www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, MARCH 24 

Three Mile Monday A hike along Sobrante Ridge to search for the rare Alameda manzanita, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Bring poles, as portions of the hike are steep, water and lunch. For information on meeting place call 525-2233. 

Leah Garchick in Conversation with Jon Carroll on Garchick’s new book “Real Life Romance: Everyday Wisdom on Love, Sex, and Relationships” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep’s Trust Stage, 2025 Addison St. Fundraiser for Park Day School Tickets are $18-$25. www.parkdayschool.org 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Volunteers needed. 548-0425. 

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. www.watersideworkshops.org 

TUESDAY, MARCH 25 

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 the Eastshore State Park, Berkeley Meadow. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

National Nutrition Month, with cooking demonstrations, free samples and free recipes, at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market from 2 to 6 p.m. at Derby St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

El Cerrito Democratic Club Meet the Candidates Night with candidates for Assembly District 14, State Senate Districts 7 and 9, at 7:30 p.m. at El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton St., near Richmond Ave. Childcare provided, call 375-5647. www.ecsclub.org 

“Adventuring Around the World on a Budget” with Dan and Emily Schaffer-Kling, at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Docent Training for Tilden Nature Area Learn to assist the naturalists in providing interpretive programs at the Little Farm and nature area gardens, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fee is $35. Application required. For information call 544-3260. 

Seniors Against Investment Fraud A free workshop to help older adults avoid fraud, identity theft, and questionable investment offers, at 12:15 p.m. at St. Jarlath's Catholic Church, 2620 Pleasant St., corner of Fruitvale, Oakland. 452-0868.  

“Speed of Flight” A workshop for children to make parachutes, paper airplanes and kites from noon to 2 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $6-$9. 642-5132. 

Community Conversation on CEDAW/CERD: The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. 259-3871. 

Parents’ Book Discussion Group on Frances O’Roark Dowell’s “Chicken Boy” at 6 p.m. at the Family Resource Center, 435 Goodling Way, Bldg. 123, Apt. 456, University Village, Albany. Sponsored by the Albany Library. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

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

Berkeley School Volunteers Orientation from 4 to 5 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Come learn about volunteer opportunities. 644-8833. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masoni Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

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 

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. 527-2177. 

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.  

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, MARCH 26 

“Getting Rich off War: Blackwater and Halliburton” with Nancy Mencias of Global Exchange and Mary Magill, Gray Panther at the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers meeting at 1:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. 527-0659. 

Radical Movie Night: “Bandit Queen” A film biography of Phoolan Devi at 8:30 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. 540-0751. 

“Bush Family Fortunes” A documentary by Greg Palast on the connections between the Bush family and the Saudi Royal family at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

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 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

After-School Program Homework help, drama and music for children ages 8 to 18, every Wed. from 4 to 7:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $5 per week. 845-6830. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, MARCH 27 

“Sustainable Stewardship: Historic Preservation’s Essential Role in Fighting Climate Change” with Richard Moe, President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, at 7:30 p.m. at First Church of Christ, Scientist, 2619 Dwight Way. Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, will also speak. Suggested donation $20; free admission for students with ID. A reception will follow the address. Proceeds go to the preservation work at the Church. For further information, contact Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association at 841-2242. http://berkeleyheritage.com 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will hunt for amphibians from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll look for amphibians from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Under the Sea” A workshop for children to learn about how animals adapt to waves and predators, and how tide pool animals survive, from noon to 2 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. Cost is $6-$9. 642-5132. 

Immigration Forum: A discussion on issues and implications for the c/ommunity at 7 p.m. at Richmond Public Library’s Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Sponsored by the Richmond Public Library and the ACLU. 620-6561. 

Berkeley Democratic Club’s Endorsement Meeting for State Senate (9th SD) and for the 14th Assembly District at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 

East Bay Association for Women in Science “Careers in Clinical Research and Regulatory Affairs” with Gladys Ingle, Clinical Regulatory Associate at Genentech; Miki Yamamoto, Regulatory Affairs Associate at Genentec, and Peih F. Chiang Inc, Clinical Research Consultant, at 7 p.m., light supper at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis, Building 4, Room 104, 5300 Chiron Way, Emeryville. Check-in at the guard station on 53rd St. at Chiron Way prior to parking. Suggested donations of $5-$10. ebawis_secretary@yahoo.com 

Easy Does It Board of Directors’ Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 1636 University Ave. 845-5513. edi@easyland.org  

Jim Hightower “Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go with the Flow” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com  

Teen Book Club meets to discuss poetry at 4 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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

ONGOING 

Find a Loving Animal Companion at the Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society Adoption Center (open from 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday). 2700 Ninth St. 845-7735. www.berkeleyhumane.org  

E-Waste Recycling St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County accepts electronic waste including computers, dvd players, cell phones, fax machines and many other ewaste products for disposal free of charge at many of its locations throughout Alameda County. Free bulk pick-up available. 638-7600.  

Free Tax Help If your 2007 household income was less than $42,000, you are eligible for free tax preparation from United Way's Earn it! Keep It! Save It! Sites are open now through April 15 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. To find a site near you, call 800-358-8832. www.EarnItKeepItSaveIt.org 

CITY MEETINGS 

Parks and Recreation Commission meets Mon., Mar. 24, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5158.  

Zero Waste Commission Mon., Mar. 24, at 7 p.m., at 1201 Second St. 981-6368.  

City Council meets Tues., Mar. 25, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Mar. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Energy Commission meets Wed., Mar. 26, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5434.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Mar. 26, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7484. 

Police Review Commission meets Wed., Mar. 26, at 7 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-4950.  

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Mar. 27, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5213.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Mar. 27, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.


Arts Calendar

Tuesday March 18, 2008

TUESDAY, MARCH 18 

CHILDREN 

Flying Calamari Brothers A magic and comedy show for ages 3 and up at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Architecture, Print Culture, and the Public Sphere in 18th-Century France” with author Richard Wittman, at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

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

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Cheryl Wheeler, Kenny White at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Ari Chersky Trio, jazz, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave. 548-5198.  

Dmitri Matheny at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$16. 238-9200. 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19 

EXHIBITIONS 

“California Textural Landscapes” works by Patti Heimburger in mixed media through oil paint, fabric and yarn opens at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave. Hours are Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. noon to 5 p.m. 655-5952. www.christensenheller.com 

FILM 

FIlm 50: “Wild Strawberries” at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit with Ron McKean on harpsichord at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Wednesday Noon Concert, with the University Symphony Orchestra at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864.  

Oakland Youth Chorus Benefit for Chirstopher Rodriguez at 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $15-$20, children under 12 $5-$10. 287-9700.  

Cheryl Wheeler, Kenny White at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761.  

Helios, traditional Balkan music at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

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

U.C. Jazz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Speak the Music, beatboxing with Syzygy, Monkstilo, Constant Change, and others at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568.  

El Cerrito High School Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Band at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $3-$7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Avance at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Pacific Manouche at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

New York Voices at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $16-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, MARCH 20 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Here: Oakland Through the Arts” Works by Excel High School Students. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at the Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of CA Office Bldg., Atrium, 1515 CLay St., Oakland. 622-8190. 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 12:15 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Propagations” Paintings and computer animations by Tadashi Moriyama. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 444-9140. www.johanssonprojects.com 

“Jingletown Junction” Works by ten artists from the Jingletown neighborhood. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at ProArts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. www.proartsgallery.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Poetry for the People with Mohja Kahf of Muslim Women Speak Out, and Ananda Esteva and Imani Uzuri, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Join author Marti Kheel "Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective.". Thursday, March 20, 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm Literary event: University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704510-548-0585, www.universitypressbooks.com 

Fritjof Capra reads from “The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Third Thursdays in South Berkeley Multi-generational poetry conversation at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Artist Support Group Speaker Series with Dara Solomon, Asst. Curator, Contemporary Jewish Museum, at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $8-$10. 644-6893. 

Mystery Writers Panel Discussion including Rita Lakin, Peggy Lucke, Penny Warner and Simon Wood at 6 p.m. at the South Branch of the Berkeley Public Library. 981-6260. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Perú Negro, Peru’s African heritage on traditional instruments, at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $22-$42. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Portola Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Workshop and Jazz Band with special guest artists Larry de la Cruz, Marvin McFadden, Jeremy Steinkoler and Wayne Wallace at 7 pm, at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club, 7901 Cutting Blvd, El Cerrito. 417-5896.  

Eric Bibb at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Noam Lemish Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Teed Rockwell and Joel Rudinow, raga-blues, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Vibrafolk at 7:30 p.m. at Central Perk Cafe, 10086 San Pablo Ave., corner of Central, El Cerrito. www.centralperkcoffee.net 

Kenny Garrett Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, MARCH 21 

THEATER 

Altarena Playhouse “Chicago” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through April 12. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Berkeley Rep ”Wishful Drinking” with Carrie Fisher, at the Roda Theater, 2015 Addison St., through March 30. Tickets are $33-$69. 647-2949. 

Central Works “Wakefield; or Hello Sophia” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through March 23.Tickets are $14-$25. 558-1381. 

Impact Theatre “Jukebox Stories: The Case of the Creamy Foam” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 22. Tickets are $10-$15. 464-4468. http://impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Tartuffe” Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m., some Sun. matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Pt. Richmond, through April 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Mrs. Warren’s Profession” by George Bernard Shaw. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m., through April 27, at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

FILM 

“The Invisible Forest” A film by Antero Alli, with teh filmaker in person, at 8 p.m. at Grace North Sanctuary, 2138 Cedar St. Cost is $10. 548-2153.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

David Hajdu reads from “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books at 2201 Shattuck, next to the almost open new store. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  

Linh Dinh with Marisa Libbon, poets, as part of The Holloway Series in Poetry, at 6:30 p.m. at 315 Wheeler Hall, The Maude Fife Room, UC Campus. 642-3467. http://holloway.english.berkeley.edu  

Norman Woods & Band, aazz poetry, followed by open mic at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Piano Club, 2724 Haste St. 843-2224. www.juniorbach.org 

Faik Ibragim olgy Chelebi, Azerbaijani classical music at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$15. 845-1350. 

Vox Flores “Pope Marcellus Mass” at 7 p.m. at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., in Kensington. Free.  

“Songs of Spirit” Candlelight Meditation Concert with Norma Gentile at 7:30 p.m. at Unity of Berkely, 2075 Eunice St. Tickets are $15. www.healingchants.com 

Becca Burrington, soprano, Kymry Esainko , piano, perform works of Debussy Faure, Copland, Rorem and more at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery 2911 Claremont Ave. Cost is $10. 648-1228. giorgigallery.com 

Los Materos, Latin American fusion, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$14. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Peking Acrobats at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Danny Caron Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Stomp the Stumps Benefit for Bay Area Coalition for the Headwaters and Earth First with Grapefruit Ed, The Funky Nixons and The Gary Gates Band at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Pam & Jeri Show, from Blame Sally, at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Pierre Bensusan, Bob Giles at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Carla Kaufman Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

The Mundaze at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Amanda Abizaid, Walty at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Dave Matthews BLUES Band at 8 p.m. at the Warehouse Bar and Grill, 402 Webster St., Oakland. 451-3161. 

Darondo & Nino Moschella, soul, r&b, funk, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$7. 548-1159.  

Little Muddy at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Jon Bibbs, Shadia P, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s Lounge, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. 839-6169. 

Kenny Garrett Quartet at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, MARCH 22 

CHILDREN  

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Uncle Eye and The Strange Change Machine, interactive songs, at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

THEATER 

Playback Theatre “In Celebration of Women” Personal stories about women shared by audience members will be transformed by the ensemble into improvised theatre pieces, at 8 p.m. at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 595-5500, ext. 25. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Tonal Words” Photographs by Misako Akimoto. Reception at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Central Catalog Lobby, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Richard Bermack on “The Front Lines of Social Change: Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” at 2 p.m. at Alta Galleria, 2980 College Ave., Suite 4. 421-1255.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

23rd Jewish Music Festival “A Night in the Old Marketplace” Jewish, jazz, rock, and world beats with a dose of Kurt Weill and Tom Waits, composed by Frank London, at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, Roda Stage, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $24-$28. 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org  

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 3 and 7:30 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2723 College Ave. 843-2224. www.juniorbach.org 

Rhythm & Muse Music & spoken word open mic series featuring Tracy Koretsky, spoken word, with Eliza Shefler, piano, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice & Rose Sts., behind Live Oak Park. Free. 644-6893.  

Tommy Dorsey Orchestra at 8 p.m. aboard the USS Hornet. Tickets are $45-$95, benefits the USS HornetMuseum. 521-8448, ext. 282. 

Moment’s Notice Improvised music, dance and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St. Cost is $8-$15, sliding scale. momentsnoticeinfo@gmail.com  

Peking Acrobats at 2 and 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Rudolf Buchbinder, piano, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Think Outside the Box: Clitoris Celebration at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Bayside Jazz with Dan Hicks at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Itals, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Randy Moss & Friends at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Mucho Axé at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Nell Robinson & Red Level, Matt Dudman & Richard Brandenburg at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Five Cent Coffee, junkyard blues, at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Steve Carter, jazz, at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The American Economy at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Despise You, Lack of Interest, Pretty Little Flower at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 23 

CHILDREN 

Oakland Hebrew Day School “The Music Man” at 1 p.. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets rea $5-$7 at the door.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Philosophers: G.E.M. Anscombe & Celia Green for Women’s History Month” A lecture by H. D. Moe at 3 p.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St., Oakland. 528-8713, 451-5818. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Junior Bach Festival, featuring young performers, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Piano Club, 2724 Haste St. 843-2224. www.juniorbach.org 

Jewish Music Festival with Benzion Miller, Hasidic cantor, at 7:30 p.m. at Netviot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Tickets are $21-$25. 848-0237. www.jewishmusicfestival.org  

Rudolf Buchbinder, piano, at 3 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $42. 642-9988. www.calperformances.net 

Peking Acrobats at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $24-$46. 642-9988.  

Judy Fjell & Nancy Schimmel “Malvina Reynolds Songs & Stories” at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at 7 and 9 p.m., through Sat. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

MONDAY, MARCH 24 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Leah Garchick in Conversation with John Carroll on Garchick’s new book “Real Life Romance: Everyday Wisdom on Love, Sex, and Relationships” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep’s Trust Stage, 2025 Addison St. Fundraiser for Park Day School Tickets are $18-$25. www.parkdayschool.org 

Rick Dakan, Jen Angel and Josh McPhee read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Tom Odeard at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Musica ha Disconnesso at 7 p.m. 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

West Coast Songwriters Competition at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761  

Benefit for Christopher Rodriguez with John Santos, Kai Eckhardt, Roger Glenn and many others at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$25. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

 

 

 

 

 


‘Jazz Explosion VII’ Spotlights Young Musicians

By Zelda Bronstein, Special to the Planet
Tuesday March 18, 2008
Portola Middle School Music Director Tiffany Carrico (right) leads the school jazz band at the El Cerrito BART Station in preparation for its upcoming concert. Left to right: Aidan Brorsen, trumpet; Caroline Umali, tenor sax; Roschelle Hood, baritone sax; Dan Marsh, tenor sax; Freeman Schlesinger, percussion.
Zelda Bronstein
Portola Middle School Music Director Tiffany Carrico (right) leads the school jazz band at the El Cerrito BART Station in preparation for its upcoming concert. Left to right: Aidan Brorsen, trumpet; Caroline Umali, tenor sax; Roschelle Hood, baritone sax; Dan Marsh, tenor sax; Freeman Schlesinger, percussion.

Coming down the escalator at El Cerrito BART last Wednesday afternoon, I heard jazz. It sounded live, but musicians were nowhere in sight. Had BART started piping music into its stations along with its public safety and elevator messages? Out in front of the station, the surprising source of the music appeared: Five young people—three saxophonists, a trumpeter and a drummer—were swinging away. 

A man standing in front of the group—the tenor sax player’s dad, as it turned out—handed me a leaflet and told me that they were there to advertise the Portola Middle School Department of Music’s Jazz Explosion VII concert and fundraiser, to be held March 20 at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club in El Cerrito. Portola’s three jazz groups will perform; KCSM Music Director Chuy Varela will be the Master of Ceremonies; and the young artists will be joined by professional musicians Larry de la Cruz, Marvin McFadden, Jeremy Steinkoler and Wayne Wallace. 

Portola Middle School is part of the West Contra Costa Unified School District. The school district pays the salary of the Portola music teacher, Tiffany Carrico, who also teaches the school’s three concert bands. One hundred ten of Portola’s 620 students choose to participate in the school’s elective music classes. Portola’s jazz activities are funded by the City of El Cerrito’s After-school Program. Each jazz band rehearses three times a week, with practices both scheduled at 7:15 a.m. and after school.  

“It’s a huge commitment for the kids,” says Carrico. 

It’s also a commitment for their parents. Jazz Explosion VII is a project of the Portola Middle School Music Parents’ Association, an all-volunteer group of about 80 families.  

“Parents are crucial,” Carrico told me. “My parent group is great.”  

This year, says Association Co-Chair Diane Egelston, the group has a budget of $25,000. Proceeds from Thursday’s concert and from the association’s other events fund everything from sheet music to reeds to field trips. Every year the two Portola’s Jazz Workshop and the Jazz Ensemble go to the Reno Jazz Festival, where thousands of young musicians attend workshops and compete for honors. Members of the Jazz Band sometimes go along as “roadies.”  

“We charter a bus,” says Egelston, “and pay the $1,200 entrance fees.” The Music Parents’ Association also pays for students to attend Cazadero Performing Arts Camp. Egelston says that they “send all of our kids who want to go.” 

Egleston’s 13-year-old son, Aidan Brorsen, is an eighth-grader who plays first trumpet in Portola’s Jazz Ensemble, first trombone in the Jazz Workshop and first trumpet in the advanced Symphonic Band. Music, says his mother, “gets to a different part of the brain. It allows [Aidan] to explore mathematics without thinking about it.”  

It also provides kids with “a common purpose” that offers opportunities for both teamwork and personal creativity, she says. One person “takes the lead and then fades back into the background ... We have some very shy performers, but when they get beind their instruments, they shine.” 

The coordinator of Thursday’s Jazz Explosion event, Jose Umali, is another Portola parent who waxes enthusiastic about the middle school’s music program. Teacher Carrico, he says, “relates really well to the kids.” Indeed, the “kid” playing trumpet at the BART station was Carrico herself, who, at 41, looks far younger than her years.  

Umali’s daughter, eighth-grader Caroline Umali, plays first tenor sax in the Jazz Ensemble and clarinet in the Portola advanced Symphonic Band. Like Egelston, Umali thinks studying music aids other kinds of learning. Pedagogical benefits aside, “if you join a band,” he observes, you have “an automatic group of friends.” And music is “something you can do for the rest of your life.” 

It was Umali who came up with the idea of Portola jazz musicians playing at the BART station. “We want to show off,” he says. “We want El Cerrito residents to know that we have a really good public school jazz program.” 

For the same reason, the Jazz Explosion show is being held at the Mira Vista Golf and Country Club. “It’s a private club,” says Umali, “but it’s local.” Community recognition matters because West Contra Costa Unified School District “doesn’t have a huge tax base.”  

At Portola Middle School, “there are very few instruments that can be loaned” out to students. “A good used student saxophone,” Umali notes, can cost $1,000 to $1,500.” He would like to raise enough money to make the music programs at Portola accessible to all families and then to make it possible for the kids in those programs “to flourish.” 

At a time when the arts have been deemed a frill by many misguided policymakers, and when public education in general is under the budgetary axe, any public middle school music program that can field one jazz group, let alone three, deserves congratulations and all the support it can get. “The quality of musicianship [at Portola],” says Egelston, “is unreal.”  

See and hear for yourself this Thursday evening. 

 

JAZZ EXPLOSION VII 

7 p.m. Thursday at Mira Vista Golf and Country Club, 7901 Cutting Blvd., El Cerrito. $20 adults, $10 students (6-18), children 5 and under free. More information: 417-5896, karenepfeifer@yahoo.com.


Remembering Malvina Reynolds

By Michael Rossman, Special to the Planet
Tuesday March 18, 2008

Since she died in 1978, if people now know of Malvina Reynolds at all it’s mostly as the writer of “Little Boxes” and “What Have They Done to the Rain,” among many memorable progressive and children’s songs. Even here, during her lifetime, she was known mainly from afar as The Singing Grandmother of Berkeley, a screechy fountain of song for noble, poorly funded causes. Few looked beneath this action-costume of a quirky, homegrown Superhero to recognize the astute sociologist and cornucopia of life-affirming spirit at work within.  

On March 23, Freight & Salvage will host an evening celebrating Malvina’s music and life, with singers Judy Fjell and Nancy Schimmel, her daughter 

This brief memoir came from interviewing her shortly before her death. “‘Old age’ is a set of cultural conventions,” she observed, “you can choose differently.” I knew that already, of course, but there was still a touch of magic in having her tell me so. Half my life later, well along in choosing differently among so many of us choosing differently now, she remains even more visible as a life-blessing pioneer. 

 

“Don’t push me, don’t shove me!” scolds my 2-year-old, quoting that record of kids’ songs he plays all the time. He doesn’t care that Malvina’s voice is as hoarse and stringy as an old crow. He knows that everyone has their own way of singing—she probably told him this too—and he loves her songs. And I’m glad Malvina’s legacy is still around telling our children too to stick up for themselves, as she told us in so many ways for decades, sticking up for herself, for us.  

Malvina was reborn as a maker and singer of songs during her late forties and the 20th century. As the witchhunts gathered that left the Left and so many of its people broken in retreat, and at an age when most people were preparing to sign off as social discards, Malvina began to sing. After long years of motherhood and making do at this and that, she came to flower in her own strength and power, offering us lessons about ageism and feminism long before we thought to look together for them.  

After taking her Ph.D. in English, Malvina had written fitfully for years. Finally she realized how unnatural the academicized world had become, torn from its sound, and transformed herself into songmaker/singer to implement her conclusion. What flowed from her thereafter took no education to understand or seemingly to write; one had to listen thoughtfully to catch the intellectual still at work beneath the deceptively simple words and rhymes, and to grasp her triumph in this concealment. 

Old age is a complex of cultural customs that Malvina didn’t care to adopt. Though she came to carry herself justly as an elder of the tribe, a rare link with the past for a reborn New Left without a sense of history, she did so largely by becoming as a child herself. I don’t mean she became a creampuff—she was an egotistical fighter shrewd enough to develop a decent business from unlikely materials, tough enough to take a hundred concerts a year on the road at 70. Yet in them she remained as when she learned to sing in public, her shy youth hidden inside the withering body as her songs’ spirit hid inside the husk of her voice. 

She became as a child in a time when society and lives were coming dreadfully apart in new ways piled upon the old, in a class uprooted from the blood-lore of culture; and saw and wrote of our complex condition as a child might even in her adult songs, which are marked by their spontaneity and childlike perception, and by a richly juvenile wit.  

This put Malvina in natural tune with a new wave of social activism, in a way that few political people of her generation were able to manage. Her connection with my generation’s activism, her sense of its legitimacy, were less ideological than metabolic. She let herself be moved by the diverse and widening variety of our concerns as they emerged, took them as her own—from civil rights to whales, from hot rain to sugar metabolism—and left in her hundreds of songs not only a topical guide to three decades’ changes of perception, but a testament of deeper continuity. For indeed the values grounding our explorations were implicit in the broad humanism of the Old Left, too easily forgotten in remembering its didactic Stalinism. 

Some of what she left will be sung and re-sung for a long time to come, by our children and theirs in turn—songs slipped like pebbles into the common stream, become polished, durable, anonymous, all trace of where they came from gone. Only a few academics and cherishers of history will be able to connect “What Have They Done to the Rain?” back to its maker’s inspiration by the small group of singing Lefties who revived the folk-song movement after World War Two. No one will remember Malvina herself as the Singing Witch of Berkeley, cynical and faithful, dispensing blessings and judgments, the myths of blood and purpose, in small stitches mending the torn fabric of culture itself. 

 

(This is the original of whatever survived cutting to be published as “Just an Old-Fashioned Left Song” in the California Monthly 87:2, Dec. 1976, noted in the author’s bibliography as “Biographical memoir on political singer-composer Malvina Reynolds.”) 

 

MALVINA REYNOLDS’  

SONGS AND STORIES 

Performed by Judy Fjell and Nancy Schimmel at 8 p.m. Sunday, March 23 at Freight and Salvage. $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Tickets are available through info@freightandsalvage.org, www.sisterschoice.com, www.judyfjell.com.


Green Neighbors: The Brave Little Quince

By Ron Sullivan
Tuesday March 18, 2008
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Ron Sullivan
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.
Ron Sullivan
Fruit, flowers, and lots of thorns on the Brave Little Quince under the BART tracks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way.

On the median strip under the BART tracks along Martin Luther King Jr. Way, just a few blocks past the city line and into Oakland, there lives a flowering quince I’ve always thought of as The Brave Little Toaster. Aside from the fact that it’s nothing like a toaster at all, I find the name apt.  

This is a shrub that thousands of people must pass every day without noticing at all. It’s huddled up against a big concrete support pylon; it’s only a foot, foot-and-a-half tall; it’s scrubby and clearly neglected. Its branches, like those of most flowering quinces, are tangly and spiny and confused-looking. It’s not even as conspicuous as those dirty, tired-out junipers that a city crew tore out last year, farther down the street.  

I first noticed it at a most inopportune time, while being tailgated in the left lane by some bozo in a Jeep. In the corner of my good eye, I got a flash of yellow from a very odd place, and then I was back to calculating the relative positions, velocity, and likely functional driver-IQ of the three vehicles surrounding me: you know the fear-sharpened brainwork that goes on in the background when you’re on the road. 

But the odd color stuck in my head. The next time I drove past it, I had leisure for a quick look. Amid this grumpy mass of spindly sticks I could see half a dozen perfectly ripe quinces.  

It was only what remains of my good judgment that kept me from slamming on the brakes and fetching enough for a couple of koreshes and tagines then and there. In fact, I never did get around to it. 

Nevertheless I’d marked the spot and from that moment saw the little bush every time I passed it. For years I’ve watched, a flicker at a time like snapshots, as it greened up modestly—it never did look prosperous in its leaves—and shivered in its naked twigs, as it bore a mass of gloriously off-red flowers-most of them within the barbwire protection of those twigs-and then, most improbably, those offerings of big fat quinces.  

Quinces bloom at the tag end of winter, through early spring. Look around: they’re blooming now, and there’s nothing in the landscape to mistake for their bold color, a sort of salmon-red gone all high-saturation. The flowers are tissue-thin petals around a small cheerful yellow center, and they and the coral color contrast with the knuckled, jumbled, spiky dark twigs that bear them.  

They’re traditional décor here for Chinese New Year, and they’re certainly cheerful enough, encouraging to see as the winter grudgingly yields to the year’s turn. 

It’s not a color I’d wear much of, but I like seeing it on quinces. Elizabeth Lawrence, one of my favorite garden writers, didn’t share my opinion: she wrote in her 1942 book A Southern Garden: “Ranging in color from apple blossom to rose, and from palest salmon to deep red, a profusion of delicate and lovely tints, the Japan quince, Cydonia japonica, is seldom met with except in the hideous orange-red in harmony with no other color, possible only with white.” 

In fact, I do agree that the deep coral we see most often looks best against, say, a budding white flowering pear or plum. That’s no reason not to admire such a distinctive shade. The shrub can grow to smallish-tree size, pruned up to a standard. They make great bonsai, with their angular rugged trunks. Also there are dwarf varieties that stay as short as my median-strip chum. If these bear fruit, it’s of the standard fat-apple size; some bonsai artists show it off by way of aesthetic/cognitive dissonance. In fact, if the fruit ripens and falls, they might reattach it with a tiny peg.  

Making a shrub quince look more orderly is simple. Stand at your favorite viewing angle to the quince, and mentally mark its center, as if it were the center of a fan. Keep the branches that fan out from this center, and cut the ones—always at their base, where they spring from another branch!—that contradict the flow, that move toward the center from the outside.  

If you keep the varying lengths of the remaining branches, your quince will have a harmonious balance of order with “wild” randomness. The light and airflow you encourage will keep it healthier too. 

The brave little quince under the BART tracks is currently surrounded by bare dirt. Work crews killed off the grass and ripped out a lot of sick shrubs in that median, and then stopped. I don’t know what “beautification” will happen next, but I suppose the awkward little warrior will be lost in the grand operation. Well, we’re all mortal. 


Berkeley This Week

Tuesday March 18, 2008

TUESDAY, MARCH 18 

Fifth Anniversary Living Graveyard at noon at the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay Street, two blocks from 12th Street BART. www.epicalc.org 

“Does Your Vote Count in California?” A community forum that examines how our electoral system represents the many voices of California with Barry Fadem, President of National Popular Vote, Kathay Feng, Executive Director of California Common Cause and Steven Hill, Director of the Political Reform Program of the New America Foundation, moderated by Richard Gonzales, National Public Radio, at 7 p.. at Oakland Museum of California, James Moore Theatre, 1000 Oak St. Reservations recommended, email chris_holbrook@itvs.org  

“The Book of Revelation” with Elaine Pagels, Prof. of Religion, Princeton Univ. at 7:30 p.m. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC Campus. Sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities. 643-9670. 

National Nutrition Month with cooking demonstrations at 2:30 and 3:30 p.m., free samples and free recipes, at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market from 2 to 6 p.m. at Derby St. and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 548-3333.  

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 the Tilden Nature Area. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

The Berkeley Garden Club “Grafting Scions and How to Prune Your Fruit Trees” with Idell Weydemeyer of the California Rare Fruit Growers, at 1:45 p.m., at Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St. 845-4482. www.berkeleygardenclub.org  

“Hiking Denali National Park” with Chris Poissnat, former Denali National Park interpretive ranger, at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Docent Training for Tilden Nature Area Learn to assist the naturalists in providing interpretive programs at the Little Farm and nature area gardens, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fee is $35. Application required. For information call 544-3260. 

Fying Calamari Brothers A magic and comedy show for ages 3 and up at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

"Ahimsa and Knowledge” with Nik Warren at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, Institute for World Religions, 2304 McKinley Ave.  

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

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.  

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. 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. 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 always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masoni Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19 

Center Street Plaza Design Exposition Presentation by Walter Hood at 4:30 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Sponsored by Ecocity Builders. RSVP to 419-0850. 

The Oakland Bird Club “Breeding Bird Atlas of Santa Clara County” with Bill Bousman at 7:30 p.m. at Oakland Public Library, Rockridge Branch, 5366 College Ave., 444-0355. 

Five Years of Illegitimate War! End It! All-day rally at the Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square.  

Rally and March on the Fifth Anniversary of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq at 6:30 p.m. at Alameda City Hall, Oak and Santa Clara Sts. Sponsored by the Alameda Peace Network. www.alamedapeacenetwork.org 

Peace Vigil to Mark the Fifth Anniversary of the War in Iraq at 6 p.m. at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., at Taylor, San Francisco. 

Berkeley Simplicity Forum “Reexamining Our Relationship with Money” at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave.  

“Horns and Halos” A documentary on tangled lives of Dubbya and two others at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

10th Annual Alameda Community Job Fair Learn about current job openings, network with key contacts, and learn about upcoming opportunities, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at College of Alameda student lounge and cafeteria, F Building, 555 Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway, Alameda. 748-5215. 

“Problems in Life and the Buddhist Way of Dealing with Them” Lecture and discusstion with Bhante Sellawimala, a Theravada Buddhist monk at 7 p.m. at Jodo Shinshu Center, 2140 Durant Ave. Free. 809-1460. 

Cycling Lecture with Brett Horton, bicycle memorabilia collector, at 7 p.m. at Velo Sport Bicycles, 1615 University Ave., enter at 1989 California St. RSVP to 849-0437. 

Radical Movie Night: “Duck You Sucker” An exiled IRA demolition expert falls in love with a Mexican bandit, at 8:30 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. 540-0751. 

Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will hunt for amphibians from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

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 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

After-School Program Homework help, drama and music for children ages 8 to 18, every Wed. from 4 to 7:15 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Cost is $5 per week. 845-6830. 

THURSDAY, MARCH 20 

Forum on The West Berkeley Plan and Sustainability: Economy, Environment, & Equity with Karen Chapple, UC Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning on The Industrial Land Debate: Arguments, Assumptions, and Alternatives; Raquel Pinderhughes, PhD SFSU Professor of Urban Studies, author of The City of Berkeley’s Green Collar Jobs Report; Abby Thorne-Lyman, Senior Associate of Strategic Economics on The Case for Industrial Land: The Future for the Bay Area’s Industrial Lands; and Kate O’Hara, East Bay Alliance For A Sustainable Economy on Preserving Industrial Lands, Growing Good Jobs at 6:30 p.m. at West Berkeley Senior Center, 1900 Sixth St., corner of 6th St. & Hearst Ave. Presented by WEBAIC - West Berkeley Artisans & Industrial Companies. 549-3213. webaic.org  

Equinox Bell-Ringing at noon at Berkeley City Hall, 2180 Milvia St. Celebrate the first day of Spring with the annual ringing of Berkeley’s massive Peace Bell, made from the metal of melted guns. 981-6900. 

Spring Equinox Gathering at 6:30 p.m. at Interim Memorial Solar Calendar, Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. A mini-workshop on the seasons will be led by David Glaser. Dress warmly. www.solarcalendar.org 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll look for amphibians from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Against Cognitive Imperialism” A lecture by Hal Roth, Ph.D., Professor, Religious Studies and East Asian Studies, Brown Univ., at 7:30 p.m. at Chapel of the Great Commission, Pacific School of Religion, 1798 Scenic Ave. 848-9788. 

Persian New Year: Norouz with egg painting, storytelling and dancing from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Habitot Children’s Museum, 2065 Kittredge St. 647-1111.www.habitot.org 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 p.m. at LeConte School, Russell St. entrance. karlreeh@aol.com.  

Preconception Healthcare at 7 p.m. at Elephant Pharmacy, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Teen Book Club meets to discuss urban fantasy at 4 p.m. at Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue. 981-6121. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

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

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club meets at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost.info  

FRIDAY, MARCH 21 

Good Friday Witness at Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab at 6:45 a.m. at Vasco & Patterson Pass Rd. , Livermore Nuclear Weapons Lab. Prayer service and nonviolent civil disobedience action with Father Louie Vitale. Following the action, there will be a community gathering in Livermore, to share our concerns and work. Sponsored by Ecumenical Peace Institute & Livermore Conversion Project. 655-1162. www.epicalc.org 

Support the Iraq Moratorium! Demonstrate against the war! From 2 to 4 p.m. at Acton and University Aves. Bring your signs and determination. Sponsored by the Strawberry Creek Tenants Ass’n., Berkeley Gray Panthers and Iraq Moratorium. 841-4143. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Dr. Georgia Wright on “Using Nuclear Technology to Analyze Medieval Sculpture” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 526-2925.  

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

Circle Dancing, simple folk dancing with instruction at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Brotherhood Hall, 1970 Chestnut St at University. Donation of $5 requested. 528-4253. www.circledancing.com 

SATURDAY, MARCH 22 

Rainbow Ramblers Hike in Wildcat Canyon Led by naturalist Bethany Facendini, from 10 a.m. to 3p.m. Explore nature’s diversity during this invigorating 5-miler over varied terrain especially for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer community. Everybody is welcome! Meet at the Rifle Range Road trailhead. Bring water and lunch. Call 525-2233. 

Spring Egg Hunt for ages 1-7 and treasure hunt for ages 8-10, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Willard Park, corner of Hillegass and Derby. There will also be a petting zoo, and arts and crafts. Cost is $5. 981-5140. 

GPS Scavenger Hunt Follow the directions on the GPS for clues along the trails, from 9 a.m. to noon at Pt. Pinole, Richmond. GPS units and instruction provided. Cost is $12-$14. Registration required. Class #17385. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Plant Portraits and Garden Images Learn how to take better plant and flower photographs. Class designed for beginning photographers with digital cmaeras capable of close-up imaging. From 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Tilden Park Botanic Garden. Cost is $50-$55. Registration required. 841-8732. www.nativeplanets.org 

Ferment Change! A Benefit for West Oakland’s City Slicker Farms Come join us for a fermented food feast and celebration of urban agriculture at 7 p.m. at Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave., near Dwight Way. Donation of $10-$30 requested, no one turned away due to lack of funds.. 548-2220, ext. 233. max@ecologycenter.org 

Volunteer to Help Remove Non-native Plants Help remove non-native vegetation and promote the health of our recently planted native plants like sticky gumplant, California sagebrush, and marsh coyote bush. Other activities include planting native plants, shoreline cleanup, and work in our native plant nursery. From 9 am. to noon at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland. 452-9261, ext. 119. www.savesfbay.org/bayevents 

Safe Routes to Schools Bike Workshop for children and parents at 9:30 a.m. at Washington School. Bring your bike and helmet. Cost is $10. Space limited, reservations required. RSVP to 740-3150, ext. 332. 

Workshop for Children: Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs A hands-on workshop using natural dyes to careate Easter eggs. From 2 to 3 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. Cost is $15 for one adult and one child, $8 for each additional child. 643-2755, ext. 03. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu . 

“Womens’ Power” A video by Max Danshu at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens Community Room, 2951 Derby St. Donations welcome. www.suppressedhistories.net/womanspowerdvd.html 

Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What is Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis? A presentation followed by discussion at 2 p.m. at Black Repertory Theater, 3201 Adeline St. Cost is $10, sliding scale. 848-1196. www.revolutionbooks.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 23 

Berkeley City Club Tour of the “Little Castle” designed by Julia Morgan at 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 883-9710. 

“Cooking for Peace” Food Not Bombs co-founder Keith McHenry will talk about the history, principles and future of Food Not Bombs’ gobal work at 7 p.m. at the Long Haul, 3124 Shattuck Ave. 540-0751. 

Philosophers: G.E.M. Anscombe & Celia Green for Women’s History Month A lecture by H. D. Moe at 3 p.m. at Humanist Hall 390 27th St., Oakland. Donations welcome. 528-8713, 451-5818. 

Easter Egg Hunt for children under 10 at 1:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharmacy, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Youth Musical Theater Auditions for “Into the Woods” for students in grades 7-12. Appointments required. 595-5514. infor@ymtcberkeley.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace 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 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Betty Cook on “Awakening to Freedom and Good Fortune” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000 www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

MONDAY, MARCH 24 

Three Mile Monday A hike along Sobrante Ridge to search fo rhte rare Alameda manzanita, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Bring poles, as portions of the hike are steep, water and lunch. For information on meeting place call 525-2233. 

Leah Garchick in Conversation with John Carroll on Garchick’s new book “Real Life Romance: Everyday Wisdom on Love, Sex, and Relationships” at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Rep’s Trust Stage, 2025 Addison St. Fundraiser for Park Day School Tickets are $18-$25. www.parkdayschool.org 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Volunteers needed. 548-0425. 

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. www.watersideworkshops.org 

CITY MEETINGS 

Citizens Humane Commission meets Wed., March 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6601.  

Commission on Aging meets Wed., March 19, at 1:30 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5344.  

Commission on Labor meets Wed., March 19, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7550.  

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission meets Wed., March 19, at 7 p.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, 997 Cedar St. 981-5502.  

Human Welfare and Community Action Commission meets Wed., March 19, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5427.  

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., March 20, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400.  

Pedestrian Plan Workshop at the Transportation Commission meeting, Thurs., March 20 at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7060.