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Rita McIntyre (left), mother of Maceo Smith, talks to a police detective right after her son was shot to death near the Douglas Parking Lot in broad daylight Tuesday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Rita McIntyre (left), mother of Maceo Smith, talks to a police detective right after her son was shot to death near the Douglas Parking Lot in broad daylight Tuesday.
 

News

Death of UC Berkeley Student from Fall Likely Accidential, Police Say

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 20, 2008 - 07:21:00 PM

Autopsy results from the Alameda County Coroner’s Office show that UC Berkeley anthropology student Alan Kaname Hamai, who fell from the third story roof of his apartment building a day after he graduated, died as a result of unforced trauma from a fall, authorities said today (Tuesday.) 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Andrew Frankel said the results did not indicate any foul play. 

“Which means it was either a tragic accident or suicide, but there’s nothing to indicate it was a suicide,” Frankel said. 

Police are still waiting for the toxicology texts to determine whether alcohol was involved. Frankel said it might be two months to 18 weeks before the tests were released. 

Hamai, 22, was found at 6:22 a.m. Saturday outside his apartment building by a passer-by. Police said he had been with his friends until 2 a.m. after which nobody had been in contact with him. 

“It’s not uncommon for the residents to hang out on the roof of the building,” Frankel said. “It appears to be a very tragic accident.” 

A statement released by university officials Sunday said Berkeley police were taking the help of the UC Police Department to investigate the incident. 

The statement confirms that Hamai was a graduating senior majoring in anthropology whose parents attended his graduation ceremony at the campus Friday, and were on their way back home to Southern California when they heard about their son’s death. 

University officials expressed their condolences at the loss to Hamai’s family and friends in a statement. 

Hamai, who was from Redondo Beach, is the second UC Berkeley student who was killed this month. UC Berkeley engineering senior Chris Wootton was stabbed to death outside his fraternity on May 3. 

Berkeley police arrested Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield for killing Wootton within 12 hours of the incident. The District Attorney’s office has charged Hoeft-Edenfield with murder. 

On May 6, 33-year-old Maceo Smith was shot in broad daylight at the Douglas parking lot on Durant Ave. Police arrested 19-year-old Nathaniel Freeman in connection with the murder.  

Although neither Smith nor Freeman was affiliated with UC Berkeley, the incident occurred a block from its campus in full view of some students, a few of whom had celebrated their senior year graduation ceremony earlier that day. 

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau expressed grief at the recent events affecting the campus community. 

“In all my years in higher education, this has been among the saddest and most tragic times for a university community that I have known," he said in a statement. “Alan Hamai’s death and the terrible loss of others in the Cal family this year has been deeply felt by a great many of us. As we mourn for our latest loss, I urge each of you to look after yourself and to reach out to support and care for your friends, classmates, and coworkers.” 

Counselors from University Health Services met with Hamai’s apartment mates to provide assistance. 

“There are no words that can adequately express the sorrow all of us feel about the death of Alan Hamai, one of our own,”  

Anthropology Department Chair Rosemary Joyce said in a statement. “This loss, which would be tragic no matter what the timing, is doubly difficult when he was facing the beginning of the next phase of his life.” 

Hamai’s friends expressed shock at the incident. UC Berkeley junior Nick Ashbury described Alan as “an extremely intelligent guy, a great friend and a loving soul.” 

UC Berkeley Molecular and Cell Biology student Timothy Liu said he knew Hamai since junior high of La Canada High School and the two had become good friends over the last four years at the university. 

“He is a special friend, one that I really can’t expect to make again, considering how long we have known each other,” Liu said. “The kind of friend who will go that extra mile to help you out. The kind of friend that I would have been comfortable asking to be the best man at my wedding in the future. The kind of person who is really insightful and intelligent, but whom you could totally kick back and have a pint of beer with. His loss has affected everyone that knew him in ways that I cannot even begin to explain.” 

Liu said he had talked to Hamai Friday and made plans to meet him later that weekend. 

“Then I got an email from a friend explaining what had happened,” he said. “I am completely in the dark about what might have happened, whether it was a murder or suicide or just an accident. I heard somewhere alcohol might be involved, but I am not sure.” 

Liu said he will be attending Hamai’s memorial in Los Angeles Saturday. 

In his note “In Memory of Alan Hamai” sent to his friends, Liu reminisced about the way Hamai challenged him to think about medical anthropology and medical ethics. 

“As I graduate from UC Berkeley Thursday (today) and pursue my career in the medical profession, I promise you that when I am a doctor, I will not only treat people’s diseases, but will also attentively address their illness experiences as well,” his note said. “By implementing the concepts that you helped me understand (when we were cramming for our Anthropology 115 final, remember that?) into my medical practice, I want you to know that I will try my very best to have your legacy and memory live on forever.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Suit Challenging LBNL Plans Gets Day in Court Tomorrow

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 20, 2008 - 05:00:00 PM

Foes of building plans included in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) get their day in court Wednesday. 

That’s when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has scheduled the hearing in the case of Jones et al. vs. the Regents of the University of California. 

The action pits Berkeley preservationists—including a Daily Planet editor—in yet another legal challenge to university-related building plans. [see www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2007-08-24/article/27856?status=301] 

At issue is the fate of land along the northern edge of Strawberry Canyon beneath the Department of Energy-sponsored lab’s 202-acre campus. 

UC Regents adopted the critical environmental review of the LRDP last July, which a Statement of Overriding Considerations that holds the impacts of the planned 980,000 square feet of new construction are offset by the need for new facilities and adopted mitigation measures. 

Litigants who are suing the university include Lesley Emmington, a former city landmarks commissioner, Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin, Panoramic Hill Association activist Janice Thomas, Hank Gehman and Anne Wagley, the Planet’s Arts and Calendar editor. 

Wagley is also the plaintiff in another lawsuit challenging settlement of a city lawsuit which had challenged the university’s Long Range Development Plan 2020 and its impacts on downtown Berkeley. [see www.berkeleydaily.org/issue/2006-12-15/article/25886] 

Alameda environmental attorney Michael Lozeau is representing the plaintiffs, while Michael H. Zischke of San Francisco is arguing on behalf of the regents. 

The case gets underway at 9 a.m. at the court’s Department 31, located in the post office building at 201 13th St. in Oakland.  

 

 

 

 


Commission Holds Special Meeting on Downtown Plan

By Richard Brenneman
Monday May 19, 2008 - 04:34:00 PM

Planning commissioners take up two parts of the new plan for downtown Berkeley Wednesday night, including proposed city staff changes for both the historic preservation and economic development chapters. 

The meeting is being convened as a special session in addition to the commission’s usual two monthly gatherings.  

In a memorandum to commissioners, Matt Taecker, the principal planner hired to work on the plan, called for the panel to “endorse a process where, for each chapter, staff suggests refinements” to the document drafted by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC). 

Comprised of City Council appointees, DAPAC was charged with coming up with the proposed plan envisoned in the settlement of a city lawsuit challenging UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

The city's suit alleged that the university had failed to adequately address impacts of a planned 800,000 square feet of off-campus building in the heart of the city’s commercial district. The settlement spelled out compensatory payments, contingent in part on the city's creating a new downtown plan that proved satisfactory to the university. 

City staff repeatedly tried to limit the citizen committee’s input to recommendations, but DAPAC members came up with their own drafts for each of the plan’s chapters. 

Planning Commission members are slated to provide their own proposed revisions, which are due for presentation to the City Council before the end of the year, with council action on a final plan draft due next May. 

In his report to the commission, Taecker asks members to focus on developing measures to implement the plan’s objectives to create “a highly functional plan, clear and well organized.” 

In addition, he writes, they should “consider DAPAC policies that may be in conflict with plan goals or citywide policies, or have unintended consequences.”  

Four members of the commission served on DAPAC: Gene Poschman, Patti Dacey, Helen Burke and commission chair James Samuels. Dacey originally served as a Landmarks Preservation Commission member of the DAPAC's preservation sub-committee, and was later named to the Planning Commission.  

Jim Novosel, a Berkeley architect who served on DAPAC's Historic Preservation and Urban Design Subcommittee, said that while he hadn’t seen any major problems with the staff’s revised chapter, some other DAPAC members were concerned about changes in the two chapters and were planning to meet Tuesday night to discuss their concerns. 

The new staff drafts of both chapters are filled with overstrikes and replacement text in italics. In the economic development revision, almost every line of text has been changed. Poschman declined to comment on any specific changes, but indicated he would have something to say Wednesday night. 

Wednesday night’s meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 


Fleeing Motorcyclist Hits AC Transit Bus, Bicyclist in Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday May 19, 2008 - 04:34:00 PM

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is investigating a hit and run incident in which a motorcyclist collided with an AC Transit Bus and a woman bicyclist on Ashby Avenue Sunday night. 

CHP spokesperson Sam Morgan said that around 11:20 p.m. Sunday, CHP officers were pursuing a motorcyclist for speeding on westbound Interstate 8O near Carlson Boulevard in Richmond who failed to yield to lights and sirens from the police car. He left the freeway at the Ashby exit and collided with an AC Transit bus and with a 51-year-old woman riding a bicycle at Acton Street, according to Morgan.  

The motorcyclist fled, and the injured woman was taken to Highland Hospital. The woman, a Berkeley resident, was listed in stable condition today (Monday), according to the hospital. 

Morgan said CHP canceled the pursuit when the motorcyclist entered Berkeley streets for safety reasons. CHP Officers are still looking for the motorcyclist.  


UC Berkeley Graduate Found Dead in Front of Apartment Complex

By Bay City News
Sunday May 18, 2008 - 10:24:00 PM

A 22-year-old man was found dead on a city sidewalk Saturday, one day after graduating from the University of California at Berkeley, a Berkeley police lieutenant confirmed today.  

At 6:22 a.m., police were notified of a man who was not breathing on the sidewalk in front of a three-story apartment building at 2605 Durant Ave.  

Fire personnel arrived and pronounced the victim, Alan Hamai, dead  

at the scene.  

Berkeley police Lt. Craig Juster said the cause of death is under investigation, but that there is a "likelihood" Hamai fell off the roof of the apartment building.  

Berkeley homicide detectives are investigating the case. 

"At this point in time, we just know he went out and had returned between 2 and 3 in the morning," Juster said. "Anytime there are no witnesses, we want to make sure we cover all the bases to make sure there is  

no foul play." 

According to the Alameda County coroner's bureau, an autopsy is scheduled for Monday.  

Hamai, who majored in Anthropology, was from Redondo Beach.


Reader Report: Demonstrators At U.C. Graduation Call Yoo War Criminal

By Henry Norr
Sunday May 18, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM
Mary Ervin of Oakland, one of those who demonstrated against John Yoo at U.C. graduation ceremonies, carried a cardboard replica of an M-16 rifle.
By Henry Norr
Mary Ervin of Oakland, one of those who demonstrated against John Yoo at U.C. graduation ceremonies, carried a cardboard replica of an M-16 rifle.

If Professor John Yoo, the Boalt Hall community, and UC Berkeley administration didn't know it before, they surely do after today's graduation ceremonies: there's a large and growing movement demanding that Yoo be held accountable for providing pseudo-legal rationalizations for the Bush administration's torture policy.  

 

With signs and banners reading "Shame on Yoo," "War Criminal," "Torture is Terrorism," and "Fire, Disbar, and Prosecute Yoo," nearly 100 demonstrators - many dressed in eye-catching Guantánamo-style orange jumpsuits - lined the entrances to the Greek Theatre as this year's Boalt graduates, their guests, and the faculty filed in for the 9:00 a.m. ceremony at the Greek Theatre. Members of Act Against Torture, CodePink, the Presente affinity group, the World Can't Wait, and other groups handed out a factsheet about Yoo's record prepared by members of the National Lawyers Guild, plus copies of this week's East Bay Express, which features an excellent cover story on "The Torture Professor," and a postcard to Boalt dean Christtopher Edley calling on him to fire Yoo. 

 

We also offered orange ribbons to graduation guests who wanted to show their opposition to Yoo and torture, and hundreds of the guests pinned them on to their clothing. Many of the graduates wore multicolored armbands to show their opposition to torture, tuition hikes, and other problems. 

 

Just to make sure no one could miss the message, a small plane towing a banner reading "Shame on Yoo & UC - End Torture" appeared overhead and flew several laps around the Greek Theatre as the ceremony began. 

 

Most of the protesters stayed to continue the demonstration along the route from the Greek Theatre to the post-graduation reception in the Boalt Hall courtyard. As the demonstration wound up, participants gathered to listen to a few words from Carlos Mauricio, a former professor at the University of El Salvador who was tortured for weeks by the U.S.-backed regime that ruled his country in the 1980s, until he broke and confessed to charges that had no basis in reality. Mauricio, who now lives in San Francisco and leads an international campaign called the Stop Impunity Project, thanked demonstrators for speaking out against torture and urged us to continue doing so. 

 

After a long morning in the summer heat, demonstrators left tired, but at the same time energized. We're already making plans to keep up the pressure on Yoo and Boalt, particularly when school resumes in the fall. Some tactics under consideration: petitions, open letters, and pledges by UC alumni to withhold donations until Yoo is punished for his crimes. If you can help, or just want to stay informed about the campaign, keep an eye on www.actagainsttorture,org, or write to us at ActAgainstTorture@riseup.net. 

 

Henry Norr is a member of Act Against Torture.  

henry@norr.com


Flash: B-Tech Senior was Shooter, Says Principal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:05:00 PM

The 17-year-old student from Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech) who was shot Thursday a few blocks from school underwent surgery and his injuries appear to be non life-threatening, authorities said Friday. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet that detectives were following leads on a suspect in the shooting, who she said was another teen. 

The B-tech student was shot near Martin Luther King Jr. and Dwight Way around 3 p.m. Thursday—right after school let out—after which he flagged down a B-Tech teacher who drove him to Highland Hospital. 

The teacher then stopped BPD officers on the way to the hospital. 

B-Tech principal Victor Diaz told the Planet the injured 17-year-old was a junior at the school. He said the teenager who shot the junior was a senior there. 

“I know that there had been some words exchanged outside the school between the two about three weeks ago,” Diaz said Friday. “School staff was trying to talk with them about it and engage in some mediation. The sense was that even though we were talking and working to bring the families together there was tension between them. On Thursday they both walked right by my office and we made eye contact. Ten to 20 minutes later I got a call from one of my teachers that one of them had been shot.” 

Diaz said he ran out to find the students when he got another call informing him that the junior had flagged down a teacher who was driving him to Highland Hospital. 

Diaz said he did not know the reason behind the students' fight. 

“This kid [the senior)] just passed the exit exam,” he said. “He has a really good job and is very responsible. He is also a mentee for a couple of different organizations.” 

Diaz said the junior was a newcomer to the B-Tech community and had just started to open up to school staff.  

“We have to assume that the senior brought the gun into school and hid it somewhere,” he said. 

The B-Tech community held a meeting today (Friday) morning to discuss the incident. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett sent over a school safety officer to the school. The City of Berkeley’s health department also sent over counselors to B-Tech today (Friday) to support staff and students. 

“We know that the kid who shot the junior is not involved with any gang or drug-related activity,” Diaz said. “We are all very sad and disappointed it happened. At the meeting, a number of kids expressed their encounters with violence. Sadly, it was a very high number of students.” 

 


Freeman Arraigned on Murder Charges in Durant Avenue Murder, Tensions Spill Over into Court

By Bay City News
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:23:00 PM

Tensions were high as Nathaniel Freeman was arraigned on murder charges today (Friday) for the shooting death of Oakland Parks and Recreation employee Maceo Smith one block south of the University of California, Berkeley campus Tuesday afternoon.  

Freeman, 19, also was arraigned on a charge of assault with a firearm for allegedly shooting a second man, Marcus Mosley, who was Smith’s former brother-in-law, in the incident on the sidewalk in front of the Pacific Film Archive on Durant Avenue just east of Bowditch Street about 3:50 p.m. Tuesday. 

Smith’s father thought that Alameda County Sheriff’s deputies in the courtroom of Judge Beverly Daniels-Greenberg were disrespectful to people who were sitting in the courtroom and asked to talk to a supervisor.  

A short time later prosecutor Mark McCannon talked to Smith’s father and about 10 other friends and relatives of Smith to try to calm them down.  

McCannon told the group that it was good that they came to today’s hearing and court officials didn’t want to kick them out of court but they had to make sure that they weren’t disruptive.  

Just before McCannon talked to the group, two of Smith’s friends approached two reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom and said they didn’t like the way Smith’s death was reported and told the reporters that they should leave the courthouse.  

But Smith’s friends didn’t say what they thought should be corrected in the news coverage about the shooting incident, which occurred at the same time as graduation ceremonies for UC Berkeley seniors.  

Daniels-Greenberg ordered that Freeman, who was dressed in a white jail jumpsuit, be held without bail. She also ordered Freeman not to have any contact with Mosley, either directly or indirectly through third parties or through phone calls, e-mails or text messages.  

Several of Smith’s family members cried when the judge read aloud the allegation that Freeman is accused of murdering Smith.  

An attorney who made a special appearance for Freeman told Daniels-Greenberg that his family hasn’t yet decided if they will retain her.  

Freeman is scheduled to return to court on May 30 to finalize his legal representation and possibly enter a plea. Freeman turned himself in at the Berkeley police station at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, accompanied by the same lawyer who appeared with him today. However, Freeman declined to be interviewed about the shooting incident.  

Berkeley police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said the shooting incident occurred after Freeman ran into Mosley on Durant Avenue and the two men rekindled a dispute that started with a confrontation at a party a week earlier.  

Kusmiss said Mosley eventually called Smith, a 33-year-old Berkeley man who’s the father of three children, to help him out in his argument with Freeman.  

She said the argument continued after Smith arrived and Freeman pulled out a gun at the southwest corner of Durant Avenue and Bowditch Street and shot both Smith and Mosley.  

According to Kusmiss, after Smith was shot he staggered across both Durant Avenue and Bowditch Street and collapsed in a parking lot at 2542 Durant Ave. The lot is next to the well-known Top Dog hot dog stand at 2534 Durant Ave. Smith was pronounced dead at the scene. Kusmiss said Mosley got into his silver Cadillac, abandoned Smith and drove himself to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he was treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and released.  

She said Freeman fled the scene on foot. No weapons have been recovered, Kusmiss said.  

Berkeley police say that Smith was well-known to them because he frequently was in trouble with the law over the years. Smith had a lengthy arrest record, including for illegal gun and drug charges, but he never was convicted of a felony.  

Oakland officials said Smith wouldn’t have been able to get his job as a part-time parks maintenance worker if he’d had a felony conviction.


Berkeley Families Celebrate Court Decision on Same-Sex Marriage

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:08:00 PM

As news of the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 decision affirming same-sex marriage broke Thursday, gay and lesbian couples in Berkeley declared victory. 

Several hundred people gathered at the San Francisco City Hall around 10 a.m. to hear the court’s ruling, that California is the second state in the country, after Massachusetts, where gay couples have been judged to have a constitutional right to marry. 

Berkeley resident and executive director of Bay Area-based gay and lesbian family support group Our Family Coalition Judy Appel went to the steps of San Francisco City Hall at 10 a.m. to hear the decision. 

“It’s a really amazing day,” said Appel, the mother of two Oxford Elementary School students, whom she is raising with her partner. 

Our Family Coalition was one of the plaintiffs in the court case, Appel said. 

“It’s a victory for all in California,” she said. “It really affirms California as a state which recognizes gays and lesbians as equals. It has awarded us the same rights. This is just the beginning of a sea change throughout the country.” 

As organization plaintiffs, Our Family Coalition highlighted the importance of the case for children belonging to same-sex parents. 

“It’s a historic day to have the Supreme Court declare that everybody has equal rights to partake in civic institutions, particularly marriage. We were so thrilled that the courts courageously declared that gay and lesbian couples can also raise families when they get married, if they decide to do so,” she said. 

“It’s important our children know parents are equal to other parents and have the right to marry. My kids have been really worried about this.” 

Like thousands of other same-sex couples, Appel and her partner got married at the San Francisco City Hall in 2004, only to see the union later nullified by the courts. 

“We can get married all over again, and we will,” said a jubilant Appel. 

Hundreds of gay and lesbian couples turned up at the Charles M. Holmes Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) Center on Market Street in San Francisco Thursday evening for a “Celebration of Love and Family,” and thousands celebrated on the street in the Castro. 

Moments after the news was announced, the youth group from the Pacific Center for Human Growth—a LGBT organization based in Berkeley—took the rainbow flag hoisted in front of their building on Telegraph Aveune and ran across the street to Willard Park to celebrate. 

“It’s tremendous news for everybody,” said Pacific Center Board President Scott Vachon, who has been with the organization for six years. “The Supreme Court made the right decision. This is much more than gay and lesbian rights. It’s about human and civil rights. It’s about treating everybody fairly and equally with respect.” 

The Pacific Center has several hundred LGBT members, Vachon said. 

“I was 10 years old when being gay was declassified as a mental illness. Now I am 45 years old and people in the LGBT community have opportunities to marry,” he said. “In 35 years, a lot has happened.” 

Vachon said that until last week, people at the center were bracing themselves for disappointment about the court decision. 

“But the Supreme Court really took a firm stand on human rights,” he said. “Gay couples and gay families deserve the same rights and respect and dignity as anybody else in the state of California.” 

The court’s decision, which becomes effective in 30 days, faces a threat from conservative groups who are proposing a new initiative to ban same-sex marriage. 

Right after the decision was announced, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a roaring crowd: “It’s about human dignity. It’s about human rights. It’s about time in California. 

“I am married again,” said Berkeley resident Ed Valenzuela, who adopted Malcolm X first-grader Kiki with his partner Gary Walker seven years ago. “We got married four years ago at City Hall and it’s exciting to have a valid marriage license again. I hung on to it in the hope that it would become valid one day. There are some complications ... Some people are trying to put up an amendment to change the constitution and we have to fight that through the election season.” 

Valenzuela and his partner decided to get married primarily for their daughter Kiki. “We did it so that she could see us get married and know that we were just like any other family,” he said. “It’s time for another celebration, time for another victory.” 


Barbara Lee Asks USDA to Oppose LBAM Spray

By Judith Scherr
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:04:00 PM

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Berkeley-Oakland, has added her voice to those calling for a halt to plans to spray for the Light Brown Apple Moth [LBAM] until health and environmental studies are done. 

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Thursday, Lee asked the department’s support to “encourage the [California Department of Food and Agriculture] to freeze plans for the aerial spraying in California pending the completion of an environmental impact report, a rigorous scientific study of alternative solutions for addressing the LBAM population, and comprehensive toxicity tests that account for both the short and long-term impacts of the entire pheromone-pesticide compound.  

Lee is the third Bay Area representative to publicly question the LBAM eradication plan, according to Sacramento-based Pesticide Watch.  

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, wrote Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week, requesting he answer concerns about the safety and efficacy of the LBAM spray program, and in late April Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer expressing similar concerns.  

“It is imperative that the people of California are not subjected to unknown risks of aerial pheromone treatments without proper scientific review and consideration of public participation and comment,” Lee wrote in her letter. 

Meanwhile, says Pesticide Watch, more than 26,000 citizens have signed an on-line petition opposing the spray and 25 city and county governments in California have officially opposed the plan along with more than 70 organizations, including, most recently, the California Nurses Association, the Oakland Zoo, the East Bay Municipal Utilities District Board, the East Bay Regional Park District Board and the Alameda Country Conference of Mayors. 

The California Department of Food and Agriculture continues to say that the LBAM is a dangerous pest that could destroy California’s agriculture business and must be eradicated without thorough investigation into the eradication procedures because the moth presents an emergency. 

 

 


Council Considers Ballot Measures; Public to Speak On Fee Increases

By Judith Scherr
Friday May 16, 2008 - 05:03:00 PM

The City Council will consider on Tuesday which tax measures to place before voters on the November ballot.  

A 6 p.m. workshop on undergrounding utilities will precede the 7 p.m. council meeting. 

 

Ballot measures 

Councilmembers have made it clear: they do not want to scare off taxpayers by proposing more tax measures or higher assessments than citizens are willing to pay. Each tax measure must pass by a two-thirds vote. 

To eliminate guesswork, they hired David Binder Research (DBR) for a second voter survey to further narrow the number of measures and costs for each to be placed on the November ballot. 

A report from DBR was not available Friday afternoon. The three measures the council will consider are:  

o a fire and disaster preparedness tax costing the average homeowner (with a 1,900 square-foot house valued at $300,500) about $90 per year; 

o a library bond to upgrade branch library facilities costing the average homeowner $33 per year;  

o a bond to fund replacement of the heated therapy pool slated for demolition and renovate the three outdoor neighborhood pools, costing the average homeowner $28 per year. 

The council will also look at asking voters to approve a change in its redistricting process. The city redraws district boundaries every ten years in the year following the census, to equalize each of the city's eight council districts. The proposed measure would give the city more time to complete redistricting. 

 

Fee hikes 

The council will hold a public hearing on proposed fee increases for environmental health, planning, and transfer station fees. 

City staff is proposing a 25 percent hike in land use planning fees, last raised in 2004. New fee proposals reflect higher costs, including staff salaries and benefits, according to a city staff report. Land use planning includes use permits, variances and more. New fees associated with condominium conversion are proposed. 

Increases in engineering and building and safety fees are proposed at 5 percent. Most transfer station fee hikes are proposed at around 9 percent. Staff had not released the environmental health fee report by Friday afternoon. 

 

Antenna moratorium 

Concerned about possible health impacts of cellular phone antennas, a number of neighborhood groups have contested locating the antennas in their neighborhoods. City staff is revising the antenna ordinance and councilmembers Kriss Worthington, Max Anderson and Dona Spring are asking for a six-month moratorium on new antennas while staff works on the revision. 

The councilmembers' report says antennas should be placed more equitably throughout the city: “The inequity of the present system of antenna distribution in Berkeley (14 locations in South Berkeley, two in North Berkeley, none in the Berkeley hills) has meant that some neighborhoods are unfairly exposed to more antennas than other neighborhoods,” the report says. 

 

Police and Protests 

An item proposed by Worthington asks staff to explain why there are sometimes more police than demonstrators at peaceful protests and why police have asked some demonstrators to go to a “free speech zone” to protest. The item also forwards to staff a request from the Berkeley College Republicans for a parking space in which to demonstrate against Code Pink at the downtown Marine Recruiting station.  

“My personal opinion is that the 'free speech zone' is the United States of America,” Worthington writes in the council item, adding “having more police officers than protesters to monitor a peaceful non-violent protest seems like a waste of important resources.” 

 

The Council will also address: 

o supporting Alta Bates Summit Medical Center nurses in their contract dispute with the hospital 

o supporting the people of Haiti 

 

It will also hold public hearings on: 

o the 2008-2009 budget 

o street light assessments 

The council has an option to discuss items for information, or simply to accept them: 

Among the reports is one on foreclosures in Berkeley. 

 

The full City Council agenda is at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=20420. 

The council meets at the Maudelle Shirek Building, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Meetings are televised on BTV-ch 33 and broadcast on KPFB-89.3 and streamed at http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9868 


B-Tech Student Shot in Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 07:16:00 PM

A Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech) student was shot near Martin Luther King Jr. and Dwight Way around 3 p.m. today (Thursday), according to authorities. 

Police officials said that contrary to earlier reports of two different shootings, there had been only one shooting incident at that location. 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said a 911 call to the Berkeley police reported a young man with a gun at the corner of MLK and Dwight Way around 3:12 p.m. 

Minutes later another caller reported a young man in the same area firing a gun into the ground, Kusmiss said. 

When officers dashed to MLK and Dwight Way, they did not find any trace of victims or suspects or evidence of a crime scene. 

“Moments later, a woman driving a car flagged down a BPD officer on Channing Way just west of Shattuck Ave.,” Kusmiss said. 

The woman, who identified herself as a teacher at B-Tech, pointed to a 17-year-old boy in the passenger seat who had several gun shot wounds in his abdomen. 

“The woman said the young man had flagged her down,” Kusmiss said. 

“Apparently, after the young man was shot, he recognized her as one of his B-Tech teachers. He got into her car and said he needed help.” 

The B-Tech teacher was driving the student to the hospital when she came across the police officers, Kusmiss said. 

“The young man was in a state of shock and was not able to offer too many details to the police officers,” she said. 

“Officers accompanied him to Highland Hospital where he is currently undergoing surgery,” Kusmiss told the Planet around 6 p.m. Thursday. 

“His wounds do not appear to be life-threatening. We hope to learn more about the incident once the operation is over.” 

Kusmiss said she could not disclose the name of the B-Tech teacher since she was involved in a violent crime. 

Meanwhile, community members and police officers had carried out a neighborhood canvas and search for the suspect, police said. 

“Area residents told officers that they saw a young man fleeing over some fences in the 1800 block of Dwight Way.” Kusmiss said. 

“Very talented and skilled officers searched the area but were not able to find him. The suspect was described by community members as a ‘black male between 15 and 17 years old, 5’7”, 140 lbs, wearing an oversized white t-shirt and baggy blue jeans,” she said. 

“We have not found an actual witness to the shooting and are asking people to come forward with any information.” 

Today’s (Thursday) shooting is the second one in the past 3 days. 

Berkeley resident Maceo Smith was gunned down and killed near the Douglas parking lot on Durant Avenue in broad daylight Tuesday. 

Police have arrested a 19-year-old Berkeley resident in connection to the shooting. 

Kusmiss attributed the sudden spike in shootings to the weather. 

“We have always seen more activity during warmer weather,” she said. 

 

Please contact Berkeley Homicide detectives at 510-981-5741 with any information on the shooting of the B-Tech student. 


Update: Suspect Arrested in Durant Avenue Killing

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 04:52:00 PM
Nathaniel Freeman
BDP
Nathaniel Freeman

Berkeley police arrested 19-year-old Berkeley resident Nathaniel Curtis Freeman Wednesday afternoon and charged him with the murder of Maceo Anthony Smith, who was shot to death on Durant Avenue Tuesday. 

Freeman, who turned himself in to police, was booked for one count of murder and assault with a deadly weapon in the attack which left Smith dead and wounded another man who has yet to be identified by police. 

He is currently being held in Berkeley City Jail and is scheduled to appear in Alameda County Superior Court tomorrow. 

According to police reports, Smith and an acquaintance were arguing with Freeman around 3:49 p.m. Tuesday about a previous encounter. 

“From what we have been able to piece together, the second victim was in the area of Durant and Telegraph alone when he spotted Freeman and recognized him from a prior recent encounter,” Kusmiss said. 

“He followed Freeman and according to witnesses, the second victim started what is often termed on the street as ‘chipping at him,’” Kusmiss said. 

“The two of them walked east of Telegraph up on Durant arguing, and the second victim called Smith and asked him to join him on Durant.” 

After Smith arrived, the three of them continued to argue for about 20 minutes, Kusmiss said, and then continued eastbound on Durant to the area near the Pacific Film Archive. 

Freeman changed his direction and walked westbound, with the two older men following him while they continued to argue. 

“The three crossed Durant at Bowditch Street and on the Southwest corner of Bowditch and Durant, Freeman pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and fired at the two men, striking both multiple times,” Kusmiss said. 

“The two victims fled westbound to the Douglas parking lot, where Smith collapsed and the acquaintance took off in his silver cadillac.” 

The second victim, whose name the Berkeley Police Department has not yet released, drove himself to Highland Hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his shoulder and arm and released Tuesday evening. 

Smith, who was shot in the throat a couple of times, was pronounced dead at the scene when Berkeley paramedics arrived. 

Kusmiss said detectives had a good sense of the gun—which they did not want to disclose—and that the weapon had not been found yet. 

“We would like to interview the second victim to get more details, although according to his constitutional rights he can refuse to be interviewed,” Kusmiss said. 

The search for Freeman took nearly 24 hours on the case, including a search of Freeman’s home, interviews, line-ups with witnesses and multiple surveillances of several Berkeley and Oakland locations, according to police. 

Kusmiss said Freeman was aware Berkeley police were searching for him. 

“During the overnight hours after the murder, detectives learned he was the shooter in the crime,” Kusmiss said. 

“He was positively identified by a number of eyewitnesses and detectives were able to develop probable cause to secure a warrant to search his house for any evidence of the crime. Detectives met with several family members at his house who had been communicating with Freeman. That likely was the catalyst for him coming to us.” 

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, Freeman turned himself in to Berkeley Police Department Homicide detectives at the Ron Tsukamoto Public Safety Building. He was accompanied by an attorney and declined to be interviewed regarding the crime. 

“BPD Homicide detectives say that cooperation from a diversity of witnesses and the great work of members of the University of California Police Department proved invaluable in the pursuit of a murder suspect,” Kusmiss said. 

“We wish to stress how grateful we are to the community members that cooperated with the scary and challenging investigation by providing witness statements, viewed line-ups ... without them, this swift arrest may not have been possible.” 

Kusmiss said the district attorney’s office would review the case late Friday morning and consider whether to charge Freeman with murder. 

Smith’s body was at the Douglas parking lot for almost 3 hours after he collapsed there Tuesday, police said, since the Alameda County Coroner’s office was unable to show up at the scene earlier. 

His family—most of whom live in Berkeley, Richmond and Oakland—were alerted about the shooting by the second victim when he was driving to Highland Hospital, Kusmiss said. 

“We recognize it was a very very devastating experience for the family to be held at bay and endure those hours while officers were investigating the incident,” she said. 

“But it’s important to remember our goal is to catch the killer.” 

Kusmiss said both Freeman and Smith have a criminal history and were arrested by Berkeley police in the past for a number of offenses. 

“We are familiar with both of them, but as a public information officer I am not allowed to give out a listing of charges,” she said. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett expressed shock at the incident at the Berkeley school board meeting Wednesday night. Smith, a Berkeley High alumnus, was the parent of three children in the public schools, one in middle school and two in elementary school. 

“One of our parents was shot and murdered yesterday,” he said. “His children are at Willard and Emerson schools. I have spoken to the principals and my condolences are with the family.” 

The City of Berkeley’s mental health department is offering counseling services to students and staff at Willard, where three of Smith’s family members either work or are enrolled. 

Another Berkeley resident, who did not want to be identified, told the Planet that he played basketball frequently with Smith at the Downtown YMCA for the past four years. 

“[Smith was] a big hearted guy who was always the first to help up a fallen teammate. He was a regular at our pick up games,” he said. “He cared a lot about his children. You could just tell the way he spoke about them and behaved with them. I remember he had a great smile. 

The young man said inside Smith’s tough exterior lay a gentleman. 

“When you knew him, he was very kind,” he said. “Basketball is a very physical game and he was quick to include children in his games. He was strong without being rough... He was one of us at the Y.” 


Vandalism Hits Oakland City Council Race, Tempers Flare

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 02:19:00 PM

In a campaign that has grown increasingly heated as it moves towards the June 3 election day showdown, vandals struck at the Fruitvale-area campaign headquarters of 5th District Council candidate Mario Juarez last Friday night, smashing windows and window doors and causing an estimated $15,000 in damage. 

Juarez is challenging longtime incumbent and Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. 

Juarez said he had left the campaign office at 40th Avenue and International Boulevard about an hour before the 10:30 p.m. attack. Two campaign workers were in the building but did not view the attacker or attackers, who have not yet been identified. 

In a press release sent out Saturday morning, the Juarez campaign said that “running for a seat to displace an incumbent on the Oakland City Council can be a dangerous thing. … This was just the latest in a series of threatening and intimidating actions since Mario began running.” 

Those actions include the posting of an anonymous website charging Juarez with personal and professional improprieties, as well as the posting of a YouTube video by a woman claiming to be a former staff member at Juarez’ realty office, claiming that Juarez demanded she commit illegal acts during the course of business, and punched and kicked her when she refused to comply.  

In addition, Juarez said that early in the campaign, he received anonymous mailed letters “threatening my personal safety and advising me not to run for office.” He said that he had not thought it necessary at the time to turn the letters over to Oakland police, but has retained the letters. 

“This is very serious,” Juarez said in a telephone interview late Friday night. “It’s very serious for me, for my family, and for my staff. We have been running a campaign based on ideas and proposals on how to move Oakland forward. But it’s clear that the threats that were made about my candidacy were very real.” 

In a telephone interview this week, De La Fuente said that his own campaign headquarters in the Fruitvale Transit Village was the subject of vandalism, a smashed window in early April. De La Fuente said that he “hope(d)” that the vandalism— at his office and at Juarez’—“is not significant. I think for some reason the rhetoric in this campaign is getting to people. I think we should go back to the business of the campaign, which is on the issues, and who can best serve the people of the 5th District and Oakland.”  

Referring to the vandals, he said that “if people have that much energy, they should go out and work the precincts for their candidates.” 

Oakland Police Department Public Information Officer Roland Holmgren said that the OPD has assigned a sergeant to investigate the vandalism, but could not provide any more details because it is an ongoing investigation.  

“We’re taking it very seriously,” Holmgren said. He added that police were aware that video street surveillance cameras have been installed on International Boulevard near the Juarez campaign headquarters, and that OPD was following up to see if there is a videotape of the Saturday night attack. 


Berkeley Man Killed in Durant Avenue Shooting

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:23:00 AM
Rita McIntyre (left), mother of Maceo Smith, talks to a police detective right after her son was shot to death near the Douglas Parking Lot in broad daylight Tuesday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Rita McIntyre (left), mother of Maceo Smith, talks to a police detective right after her son was shot to death near the Douglas Parking Lot in broad daylight Tuesday.

Police are searching for a suspect connected with the murder of Maceo Smith, 33, found shot to death in broad daylight at the Douglas Parking Lot at 2542 Durant Ave. Tuesday, a block from UC Berkeley. 

Another person, who drove to Highland Hospital in Oakland with gunshot wounds immediately after the shooting, was also involved in the incident, police officials said Wednesday. 

Berkeley Police Department (BPD) spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said Berkeley homicide detectives were following strong leads on the suspect. 

Kusmiss said a 911 call around 3:49 p.m. had alerted Berkeley police to a man with a gun at Durant and Bowditch Street. A second caller at 3:51 p.m. reported that a gunshot victim was lying in the Doug-las Parking Lot, east of Top Dog restaurant at 2534 Durant Ave. 

Officers from both Berkeley and UC police found a young man on the ground—later identified by relatives as Smith, a Berkeley resident—with several gunshot wounds. He was pronounced dead by Berkeley Fire Department paramedics at the scene. 

“It was a beautiful day and we had a lot of community members out on the streets at that time,” Kusmiss said. “They have had an opportunity to speak with a number of witnesses who have shed light on pieces of the story.” 

The victim was not a UC Berkeley student or affiliated with the university, Kusmiss said. She added there was a possibility of a verbal exchange before the shots were fired but did not provide any more details.  

According to police reports, a witness reported seeing a silver Cadillac leaving the area after the gunshots were heard, and a detective from the Special Enforcement Unit spotted the car west of downtown and followed it to Highway I-580. 

The driver turned up at Highland Hospital and is being treated at for gunshot wounds that are non- life-threatening, Kusmiss said. 

“We are not offering his name as he is a victim of a violent crime,” she said Wednesday. “Detectives worked through the night and are pursuing some leads.” 

One witness told the Planet that a family member gave police a name for the second victim Tuesday. 

Shocked UC Berkeley students and passers-by watched as family and friends of the victim broke down in the middle of the street while police detectives tried to talk to them at the site of the shooting a little after 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

“He has a tattoo on his right arm,” a woman in a cream sweater told one of the detectives as she started to cry. “I don’t know anything else.”  

Smith’s mother Rita McIntyre, a food services worker at Willard Middle School, was consoling a family member and giving police her information. 

“I was in Richmond,” she told a female detective shaking her head. “I don’t know anything about this.” 

McIntyre was going to be honored at the Berkeley Unified School District’s Employee Retirement and Recognition Ceremony at 4 p.m. at the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue Tuesday, district spokesperson Mark Coplan said. 

“She missed the ceremony,” Coplan said. “She was being recognized for 20 years of service in the district’s Nutrition Services Department. She has been a part of the Willard community for a number of years, Everything she does for Willard and Willard students is valued by the com-munity.” 

Coplan said he believed McIntyre’s entire family—including her son Maceo—had graduated from Berkeley High, and that her daughter, Maceo’s sister, also worked at Willard. 

Smith’s oldest son attends Willard Middle School and his two younger ones are students at a Berkeley elementary school, Coplan said. 

“Our sympathy goes out to Rita’s family,” Coplan said. “And we grieve with them. I am guessing Rita was on her way to the recognition ceremony when she got the news about her son. I received a phone call about it during the ceremony, but I didn’t check my messages until after 5 p.m.” 

The City of Berkeley’s mental health department is offering counseling services to students and staff at Willard, where three of Smith’s family members either work or are enrolled. 

“To my knowledge they [the family members] are not in school and won’t be for a bit,” Coplan said. 

Calls to McIntyre Wednesday from the Planet were not returned. 

Berkeley police cordoned off the area between Bowditch and Telegraph and asked people to stay clear of the crime scene. Homicide detectives were interviewing eyewitnesses in the parking lot Tuesday. 

The site now has a small shrine with votive candles and roses for Smith. 

“I saw three people running towards Telegraph,” said another witness. “One of them had blood on his shirt and he was limping. I thought he must have hugged the guy who was shot. I grabbed the ladies who were outside my shop and told them to come in. Everybody was terrified.”  

She saw the young man lying flat on the ground with a woman she took to be his girlfriend.  

“He was bleeding and his girlfriend was screaming,” she said. “He looked African American and in his late 20s. The police took his girlfriend away. I didn’t hear any verbal arguments before the gunshots, but they are saying the boys knew each other. All this is just crazy, especially with all the graduation events happening all around the campus.”  

Right after the incident, horrified passers-by panicked and ducked under stairs and hid between buildings, she said.  

One of them, Brandy Ellison, told the Planet that a Top Dog worker told him he had heard the young men arguing before the shots were fired.  

“He heard one of them say, ‘If you are going to do me like that,’ and things to that effect, and then he heard shots,” Ellison said.  

The Top Dog employee, who did not want to be identified, told the Planet reporter he had heard four to six gunshots.  

“I thought they were firecrackers, but then I saw two people running away and one of them had blood all over his shirt,” he said.  

Around 5:45 p.m. police detectives lifted up the yellow tape and asked the family members to step inside the taped-off area. The victim’s friends and family were upset and angry because the police were not allowing them to view the body.  

“The news reporters tell us more than you do,” one of them said. “What’s the matter, why aren’t you telling us anything?” 

Tuesday’s shooting marked the fifth homicide of the year in Berkeley. UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton was stabbed to death with a pocket knife near his fraternity house on Piedmont Avenue 10 days ago.  

Police arrested Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield in connection with the murder within 12 hours of the incident and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged him with murder. 

BPD detectives are urging anyone that may have information regarding Tuesday’s shooting to call the BPD Homicide Detail at (510) 981-5741.


Bates Privatizes State of the City Address

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:25:00 AM

Breaking with tradition, Mayor Tom Bates made his “state-of-the-city” address Tuesday night, not at a public gathering in City Council Chambers, but at a semi-private event held in a privately owned West Berkeley auditorium. 

Why no City Hall event? 

Bates reminded the gathering—invitees who had received personal e-mails from staff—that last year just as he began his state-of-the-city address, the sound system in the Council Chambers died. He ended up giving the speech with a makeshift microphone.  

This year the mayor said he took no chances. He went to the private sector—directly to the folks who know sound best in Berkeley: the event was held at Meyer Sound on Tenth Street near Heinz Street. 

The Daily Planet was not notified of the event—an invitee informed a reporter. Even though the reporter’s name did not figure on the guest list, the reporter was permitted to attend by mayoral staff. 

The hour-long—or so—speech meandered from visions of a downtown thick with luxury condos, four-star hotels, first-class theater and gourmet eateries to the greening of the city, with networks of shuttle buses, green-built high-rises and lush sports fields the East Bay Regional Parks District has christened Tom Bates Fields. 

The talk was liberally peppered with kudos by the mayor to almost all the 60 or so supporters seated in the audience, whom he thanked by name—non-profit CEOs, Chamber of Commerce leaders, school district and City College officials, developer representatives and elected officials. 

As the mayor delivered his remarks, photographs of Berkeley faded from one to the other on the high-tech screen behind him—the university, Berkeley Rep, the Rose Garden, a sunset at the Marina—nothing like the aging small screen the council and city staff use in the council chambers. 

While the city’s locked in a lawsuit with the university over a training facility and parking lot UC Berkeley wants to build next to Memorial Stadium—and may be headed down the legal-action road over labs proposed for Strawberry Creek and Blackberry canyons—the mayor said: “I don’t want to ruin relations over land use.” 

The event culminated with a brief video that included dramatic sound by Meyer Sound showing some of the work the company does. Meyer Sound employs some 200 people in its 28-year-old West Berkeley business. The auditorium was made available to the city without cost for the event, according to John Meyer.


City Council to UC Regents: Proposed Labs Endanger Wildlife, Humans

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:26:00 AM

More than two dozen people spoke to the City Council with one voice at a special meeting Monday night: placing two buildings proposed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in the environmentally sensitive, landslide, wildfire and earthquake-prone area of Strawberry and Blackberry canyons is the wrong thing to do, they said. 

And the council responded by voting unanimously, with Coun-cilmember Kriss Worthington absent, to oppose certification of the final environmental impact reports for the proposed Helios Energy Research Facility and Computer Research and Theory buildings.  

The council’s vote also asked Dan Marks, the city’s planning director, to send a strongly worded letter to the UC Board of Regents—the University of California manages the labs—outlining defects in the environmental documents and asking the Regents to hold the committee meeting at which members will vote to certify or reject the environmental documents not by telephone conference but in Berkeley. They also asked Marks to send video copies of Monday night’s public testimony to each regent. 

The city has no direct control over the university and the lab, which do not have to follow city land use ordinances. If the Regents choose to ignore the council, councilmembers said they would be likely to sue under the California Environmental Quality Act.  

“I hope we will contest it as far as we can go,” said Councilmember Dona Spring. 

One of the buildings at issue is the CRT Facility, a 126,000 square-foot structure that would house a federal supercomputer facility now located in a leased downtown Oakland building.  

The Helios building proposed nearby would include the Energy Biosciences Institute, a partnership among UC Berkeley, LBNL and the University of Illinois, funded by BP to research biofuels. It is to be built just below the Molecular Foundry, a newly constructed building on the lab site. 

The Regents’ Building and Grounds Committee was originally to have voted on certification of environmental documents on Tuesday, but, given city concerns, Mayor Tom Bates announced at the beginning of Monday’s meeting that the lab director would ask the Regents to delay their decision until the end of May, when the committee would meet by telephone and vote on certification. 

The council vote apparently provoked LBNL director Steve Chu. Mayor Tom Bates e-mailed fellow councilmembers Tuesday morning: “I spoke with Director Chu this morning. He was disappointed in last night’s council action. ... He indicated that given our action, he did not feel compelled to request the Regents to grant an extension of time for additional comments.” 

In the afternoon, however, the Building and Grounds Committee decided to wait to address certification of the EIRs until May 27. 

LBNL staff defended the final EIR, pointing out that the buildings described there were lower than conceived when the draft environmental documents were released. Among the strongest arguments they made for placement of the buildings in the canyon area was the need for the university and the lab to be in close proximity.  

“Part of the [Helios] project requires nanoscience,” Paul Alivisatos, professor of nanotechnology and a scientist at LBNL, told the council. Alivisatos further underscored the involvement of university graduate students.  

“I have a generation of students who want to participate,” he said. “I’ve never seen such a motivated group.” 

Jeff Philliber, introduced as the lab’s EIR expert, said that another consideration in choosing a site was the need for two separate entrances, one for those who have security clearance from the Department of Energy—the lab owner—and one for those who don’t. 

Some 50 people attended the meeting. With the exception of a half-dozen people present on behalf of the LBNL, the audience strongly opposed the project, mostly on environmental grounds. 

“I don’t think we have to destroy this environment to save this environment,” said Dr. Judith Epstein, a mathematician who lives south of the UC campus. Epstein was referring to comments made by LBNL staff lauding the work in the new facilities toward combating climate change. 

Martha Nicoloff called on the lab to re-use buildings. “The only green building is an existing building,” she said. 

The projects are “on ground zero of one of the most dangerous earthquake faults in the country,” Pamela Shivola of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste told the council, calling on LBNL to consider alternative sites from Alameda to Vallejo. 

Had the original founders of the lab known the danger of the earthquake fault and of the instability of the earth in the area, they would have placed LBNL elsewhere, said Sierra Club activist Juliet La-mont. “Why would we exacerbate this when we have a chance to do something different?” she asked. 

Phil Price, her husband, who works at the lab, pointed out that there are many different sites—including parking lots—where the buildings could be located. 

“We’re not practicing what we preach,” he said. “There’s no good reason for the lab to develop a pristine spot, while old sites are available.” 

Engineer John Shively spoke about hillside instability and traffic congestion. Marjorie Blackwell, president of the Audubon Society, noted that golden eagles had been seen at the site, and Joe Eaton, who writes a column for the Daily Planet on wildlife, said it is habitat for the endangered Alameda whipsnake. 

A trio of costumed opponents, calling themselves the BP Bears, lauded the labs (tongue in cheek) for building a “cobalt” rather than green corridor and suggested re-naming University Avenue as Gamma Ray Way.  

“Embrace the change for corporate-private partnership,” one said. 

Most of the City Council spoke in opposition to the project as well, with Councilmember Max Anderson saying the city was the “victim of the tyranny of expedience.”  

Spring pointed to the problem of increasing the impact on the city’s aging stormwater system.  

While Gordon Wozniak, a retired LBNL employee, joined fellow councilmembers in the vote to oppose the EIR, he said the area where the facilities are slated to be built is not “pristine.” 

In draft letters to the Regents, Planning Director Marks noted many of the same criticisms the public had expressed. He underscored questions of public safety: 

“We believe it is inappropriate to locate an additional 1,000 people ... in this highly constrained and dangerous location,” he wrote. “Should there be an earthquake or major fire, providing emergency service to this inaccessible site would be highly challenging and perhaps infeasible and evacuation of the site would be equally challenging. In the city’s view, there is already an unacceptably high risk for the existing development and placing even more development in this constrained area means putting more people at risk.” 

Marks concluded: “Finally, because of the substantial new information in the EIR, the city believes there is a basis for recirculating the EIR for additional public review prior to Regents’ action.”


Neighbors Fear College Avenue Safeway Expansion Plans

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Walk into La Farine on Oakland’s bustling College Avenue for coffee and croissants and it’s easy to spot several pamphlets floating around on a big round table—the only one in the store—drawing attention to the proposed expansion at Safeway, across the street from the petite French bakery. 

The pamphlets turn up at Ver Brugge next door, tucked somewhere between its extensive meat and seafood collections.  

They peek out from behind delicately wrapped orchid stalks at The Meadows—the neighborhood florist. 

The bold type decries the proposed development, summarizing neighborhoods concern about Safeway’s plans to expand its 23,000-square-foot store at Claremont and College: aesthetics, parking and a threat to local independent businesses. 

Neighbors Concerned with Safeway/College—a neighborhood group spearheaded by Rockridge residents Susan Shawl and Nancy McKay for the sole purpose of fighting Safeway—has distributed hundreds of these pamphlets to garner support against what they say is an “ugly big box.” 

Safeway spokesperson Esper-anza Greenwood told the Planet Monday the company had abandoned an earlier design, which would have demolished the store and built a new 55,000-square-foot structure with rooftop parking, and would present a new set of plans to the community within a month. 

The company also plans to buy the adjacent Union 76 gas station to add to its 1.6 acre site. 

“We’ve received a significant number of comments about the project over the last couple of months, and since this is a community grocery store, we want to incorporate some of these comments into the plan,” Greenwood said. 

Greenwood declined to comment on the proposed size of the project until the new plan is revealed to the public. 

“We don’t have a date yet,” she said. “It’s important to understand that something like this is a really long process. We are building a store from ground up.” 

Safeway is upgrading its 1,710 stores nationwide into what Greenwood described as “lifestyle stores.” 

“We are in our fourth year of ‘lifestyling’ our stores,” she said. “By 2010, all our stores will be ‘lifestyled,’ which includes having a larger produce section, a bigger bakery, improving fixtures and lights and upgrading the refrigeration system to make it more energy efficient. It’s a capital improvement campaign.” 

Shawl said her group is not against an upgrade to the store, but is strongly opposed to the proposed 55,000-square-foot structure, which she said is a huge departure from her neighborhood’s architectural scale. 

“Safeway has a prototype of their stores, which they want to use again and again and again and it’s a big ugly box,” Shawl, who lives less than a block away from the superstore, said. “We don’t want all that traffic, and we don’t want other people coming into the neighborhood other than those who like doing business with the indepen-dent stores.” 

Neighbor Denny Abrams, developer of the first sections of Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping district, said he was against Safeway’s ‘lifestyle’ store plan for College Avenue. 

“We don’t say that the market is of no value to us, but a lifestyle store will destroy the character of the neighborhood,” he said. 

Locally owned small businesses on the main thoroughfare voiced their concerns. 

“The size and scale of the proposed development is not appropriate for the neighborhood,” said Patrick Ansari, who owns The Meadows at 6307 College Ave. “Where else do you see that kind of footage or linear expansion on College Avenue?” 

Shelly Grubb, who owns Lulu Rae Confections, said there was a lot of speculation about the size and shape of the building. 

“But we know it’s going to affect our view,” she said, pointing at Safeway’s pale-gray concrete walls right across the street from her store. 

“As it is, there’s hardly much of a view now. You can’t fight development, but I wish Safeway would have some common sense.” 

Some merchants said they were concerned about the disruption from construction. 

“I don’t care if they are putting a pharmacy in there,” said John Gelinas, who owns Chimes Pharmacy at 3210 College Ave. “But I am worried about all the digging and the parking. Chimes has been here for 22 years. ... If my customers want to go to Safeway they will. I am too old to worry about things like that.” 

Shawl, a retired designer, is currently conducting a survey to document the different delivery trucks at Safeway throughout the day. 

Community meetings, Greenwood said, had indicated that neighbors wanted more parking and a larger selection of organic products. 

“We are trying to address traffic concerns,” she said. “Safeway has started to conduct a traffic analysis to understand the situation.” 

Safeway hired the public relations firm Aroner, Jewel & Ellis Partners, headed by former Assemblymember Dion Aroner, to counter community concerns about the proposed project.  

The firm sponsored a Rockridge Community Planning Council (RCPC) town hall meeting last June to get feedback from neighbors about the project and developed a website (www.safewayoncollege.com) to update the community about the expansion. 

“No mention of a mega-store was ever made during the meeting,” Shawl said. “All they wanted to know was what would be the ideal store for the neighborhood that would complement what was already there. We were given the impression that they were going to remodel the existing store.” 

McKay criticized the website for the lack of information about the project. 

“Our only method of communication with Safeway is through Aroner’s office,” McKay said. “Safeway has put a gatekeeper between the neighborhood and themselves by hiring a consulting firm of political lobbyists who have no perceived agenda other than keeping their client happy. They are just giving us vaporware.” 

Aroner, Jewel & Ellis partner Elisabeth Jewel declined comment and directed the Planet’s questions about the website to Greenwood. 

“The website is a great source for neighbors to send us their comments,” Greenwood said. “Once we start going out with the plans, we will post them there. Since we are still in the planning process, there is nothing to put up yet.” 

Calls to Peterson Vollman, the Oakland Planning Department planner assigned to the project, were not returned. 

Safeway replaced its architect Kirk Peterson with San Francisco-based MCG Architects in April, something Greenwood said the company did in order to hire a firm with more retail experience. 

“The design was changed in many ways but it was never really revealed,” Peterson told the Planet in a telephone interview Monday. “Some people wanted it to look like a bunch of cute buildings, but I think one building with an interesting design and a pedestrian facade would be good. I have heard people shopping there complain about space, and I know the current store doesn’t fit Safeway’s suburban model. But the general sentiment is about less change rather than more.” 

Peterson said Safeway also plans to expand its stores at Broadway and 51st Street in north Oakland, Solano Avenue in Albany and Shattuck Avenue and Rose Street in Berkeley. 

Safeway’s expansion at Broadway and 51st calls for relocating from the existing space at the Rockridge Shopping Center and moving into the approximately 75,000 sq. ft. Longs Drugs at the east of the facility. 

“We feel that the College Avenue store should continue to be a ‘satellite’ Safeway to the much larger Rockridge Shopping Center Safeway which is only 1.4 miles away,” McKay said. “This kind of a predatory corporate approach will put our local butcher, baker, flower shop, drugstore, coffee shop and vegetable market out of business.” 

More than 100 people turned up at meeting organized by “Concerned Neighbors” in March to hear McKay and Shawl talk about the proposed expansion. 

The group has 18 people on its steering committee—which includes lawyers, architects and a few retirees—and is lobbying neighbors to demand that Safeway stick to a maximum of 25,000 square feet, not allow roof top parking and make the new design compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. 

For more information on the Safeway project at College and Claremont visit: www.safewayoncollege.com and www.rockridge.org.


S. Berkeley Crime Meeting Reflects Neighborhood Concerns

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

The safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesday night last week was likely the community center at San Pablo Park. 

No fewer than five uniformed police officers—four from Berkeley and one from Oakland—were on hand for a community meeting on crime called by City Councilmember Darryl Moore. 

While the meeting had originally been called to address a series of takeover robberies along the San Pablo Avenue corridor, a pair of shootings the previous Friday night were weighing heavily on the minds of three dozen or so residents in attendance. 

On hand to offer short presentations and field questions were two police lieutenants, Andrew Greenwood from Berkeley and Freddie Hamilton of Oakland, BPD Officer and West Berkeley Area Coordinator Andrew Frankel, along with Deputy District Attorney Scott Jackson, Deputy City Manager Lisa Caronna and city Neighborhood Services liaison Angela Gallegos-Castillo. 

While most of the attendees at Moore’s meeting were white, both the shooters and their victims in Friday’s shootings were—like Moore, Lt. Hamilton and prosecutor Jackson—African American, as is Max Anderson, another city councilmember who sat silently in the audience. 

Another audience member who did raise concerns was Dana McDaniel, a Berkeley woman whose 29-year-old son Poitier was critically injured as he walked along an Oakland street just a block outside the Berkeley border. 

Less than an hour before that shooting, a block to the north and east on Sacramento Street, another young Berkeley man had been gunned down after he ran into a corner liquor store his brother had just been chased into by a pair of armed men. 

“That shooting was a focused incident and not a random act of violence,” Lt. Greenwood told one member of the audience who said one of the brothers had been arrested for assaulting her son. 

Lt. Hamilton said Oakland police couldn’t talk about the second shooting, or any possible Berkeley connections to the shooting of Poitier McDaniel, because of ongoing field investigations. 

Responding to criticisms that some witnesses to the Friday night’s first shooting had yet to be interviewed by Berkeley police, Greenwood responded that investigators have had their hands full with two other weekend crimes, including the fatal stabbing of a student at a campus fraternity party five hours later. 

“In the murder, we had dozens of witnesses, and it’s a challenging logistical case,” Greenwood said. 

In yet another case Wednesday afternoon, police had to cope with a barricaded hostage who was threatening to kill his spouse. Since many of the Berkeley investigators also serve on the hostage negotiation team, yet more resources were diverted from the Sacramento Street shooting, he said. 

 

Lone Gunman 

Another set of violent acts, the takeover robberies, remains enshrouded in another bit of mystery after Berkeley officers first announced and then retracted a declaration that Oakland detectives had arrested a “person of interest” in the crime spree that Berkeley cops were calling “the Lone Gunman.” The name was given to distinguish his crimes from another series of takeover robberies being carried out by a crew. 

A takeover robber takes over a business during a robbery, looting not only the cash register but wallets, purses and jewelry of any unfortunate customers who happen to be on hand. The robbers tend to hit toward the end of the business day when cash registers are at their fullest, police said. 

The Lone Gunman’s first known Berkeley heist happened on tax day, April 15, when the masked bandit hit Famous Foam Factory at 2397 San Pablo Ave. He was back the next day with a stickup at Eco Home Improvement, 2619 San Pablo. 

When he hit Berkeley’s Good Vibrations on the 18th, there were some 30 folks attending a seminar in the 2504 San Pablo Ave. adults-only store, leaving police with a large number of victims to interview. 

“In a takeover where there are multiple victims, it becomes immensely complex, but you can’t interview them all at once,” Greenwood said. Instead, witnesses must be questioned individually to forestall legal questions in court. 

Police believe he’s the same masked man who later expanded his operations to strike the Subway sandwich shop at 1105 University Ave., just east of San Pablo, on the 29th and to hit two days later the New Economy Laundry at 3200 Sacramento St. 

Frankel said he is also suspected of at least three similar crimes in Oakland, two at adult bookstores and one at a bicycle shop. 

Because of the mask, the police description is vague: “An African-American male, late teens to late 20s, tall, thin build, wearing dark clothing, baseball or other cap, a mask, and armed with a handgun.” 

 

Two jurisdictions 

One concern raised by audience members was the invisible line dividing two different police jurisdictions, one better funded that the other. 

Greenwood said Oakland and Berkeley police detectives frequently confer on cases like the takeover robbery sprees, though only Berkeley patrol officers have separate radios so they can listen to calls from officers in the neighboring city. 

Oakland’s higher crime rate means officers have less time to respond to specific crimes and, as neighborhood activist Laura Menard noted and police confirmed, guns are used much more frequently in robberies in Oakland compared with Berkeley. 

“They don’t have the resources,” Greenwood said of Oakland. 

Oakland crimes were very much on the minds of audience members.  

“I was robbed in Oakland a year-and-a-half ago,” said one woman. “I never heard back” from police, even though she had a good description of the robber and his car. Lt. Hamilton urged her to call Oakland detectives. 

Another woman wondered why her friends who had been robbed in Oakland weren’t given a chance to look at mug shots. “They have a very good description” of the robber, “but no one seemed to be interested.” 

Hamilton said detectives normally  

didn’t show photos until they already had mug shots available that fit the description. 

Greenwood said the whole notion of looking through mug books “is from old movies and television shows.” Berkeley doesn’t even maintain mug books, he said. 

“A friend of mine was murdered in Oakland in February,” said another woman in the audience, who was concerned that the suspect might be offered a plea bargain. “How do I find out information from the District Attorney’s office?” 

Jackson urged her to call the DA’s office in Oakland and ask what deputy had been assigned the prosecution, adding the reassurance that “generally, no offers are made in homicide cases.”  

The prosecutor also urged audience members to write each of the Alameda County Superior Court judges to urge them to take a tough stance on crime. He also faulted the juvenile justice system, saying that when the county eased up on a strict juvenile “reform school” detention model it had eliminated the stick of enforcement needed to confront young criminals with the consequences of their actions. 

 

Other questions 

Mary Lou Van Deventer, one of the founders of Urban Ore, wondered about the criminal flexibility of West Berkeley’s offenders. 

The recycling business has been struck repeatedly by burglars in search of metal, and Van Deventer wondered “how likely is it that they are going to switching to gun-toting” banditry? 

Greenwood said that criminals are more oriented to turf that to specific modes of crime. “We’ve had Berkeley drug dealers focus on identity theft ... because there’s a lot less attention,” he said. 

The bigger dealers use their street crews to hustle bad checks and to front their addresses for mail order goods bought with purloined identity data. 

“They decide, I’ll go over to identity theft because there’s a lot less risk,’” he said. “They switch over because it’s a drag to get stopped by the cops,” given that Berkeley officers have a good handle on drug dealer identities and will pull them over whenever they get the chance. 

Frankel also offered the department’s services to a merchant who asked if officers had a program to teach retailers and their employees how to respond in robberies. 

A popular officer with neighborhood activists, Frankel said he’ll be leaving his West Berkeley assignment this month to take over as the department’s official spokesperson to the press. Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, who currently fields press inquiries, will be moving on to other tasks, said Greenwood. 

Moore himself played a low-key role at the meeting, introducing the participants and listening attentively. Wednesday night’s session was merely the latest in a series of crime-focused sessions the councilmember has been holding for his constituents.


Even with Salaries, City Budget Looks Balanced—For Now

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM

While the city’s $315 million 2008-09 budget appeared balanced earlier this week, Berkeley was anticipating bad news by Wednesday afternoon, when the governor addressed state budget woes. 

The Berkeley City Council budget workshop last week kicked off the annual two-month period that culminates in budget approval. Given that 2008-09 is the second year in a mostly-set-in-stone budget—employee costs are generally considered fixed—the council has little wiggle room to advocate for special project funding. The fear was that the state would take millions of dollars in permanent cuts and temporary borrowing from healthcare and police services, which Schwarzenegger confirmed in his statement.  

The $315 million draft budget reflects a 2.7 percent increase over the second year of the two-year budget adopted last year.  

City Manager Phil Kamlarz told the council he has set aside some $2 million in the 2008-2009 budget to address potential state and federal cuts, but the cuts could lead to city to an eventual deficit by fiscal year 2011.  

The manager has recommended cutting nine vacant staff positions to balance the budget. Program cuts will be considered once the state budget is finalized, Kamlarz said.  

Toward the end of the workshop, octogenarian Councilmember Betty Olds brought a moment of comic relief to the discussions with her revenue-raising plan: people growing “pot” in the city “are making a pretty good living,” she said.  

“How are we going to tax those people?” she asked. “There might be quite a lot of money there.”  

Kamlarz responded, suggesting, “We could open a bakery next door.”  

Most of the workshop was more serious, as city staff presented a balanced “all-fund” budget to the council. (The all-fund budget includes the general fund’s basic services—police, fire, public works, parks and more—plus special grant, state and federal monies the city receives. The projected 2008-2009 general fund budget is at about $145 million, 3.6 percent more than allocated last year.)  

“Some long-term planning puts us in a good position,” he said, noting however that employee demands for salary increases could tip the balance. Police and fire employees recently got 14 percent raises over four years. Other unions are in negotiations.  

Kamlarz himself is reportedly asking for a wage hike from a City Council subcommittee evaluating him. The manager earns about $208,000 annually, according to records posted on the city’s Human Resources website, www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10792, plus about $100,000 in benefits.  

When the Planet asked during a Monday budget press briefing how large a raise he was requesting, Kamlarz said—joking, perhaps—that he was asking for less than the $316,688 salary of the city manager of Vallejo—which is now facing bankruptcy.  

(2007 salary data for the 372 Berkeley bureaucrats earning more than $100,000 can be found on the SF Gate website at: http://www.sfgate.com/webdb/berkeleypay/.)  

Asked why the city generally gives high-paid employees the same percentage raise as more modestly-paid employees—with an across-the-board 4 percent raise, a worker earning $50,000 would get a $2,000 annual raise and a worker earning $125,000 would receive a $5,000 salary hike—the manager told the Planet that it is important for city workers to receive salaries which will compete with those of employees in similar positions in other jurisdictions.  

In the manager’s report, however, he says: “The only method to effectively eliminate the city’s structural deficit is through cost reductions—primarily through controlling labor costs since employee salary and benefits make up 77 percent of the city’s operating budget.”  

Some of those controls are in place, with many employees taking a voluntary monthly unpaid day off.  

 

Delicate balance  

The city has been able to balance its budget through improving its Business License Tax collections—by revising fees for miscategorized businesses—and generating new parking meter revenue, the city manager told the council.  

Kamlarz addressed concerns over the “pretty dramatic decrease” in the number of properties sold due to the downturn in the economy—down 17 percent from 2007—and the reduction in property transfer taxes. However, the recent sale of a $21 million building—the downtown Wells Fargo Building—helped balance out the loss in residential transfer tax revenue, he said.  

Additionally, increases in revenue from hotel taxes, better billing and collections for ambulance fees, utility users tax collections and interest income have helped balance the budget. The increase in hotel occupancy has created “a double digit increase,” Finance Manager Bob Hicks told the council.  

“Part of this balancing approach involves generating new revenue through November 2008 ballot measures for critical programs like fire and emergency services, libraries and public pools,” the manager wrote in a May 6 report to the council.  

 

State cuts  

State cuts in MediCal and Social Security payments to disabled people could hurt some of the most vulnerable Berkeley residents, Health and Human Services Director Fred Madrano told the Daily Planet Thursday.  

At the same time, the city’s safety net for those in need will be impacted by state and federal cuts.  

“Most of these folks [on SSI] are at poverty level,” Madrano said. “If you remove any of the support they count on, it wears away at their ability to maintain their independence.”  

The cuts could also impact city-funded clinics in the long term, as reimbursement for MediCal services begin to generate less income from the state. (No immediate impact is projected, according to the manager’s report.)  

About $1 million in state and county reductions for Berkeley’s Health and Human services have been proposed, Madrano said, noting that decisions on program cuts will not be made until after state cuts are announced,  

Added to that is last year’s cut of about $1 million in Berkeley’s share of state funds used for housing and services for once-homeless mentally-ill persons. “Staff is developing a transition plan to deal with this dramatic program cut,” the manager’s report says.  

The HIV-AIDS program is likely to take the greatest hit in the Public Health realm, Janet Barreman, deputy health officer, told the Planet Thursday. There is likely to be a decrease in the amount of outreach to people who may be HIV positive, although the testing and referral program will not feel the impacts, she said.  

 

Feds cut too  

The federal budget is running at a $500 billion deficit, up from a $410 billion deficit forecast in February, according to the city staff report.  

While federal Community Development Block Grant funds that help support community nonprofits have been reduced by about $134,500 or 4 percent, funds unspent from last year will likely make up the deficit, Housing Director Jane Micallef, who heads up the CDBG program, told the who heads up the CDBG program, told the Planet.  

Some community programs, however, will experience shortfalls. In 2007-2008, the city cut funds from $9,000 to $20,000 for about a dozen programs. Among them were Berkeley Food and Housing’s hot evening meal program, Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency’s multi-service center for homeless persons, and various supportive housing programs. The city found funds to restore funding for last year’s budget only, so funds targeted for these programs will fall short this year.  

Most community programs continue to be funded at last year’s levels. The program to receive the most CDBG funding from the city—at about $320,000—is an energy-efficiency program funded through the Community Energy Services Corporation, a nonprofit whose board of directors is the city’s Energy Commission.  

 

Police  

The police department could take a $1 million hit from the state. While the chief will determine precisely where to make cuts, police spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet that the loss of (2004) Proposition 72 money—one of the possible state cuts—could mean a cut of four sworn officer positions. Cuts in COPS funds—a state grant—could mean the loss of three or four civilian positions, she said. The state also reimburses booking fees through the county, including costs of housing, food and medical care for arrestees. These funds may be held back by the state.  

The department is budgeted at $48 million for 2008-2009. At present, it has reported an excess of about $700,000 over the $2,382,690 budgeted for overtime. Of that, about $250,000 has been spent in overtime caused by the pro and anti-war demonstrations around the downtown Marine Recruiting Center, according to Kusmiss.  

There is also a great amount of overtime spent in homicide investigations, in which officers can sometimes work 50 hours straight on an investigation immediately after the crime, Kusmiss said, noting, “The first 48 hours are critical.”  

Patrol officers can volunteer for overtime and work up to 16 hours straight. If there is no volunteer, the department will impose overtime to cover vacant shifts, she said.  

While some officers earn huge overtime salaries, Kusmiss said that saves the city from hiring additional officers, which would cost the city more in benefits. According to the city’s human resources department, benefits cost about 50 percent of a city employee’s base salary.  

According to data on sfgate.com, the three top earners in the city of Berkeley are police officers. Police Sergeant Howard Nonoguchi’s gross pay for 2007 was $217,880, which included $115,744 base pay, $73,925 overtime and other non-specified pay that could include cashing out vacation time.  

Police Lt. Wesley Hester, Jr., the city’s second-highest earner, received $217,143 in gross pay in 2007, with a base pay of $138, 933 and $11,798 in overtime pay. The third-highest earner was Police Lt. Allen Yuen, who took home a gross salary of $207,225, with base pay at $138,933 and overtime of $32,362. Chief Douglas Hambleton is looking for some savings in his department, and is considering hiring additional non-sworn officers, as other officers retire or leave the force, according to Kusmiss.  

Non-sworn officers cannot make arrests or investigate felonies, but can help cut down the work of sworn officers by taking reports, such as for burglarized vehicles. They can also patrol traffic.  

 

Fire department  

Similarly, the fire department overspent its budget in the current budget year by $700,000 for overtime. The city manager’s report says that the overtime costs are a result of 14 sworn vacancies resulting from work-related injuries, family medical leave, parental leave, long-term sick leave and military leave.  

The top earner in that department, with the eighth highest ranking in city-wide gross pay, was Fire Lt. Michael Nagamoto, whose gross pay in 2007 was $200,864, base pay, $103,818 and overtime, $27,278. The department’s projected budget is $24,500.


Props. 98 and 99 Battle over Eminent Domain

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM

In the March presidential primary election, Alameda County voters faced a confused choice in which two similar but different-in-detail ballot propositions—Measure A and Measure B—sought approval for a special Children’s Hospital building fund tax. In part because of that confusion, voters responded by overwhelmingly rejecting both measures. 

In next month’s primary election, Alameda County voters as well as voters from across the state face a similar situation. The only two statewide propositions on the ballot—Proposition 98 and Proposition 99—are both designed to clarify and put limits on state and local government authority to use eminent domain powers to seize private property. Both seek to alter the effect of a controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision which allowed governmental bodies to seize private property for private development. 

As in the Measure A and B battle, both Proposition 98 and 99 deal with the same legal issues but in different ways. If both pass, the proposition which gets the most votes will become law. 

 

The Background 

Historically, federal, state, and local governments have had the power to seize private property for public purpose, even when the owners don’t want to part with that property. That power is called eminent domain.  

Governments are not allowed simply to take the property, but must pay the owners what is considered a “fair market value.” In the past, the public purpose projects under which eminent domain seizures have taken place have almost always been indisputably “public”—the building of roads or highways or rail right-of-ways, for example, or schools or other government buildings. 

In 2005, however, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a new definition of “public use” that can be the subject of an eminent domain seizure. The City of New London, Conn., had sought to seize private property—homes—in order to carry through an economic development plan proposal for its Fort Trumbull community that included condominiums, hotels, and a conference center, and a new plant for Pfizer pharmaceutical company.  

Although none of these were the traditional public uses for which eminent domain had been previously authorized, New London officials argued that the Fort Trumbull economic development plan would bring jobs and tax dollars to a depressed area, which they argued fit the “public” criteria in the Constitution’s seizure authorization clauses. In a 5-4 decision called Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with that interpretation. 

Across the country, however, many homeowners and other small private property owners feared that by this definition, any local government could develop similar economic development plans and seize homes and small businesses and turn them over to big businesses. 

Propositions 98 and 99 were put forward to prevent that possibility. But one of them, Prop 98, contains a little extra.  

 

Proposition 99 

The California Legislative Analyst’s office provides the simplest breakdown of the effects of Proposition 99: 

“This constitutional amendment limits state and local government’s use of eminent domain in certain circumstances. Specifically, the measure prohibits government from using eminent domain to take a single-family home (including a condominium) for the purpose of transferring it to another private party (such as a person, business, or association). This prohibition, however, would not apply if government was taking the home to: Protect public health and safety; Prevent serious, repeated criminal activity; Respond to an emergency; Remedy environmental contamination that posed a threat to public health and safety; Use the property for a public work, such as a toll road or airport operated by a private party. In addition, the prohibition would not apply if the property owner did not live in the home or had lived there for less than a year.” 

The proposition is supported by one of the widest coalitions of California organizations in recent years, led by such groups as the League of California Homeowners, League of Women Voters of California, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, and the Consumer Federation of California. 

Opposition to Prop 99, which is signed in the official ballot pamphlet by representatives of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the Protect Prop. 13 Committee, and the California Farm Bureau, is designed around its effect on negating Proposition 98 if it gets more votes. 

“Proposition 98 protects ALL private property in California. Proposition 99 protects virtually nothing,” the Prop 99 opponents write. “The politicians and developers don’t want you to vote Yes on 98, so they are trying to trick you into voting for “do-nothing” Proposition 99 instead. … In 99 they took out every protection for farmers, small businesses, second homes, and rented homes.”  

The Prop 99 opponents also contend that there are enough circumstances in Prop 99 in which home seizures are allowed so that the result is “homeowners have virtually no protection under 99.” 

One thing about the Prop 99 opponents’ argument appears true: Prop 99 provides protection only for “owner-occupied residences.” 

 

Proposition 98 

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office says that Prop 98 does the very thing that the opponents of the Kelo v. City of New London decision want: it “prohibits government from taking ownership of property to transfer it to a private party—such as a person, business, or nonprofit organization.”  

Significantly, unlike Prop 99, the protection is to all property, not just single-family homes. Prop 98 authors also threw in two additional, highly controversial provisions. 

For one, the measure would end rent control as we know it. Again, quoting the Legislative Analyst’s Office: “[Prop 98] generally prohibits government from limiting the price property owners may charge others to purchase, occupy, or use their land or buildings. This provision would affect local rent control measures. Specifically, government could not enact new rent control measures, and any rent control measure enacted after January 1, 2007 would end. Other rent control measures (those enacted before January 1, 2007) would be phased out on a unit-by-unit basis after an apartment unit or mobile home park space is vacated. Once a tenant left an apartment or mobile home space, property owners could charge market rate rents, and that apartment unit or mobile home space would not be subject to rent control again.” 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office also says that another provision inserted in Prop 98—“impose restrictions on the ‘ownership, occupancy, or use of property’ if the restrictions were imposed ‘in order to transfer an economic benefit’ from one property owner to other private persons”—do not specifically, but could be interpreted by the courts—could being the operative word, here—as prohibiting such programs as mandatory inclusionary housing and condominium conversion relocation benefits. Such relocation benefits are often central components of city’s inclusionary zoning and condominium conversion programs. 

Opponents of Prop 98 also contend it would “jeopardize our ability to protect the quality of our drinking water and secure new sources of water to prevent water shortages,” although no proof of that charge is offered in the official ballot pamphlet. 

The “Yes On Prop 98” campaign is being run by an organization called Californians for Property Rights Protection, which its website [http://yesprop98.com/] says is “a coalition of homeowners, family farmers, small business owners, and other property owners (small and large) led by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Farm Bureau Federation, and The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights.”  


EBMUD Declares Water Shortage

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:36:00 AM

The East Bay Municipal Utility District’s (EBMUD) Board of Directors declared a water shortage emergency on Tuesday and adopted a drought management plan to reduce water use by 15 percent. 

EBMUD’s 1.3 million customers are facing a severe water shortage for the first time in nearly two decades, agency spokesperson Brian McCrea told the Planet. 

The plan aims to save 32,000 acre feet of water, about a two-month supply of water in the Bay Area. The last two years has been among the driest in the district’s history and March and April together have been the driest on record, McCrea said. 

The Sierra snowpack that makes up the majority of the District’s water supply is only yielding about half of what is normally expected in runoff. 

“This is the time of the year snow in the Sierra Mountains melts and meanders down into the District’s Pardee Reservoir, where 90 percent of EBMUD’s drinking water comes from, 90 miles away,” McCrea said. “But instead of the water supply in Pardee—and Camanche, the flood control reservoir below it—increasing, they are actually both decreasing with the small amount of runoff. This year, some of the storms just slid off to the north instead of coming to the Mokelumne watershed.” 

A group of people, including homeowners and landscape architects, turned up at EBMUD’s headquarters at 375 11th St. around 1:15 p.m. today to voice their concerns about the water shortage. 

“Our drought management plan proposal ensures adequate storage for future years,” EBMUD Director Andy Katz told the Planet. “We have allocated a budget of $5 million to increase water conservation outreach.” 

The plan includes implementing restrictions on DecoratiVe ponds that don’t recycle water, washing vehicles without an automatic shutoff valve, washing sidewalks and patios with water, watering the lawn on consecutive days or more than three times a week, and excessive outdoor watering. 

“We will also be doing media outreach, and increasing our customer service,” Katz said. “We encourage people to use water wisely and to repair leaks promptly. We also discourage refilling pools or spas and encourage restaurants to serve water to customers only when they request it.” 

EMBUD will ask customers to cut overall outdoor water use by 30 percent.  

Under EBMUD’s water shortage response plan, when the agency’s storage goes below 500,000 acre feet of water, the Board of Directors could move to mandatory rationing and drought restrictions to prevent the supply from shrinking. 

An acre-foot of water covers one acre of land with water to a one foot deep. 

“We estimate 415,000 acre feet by the end of the year,” Katz said. “That’s a severe shortage and requires 15 percent water conservation. At this point in the year, we can only be secure if we have 500,000 acre feet of water.” 

EBMUD serves customers from Berkeley to Danville and from Crockett to Castro Valley. 

The board also adopted temporary drought rates which increase water charges by 10 percent, except for customers who use less than 100 gallons a day. 

“I received a lot of e-mails from residents who are doing the most they can,” Katz said. “Some families use only 60 gallons a day. We felt it was important to reward customers as much as possible.” 

To help these families, the board increased the Drought Surcharge from $1 to $2 per 748 gallons if customers do not conserve half the needed reduction. 

The drought surcharge applied for single family homes will be 90 percent of past consumption, and that for multi-family and commercial customers will be 94 percent of past consumption. 

Exceptions will be made for medical requirements, changes in occupancy and health and safety emergencies. 

The agency’s rationing plan mandates all single-family homes and renters to cut outdoor water use by 19 percent and 11 percent respectively. 

“People should take shorter showers,” Katz said. “Berkeley has a lot of older toilets. Now is the time to replace them with ultra low-flow toilets.” 

EBMUD’s website (www.ebmud.org) also provides many tips on water conservation and offers rebates. 

Large irrigators like cemeteries and golf courses will be asked to cut back water use by 30 percent and schools and hospitals will be asked to reduce water consumption by 9 percent. 

EBMUD last declared a water shortage emergency in 1991, when the district’s water storage went down to 410,000 acre feet. 

“I really trust our customers,” McCrea said. “They came through for us in 1977 and again in 1991. I am confident they can do it again. I would urge gardeners to use the grand secret weapon—mulch—which keeps the soil wet. We are hoping to get some people in district vehicles to go around the neighborhood and advise people to keep water off the gutter, in other words not be a gutter flooder.” 

For more info, see www.ebmud.com/conserving_&_recycling/residential 

 


Court Date Set for UC Murder Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, the Berkeley City College student charged with murdering UC Berkeley engineering student Chris Wootton, did not enter a plea last week when he appeared at the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland. 

The attorney representing him at the May 8 court appearance suggested his client may be innocent. 

Conflicting statements about what happened on the night of May 3, when 21-year-old Wootton was stabbed outside the Chi Omega sorority house, might prove that Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, did not commit a crime, Deputy Public Defender Tony Cheng, who was assigned to Hoeft-Edenfield, said. 

Court records indicate that Hoeft-Edenfield’s next court date to enter a plea is June 12. 

Cheng did not elaborate on whether Hoeft-Edenfield would be entering a self-defense plea, but said he was reviewing “conflicting statements” about what had taken place that evening. 

“I cannot comment on the facts of the case,” Cheng told the Planet in a telephone message Friday. 

Hoeft-Edenfield was arrested and booked at the Berkeley City Jail on one count of murder within 12 hours of the Saturday morning incident.  

Wootton was stabbed once in the upper left portion of his chest, between his ribs, in front of a group of students in the rear parking lot of the Chi Omega sorority house on Piedmont Avenue.  

When Berkeley police officers arrived at the scene, after receiving a 911 call about a young man brandishing a knife around 2:45 a.m., they were directed to the Sigma Pi house on Warring Street, where they found about 20 students standing around Wootton, who was bleeding. He died on the way to Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.  

Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said Wootton’s condition was extremely critical and that he had no pulse when paramedics arrived at the scene.  

Wootton’s family and friends have suggested that Wootton may have been trying to break up a fight when he got stabbed. 

Police reports indicate that a verbal exchange between students and others escalated into a physical fight that ultimately led to the stabbing.  

Eyewitness testimony, local authorities said, played an important role in finding and arresting Hoeft-Edenfield.  

Kusmiss said three UC Berkeley students—one girl and two boys—came forward with statements, which included a first name and a physical description that helped officers create a photo line-up and eventually track him down to a friend’s house in Oakland. 

Hoeft-Edenfield allegedly volunteered to go to the police station and provide details of the incident, including his involvement in the crime, to police officers after the arrest.  

“During the course of the conversation he gradually became more comfortable and confessed that he was the young man who had the knife,” Kusmiss said. “He told detectives that he felt the knife connect with something but didn’t know he had stabbed someone until he was fleeing the area and saw there was blood on his hand and knife.” 

Officers discovered a bloody folding, buck-style knife on a sidewalk on Piedmont Avenue on Saturday morning during their investigations, according to Kusmiss.  

A transfer student from Alameda, Hoeft-Edenfield graduated from Berkeley High School in 2006. Berkeley Unified School District officials were unable to provide any information about him.


U-Haul Takes City to Court Again Over San Pablo Site

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Although the Berkeley City Council declared the U-Haul location at 2100 San Pablo Ave. to be a nuisance and voted unanimously in October to shut it down, the business is suing the city a second time to keep its doors open. 

The city’s October use-permit revocation was the culmination of a decade of formal complaints during which the 33-year-old Berkeley business parked more trucks on its lot than permitted and allowed customers to leave trucks in the neighborhood when they returned vehicles after hours, city reports say. 

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland May 5 says the business should be allowed to operate on environmental and civil rights’ grounds. 

“Consistent with the local green philosophy and the city’s purported policy, U-Haul has dedicated itself to protecting and preserving the surrounding environment by maintaining an environmentally friendly truck-sharing business model limiting harmful carbon dioxide emissions and removing polluting vehicles from the streets,” the complaint says. 

U-Haul’s attorneys also make an equal protection argument: “It is well recognized that as an affordable alternative, U-Haul is often the choice of protected classes of people who by definition have limited choices.”  

U-Haul appealed the city’s permit revocation in Superior Court in October. The court ruled in the city’s favor at that time, according to City Attorney Zach Cowan, who spoke to the Planet on Monday. 

The time alloted for U-Haul to appeal that decision ran out last week, Cowan said, noting that the company had taken an unusual step by filing a new lawsuit in federal court, rather than appealing the super-ior court decision. 

“I kind of wonder why they had to find a new court,” Cowan said. 

U-Haul spokesperson JoAnne Fried told the Planet Monday that U-Haul is exploring its legal options to respond to the Superior Court decision as well. 

Eric Crocker, president of the U-Haul Company of West Sacramento, which operates the Berkeley business, told the Planet on Friday that the company continues to operate, abiding by the conditions of the use permit, leaving gates open at night so that customers can park on the grounds, even though, he said, the result is, “there are almost nightly fuel thefts.” 

Cowan, however, said the company is operating only as a retail business—selling moving supplies but not renting trucks. A person answering the telephone at the Berkeley U-Haul location Monday confirmed that the business no longer rents trucks.


Suspects Arrested In Bank Robbery

By Bay City News
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

Four suspects stole $6,000 from the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union at 2001 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley shortly before noon Tuesday, and were later arrested in Oakland, according to Berkeley police spokeswoman Sgt. Mary Kusmiss. 

Kusmiss said two of the suspects were armed with shotguns when the group entered the bank at 11:58 a.m. Tuesday, and a bank employee was struck in the head. 

But she said another bank employee managed to write down the license plate number of the suspects’ vehicle and they were tracked down by Oakland police at 6657 66th Ave. in East Oakland and taken into custody.


News Briefs

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

Monterey Court Stops LBAM Spray  

Following a similar ruling by a Santa Cruz court last month requiring the state to complete environmental studies before spraying for the Light Brown Apple Moth (LBAM) in Santa Cruz County, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Robert O’Farrell ruled Monday that the state cannot spray in Monterey County until the state agriculture department completes environmental studies. 

“I’m glad that this case will set a precedent requiring government to do the required studies before they spray an unsuspecting populace with untested chemicals,” said Alexander Henson, attorney for Helping Our Peninsula’s Environment, which brought the lawsuit against the California Department of Food and Agriculture. 

CDFA Secretary A.G. Kawamura released a statement after the decision, saying he will ask the San Jose Sixth Court of Appeals to allow the state to appeal the Santa Cruz and Monterey decisions together.  

“The light brown apple moth infestation is, in fact, an emergency that threatens our nation’s food supply and our state’s environment,” Kawamura said in the statement. 

For information on the LBAM, go to www.stopthespray.org or www. cdfa.ca.gov/LBAM 

 

Berkeley Celebrates Conscientious Objector Day Today 

At 10 a.m. today (Thursday) war resisters will raise a peace flag at 2180 Milvia St., celebrating the city’s second annual Conscientious Objector and War Resisters’ Day in the city of Berkeley. The Peace and Justice Commission is sponsoring the event. 

On Saturday, the celebration continues noon-4 p.m. in Civic Center Park, at Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Center Street, with music by Country Joe McDonald and Annie and the Vets and speeches by peace activist Daniel Ellsberg, Councilmember Kriss Worthington and others. 

 

Witches, Crones and Sirens at the Marine Recruiting Station 

Code Pink continues its almost daily presence at the downtown Marine Recruiting Station, 64 Shattuck Square. 

“Our week of protests commemorating Mother’s Day culminated in a full day of magick and ritual drawn from women’s wisdom of ‘Witches, Crones, and Sirens’ on Friday, May 9,” said Code Pink organizer Zanne Joi in an e-mail to the press and protesters.  

 

UC workers take strike vote 

Service and patient care workers at all University of California hospitals and campuses are voting in the next week whether to go out on strike, according to William Schlitz, with AFSCME Local 3299. Results of the vote will be announced May 23.  

At UC Berkeley food service workers, custodians, groundskeepers and security officers are represented by AFSCME.  

Laney College workers earn 25 percent more than the university workers, Schlitz told the Planet.


Airsoft Gun from BHS Robbery Found in Old Gym

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

Berkeley police have recovered the airsoft gun allegedly belonging to the 17-year-old Berkeley High School junior who was arrested for robbing a sophomore Wednesday. 

The gun, an Airsoft replica Tec-9 semi-automatic pistol, was discovered on May 8 inside a backpack in the boys’ locker room in the Old Gym by a Berkeley High student who turned it over to school staff. 

A photo released by the Berkeley Police Department (BPD) shows a black Nike backpack with what appears to be “Richman Markel G. Kells” scrawled on it with a marker, an Airsoft gun and a bag of pellets. 

“More and more of these replica style weapons are being used to commit robberies,” BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss told the Planet. “Neither a learned officer nor a community member will be able to tell the difference between a real gun and a replica.” 

Kusmiss added that although carrying a replica gun did not constitute a crime, pellets fired from it could hurt if aimed at the head or eyes. 

“It can break the skin,” she said. “If you carry a replica weapon around, you are certainly taking a risk. Most victims of a robbery think it’s real, so the fear is still there.” 

A gun scare caused Berkeley High to go under lockdown Wednesday morning while police searched the campus for the teenage suspect and his weapon. 

According to police reports, the semi-masked 11th-grader robbed a sophomore of his Creative Zen MP3 Player at Civic Center Park around 9:42 a.m., and then ran southbound across Allston Way on to the Berkeley High campus as soon as police approached the park. 

Police found the 11th-grader in Room 206 on the campus, attending class with fellow students. He was taken into custody without a struggle and booked into the Alameda County Juvenile Hall. His case will be reviewed by the BPD youth services detectives and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, after which recommendations will be made for what action should be taken against him.  

BPD officers searched the campus for a weapon which the victim said was tucked into the robber’s waistband, but were unable to find anything Wednesday. 

District spokesperson Mark Coplan said the bag was found in a damaged locker in the Old Gym. 

“The Old Gym’s locker rooms are pretty awful,” he said. “Outside of athletes, most kids don’t use it. I don’t know how it turned up there.” 

Coplan said the California Education Code forbids students from bringing in replica guns. 

“I can’t recall any recent cases at Berkeley High,” he said. “I have heard about pellet guns in middle school. But I think a high school kid using one for a robbery is quite different. It’s not permitted on school grounds and is treated like a real weapon.” 

Airsoft guns are available in sporting goods stores, Kusmiss said, and an Internet search brings up a wide variety, with prices ranging from $15 up depending on the brand. 

Coplan said the school was not going to beef up security because of the incident or take any immediate action against the student charged with robbery. 

“Anything we do will be pretty secondary to what the police will do,” he said. “At this point the police have taken over the investigation completely.”


Man Threatens Students With Knife

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

Berkeley police arrested an Oakland resident last week, after charging that he punched a Berkeley High sophomore in the chest, pulled out a knife and chased a group of students through downtown Berkeley to the gates of the school. 

Three Berkeley High sophomores were buying lunch on Thursday, May 8, at E-Z Stop Deli at 2233 Shattuck Ave. around noon when they noticed a man identified as Jacoby Daniel Kirby, 28, sitting on the sidewalk asking for spare change, Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Mary Kusmiss told the Planet Friday. 

She said that Kirby told the three students he would tell them a joke for money, and that one of the 10th-graders gave Kirby a quarter, after which Kirby told a joke. 

“The student told him he had heard the joke before and that he wanted to hear a new one, for which Kirby asked for another quarter,” Kusmiss said. 

The student replied, she said, that he was not going to give Kirby any more money for his “corny” jokes, after which Kirby started making fun of the boy’s physical appearance. 

The students walked away from the spot, but Kirby continued his comments which led to a verbal exchange, she reported. 

“They started yelling at each other and at one point the older man brought his hand up like he was going to hit the young man,” Kusmiss said. “The young man caught his hand and the two tussled. At this point Kirby brought out his pocket knife and held it in his fist. Kirby punched the 10th-grader in the left side of his chest. The three students started running to the school with the joke-teller chasing them.” 

After the boys reached the east entrance of Berkeley High on Kittredge and Milvia streets they yelled for help. The school’s safety officers and other staff surrounded Kirby and called for emergency support on the radio. 

BPD officers showed up and took Kirby into custody for on charges of brandishing a knife and, bringing a weapon into the school grounds as well as battery on the young man. 

Police took down eyewitness testimony from the students and school staff, including the school’s Dean of Discipline Alejandro Ramos, and booked the suspect into the Berkeley City Jail. 

No one was injured in the incident, Kusmiss said, although Berkeley Fire Department paramedics attended to the student who was punched after he complained of an asthmatic fit. 

BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan al-leged that Kirby had at one point attacked the student with a blunt end of the knife, but had not injured him. 

Kusmiss said Kirby is a prominent fixture in downtown Berkeley. 

“Berkeley police [are] familiar with [Kirby] and he can be problematic,” she said. “He has been arrested for a diversity of offenses. Although the police department often gets reports about verbal exchanges with people asking for spare change, it’s not often that someone pulls out a knife. We are always concerned when something like this happens, especially when the safety of a student is concerned.” 


Berkeley, Richmond Council Target Lab Projects

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:22:00 AM

While Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) has made minor changes to its plans for its planned biofuel lab, the project’s recently released environmental impact review (EIR) rejects any move to another site. 

A group of environmentalists and preservationists has called for either rejection or redrafting of the EIRs of the Helios Building and a second building planned at the lab. The Richmond City Council adopted a resolution calling for the move last week, while the Berkeley City held back on a similar resolution. 

“It was delayed to give Planning Director Dan Marks time to see if he could get them to agree to some compromises,” said Berkeley Councilmember Dona Spring. 

In Richmond, Vice Mayor John E. Marquez and councilmembers Nathaniel Bates and Maria T. Viramontes have sponsored a resolution calling on the UC Board of Regents to deny certification of the EIRs for both the Helios building and for the Computational Research and Theory (CRT) facility, two high-tech structures planned at either end of the lab’s campus in the Berkeley hills above the city and the university campus. 

Instead, the Richmond resolution urges, the university should consider relocating the buildings to UC Berkeley’s Richmond Field Station, which had also been proposed by the university as the site of a corporate/academic research park until soil cleanup problems put the project on hold. 

The Helios building will house some of LBNL’s ongoing energy research as well as the controversial $500 billion synthetic fuel and energy program funded by British oil giant BP. 

The CRT building, located near LBNL’s Blackberry Gate, will house a federal supercomputer facility now located in a leased building in downtown Oakland. 

The Helios EIR dismisses public concerns raised in writing and in a December public testimony session conducted during a meeting of the Berkeley Planning Commission about possible hazards resulting from research in two controversial areas of science: genetic modification of living organisms and nanotechnology, the use of microscopic particles for industrial processes. 

The Helios building would be located across from the lab’s Molecular Foundry, which specializes in research employing nanoparticles—minute particles invisible not only to the eye but to most microscopes. While critics warn that the particles pose potential hazards to health and environment, the EIR contends that only small quantities would be used, and that filters and other precautions would prevent the escape of all but an insignificant fraction. 

Plans for both the Helios and CRT buildings have been changed, with the major alterations consisting of a new access road for the energy facility and a lowered profile for the CRT building. 

The EIRs for the two projects both reject any moves to Richmond or to a need to extend the comment periods. 

Among those who have gone on record with a call to consider relocation are Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin and Norman La Force of the Sierra Club, who cite both environmental and preservation motives. 

While the final EIR specifically rejects the claims that the Strawberry Canyon and adjacent hillsides form a cultural landscape, then-president of the Cultural Landscape Foundation told a Berkeley audience last August that the canyon clearly met the criteria. 

While the lab “acknowledges that Strawberry Canyon is an important resource,” the EIR declares that “Strawberry Canyon is not, however, a cultural landscape.” In support of its claim, the EIR cited criteria from the state national parks departments. 

But the Sierra Club’s Northern Alameda County Group disagrees, and in the November/December issue of the San Francisco Sierra Club’s publication The Yodeler, the club announced its support for “protection of Strawberry Canyon and its designation as a cultural landscape.” For support, the club also cited National Parks Service standards for designation. 

But even should the canyon win cultural landscape status, the lab contends, the lab’s development program is “consistent with any possible designation.” 

And, the lab adds, a cultural landscape “is not a concept recognized in” the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which governs the environmental review process. 

Spring, who like Gayle McLaughlin is a member of the Green Party, said the projects “are too much for Berkeley. They’re gobbling up the city.” 

 

Richmond site 

While numerous critics of the lab’s building program called for a move of the two facilities to the Richmond Field Station, a campus-owned facility located on the shores of San Francisco Bay, the EIR concludes “construction of the proposed project at an offsite location is not feasible.” 

The lab contends that travel time, distance from the campus where many lab faculty also teach and separation from other lab facilities make any move impractical. 

One needed facility, the lab contends, is the Molecular Foundry, which is devoted to development of new technology using the microscopic nanotechnology—a term derived from the nanometer, or a unit of measurement that is one billionth of a meter—the scale at which nanoparticles are defined. 

Also needed, the EIR states, is ready access to LBNL’s Advanced Light Source and the National Center for Electron Microscopy. 

The Helios Building would house some 500 scientists, staff and visiting scholars, and, LBNL states, the field station site would make convenient collaboration difficult and “adversely affect the ability of professors to recruit world-class scientists.” 

But Sylvia McLaughlin, whose late spouse served as dean of UC Berkeley’s College of Mining and as first dean of the College of Engineering (which subsumed the role of the mining school), said Richmond is a better site. 

But another McLaughlin, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, voted against the modified resolution that finally passed—which specified that no building should occur near the shoreline, nor before the university completed the cleanup of toxic wastes present at the site. 

Before and after her election to the council, McLaughlin campaigned for a change of regulatory oversight for the cleanup, a move strongly resisted by the university. When the state Department of Toxic Substances Control took over, the agency imposed a more rigorous cleanup regime and discovered new sites of contamination. The cleanup is still underway. 

The mayor was joined in her opposition by Councilmember Tony Thurmond, while Councilmember Tom Butt supported the proposal only with the addition of his friendly amendment that delayed any development until the cleanup is completed. 

“That’s going to take five or 10 years,” said the mayor, who said that concerns about toxins not only at the field station but at the adjacent Zeneca site and others in the areas raised concerns of environmental justice as well. 

Of potential problems with the field station site, the one the university didn’t mention in its final EIR was toxic contamination. 

Social justice issues surrounding biofuels also prompted her opposition, the mayor said. 

“I appreciate that activists in Berkeley want to get these projects out of the Strawberry Canyon area, but the Richmond Field Station is not the right place for them,” said the mayor. 

 

EBI critiques  

“Commenters have identified a wide range of concerns with regard to use of the (Helios) facility by British Petroleum (BP), a for-profit corporation,” the final EIR notes. 

Concerns ranged from testing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), worries of contamination from modified plants and microbes, potential pollution, and impacts of research on the Third World countries where crops developed in the program will be farmed. 

The EIR’s response to the critiques was simple: “LBNL does not agree that the impacts of future projects or energy production activities that might apply the results of the Helios research activities constitute ‘reasonably foreseeable’ secondary impacts of the Helios project, and until the research is conducted, it is not practicable to evaluate how that research might be applied.” 

The document didn’t mention EBI director Somerville’s own comments to Science Daily (March 1, 2007), where he said “There’s a lot of deforestation certainly going to take place in tropical regions, because those countries are going to develop biofuel businesses.” 

Similarly, the EIR said that “an analysis of future activity (such as the possibility of extracting oil from Canadian tar sands) of an unknown nature is too speculative for evaluation.” BP is a major stakeholder in the Canadian tar sands, where wildlife kills have already resulted from mining and wider health issues have been raised.  

EBI research is planned on using GMOs and other technologies to facility recovery of oil from tar sands. 

While the EIR notes that research will focus on the impact of programs on socio-economic systems, research funded to date is more focused on researching ways to facilitate adoption of technologies developed by the research program. 

 

Online information 

The Helios EIR is available at the lab’s web site at www.lbl.gov/Community/Helios/documents/index.html. 

The CRT EIR is posted at www.lbl.gov/Community/CRT/documents/index.html.


Architect Chosen For Iceland Project

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:45:00 AM

A non-profit group fundraising to buy Berkeley Iceland picked Page & Turnbull as architects to restore the landmarked site. 

The group, Save Berkeley Iceland, signed a contract with East Bay Iceland, which owns Iceland, in March, agreeing to purchase the 67-year-old ice skating rink for $6.25 million.  

The contract, which comes with a one-year deadline for Save Berkeley Iceland to purchase the historic property, launched the organization’s fundraising campaign.  

“We have come into an agreement with Page & Turnbull,” said Save Berkeley Iceland President Tom Killilea. “They are going to help us with some of the fundraising. We won’t be hiring them until we have a bit more cash.” 

The restoration of the ice rink comes with a $12 million price tag. Killilea worked with other community members to raise money for the down payment over the last year.  

The group is in the “quiet phase” of its fundraising, which calls for raising $500,000 in funding, he said. 

Killilea said he did not want to disclose how much the group had raised so far, but said the targeted reopening date for the rink was 2010. 

Page & Turnbull have been the restoration architects for the San Francisco Ferry Building and the Berkeley Public Library. 

“They have had a lot of experience in restoring commercial buildings,” Killilea said. “We have a number of ideas about what we want to do and are evaluating which ones would be within historic mod-ifications.” 

Restoration would include replacing the rink’s chiller with a more energy efficient one, which could cost around $1 million. 

W.A. Bechtel constructed Iceland in 1939.


UC Captures $20 Million Stem Cell Grant

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

UC Berkeley and 11 other California institutions will share $271 million in state bond funds slated for construction of stem cell research labs, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine announced last week. Berkeley’s share will be $20.1 million, with total costs to get the campus facility up and running within two years estimated at $92.6 million. 

The funds come from bonds authorized by California voters in 2004 when they passed Proposition 71, a measure enacted after the President George W. Bush announced a cutoff of federal funds for research involving new stem cell lines. 

With science journalism reporting promising hints that stem cells research offers hope for congenital and genetic disorders and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, 59 percent of California voters supported the measure to authorize $3 billion in bonds. 

“This will go a long way toward medical research that could save lives and improve them for people with chronic diseases,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a prepared statement released Wednesday. 

Berkeley’s Stem Cell Center unites researchers from the university, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Children’s Hospital Oakland Research institute. [http://stemcellcenter.berkeley.edu/] 

Director of the center is bioengeering professor Randy Schekman, who also organized the Academic Senate support for the Energy Biosciences Institute, the $500 million research program funded by British oil company BP, which has as its focus the creation of transportation fuels from genetically modified plants and microbes. 

The bond funding will pay for part of the cost of two floors of new lab facilities to be constructed in the Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, which is replacing the demolished Earl Warren Jr. Hall, according to a press release by Robert Sanders of the university’s media relations office. 

Total cost of the new facilities is expected to reach $78.6 million, Sanders said. 

Additional funds will come from Li Ka-Shing, the Hong Kong shipping magnate who gave $40 million to construct the building, as well as other private and government sources.  

The bond money was awarded by the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, the 29-member panel that administers the bond funds for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the agency created by the ballot measure to oversee the research. 

Berkeley’s grant fell into the second of three funding tiers. The largest award, $43.6 million, went to Stanford, which will create a $200 million new facility as one of one of seven CIRM institutes, the designation for facilities receiving up to $50 million. 

Four other University of California campuses qualified for institute-level funding—San Francisco ($34.9 million), Irvine ($27.2 million), Davis ($20 million) and Los Angeles ($19.9 million)—as did the University of Southern California ($27 million) and the San Diego Consortium for Regenerative Medicine ($43 million). 

Berkeley’s grant was one of two awards for CIRM Centers of Excellence, with grants of up to $25 million. The other recipient was the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, with $20.5 million. 

Three UC campuses won third-tier CIRM Special Programs grants: Santa Cruz ($7.2 million), Merced ($4.4 million) and Santa Barbara ($3.2 million). 

According to the CIRM’s announcement of the grants, the funds “will deliver nearly 800,000 square feet of facilities with researchers in the labs within two years.”


Opinion

Editorials

Editorial: The Art and Science of Living Well

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:29:00 AM

When you get to be a certain age, news of death comes all too often. It’s been only a week or so since we mused on the loss of a couple of good friends in this space, and now another good man is gone. Readers, especially younger readers, might be getting tired of all this talk of death. 

But really, there’s not much point in talking about Michael Rossman’s death, though it was the kind of death the nuns told us to pray for. St. Joseph, they said, was the patron saint of a happy death. The holy cards showed a white-bearded old fellow at home in bed surrounded by family, including Mary and Jesus and assorted other biblical figures, and he was always smiling.  

Michael died at home on Monday, with his family and friends nearby, and that’s about as much as any of us could wish for from death. We were taught at school to pray for “the grace of a happy death,” and by all accounts his passing was full of his trademark grace and charm. 

I knew him twice, early on, now a half-century ago, and again in recent years. We were both on Cal’s undergraduate literary magazine at one point, probably in 1958 or 1959—I think it was called Occident. He was a handsome rosy-cheeked boy, at that point academically a math major because he was very smart, but also a poet because he was very romantic. He was a red diaper baby—his parents were communists, and he took his politics seriously, but also always with a grain of salt. 

The big political news on campus was the primeval student political party— indeed I think it was the only one at that time—Slate. It was perennially being thrown off campus for assorted sins of free speech. Student rabble-rousers, including Michael, spoke when they could, standing on the planters in Dwinelle Plaza. Sproul Plaza was still under construction.  

Michael himself documented in exhaustive detail much of the frenetic activity in those days, and a lot of it can be found on the Internet with a Google search. The facts are actively disputed by participants with failing memories, but the passion behind them is unmistakable. A peak was the demonstrations in San Francisco in May of 1960 against the House Un-American Activities Committee. It was the first big mass demonstration of a generation scared by McCarthyism, and it was the precursor of the Free Speech Movement of 1964.  

By the time of the FSM I’d graduated, moved away and lost touch. I saw Michael interviewed on television on 60 Minutes in the early ’60s, part of a program whose theme was “The Death of the Student Movement.” He argued to the contrary, and soon thereafter the FSM happened, with his enthusiastic participation. 

“Enthusiastic” could have been his middle name. He went to jail on behalf of the FSM, and he enjoyed the experience. 

After a letter he forwarded to us (from one of his well-loved sons, supporting Obama) was quoted in this space recently, he sent this note: 

“When I was reading your editorial about “it’s time to do something for Obama,” [I] came down unsuspectingly to the last third where you mentioned me and then printed Jaime’s letter. How perfect a grist it was for your mill, in all ways sentimental and proactive; and how tears sprang instantly from my eyes, to see you make such capital use, and see his earnest effort honored so naturally. 

“As I told him, on forwarding it: while I was in jail for FSM, I did a lot of writing. Once out, I mimeographed 150 copies of my long memoir about serving time, and sent them to all my friends. Someone forwarded one to someone at NYRB; they printed it; this led Doubleday to offer me a contract for what became my first big-published book, The Wedding Within the War. So that was my grounding experience with writing-to-be-read: do what comes naturally, speak to your friends first (as I had with poetry before); and I am oh-so-glad that he has had this kind of lesson in life at a similar age...” 

He was a big fan of the Planet and an occasional contributor. His pieces were always much longer than any one else’s, and his effusive prose looked unusual in a newspaper context, but readers enjoyed reading his stuff almost as much as he seemed to relish writing it. 

He even managed to enjoy many things about his final illness, acute leukemia lasting only a few months. His mid-life career had been teaching science to little kids, something else he was endlessly enthusiastic about, and he got deep into the scientific details of his treatment. He treated fortunate friends to occasional updates which blended science and poetry in an improbable but effective way. A brief excerpt gives the flavor: 

“Convalescence had been uncannily smooth sailing, save for a clammy scrotum, until two weeks ago, when my robust appetite ebbed and my wide-walking energy flagged, leaving me listless in bed for a few days, losing weight, until yet another clinic visit brought forth a tentative diagnosis of so-far-mild intestinal GVHD—the big scarey (aside from fungal infection), which we sort of welcome for its possible role in forestalling possible relapse, but dread in excess. Whereupon, they put me on prednisone—oh joy, oh oy—to see if that will push it back. Even though my appetite returned, and some energy too, the morning before I went in to receive their diagnosis. Go figure... A sharp reminder that I’m quite a ways still from being out of the woods; but I knew that already, really I did.” 

Sadly, he was right. He never did get all the way out of the woods, despite a bone marrow transplant from his sister. His e-mailed accounts after he took a turn for the worse celebrated festive at-homes where he farmed out his extensive plant collection, even as the medical news was looking dire.  

We’ve asked his family and friends to contribute a proper obituary at some point before the memorial they’re organizing, which will be in a month or so. That should supply the vital statistics, the facts and the figures, the names of his survivors and the titles of his books. 

But he really was his own best monument. His death was exemplary, yes, but a better theme for today’s meditation would be from his own tradition: l’chaim, to life. By today’s standards Michael Rossman died young at 69, though by the standards of previous generations he had a long, full and rich life. He squeezed every bit of juice out of every lemon that came his way, and made very fine lemonade with all the fun he had. L’chaim, then, Michael. May we live so long, or at least so well, as you have.  

 

—Becky O’Malley 


The Editor's Back Fence

The Editor's Back Fence

By Becky O'Malley
Tuesday May 20, 2008 - 12:20:00 PM

Every week a new experiment...this week, we're trying out a Web-only column of short items. People send us things that are not serious enough or big enough or current enough for a full-fledged news story or a full-dress editorial essay, but are too good to pass up. And increasingly they send us links to good stuff in other Internet locations which Planet readers would like to see.  

This spot (at least this week) will be where to find short takes on interesting or amusing topics between the Thursday print papers. Of course, we expect our readers to contribute most of the items, just as neighbors in the fabled small towns of yore shared gossip over the back fences. Hence the name. 

At first, we thought we should post these on Mondays, but Monday came and went this week. And why not just post them as they arrive? So that's the plan for this week.  

Our goal is to get our on-line readers to check out the Planet Website each and every day, maybe more than once a day, so that they don't miss anything. And it's not just this column....we have something new online—news and columns too—almost every day now.  

Here's just one juicy little item to get the ball rolling. A reader forwarded this invitation: 

From www.nancyskinnerforassembly.com:  

Wednesday, May 7th from 5:30 to 7pm
Don Yost & John Norheim
along with co-hosts: ... Mark & Erin Rhoades, Ali
Kashani & Ed Church
Invite you to meet and support Nancy Skinner
At the offices of Norheim & Yost
2332 5th St, Berkeley
 

Just in case your program doesn't list the names and numbers of all the players: 

Yost and Norheim are the commercial real estate brokers who control most of the listings in beleaguered West Berkeley.  

Mark Rhoades is the former City of Berkeley Director of Current Planning (planning czar), who went through the Planning Department's revolving door to become the business partner of  

Ali Kashani, who was formerly with the non-profit Affordable Housing Associates, but has crossed over to the Dark Side to become an emphatically for-profit developer. 

Mark is also the marital partner of Erin Rhoades, who is also the president of the thinly-camouflaged developers' lobbying group Livable Berkeley. Until Mark left the planning department Erin used her maiden name of Erin Banks in her job with the DCE consulting firm, founded by David Early, which has had a number of lucrative contracts with the City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley. Early was also her predecessor at Livable Berkeley. Presumably Erin used her birth name in an attempt to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest with her husband's job. Caesar's wife, after all, must at least appear to be above suspicion. 

Ed Church is the man behind the attempt to turn the Ashby BART station into a condo-complex, an endeavor which is now on hold because of the huge public outcry which greeted it. No stake has been driven through its heart, or his, however. 

And Nancy Skinner ? She's the anointed candidate of the Bates/Aroner/Hancock organization (never call it a machine, unless you want to get angry letters from old friends) for their successor to the family seat in the California Assembly, and judging from this invitation she also seems to have inherited their developer campaign contributors. Not bad for a beginner. And she's already raised a bundle of money, with more TBD right before the June primary, too late to be reported by the media.  

(Full disclosure: I endorsed Kriss Worthington for the job, long before the B/A/H mantle dropped on Skinner's shoulders.) 

------------------------------------------------ 

Here's a half hour of comedy viewing for the city council junkies among you. The Acting City Attorney and several of the councilmembers skate right up to the precipice of contempt of court as they fool around with ignoring Judge Frank Roesch's order to rescind an earlier bit of foolishness (he called it "abuse of discretion"), granting extra perks to developer Patrick Kennedy for the notorious Gaia building, now owned by equally notorious rent control foe Sam Zell. The CA wanted to tack on a whole bunch of extra stuff that the Judge had not asked for, but plaintiff Patricia Dacey and her attorney Anna DeLeon finally managed to convince the unwilling members that they might go to jail if they carried on as they were. But you do have to watch the whole episode to get the full nuanced comic flavor. Jump the video to item 11 on the agenda. 

-------------------------------------------------- 

Randy Shaw of Beyond Chron has an excellent analysis of who those "angry working class white voters" who say they won't vote for Obama AREN'T. He says he media are afraid to call a racist a racist. 

---Becky O'Malley


Cartoons

Stubborn Ass

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 03:20:00 PM


Going Berzerkeley

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 29, 2008 - 03:21:00 PM


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday May 19, 2008 - 04:01:00 PM

ARKANSAS COUPLE TAKES PET DONKEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

An Arkansas couple is being sought by police in several states after they allegedly took a young child’s pet miniature donkey for a walk and then did not return. The child, Faith Goodheart, said the couple was white, middle-aged, and seemed very nice. They promised to return her pet donkey to her as soon as they reached their goal.  

This just in: the couple and the pet donkey were sighted by police but made their escape in a hot-air balloon. The police are giving chase in their vehicles and are in contact with the couple by radio. 

The couple is threatening to harm the pet donkey if their demands are not met and a hostage negotiating team has been called in. Late developments: the hostage negotiators have been engaged in a running dialogue with the couple, trying to get them to land the balloon safely. The process seems to work but then the couple begins to describe the rightness of their cause and list their demands for releasing the donkey. Then the hot-air balloon starts to rise higher and higher and goes out of radio range. Sources close to the negotiation say the problem is compounded by the couple’s support staff on the ground who keep yelling encouragement to the couple during the negotiations, keeping the couple from hearing what the negotiators are saying. Negotiators hope that as the sun sets and the day ends, the hot air balloon will naturally come to earth and the pet donkey will be safely returned to her rightful owner.  

Brad Belden  

 

• 

DOUBLE STANDARD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley’s editorial “Fraternity Row Brawl Has Predictable Outcome” blames the dead stabbing victim for the crime. My understanding is that this killing happened on private property, where the killer had no right to be. How is this the victim’s fault, that someone went onto private property uninvited, pulled a deadly weapon, and killed him with it? Maybe Ms. O’Malley can explain this for us. The fact that someone saw students buying beer in the victim’s neighborhood has nothing to do with this killing. I have seen what appear to be drug dealers and prostitutes down on Ashby and San Pablo, in the killer’s neighborhood. Does that mean that he was on crack, meth, or heroin when he committed the crime? Not necessarily. Ms. O’Malley’s hatred for fraternities is clear in her editorial. But I guess that spewing hatred toward a group of predominantly white, male college students is acceptable in our society. It is a wonderful example of a double standard.  

Russ Tilleman  

 

• 

QUESTIONS ABOUT RAPID BUS PLUS  

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Although proponents of “Rapid Bus Plus” present their views in the form of a carefully-considered package, quite a few questions about it remain—especially when it is compared with the full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project that AC Transit has propounded. Here are just a few: 1. Who has decided what the definition of ”Rapid Bus Plus” is? Is this a recognized configuration used by transit-planning professionals, or is it just a catch-all marketing term invented by opponents of BRT in Berkeley to help stop the project? 

2. More than 30 cities in North America have implemented, or are now implementing, BRT projects. Has “Rapid Bus Plus” (or an equivalent set of features) ever been selected anywhere in the world after a dedicated-lane BRT project was proposed by transit professionals? 

3. Disabled people and the elderly are disproportionately heavy users of bus transit. Since BRT stations would provide level boarding (like BART) for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments, why would the disabled and elderly communities ever think that “Rapid Bus Plus” is better? 

4. In its Long-Range Development Plan, the university commits to building 500 fewer new parking spaces on campus if a BRT project is begun by 2011. How will “Rapid Bus Plus” help reduce the number of new parking spaces on campus? 

5. Excessive through traffic has been an ongoing problem in Southside neighborhoods for many years, and effective solutions are needed today. BRT will have to mitigate any increase in spillover traffic it would generate. Couldn’t the mitigations that AC Transit is required to provide be designed to make neighborhood streets less impacted by traffic than they are today? How would “Rapid Bus Plus” help meet that need? 

6. AC Transit has promised to replace parking lost to a BRT implementation in Berkeley. Given no net loss of parking, can you present any evidence from any community in the United States or Canada that the implementation of BRT with dedicated lanes has ever been bad for local business? 

The truth is that “Rapid Bus Plus” is being used as a smokescreen to cover the real agenda: fear of dedicating a lane of automobile traffic on much of the BRT route to public transit, in consonance with the city’s firmly established “Transit First” policy. So when you hear the phrase “Rapid Bus Plus,” be sure to listen to the mantra in the background: it’s the lane, stupid.  

Alan Tobey 

Friends of BRT  

 

• 

BIKE SAFETY: LIBERL HOT BUTTON ISSUE  

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Linda Maio talk big about bike safety and other green things. But like every member of Bates administrative staff, the entire City Council has ignored many thoughtful proposals for actually making Berkeley safer for bikers. I speak from the standpoint of having been “doored” last year, and managing to avoid the bike for a year. In the two weeks I’ve been back in the saddle, I’ve had three near misses with car doors and another with a moving vehicle running a red light.  

Bates and Maio have ignored the following suggestions for the past three years: 

1.) Place signs at all parallel parking locations that say: “Look in the door mirror–don’t hit a biker.” 

2.) Pave and re-pave the so-called bike thoroughfares. They have some of the roughest pavement of all streets. 

3.) Create a helmet availability program for those who can’t afford it. 

4.) Stop constructing the so-called “traffic calming circles,” which present grave hazards to cyclists and pedestrians. Remove them from narrow streets so traffic can flow in a straight line again. 

5.) Start enforcing the helmet law. 

A casual survey reveals that more than half of Berkeley bike riders do not wear helmets. I sometimes get sanctimonious and yell out, “Hey I had a helmet on when the car door hit me in the head.” The responses vary from “Yea, you’re right–to fuck you asshole.” 

Liberals are just as stupid and vulnerable to hot button issues as are conservatives. In Berkeley, if a politician crows “green,” voters buy it without the most casual challenge or assessment. So, let’s start looking into these grandiose proclamations by the mayor and his minions and challenge them to make good. Bates and Maio talk green, but their actions are very brown. 

Three years ago I started e-mailing the mayor, city manager and all councilmembers about the need to create smoke-free zones in the commercial districts, where doors are less than 20 feet apart. I never got a reply from anyone–ever. But it’s gratifying to see that they acted on my proposal even if they made the effort to avoid communicating with me about it. Every occupant of City Hall needs instruction as to where to find the “reply” button on their computers. You’re welcome.  

H. Scott Prosterman 

 

• 

BAD ANALOGIES BY ANTI-BRT ACTIVISTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The anti-bus rapid transit activists don’t actually seem to use public transit except for BART. In their proposal, they suggest emulating Muni’s N-Judah or Los Angeles’ Metro Rapid buses. Their proposals, comparing “Rapid Bus Plus” to the N-Judah, make it clear that they’ve never ridden the N-Judah at rush hour or L.A.’s Metro Rapid. I’ve ridden both. Metro Rapid and the N-Judah do provide better service than your ordinary bus, I’ll freely admit, but compared to the L.A.’s Orange Line BRT, there’s no comparison. The Orange line runs reliably, runs on time, and never gets stuck in traffic. There’s simply no comparison. 

Jacob Berman 

 

• 

WHERE’S THE SAFEST PLACE IN BERKELEY? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Richard Brenneman opens his May 15 article with “The safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesday night last week was ... in the community center at San Pablo Park.” Gee, I thought the safest place to be in Berkeley on Wednesdays is in front the Marine Recruiting Center in downtown Berkeley where no fewer than five Berkeley police officers were sighted this week watching over that raggedy bunch of nutcase misfists, Code Pink. Could I suggest that, since Code Pink’s offices are in Albany, the city of Albany volunteer their own police department to come up to Shattuck avenue to keep them from burning bogus magik (sic) potions while the BPD carry on with their real job, that of keeping our neighborhoods safe from crime? Better yet, why doesn’t’ the Berkeley City Council stop by each week to baby-sit these cartoon clowns they so fervently support? 

Heather Wood 

 

• 

THE N-JUDAH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options claim that their proposal for Rapid Bus Plus has been tried, and they give exactly one example: “San Francisco’s venerable N-Judah streetcar line is basically Rapid Bus Plus on rails. It runs in shared lanes, and uses simple POP....” 

A member of Friends of Bus Rapid Transit who lives in San Francisco read this claim, and he commented: 

“I take the N Judah at least twice a day, at least five days a week. It only runs in traffic for very limited portions of the route (Irving Street and Ninth Street between Irving and Judah) and those portions act as bottlenecks for the system. For the rest of the route, the N Judah gets its own ‘lane’’ (tracks on a slightly elevated/mountable platform). This is the case in the tunnels, and all along Judah St. and Duboce. 

“Actually, the few places where mixing of the N with traffic occurs cause serious headaches for Muni riders, and for residents who live along the mixed portion of the route, who must listen to the trains honking their horns to get oblivious double-parked car drivers out of their way. Along this slow portion of the route, passengers (like me) have time to hop off the train, jog ahead of the creeping train, do an ATM transaction, and then hop back on the same train again at the next stop. 

“It is not an example of successful Rapid Bus Plus, and instead is a lesson in the value of dedicated lanes in keeping transit running smoothly.” 

I would only add that San Francisco is currently planning to implement Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated lanes on three routes—which shows that, based on their experience, they have concluded that dedicated lanes are valuable. 

I hope BBTO keeps using the N-Judah as its one and only example of existing Rapid Bus Plus, then everyone will have the opportunity to see the benefit of designated lanes, just like Bus Rapid Transit will offer. 

April Mitchell 

 

• 

SOUTH BERKELEY CRIME MEETING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am dismayed and disheartened to learn that Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore called and held a meeting at the San Pablo Park Community Center Wednesday night to discuss the recent shootings in South Berkeley. 

I am dismayed and disheartened because how can a community meeting be held without informing the community? I live just half a block from where the Sacramento shooting took place, I know most of the facts surrounding the shooting and I know personally both youths who were targeted as well as the man who was shot on San Pablo Avenue the same evening. So I have some interest in what goes on here. 

To the best of my knowledge no one informed black South Berkeleyans that a meeting was scheduled. Otherwise how do you account for the fact that mostly white people showed up? From reading some of the comments made at the meeting it sounds as if an element of vigilantism surfaced. Why wouldn’t the mother of the two targeted youths, apparently around whom much of the discussion focused, be informed of the meeting? Is it Berkeley public policy to talk about people behind their backs?  

 

For instance, why was it necessary so mention the names of the youths involved in the Bob’s Liquors shootings? It was a targeted shooting. Don’t people think there is an element of security involved? 

This is the second time a meeting has been held around this shooting where the black community has been held in the dark. When the Berkeley police announced they had photographs of the shooters they held a press conference in the neighborhood to make the announcement—but they held it without doing any outreach. Same with Wednesday night’s meeting. 

When folks in Berkeley want to have a garage sale they plaster the neighborhood with leaflets, everyone knows about it. When a black kid gets shot, it gets swept under the rug, apparently. By the way, have the police interviewed the man who was standing outside Bob’s Liquors while the shooting was taking place? Why are there no leaflets in the neighborhood with the photographs of the shooters? 

The next time I have a garage sale I’m certainly not going to ask Darryl Moore or the Berkeley Police Department to organize it. And I’ll try to find someone else to vote for in the next election. 

Jean Damu 

 

• 

MORONIC SUPPORTERS OF ISRAEL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

To answer June Brott’s rhetorical question, if I had gotten my property by forcibly ousting the previous occupants, I would expect them to try to avenge the situation. The fact that some distant ancestors may have occupied the area for brief periods thousands of years ago is both morally and legally irrelevant. 

Nor am I impressed with Israel’s industrial progress. Since 1967 alone the United States has given tens of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Israel. 

We know it’s at least $150 billion but it could be much higher. Maybe a quarter trillion by some estimates. In any case it’s one hell of a lot of money, much more than we give to any other country, and unlike 

most foreign aid, it is unsupervised. 

If Brott had lived for 41 years under military occupation she might 

resort to drastic action herself. 

Eighty percent of the American people believe in angels, “god” and other fairy tales. Many still think Saddam Hussein was behind 9-11! 

All the “70 percent” figure Brott cites proves is that we have many misinformed folks here in the U.S.A. But we knew that anyway. 

How proud Israel’s supporters must to be see our moron president 

as the most pro-Israeli state chief executive ever! 

I call on both Christian and Jewish Zionists to stop the mindless 

agit-prop for not so little Israel before we get in a nuclear war on 

Iran. 

Michael P. Hardesty 

Oakland 

 

• 

AMERICAN HERO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On May 15 the House of Representatives recognized American suffragist Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977) for her role in winning women’s suffrage by passing legislation to award her the Congressional Gold Medal. Along with close friend Lucy Burns and others, she led a campaign that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, giving women the right to vote, and penned the early version of the Equal Rights Amendment. This long overdue honor recognizes Dr. Paul as one of the great women in history for her work to promote women’s rights, freedom and equality. 

Representative Joe Baca (D-Calif.) gathered 412 bipartisan sponsors for H.R. 

406. The House passage of the bill is the first step toward honoring Paul with a Congressional Gold Medal. Work is underway towards with the bill’s counterpart in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), with the goal of having the Gold Medal awarded posthumously to feminist hero Alice Paul. 

It was only 89 years ago that women had no voting rights and little 

Power; married women had no separate legal status. With the help of tenacious Paul’s working to do what was right, women now can not only vote, but own homes, run businesses, play sports, become U.S. senators, and aspire to become the first women president. 

To honor Paul is to honor her life and work. She was the author of the 

Equal Rights Amendment, founder of the National Women’s Party, and a 

lifelong activist for women’s equality. Until her death at the age of 92, she fought tirelessly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and though the ERA is still not part of the Constitution, Paul’s legacy continues today. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

 

• 

WORTHINGTON DOES NOT SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was surprised to see Nancy Carleton’s May 15 endorsement of Kriss Worthington include a reference to being a strong supporter of small businesses. Quite the contrary—Worthington has gone out of his way to make Berkeley an unfriendly place for small businesses. 

During the dispute last year between Metro Lighting and disgruntled workers, Worthington took the reprehensible step of putting forward an item on the consent calendar condemning the owners of Metro Lighting for a variety of offenses without making any effort to verify that they were true. The accusations were false and Worthington was forced to withdraw the item. As Worthington stated during the Nov. 27, 2007 council meeting “...somebody just asked me to put this on and I didn’t actually research it. I think it needs a lot more study and is very poorly written and doesn’t reflect the realities of the situation.” 

The crux of the issue is Worthington’s approach to this dispute. You see, he never even bothered to contact Metro Lighting to get their side of the story. Metro Lighting’s owners found out about this consent item only because a friend stumbled across it and called them. 

Metro Lighting is a long-time member of the Berkeley business community and it would have been very easy and sensible for Worthington to contact them to hear their side first. Perhaps if he was really interested in solving problems, he could have offered to help mediate, as did councilmember Darryl Moore. Worthington tried none of that. His approach was simply to put forth a flawed consent item without so much as fact checking it and choose to oppose a locally-owned and well established business. 

After withdrawing the consent item, Worthington promised the owners a letter of apology, but he has never delivered on this promise. That withdrawn consent item is still being referenced by the people who wrote it for him. Worthington’s words continue to do damage and he has taken no further interest in making amends. 

Perhaps Mrs. Carleton should not take Worthington’s approach and instead she should do a little more due diligence on just how much Worthington truly supports small businesses. 

David Weisz 

 

• 

BRT SILLINESS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

BRT sure has been providing plenty of “Berkeley silliness” stories. 

We introduced our Climate Action Plan with great fanfare, but did not include BRT in it, knowing well that reducing automotive traffic is the best way to reduce greenhouse gas. 

In the Farmer’s Market, signatures are collected to “let the voters decide” how to deploy the BRT. We don’t need no steenking commissions or council—right? Perhaps we should let the voters should decide on other stuff—like the Climate Action Plan, downtown parking fees or even the city budget itself? 

A neighborhood group is pushing “Rapid Transit Plus,” which is BRT minus the dedicated bus lane. I’d call this “BRT designed for failure.” We are not going to get any big number of car drivers to become born-again bus riders unless the buses are allowed to go faster than car traffic. All BRTs elsewhere in the country have bus-only lanes in some places. It’s the only way to beat the cars. 

Good old Berkeley—nutty as ever. 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

WATER RATIONING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Here I am, the third time since I have been in the greater Bay Area, presented with water rationing. I recall very clearly having to send our precious water to Marin County via a pipeline placed on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. I recall the kind of saline taste that resulted from that time. This was during the 1970s. Then I remember the great 1980s and further rationing. This was interesting since I had just reroofed our house that had suffered from water damage from earlier rainy years. Six years of rationing really hurt. 

Well, here we are again. I am not very pleased with the decision to curtail everybody’s water usage by 19 percent. Why not just establish a baseline for an average family and then clamp on a surcharge for any excess? I feel like a fool for not putting in a pool or elaborate garden during the good times so my sacrifice will not be so harsh.  

Now I come to the good part. When will the East Bay Municipal Utilities District stop allowing new hookups to make the playing field fair? When will they and the people in the greater Bay Area know when to stop building and creating new shortages? This might be a good time to rethink all this so-called urban infill and its purported advantages to the Bay Area. Water has always and will always be in short supply in California. You only need to check the weather records from say the last century for validation. 

I don’t seem to see our great civic leaders in the forefront canceling large projects like, maybe the Trader Joe’s fiasco until the water emergency subsides. This is just my opinion.  

Mary Sawatzki 

 

• 

LIGHT BROWN APPLE MOTH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

According to the insect pundits, plus my intensive Google research, the light brown apple moth, or LBAM, is, or is not, a threat to us all. The best solution for those who seem least cruel for the eradication of these hungry, winged fliers, is to use “sticky traps,” which would be full of mothy sex-pheromones, Thus, the hapless male moth, overpowered by synthetic sexual lust, would, without thought or independent sense of purpose, dive bomb himself into a sticky-death. Even the tiniest bit of empathy would seem to beg the question: “Isn’t there a more humane way to ward off this questionable invasion?” I put it to the corporate orchardists: “Have you no pity, have you no shame? Are you thinking of nothing but the bottom line at the expense of a beautiful, light brown, winged miracle of several million years of evolution? I, for one, am gripped by a feeling of insect brotherhood. It’s a guy thing.  

Robert Blau 

 

 

 


Letters to the Editor

Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM

ATHLETIC FIELDS 

Editors, Daily Planet 

L A Wood should stop complaining about the past and offer solutions for the recreation needs of thousands of Berkeley and area youth. The fields he complains about provide a chance for people of all ages to run around and have fun—not just the youth soccer players he repeatedly derides in his commentary. Indeed, my daughter plays softball and my son plays rugby on these fields. All four fields are in constant use by every age group and ethnicity found in Berkeley. 

Doug Fielding is a champion of our youth (and active grownups) and his efforts to create places to play in a crowded area with few open spaces should be applauded rather than cheapened with gossipy remarks without foundation. 

Paul Lecky 

 

• 

FRATERNITY ROW ARTICLE 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Becky O’Malley’s recent editorial on Chris Wootton is most upsetting to say the least. To make the statement that he was “originally a good Christian boy caught up in a thug mentality” is an assumption she makes, along with “because he was white it was news,” and is nothing but sensational, irresponsible journalism. What do you know about this fine young man except from reading a blog entry? Nobody said he was a saint; few people are the last time I checked. To label him with a thug mentality for trying to diffuse a bad situation because he belonged to a fraternity is just plain wrong. How about letting the people who actually knew him grieve and place him to rest before you pile on some more verbal garbage that will get you some more publicity? 

Do I think the colleges across the country have problems with drinking and the Greek system? Yes. Do things need to change? Yes. There is a way to address those issues without demeaning the value of another human being who died a tragic death. Would you still write the same kind of article, if you knew this person intimately, or if he was a relative? Only you can answer that question. As a parent who has a son at Cal, and is from the Los Angeles area, I knew the blog entries of Mr. Wootton would be used against him and diminish his true reputation and character. It saddens me beyond words that he is gone and your article just rubbed salt in all of our emotional wounds.  

You bring up many fine and important issues. I only wish you would have done it in a different manner and had a little compassion in a most devastating time for all of us who really knew him. 

Thomas Wintz 

 

• 

FRATERNITY ROW BRAWL 

Editors, Daily Planet 

While Becky O’Malley’s historical take on the inescapability of violence—especially between young men—is part of the explanation of why these tragedies happen, I do believe that the reinforcement of constant violent messages in TV, movies and videogames predisposes people—especially, it seems, young people—to consider such acts as reasonable solutions to disagreements. The endless violent images and disrespectful talk and name-calling combined with easy access to weapons is a poisonous stew, and we all suffer. 

A youngster in our neighborhood was walking home one day when a man by a car popped open his trunk, exposing a trunkful of guns. He said to our neighbor boy, “Any gun you want, 20 bucks.” When I told people about this incident, most dismissed the incident. One lawyer said, “Oh, that wouldn’t happen on Shattuck Avenue.” Too many guns, too many violent images. And now more youngsters dead. 

Our society needs to change. We live here; it’s up to us. 

Alta Gerrey 

 

• 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE 

Editors, Daily Planet 

I am writing to bring attention to domestic violence, to remind people of how common it is and how frequently it occurs. Domestic violence is a violation of human rights. The state is obligated to protect people from human rights abuses. For those who’ve had their human rights violated, the state is supposed to assist them by providing services to take care of them, but they don’t provide enough funding. In the United States alone, a woman is raped every six seconds, battered every 15 seconds and every day more than three woman are killed from a domestic violence-related homicide. Not to mention the torture women endure in many other countries. Most domestic violence resources are non-profit and depend on volunteers, donations and grants to keep running. Because of budget cuts and the rising cost of living including price hikes in gas and food, can have an affect on the size of donations and contributions to resources for domestic violence victims and survivors. Domestic violence resources are available though and if anyone needs assistance can call (800) 799-SAFE (7233) or go to www.ndvh.org. Also, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please help in the fight to stop domestic violence.  

C. Williams  

San Francisco 

 

• 

MORE ON SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet 

I’m intrigued by the moth-spray folks who assure us that the pheromones will confuse the male moths to have sex; but with whom? I dread to think that this chemo-techie solution to an agribusiness problem might not lead to aggressive male light-brown moths “servicing” errant houseflies, or butterflies, or bees, or any number of other flying females. And then, what might be created from such a coupling? It’s an insect Frankenstein possibility that we should consider seriously before trying to fool Mother Nature. We should abjure creating innocent male moths to become turned-on interspecies rapists, thus leading to the possibility of insects who might be beyond our worst nightmares. Join me in creating an outcry against this action. Or at least, if we fail to prevent this spraying, let’s create special “swat” squads to meet the challenge of upcoming hordes of sci-fi insects!  

Robert Blau 

 

• 

REAL REPORTING 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Wow Becky! Actual reporting—with research—and real “balance” (a forgotten factor in today’s biased media) about the events of the fraternity friends’ huge misfortune. First you addressed the wild interpretation that there was a class disparity, the Times report, and then, that this accident was not self defense. 

While you’re at it, suggest that Riya Bhattacharjee not get carried away with hyperbolic newspaper reportage to suggest there’s a major barber shop in the jail: Hoeft-Edenfield appeared “...sporting a crew cut”! And nice of her to aid Overmeir’s constant excessive, meaningless search for notice by quoting his useless observation—an oppressive tactic which he employs, much to the impatience of his obligatory listeners at governmental sessions. 

Norma J F Harrison 

 

• 

DOG BITE PREVENTION WEEK 

Editors, Daily Planet 

May 18-24 is Dog Bite Prevention Week. Dogs bite for a variety of reasons, but one of the surest ways to create a dangerous, neurotic, frustrated animal is to chain it to a tree or doghouse and leave it to pace the same patch of dirt for months or years on end. 

Dogs are highly social pack animals that thrive on interaction with humans and other animals; so, when deprived of the opportunity to socialize, exercise, and receive kindness from humans, chained and isolated dogs can become aggressive and are 2.8 times more likely to bite humans than dogs who are not. 

Although California became, in 2006, the first state in the nation to pass a law that prohibits “man’s best friend” from being chained for more than three hours in any 24-hour period, the law is not always enforced because of the huge workload local Animal Control Officers carry. Often, people have no idea the practice is even illegal. 

Section 597(f) of the California Penal Code states that, “. . . No person shall tether, fasten, chain, tie, or restrain a dog, or cause a dog to be tethered, fastened, chained, tied, or restrained, to a dog house, tree, fence, or any other stationary object.” A person who violates the law may be issued a warning, or charged with an infraction or misdemeanor. An infraction is punishable by a $250 fine. A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail, or both. Enforcing the law can have a trickle-down effect on the battle against other crimes, such as dog fighting and drug running because many of the dogs used in these illegal activities are kept on chains. 

If you know of dogs that are kept chained in Berkeley, please notify Berkeley Animal Control at 981-6600. If you know of dogs chained in other jurisdictions, please contact Animal Control for those areas. You may also try talking gently to the owners of the dogs about the suffering that perpetually chained dogs endure, and the danger these dogs may potentially pose to humans. You can learn more about this issue at www.dogsdeservebetter.org. 

Pam Fanning 

Bay Area Representative,  

Dogs Deserve Better 

Oakland 

 

• 

CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY 

Editors, Daily Planet 

We should not feel bad about reminding young people that we all have some civic responsibility towards others as members of the human family. If we can stir the feeling of belongingness it will help us love others and teach us tolerance. It will make us think of the needs of others. It will prompt us not to put ourselves first. What can we do to stir such feelings? 

Romila Khanna 

Albany 

 

• 

ISRAEL AT 60 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Imagine that while you are celebrating a big birthday, most of your neighbors are plotting ways to kill you, and rewarding their friends for debating your “right to exist.” That is what the Jewish State faces. 

Tiny Israel—1/19th the size of California—has a population of 6.5 million, including 1.5 Arabs. It is surrounded by 100 million in 22 Arab League countries that occupy 1/10th of the earth’s land surface. Of the UN’s 192 members, only Israel is charged with racism for the crime of its existence. 

Although ancient Israel dates back 3,000 years, modern Israel is now 60 years old— powerful, economically thriving, and financially independent. On May 14, 1948, even as five Arab armies began attacking the reborn Israel, Jews danced in the streets, thrilled at returning to their ancestral homeland. These days Palestinians dance in the streets to celebrate when Israelis are murdered. 

In spite of constant enemy attacks, Israel is a world leader in medicine, agriculture, science and technology. Its contributions—drip irrigation, the cell phone, the computer chip, the MRI, and other lifesaving advancements—benefit all people, even those determined to destroy the Jewish state. 

Israel’s enemies are brilliant at rewriting history and influencing others, like the ‘new’ UN Human Rights Council, which last year directed 2 percent of its indictments against Burma and 75 percent against Israel. 

There have been no Israeli suicide bombers or American flag-burnings in Israel, which may partly explain why, according to recent polls, more than 70 percent of Americans favor strong ties and share values with the Jewish State, the only democracy in the Middle East. 

June Brott 

Oakland 

 

• 

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND 

Editors, Daily Planet 

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s plans for Strawberry Canyon and the hillsides behind the UC campus have inspired this new verse to “Blowin’ in the Wind”: 

 

How many nano particles float in our air, 

Before safety testing’s been done, 

How many lab workers sicken from radia- tion, 

And no compensation has come… 

How many of our officials just turn their heads, 

As if they are deaf, blind, and dumb, 

The answers, like smog, are blowin’ in the wind, 

And now we must all clean the wind! 

—or we will destroy our planet. 

 

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, UC, and their politician friends, could make more fame and fortune by cleaning up their act, and by spearheading clean up of our planet. This is what we need, not paving the earth, destroying our oxygen producing trees, and calling their investment boondoggle “The Green Corridor.” 

Merrilie Mitchell 

 

• 

MOTH SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet 

I strongly oppose the LBAM spraying without a thorough scientific study of the effects on the health of humans, especially those who are already compromised by health problems. We lack credible evidence that the light brown apple moth will even work against the targeted moths, while at the same time we don’t know what other insects the spray may adversely affected. Historically we have repeatedly seen cases where industry and government have assured us of the safety of something— such as routine DDT spraying in the past—that was insufficiently researched and turned out to be ineffective against its target, but damaging to the environment and to human beings. This kind of pseudo-science must stop. 

Dr. Karen Ann Watson-Gegeo 

 

• 

ILL-CONCEIVED PROPOSAL 

Editors, Daily Planet 

The use of toxic chemicals, sprayed randomly from the sky over our neighborhoods and agricultural areas is an ill-conceived proposal. The effects of these chemicals (and we do not even have disclosure on what they are!) remain unknown. One thing we do know is that attempting to eradicate any organism with synthetic chemical agents historically has tended to simply create super strains of those organisms who have greater resistance and the result is contamination of our water, destruction of our natural environment and a spate of human disease that will effect generations to come. 

Bad ideas do not make for viable solutions, they just make petrochemical lobbyists and their corporate handlers vast sums of money. As James Brown said, “Money won’t change you, but time will take you out.” 

Aerial spraying is state-sponsored terrorism against We The People. Big Pharma and Big Agribusiness does not set the agenda—state representatives and state agencies work for us and for the small organic farmers who have worked so tirelessly to give California a leadership position internationally as a leader in the Green-revolution. 

Protect our children’s health. Protect our water, air and organic farmers, ban the aerial spraying of secret chemical cocktails permanently! 

Andrew and Jennifer Carothers-Liske 

Oakland 

 

• 

THE CHOICE IS OURS 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Robert F. Kennedy once said, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” Now we, the voters of California’s 14th Assembly District, have the opportunity to choose what kind of Assembly member do we want representing us and working for us everyday; someone who asks ”why” or someone who asks “why not?” 

As a Richmond City Council member and as a non-profit leader, Tony Thurmond asks why not often. Why are we not improving our schools? Why do we not have single-payer universal health care? Why are we not doing more to protect and preserve our environment? Why are we not working harder to reduce crime and end the violence in our communities? These are problems that Tony Thurmond works on every day and is dedicated to solve. 

Congressman George Miller and many other elected officials and community leaders agree with him and have endorsed Tony as the best candidate to get California back on track. 

So if you dream of things that never were, but should be, vote for Tony Thurmond and help make our dreams reality. 

Al Miller 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

COMCAST 

Editors, Daily Planet 

I am a Comcast customer. It was dismaying to hear that Comcast has refused to run an ad critical of the Speaker of the House, i.e. Shirley Golub’s ad for her candidacy against Nancy Pelosi. I am one of many, many Americans who were initially hopeful when Ms. Pelosi became speaker, but have become increasingly dismayed by Pelosi’s “wait-it-out” approach to the Bush presidency. The most egregious result of Pelosi’s approach, of course, is the mounting number of American and Iraqi deaths on our misbegotten war. But you needn’t agree with this view to run an ad for a political candidate: You simply need to be in favor of free speech. Does Comcast really want to cast itself as a “filter” of political content, going down the same road Google has in China? 

Clark Suprynowicz 

 

• 

TAKE A HIKE 

Editors, Daily Planet 

So Comcast declines to run Shirley Golub’s TV ad. Thus far, I have resisted getting cable because of its cost. Now I will not get cable because I don’t trust the providers to give equal coverage of material the owners don’t like. As far as I am concerned, Comcast can take a hike. 

Carolyn Scarr 

 

• 

AERIAL SPRAYING 

Editors, Daily Planet 

I take as much care as possible with my own health and the health of those I love. My husband died of cancer 10 years ago, and my current partner has multiple myeloma. Caring for someone with a compromised immune system is a delicate matter. I can’t even imagine that our leaders would allow this assault on people with health concerns. Our clinics are full of citizens with fragile systems, who every day do all they can to feel ok and carry on with their lives. They struggle to eat well, move without pain, stay away from toxins. 

I am absolutely opposed to aerial spraying of any kind. This goes against all we have learned in the past decades about pest control and sustainability, not to mention public health. 

I say to you that no one has the right to spray us with unwanted, untested, and demonstrably unnecessary chemicals. 

You must find another way to control pests. 

Susan Marchionna 

 

• 

BRT — LOCAL PREFERRED  

ALTERNATIVE 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Shortly, Berkeley will need to weigh in on what it feels is the best solution for improving public transit amongst the alternatives laid out by AC Transit in its Bus Rapid Transit proposal. Specifically, we’ll need to select the “Local Preferred Alternative” we want in Berkeley.  

On Wednesday, Berkeleyan’s for Better Transportation Options presented our detailed plan for Rapid Bus Plus, the greatly enhanced version of the current 1R line, to the Planning Commission. The Berkeley Daily Planet posted a one-page summary of Rapid Bus Plus in its online commentary section. This five-page PDF lays out the major elements that we believe will make public transit better, faster, greener and much more rider friendly. It also includes a section listing other options AC Transit could use the $400 million it anticipates spending for BRT with dedicated lanes. The letter is signed by 25 of us who want better public transit now. 

At the joint Planning and Transportation Commission meeting last month, Jim Cunradi, BRT project manager, agreed that AC Transit would use Rapid Bus Plus as one of the options studied in the final Environmental Impact Report on BRT. We hope the Planning Commission will carefully evaluate Rapid Bus Plus and vote for Rapid Bus Plus as the “Local Preferred Alternative” that Berkeley wants to see implemented. 

It is clear that Rapid Bus Plus is a strong solution to today’s public transit concerns. Its equally clear that just as when BART was planned to be above ground in much of Berkeley, Berkeley can choose an alternate path that is better for our community. 

Vincent Casalaina 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The complete Rapid Bus Plus proposal is on the Planet’s website; a summary of the proposal can be found on Page Fifteen. 

• 

UC PRIORITIES 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Last week it was reported that UC Berkeley was hiring yet another associate vice chancellor, this one for some marketing job, at a salary of $230,000. Presumably she’ll get benefits on top of that. 

The front page of the May 6 Daily Californian carried a chart and related article projecting that the budget for the department of East Asian Languages will be reduced next year by $342,000, and the number of students served will be halved. The alleged culprit is proposed cuts to the state budget. Yet the campus authorities continue to add to the already bloated ranks of non-academic associate, assistant, and full vice chancellors. By doing without their new marketing associate vice chancellor and firing at least one more non-academic vice chancellor the saving of a minimum of $460,000 could be realized and the department of East Asian Languages could be in the clear. Somebody’s priorities are out of whack. 

S. Entwistle 

 

• 

WATER USAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet 

EBMUD has instituted a mandatory 19 percent reduction in water usage for Berkeley (and other East Bay) single-family households. This amounts to nothing less than an outrageous penalty for those of us who have already been doing our utmost to conserve water. 

Certainly EBMUD has a figure for what it considers reasonable average monthly water consumption for a single-family household. All it had to do was to institute its mandatory reduction on households that are at or above that average, and let those households with monthly consumption rates far below to go without the further mandatory reduction. 

As it is, the rational thing for EBMUD customers to do who have conserved water up to now, is: wait till rationing is lifted, then consume as much water as they can afford, whether or not they need it, in order to drive their consumption rates to a level so that the next mandatory reduction will not penalize them as the current one does. 

Peter Schorer 

 

• 

CRISIS AT KPFA 

Editors, Daily Planet 

There are serious problems at KPFA and Pacifica which threaten its existence. Membership and donations are down, in an era when its independent voice is critically needed. Listenership and donations are seriously down at Pacifica’s New York station WBAI, and the problem has been unaddressed for many years, threatening other stations in the network, which have to pick up the tab. 

This situation is intimately connected with the state of station and network governance. The positive energy for the station generated in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, as we won it back from those who would have corporatized it, has seemingly dissipated as entrenched power at the station has denigrated and degraded the democratic structures put in place at that time. 

Recent issues have been the serious violations on the part of different levels of management to the democratic Local Station Board elections at our station (and others), and their response to this, which is to say the elections are too expensive, too incompetent, and too ineffective and the bylaws should be changed to eliminate them (or further emasculate them). The real problem—their lack of support for them, is never mentioned.  

Other recent attacks to democratic structures at the station have been interim management’s derecognition of the Unpaid Staff Organization UPSO) which represents the volunteers who make up perhaps three-fourths of the total staff/programmers; disruption, attempted takeover of Program Council hiring, and finally degrading it to advisory status while ignoring its advice. 

This situation can exist partly because of the lack of information about station governance available to listeners. When a group of LSB candidates and involved listeners recently reached out to other listeners with concerns about the recent tainted election process many people signed a letter, got on a mailing list, and attended the ad hoc Fair Elections Committee’s forum which included both informational speakers and problem solving, solution oriented small workgroups. 

We are having a second, follow up forum this coming Sunday May 18 and encourage both those who attended the first forum and began the small group work, and those who didn’t attend the first one, to attend this second one. 

We have a chance to create a positive outcome for KPFA, our vital resource for working for a better society. Democracy is a constant struggle against patterns of power which arise everywhere; even at KPFA there is no substitute for grassroots involvement to make it work! 

Mara Rivera 

San Francisco 

 

• 

STAFF DEFICIENCY 

Editors, Daily Planet 

A Chinese New Year senior center celebration is great, but a major staff deficiency at the North Berkeley Senior Center has existed for years: a bilingual Chinese-English language staff member. Within walking-distance, there are several seniors’ housing projects the majority of whose tenants are Chinese. It is likely that this lack also contributes to the recent decline in overall Center attendance. The Center’s Advisory Council (whose minutes are not posted) and the city’s Commission on Aging (whose latest posted minutes are from February) might put this on their agendas. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 

 

• 

ELECTION 

Editors, Daily Planet 

What a good feeling it is to look forward to the election on Tuesday, June 3! For one of the few times in my 85 years there’s a candidate I long to see elected. He is Kriss Worthington, a Democrat, who is a candidate for member of the California State Assembly, 14th Assembly District. 

We are peace activists at the Berkeley senior residence where I live, demonstrating with signs, chants, and songs at University and Acton every month all year. I was encouraged by his being with us on the street on Feb. 15 at this Iraq Moratorium. He talked to me then about older women’s needs for health care and affordable housing. At Strawberry Creek Lodge we have many times relied on his political intelligence when he’s come to our meetings to discuss election issues. 

Having observed his actions on the Berkeley City Council for the past eleven years, I’ve applauded Kriss Worthington’s leadership and staunch support of the least-privileged among us—school kids, teachers, working class folks—by his voting for their basic needs. As a senior woman I’ve been cheered by his understanding that health and social services benefit and respect not only a unique population, like women, or veterans, or environmental advocates, but make the whole community a better place for everyone. 

His campaign literature reflects the backing of the Sierra Club, of labor and business organizations, commendable endorsements, but to me Kriss Worthington doesn’t need this bandwagon approach. No, I go for his demonstrated virtues of integrity, honesty, sincerity, courtesy, and the ability to work hard. Kriss Worthington, 14th Assembly District, June 3. Yes! 

Jewell Ashby 

 

• 

ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Last month the BBC’s “World Have Your Say” had a call-in program about Muslim treatment of women. I was disappointed that no one mentioned female genital mutilation, which I understand is practiced in many Muslim countries. On Earth Day, many if not all media did related programming , but there were only a few brief mentions of overpopulation. There may be not just a shortage of rice but too many hungry people. 

These extremely important subjects led me to the concern that many topics are considered “unspeakable” because they offend the religious beliefs of some people. 

Another huge dilemma emerged: When is it appropriate to intervene in someone else’s culture? I would include the intervention, but not silence, in the matter of the women and children belonging to the Mormon offshoot group in, I believe, Texas. 

I don’t have the answer to either of these questions, but I’d like to hear a lot of discussion about them. 

Ruth Bird  

 

• 

RAPID BUS PLUS: GREEN,  

AFFORDABLE AND PROVEN 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Len Conly’s May 1 letter nicely previewed our “Rapid Bus Plus” proposal, now on the Daily Planet’s website. 

Rapid Bus Plus would improve bus service on the BART/Telegraph corridor, while also spreading the benefits to other AC Transit routes. 

It would speed up boarding with simple “proof-of-payment” (POP) ticketing. And it would add hybrid buses that are greener, more efficient, and more accessible. 

It would omit Bus Rapid Transit’s (BRT’s) expensive “stations” and bus-only lanes—while avoiding their negative impacts on Telegraph Ave. users, merchants, and adjacent neighborhoods. 

Two of BRT’s long-term goals are already materializing, thanks to higher gas prices: commuters are switching from cars to transit, and reduced Telegraph Avenue traffic is allowing buses to move faster. 

Len incorrectly describes Rapid Bus Plus as an unprecedented proposal. Actually, only its catchy name was invented in Berkeley. Its components are more widely implemented than BRT’s, with a longer history. 

San Francisco’s venerable N-Judah streetcar line is basically Rapid Bus Plus on rails. It runs in shared lanes, and uses simple POP through much of the Sunset District. 

Los Angeles County alone has rolled out some 21 Rapid Bus lines—eight in just the last year. But it runs only one BRT line, which has been popular but collision-prone. Clearly, Rapid Bus can extend benefits wider, faster, and cheaper than BRT. 

Finally, Alan Tobey’s April 22 letter incorrectly stated that Berkeley’s City Council had already endorsed BRT. In fact, its 2001 resolution simply recommended Telegraph Avenue over College Avenue for initial study. 

If you imagine buses ever proceeding “rapidly” on College, you can see how poorly everyone—including AC Transit—understood BRT’s implications back then. 

AC Transit’s study essentially failed. The agency ignored community suggestions to expand BRT planning beyond the BART corridor. It refused even a loop through Oakland’s burgeoning Jack London Square. 

That’s why we citizen planners assembled Rapid Bus Plus, a more cost-effective option with no downside. We hope Berkeley decisionmakers will formally adopt it as the city’s preferred alternative. 

Michael Katz 

Member, Berkeleyans for Better Transit Options 

 

• 

‘RETURNING’ U.S. TROOPS 

Editors, Daily Planet 

When U.S. troops in Iraq return home, what will become of them? 

How about sending them to restore order in Oakland and Richmond? I wonder how long they’d last in those and similar dysfunctional places? 

Phil Allen 

• 

THE WAR 

Editors, Daily Planet 

It’s still all about the war and the devastating effects it is having on the U.S. economy. Are the force-fed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq really making Americans any safer at home? 

Would it surprise you to know that 42.2 percent of every federal tax dollar last year went to military spending? This figure includes 28.7 percent for current military and war spending; 10 percent for interest on military debt and 3.5 percent for veterans’ benefits.  

In contrast, we spend just 8.7 percent to combat poverty, 4.4 percent on education, and 2.6 percent on the environment, energy and science programs. 

The military industrial-complex has got a hold of our wallet and its negative message is warping American ideals and priorities. Resources are being wasted while needs go wanting.  

And, if this isn’t bad enough, John McCain wants to “stay the course” if elected president. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 

 

• 

MS. LIGHT BROWN APPLE MYTH 

Editors, Daily Planet 

Moth or myth?  

Who can know whither her goings to and fro? 

For without the metrics of this or that tree, 

the effect of this moth remains a myst’ry. 

Yet there are those who claim insight— 

have they followed her in dead of night? 

They say she ravages, they say she feasts 

on 2000 plants—now that’s quite a beast! 

She must find every plant quite yummy, 

never mind the size of her tummy. 

And these men will say we need constant spraying, 

if we our fears are to be allaying. 

But if it is true, wouldn’t we see 

apple moths lurking in every tree? 

Wouldn’t the crops be tattered and torn? 

Wouldn’t the orchards look forlorn? 

For this moth has been here years 

and life goes on, despite the fears 

of stupid men racked with paranoia, 

whose pathetic arguments will really annoy ya. 

I say, look to New Zealand for a classic example— 

100 years of moth and clearly they aren’t all 

running around spraying the people, 

afraid that the moth will come and eat all 

the produce, the flowers, the grass and the trees. 

 

Give me a break 

with your spraying schemes— 

puleeeze! 

 

 

Henry Rush 

 


Commentary: Call for a Moratorium on the Approval of Cell Antenna Applications

By Michael Barglow
Monday May 19, 2008 - 04:07:00 PM

Once again, Berkeley’s position on cell antennas is on the City Council agenda. 

This Tuesday, May 20, the council will consider an item introduced by councilmembers Anderson, Spring, and Worthington. The item calls for a moratorium on cell phone antenna installations.  

This item stems from efforts made by Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (BNAFU) and the Le Conte Neighborhood Association to oppose the antenna installation application made by Verizon and Nextel for UC Storage located at 2721 Shattuck Ave. BNAFU has recently brought a lawsuit against Verizon, Nextel, the City of Berkeley, and the developer/landlord, Patrick Kennedy. 

The Le Conte Neighborhood, other Berkeley neighborhoods, and BNAFU believe Berkeley’s current ordinance is not strong enough. BNAFU is asking the City Council to call for a moratorium in order to draft a legal ordinance that addresses legitimate citizens’ concerns. In order to develop the best possible ordinance and to preserve and improve safe cell phone coverage in Berkeley, it is the position of BNAFU that a six-month moratorium is necessary. 

There appears to be a growing consensus among independent radio frequency (RF) engineers that low-wattage cell antennas spread evenly throughout cities are wiser and more equitable than higher-wattage antennas concentrated in lower-income areas. Higher-wattage antennas serve the higher-income areas, but less efficiently and less safely than if those antennas were dispersed more evenly. The further a cell phone user is from an antenna, the more RF radiation they receive from their phone pressed against their ears. 

The inequity of the present system of antenna distribution in Berkeley (14 locations in South Berkeley, two in North Berkeley, none in the Berkeley Hills) has meant that some neighborhoods are unfairly exposed to many more antennas than are other neighborhoods. Simply on the basis of aesthetic concerns, this reality is unfair. We believe that the burden of cell antennas should be shared roughly equally by all Berkeley citizens.  

No one disputes that antennas could be of much lower wattage if they were dispersed evenly. In fact current telecom practice, in order to get a network up, is to start in a city with one or two central locations in commercial areas away from residences. These locations have towers of 80-90 feet. Subsequent antennas decrease in wattage so that service areas per antenna are minimized and the network as a whole provides adequate coverage 

The city of Irvine and other cities in California have already begun the process of re-drafting their ordinances with the above considerations in mind 

Clearly, our city needs time to carefully assess this option—wider distribution of lower power antennas—and time to examine how other cities are redrafting their ordinances along these lines  

Berkeley had a moratorium a number of years ago to draft its first ordinance. It is time to revisit this issue in light of the problems and criticisms that have developed with that ordinance and its enforcement, both from the standpoint of dissatisfied neighborhoods and dissatisfied telecom companies. It is also time to create a new much more sensible policy based on the new understanding that is developing in the field of RF engineering. 

Initially, the smaller, less powerful antenna choice represented above may cost the telecoms more, but will benefit Berkeley citizens more. We ask the City Council to institute a moratorium. Opt for communities over quick profit. 

We ask Berkeley citizens to attend Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to support the moratorium. 

 

Michael Barglow is a member of Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union. 

 


BRT: It’s Big; It’s Boondogglicious — Let the Voters Decide!

By Gale Garcia
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 12:17:00 PM

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is AC Transit’s plan for a massive project including Telegraph Avenue and parts of Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley. Two traffic lanes would be allocated to AC Transit buses, forcing all other vehicles (cars, bikes, trucks, motorcycles) to share just one lane each way. Most of the parking on Telegraph would disappear, to the chagrin of the local merchants. 

 

A group of citizens has drafted a clear, concise initiative requiring voter approval before portions of Berkeley streets could be given over to exclusive transit use. Volunteers from all over town are circulating the petitions. Anyone who would like to help should contact: savelanes@gmail.com. 

 

Of people I have approached in the neighborhoods near Telegraph Avenue, about 90 percent have never heard of BRT with dedicated bus lanes, and are shocked to learn that it’s in the works. A frequent response is, “oooh, that doesn’t sound like a good idea.” The vast majority of people sign the petition readily and with enthusiasm. 

 

Many scratch their heads about this improbable proposal and ask what’s behind it. They wonder who could think that giving over two lanes of Telegraph to a flawed agency like AC Transit would be a good idea. (Well, AC Transit for one.)  

 

AC Transit stands to acquire somewhere between $250 million and $400 million in federal funds if the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro are willing to go along with the “build alternative” for BRT (where we let AC Transit build something on our streets). 

 

In fact, AC Transit has been cutting service for over two years -- apparently with complete disregard for their riders. AC Transit needs to return to its mission: providing bus service. It does not need to build things on land it does not own just because money is available to do so.  

 

The East Bay Express recently ran a series of articles by Robert Gammon about AC Transit’s purchase of VanHool diesel buses from Belgium, and other unusual budgetary decisions. The series reports outrageous expenditures by the agency, such as an Oakland bus inspector living near Antwerp (all expenses paid, including a housekeeper and a car), and stopovers in Paris by AC employees on their way to Belgium.  

 

The complete series of articles, including rebuttals from AC Transit officials, and Gammon's pithy replies, can be found at: www.eastbayexpress.com, in the archives for issues published between January and March of this year. 

 

Few people realize that part of the BRT package involves elimination of the local bus service on Telegraph, the 1 line. AC Transit is calling it “combined” local service and BRT. But the local bus stops would be—just plain gone. And the stops that would remain appear to be exactly the same ones that have always been planned for BRT.  

 

AC Transit is not informing its riders of the threatened loss of local bus stops; I only learned about it only after emailing an AC representative, who replied with a list of the stops that would be in the “combined” service. Further inquiries about what element, if any, of the local service remains in the “combined” service plan have not been answered. 

 

Thus, a fringe benefit for AC Transit, if it succeeds in implementing BRT, is the opportunity to cut service under the ruse of “combining” service. Without dedicated bus lanes, there would be no reason to cut the local service. As currently planned, BRT would be a win-win for AC, and a lose-lose, lose-lose for the rest of us. 

 

Mayor Bates also seems to think this plan is a great idea. A couple of neighbors who met with him about this matter reported that he claimed that if BRT didn’t work out, it could just be torn out. Hmmm. Something that costs hundreds of millions to build would probably cost a bundle to rip out – wasting our tax dollars to destroy something that should never have been built in the first place. 

 

Ordinary citizens, who just want to live in Berkeley rather than transform it with “transit oriented development” (which would be encouraged along the route if BRT happens), immediately grasp that this proposal for illogical transit modifications chasing federal money is a dumb idea, or as one of our volunteers aptly describes it, “a pork barrel painted green.” 

 

As it now stands, our City Council can just give away the use of our streets. Because we have a mayor who never met a massive project he didn’t love, and a compliant City Council, this ridiculous project really is in danger of happening.  

 

We can say no, by putting the citizen’s “Voter Approval” initiative on the ballot. Then we’d see just how many people, after looking at the details, would actually vote to go along with AC Transit’s boondogglicious plan. 

 

Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident and activist. 

 

 


Join Protests Against John Yoo This Saturday

By Henry Norr
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

Pleased with the thought that your tax dollars are paying John Yoo, the former Justice Department attorney whose memos provided pseudo-legal cover for the Bush administration’s torture policies, to mold the minds of future lawyers? 

If not, you’ve got an opportunity to say so this Saturday, May 17, when Boalt Hall, the UC Berkeley law school, holds its graduation ceremony. Scores of activists, attorneys, UC students, torture victims, and other concerned people will be outside to demand that Yoo be fired, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes. 

Called by Act Against Torture, with support from Code Pink, Global Exchange, World Can’t Wait, and many members of the National Lawyers Guild, the demonstration will have two stages: Between 8 and 9 a.m., we’ll be outside the Greek Theatre (on Gayley Road, opposite the east gate of the campus) as the graduates, faculty, and guests arrive. We’ll be offering them orange ribbons to wear during the ceremony to show their opposition to torture. (Many of the graduating law students will also be wearing colorful ribbons of their own design, to protest not only torture, but also cuts to the state education spending and other outrages.) And some of us, dressed in Guantánamo-style orange jumpsuits and black hoods, will be doing street theater to remind everyone of the horrors Yoo’s work has encouraged. 

After 9 a.m., when the graduation ceremony begins, we’ll take a break from demonstrating—we have no plans and no desire to disrupt the proceedings. But starting around 10:30 a.m. we’ll reconvene at Bancroft Way and College Ave., outside Boalt Hall, where a post-graduation reception is scheduled.  

The point of all this is not to criticize the students or bother their families—it’s not their fault that the university pays a war criminal to teach them. Our goal is to demand that Yoo be held to account for his actions while working for the Bush administration, just as the United States held lawyers who worked at Hitler’s Ministry of Justice accountable for the crimes their legal doctrines facilitated. (Remember Judgement at Nuremberg?) 

Berkeley residents may feel a particular passion about Yoo, because the values embodied in his work are so antithetical to those this community generally purports to stand for, but the campaign against him is national in scope. It has burgeoned since the recent declassification of an 81-page memo he wrote on March 14, 2003, in which he argued that in the interrogation of “enemy combatants,” the President is not bound by laws such as those that prohibit torture, assault, maiming, and stalking. In the same memo Yoo suggested that the arguments of self-defense or necessity could be used as a defense against war-crimes prosecutions for torture—even though the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which was ratified by the United States in 1994, states plainly that “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” 

In response, the National Lawyers Guild issued a statement calling for Yoo’s firing, disbarment, and prosecution, on the grounds that his “complicity in establishing the policy that led to the torture of prisoners constitutes a war crime under the U.S. War Crimes Act.” The Center for Constitutional Rights promptly endorsed the Guild’s position. This month Guild President Marjorie Cohn presented the case against Yoo in testimony before Rep. John Conyers’ House Judiciary Committee and in a supporting white paper (http://nlg.org/news/statements/mcohn_testify2008.php). 

While some may scoff at the NLG as part of the far-left fringe, more mainstream experts on international law and legal ethics were actually the first to raise the argument that Yoo must be held accountable for the results of his work at the Justice Department.  

• As long as four years ago, when the first of Yoo’s “torture memos” surfaced, Stephen Gillers, a widely quoted authority on legal ethics from New York University, wrote that Yoo and his co-authors were “morally responsible” for the abuses their work led to.  

• Harold Hongju Koh, dean of Yale Law School, testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2005 that one memo Yoo drafted reflects “a stunning failure of lawyerly craft” and constitutes “a stain upon our law and our national reputation.” 

• Scott Horton, formerly a partner at a prominent New York law firm and chair of the Committee on International Law of the New York City Bar Association, now a lecturer at Columbia and a commentator for Harper’s magazine, has written a series of articles focusing on the question of Yoo’s responsibility, particularly in light of the precedent established at Nuremberg. After Boalt Hall Dean Chris Edley posted an open letter dismissing the case against Yoo, Horton offered an eloquent rebuttal, in which he declared that “what [Yoo] did raises not merely ethics issues, but actual criminal culpability,” and that “a solid basis exists ... under which John Yoo may be charged and brought to trial” for the legal advice he gave. 

• Glenn Greenwald, a constitutional lawyer, popular blogger, and bestselling author, last month posted a column at Salon.com entitled “John Yoo’s War Crimes,” in which he asked “If writing memoranda authorizing torture—actions which then directly lead to the systematic commission of torture—doesn’t make one a war criminal in the United States, what does?” 

Saturday’s demonstration offers Berkeley residents an opportunity to say loudly and clearly that we won’t accept impunity for Yoo and his ilk. Come on out—if nothing else, it will give you something to say when your grandchildren ask what you did to stop torture.  

 

Henry Norr is a member of Act Against Torture.  


10 Reasons Why I’m Supporting Worthington for Assembly

By Nancy Carleton
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

In his 11-plus years on City Council, Kriss Worthington has been such an effective leader on so many issues that it would be easy to come up with a list of well over a hundred reasons he’s earned my support in his bid for a state Assembly seat. Here are just 10 of them: 

1. Education. Kriss is a former teacher who has worked hard to protect funding for education on all levels, from locally to statewide to nationally. He’s already spent more time in Sacramento lobbying successfully against Schwarzenegger’s attempted cuts to education than all his opponents combined. ASUC President Van Nguyen says Kriss will be “California’s most student-friendly assemblymember.” His record shows he’ll fight hard to improve our public school system and to keep student fees affordable for higher education. 

2. Progressive Legislation. Kriss has a proven track record of passing progressive pieces of legislation that serve as models for cities across the country. He has many more years of experience crafting legislation than any of his opponents, with a remarkable 98 percent success rate. The Precautionary Principle Initiative protects our health and the environment. The Eco-Pass has been wildly successful at getting cars off the road, and the Zero Waste Ordinance keeps us at the forefront of environmental policy in the fight against global warming, while other cities emulate the Living Wage Ordinance, the Worker Retention Ordinance, and the Equal Benefits Ordinance to bring greater justice to working people. 

3. The Environment. Not only has Kriss sponsored groundbreaking legislation on the environment, he also served as a local Sierra Club chair even before he was councilmember and is endorsed by the Sierra Club. His leadership on the environment won him the respect of environmental legend David Brower and continues to inspire on-the-ground activists. He works with environmental activists and organizations to build winning coalitions to advance the cause on local, regional, and state levels. Supervisor Keith Carson selected Kriss to fill in for him on the Transportation Authority “because I know I can count on Kriss to keep the environment at the forefront in allocating our transportation resources.” 

4. Diversity. Kriss doesn’t just talk about diversity; he lives it. He’s committed to bringing all of our voices into the political process. He’s served as a board member of NOW, the NAACP, and the East Bay LGBT Democratic Club. The Commission on the Status of Women honored Kriss for his “outstanding service on behalf of the women of Berkeley,” the only man ever so honored, and he’s been passionate not only about appointing women and other underrepresented people to Berkeley’s commissions but encouraging other councilmembers to step up to the plate and make appointments that reflect the true richness of the diverse East Bay. 

5. Small Business. Kriss is the only candidate with the endorsement of the East Bay Small Business Council, because of his strong support over the years for hundreds of small businesses, where most new jobs are created. He’ll insist on a tax code that protects small businesses and the middle class, while making sure millionaires and big corporations pay their fair share. 

6. Human Services. Kriss has increased services to veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities, secured funding for a center for homeless youth, and expanded healthcare coverage for children, single mothers, and working families. He’s 100 percent committed to passing single-payer healthcare in Sacramento—and getting it funded. All his life he’s fought to make sure that no one gets left behind, and he has the backbone to stand up to Schwarzenegger’s proposed cuts to essential services for those who can least afford them. 

7. Clean Money. Kriss’s campaign isn’t financed by huge contributions from big-money interests, unlike others. As the volunteer treasurer for Kriss’s campaign, I’ve gotten a window into the money behind those glossy flyers flooding your mailbox as the election approaches. Check out http://cal-access.ss.ca.gov/campaign and search for the candidates by last name to see who’s contributing what to whom. I think you’ll find it eye-opening. 

8. An Independent Voice. Kriss will be an independent progressive voice in Sacramento. Just as in Berkeley, where he’s secured millions of dollars to get more affordable housing built along transit corridors while protecting neighborhood quality of life, Kriss will never be beholden to big, profit-driven developers. He’ll make passing Clean Money a top legislative priority so that more of our elected officials will be free of the pressures brought to bear by big-money contributors, including large developers, big landlords, and the insurance industry. 

9. No on 98: Kriss is the only candidate with No on 98/Yes on 99 on all his campaign literature. The anti-tenant, anti-environment, anti-neighborhood Proposition 98 is one of the most dangerous Constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot in years; it would gut rent control, erode environmental protections, and likely undermine most zoning standards that protect neighborhoods. Kriss has been a leader in the campaign to defeat it. 

10. Pro-Neighborhood: Kriss understands that to create and maintain healthy neighborhoods we need to focus on crime watch, disaster preparedness, and improving infrastructure. As councilmember, he’s shown a willingness to focus on the nitty-gritty details of potholes and storm drains without losing the big picture of passing visionary legislation on the environment, workers’ rights, and open government. As a neighborhood leader, I’ve been impressed with how Kriss has been there for us time and again, whether the issue is getting more funding for police or emergency preparedness, or taking care of our neighborhood parks and making sure we receive our fair share of allocations for street repair. Once he’s in the state Legislature, it’s clear he won’t lose track of the small details that affect our daily quality of life. 

Please join me in voting for Kriss Worthington for the state Assembly! 

 

Nancy Carleton is a recognized leader on crime watch, disaster preparedness, greening projects, and community building in the Halcyon neighborhood. She’s also the volunteer treasurer for Kriss’s Assembly campaign. 


40 Years After Paris, Can Mass Protests Still Make a Difference?

By Randy Shaw
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

On May 13, 1968, students, workers, and activists marched through the streets of Paris to challenge the nation’s social, economic, and political structures. The marches were a prelude to what became a two-week general strike, the impact of which remains hotly debated to this day. The events of May 1968 were not the world’s first mass protests, but their role in the subsequent alteration of French society was widely hailed as proving the power of political action outside the electoral process. The United States also saw mass protests in 1968, but their failure to end the Vietnam War and the election of Richard Nixon that November left many activists frustrated. The successful WTO protests in Seattle reasserted the power of mass protest, but this appears to have dissipated as the Bush Administration invaded Iraq despite millions taking to the streets and the federal government failed to legalize undocumented immigrants despite the mass protests of the spring of 2006. Can mass protest still make a difference in the United States, or is the electoral process—embodied in the mass involvement of those in the Obama campaign—now seen as the leading if not exclusive route to progressive change?  

For 40 years, the phrase “May 1968” has connoted a unique mass outpouring in Paris that many saw as the germination of a new social order. The Paris events were distinguished from mass protests in the United States by the mass involvement of workers, who occupied factories and engaged in a two-week general strike in one of the world’s most advanced industrial nations. 

There are enough books about May 1968 to fill entire libraries, and the UC Berkeley Art Museum currently has an exhibit of stirring photos taken by Serge Hambourg. Seeing the hope and excitement on the faces of protesters, it is clear that participants believed that taking to the streets was a profoundly meaningful act—something that cannot often be said about today’s mass events. 

Critics of the impact of May 1968 have focused on the transitory aspect of the French protests, the lack of a concrete agenda, and the fact that a major target of the protests—French leader Charles De Gaulle—was easily re-elected in June. But less frequently noted is De Gaulle’s leaving office after losing a vote of confidence a year later, and that Parisian, if not French, society was visibly changed. 

For many, May 1968 showed the continued power of mass protest, and of the primacy of political engagement outside the electoral process. Even as the protests are commodified—a candy store is selling $75 chocolate bars in the shape of the pavers that protesters dislodged from cobblestone streets—their power continues to resonate. 

 

U.S. protests in 1968 

In the United States in 1968, student and anti-war protesters saw the year end with Richard Nixon winning the presidency, and the Vietnam War’s escalation. Less obvious at the time was the increasing backlash against the civil rights movement that has moved American politics largely rightward for nearly 40 years. 

Many young activists responded to Nixon’s victory by moving from protests to voter registration and the electoral process. This effort culminated in anti-war progressive George McGovern winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, but his landslide defeat resurrected activist doubts about the potential of national elections to bring progressive change.  

During the 1970s and 1980s, the successful mass protests against nuclear power, as well as against U.S. funding of military assistance to anti-democratic forces in Nicaragua and El Salvador, led to renewed respect for non-electoral strategies. Until at least 1992, progressive activists prioritized local and state elections over national political campaigns.  

 

The battle in Seattle 

It looked for a time that the 1999 mass protests against the meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would be the U.S. equivalent of May 1968. The marches resembled their Paris predecessor by incorporating a broad cultural critique of contemporary capitalism, and achieved virtually complete success by shutting down the WTO meeting. 

But anti-globalization forces never expanded their base, or developed a domestic agenda that facilitated its mass expansion. Future trade organization meetings became armed police encampments preventing even peaceful protest, while activists had less need to protest after getting most of the Democratic Party to back fair trade, rather than free trade. 9/11 also changed the terms of the globalization debate, as combating “terror” replaced fighting sweatshops as the chief focus. 

But in the big picture, mass protests outside the political process irrevocably altered the landscape for trade deals in the United States. Those marching in Seattle no doubt smiled to hear Hillary Clinton become a born-again free trader during the Ohio primary, as it represented a near total capitulation of the Democratic Party’s free-trade, pro-NAFTA base to the forces of fair trade.  

 

Mass protests against Iraq War 

The successful impact of mass anti-globalization protests may have helped fuel the massive turnouts in the United States against the proposed invasion of Iraq. But after President Bush signaled that he was impervious to protests (and would rather accept a 27 percent approval rating than defer to the popular will), many who marched in the 2002 and 2003 Iraq protests figured that future involvement was pointless. 

Seeing Bush as the chief obstacle to peace, even activists skeptical of electoral politics volunteered for the Kerry campaign in the fall of 2004. Although the massive outpouring of volunteers into swing states came too late to defeat Bush, the Republican’s victory in 2004 did not alter the progressive community’s primary focus on winning elections.  

 

Obama and mass election activism 

When Barack Obama announced his presidential candidacy in 2007, he recognized America’s fervent desire for change. But Obama also realized that Kerry had tapped into a mass activist yearning to be part of a larger cause, and that this cause could become his campaign. 

This desire to be part of a large, broad-based social movement fueled the May 1968 Paris protests, but has seldom found expression in the United States. The Seattle WTO protests included workers but relatively few activists of color, while the spring 2006 immigration marches were more representative but included relatively few African-Americans. 

Despite the ongoing insanity of the Iraq war, activists remained focused on electoral solutions. Obama’s ability to harness this mass desire for participation in a social movement focused on winning the 2008 presidential election is the central story of his success, and reflects activists’ continued shift from protest to electoral politics. 

Obama realizes that elections are simply a means to an end, and that the real test is whether, after taking office, his progressive campaign agenda is implemented. This will likely require the type of mass gatherings in the streets that proved so galvanizing in Paris in 1968, and that could represent the ideal fusion of mass protest and electoral politics that activists in the U.S. have sought in vain for decades. 

 

Randy Shaw is the editor of BeyondChron.org.


No on Prop. 98, Yes on Prop. 99

By John Katz
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Proposition 98 is a deceptive and very dangerous initiative that will be on the June 2008 ballot in California. Hiding behind some legitimate concerns about the potential misuse of eminent domain by local governments, this constitutional amendment if enacted would eliminate all rent control on any new unit anywhere in the state, including mobile homes. Its hidden provisions would also preclude the construction of new water supply projects, gut many environmental laws, and make most zoning laws unenforceable. 

Proposition 98 was put on the ballot by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association and is bankrolled by right wing billionaire Sam Zell. These people also brought us Proposition 90, a similar measure that was rejected by the voters in 2006. They are at it again this time in coalition with large apartment owners and developers who want to eliminate any kind of rent control provisions in the state, no matter what a local jurisdiction might choose to do to protect its supply of affordable housing.  

Because of its many negative consequences Proposition 98 is opposed by a large coalition representing a broad cross section of Californians. These include the Sierra Club, the Association of California Water Agencies, AARP, The Consumer Federation of America, the California Teachers Association, numerous tenant organizations, and the League of Woman Voters. 

Proposition 99 on the other hand is a straightforward initiative that would reform eminent domain law so that a government could not purchase a private home using eminent domain to benefit a private party. For example, a city’s Redevelopment Agency could not buy someone’s home against their will by eminent domain to make way for a privately funded shopping center. This process was deemed constitutional per a recent Supreme Court ruling. Proposition 99 would outlaw only that use of eminent domain in California, and is supported by most of the groups that are opposing Proposition 98. 

So please vote no on Proposition 98 and yes on Proposition 99, particularly since if both Props. 98 and 99 pass, the one with the most votes would become enshrined in the California Constitution.  

 

John Katz is an East Bay resident.


Yes on Proposition 98, No on Proposition 99

By Robert Cabrera
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

Proposition 98 in the June 3 ballot is good for tenants. It phases out rent controls on a unit only when that unit becomes voluntarily vacant. Via Prop. 98, the local rent law is folded into the state constitution and the current tenant is protected from any changes in the law. Changes do happen: the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, undermined rent control in Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland, and other California cities. Many people say that if 98 passes then there will be mass evictions. This same claim was made prior to the passage of vacancy decontrol (Costa-Hawkins) in the mid ’90s, but the evictions never materialized. It is nearly impossible to evict a tenant and Prop. 98 does not change that fact. 

Furthermore, a unit becomes more valuable to the landlord after passage of Prop. 98, and therefore a tenant who eventually plans to vacate has a chance of negotiating a larger relocation fee than at present or in a future without Prop. 98. 

Proposition 98 is good for cities. The phasing out of rent control gives cities the opportunity to address subsidizing the housing of the truly needy and let the market apply to everyone else. 

Rent control is defined by economists as the classic example of why price controls do not work and lead to shortages. For example, in Berkeley in 1980, just before the passage of rent control there were nearly 28,000 rental units according to the U.S. Census. Today the Berkeley rent board controls only 19,000. The most poignant loss is represented in the single-family home category: in 1980 there were 4,900 rented in Berkeley and by 1999 only 290 remained; a 94 percent loss. 

Prop. 98 is good for homeowners. Rent controlled buildings are worth less and therefore pay less in property taxes because they sell for less than rent control exempt buildings. Cities have to resort to increasing the taxes of homeowners to make up for the shortfall. The city of Berkeley is a classic example of this problem and it is currently polling its voters to determine how much of a tax increase they are willing to bear. Many homeowners are approaching retirement age and Prop. 98 creates the incentive to rent their homes rather than sell to an owner occupant. Owners of single-family homes tend not to rent if the cloud of rent control hovers over the property (see Berkeley statistic above). 

Some people maintain that rent-controlled units rent for less than uncontrolled units and use this fact to justify rent control. But it is like comparing apples and oranges. Only newly built units are exempt from rent control and these are usually more attractive, thus rent for more. 

Prop. 98 protects homeowners and small businesses from eminent domain seizures in which municipalities turn over the seized property to a private developer who usually has in mind controversial projects such as big-box stores or large condo developments with hundreds of units. These are not welcome by most communities since they increase traffic and density. In many cases these seized homes have been razed and then the developers have backed down and left a wasteland where a neighborhood once stood. This happened in Seattle. 

The biggest threat is to agricultural areas adjacent to growing metropolitan areas. We cannot afford to lose any more farmland to development in our state. Many California cities are on the brink of bankruptcy due to unfunded liabilities in the form of contracts to municipal employees (recall Vallejo). Developers team up with local politicians to target private properties via eminent domain seizure, including farms, to be developed with the promise of higher tax revenue to fund these municipal salaries and retirements; these are often more generous that anything in the private sector. This is the real engine behind Prop. 99 and opposition to 98.  

Prop. 99 is deceptive and was designed to confuse voters. It exempts only single-family homes, leaving the door open for municipalities to seize small mom and pop businesses to turn over to wealthy developers. However, even this single-family home exemption is weak since Prop. 99 seems to allow for the rezoning of homes from residential to industrial or commercial and thus making them vulnerable to seizure. Prop. 99 also contains an unfair provision invalidating Prop. 98 if both pass. 

The authors and backers of Prop. 99 are very influential and powerful and have got away with building a legal firewall to prevent voters from finding out who is really behind it. 

Vote yes on 98 and no on 99. 

 

Robert Cabrera is a former president of the Berkeley Property Owners Association. 


Reasons to Vote for Hancock for State Senate

By Mim Hawley
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

Fortunately for all of us in the East Bay, Loni Hancock is running to continue to represent us in Sacramento by seeking a seat in the state Senate. I hope you’ll join me in supporting the campaign for this remarkable woman whose contributions to Berkeley are historic and who will long be revered as a path-breaking leader. 

Loni is a long-time Berkeley resident who knows our needs and our aspirations. I recall when she was first elected to our City Council in 1968—a progressive young mother in blue jeans among business-suited male councilmembers. Even then she was committed to serve the best interests of all the people in Berkeley, and foreshadowing her later leadership abilities, her thoughtful intelligence and hard work made her an effective and influential councilmember. She was able to shed light on many city problems, including poverty and segregation, that had previously been swept under the council table. Her example inspired minorities and other women to run for and be elected to the council in the 1970s, leading to a complete change in the political leadership of our city. 

Loni’s inclusive brand of leadership has continued throughout her public life. In her two terms as mayor of Berkeley, she balanced seven straight budgets in lean economic times, and at the same time she launched economic development programs and brought new resources to our schools. Thanks to her, Berkeley adopted innovative programs that spread throughout the country, including health centers in high schools, city-funding for child care, ramps on sidewalks for wheelchairs, and regulations about smoking in public places. 

During the Clinton presidency, Loni was appointed head of the Western Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Education. In this position, she launched after-school programs, early reading preparation, and college preparedness initiatives. She helped schools in California receive millions of dollars in federal education funding. 

As our elected representative in the state Assembly, Loni has provided thoughtful leadership on the critical challenges facing California. She is an author of the California Clean Money and Fair Elections Act, and she has strongly supported universal healthcare in California (and as a result, has the endorsement of the California Nurses’ Association).  

She has also distinguished herself as the foremost leader in the Legislature on two of the most important issues facing the state: global warming and reducing the state’s unacceptably high (30 percent) dropout rate from high school. 

Loni was co-author of AB32, arguably the most important legislation passed in California in the last decade, which created an enforceable cap on greenhouse gases and made California a leader in the fight against climate change. As chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, she helped guide the legislation to become law and continues to hold important oversight hearings on its implementation. She is the only candidate endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters. 

Education has long been the focus of Loni’s efforts and she has worked hard to return local financial control to the Richmond and Oakland school districts. She has authored California’s exciting new law to expand hands-on learning and career technical education to better prepare our young people for college and careers. 

This year, Loni was the only Democrat to vote against Gov. Schwarzenegger’s $500 million cut to education, and she is organizing efforts throughout her district to fight against any cuts to our school funding. In recognition of her excellent work on school issues, Loni has been endorsed by the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers. 

It is due to Loni’s outstanding leadership that she has been endorsed by so many leaders and organizations, including Congress members, state leaders, and a host of local officials. 

For all these reasons and many more, I hope you’ll join me in supporting Loni for state Senate. 

 

Mim Hawley is a former Berkeley city councilmember.


‘Rapid Bus Plus’— An Alternative to Bus Rapid Transit

By Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is a summary of the complete proposal, which is available on the Planet’s website, www.berkeleydailyplanet.com. 

 

Rapid Bus Plus is a draft alternative to AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal. Our goal is to get the most environmental and economic benefits from each scarce transit dollar invested, while making no one worse off. To win new transit riders, we would enhance the best features of BRT, while expanding their benefits beyond the BART/Telegraph corridor (where buses already work well and commuters also have the BART alternative). 

We would use proof-of-payment (POP) to speed up boarding: Buses could open all doors at every stop. But we encourage AC Transit to implement this across its whole fleet. We also encourage fleetwide signal-priority devices, which let buses electronically hold green lights to proceed faster. 

We would maintain local bus service on Telegraph, and improve transfer times and reliability, fleetwide. Riders could check bus arrivals in real time, using cell or traditional phones. 

Through transit operations alone, we would exceed AC Transit’s modest environmental targets for BRT: saving 690 gallons a day of fuel, and six tons a day of greenhouse gases. We would deploy more efficient and accessible buses (hybrids) and run them on cleaner, lower-carbon fuels (biodiesel or natural gas). We would also use smaller, fuel-efficient buses to maintain high service frequency at off hours. 

We would achieve POP without expensive bus “stations” or automated ticket-vending machines. We would also omit bus-only lanes, along with their impacts on Telegraph Avenue users, local merchants and South Berkeley neighborhoods. Higher gas prices are already achieving BRT’s goal of reducing car traffic—so Rapid Bus can be still more rapid in shared lanes. 

Berkeleyans for Better Transportation Options (BBTOP) is a broad-based coalition of Berkeley neighborhood residents, merchants, and transit wonks. We are proudly thinking outside the bus to bring worldwide transit “best practices” to the Bay Area. After presenting Rapid Bus Plus to Berkeley’s Planning Commission on May 14, we look forward to further refining this package through discussions with city officials and staff, AC Transit, UC Berkeley, and other community stakeholders.


Hancock: The Developers’ Ally

By Martha Nicoloff
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

Most people who know of Loni Hancock remember her as mayor of Berkeley, from 1988 to 1995. At that time she faced very real and important criticisms for the way she ran the city. 

A good illustration of Hancock’s failures back then are several major planning decisions that she actively supported that were originated by a group called “Urban Ecology.” In it’s essentials, their vision was to move Berkeley’s population into high-density towers connected by ramps, and then pack these structures around BART stations and up and down transit corridors. 

The first impractical consequence of Hancock’s support for Urban Ecology was an experimental “slow street” on Milvia, running between University Avenue and Cedar. This curvy bump street was rushed through at great expense to the city in order to impress urban planning academics attending a conference here. The Mayor’s ardent support was made to look foolish given the confusing result, a real textbook example of “token” city planning. 

Another example supported by Urban Ecology was the neighborhood-busting development at Rose and Shattuck Avenues. In this instance, the mayor was confronted by a solid wall of opposition by surrounding neighbors when a 55-unit ticky-tacky, residential/commercial project was promoted for a small corner lot. Her only supporters were: Urban Ecology, her own city staff and the developer. Incidentally, the developer was also a big contributor to the successful effort to raise Hancock’s salary. The justification for approving the project was that the building site was on a bus route. 

A third policy decision spread dissension in other parts of the city. Having first failed to persuade residents of West Berkeley that their homes were blighted, Hancock’s redevelopment staff focused on South Berkeley. Once again Urban Ecology’s contribution was to trot out its favorite panacea of high-density towers. Only this time it was adjacent to South Berkeley BART station. If it hadn’t been for major grassroots opposition we might have had Hancock’s political cronies indulging their conflicts of interest for the duration of a 40-year redevelopment plan. 

How has Loni Hancock furthered Urban Ecology’s goals during her stay in the state Assembly? She has modified the provisions for “Transit Village” developments by reducing the need to show benefits to the surrounding community and limiting citizen participation. She has not introduced any measures to halt the use of eminent domain in California as several other states have done. 

After checking out Loni’s list of contributors for her Senate race, can anyone be in doubt about her pro-development connections and support? 

 

Martha Nicoloff authored the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance. 

 


Progressive: Now It’s Just a Convenient Name Tag

By Dave Blake
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

The battle for political control in Berkeley has been handily dominated by progressives for 20 years. But that victory was consolidated not in the body of a party but in the persons of Mayor Tom Bates and Assemblymember Loni Hancock. Many of those of us who have watched and participated in that consolidation are astounded at how few of the purposes that founded our progressive efforts survive today. When a progressive government hands out $7 million favors to a major businessman at the direct expense of the right of his workers to unionize, something has gone horribly awry. 

From the early ’70s through the end of the century, Berkeley council politics revolved around a struggle between self-designated progressives and moderates. For most of the last 30 years the progressives dominated that battle. We did it with hundreds of volunteers whose most notable achievement was rising at 4 a.m. on election morning (well before the mail-in era) to distribute our doorhanger endorsements to every corner of the city. We were young and intensely idealistic, and determined to turn our Vietnam War political awakening into a governing majority that would serve the actual people who lived here instead of the propertied interests that invariably dominate decision-making in American cities. Though an anti-war ethos has always characterized the progressives, the core of our legislative agenda was for at least the first 20 of those years based on support for rent control and defense of neighborhoods against the usual patron of small-town city councils: developers. 

The consistent figures in the progressive hegemony one way or another were Loni Hancock and Tom Bates. (They eventually sealed their familial role at the top of the progressive power structure by getting married.) When Bates was forced out of his Assembly seat by the passage of term limits, he handed the seat over to his aide Dion Aroner, and Aroner in turn when she was termed out handed it dutifully over to Bates’ by-then wife Hancock, who’d served as one of Berkeley’s first progressive councilmembers and then as mayor in the late ’80s and early ’90s. And when Bates came out of his long if early retirement six years ago to return to public service as Berkeley’s mayor, a sort of circle was completed as the two traded offices. 

The organization that housed the progressive movement, Berkeley Citizens Action (BCA), didn’t really figure out how to function as a full political machine, and was content to put people they considered progressive in office and let them do the governing. Never much involved legislatively, they are now irrelevant except as a nominal endorsing body to validate the progressiveness of the candidates who can pack their bi-yearly endorsement meetings. Their failure to keep their hand firmly on actual governance has led to our current circumstance, where the progressive hegemony is semantic, not principled. Everyone, especially now that Obama is running, is suddenly a progressive, and no one calls themselves a moderate any more, at least in public. 

There’s a lot of anti-Bush talk on the council, and they take the progressive side on many national and international issues from Marine recruitment to global warming, with the sole condition that the issue doesn’t impinge in any way on developers’ bottom lines in Berkeley itself. On all other issues, this council’s positions are determined by the desires of our very right-wing (and considerably Republican) Chamber of Commerce. 

The present council is now actively overturning the West Berkeley Plan that protects blue-collar jobs and our artist community. They’re involved in a huge struggle with the heritage community to weaken the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance. They just rejected the work of their Density Bonus committee that they proudly set up three years ago to redress the more obvious absurdities and inequities of their interpretation of state housing law. They’ve enacted measures of questionable constitutionality to govern how public space is used. They’re pressing ahead with a version of a sunshine ordinance that will protect them from having to reveal how they privately direct staff to only bring before them predigested proposals already to their liking, and at the same time are using exactly that methodology to redesign the condo conversion ordinance originally proposed to forestall constructive eviction of rent-controlled tenants to enable exactly the opposite outcome. And in the last election Bates was caught (by an Express reporter he didn’t recognize who had managed to slip into the private meeting) encouraging the Chamber of Commerce’s political arm to invest tens of thousands of dollars to oust the two progressive Councilmembers (Worthington and Spring) who stubbornly keep publicly pointing out the contradictions between his pronouncements and his actions. 

I enthusiastically backed Bates’ political return as mayor (I was one of the people privately urging him early on to run, and I helped frame the response to his difficulties over illegally throwing away Daily Cal newspapers—a defense I now regret). Four years later I nervously signed on as a Bates re-election endorser when I decided that he so thoroughly monopolized the image of progressivism that backing him was my only chance of promoting what was left of a progressive vision for Berkeley’s future, a vision thoroughly extinguished five months later when Bates was the lone progressive to vote to deny the Bowl workers their modest request to help them defend their union jobs, and Nancy Skinner, now poised to rotate into the Assembly seat, was the Bates/Hancock ally called upon to step forward and give him cover by publicly advocating for his astounding vote against the Bowl workers. 

 

Tune in next week: How the Bowl workers got screwed. 

 

Dave Blake is a former Zoning Adjustments Board chair and present member of the Rent Board and Arts Commission.


How AC Transit Can Cut Expenses Instead Of Raising Fares

By Joyce Roy
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

Just before their May 21 public meeting on raising fares, AC Transit is proposing to buy more Van Hool buses the riders and drivers hate. Nineteen more of the no-bid buses imported from Belgium at $577,739/bus for a total of $10,977,041. 

What timing! 

Instead of soaking the riders, AC Transit should start exercising some fiscal responsibility. Here is how they can cut costs instead of raising fares: 

1) The 19 buses they propose to purchase are the 60-foot low-aisle articulated buses you find bouncing along with only a few passengers on routes that only need 40-foot buses. They are put on those routes because they purchased too many of them. They are inappropriate for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) because they require more loading time; the only floor-level seats are in the second part of the buses. So instead of buying more, they should be selling some. There is a used bus market. And it should be easy to sell them for a good price because the board president, Chris Peeples, has declared them “the best buses in the world.” 

2) AC Transit says a major thing that is driving their costs up is the price of fuel. So why haven’t they been purchasing hybrid electric low-floor buses that would improve fuel consumption by 50 percent, reduce exhaust emissions, and provide a quieter and smoother ride? That may be because Van Hool does not make them and AC Transit has a “special partnership” with Van Hool. They are the only bus agency to have a “special partnership” with a bus manufacturer. USA manufacturers have had such engines for over 10 years and the FTA (Federal Transit Administration) would pay up to 100 percent of the cost of USA hybrid buses because they want to encourage cleaner buses! 

3) Stop using funds that were designated for operating costs to purchase buses. Some of us worked hard for the passage of Measure B that provides operating funds. The public also voted for AA/BB parcel taxes for “bus services for school children, seniors and people with disabilities,” but these funds may be buying buses that are treacherous for “seniors and people with disabilities.” These funds that should be set aside for operating costs are simply put into a general fund. Since the (FTA) will not fund imported buses, AC Transit treats the general fund like a big cookie jar and dips into it to buy these no-bid buses that cost about $100,000 more than American made/assembled buses. This may not be strictly illegal but it is a betrayal of public trust. 

4) Stop sending everyone and their dog on trips to Belgium/Paris. These trips by management and 60 employees have cost taxpayers over $1 million. Evidently Van Hool needs a lot of supervision. AC Transit considers this an insignificant cost; just a drop in the bucket. But they are asking riders to drop more money in the bucket to pay for these junkets. 

AC Transit has become little more than a bus-purchasing agency. The general manager makes no bones about his plans to work for the distributor of Van Hool buses when he retires. Some might consider that to be a conflict of interest. 

It is about time AC Transit became accountable to the public. It takes some moxie to ask riders to pay for their mismanagement of funds. 

 

Joyce Roy is an Oakland resident.


Columns

The Public Eye: Clinton’s Last Stand

By Bob Burnett
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM

Tuesday, May 6, was the decisive night in the struggle for the Democratic nomination. It provided new insight into the character of the two competitors. 

Coming into the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Hillary Clinton appeared to have the momentum. Her supporters were counting on decisive victories to prolong her winning streak and give a fundraising boost to a campaign starved for cash. They believed she could run the deck on the remaining primaries, close the delegate gap with Barack Obama, and make a compelling case with the all-important super delegates that Senator Clinton had found her voice and, therefore, would prove to be more effective campaigning against the Republican candidate, John McCain, in the fall. 

Now, with her big loss in North Carolina and unexpectedly narrow victory in Indiana, all the wind has been taken out of Clinton’s sails. This presents her with three deadly problems: There is no way she can overtake Obama in either the number of elected delegates or the total popular vote. Therefore, there is no effective case she can make to the super delegates. And, finally, there is no compelling argument she can make to potential donors. Clinton’s bid for the nomination has failed. Sadly, she appears unable to recognize this reality. 

 

Money matters  

Given Hillary Clinton’s name recognition and the active involvement of former President Bill Clinton, it initially seemed as though her victory was inevitable. Her opponents competed against the formidable C3 

linton campaign team, one with strong connections to deep-pocket donors and the Democratic establishment in every state. 

The reason that Senator Obama stayed in the race, and triumphed after fifteen months, was his ability to raise lots of money. While many will argue he won because he ran a smarter campaign than Clinton, the big surprise was that the junior senator from Illinois, a newcomer to the national political scene, raised more money than did the Clinton machine. 

Now, Democratic power brokers want to close down the battle for the nomination because they don’t want to spend any more money on it; they would rather shepherd their resources for the battle in the fall. They sense Democrats have an opportunity to substantially increase their majorities in the House and Senate—perhaps gain the magical 60-40 majority in the Senate—and they know it will take a lots money to do that. They’ve decided Obama is a better fundraiser. 

 

Temperament matters.  

A famous aphorism is, “Life’s a grindstone. Whether it wears you down or polishes you up depends upon what you’re made of.” The race for the Democratic convention has subjected both Clinton and Obama to a political grindstone. After a rocky start where her primary political persona seemed to be “I’m inevitable,” Clinton found her voice and proved much more effective in the role of “a fighter.” Meanwhile, Obama, already a skilled orator, became more comfortable with day-to-day campaigning and learned the little things that often make a big difference; for example, that he looks much better shooting baskets than he does rolling a bowling ball. 

In the fall, when Obama faces off against McCain, the temperament of each candidate will be an important topic. Already articles have suggested Senator McCain is temperamentally unsuited to be President: a hothead, someone who carries long-term grudges, perhaps a person who suffers from post-traumatic stress syndrome. 

During the past 15 months, we’ve learned Senator Obama is remarkably even tempered. His single worst evening was the April 16 debate in Pennsylvania, where he was attacked not only by Senator Clinton but also by the debate moderator, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. While many observers described Obama’s demeanor as “subdued” or “defensive,” others noted that in the middle of a period where he was berated for the comments of his former pastor and the “bitter” remarks he’d made a few days earlier, Obama never lost his temper. But voters noticed and it heightened their opinion Obama would do better against McCain, provide a more striking contrast. 

During this same extended period voters have had the opportunity to study the character of Senator Clinton and have noticed three things: She hasn’t run an effective campaign; her message has been confused and she’s written off states that she shouldn’t have. The second is that she and her husband have on occasion taken the low road—seemingly made the decision that the ends justified the means—Bill Clinton played the race card in South Carolina and Hillary Clinton played the pander card in her support for the gas-tax rebate. 

The third thing we’ve learned is that Senator Clinton places her own ambition ahead of the best interests of the Demo-cratic Party. That was apparent in 2006 when, in the middle of an easy race for re-election, she amassed a huge war chest for her presidential bid rather than share her funds with needy Democratic candidates. And it’s obvious now, when she has no chance of becoming the presidential nominee, when her only motivation is self-aggrandizement. 

 

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


UnderCurrents: Oakland’s Traffic Stop Crime Fighting Policy Continues

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM

From all over Oakland this winter and spring, there have been calls for a crackdown on the city’s crime and violence, with police being allowed to fill in the details, at their discretion, of how such crackdown will be carried out. 

Here in the Deep East flats of the city, we get to see the details firsthand. 

One afternoon a few days ago, in our neighborhood, we witnessed a car with four young African-Americans pulled over by two OPD officers in a single vehicle, apparently because the car they stopped had no date and registration stickers on the back license plate. The stickers, it turned out, were on the front plate. 

The officers did not approach the car as if they had run the plates and thought a theft of some kind had been committed, such as the stealing of a car or plates. If that had been the case, the general practice is for one of the officers to have hung back and observed from the rear and the side, while the other officer went up to the driver’s window, both of the officers putting their hands on their weapons. 

In this case, however, the two officers both went to the vehicle, one on the driver’s side, one on the passengers side. We could hear the officer on the passenger side ask, through the open window, if anyone in the vehicle was on probation or parole. Apparently one or all of them answered yes, because in a moment the four occupants were brought out of the vehicle, handcuffed, and searched. Two of the occupants were put in the police car, while two of them were made to sit down on the curb. 

Next, while one officer got on the radio, the other proceeded to search the car, tossing clothing, papers and items we were too far away to identify out onto the sidewalk and into the gutter. 

We fully expected that in a while a truck would come from A&B to tow the car away, and one or more of the car occupants would be taken away in the police vehicle. 

Instead, within a few minutes, the officers took the handcuffs off the occupants while telling them that they needed to reverse the placement of the vehicle license plates, or they would get stopped again. (Why the license plates were reversed in the first place I never found out, but apparently, from the officers’ ultimate actions in letting the car occupants go, there was nothing illegal involved, only inadvertence.) In a moment, in any event, it was over, the whole procedure taking probably fifteen to twenty minutes at the very least, and the officers drove away, while the car occupants were left to retrieve their belongings from the ground. 

How you view this incident probably depends entirely on what experiences and background you bring to the discussion. 

Many people will wonder—aloud and in blogs, probably—what was the big deal. They will say that the officers had probable cause to stop the car because of the lack of stickers on the tags (they couldn’t see the stickers on the front tags while they were following) and that, further, assuming that everyone in the car was on probation or parole, the officers were fully within their authority to temporarily detain those occupants while they determined if anything was amiss. Finally, when the officers apparently found out that there was no more violation than the transposed plates, they immediately allowed the occupants to go on their way. 

And some people in Oakland will rejoice at keeping parolees and probationers unsettled, applauding, as did the rancher Rufus Ryker in the movie Shane, the actions of a hired hand cowboy putting the run on the sodbusters. 

And in fact, the stop appears not be some random action by individual officers, but part of the strategy that Area One (North Oakland-West Oakland) Captain Anthony Toribio earlier this year famously called “showing the flag,” in which Oakland police officers use massive “routine” traffic stops to try to ferret out evidence of serious crimes. Mr. Toribio was talking about instituting the crime-fighting-by-traffic-stop strategy in the Dogtown section of West Oakland, but we have seen it instituted out here in the East Oakland flats since the old “Operation Impact” days of the Jerry Brown administration. The purpose of the policy is to use routine non-moving traffic stops on “suspicious” individuals—the “suspicious” being undefined on paper, but you are free to come up with your own criteria of how our police officers select the targets—then to be able to run warrant checks on the drivers and all individuals in the car, as well as to look for an excuse to be able to search both the occupants and the car—as happened in the license plate stop in my neighborhood described above—in the hope of coming up with something illegal. 

One wonders how all of this is being taken in and processed by the people who are actually stopped. For a violation that for most citizens would have warranted a simple instruction from the officers to correct an inadvertent mistake, they found themselves detained, publicly humiliated and embarrassed, and their belongings dumped out in the gutter. Will this experience lead them to become better citizens? Hard to think it will. 

If the purpose of OPD’s blanket traffic stop policy—blanketing only “certain” elements within the community is to get these “certain” individuals out of Oakland—either by harassing them so much that they figure it’s better just to move to Antioch or Bakersfield, or by keeping their lives so disrupted that they end up unable to hold down a regular job and turn back to crime, eventual arrest, and parole or probation violation that sends them back to Santa Rita or beyond—then by all means, the police department should continue this policy. One way or the other, it will accomplish that purpose. 

If, on the other hand, the City of Oakland is actually embarking on a policy of turning the formerly incarcerated away from the thug and criminal life and reintegrating them into Oakland as productive citiziens—as has been promised by Mayor Ron Dellums—then OPD’s crime-fighting-by-traffic-stop program is absolutely the wrong way to go. The burden is now on Mr. Dellums to investigate the practice, and to stop or modify the traffic stop policy where it is demonstrated that it is against his administrative goals, to point out that we are wrong in our understanding of the consequences of the policy, or to admit that he has no control over what Oakland police are doing in the streets of the Oakland flatland communities. But Mr. Dellums, whom I respect highly, cannot have it both ways in this situation. He cannot be known as both the liberator of South Africa from apartheid and the mayor who presided over apartheid-like police tactics in the city of his birth. 

Meanwhile, since we’re talking about Mr. Dellums and the police… 

Most of our longtime UnderCurrents readers—and readers of the San Francisco Chronicle—will remember the spirited and energetic campaign conducted in the last months of 2007 by my good friend, Chronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson, to convince Mr. Dellums to increase the number of police in Oakland above the authorized 803 patrol strength.  

In September, reporting on a meeting between him and Mr. Dellums, Mr. Johnson wrote: “Dellums says he has no plans to significantly increase the number of Oakland police officers, despite the reality that Oakland’s under-sized force of nearly 740 officers is roughly half the size of cities of comparable size. … On this point the mayor and I agreed to disagree, because I live in Oakland and believe we need a police force at least one-third larger than its current size.” 

Then, in an Oct. 16 column entitled “It’s Time For Dellums To Get Real On Fighting Crime,” Mr. Johnson applauded what he felt was Mr. Dellums’ reversal of that opposition. “Late last month, Dellums said he believed Oakland residents didn’t want a force larger than the 803 sworn officers authorized by a public bond measure,” Mr. Johnson wrote. “But at a town hall meeting in North Oakland on Saturday, he changed that tune, describing the recruitment push as a rock-bottom minimum number of officers. And by the end of the meeting, Dellums was acquiescing to residents who called for a force as large as 1,000 officers, saying: ‘Let’s have a conversation about that.’ It seems the public groundswell is causing Dellums to shift his position on this issue.”  

(A careful reading of Mr. Dellums’ words will show that he never, actually, changed his position on going above the 803 police mark. Calling for a conversation is not the same thing as calling for a change. But that’s beside our present point.) 

Finally, in a Dec. 21 column appropriately entitled “Same Old Message To Oakland Mayor-Hire More Cops,” Mr. Johnson wrote that Mr. Dellums’ earlier resistance to increasing OPD strength above the currently-authorized 803 “turned out to be a tactical mistake, and hundreds of citizens contacted the mayor’s office to set him straight.” 

Well, a prominent East Bay writer has now informed us that, actually, it would have been a tactical mistake for Oakland to have drastically increased the Oakland police budget last year, as would have needed to be done if the City had heeded the call to increase the police strength above 803. And who was that prominent East Bay writer who came to that conclusion? The same one who earlier was loudly calling for that increase, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson. 

In a May 9 column about the City of Vallejo budget crisis entitled “Vallejo Leaders Should Have Seen Crisis Coming,” Mr. Johnson writes, in part, “the question you have to ask about the officially bankrupt city of Vallejo, and other California cities with similar financial profiles, is this: Didn’t you know something was wrong when you realized you were spending 75 cents of every dollar in the general fund on public safety costs?” 

“Vallejo’s finances,” Mr. Johnson goes on to explain, “already battered by years of trying to meet police and fire department payrolls and pension liability payments, fell under the weight of the housing crisis … And what’s particularly disconcerting is that many of the same factors that pushed Vallejo beyond the precipice of financial stability are at work in many other cities around the state, including Oakland … With a projected budget deficit of $6.7 million at the end of the fiscal year in June, city officials led by Mayor Ron Dellums have reined in some of the more downright ludicrous benefits offered to the Oakland Police Officers Association … The once-healthy property transfer tax revenue stream has dried up in Oakland—and city officials are projecting a $20 million drop in revenues because of the decline in the housing market. Add to that a citizens’ initiative to add another 300 police officers, without raising taxes to pay for them, and you have Vallejo all over again.” 

Without actually coming out and admitting it directly, Mr. Johnson appears to concede that he was wrong in calling for an increase Oakland police strength above 803, and Mr. Dellums was both prudent and right to resist those calls, not matter how politically popular they may have seemed, because such an increase would have probably busted Oakland’s budget and led us down the Vallejo path. 

That seems to be the only possible conclusion to Mr. Johnson’s abrupt turnaround. Or do y’all think I’m completely misinterpreting this? 


East Bay, Then and Now: Schweinfurth’s First Unitarian: A Powerhouse of a Church

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:23:00 AM
The west façade is a gigantic gable supported by two unpeeled redwood trunks. The church now serves as the university’s dance studio.
Daniella Thompson
The west façade is a gigantic gable supported by two unpeeled redwood trunks. The church now serves as the university’s dance studio.
Playful buttresses are a reference to traditional masonry churches.
Daniella Thompson
Playful buttresses are a reference to traditional masonry churches.
The apse prompted passerbys to compare the church to a powerhouse.
Daniella Thompson
The apse prompted passerbys to compare the church to a powerhouse.

“The First Unitarian Church of Berkeley was founded on Sunday, July 12, 1891, in space rented from the Berkeley Odd Fellows Temple, then on Shattuck [Avenue], a couple of blocks south of its present location. Some have said that this first meeting was held in a saloon on the first floor, but if so, suitable quarters were found for subsequent meetings.” 

The paragraph above opens Chapter 2 of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley: A History, which goes on to say, “On that great Founders Day, 32 charter members signed the book. A few more signed the following week, and by the end of the year, membership was 50. Then, as now, there were as many who didn’t sign the book as did, so that the total church family was approximately 100.” 

On the origins of the idea to establish a church in Berkeley, the History speculates: “It is quite possible that Thomas Starr King, second minister of the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco, 1860-1864, and Western Unitarians’ great hero, looked across the Bay and envisioned a large and influential Unitarian church standing there beside a magnificent institution of higher learning. 

“If Starr King didn’t envision this church, he at least inspired the man who did: Charles William Wendte, a young man in Starr King’s congregation. Twenty years later, Wendte, aided by Dr. Horatio Stebbins, successor to Starr King in the San Francisco pulpit, advocated the establishment of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, along with a seminary in Berkeley, at the September 1890 meeting of the Pacific Unitarian Conference. Their proposal was accepted unanimously and enthusiastically and they proceeded forthwith.” 

Among the members of the young congregation were early settlers of Berkeley’s Northside and founders of the Hillside Club, who would exert a profound influence on the development of domestic architecture in northern California. These included Charles and Louise Keeler, Bernard and Annie Maybeck, Volney and Mary Moody, Allen and Katherine Freeman, Oscar and Madge Maurer, and Warren and Sarah Gregory. 

In its first six years, the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley experienced numerous difficulties and financial hardship. There was a great deal of borrowing and “refinancing” from members, from funds, and from banks. Straitened circumstances notwithstanding, in 1893 the congregation purchased a desirable and apparently affordable site on the corner of Dana Street and Bancroft Way. The seller was William Carey Jones, founder and first director of the University of California’s law school and author of the Illustrated History of the University of California. 

The first architect selected to design a church on the site was the transplanted Norwegian Joachim Mathisen. His 1894 plan, published in Jones’ History, called for a large building, Romanesque in style, and incorporating a tall tower-more than the struggling congregation could afford. 

Three years were to pass before an affordable design was produced. By then, Mathisen was dead by suicide. The new commission fell to A.C. Schweinfurth, who had recently completed a widely published Northside residence for the Moody family. According to architectural historian Richard Longstreth, Schweinfurth was asked to prepare the plans even before an architect had been officially selected. 

The church representative who entrusted Schweinfurth with the design was none other than Volney Moody’s son-in-law, Edmund S. Gray, who had been actively involved in the Moody house project. This fabled residence, called Weltevreden, was built entirely of clinker brick and boasted Dutch step gables at both ends. It survived the 1923 Berkeley Fire, became a fraternity house in the ‘30s, and was drastically altered in the ‘50s by architect Michael Goodman. Still standing on the corner of Le Conte and Le Roy Avenues, Weltevreden is now the home of the Cal Band and known as Tellefsen Hall. 

The church’s official history makes no mention of Mathisen’s earlier design, proceeding directly to Schweinfurth’s contribution: “The new church was of unique design and, like most Unitarian churches built since, symbolized this faith’s difference from orthodox faiths. It was the creation of architect A.C. Schweinfurth of the office of A. Page Brown & Co. of San Francisco and New York. He had been instructed to use only the best materials for each purpose. Bernard Maybeck, then a young member of the congregation and eventually a famous California architect, worked in the same offices and may have helped with the church’s design. It was an excellent early example of the Bay Area Shingle style. The building was 40 feet square, with a basement. A member gave the redwood pillars that graced the two front entrances and there were other gifts.” 

There is no record of Maybeck’s having had any part in the church design, which was completed in January 1898. It’s interesting to note, though, that both Maybeck and Mathisen passed through the office of the fashionable architect A. Page Brown, where Schweinfurth was chief draftsman until opening his own practice in 1894. 

The First Unitarian Church design was revolutionary for its time-in its single huge west gable, the use of shingles and metal sash windows, the exceptionally heavy rough beams resting on unpeeled redwood trunks, and the semi-circular apse with a bisected conical roof on the east side. Curved buttresses along the side walls—structurally unnecessary in a wood-frame building—make a playful allusion to traditional masonry churches. 

The church’s History informs that “Opinion was divided as to its architectural beauty. One passerby was heard to say ‘It looks like a powerhouse,’ to which the pert answer, of course, was ‘It is a powerhouse.’” 

The church building cost $5,130. Once the furnace, furniture, and insurance were added, the grand total came to $5,924.81. It was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1898, with four Unitarian ministers and a rabbi participating. The architect was not present, having left for Europe in the summer. 

One of the most original American architects of the late 19th century, A.C. Schweinfurth is little-known today, having died at the age of 37. Most of his buildings succumbed to fire or demolition over the years, leaving a much reduced legacy. 

By his own account, Albert Cicero Schweinfurth was born in Auburn, N.Y., on Jan. 7, 1863 (for an unexplained reason, practically all publications date his birth at 1864). Like Bernard Maybeck, his elder by a year, Schweinfurth was the son of a German woodcarver and received his early design training at his father’s architectural ornament business. His two elder brothers, Charles Frederick (1856-1919) and Julius Adolph (1858-1931), also architects, gained national reputations—the former working in Cleveland, the latter in Boston. 

In 1879 Albert moved to Boston, sharing an apartment with Julius. Here he worked for a year at J.R. Osgood & Co., printers of the American Architect, before securing a position as draftsman for the important architectural firm Peabody & Stearns. From 1885 until 1888, he was employed by A. Page Brown (1859-1896) in New York. While in that office, he was responsible for the design of the Museum of Historic Art at Princeton University (1886-92). 

In 1886, Schweinfurth left Brown’s office to work with his brother Charles in Cleveland but returned within the year. In 1888 he opened an independent practice in New York, but that, too, proved unsuccessful. His obituary in The American Architect and Building News detailed his subsequent moves: “Here excessive application to his profession brought on illness, and he was obliged to remove to Denver, Colo., where he soon felt the benefit of the climate. In Denver may be seen many examples of his work, distinguished by its peculiar simple dignity and refinement. In 1890, having recovered his health, he removed to San Francisco, where he assisted Mr. A. Page Brown in the erection of many large and important works; he, being entrusted with their design and execution, thus rendered valuable service in beautifying the city.” 

As chief draftsman in A. Page Brown’s San Francisco office, Schweinfurth would work alongside Willis Polk, Bernard Maybeck, and Joachim Mathisen. While in that office, Schweinfurth was the lead designer of the San Francisco Ferry Building (1893-98) and Trinity Episcopal Church on the corner of Bush and Gough. Schweinfurth and Brown are credited with having been the first to introduce the Mission Revival style, in the California Building they designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. (Maybeck and Mathisen submitted an independent entry to the design competition, and their proposed building contained many of the same Mission elements.) 

Although Schweinfurth’s role in the design of Joseph Worcester’s Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco has been disputed by some architectural historians, the National Historic Landmark Nomination for the church makes a case for Schweinfurth’s involvement. 

In 1894, Schweinfurth left Brown’s office for the last time, establishing a successful practice under William Randolph Hearst’s patronage. His first commission was a country estate in Pleasanton, Hacienda del Pozo de Verona (1895-1898), which was appropriated by Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, before its completion. 

Drawing on Hispanic and Pueblo traditions, the Hacienda was called “The greatest California patio house” in the October 1904 issue of Country Life in America. The California Architect and Building News (Vol. XX, No. 9) opined: “Mrs. Hearst’s house was designed by Mr. Schweinfurth, one of the most talented architects of the United States. He stands to this style somewhat as Norman Shaw does to Queen Anne. The one using a creamy colored stucco where the other employs a deep rose brick work. The one style in clear California light being as happy as the other is in the thick grey atmosphere of London.” 

Other important Schweinfurth projects commissioned or initiated by William Randolph Hearst were the San Francisco Examiner building at Third and Market Streets (1897, burned in 1906) and the circular brick Little Jim Ward (1895) and matching Eye and Ear Pavilion (1896-97) of the San Francisco Children’s Hospital on California Street at Maple. All evidence points to the conclusion that until his premature death, Schweinfurth was to the Hearsts what Bernard Maybeck and later Julia Morgan would come to represent. 

On May 27, 1898, Schweinfurth applied for a passport for himself, his wife Fanny, and their 7-year-old daughter Katrina. The passport was issued on June 2, and the three embarked on a two-year trip through Italy and France. On their return, Schweinfurth suffered an attack of typhoid fever while spending the summer with Fanny’s family in Dryden, N.Y. He died there on Sept. 27, 1900. His widow and daughter did not return to San Francisco but went to live in Brookline, Mass., where Julius Schweinfurth made his home. 

The expanding University of California acquired the Unitarian Church property in 1960, and the congregation moved to Kensington the following year, where a new church was built on land donated by Maybeck. The Berkeley parish house and auxiliary structure were razed in 1965 to clear land for the Zellerbach Auditorium and Playhouse complex. The church building was retained and has been converted into the Dramatic Arts Department’s dance facility. In 1998, the building underwent seismic, life safety, and ADA upgrades at a cost of $778,000.00, a far cry from the original construction costs a hundred years earlier. 

The First Unitarian Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1981. 

 

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

 

 


About the House: On Thinking Small

By Matt Cantor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:29:00 AM

It’s funny how a word can suddenly start popping up wherever you go. I was in a spinning class the other day (No, I’ve not taken up knitting. Well, actually I have, but that’s another story). This was one of those classes where a bunch of people who should otherwise be too embarrassed, actually manage to show up in spandex and pedal feverishly to absolutely nowhere for an hour, accomplishing nothing except to have become more conversant in the latest techno-pop noise. All in all, it’s quite fun but, as usual, I digress. During the class, our fearless leader, Marjorie, uttered the work parsimonious. I have a feeling Marjorie has been thinking about things parsimonious and it sort of fell out of the bag. 

My friend, the Poly Sci professor Ron Hassner (We Berkeleyites lost him to Stanford recently but I hope very much to see his wily self back here soon) likes this word too. It keeps falling out of his bag of words as well. This is a word looking for places to manifest and tell its story. 

Parsimony is the root word but just over 400 years ago, the word Parsimonious appeared expanding our ability to apply this Latin (parsimonia) notion of sparseness, economy or frugality. 

I was in Japan earlier this year and notices parsimony in so many ways that I’d like to share but since my apparent mandate is the condition of the built-environment, I’ll try to stick to that. The Japanese are not a poor people. They have a pretty healthy GDP as world economies go so there is no reason that they could not live in houses as large or larger than ours; but they don’t. 

In fact, they live, for the most part, in houses that we wouldn’t put our college freshman in without actually calling them dorms. Their houses seemed to me to be on average, about half the size of the typical state-side home. If American’s live in 2,000-square-foot houses (and this is quite common in much of the U.S.), the Japanese seem to live in closer to 1,000-square-foot homes. 

Now it’s certainly true that Japan is quite small compared to the U.S. with 146,000 square miles to our 3.8 million square miles, a difference of roughly 20 to 1 and our population is only a little over twice theirs (300 million to 127 million), so adjusting for population, we have about 10 times as much space as the Japanese do. On the other hand, most of the U.S. is empty space and Japan has an enormous amount of shoreline, the place most people want to be. This may also account for the fact that they eat roughly six times the amount of fish as we do (per capita). 

Coming round the bend back toward my point, that last fact may account, in part for the fact that very few Japanese are obese. It was stunning to walk among thousands of people and rarely see an overweight person (this was particularly visible at the bathhouses or “Sento” where everything is revealed). I realize that Sumo wrestling creates the illusion that there are overweight people but they (the obese, not Sumo wrestlers) are actually quite few in number.  

This may be part of why their houses are so much smaller but I think it’s more integral than that. The Japanese eat less, walk more and economize as a part of daily life.  

Waste is considered poor behavior and close quarters are taken as a part of life. Americans seem to model themselves on the plains pioneers with as much interstitial space as possible and a cabinet full of guns to defend their turf. Perhaps closeness makes us uncomfortable and perhaps small houses make us feel poor. What is certain is that large houses are making us poor. 

Building a large house costs a great deal more in lumber, labor, shipping and a wide range of costs that reflect upon their subordinate energy or environmental sources. 

To name just a few affected areas, in building a larger houses we will cut down more trees, mine more of the earth for metals and use more oil for a hundred activities including shipping, driving workers, manufacturing plastic and running machinery. 

Heating and furnishing a large house (not to mention cleaning) takes more energy, time and money. I would also argue that our large houses cost us in one more very relevant way. They give more and more of our lives over to the contents of these houses. I, for one have too much stuff and I know that rather than owning these belongings, that I belong to them. I can’t tell you how much time I daily spend moving my stuff around, servicing my stuff and maintaining and thinking about my stuff. 

There are a number of popular movements afoot these days with edicts proscribing a life in which no new thing is bought, no foreign food is eaten and no extra energy is consumed. I would like to add my own movement to these. Let’s try the Japanese way and do everything smaller.  

I had no sense in Japan that people were feeling deprived. They wore lovely clothing and had beautiful things. In fact, Japanese possessions were generally more beautiful and carefully made than most of what we see here and I have no doubt that there is a relationship between these things (volume and quality). When you don’t buy your life goods by the ton, you can probably make some nicer choices. This is certainly true of houses today. Most of the really large houses I’ve inspected in the last 20 years have been unimpressive and uninspiring. Sad really. They often lack a center or an orientation (fundamental architecture) and I actually got lost in one some years ago as proof of this absence of a “sense of place”. (nice excuse, eh?) 

This seems emblematic of our lifestyle. Lacking a center and short on meaning but available in an extra large box. 

In 1973, The economist, E. F. “Fritz” Schumacher, published a book entitled “Small is Beautiful; Economics as if People Mattered. It’s still pretty good reading. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Fritz and hope that your next remodeling job, your next new home and perhaps your next trip to the store will be influenced by his gentle wisdom: 

“[A modern economist] is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ that a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption ... The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.” 


Wild Neighbors: UC and Strawberry Canyon: Last Round for the Whipsnake?

By Joe Eaton
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:27:00 AM

Once more into Strawberry Canyon, and then I’ll try to get back to the natural-history beat.  

By the time readers of the Planet’s print edition see this article, the UC Regents will have voted on the Final Environmental Impact Reports (FEIRs) for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) huge new buildings in the Strawberry Canyon watershed, the Helios Facility and the Computational Research and Theory (CRT) facility. Again, sorry about all the initials, but it goes with the territory. 

If the Regents—as represented by their Grounds and Buildings Committee—certify those reports, construction could begin by the end of the year. But they are being asked by the City of Richmond and the local Audubon Society and Sierra Club chapters, among others, to defer that decision; to recirculate the Helios and CRT EIRs for an additional comment period of at least 30 days. 

These are massive documents, and sifting through all their details is enormously time-consuming. But it’s clear that significant changes are contemplated in both projects-significant enough to require additional review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The CRT facility is going to be reconfigured and moved downslope without having its footprint changed-a neat trick. And the CRT EIR still ignores the potential impact of construction on the adjacent habitat of what could be the world’s only population of Lee’s microblind harvestmen, a small spiderlike creature. 

The changes in the Helios Project are presented as a response to concerns that the access road to the facility would impinge on Mather Grove and take out some large redwoods. A rerouted access road would skirt the grove and spare those trees. But this is one of those deals where, to quote Tom Waits, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away. 

If you backtrack from the FEIR to the draft environmental impact report (DEIR), and its discussion of alternative designs for Helios, you’ll see that changing the access road would destroy more trees—a total of 150—than the original proposal. Some are exotics, but a fair number are native oaks and bay laurels. The Chicken Creek riparian corridor may be affected; it’s not clear from the description of the new Preferred Alternative. 

Then there’s the Alameda whipsnake, a federally and state threatened reptile about whose presence in Strawberry Canyon the Lab and the University have been consistently skeptical. The new road, according to the FEIR, “would result in a potentially significant impact from the removal of approximately 1.27 acres of coastal scrub habitat that is considered potentially suitable habitat for the Alameda whipsnake and about 2.71 acres of grassland that could be used by the whipsnake.”  

What they propose to do about this is mitigate the impact by restoring, enhancing, or creating whipsnake habitat. Sounds good, until you think it through. Mitigation is a much-abused term in environmental planning. It implies providing somewhere for creatures displaced by development to go—a new marsh, a new grassland. In practice, it has all too often meant creating habitat that won’t even be accessible to those creatures. 

Look at it from the snake’s perspective. Whipsnakes are alert and speedy creatures, but they have certain travel constraints. Crossing roads, parking lots, and other man-made features that fragment their habitat can be a problem. Unless new habitat is contiguous to existing habitat, the snakes won’t get there, and mitigation will be an empty gesture. 

There’s no assurance in the sketchy discussion of the mitigation plan that the mitigation sites will even be on LBNL land. The report says that “if adequate mitigation cannot be planned on LBNL land, potential mitigation sites shall be identified adjacent to or within the designated critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake in the easternmost portion of the LBNL…” And where would that be, exactly? There’s also no indication of when the mitigation work-which would entail taking out more trees, planting coastal-scrub vegetation, and creating rock outcrops-would be done. 

After-the-fact mitigation wouldn’t do the snakes much good. 

There’s so much vagueness and ambiguity here that members of the public can’t assess whether the mitigation is adequate or not. When you’re dealing with a vulnerable species already suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation, that’s a big concern. For CEQA analysis and enforcement purposes, much more detail is needed. 

As I write this, the ball is in the Regents’ court. I suspect that whatever comes out of their session, the controversy is not going to end there. Strawberry Canyon provides habitat connectivity for wildlife; recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, runners, birders, and botanizers; linkage between open spaces protected by the East Bay Regional Park District. There’s a lot at stake here. The battle for the Canyon may yet make the Stadium Oaks conflict look like a mere skirmish. 

For information about the Save Strawberry Canyon campaign, email Phila Rogers: philajane6@yahoo.com. 

 

 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

THURSDAY, MAY 15 

THEATER 

“Aliso in Wonderland” Written and performed by “Xago” Juárez, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568.  

Eastenders Repertory Company “Three Vanek Plays” by Vaclev Havel, Thurs. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at JCC East Bay. Tickets are $15-$20. 800-838-3006. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Double Vision: Cubist and Abstract Expressions” Works by Carol Manasse and Steve Carlson. Reception at 5 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Bldg., 1515 Clay St., Oakland. 622-8710. 

“Portals” Paper creations by Jen Stark, Anna Fidler and Jana Flynn. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Johansson Projects, 2300 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Exhibit runs through July 5. www.johanssonprojects.com 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 12:15 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Ariel Schrag reads from “Awkward/Definition” and “Potential” at 7 p.m. at Florence Schwimley Little Theater at Berkeley High School, 1930 Allston Way. 

Jibade-Khalil Huffman and Bronwen Tate, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Sheila Weller discusses “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and the Journey of a Generation” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Artist Support Group Speaker Series with Jamie Brunson, art coach and founder, Art Primer, at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $8-$10. 644-6893. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Oakland Opera and The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra “Queenie Pie” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at New Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. 763-1146. 

Celtic Sands at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Irish dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Waybacks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Dick Conte Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mario “Weary Boys” Matteoli at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Akosua Mireku at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Poncho Sanchez Tribute to Cal Tjader at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$66. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, MAY 16 

THEATER 

Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Uncle Vanya” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through May 17. Tickets are $10-$12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org  

Impact Theatre “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid. Tickets are $10-$15, through June 7. 464-4468. 

Poor Players “Iris and Her Girls” Wed.-Sun. at 8 p.m., Sat and Sun. matinees at 2 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through May 18. Tickets are $20. 663-5767. www.poorplayers.org 

Shotgun Players “Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Asby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through June 22. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Theatre de la Jeune Lune “Figaro” through June 8 at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St. Tickets are $13.50-$69. 647-2949. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“These Canyons” UC Berkeley M.F.A. Exhibition Reception at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Over the Rainbow: Art from LGBTQ Communities” Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Womens Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Exhibition runs to June 25. 601-4040, ext. 111. www.wcrc.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

International Day for Sharing Life Stories with spoken word, music and media presentations at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 548-2065. www.ausculti.org  

Las Manas Tres, hybrid poetas, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Raj Patel discusses “Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “La Boutique Fantastique” Fri. at 7 p.m., Sat. at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $15-$21. 843-4689.  

Garrett McLean, violin, Siu-Ting Dickson Mak, piano, at 8 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Tickets are $10. 848-1228. 

Jazzschool Studio Band at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Vicki Burns & her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

B.A.R.S.: Break, Art. Rap. Scratch. at 7 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5-$10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Snatam Kaur at 8 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. Tickets are $30-$35. 486-8700. 

Ray Bierl Trio at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

The Stairwell SIsters at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

John Calloway Quartet at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Sabertooth Zombie, Murder Practice, Seize the Night at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Todd Shipley at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Army, David Morrison, Tuff Lion, Luv Fyah, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $12. 548-1159.  

Bitches Brew at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, MAY 17 

CHILDREN  

Dashka Slater reads from “The Sea Serpent and Me” at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave 559-9500. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Birth of Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury” with a jazz lounge, films, and period art gallery, opens at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. 238-2022. 

“What is a Book?” Explorations by a dozen artists on display at Oakopolis Creativity Center, 447 25th St., Oakland, Sat. from 2 to 5 p.m. to June 21. 663-6920. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Adam David Miller and Marc Elihu Hofstadter, poets, read at 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6107. 

Reading Festival with authors Vivian Walsh at 11 a.m. and Barbara Quick at 3 p.m. Music, refreshments and activities for children from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Patty Seyburn, Judith Taylor, C.E. Perry, Dean Rader, Brian Komei Dempster, Jennifer K. Sweeney read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Susan Phillips reads from “Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction” at 7 p.m. at First PResbyterian Church of Berkeley, Dana St. at Channing. 559-9500. 

Ryudai Takano Artist Talk at 7 p.m. at Kala Art Institute, 1060 Heinz Ave. http://kala.org 

Rhythm and Muse at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. 527-9753. 

David Corbett reads at noon at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave. 526-7512. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Mozart for Mutts and Meows with players from the Midsummer Mozart Festival, and conducted by George Cleve, at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $80-$90. Includes reception and silent auction. All proceeds benefit the Berkeley East Bay Humane Society. 845-7735, ext. 19. 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “La Boutique Fantastique” at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $15-$21. 843-4689.  

Music for Two Choirs Contra Costa Chorale and St. David’s Festival Choir at 7:30 p.m. at Unitarian Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $15-$20. 527-2026. www.ccchorale.org  

Bay Area High School Jazz Festival from noon to 7 p.m. at Kaiser Theater, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $5-$10. 873-8800. 

World Folk Music with Bonnie Lockhart at 2:15 p.m. at the El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave. 526-7512. 

New Music: Graduate Composers perform at noon at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

American Bach Soloists “Sound of the Trumpet” with special guest, John Thiessen on baroque trumpet at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Pre-concert lecture at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10-$42. 415-621-7900. www.americanbach.org 

Robin Gregory & her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Kalbass, King Wawa, Alafia Dance Ensemble in a Haitian Flag Day Celebration at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Jonathan Edwards at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $26.50-$27.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Tommy Hodul’s Little Phat Band at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Mark Levine Trio at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

Kurt Ribak Jazz Group at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $5. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Guns for San Sebastian at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Joseph’s Bones at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

XBXRX, Triclops, Rock Poster Art Show at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Poncho Sanchez Tribute to Cal Tjader at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22-$66. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, MAY 18 

CHILDREN 

Uncle Zacky & Cousin Eric at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

Works by Carla Van Slyke, Rita Sklar, Charlotte Britoon and Jack Anderson. Reception at 2 p.m. at Solano Grill, 1133 Solano Ave., Albany. 531-1404. 

Enrique Chagoya: Borderlandia Guided tour at 2 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“These Canyons” UC Berkeley M.F.A. Exhibition. Artists’ talk at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Israeli Art Today” with Michal Gavish, in conjunction with the exhibition “@60.art.israel.world” at 2 p.m. at the Judah L. Magnes Museum., 2911 Russell St. 549-6950. 

UC Extension Student Reading at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Ballet Theater “La Boutique Fantastique” at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $15-$21. 843-4689.  

Jazz on Fourth Street Benefit for Berkeley high School Jazz Programs, with performances by E.C. Scott, Khalil Shaheed Quintet, John Santos Quartet, and the Berkeley High Jazz Orchestra and Combos, from noon to 5 p.m. on Fourth St. between Hearst and Virginia. 

Clairdee at Jazz at the Chimes at 2 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Tickets at the door are $10-$15. Children under 12 free. 228-3218.  

Volti “Past, Present, and Future Adventures” at 4 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $8-$20. 415-771-3352. www.voltisf.org 

Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble at 4 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Tickets are $17-$20. 531-8714. www.vocisings.com 

Chamber Music Sundaes with San Francisco Symphony cellists Jill Rachuy Brindel, David Goldblatt and Carolyn McIntosh and Seattle Symphony cellist Walter Gray at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave.Tickets at the door $18-$22. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org 

Oakland Civic Orchestra at 4 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Free. 238-7275.  

Muziki Roberson Quartet with vocalist Dwight Trible at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $20. www.opcmusic.org 

Music for Two Choirs Contra Costa Chorale and St. David’s Festival Choir at 3 p.m. at St. David’s Catholic Church, 5641 Esmond St., Richmond. Tickets are $15-$20. 527-2026 www.ccchorale.org  

Young People’s Symphony Orchestra Spring Concert with Oakland Symphony Chorus, Piedmont Choirs at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Community Theater, Allston Way between MLK and Milvia. Tickets are $15-$20. www.ypsomusic.net 

The Carol Trio and friends 7:30 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. Tickets are $10. 848-1228. 

“Come Away to the Skies” solo piano concert with Pastor Dan Damon at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Point Richmond. Suggested donation $10.236-0527. 

Tati Argue, hip hop and Michael Grbich, tap at 3 p.m. at Expression Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. 

John Schott’s Dream Kitchen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $7.50 children, $9.50 for adults. 548-1761.  

Mads Tolling Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ.  

Americana Unplugged, bluegrass and old-time, at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums at 6:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15 and up. Benefit for Scott “Edawg” Petersen. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Andrew Speight: A Tribute to Charlie Parker at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. 

The Skinny at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

MONDAY, MAY 19 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Sounds Like Art” A group show on the visual representation of music and sound. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at downtown, 2102 Shattuck Ave. 

Art of the Cotton Mill Studios Paintings, sculpture, photography and mixed media by Keiko Nelson, Bill Stoneham, Elizabeth Tennant and Susan Tuttle at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit # 116. 535-1702. www.thefloatcenter.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Bill Carter discusses “Red Summer: The Danger, Madness, and Exaltation of Salmon Fishing in a Remote Alaskan Village” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Jeffrey Alford & Naomi Duguid at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Doreen Stock at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 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 $5. 548-1761 www.freightandsalvage.org 

Northgate High School Jazz Band at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, MAY 20 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Domenic Stansberry and Cornelia Read, mystery novelists, at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

“State of Exile” with poets Cherrie Moraga, Graciela Trevisan, Mitsuye Yamada and Maisha Quint at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Nilita Vachani discusses “Homespun” on India’s struggle for independence, at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music of the Earth with David Rothenberg and Jaron Lanier at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $15 at the door. www.hillsideclub.org 

Laurel Ensemble String quartet at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club. 2315 Durant Ave. Cos tis $20. 525-5211. 

Classical at the Freight with Robin Sharp and Lri Lack at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $6.50-$7.50. 548-1761 www.freightandsalvage.org 

Bluesbox Bayou Band 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. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Howard Barkan Trio at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

David K. Mathews B3 Organ 4Tet at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $6-$10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Cory Doctorow reads from “Little Brother,” for young adults, at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

Cafe Poetry hosted by Paradise, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

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. 

S.F. Jazz Ensembles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Benito Cereno, Latin groove, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Kaladrios at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Balkan dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Duo Alegria 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 

Orquestra Universal 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.  

Ten Ton Chicken at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Amar Khalil at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $15. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

THURSDAY, MAY 22 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Seeing Music” An exhibit inspired by traditional and folk music, in conjunction with Freight and Salvage’s 40th Anniversary, at Addison St. Windows Gallery. 848-2112. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

The Best of David Roche ASL interpreted benefit for 2008 SuperFest International Disability Film Festival at 7 p.m. at the Community Room, Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. $10-$25 sliding scale. No one turned away for lack of funds. 415-381-3518. www.davidroche.com. 

“Woody Guthrie and the Great American Folksong” with Tim Holt at 6 p.m. at the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 1170 The Alameda. 981-6107. 

Sylvia Browning reads from her new novel “Morality Tale” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Oakland Opera and The Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra “Queenie Pie” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at New Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. 763-1146. 

40 Watt Hype, Diego’s Umbrella at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

LuLo Rheinhardt Jazz Ensembles at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

LaWanda & Greg at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Akosua at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Creations at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Coco Montoya at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

FRIDAY, MAY 23 

THEATER 

Brookside Rep “Franz Kafka’s Love Life, Letters and Hallucinations” Thurs.- Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St., through June 29. Tickets are $16-$34. 800-838-3006. www.brooksiderep.org  

Homenetmen “Baron Garbis” a play in Armenian, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $40 at the door. hyecouple@aol.com  

Impact Theatre “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid. Tickets are $10-$15, through June 7. 464-4468. 

Masquers Playhouse “The Full Monty” Fri. and Sat. at 8, selected Sun. matinees at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond through July 5. Tickets are $20. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Asby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through June 22. Tickets are $17-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Stage Door Conservatory “The Phantom Tollbooth” Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $5-$10. 521-6250. 

Theatre de la Jeune Lune “Figaro” through June 8 at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison St. Tickets are $13.50-$69. 647-2949. 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Matthew Cooperman, Aby Kaupang, and Chad Sweeney, poets, read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

John Straley, the twelfth Writer Laureate of Alaska, reads from “The Big Both Ways” at 7 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Larry Karush & Gyan Riley, piano and guitar, at 8 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $10-$15 at the door. 845-1350. www.hillsideclub.org 

Eagle Flies with Condor A fundraiser for Spirit Keeper at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Toninho Horta & Tom Lellis at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Chris Hudlow & Hayward Jazz Choir at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Brass on the Bay with the Bay Area Caribbean Connection with Marlon Asher and Carlene Wells, The Infinity Band at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$18. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

YBSC at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Charles Wheal & the Excellorators at 9 p.m. at Downtown. 649-3810.  

The Forgotten, Harrington Saints at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Fred O’Dell and the Broken Arrows at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

The Jelly Roll Souls at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Lalah Hathaway at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SATURDAY, MAY 24 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Tibetan Thangka Paintings” Ang Tsherin Sherpa will discuss his recent painting commissioned by the Asian Art Museum at 2 p.m. at Alta Galleria, 2980 College Ave., #4. 421-1255. www.altagalleria.com.  

“The Animals of the Little Farm” Photographs by Jacqueline Krayna. Artist reception at 2 p.m. at the Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Willing to Go There” New works by Patricia Gillespie. Artist reception at 6 p.m. at Esteban Sabar Gallery, 480 23rd St., at Telegraph, Oakland. Exhibition runs to June 23. 444-7411. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Crowden Music Center 25th Anniversary Concert at 7 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC Campus. Tickets are $15-$25. 559-6910. www.crowden.org 

Chora Nova performs Brahms’ German Requiem at 8 p.m. atFirst Congregational Church of Berkeley, Dana and Durant. Tickets are $10-$18.www.choranova.org 

“Obsessed by Bach” with Iris Stone, solo violin, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Benefit for Berkeley Liberation Radio at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Ray Obiedo’s Mambo Caribe at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Michael Wilcox Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Pellejo Seco, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cuban salsa dance lesson at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Roger Rocha and the Broken Hearts at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Rainmaker at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Under Control, Cerebral Foil at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Lalah Hathaway at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $26. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, MAY 25 

CHILDREN 

The Sunshine Serenaders, family square dance at 3 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Charles Shields reads from “I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee” at 4 p.m. at Cody’s Books, 2201 Shattuck Ave. 559-9500. www.codysbooks.com  

Honor Moore reads from her memoir “The Bishop’s Daughter” at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Soli Deo Gloria and Orchestra Gloria, will perform Handel’s Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day and Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia at 3:30 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church, 1700 Santa Clara, Alameda. Tickets are $20-$25. www.sdgloria.org/tickets.php 

Mo’ Tap with The Beat, Eddie Brown Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $15-40. 925-798-1300. www.willowstickets.org  

Atmos Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Michael O’Neill & Kenny Washington at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The Angry Philosophers at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 


Eastenders Perform Three Vanek Plays

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM

Principles, principles—you’re making a fortune ... who’s going to write about me?” So a brewmaster (Jeff Thomas), swilling his wares in an office, complains to dissident playwright Vanek (Craig Souza), his would-be protege whom he’s called in from the cellars for a chat and a stein, in the first one of the Eastenders’ production of three Vaclav Havel one-acts. Three Vanek Plays: Audience, Unveiling, and Protest, is in its final weekend at the Berkeley Jewish Community Center on Walnut Street.  

The titles alone prove to be double-edged, ironic. Vanek, trying to keep a low profile, is instead showered with attention by his boss and self-styled patron at the brewery, a young couple who insist he’s their best friend and want him to share in their domestic bliss and a fellow writer, horticultural hobbyist, who’s become ruefully successful in television.  

All are ostensibly friendly to the writer on the edge, who seems to want only to live quietly and agreeably while working on his plays and political pursuits. The friends grow insistent, passive-aggressive: they truly care about him, they’re not telling him what to do. But he’s rejecting them if he doesn’t take their advice, commiserate or party with them, hear their confessions or their self-congratulations, offer his stamp of approval. 

Havel said that the plays “are essentially not plays about Vanek, but plays about the world as it reveals itself when confronted with Vanek.”  

With this dialectic in mind, it’s no surprise, just a droll pleasure, that the straight man proves to be consistently the most interesting player. Craig Souza, long an Eastender, parries his friends’ kindly thrusts a little laconically, setting up more of their extravagance. He’s progressively retiring, if agitated, as they go over the top, trying to impress him with the gravity of their own existences. 

The Vanek plays of the ’70s began with Audience, originally written to entertain a get-together of Havel’s fellow writers, all of whom had work suppressed in their own countries. It unexpectedly proved a public success—and was in turn suppressed. Taken together, the Vanek plays have been produced more often and in more places than any of Havel’s other works for the stage—and Vanek has been taken up as the central character by Havel’s colleagues Pavel Kohout, Pavel Landovsky and Jiri Dienstbier for their own Vanek plays. 

The trenchant irony of the plays runs deeper than the political references, deeper than the double-bind the dissident writer is put in by his friends and admirers. Both by reflection and refraction, a claustrophobic social situation is revealed: a brewmaster turned drunkard, paranoid about conspiracies all around him, but wanting Vanek to write reports on himself; the urbane, fashionable young couple, ecstatic in their roles as lovers, consumers, parents yet provincially determined to tell Vanek what’s wrong with his life and rope him into theirs; the successful TV writer who wants to confess his political errors to the dissident, ask his disinterested support in a matter of familial interest yet criticize his idolized friend’s character as well as his own duplicity. 

And yet all have their points, too, revealing the isolation of the ethical dissident and scrupulous writer from the issues of social life: class, family, professional. 

The cast, with the direction of Eastenders artistic directors Susan Evans and Gina Baleria, throw themselves into the half-caricatured roles with zest, offsetting Souza’s reaction takes, and making the dissident Vanek seem in counterpoint like a cowed lion tamer. These include Jeff Thomas as the soused (and pissy) brewmaster, Amanda Krampf and Wylie Herman as the with-it couple, trading off as demure and aggressive, and Craig Dickerson as the sympathetic, self-deprecatory (and self-involved) “industry” man. 

The Eastenders have made it an ongoing point to come up with modern plays from all over that carry a satiric—or emotionally compelling—social message. These plays are often stylized—besides Havel, Brecht and Mayakovsky come to mind—but played by the Eastenders in brisk American comedic or dramatic fashion. It’s a balancing act, as the productions in the countries of origin often border on the grotesque, in their sense of caricature. 

There have been precedents in which an American performance style has melded with European dramaturgy—Lubitsch’s screen comedies come to mind, like ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ with Jimmy Stewart, or ‘To Be or Not to Be’ with Jack Benny and Carole Lombard—delivering a flavor both American and European, yet somehow more than either or the sum of both. 

The Eastenders continue to strive after that kind of synthesis with the plays of Nobel prizewinner, former president of the Czech Republic Havel. 

 

THREE VANEK PLAYS: 

AUDIENCE, UNVEILING, PROTEST 

8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday; 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday at the East Bay Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. $15-$20. 

(800) 838-3006.


Arts Around the East Bay

Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM

ED REED AT THE BIRD’S NEST 

Ed Reed, the East Bay’s classic balladeer, sings his “Love Stories” this Sunday, 5-7 p.m., at fellow vocalist Cathi Walkup’s intimate (under 50 seats) loftspace, The Bird’s Nest, near the 29th St. Bridge over the Oakland Estuary. Brian Cooke, piano; Carla Kaufman, bass; Ron Marabuto, drums. $25 includes food & beverage. 510-534-6163 or cwalkup.com 

 

RAKUGO 

 

“Rakugo” (Japanese sit-down comedy in English) is part of Japan’s rich, long and varied tradition of humor and comedy. Kaishi Katsura, comedian and ambassador from the Japanese Ministry of Culture, performs rakugo this Saturday, 7 p.m., at the Gaia Building. Katsura will perform some classics and some of his own work. $15 general, $10 student. Presented by the UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies. 642-3156 or ieas.berkeley.edu.cjs  

 

TENNESSEE WILLIAM’S ‘OUT CRY’ 

 

Two actors, a brother and sister, abandoned by cast and crew, face an audience expecting a show. They improvise the Southern Gothic “Two Character Play”—or have they been living it all along? Directed by Oleg Liptsin. 

Liptsin and Felecia Faulkner are joined by Martin David as the gentle Tennessee. Fri-Sat at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through June 1 at The Next Stage (Trinity Episcopal Church), Gough Street at Bush, San Francisco. $15-25. 415-333-6389 or TicketWeb. www.internationaltheatreensemble. 

com.


Bach Soloists at 1st Congregational This Saturday

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Plane
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

Baroque trumpeter John Thiessen joins the American Bach Soloists, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, Saturday, 8 p.m., at the First Congregational Church, Channing Way at Dana, for an end of season program that pays tribute to two contemporaries of Bach—Johann Friedrich Fasch (1688-1758) and Guiseppe Torelli (1658-1709)— and also playing “Mr. Handel’s Water Piece,” as well as Telemann’s own Water Music, celebrating seafaring life in 18th century Hamburg, and Bach’s Sixth Brandenburg Concerto, “a virtual quadruple concerto for violas and violas da gamba.” 

Featured musicians, besides Thiessen on natural trumpet, include Carla Moore, solo violin; Katherine Kyme and Aaron Westman, violas; Joanna Blenduff, violincello; William Skeen and Elizabeth Reed, violas da gamba; Steven Lehning, violone and Jeffrey Thomas, harpsichord. 

The program will begin with Torelli’s Concerto in D Major for Trumpet, Strings and Continuo, followed by Concerto in A Major “Die Relinge” (The Frogs) by Telemann, Fasch’s Trumpet Concerto in D Major; Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat Major—and after intermission, Handel’s Water Music (1733) and Telemann’s Overture in C Major “Wassermusik” (1723). 

Trumpet, like violin, emerged during the 17th century in Italy as a solo instrument, especially through the efforts of the Bologna School, centered around the Basilica of San Petronio, where the libraries held 183 manuscripts of instrumental music scored specifically for trumpet or trumpet with strings, written by 14 composers, Torelli the most prolific with 32 works for trumpet. The Bach Soloists will play the only trumpet composition of his not found in San Petronio, instead published in Amsterdam in 1715. 

In Northern Europe in the 18th century, trumpeters gravitated to the court at Weissenfels, where Fasch, the scion of cantors and theologians, was trained as a boy soprano, later becoming a friend of Telemann. He founded the Collegium musicum in Leipzig, where Bach became director in 1729. Fasch became court composer in Zerbst in 1722, composing cantatas, operas, symphonies, sonatas, suites and at least 61 concertos. Most of his vocal music has been lost; much of his instrumental music survives, but none of it was published in his lifetime. Disinterested in polyphony, Fasch composed more in the vein of the new Classical style, with French and Italian influences. 

Telemann’s “Die Relinge” employs a Venetian ritornello concerto style with suite. The strings rely on technique that imitates croaking sounds.  

By 1721, Bach—then 56—had “encountered, emulated and finally assimilated” contemporary Italian concerto style, the early definitions of which, as genre, swing between “disputation” and “agreement.” No two Brandenburg concertos share the same orchestral complement. 

Handel’s Water Piece was published in 1733 by Daniel Wright in London. Three of the five pieces are known, in one form or another, to be Handel’s. The other two, a gigue and a minuet, were most likely scored by another composer, perhaps Wright. A common 18th century practice, often without the composer’s approval, was to publish arrangements, rather than transcriptions, in formats that could be played outside the concert hall. 

In 1723, Hamburg celebrated a century since the founding of its Admiralty, during which Telemann performed his “Wassermusik” at a feast, with movements named allegorically after different mythical aquatic personalities: Neptune, Triton, Thetis, Aeolus and Zephyr. 

The Bach Soloists will also perform this program Friday night in Belvedere, Sunday in San Francisco and Monday in Davis.


Moving Pictures:‘Flight of the Balloon’: Updating a Classic

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:17:00 AM

Albert Lamorisse’s The Red Balloon (Le Ballon Rouge, 1956) was a film about the trials, tribulations and escapist fantasies of a child. Pascal and the red balloon were companions, and it was that friendship that sustained the boy throughout his daily travails of school and bullies and boredom. Lamorisse created a small masterpiece which managed to work on two levels: as an alluring evocation of the escapist fantasies of youth, and as a moving depiction of the day-to-day realities that make that escape so enticing. 

Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Flight of the Red Balloon, opening Friday at Shattuck Cinemas in downtown Berkeley, uses the earlier film as a starting point but ventures off into new territory. Hsien’s movie is also about a boy and a balloon, but in the context of a world of adults; it presents young Simon (Simon Iteanu) growing up in a milieu that is both more modern and more complex than that of the earlier film, depicting the complexities and vagaries of grown-ups, and the effects they have on children. “Grown-ups are complicated,” Simon’s mother (Juliette Binoche) says, and this is the film’s central premise: Unlike Pascal in Lamorisse’s film, Simon is not shielded from the day-to-day struggles and emotional volatility of his mother’s world, and this both informs and hinders his development.  

In Lamorisse’s movie, adults are portrayed more or less as abstractions. In Hsien’s film, adults are not merely authority figures that control, guide and restrain, but living, breathing humans—companions and friends in a more grounded, commonplace reality. But they are ever-present mediators as well, shaping Simon’s experience at virtually every moment of his life. With the exception of the opening scene, Simon is constantly under adult supervision, unable to carve out any space or time to himself. Hsien illustrates this by rarely giving us an unobstructed view of Simon; our glimpses of him are refracted through the prism of the adults around him. And at crucial moments he has his back to the camera or his head turned away. Simon is a character about whom much can be inferred, but about whom precious little is expressed overtly. Thus Hsien manages to preserve the mysteries of childhood while clearly delineating the trappings of the boy’s upbringing. 

Throughout the film, Hsien’s camera is patient and somewhat removed, reminiscent of the work of the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu in its depiction of the rhythms of everyday life. Hsien prefers that we observe the action unobtrusively from a distance. In fact, 45 minutes passes before we get our first close-up of Simon, and nearly an hour before we get a clear look at Binoche—and even these moments are fleeting. Hsien’s approach instead emphasizes the commonplace; there are no dramatic turns on which the plot hinges, and no correspondingly jarring camera angles or movements, just a series of everyday scenes, with improvised dialogue that feels more overheard that delivered. We are not watching plot develop, we are seeing character revealed, relationships brought into focus. 

This approach is thematically appropriate, as the balloon too is relegated to the role of observer, nuzzling up to windows and skylights in an effort to gain entry into Simon’s life. But the boy is too mired in the adult world, too grounded in reality to take a flight of fancy.  

But there is still hope for Simon. In the final scene, Hsien suggests that the boy may still discover that untapped wellspring of childlike wonder—and it won’t be through the guidance of his mother or his nanny or his sister or his neighbors, nor through the video games and technological toys they buy for him, but rather through his introduction to the world of art. 

 

 

FLIGHT OF  

THE RED BALLOON 

Directed by Hou Hsiao Hsien.  

Starring Juliet Binoche, Simon Iteanu, Song Fang. 113 minutes.  

In French with English subtitles. Opening Friday at Shattuck Cinemas.


‘Queenie Pie,’ Ellington’s Only Opera, Performed with Shelby Jazz Orchestra

By Jaime Robles, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:19:00 AM

With a creamy smooth trumpet rising over the exotic beat and slightly moody sound, giving over to the close couple dance of flute and bass and followed by an ultra cool sax solo, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra swung into the big band sound of Ellington in the Oakland Opera Theater’s ebullient production of Queenie Pie, the jazz master’s only opera.  

Ellington began the opera in the 1940s and worked on it off and on during his lifetime. Its one scheduled performance, on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late ’60s, was cancelled. The Oakland opera production references this history by staging the opera as a TV show, complete with commercial interruptions as well as a moderator/ anchorwoman who narrates the action in hip hop jingles written by Tommy Shepherd.  

When Ellington died in 1974, he left behind an incomplete opera. Last year, OOT Assistant Musical Director Skye Atman tracked down what remained of the opera, much of it still in Ellington’s handwritten scores. The rights to the music secured, arranger Marc Bolin signed on to fill out the score. 

According to Bolin, some 95 percent of the vocal line—lyrics and melodies—had been written but only about 25 percent of the piano line. Bolin has managed to make a whole cloth out of threads, weaving a musical and theatrical work that is both re-creation and homage to Ellington’s compositional style and to the African American performers of the day. The orchestra performing the work is superlative, filtering Ellington through their contemporary voicings, and fashioning a vivid au courant sound. 

Diedre McClure conducts the group with a splendid care and regard for the music and the musicians.  

The story itself is wonderfully fun: a tale that while winding through one disaster after another remains lighthearted, as the indomitable Queenie Pie scales the heights and depths of ambition and love.  

Queenie Pie—based loosely on Madam C. J. Walker, the self-made African-American cosmetics millionaire—has been voted the Best Cosmetician in Harlem for the past ten years. But this year an aggressive and beautiful young woman from Louisiana, Café Olay, has moved into Queenie’s territory, stealing not only her clients but seducing the love of her life, the handsome Holt Fay.  

Café Olay, finding flirtatious Holt hanging with Queenie, shoots him dead, and is led off by the police. Queenie, distraught, is saved by the advice of her longtime friend Lil’ Daddy, who entices her to return to his island, where the cure to all things—and anything—can be found under the full moon.  

On the island Queenie encounters a new entourage, composed of spear-wielding, sarong- and tunic-sporting natives. This half of the opera may get under the skin of the sensitive politically correct, but is an enactment of the African exoticism of Ellington’s day, one which sang and danced its way into the best night clubs of Harlem. 

Amanda King performs Queenie in a blond wig, exuding lots of stage presence and powerful vocal skills. In the middle of her range she sounds a bit like Ella. She also has a light, full high voice which she uses in her shipboard lament about missing New York, and a low, low voice set way deep in the chest and solid gold in placement. My only complaint was that most of the songs she sang were very short, almost conversational in tone. I longed to hear her sing on, to tell us the story, verse and refrain. 

Actress Kathleen Antonia sang Café Olay, and she did a lovely job vocalizing during the seduction scene, a muted trumpet joining her amorous writhing. Noah Griffin sang an exceptional Lil’ Daddy, round toned, sweet and vibrant. All the ensemble work was delicious, from the male quartet, which was tight and velvety, to the TV studio back-up girls, tripping out product jingles, to the Full Moon female trio’s exotic harmonizing. The under-12-year-old set were great: professional, dynamic and pitch pure.


This Old Band, Shaheed Play Sunday For Free at 4th Street Jazz Festival

By Ira Steingroot, Special to the Planet
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:20:00 AM

If you yearn for the days when jazz was played on the streets of New Orleans for free, and all you had to do to join the second line was to get with it and dance to the beat, you will not want to miss hearing the top-rated artists who will be performing al fresco and without charge at the 12th annual Jazz on Fourth Street Festival this Sunday.  

Public school jazz education began in Berkeley in 1966 when Herb Wong, the principal at Washington Elementary, offered a jazz class to his music students. It was not long before every school in the district had a jazz band.  

When Phil Hardymon, who had worked with Wong at the grade school level, became band director at Berkeley High in 1975, he parlayed all the work that had gone on in the lower grades into the top-rated high school jazz education program in the country. 

Berkeley High jazz bands and members regularly win state and national competitions and scholarships and have performed at the Monterey, North Sea and Montreux Jazz Festivals—and why not, when their alumni include such stellar players as David Murray, Craig Handy, Josh Redman, Benny Green and Peter Apfelbaum? 

What Herb Wong started has become a multi-generational community of teachers, alumni and students that gives the Berkeley jazz community a depth and resonance often lacking elsewhere.  

Unfortunately, major budget cuts are threatening this innovative and successful program. The proceeds from this festival, sponsored by KCSM/Jazz 91 and 4th Street Merchants, will benefit Berkeley High School Performing Arts to help ensure that the jazz program is able to continue.  

This year’s festival kicks off with This Old Band, led by Bill Muccular (11:50 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.). They have come up with their own blend of early rock plus R&B, acoustic strings in harmony with vocals.  

Trumpeter/educator Khalil Shaheed follows with his Quintet (1:15 to 2 p.m.) presenting jazz standards and their own contemporary originals. Shaheed is well known as the founder of the Oaktown Jazz Workshop and has spent the last three decades exploring and combining elements of jazz, blues, funk and rhythm and blues. 

Oakland native E.C. Scott is up next (2:15 to 3 p.m.) presenting her personal song stylings. Masterpiece, her latest album and her third for Blind Pig Records, reveals her personal recipe for combining blues, soul and R&B. 

Two-time Grammy nominated Afro-Latin percussionist John Santos follows with his quartet (3 to 3:45 p.m.). Santos is an educator and scholar as well as a major performer who has worked with Latin stars like Yma Sumac, Tito Puente, Patato Valdés, Armando Peraza, Lalo Schifrin, Santana, Cachao and Omar Sosa, as well as jazz masters like Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Art Farmer, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner and John Faddis. His knowledge and experience of Afro-Latin percussion practice, rooted in family, community, tradition, study and meditation, is profound. 

Various combinations of the highly esteemed Berkeley High Jazz Ensemble will be on hand to entertain you as well as to give you a taste of what can come from top flight musical pedagogy. The festival grand finale will be a performance by the full Berkeley High Jazz Orchestra. Besides the on-stage music, the Fourth Street merchants will get in the spirit of jazz by bringing their food and wares into the street and plaza. There will also be interactive displays and children’s activities including face painting. The whole afternoon promises to be an expansive, sunny, music-filled entertainment. 

 

FOURTH STREET JAZZ FESTIVAL 

This Old Band, the Khalil Shaheed Quintet, E. C. Scott, the John Santos Quintet and the Berkeley High Jazz Orchestra and combos perform at the Jazz on Fourth Street Festival from noon-5 p.m. Sunday on Fourth Street in Berkeley, between Hearst and Virginia streets. 526-6294. www.fourthstreet.com.


East Bay, Then and Now: Schweinfurth’s First Unitarian: A Powerhouse of a Church

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:23:00 AM
The west façade is a gigantic gable supported by two unpeeled redwood trunks. The church now serves as the university’s dance studio.
Daniella Thompson
The west façade is a gigantic gable supported by two unpeeled redwood trunks. The church now serves as the university’s dance studio.
Playful buttresses are a reference to traditional masonry churches.
Daniella Thompson
Playful buttresses are a reference to traditional masonry churches.
The apse prompted passerbys to compare the church to a powerhouse.
Daniella Thompson
The apse prompted passerbys to compare the church to a powerhouse.

“The First Unitarian Church of Berkeley was founded on Sunday, July 12, 1891, in space rented from the Berkeley Odd Fellows Temple, then on Shattuck [Avenue], a couple of blocks south of its present location. Some have said that this first meeting was held in a saloon on the first floor, but if so, suitable quarters were found for subsequent meetings.” 

The paragraph above opens Chapter 2 of The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley: A History, which goes on to say, “On that great Founders Day, 32 charter members signed the book. A few more signed the following week, and by the end of the year, membership was 50. Then, as now, there were as many who didn’t sign the book as did, so that the total church family was approximately 100.” 

On the origins of the idea to establish a church in Berkeley, the History speculates: “It is quite possible that Thomas Starr King, second minister of the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco, 1860-1864, and Western Unitarians’ great hero, looked across the Bay and envisioned a large and influential Unitarian church standing there beside a magnificent institution of higher learning. 

“If Starr King didn’t envision this church, he at least inspired the man who did: Charles William Wendte, a young man in Starr King’s congregation. Twenty years later, Wendte, aided by Dr. Horatio Stebbins, successor to Starr King in the San Francisco pulpit, advocated the establishment of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, along with a seminary in Berkeley, at the September 1890 meeting of the Pacific Unitarian Conference. Their proposal was accepted unanimously and enthusiastically and they proceeded forthwith.” 

Among the members of the young congregation were early settlers of Berkeley’s Northside and founders of the Hillside Club, who would exert a profound influence on the development of domestic architecture in northern California. These included Charles and Louise Keeler, Bernard and Annie Maybeck, Volney and Mary Moody, Allen and Katherine Freeman, Oscar and Madge Maurer, and Warren and Sarah Gregory. 

In its first six years, the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley experienced numerous difficulties and financial hardship. There was a great deal of borrowing and “refinancing” from members, from funds, and from banks. Straitened circumstances notwithstanding, in 1893 the congregation purchased a desirable and apparently affordable site on the corner of Dana Street and Bancroft Way. The seller was William Carey Jones, founder and first director of the University of California’s law school and author of the Illustrated History of the University of California. 

The first architect selected to design a church on the site was the transplanted Norwegian Joachim Mathisen. His 1894 plan, published in Jones’ History, called for a large building, Romanesque in style, and incorporating a tall tower-more than the struggling congregation could afford. 

Three years were to pass before an affordable design was produced. By then, Mathisen was dead by suicide. The new commission fell to A.C. Schweinfurth, who had recently completed a widely published Northside residence for the Moody family. According to architectural historian Richard Longstreth, Schweinfurth was asked to prepare the plans even before an architect had been officially selected. 

The church representative who entrusted Schweinfurth with the design was none other than Volney Moody’s son-in-law, Edmund S. Gray, who had been actively involved in the Moody house project. This fabled residence, called Weltevreden, was built entirely of clinker brick and boasted Dutch step gables at both ends. It survived the 1923 Berkeley Fire, became a fraternity house in the ‘30s, and was drastically altered in the ‘50s by architect Michael Goodman. Still standing on the corner of Le Conte and Le Roy Avenues, Weltevreden is now the home of the Cal Band and known as Tellefsen Hall. 

The church’s official history makes no mention of Mathisen’s earlier design, proceeding directly to Schweinfurth’s contribution: “The new church was of unique design and, like most Unitarian churches built since, symbolized this faith’s difference from orthodox faiths. It was the creation of architect A.C. Schweinfurth of the office of A. Page Brown & Co. of San Francisco and New York. He had been instructed to use only the best materials for each purpose. Bernard Maybeck, then a young member of the congregation and eventually a famous California architect, worked in the same offices and may have helped with the church’s design. It was an excellent early example of the Bay Area Shingle style. The building was 40 feet square, with a basement. A member gave the redwood pillars that graced the two front entrances and there were other gifts.” 

There is no record of Maybeck’s having had any part in the church design, which was completed in January 1898. It’s interesting to note, though, that both Maybeck and Mathisen passed through the office of the fashionable architect A. Page Brown, where Schweinfurth was chief draftsman until opening his own practice in 1894. 

The First Unitarian Church design was revolutionary for its time-in its single huge west gable, the use of shingles and metal sash windows, the exceptionally heavy rough beams resting on unpeeled redwood trunks, and the semi-circular apse with a bisected conical roof on the east side. Curved buttresses along the side walls—structurally unnecessary in a wood-frame building—make a playful allusion to traditional masonry churches. 

The church’s History informs that “Opinion was divided as to its architectural beauty. One passerby was heard to say ‘It looks like a powerhouse,’ to which the pert answer, of course, was ‘It is a powerhouse.’” 

The church building cost $5,130. Once the furnace, furniture, and insurance were added, the grand total came to $5,924.81. It was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1898, with four Unitarian ministers and a rabbi participating. The architect was not present, having left for Europe in the summer. 

One of the most original American architects of the late 19th century, A.C. Schweinfurth is little-known today, having died at the age of 37. Most of his buildings succumbed to fire or demolition over the years, leaving a much reduced legacy. 

By his own account, Albert Cicero Schweinfurth was born in Auburn, N.Y., on Jan. 7, 1863 (for an unexplained reason, practically all publications date his birth at 1864). Like Bernard Maybeck, his elder by a year, Schweinfurth was the son of a German woodcarver and received his early design training at his father’s architectural ornament business. His two elder brothers, Charles Frederick (1856-1919) and Julius Adolph (1858-1931), also architects, gained national reputations—the former working in Cleveland, the latter in Boston. 

In 1879 Albert moved to Boston, sharing an apartment with Julius. Here he worked for a year at J.R. Osgood & Co., printers of the American Architect, before securing a position as draftsman for the important architectural firm Peabody & Stearns. From 1885 until 1888, he was employed by A. Page Brown (1859-1896) in New York. While in that office, he was responsible for the design of the Museum of Historic Art at Princeton University (1886-92). 

In 1886, Schweinfurth left Brown’s office to work with his brother Charles in Cleveland but returned within the year. In 1888 he opened an independent practice in New York, but that, too, proved unsuccessful. His obituary in The American Architect and Building News detailed his subsequent moves: “Here excessive application to his profession brought on illness, and he was obliged to remove to Denver, Colo., where he soon felt the benefit of the climate. In Denver may be seen many examples of his work, distinguished by its peculiar simple dignity and refinement. In 1890, having recovered his health, he removed to San Francisco, where he assisted Mr. A. Page Brown in the erection of many large and important works; he, being entrusted with their design and execution, thus rendered valuable service in beautifying the city.” 

As chief draftsman in A. Page Brown’s San Francisco office, Schweinfurth would work alongside Willis Polk, Bernard Maybeck, and Joachim Mathisen. While in that office, Schweinfurth was the lead designer of the San Francisco Ferry Building (1893-98) and Trinity Episcopal Church on the corner of Bush and Gough. Schweinfurth and Brown are credited with having been the first to introduce the Mission Revival style, in the California Building they designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition. (Maybeck and Mathisen submitted an independent entry to the design competition, and their proposed building contained many of the same Mission elements.) 

Although Schweinfurth’s role in the design of Joseph Worcester’s Swedenborgian Church of San Francisco has been disputed by some architectural historians, the National Historic Landmark Nomination for the church makes a case for Schweinfurth’s involvement. 

In 1894, Schweinfurth left Brown’s office for the last time, establishing a successful practice under William Randolph Hearst’s patronage. His first commission was a country estate in Pleasanton, Hacienda del Pozo de Verona (1895-1898), which was appropriated by Hearst’s mother, Phoebe Apperson Hearst, before its completion. 

Drawing on Hispanic and Pueblo traditions, the Hacienda was called “The greatest California patio house” in the October 1904 issue of Country Life in America. The California Architect and Building News (Vol. XX, No. 9) opined: “Mrs. Hearst’s house was designed by Mr. Schweinfurth, one of the most talented architects of the United States. He stands to this style somewhat as Norman Shaw does to Queen Anne. The one using a creamy colored stucco where the other employs a deep rose brick work. The one style in clear California light being as happy as the other is in the thick grey atmosphere of London.” 

Other important Schweinfurth projects commissioned or initiated by William Randolph Hearst were the San Francisco Examiner building at Third and Market Streets (1897, burned in 1906) and the circular brick Little Jim Ward (1895) and matching Eye and Ear Pavilion (1896-97) of the San Francisco Children’s Hospital on California Street at Maple. All evidence points to the conclusion that until his premature death, Schweinfurth was to the Hearsts what Bernard Maybeck and later Julia Morgan would come to represent. 

On May 27, 1898, Schweinfurth applied for a passport for himself, his wife Fanny, and their 7-year-old daughter Katrina. The passport was issued on June 2, and the three embarked on a two-year trip through Italy and France. On their return, Schweinfurth suffered an attack of typhoid fever while spending the summer with Fanny’s family in Dryden, N.Y. He died there on Sept. 27, 1900. His widow and daughter did not return to San Francisco but went to live in Brookline, Mass., where Julius Schweinfurth made his home. 

The expanding University of California acquired the Unitarian Church property in 1960, and the congregation moved to Kensington the following year, where a new church was built on land donated by Maybeck. The Berkeley parish house and auxiliary structure were razed in 1965 to clear land for the Zellerbach Auditorium and Playhouse complex. The church building was retained and has been converted into the Dramatic Arts Department’s dance facility. In 1998, the building underwent seismic, life safety, and ADA upgrades at a cost of $778,000.00, a far cry from the original construction costs a hundred years earlier. 

The First Unitarian Church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a City of Berkeley Landmark in 1981. 

 

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

 

 


About the House: On Thinking Small

By Matt Cantor
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:29:00 AM

It’s funny how a word can suddenly start popping up wherever you go. I was in a spinning class the other day (No, I’ve not taken up knitting. Well, actually I have, but that’s another story). This was one of those classes where a bunch of people who should otherwise be too embarrassed, actually manage to show up in spandex and pedal feverishly to absolutely nowhere for an hour, accomplishing nothing except to have become more conversant in the latest techno-pop noise. All in all, it’s quite fun but, as usual, I digress. During the class, our fearless leader, Marjorie, uttered the work parsimonious. I have a feeling Marjorie has been thinking about things parsimonious and it sort of fell out of the bag. 

My friend, the Poly Sci professor Ron Hassner (We Berkeleyites lost him to Stanford recently but I hope very much to see his wily self back here soon) likes this word too. It keeps falling out of his bag of words as well. This is a word looking for places to manifest and tell its story. 

Parsimony is the root word but just over 400 years ago, the word Parsimonious appeared expanding our ability to apply this Latin (parsimonia) notion of sparseness, economy or frugality. 

I was in Japan earlier this year and notices parsimony in so many ways that I’d like to share but since my apparent mandate is the condition of the built-environment, I’ll try to stick to that. The Japanese are not a poor people. They have a pretty healthy GDP as world economies go so there is no reason that they could not live in houses as large or larger than ours; but they don’t. 

In fact, they live, for the most part, in houses that we wouldn’t put our college freshman in without actually calling them dorms. Their houses seemed to me to be on average, about half the size of the typical state-side home. If American’s live in 2,000-square-foot houses (and this is quite common in much of the U.S.), the Japanese seem to live in closer to 1,000-square-foot homes. 

Now it’s certainly true that Japan is quite small compared to the U.S. with 146,000 square miles to our 3.8 million square miles, a difference of roughly 20 to 1 and our population is only a little over twice theirs (300 million to 127 million), so adjusting for population, we have about 10 times as much space as the Japanese do. On the other hand, most of the U.S. is empty space and Japan has an enormous amount of shoreline, the place most people want to be. This may also account for the fact that they eat roughly six times the amount of fish as we do (per capita). 

Coming round the bend back toward my point, that last fact may account, in part for the fact that very few Japanese are obese. It was stunning to walk among thousands of people and rarely see an overweight person (this was particularly visible at the bathhouses or “Sento” where everything is revealed). I realize that Sumo wrestling creates the illusion that there are overweight people but they (the obese, not Sumo wrestlers) are actually quite few in number.  

This may be part of why their houses are so much smaller but I think it’s more integral than that. The Japanese eat less, walk more and economize as a part of daily life.  

Waste is considered poor behavior and close quarters are taken as a part of life. Americans seem to model themselves on the plains pioneers with as much interstitial space as possible and a cabinet full of guns to defend their turf. Perhaps closeness makes us uncomfortable and perhaps small houses make us feel poor. What is certain is that large houses are making us poor. 

Building a large house costs a great deal more in lumber, labor, shipping and a wide range of costs that reflect upon their subordinate energy or environmental sources. 

To name just a few affected areas, in building a larger houses we will cut down more trees, mine more of the earth for metals and use more oil for a hundred activities including shipping, driving workers, manufacturing plastic and running machinery. 

Heating and furnishing a large house (not to mention cleaning) takes more energy, time and money. I would also argue that our large houses cost us in one more very relevant way. They give more and more of our lives over to the contents of these houses. I, for one have too much stuff and I know that rather than owning these belongings, that I belong to them. I can’t tell you how much time I daily spend moving my stuff around, servicing my stuff and maintaining and thinking about my stuff. 

There are a number of popular movements afoot these days with edicts proscribing a life in which no new thing is bought, no foreign food is eaten and no extra energy is consumed. I would like to add my own movement to these. Let’s try the Japanese way and do everything smaller.  

I had no sense in Japan that people were feeling deprived. They wore lovely clothing and had beautiful things. In fact, Japanese possessions were generally more beautiful and carefully made than most of what we see here and I have no doubt that there is a relationship between these things (volume and quality). When you don’t buy your life goods by the ton, you can probably make some nicer choices. This is certainly true of houses today. Most of the really large houses I’ve inspected in the last 20 years have been unimpressive and uninspiring. Sad really. They often lack a center or an orientation (fundamental architecture) and I actually got lost in one some years ago as proof of this absence of a “sense of place”. (nice excuse, eh?) 

This seems emblematic of our lifestyle. Lacking a center and short on meaning but available in an extra large box. 

In 1973, The economist, E. F. “Fritz” Schumacher, published a book entitled “Small is Beautiful; Economics as if People Mattered. It’s still pretty good reading. 

I’ll leave you with a quote from Fritz and hope that your next remodeling job, your next new home and perhaps your next trip to the store will be influenced by his gentle wisdom: 

“[A modern economist] is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ that a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption ... The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity.” 


Wild Neighbors: UC and Strawberry Canyon: Last Round for the Whipsnake?

By Joe Eaton
Thursday May 15, 2008 - 10:27:00 AM

Once more into Strawberry Canyon, and then I’ll try to get back to the natural-history beat.  

By the time readers of the Planet’s print edition see this article, the UC Regents will have voted on the Final Environmental Impact Reports (FEIRs) for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) huge new buildings in the Strawberry Canyon watershed, the Helios Facility and the Computational Research and Theory (CRT) facility. Again, sorry about all the initials, but it goes with the territory. 

If the Regents—as represented by their Grounds and Buildings Committee—certify those reports, construction could begin by the end of the year. But they are being asked by the City of Richmond and the local Audubon Society and Sierra Club chapters, among others, to defer that decision; to recirculate the Helios and CRT EIRs for an additional comment period of at least 30 days. 

These are massive documents, and sifting through all their details is enormously time-consuming. But it’s clear that significant changes are contemplated in both projects-significant enough to require additional review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The CRT facility is going to be reconfigured and moved downslope without having its footprint changed-a neat trick. And the CRT EIR still ignores the potential impact of construction on the adjacent habitat of what could be the world’s only population of Lee’s microblind harvestmen, a small spiderlike creature. 

The changes in the Helios Project are presented as a response to concerns that the access road to the facility would impinge on Mather Grove and take out some large redwoods. A rerouted access road would skirt the grove and spare those trees. But this is one of those deals where, to quote Tom Waits, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away. 

If you backtrack from the FEIR to the draft environmental impact report (DEIR), and its discussion of alternative designs for Helios, you’ll see that changing the access road would destroy more trees—a total of 150—than the original proposal. Some are exotics, but a fair number are native oaks and bay laurels. The Chicken Creek riparian corridor may be affected; it’s not clear from the description of the new Preferred Alternative. 

Then there’s the Alameda whipsnake, a federally and state threatened reptile about whose presence in Strawberry Canyon the Lab and the University have been consistently skeptical. The new road, according to the FEIR, “would result in a potentially significant impact from the removal of approximately 1.27 acres of coastal scrub habitat that is considered potentially suitable habitat for the Alameda whipsnake and about 2.71 acres of grassland that could be used by the whipsnake.”  

What they propose to do about this is mitigate the impact by restoring, enhancing, or creating whipsnake habitat. Sounds good, until you think it through. Mitigation is a much-abused term in environmental planning. It implies providing somewhere for creatures displaced by development to go—a new marsh, a new grassland. In practice, it has all too often meant creating habitat that won’t even be accessible to those creatures. 

Look at it from the snake’s perspective. Whipsnakes are alert and speedy creatures, but they have certain travel constraints. Crossing roads, parking lots, and other man-made features that fragment their habitat can be a problem. Unless new habitat is contiguous to existing habitat, the snakes won’t get there, and mitigation will be an empty gesture. 

There’s no assurance in the sketchy discussion of the mitigation plan that the mitigation sites will even be on LBNL land. The report says that “if adequate mitigation cannot be planned on LBNL land, potential mitigation sites shall be identified adjacent to or within the designated critical habitat for the Alameda whipsnake in the easternmost portion of the LBNL…” And where would that be, exactly? There’s also no indication of when the mitigation work-which would entail taking out more trees, planting coastal-scrub vegetation, and creating rock outcrops-would be done. 

After-the-fact mitigation wouldn’t do the snakes much good. 

There’s so much vagueness and ambiguity here that members of the public can’t assess whether the mitigation is adequate or not. When you’re dealing with a vulnerable species already suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation, that’s a big concern. For CEQA analysis and enforcement purposes, much more detail is needed. 

As I write this, the ball is in the Regents’ court. I suspect that whatever comes out of their session, the controversy is not going to end there. Strawberry Canyon provides habitat connectivity for wildlife; recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, runners, birders, and botanizers; linkage between open spaces protected by the East Bay Regional Park District. There’s a lot at stake here. The battle for the Canyon may yet make the Stadium Oaks conflict look like a mere skirmish. 

For information about the Save Strawberry Canyon campaign, email Phila Rogers: philajane6@yahoo.com. 

 

 


City Offers Help with Condo Law

Tuesday May 20, 2008 - 05:09:00 PM

With the city’s new condominium conversion taking effect Thursday, the city’s Planning and Development Department is holding a workshop on the new law that same afternoon. 

The session, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m., will begin with a look at the new law, then feature an examination of the application forms and processes before ending with a question and answer session. 

The meeting will be held in the planning department’s office as 2180 Milvia Street.


Community Calendar

Thursday May 15, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

THURSDAY, MAY 15 

Bike to Work Day With energizer stations throughout the East Bay. For information call 533-RIDE. www.bayareabikes.org/btwd 

“The Making of a Wildlife Refuge” with Leora Feeney of the Golden Gate Audubon Society and Susan Euing, USFWS refuge biologist on the Alameda wildlife refuge and the protection of the California Least Tern, at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St. 238-2022. 

“Exploring the Sierra Nevada as a Naturalist and an Artist with John Muir Laws” at 7 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Sponsored by the Golden Gate Audubon Society. www.goldengatesudubon.org 

“Climate Change-—Will Berkeley be a National Leader?” Learn about Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan at 7 p.m. at the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. RSVP to info@livableberkeley.org 

LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 p.m. at LeConte School, Russell St. entrance. karlreeh@aol.com 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a..m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Tai Chi, as taught by the late Li Lida at 10 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. 845-6830. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters Club meets at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. nam 

aste@avatar.freetoasthost.info  

FRIDAY, MAY 16 

Berkeley Public Education Foundation 25th Anniversary Celebration and Spring Luncheon at 11 a.m. at Hs Lordships. Tickets are $75. 644-6244. bpef@berkeley.k12.ca.us. 

International Day for Sharing Life Stories with spoken word, music and media presentations at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge. 548-2065. www.ausculti.org  

Cancer Prevention and Survival Cooking Class meets Fri. from 6 to 8 p.m., through June 20 at Alta Bates Summit Cardiac Rehabilitation, 3030 Telegraph Ave. Free, but registration required. 869-6737.  

“Living Broke in Boom Times: Lessons from the Movement to End Poverty” A documentary at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Untarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Donations requested. 528-5403. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Estelle Tarica on “Contemporary Indigenous Social Movements in Latin America” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. 524-7468.  

Iraq Moratorium Day and Vigil to Protest the War from 2 to 4 p.m. at the corners of Unvirsity and Acton. 548-9696.  

SATURDAY, MAY 17 

Berkeley Historical Society Walking Tour “Panoramic Hill Trails, Steps and History” from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. 848-0181. 

LeConte Elementary School’s Spring Fair with activities, performances, petting zoo, free books, lunch and bake sale, and silent auction, from noon to 3:30 p.m. at LeConte Elementary School, Big Playground & Cafeteria, 2241 Russell St. between Fulton & Ellsworth. 

Come and Frolic for Peace at Walden’s 49th Annual Spring Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Walden Center and School, 2446 McKinley Ave., at Dwight. Free. 841-7248. 

Children’s Community Center Annual Silent Auction from 7 to 10 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. www.cccpreschool.org/ 

2008_auction 

Satsuki Arts Festival and Bazaar with taiko drumming, jazz, Polynesian dance, Japanese and Hawaiian food, Asian arts and craft, from 4 to 9 p.m., and noon to 7 p.m. on Sun., at to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Temple, 2121 Channing Way. 841-1356. www.berkeleysangha.org 

Wine Tasting and Silent Auction Fundraiser for Sequoia Elementary School at 4 p.m. at Joaquin Miller Community Center, 3594 Sanborn Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $20. www.bayareawritingproject.org/sequoia 

Help Restore Cerrito Creek with Friends of Five Creeks vfrom 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at Creekside Park, S. end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All gaes welcome. 848-9358. f5creeks@aol.com 

Save the Bay Restoration Project Help remove non-native vegetation and promote the health of recently planted native plants from 9 a.m. to noon at Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline, Oakland. 452-9261, ext. 119. bayevents@saveSFbay.org  

Walking Tour of Oakland City Center Meet at 10 a.m. in front Oakland City Hall at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

Himalayan Fair with arts, antiques and modern crafts, live music and dance and food, Sat. from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Live Oak Park, 1300 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Suggested donation for raffle, $8-$20, benefits grassroots projects in the Himalayas. www.himalayanfair.net 

Family to Family with Alameda County Community Food Bank Learn about hunger in your community, and teach your children about the importance of giving back, from 9 to 11 a.m. at Alameda County Community Food Bank. Registration required. 635-3663, ext. 308. 

Bay Area Storytelling Festival with Carol Birch, Bab Jamal Koram, Olga Loya and others, Sat. and Sun. at Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area. Cost is $33-$70. To register call 869-4969. www.bayareastorytelling.org 

Sprouts Gardening Project Plant veggies, sing garden songs and learn what it takes to make plants grow, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. For ages 3 and up. 525-2233. 

“Zapatista Women Meet with Women of the World” A slide show on the Zapatista Women's Meeting (Encuentro) in La Garrucha, Chiapas, Mexico, at 7 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Free, donation welcome. 654-9587. cezmat@igc.org  

“Birth of Cool” Benefit for the Oakland Museum of California, celebrating their new exhibit on California’s midcentury art and design. For ticket information call 238-7425. 

Tommie Smith Youth Track Meet for ages 4 and up Sat. and Sun. at Edwards Stadium, UC Campus. Free. 763-3661. ajijic51@comcast.com 

Fruitvale Street Theater Festival “Sacred Mother Earth, Reclaiming our Legacy as the Caretakers of the Earth” with art, theater, community organizations, and music from noon to 2 p.m. at La Placita Fruitvale, in front of Fruitvale BART, Oakland. headrushcrew.com 

The Last Drag Quit Smoking Class especially for the LGBT community, Sat. through June 21 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Classes are free and confidential. RSVP to 981-5330. 

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. www.nativeplants.org 

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

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, MAY 18 

Himalayan Fair with arts, antiques and modern crafts, live music and dance and food, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Live Oak Park, 1300 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Suggested donation for raffle, $8-$20, benefits grassroots projects in the Himalayas. www.himalayanfair.net 

Rainbow Berkeley Annual Pride Brunch from 2 to 5 p.m. at Frances Albrier Center in San Pablo Park. Cost is $20. No one turned away. RSVP to rainbowberkeley@yahoo.com 

STAND Garden Party celebrating the spirit of Temescal with live music, food and updates on local projects, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 449 49th St., near Telegraph and Clarke. Sponsored by Standing Together for Accountable Neighborhood Development. Suggested donation $25, $40 per couple. RSVP to 655-3841. www.standoakland.org 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Walk in Tilden Park Meet at 7:30 a.m. at the Nature Area parking lot to explore Jewel Lake for returing migrants. 524-7093. 

First Hike for the Young Trekker from 10:30 a.m. to noon around Jewel Lake in tilden Park. For information call 525-2233. 

Crisis at KPFA Community Forum with speakers, workshops and refreshments at 2 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst ML King Way. 

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave., between Derby and Stuart. 526-7377. info@eastbaylabyrinthproject.org  

Party with Grandmothers for the Oaks Bring songs, musical instruments, and plenty of food and water to share, at 2 p.m. at Memorial Oak Grove, on Piedmont, just north of Bancroft. www.saveoaks.com 

“Christians Lost in the Desert: Work at Kharga Oasis” with Dr. Eugene Cruz-Uribe, Northern Arizona University, Emeritis, at 21:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane at Bancroft Way, UC Campus. Sponsored by the Northern California Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt. 650-363-8081. 

“Banished” on threats to Black communities, at 6 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Local Medicinal Herbs and Your Health” from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at EcoHouse, 1305 Hopkins St. Cost is $20, sliding scale. 548-2220, ext. 242.  

Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart. Wheelchair accessible. Rain cancels. 526-7377.  

Bike Tour of Oakland Meet at 10 a.m. at the 10th St. entrance of the Oakland Museum of California. Reservations suggested. 238-3514. 

“Spring Bloom in the Garden” A walking tour from 1 to 3 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5-$7. Registration required. 643-2755.  

“Walking Tour of Three Berkeley Gardens” from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $30. 236-9558. www.bringinbackthenatives.net 

East Bay Atheists meets to watch Part One of The Four Horsemen, a roundtable discussion between Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett on issues of religion and the criticism of their books at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library,3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 222-7580.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake 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 Yoga with Jack vander Meulen on “Balancing Inner Energies” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  

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.  

MONDAY, MAY 19 

Berkeley Green Monday with Larry Shoup on “The 2008 Election: The Ruling Class Conducts its Hidden Primary” at 7:30 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way.  

Encouraging Healthy Eating in Children A class for parents and grandparents to learn how to make gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free fruit pies at 4:45 p.m. at 4th Street Yoga, 1809 4th S. Cost is $30. 526-8467. 

Kensington Library Book Group meets to discuss “Cat’s Cradle” buy Kurt Vonnegut at 7 p.m. at 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. www.dragonmax.org 

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.  

TUESDAY, MAY 20 

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 Arrowhead Marsh in Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

The Berkeley Garden Club meets at 1:30 p.m. at Epworth United Methodist Church, 1953 Hopkins St. Shelagh Fritz will speak about Alcatraz Gardens. 845-4482. 

“Environmental Justice: Looking into the Future” with Shyaam Shabaka, Ecovillage Farm Learning Center, Raquel Pinderhuges, Urban Studies, SF State Univ., Beck Cowles, Ecology Center, Timothy Burroughs, City of Berkeley, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, central meeting room, 2090 Kittredge.  

Annual Strawberry Tasting at the Tuesday Berkeley Farmers’ Market 2 to 7 p.m. at Derby St. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

“Half-Dome: A Primer on Hiking to the Summit” A slide show with Rick Deutsch at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

The Global Oneness Project with Michelle Moore at 7:20 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, 2304 McKinley Ave. www.ahimsaberkeley.org 

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. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

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

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland uptown to the Lake to discover Art Deco landmarks. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of the Paramount Theater at 2025 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. 

“Rookie Mom’s Handbook” with authors Heather Gibbs Flett and Whitney Moss at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Activities for new moms and babies. RSVP to andrea@andreaburnett.com 

“Drivetime” A film by Antero Alli at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Jump Start Entrepreneurs Network meets at 8 a.m. on the first and third Wed. of the month at Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. Cost is $1-$5. 899-8242. www.jumpstartten.com 

Simplicty Forum meets to discuss Living on the Road and Tiny Houses at 6:30 p.m. at the Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. 

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. 548-9840. 

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. 

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. 

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, MAY 22 

Public Workshop on the Condominium Conversion Ordinance with an overview of the process, application materials, and time for questions at 4 p.m. at 2180 Milivia St., Civic Center Bldg., 6th flr., Redwood Room. For more information contact 981-7410. btran@ci.berkeley.ca.us 

“21st Century Greenprint for the East Bay” A discussion of the programs for energy production and efficiency, at 7 p.m. at the Eology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

League of Women Voters Annual Meeting at 6 p.m., followed by a viewing and discussion of the documentary “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” at 7:45 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Cost for dinner is $15. For reservations call 843-8824. 

The Best of David Roche ASL interpreted benefit for 2008 SuperFest International Disability Film Festival at 7 p.m. at the Community Room, Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. $10-$25 sliding scale. No one turned away for lack of funds. 415-381-3518. www.davidroche.com 

 

 

 

 

Easy Does It Board of Directors’ Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at 1636 University Ave. 845-5513. 

“Career Opportunities in the Life Science Industry” at 6:30 p.m. at Novartis 4.104, 4560 Horton St., Emeryville Cost is $5-$10. Sponsored by the East Bay Chapter for the Association for Women in Science RSVP to ebawis_secretary@yahoo.com 

Small Business Symposium with workshops for entrepreneurs and small business owners from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Oakland Mariott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland. 986-2855. 

Baby & Toddler 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. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

FRIDAY, MAY 23 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Mark Wilson on “Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty” 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 524-7468.  

Circle Dancing in El Cerrito, no experience or partners needed. Pot luck supper at 7 p.m., dancing from 8 to 10 p.m., at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St. Donation $5. 528-4253.  

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

SATURDAY, MAY 24 

Sprouts Gardening Project Plant veggies, sing garden songs and learn what it takes to make plants grow, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. For ages 3 and up. 525-2233. 

Hands-on Native Bee Workshop with Dr. Gordon Frankie from 10 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Berkeley. Cost is $15. to register, email mnsiegel@cal.berkeley.edu  

Annual Strawberry Tasting at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers’ Market plus a musical performance by the World Harmony Chorus, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Center St. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. 548-3333. www.ecologycenter.org 

“Parks for Peace” Rededication ceremony, music, dance, spoken word, job fair, refreshments, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Mosswood Recreation Center, 3612 Webster St., Oakland. Free. 597-5038. 

Walking Tour of Historic Oakland Churches and Temples Meet at 10 a.m. at the front of the First Presbyterian Church at 2619 Broadway. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Teens Touch the Earth A morning work program for teens to learn about the environment by helping to clean up shore debris, from 9 a.m. to noon at Pt. Pinole Regional Shoreline. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Vegetarian Cooling Class “Burgers and Backyard Bites” Dishes for al fresco dining, including Potato and Seed Pate, Japanese Soba Noodle Salad, Tempeh Pecan Burgers, Savory Cashew Burgers, Flourless Chocolate Tart. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. at Castro. Cost is $50, plus $5 materials fee.Register at www.compassionatecooks.com  

Workshop on Arts and Crafts Embroidery with Ann Chaves of Ingelnook Textiles. All day in Oakland. For information and to register email itextiles@earthlink.net 

“Creative Resistance: Our Dreams Will Not be Recruited” An evening of community building through spoken word, dance and music to resist military recruiting in our schools. Bring your own t-shirt to silkscreen. From 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Eastside Cultural Center, 2277 International Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $8-$20, free for youth, no one turned away. 809-7416. www.baypeace.org 

John George Award Presentation West Oakland Student Art and Essay Contest at 10:30 a.m. at West Oakland Library, 1801 Adeline St., Oakland. 549-1861. 

CopWatch Training on ”Know Your Rights” at 6 p.m. at the Grassroots House, 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Teen Knitting Circle at 3 p.m. in the 4th Flr Story Room of the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Bring your own needles in size 8. 981-6107. 

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. www.nativeplants.org 

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

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, MAY 25 

“Gardening Under the Oaks” A 7-mile bike tour of Oakland gardens, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $30. 236-9558. www.bringinbackthenatives.net 

“Snaking Through the Hills” A guided hike up the watershed to see the spots where reptiles like to sun, from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Tilden Park. For information on meeting place call 525-2233. 

“The Lives of Bees” An interactive adventure for children to learn about the lives of honeybees, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Party with Grandmothers for the Oaks Bring songs, musical instruments, and plenty of food and water to share, at 2 p.m. at Memorial Oak Grove, on Piedmont, just north of Bancroft. www.saveoaks.com 

Berkeley City Club Tour of Julia Morgan’s “little castle” at 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 883-9710. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

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. 

Ecstatic Dance East Bay A sacred free-form journey of dance and movement at 10:30 a.m. at .Historic Sweets Ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $15. www.ecstaticdanceeastbay.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 

CITY MEETINGS 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., May 15, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., May 15, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7010.  

Zero Waste Commission meets Mon., May 19, at 7 p.m., at 1201 Second St. 981-6368.  

City Council meets Tues., May 20, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 

berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Citizens Humane Commission meets Wed., May 21, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6601.  

Commission on Aging meets Wed., May 21, at 1:30 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5344.  

Commission on Labor meets Wed., May 21, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7550.  

Human Welfare and Community Action Commission meets Wed., May 21, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5427.  

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., May 22, at 6:30 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5213.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., May 22, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.