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Tree-sit supporter Matthew Taylor struggles with campus police after he was wrestled to the ground and arrested during Sunday’s protest outside Memorial Stadium.
By Richard Brenneman
Tree-sit supporter Matthew Taylor struggles with campus police after he was wrestled to the ground and arrested during Sunday’s protest outside Memorial Stadium.
 

News

Treesitter Collapses; Doctor Blasts Police

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday July 02, 2008 - 06:48:00 PM

A treesitter collapsed moments after climbing down from her perch at the UC Berkeley oak grove, and campus police initially refused to allow a doctor in to examine the ailing woman, known as Dumpster Muffin. 

That was the account given by the physician, Dr. Larry Bedard, and treesit support coordinator Ayr following the dramatic events of Wednesday afternoon. Dumpster Muffin was one of three treesitters to come down at the grove on Wednesday. 

“When she got down from the tree, she collapsed,” said the doctor, a past president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “They got her up and held her up and she collapsed again. It happened three times.” 

Bedard faulted campus police for their conduct, stating that “any Boy Scout knows that for someone in her condition, the first thing you do is lie her down and elevate her feet.” 

Both Ayr and the physician said that campus police had initially agreed that the doctor would be allowed to see her should any medical problems be evident, but then he was initially denied entry after she collapsed. 

Ayr said he vaulted the sidewalk barricades near International House and confronted officers, including Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, who he said had earlier agreed to allow access. 

Finally Bedard was allowed to enter. “They had her sitting in a chair,” he said, so the doctor had her lie on her back with her feet elevated. 

“Her pulse was rapid and thready and she had clear signs of dehydration,” he said. 

Police finally summoned an ambulance, and both the doctor and a paramedic agreed that Dumpster Muffin should be taken to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, the closest emergency room. 

“But after police said she should be taken to Highland Hospital” the ambulance headed there, Bedard said, speaking to the Planet on route to the hospital. 

Bedard had appeared at a rally for the treesitters June 22, where he urged the university to send up food and fluids to the treesitters. Mogulof told a press conference later that day that police had determined the treesitters had ample water. 

Campus police sent up water June 26. 

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof didn’t return a call from the Planent, but later a press release gave a substantially different account: 

“Amanda ‘Dumpster Muffin’ Tierney, age 21, also came down peacefully from her perch,” Mogulof wrote. “Once on the ground she appeared to be in distress; the Berkeley Fire department was immediately called and a physician affiliated with the protest was allowed in to the grove to provide medical care until fire department EMT’s (sic) arrived a short time later. 

“Ms. Tierney was transported to Highland Hospital where, as of this writing, she remains. Once she is able to be processed, Tierney will be charged with trespassing and violating the court order and could be released pending a UCPD review of other possible charges and/or outstanding warrants. 

“We are pleased that our approach seems to be working as we move a few steps closer to a safe but certain end to this situation Assistant Chief Celaya and his officers did an incredible job today, handling a delicate situation with the highest degree of professionalism.” 

 


Public Urges City to File Appeal over UC Gym Project Decision

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday July 01, 2008 - 04:16:00 PM

More than 60 people came to the open session before the Berkeley City Council closed meeting Monday to urge the council to “do what’s right” by standing up to the university and appealing the judge’s final decision in the lawsuit on the sports training/stadium issue.  

They also called on the council to protect the health and safety of the people occupying Memorial Grove trees, slated to be cut down to make room for the university’s controversial training facility. 

The question of whether to appeal is premature since the judge has not made a final ruling, though the council could decide to settle the case before the decision comes down. 

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan told the Planet on Tuesday that the council did vote in closed session to write a letter to university officials urging them to allow the tree-sitters adequate food and water, to be supplied by “designated neutral clergy persons.” 

The vote to send the letter was 5-0-2, with Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak abstaining and councilmembers Betty Olds and Darryl Moore absent. 

“Stand up for Berkeley-stay in the lawsuit,” former Mayor Shirley Dean told the council, expressing the viewpoint of all public speakers, save Irene Hegarty, community relations director for the university. 

Hegarty read the council a letter from UC Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom, calling on the city to support the university in its placement of barricades on the eastern city-owned sidewalk along Piedmont Avenue and to call on the judge to resolve the issue quickly 

“We thank you in advance for your willingness to partner with the Berkeley campus towards our mutual goal to protect the safety of members of our community,” the letter said. 

A number of speakers advised the council to appeal the lawsuit if the city were to lose at the trial level, because the structural change the university proposed for the project, the elimination of a support beam, had not gone through appropiate environmental review as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  

The university told the court that it would no longer require the beam, which was originally designed to reinforce the west stadium wall while the gym was under construction.  

Without the beam, the sports facility is no longer physically linked to the stadium. 

Because the Hayward fault runs through the stadium, the Alquist-Priolo Act would apply to the project if the beam linked the gym and the stadium, and that would require that the stadium retrofit not exceed half the cost of the stadium.  

Mary Rose Kaczorowsky told the council that since the university project is “changing and morphing,” the university should be required to do a new environmental review. 

Michael Kelly, a member of the Panoramic Hill Association, a co-plaintiff with the city against the UC gym project, added that for more than two years the university has said the beam is important for safety reasons. “Now we hear it is for cosmetic reasons,” he added. 

Some said that another reason the city should appeal an adverse decision is that the university did not adequately study alternative sites as CEQA requires. 

UC Berkeley student Matthew Taylor said the university should have studied Maxwell Field, between the Greek Theater and the stadium, as an alternative. “It was never studied in the environmental report,” Taylor said. 

While the health and safety of those who have been sitting in the trees was not explicitly on the closed door agenda—Councilmember Linda Maio told the Planet it should have been discussed in open session—the public addressed the issue. 

University officials promised to give the tree-sitters 1,000 calories a day, according to tree-sit supporter Gianna Ranuzzi. “Yesterday they said we could bring packaged food,” she told the council, arguing that the people in trees needed fresh fruit and vegetables—“apples and celery,” she said. 

Terry O’Brien said he feared for the life of the tree sitters. Last week, “I saw extreme violence,” he said, referring to UC police and arborists’ interactions with the tree-sitters. The crime of trespassing should not be met with mortal harm, he said. 

“It’s pathetic that the university is trying to starve out these young people,” said Martha Nicoloff. “I think Max [Councilmember Max Anderson] made it clear—these young people are saints.” 


Wireless Law Rewired; More Work Lies Ahead

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 01, 2008 - 04:19:00 PM

Berkeley’s proposed new wireless antenna ordinance, now in its 15th revision, still faces stiff opposition in a game in which one side holds almost all the cards. 

Planning commissioners who held a hearing on the ordinance Wednesday night heard from lawyers for three phone companies, the folks who have the upper hand in the uneven contests between concerned citizens and corporate giants. 

The single biggest public concern raised throughout discussions of the ordinance has been the possible impact of cell phone antenna radiation on the health of those who are exposed to it. 

But that’s the one issue federal law bans local governments from considering when drafting laws governing antenna placement and power. 

Modern cells phones are miniature radios, which use electromagnetic emissions to send and receive signals. Health studies have yielded mixed results. 

Wendy Cosin, Berkeley’s deputy planning director, said the revisions have been aimed at meeting both federal requirements and residents’ concerns, all while streamlining the application process for cell phone antennae in districts zoned for commercial and manufacturing uses—and possibly in the manufacturing and light industrial zoning that is confined to West Berkeley. 

But critics have noted that commercial zoning also includes dense apartment buildings, like those downtown and along Telegraph, University and San Pablo avenues. 

The revisions have also added provisions for so-called distributed systems, which use more broadcast spots with lower power and are often sited on utility or lamp poles. Most of the legally unmentionable health concerns concern the amount of wattage used to power the localized broadcast stations. 

“Are we allowed to regulate the amount of wattage?” asked Commissioner Susan Wengraf. 

“No,” said Cosin, although the City of San Francisco informally has used 24 watts as the cutoff point between regular and distributed antenna power. 

Paul Albritton, a lawyer for Verizon, said Berkeley wouldn’t be allowed to set a regulatory wattage threshold, “but what you can regulate is the size of the equipment and the size of the antennas.” 

He said his client had reached an informal agreement with the city across the bay that allows carriers to show their systems to the San Francisco Zoning Administrator and the city’s public health officer—once approved, the design can then be used city-wide. 

The result is a de facto regulation of wattage, because the output is stated in the application, he said. 

“How does going through the health department relate to federal law?” asked Commissioner Patti Dacey. 

“Federal law says local jurisdictions can ensure” that installations fall within federal guidelines, he replied. 

Nick Selby, a lawyer representing Nextel, said he’d been through the Berkeley legislative drafting process before. “I was here in 2001 when the last ordinance was being considered by the commission,” he said. 

He said he’d be happy to work with city staff “come up with a workable definition of microcell,” another name for the smaller distributed system. 

“I encourage you to get it right the first time,” said Joshua Davidson, a lawyer representing T-Mobile. 

Dave Blake, a former member of the Zoning Adjustments Board who sat through cell antenna permit applications presented to that body, said the proposed new ordinance “is not good law” because it would abolish the use of the remand, by which councilmembers can return unpopular decisions back to lower bodies for reconsideration. 

“Why is the council insisting in this case of getting rid of remand?” Blake asked, then answered his own question by declaring that councilmembers “don’t have the nerve” to order remands in an unpopular cause. 

“It’s very clear to me from reading federal law and the lawsuits that there is no necessity to ban the remand,” said Dacey, one of the commission’s two law school graduates. “It would be wrong for us to the take that tool away.” 

But Harry Pollack, the commission’s practicing attorney, said he felt the latest draft is “on the right course” and congratulated city staff for their efforts.  

Commissioner Gene Poschman said he was perplexed because any antenna placed on Sacramento Street would be directed toward nearby residences, creating “potential for a lot of blowback,” given that they hadn’t been given notice for the hearings on the ordinance. 

Wengraf agreed that easing placement on major streets raised potentially thorny problems. “Marin Avenue, which is residential on both sides, is identified as a major street, but Solano Avenue,” noted for its collection of stores, restaurants and theaters, is not. 

“That doesn’t make any sense to me at all,” she said. 

Chair James Samuels said relying on a map for drafting the ordinance probably wasn’t the right approach. 

Commissioners also discussed the whole notion of motorists using cell phones, given that as of Tuesday hands-on cell use is forbidden for drivers-though texting is not. 

Noting that some studies have shown that talking on a cell impairs drivers as much as drunk driving, Dacey said Berkeley needs to facilitate cell phone use as much as it needs drive-through liquor stores. 

But Jim Novosel, an architect and the commission’s newest member, said many people don’t have “land lines” anymore, including his son’s own household. 

Commissioners voted unanimously to continue the hearing until their July 9 session. 

 

Southside Plan 

When it came time for comments on the Southside Plan draft environmental impact report (EIR) and the plan itself, Telegraph Business Improvement District President Roland Peterson had little good to say about one key feature of the plan. 

“There are quite a few contradictions in the transportation analysis,” he said, “and quite a number of the recommendations are utopian and impractical.” 

Highest on his list of concerns were proposed traffic changes. The plan calls for converting Dana and Ellsworth streets from their current one-way status to two-way, and for consideration of conversion of Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue to two-way streets, combined with restriction of through traffic on Telegraph Avenue. 

“We argued from the start for no change in circulation,” Peterson said, calling for the commission to leave the streets alone. 

Jesse Arreguin, a member of the Housing Advisory Commission and participant in drafting the plan, said the EIR also needs to consider changes in the state density bonus law enacted since the plan was initially prepared. 

“State and local land use requirements have changed since the draft plan was adopted in 2003,” he said. The EIR “needs to evaluate the impacts of those changes on the Southside.” 

Arreguin said concentrating more density close to the UC Berkeley campus is beneficial to students, but the plan needs to evaluate the impacts of building heights and increased density on the area. 

Impacts on neighborhood parking should also be considered in greater detail, along with possible mitigations, he said. 

One thing not mentioned in the document is Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), and city planner Elizabeth Greene said whatever plan is adopted by AC Transit for the controversial bus service—including possible lane closures on Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way—won’t impact the plan or the EIR process. 

The only exception would be if the BRT route is approved before the Southside Plan. Otherwise, the onus is on the transit agency to study the impacts in conjunction with its own BRT proposal, she said. 

The public comment period for preparing the final EIR on the project closed Monday. 


Treesitters, University Win Split Court Ruling

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 30, 2008 - 04:19:00 PM

A judge ordered the University of California not to endanger the lives of Berkeley’s treesitters Monday but refused to order the university to give them food and water. 

Though attorneys for the treesitters asked Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller to order supplies sent up to the remaining protesters at the Memorial Stadium grove, the judge said they could get food and water simply by obeying his restraining order and coming down from the trees. 

While his restraining order against the tree-sitters and their allies remains in force, Keller said, “The university shall take such precautions as are reasonably needed to prevent endangering the lives or safety of others.” 

But, the jurist said, he wasn’t ordering food and water because “that is something totally and completely within” the control of the treesitters. 

Keller’s ruling came after attorneys William Simpich and Carol Strickman presented declarations from several treesitters and a video which they said showed that a treesitter’s life had been endangered after university arborists cut his support line. 

Michael Goldstein, the lawyer representing the UC Board of Regents, said the treesitter-who appeared to be hanging on by one hand-was actually supported by another rope, and said campus police reported that the protester said he was also carrying a bottle of urine. 

But campus officials “don’t need to take aggressive conduct when they can take less aggressive conduct,” the judge said, adding, “I will become more aggressively involved if the university takes any action that endangers” the lives of the protesters. 

But he rejected Simpich’s argument that denial of food and water, which the lawyer said could cause effects that could lead to lack of judgment that could endanger the treesitters, was something that should be included in his order. 

On the list of incontrovertible facts he cited: the university’s right to control its own property was foremost, followed by the refusal of the treesitters to obey orders he had issued previously calling on them to vacate the trees. 

Judge Keller said another uncontested fact is that the lives of tree-sitters had been endangered when they moved to challenge the university’s removal of their gear, including lines used to move from tree to tree above the ground. 

Simpich had argued that denial of food and water was tantamount to torture and compared to the treesitters to prisoners. But Judge Keller said the analogy was false because treesitters weren’t prisoners and were free to come down any time they wanted. 

But he said that as a result of viewing the video, “I am not trying to invite the university to go up there and cut the ropes people may be hanging onto.” 

Keller’s ruling came a day after UC Berkeley Campus Police Capt. Guillermo Beckford agreed to receive four bags of food for the treesitters Monday morning. 

Gianna Ranuzzi, a treesit supporter who led the negotiation with the campus police Sunday, said Monday morning before the hearing in Hayward court that the food had been delivered earlier in the day to officers, but she didn’t know if it had been delivered to the treesitters. 

Gabrielle Silverman (“my treesitter name is millipede”) sat in court for Monday morning’s hearing. She was the first treesitter forcibly extracted from the branches last Tuesday. 

“I’m very disappointed in the judge,” she said.  

Asked what she planned to do next, the treesitter answered, “What do we do now? We keep giving them hell.” 

Silverman said she was threatened by the arborists the university hired to restrict the movements of the protesters, whose numbers have dwindled in the last week. 

“She was extracted right after the university said they wouldn’t be taking anyone down from the trees,” Simpich said. “It was done in a violent way, ramming her and then cutting her line so that she fell onto their platform.” 

Goldstein declined to comment after the hearing. 

“We’ll keep fighting the fight,” Simpich said, not ruling out a possible appeal of Monday’s decision, a move foreshadowed by his request for a partial transcript of the day’s courtroom action. 

Lawyers for both sides agreed to prepare a formal written order setting forth Judge Keller’s decision by the end of the day. 


Magnes Museum Moves Ahead With Relocation Plans

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday June 30, 2008 - 04:52:00 PM

The Judah L. Magnes Museum will ask the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission Thursday to approve a structural alteration permit to rehabilitate the landmarked Armstrong College at 2222 Harold Way, where it plans to relocate in spring 2010. 

Armstrong College was designated as a City of Berkeley landmark in September 1994 and notable structures include large arched windows located on the second floor of the Kittredge Street and Harold facades, entrance and main lobbies, a 5,000-square-foot auditorium, and an entrance sheltered by a Baroque-style balcony. 

The museum which is the Bay Area's oldest museum and archive dedicated to Jewish history, is proposing some changes to the former business educational school's exterior, including altering two windows on either side of the Kittredge Street entrance and replacing the wooden door with glass. 

The Magnes hopes to raise $36 million through a rehabilitation campaign, of which $14 million will be a permanent endowment for museum programs, museum spokesperson James Leventhal told the Planet Monday. 

The Harold Way building was originally known as the Armstrong School of Business, and many Berkeley old-timers can still remember taking typing lessons there. 

It forms an integral part of a three-square-block cluster of significant buildings, including the U.S. Post Office, Elks Club, the Shattuck Hotel, YMCA, and the Berkeley Public Library. 

The Berkeley Municipal Code requires the landmarks commission to review any exterior modifications to a landmark structure. 

The non-profit Jewish museum bought the 1924 Walter H. Ratcliff-designed Spanish-Colonial Revival style building last year from Armstrong Properties Inc., and has plans to turn it into a world-class museum. Former occupants include UC Berkeley Extension's International Center, whose lease ran from 1996 to 2006. 

The museum, now located in a historic mansion at 2911 Russell St., has hired Mark Hulbert of Oakland-based Preservation Architecture to rehabilitate the college building. 

Of all the interior changes to the building, only one will be visible from the exterior, a report to the commission from the landmarks commission staff states. In order to use portions of the building as gallery space, the windows to the galleries have to be backfilled from the interior. The report says that the only windows that will be affected by this are the four on the first floor to the west of the proposed loading entrance off of Kittredge Street. 

The museum's website informs visitors the new facility is “envisioned as a space that combines display and research, looking and learning, contemplation and discussion ... In the spirit of the museum's founders, yet with new technological possibilities, the Magnes will continue to offer public access to unique resources that let every generation find their own story in the texts, images, and sounds of the Jewish past and present.” 

The museum's collection is considered to be the third largest of its kind in the country. 

The LPC will also review a preliminary proposal by Wareham Development to demolish the landmarked Copra Warehouse (Durkee Famous Foods), at 740 Heinz Ave., to construct a four-story research and laboratory space. Wareham will return with an official application concerning the property at a later date. 

The LPC will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 


Keene Goes to Palo Alto

By Judith Scherr
Monday June 30, 2008 - 04:20:00 PM

Jim Keene, city manager in Berkeley from 1996 to 2000, has a new gig: On Sept. 2 he’ll become city manager of Palo Alto, with a yearly salary of $240,000. 

Keene, currently a Rockridge resident, told the Palo Alto Daily News that Berkeley’s active citizenry had made it “a complicated community to work in,” but said the experience prepared him to work with Palo Alto’s highly engaged residents. 

Among the battles Keene fought in Berkeley was zoning. He rewrote the General Plan to allow highrises along the city’s commercial corridors, said City Councilmember Dona Spring, who was also on the council during Keene’s tenure.  

“But that didn’t go anywhere, although it raised a hullaballoo,” Spring told the Planet, adding, “I liked him. He was upbeat. He had a lot of enthusiasm.” 

He was able to “improve the culture” of city staff, giving staff more training and creating a positive atmosphere, Spring said. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington often clashed with the former manager. In May 2000, the Daily Cal quoted Worthington saying: “The city manager is obsessed with the buildings and not dealing with people issues like health, homelessness, housing and education.” 

Keene left Berkeley in 2000 to take the job of city manager in Tucson, where he stayed for four years. There, according to Tucson Assistant City Manager Karen Thompson, writing in the on-line “Downtown Tucsonan,” he “led the way in bringing developers and investors to the city center.” 

Keene left Tucson to become executive director of the Sacramento-based California State Association of Counties, where he worked from 2005 to 2007, before becoming director of strategic issues at the International City and County Management Association. 

Before becoming Berkeley city manager, Keene was county manager for Coconino County, Arizona. 

Keene told the Palo Alto Daily Review that he plans to stay in the Palo Alto position for a decade. While Keene has stayed in each of his city manager positions for four or five years, City Manager Phil Kamlarz said that is not unusual. Most managers stay about three and a half years, he told the Planet. 


UC Drops Stadium Brace To Avoid Alquist-Priolo Valuation for Gym Project

By Bay City News and Planet Staff
Sunday June 29, 2008 - 01:49:00 PM

UC-Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said Friday that UC Berkeley has told Judge Barbara Miller that it will not be placing a new grade beam on Memorial Stadium's foundation during construction of its new training facility. The university is also dropping its plan to hold up to seven non-football events at the football stadium.  

Lawyers for the UC Berkeley filed 100 pages of legal arguments and documents Friday in the long-running legal battle over whether the university should be allowed to build a new sports training center next to its football stadium. Mogulof said that now that the university has decided to remove the last remaining construction element deemed to be an alteration to the stadium,the grade beam, the school is suggesting that there no longer exists any need for Miller to further consider how or if she should arrive at a valuation for the stadium. The beam was designed to reinforce the aging stadium while the adjacent gym was under construction. 

The judge had previously ruled that University of California projects are subject to the Alquist-Priolo earthquake safety act, so that any alteration of the existing stadium, which is on the Hayward fault, would be limited to an expenditure of less than half the value of the current structure, with the valuation criteria yet to be determined. 

Mogulof said university officials believe that Miller's ruling that the training center, except for the grade beam, is a separate structure from the stadium essentially makes the valuation issue a moot point in connection with the first phase of the project. 

The university's court filing was in response to a proposed judgment filed by project opponents earlier this week in which they told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller that the university should scrap its plans unless it can prove that the football stadium can be retrofitted legally. 

Miller had issued a mixed ruling the previous week which keeps in place an injunction against the project that she issued on Jan. 29, 2007, which bars the university from going ahead with its proposed $140 million, 158,000-square-foot project for now. 

Mogulof said the university is now asking Miller to consider an immediate modification of the injunction to allow construction of the training center to begin. 

He said she hasn't yet indicated if she wants to hold another hearing or if she will issue her final ruling based solely on the new legal papers filed by both sides this week. 

But UC-Berkeley officials say they believe Miller's ruling opens the door for them to begin the project sometime in the near future.


Police Send Up Water To Tree-sitters; Court Hearing Set for Monday

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 28, 2008 - 02:50:00 PM
A package of bottled water, provided by UC Berkeley police, is pulled up by tree-sitters Thursday.
By Richard Brenneman
A package of bottled water, provided by UC Berkeley police, is pulled up by tree-sitters Thursday.

Lawyers representing the treesitters at Memorial Stadium said Friday that UC Berkeley officials have agreed to provide food and water for arboreal protesters. 

Campus Police made their first water delivery Thursday afternoon following a sometimes heated parlay between the branch-borne activists and the university’s two top cops. 

Chief Victoria L. Harrison and Assistant Chief Mitch Celaya, accompanied by an officer with a video camera, talked with protesters from their perch in a cherry-picker platform as the university’s community relations chief took notes in the shade of a tree below. 

At least 16 uniformed officers were on hand during the talk, which began with the tree-sitters reluctant to take anything from the officers. 

One of the tree-sitters accused the chief of giving the go-ahead to hired arborists to cut a support line while the protester was suspended in mid-air. “Are you trying to kill us?” he called out. 

But the talks continued, with supporters on the ground calling out support and taunting police. 

After the campus brass descended, Harrison and Celaya huddled briefly with Dan Mogulof, the campus executive director of public affairs, and minutes later the two officers, accompanied by a third officer toting a flat of shrink-wrapped bottled water, took up station beneath the tree in which the seven remaining tree-sitters had gathered. 

Two of activists had already descended from the branches Thursday evening after another talk with police, submitting to arrest as soon as their feet hit the ground. 

Doug Buckwald of Save the Oaks at the Stadium said the two had to attend to personal needs and hadn’t given up on the protest itself. 

The decision by the tree-sitters to accept water from campus police disappointed some of their supporters on the ground, in part because a decision hadn’t been reached collectively. 

“They’re trying to divide us,” said one. 

While Mogulof hadn’t flatly rejected providing water to the tree-sitters, he had repeatedly said that if they wanted food and water they were welcome to come down. 

City Councilmember Dona Spring, the tree-sit’s most vocal supporter on the council, had been calling for a resupply of the protesters, a call which had been joined by some of her council colleagues. 

The water sent up was provided by the university, said one campus official who declined to be identified by name. 

The water supply came one day before the university was to file its legal response to last week’s decision by an Alameda County Superior Court judge in a lawsuit protesters hoped would block construction of a gym at the site of the grove just west of Memorial Stadium. 

Judge Barbara J. Miller is scheduled to issue an order formalizing her decision, which challenged the approval process followed by the UC Board of Regents in approving the gym. 

Another venue 

Friday’s announcement from attorneys Carol Strickman and Bill Simpich followed an in-chambers meeting with university attorney Michael Goldstein in the chambers of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller. 

Following the session, Judge Keller told reporters, “They may want to talk to you about an agreement that’s been reached between the university and the treesitters.” 

But UC attorney Goldstein said he didn’t want to comment on anything that had been said in Keller’s chambers.  

“There were a lot of developments today,” said Simpich. “The purpose today was to get a court order that the university is not act to extract anyone from the trees, and we did get an understanding at the highest level from the university that they will not extract anyone. 

“However the attorney from the university said he has no knowledge of the agreement,” he added. 

The other understanding, he said, is that the university will provide food and water. 

“The tide’s already turned,” Simpich said, “and we are finally getting somewhere. We can protect the treesitters and all parties, including the university and the community, can step back and build trust.” 

Simpich said he was concerned because of behavior during the extraction of at least one sitter that he said constituted assault, and could have led to a charge of second degree murder had a tree-sitter fallen during the extraction. 

Millipede, who was taken down by university contract arborists during a controversial extraction last week, said she was assaulted during the event. 

Mogulof had said earlier that she had bitten an arborist during the extraction. 

The lawyers for both sides will be back in Judge Keller’s Hayward courtroom at 9 a.m. Monday. 


School Board Picks Curvy Derby as Preferred Option for East Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday June 28, 2008 - 07:12:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education picked Curvy Derby as its preferred option for the Berkeley Unified School District’s East Campus field Wednesday, but acknowledged that the district lacks funds to build it. 

The plan proposes to keep Derby Street open, but bends it to accommodate a high school baseball field.  

Curvy Derby was originally designed by Berkeley residents Susi Marzuola and Peter Waller when community members objected to closing Derby. It proposes to extend the field north into Carleton Street, allowing Derby to stay open.  

In the past, the board reviewed a plan which closed Derby in order to accommodate a baseball field and another which would leave the street untouched for a smaller park without a baseball field, and indicated that the closed Derby plan was their preferred option. 

Lew Jones, facilities director for Berkeley Unified, said the district had pressed the board to pick the curvy Derby plan since it addressed the community’s concerns.  

“It was also supported by the Berkeley High athletic department,” Jones told the Planet. “The B-Tech folks have been interested in any scheme that includes a basketball court. Many in the community adamantly oppose a closed Derby option. Some in the community may oppose the curvy Derby option or may wish to support certain amenities or conditions in the option.”  

Jones said the plan kept the current street parking and was able to fit in a 300-foot baseline. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett said he was concerned about home runs and foul balls damaging cars parked next to the field and asked staff to investigate the issue. 

The plan proposes a 10-feet high fence on the right field.  

“I am not sure how many home runs a high school scores every year,” John Selawsky, school board president, said. 

According to Berkeley High’s baseball coach Tim Moellering, his team hits three or four home runs a year, district officials said. 

“It will be an improvement on the current issue,” Moellering said, adding that the new field would reduce damages from the site they now use, San Pablo Park. “We currently get between 14 to 15 foul balls which leads to six to seven cars being damaged every year.” 

The plan, Jones said, was in its “bare bones” stage and did not include designs for restrooms and other amenities. 

Jones said WLC Architects, the consultants hired by the school district, had made a few changes to the original plan for Curvy Derby. 

According to a report by Jones, the Curvy Derby plan includes a baseball field with backstops and dugouts, bleachers, a basketball court, new sidewalks and a redirected and resurfaced Derby Street.  

Jones said the open and closed field options had not been entirely abandoned, and that the board would direct district staff about a future course of action when it reconvened after summer break on Aug. 20. 

The open Derby scheme would include a tot lot, a basketball court, a non-regulation sized baseball field with backstops and dugouts, sidewalk replacement, landscaping and a restroom building with storage.  

The closed Derby design includes a baseball field with backstops and dugouts, bleachers, a parking lot large enough to accommodate the farmers market which doubles as a baseball court, a new restroom building with storage, a concession stand, an outdoor theater with band shell, new sidewalks and new paths. Utility changes and a new stop light on Carleton are also included in this proposal, the report said.  

Jones said the original estimates for the open and closed Derby fields were done prior to the existing field, which is used by the Berkeley High School and Berkeley Technology Academy athletic programs, and the community occasionally. Jones said community members have to go through a formal process to reserve the field for formal events.  

Jones said the board’s approval of a design would lead to an environmental impact analysis.  

“There may or may not be an environmental impact report,” he said. “If the board looks at a closed option, there’s likely to be an environmental impact report. The City of Berkeley is on record saying that Curvy Derby is a good option. Since this plan talks about changing the street, the city will be a key player in the design process.”  

 

 

 

 


New Layoffs Hit East Bay Papers

By Richard Brenneman
Saturday June 28, 2008 - 07:13:00 AM

It’s been a good news/bad news week for the 235 newly unionized reporters and editors of the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. 

Journalists who work for the MediaNews Groups East Bay papers—which include the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Fremont Argus and others—won formal recognition for their union Wednesday. 

Then, on Friday, came the announcement by BANG-EB President John Armstrong Friday that 29 Media Workers Guild staffers will be laid off on July 11. 

In an email to staff, Armstrong said the layoffs were needed because of declining revenues and soaring newsprint prices. 

“We are forecasting a 10% drop in revenue over the next 12 months,” he wrote, on the heels of a 17% drop in the current fiscal year. 

One key culprit, he wrote, is the plunging real estate market, “its ripple effects on virtually all segments of the East Bay economy and the continuing migration of ad dollars to the Internet.” 

The new Media Guild chapter resulted from a June 13 vote at BANG-EB’s papers. Some of the company’s paper had been unionized, but MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton abolished the Guild chapter by merging the news operations of union shops with the non-union Contra Costa Times. 

Union members organized a new election and won a narrow recognition vote from members of the newly combined news operation 10 months later. 


Neighbors Oppose Safeway’s Plans to Expand Shattuck Avenue Store

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:05:00 PM

It was déjà vu all over again for supermarket chain giant Safeway when it unveiled plans to remodel its North Shattuck store at the Hillside Club Wednesday. 

More than 50 Berkeley residents turned up to oppose the multi-million dollar project, which proposes to convert the existing 28,763-square-foot store to 77,850 square feet, in the same way Rockridge and Solano Avenue neighbors had opposed similar expansions in their areas a few weeks ago. 

The ones that did favor the remodelling either asked Safeway to either scale back the size or lobbied for housing on top of the store. 

Safeway’s website informs visitors that its remodeled Lifestyle stores will offer a seemingly endless array of products in an upscale environment, complete with softer lighting and wood-simulated floors. 

Built in 1965, the Berkeley Safeway is located in the Gourmet Ghetto, directly across the street from neighborhood shops such as Black Oak Books and Masse’s Pastries. Parking is situated underground and at the street level and there are three driveways located on Shattuck and two on Henry Street. It has 100 employees, which will double once the upsizing is complete. Parking will continue to remain in both levels, with 90 spots on the street level, and 122 underground. 

The new plan proposes 12,950-square-feet of retail space on the first floor with outdoor seating, bike racks and a ramp, and a Safeway on the second floor surrounded by a glass facade. 

The design, some neighbors commented, has less of a “neighborhood feel” than the one for the Claremont and College store. 

North Shattuck residents, activists and merchants voiced concerns about traffic, safety and the environment and said the retail stores would take business away from local independent merchants, some of whom are already having a tough time surviving. 

“In terms of offering flowers, does that mean it will drive out our local flower shop in front of the bus stop?,” asked a neighbor. “If Safeway wants to do something innovative, it should rent out space to our local farmers. We could have eggs from Petaluma instead of products from all over the country being shipped to Safeway.” 

Some neighbors called the project “a monolith” and an “architectural monstrosity.” 

“It’s just not North Berkeley,” said Jane White, a neighbor. “Here we are desperately trying to recycle ... Obviously you have to clean up the store but going from 20,000 square feet to 77,000 just doesn’t make any sense.” 

Art Goldberg, another neighbor, said the project was slated for failure because it was out of character with the neighborhood. 

“According to the zoning code, you are not supposed to create more traffic in a residential neighborhood which it clearly will,” he said. “I have no illusions Safeway will change this plan because they have made some deal with City Hall already.” 

Todd Paradis, Safeway Inc.’s real estate manager, made the pitch that the expansion would help Safeway compete against upcoming developments such as Whole Foods on San Pablo Avenue, Trader Joe’s on University Avenue and Berkeley Bowl in West Berkeley. 

“This one has the least amount of services than our other projects,” Paradis said, adding that the store lacked a bakery, a pharmacy and a meat carving station. “We also have a pretty tight floral section. We have been putting more stress on our organic produce for the last few years. The meat is packaged and you get stuck as a shopper there. A big part of this expansion is just spreading out the aisles.” 

Paradis also showed pictures of an expanded deli, which he said would include a full line of soups and cheeses and prepared meals. 

“The smell of bread baking changes the ambiance of the store,” he said, showing slides of freshly baked bread stacked neatly along wooden aisles. 

Other features include improving cart traffic, adding more organic and natural food choices, expanding the sidewalk from eight feet to 12, and an abundance of trees along Shattuck and Henry. 

Safeway also wants to remove the recycling center on their lot, which some neighbors said would be an improvement. 

Paradis said the plan was still in its preliminary stage and that Safeway would submit an application with the City of Berkeley’s Planning Department in August. 

He added that permits and other approvals would take up to 18 months and that the remodeled store, which will be Safeway’s first LEED compliant building, will open for business in 2012. 

Dorothy Walker, a former Berkeley planning commissioner , pressed for residential development on top of the store. 

“We need to think about global warming,” Walker, who has lived in Berkeley for 50 years, said. 

“We need to do the right thing for people by providing housing, and not just provide them with a newer version of the 1965 store.” 

Mark Rhoades, the city’s former planning manager, also asked Safeway to rethink its design in order to add apartments above the store. 

“This site deserves a better vision,” he said. “The project has a very big box feel to it. This is a fantastic site for housing, it will be a travesty if you didn’t have residences here. You won’t get away with just retail and a Safeway store.” 

Others said housing was voted down at an earlier community meeting with Safeway since neighbors had expressed concern it would increase density in the North Shattuck corridor. 

 


BRT Hits A Bumpy Road At Planning Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:03:00 PM

Declaring that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) “looks to me like a huge development scheme,” Berkeley Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey said she couldn’t cast a vote without more information about its potential impacts. 

But for fellow Commissioner David Stoloff, “the first major public improvement of public transportation in 50 years” deserves strong support. 

The one thing commissioners could decisively and unanimously agree on Wednesday night was to reject a second joint session with the city’s Transportation Commission so they could focus on the land use implications of the massive AC Transit project. 

The commission was taking its last opportunity to formally respond to AC Transit’s draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the project, but the project is certain to provide fodder for the panel in months ahead as final plans are drawn up and the final EIR is released.  

The three members of the public who addressed the commission were all critics of a central element of the project—reduction of Telegraph Avenue traffic lanes to one in either direction to accommodate bus-only traffic down the center of the avenue. 

They also didn’t like elimination of on-street parking on the avenue, and favored instead the program they call Rapid Bus Plus, which would combine some aspects of the AC Transit program without doing away with any lanes. 

Dacey’s concern, echoed by several others on the commission, was learning precisely what impacts BRT would have on development. 

Under state law, each of the platforms used to board and unload the bus along the length of its route from the downtown Berkeley BART station to San Leandro BART, would qualify as a transit station under state law. And state law grants a 25 percent bonus to new projects built within a quarter-mile radio of a station—and that may be on top of existing city bonuses for provision of affordable housing. 

“That would transform the Telegraph corridor into six and seven stories—huge,” said Dacey. 

“I’m hearing the word ‘development’ used as though it’s always a negative,” said Land Use Planning Manager Debbie Sanderson. “But there are a number of parts of the city that would welcome development because they’re right on the tipping point.” 

For commissioner and City Council candidate Susan Wengraf, a major concern is BRT’s impact on the downtown streetscape. 

“I think the platform would transform the character of downtown,” she said, transforming a crucial block of Shattuck Avenue between Center and Addison streets into “a bus station.” She’s also worried that the project could prove “devastating” for already struggling small businesses, including those on Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft. 

The city also needs to know who will bear the responsibility for maintaining the streets, platforms and medians if the full-scale BRT plan is implemented. 

Another question raised by Wengraf as well as several critics in earlier meetings is the fate of trees currently planted in the Shattuck Avenue median strips. 

“This is really an Oakland project,” said Commission Chair James Samuels, holding up a map to illustrate that most of the length of the BRT corridor falls in that city. “I was kind of startled. We’re like the tail wagging the dog.” 

“We’re at the bottom of the food chain,” responded Commissioner Gene Poschman, a notable BRT skeptic. 

Though architect Jim Novosel was attending his first meeting as a planning commissioner, he had already seen the BRT proposal during his tenure on the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee. “When I saw it, I was quite horrified,” he said. “It’s a system designed by engineers and not architects.” 

Novosel, who replaced Helen Burke as City Councilmember Linda Maio’s appointee, shares his predecessor’s concern with the living environment. 

“Every tree between Bancroft Way and Center Street would be gone” under the AC Transit proposal, he said, shaking his head. 

Wengraf said Berkeley shouldn’t accept the transit agency’s alternatives, adding, “San Leandro and Oakland are not taking this thing sitting down. They’re fighting back.” 

San Leandro rejected dedicated bus lanes, and Oakland officials have weighed in with their own critiques. 

“BRT is the most important land use decision we are going to make in the next five years,” said Poschman. “It’s incredibly important.” 

Poschman, the commission’s resident policy and statute wizard, said his review of websites for BRT projects in other cities portrayed the concept as an opportunity to increase development. 

“One of their main goals is new development,” Wengraf said. 

“Let me be direct,” Poschman said. “Telegraph Avenue is the prime development area in terms of mixed use and bad commercial space.” 

Mixed use projects build housing over ground floor commercial space, and such projects are allowed to cover 90 percent of a lot’s surface area, compared with 40 percent for housing-only projects, leading, Poschman said, to situations like University Avenue, “where you wind up with little commercial spaces, mostly vacant,” which these added solely to obtain the extra size allowed for mixed use projects. 

“How did we get the mixed use bonus of over 100 percent? Damned if I know, but I’ve got to go back and figure it out,” he said. 

Poschman said multiple state laws provide for so-called Transit Village and Transit Oriented Development, further buttressed by federal laws and policies. 

But Stoloff said Berkeley should take advantage of development opportunities, and faulted the community for effectively downzoning the areas around the Ashby and North Berkeley BART stations when the rail system was installed. Other cities, he said, had take advantage of the opportunity to add more housing. 


Council Shuts Out Public in Tree-Sit Discussions

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:02:00 PM

While some tree-sit supporters applaud the city decision to look at suing the university over the barriers it has erected on city streets and sidewalks to keep tree-sit supporters away from Memorial Grove protesters, they also are saying that the city should include the public in discussions about the issues of the health and safety of the protesters. 

At its meeting Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council voted to place the question of the health and safety of protesters carrying out civil disobedience in the trees as an emergency item on the agenda. Relegated to the end of a lengthy agenda, the item mustered only four of the five votes needed to extend the council meeting beyond 12:30 a.m.  

Councilmember Dona Spring had made a motion to allow supporters to give tree-sitters food and water and to allow a physician to examine them, but without extension of the meeting, the motion could not be discussed. 

According to its rules, the council will automatically hear the tree-sit question at the next council meeting, which is July 8. 

“July 8 is late,” former mayor Shirley Dean, a tree-sit supporter, told the Planet Friday. “I don’t know what will happen to [the tree sitters] tomorrow. It’s a crisis situation.”  

Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet he was trying to muster five votes to hold an open session council meeting on Monday, the same day a closed session is scheduled. By late afternoon, he said he had secured only three of the five votes he needed to call an open meeting. 

On the agenda of the closed session, scheduled at 5 p.m. Monday in the council chambers, the council is scheduled to discuss a number of legal issues, including the lawsuit against the university over building a sports training facility adjacent to the crumbling Memorial Stadium located on an earthquake fault. Also on the agenda is the question of whether to file a new lawsuit against the university to force it to remove the barriers it placed on city streets. 

“Both of these issues have an impact on the public,” UC Berkeley student Matthew Taylor told the Planet Friday. A tree-sit supporter, Taylor was arrested by the UC police at the grove on Sunday when he crossed the police barrier on Piedmont Avenue. 

“People should have a right to be at the discussions,” Taylor said, arguing that closed door discussions should be limited to legal strategies. 

Taylor said that Spring’s council item was critical. “They need to take it up immediately. Every day of delay is problematic, when we’re not able to resupply the supporters.”  

(On Thursday, tree sitters accepted water from UC police.) 

Mayor Tom Bates told the Planet he thought it was unnecessary to hold an open council meeting before July 8.  

Along with City Manager Phil Kamlarz and City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, Bates met Tuesday with a number of university officials including Vice Chancellor Nathan Brostrom. 

“Our concern is for the safety of the people in the trees—it’s a major concern,” Bates said. “Nothing much came out of it,” 

Bates was among those who did not vote to continue the council meeting, which ended abruptly at 12:30 a.m. The council was therefore unable to discuss the emergency item in public. Bates told the Planet there was no need for an open council session before July 8.  

“I would not rule out anything,” he added. “We have to see how events unfold.” 

Linda Maio’s vote was key in the council's vote not to extend the meeting to permit a discussion of Spring’s motion.  

On Friday, Maio told the Planet why she did not vote to extend the meeting. She said she was satisfied with a report from city staff whom the city manager had sent up to the grove during the council meeting. They reported, via the city manager, that the tree-sitters said they were not in an emergency situation and would not accept food and water from university officials.  

The manager’s report, however, did not convince Councilmembers Max Anderson, Darryl Moore, Spring and Worthington. Worthington had spoken directly to the tree-sitters by phone during the council's discussion on whether to add the emergency item. Worthington reported that the tree sitters said they were in need of food and water and felt they faced a health crisis. 

Maio said at this point there would be nothing gained by holding an open session to discuss the issue. “Now there is nothing more for us to do,” she said. “We have to be able to do something other than talking about it if we go into open session.” 

The question of the barriers has been the subject of letters and discussions between the city and university. 

Saying that the court case had not yet been settled and the university would not be able to prepare for construction on the site, Kamlarz wrote the university denying it a permit to encroach on its streets and sidewalks. 

However, claiming that people occupying the trees constitute a crime scene, the university has fenced off the sidewalk and put up barricades on Piedmont Avenue, without a permit. 

Kamlarz wrote the UC Berkeley police chief: “The city considers that any injury or damage that occurs as a result of the university’s actions to control the ‘crime scene’ will be its sole responsibility. In addition to the obvious risks to pedestrians, protesters and drivers, Chief [Debra] Pryor has expressed concern that the barriers you have been placing on the sidewalk and public street may interfere with emergency access to Memorial Stadium and the International House.” 

“We certainly can demand to have our sidewalks back,” Spring told the Planet on Friday. “They’ve had them long enough.” 

 

 

 


Code Pink Women Claim Court Victory

By Judith Scherr
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:06:00 PM

A superior court judge Tuesday reaffirmed the rights of four Code Pink women to demonstrate at the downtown Berkeley Marine Recruiting Station, according to Zanne Joi of Code Pink. 

Four “wailing mothers,” Joi, Medea Benjamin, Toby Blome and Pamela Bennett protested the 4,000th person dead in Iraq on March 25 by entering the MRS, sitting down and refusing to leave until they were carted away by police. They were charged with misdemeanor counts of trespassing. 

Pamela Bennett had also been charged with indecency when she bared her breasts at the MRS as part of a protest where demonstrators tried to make the point that war is indecent, but mothers’ breasts are life sustaining. (See http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-06-19/.) 

In Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday, Judge Morris Jacobson reduced all the charges to infractions, according to the quartet's attorney Judy Browne. The infraction charge will be dropped Jan. 5 if the four do not violate three conditions: they can protest in front of the MRS, but not more than four feet from the curb; they may not enter the MRS and they may not enter the alcove next to the MRS.  

If the women violate these conditions they will be charged with an infraction and face fines of $400, Browne said. If they abide by the conditions, all charges will be dropped. 

“It was a total victory,” Joi told the Planet Thursday. “It protected all of our rights to freedom of speech.” 

Joi said the four women would abide by the judge’s ruling. As for committing civil disobedience at the MRS by entering the storefront or affixing anti-war banners to the MRS windows, “There are plenty of other Code Pink women and activists who can do that,” Joi said. 

A further change against Joi—battery on a police officer who had said Joi spit at her—was dropped, Browne said. 

Joi, who claimed she had not spit on the officer, said she was considering filing a complaint charges against Berkeley police for false arrest in the case and may bring a civil lawsuit as well. (See http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-05-29.) 

Berkeley police did not return a call for comment. 

 


ZAB Gives Thai Temple a Chance to Address Use Permit Violations

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:02:00 PM

A recent report from city officials says the Berkeley Thai Temple repeatedly violated its zoning permit by selling food to the public during religious events on Sundays. 

Just how long the temple has been out of compliance with the permit, which was issued in 1993, no one was able to say at the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) meeting Thursday, but zoning commissioners agreed to give the monks at the 33-year-old Buddhist institution a chance to modify the current permit and address neighborhood concerns. 

Since the temple’s current use permit requires food sales events not to exceed a total of six times annually, the temple might have already violated the limit 20 times this year alone, one of the commissioners said. 

The temple approached the zoning board for a use permit to build a new Buddhist shrine in April. At that meeting, some South Berkeley neighbors charged Wat Mangolakaratanam, as the temple is officially called, with running a commercial restaurant in a residential neighborhood, bringing trash, noise and traffic to their streets. 

Although some zoning board members were in favor of revoking the temple’s permit in face of what they called blatant disregard for the law, others pressed for mediation between the temple and its neighbors on the grounds that the monks provided an important service to the community. 

The board voted unanimously to postpone the hearing until Sept. 25, providing zoning staff with time to investigate the charges and the mediators with an opportunity to meet twice. 

Bob Allen, zoning vice-chair, was the first to criticize the violations. 

“I am stunned by the record and that the applicant hadn’t adhered to the use permits since 1993,” Allen said. “I am stunned it has gone to this point. I am aware Sunday brunch is popular, but we can’t close our eyes and let this go by.” 

Allen quoted from the staff report, which says zoning officials met with the temple’s representatives to review the existing approvals, and that they believed the applicant would come back with a modified use permit application to adapt the Sunday activities which will address all the neighborhood concerns. 

“First, I think to send neighbors to mediate where they are supposed to negotiate on what has happened instead of what the use permit is, is putting neighbors at a disadvantage,” Allen said. “Neighbors don’t negotiate changes in use permit, it’s our (ZAB’s) job.” 

Allen added that the temple agreed to discontinue the sale of food in 1993, in response to complaints from neighbors about outdoor barbecues at that time. 

“They ought to be ashamed of this phony baloney thing of accepting donations for food,” Allen said, referring to the tokens which the temple sells to be used instead of money to pay for food cooked every Sunday after religious events. “How dumb do they think we are? It’s really untenable.” 

ZAB chair Rick Judd said enforcement procedures would take a long time, but added the board didn’t want to give the temple the impression the project would sail through with minor modifications. 

“To me its a real conundrum,” said ZAB commissioner Terry Doran. “How do we deal with the fact that it’s an organization with an ongoing function that has served the community illegally since 1997, and we are being asked to legalize it? The neighbors needs to be heard and weigh in as some point, but I expect the city to have more involvement.” 

Responding to ZAB commissioner Jesse Arreguin’s request for information on the city’s code enforcement history for the temple’s activities, Greg Powell, the planner assigned to the project by the city, said the lack of formal complaints from neighbors had resulted in none. 

“But neighbors were informed of the limits on the use permit at the first mediation session, and they know it’s well beyond that at this point.” 

ZAB commissioner Michael Alvarez Cohen said he had enjoyed eating at the Thai temple on a recent visit, but found it overcrowded. 

“The issue is cut and dry,” he said. “This organization is breaking the law, and staff and police should go and stop it. Otherwise what is the law for? We shouldn’t adjucate any other permit unless they follow the low.” 

Commissioner Sara Shumer and Arreguin pressed for mediation, and Allen asked staff for reports from the city’s building, health and fire departments to investigate whether the current activities met proper city standards. 

“We haven’t caught these peoples’ attention for the last 13 years,” Allen said. “A club over their head is what it will take to get it.” 

 


AC Transit Directors Slow Drive Toward Van Hools

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday June 27, 2008 - 09:00:00 PM

The AC Transit Board of Directors temporarily put the brakes on the district’s recent push to transform a large portion of its fleet into buses made by Belgian bus manufacturer Van Hool, rejecting a request by District Manager Rick Fernandez to replace 30 retiring 60-foot buses made by New Flyer with 19 new buses made by Van Hool. 

Instead, on a 2-4-1 vote (Chris Peeples and Jeff Davis yes, Greg Harper, Elsa Ortiz, Rocky Fernandez, and Rebecca Kaplan no, Joe Wallace abstaining), the seven-member board voted to put the contract for the 19 new buses up for competitive bidding. 

It remains to be seen whether Wednesday’s vote was merely a symbolic response to political pressure and media and public attention—three board members are up for re-election in November—or whether AC Transit’s love affair with Van Hools is actually coming to an end. The decision does not mean a rejection of the Van Hool buses, but only that the Belgian bus manufacturer must now bid competitively on the 19-bus purchase in competition with other manufacturers for the first time since its original contract with AC Transit in 2002. 

Prior to the voting, AC Transit General Manager Rick Fernandez, who has led the district’s turnover of its bus purchasing to Van Hool, and has called AC Transit’s relationship with the bus manufacturer a “partnership,” warned board members that not approving the Van Hool purchase is “... probably the worst decision we have ever made...To have 19 buses out of our entire articulated fleet supplied by a different manufacturer, needing different parts, is insane. It makes absolutely no sense.” (The general manager should not be confused with Rocky Fernandez, the board member.) 

But also speaking to board members just before the vote, Oakland architect and public transit advocate Joyce Roy said that the Van Hool decision was “a sort of test to show riders that you are fiscally responsible and will listen to them. I hope you make a decision that makes it easy for me to convince people to go out in November and vote for the parcel tax.” 

In the last several weeks, AC Transit has been moving forward with a proposal to put on the November ballot renewal of a parcel tax that provides supplemental funds for the transit district, which anticipates cutting staff and service sometime in the future if additional funds cannot be found. 

Roy, who has announced that she will be running against AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples in the November election for one of the board’s two at-large seats, called the decision “a victory for riders” in an email announcing the board vote. Roy has led opposition to the Van Hool buses. 

There is considerable controversy over the popularity of the Van Hools. AC Transit staff representatives and some board members have said that the European-style buses are popular with both passengers and drivers, while some drivers—and a vocal group of AC Transit bus riders—have been loudly critical of the buses. The Van Hool buses and the relationship between AC Transit and the Belgian bus manufacturer have been the subject of a series of critical articles both in the Berkeley Daily Planet and in the East Bay Express. 

Wednesday night’s Van Hool decision was a carryover from the May 14 meeting, in which the board deadlocked 3-3 (Peeples, Wallace, and Davis yes, Harper, Ortiz, Fernandez no) on the proposed purchase. Kaplan, who is running for the At Large Oakland City Council seat, had been present for part of the May 14 meeting, but left for a campaign event before the Van Hool vote that night. 

In his recommendation to the board for the proposed Van Hool purchase, Fernandez wrote in his staff memo that “As a result of this recommended procurement, the District’s entire articulated fleet will be from one bus manufacturer,” Van Hool. 

The 60-foot articulated buses (known by their trademark accordion-type joint that joins the two separate halves of the buses together) are expected to be the backbone of AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, which the district wants to run in set-aside middle-of-the-road bus lanes down E. 14th Street, International Boulevard, and Telegraph Avenue between either Hayward or San Leandro and the southern edge of the UC Berkeley campus.  

General Manager Fernandez said Wednesday before the board vote that the $547,739 per bus proposed purchase price for the 19 Van Hools is “fair and reasonable,” and rejected assertions that comparable buses by other manufacturers could be purchased for a cheaper price. In addition, Fernandez said that if Van Hool eventually won the contract after competitive bidding, it is likely that inflation over the time of the extended bidding and contract award process would drive up Van Hool’s price. 

But while board members gave widely varying reasons for rejecting the Van Hool proposal Wednesday night, at least three members said that a lack of detailed information provided by staff factored into their decision. 

Kaplan said, “I don’t feel comfortable with our internal analysis of how many articulated [60-foot] buses we need. I see too many ‘artics’ on routes that clearly don’t need them. I’m not convinced that we need as many articulated buses.”  

Ortiz said that she wanted to open a bid for the bus purchase “because we need to make an informed decision,” and Harper said that because of criticism by the public and in the media of past Van Hool purchases, “we need to have something to hand out to people that tells in detail the true cost of this purchase.” Harper said such a “true cost” analysis was not currently present in detail in the staff analysis of the proposed Van Hool purchase. 

Other board members felt that the cost issue of the purchase had been “adequately addressed” (Jeff Davis), and some used the vote as an opportunity to take shots at the media and citizen opponents of the Van Hools. 

Wallace said the he was “tired of the crap in the press and the private vendetta of some bus riders about the Van Hools. It’s insulting to me, and it should be insulting to our bus riders.” 

Board President Peeples added, “Like Joe, I am offended by all the misinformation in the public and the press.”  

He said that the district “should not reward that misinformation by not making this purchase ... I am convinced to the extent that there have been legitimate concerns about the way the Van Hools have been manufactured—and there were—we’ve done everything possible to meet those concerns.” 


Three Days After Expressing Support For Edgerly, Dellums Suspends Her As City Administrator

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday June 27, 2008 - 08:59:00 PM

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has placed City Administrator Deborah Edgerly on administrative leave effective immediately, removing her from all duties until her previously announced retirement July 31. 

The mayor named former mayoral Budget Director Dan Lindheim as acting city administrator. Since the retirement of Oakland's Community & Economic Development Agency Director Claudia Capio earlier this year, Lindheim has been serving as interim CEDA Director. 

In a letter sent by Dellums to Edgerly today and released by the mayor’s office to the press, the mayor told the embattled city administrator, “Yesterday, we collectively agreed that going on administrative leave is in your best interest and the best interest of the city. While I understand you wanted to get back to me by Monday, these matters are too significant to the well-being of Oakland going forward, as a result I feel compelled to bring closure to this matter.” 

No specific reason has been given for the city administrator’s removal, or the mayor’s abrupt turnaround from the position on Edgerly’s employment he took only three days ago. Edgerly has been under fire stemming from a June 7 West Oakland incident in which she briefly intervened while Oakland police officers were in the process of towing a car that had been driven by her nephew, 27-year-old William Lovan. Ten days following that towing, Lovan was arrested with 53 other suspects in an Oakland police sweep of the West Oakland Acorn gang. 

Last Tuesday, Dellums had announced what he called the long-planned retirement Edgerly, whom he called his “good friend.” Although the mayor refused to answer reporters’ questions following that press conference, a spokesperson for the mayor said later that the mayor had found nothing in an investigation surrounding the June 7 events and the Acorn gang arrests to justify removing Edgerly from her position. 

But the announcement did not stop the controversy. The two days following Tuesday’s mayoral press conference have been filled with undocumented and unconfirmed media accusations that Edgerly “may have” tipped off her nephew in advance of the June 17 Acorn arrests, as well as angry charges from several city councilmembers that the mayor had not briefed them on the Edgerly situation. 

In an email sent out shortly after the mayor’s announcement today, District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner said that she supported the mayor’s decision. 

“When I heard that there was an investigation regarding Ms. Edgerly, I called the mayor and suggested that he put her on administrative leave while the facts are sorted out,” Brunner said, adding, “Even though I care for Ms. Edgerly, I believe that she needs to be placed on administrative leave until all of the facts come out and there is a determination of her responsibility in this very unfortunate matter.” 

Brunner said in her email that the council expects to be briefed by the mayor’s office on the Edgerly matter at a special city council meeting on Monday, June 30. 

 


New Candidates Take Out Preliminary Papers

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 02:49:00 PM

Looking only at candidates for office who have taken out preliminary papers, it appears as if the rent board is the most contested race—actually, it is the only contested race—to date. 

There are five open slots on the Rent Stabilization Board and six people have taken out signature-in-lieu papers. While the official start date for local candidates to file papers for the Nov. 4 election is not until July 14, candidates can collect signatures from May 30 through July 24 instead of paying the $150 filing fee. Each valid signature is worth $1. 

The newest candidate to take out signature-in-lieu papers for rent board is Judy Shelton, former volunteer coordinator of the Berkeley No on Proposition 98 campaign. Others running for the board are incumbents Jesse Arreguin, Eleanor Walden and Jack Harrison, former rent board member Robert Evans and Nicole Drake, Councilmember Linda Maio’s aide.  

Zachary Runningwolf, who ran for mayor in 2006 and is a constant critic of Mayor Tom Bates, took out papers Monday to run for mayor. He is the only announced mayoral candidate to date. 

Two candidates are running for the two open school board seats: incumbent School Board President John Selawsky and Beatriz Levya-Cutler, BAHIA executive director. 

Incumbent councilmembers appear to be running unopposed: Darryl Moore, District 2, Max Anderson, District 3 and Laurie Capitelli, District 5. Susan Wengraf, aide to Councilmember Betty Olds, is running for the District 6 seat. Olds is not running for reelection. 

For updates as candidates file for the elections, go to http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=14112. 


Van Hool Critic Announces Plans To Run For Seat Occupied By AC Transit’s Biggest Van Hool Supporter

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 02:24:00 PM

Oakland architect and public transit advocate Joyce Roy announced plans Wednesday to run against AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples for Peeples’ at-large board seat in the November election, setting up a probable electoral clash over the transit district’s controversial Van Hool bus policy. 

Over the past two years, the Alameda and Contra Costa county bus agency has been replacing much of its bus fleet--built by a variety of manufacturers--with buses made by the Belgian-based Van Hool. Roy has been the most persistent critic of that policy, and her arguments and statements against Van Hools have sparked a number of critical articles in local newspapers, including the Daily Planet and the East Bay Express. Peeples has been the board’s most vocal advocate of the Van Hool purchases.  

In 2004, Peeples easily won reelection to his at-large seat, 69.3 percent to 20.6 percent, over local student Rebecca Rae Oliver. A third candidate, paralegal James Karim Muhammad, came in a distant third with 9.8 percent of the vote. 

In an e-mail release sent out to reporters and supporters this week, Roy said that she is promoting a “reform slate” for the November elections, on which three AC Transit Board members—Peeples, Ward Two Director Greg Harper (Emeryville, Piedmont and portions of Berkeley and Oakland), and Ward One Director Joe Wallace (El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Kensington, and portions of Berkeley)—will be up for re-election. Roy said that Harper will be part of that reform slate, as well as a yet-to-be-named challenger of Wallace. 

Harper, Roy wrote, “has most consistently questioned the ‘special partnership’ (between AC Transit and Van Hool) but was often the lone voice and with a seven-member board it takes four to tango. He talks to drivers when he is on a bus and has said he has never found one who liked the Van Hools. He asked for staff to compile the data on passenger falls on Van Hool buses compared to other buses that showed how dangerous they were. He also asked for the drivers to be surveyed and the results were so devastating that it hasn’t been released yet.” 

Roy added, “Joe Wallace always seems to vote with the general manager as though he was his employer and ignores his real employer, his constituents. He needs to be replaced.” 

Roy concluded, “With three reformers on the board, its culture will change.” 

Ironically, Harper first won election to the AC Transit board in 2000 over Roy, whom he beat 53.3 percent to 46.6 percent. 

There is a possibility that a fourth AC Transit Board seat could open up after the November elections, when at-large board member Rebecca Kaplan faces Oakland Unified School District Board member in a runoff for the Oakland City Council at-large seat being vacated by Henry Chang. Based upon longstanding board policy and the state election code, if Kaplan is elected to the City Council in November, her replacement for the remaining two years in her four year term would be chosen by the AC Transit board rather than by voters in a special election. Both Kaplan and Peeples originally won their seats on the AC Transit Board through the board selection process for a seat vacated in mid-term.


Monday July 07, 2008 - 10:57:00 AM


Confrontation at Stadium Triggers New Arrests

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:20:00 AM
Tree-sit supporter Matthew Taylor struggles with campus police after he was wrestled to the ground and arrested during Sunday’s protest outside Memorial Stadium.
By Richard Brenneman
Tree-sit supporter Matthew Taylor struggles with campus police after he was wrestled to the ground and arrested during Sunday’s protest outside Memorial Stadium.
UC Berkeley Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya struggles to close the breach between two barriers opened by tree-sit supporters who wanted to resupply the nine remaining protesters at the Memorial Stadium grove slated for destruction to make way for a new gym complex.
By Richard Brenneman
UC Berkeley Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya struggles to close the breach between two barriers opened by tree-sit supporters who wanted to resupply the nine remaining protesters at the Memorial Stadium grove slated for destruction to make way for a new gym complex.

Tensions escalated outside UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium Sunday, following a confrontation between Berkeley City Council-member Dona Spring and campus Assistant Police Chief Mitch Celaya. 

Spring, who uses a wheelchair because she has severe rheumatoid arthritis, demanded access to the city-owned sidewalk on the west side of Piedmont Avenue, where university police have blocked off the sidewalk. 

To police, the sidewalk is now an ongoing crime scene, so declared after supporters of the 18-month-old tree-sit in the adjacent grove used to it re-supply the protesters in the branches above. 

“I want access to the sidewalk,” said the councilmember. “You don’t have the right to keep me off the sidewalk.” 

“It’s a matter of public safety,” said Celaya. 

“You’re endangering my safety,” Spring replied. 

Moments later, Celaya backed away and the crowd of protesters surged forward. 

What happened next wasn’t visible to a reporter, but someone breached two sections of the police barrier, triggering a tug of war between protesters—who hoped to force their way in with food, water and other supplies for the tree-sitters—and Celaya and his officers. 

It was Celaya himself who led the counter-charge, struggling to bring the two now widely separated barriers together with the help of other officers while protesters struggled to pull them apart. 

In the midst of the fray, police arrested Matthew Taylor inside the barricade, where he joined the ranks of prominent supporters arrested in recent days for their attempts to send food to the nine remaining tree-sitters. 

He was followed to the pokey a little more than an hour later by Terry Compost, another activist prominent in her support of the arboreal activists. 

Police earlier had arrested Ayr, perhaps the most visible of the supporters, and at least five other supporters have been arrested in recent days. 

Following the confrontation at the barriers, protesters managed to block the northbound lane of Piedmont Avenue, forcing hapless motorists caught in mid-protest to back out of the scene. 

Meanwhile, lawyers for both sides in the ongoing struggle over the university’s building plans for the Memorial Stadium area were rushing to prepare rival documents for Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller, who will issue her conclusive order after reviewing both submissions. 

Lawyers challenging the adoption of building and financing plans by the UC Board of Regents were up first, submitting their documents Tuesday, with the university’s response due by Friday. 

Just how badly the tree-sitters needed food remains in dispute, as does the condition of their health. 

Dr. Larry Bedard, a former president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and forensic psychologist Dr. Edward Hyman spoke to tree-sitters by walkie-talkie, with Bedard running through a list of symptoms Sunday afternoon. 

Afterward, both said they were concerned for the health and safety of the tree-sitters. 

“Personally, I think what is going on is cruel and inhumane treatment,” said Bedard, who serves on the staffs of St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco and San Mateo General Hospital and is a partner in his own medical group. 

But a few minutes later, university spokesperson Dan Mogulof said that tree-sitters had told police that they were well-supplied with food and water and in good health. 

While Mogulof said there was no immediate plan to send supplies to the tree-sitters, he denied one media account—a headline—which charged the university with trying to starve the protesters out. The newspaper subsequently withdrew the headline. 

By Sunday, there were nine protesters left, by now confined by the action of the university’s contract arborists to a single tree which is crowned by a hefty beam topped by the small wooden box where tree-sitter Dumpster Muffin has repeatedly confronted the civilian workers who have slashed the lines that once enabled the arboreal activists to flit from tree-to-tree. 

Both Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli have urged the university to provide food and water to the tree-sitters, but neither has offered support of their protest. Capitelli’s council colleague Dona Spring has been a strong supporter of the tree-sit, and has led a thus-far-unsuccessful effort to enlist the backing of the council and City Manager Phil Kamlarz. 

Spring said she was also concerned that the university had extended their barriers to the city-owned median strip on Piedmont Avenue. 

“The university has been acting illegally,” she said, “and I applaud these people (the tree-sitters and their allies) for their continued civil disobedience. We want to stop this corporate giant from crushing our community and poisoning the air we breathe” 

Meanwhile, Mogulof was stressing his own talking point while discussing the grove, which he repeatedly labeled “a 1923 landscaping project” during Sunday’s short press briefing. 

Tree-sit supporters have portrayed the grove as both a memorial to fallen soldiers from World War I and a Native American burial ground.  

While he spoke to print reporters seated at the foot of an isolated oak between Maxwell Family Field and the Kleeberger Parking Lot, Mogulof insisted on moving to a new spot before the TV cameras rolled. 

“I don’t want to leave the impression I’m speaking from the grove,” he said. 

Tree-sit supporters, conversely, held their own press briefing at the trunk of a tree, albeit across Piedmont Avenue on the lawn of the Haas School of Business. 

Mogulof said that nothing in last week’s court decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller would block the university’s decision to build at the site of the grove. 

The university plans to build a four-story high tech gym and office complex along the stadium’s western wall, and the lawsuit—filed by Spring, the city, a neighborhood group and environmentalists—challenged the university’s approval process for the project. 

Mogulof said the university would file papers with the court that answered issues raised by the judge in last Wednesday’s decision, and that it was hoped that construction would begin soon afterwards. 

 

Supporters 

Also on hand to speak at the press conference held during Sunday’s rally were former Mayor Shirley Dean, Free Speech Movement veteran Neal Blumenfeld, two Native American activists, two medical experts and Oakland attorney Carol Strickman, who is representing the tree-sitters. 

Asked to describe the difference between the Free Speech Movement (FSM) activism of the early 1960s and the new millennium’s protest at the grove, Blumenfeld said “the major difference is in the movement,” which had a broad base of support in four decades ago. 

“The university’s behavior,” he said, “is exactly the same.”  

In addition to their larger numbers, said Blumenfeld, a psychiatrist, FSM members carried out extensive research on university funding and the revenues of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which he called “the huge industrial park on the hill.” 

Dean said she had come to address three points. First, the fact that Judge’s Miller’s restraining order barring university construction activites at the grove remains in place; second, the charge that the university’s behavior was “absolutely unacceptable” when they denied supporters the opportunity to furnish the tree-sitters with new supplies and, finally, to urge both sides to reach a compromise in which both sides gave up something to reach a livable accommodation. 

Among those watching the day’s events was Barbara Gilbert, who said that it wasn’t the fate of three trees that worried her as much as “the university’s takeover of our Southside” and the “$25 million to $30 million a year demands it makes on city services.”


Cody’s Closes For Good, Black Oak Now Under New Ownership

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:21:00 AM

After 52 years at various Berkeley locations—and one in San Francisco—Cody’s Books has closed the store it opened just three months ago on Shattuck Avenue. Barring a miracle, Cody’s will not reopen, according to Hiroshi Kagawa, the store’s third and last owner. 

Black Oak Books, in Berkeley for about 24 years, has fared better. The store shut down for one day this week—Monday—and has reopened under new ownership. Meanwhile, the century-old magazine seller DeLauers of Oakland is reportedly going out of business. 

Kagawa, who has been traveling between his home in Japan and the Bay Area store, expressed sadness at the closing in a letter of apology to Pat Cody, who founded the bookstore with her husband Fred in an 18-by-29-foot shop on Euclid Avenue in 1956. The duo had borrowed the $5,000 they needed for the effort, later moving the business to the famed Telegraph Avenue location. 

“Cody’s means so much to me, as I know it meant so much to you and Fred,” Kagawa wrote in a two-page letter to Cody. “Therefore it is a heartbreaking moment to give this news. Please forgive me as I know this announcement causes a big disappointment to you.”  

Despite spending millions of dollars on the effort, “I am unable to keep this landmark independent bookstore … open,” he wrote. 

As CEO of Yohan, Inc, a Tokyo-based foreign publications dealer, publisher and retailer Kagawa purchased Cody’s in September 2006 from Andy Ross, who had owned Cody’s since 1977 and was responsible for its expansion to Stockton Street in San Francisco and Fourth Street in Berkeley. Ross closed the Telegraph Avenue store in July 2006, several months before selling the business to Yohan.  

In his letter, Kagawa explained what happened to Yohan. “My Japanese operation was taken over by an investment bank, whose strategy was incompatible with mine. These bankers drove me from my company and attempted to terminate Cody’s because, from their point of view, it was not profitable,” he wrote, going on to say that in order to protect Cody’s from the bankers, he took it out of their control and formed a new corporation.  

“But my new operation is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody’s,” he said. 

Sales at the new store on Shattuck were growing day by day but not enough to overcome the deficit, he wrote. 

Nonetheless, Kagawa said he’s not ready to give up. “I still have a strong desire to see a miracle. I still hope we can fight back even after we close the doors. I still feel that we all need Cody’s as the symbol of the fighting spirit in the publishing society of the U.S. And I still love and cherish this bookstore, just as I did 25 years ago,” he wrote. 

Pat Cody told the Planet she was touched by the letter but wasn’t surprised at the store closing.  

“You have to fit this into the bigger picture of what’s been happening all over the country, with the use of the Internet to sell and download books,” she said. “It’s a big change.” 

When people order books on line, there’s no choice, nowhere to browse and pick up new ideas. “It’s a cold transaction,” she said. 

But it was always a struggle to make ends meet at the bookstore, Cody said. In the ’70s, she recalls, they had to take her off the payroll. 

But it was an exciting time to be in the book business. Among her fondest memories is the interaction with customers, which helped the Codys decide what books to stock. People would come in and say, “You should get this book,” and it would sell 15 copies in a week, she said. 

Friday morning passersby at 2201 Shattuck found a locked store and a sign taped on the glass doors reading: “Cody’s Books is Closed—Thank You.” Above the windows a recently hung temporary banner proclaimed: “Now Open—Cody’s Books.”  

Melissa Mytinger, Cody’s last manager, told the Planet that employees learned of the store’s closing during an all-staff meeting Friday morning. She had no forewarning of the move, she said.  

“We were all shocked,” she said. “It was a great team.”  

 

Black Oak  

Black Oak, on the other hand, has apparently dodged the bullet. 

For more than a year, the partnership that owned Black Oak Books made no secret of the fact that the business, known for its many rare and first edition books, was for sale. And now, according to property owner David Ruegg, it has been sold. 

The new owner is Gary Cornell, who hails from Connecticut. He has not returned Planet calls. 

Ruegg said the new owner is taking over the old lease on the same terms as previous owners. 

The north Shattuck shopping strip where Black Oak is located does not appear to be thriving, apart from Saul’s deli and Long’s Drugs. The former Lobelia clothing store adjacent to Black Oak is empty and Papyrus next to Lobelia is closing Friday.


Stadium Ruling Invites Various Interpretations

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:22:00 AM

No sooner had Judge Barbara J. Miller ruled on the California Memorial Stadium projects lawsuit last week than all sides were spinning her June 18 decision faster than a pool hustler’s cue ball. 

Victory, declared campus officials. We’re ecstatic, said opposing counsel Stephan Volker. The plaintiffs prevailed, announced supporters of the ongoing tree-sit.  

Meanwhile, UC Berkeley police escalated their ongoing war with the tree sitters Thursday evening, renouncing their previous official policy of not grabbing them from the branches. 

The change came less than two hours after campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof had told a press conference police wouldn’t be going after protesters in the trees because the university didn’t want to endanger them. 

“If we can remove them safely, we will,” he said after the first of two tree sitters was snatched from the branches Thursday evening. “The change happened because there is a sense here that the fight is going out of some of them.”  

The first aerial snatch happened Tuesday, soon after another Mogulof press conference where he had reiterated the no-snatch policy.  

But that capture was made by the university’s contract arborists, employees of a Watsonville company that has covered all their logos and the license plates of their trucks—a violation of the state Vehicle Code if the trucks are driven on public streets. 

Mogulof refused to name the company during Thursday afternoon’s press conference, but a local arborist was quickly able to identify the company and even obtained the phone number of one of its employees and spoke to him as he was working in the grove west of Memorial Stadium. 

The university official said the name was being kept confidential because firms engaged in similar operations had been the targets of threats and vandalism. 

But protesters quickly discovered the name for themselves—Williams Tree Service—and were urging supporters to flood papers with letters blasting the purported conduct of its workers. 

Mogulof and the protesters differ sharply on the conduct of the arborists. While activists L. A. Wood and Matthew Taylor said the tree-sitters had been threatened—and in the case of the first snatch, possibly endangered—by the arborists, Mogulof said their restraint had been “truly admirable.” 

A reporter had observed a tree-sitter apparently endangered when one of the cranes repeatedly struck the line she was suspended from, but Mogulof said the arborists themselves had been assaulted with urine and human feces. 

Carol Strickman, an Oakland attorney who represents the treesitters, charged that the arborists had hurled sexist taunts at Dumpster Muffin, the treesitter who has occupied the highest perch of all, in a short coffin-like box atop a massive evergreen. 

 

Whose victory? 

While all sides have called Alameda County Superior Court Judge Miller’s decision a victory for their respective camps, the reality, of course, is something murkier and more complex. 

There’s no doubt that UC Berkeley will have to amend its design for the high-tech gym and office building it wants to build next to the landmarked stadium, and nothing in the ruling blocks either its eventual construction or the axing of the oak trees that protesters are struggling to save. 

But, as Berkeley Planning and Development Director Dan Marks told city planning commissioners last week, her ruling warns of major obstacles to the university’s plan for refurbishing the Cal Bears’ home playing field. 

From the university’s perspective, the most troubling element of the 129-page decision by the Alameda County Superior Court jurist may lie in her strong suggestion that the university might be forced to use a far lower value for Memorial Stadium than it would need to make the contemplated renovations and additions to the fault-striding structure. 

Judge Miller also declared that the UC Board of Regents erred in declaring that some of the impacts—earthquake risks as well as noise and traffic impacts of an increased slate of capacity events at the stadium—were unavoidable. 

Finally, she dismissed the university’s contention that it wasn’t bound by the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs construction on or near active earthquake faults: “[T]he Court’s careful reading of Alquist-Priolo leads it to conclude the statute does apply to state agencies.” 

She found that the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC)—the official title of the semi-subterranean gym—doesn’t lie within the earthquake law’s danger zone, which includes everything with 50 feet of an active fault. 

But Alquist-Priolo’s restrictions on new construction also apply to additions and alterations to existing structures that fall within the zone where new construction would be banned. 

While Judge Miller ruled that “substantial evidence supports” the university’s claim that the gym isn’t an addition to the stadium nor is it an alteration to the stadium as such, “several parts of the SAHPC project do constitute alterations to” the stadium. 

The specific features she pointed to were: 

• Changes to stadium stairways to accommodate the gym. 

• So-called “ground slab floor penetrations” that allow the gym’s telecommunications system connection with the stadium. 

• A “grade beam” along the stadium’s western wall” which the university’s attorneys said is needed to prevent possible collapse during excavation for the SAHPC. Charles Olson, the university’s lead counsel, told Miller that the beam’s cost is trivial compared to the stadium’s value. 

The day after the decision was released, Olson told reporters that the proposed changes leading to the first two objections have been eliminated. While the grade beam could also be eliminated, he said, installation is “something the structural engineers think is prudent.” 

In invoking the term “value,” Olson had attempted to confront a key argument of the university’s challengers that focused on Alquist-Priolo’s cost limitations on alterations and additions to existing structures within the 50-foot zone. 

The university argued that the stadium’s value should be set at the price of what it would cost to build a comparable new building today, while the challengers argued that the cost should be set at current market value—arguably somewhat tarnished by the building’s age, its rundown condition and the fact that the Hayward Fault slices through its walls, in the words of Harriet Steiner, the Sacramento attorney hired to represent the City of Berkeley, “from goal post to goal post.” 

While not reaching a final conclusion, Judge Miller was clear that she was skeptical of the university’s claim, looking instead to section 820 of the California Evidence Code, which sets value at “the cost of replacing existing improvements minus whatever depreciation or obsolescence the improvements have suffered.” 

Applying that section would severely hamper the university’s massive renovation plans, which include gutting and refitting the stadium’s interior, installing new seating, raising the eastern side of stadium seating, installing permanent night lighting and building an elevated two-level press box and luxury private boxes above the western wall. 

Judge Miller said that using replacement value as a cost basis “may be contrary to the spirit of Alquist-Priolo,” but without a clear indication of what valuation basis the university intends to use, “the court declines to prescribe any particular method at this time.” 

Olson on Thursday dismissed the judge’s contention, and said replacement value—rather than current market value—is the standard used in the state Building Code, the code the judge had cited in other parts of her decision not relating to value. 

Olson said the university accepts a figure of $590 million as the building’s worth, though Mogulof said the structure’s status as a recognized and treasured landmark should raise the value even higher. 

But the city of Berkeley’s planning director said the thrust of Miller’s argument could spell bad news for the university’s plans to renovate the stadium should her standard be the determinant, given its current dilapidated, seismically unsafe condition. 

The judge also ruled that the university properly followed most of the procedures spelled out in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which mandates that major construction projects be analyzed for their impacts on the physical, natural and human environments. 

When the plaintiffs’ lawyers charged that CEQA had been violated in multiple instances, Judge Miller rejected their claims except in the case of the seven new major public events the university said it plans to add to its schedule at the stadium. 

Because the university’s environmental impact report does not offer an explanation for why the additional events were needed, “It cannot point to any evidence that would support a finding that the earthquake related risks, additional noise and traffic impacts associated with the additional events are unavoidable,” she wrote. 

But Olson said Thursday no additional events are planned until the stadium itself undergoes a retrofit, and only then will the university decide if it needs to amend the EIR to add the additional events. 

 

Law and order 

It was UC Berkeley Police Chief Victoria L. Harrison who announced the more aggressive enforcement policies Thursday night, and the chief even took to the air in one of the cherry-pickers the Watsonville firm is maintaining at the site. 

Reporters attending the press conference got a taste of what was to come when Matthew Taylor, a student and writer who had attended the meeting, was confronted by a police sergeant as he left. 

The officer thrust a stay-away order at him, and another officer with a video camera recorded the event as he refused to accept the paper. Other protesters were also served. 

Ayr, one of the leading spokespeople for the protesters, was arrested Friday. 

Meanwhile, the lawyers for the plaintiffs who sued the university are busy preparing an order they will submit to Judge Miller by Tuesday. 

That document will spell out the terms of her decision in an enforceable form, and could include a continuance of her current order barring any effort to demolish the grove or begin construction until the case is finally resolved. It does not bar the university from evicting trespassers, however. 

Olson said that an appeal could take from 12 to 18 months, and construction would begin almost immediately afterward, subject to the conditions of the ruling. 

One law-and-order question remains open. To what extent has the strong police presence at the grove contributed to the rise of violent crime on campus? 

Simple assaults—attacks on another without deadly weapons—skyrocketed in 2007, the first full year of the tree-sit, jumping from 95 in 2006 to 170. 

While Mogulof insisted last Thursday that the constant police presence at the protests wasn’t responsible, Berkeley City Councilmember Dona Spring said Sunday that the connection was clear and direct. 

Crime, said Mogulof, resulted from a complex set of socio-economic factors, and the police presence at the grove included administrative personnel and hadn’t detracted from regular patrol activities around the campus area. 

Not so, said Spring. “They’re not going after the real criminals,” she said. “They’re focusing on trying to stop the tree sitters and the property of the university, which they think is more important that the safety of their students.”


Tree-Sitting, Since 1930

By Hank Chapot Special to the Planet
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:35:00 AM
A clipping from the July 21, 1930, San Francisco Chronicle
A clipping from the July 21, 1930, San Francisco Chronicle

The Memorial Stadium oak grove standoff at UC is a dangerous and dramatic business, but tree sitting has a more prosaic origin. In the summer of 1930, when “endurance marathons” were the rage, schoolboys and girls across the country became tree sitters for glory and prizes and a chance to get their picture in the paper. 

In the first summer of the Great Depression, bicycle marathons, pole sitting, even mustache contests were popular diversions. Very young kids across the nation took up the challenge, climbed up high and built some great tree-houses. Newspapers and radio stations increased readership and announced prizes; bicycles, a wristwatch, savings bonds, a job. Local merchants supplied shoes and radios and tacked advertisements to the tree trunks and fences. Money boxes nailed to the trees jingled with coins dropped by the growing crowds. Feature stories followed: twins sitting, a mother of three, a boy scout and even a housewife with a bathing tub were going for the record in neighborhood trees. The story exploded; children across America took to the trees. 

From Jersey to Georgia, Bremerton to Santa Barbara, the “tree sitting epidemic” spread. Sitters went on radio, took baths and had haircuts and doctor’s visits aloft. Radio stations updated hourly and interviewed 4-year-olds on the resupply teams. To the consternation of parents and property owners, the crowds increased by the week. 

Twelve-year-old E. B. Landre of 5866 Shafter Ave., Oakland (gone beneath Highway 24) joined the challenge, completing 360 hours as Oakland’s “Human Apple” in his mother’s apple tree, inspiring a dozen imitators across the East Bay. Neighbors thronged to the Shafter Avenue house, and his mother was happy to know where her son was for once. Before alighting to join child star Billy Page on the NBC radio network, “Eebee” (his nickname in the papers) was assured of his standing, for the moment, as Bay Area champion. He then got ready for a new school year. 

Some writers recommended cutting all trees. Will Rogers suggested they climb the giant trees in Yosemite.  

One kid relocated to a new tree and was carried on a severed branch. Another was attacked with slingshots and gave up, one lit his tent on fire, others were chased from the trees by lightning, summer heat and rain. One was visited by a skunk, and some got homesick, like Lisa Simpson. 

A Florida newsmen’s association passed a resolution against wasting more ink on tree sitters unless and until they fall and break their necks, with a view toward protecting children from reverting to their “ape-like tendencies.” The Bremerton tree sit lasted 518 hours, a Santa Rosa youth went 1,305 and one in southern California went 1,320 hours.  

A year later, consensus seems to support Leslie “Rhubarb” Davis’ record of 107 days in Gibson City, Ill. When asked why he did it, Rhubarb replied, “I didn’t have to work the whole time I was up there.”  

As the publicity spread, law-and-order citizens, juvenile courts, child welfare societies and police combined forces to end the nonsense. Cities declared public parks off-limits. A few sheriffs climbed ladders and grabbed kids by the belt or around the neck. 

In late August, coverage ended abruptly when four hours shy of his goal of 500, 16-year-old Nelson McIntosh of Lexington, Ken., fell to his death while pulling up his lunch. Competitors quickly descended and requested Nelson be declared state champion. The fun quickly bled from the game. Before long, “tree sitting” and the mara-thon craze become fodder for propagandists as proof America had gone soft. 

There is more. In Woodstock, Virginia, in 1935, Mrs. Lorraine F. Brown, denying she had a pistol or a pitchfork in hand, perched among the branches of her maple tree and secured a court injunction to save the tree in front of her house from street widening. In 1937, a London play called Climbing satirized a youth who climbed a tree as the first step in flying. In 1939, Mr. Bink sat in a tree in the movie On Borrowed Time. A one-act play called Sittin’, about a Guinness World’s Record, played at the Ensemble Studio Theater in 1980. (By the way, the Guinness website does not cover tree sitting). My favorite tree sitter is the uncle in Fellini’s 1973 film Amarcord. 

Berkeley’s own Malvina Reynolds wrote a song after housewife Lois Knill in 1965 tried to stop the destruction of a row of pines on adjacent property in her wealthy Harbor Point subdivision on Tiburon. Mrs. Knill did not exactly sit in a tree, she took up residence on top of a stump, threatened the developer, whom she called a pig, talking about a .44. Originally titled, “The Lady and the Tree,” Reynolds’ song tells the story of a woman who “cried and cursed for the murder of a tree.” 

Tree sitting has a single purpose now, and tree defense rages across the planet; there have been deaths, and every loss is permanent. But, take heart: young people not much older than Eebee are still climbing trees. As witnesses to the drama at Memorial Stadium, take a moment to ponder the young folk of 1930, children my father’s age, who jumped at the chance to spend some warm summer nights in a tree. 

 


News Analysis: Stadium Decision: An Initial Assessment

By Antonio Rossmann
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:34:00 AM

Judge Barbara Miller has given cause for celebration by both the university proponents of the stadium-with-athletic-center project and the litigants and other community members opposed to the present proposal. Each side could rightfully claim on release of the opinion that they were victorious. But neither side can rightfully deny the other side’s success. 

In the immediate term the opponents won three points: that the university is bound by the terms of the Alquist-Priolo legislation prohibiting certain new construction in earthquake fault zones, that the university must calculate to what degree the athletic-center portion of the project constitutes an “alteration” of the stadium, and that the university must explain why it “needs” to double the number of events at the stadium. 

Strategically, the opponents also scored by being deemed the prevailing party in the court’s direction that the university must take further action to comply with law. As prevailing party, the plaintiffs will be relieved of an obligation to pay for production of the 40,000-page record and will now be eligible for a colorable claim to a substantial attorneys’ fee award, enabling them to press their case in subsequent proceedings. And unless the court decides to allow part of the project to proceed in the wake of a judgment against the university, the opponents have succeeded in maintaining the physical status quo. 

In the long term, however, the university would likely prevail in its ambitions, under Judge Miller’s decision. That is because the court exhibited throughout its opinion remarkable deference to the university’s factual assertions and prerogatives to define its own means of complying with Alquist-Priolo and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Except for the need to explain why it must expand off-season stadium use, the university emerged with a complete victory in favor of its EIR. Consistently with its performance to date, the university will likely have little difficulty revising its calculations and conclusions to its advantage, with the court likely showing those determinations the same deference given to the overwhelming remainder of the environmental conclusions in the case. 

The question then becomes: Is there merit in an appeal to change this decision? If the opponents can mount a meritorious appeal, they find themselves in an extremely advantageous position: under Judge Miller’s ruling the proponents cannot proceed until she discharges the writ of mandate to come, but by appealing the judgment partially in their favor the opponents will take jurisdiction of the case to the court of appeal and beyond Judge Miller’s ability to discharge the writ while that appeal is pending. Assuming that an appeal is filed, and neither Judge Miller nor the court of appeal takes the extraordinary action of allowing the project to begin, we can anticipate a further stay of one to two years’ duration. 

Before assessing the potential merit in an appeal, a brief tutorial in administrative law will be helpful. In reviewing the university’s actions under the essentially procedural CEQA, courts are supposed to apply two tests: Did the regents proceed as required by law, and, if so, is their decision supported by substantial evidence? Successful project opponents litigate their cases on the premise that the agency’s environmental work-up committed errors of law; successful proponents defend on the premise that the court need only find substantial evidence supporting the agency’s final conclusion. Judge Miller’s decision largely adheres to the “substantial evidence” approach; while the court recites the correct dual-ground legal standard (p. 36), the judge slides over the “proceed in the manner required by law” criterion and then proceeds to adjudicate only the presence or absence of substantial evidence. 

If “substantial evidence” were the only test, the university would be assured of a victory on appeal as broad as its success before Judge Miller. The analysis of appellate success (under both the Alquist-Priolo and CEQA claims) must then address to what extent the university, and consequently the superior court, failed to proceed as required by law. 

While the superior court adopted the substantial evidence test to measure the Alquist-Priolo claims (p. 19), its ultimate treatment of those claims becomes more complicated. Under the classical model of administrative law, when a reviewing court determines the record is incomplete, is ambiguous, or fails to resolve a relevant issue, the judge is to set aside the flawed decision and remand the matter to the agency to correct. That model assures that the court does not substitute for the agency’s first responsibility to arrive at its own decision correctly, nor substitute its substantive view for the agency’s. 

Judge Miller did not follow this model in her adjudication to date, and it remains open to see if she will not follow it before she enters final judgment against the university on the two points of its shortcoming. Unsure about the university’s evaluation of the Alquist-Priolo parameters of “addition” to or “alteration” of the stadium, and the value of the university’s late-prepared “Geomatrix” fault-line assessment, which was not part of the EIR, after reviewing the university’s record leading up to its decision the court took written “expert testimony” and held further argument on that testimony (pp. 8-9). Some press accounts speculate that the judge will repeat this process next week with respect to the university’s failure to determine the value of the athletic center’s “alteration” of the stadium, compared to the value of the stadium in existing condition, and failure to date to explain why it must expand the number of stadium events. 

One potential ground of appeal, then, will be the court’s decision to conduct further hearings to solicit post-decisional “cures” from the university, rather than to adjudicate only from the record built before project approval. Lest that error, if asserted, be considered technical, sound legal and political factors emphasize its significance: not just the duty of the university to get it right but also the right of the public to participate in the university’s subsequent proceedings attempting to get it right. In the case of the Alquist-Priolo seismicity factors, reopening that matter (and the Geomatrix report) to the public in a supplemental EIR process will give all interested parties, including public agencies such as the U.S. Geologic Survey, an opportunity and duty to critique it, which they did not hold under the court’s procedure to date. 

Related to that point is the superior court’s ruling that after the final EIR’s completion, significant new information did not come forward to merit a renewed period of public EIR comment before the regents approved the project (p. 54-57). Judge Miller reasoned that because substantial evidence supported the university’s assertion that the new information (principally the Geometrix report) was not “significant,” she had to defer to the university. But that reasoning is inconsistent with the court’s own treatment of the same information: it was “significant” enough for her to find the need for further briefing, hearing, and argument on it. An appellate court might well conclude that, to restore internal consistency to the entire administrative and judicial proceeding, as a matter of law the superior court had to require recirculation to the public of evidence and assertions the court itself found worthy of its own consideration based on new post-approval testimony. 

On the substance of the Alquist-Priolo prohibition of substantial “additions” or “alterations” to the stadium structure, the superior court engaged in a thorough analysis of the meanings of those two words, recognizing that prior case law had not defined them (pp. 25-29.) Judge Miller’s reasoning here can be praised for its precise adherence to standard building-code practice. But to apply another metaphor in this stadium-athletic-center dispute, did the court miss the forest for the trees? A substantial case can be presented on appeal that because the university insists that for CEQA purposes the stadium and center form an integrated project (pp. 68-70), they should be treated the same for Alquist-Priolo—indeed before it became aware of the Alquist-Priolo implications, the university in its draft EIR defined the athletic center as an addition to the stadium. The court of appeal might apply the same common-sense reality to the regents’ Alquist-Priolo compliance, further confining the university’s discretion to do more than restore the stadium. (Should the plaintiffs appeal, the regents would be expected to cross-appeal on Judge Miller’s well-reasoned conclusion that Alquist-Priolo applies to the university.) 

The university’s shifting definition of the project forms another subject worthy of appellate attention. Judge Miller refuted the plaintiffs’ assertion of this claim, ruling that here the inconsistent project definition (is it the stadium with athletic center, is it just the athletic center, is it just the athletic center with only part of the stadium retrofit, can it be just the stadium itself?) “contrasts starkly with the facts” (p. 75) of the leading CEQA case on project stability, County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (Cal. App. 1977). But as the attorney for Inyo County in that case, I am not so sure the differences are that great. In both matters the project proponent asserted differing and inconsistent project descriptions that met its litigation, not functional, needs. And in both cases the unstable project definition led to failure to explore meaningful alternatives, another of the plaintiffs’ claims that Judge Miller rejected (pp. 93-112), but which may merit reversal to require the university to “proceed in the manner required by law.” 

CEQA law has added much in the three decades since Inyo was decided. In general, the courts have vigorously enforced the need for a genuine examination of alternatives that pose real, not false, choices, the leading California Supreme Court case being that of Laurel Heights Improvement Assn. v. Regents (I) (1988) (yes, our regents). Judge Miller’s alternatives analysis did not apply that case. But just earlier this month, the California Supreme Court legitimated the EIR for the CALFED Bay-Delta program, ruling that CALFED did not need to consider an alternative that reduced rather than increased water exports from the Delta—a decision made more remarkable by the fact that federal court decisions have now required that reduced-export reality. (In re Bay-Delta Programmatic EIR, (Cal. June 5, 2008).) Suffice it to contemplate at this time the stadium decision, if taken to the court of appeal, will provide worthy “project definition” and “alternatives” material for that tribunal. 

Finally, in a less-prominent procedural dispute between the stadium parties, Judge Miller sustained the ability of the regents to delegate their final approval authority to a committee of the regents (p. 37). The superior court reached this result by distinguishing this case from those that prohibit delegation from an elected city council to an unelected planning commission. But while the plaintiffs’ assignment of error here could obviously be cured easily, with the regents just placing the matter before their full body, the point of law merits appellate review. That is particularly so with the unique board of regents, who are appointed for multi-year terms by a succession of California governors, and which therefore usually embrace a diversity of environmental values. Allowing less than the full board to approve both the EIR and the ultimate project (or projects?) at issue here allows for a small majority to eliminate all opposing views in the record by selecting a committee that excludes the minority. 

(A note about citations and conventions. Page numbers refer to the pages in the decision as posted here. “stadium” means California Memorial Stadium. “athletic center” means the entitled Student Athlete High Performance Center, on the premise that readers would not expect Cal to approve a low-performance one. “regents” or “the regents” means The Regents, an honorific style that most manuals reserve for royalty and The Times.) 

 

Antonio Rossmann practices land-use and water law and teaches those subjects at the UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall. In the 1970s he represented citizens challenging UCLA’s Long-Range Development Plan. In the 1980s he defended Stanford’s 20-year master plan. More recently he has represented the County of Merced in coordinating its land-use plans with those of the new UC campus there. Past chair of the California State Bar Committee on the Environment, Mr. Rossmann is not affiliated with any of the parties to the stadium-athletic-center dispute.


Bates Declares Lawsuit Victory; Wozniak Says Not So

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:33:00 AM

While Mayor Tom Bates declared victory last week, the day after a judge’s ruling on Berkeley’s lawsuit over UC Berkeley’s proposed construction of a sports facility adjacent to Memorial Stadium, City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak called the ruling a loss for the city. 

Addressing the media at a City Hall press conference, Bates said the city won its two principal points: One was “to make sure Alquist-Priolo applies”—the Alquist–Priolo Act governs construction on or near earthquake faults—and the second was to ensure that the university conduct further environmental review before construction, Bates said. 

“This is the first time it has been clarified. The judge agreed with the city and that the university will have to abide by Alquist-Priolo,” Bates said. 

While Bates underscored that the city would have preferred a negotiated settlement, he said the approximate $250,000 spent on the case was justified. “We felt it was an important principle,” he said. “The ruling proves [the expenditure] was justified. These are not easy issues to resolve.”  

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, a retired Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory employee who sat in on the press conference but didn’t speak publicly, had another take on the situation: “We spent a quarter of a million dollars to get our butts kicked,” he said, arguing that the city could have negotiated a settlement.  

Wozniak contended that the ruling was not significant. “The university always said they would follow Alquist–Priolo,” he said. 

Wozniak added, however, that the ruling is a “big win” for people living on Panoramic Hill, adjacent to Memorial Stadium. The Panoramic Hill Neighborhood Association’s case was one of three lawsuits consolidated by the court. A suit brought by the California Oaks Foundation was the third. 

Wozniak said he thought that as a result of the lawsuit Memorial Stadium would be retrofitted and that football practice would take place at the stadium, but said he believed that regular football games would not be played there, something the neighbors would celebrate. 

Bates told the press that the city’s interest in the lawsuit was not in protecting the trees or in the tree sitters; saving the oaks is a separate issue, he said. (Councilmembers Betty Olds and Dona Spring are among those who have joined protests to save the trees at the Memorial Stadium grove.) 

He said Berkeley police have not been involved in recent actions to remove tree sitters and their equipment from the grove and would assist UC police only if a judge clearly stated that construction was permitted. 

The city will go back to court Tuesday to clarify its interpretation of the judge’s order. The university will respond to the city. 

The City Council will meet in closed session Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to discuss further legal actions, including a possible appeal, Bates said.


City Refuses to Weigh In on Tree-Sitter Safety

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:22:00 AM

The most notable event at the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning City Council meeting was what did not happen: The council scheduled the issue of the health and safety of the tree sitters as an emergency item, then refused to extend the meeting late enough to discuss and vote on the matter. 

With the council chambers filled with dozens of supporters of those refusing to leave the trees in Memorial Grove on campus, where the university wants to build a sports training facility adjacent to Memorial Stadium, which is traversed by the Hayward Fault, the council took up the question of whether it could legally address the issue without proper notice to the public. 

After a limited number of speakers from the audience—including a woman who calls herself “BP Bear” and who delivered a cardboard “backbone” to Mayor Tom Bates to encourage him and the council to stand up to the university—Councilmember Kriss Worthington took a call from a tree sitter in the grove and told the council: “Based on the testimony I heard on the telephone from the tree sitters, they have indicated that it is truly an emergency situation. They said their lives are in danger.” 

The statement was intended to establish the basis for adding the emergency measure to the agenda. 

The council called on emergency room physician Dr. Larry A. Bedard, in the audience, who had spoken with the tree sitters over the weekend. Bedard testified to the tree sitters’ need for “gallons of Gatorade” and close monitoring by a physician. 

In the end, a council majority—councilmembers Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Max Anderson, Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington—voted to place the item on the agenda. It was to come up after lengthy discussions on other complex city issues, including the budget. 

And so the question of the tree-sit came to the council at about 12:15 a.m., by which time councilmembers Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds had gone home. After 11 p.m., the council must extend the meeting by majority vote, which it had been doing in 15- and 30-minute intervals. When the tree-sit question came up, the meeting had been extended to 12:30 a.m. 

Supporters spoke for around 10 minutes calling on the city to confront university officials to get them to allow supporters to give tree sitters food and water and to remove the barricades from city-owned streets and sidewalks. (The university claims Memorial Grove is a crime scene and therefore it has the right to block city-owned property.) 

“UC won nothing in the courts—they have no right to build anything,” student Matthew Taylor told the council, asking them to have the barricades removed from the city’s streets. (Although the judge ruled last week in the lawsuit that pits the university against the city, a neighborhood organization and the Oaks Foundation over the question of building the training facility, each side sees the outcome differently, and they are still in court debating their interpretations of what the judge said.) 

“Food and water is a right—even when people are exercising their civil rights,” said Hillary Lehr, also a UC Berkeley student. 

As the clock ticked toward 12:30 a.m., Councilmember Dona Spring made a motion for the city to call on the university to allow a doctor to examine the tree sitters, to bring them food and water and to return the streets and sidewalks to the city. 

It was 12:26 a.m. and before they could vote, the meeting had to be extended. 

With two councilmembers absent and five votes required, just four councilmembers supported the time extension: Spring, Worthington, Moore and Anderson. As the clock reached 12:30 a.m., the meeting ended abruptly. 

That caused yelling and general pandemonium among the 15 or so tree-sit supporters remaining in the council chambers. 

“I am ashamed of the city council for being so callous,” tree sitter supporter Gianna Ranuzzi told the Planet after the meeting. 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz was to meet with university officials on the question of tree sitter health and safety on Wednesday. On Monday, June 30, there is a closed session council meeting at 5 p.m. in the council chambers to address issues related to the sports training facility lawsuit. 

 

 

 


State Withdraws Aerial Spray Plan

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:23:00 AM

After months of local government and citizen condemnation from Monterey to the East Bay of the state’s proposed plan to spray by air to disrupt the reproduction of the light brown apple moth (LBAM), with anti-spray bills moving rapidly through the state legislature and with lawsuits temporarily tying up the spray program in two counties, California Secretary of Agriculture A. J. Kawamura announced last week that he has a new attack plan aimed at the tiny moth native to Australia. 

Instead of spraying urban areas with a synthetic pheromone, encapsulated with other chemical ingredients that activists claim are dangerous to human health, the department will release hundreds of thousands of sterile moths to mate with the LBAM in the wild to interrupt reproduction of the pest.  

“There is no reproduction and the population collapses,” Kawa-mura told the media in a telephone press briefing last week. “This greatly reduces the need for aerial spraying.”  

The sterile insect technology (SIT) program is planned to begin in a pilot phase next year with the release of 500,000 sterile moths, Larry Hawkins, U.S. Department of Agriculture spokes-person, told the Planet. By 2011, the program will be developed to the point where 20,000 moths per day can be released. 

Where the first sterile moths are to be released has yet to be determined, he said. 

Aerial spraying for the LBAM is still expected to take place in forested areas, where moth release is difficult, Kawamura said. Several reporters from the Monterey-Santa Cruz area tried to pin the secretary down during the teleconference on the location proposed for the aerial spray program, but the secretary said he was unable to respond at this time. 

 

Public relations fiasco 

Kawamura also sidestepped questions about whether the months of protest, legislation and legal actions had put pressure on the department. Instead, he apologized for not effectively getting the message for the need for the aerial spraying out to the public.  

“I want to do a better job of outreach,” he said.  

A short-lived public relations strategy that included a no-bid $497,000 contract, which the state gave to the Porter Novelli firm in November, was a key component of the aerial spray program after initial spray efforts in September in the Santa Cruz-Monterey Bay area resulted in health complaints by more than 600 people. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) abruptly suspended the contract several days after the Associated Press reported that a senior agriculture department official had questioned the need for an “emergency” public relations no-bid contract.  

The CDFA has steadfastly asserted that the health complaints were unrelated to the spray. 

Kawamura had been doing a good deal of public relations work on his own, going from city to city to promote the spray. The effort on the coast and in the Bay Area failed utterly: 29 cities, three counties and 81 organizations passed resolutions opposing the spray.  

The secretary’s forays to the Central Valley were more successful, with towns such as Reedley, Parlier and Orange Cove voting to support the CDFA’s efforts to spray for the moth. (Hoping to report on one or more of the secretary’s trips to farm country, the Planet attempted to get Kawamura’s schedule through a freedom of information act request but was stymied by his legal team, which wrote the Planet saying the secretary did not give out his schedule for “security” reasons.) 

After months of asserting that the aerial spray program was the only way to go, Kawamura told the press that the SIT program had been in the works for a while and that developing colonies of sterile moths had been much more successful and rapid than originally presumed. The program is being developed in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, located in Albany—the town where the East Bay anti-spray movement was born. 

Hawkins noted that, while SIT has been used successfully for a long time on insects such as the fruit fly, it has never before been attempted with the LBAM. Laboratory conditions, including what the moths are fed, must be refined, he said. 

While there will still be some spraying by air over forest lands, the new program is likely to take the spotlight off the governor, who some suspect influenced the choice of which product to spray: Checkmate, made by Suterra in Bend, Ore. Stewart Resnick, Suterra owner, gave a $144,000 campaign contribution to the governor. Schwartz-enegger’s office has told the Planet that the contribution did not influence him. 

Resnick is a notable figure in the California farm belt because the corporation he chairs, Roll International, owns Kern County-based Paramount Agribusiness, which owns Paramount Farms, the world’s largest pistachio processor, according to its website, and Paramount Citrus, the largest fully integrated orange, lemon and clementine grower, packer, shipper, and marketer of fresh citrus in North America, also according to its website.  

Roll International owns POM Wonderful, whose pomegranate orchards are in the San Joaquin Valley; Teleflora, a flowers-by-wire company; FIJI Water, which imports bottled water from the Fiji Islands; and Suterra. Resnick recently bought into a venture to grow four million Jatropha trees on 5,000 acres in Yucatan, Mexico, whose seeds will be used to make biodiesel.  

 

Spray opponents cautious 

Activists opposing the spray welcomed Kawamura’s announcement.  

“It’s a good step,” said Tom Kelly, a Berkeley resident and spokesperson for Stop the Spray East Bay. “I’m certainly anxious to see the full extent of the proposal.”  

Paul Schramski, Pesticide Watch director, expressed caution in a written statement: “The CDFA has announced it will still use aerial spray over forested areas. Does that include Mt. Tam, Mt. Diablo, or other locations where the spray could still drift over the Bay Area? Will an environmental impact report be done for the toxic ground treatments that are still tools in the eradication program? The devil is in the details of the continued ground and aerial pesticide use. The eradication program remains unnecessary, unproven and unsafe.” 

“We are pleased that the CDFA has responded to the concerns of California citizens and eliminated the most egregious component of the program,” wrote Michelle Darby, chair of Stop the Spray San Francisco. “As there is no scientific evidence to support that it is a threat to agriculture, we strongly urge the state and federal government to halt the entire program completely. We, as a nation, need to reform our pesticide usage. There should never come a day when private citizens are so worried about the health and safety of our families and our world that we must fight the very government that is set up to protect our well-being.” 

And Kelly wrote for Stop the Spray East Bay: “We’ve had enough. We insist on greater disclosure, a right to know what we are being exposed to ... A pesticide reform movement has been awakened in California and will continue to grow.”


South Berkeley Man Fatally Shot in Home

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:23:00 AM
A relative of Charles Faison collapses after learning that Faison, the father of his niece and nephews, had been slain Wednesday morning in his Emerson Street home.
By Richard Brenneman
A relative of Charles Faison collapses after learning that Faison, the father of his niece and nephews, had been slain Wednesday morning in his Emerson Street home.

A Berkeley man, described by neighbors as a private security guard and a father, was fatally gunned down in his home on the morning of June 19. Although police initially refused to release the victim’s identity, they later said he was Charles Faison, 39. 

The shooting, which took place in the 2000 block of Emerson Street between Adeline Street and Shattuck Avenue, was phoned in to the Berkeley Fire Department at 12:18 p.m. as an injured man inside his house, said Berkeley police spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel. 

When firefighters arrived at the home, they found the man on the floor with at least one gunshot wound to the head, according to a neighbor who asked not to be identified. 

A next-door neighbor said the victim had worked as a security guard, taking jobs at nightclubs and private parties. 

Minutes after police arrived, a man staggered up to the scene, distraught and crying out, “That’s my family in there. Please, let me see them. Oh Jesus, oh no! I’ve got to see them now.” 

He recovered briefly, then cried out, “Where’s my niece and nephews? Where’s my niece and nephews.” He collapsed seconds later, falling to his hand and knees as a police officer tried to comfort him. 

One of the victim’s sons also arrived minutes later. The victim’s father and the mother of his children were also on hand. 

“He was a good man,” said a neighbor. “All he did was go to work and take care of his family.” 

Frankel’s formal announcement of the shooting death described the homicide as the year’s eighth, a figure that doesn’t include a fatal shooting by a Berkeley police officer of a knife-wielding woman that investigators have declared a justifiable homicide. 

In all of 2007, the city recorded only five slayings. If the rate in the first six months of 2008 continues through the rest of the year, this year’s total will be more than double last year. 

Police are asking anyone with information about the crime to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or the BPD Homicide Detail at 981-5741. Callers may also reach the department’s general non-emergency line at 981-5900. The 800 number is the line for Bay Area Crime Stoppers, which promises callers confidentiality and the possibility of up to $2,000 in cash for successful leads in any felony investigation. 


Safeway Unveils New Plans for College Avenue Store

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:30:00 AM

Safeway had few supporters among the 300 people who turned up at the Peralta Elementary School last week to listen to the supermarket giant’s new plans to remodel its College Avenue store. 

The two-hour standing-room-only June 19 meeting was about converting the less than 25,000 square feet 1960s-era grocery store to more than three times its current size. Speakers expressed fear that the “big box” development will ruin Claremont Avenue’s quiet ambiance. 

Some Claremont and College residents view the expansion as a threat to existing businesses, and said that a “lifestyle store” with a bakery, pharmacy and bigger meat and produce section, would destroy the essence of the neighborhood, where College Avenue shops sell gourmet bread, meat and seafood. The block has had a small independent pharmacy for the last two decades. 

According to Safeway’s real estate developer, Todd Paradis, the existing Safeway lacks a number of important departments, including a full-service meat counter, an extensive organic produce section and a flower shop. 

“We already have a flower shop right across the street,” hissed a neighbor, referring to The Meadows, a locally owned independent business, which shares a half-a-mile long stretch with Yasai Market, VerBrugge Meats, La Farine bakery and other local favorites. 

The supermarket’s remodeling plans mimic those of its sister stores on Shattuck and Solano avenues, including lower-level parking, pedestrian-friendly access to retail stores, and a Safeway on the second level, enclosed within a glass facade. 

“It’s awful,” murmured a couple in the third row when Paradis showed a slide of a two-story building in Safeway’s signature yellow tones. 

“It’s a bastard design, if you pardon my French,” Claremont resident Susan Shawl, who is spearheading efforts to protest the development, told the Planet. “They say it was inspired by Julia Morgan, but it’s clumsy, overbearing, cheap, and looks like it belongs in a commercial mall.” 

More than 60 people spoke against the project, but the five or so who did speak in support of it said a bigger store would serve students from UC Berkeley and less-affluent residents, who were unable to afford smaller independent stores. 

Some said they wanted Safeway to remodel the store and improve the parking lot but maintain the same size. 

Paradis said the expansion would primarily increase the number of aisles, which would offer more choices to customers. 

“We don’t want the aisle full of packaged meat, but meat that can be packaged for you,” he said. 

A long-term Claremont resident, who has lived in the neighborhood for 44 years, pointed out that Safeway had originally offered a service meat counter, which was abruptly stopped. 

“The way I see it, we don’t even need any remodeling,” said Pat McCullough, a neighbor. 

Safeway plans to submit an application for the proposed project to the Oakland Planning Department by the end of July, and it estimates an environmental impact report and other permit application approvals will take over a year. 

Shawl, who spoke with Nancy McKay on behalf of the neighborhood group Concerned Neighbors, also addressed traffic concerns related to the project. 

She complained that in spite of having had several meetings with neighbors, Safeway had ignored their comments and suggestions about the expansion.  

“Safeway is not listening to the neighborhood,” Shawl and McKay, wearing “It’s too B-I-G” buttons, chanted in unison several times. “Safeway has already implemented a reduced-size ‘lifestyle’ approach with the remodel of the Grand Avenue Safeway and the Fruitvale Avenue store in the Diamond district—both are less than 30,000 square feet,” said Shawl. 

“Safeway also has built a 15,000-square-foot store in Long Beach called ‘The Market by Vons.’ The Grand Avenue satellite store is 1.4 miles from the Broadway at Pleasant Valley Store. The College Avenue Safeway location is 1.1 miles from Broadway at Pleasant Valley store. We want our satellite store to remain about the size it currently is ... . In the overall scheme of things, Safeway, with over 1,700 retail stores, does not have much to lose. We have everything to lose.” 

Some neighbors said they were worried Safeway would lease retail space to national chains instead of supporting local businesses. 

Stu Flashman, who spoke on behalf of the Rockridge Community Planning Council, said his organization had not yet taken a stand on the project. 

“However, based on what we have seen, we have concerns about the zoning, which is what makes Claremont Avenue what it is,” he said. 

“We are going to be listening to the community and see the traffic study.” 

Berkeley resident Dean Metzger, who spoke on behalf of the Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood Association, said the group was against the project. 

“Berkeley doesn’t have a say in the property but we believe it will affect our neighborhood just as much,” he said. 

The College Avenue Safeway store straddles the border between Berkeley and Oakland. 

“What we want here is a remodeled store, but one that fits in with the neighborhood,” Metzger said. 

“We will put as much pressure as possible on the City of Berkeley to get involved with the City of Oakland on this project.” 

For more information on the Claremont and College Safeway, see www.safewayoncollege.com. 

For more information on the 1500 Solano Avenue Safeway expansion plans, see www.safewayonsolano.com. 

For information on the 1444 Shattuck Ave. Safeway expansion plans, see www.safewayonshattuck.com.


Planning Commission Continues Downtown Plan Chapter Review

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:24:00 AM

Planning commissioners continued their ongoing review of the Downtown Area Plan this week, taking up chapters focusing on economic development and historic preservation and urban design during their meeting last Wednesday. 

Commissioners are slogging through the city staff’s rewrite of the document created by Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), the citizen panel appointed by the City Council that spent two years drafting the plan despite staff opposition.  

While city planning staff had wanted the group to come up with policies and recommendations, DAPAC came up with formal chapters, and now Planning and Development Director Dan Marks and Matt Taecker, the planner hired with the help of UC Berkeley funds to steer the process, have been presenting those chapters to the commission. 

Several commissioners, including Chair James Samuels, also served on DAPAC. 

Marks told the commission that the city has received a $300,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to help draft the plan’s implementation measures. 

Dubbed a Station Area Planning Grant, funds are given to projects designed to boost public transit ridership and reduce passenger car travel by people who live or work in areas served by mass transit stations. 

Other objectives of the program include increasing low-income housing supply and jobs along transit corridors and encouraging other transit alternatives, including walking, biking and carpools. 

According to his memorandum to the council submitted along with the funding application, Marks said $25,000 to $35,000 would go to zoning ordinance modifications, $50,000 to $75,000 for planning public improvements, an equal amount for drafting a financing plan for the improvements, between $50,000 and $100,000 for a parking plan and $50,000 to $75,000 for studies to establish appropriate fees for new developments, zoning code amendments and design guidelines. 

“You guys get to see all of that,” Marks told commissioners. “That’s what will happen between January and May,” when the City Council is required to adopt the plan or face the loss of funds from UC Berkeley under the terms of the legal settlement of the city’s lawsuit challenging the university’s long-range expansion plans, which call for 800,000 square feet of new off-campus development in the city center. 

With the pressures for increased density downtown, both academic and commercial, the fate of the city center’s historic buildings became the focus of struggle on DAPAC, where Samuels found himself on the losing side—unlike on the commission, where he’s usually on the winning side. 

The dividing lines were clear within minutes of the opening of the discussion on the preservation/design chapter. 

“It ought to be called Urban Design Including Historic Preservation, because historic preservation is actually a subset of urban design,” said Harry Pollack, another member of the usual commission majority. 

But Jesse Arreguin, a DAPAC member sitting in for Commissioner Patti Dacey, defended the existing name, citing discussions by the joint DAPAC/Landmarks Preservation Commission subcommittee that drafted the chapter. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman, another DAPAC member, defended the existing name because “quite clearly, historic preservation is important in Berkeley,” and the chapter’s emphasis is also shared by other California cities such as Pasadena. 

George Williams, sitting in for an absent David Stoloff, said he preferred separate chapters for design and preservation. “They are different disciplines,” he said, and Susan Wengraf agreed. 

But it was Dan Marks who broke the emerging confrontation. “I would not suggest a change,” he said, though he did like a suggestion from Wengraf that perhaps preservation could be replaced with conservation. 

The ensuing discussion led to few confrontations, and fewer substantial changes—though commissioners weren’t finished when adjournment time rolled around.


Down Home Music Leaves Fourth Street

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:25:00 AM

After only 11 months in Berkeley, Down Home Music is moving out of its Fourth Street store. 

John McCord, who manages the 32-year-old El Cerrito Down Home store, which will remain open, said they had expected that the Fourth Street store would do at least as well as Hear, the Starbucks-owned CD store that was previously located in the same space.  

“We had a good holiday season,” McCord said, adding that too many people come to browse rather than buy. “The economy has a lot to do with it—CD sales are down everywhere. It’s hard to compete with the Internet.” 

The move is not reflective of the economic health on Fourth Street, where a second Crate and Barrel store is about to set up shop, said Dave Fogarty, Berkeley’s economic development manager. 

McCord said Down Home tried a slightly different mix of music on Fourth Street. “We tried to tailor it to the clientele down there,” he said, making available more Latin, jazz, and pop CDs and less country music than at the El Cerrito store. 

The move “has left us with debts,” McCord said. However, Down Home founder and owner Chris Strachwitz, also proprietor of the folk record label Arhoolie Records, is dedicated to keeping the El Cerrito store open, McCord said. “There’s a lot of good music out there,” he said. 

A second Crate and Barrel, known as CB2 will move into the old Cody’s on Fourth Street location, with offerings such as furniture. The Crate and Barrel outlet will continue at its location across the street, Fogarty said. 


New Principal Named for Cragmont Elementary

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:25:00 AM

The Berkeley Unified School District named Berkeley High School Independent Studies Coordinator Evelyn Bradley as the new principal for Cragmont Elementary School earlier this month. 

Bradley, who was one of the 55 teachers to receive a layoff notice from Berkeley Unified in the face of proposed education budget cuts, will take over from Cragmont Principal Don Vu in July. 

A group of parents and teachers from the Independent Study program had pressed the Berkeley Board of Education at school board meetings to rescind Bradley’s layoff notice and described her as an “asset to the district.” 

The district also announced that Patt Sadler, principal of Rosa Parks Elementary School, will replace David Gold, principal of Longfellow Middle School, next month. Gold is leaving because of health reasons, district officials said. 

The district is currently looking for a replacement for Sadler’s position at Rosa Parks. 

According to some members of the Cragmont PTA, Vu sent parents a formal statement in May telling them he was resigning since he was “not a good fit for the school.” Calls to Vu at Cragmont were not returned Monday. 

Berkeley Unified spokesperson Mark Coplan said Vu’s contract had not been renewed after his first year at Cragmont and that he was leaving to pursue other options. 

Coplan said some parents had expressed concern that Vu did not have the experience necessary to handle issues at Cragmont. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett told the Planet Monday that Vu was leaving on his own accord, and parents’ concerns had not played a role in it. 

“He took the initiative to get another job, and we are sad to see him go,” Huyett said, adding that Vu was going to join his former employer, the Berryessa Union School District. 

According to some parents and members of the Cragmont PTA, a group of parents at the school had pushed hard for Vu’s replacement and tried to undermine him during his time there. 

U’Dwi Ashford, co-president of the Cragmont Elementary PTA, said Vu had informed members of the PTA executive board at a meeting on May 22 about his decision. 

“He explained that a parent had approached him and said that he didn’t look as happy as he used to look,” Ashford said. “He said that had provoked him to think, and he felt something had affected him at school and it was best for him and his family if he moved.” 

Ashford filed a formal complaint of racial harassment with the school district in December and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights in March, after a Cragmont teacher castigated her son—a 10-year-old African American boy—in front of his class and accused him of being homophobic after the boy repeatedly used the word “fruity.”  

The teacher told him that using the word “fruity” was the same as her going to a black community and saying the word “nigger.” 

Ashford said she did not hold a grudge against Vu about the incident. 

“Regardless of what happened between him (Vu) and me, I think he wasn’t given a chance,” said Ashford, who will come to the end of her term as PTA co-president on July 1. 

“There were other issues involved, which had to do with him leaving. Some parents just didn’t feel the same connection that they had felt with the earlier principal,” she said. “They have a tendency not to let a principal do what he wants to do. They wanted him to leave. I wish him well.” 

In March, the school’s administration also dealt with an incident involving Cragmont after-school teacher DeAndre Swygert, when several Berkeley police officers jumped on a public bus full of elementary students and held a gun on Swygert, mis-identified as a robbery suspect, while he was taking students to a basketball game. 

Cragmont parent Anthony Chavez, also in the school’s PTA, said Vu faced many challenges during his time at the school, including the governor’s proposed education budget cuts. 

“He did a sterling job with the budget cuts,” Chavez said. “The cuts were really going to affect some of the more important programs at the school. He managed the budget process in a good way and worked closely with the budget council. It was obvious he had chemistry problems—him with other people, other people with him. He took over from a principal who was at Cragmont for 10 years, so obviously it was stressful.” 

Chavez, who helped Ashford to file the complaint, said he was by and large supportive of Vu, although they were at odds over the classroom incident. 

“Don did what he could as a principal,” he said. “He worked through the system, which is very deficient. Berkeley Unified lacks a racial incidents policy.” 

School districts in California are required to have policies in areas that address nondiscrimination and equal access, but the California Education Code does not mandate a “racial incidents policy,” said Lin Van of the State Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity. 


School Board Asks District to Draw Up West Campus Rehabilitation Plans

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:26:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education last week refrained from approving the use of prefabricated modular buildings for West Campus and instead directed staff to develop rehabilitation plans for the Bonar Street building, and return with both options on Aug. 20. 

The board was scheduled to vote on a revised modular option for relocating the district’s administrative staff from the seismically unsafe Old City Hall building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, and to authorize staff to design a rehabilitation option. 

If that option had been approved, staff would have asked the board to pick either the modular or the rehabilitation option on Aug. 20. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, Nancy Riddle, vice president of the school board, said the board would look at both options in August before taking any further action. 

“I am taking out the part in the board packet which asks us to approve the modular option because frankly it was just goofy,” she said. “We’d be sending a wrong message to the community by saying we approve the modulars and ‘go look at the Bonar Street building.’” 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett agreed with Riddle’s comments. 

“It’s a bit of a trust issue out there because the plan has zigzagged over time, and we have heard that at the last two meetings,” he said. 

Huyett informed community members about plans to rehabilitate the West Campus Bonar Street building Monday, two days before the Berkeley Board of Education was scheduled to vote on it. 

After the modular design faced stiff disapproval from West Berkeley neighbors and local activists at a May 29 meeting, the superintendent asked the district’s facilities director, Lew Jones, to investigate rehabilitation options for the Bonar red brick building. 

According to the superintendent, rehabilitation costs turned out to be slightly more than the modulars, which were estimated to cost between $10 million and $10.5 million. 

The district explored the possibility of retrofitting West Campus in 2006, but abandoned the plan after it went substantially over budget. 

Jones said the earlier design involved a larger program than what was currently being considered, including an estimate for retrofitting the Bonar building and the auditorium, demolishing a number of buildings and developing the site. 

“We looked at advantages and disadvantages of rehabilitating the Bonar building, and one of the advantages is the space,” Huyett said. 

“The modulars had a limited amount of space. Another advantage is we can put everyone in one building. Also it’s a permanent solution. I am not saying this is the only solution, but it does have a number of advantages.” 

The initial cost to retrofit the Bonar building and improve the current parking lot is estimated to be $10.7 million, Jones said. 

Although some of the space in the three-story building will be turned into stairways and other circulation, it has between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet of additional space compared to the modulars. 

Jones said the district would consider rehabilitating all three stories, and possibly add Adult School classrooms or food service administration and storage in the additional space. 

Huyett said the district would also consider rehabilitating the cafeteria to hold school board meetings. 

“There is a concern that the school district doesn’t listen to the community,” he said. “But we do. We want to be good neighbors, we want to be a part of this community.” 

Although the majority of the people at the meeting were satisfied with the rehabilitation plans, some called for a master plan for the West Campus site. 

The district asked the Berkeley-based DCE planning firm to develop a master plan for the West Campus in 2005, and a group of neighbors also came up with their own version of a master plan, Jones said, but neither plan was adopted by the school board in the end. 

Huyett said the district lacked the resources to support a master plan at this moment. 

Some residents said they were concerned about the poor lighting on the Addison pathway, something that Jones said he would discuss with councilmember Darryl Moore, whose district it is in. 

Moore said he supported the rehabilitation plans, since it was a more sustainable practice. 

“The lights and other safety concerns have been a constant issue with neighbors in the area,” he told the Planet after the meeting. “I have contacted the school district continuously about keeping the alleyway clean and asked them to replace the lights. Prior to the new superintendent coming in, the district took a lax approach to maintaining the West Campus. I am hopeful things will change under the new superintendent.” 

When a couple of neighbors asked if the district would follow the city’s zoning ordinance for the West Campus project, Huyett said the issue was still under investigation. 


Jefferson Kitchen Plans Scrapped, for Now

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

Plans to remodel the central kitchen at Jefferson Elementary School have been dropped to cut costs and make the nutrition services program function independently of school bond money, district officials said Monday. 

Meals for more than 3,000 Berkeley Unified students were scheduled to be cooked in the kitchen of the dining commons at King Middle School and at the new Jefferson kitchen.  

The King Dining Commons will now offer the district’s sole central kitchen starting Aug. 11, and the district will monitor its operations over the next six months to determine whether a second central kitchen would be required at Jefferson. 

The recommendation, which came from Berkeley Unified superintendent Bill Huyett, will save up to $1 million in construction costs, and provide an opportunity for the nutrition services program to use funds generated from revenue instead of dipping into the district’s general fund. 

In previous years, some members of the Berkeley Board of Education expressed concern at the “encroachment” of the nutrition services on the general fund, and former district superintendent Michele Lawrence stressed the importance of monitoring the encroachment of dollars at a board meeting in September 2006. 

“When I took a tour of the district’s facilities and examined the size of our program at the King Dining Commons, the question arose whether there was immediate need to have a second kitchen,” Huyett said. “Our kitchen at King should be able to take care of our needs. The question is why put more money into renovating another kitchen when we are already putting money into King. It’s a question of wait and see.” 

Huyett said the district would hold the funds for the Jefferson project for the next six months, and then make a decision. 

“We are taking more steps to curtail the cost of food service,” Huyett said. “We have a contribution from the general fund and we are trying to eliminate that. We are making some progress on that, and it will probably take three years to make it stand on its own.” 

Besides district bond money, the nutrition service program is also funded by the federally assisted National Reduced Lunch Program and state and federal funds. 

Berkeley Unified caught the attention of the national media three years ago with its revamped nutritional services, which introduced some of the most sweeping menu changes across the country by Berkeley’s self-proclaimed “Renegade Lunch Lady” Chef Ann Cooper. 

Cooper, hired as food services director three years ago by the district, called the decision on the Jefferson kitchen “good.” 

“We need to open the dining commons to see what the capacity is and what kind of challenges we face,” said Cooper, who is currently on vacation in Vermont, to the Planet in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It’s prudent to spend some time at King before we decide to finalize plans at Jefferson.” 

Cooper, who will be with Berkeley Unified for another year, said it would be challenging for the nutrition services program to break free from the general fund. 

“We need to raise participation to get more revenue,” she said. “We need more kids eating. Right now we have less than 3,000 kids eating at the school cafeteria.” 

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s recent budget cut proposals for state education funds was also a blow to Cooper’s program and left it with a $150,000 deficit, Cooper said. 

Cooper is currently feeding the district from the kitchen at Jefferson, which underwent its last major remodeling in 1985, but is excited about the transition to King over the summer. 

“It’s going to be great,” she said of the dining commons, which will have her office staff, an executive chef, a sous chef, three cooks and a supervisor from King. 


West Berkeley Food Festival Introduces Culture Through Cuisine

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:27:00 AM

At Casa Latina, owner Jose Ruiz tries to meld cultures by appealing to all the senses. Inside the brightly painted taqueria, cafe and bakery, reggae, Brazilian and hip-hop music provide ambient background to the brightly lit cases of Mexican pastries and the artwork-covered walls. Visitors are embraced by a multicultural tapestry of sights, smells and sounds. 

“I’m trying to make it a nice warm place for everybody,” Ruiz said. “As more people from other communities check us out, I hope that this becomes one little niche they enjoy a lot.” 

That’s just one of the goals of Sunday’s third annual West Berkeley International Food Festival, in which Ruiz and other West Berkeley merchants will participate. The festival was developed by the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation to attract Bay Area residents who might normally pass through the international marketplace without stopping.  

The festival will take place 1-5 p.m. at the corner of University and San Pablo avenues. 

“The festival is really an economic development idea disguised as a food festival,” said Bruce Williams, co-director of the West Berkeley Neighborhood Development Corporation. “Our purpose is to bring people into the neighborhood to shop and transfer skills.” 

The festival will feature the Kitchen on Fire Cooking Stage, where chefs Mike C. and Olivier Said will host international cooking demonstrations. Many West Berkeley merchants will offer free samples or small, inexpensive portions of their dishes, and provide entertainment such as folk dances, music and crafts. 

“We’re really trying to show not just Berkeley but anybody around the bay what a special area this is. People always think that North Berkeley is where everything is happening,” said Mike C. of Kitchen on Fire. “But this area has the greatest variety of shops and restaurants. You can find special ingredients, really hard-to-find things, at any of the shops in this area at a lot better quality and a lot better prices. If you want spices, within walking distance, you can get almost anything in the world.”  

According to Michael Caplan, Berkeley’s economic development manager, the festival attracted nearly 15,000 people last year, and this year aims for more. 

“We’re going to have lots of music, lots of excitement, lots of people coming into Berkeley that might not otherwise have come,” said Darryl Moore, District 2 City Councilmember at a press conference Tuesday. “Let’s let the whole East Bay know of the richness and diversity available on University Avenue.” 

For store owners like Ruiz, the festival offers a chance to introduce their foods, wares and culture to new customers. 

Nazir Fedary, owner of De Afghanan Kabob House, a new addition to Berkeley as of January, sees the festival as a chance not only to attract new customers but also to introduce residents to Afghan cuisine.  

“Most of my customers, they have never tried Afghan cuisine, let alone Afghan homecooking,” Fedary said. “When they try it, though, they like it.”  

On Sunday, Fedary will distribute small samples of his food to give customers a taste of his country. 

Pete Raxakoul, who bought the 30-year-old Country Cheese store as a 20-year-old architecture student, has participated in the festival since its inception. In his 18 years as store owner, Raxakoul has bought another shop and expanded the range of products he sells to include more organic, locally made cheeses and international coffees and teas. 

Raxakoul will use the festival not to sell his cheeses and coffees but instead to introduce East Bay residents to Laotian culture. 

“When you say ‘Laos,’ people don’t know what it is,” Raxakoul said. “You say ‘Thai,’ Thai food, Chinese food, everyone knows what it is. Laos, people can’t even find on the map. They’ve never heard of it. Laotian food has a lot of flavor, a lot of spices, a lot of ingredients. Hopefully I can introduce that to Berkeley.” 

Bruce Williams said that the festival has encouraged cooperation and cultural exchange among West Berkeley merchants by allowing them to experience their neighbors’ businesses and cultures and to integrate new ideas into their own work.  

“People are moving outside the box, mixing foods, combining Western fashions with Indian fashions,” Williams said. “You’re seeing synthesis of cultures coming together.”  

Ruiz, Casa Latina’s international integrator, said that the past decade has improved the neighborhood by encouraging street traffic and attracting regular customers who want to experience other cultures: “It’s getting a feeling more than ever of being a community instead of being a city.”  

The merchants all hope that the festival will continue to boost attention and funding given to West Berkeley. 

“We have every part of the world represented in this area, and this is very good and very interesting for the neighborhood,” Fedary of De Afghan Kabob House said. “Hopefully this festival will get some more attention to this area, to help the community, to get the city to improve the situation of the restaurants, the facilities. With the cooperation of the city, hopefully they will be improved, and hopefully all the restaurants will be better than before.” 

“We’re going to have fun—that’s what it’s all about, to let people know who we are as a community,” Raxakoul said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about Country Cheese, it’s about West Berkeley as a community.”


Edgerly Announces Retirement

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:28:00 AM

The administration of Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sought to put a quick end to the controversy surrounding Oakland Administrator Deborah Edgerly this week by announcing that, based upon a longstanding agreement between the mayor and the administrator going back to January, Edgerly will retire effective July 31 of this year.  

Until then, Edgerly said, she will continue in her job with full powers as city administrator. 

However, Dellums may have raised more issues than he settled when he ended a packed Tuesday afternoon City Hall press conference by refusing to answer reporters’ follow-up questions about investigations into Edgerly’s June 7 actions surrounding a police towing incident involving her nephew and a later related police raid and arrest of several members of a West Oakland gang, saying that those answers were “self-evident” from the remarks he and Edgerly had just made.  

The abrupt ending to the press conference left reporters and camera crews standing around, apparently stunned by Dellums and Edgerly’s quick departure from the mayor’s conference room. 

After Dellums Chief of Staff David Chai was surrounded by reporters following the press conference and began answering a string of shouted questions, a second, unnamed City Hall staff member came behind him, told him “it’s time to leave, David,” and physically pulled him out of the conference room. 

Edgerly was later swamped by reporters on her way to another City Hall meeting but refused to speak further on the matter. 

The Edgerly controversy began with a June 7 West Oakland incident in which Edgerly is alleged to have intervened with Oakland police officers while the officers were towing a car that had been driven by the city administrator’s nephew, 27-year-old William Lovan. Police later recovered a pistol from the car. Lovan was one of 34 people arrested 10 days later in a police raid on West Oakland’s Acorn gang. A police spokesperson said that Lovan was charged with a weapons violation “possibly” stemming from the pistol found in the car in the June 7 towing.  

On Friday afternoon, after stories on the June 7 incident were published in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle, Dellums sent a terse e-mail to all Oakland City staff members saying that “effective immediately, all departments and agencies are to report directly to me regarding city matters.”  

A spokesperson for Dellums confirmed on Monday that an investigation was being conducted into allegations that Edgerly interfered with a police operation, but refused to comment on published reports that the mayor has given Edgerly an ultimatum to resign or be fired. 

“These are very serious allegations and the mayor is looking into them,” Dellums Public Information Officer Paul Rose said by telephone earlier this week. “Beyond that, I can’t make any further comment because this is a personnel matter.” 

Rose confirmed following the press conference that Dellums had completed his investigation into the June 7 incident.  

Edgerly issued a statement on June 20 calling the “rumors and press stories” surrounding the June 7 incident “shocking” and “untrue and unfounded … I am being tried in the court of public opinion by rumor, innuendo and presumption of guilt.” 

Edgerly added that she has “not been fired or asked to resign. I have had many gracious and warm conversations with Mayor Dellums over the past three days, as recently as this afternoon. No ultimatums were issued and no decisions have been made.” 

While media reports described a tense City Hall atmosphere for several days surrounding the controversy, Dellums and Edgerly appeared relaxed and smiling at Tuesday’s press conference.  

Edgerly joked to reporters that “I’m always amazed at how much star power I have” in being able to pack a press conference. Dellums introduced her as “my friend,” adding that he “thank[ed] her for her extraordinary efforts of support in my administration. I have learned a lot from her.” 

Dellums said that Edgerly had initially approached him by letter on Jan. 28, telling him that she was planning on retiring later this year. Dellums said that he put a $150,000 item in his FY08-09 budget recommendation released several weeks ago that was earmarked to set up a consultant team to conduct a national search for a new administrator. 

Edgerly was most adamant about her status during the remaining month in her position. “I am city administrator,” she said. “When I walk out of this door today it will be as city administrator, with all the duties and responsibilities of that position. The newspapers have reported that I have been stripped of power. That’s not true.” 

Questioned by reporters on her way to her City Hall office, District 4 Councilmember and City Council Finance Committee Chair Jean Quan confirmed that plans for an Edgerly resignation this year had long been in place, but said that “they had been putting back” the mid-summer date prior to the current controversy. 

In the police incident report, written by an OPD officer identified only as N. Miller, the officer said that while he and his partner were in the vicinity of 12th and Market streets as part of the Acorn bust project known as “Operation Nutcracker,” he received information that Lovan’s car was outside a liquor store at 12th and Market. The informant had overheard Lovan telling another individual about “a firearm being inside of the vehicle.”  

Sometime before the auto was towed, Miller reports that Edgerly appeared on the scene. “Lovan was her nephew, and she wanted to know why … the vehicle was getting towed and that she was on the phone calling Chief Jordan.” 

There is no indication in Miller’s report of what Sgt. Coleman later told Edgerly in their conversation, or what the city administrator did afterwards. In the report, Miller says that even Lovan himself was not told the real reason why the car was being towed.


Local, Nor-Cal Blazes Keep Berkeley’s Firefighters Busy

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:28:00 AM

In addition to fighting two fires and rescuing a woman from the waters off the Berkeley Marina, Berkeley firefighters tackled two out-of-town assignments in the last seven days. 

One Berkeley fire engine and three crew members have been battling the Indian Fire in Monterey County. The firefighters finish their seven-day tour today (Thursday) when they’ll be replaced by three more from Berkeley, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong.  

Some 400 blazes were reported—most in Southern California—suggesting an epidemic of wildfires of epic proportions. 

The deputy chief said the engine dispatched to the Indian Fire is one of the smaller Type 4 engines, equipped with the four-wheel-drive needed to handle the rugged back country. All the city’s large Type 1 engines will remain in Berkeley to handle emergencies here, he said. 

Berkeley firefighters also headed to Oakland Friday, to take over that city’s fire station at 61st Street and Telegraph Avenue after firefighters there were summoned to handle a six-alarm blaze that destroyed or heavily damaged five buildings near the intersection of 93rd Avenue and International Boulevard. 

 

Marina rescue 

Perhaps the most dramatic event began at 4:25 p.m. Tuesday, with a rescue call for a woman in the water just north of Skate’s on the Bay at 100 Seawall Drive. 

As soon as the first engineer company arrived a second was dispatched to aid with the rescue, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

“It’s very difficult to rescue someone from the water there,” said the firefighter. 

The second engine company provided a rescue ring and rope system to draw the woman out of the waves and carry her up over the rocks, with Berkeley police also pitching in. 

The woman, described as “50 or older,” was given warm IV solutions and rushed to Highland Hospital for treatment as a near drowning. 

“We’re not sure how she got into the water,” said the deputy chief, “although there are unconfirmed reports that she jumped.” 

 

Small fires 

Firefighters also tackled two small residential fires Wednesday morning. 

The first call came at 9:09 a.m. from an apartment building in the 1700 block of Sixth Street. Damage from the blaze, which broke out in a trash can was largely confined to the rubbish container, although the bedroom sustained some smoke damage, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

The second report came at 10:44 a.m., from a residence in the 1600 block of 16th Street. 

“The arriving engine company found a fully involved mattress fire in a carport,” said the deputy chief. The only damage was to the mattress itself. 

 

Holiday warning 

Berkeley firefighters will be especially vigilant in enforcing laws against private use of fireworks of any sort as the Fourth of July draws near, Dong said.  

“We will confiscate anything we find,” he said. “Three years ago we had four fires on the Fourth,” including two structure fires and a second-alarm grass fire. 

The grass blaze, which erupted behind Lawrence Hall of Science, was subsequently traced to a bottle rocket. 

For those who crave the sights and sounds of a memorable fireworks display, Dong suggests a visit to the annual show at the Berkeley Marina, “which will be attended by both expert pyrotechnicians and expert firefighters.”


Honoring Luanne Rogers: Paying It Forward

By Anne-Marie Hogan
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:29:00 AM
Luanne Rogers
Luanne Rogers

The Berkeley community came together in April to celebrate the life of Luanne Rogers, who died peacefully this month. The outpouring of love and appreciation at that event was a testament to Luanne’s full participation in and powerful effect on nourishing our community’s spirit and challenging us to make a difference. 

A woman who truly hungered and thirsted for justice’s sake, she was a longtime leader in progressive politics and a founder and leading light of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA). A powerful singer, she not only made music but also made it happen, as an inspired and hard-working board member and former president of the Berkeley Opera. An accountant for the Berkeley Unified School District’s special education programs, she advocated for stronger accountability (including an auditor) for the school district. 

It is Luanne the peacemaker and political strategist who is most on my mind today. As many of her friends have said recently, Luanne was not one to speak unkindly of others. She did, however, firmly and straightforwardly “speak truth to power” when it was called for. As political advisor to several of our local electeds for many years, Luanne was valuable not because she told us how to get elected but because she had a lot to say about how we ought to act once we got there. And that meant learning to stand up for what is right without demeaning or disrespecting those who disagree with us. 

Luanne’s legacy includes leadership contributions to the lefty Berkeley Citizens’ Action (BCA) as well as the good government League of Women Voters and the diverse faith-based BOCA. Her ability to bring out the best in people who may not have agreed with her or with each other is one of her lasting gifts to us. 

Some of us have made plans to carry on Luanne’s work in a variety of ways … from becoming sustaining members of the Berkeley Opera or getting more involved with BOCA or the League, to perhaps finding a way to follow up on some of Luanne’s ideas about school district systems. 

For all of us opinionated, informed and active community members, I’d like to hope that a little of Luanne’s vigorous diplomacy could linger on in how we work together. With dedicated hard work, a little less sarcasm and a lot more bridge building, we can pay it forward for our community.  

 

A memorial service for Luanne Rogers will be held Saturday June 28, 11 a.m., at Trinity United Methodist Church, 2362 Bancroft Way (at Dana Street).


Bayer Moves Administrative Offices to West Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:31:00 AM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) approved a use permit for Bayer Healthcare earlier this month, giving the pharmaceutical giant the green light to move some of its administrative offices into 921 Parker St., a space zoned specifically for industrial use. 

The zoning ordinance for the West Berkeley Mixed Use–Light Industrial (MULI) district states that manufacturing or industrial space cannot be converted into office space unless it is mitigated by providing replacement manufacturing space or paying a fee. 

ZAB approved the use permit by including the Parker Street building as part of the main Bayer lot at 800 Dwight Way, and ruling that, since the conversion space constituted less than 25 percent of Bayer’s total manufacturing space on that lot, it was exempt from the MULI requirements. 

Thus, according to the decision, Bayer is exempt from creating replacement manufacturing space or paying a fee but is required to convert the 36,948 square feet of office space back to its original use at the end of its 10-year lease. 

Although this kind of exemption, based on the less-than-25 percent threshold, is supposed to apply only to property owners and would not ordinarily apply to Bayer, which leases the site, ZAB decided that it would extend this provision to Bayer to save the company the conversion fee. 

Rick Auerbach, who spoke on behalf of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, said the group was opposed to the loss of manufacturing space in Berkeley and demanded that Bayer pay the required fee. 

“We appreciate Bayer as a corporation, but this project will have major implications,” he said. “Manufacturing wholesale space should be maintained. It’s the central aspect of the land-use concept. We believe Bayer should pay a fee. Make it a reasonable fee if you want to, but don’t stretch this ordinance to the point that it has no meaning anymore. We support Bayer expanding in the city, but find a way of doing it without setting a precedent of losing industrial presence.” 

Zoning staff asked the board to make an exception for Bayer since the company owned the largest manufacturing property in the city. Bayer paid $7 million in property taxes to the City of Berkeley last year, staff said. 

Debbie Sanderson, the city’s planning manager, said it was difficult for applicants to pay the $75 per square foot fee, which she described as prohibitive, and requested that it be waived. 

“It comes to tens of millions of dollars, which is not economically feasible,” she said. “So nobody does it.” 

She added that zoning staff struggled over the change of use but pointed out that the conversion would continue to create jobs in the city. 

Bayer currently has 15,000 employees working at its Berkeley campus. 

“The special limitations for manufacturing wholesale space is extremely complex in the MULI district,” she told the board at the meeting, adding that the zoning restrictions had allowed only two properties to change use since the West Berkeley Plan was established. 

“Bayer made this request to serve their larger campus until further changes. It has been the primary contributor to new manufacturing jobs and the primary contributor to new manufacturing space in West Berkeley. ” 

ZAB Chair Rick Judd dismissed concerns about Bayer’s use permit setting a precedent for other companies. 

“A primary goal of the West Berkeley Plan is to preserve jobs, and I don’t think anyone has done that better than Bayer,” he said. 

“Only Bayer is building industrial space in West Berkeley right now, and there is no question of setting a precedent.” 

ZAB commissioner Terry Doran said before the public hearing was held that he was in favor of the project, something community members were critical of in their comments to the board later that evening. 

“I am very disturbed by the tenor and tone of some of the board members, assuming that this was going to be ap-proved,” Auerbach told the board. 

Doran apologized to the public later, saying he had not intended to support the project before the public hearing was held.  

“I don’t believe board members’ comments expressed any kind of pre-set judgment,” Judd said. 

ZAB also approved parking space for the Parker site, which will be relinquished once Bayer converts the site into an office space. 

Trina Ostrander, director of Bayer’s public policy and community relations, said the company’s 45-acre site on Dwight Way was being developed under a 30-year improvement plan. 

“When Bayer signed a lease for 921 Parker, we were paying rent for six months without being able to use it,” she said. 

The Parker site, which will employ 100 people, is adjacent to Bayer’s Berkeley campus, which is located right next to Aquatic Park.  

The campus is the company’s global center for hemophilia and cardiology pharmaceuticals and manufactures Kogenate, a large protein pharmaceutical that treats hemophilia.  

The permit will allow Bayer to build modular office space inside the Parker Street building, which will be dismantled when the lease runs out, Ostrander said. 

“We are looking at long-term expansion in West Berkeley that will bring economic stability,” she said. “Bayer is the right kind of light industry for the West Berkeley Plan.” 

ZAB Vice Chair Bob Allen asked if all 100 employees would be moved to the main campus at the end of the 10-year lease. 

Ostrander said it was difficult to predict the future of a global company. 

“We need the space at Parker Street,” she said. “We are very much overcrowded.”


City Says Thai Temple Violated Food Sales Use Permit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM

Wat Mongkolratanaram users will request the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) today (Thursday) for a use permit once again to build a new Buddha shrine at the Russell Street Thai Temple and add four parking spaces on an adjacent vacant lot.  

The temple’s supporters met with fierce opposition at a zoning meeting in May from neighbors who charged the 30-year-old Buddhist temple with running a commercial restaurant in a residential neighborhood, bringing litter and congestion to the area every Sunday. 

The board directed zoning staff to investigate whether the temple was violating the zoning ordinance and asked members of Thai Temple to mediate with its neighbors about parking, hours of operation and other concerns. 

Some neighbors were angry that the temple started work as early as 5 a.m., since a 1993 zoning permit limits the use to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The temple previously served food to the public outdoors in the back of the property from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Sunday, which was changed to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. recently. 

According to the monks at the temple, the temple offers food to its visitors, a typical Thai custom, in return for which they ask for donations.  

A recent zoning staff report states that the temple started mediation with its neighbors on June 21, but that the total number of sessions was unknown. 

Staff is scheduled to present an updated report to the board today (Thursday). 

The staff report further states that based on testimony provided by some neighbors at the ZAB meetings, the temple exceeded the frequency of events allowed by the use permit issued in April 1993. 

According to that use permit, the Thai Temple was supposed to limit on-site food sales to “special events occurring no more than three times per year, not to exceed a total of six days a year.” 

Zoning staff met with temple representatives on June 6 to review the existing approvals, the staff report states, and “believes that the applicant will review the temple’s existing operation and overall mission during the mediation process to develop a plan to proceed with a modified application to accommodate the Sunday activities.” 

The revised application will be available at the end of the mediation process. 

Zoning staff has recommended that the use permit request be continued to Aug. 14.


Campaign Finance Reports Show Skinner Won Fundraising Battle in Assembly District 14

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:32:00 AM

In the waning days of the June 3 primary campaign, running out of the capital needed for a last-minute electoral push, and his dream of becoming a member of the California State Assembly slipping away from him, Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington loaned his campaign $20,000. That was on top of another $22,000 he had loaned his campaign in mid-January. 

On election day alone, one of Worthington’s opponents, East Bay Regional Parks Director and former Berkeley City Councilmember Nancy Skinner reported pulling in donations in almost half the amount of Worthington’s last-minute self-loan—$9,200—including $3,600 apiece from the California State Association of Electrical Workers and the California State Law Enforcement Association PAC. 

In many ways, that summed up the fortunes of the two candidates, and the results of the Democratic primary election for the right to succeed Loni Hancock as assemblymember from California’s 14th Assembly District. That is the result of a Daily Planet analysis of campaign finance reports turned in to the California secretary of state’s office by the candidates through June 5. Final campaign figures have not yet been turned in. 

With $281,649 in campaign contributions, Skinner outraised her three opponents. Richmond City Councilmember Tony Thurmond was second with $259,963 raised, Berkeley physician Phil Polakoff third with $169,689, and Worthington fourth with $108,172. In addition, Polakoff loaned his campaign another $81,000. 

Skinner came in first in the voting with 46.5 percent of the votes cast, Thurmond second with 24.9 percent, Worthington third with 16.8 percent, and Polakoff last with 11.8 percent. 

Skinner also reported the highest expenditure total of the four candidates: $172,938 to Polakoff’s $164,198, Thurmond’s $122,213, and Worthington’s $109,656. In final calculations that meant that Skinner got the best bargain for her 29,958 votes, spending only $5.77 per vote. Thurmond spent $8.48 per vote for his 14,407 total, Worthington $11.25 per vote for his 9,744, and Polakoff $23.87 for his 6,878. 

The majority of Skinner’s expenses—$97,618 (56.45 percent)—went to pay for campaign literature, mailings, and other campaign materials. Worthington spent $52,007 (47.43 percent of his expenses) on those items, Polakoff $45,383 (27.64 percent), and Thurmond $36,573 (29.93 percent). 

On the other hand, 38.85 percent of Worthington’s expenses ($42,600) went to pay for campaign consultants. A third of Polakoff’s expenses ($54,600) went for consultant fees, as did 23.73 percent ($29,000) of Thurmond’s. Skinner only paid 11.56 percent of her expense total ($20,000) for consultants. 

Polakoff at $20,498 and Skinner at $19,808 paid the most for polling. Thurmond came in a distant third at $3,672, while Worthington reported no polling expenses.  


Council Scorecard

By Judith Scherr
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

A Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday that stretched into Wednesday began on a light note, honoring local poet Adam David Miller. 

The more weighty council decisions that followed included: 

• Placing a fire and disaster preparedness tax on the November ballot. The council voted 7-0-2, with councilmembers Dona Spring and Laurie Capitelli abstaining. At its July 8 meeting, the council will decide whether to charge owners of commercial property a higher rate than homeowners. 

• Placing a library bond on the ballot to upgrade seismic safety and access for the disabled and add space for programs such as adult literacy. The vote was unanimous. 

• Delaying until July 8 a council decision on whether to place an advisory measure on the November ballot calling on the Berkeley Unified School District not to demolish the warm pool until a new warm pool is built. The superintendent of schools and the president of the school board asked for the delay to coordinate efforts. 

• Delaying until July 8 a council decision on the acting city attorney’s proposed ballot description language for the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance referendum on the November ballot, which speakers said misrepresented the preexisting LPO that the challenged new ordinance would have replaced. 

The city attorney agreed to take the public’s comments into consideration. Comments can be sent to zcowan@ci.berkeley.ca.us. 

• Endorsing a program to counter racism in the schools, which would include an emphasis on minority hiring and training teachers in cultural competence. The council endorsement was unanimous and, as part of the budget, it voted the project $75,000 later in the evening. 

• Approving a $320 million budget 7-1-1, representing a 2 percent increase over last year and eliminating 9.5 positions. Councilmember Worthington voted no and Councilmember Betty Olds abstained. 

 

For details, see www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9868 on Thursday when the annotated agenda will be posted. An online video will be available on Thursday as well at the same URL. 

 


Opinion

Editorials

‘Lifestyle’ Stores: Smaller is Greener

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

Be Afraid. Be Very, Very Afraid. That’s the advice I gave my old companera Dion Aroner last week, when I passed her on my way out of the meeting at Perata School last week which is written up elsewhere in this issue. The topic at hand was the Safeway corporation’s plans to put its current slightly dowdy local supermarket, which now occupies most of one leg of the scary, crowded multi-street intersection of College and Claremont on the Elmwood-Rockridge (Berkeley-Oakland) border, on steroids. Aroner was there in the Madame Defarge slot, hanging around in the back of the room, taking notes, saying nothing. Her firm has been hired to be the political fixers in Safeway’s ongoing drive to, shall we say, fully exploit its urban landholdings by turning four or five East Bay neighborhood stores into a new business model which promises to combine the worst features of Wal-Mart and a strip mall. 

We’ve lived within walking distance of this store for 35 years, but have seldom been inside. B.G. (before gentrification) we shopped at the Lucky store which was right next to the new Rockridge BART station. It was put on steroids by its own corporate masters at some point, sold to Albertson’s at another point, shut down, and has now re-opened as Trader Joe’s. Location, location, location—with parking, it’s everything.  

Why Lucky instead of Safeway? Because it was much smaller, and for those of us shopping for families on a budget it had the basics with few exotic temptations to slow you down on the way home from work or school with kids in the cart.  

Now that our household is smaller and our standards are higher, we mostly get produce at the many farmers’ markets which have opened up around here, and most other food at our small but perfect local family-owned market, the Star. Surprisingly, many items are less expensive there than at chain stores. Neighborhood teenagers staff the registers.  

Occasionally we walk to the string of specialty food shops across College from Safeway for something fancy. When we first moved in, Magnani’s poultry store, a plain bare-bones establishment in those days, was the anchor tenant in the building which is now so much more elegant. When I ordered my first Thanksgiving turkey there (not organic, not free-range, but at least not frozen) old Mr. Magnani (was his name Babe, or am I imagining that?) looked at the name on my check and said, “Well, my daughter married an Irish and it turned out OK.”  

We went to the Perata meeting as neighborhood residents, not as members of the media. Just like everyone else there, we fear seeing our human-scale walkable shopping zone turned into a corporate destination for SUV drivers from god-knows-where—there are already plenty of those in the Trader Joe’s lot now. Since we were late, we got the last seats in the crowded hall, on the stage facing the audience. From there, we could see the faces of everyone in the room, many of them people we’d known for many years in many contexts. That’s why I warned Dion to worry. 

Just for a start, I saw at least two first-rate environmental lawyers who live in Rockridge, attorneys of record in several leading cases. Better make sure that those EIRs are perfect, or else. And at least six architects, good ones, to critique any sloppy designs which might be offered to the Oakland Planning Commission, which would have to grant a pile of variances to make any version of the plan the Safeway guy was promoting fly. Not to mention the several wannabe politicians, articulate and dynamic spokespersons for the infinite variety of Oakland interest groups who would be eager to challenge any sitting councilmember who voted wrong on this one.  

Two critics among the many speakers seemed especially potent. One was Denny Abrams, the planning genius who invented Berkeley’s hugely successful Fourth Street shopping district with absolutely no help from clueless City of Berkeley planners. He lives nearby, and according to my companion (I’d gone outside for a moment) he delivered a rousing denunciation of the economics of the whole stupid scheme which someone will surely have paid attention to, perhaps even someone in Safeway’s management.  

The other was a guy whose name I can’t remember, but whom I recognized from long ago days when many of us picketed Safeway for a couple of years to support the Farmworkers’ Union grape boycott. He reprised that very successful effort, which he’d organized, and suggested that it could happen again. If there’s any word that should strike fear into Safeway’s heart (if a corporation had a heart) it should be “boycott.” If local residents decided that the company wasn’t dealing with them in good faith, and starting handing out leaflets saying that opponents should take their business elsewhere, it would show up quickly on the bottom line. Thinking back, I believe it was the grape boycott which put us off Safeway in the first place, and we never returned.  

The particularly short-sighted aspect of the new Safeway schemes, which seem to be approximately the same in most incarnations, is that they’re premised on creating megastores (puzzlingly euphemized as “lifestyle” stores) to attract many more customers driving in from ever more distant locations. Maybe the powers-that-be at Safeway haven’t noticed the sudden dearth of cars on the road in the last month or so.  

Perhaps instead they should be going back to the old neighborhood supermarkets with which they started years ago. Among the very few speakers cheering the expansion scheme were a couple of recent post-students, who thought that Safeway’s plans could mean lower grocery prices within easier driving distance of student apartments in the campus area.  

Well, here’s a concept: How about just opening another Safeway right near campus instead? When I was an undergraduate the building on Telegraph which is now Amoeba Music was a Lucky store. No one had cars. We walked to class, walked to Lucky’s, walked home with our groceries and cooked dinner at home instead of going to restaurants.  

Now that the Cody’s building is empty, maybe it would be a good place for Safeway to put in a walk-up grocery—no parking lot needed. It could be the neo-green lifestyle store of the future. The City of Berkeley’s fabled Economic Development Department should get right on it. 

 

 


Cartoons

The Candidate of Change

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM


The Incredible Shrinking Cody's Finally Disappears

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:13:00 AM


A More Palatable Martin Luther King

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:14:00 AM


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday June 30, 2008 - 04:27:00 PM

 

 

BEING GREEN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Many Berkeley residents hate war, and are tree-lovers, but still fall into recycled passions for what seems ecological. Daily Planet readers, please remember: installing solar panels and manufacturing "green" cars and buildings can be less ecological than retaining structures. Rather than replace stuff, and ignoring imbedded labor, materials, energy, and money—which are all ecologically and economically significant—let's modify more, including human activity. Low-tech green is cheaper and cultural. 

Related topic: Everyone green-minded should know of a tiny non-profit in two buildings at Dwight and McGee, the International Institute for the Bengal Basin, which cleans and preserves water resources and wilderness in California and Asia. It's victim to officials and politicians claiming its buildings are non-compliant. The mayor says: “IIBB property will go to a [developer]!” Officials ignore proof of IIBB's compliance, and inhumanely and unjustly “handle” IIBB's minor issues in ways that could destroy IIBB, its historic property, work, which would irreparably harm the environment. Everyone can join IIBB's legal, grassroots actions, so please end our “Berk-Rats" expensive lies that undermine your property rights, too. This is too important and complex for letters alone: Daily Planet, keep the story alive! 

Kenneth H. Thompson 

Megan C. Timberlake 

Richmond 

 

• 

DeLAUER’S NEWSSTAND 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every real city requires a few distinctions, both to mark it as such and to maintain a personality separate from other, sometimes envious, burgs. One of these is the international newsstand, preferably always open. 

Dear Oakland, despite its travails, has managed for over a century to host this affirmation of city status: DeLauer's Newsstand at Broadway and 14th. I began hitting on the place as a teen in the mid-'60s. In recent years, I'd waddle over after a duck/noodle soup at Yung Kee (Webster at Ninth), picking up a copy or two of my favorite car-collector magazines. An ad glanced at during an always-welcome browse alerted me to a very special exhibit in Auburn, Indiana, thus my last commercial flight...in 1998. 

Doesn't Berkeley have such a haven, in that dreadful tunnel below Telegraph between Durant and Channing? Readers, are there any "I-Stands" left around the Bay? Sacramento? L.A.? 

'Bye, DeLauer's. Come back for a visit, and bring some Kwik-Way apple pie with you. 

Phil Allen 

 

• 

CONFUSED ABOUT THE TREE-SITTERS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have become confused about the aim of these tree-sitter characters. They want to save the oak trees, but someone else owns the land where they are growing. The persons that own the land want to use the space for something else. Did they check it nice? 

Now these people who love the trees are inhabiting this portion of the grounds to prevent landscape alteration. I am reasonably sure the intended developments do not require destruction of said trees, just removal. If the tree-sitting peoples want the trees, why not ask for them? Maybe there has been a similar situation where the tree-lovers adopted the trees and had them transferred to a nearby sanctuary. What about that kind of approach? 

This may be unprecedented, but I doubt it. Conflict resolution is a guiding force in Berkeley. If someone cares about something, they take care of it. If you want the trees to live, you need to have a place to take care of them using your own resources. If not, maybe you could hustle something together? 

Duncan Cook 

 

• 

SAME-SEX COUPLE MARRIAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We all have read about the California Supreme Court's decision finding the ban on same-sex couple's right to marry unconstitutional. We have also read that the "Limitation on Marriage-Constitutional Amendment" banning same-sex marriage has qualified for the November ballot. Recently, I have read and heard much misinformation, disinformation, and unreasoned invective about this issue. I strongly recommend that opponents of same-sex couple marriage read the well-reasoned court decision (www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S147999.PDF) before commenting further. 

The California Supreme Court ruled that the equal protection clause of the "California Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the same substantive rights as opposite-sex couples to choose one's life partner, and enter with that person into a committed, officially recognized, and protected family relationship that enjoys all the constitutionally based incidents of marriage." The court further ruled that treating same-sex couples differently than opposite-sex couples has no rational basis in the law. 

Oftentimes the courts are the last resort to right a wrong. Society's mores change. Remember, slavery and segregation were once legal. At one time, women could not vote and blacks and whites were not allowed to marry. And during World War II, many Japanese were sent to concentration camps. The list of wrongs corrected goes on and on. These wrongs were finally acknowledged and changed by the courts or the legislature. The California Supreme Court has merely righted a wrong here by overturning the ban on same-sex couple marriage. 

Will the institution of marriage be threatened? Given the high divorce rate in California, it would appear that the institution of marriage is already threatened. Isn't it ludicrous to allow convicted murderers, child molesters, known pedophiles, drug pushers, pimps, black market arms dealers, etc., the freedom to marry and procreate, and are doing so, and deny committed consenting, same-sex adults this right? 

Does same-sex marriage apply to two sisters or two brothers? Of course not. To allow any non-related, adult and consenting couple to marry does not violate equal protection just as it does not violate equal protection to disallow all incest (and bestiality and polygamy). 

Is same-sex marriage immoral because the Bible says so? Actually, the First Amendment's freedom of religion gives us the right to freedom from religion. The Bible has no standing in United States law. 

Public debate on a controversial issue is healthy, but let's make it a reasoned debate. 

Ralph E. Stone 

San Francisco 

 

• 

HANCOCK-CHAN COVERAGE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Your recent article on fundraising for the Hancock-Chan race should have been properly placed in the editorials section. This was a fascinating campaign, one with many twists and turns which unfortunately pitted two progressives against each other. However, the author reduced Hancock's victory to a David-vs-Goliath campaign dollar issue. True, Hancock apparently raised about three times the money that Chan did. But the proportional difference in sources was not large—according to the article itself, group donations accounted for just over 62 percent of Hancock's funding versus approximately 50 percent of Chan's, a mere 12 percent difference. No mention was made of the impact of the numerous casino hit pieces against Hancock—a despicable spoiler tactic equivalent to a huge financial contribution to the Chan campaign. 

As a voter who initially was genuinely conflicted about which candidate to support, this analysis deflects from the real campaign issues. For me, and I suspect for many other voters, the decision at the voting booth was based on how the candidates conducted their campaigns. Chan never properly repudiated the vicious casino mailings, and her literature repeatedly listed endorsements by major public figures that were either fabricated or misleading—the most egregious being the implied endorsement by Barack Obama. 

There were important lessons to learn from this campaign, but this article was a poor start. 

Lincoln Cushing 

 

• 

DOWNTOWN BERKELEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

"What in Heaven's name is happening with downtown Berkeley?", ask dismayed residents. Well friends, there's a simple answer to that question. Absolutely nothing is happening, except for the regrettable closure of Cody's Books and the continued absence of a single department store on Shattuck Avenue. Oh, there are still a few good things—first rate theater (Berkeley Rep, Aurora and Shotgun Players) and a fine public library. 

But no department store in a city boasting one of the nation's greatest universities, a community of Nobel Prize Scientists, Pulitzer Prize writers and composers? Admittedly Fourth Street has its charms, but for basic shopping one really has only two choices, San Francisco or Walnut Creek. 

Actually, I enjoy going over to Walnut Creek. It's an easy ride on BART, picking up the free shuttle at the station, going to Broadway Plaza. That 15-minute ride takes one past a number of sleek high-rise office buildings, investment firms, upscale restaurants (Lark Creek Inn) and elegant fashion stores (Eileen Fisher). The shuttle drops passengers off at the attractive Broadway Plaza, with its graceful fountain and circular stone benches for those who simply want to enjoy an ice cream cone and watch the passing parade. Dedicated shoppers can head for Nordstrom or Macys, an absolute God-send for Berkeley residents, long denied a department store of their own. 

The first time I visited Walnut Creek I was so taken with its astonishing diversity and vitality, I assumed this city had to be much, much larger than Berkeley. I was sadly mistaken. Berkeley presently has a population of roughly 106,347, with Walnut Creek a smaller one of 65,284. How to explain the enormous difference in their shopping areas? 

Returning to downtown Berkeley after one of these pleasant shopping expeditions, I have the feeling I'm in a one-horse hick town! Oh, but there's a bright new light looming on the horizon with the May 2009 opening of the giant David Brower Center, located at Oxford and Allston. This complex will house galleries, a 180-seat theater (for film screening) and a large restaurant. Hopefully this very welcome addition will revitalize a presently moribund city. 

So, harping back to my grievance about the lack of a department store, it rankles me (I'll refrain from using a cruder term) that I have to travel miles and miles through a tunnel or across a bridge to do simple, ordinary shopping! 

Dorothy Snodgrass 

 

• 

WENT DOWN TO THE DEMONSTRATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last Saturday afternoon, I went to downtown Berkeley to oppose the pro-war biker rally, taking place in front of the Marine recruitment center. My agenda was quite unique and personal. I am not a member of any group. I am not a pacifist or anti-military. My older brother (now deceased) was a decorated Vietnam veteran. However, I am thoroughly galled by those who would equate supporting the troops with supporting Bush’s misbegotten war. I needed to express this, and to that end I fashioned a large homemade sign. On one side it read, "George W. Bush: Liar, Coward, Traitor, Criminal.” On the other side I wrote, "You cannot support the troops by sending them to die needlessly in an illegal, unjust and immoral war." I proudly displayed my sign as moved I amongst the bikers, who were resplendent in their vast array of American flags. I was surprised that my sign elicited little comment, and disappointed at not getting a chance to explain how I had reached my conclusions.  

However, just as their spokesperson, talk show host Melanie Morgan, was ascending a makeshift stage to speak, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy straight out of Hollywood casting for a typical, big, burly, mean-looking biker dude. He said "I’m only going to tell you this once. Get that f**kin’ sh*t (referring to my sign) out of here now!” I asked him if he had a problem with my sign’s message. He then said, "Maybe you didn’t hear me. I said to get that sh** out a here!" I explained to him that I was a free-born American, and that I would stand where I wanted to stand, and say what I wanted to say. He then hauled off and punched me in the stomach. At the same time, two of his leather-clad comrades surrounded me, demanding loudly that I leave immediately. At that point I started looking for a cop, and was stunned to find one standing only 10 feet behind me. Knowing that he had to have seen the melee that had just taken place, I asked the cop why he had not intervened. All the while, the three bikers were glaring at me. The Berkeley City police officer looked straight ahead while telling me that he had seen nothing and that there was nothing he could do. By now, I was perceiving the full reality of the situation, and so I left. Later, I looked back to see the same cop laughing and joking with some of the bikers. As the rally was winding down, I came upon a group of six Berkeley city officers standing together. I informed them that I had been punched by one of the bikers who was still in the area, and asked them if I could point him out to them. I was met with stony silence. I persisted, and finally one of the officers told me that I would have to take the matter up elsewhere. 

I am writing this only to inform, and perhaps warn others that it is now apparently OK for outside groups holding rallies on Berkeley streets, to physically assault Berkeley citizens who disagree with them. What is far worse and far more unacceptable, is that some of our own Berkeley police officers are clearly complicit. It is supposedly the duty of the Berkeley Police Department to serve and protect the members of this community, not to be in collusion with felonious violence perpetrated against us. 

Kevin Moore 

 

• 

BERKELEY, UC AND THE TREE-SITTERS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am appalled at the civic negligence and dereliction of duty by the City Council at the recent City Council meeting, evidenced by their refusal to support the reasonable human rights needs of the tree-sitters and valid community concerns. It seems apparent that the city has abdicated its voter based duty to defend the best interests of the community in favor of allowing the agenda focused UC Berkeley administration to dictate public policy. Clearly, the mayor and most members of the City Council don't grasp that the needs of the community are not always compatible with the UC agenda. Perhaps, the towel should be thrown in, taxpayer money saved and all matters of the City of Berkeley be turned over to a university-appointed committee. This would be more expedient and avoid undesirable contention. (Tongue in cheek, folks!) But, it does appear that city officials are more than willing to capitulate to university objectives over the well being, safety for all and the needs and desires of the community. Even though UC is a valuable asset and resource to the community, it is often a bad neighbor. It is indeed shortsighted of the mayor and City Council not to realize that the tree sitters are much like the anecdotal canary in a coalmine, vulnerable to UC ulterior motives and lack of human/civic responsibility and concerns. 

The tree-sitters, in addition to defending and promoting the value of mature oak trees, are courageously holding the line against tyrannical UC plans to increase traffic demands and density in a part of the community that has aging, narrow, inadequate roads, limited parking and inadequate infrastructure to handle the added demands of their unfettered building plans. And this is on top of geographically vulnerable earthquake fault proximity. It is rational of the tree-sitters to be very skeptical of having their reasonable needs determined or met by their UC adversary, especially without their supporters’ involvement and oversight and without medical professionals frequent assessments. 

UC clearly wants the tree sit to end and are willing to use whatever means necessary, regardless of safety and health concerns. Yet, UC history classes teach that civil disobedience is a hallmark of social change and beneficial defense of societal needs in America. Without civic-minded people standing up against imperialism we would still be saluting the British flag. Some of these irreplaceable trees were planted in memory of World War I heroes. Also, in keeping with the dominant attitude of business as usual, the concerns of Native Americans, who feel that the inspiring and contemplative oak grove is sacred burial grounds and should be left respectively intact, are missing from the City Council agenda. It is factual history, that when the football stadium was built, Indian burial remains were uncovered and desecrated. UC history seems determined to repeat in this regard with the UC pro development agenda. This oak grove location is not the only available campus site for placement of the proposed athletic facility. Still, UC dictation prevails, not community concerns and needed dialogue, which are sorely missing from this hotly contested situation. 

Carol Gesbeck DeWitt 

Oakland 

 

• 

CODY’S AND BLACK OAK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In response to the news about the sudden closing of Cody's Books, I wish there was an effort to keep it open with community input. A committee of people to support author talks—bring in cups and vacuums of tea, use donations to support leaflets of bookstore events—keep up community participation. Ironically the bookstore was slowly increasing sales. I'll keep the idea in case Black Oaks needs help but Cody's was a good location. Was Cody's the first or among the first to have author interviews/talks back in the 1950s? 

Alan Tong 

 

• 

MAYOR DELLUMS HAS NO AUTHORITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kudos to the Oakland Police Department on their successful Operation Nutcracker sting. The fact they managed to pull it off without alerting the city administrator and her allies it quite a feat. Chip Johnson should also be commended for his column in the San Francisco Chronicle revealing the ongoing corruption and inaction at Oakland City Hall. I am angry, outraged, and disgusted with the City of Oakland administration, starting with the mayor and on down to the City Council. The mayor continues to pay the city administrator $255,000 per year while she runs around chasing her nephew and impedes the police sting. Then she and her nephew are absolved of any wrongdoing.  

Oakland has a stressing pattern of inaction and cover-up going back 30 years. It began with the Yusuf Bey thugs terrorizing the city and culminating in the recent assassination of Mr. Bailey. Crime has escalated and the city administrators continue business-as-usual with their policy to let the outlaws off the hook. Here’s my suggestion: Mayor Dellums, fire the city administrator, her nephew, daughter and other relatives as a starting point before asking us to pay any more taxes to fight crime.  

Ruby Thompson  

Oakland 

 

• 

LADY OF THE GROVE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

My name is Linda, I'm a former Berkeley resident, and I support the tree-sitters. 

I support Code Pink and Breasts Not Bombs. I would rather see bare breasts than more coffins. 

I'm so glad that they sent water to the tree-sitters. America truly needs more irrational, harmless behavior for a good cause. Sure, it annoys those who are addicted to logic and the Same Old Stuff, but it does get attention. 

I pray to God we see a lot more goofy behavior to support good causes. Obviously, the authorities are paying attention. 

I am the Lady of the Grove. I am the Guardian Angel of Berkeley, and of the State of California. And of the U.S.A. and of the World. 

I send my love and my prayers to all of the tree-people. Whoever it was in UC that authorized sending the water deserves a big, huge full-body orgasm. 

Linda Smith 

Mt. Shasta 

 

• 

OLYMPIAN McCAIN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It now seems glaringly appropriate that Sen. John "Maverick" McCain should be renamed John "Gymnast" McCain. His amazing, agile feats of back-flips, front-flips and giant swings, etc., all demand a more fitting opprobrium. 

Robert Blau 

 

• 

TOBACCO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a Cal student, I’m glad the City of Berkeley has taken serious action against distributing free tobacco coupons in all public places, especially for bars and other hot nightspots. Right now, the tobacco industry sponsors bar parties all over the country, particularly hitting hard in college towns. At these events, tobacco companies can prey on young adults with attractive coupons and gifts hoping to recruit new smokers and successfully imprinting their brand in young minds. 

Most importantly, limiting what the tobacco industry can give away at these special events may also limit their access to Cal students’ private information. In exchange for tobacco coupons and accessories, tobacco promoters swipe driver’s licenses for the names, mailing addresses, ages, and ethnicities of party participants. They use direct marketing techniques to send slick tobacco ads, coupons, concert tickets, CDs and birthday gifts, each targeted to an individual’s tastes and hobbies. 

Because we already know, from a recent Harvard study, that college town tobacco industry bar promotions have the greatest effect on a nonsmoker’s smoking behavior, I think that the new Berkeley law will protect the college community from unnecessary cigarette ads and prevent many new students from picking up the deadly habit. By putting a stop to this, Berkeley has found an effective way to counteract one of the main marketing strategies of the tobacco industry. 

Thank you Berkeley! 

Michelle Ly 

 

• 

IN DEFENSE OF CLOTHESLINES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In reference to the article "Why Your Dryer Is Trying to Kill You" I like to author of the article am a supporter of clotheslines. In fact I have attempted to get a clothesline resolution passed for some time, although I have been ignored when I have contacted the city government about it. Here it is: 

Whereas, much produced energy be it electric or gas to dry clothing is increasingly expensive and harmful to the environment. Whereas, the City of Berkeley is committed to responsibly using energy. Whereas, the city of Berkeley sees clotheslines as a way to responsibly dry clothing with wind and solar energy. 

Now therefore, be it resolved by the Council of the City of Berkeley that the City of Berkeley adopts the following policy concerning clotheslines.  

1. The City of Berkeley believes that drying laundry with wind and solar energy should be encouraged. 

2. Clotheslines that dry laundry with wind and solar energy should not be forbidden in apartments, dormitories, and any other housing in the City of Berkeley. 

Note I am not forcing anyone to use clotheslines, but I am simply saying that they should not be forbidden. Is this too much to ask? 

Ardys DeLu 

 

• 

MARIJUANA RAIDS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The June 25 Eureka Reporter, up Humboldt way, informs us that "About 450 federal, state, and local personnel executed 29 search warrants in Humboldt and Mendocino counties early Tuesday morning." 

Special federal agents report that officers found about 10,000 marijuana plants estimated to be worth between $25 million and $50 million, and they add, "It's a large-scale, for-profit, commercial business..... The targets of our investigation are reaping huge profits while contributing to the crime and violence oppressing communities across the state."  

The news report continues, "Local law enforcement agencies were called in to help with the investigation, including the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Eureka Police Department, Humboldt County Drug Task Force, and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office." 

"Other federal agencies involved include the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, California Highway Patrol, California National Guard Drug Task Force, U.S. Forest Service, Campaign Against Marijuana Planting and California Department of Fish and Game." 

Way back in 1972, Dr. Andrew Weil wrote an article called, "The Natural Mind." Basically, he said, "The use of drugs to alter consciousness has been a feature of human life in all places on earth and in all ages of history. In fact, to my knowledge, the only people lacking a traditional intoxicant are the Eskimos, who, unable to grow anything, had to wait for white men to bring them alcohol, which, of course, has always been the most commonly used drug." 

He emphasized that caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, are all drugs, of course. So while the feds are justifying their raids on "drug-trafficking" up in Humboldt, those three legal drugs are being produced & freely marketed. In fact, the alcohols, such as the wines and beers, are glorified and promoted around the world.  

Perhaps the greatest mystery of all, about the trillions being spent to save the public from these illegal drug operations, is our knowledge that marijuana, in particular, is not lethal, while nicotine and alcohol are at the top of our mortality lists. 

How long are we going to allow our government to treat us as if we're as blind as they are? 

Gerta Farber 

 

• 

COMPROMISE? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Contrary to the headline on Carolyn Jones’s June 28 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the university has made no concessions or compromises. Webster’s defines compromise as: "a: A settlement of differences by arbitration or by consent reached by mutual concessions b: something intermediate between or blending qualities of two different things, 2: a concession to something derogatory or prejudicial." 

The university has refused to meet with neighbors, community and environmental groups to discuss compromises. 

A reasonable concession would be to locate the athletic training center on a different site. You cannot replace a 100-year-old oak with three tiny saplings. The Kleeberger field adjacent to stadium and Edwards Field on the main campus are available, as well as many other alternative sites. How about old trees and new gym? 

Catherine Orozco 

 

• 

HANDGUNS FOR ALL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Tens of thousands of words have been spilled and many hairs split and the curtain has fallen on the dispute at last. The Supreme Court has spoken. Writing for the five-vote majority, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that the “historical narrative” justifies “handguns held and used for self defense in the home.”  

I don’t have a handgun and haven’t been near one since I was discharged from the Air Force over 50 years ago. Some folks will find the high courts decision comforting. For Ben Cromeen it was vindication: He sees his right to have 17 handguns as the basis of all constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. He told a reporter, “You can’t have freedom of speech and freedom of the press [He left out freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom from search and seizure, etc.] if you’re unsafe.” (“Cheers, fears meet Supreme Court gun ruling” by Miguel Bastillo and Louise Roug, Los Angeles Times, June 27). 

However, the bothersome thing is not that imminent scholars have drawn conflicting and often contradictory conclusions from the same sentence but that we rely on nine appointed referees to extract up-to-date meaning from 18th century words ("A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.").  

Investing the Supreme Court with this sort of ex cathedra authority suggests religious parallels. 

Some scholars view the Bible as prescriptive; others see it as a guide. Writers use it as a reference book and agnostics as a source of inspiration. For everyone the Bible tells us how we should live in much the same spirit as the Constitution tells us how we should be governed. Are the Founders’ words really as sacrosanct as the Bible’s? 

In my view, these two documents, properly revered, are each useful, even necessary, in their domains of relevance. It is important to remember, however, that they are not sufficient.  

Good governance does not depend on the clarity or even the cogency of the Supreme Court’s exegesis. Good governance like good behavior springs from understanding the human condition and acting to improve it.  

The human condition is enhanced by peace and no matter what the Supreme Court decides handguns are not instruments of peace. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 

 

• 

NIMBYISM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The recent letter ("The Manhattan of Berkeley," June 26) regarding the complex at 1500 San Pablo Ave. contains every standard NIMBY argument that is usually made in Berkeley, but can be summed up in the simple reactionary statement "No!" People such as J. Fisher are so interested in the status quo that they've ended up in the same spot as the late William F. Buckley who yelled the same phrase over and over independent of the circumstances, inconsistencies, or in fact, reality. Change itself is the enemy. The reactionary desire for stasis is so strong that words lose any meaning and so calling for more "Open Space" in an urban setting on one of the city's main thoroughfares becomes just another person yelling stop! Of course this letter is in a paper that subscribes to the whole NIMBY argument lock, stock and barrel, because any comparison between Berkeley and Manhattan is ridiculous on its face. 

Patrick Emmert 

Oakland 

 

• 

MOTH SPRAY BATTLE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of Bay Area Stop the Spray groups, we celebrate and thank all the individuals, public officials, doctors, scientists, and more than 30 local governments and 80 organizations who spoke out to stop aerial spraying of pesticides over our cities for the light brown apple moth (LBAM). The state's abrupt decision to halt the urban spray is a clear testament to the power of an informed movement of citizens.  

Unfortunately, the state still intends to aerially spray forested and other areas (perhaps Mt. Tam and East Bay parks?) for LBAM and to use ground spray and other dangerous pesticides (including permethrin, a carcinogen, toxic to bees) in our neighborhoods.  

The state has filed court documents indicating an intent to proceed without environmental review. We have asked for written clarification of what treatments are planned, and we continue to work to reclassify the moth to stop this unsafe, unnecessary, and ineffective program.  

We hope Bay Area citizens will continue to oppose this whole program and support the transformation of agriculture from dependence on mono-cropping and toxic chemicals to a reliance on the wisdom of nature via organic, bio-diverse farming, so we may all enjoy a healthy, pesticide-free food supply. 

Nan Wishner, Stop the Spray East Bay  

Albany 

Michelle Darby, Stop the Spray San Francisco 

San Francisco 

Lisa Chipkin, Stop the Spray Marin  

San Rafael 

 

• 

RACIST CARICATURE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Even though I realize Justin DeFreitas is a cartoonist, his sketch of Sen. Barack Obama's face reminds me more of a representation of old racist "Black Face" than a true political caricature.  

First, I cannot remember ever seeing President George Bush with the chimp-like features, Sen. McCain with a wide blank stare, or Hillary Clinton with the chipmunk cheeks, drawn with such extreme overstatement.  

Second, I question the use of the gigantic teeth he sketches of Sen. Obama's teeth. Even though they are only caricatures, I'm waiting to see other people sketched with such hyperbole. Or are such false impressions only reserved for people like Senator Obama?  

Also, I fail to see why DeFreitas chooses to picture Sen. Obama's teeth. Are they one of his most distinctive features like the ones described above? Sen. Obama smiles like most politicians’ smile. I cannot remember seeing any other smiling politician's teeth over-exaggerated the way he draws the senator's teeth. It is so perplexing! 

Third, American "Good Ol Boy" humor will find it difficult to escape the small mentality of intolerance. After all, let's face it: Sen. Obama has a pleasant face that DeFreitas has changed into a hideous grin.  

Finally, even though I realize Justin DeFreitas is indeed a caricature cartoonist, some of his drawings seem more representative of the good-ol-boy humor than of a true caricature artist. Or is that what being a caricature artist is all about in North America? 

Mondrae Johnson 

Sacramento 

 

 


Letters to the Editor

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM

 

 

 

THE MANHATTAN OF BERKELEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love New York—the sprawling cement, the bustle of the non-stop traffic, the throngs of people pushing through the sidewalks, as long shadows are cast on the street below from enormous skyscrapers. I love New York but I love California more—the sun, the trees, the relative quiet of Berkeley in comparison. All of that seems to be changing at a fast clip as every iota of open space is quickly being renovated into a five-story/multi-unit/multi-use complex. Take for example 1500 San Pablo Ave. In the relatively quiet North Berkeley neighborhood a plan is being proposed for a five-story, 170-unit building, complete with a grocery store on the bottom. Just wait until rush hour on San Pablo as the already bustling street tries to accommodate another 340 or so drivers plus shoppers as they try to pull in and out of San Pablo Avenue. What does it matter that this massive building will be out of place as 90 percent of San Pablo is one- and the occasional two-story building? Let’s build something tall to block all views and the sun! Hey, and all the drivers on San Pablo can fan out to all the neighborhood streets to avoid the gridlock, thereby adding more congestion onto the sidestreets like Kains, Cornell, Stannage, and Tenth street. Every California city is concerned about growth, environmental impact, traffic, and the preservation of open space. Why are the City of Berkley, the mayor’s office, and the city planners hell bent on letting developers overdevelop Berkeley? What’s wrong with a little open space, or even a little unused space? Just for fun drive down San Pablo Avenue on a weekday at 5, or even on Saturday at 5 and imagine a lot more cars, you will end up wanting to image a whole lot more open space. 

J. Fisher 

 

• 

UC STADIUM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Now that the judge has slowed down the sports center, a win-win alternate would be to build a multi-use sport facility at the Albany G.G. racetrack. There is plenty of parking. UC Berkeley’s housing, Richmond Field Station, and campus are all close by. Horse racing tracks are being abandoned. 

As a long time Berkeley resident, UC Berkeley’s continual expansion has made life unbearable. There’s no quality of life, living in a high-density, limited-area city. 

Ray Quan 

 

• 

SHATTUCK MEDIAN STRIP 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing about an unsafe condition on the median strip on Shattuck Avenue between Cedar and Vine streets in North Berkeley. I have been surprised the City of Berkeley has allowed this condition to exist. At various times during the day, primarily during meal hours, numbers of people, especially young people, use the median strip to lounge, socialize and eat. They think they are invincible. There are numerous restaurants and food take out businesses on that block. The city should allow them to set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk so the patrons don’t need to congregate on a dangerous median strip. 

It is a dangerous condition that can result in serious injury or death to the users of the median strip. The median strip is approximately three to four feet in width and is not meant as a gathering place. It was designed as and meant to be a landscaped decorative divider strip between north and south bound traffic on Shattuck Avenue. There are no warning signs on the strip and there are no barriers to errant traffic.  

If an inattentive driver of a truck or car jumps the strip (the curb is not that high), there will be serious injury or death to one or several of the users of the strip.  

The City of Berkeley needs to post warning signs on the strip and have the police enforce a no use policy on the strip for the protection of the users of the strip and for protection of the city from liability claims. 

As a personal injury attorney I am very aware of dangerous conditions, especially those allowed to exist by governmental entities. To avoid exposure to liability the City of Berkeley needs to stop the use of the median strip as a gathering place. I don’t believe Shattuck Avenue is a state route. Consequently the State of California would have no liability. 

Recently a car in Santa Monica driven by an elderly gentleman crashed through barriers and plowed into several people on the Santa Monica pedestrian mall. The defendants in the wrongful death and serious injury claims were the City of Santa Monica, the managers of the mall strip and the driver of the car. Judgments and settlements amounted to millions of dollars. Guess which defendants had the deep pockets and paid the majority of the monetary claims to reimburse the victims and family members of this tragedy. 

Our situation is worse. Our strip is not meant for the use which the city is allowing to occur and the City of Berkeley would be the main defendant on claims. Most drivers don’t carry that much insurance coverage, especially in cases of wrongful death and crippling injuries.  

I don’t know how much money the City of Berkeley has in reserve for these types of potential claims. It is time the City protected itself and most importantly the users of this strip.  

Paul M. Schwartz 

 

• 

EXTEND CLEAN ENERGY CREDITS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the past six months Congress has been squabbling over how to pay for expiring clean energy tax incentives. These incentives are bringing down the cost of installing, building, and manufacturing the renewable energy systems and energy-efficient products our nation so desperately needs. If these incentives expire in December over 116,000 jobs in the wind and solar industries are placed at risk next year. 

The Senate has a chance to get us to end this protracted debate by voting HR 6049 into law. This bill passed the House in late May by a bi-partisan vote. It includes an $18 billion package of renewable energy and energy-efficiency tax credits that would be paid for by postponing an obscure tax break for corporations with foreign operations that was supposed to take effect next year, and by cracking down on hedge-fund managers who are currently able to avoid billions of dollars in taxes by diverting money to offshore havens. 

Thus in exchange for closing wasteful tax loop-holes that would stop an unchecked gravy train for select, wealthy taxpayers, our nation will continue to enjoy clean energy tax incentives that benefits all Americans by creating local jobs in green energy fields, enhancing our energy security, and helping us fight global warming. That sounds like a trade-off all wise politicians would support. 

I call upon our Senators to think seriously about our energy future and immediately extend these clean energy tax incentives. 

Emma Poelsterl 

Richmond 

 

• 

THUGS OWN THE STREETS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

A June 19 Oakland Tribune headline reads, “Search is on for sexual assault suspect.” This brief article describes a crime that occurred in Berkeley on Sunday, June 15 at 7:20 p.m. near Dwight Way and College Avenue. A Latino assailant in his 20s approached a lone woman, exposed his genitals and pushed her up against a parked car. He then tried to pull her into the front entrance of an apartment building. She screamed, pushed him off and he fled on foot. This article quotes police as reminding people not to walk alone or talk on cell phones or listen to iPods as they walk, remaining aware of surroundings. Although this is mostly common sense and known safety practices it is very alarming to be warned by police not to walk alone.  

With the astonishingly high cost of gasoline, costly and time consuming-inconvenient public transportation, and a significantly overweight population suffering from too little exercise and too much of the wrong kinds of food and beverages the prevailing financial advice, professional medical advice and environmental advocates urge people to leave expensive and polluting transportation at home. Few people have a buddy system that allows for companionship to go about their daily business using their feet to get around. It is counterproductive and appalling that the limited resources of law enforcement have deteriorated to the point that the police seem to be capitulating to the grim fact, that even in broad daylight, law abiding people are not safe walking on even some of our busiest streets in neighborhoods perceived as relatively safe. Roving thugs, engaging in random acts of opportunistic crime, now thwart everyone’s basic safety. Hazards of walking normally include very poorly maintained-fall inducing sidewalks as well as ever increasing pedestrian safety concerns due to heavier traffic and less conscious-more distracted, often substance-abusing drivers. Society is degenerating to conditions that soon will require, law-abiding citizens to stay behind locked doors or venture out only in protective packs of armed or mace carrying peers. The social fabric of our society is badly shredded and the near and distant future appears very bleak indeed. 

Carol Gesbeck DeWitt 

 

• 

ENCOURAGING NEWS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been reading the latest news coming out of Israel with cautious optimism: the ceasefire with Hamas, an offer to begin talks with Lebanon, and the ongoing talks with Syria and the Palestinians. It looks like Israel is heading in the right direction in its quest for security and peace. 

I have been struck, however, by the absence of public expressions of support for these recent peace efforts, most notably from the pro-Israel community that is normally such a vocal advocate for Israel and its policies. 

As an American who believes that the security of Israel, its neighbors and the United States is enhanced by a peaceful Middle East, I strongly support these initiatives and hope that the United States will do more to facilitate their success. I hope that those who consider themselves to be friends of Israel will join me in this strong expression of support. 

Michael Sherman 

 

• 

MUSIC PROGRAMS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

While it may only lie in the California past “when most children had at least some exposure to music at school” (June 12 editorial), students in the Berkeley Unified School District today benefit from a rich introduction to that culture. My two daughters, like all Berkeley fourth graders, were offered (and issued) instruments last year and this, and twice played with members of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. Last year one daughter sang at school with members of the San Francisco Opera a la Carte. The three of us just returned from three days at Berkeley’s Cazadero Music Camp in the Sonoma redwoods, where the program concluded with the fifth graders’ precise hour-long symphonic concert, and where our children took home warm introductions to the entire Berkeley schools’ music staff from whom they will learn in the middle and high school years ahead. Of course we are indebted to the taxpayers, music institutions, and donors whose generosity has enriched the Berkeley schools, and the foresight of civic leaders to have acquired and resurrected the Cazadero camp site decades ago. 

Antonio Rossmann 

 

• 

SOME UNSOLITICED COMMENTS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Way back in 1986 the supposed wise and visionary citizens of the City of Berkeley declared itself a “No Solar Zone.” Oh, wait minute...that was: “Nuclear Free Zone!” 

How ironic my slip...for we might as well have declared ourselves a Solar Free Zone being that, in well over 30 years since the 1973 oil crisis, only a handful of alternative energy installations exist in Berkeley. 

It is not unreasonable to expect auto companies to have been building massive fleets of 50- or 100-mpg vehicles by now. And by the same token, with all of our brain power, wealth, and rooftop acreage, the City of Berkeley should have, by now, become a shining beacon to the region, and to the rest of the world, in the implementation of solar technologies. Sadly, shamefully, this is not the case. 

The City of Berkeley is now entering into another tiresome era of political leadership consisting of the same handful of machine-politicians who have presided over us for decades. Well, yes, we voted them into office, but, dear citizens: Their victory is only half of the bargain. 

It is of the highest moral imperative to demand real accomplishment on issues such as energy policy (not to mention the numerous other problems that have plagued our city for over 30 or 40 years). 

It is time to get off of our high horses, take a break from the redundant celebration of our supposed superiority, and demand results. 

John Herbert 

 

• 

PUERILE ASPERSIONS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

We read with interest Becky O’Malley’s recent “Editor’s Back Fence” column no the Daily Planet website regarding the whole Memorial Stadium brouhaha, and several of her colorful phrases caught our eye: 

• UC Berkeley continues to embarrass its graduates. 

• Huge and hideous Mussolini Modern athletic building. 

• Kafkaesque labyrinth of dark underground corridors. 

• Quintessential Old White Guy. 

• No-neck conformation that identified them as The-Jocks-in-Charge. 

• “Oozing charm from every pore, he oiled his way across the floor.” 

We have wondered if all your advertisers would be pleased with your oddly puerile, stereotyped aspersions, and if they really want to spend their advertising dollars on your personal opinion paper. Are any of your advertisers pale white guys, or ex-athletes? We’ll ask them. 

Leo J. Gaspardone, Sr. (UC ‘57) 

Sandy Bails (UC ‘68) 

 

• 

SCARED SHIRTLESS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the June 19 article on the Marines Recruiting Station protest: Will somebody please tell Pam Bennett and Sherry of Code Pink to put their shirts on? 

I’ve spent years of my life trying to effect peace and progressive change and believe we have to keep asking ourselves two questions: What do we want to change? How can we achieve it in a way that works? (And not be dismissed as “those crazy bitches?”) 

All I can say is exposing your breasts ain’t the way. Just what portion of the electorate did Pam imagine she was reaching? 

True, a faction of The Choir applauded, probably those who still long for the romance of the 1960s. Some of Pam’s supporters say, “She got attention for the anti-war cause.” Yeah, like the sexual humiliation inflicted on Abu Graib prisoners made them hand over great intelligence. Is all attention good? Ask any mother of a 3-year-old. 

For that matter, the vast majority of the electorate are already against the war. We could have given them the message to contact elected officials to cut off war funding. But, yawn, that’s so dull. What message did the shirtless ones actually send? 

I suspect what Pam is looking for is a kind of exciting them versus us fight—them, guys filled with testosterone, and us, righteous women. Cops are obviously filled with testosterone and must be bad. Tribal warfare of this sort just increases bitterness and stunts such as Pam’s and Sherry’s are self-indulgent. Besides that, Pam’s description of cops sounds a bit sexist. 

My informants tell me another tactic was considered for the demonstrations—the use of Winter Soldiers testimony. That sounded red hot to me. Did it happen? 

Meanwhile, I’d like to hear of a single person persuaded to resist the militarization of these United States by Pam and Sherry’s action. No, I ain’t new to this cause. My pacifist grandfather came out against flag-waving and militarization in 1918. I suspect he had plenty of testosterone. He also was elected to office and promoted women’s voting. How I wish some of my fellow progressives were as sensible. And that someone would bring this country together without prejudice against women, blacks, gays or even working class men. 

Avis Worthington 

 

• 

BROTHER’S SAFETY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

When I was in my first few years of adulthood, I spent too much time reading comic books, playing video games and watching movies, while not spending enough time trying to cause positive change. My younger brother is also a comic book fan, but as a young man entering adulthood, he chose to follow his heart and save some trees. My younger brother climbs and traverses to save a public park, a public memorial, a beautiful slice of nature a short walk away from city life. 

For those who weren’t there, on June 17, a private arborist firm was given orders by UC Berkeley Campus Police Chief Vicky Harrison to cut the traverse line he was suspended on. If they were successful, if they chose to fulfill those orders, I would have lost my brother, my friend. 

He’s stuck in the trees right now, and I miss being able to talk to him, and going on walks with him. But I know he doing what he feels is right, and I support him wholeheartedly. He chose his tree name because of a T-shirt I gave him when he was on the ground once. I miss him, but I expect him to come down after his mission up there in the canopy is successful and over. I expect him to come down safe and not coldly plummeted to the ground by a mercenary tree trimmer from Watsonville. When my brother is back on the ground, I want to buy him a stack of comic books, not a bunch of flowers for his grave. 

I don’t know what is going to happen between the time I type this and the time this gets to print. But I would hope Vicky would not value her $2.1 million scandal, nor a gym, over my brother’s safety. 

Go Sonic, go.  

Name withheld 

 

• 

CAL STADIUM PROJECT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an alumnus of the University of California at Berkeley, I strongly urge your newspaper to express its support for discontinuing the legal action that the City of Berkeley has initiated to challenge the construction of a new athletic center on the campus. The historically strong partnership between the University and the City has significantly benefited both the citizens and the University, and improvements to the University’s athletic programs can not only benefit both but can also bring substantially increased business and sales tax revenues. The City has made its point in this litigation, but now it is time to cease this expensive and divisive action. 

Bill Russell 

 

• 

COMMON SENSE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As many warned our neighbors and the Berkeley City government initially, the suit against the new UC athletic facilities was frivolous chest-thumping and a waste of the taxpayers’ money. The funds spent on this lawsuit by the city could have been much better spent on other needs of the people of Berkeley. Now that a legal ruling largely favorable to UC has been handed down by Judge Miller, I urge the mayor and the City Council in the strongest terms not to waste any more time, effort, or money on this issue. Further legal appeals will only delay the inevitable outcome. Too much attention and too much money have already been spent on this distraction. The City of Berkeley has everything to gain by allowing these facilities to be built, and truly nothing to lose. 

Jeremy Thorner 

 

 

• 

TREATMENT OF BLACK MEN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding Richard Brenneman’s April 29 story, “Week’s Second Shooting Alarms North Oakland Neighbors”: 

As the mother of the victim of that shooting, I was appalled as I read the story about the shooting in your newspaper. No investigating about this crime was actually done by the newspaper or the police. My son was not a shooter in this incident. He was the victim! He was ambushed while dropping off a friend as a favor to him. He had no gun and was not and never has been involved in that type of gun violence. He does not steal...he has integrity...and, although he is not afraid to defend himself, he doesn’t initiate violence!  

He had been driving the little Hot Wheel-looking yellow Dodge Charger when a man came out of nowhere and shot into his windshield. My son believed it was an attempted robbery. He had attempted to make an blind escape by driving the car off with his head down, which resulted in the crashing of the vehicles described in the article.  

He had a friend with his 3-year old daughter in the back seat. To divert attention from them, he jumped out and ran. The shooter ran after him shooting as he pursued. The only thing that saved him is tore off his gold chain and emptied his pockets of all his money while he was running. The shooter stopped to pick up the goods.  

In the meantime, his friend jumped in the front seat and drove off to safety. And my son jumped the fence into someone’s yard to hide from his assailants. He said he could hear at least two guys looking for him. He waited in fear and pain because he had been shot. He doesn’t know if he had been shot before he ran or while running but by the time he found a place to hide he knew he had been hit.  

He stayed there until he saw a police car ride by and then he came out of hiding. By that time, the police car had left. He walked down the street begging for someone to help him by taking him to the hospital and no one would. Finally, when one young guy was ready to take the risk of his father’s scorn, the police found him. 

The officers questioned him while he lay in pain believing he was dying. But after that, we never saw any more police. There was no interest from anyone in what had happened...what had really happened. There was no investigation...nothing. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. He is a young black man, age 25. He is considered one of them...the shooter, expendable, deserved of this kind of lack of interest, just not worthy! That is where I became appalled.  

He shouldn’t get the same care and interest as any body else. Don Perata was carjacked in that same area. He is no more worthy than my son! Is that the only time people notice? My son was a victim!  

I have grown very weary of the treatment of young black men as a whole. My son has to deal with stuff no one else should have to. He was picked up last year by the San Leandro police and kept in jail over night because he was suspected of attempting to steal a car which belonged to his friend, he had his permission to drive it, he had gotten locked out of it and the police had talked to the owner. No charges were ever made. And, they kept the key to his car which they said was a shaved off key, so he had to pay to get a new one. 

He is a young man like so many others that is trying to find his way. He is in and out of school and jobs. He is young and a little unstable. But, he does not deserve to be treated like a criminal or worse as if his life is not as important as the next guy...or the Don Peratas.  

Please make attempts to get the stories right! My son was not just a crime victim but also a victim of a perception that when you are a young African-American male you must be at fault. 

Monique Shaifer 

 

• 

CITY REVENUE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

For years now, I’ve witnessed downtown Berkeley lose its vitality and much of its diversity, and the variety of its offerings narrow to the choice of posh restaurants and designer fashions or the growing number of cheap eats and thrift/dollar shops that now segregate our community’s social interactions. At the same time, our city government has been selling out the town’s interests to those of the university and private developers while imposing policies aimed at making life unreasonably difficult for many of its citizens. 

A few years ago, the Planet ran an article about the town’s budget, from which I inferred that a decision had been made to make parking fines a reliable source revenue rather than continue as a punishment to encourage a violator not to offend again. Now I see how that works. A few weeks ago, while helping a disabled person, I pulled over and parked for a short time behind another car on a residential side street. When I returned to my car about 10 minutes later, I found that my act of helpfulness would cost me $36 because of street cleaning. The “disabled” sticker in my car was obviously trumped by the town’s commitment to generating revenue because the street was already clean when I parked there, which the meter-person could have as easily observed as I did (after the fact). This grasping for money from parking violations is further evidenced in that we now have no alternative to paying (such as offering to work it off). And there’s no point in pursuing the matter at a hearing because doing so requires that one send in the amount of the fine at the same time! 

Now that I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel that will, I hope, extinguish the meanness and avarice that has distinguished our national leadership for so long, I look forward to the day when Berkeley government returns to promoting human rather than economic values again. 

Nicola Bourne 

 

• 

DO NOT APPEAL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a registered Berkeley voter, I am urging the Berkeley City Council and Mayor Bates not to appeal Judge Miller’s recent ruling in the stadium lawsuit. Eighteen months of legal proceedings and briefs was long enough for someone of her judicial caliber to make an accurate decision. I would be appalled if the city decided to continue to use taxpayer money in a reckless and open-ended way to fight a losing battle against the university that never should have happened.  

The university is a beacon of progressive thought and is a leader in environmental research in the world, and is seeking promote the safety of its students and its staff by constructing the SAHPC. I am appalled that my city is so opposed to the notion that its citizens and representatives at the University should be subject to unsafe conditions when a judge has now clearly stated that its plans for construction of the SAHPC comply with Alquist-Priolo and numerous independent surveyors have deemed the site construction worthy. 

Issuing a city ordinance that granted one group exclusive rights to protest a military recruiting center was embarrassing enough. Please don’t compound the city’s public relations problem by needlessly dragging out a lawsuit with the university at the expense of taxpayers. The university is the main reason Berkeley is such an interesting and diverse place. It brings in people from all over the world who seek out knowledge and competition, and many stay because of the city’s liberal leanings and beautiful surroundings.  

The stadium isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the university. It is time to accept those facts and reconcile that it’s in both sides’ best interest to promote the safety and competitive advantage that the SAHPC and the overall Memorial Stadium retrofit project will supply to the university, the City of Berkeley, local businesses, and the students. 

Jeff Patmont 

 

• 

DISTRICT ELECTIONS  

AT FAULT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In last week’s editorial “Another Opening, Another Show,” you blame “self-satisfied…complacent…small-c conservatives” in the hills for maintaining the status quo in Berkeley. 

The class difference between the hills and flatlands is historic, but you are correct in calling the latter our “urban sacrifice zones” where neighbors vainly struggle to protect their historic residential enclaves from oversized development. 

Why do flatlanders feel so powerless? The root cause is not personal but structural: district elections. In 1986 this self-mutilation of the Berkeley body politic was imposed on the urban flatlands by hills voters who wanted a cozy relationship with their councilmember while crushing slate politics. It was CNA VS. BCA, but the neighborhoods only succeeded in shooting themselves in the foot. 

Now, instead of voting for the entire council, we get to vote for one person plus the mayor. If the councilmember fails to support or protect our interests, we only have the mayor. And if s/he fails, then no other elected official is accountable, and the citizen is effectively disenfranchised. 

Thus incumbency becomes the rule, as voters are afraid to alienate their one person in City Hall. Citizens turn instead to unelected staff employees, who are perfectly content in running the city according to what they see as their “professional” inclinations. 

If the district map is superimposed on zoning, it is obvious that the job of the suburban residential hills councilmember is far easier than s/he who represents the complex interests of the many zoned districts, especially West Berkeley. 

Council neglect was shockingly evident in March, when the Planning Commission held an important tour of the manufacturing zones, and Darryl Moore was the only councilmember who showed up to survey the problems of an area that fuels the city’s economic engine and where small business and artisans confront well-heeled developers. 

How can we restore a vibrant, citizen driven democracy in Berkeley? Here are the options: 

1. Overturn district elections and restore the old system of everybody gets to vote for the entire council. 

2. Increase the size of the Council by adding flatland districts, generating interest and attention to our urban and economic problems. 

3. Add two-at-large members. 

4. Institute term limits, stimulating greater fresh debate in replacement elections. 

5. Some combination of the above, although prudence would dictate acting on one at a time. 

Toni Mester 

 

• 

MICHAEL ROSSMAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some recent breaths ago, our dearly departed homo luden Michael Rossman asked me to get him a few minutes on this year’s Bolshevik Cafe stage. No problem. On May 3, Michael, masked—initially, to some, a robber in our midst—arrived at Red Finn Hall on 10th Street and read his now core-of-our-lyrical lore “thank you to my body” poem, nine days before he passed (on George Carlin’s final birthday). 

Michael and I had worked on this year’s Golden Jubilee of the Peace Symbol in February. So, please consider my utter upper fortune—consciousness crest! clarion carry on!—that Michael’s last public appearance was on the 200th anniversary of the event in Madrid during Napoleon’s Peninsular War that inspired the Goya classic “The Killings of May 3rd,” perhaps Spain’s most famous painting — and the 1958 inspiration for The Peace Symbol.  

Michael, conceived during the Spanish Civil War, and a translator of some of its greatest poetry, I ego free am so pleased to have helped you on your way in this personal and political highway. Presente! 

I like to think, feel, believe MeditURranean Michael was a red-diaper baby first generation Ecotopian prince with a blood line back to the first Sufi to arrive in Provence in that troubadour hey day. Hey, frontier freakish Eurekash friend, thanks for that transmuting last hug, your participation in The New Defined Comedy, and hasta anonya soon in some eternal mime troupe. 

Arnie Passman 

P.S.—At Michael’s memorial Monday for the hundreds, was there indeed not one Berkeley elected official on hand? Well, that does play to my anarchist bent and like tone of the evening.  

 

• 

PIEDMONT AVE. SIDEWALK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I haven’t read much about the expansion of the perimeter around the UC Berkeley oak grove next to Memorial Stadium. What ordinance allows UC Berkeley police to currently barricade the city sidewalk along the eastern side of Piedmont Avenue, even though no construction is underway? Are the proper approved permits for the current closure of this sidewalk on file at Berkeley City Hall? 

Scott Mace 

 

• 

TOTLAND 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As we already reported some days ago, one June 12 almost all toys from Totland playground were removed without explanations. After several telephone calls and e-mails, an administrative secretary of Parks and Rec sent an e-mail saying the toys were removed because they are unsafe or broken. 

We know this is not true. Perhaps a few small toys were not in a good condition but the playhouses, climbing and sliding structures, water tables and slides were in perfect condition. They said also that some slides “did not meet California Safety Code” but are exactly the same you can see in public schools around Berkeley. 

They told us some of these toys will be stored in the City of Berkeley Corporation Yard for a month (until July 12) and that they could been claimed by the parents but they don’t answer our e-mails about the procedures to follow to claim them. 

These toys afforded a lot of joy and amusement to our children. We would like these toys to be restored. We are the first to care for the safety of our kids and we believe that these toys are not only safe, but for many kids whose parents cannot afford a playhouse or a slide, they are the only possibility. 

Francesc Trillas 

Beatriz Silva 

 

• 

PANORAMIC WAY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

On July 8 the Berkeley City Council is expected to grant a developer close to half of the width of Panoramic Way in front of his property. His property faces the street at both the north and south. The north side of the property is on the narrowest portion of Panoramic Way, past the hairpin curve at Dwight Way. All the roads on Panoramic Hill are narrower than required by current fire code. The section past Dwight Way ranges between 11 and 15 feet wide. 

Panoramic Hill is in an extreme fire zone, with the Hayward Fault running through the bottom of the hill. The council will give this developer 625 square feet, or a little more than 18 percent of the size of his very substandard lot of 3,295 square feet (9,000 square feet is required). For this gift, developer Bruce Kelley only has to pay an application fee of $1,332. 

In granting this encroachment, the council will make Panoramic Way in its most narrow part substandard for eternity. This road is the only Berkeley access road for many uphill residents. If the council approves this encroachment permit, they will make this neighborhood even more endangered. 

Staff asserts a parking sign will keep people from parking in the encroachment. Parking signs have no certain impact. People regularly park in areas where “No parking anytime, Tow Away” signs are clearly visible. Residents take time to telephone the police about illegal parking. But frequently they are told to call a telephone number that has an answering machine. This is Berkeley’s version of illegal parking enforcement in a hazardous fire area right above the Hayward Fault? An answering machine? 

It has been shown time and time again that emergency responders have been halted by illegally and poorly parked cars and by large vehicles. Residents have to told the city this numerous times. 

Staff states that this encroachment is necessary to build the house the developer designed. There is not just one possible architectural solution for any house anywhere in the world. The developer had a lot of options, but chose the one that would not require variances from the zoning. What influence does this developer have to get such very special treatment from the city? What is he giving back for this great big huge gift to him and future owners of this property? 

In addition, and importantly, letters I and others submitted in 2006 against this project are not in the staff report. How did these other letters against this encroachment get lost? 

Ann Reid Slaby, Ph.D. 

 

• 

INAPPROPRIATE APPROACH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The University of California is currently conducting an operation that is intentionally endangering human lives in the Memorial Stadium oak grove. However you may feel about the views of the tree-sittree-sitters, I hope we can all agree that this approach is entirely inappropriate. The university is attacking the tree-sitters by cutting safety lines while protesters are suspended on them, banging cranes into trees that protesters are perched in, sending extraction climbers up into the trees to chase protesters around on branches 80 feet in the air, and other equally dangerous activities. The city must bear some responsibility for this operation as well, because city property is being used by the university in carrying it out.  

The intention of the university is to crush the protest in the oak grove, and the city’s apparent cooperation in this effort flies in the face of longstanding Berkeley city tradition and policy honoring the traditions of free speech and the right to protest 

It is important to highlight the fact that the city has recently directly confronted the legal recruiting activities of the U.S. military in our downtown by providing public space for continuous protest, and waiving permit fees. This protest has repeatedly blocked sidewalks and streets in our downtown, has negatively impacted some businesses, and has even drawn protest from some members of the state legislature and the U.S. Congress. Even so, the city continues to sponsor the protest by offering financial support and providing a safe space for the protesters to gather. 

Why, then, is the city allowing the university to seize and occupy city property for the sole purpose of pushing community supporters further away from the oak grove—preventing them from witnessing the police misconduct inside the grove and making it impossible for the protesters to get food and water? This is inhumane and should be stopped immediately. I ask the mayor and the City Council in the interest of safety, to direct the city manager to take immediate steps to reassert control of city property and permit the public access to it; insist that the protesters be allowed access to food and water; insist that the university cease all extraction efforts until the matter is resolved in court; and demand that the university enter into negotiations with the community to find a compromise solution to the oak grove controversy. 

I urge them to do this before anybody involved in this issue—whether protester, supporter, officer, or climber—gets injured or killed. Unfortunately, that possibility stands as a likely result of the university’s current efforts. It is irresponsible not to make all reasonable efforts to eliminate these unnecessary risks. 

Doug Buckwald 

 

• 

POINT MOLATE CASINO 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This letter is in response to the June 6 Daily Planet Article “Point Molate Casino Gets Fast-Track Status.” I’m a member of “Save Point Molate” and have worked against these proposed casinos from the first announcement that Richmond was getting into the gambling industry. This “letter” highlights the history of this project and the projected results if the city accepts the proposed development. 

Ten steps to develop and sell a dream casino: 

1. Form a consortium of out-of-town rich white men. 

2. Find a rich local anti-environment developer. 

3. Identify a group of indigent Native Americans. 

4. Locate a city that is poor, has land to exploit and corrupt politicians. 

5. Buy land to which Native Americans allegedly have an ancestral claim. 

6. Look for local opportunists to support the concept of a casino. These can usually be found hanging around City Hall. 

7. Tell the community this is a dream come true. Have the Native Americans tell the resident minorities that they feel their pain. Never mention the social costs of gambling to an already struggling community; that state law prohibits anyone with a felony from working for a casino (this is one law the Indian casinos have no problem with) or that Native American casinos are lobbying Congress to prohibit organizing unions in their casinos. 

8. Never allow citizen input or a vote on whether they want a casino. 

9. Place shills on the General Plan Committee to recommend building a casino on what should have been Regional Park land. 

10. Come forward with a public relations scam: calling proposed Point Molate casino the “greenest” project, as if that negates the social, health and environmental costs of the proposed casino. 

If these anti-labor, anti-environment, anti-health carpetbaggers, exploiting the most vulnerable members of the community, are successful Richmond will have casinos at Point Molate and North Richmond forever. The Native American sovereign nation status will prevent the community from regulating environmental, health, social and labor issues. The community will have no way to meaningfully address anticipated problems resulting from the casinos such as traffic jams on I-580 and the Richmond Parkway, bright lights affecting migrating birds, an increase in the sex trade which is commonly associated with casinos, the destruction of families due to wages lost to gambling, the increase in gambling addiction, the increase in crime including domestic violence and neglected and abused children. These social costs will have to be paid for by a community that will have no power to regulate or tax the casino. In the case of the proposed Point Molate casino there will also be the ever present exposure to life-threatening accidents at the Chevron refinery. Now how is that for a dream come true? 

Charles T. Smith 

Richmond 

 

• 

NEW PRE-SCHOOL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Unified School District is constructing a pre-school at 1460 Eighth Street with no regard for neighbors and without any of the oversight or accountability to which other entities would be subject. It is a difficult thing to speak out against a facility intended to raise children to be contributing citizens, but when it is built with public funds, an elemental obligation exists to protect the best interests of the public such that the wants of the many do not trod upon the needs of the few.  

The development was not a problem until my husband and I woke up on the morning of Thursday June 5 to find a new prefabricated building just a few feet from our back fence. Looking out our back window, the view to the sky is now sundered by the building’s shiny blue roof. The same is true for our neighbors. 

This new structure, along with three other prefabricated structures on the property, has doubled, if not tripled the footprint of the original school. The new buildings would not have been offensive if they had been constructed in the same place as the one they replaced, but instead the four new structures run border to border. The campus was designed with no apparent mind to sustainability or conscience. 

We know the school district is not legally required to obtain a permit from the city for classroom construction. However, we are shocked that it did not have the decency to consult, engage or at the very least, inform neighbors of its plans to dramatically increase the size of the preschool. 

Our backyard is changed forever, as is the character of 7th and 8th streets between Jones and Page streets. A good neighbor would have given us warning and made some attempts at mitigating the negative impacts created by the new buildings. 

We look forward to hearing back from the school district official(s) who gave the go-ahead to this poorly planned development explain how public process could be so contravened. We hope the school district will do a better job of communicating with the neighbors of its future projects. 

Kari Aycock 

Kellie Applen-Aycock 

 

• 

CODE PINK 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Can someone from Code Pink please explain what is the point of all this? Code Pink, I see your truck parked in Albany on Solano Avenue. Do any of you actually live in Berkeley? You are wasting Berkeley’s taxpayer money and hurting all the businesses downtown. The Marines have the same rights that your group has to be in Berkeley. I am OK with the Marines office being there. They should not be allowed to go to Berkeley High to recruit but if a kid wants to join he has every right to do so. Joining the military can save some young kid from getting shot. The police are busy watching Code Pink instead of patrolling the areas of Berkeley that need it. I hate war, any and all kinds of war. Please stop wasting our money. I am sure Albany has a recruiting office, but it does not sound as romantic as Berkeley. 

Jose Cardoza 

 

• 

OPPOSED TO THE TREE-SIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. O’Malley, in her signature high-pitched whine, continues to toe the party line long held by the Daily Planet’s editorial staff: The university is evil, and all those who oppose it must therefore be righteous. The only problem in this case is that, for all the Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Washington fervor the tree-sitters may arouse, they nevertheless remain nothing more than trespassers on land with which neither they nor the City of Berkeley have any right to interfere. Far from “embarass[ing] its graduates” with its fight to improve its facilities, the UC does its graduates and its students a great service by attempting to protect its athletes and provide world-class facilities.  

While many in Berkeley may be inconvenienced by the traffic arriving on football Saturdays, the fact remains that the athletic department remains a shining jewel in the crown of the UC system, attracting as much national media attention as any of the admirable academic achievements the university produces. Continuing with her rant by recounting what one can only imagine to be a harrowing journey down a “Kafkaesque labyrinth of dark underground corridors” and a derogation of the university’s athlete representatives does little to further Ms. O’Malley’s cause; if anything, it merely reveals the irrationality of her animosity towards the university.  

Although the effects of the recent ruling are likely to remain uncertain for some time, the illegality of the tree-sitters’ actions is readily apparent to any who would take the time to approach the issue with a level head and an unbiased viewpoint. Ms. O’Malley fails to do either, and similarly fails to support her assertion that UC graduates are done a disservice by the university’s actions. If she would take the time to speak with university students, such as myself, she would undoubtedly be shocked by the near universal response against the tree-sitters’ cause. Perhaps from this she would reach the logical conclusion, that, far from her assertions, the university’s actions honor both its students and its graduates by advancing the Berkeley name across the country and the world. More probably, however, Ms. O’Malley would likely dismiss the opinions of any students she deigned to speak with as misguided or delusional, continuing to toe the party line at all costs, regardless of the irrationality of her opinion. 

Matt Sieving 

 

• 

CLARIFICATION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks to Richard Brenneman for covering the important story of how Berkeley residents are outraged by the university’s inhumane treatment of the oak grove protectors. The tree-sitters are among a great group of people who choose to commit civil disobedience against wrongs. And the university, in its decision to cut down a beautiful, vital oak grove in this time of global warming is clearly wrong.  

Just to clarify one point, the June 23 article on the oak grove states: “What happened next wasn’t visible to a reporter, but someone apparently cut the nylon handcuffs holding two portable police barrier segments together, triggering a tug of war between protesters hoping to force their way in to re-supply the tree-sitters and Celaya and his officers.” 

I was present and it was visible to me. There was no nylon handcuffs where Matthew Taylor entered. While all the other the portable police barriers were connected with nylon handcuffs, at this point there were two metal barriers which overlapped about four inches with no nylon connecting piece present when we crossed the street from the other side of Piedmont. None of the protesters cut the nylon. I would have concluded that apparently the police had failed to put nylon there.  

Catherine Orozco 

 

• 

TEACHING KIDS TO SWIM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Several weeks ago two articles appeared on the same page—one about the little boy who drowned and the other about the withdrawal of a ballot measure to fund a new warm pool and rehab neighborhood pools. The boy happened to go to Washington School, where my son just finished fifth grade. This tragedy has been felt by our whole community and further emphasizes the necessity of water safety and swim lessons for all children. Washington PTA has a long tradition of paying for YMCA swim lessons during the school day. It used to be that all Washington students K-5 participated in the six-week sessions. In more recent years, only K-3 take part. Washington is the only school in Berkeley to offer swim classes to the students, as far as I know. While the PTA realized that six weeks of swim lessons a year would not be enough to teach students to swim, the lessons have taught them about water safety and helped them overcome their fear of the water. The hope has been that students would ask their parent/s to continue lessons beyond what the PTA provided. Each year the lessons are threatened to be cut due to other perceived greater needs within the school.  

Why are we fighting this battle? Shouldn’t the school district step up and help our children learn to swim? Swimming would fit nicely into the physical education program and/or could be offered in the after school programs. It’s a necessary skill, great exercise and can be enjoyed for life. There are pools interspersed throughout the city, many on school property for the reason of being used by the schools. We are also fortunate to have a centrally located YMCA. Perhaps there could be a joint effort between the school district, city and the YMCA. The fact is that most kids in Berkeley do not know how to swim and if they start too late it becomes too difficult and they never learn. At King Middle School several years ago only about 15 out of 40 students in my daughter’s sixth grade class could swim proficiently. We’ve got the pools, now let’s get the kids in them. 

Linda Currie 

 

• 

CALL FOR ACTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Upon reading a copy of City Manager Kamlarz’s June 20 letter to UC requesting the removal of “all barriers and other objects that you have placed on the city’s right of way”—after all, the only crime taking place being UC’s police denying the tree-sitters water—I found the street barriers up again, after having been removed the previous day. I asked the officer whose cruiser blocked the street, what’s going on, referring to said letter, and who sent her there. After telling me to step back, she repeatedly said “I have no answer for you” even after I identified myself as a 36-year city resident and taxpayer. She then told me “Check with the UC police,” the answer I also received when calling the police department. Though I know from my own experience of our city police’s lack of accountability towards Berkeley’s citizenry, this goes definitely too far. Are we, the “host city” to UC, thus now officially occupied and held hostage by UC—and not merely in matters “city planning” and the like as until now, but as regards our right of ways now too? There can be no question that this requires immediate, decisive and clarifying action by our city. 

Jurgen Aust 

 

• 

UC’S STARVATION PLAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

UC is so determined to kill the heritage trees to build offices that now it’ll allow the tree-sitters to starve rather than reconsider its ill-conceived plan. Why must offices be built on this fine remnant of nature?  

As I stood under the trees last week, I heard birds in the trees, oblivious to the commotion around them. They’d lose their homes, their habitat, and for what? So more bureaucrats can push paper in offices?  

I respect the tree-sitters for taking a stand. UC is arrogant, stubborn, and wrong.  

Bill Collins 

Pacifica 

 

• 

IMPEACH NOW OR INDICT LATER 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is almost certain that President Bush will leave office before anything is done to hold him responsible for impeachable acts.  

Last week Representative Dennis Kucinich put impeachment back on the table from which it had been removed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi almost two years ago.  

Kucinich caused the details of Bush’s impeachable actions to be read into the Congressional Record. Although it is unlikely that his motion will come to a vote, he deserves the thanks of everyone who cares about our reputation as a nation of laws.  

A few days before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Representative John Conyers hosted a meeting of a few dozen legal scholars and public servants, including former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, to discuss and weigh the prospects for impeachment. 

In January 2006, Elizabeth Holtzman, who voted for the impeachment of President Nixon, examined President Bush’s systematic abuses of powers and his egregious disregard for “the rule of law” and concluded that impeachment was warranted.  

Last Friday, Congressman Conyers chaired a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee in which Scott McClellan gave sworn testimony about the manipulation of facts, the lies and dissembling he witnessed up close as Bush’s press secretary. 

One more example: In a long-awaited report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence the acts of deception used to justify an unjust war were made public. 

There is more, much more.  

Thus, if impeachment now is not politically feasible, too late or too distracting then indictment must come later. If it does not then we will forfeit forever our claim to be a nation of laws. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo  

 

• 

MONICA PELOSI RIDES AGAIN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ever since White House intern Monica Pelosi took impeachment off the table, she’s been looking for new ways to please her man. So, on Friday, June 20, she revealed her latest enticement to George Bush: a FISA reform bill with guaranteed immunity for law-breaking telecoms. From past experience, she was absolutely certain that this craftily negotiated legislation eviscerating the Fourth Amendment and granting unlimited presidential powers to spy on innocent Americans would be more irresistible to the GOP and President Bush than a blue dress. She was equally confident that the attractive young presidential nominee, Barack Obama, and most of the Democratic House caucus with low self-esteem wouldn’t be able to resist her charms. Dazzled by the prospect of a presidency unfettered by Constitutional restrictions, Senator Obama promptly forgot his previous protestations of principled opposition to “immunity before marriage,” and he guiltily endorsed the so-called “compromise” legislation. 

From such seedy beginnings are dictatorships born. 

Taylor Bennett 

 

• 

COAST LIVE OAKS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have always looked to California as being the leader in protecting nature. The University of California, Berkeley is giving the entire state of California a horrible image throughout the entire United States. 

It is ironic that I am writing about your namesake, our one and only planet, which the tree-sitters are trying to protect! I was appalled to read in the June 19 New York Times that UC Berkeley wants to kill a necessary part of our planet’s environment. I am so thankful that the city of Berkeley and the Save the Oaks organization have more sense than whoever cooked up this selfish, irresponsible idea. I keep praying that the whole idea will be scrapped. Right now, the coast oaks are not endangered. Why do we have to wait until something is endangered to protect it?  

Annihilating nature is contrary to all the wonderful environmental decisions that California has been making. The tree-sitters and the city of Berkeley are my heroes and are representing the true heart of California! 

Isn’t it a little suspicious that the arborists were hired by the university, and are incognito? If there are so many objections, maybe there is a reason. 

Thank you for your time and for using your vast influence to encourage people to save your namesake.  

Phyllis Hale 

Tipp City, Ohio 

 

• 

ENERGY CREDITS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This is getting ridiculous. How many times can Congress continue to miss the opportunity to extend the Renewable Energy Tax Credit? It seems that they’ve missed yet another chance, and every week they fail to renew this legislation, the greater the impact on the planet. The solar industry will fall apart (for most intensive purposes) if this tax credit does not get an extension. The current policy will expire Dec. 31, and the implications of this will likely grind the entire commercial solar market to a halt starting July 1 because very few solar projects will be able to be built out in time to collect the 30 percent tax credit if they’re not begun in July. How can we subsidize oil, beef, agriculture, milk, eggs and so many other industries, but in the time of rising gas prices, failing power plants, projected spikes in the cost of electricity and tremendous public interest in renewable forms of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, etc.), can this Renewable Energy Tax Credit policy fail to be extended? It boggles my mind! It seems so entirely stupid that our Congress cannot get this one right. It’s not just the fault of Congress of course, because the Bush administration is dead-set on striking down any policy that takes money from their precious oil cronies, and they’ve stated that the renewable energy tax credit will be vetoed if it intends to get funding from oil subsidies. So, with six months left in the current tax credit policy, and the window rapidly closing on commercial entities being able to lower the cost of solar by 30 percent with government support, we see our leadership failing us. 

Climate change issues are the number one national security threat we face as a nation, but our government continues to support/fund foreign wars for oil and ignore the problems we face at home. Our government is failing the people’s demand for clean power, sustainability, and the policies that promote a lifestyle that will keep our country strong. So the answer must be to vote them out of office. Millions of people want solutions to climate change problems, rising energy costs, smart environmental technologies, yet our government is blowing it time and time again to make responsible policy changes. Let’s turn up the volume. Let’s make some noise about the importance of solar, wind, geothermal, and other forms of renewable energy. The oil era is over, and it’s time we started living that way by supporting, funding, and promoting the smart technologies that will make the United States people leaders again. 

Jeremy Pearl 

 

• 

McCAIN AND THE ENVIRONMENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican presidential hopeful John McCain showcases his environmental side in a new commercial while at the same time the GOP stalls a bill that would give renewable energy firms tax credits. Republicans give billions in tax credits to oil giants but a few billion in tax credits for renewable energy and the environment at home, oh no! 

Sen. McCain, in another move, rejected a windfall-profits tax on oil companies. Just whose side is McCain on? 

In an about face Bush has changed his stance on offshore drilling. More of those unsightly drilling rigs are in coastal areas. Will McCain follow the Bush lead? 

It looks like John McCain’s environmental policy is coming out of both sides of his mouth and is an oil lobbyist’s dream. 

Ron Lowe 

Grass Valley 

 

• 

BREASTS NOT BOMBS — BETTER THAN TIT FOR TAT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

That said, perhaps the police are targeting Code Pink in particular. You all have undoubtedly noticed how the right wingers have demonized Berkeley lately. Makes me wonder, do they ever get any full-body orgasms? 

I like breasts. Breasts are wonderful symbols of Mother, nurturing infants, and the Divine Mother Goddess. Breasts are not just for men and women to ogle (straight men, lesbian women, bi-sexual everybody). 

I do miss Berkeley. I am proud to call Berkeley my hometown, even to all the mindless ones who spout stuff like “Semper Fi.” They might as well be saying “Sieg Heil!” 

I am a long-time loyal reader of the Berkeley Daily Planet. Always I got the paper edition. They were the first free paper to run out in my neighborhood! I loved the Gourmet Ghetto. 

Linda Smith 

Mt. Shasta 

 

• 

BEAT THE HEAT AND THOSE FEET TO HUMBOLDT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As we experience record Bay Area summer temperatures, I’d like to invite and welcome you to come visit Humboldt County—where things are still cool, shady, and relaxed. Humboldt County is—in many ways—a lot like Berkeley with like-minded folks. You’re going to love it here. Think tall trees, ferns, and plenty of fresh, clean water and very pleasant folks in a laid-back environment. One of your contributors, John Ross, remembers Humboldt very well. 

Very few things are as enjoyable as a campfire beneath the redwoods, listening to the ocean surf or rivers’ song, and enjoying the good surroundings, food, art, and people nearby. I think you’ll like it as much as the excellent weather. Come drive on up to the North Coast and see what we’re famous for. We would enjoy seeing you—and you deserve to leave the city for a few days anyway for some fresh air and sunshine in the great outdoors. 

Steve D’Agati 

Arcata 

 


Point Molate: A Rebuttal

By Don Gosney
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:38:00 AM

We are truly blessed to have in our community a reporter of the magnitude of Richard Brenneman who brings to the table his finely honed investigative and writing skills along with his many years of experience as a reporter. 

Considering the bona fides of Mr. Brenneman, I’m surprised and disappointed in his recent articles about the issuance of the Navy’s historic Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET) that sets in motion the final stage in the environmental restoration of the former Naval Fuel Depot Point Molate on the western shores of Richmond. 

Mr. Brenneman attended a recent meeting of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board (RAB) where the FOSET was introduced to the community. This document was the culmination of the hard work of a great many members of our community over the past 14 years to ensure that Point Molate is properly cleaned before being returned to our community. Mr. Brenneman, though, chose pretty much to ignore this monumental work and focus on one part of the possible development of the site. 

The 21 community members of the RAB have worked for nearly 14 years to stand firm against a Navy that wanted to just walk away from Point Molate claiming that “it looked pretty clean” to them. 

Collectively, the RAB has served more than 325 years advising the Navy on how they can best serve our community. They’ve poured over more than 40,000 pages of technical documents and written hundreds of pages of commentary for the official record. As their only elected community co-chair, I’ve even testified before a Congressional Round Table on base closures giving testimony on how the system works and does not work for communities. 

The Point Molate RAB includes experts in the petrochemical industry, several experts with the EPA, experts on environmental justice, experts on native plants and wildlife, scientists with extensive backgrounds in environmental cleanup and an army of community activists. The Point Molate RAB has been praised across the country as being the model of how effective a RAB can be and we’ve even been recognized publicly by the Undersecretary of the Navy. 

With the strong bona fides of the Point Molate RAB, Mr. Brenneman chose not to interview anyone that actually was involved in the process but elected to go to a mayor that has steadfastly refused every offer to educate her about what we’ve been doing. He chose to go to a member of the Zeneca CAG so she could pass judgment against what we’ve done—in spite of the fact that she’s never been to a single one of our nearly 100 public meetings where everyone has a seat and a voice at the table. He chose to go to environmental activists from other communities who want to come into Richmond and tell us what we can or cannot do—activists who have gotten into bed with Chevron because, as one of them wrote, “the ends justify the means.” 

The terms of this FOSET open the door for Richmond to finally take full ownership of Richmond’s “Jewel by the Bay” and allow the development of the site. 

Mr. Brenneman wrote of some of the objections to this development even though the draft EIR has not yet been issued offering up any of the details of the proposed development, any possible problems associated with it or the developer’s proposed solutions. 

The proposed development of Point Molate offers up an economic engine that could generate nearly 17,000 jobs for our community and bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue into our financially depressed region. I would hope that reporters like Mr. Brenneman might wait until after the draft EIR is issued before trashing the project too much. 

What Mr. Brenneman also failed to write about were the realistic alternatives to the proposed development. When I lay my head down at night I dream of having Bill Gates’ money, Brad Pitt’s looks and even Brad Pitt’s wife. When I awake in the morning, though, I’m still in the real world and I have to live with those realities. Whether it’s the mayor, the dog walkers or even the activists from other cities, before they decide what we can’t do with Point Molate, I suggest they perform a reality check of their own to learn what will probably happen if they kill any development of Point Molate. 

I would also hope that Mr. Brenneman might research the history of our cleanup efforts and make an effort to help the public understand the significance of this FOSET and how it affects our community. Furthermore, I would hope that Mr. Brenneman might speak with people who are intimately familiar with what’s actually been happening at Point Molate instead of relying on “the usual suspects” who like to talk big and sound good to people who don’t know enough to question what made them such experts on the subject. 

 

Don Gosney is community co-chair of the Point Molate Restoration Advisory Board.


Our Children Ask: Where Are the Safety Nets? Where Are the Negotiators?

By Anamaria Sanchez-Romero
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Our children were watching the evening news and saw the tree-sitters with the university police on the ground and the hired arborists up in the trees at the Memorial Stadium oak grove last Thursday. 

They want the university fire officials to put up safety nets. It is just common sense, an 11-year-old, who plans to be a fireman, said. 

And why aren’t there police negotiators who can best talk people down from harm? We have in the cities of Berkeley and Oakland excellent police negotiators for hostages, barricaded suspects and potential suicide emergencies who could be loaned to UC to persuade some of the sitters to safely come down. 

A 10-year-old asked that now the safety lines have been cut, why haven’t the authorities put in place a safety net that fire and rescue workers use when people fall or jump from high-rise buildings during an emergency? 

What do our fire- and rescue-trained workers have to say about this oversight? We require nets and safety lines for circus acts, other sports, and for people threatening suicide. 

We fear for these young people who are tree-sitters. As they lack shade, water and food and restful sleep, they may not think clearly and could easily trip and fall three, four or five stories. Would such fall not be deadly? 

They are young, committed people and we should value their courage for their convictions whether we agree with their vision of the issue or not. We don’t know if they have mental health problems or physical problems—we don’t know anything about them and their families. They are, in their own way, citizen activists who have parents, brothers and sisters who must be worried for them. Friday would be dreadfully hot...dangerously hot for tree sitters perched in tree tops without shade, without water. 

We passed by there late Thursday afternoon and saw the harsh militarized area—scores of police in black with hard SWAT regalia in the hot sun. Many tree branches have been haphazardly slashed and cut off—the hired arborists have been doing the demolition of the grove despite the no-action order by the court over a year ago. Little shade for heavily dressed police—no shade for tree people. 

So ugly, so negative....so unnecessary. 

It is so cruel to see a screaming woman in a perch frightened by two SWAT-type men in a picker box on a crane coming to get her. We saw this poor thing. And then the children and I saw her again on the television news. Our children asked why weren’t the safety nets in place for her yet? Why was she being treated so cruelly? It could make her go crazy. Is this torture? 

Please, someone raise these questions on nets and discuss their use. Please, UC police, bring in crisis-intervention negotiators. Perhaps some of the sitters will be persuaded to come home. Saving their lives is well worth it. 

 

Anamaria Sanchez-Romero is a  

Berkeley resident.


The Transition from Clinton to Obama

By Jack Bragen
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

I supported Hillary Clinton in part from the same instinct that makes some people follow the Royal Family. The Clintons are for many people too likeable not to support. I feel this way despite the fact that Bill Clinton went overboard with his temper, and despite the fact that Hillary started out the campaign a little “canned.” Furthermore, I saw firsthand what Bill Clinton did for us as president, and his accomplishments were wonderful, especially in comparison to the Republicans, some of whom don’t seem quite human.  

Since I am a loyal Clinton fan, I was sad to see Hillary lose.  

But it’s excellent that Obama got the nomination. It shows a lot of development that the American people voted in a colorblind fashion for the person who made the best presentation in his campaign, and the person evidently most qualified to be our leader.  

I think in his campaign he has displayed great character that will make him a great president. He has shown much more endurance, consistency, and mildness in his campaign than I have seen in a candidate. These are qualities that aren’t glamorous, but that make a great administrator. He behaves in a level-headed and grounded manner. He seems ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work, once elected. When the campaign is over, he won’t collapse from exhaustion or have mental health problems from the accumulated stress.  

Of course, my impressions are subjective. Another subjective impression, also backed up by observation is that McCain is out of touch with reality. It is the same subjectivity that leads me to despise Mitt Romney as a plasticized person more suited to used car sales, akin to the suitability of our current president.  

When Clinton finally lost the nomination, she at first failed to acknowledge the reality of that loss. This behavior made it easier for me to switch my support from Clinton to Obama. Clinton’s delay in acknowledging the loss seemed problematic. She wanted badly to be president, but wanting it doesn’t make it so. It is a similar denial of obvious and plain reality that makes McCain think we’re somehow successful in Iraq.  

I don’t know exactly what will happen if Obama is elected. I do know what will happen if McCain becomes president: We will be stuck defending the country from enemies that McCain imagines and hallucinates. We will have no economic plan. The country will spiral down hill rapidly, and we will see the end of American supremacy, a trend Bush initiated and which doesn’t seem to bother him as long as his pockets are lined with oil money.  

I understand that many are unhappy Clinton lost, and feel gypped. But voting for the Republican as a result would be a big mistake. McCain doesn’t have a semblance of common sense, nor does he have the physical or mental condition to make him presidential material. His policies according to his statements show a lack of understanding of how to make things work. Despite the fact that McCain is a nice man and wants to serve the country, it would be misguided to elect him president.  

 

Jack Bragen is a Martinez resident. 

 


The People’s Health is a Power Granted the People

By Steve Martinot
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

On the issue of cell phone antennas, Berkeley has been trying to walk a fine line between local protection of its citizens and obeying a federal statute which says that people’s health cannot be used as a reason for refusing permits to the communications industry with respect to its cell phone antenna towers. Recent arguments advanced by the State of Oklahoma might help resolve the issue for us.  

In Oklahoma, the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been invoked to refuse any condition that renders the state an agent of the federal government, and thus to free the state from undue federal control of its affairs. I want to propose that we can act similarly on the issue of health with respect to cell phone antennas. And there is growing evidence that the radiation from those antennas is detrimental to the health of residents in their immediate vicinity (see below), along with growing evidence that the cell phones themselves are causing tumors and cancers. 

The 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads as follows: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The Oklahoma resolution goes on to say, among other things, that the 10th Amendment defines the total scope of federal power as being that specifically granted by the Constitution of the United States and no more. 

Interstate commerce falls under the purview of federal regulation. No argument there. But the health of people is a local matter, even when it involves entities engaged in interstate commerce. There is nothing in the Constitution that grants the federal government the power to regulate health, nor to act in detriment to local health conditions, nor to abridge the power of local government or the people to defend themselves against health risks. 

Whereas Oklahoma has interpreted the 10th Amendment as saying that the states are not required to act as agents of the federal government, or of federal policy, we can interpret the same amendment as saying that, since nothing in the constitution gives the federal government the power to dispense with or regulate the health or well-being of its citizens, then the power to protect and maintain the health of the people is reserved to the states or the people as such. That means us. In light of the absence of the power to regulate local health conditions being granted the federal government, that power is actively and positively granted the people by the 10th Amendment. That means, it cannot be abridged by the federal government without violation of the Constitution. 

Furthermore, on the question of federal mandate, for the people (local governance) to protect themselves against health risks does not involve the refusal of such a mandate; in fact, it is the opposite. The federal statute is demanding that local governance not fulfill the mandate given it by the 10th Amendment by not acting to protect the people from potential health risks. 

This means, in sum, that as a city, or a county, or a state, we can refuse to grant credence to federal statute suppressing our concern for and regulation of our health maintenance and health risks. Perhaps, during the present moratorium on permitting antennas, we as a city can research some of these possibilities. It does not mean blocking the technology, but insisting on safer use of it. 

Let me conclude by enumerating some of the health risks involved here. The industry has said that their cell phone antenna radiation (microwave, radio frequency electromagnetic radiation) is safe at low intensity because it does not heat the human tissue it touches, as does a microwave oven (high intensity microwave radiation). It is too weak to produce a rise in temperature. But the controversy is over the non-thermal effects of this radiation, which the industry assurances do not address. These effects, based on both laboratory and epidemiological (community at large) studies, include a rise in the incidence of brain cancer tumors, lymphomas, breaks in DNA strands, leukemia in children, changes in sleep patterns, headaches, disruption of the blood-brain barrier, cell death, changes in calcium ion concentrations, in neural electrophysiology, eye damage, increased blood pressure, and memory impairment. We are not speaking of absolute or linear causal effects, but of statistically significant increases in incidents of these health problems.  

 

Steve Martinot is a Berkeley resident.  

For more information on the health risks  

discussed above, see www.cyburban.com/~lplachta/safeweb2.htm. 


Cell Antenna Moratorium Still Alive

By Michael Barglow
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

More cell phone towers in Berkeley? Maybe not. At least not as quickly as the telecoms want. On June 17, by a vote of 5-2, with one abstention and one recusal), the City Council voted to have City Attorney Zack Cowan draft a city-wide moratorium on installation of new cell antennas.  

This council vote follows many months of petitioning by Berkeley citizens, led by those living close to proposed antenna locations in the flatlands, who are asking for more local control over antenna siting decisions.  

Linda Maio recused herself, on this occasion, with no good reason. However, Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna Free Union (BNAFU) does believe that Ms. Maio should recuse herself from the council vote made last November. Her vote was needed to approve the UC Storage cell antenna application. However, her husband, Robert Browning, had been a longtime tenant of Patrick Kennedy, the owner of UC Storage. The council decision to approve Verizon’s antennas, made under the threat of a Verizon lawsuit, rejected the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board position and allowed the antenna application to go forward. 

Verizon is still suing the City of Berkeley because the company believes our city ordinance is too strict. Under the threat of this suit, Verizon is engaging in settlement talks with the city in order to exempt all Verizon antenna applications from any moratorium if one should be enacted. Although the city attorney will draft a moratorium, his document will include various exemptions demanded by Verizon. The moratorium will appear on the City Council agenda at the end of July. Stay tuned. 

In fact, South Berkeley is inundated by cell antenna installations while North Berkeley and the hills have very few. On Tuesday we learned that none of the existing antennas in Berkeley have been monitored at all for RF radiation emissions. This came as a shock to many and is contrary to the requirements of Berkeley’s own cell antenna ordinance.  

Ironically, according to Verizon and Nextel themselves, cell phone service and reception in South Berkeley are already excellent. South Berkeley receives these companies’ highest performance ratings. Yet these companies demand more and more antennas. These antennas, which they rent to other telecoms as well, are highly profitable, however harmful they may be to our community. 

Is it fair that we neighbors be involuntarily exposed to an additional 12,000 watts of radio frequency (RF) radiation, 24 hours a day, in addition to the visual blight of these antennas? These antennas will improve service to commuters driving along South Shattuck, on their way in and out of town, who talk on their cell phones while driving, thereby causing more accidents and endangering the lives of Berkeley pedestrians. Does this serve the interests of the community as a whole? Is it fair for these antennas to be used so that people living above the Claremont Hotel can get better cell phone reception because they won’t allow these antennas to be placed in the hills? 

Unfortunately the telecoms wield a lot of power and have pushed into place federal legislation that prohibits any discussion of health considerations when it comes to antenna installations. The companies have tremendous leeway to put up antennas anywhere, even mega-antennas right next to people’s homes, as they plan to do at UC Storage on South Shattuck. 

We need a lower wattage, more equitably distributed cell antenna system. Certainly, mega-antennas (1,200-1,400 watts) like those scheduled for UC Storage, should not be located near people’s homes or workplaces. 

BNAFU is fighting this case legally. We now have a website, www.antennafree.com, and we hope to schedule benefits to defray our legal costs. Please help us by visiting our website, contacting us, and pitching in. 

 

Michael Barglow is a member of Berkeley Neighborhood Antenna Free Union. 


Cell Antennas: Science vs. Emotion

By Richard Perlman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:43:00 AM

I have been following the recent debate about cellular system antenna sites in Berkeley. Part of the debate seems to center around the perceived difference between the way the flat and hillside sections of Berkeley are treated, with the implication that the supposedly wealthier hills get more favorable treatment than the presumably poorer flatlands. 

I cannot comment on the demographics associated with the geography of Berkeley, but I can shed some light on the science behind how cellular radio systems work. My hope is that if the basic way these systems work is better understood, there might be a little more intellect and a little less emotion involved in this debate. 

The fundamental problem in designing mobile telephone (i.e. radio) systems is that radio frequency spectrum is quite limited. If mobile phone systems still served wide coverage areas, the capacity (simultaneous conversations) would be very limited, maybe a few hundred conversations in the entire Bay Area at the same time. 

Cellular radio systems are given their name because they consist of one or more “cells” through which users travel. Because the size of each cell is carefully controlled, and because at the frequency on which these systems operate radio transmission is limited to very short line-of-sight distances, it is possible to have two or more users use the same frequency if there is enough distance between them. Thus, only a small number of the channels available to an operator are used in any single cell. It is a complex science to determine the distance between cells in which the same channels can be reused. As a user travels between cells, their conversation is “handed-off” to new cell sites and the channel assignment is automatically changed. All of this is transparent to the user. 

In areas where usage is light it is possible to have a small number of fairly large cells. However, as usage grows, it becomes necessary to create more smaller cells. In order to limit the distance the radio waves will travel, and avoid interference, cellular system antennas are generally located at very low elevations, typically roof-top height. The antennas are also tuned to aim the radio waves downward so they do not stray far beyond the cell limits. It also possible to aim the radio waves to better serve odd shaped cells, like along freeways, shore lines, etc. 

The point here is that mobile phone companies need more cell sites in those locations where system usage is highest, typically along major communications corridors and areas where large numbers of people congregate. Because most people today still use their cell phone as a mobile device (though more and more people are giving up their landline) usage in areas that are principally residential with no significant shopping districts, like the Berkeley hills will have lower cellular traffic density. Also, hillside locations make poor sites for cellular antenna sites because they are at too high an elevation increasing the chance of interference. 

In fact, to serve hillside locations, cell sites in flat areas are “tuned” to provide coverage towards the hills. This generally results in poorer coverage in the hills than in the flat lands. 

The information I have provided has been simplified greatly, but still presents an accurate picture of the way cellular radio systems work and why they are designed the way they are. This does not mean that there are not reasons to object to creation of new cell sites. But, it does mean that the reason for the unequal distribution of cell sites is far more likely to be based on science and meeting customer demand than on vague suggestions of social/political/racial conspiracies. 

 

Richard Perlman is a Berkeley resident. 

 


Dot Condo, Part II

By John F. Davies
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:42:00 AM

A little over a year ago, the Berkeley Daily Planet published an opinion piece where I warned about the dangers of putting too much faith in building condominiums as a means of heading off the home mortgage crisis. At that time, the established media proclaimed that there was nothing to worry about, because the Bay Region was, in the words of one commentator, an “Iron Bubble.” Twelve months later, we are seeing articles in the business press discussing downturns in the condo market. Consider this example from a May 15 article in the New York Times Business section: 

“Many of the numbers compiled on home sales specifically exclude condos, which account for one out of eight homes in the nation, and that missing data may be masking just how weak the housing market really is. Sales of existing condo units were down 26 percent in March from a year earlier, compared with an 18 percent decline for single-family homes, according to the National Association of Realtors.” 

Closer to home, a recent luxury condo project in Oakland was not able to attract enough buyers at the prices they were asking, and was forced to auction off the remaining units at prices about 30-35 percent lower than what they were asking. I’ve also heard of local condominium projects being put on hold because the financing has hit a snag due to their banks’ speculation in the mortgage market. In addition, the increasingly high cost of living is causing many condo residents to face increasing maintenance costs and other unexpected fees. Even wealthy individuals are now starting to feel the heat. Just witness the travails of certain Hollywood celebrities with foreclosed properties. All now have to face cutting expenses so as to pay off the massive amounts of debt that underpins their way of life. 

This crisis first started in outlying areas of our region, such as Brentwood, Tracy, and Vallejo, which were ground zero for selling sub prime loans. A year later, we are beginning to see bankruptcies and foreclosures starting to occur even in pricey communities like San Rafael, Palo Alto, and even right here in Berkeley. The pattern can be described as the fingers of a hand slowly closing in to crush an object. In other words, our time is soon coming. Nevertheless, we still hear from our political and business leaders that all is well, because we live in a very affluent locale, and thus we won’t be too much affected by this downturn, especially cities like Berkeley and San Francisco. And this last week, a recent article in San Francisco magazine proclaimed “Recession? What recession?” After all, aren’t we the place where innovation always triumphs? The Bay Area, we are reminded, is a vital part of the financial industry, and is a major tourism mecca. Anyway, the technology sector will always save us. And if the local economy can’t afford expensive prices, than there’s always foreign investors looking for second homes. Some have even used the phrase “bulletproof” to describe the Bay Area housing market. But the reality is shockingly different. No discussion is made of the massive layoffs that are about to occur in the banking and mortgage sector, Citibank being the most recent example. The gigantic amount of corporate debt is hardly ever discussed in the business press, and the climbing cost of fuel will likely put a crimp in the flow of tourists who travel from abroad. It’s also a fact this financial downturn is a worldwide phenomenon, so overseas investors will be having second thoughts about new purchases of properties. What has indeed happened is that we are at the beginning of the long delayed payback for three decades of feeding frenzy called the consumer economy. 

To those who would call me Chicken Little, I’ll offer up this personal story. A decade ago, when the internet craze began, one of my high school classmates founded one of the first internet service provider companies. The quality of its service was excellent, and the company soon became enormously profitable. In a way it could be described as the “Google” of its day. He soon bought a mansion, vacation properties, drove a Ferrari, and lived the high life. Today, he is now on the verge of total bankruptcy. Why did this happen? Because his stock was so overvalued that, even though his company was profitable, it could never reach the expectations of his investors, and the firm quickly collapsed like a house of cards. In other words, the image did not match the reality. Fast forward to today, and we see new millionaires buying new luxury condos and living it up, because, after all, we are in a special part of the country, and it just won’t happen to us here in the Bay Area. Once again, these people are not paying heed to the old saying that wealth quickly gained is soon wealth quickly lost. 

A member of my immediate family who has always had a feel for business likens the present meltdown not to a crash, but rather a hemorrhage. Indeed, this debt crisis has been slowly draining our economy of its real assets, setting us up for potential national bankruptcy. And, as in the case of someone bleeding to death, it doesn’t immediately occur to us that we are in mortal danger. The awareness usually occurs when it’s almost too late to do something about it. On that matter, I will offer the same recommendations that I gave in my previous piece. First, we all should pay off or a least lower our debts as quickly as we can. Next, vote out of office those officials who have pushed for these short sighted development projects. And of course, form networks of family and friends who can help each other out in the trying times ahead. I will conclude with a word of advice from the Irish writer Claude Cockburn: “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied!” 

 

John F. Davies is a Berkeley resident.


Regime Change in Iran is Official U.S. Policy

By Kenneth J. Theisen
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM

To any reader of newspapers and the Internet, it should be apparent that tensions between the United States and Iran have recently increased. Ever since President Bush declared that Iran was part of the “axis of evil,” Iran has been in the crosshairs of the Bush regime. (I would urge readers to review the recent articles of impeachment against Bush introduced by Dennis Kucinich to see a brief history of U.S. actions against Iran. They are contained in article 21.) Regime change in Iran is official U.S. policy. Recent developments make it likely that the United States will militarily attack Iran before the next administration takes office. 

Iran has been under verbal and diplomatic attack for years by the United States. The Bush administration has consistently stated that Iran is using it peaceful nuclear development as a cover for a nuclear weapons program. It has maintained this even after the National Intelligence Estimate, released to Congress in December 2007, stated that Iran had ceased efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Of course the weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Saddam were a convenient excuse for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. So why shouldn’t the Bush regime use non-existent nukes in Iran as an excuse this year? 

The alleged fear of an Iranian nuke led to the latest development on June 16 when the European Union (EU) agreed to increase sanctions on Iran. At a joint press conference with President Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the EU will join Britain in freezing the assets of Iran’s largest bank, Bank Melli. Under pressure from the United States, sanctions against the Iranian oil and gas industry are also under serious consideration by the EU. Brown threatened, “Action will start today in a new phase of sanctions on oil and gas” if Iran refuses to halt uranium enrichment. Such sanctions would seriously threaten Iran’s economy. At least 80 percent of Iran’s revenues come from oil exports. In effect, such sanctions would amount to economic war against Iran. 

But this latest sanctions threat is just one small part of the Bush regime’s continued escalation of threats against Iran over the last several months. Bush administration officials accuse Iran of trying to acquire nuclear weapons, supporting terrorism, and destabilizing Iraq and the Middle East. In addition to the constant rhetorical attack against Iran, there have been a number of “leaks” indicating that the White House is also preparing for a military attack against Iran. 

Recently Asia Times Online reported that the Bush regime plans on launching an air strike against Iran within the next two months according to an “informed source.” The source was identified as a “former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community.” He was also reported to be a U.S. ambassador during the Bush I administration. 

According to this Asia Times’ source, the attack would target the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force’s headquarters and other Quds facilities. Such an attack would be consistent with the Bush regime rhetoric which has repeatedly charged that the IRGC has been training “special groups” in Iraq which then allegedly target American and Iraqi troops.  

The Asia Times leak is also consistent with a recent report by Israeli Army Radio which quoted a top Israeli official who claimed that in Bush’s recent trip to Israel, a senior member of Bush team revealed that Bush and Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was now appropriate. Of course the White House immediately denied the report. 

Bush could also “claim” congressional bi-partisan support for such an attack. The Senate, in September of 2007, approved by a 76-22 majority a resolution urging Bush to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization. Conveniently, as the Senate knew, Bush has said he will attack terrorists wherever they are. 

The two leading candidates for president will not be an obstacle to attacking Iran. McCain has been fond of singing “bomb, bomb, Iran” as a “joke.” He has made countering terrorism and “Islamic extremism” a centerpiece of his campaign. As far back as September of 2004, Obama stated, “The big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures, including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point are we going to, if any, are we going to take military action?” 

He went on to say, “In light of the fact that we’re now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in. On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran.” 

Top Bush administration officials including President Bush have stated that Iran will not be allowed to have nukes or even the knowledge to build them. In October of 2007 Bush stated, “I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” So for Bush the knowledge to have a nuclear weapon is not allowed and he has also said all options are on the table in regard to Iran. 

 

Oakland resident Kenneth J. Theisen is on the national steering committee of the World Can’t Wait! Drive out the Bush Regime.


Columns

Undercurrents: Despite Media’s Mob Mentality, Dellums Should Answer Questions

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:37:00 AM

I’ll be damned if I can figure out why Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums doesn’t appear to like question-and-answer sessions with the media. He is usually the brightest guy in the room and almost always well-prepared, with a better command of the details and the implications of various policies and decisions than the people asking the questions. He’s a good listener—rarely misunderstanding the point of the question—and knows how to deflect away from uncomfortable places with humor, usually humor that is aimed at himself. More than once, I have seen the mayor charm what could have turned into a hostile crowd of citizens by standing and patiently answering questions, one by one. He does it regularly at citizen meetings, and he’s one of the best at the business that I’ve seen. He does it at press conferences as well, but it doesn’t seem to be something the mayor feels comfortable with. But at Tuesday afternoon’s press conference announcing Deborah Edgerly’s retirement, he ducked out of questions when he shouldn’t have, and when a couple of answered questions could have satisfied most of the reporters’ concerns. 

Ms. Edgerly insisted specifically, and Mr. Dellums agreed by implication, that the announcement of the city administrator’s long-planned retirement had nothing to do with the June 7 West Oakland auto-towing incident (see the related story in this issue of the Daily Planet for details on that incident). That left a simple but fundamental question: did the mayor complete his investigation into that incident, and what did he find? On his way out the door, the mayor told reporters that his actions—presumably keeping Ms. Edgerly on the job with full powers through her planned retirement in July—made the answer to that question “self-evident.” A better answer would have been, “Yes, I conducted an investigation into the incident. I talked with all of the personnel involved and reviewed all of the reports forwarded to me by the Oakland Police Department. Based upon that investigation, there is no reason for me to take any further action in this matter. Unless and until further information is provided to me, this matter is closed.” As to any details about the incident or his investigation, the mayor could simply, and properly, have said that this was a personnel matter, and by law he was unable to say anything further about it. 

Would that have fully satisfied the press at Tuesday’s press conference? Almost certainly not, in large part because—over the past several days since the revelation of the June 7 auto-towing incident involving Ms. Edgerly—the media has been operating more like a mob than as a responsible body trying to uncover the facts and present them to the public. And the mob—like the crowds at the old Roman Coliseum—is only interested in blood and spectacle, and grows surly when neither is provided. 

Let’s review, briefly, how our media friends have been covering this issue. 

There are two bracketing incidents surrounding this situation. The last incident is that on June 17, Oakland police conducted a long-planned raid on West Oakland’s Acorn gang, arresting a total of 54 suspects on various charges, including a 27-year-old William Lovan, Ms. Edgerly’s nephew. The first incident was 10 days before, on June 7, when as part of the investigation of the Acorn gang that led up to the June 17 arrests, Oakland police were preparing to tow a vehicle from a West Oakland liquor store that had been driven by Lovan. Ms. Edgerly came on the scene and briefly intervened in that towing. 

What exactly happened in the June 7 towing incident? In the suspect report released by the Oakland Police Department, police say that they received information—either from a confidential police informant or an undercover officer—that Lovan had gone into a liquor store, leaving the vehicle running and the doors locked, and that he had also left a pistol in the vehicle. Police arrived at the liquor store prepared to tow the vehicle and seize the weapon, but said in their report that they could not tell Lovan the real reason for the tow because they did not want to reveal the source of their information about the weapon—the confidential informant or undercover police officer—and therefore possibly blow the months-long gang investigation. According to the report, Ms. Edgerly arrived on the scene—the report is silent on whether she was called there by her nephew or simply was in the area—and asked the officers why they were towing her nephew’s vehicle. When they, admittedly, could not give her a satisfactory answer, Ms. Edgerly began placing calls to their superiors. According to the report, one of the officers referred Ms. Edgerly to his sergeant, who had arrived on the scene. After that, Ms. Edgerly disappears from the report, the vehicle was towed, and the weapon was seized by Oakland police. 

If any of this had been written up by the media on June 7 or 8, it would have been a non-story, since nothing in the OPD suspect report indicates that Ms. Edgerly knew about the weapon in the vehicle, or that she attempted to prevent officers from towing the vehicle. The administrator simply asked why the vehicle was being towed and—from all the evidence we can glean from the police report—did nothing further once she received an answer from the supervising sergeant. This in itself hardly amounts to “interference” in police matters, and Ms. Edgerly’s reported actions amount to nothing more than any other parent or relative might have or would have done under the circumstances. 

The incident was magnified by the marvelous power of hindsight, however, after it was learned that the June 7 towing incident was related to the widely publicized Acorn gang arrests that occurred 10 days later. 

With that hindsight, see how our media friends characterized that earlier incident. “A spokesman for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said Thursday that the mayor is looking into what he described as ‘serious allegations’ that City Administrator Deborah Edgerly may have interfered with a police investigation into the Acorn drug gang,” CBS5 news reported on Thursday of last week. “The city’s highest-ranking nonelected official will no longer have a job come Monday, because of what police say were her attempts to protect an alleged member of the gang,” San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson wrote last Friday. “Edgerly is under fire for possibly interfering with a Police Department investigation of a suspected gang member and city employee whom she said is her nephew,” the Oakland Tribune wrote on Saturday. And on Monday, the Chronicle was reporting that “Oakland City Administrator Deborah Edgerly’s fate was up in the air Monday while the city probes police reports that she tried to aid a relative caught in the police sweep of alleged members of a violent gang.” 

All of these reports are based upon an inference that Ms. Edgerly may have known about the Acorn gang investigation in advance and went to the aid of her nephew, thus possibly jeapordizing the investigation and later busts. 

But there has never been any publicly presented evidence that Ms. Edgerly had information in advance about the Acorn investigation (named Operation Nutcracker). And if her purpose was to protect her nephew, she certainly went about in the most ham-handed of ways. Ten days after the June 7 towing incident, Mr. Lovan, her nephew, was one of the persons arrested in the police bust. If Ms. Edgerly knew about the investigation and the arrests in advance, did she tip Mr. Lovan off? And if Mr. Lovan was tipped off, why did he remain in Oakland, to be arrested? On the surface, at least, an Edgerly interference in the Acorn investigation—as alleged in the media—doesn’t appear to make sense. 

Give our media friends points for trying to make it fit, however. On Wednesday, in a column entitled “Edgerly’s nephew alerted gang members to impending police raid,” the Chronicle’s Phil Matier and Andrew Ross wrote that, according to their sources, whom the columnists describe as “familiar with the case,” “police think Edgerly may have made a call to her nephew, warning him to stay away from these ‘bad people’ because the authorities knew what they were up to. Authorities say the gang was linked to several homicides and a series of restaurant takeover robberies as well as carjackings, drug and weapons trafficking. … Police, who had several suspects’ phones tapped, say they have the nephew on tape calling the gang’s alleged leader and telling him that he had word ‘from the top’ that the cops were on the way. ‘Either we were fast and lucky or they were just too slow and dumb,” said one source close to the case, because police still managed to pull off the bust. Fifty-six people were arrested on drugs and gun charges. Edgerly herself does not show up on any wiretaps, our sources say, but when the police pulled in Lovan, he allegedly admitted—on videotape—that his aunt had called him.” 

Timing and knowledge is everything in making a connection between Ms. Edgerly and the June 17 Operation Nutcracker arrests, but the problem in Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross’ conclusions in Wednesday’s column is with their habitual sloppiness in writing. When did Mr. Lovan—Ms. Edgerly’s nephew—tell the gang leader that the “cops were on the way”? Was it immediately prior to the June 17 arrests, indicating that someone had tipped him off to those arrests? And did Mr. Lovan admit—in his videotaped session with Oakland police—that the call to him from Ms. Edgerly involved the “cops were on their way” warning? Mr. Ross and Mr. Matier fail to provide us with those necessary tying-together details. If Ms. Edgerly informed Mr. Lovan of a pending police bust immediately prior to the June 17 arrests, she is guilty of a criminal offense. If not, she may be guilty only of trying to keep her nephew away from bad influences. For Mr. Ross and Mr. Matier to include this innuendo—without the accompanying details that only they have access to through their confidential sources, and that would allow us to properly judge their implied conclusion that Ms. Edgerly aided her nephew in tipping off the Acorn gang about the pending police bust—is close to a criminal act in itself, a trial and conviction by innuendo, rather than by presentation of fact. 

“By Tuesday,” Mr. Matier and Mr. Ross wrote in Wednesday’s column, Mr. Dellums was “apparently seeing [Ms. Edgerly] as the underdog who was being attacked, our sources tell us.” Can anyone wonder why? 

Because the information is still so sketchy about the June 7 auto-towing incident and its aftermath, we can’t draw any conclusion about Ms. Edgerly’s actions on that day, or afterwards, only that no evidence has yet surfaced of wrongdoing on her part, only innuendo. However, two conclusions jump out. Mr. Dellums should stay and answer questions from local reporters, always. That’s his responsibility, regardless of how irresponsible the media may or may not be. However, the mayor’s failure to answer questions doesn’t excuse local reporters and columnists from our failure to ask more questions from more sources before running down the street, mob-like, with already-formed conclusions of our own. 


Public Eye: Obama’s Challenges

By Bob Burnett
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:36:00 AM

Now that Barack Obama has finally secured the Democratic nomination for president, it’s time for a candid assessment of his chances. To defeat John McCain in November, Obama must respond to three challenges. 

The first is the legacy of sexism. Recent polls indicate Obama trails McCain by six percentage points among white suburban women. Some of these disaffected females don’t feel comfortable with a black man being president, but many are wounded supporters of Hillary Clinton. 

As the Clinton campaign wound down, her advocates complained she had been treated unfairly. Many argued Hillary was better qualified than Barack, and the only reason she lost was sexism: men didn’t want to accept a strong woman presidential candidate. Clinton advocates pointed to the media, Democratic Party officials, the Obama campaign, and even Sen. Obama as examples of sexism. Former Democratic vice-presidential candidate,, Geraldine Ferraro described Obama as “terribly sexist” and warned “she might abandon her life-long party loyalties and vote for the Republican John McCain if Mr. Obama is confirmed as the nominee.” 

Sen. Obama has to mend these hurt feelings. He must placate the Clintons and enlist their help with his campaign. He should cultivate key Clinton donors, as well as feminist political organizations such as Emily’s List. It will be vital for Obama to highlight key policies on women and families that distinguish his campaign from that of ultra-conservative John McCain; for example McCain supports inadequate “abstinence-only” programs, while Obama is an advocate of comprehensive sex education including information about contraceptives. 

The second challenge is racism. Once Sen. Obama announced his candidacy, many wondered whether the electorate was ready to elect an African American president. Nonetheless, an April CNN poll found that 76 percent of white Americans felt the United States is ready for a black president, roughly the same number who believe America is ready for a 72-year-old president—and 13 percentage points higher than the number who felt the United States is ready for a female president. 

However, the latest polls indicate that while Obama leads McCain by five percentage points among registered voters, he trails him by 20 points among white men—the only major demographic where McCain leads Obama. 

While Sen. Obama’s favorability ratings remain better than McCain’s ratings, they took a hit after the Reverend Wright videos surfaced. Republicans are using these videos in a systematic campaign to paint Obama as un-American. The GOP strategy is to question the Illinois senator’s patriotism—another viral campaign claims he’s a Muslim—rather than take the approach, “don’t vote for him, he’s black.” It’s stealth racism. 

There’s no direct way to deal with an attack based upon guilt by association and outright lies. The best solution is for Sen. Obama to continue to run a straightforward, gaffe-free campaign and count on the increased media exposure that comes with being the Democratic nominee to improve his favorability ratings and increase his lead over McCain. Ultimately, voters will have to decide whether the presidential contest is to be determined on the basis of “personality”—who has the most “experience” or the right skin color—or on issues. In 2000, George Bush bested Al Gore because voters decided personality was the dominant theme: Bush convinced them he would be “a uniter, not a divider.” But, in 2008, the issues are so important, and the differences between McCain and Obama so profound that it’s hard to imagine that the election will be determined by personality. 

The third and final challenge confronting Sen. Obama is elitism: the notion that he is out of touch with average Americans. This issue surfaced after Obama’s unfortunate “bitter” remarks in mid-April. Sen. Clinton argued Obama was “out of touch” with average Americans. Subsequently, the McCain campaign claimed Obama represents a “liberal, cultural elite,” out of step with real American values. 

Labeling Democratic candidates as elitist is a tactic Republicans used to defeat both Al Gore and John Kerry. In 2000 and 2004 it proved effective because there was a kernel of truth to the accusation and the Democratic candidates did little to counter the argument. But Barack Obama does not come from a background that by any stretch of the imagination can be described as elite, whereas John McCain does—his father was an admiral. As the campaign progresses, Americans will become more familiar with Obama’s “Horatio Alger” story: the fact that he is the son of a biracial couple, abandoned by his father when he was 2 and raised by his white mother and grandmother; that he worked his way through college and law school, and cut his teeth as a community organizer and civil-rights attorney. Furthermore, Obama’s policies are not elitist—they favor America’s working families—whereas McCain’s policies are—they benefit the rich and powerful. 

In the remaining five months of the presidential campaign, Barack Obama will be tested by sexism, racism, and elitism. If he keeps running the same smart campaign that garnered the Democratic nomination, he is likely to overcome these challenges and become the 44th president. 

 

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


Wild Neighbors: Celebrating the Natural World of Point Reyes

By Joe Eaton
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

Where do you start with the University of California? Decades of happy accommodation to the military-industrial complex (see Gray Brechin’s Imperial San Francisco.) Construction mania: geographer Richard Walker calls UC and Stanford the two worst developers in northern California. Torture apologists on the faculty. 

Then again, this university has a hell of a press. 

A while back UC Press decided to revitalize its California Natural History Guide series. The results have been impressive, although the flow of titles has slowed lately. Some volumes have just been minor updates of older versions; others reflect extensive revision, and a few—Tim Manolis’ guide to California dragonflies and damselflies comes to mind—were groundbreaking. No other university press has done anything comparable, although the University of Texas Press has started its own, clearly UC-inspired natural history line. 

Some titles are on the esoteric side, or with a limited geographic focus; I’ll probably never need to consult Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region. But I’ve found most of them useful: they’re well-written, beautifully illustrated, and chock full of maps, charts, diagrams, and tables.  

The latest entry is a new edition of Jules Evens’ Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula. Originally published in 1988 by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, it has been thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded for its UC Press incarnation.  

Evens, a wildlife biologist specializing in avian ecology and wetland restoration, lives in or around Point Reyes Station and used to contribute to the Point Reyes Light before it went strange. He’s the ideal guide to a place that many of us regard as part of our extended front yards.  

My first exposure to Point Reyes was in the early ‘70s. I had heard of it as a birding destination, but was not sure what to expect.  

For some reason I decided to leave my friends with the car at Drake’s Beach and walk to the Lighthouse. A harbor seal paralleled my path down the beach, keeping a close eye on me. Then I saw a gap in the bluffs, scrambled up it, and found myself knee-deep in wildflowers.  

It was April and the irises were blooming, along with things I couldn’t begin to identify, being in a prebotanical state. Not knowing where to step, I pushed on. An occasional Holstein observed my progress. Finally I was back at the rim of the Pacific, looking down at the pigeon guillemots with their absurd red feet. 

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been back since then: chasing vagrant birds (sooner or later, everything with that flies will turn up at Point Reyes), taking part in the Audubon Christmas Count, watching Coast Miwok dances at Kule Loklo, getting to know those wildflowers, showing the seashore off to visiting friends and family. Every visit brings something new. (This April a dark blue larkspur that I had never seen before was blooming along the trail to Chimney Rock.) I know people who make weekly pilgrimages to the Point when the fall migration is on, and will probably continue to do so even if gas tops $5 a gallon. It’s that kind of place. 

Jules Evens’ book covers Point Reyes from the ground up, literally. He calls the peninsula a great granitic whale slowly migrating northwest. After rock formations and soils, Evens introduces the major plant communities and the hosts of animals, from tide pool creatures through reptiles and amphibians to birds, culminating in the mammals, terrestrial and marine.  

That was the structure of the first edition as well. What’s new are the updates on a number of ongoing sagas. Over a thousand acres of bishop pine forest burned in the Mount Vision Fire in 1995. I remember skirting the devastated zone on that year’s Christmas Count and wondering if it would recover in my lifetime. Evens documents that recovery: how waves of pioneering plants came and went, how soil fungi went through their own succession, how the birds returned.  

There are other stories: the buildup of the tule elk herd, now California’s largest and healthiest population; the fate of the exotic axis and fallow deer; the elephant seal comeback. And some less familiar ones. Who knew about the Pacific sand bear beetle or bumblebee scarab, an endangered yellow-haired inhabitant of the coastal dunes? I didn’t, and even if I never see one, I rejoice in its existence. 

The book includes checklists of algae and sea grasses, rare terrestrial plants, butterflies, birds, and mammals, and a wealth of photographs, many by Evens and local naturalists Rich Stallcup and David Wimpfheimer. (One error: the butterfly illustrated on page 288 is an ox-eyed satyr, not a California buckeye.) I was pleased to see that Keith Hansen’s sketches were retained from the first edition. 

Well done, UC Press. Not that this makes up for John Yoo, of course. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


East Bay: Then and Now—Weltevreden Was Berkeley’s ‘Premier Residence’ 100 Years Ago

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM
Weltevreden, the Moody home at 1725 Le Roy Ave., was Berkeley’s most famous residence in the early 20th century.
postcard courtesy of Anthony Bruce
Weltevreden, the Moody home at 1725 Le Roy Ave., was Berkeley’s most famous residence in the early 20th century.
The Moody home turned its back on the street, facing a clinker-brick bridge over Strawberry Creek.
Architectural Review, Vol. 9, March 1902
The Moody home turned its back on the street, facing a clinker-brick bridge over Strawberry Creek.
Mary Moody, her daughters, and a male cousin on the veranda, whose robust columns Schweinfurth replicated in redwood trunks in the First Unitarian Church.
Architectural Review, Vol. 9, March 1902
Mary Moody, her daughters, and a male cousin on the veranda, whose robust columns Schweinfurth replicated in redwood trunks in the First Unitarian Church.

When banker Volney Delos Moody (1829-1901) married the widowed schoolteacher Mary Robinson in the mid-1880s, he gave up the house of his first marriage and moved to 838 Alice Street in West Oakland. The neighborhood, now on the southern edge of Chinatown, was considerably tonier in those days. The Canoe Club had its boat house at the foot of Alice Street, and one of Moody’s neighbors was Solomon Lewis, owner of a famed Oakland jewelry store and reputedly San Francisco’s first hotelier, who resided at 854 Alice St. 

With the Moodys lived Mary’s two grown daughters, May Virginia (b. 1869), a musician, and Margaret F. “Madge” Robinson (b. 1871). When May married Edmund S. Gray, a San Francisco hardware merchant, the latter moved in with the Moodys. 

Edmund Gray’s spheres of interests were diverse. He was a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, a councilmember of the Unitarian Club of California (Warren Gregory was vice-president at the same time) and, like Gregory, a connoisseur of architecture. This latter interest was shared by his wife and in-laws. 

It may have been the founding of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley in 1891 that planted the idea of a move to this city in Gray’s mind, and he may have persuaded his father-in-law to make the move a reality. Moody himself was an agnostic and never belonged to any church (nor did he ever join a club or fraternity), yet the idea of building a home for his retirement years in the open hills north of the U.C. campus evidently appealed to him. 

Moody’s vast acquaintance included Phoebe Apperson Hearst, whose son, William Randolph Hearst, began employing the architect A.C. Schweinfurth in 1894. Schweinfurth’s first completed project for Hearst was the Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, a country estate in Pleasanton that Mrs. Hearst appropriated while it was still under construction. It could have been Phoebe Hearst who recommended Schweinfurth to Moody. 

In the 1890s, the Daley’s Scenic Park tract just north of the university campus was sparsely inhabited. Charles Keeler, whose house on Highland Place was built in 1895, considered himself a pioneer in a new district. Bernard Maybeck’s first commission, the Keeler house was one of the earliest brown-shingle, Arts & Crafts residences in Berkeley, and the new homeowner was concerned that “its effect will become completely ruined when others come and build stupid white-painted boxes all about us.”  

In response, Maybeck charged him with the task of seeing to it that “all the houses about you are in keeping with your own.” Keeler began proselytizing, and within four years, a cluster of four steep-roofed Maybeck houses stood at the intersection of Ridge Road and Highland Place. 

Years later, in his memoir about Maybeck, Keeler reminisced: “Mr. Moody, a retired banker of Oakland, came with his son-in-law to see our home, and we persuaded them to join our group. They had already picked another architect, Mr. Schweinfurth, to design a Dutch house for them. So they built a beautiful home in the canyon a block below us, and the two daughters of the house, with a few other ladies in the neighborhood, organized the Hillside Club to carry out through a formal club what we had been attempting to do informally in persuading a neighborhood to adopt the Maybeck principles in architecture.” 

Moody purchased four contiguous lots on the southeast corner of Le Roy and Le Conte Avenues. The north fork of Strawberry Creek bisected the block, which stood entirely empty of houses in 1896. (In 1897, there would be two houses on the block, the second being the Loren E. Hunt house, a shingled Dutch Colonial still standing at 2625 Ridge Road.) The Moody property was sheltered by a dense grove of old oaks, and several oak trees stood in the middle of the yet-unpaved streets. A more scenic spot could hardly be asked for, and Schweinfurth designed a house to match. 

On Nov. 6, 1896, the Berkeley Daily Advocate reported that “Mary Moody, the wife of an Oakland banker, has signed contracts for the erection of a dwelling on her extensive grounds adjoining the State University, which will differ both in outside appearance and inside arrangement from any other residence in that classic neighborhood. The house will be in Flemish style, of brick, and the entrance will be in the rear, as regards the road, over a bridge spanning a creek. The interior features of Mrs. Moody’s house will be its open and exposed construction. In the living room an application of Florence leaf will be made, producing an effect of iridescent gold between the beams, while in the dining-room turquoise blue will be set off by the dark colored beams.” 

Further descriptions were provided in the article “The Later Work of A. C. Schweinfurth, Architect,” published in Architectural Review in March 1902: “The walls of the Berkeley house are built of dark red, or rich brownish ‘clinker bricks’—which before being used by Mr. Schweinfurth for this work were looked upon as inferior or refuse brick, but which have since gained much popularity. The varying degrees of vitrified color give the walls of the house a peculiarly rich and soft texture, quite free from the cast-steel appearance so much affected in brick-work until quite recently. The wooden beams are weathered gray, and on the lintel over the entrance to veranda is the name ‘Weltenreden’ [sic]. Although evidently inspired to some degree by Dutch work, and although its garden setting is almost Japanese, the whole is pervaded by the old Spanish feeling characteristic of the locality. The ‘fat’ columns of the veranda are built of ‘headers,’ with heavy flat tile abaci at the tops.” 

The article went on to say: “The house reflects the architect’s personality. It was built for an intimate friend who was in sympathy with his views, and was erected not through mere slavish adherence to drawings made in the office, but by direct contact between the architect and the actual workers on the building. In other words, the architect selected the bricks for the brick-layer with his own hands, and indeed often laid them himself to prove that the work could be done as he intended.”  

The result, according to Architectural Review, was that “It seems as if this house [...] must have stood here always; and rarely does Nature seem to welcome a work of architecture as she does this.” 

Called Weltevreden (“well satisfied” in Dutch), the house was completed in 1897. It immediately attracted much attention, and its image appeared on numerous postcards and Berkeley promotional brochures. Herman Whitaker, writing about “Berkeley, the Beautiful” in the December 1906 issue of Sunset magazine, called Weltevreden “most beautiful of all” and the “premier residence of Berkeley.” 

Once settled in the bucolic Northside, Madge Robinson and May Gray wasted no time in joining Keeler’s crusade to preserve the neighborhood’s beauty. For this purpose, they founded a women’s club in 1898 and named it the Hillside Club. The club’s mission was “to protect the hills of Berkeley from unsightly grading and the building of unsuitable and disfiguring houses; to do all in our power to beautify these hills and above all to create and encourage a decided public opinion on these subjects.” 

In June 1899—five years before Charles Keeler published The Simple Home and seven years before Bernard Maybeck wrote Hillside Building—Madge Robinson’s article “The Hillside Problem” appeared in The House Beautiful, offering practical suggestions on the siting, positioning, and design of hillside homes. The examples illustrated in her article were based on northern California houses designed by First Bay Region architects such as Maybeck, A. Page Brown, Ernest Coxhead, and Willis Polk. 

Thanks to his innovative work on Weltevreden, Schweinfurth secured, through Edmund Gray, a commission to design the First Unitarian Church’s building at Dana Street and Bancroft Way. Shortly after the completion of that edifice, both patron and architect departed this world. Gray died circa 1899, and Schweinfurth followed him a year later. As for Volney Moody, in 1898 he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him for the rest of his life. He died three years later, on March 27, 1901.  

In its page one obituary, the Oakland Tribune reported: “Although physically powerless, Mr. Moody retained his mental vigor almost to the last. He thoroughly appreciated the fact that his end was rapidly approaching and with a prudence that had always distinguished him settled all his private affairs and calmly waited for the end.” 

Settling his affairs included making ample provisions for his widow. Two years before his death, Moody transferred the title of Weltevreden and five choice Oakland properties to his wife.  

In his will, she was given two-fifths of his estate, the remainder to be shared by Moody’s three grown children from his first marriage. Anticipating conflict among his heirs, Moody inserted a codicil into his will, mandating that any heir who attacked the terms of the will would forfeit his or her bequest, which would be given to the other side. 

No sooner was the will unsealed than Moody’s children—William C. Moody, Nellie E. Blood, and Jessie L. Appleton—threatened to launch a nasty court battle, telling the Oakland Tribune that their father “gave the better part of the estate to his widow, allowing to his three heirs by his first wife only a part of what they thought they were entitled to.” The first Mrs. Moody, who had remarried in 1887 and was now living in Sonoma County, was said to be ready to enter the fray and reveal old family scandals, on the charge that she had been fraudulently shortchanged in her divorce settlement. 

Other rumors leaked to the press by the first Moody clan painted Mary Moody as an unfeeling wife who, anticipating her husband’s demise, was studying French with her daughters “so as to enable them at the first possible moment to go to Paris and experience the pleasure of life in the gayest of all the capitals of the world.” It was also alleged that Moody’s cremation was not attended by the widow or any member of the family. 

Moody’s codicil notwithstanding, nobody was disowned. The two feuding factions soon ceased their saber rattling, reached a compromise out of court, and re-divided the spoils. There was more than enough to go around. 

 

This was the second part in a series of three articles on the Moody family. 

 

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


Open Homes In Focus: Two Arts & Crafts-style Homes Open This Weekend

By Steven Finacom
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM
The shingled 2512 Russell St. has chimney, window boxes, and casement windows on the street façade.
By Steven Finacom
The shingled 2512 Russell St. has chimney, window boxes, and casement windows on the street façade.
584 61st St. has horizontal board siding, double-hung windows, and a clinker-brick chimney.
By Steven Fincacom
584 61st St. has horizontal board siding, double-hung windows, and a clinker-brick chimney.
The view from living room to hall to dining room at the Oakland house is lavishly filled with original redwood details.
By Steve Finacom
The view from living room to hall to dining room at the Oakland house is lavishly filled with original redwood details.
The remodeled kitchen at Russell Street builds on the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with furniture quality cabinetry, and a deep period-style sink with dishwasher hidden to the left behind a cabinet door.
By Steven Finacom
The remodeled kitchen at Russell Street builds on the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with furniture quality cabinetry, and a deep period-style sink with dishwasher hidden to the left behind a cabinet door.

Two local houses, both currently for sale, provide an enticing glimpse into the Bay Area’s Arts and Crafts past.  

Neither is a famous or well-known house, but both of these nearly-century old properties are genuine gems from an era when talented local builders were busily turning out simple and gracious family homes in the burgeoning green suburban districts of the inner East Bay. 

They also reflect the intelligent way successive generations of owners have appreciated the best built features of the past, rather than tearing out and rebuilding to suit new architectural fads. 

One house is at 584 61st St. in North Oakland, close to Shattuck Avenue. The other is at 2512 Russell St. in Berkeley, just a few blocks down from the Elmwood shopping district. 

Both are open for viewing this coming Sunday, June 29. 

The two are surprising similar from the street, almost architectural siblings; if you glance quickly at the line drawings on the advertising flyers, you might easily mistake one for the other.  

Each has a wood exterior (horizontal siding in the first case, recently painted shingles in the other), a steeply gabled roof facing the street end on, and an entrance slipped around to the left side to maximize both picturesque curb appeal and inside circulation efficiency. Both have elegant divided light windows and a handsome chimney set asymmetrically on the street façade.  

Inside, each has a wealth of spaces with handcrafted dark redwood, including original wainscoting, built-ins, trim, and flooring. 

Let’s visit Oakland first. 61st Street runs parallel to—and several blocks south of Alcatraz Avenue, in a residential neighborhood shaped like a slice of pie, widest at the Berkeley end, and narrowing down to the old Idora Park district just north of Highway 24. 

Most Berkeleyans probably speed past on Telegraph or Shattuck with barely a thought for this district, but it’s an area with interesting and handsome homes and quiet enclaves. 

The 500 block of 61st Street is lined with one and two story houses facing the north side of the old Washington School, now Sankofa Academy, an Oakland magnet school. Beyond that is Bushrod Park, with its recently refurbished Don Budge tennis courts and the East Bay’s own Mystery Spot, a point near the Shattuck sidewalk is where a large, still unexplained, block of clear ice plunged like a meteor into the park lawn, April 8, 2006. 

584 61st St. appears to have been constructed in 1912, although a building permit was initially issued in 1907—understandable timing, given the vast need for new housing, and residential appeal of the East Bay, after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

The front door is midway on the west sidewall of the house. It opens to a generous hallway that bisects the house, with the staircase straight ahead. To the left, there’s a large dining room, through pocket doors. To the right, the living room is divided from the hall by a half wall with wooden columns. A turn left through the living room and a second set of pocket doors finds a surprisingly large study. 

Living room, dining room, stair hall, and study form one spacious L-shaped commons, or can be subdivided by the pocket doors for more sequestered uses. With pocket doors open, the study extends the living room to the entire width of the house; with the doors closed, it functions as a self-contained room, via a second door to the stair hall. 

Under the first run of the stairs and landing there’s a half bath and a little storage closet floored with colorful vintage linoleum. The stairs are screened from the downstairs hall by a picket of tread-to-ceiling posts. 

Upstairs there’s a full bath under a shed dormer and two bedrooms under the gable ends of the main roof, each with a closet. The hardwood floors continue upstairs, and the original unpainted wood trim also flows up to the second floor hall, where its built-in stacked linen cabinet. 

The kitchen is simple, with a gleaming older range and not much counter space. A buyer with extra funds will probably want to do an upgrade here—hopefully in keeping with the character of the house. There are two doors direct into the dining room, one from the kitchen proper the other from the adjacent pantry, so a free flowing layout could be achieved without altering the walls of the dining room.  

The pantry opens to the back yard and it’s not hard to envision a modest, well-windowed, pop-out/eat-in addition here to extend the kitchen further and make the most of the indoor—outdoor potential.  

The dining room has a heroically massive and mirrored sideboard with glass-fronted cabinets above. There’s a built in desk unit of similar character in the corner of the study, adjacent to a long built in window seat along two walls, big enough to serve either as casual seating for the owners and any six or eight of their friends who happen to be around, or a sunny napping zone for at least a dozen house cats. 

The fireplace in the living room is picturesque, arched and of clinker brick, with a smallish firebox, probably sized to burn coal. Some light fixtures in the house are contextual replacements while others appear to be original, including several intriguing little fixtures that look like upside down candle holders starred to the ceiling of the dining room.  

Flame-like light bulbs punctuate the box-beam intersections of the living room ceiling. This is a house from an age when built in electric lighting was still novel, even magical. 

The downstairs rooms are “Arts and Crafts classics” says listing agent Arlene Baxter, and she’s not exaggerating. They feel like the ground floor of a much larger and grander house. If you have any interest in craftsman interiors, go see these simple, spacious, dark wood-paneled common spaces in their current pristine condition, lightly and sympathetically staged. 

The property is also a genuine piece of local cultural history. The seller of the house is Nigerian-born musician Baba Ken Okulolo, and the freestanding garage and the brick outdoor patio adjacent have hosted practice sessions and musical gatherings for nearly 40 years.  

Artists Bob Marley, Taj Mahal, and Hugh Masekela are among those who have been guests here since the current owners purchased the house in 1970.  

The detached garage is a humble piece of East Bay vernacular, but also a shrine of a sort. It doubled as a musical practice space and the walls even talk via colorful posters for scores of musical events at which Baba Ken has performed. Baxter shows visitors an album cover with musician Taj Mahal jamming under the large redwood tree that punctuates the level yard between garage and house. 

Further north, back in Berkeley, 2512 Russell St. is a somewhat larger, also two-story, circa 1910 home. It’s just up from the angled Russell/Hillegass intersection where the streetcar turned, eras ago, on its way to the Claremont Hotel vicinity.  

This house sits in an early 20th century subdivision that was the focus of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s annual Spring House tour this past May. 

The deep front porch slips under the northeast corner of the house and opens to a stair hall. To the right, there’s a living room with large fireplace flanked by light-filled floor to ceiling windows. To the left of the hall is an elaborate dining room with a second fireplace, completely surrounded by glass-fronted cabinets in dark wood.  

Many original architectural details appear intact. There are some good replacement light fixtures, as well as a few oddities such as acoustic tile between the box beams in the living room ceiling. 

The dining room connects, by door and large pass-through, to an extensive kitchen remodeled with built-ins in an Arts and Crafts motif.  

While this isn’t an authentic bungalow kitchen—the original would have been smaller, and probably painted hygienic white—it’s a handsome example of how a modern kitchen can be sympathetically designed to match the character of an old house, rather than looking like it belongs at the nearest loft condo or Home Depot. 

A breakfast area at the end of the kitchen, and a bright, white-painted, room beyond the dining room add useable space and face south to the wide yard. 

There’s a half bath with a great old corner sink with brass fittings, beneath the staircase that winds up to the second floor. A master bedroom with attached private bath spans the entire front of the house. Two bedrooms and a second bath are further back, then an “L” shaped genuine sleeping porch walled with windows, and looking down into the green yard. 

Off to one side of the lot is a fairly large garage, the type that says early 20th century Berkeley, when automobile ownership was spreading into the middle class. In another corner there’s a solid-walled but clear-roofed little structure that could be a greenhouse, potting shed, or (after remodel and repair), “garden retreat.” 

A picturesque box elder tree shades the center of the yard, there’s a hedge of black bamboo to one side, a deck behind the kitchen, and a vine covered arbor that creatively cantilevers out from two posts like an awning. 

 

 

IF YOU GO… 

 

Both realtors are planning second open houses this coming Sunday, June 29 in the afternoon. 

 

To reach 584 61st St., Oakland, head south on Shattuck, past Alcatraz, and turn left onto 61st Street. The house is several doors up on the left side. More information at www.584-61st.com. Arlene Baxter of Berkeley Hills Realty is the listing agent. The house is currently priced at $629,500. 

To reach 2512 Russell St., go east (uphill) on Russell from Telegraph Avenue, just north of Ashby, or north one block on Hillegass Avenue from Ashby. More information at www.realtyadvocates.com/2512.html. Hal Feiger of Realty Advocates is the listing agent. The house is currently priced at $975,000.  

 

If you purchase a house like this—or simply admire the type—you can’t go wrong getting a set of the superb history and how-to books of Oakland author Jane Powell (Bungalow Kitchens, Bungalow Details: Interior, etc.) to help understand their design, and intelligently guide thinking about further remodels or repairs.


About the House: Good Neighbors Make Fences

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

Having browsed the local flea market for years, I have consistently observed that many of the dealers-in-miscellanea seem resolutely unable to confine themselves to the stalls they have been issued.  

There are always a few—or more—who attempt to push over the edges, to set their wares up to the left and right of the clearly marked lines of their own assigned space. On any given flea-market weekend, I can expect to hear numerous requests to move items off of someone else’s stated turf—and I have heard more than a few full-blown disputes. I find it interesting how hard it is for people to be happy with their lot (as it were) and how deep the sense of injury amongst those who have been invaded by an inch or two. The capacity for umbrage is great in the human animal.  

At the flea market, conflicts usually were resolved within minutes. But in our courts, boundary disputes fill the dockets every year: ask any judge. So many of these complaints seem to be of a kind that might easily be resolved with a simple discussion, but it’s not in the genes. Boundary issues seem to bring out the very worst in all of us. I include myself, of course. I remained so angry at my rear neighbor that we didn’t speak for years. At one point—because we simply could not sit at the same table and speak—I needed my friend Ed, a local attorney, to resolve a relatively straightforward dispute with him.  

I recently discovered that the fellow had passed away over a year ago—and I realized that I had held anger, fear and resentment toward him for all this time in which he had not even been on the planet. How terribly and awfully ironic, eh? Again, I’m not alone. It seems to be a part of who we are and how we operate in the world. Ed shared with me that he, with all his legal knowledge (he’s also a genuinely loving soul and a dear friend) had been through a similar trial (pun intended) for several years. Many of you reading this may recognize yourselves in this scenario.  

How many of our wars are based on this reptilian, mid-brain thinking, our ancient selves alive and stalking in the world of pagers and ICBMs? It’s funny and sad—and it’s not unusual. 

For this reason, I often counsel my clients—those on the bridge to home ownership—to approach boundary issues with little expectation and with as much generosity as they can muster.  

People often ask me where the boundaries for the property are located and I always confess that I cannot know and that no one except a surveyor can say for any certainty where those elusive lines are hiding. It also gets worse in some parts of Berkeley where the damned things keep moving all the time as the earth does the slow amble to the bay. I often refer to my house in the hills as a mobile-home. 

That said, there are some clues that can be used and a viewing of fences is generally the best source of data. Fences are not wholly reliable but may indicate where the properly line has come to exist over time. Ed calls this condition a prescriptive easement as opposed to actual ownership (when the fence is not located on the property line.)  

By adverse possession, a person can come to own some of your land over time but this is actually very difficult and requires a number of conditions that are very hard to meet. This often includes having paid the taxes on that piece of land for some course of years. Nonetheless, the point is that just because there’s a fence doesn’t mean that it’s in the right place or representative of a true legal boundary. 

The same illusion can apply to a small building, a garage or a home addition. They’re not always located on the proper side of the boundary and are sometimes located inside the setback where they oughtn’t be. A setback is the locally proscribed spacing between your house and the property line and varies with certain kinds of construction in addition to the general rules that apply to your property. By the way, just because your neighbor has one set of setbacks, doesn’t mean that the same ones apply to you. This is also true for allowable building heights. Just because your neighbor has a two-story building doesn’t mean that you have the right to add a story onto yours. Seems unfair—but hey, talk to City Hall. 

There are exceptions to the usual setbacks for old or “grandfathered-in” construction—which means you DON’T want to tear down that old garage in the corner of the property before some serious thinking, since you may not be able to rebuild there once it’s down. Decks of varying heights as well as equipment (like water heaters) also have rules regarding setbacks and it’s worth a trip to the zoning department to check and find out exactly where you can and cannot build. 

So, when you’re first looking at a property, it’s worth looking at the “sense” or logic of the fences and gates. Do they look as though they belong where they are? One example of fences not making much sense is when they’re way over to one side and very close to one building and far from another. This may be a tip-off that the fence isn’t where the boundary requires it to be placed.  

Another hint of questionable boundaries is that one fence isn’t in line with the one on the next lot. If the fence seems to “jog” at one point, it might be worth looking at a copy of the assessor’s parcel map for your block to see if the boundaries look the same. Ultimately a surveyor may be needed to unravel any real confusion.  

There’s a larger point to be made here. It’s good to be aware of the fact that your fences may not be where they belong, that a tree may be overhanging your property or that a sewer line may cross over your property, but it’s also important to have some perspective. Given our human territoriality, it is very easy indeed to begin to see these things as gigantic issues that are endangering your life and limb. In fact, they may not have no great an impact on your daily life.  

If a fence deprives you of a one-foot strip of your side yard, take a serious look at the thing before you call your lawyer. Does it prevent you from walking past that side of the house? Is it keeping the meter reader from doing her job? Perhaps it’s just keeping you from having to mow as much lawn. Sometimes the glass is half full. Occasionally it’s cracked. 

Consider that you might living next to that neighbor for many years to come. Which is more important in the long run, a few feet of crabgrass or the icy glances you will share as you weed the front yard for the next decade? Now, I’m not model citizen and I beg you to do as I say and not as I do, but this is really a no-brainer. Your daily happiness will have far more to do with your neighborliness than the exact accounting of your land portion. 

Trees continue to grow as time passes despite anyone’s intentions, so when the branches of your neighbor’s oak are keeping you up at night by grazing the window or eaves, take action, not acrimony. First talk to the neighbor and then trim the tree. You have a right to trim the branches on your side of the property (I won’t say fence and you know why, right?) and by all means should if they’re close to your house (for fire safety if for no other reason).  

Nonetheless, it’s the high road to talk to the neighbor first and to be sure to have a learned person do the trimming so that the tree won’t get sick and die. You could, potentially, be held culpable for that too (it just never seems to stop, does it?) If you’ve taken a friendly approach, it’s far more likely that the neighbor will see you as their friend when things go wrong. (Do things ever go wrong? Do they ever!) 

My neighbor, may he rest in peace, and I had a dispute over a sewer line for many years, a dispute that Freud would have a field day with. The sewer was badly damaged, had never been fixed properly, and on more than one occasion had leaked. This was just horrid and when dealing with this fellow, I felt as though I were a small child who had just had an accident in my pants.  

The process of repairing the dreadful thing went poorly for a range of reasons: our communication was lousy; we didn’t approach it as a team with shared goals. I didn’t hire the best people to go onto his property as I should have but attempted the repair myself (contractors always think they should fix everything themselves, you know) and in the process I bungled into a range of plants and trees that my neighbor liked better than me, my wife and our children put together. To add to the irony, I didn’t know at the time that I had a written easement and had a right to perform repairs. 

We both lost perspective and in the end needed attorneys to settle the matter for us. Luckily, both of our attorneys had the good sense and ethicality to keep us out of court—and to find a sensible way to make us both miserable. Our ensuing hatred of the law and lawyers should rightly have been our hatred of our own stingy and uncompromising selves. 

So I advise my house-hunting friends: before you buy, take a good look at the location of fences and trees. Find out where the sewer runs and investigate any easements that may run across your property. If you have a shared driveway, find out what protocols apply and spend some time talking to the person you’ll be sharing it with. In all cases, try to meet some neighbors before you buy and ask them to tell you of any concerns or past problems that they have experienced. 

The theory of enlightened self-interest seems to me to apply very well in these circumstances, not to mention the golden rule. While it can be incredibly difficult to see beyond our own small selfish concerns when it comes to neighboring issues, the stakes are really quite high: Being your daily happiness and your sanity. And this is equally true when you’re the new kid on the block or an old-time resident. Good luck and good neighboring—and may you turn out to be smarter than I was (which isn’t actually all that hard).


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:44:00 AM

MONDAY, JUNE 30 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Poetry Express open theme night on “ends” 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.  

The Blind Boys of Alabama at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $30. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

TUESDAY, JULY 1 

CHILDREN 

P & T Puppets “Grasshopper and the Ant” “The Tortise and the Hare” and others, with puppeteer Peter Brizzi at 6:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Legends: The Blues Photography of Samuel Ribitch” on display at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

“East Bay Regional Parks Wildlife: Past and Present” Photographs by Jeff Robinson. Reception and slide show at 9:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

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

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mary Fettig at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

WEDNESDAY, JULY 2 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Together and Apart” Individual and collaborative works by Peggy Forman and Jan Schachter on display in the Collector’s Galery, Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022. www.museumca.org 

Oakbook Photography Competition Works by the winning photographers Emmanuel Canteras, Russ Osterweil and Christian Ericksen on display through Aug. 31 at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland. 655-5952. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Summer Sounds at Oakland City Center with Zydeco Flames at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Vive Le Jazz! at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

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

Rumbache 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.  

International Mandolin Night with Mike Marshall, Dudu Maia & Danilo Brito, Caterina Lichtenberg, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

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

THURSDAY, JULY 3 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Inner Expressions” Clausen House Art Collaborative Latest works. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at the Lakeview Mural Gallery, 450 Santa Clara Ave., Oakland. The show runs through Aug. 1. 839-1114. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Sekouba Bambino Diabate at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Fiveplay at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Whiskey Richards, Little Sister Country, The Poplollys at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082.  

Diablo’s Dust at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Kenny Lattimore at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $35-$40. 238-9200.  

FRIDAY, JULY 4 

THEATER 

Aurora Theatre “The Busy World is Hushed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at 2081 Addison St., through July 20. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. auoratheatre.org 

Citizen Josh with Josh Kornbluth Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Sun. 5 p.m., at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. through July 20. Tickets are $20-$25. 841-6500, ext. 303. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Kiss Me Kate” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through Aug. 3. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

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 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Waste Not” Sculpture using materials found in the natural world by Deborah Yaffe. Reception at 7 p.m. at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. Open Sat. from 2 to 5 p.m. to Aug. 9 663-6920. 

“Myths and Dreams” Recent work by Calixto Robles, Alexandra Blum and Ana Hurk. Reception at 7 p.m. at Front Gallery, 35 Grand Ave. Oakland. Gallery hours are Fri. 1 to 6 p.m., and Sat. 1 to 4 p.m. 735-7295. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Oakland Municipal Band “All Sparkling Red, White & Blue” at 1 p.m. at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. Bring your beach chair and picnic. 339-2818. 

Terry Disley Experience at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Ajuana Black, Red the Black Blonde, PamPam at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Black Cobra, Times of Desperation 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. 

U-Roy, Cornell Campbell, Sister I Live, roots reggae, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $18-$22. 548-1159.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

SATURDAY, JULY 5 

CHILDREN  

Puppet Show “Pinocchio” Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “Some Like It Hot” at 6:30 p.m. and “Dr. No” at 8:50 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Bay Area Poets Coalition Poetry Reading from 3 to 5 p.m. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street, not in Lodge parking lot. Free. 527-9905. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Elameno Quintet, jazz, Arabic, flamenco and more at 7:30 p.m. at 383 61st St., Oakland. Not wheelchair accessible. Donation $15-$20. RSVP requested. 655-2771. 

Gateswingers Jazz Band at 8 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Record Shop and Cafe, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 558-7375. 

Yanice Taylor & Vibraphone Summit at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Lakay, Fogo Na Roupa, Eleksa, Cha Cha Dimon at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Kompa dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Sotaque Baiano, Brazilian, at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

The Bobs at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Trevor Childs and The Beholders, Hoe, The Other Pluckers at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Die Young, Sabertooth Zomie, Lie in Wait at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Kenny Lattimore at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $35-$40. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

SUNDAY, JULY 6 

FILM 

United Artists: 90 Years “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” at 5 p.m. and “Scarface” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Twang Cafe with The Earl Brothers, Tippy Canoe & The Paddlemen, at 7:30 p.m. at Epic Arts, 1923 Ashby Ave. Cost is $10. 644-2204.  

Don’t Look Back at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Troublemakers Union at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Harvey Wainapel Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Flamenco with Yaelisa at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Danny Lubin-Laden Quintet “New York Sounds and Visions” at 4:30 p.m. and Mariel Austin Group at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10 for each show. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Limp Wrist, Lebenden Toten, Godstomper at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

 

 

 

 

 


‘The Busy World is Hushed’ at Aurora

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

Beneath stained glass windows, among piles of books in a study (Eric Sinkkonen’s set), an Episcopal clergywoman (Anne Darragh as Hannah) is interviewing a young writer (Chad Deverman as Brandt) amid the scholarly clutter, showing him a photocopy of an ancient manuscript, which she thinks may be the earliest, most historically authentic gospel quoting Jesus’ words. 

She’s beginning a book about the apocryphal gospel, and needs a writer who’ll ghost it from her directives. In the midst of this, her “x-treme” son (James Wagner as Thomas) blows in, stuck with porcupine quills after a wild hitchhike and trek into the mountains, a part of his game with himself, playing Get Lost. Brandt plucks the quills from Thomas, whom he’s definitely noticed.  

Thomas seems attached to, but rebellious towards, his mother and her expressed religiosity, which Hannah in turn keeps trying to sever from its polite image in stained glass, “like Gabriel came down to have tea with the Princess of Monaco.” And Brandt reveals he hasn’t attended church much since Confirmation, alienated from it as a gay man. But with his father dying, he’s looking for something, some kind of commitment. “One thing I know about life,” he half-jokes, “it has a habit of intervening.” 

So the players—and a few of the ground-rules of the game, more like Lost & Found—are introduced in Aurora’s production of Keith Bunin’s The Busy World is Hushed, directed by Robin Stanton.  

It’s not exactly three-hand poker, but there’s a certain amount of bluffing, as well as laying of cards on the table. And some of the bluffing seems to be one or another of the characters, bluffing themself. What each wants, for self or others, becomes increasingly tangled and volatile as they climb or descend the rungs of religious dispute, an often uneasy metaphor for their self-contradictory passions. 

As Brandt confesses his doubts about religion and his anguish over his dying father, the hidden concerns of mother and son come out. Did Hannah’s husband die in an accident during her pregnancy with Thomas, or was it suicide? What can Thomas learn from the underlining and annotations in his father’s old Bible he has found? 

Bunin’s play touches on many provocative themes: faith (and its absence) and the relevance (and popularity) of rediscovered pre- (or anti-) Nicene Creed documents to religious and social discourse in a rapidly changing world; the roles of women and homosexuals in a communion which has historically been dismissive of them; gay men seeking their fathers or fleeing (and returning to) their mothers ... 

“You can’t serve two masters; I’m pretty sure that’s the appropriate verse.” The trio of actors playing the unwieldy triangle of The Busy World are pretty well cast, yet seem to be struggling in varying degrees with a script that’s neither completely worked out in dramatic terms nor fleshed out in dialogue and dramatic action which can embody and resolve its concerns. 

The playwright has said, “It’s not designed to leave you anywhere,” something of a cliche concerning “problem plays” going back to the “well-wrought” originals written in the wake of Somerset Maughm’s great successes, satirically skewered by Stephen Leacock in his mock review, “Behind the Beyond.” 

This genre of “problem play” is really melodrama, more or less standard issue, emphasizing wavering uncertainty in romance, family relations, belief, etc. It’s the same old three-act potboiler, but with an inverted formula: Mother loses Boy, Boy finds Other Boy (with Mother’s veiled blessing), Boy loses Boy, but Other Boy finds Mother and/or God. 

Like too many plays today, generated from old formulas shaped around media events, The Busy World breaks down into a soap opera that brings up interesting things, but substitutes, for theatricality, expository metaphors, cute recitations and canned arguments through which the performers must maneuver—and which often maneuver them into a corner, or leave them half-cowed. On opening night, James Wagner, a recent ACT MFA, came off the best, partly due to his own energy and partly due to his role being the only dynamic one, allowing some opportunity for expression.  

As the snippets of discussion of the apocryphal gospel recede, after it’s served its thinly veiled metaphoric purpose in the play, the ending tries to pick up the pieces with a vaguely hopeful, noncommital simile. 

“Just another voice crying in the wilderness ...” Everything is very tentative, yet very conventional, like a parody of Clifford Odet’s late plays of existential anguish. It’s a throwback to the days of fashionable talk of the death of god or of the theater, or of relationships and commitment.


Old Recordings by The New Age Get New Release on CD

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

From playing the ’60s Berkeley coffee house scene and the Fillmore and Avalon in San Francisco to Fritz Perls’ Big Sur seminars; from trading off “quiet” sets with Country Joe & The Fish’s “dance” sets at Pauley Ballroom and performing at the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, to being featured as the hippie band in a Hollywood mock-up of the Be-In (The Love-In, 1967), The New Age played a new kind of acoustic music, with roots in folk, flamenco and the blues, Indian ragas, Middle Eastern, Japanese, gamelan, European classical and improvised music. 

They created a stir at concerts and in the music industry, until the untimely death of its founder, Pat Kilroy, on Christmas Day of 1967, when Warner Bros. shelved the group’s second album. 

Remarkably, over the past six months, CDs of a re-release of the group’s 1966 Elektra LP, Pat Kilroy—The Light of Day (Collectors Choice) and a first release of material meant for the canceled 1967 Warner’s album, The New Age: All Around, with additional tracks from a live KPFA recording (Raymond Dumont, Switz. May, ’08), with a re-release of Habibiyya: If Man But Knew, a ’72 Island Music album, inspired by a Moroccan sufi poet, with Kilroy’s collaborator, multi-instrumentalist Susan Graubard Archuletta (Sunbeam, UK, Dec. ‘07) have appeared and are available locally at Down Home Music in El Cerrito and Aquarius Records in San Francisco. 

“The Fish weren’t just friends of ‘The New Age,’ they were fans,” said Barry Melton of Country Joe & The Fish. “It was a gentle, wafting acoustic sound Pat [Kilroy] was after, very much a stark contrast to the electric music all around us.” 

The name of the band is now very much an anachronism.  

“It had nothing to do with what people think of now as New Age or New Age music,” said Archuletta, now a Berkeley third-grade teacher. “I cringe to think of it! Patrick was possessed by his own visions.” 

Archuletta went to Cal, where she played at vespers on the Campanile carillon, played viola in the university symphony, and participated in the Free Speech Movement. 

In December 1965, Pat Kilroy, with whom she’d shared long conversations about music, but had never played with arrived from Big Sur “and in a very matter-of-fact way said he’d been looking for me, and asked me to come with him to New York to make a record together, then travel around the world, meeting indigenous musicians.” 

Six weeks later, after finishing finals, Archuletta joined Kilroy in New York with her flute. Then “everything happened all at once,” she said. 

After recording The Light of Day, and traveling to Europe and Morocco, they returned California, where they were joined by percussionist Jeffrey Stewart. Archuletta later met poet Daniel Moore and joined the Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company in Berkeley, as well, which reunited her with her college friend, poet and musician Louise Landes Levi.  

While performing at Berkeley’s Jabberwock cafe, they met Country Joe, who jumped up on stage at the Human Be-In in January 1967 to join in on their signature tune, “When I Walk Through the Trees.”  

The New Age played the Sunset Strip and began recording for Elektra, who “saw us as Peter, Paul and Mary for the new zeitgeist.” But Kilroy was diagnosed with terminal Hodgkin’s Disease. With his death came the end of the dream. 

Archuletta collaborated with others, including Christopher Tree and Don Buchla, then raised her family in Mendocino. On returning to the Berkeley area to teach 11 years ago (she’s taught at Albany and Longfellow Middle Schools and Jefferson and Oxford Elementary Schools) she’s confined her public playing to the Albany Jazz Band. But a reunion and possible CD with Christopher Tree is in the works, and now that the music she helped create years ago is available again, “I hope I can live my two lives together, in Berkeley!”


A Lament for Cody’s

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM

I moved to Berkeley five years ago next month in part because of the promise of job with a regular paycheck just a dozen or so blocks from Cody’s Books. 

I’m not merely an avid reader. I’m a biblioholic, enamored of the printed page. 

For me, there’s something almost erotic about a book. The look, the heft, the smell, the glory of great typography and the feel of the page—ranging from the heavy slick gloss of an art book to the fibrous texture of the heavy stock used by publishers proud of the words they printed. 

All that plus new worlds to explore! 

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love books. 

At age 7 or 8, I convinced the crew at the Abilene, Kan., public library to give me that most precious of possessions, a card that let me check out books from the adult section upstairs. 

And whenever I went anywhere with my parents, I invariably insisted on stops at two establishments: museums and bookstores. 

Everywhere I’ve lived on my own since, from Alamosa, Col., to Las Vegas and L.A., the first thing I’ve always done on arriving in a new town is to scope out the local bookstores, quickly mastering the terrains of the history, science and mystery sections, along with occasional expeditions into art, architecture, philosophy and whatever else was the passion du jour. 

Moving to Sacramento late in 1983, I quickly discovered that while River City had some decent independent booksellers (chains I visit mostly to scope out the remainders), it had nothing like the long-vanished Book City and the other great stores I’d found in L.A. 

So I headed west to Berkeley, knowing from my brief days as a street artist a decade earlier that only Telegraph Avenue would sate my as-yet unrequited passion for fulfillment between the covers. 

And it was always Cody’s that drew me in first—in the earliest years with my son, then later with my two daughters. 

Sure, we went to Moe’s and Shakespeare’s, but it was always Cody’s, with its unparalleled array of new titles stacked to unreachable heights, that proved the most powerful magnet, and I never left the place with my wallet less than $100 lighter. 

The vibrant street life of the Avenue was an added bonus, most memorably when we took a rather strait-laced family from New Hampshire to see the sites and shelves and they were rewarded—though that’s not the word they would’ve used—by the naked bodies of Debbie Moore and the Xplicit Players before the City Council got all prudish. 

The shock on the faces of those dowdy Northeasterners is something my daughters and I still recall with relish, and their sons with glee. 

Over the years, I calculated recently, I dropped well over $20,000 into the coffers of the Codys and Andy Ross, their successor as owner, enriching myself, my children and my friends with a colorful profusion of ideas and images. 

Dennett, Dawkins, Pinker, Zinn, Kershaw, James Carroll, Hobsbawm, Hiassen, Chandler, McDonald, Macdonald and countless others all moved from Cody’s shelves to mine. So much so that I’ve literally been buried in books, after an earthquake rattled my Napa home and momentarily entombed me beneath hundreds of hardbacks; I remember briefly thinking, “Well, not a bad way to go.” 

When Cody’s was departing from Telegraph, I made one final purchase, a wonderfully executed one-volume collection of Raymond Chandler’s Collected Stories, a constant source of inspiration for a writer in search of a clean, incisive prose style. 

I went to the Fourth Street store only twice, finding it sadly unlike the original and all too much like a chain in its array of titles and manner of display. 

I visited the Shattuck Avenue store only once, three weeks before the closing, along with Samantha, my youngest. We found it a rather dolorous place, a pale simulacrum of the original. 

Still, when I sent her an e-mail to notify her of the closing, she responded, “ :( and on my birthday. . .” 

How odd that a city like Berkeley, which houses perhaps the most literate and highly educated populace in the Bay Area, finds itself unable to support a first-class bookstore. 

Sure, there’s always the Internet, but buying online isn’t the same. I can’t flip through the pages, search the author’s acknowledgments, get a feel for the quality of the print, the touch of the paper or the fidelity of the color plates. 

Instead, buying a book has too often become something like buying toothpaste, where we are forced to disregard that old maxim about judging by covers and to settle for terse online descriptions and scanty images, along with reader reviews that are often little more than the rants of deranged ideologues. 

So it’s Moe’s and Pegasus for me from now on, along with the occasional excursion into the World Wide Web when all else fails.  

But there’ll always be a large, unrequited ache for the place that was once filled by Cody’s. 

 

Besides writing for the Daily Planet, the writer has also written two nonfiction works under his own name. One, Fuller’s Earth: A Day with Buckminster Fuller and the Kids, is being reprinted by New Press in October as part of its Classics in Progressive Education series.


Mirabai Ensemble at Takara Sake

By Ken Bullock
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Mirabai Ensemble, the remarkable vocal group, performing an original blend of a wide variety of musical styles, will sing this Saturday at 8 p.m. in the tasting room of Takara Sake (Addison at Fourth Street). Tasting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 advance, $25 at the door. 

Founded in 1993 by Michael Smolens and “recently reinvented after a seven-year break,” the Mirabai Ensemble features sopranos Pollyanna Bush and Becca Burlington, mezzos Valentina Osinski and Alexis Lane Jensen, alto Jessica Rice, tenors Daniel Tucker and Michael Smolens, and basses David Worm and Brian Dyer, with Dyer also singing tenor, and Smolens and Worm, vocal percussion. 

Running a gamut of sounds from vibratoless “neo-medieval” polyphony to jazzy acappella, hip-hop and art rock cabaret, Mirabai maintains a constantly changing, eclectic mix of vocal improvisation, voice percussion and instrumental imitation, a full choral sound which soloists rise out of. They’ve collaborated with Dave Brubeck, Yo-Yo Ma, Meredith Monk, Booby McFerrin, SoVoSo, Keith Terry, the New York and San Francisco Operas, the Martha Graham Dance Co. and appeared live on KPFA, at the Whole Life Expo in San Francisco and the Harmony Sweepstakes (the “acappella summit” at the Marin Center).  

Mirabai’s been hailed by jazz writers and commentators like Bud Spangler (“treasure trove of musical riches”) and Lee Hildebrand (“No ordinary composer, [Michael] Smolens gives a broad palette to paint luminous ... textures”).  

Smolens—Mirabai’s founder, composer, music director and Ensemble member—shares, with several other Ensemble members, the influence of Terry Riley and Pandit Pranath and Allaudin Mathieu (composer-pianist associated with Mills College), as well as having studied or collaborated with Mark Murphy, Art Lande and Paul McCandless, Kenny Werner, and early music specialist Bruce Wetmore. 

 


East Bay: Then and Now—Weltevreden Was Berkeley’s ‘Premier Residence’ 100 Years Ago

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM
Weltevreden, the Moody home at 1725 Le Roy Ave., was Berkeley’s most famous residence in the early 20th century.
postcard courtesy of Anthony Bruce
Weltevreden, the Moody home at 1725 Le Roy Ave., was Berkeley’s most famous residence in the early 20th century.
The Moody home turned its back on the street, facing a clinker-brick bridge over Strawberry Creek.
Architectural Review, Vol. 9, March 1902
The Moody home turned its back on the street, facing a clinker-brick bridge over Strawberry Creek.
Mary Moody, her daughters, and a male cousin on the veranda, whose robust columns Schweinfurth replicated in redwood trunks in the First Unitarian Church.
Architectural Review, Vol. 9, March 1902
Mary Moody, her daughters, and a male cousin on the veranda, whose robust columns Schweinfurth replicated in redwood trunks in the First Unitarian Church.

When banker Volney Delos Moody (1829-1901) married the widowed schoolteacher Mary Robinson in the mid-1880s, he gave up the house of his first marriage and moved to 838 Alice Street in West Oakland. The neighborhood, now on the southern edge of Chinatown, was considerably tonier in those days. The Canoe Club had its boat house at the foot of Alice Street, and one of Moody’s neighbors was Solomon Lewis, owner of a famed Oakland jewelry store and reputedly San Francisco’s first hotelier, who resided at 854 Alice St. 

With the Moodys lived Mary’s two grown daughters, May Virginia (b. 1869), a musician, and Margaret F. “Madge” Robinson (b. 1871). When May married Edmund S. Gray, a San Francisco hardware merchant, the latter moved in with the Moodys. 

Edmund Gray’s spheres of interests were diverse. He was a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, a councilmember of the Unitarian Club of California (Warren Gregory was vice-president at the same time) and, like Gregory, a connoisseur of architecture. This latter interest was shared by his wife and in-laws. 

It may have been the founding of the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley in 1891 that planted the idea of a move to this city in Gray’s mind, and he may have persuaded his father-in-law to make the move a reality. Moody himself was an agnostic and never belonged to any church (nor did he ever join a club or fraternity), yet the idea of building a home for his retirement years in the open hills north of the U.C. campus evidently appealed to him. 

Moody’s vast acquaintance included Phoebe Apperson Hearst, whose son, William Randolph Hearst, began employing the architect A.C. Schweinfurth in 1894. Schweinfurth’s first completed project for Hearst was the Hacienda del Pozo de Verona, a country estate in Pleasanton that Mrs. Hearst appropriated while it was still under construction. It could have been Phoebe Hearst who recommended Schweinfurth to Moody. 

In the 1890s, the Daley’s Scenic Park tract just north of the university campus was sparsely inhabited. Charles Keeler, whose house on Highland Place was built in 1895, considered himself a pioneer in a new district. Bernard Maybeck’s first commission, the Keeler house was one of the earliest brown-shingle, Arts & Crafts residences in Berkeley, and the new homeowner was concerned that “its effect will become completely ruined when others come and build stupid white-painted boxes all about us.”  

In response, Maybeck charged him with the task of seeing to it that “all the houses about you are in keeping with your own.” Keeler began proselytizing, and within four years, a cluster of four steep-roofed Maybeck houses stood at the intersection of Ridge Road and Highland Place. 

Years later, in his memoir about Maybeck, Keeler reminisced: “Mr. Moody, a retired banker of Oakland, came with his son-in-law to see our home, and we persuaded them to join our group. They had already picked another architect, Mr. Schweinfurth, to design a Dutch house for them. So they built a beautiful home in the canyon a block below us, and the two daughters of the house, with a few other ladies in the neighborhood, organized the Hillside Club to carry out through a formal club what we had been attempting to do informally in persuading a neighborhood to adopt the Maybeck principles in architecture.” 

Moody purchased four contiguous lots on the southeast corner of Le Roy and Le Conte Avenues. The north fork of Strawberry Creek bisected the block, which stood entirely empty of houses in 1896. (In 1897, there would be two houses on the block, the second being the Loren E. Hunt house, a shingled Dutch Colonial still standing at 2625 Ridge Road.) The Moody property was sheltered by a dense grove of old oaks, and several oak trees stood in the middle of the yet-unpaved streets. A more scenic spot could hardly be asked for, and Schweinfurth designed a house to match. 

On Nov. 6, 1896, the Berkeley Daily Advocate reported that “Mary Moody, the wife of an Oakland banker, has signed contracts for the erection of a dwelling on her extensive grounds adjoining the State University, which will differ both in outside appearance and inside arrangement from any other residence in that classic neighborhood. The house will be in Flemish style, of brick, and the entrance will be in the rear, as regards the road, over a bridge spanning a creek. The interior features of Mrs. Moody’s house will be its open and exposed construction. In the living room an application of Florence leaf will be made, producing an effect of iridescent gold between the beams, while in the dining-room turquoise blue will be set off by the dark colored beams.” 

Further descriptions were provided in the article “The Later Work of A. C. Schweinfurth, Architect,” published in Architectural Review in March 1902: “The walls of the Berkeley house are built of dark red, or rich brownish ‘clinker bricks’—which before being used by Mr. Schweinfurth for this work were looked upon as inferior or refuse brick, but which have since gained much popularity. The varying degrees of vitrified color give the walls of the house a peculiarly rich and soft texture, quite free from the cast-steel appearance so much affected in brick-work until quite recently. The wooden beams are weathered gray, and on the lintel over the entrance to veranda is the name ‘Weltenreden’ [sic]. Although evidently inspired to some degree by Dutch work, and although its garden setting is almost Japanese, the whole is pervaded by the old Spanish feeling characteristic of the locality. The ‘fat’ columns of the veranda are built of ‘headers,’ with heavy flat tile abaci at the tops.” 

The article went on to say: “The house reflects the architect’s personality. It was built for an intimate friend who was in sympathy with his views, and was erected not through mere slavish adherence to drawings made in the office, but by direct contact between the architect and the actual workers on the building. In other words, the architect selected the bricks for the brick-layer with his own hands, and indeed often laid them himself to prove that the work could be done as he intended.”  

The result, according to Architectural Review, was that “It seems as if this house [...] must have stood here always; and rarely does Nature seem to welcome a work of architecture as she does this.” 

Called Weltevreden (“well satisfied” in Dutch), the house was completed in 1897. It immediately attracted much attention, and its image appeared on numerous postcards and Berkeley promotional brochures. Herman Whitaker, writing about “Berkeley, the Beautiful” in the December 1906 issue of Sunset magazine, called Weltevreden “most beautiful of all” and the “premier residence of Berkeley.” 

Once settled in the bucolic Northside, Madge Robinson and May Gray wasted no time in joining Keeler’s crusade to preserve the neighborhood’s beauty. For this purpose, they founded a women’s club in 1898 and named it the Hillside Club. The club’s mission was “to protect the hills of Berkeley from unsightly grading and the building of unsuitable and disfiguring houses; to do all in our power to beautify these hills and above all to create and encourage a decided public opinion on these subjects.” 

In June 1899—five years before Charles Keeler published The Simple Home and seven years before Bernard Maybeck wrote Hillside Building—Madge Robinson’s article “The Hillside Problem” appeared in The House Beautiful, offering practical suggestions on the siting, positioning, and design of hillside homes. The examples illustrated in her article were based on northern California houses designed by First Bay Region architects such as Maybeck, A. Page Brown, Ernest Coxhead, and Willis Polk. 

Thanks to his innovative work on Weltevreden, Schweinfurth secured, through Edmund Gray, a commission to design the First Unitarian Church’s building at Dana Street and Bancroft Way. Shortly after the completion of that edifice, both patron and architect departed this world. Gray died circa 1899, and Schweinfurth followed him a year later. As for Volney Moody, in 1898 he suffered a stroke that paralyzed him for the rest of his life. He died three years later, on March 27, 1901.  

In its page one obituary, the Oakland Tribune reported: “Although physically powerless, Mr. Moody retained his mental vigor almost to the last. He thoroughly appreciated the fact that his end was rapidly approaching and with a prudence that had always distinguished him settled all his private affairs and calmly waited for the end.” 

Settling his affairs included making ample provisions for his widow. Two years before his death, Moody transferred the title of Weltevreden and five choice Oakland properties to his wife.  

In his will, she was given two-fifths of his estate, the remainder to be shared by Moody’s three grown children from his first marriage. Anticipating conflict among his heirs, Moody inserted a codicil into his will, mandating that any heir who attacked the terms of the will would forfeit his or her bequest, which would be given to the other side. 

No sooner was the will unsealed than Moody’s children—William C. Moody, Nellie E. Blood, and Jessie L. Appleton—threatened to launch a nasty court battle, telling the Oakland Tribune that their father “gave the better part of the estate to his widow, allowing to his three heirs by his first wife only a part of what they thought they were entitled to.” The first Mrs. Moody, who had remarried in 1887 and was now living in Sonoma County, was said to be ready to enter the fray and reveal old family scandals, on the charge that she had been fraudulently shortchanged in her divorce settlement. 

Other rumors leaked to the press by the first Moody clan painted Mary Moody as an unfeeling wife who, anticipating her husband’s demise, was studying French with her daughters “so as to enable them at the first possible moment to go to Paris and experience the pleasure of life in the gayest of all the capitals of the world.” It was also alleged that Moody’s cremation was not attended by the widow or any member of the family. 

Moody’s codicil notwithstanding, nobody was disowned. The two feuding factions soon ceased their saber rattling, reached a compromise out of court, and re-divided the spoils. There was more than enough to go around. 

 

This was the second part in a series of three articles on the Moody family. 

 

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


Open Homes In Focus: Two Arts & Crafts-style Homes Open This Weekend

By Steven Finacom
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM
The shingled 2512 Russell St. has chimney, window boxes, and casement windows on the street façade.
By Steven Finacom
The shingled 2512 Russell St. has chimney, window boxes, and casement windows on the street façade.
584 61st St. has horizontal board siding, double-hung windows, and a clinker-brick chimney.
By Steven Fincacom
584 61st St. has horizontal board siding, double-hung windows, and a clinker-brick chimney.
The view from living room to hall to dining room at the Oakland house is lavishly filled with original redwood details.
By Steve Finacom
The view from living room to hall to dining room at the Oakland house is lavishly filled with original redwood details.
The remodeled kitchen at Russell Street builds on the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with furniture quality cabinetry, and a deep period-style sink with dishwasher hidden to the left behind a cabinet door.
By Steven Finacom
The remodeled kitchen at Russell Street builds on the Arts and Crafts aesthetic with furniture quality cabinetry, and a deep period-style sink with dishwasher hidden to the left behind a cabinet door.

Two local houses, both currently for sale, provide an enticing glimpse into the Bay Area’s Arts and Crafts past.  

Neither is a famous or well-known house, but both of these nearly-century old properties are genuine gems from an era when talented local builders were busily turning out simple and gracious family homes in the burgeoning green suburban districts of the inner East Bay. 

They also reflect the intelligent way successive generations of owners have appreciated the best built features of the past, rather than tearing out and rebuilding to suit new architectural fads. 

One house is at 584 61st St. in North Oakland, close to Shattuck Avenue. The other is at 2512 Russell St. in Berkeley, just a few blocks down from the Elmwood shopping district. 

Both are open for viewing this coming Sunday, June 29. 

The two are surprising similar from the street, almost architectural siblings; if you glance quickly at the line drawings on the advertising flyers, you might easily mistake one for the other.  

Each has a wood exterior (horizontal siding in the first case, recently painted shingles in the other), a steeply gabled roof facing the street end on, and an entrance slipped around to the left side to maximize both picturesque curb appeal and inside circulation efficiency. Both have elegant divided light windows and a handsome chimney set asymmetrically on the street façade.  

Inside, each has a wealth of spaces with handcrafted dark redwood, including original wainscoting, built-ins, trim, and flooring. 

Let’s visit Oakland first. 61st Street runs parallel to—and several blocks south of Alcatraz Avenue, in a residential neighborhood shaped like a slice of pie, widest at the Berkeley end, and narrowing down to the old Idora Park district just north of Highway 24. 

Most Berkeleyans probably speed past on Telegraph or Shattuck with barely a thought for this district, but it’s an area with interesting and handsome homes and quiet enclaves. 

The 500 block of 61st Street is lined with one and two story houses facing the north side of the old Washington School, now Sankofa Academy, an Oakland magnet school. Beyond that is Bushrod Park, with its recently refurbished Don Budge tennis courts and the East Bay’s own Mystery Spot, a point near the Shattuck sidewalk is where a large, still unexplained, block of clear ice plunged like a meteor into the park lawn, April 8, 2006. 

584 61st St. appears to have been constructed in 1912, although a building permit was initially issued in 1907—understandable timing, given the vast need for new housing, and residential appeal of the East Bay, after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

The front door is midway on the west sidewall of the house. It opens to a generous hallway that bisects the house, with the staircase straight ahead. To the left, there’s a large dining room, through pocket doors. To the right, the living room is divided from the hall by a half wall with wooden columns. A turn left through the living room and a second set of pocket doors finds a surprisingly large study. 

Living room, dining room, stair hall, and study form one spacious L-shaped commons, or can be subdivided by the pocket doors for more sequestered uses. With pocket doors open, the study extends the living room to the entire width of the house; with the doors closed, it functions as a self-contained room, via a second door to the stair hall. 

Under the first run of the stairs and landing there’s a half bath and a little storage closet floored with colorful vintage linoleum. The stairs are screened from the downstairs hall by a picket of tread-to-ceiling posts. 

Upstairs there’s a full bath under a shed dormer and two bedrooms under the gable ends of the main roof, each with a closet. The hardwood floors continue upstairs, and the original unpainted wood trim also flows up to the second floor hall, where its built-in stacked linen cabinet. 

The kitchen is simple, with a gleaming older range and not much counter space. A buyer with extra funds will probably want to do an upgrade here—hopefully in keeping with the character of the house. There are two doors direct into the dining room, one from the kitchen proper the other from the adjacent pantry, so a free flowing layout could be achieved without altering the walls of the dining room.  

The pantry opens to the back yard and it’s not hard to envision a modest, well-windowed, pop-out/eat-in addition here to extend the kitchen further and make the most of the indoor—outdoor potential.  

The dining room has a heroically massive and mirrored sideboard with glass-fronted cabinets above. There’s a built in desk unit of similar character in the corner of the study, adjacent to a long built in window seat along two walls, big enough to serve either as casual seating for the owners and any six or eight of their friends who happen to be around, or a sunny napping zone for at least a dozen house cats. 

The fireplace in the living room is picturesque, arched and of clinker brick, with a smallish firebox, probably sized to burn coal. Some light fixtures in the house are contextual replacements while others appear to be original, including several intriguing little fixtures that look like upside down candle holders starred to the ceiling of the dining room.  

Flame-like light bulbs punctuate the box-beam intersections of the living room ceiling. This is a house from an age when built in electric lighting was still novel, even magical. 

The downstairs rooms are “Arts and Crafts classics” says listing agent Arlene Baxter, and she’s not exaggerating. They feel like the ground floor of a much larger and grander house. If you have any interest in craftsman interiors, go see these simple, spacious, dark wood-paneled common spaces in their current pristine condition, lightly and sympathetically staged. 

The property is also a genuine piece of local cultural history. The seller of the house is Nigerian-born musician Baba Ken Okulolo, and the freestanding garage and the brick outdoor patio adjacent have hosted practice sessions and musical gatherings for nearly 40 years.  

Artists Bob Marley, Taj Mahal, and Hugh Masekela are among those who have been guests here since the current owners purchased the house in 1970.  

The detached garage is a humble piece of East Bay vernacular, but also a shrine of a sort. It doubled as a musical practice space and the walls even talk via colorful posters for scores of musical events at which Baba Ken has performed. Baxter shows visitors an album cover with musician Taj Mahal jamming under the large redwood tree that punctuates the level yard between garage and house. 

Further north, back in Berkeley, 2512 Russell St. is a somewhat larger, also two-story, circa 1910 home. It’s just up from the angled Russell/Hillegass intersection where the streetcar turned, eras ago, on its way to the Claremont Hotel vicinity.  

This house sits in an early 20th century subdivision that was the focus of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association’s annual Spring House tour this past May. 

The deep front porch slips under the northeast corner of the house and opens to a stair hall. To the right, there’s a living room with large fireplace flanked by light-filled floor to ceiling windows. To the left of the hall is an elaborate dining room with a second fireplace, completely surrounded by glass-fronted cabinets in dark wood.  

Many original architectural details appear intact. There are some good replacement light fixtures, as well as a few oddities such as acoustic tile between the box beams in the living room ceiling. 

The dining room connects, by door and large pass-through, to an extensive kitchen remodeled with built-ins in an Arts and Crafts motif.  

While this isn’t an authentic bungalow kitchen—the original would have been smaller, and probably painted hygienic white—it’s a handsome example of how a modern kitchen can be sympathetically designed to match the character of an old house, rather than looking like it belongs at the nearest loft condo or Home Depot. 

A breakfast area at the end of the kitchen, and a bright, white-painted, room beyond the dining room add useable space and face south to the wide yard. 

There’s a half bath with a great old corner sink with brass fittings, beneath the staircase that winds up to the second floor. A master bedroom with attached private bath spans the entire front of the house. Two bedrooms and a second bath are further back, then an “L” shaped genuine sleeping porch walled with windows, and looking down into the green yard. 

Off to one side of the lot is a fairly large garage, the type that says early 20th century Berkeley, when automobile ownership was spreading into the middle class. In another corner there’s a solid-walled but clear-roofed little structure that could be a greenhouse, potting shed, or (after remodel and repair), “garden retreat.” 

A picturesque box elder tree shades the center of the yard, there’s a hedge of black bamboo to one side, a deck behind the kitchen, and a vine covered arbor that creatively cantilevers out from two posts like an awning. 

 

 

IF YOU GO… 

 

Both realtors are planning second open houses this coming Sunday, June 29 in the afternoon. 

 

To reach 584 61st St., Oakland, head south on Shattuck, past Alcatraz, and turn left onto 61st Street. The house is several doors up on the left side. More information at www.584-61st.com. Arlene Baxter of Berkeley Hills Realty is the listing agent. The house is currently priced at $629,500. 

To reach 2512 Russell St., go east (uphill) on Russell from Telegraph Avenue, just north of Ashby, or north one block on Hillegass Avenue from Ashby. More information at www.realtyadvocates.com/2512.html. Hal Feiger of Realty Advocates is the listing agent. The house is currently priced at $975,000.  

 

If you purchase a house like this—or simply admire the type—you can’t go wrong getting a set of the superb history and how-to books of Oakland author Jane Powell (Bungalow Kitchens, Bungalow Details: Interior, etc.) to help understand their design, and intelligently guide thinking about further remodels or repairs.


About the House: Good Neighbors Make Fences

By Matt Cantor
Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

Having browsed the local flea market for years, I have consistently observed that many of the dealers-in-miscellanea seem resolutely unable to confine themselves to the stalls they have been issued.  

There are always a few—or more—who attempt to push over the edges, to set their wares up to the left and right of the clearly marked lines of their own assigned space. On any given flea-market weekend, I can expect to hear numerous requests to move items off of someone else’s stated turf—and I have heard more than a few full-blown disputes. I find it interesting how hard it is for people to be happy with their lot (as it were) and how deep the sense of injury amongst those who have been invaded by an inch or two. The capacity for umbrage is great in the human animal.  

At the flea market, conflicts usually were resolved within minutes. But in our courts, boundary disputes fill the dockets every year: ask any judge. So many of these complaints seem to be of a kind that might easily be resolved with a simple discussion, but it’s not in the genes. Boundary issues seem to bring out the very worst in all of us. I include myself, of course. I remained so angry at my rear neighbor that we didn’t speak for years. At one point—because we simply could not sit at the same table and speak—I needed my friend Ed, a local attorney, to resolve a relatively straightforward dispute with him.  

I recently discovered that the fellow had passed away over a year ago—and I realized that I had held anger, fear and resentment toward him for all this time in which he had not even been on the planet. How terribly and awfully ironic, eh? Again, I’m not alone. It seems to be a part of who we are and how we operate in the world. Ed shared with me that he, with all his legal knowledge (he’s also a genuinely loving soul and a dear friend) had been through a similar trial (pun intended) for several years. Many of you reading this may recognize yourselves in this scenario.  

How many of our wars are based on this reptilian, mid-brain thinking, our ancient selves alive and stalking in the world of pagers and ICBMs? It’s funny and sad—and it’s not unusual. 

For this reason, I often counsel my clients—those on the bridge to home ownership—to approach boundary issues with little expectation and with as much generosity as they can muster.  

People often ask me where the boundaries for the property are located and I always confess that I cannot know and that no one except a surveyor can say for any certainty where those elusive lines are hiding. It also gets worse in some parts of Berkeley where the damned things keep moving all the time as the earth does the slow amble to the bay. I often refer to my house in the hills as a mobile-home. 

That said, there are some clues that can be used and a viewing of fences is generally the best source of data. Fences are not wholly reliable but may indicate where the properly line has come to exist over time. Ed calls this condition a prescriptive easement as opposed to actual ownership (when the fence is not located on the property line.)  

By adverse possession, a person can come to own some of your land over time but this is actually very difficult and requires a number of conditions that are very hard to meet. This often includes having paid the taxes on that piece of land for some course of years. Nonetheless, the point is that just because there’s a fence doesn’t mean that it’s in the right place or representative of a true legal boundary. 

The same illusion can apply to a small building, a garage or a home addition. They’re not always located on the proper side of the boundary and are sometimes located inside the setback where they oughtn’t be. A setback is the locally proscribed spacing between your house and the property line and varies with certain kinds of construction in addition to the general rules that apply to your property. By the way, just because your neighbor has one set of setbacks, doesn’t mean that the same ones apply to you. This is also true for allowable building heights. Just because your neighbor has a two-story building doesn’t mean that you have the right to add a story onto yours. Seems unfair—but hey, talk to City Hall. 

There are exceptions to the usual setbacks for old or “grandfathered-in” construction—which means you DON’T want to tear down that old garage in the corner of the property before some serious thinking, since you may not be able to rebuild there once it’s down. Decks of varying heights as well as equipment (like water heaters) also have rules regarding setbacks and it’s worth a trip to the zoning department to check and find out exactly where you can and cannot build. 

So, when you’re first looking at a property, it’s worth looking at the “sense” or logic of the fences and gates. Do they look as though they belong where they are? One example of fences not making much sense is when they’re way over to one side and very close to one building and far from another. This may be a tip-off that the fence isn’t where the boundary requires it to be placed.  

Another hint of questionable boundaries is that one fence isn’t in line with the one on the next lot. If the fence seems to “jog” at one point, it might be worth looking at a copy of the assessor’s parcel map for your block to see if the boundaries look the same. Ultimately a surveyor may be needed to unravel any real confusion.  

There’s a larger point to be made here. It’s good to be aware of the fact that your fences may not be where they belong, that a tree may be overhanging your property or that a sewer line may cross over your property, but it’s also important to have some perspective. Given our human territoriality, it is very easy indeed to begin to see these things as gigantic issues that are endangering your life and limb. In fact, they may not have no great an impact on your daily life.  

If a fence deprives you of a one-foot strip of your side yard, take a serious look at the thing before you call your lawyer. Does it prevent you from walking past that side of the house? Is it keeping the meter reader from doing her job? Perhaps it’s just keeping you from having to mow as much lawn. Sometimes the glass is half full. Occasionally it’s cracked. 

Consider that you might living next to that neighbor for many years to come. Which is more important in the long run, a few feet of crabgrass or the icy glances you will share as you weed the front yard for the next decade? Now, I’m not model citizen and I beg you to do as I say and not as I do, but this is really a no-brainer. Your daily happiness will have far more to do with your neighborliness than the exact accounting of your land portion. 

Trees continue to grow as time passes despite anyone’s intentions, so when the branches of your neighbor’s oak are keeping you up at night by grazing the window or eaves, take action, not acrimony. First talk to the neighbor and then trim the tree. You have a right to trim the branches on your side of the property (I won’t say fence and you know why, right?) and by all means should if they’re close to your house (for fire safety if for no other reason).  

Nonetheless, it’s the high road to talk to the neighbor first and to be sure to have a learned person do the trimming so that the tree won’t get sick and die. You could, potentially, be held culpable for that too (it just never seems to stop, does it?) If you’ve taken a friendly approach, it’s far more likely that the neighbor will see you as their friend when things go wrong. (Do things ever go wrong? Do they ever!) 

My neighbor, may he rest in peace, and I had a dispute over a sewer line for many years, a dispute that Freud would have a field day with. The sewer was badly damaged, had never been fixed properly, and on more than one occasion had leaked. This was just horrid and when dealing with this fellow, I felt as though I were a small child who had just had an accident in my pants.  

The process of repairing the dreadful thing went poorly for a range of reasons: our communication was lousy; we didn’t approach it as a team with shared goals. I didn’t hire the best people to go onto his property as I should have but attempted the repair myself (contractors always think they should fix everything themselves, you know) and in the process I bungled into a range of plants and trees that my neighbor liked better than me, my wife and our children put together. To add to the irony, I didn’t know at the time that I had a written easement and had a right to perform repairs. 

We both lost perspective and in the end needed attorneys to settle the matter for us. Luckily, both of our attorneys had the good sense and ethicality to keep us out of court—and to find a sensible way to make us both miserable. Our ensuing hatred of the law and lawyers should rightly have been our hatred of our own stingy and uncompromising selves. 

So I advise my house-hunting friends: before you buy, take a good look at the location of fences and trees. Find out where the sewer runs and investigate any easements that may run across your property. If you have a shared driveway, find out what protocols apply and spend some time talking to the person you’ll be sharing it with. In all cases, try to meet some neighbors before you buy and ask them to tell you of any concerns or past problems that they have experienced. 

The theory of enlightened self-interest seems to me to apply very well in these circumstances, not to mention the golden rule. While it can be incredibly difficult to see beyond our own small selfish concerns when it comes to neighboring issues, the stakes are really quite high: Being your daily happiness and your sanity. And this is equally true when you’re the new kid on the block or an old-time resident. Good luck and good neighboring—and may you turn out to be smarter than I was (which isn’t actually all that hard).


Community Calendar

Thursday June 26, 2008 - 09:30:00 AM

MONDAY, JUNE 30 

“Can Israel be Redeemed?” with Jeff Halper at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace. 465-1777. http://bayarea.jvp.org 

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. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

TUESDAY, JULY 1 

Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit the Tilden Nature Area. Call if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

“East Bay Regional Parks Wildlife: Past and Present” Photographs by Jeff Robinson. Reception and slide show at 9:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Tilden Mini-Rangers Hiking, conservation and nature-based activities for ages 8-12. Dress to ramble and get dirty. From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Backpacking 101 A review of the necessities for a weekend backcountry trip at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

DRUMMM Community drumming, instruments provided, at11 a.m. at the West Side Library, 135 Washington Avenue, Richmond, and 2 p.m. at the Bayview Library, 5100 Hartnett Avenue, Richmond. www.richmondlibrary.org  

Creating Your Dream Job an interactive session from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

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, JULY 2 

Kensington Treasures Walk Explore Kensington’s historic Sunset View Cemetery, UC Berkeley’s Blake Gardens Estate, and little-known El Cerrito paths on a vigorous walk with great views. Meet at 10 a.m. at the entrance to Sunset View Cemetery, Colusa at Fairmount. AC Transit 79. 848-9358. 

Priority Africa Network Dialogue on Zimbabwe with Phillip Machingura at 6 p.m. at the Niebyl Proctor Library, 6100 Telegraph Ave. www.marxistlibr.org 

“What the Second Amendment Means Today” with Stephen Halbrook and Don Kates, featuring the new book “The Founders’ Second Amendment” at 7 p.m., reception at 6:30 p.m., at The Independent Institute Conference Center, 100 Swan Way, Oakland. Cost is $10-$15. RSVP to 632-1366. www.independent.org 

“Atheist Alliance International Convention“ A film by Richard Dawkins at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Summer Board Game Days from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Alta Bates Hospital Auditorium, 2450 Ashby Ave.. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

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

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

Stitch ‘n Bitch at 6:30 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

THURSDAY, JULY 3 

“The Carbon-Free Home” Learn how to green your home with authors Rebekah and Stephen Hren at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-2220, ext. 223. 

Healing Yoga for Weight Management from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Teen Book Cub meets to discuss childhood favorites at 4 p.m. at the Claremont Branch Library, 2940 Benvenue at Ashby. 981-6107.  

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, JULY 4 

Fourth of July at the Berkeley Marina from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. with food, activities for children, arts and crafts, and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us 

Tela de la Vida/Fabric of Life A bilingual nature program for the whole family from noon to 5 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, TIlden PArk. 525-2233. 

People’s World Weekly Barbeque with Shahram Agahmir, activist from Iran and food, music, flea market and discussions, from 1 to 5 p.m. at 2232 Derby St., Between Fulton and Ellsworth. Donation $10, no one turned away. 548-8764. 

El Cerrito Fourth of July Fair with games for children, food, arts and crafts, and live entertainment, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Cerrito Vista Park and Portola Middle School blacktop, Moseser Lane at Pomona. 559-7000. www.el-cerrito.org 

One World Festival with music by Ashwin Batish, Laca Blaco, Ryan Maontbleau, Phoenix and After Bufflao and many others from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Cerrito Vista Park, El Cerrito. 233-0611. 

SATURDAY, JULY 5 

Corridor Connections A seven mile hike from Tilden to Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and back. Bring sunsceen, water and a lunch. Meet at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 525-2233. 

Saturday Stories “Dream Weaver” by Jonathan London, story and crafts at 1 p.m. at The Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 

Knucklehead the Clown for ages 3 and up at 2 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Social Action Forum with Patricia Ellsberg on “Cultural Creativity” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensigton. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

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, JULY 6 

Flutter By Butterflies Learn about butterfly life-cycles and the plants that attract them at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Sprouts Gardening Project for children to learn about what it takes to make plants grow, at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Yoga & Meditation at 9:15 and 10:30 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Rosalyn White on “Tibetan Sacred Painting” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000 www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

ONGOING 

Summer Lunch For Kids & Teens from June 16 to August 15 Meal sites are located at various schools and community centers throughout Oakland and Alameda County. For information call 800-870-3663 for a meal site near you or visit www.summerlunch.org To make a donation see www.accfb.org  

CITY MEETINGS 

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., June 26, at 6:30 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5213.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., June 26, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., July 3, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7419.  

Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., July 3 , at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7461.  

Housing Advisory Commission meets Thurs., July 3, at 7 p.m., at the South Berkeley Senior Center. Oscar Sung, 981-5400.