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Attorney William Simpich listens as colleague Carol Strickman responds to a comment by Judge Richard Keller during Monday’s hearing on their request for an order to protect tree-sitters and for the university to provide them with food and water.
By Richard Brenneman
Attorney William Simpich listens as colleague Carol Strickman responds to a comment by Judge Richard Keller during Monday’s hearing on their request for an order to protect tree-sitters and for the university to provide them with food and water.


Dean Takes Out Papers for Mayoral Race

By Judith Scherr
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 04:31:00 PM

Two-term mayor, 15-year councilmember Shirley Dean took out preliminary papers to run for Berkeley mayor today (Tuesday).  

One of the “grandmothers” active in the campaign to save the oak grove adjacent to UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, Dean said she’s running to fill a “leadership vacuum” in the city. 

Among the problems that need attention, she said, is the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s plan to build new labs in Strawberry Creek Canyon, which she’s vociferously opposed, and a “deepening feeling that nothing can be done” with the downtown. 

Asked if she can beat the yet-unannounced-candidate Mayor Tom Bates, Dean said, “I have absolutely no idea. He will have money and I won’t; he will have endorsements which I won’t have.” 

Bates defeated Dean in 2002, with Bates getting 55.4 percent of the vote and Dean getting 42.9 percent. 

Still, Dean said, “I can elevate the debate.” 

She said she’s planning a grassroots, “door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor” campaign. 

Dean took out “signature-in-lieu” papers, which must be returned to the City Clerk July 24. Candidates collect signatures instead of paying the $150 filing fee, with each signature worth $1. The formal date to begin filing candidacy papers is July 14. 

Former mayoral candidate and oak grove activist Zachary Runningwolf has also taken out signature-in-lieu papers to run for mayor. Runningwolf garnered 4.6 percent of the vote in 2006, when Bates won with 62.77 percent. 

Lawsuits Challenge BP Project Lab, Computing Center at LBNL Campus

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 04:31:00 PM

Environmental activists have filed two lawsuits that seek to block construction of two major facilities at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). 

The actions, filed late last month in Alameda County Superior Court, charge that the UC Board of Regents acted illegally when it approved environmental impact reports (EIRs) for both the Helios Building and the Computational Research and Theory (CRT) facility. 

The Helios Building would house the $500 million research program funded by British oil giant BP plc which seeks to created genetically modified plants and microbes in a quest for renewable transportation fuel sources. 

The plaintiff in the both lawsuits is Save Strawberry Canyon, a non-profit organization whose membership includes Berkeley residents Sylvia McLaughlin, Lesley Emmington, Janice Thomas and Hank Gehman. Former mayor Shirley Dean is listed as the group’s legal agent on its filings with the California Secretary of State. 

Both cases have been assigned to Judge Frank Roesch, who is expected to issue his ruling in the next few weeks on another suit which seeks to overturn the regents’ approval of the lab’s 2006 Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) (see http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-05-29/article/30122). 

Alameda attorney Michael Lozeau is representing the plaintiffs in both the LRDP lawsuit and the CRT action, which Oakland attorney Stephan Volker is representing the group in the Helios lawsuit. 

The CRT facility, located toward the western end of the 236-acre lab complex at Blackberry Gate, would house in new, larger quarters a federal Department of Energy computing center now housed in leased space in downtown Oakland. 

The Helios building, at the opposite end of the lab and across from the recently completed Molecular Foundry building, would provide a permanent home for facilities now temporarily sited on the main UC Berkeley campus in Calvin Hall. 

And Calvin Hall itself is slated for demolition as part of the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects, which includes such facilities as a new joint office and meeting facility for the university’s law and business school and an underground parking lot, as well as the gym complex planned at the tree-sitter-occupied grove west of Memorial Stadium. 

Lozeau and Volker are also attorneys in the lawsuit challenging the EIR for those projects, on which a final decision is expected soon. 

McLaughlin, an environmental activist who co-founded the environmental group Save the Bay, said Tuesday that her concern with both of the new buildings was simply a question of location. 

“The university could put them in any of a number of other places,” she said. “We just don’t want Strawberry Canyon to become an industrial park.” 

Suggesting one possible site for the facilities, McLaughlin mentioned the university-owned Richmond Field Station, which is now undergoing a toxic waste cleanup from its time as the site of an explosives and munitions plant and as the disposal site for contaminated debris from a neighboring chemical manufacturing complex. 

University officials argued in the EIRs that they need the facilities on the 203-acre main lab campus. 

Lozeau said many of the concerns are the same for both the Helios and the LRDP lawsuit. “It’s really a question of whether so much development should go up on that hill,” he said. “Fires, earthquakes, landslides—if there are any risks in building in California, you have them all right there.” 

He said other concerns include health hazards from diesel truck exhaust as large numbers of trucks pass within 30 feet of homes in residential neighborhoods during construction, incremental impacts on the endangered Alameda Whip Snake and the question of whether the regents can legally delegate key decisions on financing and EIR approvals to its Committee on Grounds and Buildings.

Economy, Downtown Plan Block High-Rises, Consultants Declare

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 11:47:00 AM

Tall buildings aren’t economically feasible for downtown Berkeley under the proposed new Downtown Area Plan, at least given the current state of the market, according to a city-funded study. 

The Planning Commission will discuss the analysis at its Wednesday meeting. 

The 41-page report, produced at the urging of some of city government’s most vocal tall-building backers, generally supports their contention that elements of the proposed plan will limit development, though acknowledging that the current state of the economy plays a momentarily dominant role 

The report, prepared at the direction of the Planning Commission by the firms Strategic Economics and Hixson & Associates, says that a five-floor, 55-foot maximum building height is the most feasible model for new apartment construction under the proposed plan, with some possibilities for buildings at seven stories and 75 feet. 

But chances for anything higher under current or even improved market conditions were rated “No,” and “Poor” even if the market should revive somewhat. 

Condos are a slightly different story, according to the authors, with no new construction likely to be feasible under the new plan at any height given current market conditions. Five, seven and 17-story buildings would be possible in five to 10 years and 13-story buildings would be possible after 10 years, the report says. 

The report concludes that limits of building mass through floor-to-area restrictions, green construction requirements and parking requirements and limits all play a role in inhibiting apartment construction. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for condos, the report says, is the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance, which requires that developers either set aside units for sale at lower prices to lower-income buyers or pay “in lieu” fees to fund affordable housing at other sites. 

The report also cites the controversial “cultural bonus” as a factor in facilitating new construction, using the nine-story Gaia and Arpeggio buildings as examples. It refers to the Gaia Building as a seven-story construction rather than according to the physical nine floors it occupies (a mezzanine floor and an equivalent loft floor on the uppermost units take up the height but lack the legal definitions of full floors cited in city codes). 

The report doesn't address what might make make it easier to build new housing, although city officials have said that taller buildings downtown are needed to meet quotas set for Berkeley by the Association of Bay Area Governments. 

City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks has said that only in the downtown area could more housing units be built without major political struggles, given the strong opposition in other neighborhoods. 

The council's authorization of the consultants' study was a repudiation of a vote taken at DAPAC, when members narrowly defeated (11-10) a call for the study (see www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-01-25/article/29018 and www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-02-29/article/29344).  

Planning commissioners will also consider whether to offload some work on the downtown plan to a commission subcommittee which would consider the planning staff’s recommended additions and changes to the draft plan that DAPAC spent two years preparing.  

The subcommittee would prepare another draft which would go to the full commission for approval. 

Dividing lines were already apparent when the proposal was discussed two weeks ago, foreshadowing a close vote Wednesday. 

In a related move, commissioners will also decide whether or not to schedule a special July 30 session to consider what building height limits should be considered in the plan’s draft environmental Impact report. Height limits could spark yet another closely split commission vote. 


Other business 

Commissioners will also take another pass at a revision of the city’s wireless antenna ordinance, which governs placement of antennas needed for cell phone service. 

They’ll also hear a presentation on the status of the city’s Climate Action Plan. 

The session begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 

State Announces Free Meals To Help Students During Summer

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 11:42:00 AM

Berkeley Unified School District families in need will qualify for a free summer meal program, according to an announcement by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell today (Monday). 

At least 13 Berkeley public school sites and organizations are among the 3,200 locations statewide which will offer free meals to economically disadvantaged students during the summer, including Berkeley Technology Academy, Willard Middle School, Malcolm X Elementary School, the Black Repertory Theater and the Frances Albrier Center. The meal program began this week and will continue until the school year begins. 

“I am deeply saddened to see so many families suffering through these tough economic times,” O’Connell said in a statement Monday. “The home foreclosure crisis and skyrocketing costs for food and gasoline are increasing the number of families who need assistance making ends meet. I am pleased that we can help these families stretch their food dollars with two of our summer feeding programs that provide nutritious meals for economically disadvantaged kids and some adults.” 

Children 18 years and younger in low-income areas and people over 18 who participate in a public or nonprofit private school program for the mentally or physically disabled are eligible to receive free meals through the federally funded Summer Food Service and the Seamless Summer Feeding Option programs, which operate when school is not in session for 15 days or more. 

Economically disadvantaged children are eligible to receive at least one nutritious meal a day during a normal school year.  

The California Department of Education has launched a new web page with a map of California to guide parents to summer meal sites, which include public and private schools, Indian tribal governments, units of local, municipal, or county governments, and other public or private nonprofit agencies. 

The sites must serve meals which contain milk, fruits, vegetables or juice, grain products and meat or meat alternates.  

Parents can find more information about summer meal sites. Contact names and telephone numbers at www.cde.ca.gov/ds/sh/sn/summersites08.asp.  

Also, schools can download free parental notifications in several languages about the summer meal sites and the new interactive map from www.cde.ca.gov/ls/pf/cm/. 

Missing Rice University Student May Have Changed Identity

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 11:35:00 AM

Literature and notes on how to assume a new identity were found in the car, abandoned on a Berkeley street, of missing Rice University student Matthew Wilson, Berkeley police said last week. 

Police found the material in Wilson’s 2004 silver Dodge Neon on the 1200 block of Allston Way in West Berkeley on June 10. The car was locked and covered in dust and there was no evidence of any foul play to indicate any criminal activity. 

Wilson, a computer science junior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, was last seen working in his room by his roommate Elliot Harwell on Dec. 14. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the items in the car included a book on how to live cheaply in San Francisco, a can of beans, rice and instant noodle soup along with a couple of days' worth of clothing. 

Frankel said fingerprints indicated that the property belonged to Wilson. 

Although the car is no longer being treated as evidence, Berkeley police are still investigating Wilson’s disappearance as a missing persons case to assist Rice University officials, Frankel said. 

“But it’s a Rice University missing persons case,” he said. 

Frankel said although Wilson’s car was found in Berkeley, police were not sure if he had been in the area at all. 

“We don’t know for a fact he was in the Bay Area to begin with,” he said. “There could be a million different scenarios. He could have sold his car to someone, and maybe that’s how it turned up here.” 

Frankel added that police were following local leads on Wilson’s possible whereabouts. 

“I would say finding the material constitutes progress,” he said. 

Wilson, who is from Haworth, Okla., reportedly made a $400 cash withdrawal from his bank account on Dec. 14, the day he was last seen, and purchased charcoal, matches, a car cover and window shades. 

Wilson’s family, Rice University and Crime Stoppers of Berkeley are offering $25,000 in reward money for information on Wilson’s disappearance or his whereabouts.  

Council Considers Legal Action Against Proposed Anti-BRT Ballot Initiative

By Judith Scherr
Monday July 07, 2008 - 04:56:00 PM

At a special closed-door session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council, on the advice of its attorney, could vote to go to court to stop a proposed ballot measure that would “require voter approval before dedicating Berkeley streets or lanes for transit-only or HOV/bus-only use.” 

The executive session begins with public comment in open session in the City Council Chambers. 

The proposed ballot measure targets the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal from AC Transit. It calls for dedicated bus lanes in city streets between San Leandro and Berkeley. In Berkeley, BRT would go down Telegraph Avenue and parts of Shattuck Avenue.  

BRT opponents, who initiated the proposed ballot measure, say the dedicated lanes would clog neighborhoods with Telegraph Avenue traffic and, in the end, be bad for the environment. BRT proponents say the measure would get people out of their cars and into buses. 

The ballot measure is also before the council at its open session, scheduled for 7 p.m. At that time, the council could vote to place the proposal before the voters. As part of the regular ballot process, the city attorney’s office writes an “impartial analysis” that will accompany the measure on the ballot. 

Acting City Attorney Zach Cowan—who called the closed session—authored a scathing critique of the ballot measure proposed by Dean Metzger, president of the Claremont-Elmwood Neighborhood Association and Bruce Kaplan, owner of Looking Glass Photo on Telegraph Avenue. 

According to the city attorney, the measure would: 

• place time-sensitive outside funding sources for transit at risk or prevent the city or other agencies from applying for available funding; 

• increase costs to prepare the required plan, place it on the ballot and potentially hold a special election if necessary; 

• increase the uncertainty in the BRT planning process and reduce flexibility in project implementation should the voters approve a designation plan; 

• impede implementing General Plan goals relating to promoting alternatives to automobiles. 

The city attorney’s report further states that the measure could be unlawful, conflicting with the vehicle code that delegates to the transit agency the authority to create HOV lanes on city streets to the City Council. 

Responding to the question of the measure’s legality, Metzger said Cowan was mistaken. The vehicle code pertains uniquely to state-controlled highways, such as Ashby Avenue and Interstate-80, Metzger said. 

On the issue of the expense the city would incur if the initiative became law, Metzger said planning for BRT—what to do with the impacts on the neighborhoods—would create costs for the city. 

Responding to the city attorney’s critique, Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet he thinks the ballot initiative offers “certain benefits of getting a sense of what the public wants.” 

Both Worthington and Metzger said that since the General Plan simply says the city should move in the direction of alternatives to the automobile, the ballot measure does not conflict with it. 

Pointing to the Brown Act, the state’s open meeting law, Worthington said Tuesday’s closed-door meeting might have been called improperly. Since it is a “special” meeting—that is, not a regularly scheduled meeting—it should have been called by the mayor or by five members of the City Council, Worthington said.  

Acting City Clerk Deanna Despain told the Planet the special session was initiated by an e-mail from Cowan, after which she polled members of the council and found that a majority were able to attend. 

Mayor Tom Bates, who has spoken in favor of the BRT and who signed the city clerk’s announcement of the closed door session, was out of town and not available for comment. 

Berkeley Gains New Treesitter

By Richard Brenneman
Monday July 07, 2008 - 04:57:00 PM

Berkeley’s dwindling tree-sitter population notched up by one Sunday night just days after numbers had dwindled by four. 

The newest treesitter, Jeff, snuck up Sunday when campus police were otherwise occupied, finding an isolated perch far from the lone redwood which houses three or four people, according to tree-sit supporters. 

“Just a few minutes ago he climbed up another tree,” said Gabrielle Silverman, better known as the tree-sitter “Millipede” before she was snatched from the branches two weeks ago by contract arborists hired by UC Berkeley. 

“He lost his pack, but he’s now in a better location, though there’s a university police officer who has climbed up below him and is taunting him,” she said. 

Matthew Taylor, a stalwart supporter of the protest, said Jeff managed to make his way over the fence while police were focused on a public re-supply effort that ended with a lone balloon-borne Clif Bar making its way up to a treesitter. 

While one treesitter who had made his way to the top of an utility pole at the western edge of the grove managed to throw a line down to supporters, police were able to grab and cut it every time, Taylor said. 

Supporters made a concerted effort, forming a circle and linking arms, but to no avail, he said. One person on the ground was arrested, he said. 

Dan Mogulof, the university’s spokesperson on tree-sit issues, identified the arrested man as David Walden, 56. He was charged with battery of a police officer and resisting arrest and taken to Berkeley city jail for booking, Mogulof said. 

Last week ended the arboreal vigils of Dumpster Muffin and three other tree-sitters who abandoned their perches citing personal or health reasons.  

Mogulof said the newest tree-sitter told police he had come down from Oregon. “He told police he was not part of that other group but supported their end goal,” he said. 

Silverman said that while the university has been sending up food and water to the protesters, they had switched from Clif Bars to a less palatable Coast Guard ration that she described as “basically lemon-flavored flour.” 

Mogulof acknowledged that rations had been changed, but said the new supplies met all daily nutritional needs. 

Treesitters are protesting the proposed demolition of the oak grove west of Memorial Stadium—described as sacred and a possible Native American burial ground by protesters and “a 1923 university landscaping project” by Mogulof—to make way for a four-level gym and office complex. 

Arguments on a university court motion that seeks to clear the way for construction will be heard in a Hayward courtroom next week. 

Council May Place Tax Measures on Ballot and Address Tree Sitters’ Needs

By Judith Scherr
Monday July 07, 2008 - 04:56:00 PM

After debating for months which tax measures to place before the voters in November, the City Council is likely to take action onTuesday night. 

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a closed session. The regular meeting is slated for 7 p.m. 

Two proposed measures would tax property owners: 

• A fire and emergency preparedness measure is designed to raise $3.6 million annually. It would pay for firefighter overtime and avoid rotating fire station closures, pay the 12 percent differential to place a paramedic at every fire station, improve disaster preparedness and provide unified radio communications with outside agencies. This would cost the average homeowner with a 1,900-square-foot home $78 per year. 

• The second is a library bond to refurbish branch libraries, creating more space and enhancing disabled access. It would finance the demolition and rebuilding of a larger south branch to include both the tool lending library and more space for seating and computer use. 

The north branch library would get additional program and meeting space, along with historic restoration and improved landscaping. The west branch would replace a 1974 addition that has structural defects and increase space for the literacy program. The Claremont branch would get a small expansion of the lobby and improved interior design. 


Medical Cannabis 

The Patient’s Access to Medical Cannabis, formerly known as Measure R, is being resubmitted to the voters. The measure, which will be given a new letter designation, would eliminate limits on the amount of medical marijuana which could be legally possessed by patients or care-givers, establish peer review for medical marijuana collectives to police themselves and allow medical marijuana dispensaries to locate where permitted without a public hearing.  

The measure was narrowly defeated in 2004. There was a recount, during which it was found that voting machines had not retained the ballots. As a result of a decision in a lawsuit, the measure is being resubmitted to voters. 


Landmarks Preservation Ordinance referendum 

The wording for the ballot description of a referendum on the city council's controversial revision of the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance,which was not implemented because of the referendum, is the subject of a dispute between the city attorney’s office and referendum supporters. The city attorney may place new language describing the measure before the council on Tuesday or at the July 15 meeting.  


The council will discuss an advisory ballot measure calling on the Berkeley Unified School District not to demolish the warm pool at Berkeley High School until a new warm pool for the elderly and disabled can be built. 


The council will also consider: 

• A resolution authored by Councilmember Dona Spring calling on the university to allow citizens to deliver food and medical attention to the tree-sitters in Memorial Grove. 

• Asking the mayor to form a working group of jurisdictions, including Oakland, Albany, Richmond, Emeryville, the Port of Oakland and other relevant agencies, to monitor expansion of rail traffic going through the East Bay to the Port of Oakland.  

• Co-sponsoring the Solano Stroll with the Solano Avenue Association, including giving the stroll $28,185 worth of services including the cost of police, and transportation and public works staff. 

• Confirming Zoning Adjustment Board approval of the use of 921 Parker St. for office use for Bayer Healthcare, even though it is in a location zoned as light industrial. Bayer will make replacement light industrial space available, according to the city staff report. 

Landmarks Commission Has No Say Over Fencing In Picnic Rock

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 04:44:00 PM

Although some members of Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission expressed concern about fencing the historic Sutcliff Picnic Rock in North Berkeley, there appears little they can do to prevent it. 

Usually, alterations to a landmark have to be approved by the landmarks commission. But city officials informed the commissioners that the proposed alteration in this case, a fence, does not require a permit. 

Fences located adjacent to a property line or without a required setback that are six feet or under do not require planning approval or a building permit from the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board and building code officials. 

Thus, officials said, the alterations fall outside the landmarks commission’s jurisdiction. 

Picnic Rock, owned by Berkeley residents Eric and Katie Wilson, is a popular climbing site for children.  

According to e-mail correspondence between the commissioners and the rock’s neighbors, the owners wanted to build the fence to keep away people, who, they complained, brought litter to the area off the property. 

“This came to my attention because a couple of commissioners wanted to know if erecting a fence on a designated historic site qualified as an alteration that required a landmarks commission review,” Terry Blount, Berkeley landmarks commission secretary, told the Planet in an e-mail. 

The issue was first raised by Berkeley resident Stuart Gold, whose backyard ends at Picnic Rock, at 550 Santa Rosa Ave. 

In an e-mail to landmarks commissioner Carrie Olson, Gold opposed the construction of a six-foot wrought iron fence around the perimeter of the property it is currently located in. 

“This fence will have three- by four-inch verticals with pointed spikes on top and four inch spaces between the verticals,” he said. “Since my kitchen is ten feet below the property line, this will effectively make the fence 16 feet high.” 

Gold added that although the Wilsons complained that they had found several beer cans and soda bottles left behind by visitors to the rock, he never saw people there. 

“In any case, this will significantly change the character of the rock, as well as the ambiance of the property,” he said. 

The city’s zoning allows a six-foot fence on the property line. 

“The height is determined by measuring the vertical distance from the lowest existing grade point within a three-foot radius of any point of the fence, to the highest point of the fence,” Blount said. “The grade point in this case could be the rock itself.” 

Olson called the decision to not include it in the landmarks commission agenda “bad judgment.” 

“Especially since these rocks are really special in North Berkeley,” she said. 


Four Builders Picked For Art Museum Bids

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 04:46:00 PM

UC Berkeley has picked four companies to bid on the new Berkeley Art Museum, the structure that is likely to become the architecturally most striking and controversial feature of the city center. 

Following a pre-qualification procedure, the university has picked the quartet of builders to submit their bids by 2 p.m. July 22. The bids will be opened two minutes later in the university’s Capital Projects office on the second floor of 1936 University Ave. 

Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito, the museum will house both the art museum and the exhibition facilities of the Pacific Film Archive as well as classrooms, restaurants and a shop at the northwest corner of the intersection of Center and Oxford streets. 

After the pre-qualification process, the university selected as project bidders: 

• DPR Construction, Inc., a national builder with offices in San Francisco; 

• Hathaway Dinwiddie, a builder with headquarters in San Francisco and two other California offices; 

• Skanska, USA, a division of a Swedish firm which carries out projects across the globe, and 

• Webcor, a San Mateo-based firm with offices in Southern California as well.  

The estimated construction cost is $114 million for a building of between 120,000 and 130,000 gross square feet. 

For more details on the building, see www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-06-05/article/30182 and the museum’s own web site atwww.bampfa.berkeley.edu/newbuilding/. 

Tree Sitter Jailed at Santa Rita

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 04:46:00 PM

Amanda Tierney, 21, better known as Dumpster Muffin, was among the three tree sitters to leave their perches at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Grove on Wednesday. After the intervention of her doctor, paramedics took her to Highland Hospital.  

Wednesday evening Dumpster Muffin was taken from Highland to Santa Rita Jail by UC police, charged with trespassing and violating a stay-away order. She also had two $10,000 warrants for theft, according to Mitch Celaya, assistant UC police chief. 

The 19-month protest targets the university's plans to cut down 44 trees to make way for a $148 million sports facility next to the aging Memorial Stadium traversed by the Hayward fault. A judge will rule in about two weeks on whether the facility can be built. 

Stewart Jones, a tree-sit supporter, told the Planet he hoped the university would not use Dumpster Muffin's arrest as a public relations tool against the tree sitters “to create the image of crazed kids” and that the charges wouldn't overshadow the “important work” she did in the trees. 

By protesting in the trees, “a lot of people have transformed their lives” Jones said, adding that committing a criminal act should not condemn a person forever.  

“We all have ghosts in the closet,” he said. “The president did cocaine and (Mayor) Tom Bates stole newspapers.” 


Public Urges City to Appeal Stadium Decision

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

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

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 appropriate 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 said. 

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.” 

The question of a city lawsuit against the university over the barricades it has placed on city property was also to have been discussed behind closed doors. No decision on this issue was made public. 

The question of the health and safety of the treesitters and the university’s occupation of city streets is slated to be discussed for the first time in public by the City Council on Tuesday.  

The issue was to have been discussed as an urgency item at the council’s June 24 meeting. The council had five votes to put the question on the agenda, but was unable to muster five votes at 12:30 a.m. to extend the meeting and hear Spring’s motion to allow the tree sitters adequate food and water, allow them to be examined by a physician and for the city to have its streets and sidewalks returned to its control.  

UC, Tree-Sitter Clashes Continue in Court, Grove

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:47:00 AM
Attorney William Simpich listens as colleague Carol Strickman responds to a comment by Judge Richard Keller during Monday’s hearing on their request for an order to protect tree-sitters and for the university to provide them with food and water.
By Richard Brenneman
Attorney William Simpich listens as colleague Carol Strickman responds to a comment by Judge Richard Keller during Monday’s hearing on their request for an order to protect tree-sitters and for the university to provide them with food and water.

It’s been a week of tense confrontations between UC Berkeley and the tree-sitters occupying the grove where the university wants to build its showcase high-tech gym. 

The head-to-head sessions took place both at the grove and in two Hayward courtrooms, with some of the same faces appearing in all three venues. 

Meanwhile, three treesitters opted to end their vigils Wednesday. The activists who call themselves Olive and Dumpster Muffin, joined by a third, unnamed male, came down from the tree. 

Ayr, a key figure in organizing ground support for the protesters, said Dumspter Muffin came down to seek medical attention, while the other two had personal reasons for descending from the branches. 

“They also said they realized that because of their actions there would be more food for those who remain,” Ayr said. Asked how many still occupy the branches, Ayr replied, “Three to five.” 

The first face-off happened on June 26 during 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, the two talked with protesters from their perch in a cherry-picker platform as Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive director of public affairs, 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 (presumably not Mogulof) 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 Mogulof, and minutes later the two officers, accompanied by a third officer toting a flat of shrink-wrapped water bottles, 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 in city government, 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. 


Tree court 

The next set-to came in the courtroom of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Richard Keller, where two lawyers representing the tree-sitters sought a new court order protecting the protesters. 

Bill Simpich and Carol Strickman, opposed by UC staff attorney Michael Goldstein, met with the judge for a closed-door session in his chambers. 

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 tree-sitters.” 

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 not act to extract anyone from the trees, and we did get an understanding at the highest level from the university that will not extract anyone. However the attorney from the university said he has no knowledge of the agreement.” 

The other understanding, Simpich said, was that the university will provide food and water. 

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

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

Later this month Judge 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. 


Grove again 

The focus shifted back to the grove Sunday, where tree sit supporters had organized another rally and yet another effort to send supplies up to the trees. 

While the crowd was smaller than the confrontation that had momentarily breached the police perimeter the week before, this time one of the tree-sitters emerged atop a utility pole with a line ready to throw down to the crowd below which had supplies waiting on the lawn of the Anthropology Building just across Piedmont Avenue from the grove. 

But after a meeting between UCPD Capt. Guillermo Beckford and supporters who included Gianna Ranuzzi, attorney Strickman, Matthew Taylor and L.A. Wood, police agreed to accept four bags of food the next morning. 

Despite the pleas of supporters, Beckford said the supplies would be limited to packaged goods, with no fresh fruits and vegetables allowed. 

The food was delivered later in the day, Mogulof said. 

“That’s a flat-out lie,” Ayr said Wednesday. Though police allowed some medical supplies to go up—hydrogen peroxide and wipes—the only food item to reach the tree-sitters was a single chocolate bar, he said. 


Back to court 

The lawyers returned to Judge Keller’s Hayward courtroom Monday morning, and by the time the session had ended, the judge had ordered the University of California not to endanger the lives of Berkeley’s tree-sitters Monday but refused to order the university to give them food and water, saying they could get those simply by obeying his restraining order and coming down from the trees. 

The one concession won by the tree-sitters was Keller’s order that “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 tree-sitters. 

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

Goldstein countered that 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 tree-sitters, was something that should be included in his order. 

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

Judge Keller said another uncontested fact was 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 tree-sitters to prisoners. But Judge Keller said the analogy was false because tree-sitters 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.” 

Gabrielle Silverman (“my tree-sitter 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 tree-sitter 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. 


Another venue 

It was a different set of lawyers who appeared in Judge Miller’s Hayward courtroom Tuesday morning, the same four stalwarts who had conducted last year’s lengthy battle over the legality of the UC Board of Regents’ approval of the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP).

Money Worries Top Cal’s Tree-Sit Woes

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 04:34:00 PM

For UC Berkeley officials, money may or may not be the root of all evil, but it’s at the root of their opposition to the ongoing tree-sit outside Memorial Stadium. 

The university acknowledged in its court filings that they want to end the tree-sit in part because it threatens “the university’s reputation among its donor community as an institution that can effectively and efficiently use donated funds.” 

According to Vice Chancellor for Administration Nathan Brostrom, the 17-month tree-sit has already cost the university $11 million in added construction costs and campus Police Chief Victoria Harrison said that law enforcement costs as of June 24 had reached $729,000. 

Every month of delay, Brostrom said, costs the university $770,000, while law enforcement costs at current levels “are approximately $22,000 per day.” 

Brostrom’s declaration said a major threat from construction delays is the possible loss of football coach Jeff Tedford, the winningest Cal coach since 1925, under whose tenure season-ticket sales have soared from 16,200 in 2002 to 41,336 last year, accompanied by a jump in net revenues from football from about $2 million to a projected total of $6.5 million last year. 

But the influence of football prowess extends even further, Brostrom said. “Historically, the top 42 percent of Athletics Department donors have given over 3.5 times as much money to non-athletic programs at the university ($795 million) as they have given to athletic programs ($220 million).”  

But if the stadium gym complex is delayed any longer, he wrote, “many donors will begin to wonder whether the university is capable of successfully executing its high-profile and high-priority projects” and “lose confidence in the university’s ability to make good use of the money donated to it,” resulting in increased difficulty in raising funds. 

In her own declaration, Chief Harrison blames the protesters for a variety of offenses, ranging from trespass to robbery (one arrest), battery to a peace officer (18), “littering (urine)” and “unlawful flag burning.” However a search of the California Penal Code doesn’t reveal a section dealing with flag burning-which is, in fact, the officially prescribed manner for dealing with Stars and Stripes that have passed their prime. 

But the grove has been a rich source of arrests for Harrison’s force, and as of April 23, 93 trips to the lockup had resulted, many of them for repeat offenders. 

During the latest crackdown at the grove, Harrison called on her colleagues at other campuses to provide officers, and the actions that began June 17 involved 52 UC Berkeley officers, 68 from other campuses, plus the nine arborists, two cranes and three cherry pickers. In the days since, 14 campus officers and 15 private security guards have been patrolling the site. 

Harrison said that on the day stepped-up enforcement began, she witnessed tree-sitters dumped gallons of urine on arborists, drop “large amounts of human feces” that splashed the uniforms of some of the police, hurl glass jars filled with urine and feces at officers and arborists, hurl oranges wrapped in urine soaked cloth, cut the hydraulic lines of a cherry picker, punch one arborist in the face, bite another and attempt to sabotage a crane.

Tree-Sitter Collapses

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 04:32:00 PM
Campus Police arrested treesitter Dumpster Muffin after she came down from the branches and collapsed Wednesday afternoon, as Assistant police Chief Mitch Celaya, right, watches. Supporters say she was initially denied medical aide, an account denied by the university.
Courtesy of L.A. Wood
Campus Police arrested treesitter Dumpster Muffin after she came down from the branches and collapsed Wednesday afternoon, as Assistant police Chief Mitch Celaya, right, watches. Supporters say she was initially denied medical aide, an account denied by the university.

A tree-sitter 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 tree-sit support coordinator Ayr following the dramatic events of Wednesday afternoon. 

“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 en route to the hospital. 

Bedard had appeared at a rally for the tree-sitters June 22, where he urged the university to send up food and fluids to the tree-sitters. Mogulof told a press conference later that day that police had determined the tree-sitters 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 into 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.” 


Fate of Grove May Hinge on Necessity of ‘Grade Beam’

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

UC Berkeley officials believe they’ve side-stepped a judge’s ruling adroitly enough to have removed the last roadblocks to building the Memorial Stadium gym. 

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller had cleared the project of most of the objections raised by litigants who had sued to block or delay the project, and the university promptly moved to eliminate the rest in papers filed with her court Friday. 

With those issues out of the way, the university contends, the judge should lift her injunction against construction, which would allow the university to chop down the oaks and evergreens now occupied by tree-sitters who have been seeking to halt the project. 

A hearing on the university’s argument will be heard July 17 at 10 a.m. in her Hayward courtroom. 

Most of the potential obstacles cited in Judge Miller’s June 25 decision were changes to the stadium itself, which raised the issue of potential cost limitations, stairway renovations and other restrictions posed by the Alquist-Priolo Act, which governs construction on or within 50 feet of active earthquake faults. 

While Judge Miller agreed with the results of tests conducted by university consultants that the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC) lies outside the act-prescribed boundaries, changes to the stadium itself spelled out in the plans did raise the specter of potential legal hassles. 

Another potential obstacle was the judge’s finding that the university had improperly declared that traffic, noise and other impacts from increased special events programs at the stadium were unavoidable parts of its program and thus were properly approved in the Southeast Campus Integrated Projects (SCIP) environmental impact report (EIR). 

The university responded to each of the objections by the simple expedient of striking them from the proposal, with the additional events the easiest to ax. 


Beam out 

In the case of the proposed physical changes to the stadium, the now-vanished alterations called for new telecommunications openings, changes to stadium stairways and a grade beam designed to reinforce the western base of the stadium while excavations are under way for the four-level gym and office complex designed as a curved touchless embrace of the venerable stadium’s western wall. 

The university’s actions leave one other major issue for the future: just how much UC Berkeley can spend on renovations and additions to the stadium itself. 

The beam, a concrete span built beneath ground level, would buttress an existing beam that was part of the stadium’s original construction. During the hearings before Judge Miller, university attorneys said the beam was designed to prevent collapse during excavation for the gym, which will be built below the level of the stadium’s base. 

In oral arguments, attorney John M. Sanger acknowledged that the beam would be an addition or alteration to the stadium, words that could invoke the Alquist-Priolo Act, which limits expenditures on such changes to half the structure’s existing value, but he said the changes were needed to insure safety during construction of the gym. 

Sanger said the cost of the beam was trivial compared to the stadium’s value, but just how that value would be calculated remains an open question, with the university starkly at odds with a hint in Judge Miller’s opinion indicating value should be measured by current market value, rather than as the cost of building a replacement conforming to current building codes as the university contends. 

By dropping plans for the beam, the university postpones that thorny issue until later in the development process for the projects included in SCIP. 

The current litigation has been a legal battle over the UC Board of Regents’ approval of the SCIP EIR and its decision to permit work on the gym. 


Parsing ‘collapse’ 

While university attorneys invoked the specter of “collapse” during oral arguments in last year’s proceedings in Miller’s courtroom, the university submitted statements from two engineering firms to Miller Friday that speak only of possible “cosmetic cracks” resulting from minor soil collapse during excavation and construction. 

The EIR approved by the UC Board of Regents in 2006 stated that stabilizing the stadium itself was the first phase of construction, and the beam was needed for seismic safety reasons and to underpin the western stadium wall during construction of the gym. 

At that time, the construction firm hired to manage the gym project was the URS Corporation, of which UC Board of Regents Chair (and spouse of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein) Richard Blum had been a major shareholder until the year before. URS has subsequently withdrawn from the project. 

David A. Friedman, a senior principal of Forell/ElSesser Engineers Inc. of San Francisco, wrote a letter in support of the university’s new position, in which he said his firm had been hired by URS to design excavation shoring for the gym. 

In his June 25 letter, Friedman said the grade beam was included only to prevent “purely cosmetic” problems during construction—what he called a “belt and suspenders” addition—and not one required by the state building code. 

A second letter from Senior Principal Loring A. Wyllie Jr. of the San Francisco office of Degenkolb Engineers offered support for Friedman’s letter, declaring the beam’s purpose was only “to minimize potential cosmetic cracking from minor movements in the soil” during gym construction. 

The same contention was raised in the university’s supplemental environmental checklist, an addendum to the EIR prepared last month and signed by Assistant Vice Chancellor Emily Marthinsen and included in the submissions filed with the court Friday. 

But Stephan Volker, the attorney who represents the California Oaks Foundation in the lawsuit, said that “the record shows that (university officials) had represented to the regents that reinforcing the western wall was necessary during construction and to insure the seismic safety of the stadium. 

“For the university to change its story now and say it’s unnecessary is preposterous,” he said. 

Volker contends that construction would pose the risk of serious injuries or loss of life not only to construction workers but also to stadium occupants in the event of a partial collapse. 

“That is why the university proposed the initial strengthening of the stadium wall from the inception of the project until last week, when they decided to sidestep their position in response to the judge’s findings,” he said. 

Volker said he and the other plaintiffs in the case would have liked time to find an expert to review all the relevant plans and documents to prepare their own response to the university’s new position, but Miller declined to give the additional time requested during Tuesday’s hearing. 

However Miller rules, an appeal could come from either side—though one question that remains is that if the university prevails, would the judge agree to a stay of her order in time to save the grove? 


Future issue 

Removal of the grade beam and other stadium changes also delays another legal confrontation over the stadium itself. 

Alquist-Priolo sets a limit of 50 percent of a structure’s value on any additions or alterations to structures that fall within the act’s 50-foot zone. 

Even the university concedes that the stadium itself is physically divided by the Hayward Fault from goal post to goal post, though it argued unsuccessfully that the law didn’t apply to the university itself—an argument the judge rejected. 

With the grade beam connecting the two structures, the question of the stadium’s value could have been raised by the plaintiffs. 

Miller indicated that she sided with the argument raised by Volker and his colleagues that value should be set at a structure’s current “as is” worth, while the university argued that the price tag should be reckoned as the cost of building a replacement structure constructed according to current seismic and other codes. 

Given that all parties agree that the stadium is in poor condition and in need of a seismic retrofit, applying the “as-is” standard would severely limit the extensive, expensive remodeling plans described in the SCIP EIR. 

Plans now include gutting and renovating the interior, installing new seating, including a raised bank of seats along the eastern side of the stadium, adding permanent night lighting and building a double-decker press and skybox addition above the western wall.

School Board Prefers ‘Curvy Derby’ Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:48:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education picked “Curvy Derby” as its preferred option for the Berkeley Unified School District’s East Campus field last week, but acknowledged that the district lacks the funds necessary 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 at the June 25 school board meeting that 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 School 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-foot-high fence on the right field.  

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

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.”  

Neighbors Oppose Shattuck Safeway Expansion

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:49:00 AM

It was déjà vu all over again for supermarket chain Safeway when it unveiled plans to remodel its north Shattuck Avenue store at the Hillside Club last week. 

More than 50 Berkeley residents turned up at the June 25 meeting to oppose the multi-million dollar project, which proposes to convert the existing 28,763-square-foot store to 77,850 square feet. Neighbors of the chain’s Rockridge and Solano Avenue stores demonstrated opposition to similar expansion plans for those stores in the past few weeks. 

The ones that did favor the remodelling of the Shattuck Avenue store 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. The store has 100 employees, a number that will double once the upsizing is complete. Parking will continue to remain on 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 Rockridge store, located at the intersection of Claremont and College avenues. 

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.

Computer Book Author Buys Black Oak Books

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:50:00 AM
Gary Cornell is the new owner of Black Oak Books.
By Judith Scherr
Gary Cornell is the new owner of Black Oak Books.

Cody’s Books was taken off life support June 20, taking its place in the beloved bookstore graveyard next to A Clean Well-Lighted Place, Avenue Books, Mama Bear’s, A Woman’s Place Bookstore and others. 

So when people saw that Black Oak Books was closed, just three days after Cody’s announced demise, and saw a worker changing the store’s locks, some drew the conclusion that Black Oak had gone the way of Cody’s. 

The opposite, however, is true. The 24-year-old bookstore at 1491 Shattuck Ave. was closed for one day only. The store’s name and assets were bought by Gary Cornell, former University of Connecticut mathmatics department professor and author of some 30 computer books. 

According to Cornell, Black Oak is on its way up. 

“Black Oak had been running on fumes,” Cornell told the Planet in an interview Monday in the Black Oak office that doubles as shelf space for books. “It was experiencing hard times for two or three years.” 

What the business needed most was an infusion of capital, he said. 

That’s just one of the resources Cornell brings to the ailing business, whose owners announced publicly that it was for sale in January 2007. 

“The key is to embrace the Internet; I’m a computer person,” Cornell said. “I’m not going to try to fight it.”  

The new Black Oak will offer 100,000 to 150,000 used books housed in a warehouse on San Pablo Avenue near Virginia Street, all available for on-line sales. For those who come into the Shattuck Avenue store and choose a book from the warehouse, a van will pick up the book and have it at the store within a few hours. 

Cornell intends to open the warehouse to the public one or two days each month.  

Cody’s mistake was carrying only new books, Cornell said, adding that Black Oak will continue to have a healthy mix. The store is paying “top dollar” for used books to build the inventory, he said. 

In addition to computer skills, Cornell brings business savvy to Black Oak. He once ran Apress, a successful publishing business located in Berkeley and New York, that grew from four to 60 employees. He has since sold the business. 

He’ll oversee renovations of the interior space that will begin soon—and continue through July—aimed at opening up more space for books and making the place more attractive, with improved lighting. During renovations the store won’t open until noon. 

“It’s a little run down,” he said. “We’ll bring the store into the 21st century—or at least the 20th.” 

The children’s section will be enlarged, and include special seating, he said. Author readings will resume after renovations are complete. 

Cornell said he will continue, at least for now, to reside in his home near Cambridge, Mass., to which he’ll return after the store remodel is complete. He is turning over day-to-day operations to former manager Stephanie Vala. Former owner Bob Brown is charged with purchasing books.  

At the same time he is getting the store off the ground, Cornell is working on a math book for lay people. 

In addition to founding Apress, writing articles and books and translating others from German, he has served as program director in mathematics at the National Science Foundation and worked at the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley. 

Cornell can be reached at Gcornell@blackoak.com.

Code Pink Women Claim Court Victory

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:51:00 AM

A superior court judge last week 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. 

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.  

In Alameda County Superior Court on June 24, 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. “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 against Berkeley police for false arrest in the case and may bring a civil lawsuit as well. 

Berkeley police did not return a call for comment.

Zoning Board Gives Thai Temple a Chance to Address Violations

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM

A 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 last week, 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 that 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 that 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 at 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 not resulted in information. 

“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 adjudicate any other permit unless they follow the law.” 

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.”

Lake Merritt Tree Removal Complete

BY J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:52:00 AM
By Michael Howerton

In this photo are the remains of one of some 200 trees removed by the City of Oakland from the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center parking lot, the 12th Street median between the convention center and Lake Merritt and the Lake Merritt Channel. In the background is the Kaiser Convention Center, which the Oakland City Council closed a year ago in a cost-cutting measure. The tree removal, which took place in mid-June, is part of the multimillion dollar Measure DD renovation of the eastern Lake Merritt grounds that will eventually result in a shrinking of the 12th Street-14th Street corridor from 12 lanes to six, the creation of a four-acre park, and the connection of Lake Merritt with the convention center grounds by a pedestrian walkway bridge. Last October, an Alameda County Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Friends of the Lake which had challenged the City of Oakland’s procedures in condemning the trees. 

Bumpy Road for Bus Rapid Transit at Planning Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:53:00 AM

Declaring that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) “looks to me like a huge development scheme,” Berkeley Planning Commissioner Patti Dacey said last week 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 at the June 25 meeting 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 in order 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 radius 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, turning 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 Posch-man, 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. 

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 taken advantage of the opportunity to add more housing.

Wireless Law Rewired, More Work Lies Ahead

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

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 last week heard from lawyers for three phone companies, the folks who have the upper hand in the uneven contest 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. 

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 on 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 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 July 1 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 a 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 on June 30.

University Moves Ahead With Anna Head Housing

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:54:00 AM

UC Berkeley is moving forward with plans to build a 479-bed, $75 million student housing project across the street from People’s Park. 

The university is calling for applications from architects to design the buildings planned for the Anna Head West parking lot, across Haste Street from the park. 

According to the advertisement for services issued by the school’s Capital Projects Department, the architect would be responsible initially for preparing a master plan by November. 

According to the request for qualifications (RFQ) posted on the university’s website, the project is included in the housing proposals outlined in the school’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

The project will include two facilities, a 134-bed first-year student residence hall and a 345-bed apartment building for students in sophmore through senior classes. 

Only some of the 185 parking spaces now located on the site would be replaced. 

The RFQ states that the plans must address the relationship of the new complex to the adjacent historic buildings that housed the Anna Head school from 1892 to 1927. Those buildings are city landmarks and listed on the National register of Historic Places. 

As currently planned, construction would begin in May 2010 and be completed by August 2012. 

The RFQ document is available online at http://www.cp.berkeley.edu/RFQ.html. 


Edgerly Fired After Postponing Retirement

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums sought to put an end to the City Hall phase of the Deborah Edgerly controversy this week, firing the Oakland city administrator in a terse letter delivered late Tuesday. 

“I have elected to terminate you, effective immediately,” the mayor told Edgerly in his letter, giving no reason for the firing. 

What appeared to have set Dellums off, however, was a letter released by Edgerly on Monday saying that instead of retiring on July 31, as planned, she intended to stay on as city administrator until cleared of allegations that she interfered with a police action against West Oakland’s Acorn Gang. 

A city spokesperson said that city employees are reporting to acting City Administrator Dan Lindheim, who was appointed to that position by Dellums last week. Oakland will begin a national search for a new city administrator to replace Edgerly sometime later this year. 

Edgerly has been under fire following her June 7 intervention in an Oakland police towing of a vehicle that had been driven by her nephew, William Lovan. Ten days later, Lovan was one of 54 persons arrested in an Oakland Police Department (OPD) crackdown on the Acorn Gang. 

The mayor’s decision came one week after Dellums stood next to the embattled Edgerly at an Oakland City Hall press conference, calling her his “good friend” and resisting calls to suspend her immediately while law enforcement officials investigated charges that Edgerly may have tipped off her nephew in advance of the June 17 Acorn Gang arrests. Instead, Dellums announced last Tuesday that the city administrator would remain in her position until a long-planned July 31 retirement. 

In the days following that Tuesday press conference, Dellums came under criticism from the press, some members of the public, and some Oakland city councilmembers for refusing to suspend Edgerly immediately. 

On Thursday of last week, with pressure mounting, Dellums and Edgerly reportedly met and agreed that Edgerly would go on administrative leave until her retirement. The mayor and the city administrator agreed to talk again on Monday of this week on the matter, but on Friday Dellums moved forward unilaterally with Edgerly’s suspension, informing her by letter that “the last two weeks have been extremely difficult for you, for me, and for the entire city of Oakland. My discussions with you have been guided by three principles: (1) to not be judgmental of you; (2) to be respectful of you in your tenure as an employee of the city of Oakland; and (3) to balance all of that against the best interest of the city of Oakland. I exercise my authority in this regard without judgment and with the true belief that it is in yours and the city’s best interest that my decision take effect immediately. … I did not want to have to exercise this option knowing that given the present environment people would interpret this as a judgment of guilt. ... 

“While I understand you wanted to get back to me by Monday,” Dellums concluded in a second letter to Edgerly, “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.” 

Closure did not come. By Tuesday morning, the Oakland Tribune was reporting that Edgerly was circulating a letter around City Hall, saying that she was rescinding her agreement to retire effective July 31. “I simply want to be given due process,” the Tribune quoted Edgerly’s letter to selected members of the Oakland City Council. “I have sent a letter to the mayor indicating that I will postpone my retirement until I’ve had the opportunity to know and answer the allegations and repair my reputation.” 

Though Dellums’ staff members would give no comment concerning the mayor’s decision to immediately fire Edgerly, the city administrator’s decision to postpone her July 31 retirement indefinitely was clearly the catalyst. 

Sources at City Hall said that there is no evidence that Edgerly ever submitted formal resignation papers to the City of Oakland officials. Such resignation papers are necessary for the state pension system-CalPERS-to begin the process of activating an employee’s pension benefits. 

In a January letter to Dellums, the city administrator only told the mayor of her intention to retire this year. 

A city spokesperson said Edgerly’s January letter “put the mayor on notice, gave him the reasons for her resignation, and gave the rationale for the July 31 timing.”  

Included by Edgerly in her rationale was that the 2008-2009 budget would have been completed and submitted, negotiations with the city’s various unions would be finished, and the City Council would be on summer break, making a transition to a new administrator easier.

Berkeley Finds Likely Animal Shelter Site

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:55:00 AM

After searching for almost six years for a new animal shelter site—one large enough for the animals and where barking dogs won’t raise the ire of sleeping neighbors—it looks like the city has found the right location. 

The council voted Monday evening 8-0 in closed session, with Councilmember Darryl Moore absent, to take the first steps toward the purchase of 1 Bolivar Drive, listed by MRE Commercial Real Estate as an 18,800 square-foot property for sale at $1.9 million. 

“I’m quite pleased,” Councilmember Betty Olds told the Planet. Along with Councilmember Dona Spring, Olds had been on a committee to search for a location for the new shelter. “We’ve been disappointed time after time,” she said. 

Citizens voted for Measure I in 2002 to tax themselves to pay for a $7.2 million bond, but since a site was not found, the levy was not collected. The first assessment will be in 2009. A homeowner with a parcel assessed at $300,000 will be billed $11.72 for the bond, about $4 per $100,000 of assessed value. 

The cost for the land and a new building is estimated at $9.5 million. Sale of the current animal shelter and $1 million from the city’s general fund will make up the difference, according to Mary Kay Clunies-Ross, the city’s public information officer. 

The property is located at the foot of Addison Street, adjacent to the I-80 University Avenue freeway exit ramp and Aquatic Park.  

Olds said she thinks if all goes well, demolition of the existing building could take place in the spring. If toxins are found on the property at that time, the previous owner has agreed to pay any cleanup costs, she said. 

The new building will have a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating, Olds said, adding that a nonprofit will have to be formed to fundraise to furnish the new building, as the city is permitted to use the bond money only for the structure. 

“The new building has got to be good looking,” Olds said, pointing out that it will be the first Berkeley site people see coming from Interstate 80. The city is beginning the process to select an architect.

Keene Goes to Palo Alto

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

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 as 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’s 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.

New Candidates Take Out Preliminary Papers

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:56:00 AM

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, aide to Councilmember Linda Maio.  

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 Olds’ District 6 seat. Olds is not running for reelection. 

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


AC Transit Directors Slow Drive to Replace Fleet with Van Hools

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM

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 last week (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 the June 25 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 e-mail 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 East 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 that 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.” 


Van Hool Critic Will Run for AC Transit Board Seat

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Oakland architect and public transit advocate Joyce Roy announced plans last week 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 on June 25, 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, which 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.

New Layoffs Hit East Bay Papers

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Last week brought both good and bad news for the 235 newly unionized reporters and editors of the Bay Area News Group-East Bay. 

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

The bad news, which came Friday, is that 12 percent of them will be laid off next week. 

The layoff announcement came from BANG-EB President John Armstrong, who said 29 Media Workers Guild staffers will be laid off on July 11. 

That downsizing comes on the heels of the layoffs of 11 managerial employees. 

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

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

Paper Cuts, a blog that tracks newspaper layoffs at http://graphicdesignr.net/papercuts, has recorded more than 5,597 layoffs so far this year, with three regional jobs—including two reporters—reported gone Tuesday at MediaNews-owned Santa Cruz Sentinel. 

The week also brought bad news for MediaNews journalists on the other side of the bay. The company’s Palo Alto Daily News—which is not part of BANG-EB—laid off six journalists Friday and killed the paper’s Monday edition. 

Alan Mutter, a former San Francisco Chronicle editor, reported in his blog Tuesday that of the 102,120 newspaper jobs downsized since 1990, nearly half—48.7 percent—have been lost in the last three years (see http://newsosaur.blogspot. com) 

For more news on BAG-EB’s tribulations, see the Media Guild’s watchdog blog 

at www.medianewsmonitor.org.

Berkeley Community Media Reaches Share Agreement with BUSD over Studio

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:59:00 AM

The Berkeley Community Media (BCM) reached an agreement with the Berkeley Unified School District last week, which allows it shared access to classroom space for its studio. 

A severe space crunch compelled the Board of Education to approve four new classrooms in January, including converting Berkeley Community Media’s three-camera studio—located at Berkeley High School—into teaching space during the day. 

Some local directors and community activists expressed concern about the studio reconfiguration, and demanded a public hearing on the district’s plans to convert the nonprofit’s studio space into a daytime classroom in July. 

The district leases the ground floor of one of the Berkeley High buildings at 2239 Martin Luther King Jr. Way to BCM in exchange for BCM’s broadcasting school board meetings. 

George Coates, a producer for Better Bad News on BETV, pressed a number of Berkeley councilmembers, including Linda Maio and Dona Spring, to hold a public hearing for the project. 

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz presented the issue as an information item to the council, titled “Berkeley Community Media Studio Endangered,” at the City Council meeting on June 24. 

Although councilmember Maio moved the item to action, she later changed it back to information after giving the council an update on the situation later in the evening. 

“BCM Director David Jolliffe has a letter from the superintendent which says BCM will not be affected negatively,” she said, after a ten-minute council recess. “They have agreed to share the space ... As I understand, the director is really pleased with the agreement.” 

Coates told the council that he was displeased with the lack of a public process. 

“We are being shut down without a public hearing,” he said. “They will start ripping down and constructing in early July, and we learned about that in late May.” 

Jolliffe stressed that he had reached an agreement with the school district. “I am very optimistic that we are going to have both a classroom and a studio,” he said. 

Mayor Bates asked if Coates’ concerns about community access to the studio were addressed in the agreement. 

Jolliffe replied that access to the studio would be blocked when the district was painting and flooring the studio, but would open up once the construction of the classroom was completed. 

District Facilities Director Lew Jones said the Division of the State Architect had not objected to the shared space. 

“It’s not a condition on the permit,” he said. “They don’t care about it.” 

Jones said he was looking at collapsible furniture that would be easier to remove after class. 

“Initially we also wanted to have the ceiling and the floors designed as a typical classroom but BCM requested we tone it down a bit. So we are looking at gray floors which won’t reflect light.” 

The district had earlier agreed to keep the lighting grid in the studio, which had been a major source of concern for staff and users of Berkeley Community Media. 

The district is scheduled to start constructing the four new classrooms—which comes with a $480,000 price tag—around July 14, Jones said.

BUSD Rescinds Most Classified Layoffs

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Only a handful of employees remain on Berkeley Unified School District’s list of classified personnel who have active layoff notices due to the proposed education budget cuts, according to district officials. 

The list, which totaled 55 pink-slipped employees at one point, might be reduced to two in the next couple of weeks, Allen Levinson, the district’s director of classified personnel, told the Planet. 

Thirty-five employees have had their layoffs rescinded in full so far. One has resigned voluntarily, and four have accepted promotions or other positions with Berkeley Unified. 

Four others have accepted the reduced hours of the layoff and are not contesting.  

There are another five employees who will continue to work in another part-time position that they have maintained with the district. 

“We anticipate rescinding layoffs of three others in the next two weeks based on vacancies that have developed,” Levinson said. “It’s looking very good. It’s our hope that services won’t be adversely affected. We don’t have anything for two individuals, but we are hopeful we will have something by the end of the year.”  

The two classified employees are a PE teacher at Cragmont and a student employment specialist at the Berkeley Technology Academy. 

Tim Donnelly, president of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, did not return calls for comment. 

“It’s not a situation we like to find ourselves in,” board director Karen Hemphill said at recent board meeting. “We know we are affecting people’s lives, but we want to emphasize it’s because of the state’s budget cuts. These employees are part of programs which help our children.”

UC Service Workers Set to Walk

By Judith Scherr
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:00:00 AM

Service workers at University of California campuses all over the state—including around 1,200 at UC Berkeley—are preparing for a five-day walkout. 

The workers, who clean campus dorms, serve food in the cafeterias, maintain buildings and grounds, and perform security services, have not announced when they will begin their strike action. In late May, 97.5 percent of the service employees voted to authorize a strike. 

“We’ve been at a standstill for five or six weeks,” said Lakesha Harrison, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) president, noting that 96 percent of the workers qualify for public assistance, including food stamps, child care and housing subsidies. 

Speaking for the university’s Office of the President, Nicole Savickas said since wages are funded through the state, the university is constrained by the stalled state budget process. The university has expressed willingness to re-open wage negotiations after the state budget is passed, she said. 

An AFSCME statement, however, quotes from a state-appointed neutral factfinder: “UC has demonstrated the ability to increase compensation when it fits with certain priorities without any demonstrable link to a state funding source.” 

Savickas said the university disagrees with these findings and has written to the factfinder to that effect. 

The AFSCME statement points out, “UC continues to reward its executives with hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and lavish benefit packages,” but Savickas said that is because the university must compete for some employees. 

That is a difficult topic, she said. “We can’t deny the contributions the service workers provide.” 

But Harrison underscored the reality that “most UC service workers live in poverty.”

Durant Ave. Murder Plea Moved to Monday

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

Nathaniel Freeman, charged with murdering 33-year-old Maceo Smith on Durant Avenue in May, did not enter a plea as he was scheduled to do at the Alameda County Superior Court Friday. 

Freeman’s lawyer Spencer Strellis requested the judge to postpone the hearing since his client’s family had hired a private attorney for him. 

Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Chris Infante, who will be prosecuting Freeman, said the plea date was postponed to Monday, July 7, when a new lawyer would represent Freeman. 

According to authorities, Freeman fired at Smith and another man following a dispute, killing Smith and injuring the other man on Durant Avenue near Bowditch Street.

Aquatic Park Plans Raise Issues of Habitat, Flood Management

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:01:00 AM

Plans to renovate Aquatic Park have environmentalists and some members of the Parks Commission’s Aquatic Park Subcommittee concerned about the city’s motives and the plan’s potential ramifications. 

On June 24, the City Council approved three alternative versions of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront’s Aquatic Park Improvement Program, so that the plan can now undergo California Environmental Quality (CEQA) environmental review. But delays and changes to the proposed Aquatic Park plan have even project planners questioning the program’s goals.  

Funded by a $2 million grant for hydrology and habitat improvement from the Coastal Conservancy, the Aquatic Park Improvement Program is purportedly intended to improve the habitat of fish and seabirds living in and around the park’s three lagoons. But to many, the primary purpose of the program appears to be flood management, not habitat improvement. 

“I want to use that $2 million to improve the habitat down at Aquatic Park, but right now I’m not clear what parts of the project will be submitted for review,” said Park Commissioner Lisa Stephens, a subcommittee member whose proposed plan was adopted by the council last week as the “preferred alternative.” 

Stephens said the planning of the Aquatic Park Improvement Program has been plagued with delays and conflicting expectations from the city. After languishing in committee and waiting for a City Council resolution for nearly six months, the three alternative versions of the program’s Phase I hydrology plan were passed by the council last week and can now go on to CEQA review. But even now, commission and subcommittee members disagree about what the priorities of the Aquatic Park Improvement Program should be. 

The water in the park suffers from low circulation, which creates high temperatures and low levels of dissolved oxygen, conditions fatal to fish living in the water and the birds that feed on them. Additionally, bird habitats have deteriorated with the invasion of non-native plants and a flood of visitors. 

During planning meetings held since 2006, the subcommittee made improving water circulation its highest priority. The first improvements the plan recommends include repairing and replacing the tidal tubes that allow the circulation of bay water in and out of the lagoons. The five main culverts run under I-80, and were installed when the road and Aquatic Park were built in the 1930s. Most of the tubes are in disrepair, and the northernmost culvert has completely collapsed. Rebuilding the culverts would allow bay water to flow in more freely. 

“The first step is to increase circulation to lower temperatures and increase the amount of dissolved oxygen,” said Deborah Chernin, the parks department’s principal planner, who works with the Aquatic Park Subcommittee. 

As another circulation improvement measure, the program would enlarge connections between the lagoons and the Potter Street and Strawberry storm drains, and install floodgates at those connections to prevent storm water from entering the lagoons. 

This tactic has the potential to aggravate Aquatic Park’s most sensitive problem: the issue of storm water drainage into the park’s lagoons. The debate over circulation and pollution has further delayed the development of an improvement plan. 

Most of the time, the Potter Street and Strawberry storm drains let bay water flow in and out of the lagoons at high tide, but during a large storm or flood, the drains let overflow storm water spill into the park’s lagoons, allowing the city to use the lagoons as what Stephens calls a “de facto storm water surge basin for the city.” 

Both hydrology alternatives passed for CEQA review would enlarge the storm drain connections. 

“The reason that the connections will be enlarged is to allow more tidal flow,” Chernin said. “As a result, more storm water could be let into the lagoons.” 

Under the Department of Park and Recreation’s original Aquatic Park proposal, the floodgates would be closed during “first flush” storms to prevent long-accumulated pollutants from entering the lagoons with the first rainfall after a long dry spell. The gates would be reopened after a storm, and, more problematically, could be opened to prevent flooding upstream in West Berkeley. 

“The first premise of the plan is that it would be storm-water neutral,” Chernin said. “It would be designed so that no additional storm water would go into the lagoon than currently does.”  

The issue is further muddied by the question of whether storm water should even be drained into the lagoons at all. Confusion and disagreements persist about the meaning of a permanent 38-year-old Regional Water Quality Control Board order which prohibits “the discharge of all wastes, including storm drainage which may contain wastes, to the Berkeley Aquatic Park Lagoon.” 

There is disagreement over the meaning of two clauses that require the city to “eliminate all storm drainage which may contain wastes to the Berkeley Aquatic Park lagoon” and to “ensure that all wastes are removed from storm sewers which will continue to discharge to Berkeley Aquatic Park Lagoon.” It’s unclear whether the order requires all storm water or only polluted storm water to be diverted. 

According to Chernin, the board order was created to prevent industrial waste, not storm water, from entering the lagoons. She also said the city and the water board view the order as inapplicable and obsolete, because when it was passed, the water board did not fully understand the need for water circulation using the storm drains. 

Brian Wines, who oversees permits for Alameda County at the Regional Water Quality Control Board, flatly disagreed about the order’s meaning.  

“The order was intended to keep all storm water away from the lagoon,” Wines said. He rejected Chernin’s distinction between polluted wastewater and storm water, saying that all water carried by the storm drains necessarily carries urban waste and pollution. 

Wines recommended as early as June 2007 that the city study the effects of storm water on the lagoons before finalizing the plan’s proposals. 

Stephens’ modified plan, the “preferred alternative,” would include the enlarged storm drain connections, but would require that the floodgates remain closed during all storm events, allowing no storm water to enter the lagoon. 

“The storm water—not just the polluted storm water—is the problem,” Stephens said. “A large storm could completely kill the saline water habitat by dumping fresh water in.” 

Even if pollutants could be removed from the storm water before it entered the lagoons, it would still harm the animals living in the water. 

“Toxic storm water runoff that is illegally piped into the lagoons is a much more serious problem for the park’s water quality than maintaining extremely high levels of tidal flow,” said Mark Liolios, volunteer coordinator for Aquatic Park EGRET, the habitat stewardship group for Aquatic Park. “Berkeley’s urban runoff contains many biological toxins and other harmful substances, yet even if the water were filtered to drinking water standards, the discharge of fresh water into the park can kill marine life by suddenly altering the lagoons’ salinity.”  

But because the lagoons have been used for so long as an emergency storm drainage basin, preventing all drainage into the park could create new problems for the community. 

A large amount of West Berkeley runoff enters the lagoon through a diversion pipe built by the city in 1971. The pipe was built to divert water from the Parker, Carleton, Grayson and Heinz streets storm drains to the Potter storm drain and then to the bay, but during large storms or high tide, that pipe actually dumps water into the lagoon. 

“We all discussed it and agreed that (Stephens’ plan) would be the best solution, but would increase flooding in West Berkeley,” Chernin said. “So it’s not a realistic or feasible option until flood management in West Berkeley has been addressed.” 

Stephens disagreed: “There’s no evidence that even if you allowed the park to flood completely during storms, flooding in West Berkeley would be increased.” Stephens said it simply hasn’t been studied enough to offer conclusive results.  

For now, the two hydrology alternatives and the “no project” alternative will be studied in greater detail during the CEQA review. According to Chernin, the review process could take at least a year to allow for additional environmental impact reviews by a CEQA consultant. Five public hearings will be held during that time to allow for public input.  

“The review period is basically a chance for the wider public as well as the regulatory agencies to review and comment on the impact and implications of the project,” Chernin said. 

In other words, there’s a chance that the project could simply die on the table, failing the CEQA review process or buried quietly in paperwork. 

“If this project has to be done in a way that they can’t put storm water into the park, I’d put money on it that the improvements will never be done,” Stephens said. 


City Council Sends Aquatic Park Sludge for Toxics Test, Criticizes $210,00 Clean-Up Cost

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

The Berkeley City Council asked the Public Works department last week to retest the piles of sludge that have been lying next to the Aquatic Park lagoon for the last eight months and explore options for its reuse, citing expenses for its removal as prohibitive. 

Public Works dredged the lagoon at the north end of the park in November and unloaded the spoils along the shoreline without requesting a permit from the water board. 

Claudette Ford, director of public works, submitted a 200-page report to the council last week and asked it to approve the disposal of the spoils at a landfill. 

Ford said the original Aquatic Park dredging project, which encompassed dredging the lagoon to clear out debris around the tidal tubes and clean out the Strawberry Creek storm drain to improve circulation, originally estimated at $83,450, had been divided into two phases and would now cost $242,800. 

Disposal of the spoils alone came with a $210,000 price tag, according to the updated proposal. 

Lisa Stephens, a member of the Aquatic Park Subcommittee, along with a couple of other environmental activists, urged the city to look at reusing the spoils in the park. 

“With the amount of money you are spending to dispose of the material, we could re-vegetate the whole park,” she said. “In terms of the toxicity of the spoils, if there is a way to reuse it, that would be great.” 

Mark Lilios, who heads the Environmental Greening, Restoration, and Education Team (EGRET), the habitat stewardship group for Aquatic Park, asked the city to turn the six-foot-high mounds into a sound berm. 

“If you haven’t had a chance to visit the dredging spoils, I would encourage you to go down there and see it before it gets buried inside landfill,” he said. “It creates a lovely sand berm for the bird watchers or anybody relaxing in the park. If you go on the lagoon side of the spoils, it completely blocks noise from the freeway.” 

Ford said Public Works had explored options to reuse the sludge but was advised by its consultants Laural Marcus Associates to “encapsulate and put it away.” 

“The lead is not at the highest level, but our consultants recommended that it not be used for any other cover but be taken away,” she said. 

Mayor Tom Bates asked Public Works officials if creating berms from the spoils could be explored. 

“There is already excess soil there, we don’t need this for the park,” Loren Jensen, supervising engineer for Public Works, told the mayor. 

Councilmember Darryl Moore, whose district includes Aquatic Park, questioned the toxicity level of the spoils. 

“Is the toxicity that high?” he asked. “I would imagine it was less toxic after drying for six months.” 

Jensen replied that the spoils could be used in the park, but that the master plan of the Aquatic Park Improvement Program called for excavating soil from the same area, which would have lesser lead levels than the current spoils. 

“There are plans to turn that area into a fresh water marsh,” he said. 

Citing the prohibitive disposal costs, Moore pressed for reuse of the spoils to save the city the $210,000 it would cost to bury the soil. 

Ford said Public Works would re-test the soil, and if the toxicity levels turned out to be even more than the current level, it would consider other options. 

Councilmember Betty Olds complained that the piles of sludge, covered in plastic, were an eyesore for the city. 

“I am all for getting rid of the dirt piles,” she said “It’s not native to the area and it should be removed.”



Contemplating the Revolutionary Option

By Becky O’Malley
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:04:00 AM

The approach of July 4 always moves me to ruminations on the nature and function of government. Reading the Declaration of Independence is a feature of the best holiday picnics—so much easier these days when printable copies can easily be retrieved from the Web. As always, when I download the DofA and actually read it, I’m struck by what a radical document it is, and by the annoying and alarming parallels between the bad behavior of the 18th century Brits and that of the various governments we have to contend with these days.  

Some cases in point: 

“He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. 

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.”  

Sound like anyone you know? Our current king—I mean president—and his exercise of the veto power, perhaps?  

Or this: 

“He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures. 

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.”  

Just check out Sy Hersh’s current New Yorker piece about GWB’s plans to invade Iran, being hatched by an “independent” military without any pretense at congressional oversight. 


“He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.” 

Blackhawk, anyone? 

And there’s more: 

“He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…”  

Is this the enabling language for today’s version of the INS?. 

The bottom line: 

“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” 

But we knew that, didn’t we? 

We’re now in the midst of a presidential campaign which we earnestly hope will result in said tyrant departing the scene on his own accord. But if we believe Hersh, there’s a very real danger that Bush or his evil regent, Richard Cheney (or is the other way round?) will take some precipitate and illegal action, enabled by a free-booting military, to invade Iran. It could happen, in Hersh’s view, either as an October surprise before the election which might change the results, or between the election and the inauguration of the new president. Either way, deeply scary.  

So what do we do about it? Chances are we will not seize the reins of government, because, as our political ancestors said “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”  

We haven’t yet reached the tipping point, even though a number of the parallels are alarming. We’ll wait for the election, suffering the sufferable evils, but those of us who have read the Hersh piece will be holding our breath as we suffer. 

So much for the really serious stuff. But what about the more minor transgressions of governmental agencies against the consent of the governed?  

The news of the week around here is that the local constitutional arm of the state of California which quarters bodies of troops amongst us is up to new tricks. I refer, of course, to the University of California, which is trying as hard as it can to build new quarters for its mercenaries (they don’t call them “Fight Songs” for nothing) in our midst. 

Having spent many thousands of dollars in legal and consulting fees to float a plan for reinforcing Memorial Stadium while the adjacent new building is under construction, the university administration now declares that this was all a sham, that they don’t need to shore up the old building while they’re digging the hill out from under it. Oh really? Then what was all the fuss about in the first place? 

Cynics might suggest that this is a transparent ploy to evade the intent of the Alquist-Priolo act, intended to keep anyone, even the mighty U, from creating new hazards for the unsuspecting on top of known earthquake faults. They’d be right. 

The University of California was given independent status in the state constitution in order to preserve the academic freedom of its faculty and students. Contrary to what some of our correspondents seem to believe, this is a granted privilege, not natural law. State universities in many other states do not claim exemption from local zoning or from building restrictions like Alquist-Priolo.  

It’s somewhat misleading to consider the University of California a state institution any more. It’s been effectively privatized.  

Students, even in-state students, now pay almost as much as their peers at many private institutions. Most of the non-tuition support for UC now comes from corporations and affluent private donors, not from the state.  

All of the cities which play host to UC campuses are suffering from the high-handed way the university invades local space. UC Berkeley’s demand that the city of Berkeley re-write its downtown zoning plan to accommodate the university’s growth program is not unique.  

UC has done similar things in Santa Cruz and Merced and Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, to name a few. Santa Cruz has its own lawsuit, and even its own contingent of treesitters. But there’s precious little any locals can do about the university juggernaut.  

Lately we’ve been hearing suggestions from friends in other UC cities that it’s time for an initiative to abolish the university’s special privileged constitutional status. In their view, it’s the only way to control the university’s insatiable appetite for expansion. They say that the greedy institution as it currently exists no longer deserves to be considered an independent arm of government. 

There’s noble precedent for this kind of conclusion. After all, we’ve been taught that governments derive “their just powers from the consent of the governed,” and that “whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive …. it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”  

Sounds appealing, doesn’t it? Should we start circulating the initiative petitions on the Fourth of July? 


The George W. Bush Presidential Library

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 02:23:00 PM

A Drought of Ideas

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 02:23:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday July 07, 2008 - 03:54:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

Judge Barbara Miller issued a ruling on June 18 that was neither here nor there. The sitters are still in the trees. The university has not broken ground. The city has not taken advantage of the potential to win by responding to university efforts to negotiate an end to the standoff.  

After 18 months, you'd think the judge could settle this thing. But she has repeatedly taken the maximum allowable time to make a decision at each stage of the case. Now she's asked for more information, and along with it comes another 60 days of decision-making. If her most recent ruling sends any clues, the university will ultimately prevail, leaving the city with nothing but an enormous bill from its lawyers. 

Two entities are being hurt here: the university to the tune of an estimated $11 million in construction delays and the taxpayers who pay the bills. Those bills are running close to half a million dollars in city and state expenditures on legal fees. 

It's time for all the involved parties to act responsibly and settle among themselves. If the past is an indicator, Judge Miller won't bring this all to an end for several more months. It's time for some courage and responsibility from all sides. 

Linda Schacht 

John Gage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is this really about the trees? I’m perplexed that the mayor and City Council continue to support small fringe groups like the tree-sitters and Code Pink, despite the fact that the public is obviously in opposition. I live in West Berkeley and know of no one—not one single person—who supports the tree-sitters anymore. Berkleyans for Cal, a new group set up to give people like us a voice, has gathered almost 9,000 signatures. Yet the City Council is responding to the whim of a few people to continue this madness.  

Why do I call this madness? Their actions are not giving us any alternative and they’re not raising awareness of a serious deforestation problem in this country. Even if they were to succeed their actions are only going to save the equivalent of someone’s backyard full of trees. Meanwhile, we can do things as a community and set an example for the country. On example of many: In concrete construction the West Coast happens to be the laughing stock of the United States. All of the lumber is here along with the tree huggers, yet California somehow refuses to embrace re-usable formwork and instead builds concrete forms out of raw lumber. These forms are subsequently damaged by stress and chemicals to the point where they can’t even be recycled. We have a second problem with the tons and tons of trees that are cut down every second and delivered to our mailboxes in the form of junk mail.  

By not looking at where we have the power to make a difference we’re simply barking up the wrong tree. 

Brian Webb 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Had BUSD been allowed to transform Berkeley Community Media's public access studio into a "dedicated classroom" from it's current use as a public access facility it would no longer be possible for the space to function as a three-camera public access facility. BUSD's initial offers to share the space with BCM after school hours were disingenuous because the code restrictions for a "dedicated classroom" are incompatible with code restrictions for a public use TV studio facility.  

Thanks to Councilmembers Dona Spring, Linda Maio, Kriss Worthington and Berkeley Daily Planet coverage of complaints from the user community, BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett stepped in and made Lew Jones, the head of BUSD facilities, change the project designation from a "dedicated" classroom space to a "shared use" space which may or may not solve most of the incompatible code restriction issues. We will see come September if the contractor also got the message along with a “change order" from Lew Jones. (Jones had already submitted the space conversion plans to the state architect’s office for approval before BCM users were notified on May 30, to clear out their sets and props in June.  

The superintendent has now promised that Berkeley residents will still have a fully functioning three-camera public access capability once construction work is complete at the end of summer. We will see come September.  

Though destruction of the region’s second-largest public access facility was averted at the 11th hour, BCM is not out of danger. No paid employee of the BUSD or any future BCM landlord for that matter, should ever be permitted to sit on the BCM board of directors let alone serve as its chairperson when BCM's public access mission is in conflict with the education mission of its landlord, the BUSD.  

Berkeley residents almost saw its public access studio negotiated away to the school district by Mark Coplan, a paid employee of the BUSD currently acting as the BCM board chair.  

The Berkeley City Council and the BCM board have got to act fast to correct this obvious conflict of interest or BCM's nonprofit status could be put at risk while keeping public access hostage to the shifting institutional priorities of other worthy institutions like the BUSD.  

George Coates 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I know well of the oak grove tree -sit, because UC Berkeley has decided to contribute to the growing light pollution of this town. You can see the grove from miles away, just because of generator lights. And what are these lights doing? Keeping away evil spirits? Bedtime monsters? Other various creepy crawlies? 

Please UC Berkeley, Turn off the lights so we can all get some rest. 

John Dougherty 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Writing from a state where the effects of global warming can be seen by just looking out the window at the smoke from forest fires, it is obvious that the time to act is now. As California is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases in the world we are especially obligated to commit to positive change. Though the future of our environment often seems bleak, there are solutions.  

The governor’s A.B 32 draft plan is definitely a step in the right direction. It is ambitious and has the potential to serve as a template for other states to follow. However, the lack of specific guidelines regarding how some of the initial recommendations should be carried out is somewhat worrisome. It seems to leave the path open for large polluters to obtain free carbon emission credits and thus to continue their contribution to global warming without obstacle. It is exactly these polluters that should be targeted the most.  

By the time this plan is finalized on Jan. 1, 2009, I sincerely hope that this section has been addressed so that California can reach its goals to make huge reductions in global warming pollution and set a successful example for others to follow.  

Catherine Farrell 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

On behalf of Butte College I’d like to thank those in the Berkeley Fire Department who responded to the Humboldt fire in Butte County. They not only saved Butte College from serious and devastating destruction, but they protected our communities we all live in. Without their great efforts many more people would not have homes to return to, and much of our campus would not be available for providing education to those in our community. We’re very grateful for all of their help…they’re the greatest! 

Diana Van Der Ploeg 

President, Butte College 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love reading the Daily Planet—the hilarious coverage of the tree-sit saga has afforded countless hours of laughter at the delusional "progressives" who chose to make this whole thing into a "cause." 

I nearly choked with mirth the other day when Martha Nicoloff called the tree-sitters "saints." No, Martha—they are turd-tossing, urine-dumping infants. And I hear that "Millipede" is on her way to Santa Barbara on outstanding warrants for theft. We sure could use more saints like her. 

Katlin Moore's ludicrous commentary, "City Must Continue Lawsuit Against UC," was the topper. She claims "international" support for the tree-sit. Really? Details, please. She claims to represent "tens of thousands of Berkeley residents." Where are all those people? Certainly not protesting—more likely they’re at Berkeley Bowl or down on Fourth Street shopping like good, upscale American consumers. There is zero evidence that the actual supporters of the tree-sit number more than 100, if that many. 

There is no "indisputable" evidence of any "sacred" burial grounds—only a single skeleton of undetermined ethnicity found in the 1920s. The only native "leader" calling UC's actions a "hate crime" is that unemployed loudmouth (and vandal of public property) Zachary Running Wolf, who is probably the most entertaining nutcase of all, especially when he and Ayr fight over who gets in front of the TV cameras first. 

But why rely on facts and reason when lies and emotion are so much more fun? 

How far Berkeley has fallen from the Golden Era of the 1960s, if this is what passes for activism these days. 

They say we get the elected officials we deserve. I urge all Berkeley voters to replace Tom Bates with Running Wolf ASAP. Let the circus continue! 

Michael Stephens 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Seeing the Thai Temple in the news again for violating various permit laws reminded me of the very sad fact that they are responsible for decimating the adjacent South Berkeley Community Garden of which I was a longtime member. This community garden, which is still laying fallow all these years later, was a beautiful and much needed space for gardeners and community members to enjoy. Local community gardeners worked hard to save the garden, but in the end, the money from the Thai restaurant was a more powerful force. I hope the city doesn't allow the temple to continue to increase their illegal profits even more. 

Rachel Aronowitz 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s July 3 UnderCurrents column: 

First, it's Michael Krasny, not "Kransky." I know, this is fussy attention to detail, but you are a newspaper and your article is about getting the facts. I think it matters.  

Chip Johnson has hardly been conducting a "vendetta" against Dellums. If you'd read his columns, he was circumspect and very slow in his escalating criticism of the mayor, running well behind the rising dissatisfaction of other Oakland residents. He held a "make-up" interview with the mayor some time ago and wrote a favorable column following it.  

While I disagree with Johnson's idea of Perata for mayor, I hardly think that this indicates that Johnson is undercutting Dellums toward that end, which you seem to imply.  

The corruption in Oakland city government is certainly nothing new and is ongoing. And it is nothing new in city governments. The Edgerly affair has highlighted this matter in a way that ties in with the issue of crime, which has most of us very, very upset. It is a very small step from the hiring of friends and family and circumventing civil service-type controls, to possible connections to criminal enterprises outside government.  

This confluence of weak leadership, an overreaching administrator, and the appearance of deep corruption may provide the impetus for action. I certainly hope so. 

Jason Mundstuk 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Is there any way of stopping the sale of cigarettes altogether? I know we do not want to see more and more young people die of lung cancer. Cigarettes are still advertised as props for a cool lifestyle. 

Can't we encourage young people to discover that life is too precious to devote to self-destruction? 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the past two years I have inquired of the City of Berkeley staff in the city manager’s office as to why west of Gilman from San Pablo Avenue to the I-80 east entrance hasn’t been repaved yet. Gilman east of San Pablo Avenue was repaved and that didn't haven't the same type of damage like numerous huge potholes west of Gilman does.  

My Volvo can no longer stand being jacked around by the potholes and cracks on Gilman. The city will be getting a bill for the continuous damage my one and only car is receiving. I have no other options and shouldn't have to waste more gas to drive to Albany to use their smooth freeway entrance. 

I saw an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the destructive Gilman Street to I-80 East entrance. 

Please do not blame this on Cal Trans. This is your problem. Fix it! 

Robyn Christian 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was a bit taken aback by Kevin Moore’s letter detailing his unpleasant experience with the motorcyclists in downtown Berkeley. Apparently he mistook the gathering for a pro-war rally.  

Having passed by that day and seen all the men in studded leathers, revving up their noisy, but colorful Harleys—well, naturally I assumed it was a Gay Pride parade! And that blond lady on the stage—Melanie, you say—I’m pretty sure she was one of the famous Dykes on Bikes. She certainly looked rugged! 

It was wrong for the man to punch you, Kevin, but are you sure it wasn’t because you perhaps looked askance at his outfit? Yeah, they were wearing some pretty loud clothes—talk about rainbow colors! But that’s the Castro Street lifestyle, you know? 

It does sound like the Berkeley police need more tolerance training. They should have intervened when he hit you. Doubtless the problem lies in their archaic belief that leather boys just slap people. You learned some of those gay guys are pretty tough!  

I hope we all can learn from the experience and let folks have their little alternative lifestyle parades in peace. It’s all in fun. Leave your protest signs at home—the people who really support the war are all away fighting it.  

Chuck Heinrichs 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

Regarding the July 3 article, “Neighbors Oppose Safeway Expansion”: 

Neighbors are always complaining about density or the architecture or the need for housing. Whatever. As a resident of the neighborhood and of the larger community, there is really only one question, which wasn’t addressed in the article. 

Is it going to have upscale pricing? We don't need another Andronico’s in that neighborhood, with ever-inflated prices and overpriced "organic" produce from Mexico. People can't afford gas and groceries. And things are only going to get worse, disastrous for many. At least Safeway has reasonable prices on the basic staples. If the massive expansion is going to massively impact the pricing at that store (regardless of the architecture or the density or the housing) then I say forget it. Now is not the time to deepen the gouging. No doubt the Safeway powers-that-be regard themselves as the smartest guys in the room, and see that Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood as ripe for picking, reaping them a very bountiful economic harvest. But at whose expense? Yikes.  

Ken Stein 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Protesting China's long record of human rights abuses, many world leaders— i.e., Britain, France and Germany—have announced they will not attend the opening of the Olympics in Beijing. Not so with President Bush. The White House has confirmed he'll be there; the reason offered, in his own words, "I like sports." So much for the trivial issue of human rights. 

But let's not be too hard on Mr. Bush. We all know he's given up golf. When asked if this was related to Iraq, our leader replied: "Yes, it really is. I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander-in-chief playing golf. I feel I owe it to the families to be as—to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I thinking playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal." 

Golly gee, doesn't this bring tears to your eyes and put a lump in your throat? 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet:  

I want to make an unsolicited public nomination of Asa Dodsworth to run for the Rent Stabilization Board. 

Asa Dodsworth is a kind, outgoing, incredibly charitable person who has opened up his house to Berkeley and its citizens on numerous occasions. As a member of the Garbage Commission he has been a real consensus builder and worthwhile participant. He has an active mind and is grounded in the spirit of well-thought action. 

Asa Dodsworth is many things: an activist, a homeowner, an organic farmer, a wonderful chef, a friend, a son, a brother, a lifelong Berkeley resident who has great ethics and a strong mind for the common good. Although this letter is unsolicited, I urge you to join me in calling for Asa Dodsworth to run for the Rent Stabilization Board.  

John E. Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kevin Moore's July 3 letter is quite a call of alarm and shame on Berkeley's cops. Mr. Moore reported getting gut punched by one of a group of bikers who were in town to protest against criticism of the Iraqi invasion and its policies at the Marine Recruitment Center. Mr. Moore reported that when he was attacked, a Berkeley cop stood 10 feet away and did nothing. Later Mr. Moore observed some cops laughing with the bikers. When Mr. Moore reported the attack to another cop, he shined him on to nowhere. The cops clearly favored the bullies and warmongers. 

The cops' behavior brings to mind a similar pattern when Berkeley High students were pawed by cops at the pro-MRC resolution rally in the spring. Added to the above, is the scandal of the long denial by police brass over drug use by a Berkeley cop in charge of seized drugs. 

At a minimum, BPD must maintain a politically neutral stance. However, there have been too many incidents to claim impartiality now. It is clear that on this core determinant, Berkeley cops aren't "protecting nor serving" its citizens and salary payers. Perhaps patrol cars should add "when we want to" to their motto. 

Is our City Council blind to errant police behavior? Is no one on the council outraged enough at police partiality to speak out? Is the council afraid of being accused of being "soft on crime" if they assert civilian control? Is the Berkeley Police Department under civilian control? A corrective solution is required immediately.  

Maris Arnold 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

"Citizens For Eastshore State Park" will be holding their next monthly meeting at 7:30 p.m. on July 16 at 520 El Cerrito Plaza. Until recently, I, like most Berkeley citizens, didn't know such a group existed or how it was connected to the so-called park being closed to us. 

As you know I've written to you several times about the area, but I hope you will allow me to repeat what I said to your readers who still may not know what's been happening there. 

Like its neighbor, the present Chavez Park, which is a true park, it was originally part of the Berkeley dump along the marina. When the landfill ceased it soon became a wilderness where I and many others enjoyed its wildness for more than 30 years. Then one day it was partially clear-cut and enclosed by a chain-link fence with a sign that said, "Keep Out, Resource Protection Area." 

Most Berkeley citizens were not informed that this was about to happen, let alone that a "citizens group," none of whom seem to have personally enjoyed the area, would be in charge of it. Nor has it been clear to me how it happens that such a vast land can be controlled by a such small group in the name of the public when the public doesn't even know who they are and why they are doing what they do. I assume it is connected to the vast redevelopment projects that have been happening in the meadowlands, but how and why the part now called Eastshore Park came to be closed to the public is still a mystery to me. 

I have asked the Citizen Group to put on their agenda in the next meeting a place for me and whoever else cares to join me in order to ask that the area be opened for us to enjoy it along with the wildlife. Both the plants and the animals, including birds, which I love as much as anyone, were perfectly content with us humans, and I see no reason why we can't live with each other in harmony again. 

I hope those of your readers who may be concerned will join me at the next meeting. The address seems to be difficult to find if you enter El Cerrito Plaza from San Pablo Avenue. I was told that you are to drive to Longs Drugs and make a right at the circle to the parking lot at Shoe Pavilion and there is at the back of Trader Joe's a stairwell that goes to the offices above Trader Joe's, then you go up to a mezzanine and there is an office marked "Citizens For Eastshore Park." I don't know the plaza well, but I assume that if you go in from another entrance you go straight to Trader Joe's. I was told the meeting may start a little late since a private meeting about the meadowlands will be held first. 

Thank you for allowing me to write to you again. It's a beautiful area and it's been very sad that I and many others have not been allowed to enjoy it as we once did. Hopefully one of your staff writers, or Joe Eaton, who never replied to my previous open letter to him, can attend and maybe write about just what has been happening and help make it clear. 

Pete Najarian  


Letters to the Editor

Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:18:00 AM


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 iny rights, too. This is too important and complex for letters alone: Daily Planet, keep the story alive! 

Kenneth H. Thompson 

Megan C. Timberlake 





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 




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. 

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 




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 




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 




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 




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 




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 alwayscompatible 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 





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 




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  





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 




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 




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 




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 




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 




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 




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 eminent 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 




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 





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 


Lisa Chipkin,  

Stop the Spray Marin (San Rafael) 




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 Sen. 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 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

What do Ayr, Dumpster Muffin and Doug Buckwald actually do for a living? Are they on unemployment? Or are they city employees? Are they honorary members of the Panoramic Hill Association? I’m pondering these questions as I watch the city of Berkeley go down the toilet. World-class institution being held hostage by a Dumpster Muffin and a City Council who panders to its base of maybe 1,000 people. What actually is a Dumpster Muffin? A muffin who dumps? Or a dumpster who muffs? Please clarify.  

Matthew Shoemaker 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Before the first fence went up around the oak grove at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, the UC police have been trying to make life hard for the tree sitters. Their goal is to drive the people who live in this beautiful grove out, so they can spend a billion dollars on a new gym and then gutting and retrofitting the old stadium. Spending a million dollars to remove the tree sitters seems a small price to the rich men who profit from such projects.  

To most people, the tactics used by the extractors seems extreme. Cherry-pickers running into lines, and extractors cutting lines, on which sitters lives hang, stunned everyone who watched the events. It is hard to believe UC Berkeley would risk life to prevent so-called misdemeanors. But when we take into account UC Berkeley winning the account to build the new nuclear weapons for the USA, the British Petroleum Bio-Tech Fuels project, and the plans to pulverize the radioactive Bevatron, it does not seem out of line. For those who remember the free speech movement, People’s Park, and James Rector shot dead, the tactics are typical. 

Now the final stage, to slowly malnourish the remaining tree-sitters. The UC will now try to ethnically cleanse the grove by making it harder and harder for the tree sitters to live, without actually having them literally drop dead from starvation. Of course, in a world where 20,000 children starve to death, and 10,000 die from dehydration every day on earth, why not starve out a bunch of dirty tree-huggers? Without hunger, capitalism would not survive. Hungry children work for pennies picking our cotton and sewing our clothes. We all eat food and drink tea grown in nations with starvation. We pay taxes used to send Marines to enforce the world order where a few have billions, while billions live in squalor. Where is the outrage? 

The tree sitters are life savers. They are saving our lives. It is time for the people of Berkeley to save them. 

Terry O’Brien 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I came home from an appointment today and instead of going directly in the house, I took one of my rare trips to the corner store. On the way there, I saw two “We Pay Cash for Your House” placards stapled into our corner bus bench. I ripped those off and put them in the trash but the staples are still in the wood of the bench and could do some harm to someone. As I continued on my way, I saw a girl writing on the AC Transit bus sign/map with a Sharpie in broad daylight. I told her to stop it—she ignored me. I regretted having not brought my camera with me so that I could snap a picture of her in the act. I didn’t think to rip the Sharpie out of her hand but I’m sure if I did, I would have been the one getting in trouble with the police, ironically. 

I’m tired of people, including some people who live in this neighborhood, treating it as a giant toilet. Companies and politicians post their bills on benches and chain link fenced-vacant lots. Every day I find litter that is placed in my yard by passers-by as well as that which just blows in. Including crack baggies. I’m tired of having to hire someone to paint over graffiti that gets painted on my home with no help from the city in at least coming up with a discounted source of paint and painting implements. I’m tired of the lack of noise pollution enforcement. Some sounds like emergency vehicles and 18-wheelers can’t really be helped but the city can do something about the car stereos that blast so loudly that it rattles your whole house even though your doors and windows are closed. Enforce the laws on the books. It’s not like the city couldn’t use the revenue from the citations. 

We have another election coming up later this year. Not many choices in District 3. The City Council continues to ignore South and West Berkeley’s crime problems. The city has more homicides this year than I can ever remember it having before. Meanwhile, the mayor and the City Council put their energy into pronouncements on national policy. How about some local enforcement of laws on the books? How about listening to the residents of District 3 who have been clamoring for a comprehensive “broken windows” policy for Berkeley’s “Little Oakland”? 

M. Lynch 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Pre-K programs are recognized as a key component in school success. Yet, parents face bewildering and inconsistent choices—program quality varies widely, and only one in five children has access to state-funded, voluntary pre-k. 

It is shortsighted to shortchange the children of our society. We worry about funding social security and Medi-Cal, but wouldn’t those be more successful if we had a workforce which received excellent education from pre-school, especially in these days when so many families cannot afford to keep a parent full-time at home? 

Please support candidates who support voluntary, quality pre-K for all children! Sign the petition at NoSchoolForSan.org today! 

Carol Crooks 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Will “Swift Boat” patriotism smear Barack Obama as it did John Kerry? The mask of patriotism may be worn to conceal the foul designs of people and groups. 

There is a new patriotism that says dissent is patriotic—exercise your right—use it or lose it. Criticism is patriotic. The patriot is not afraid to criticize the flawed policies of the wayward Bush administration and the Republican anti-tax sham. 

Peace is patriotic; have a glorious Fourth of July. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

How Senator John McCain brought the horse-and-buggy back, renounced militarism and became president: a fanciful tale: 

A few days after Sen. John McCain’s proposal for a three-hundred million dollar prize or bounty for a super auto battery was generally derided in the media and on the Internet, he made a new proposal. He offered a three hundred dollar cash prize to anyone who could produce a low-cost and environmentally-green form of personal transportation. 

Several hours after he made this offer public, he claimed his prize himself. He decided that a hay-fed and oats-fed horse pulling a light-weight buggy would fill the bill perfectly. He called it the McCain horse-and-buggy transportation system. At first, folks were skeptical, but after being hammered with gas costing upwards of four dollars a gallon, they were ready for some real change. Change they could believe in. Horse-and-buggies they could believe in. Back to the good old horse-and-buggy days? No, forward to the new improved groovy environmentally-green horse-and-buggy days. 

Folks across this great land decided that it was finally time to give up on their SUVs, and other vehicles powered by gasoline, diesel fuel or other oil derivatives. They began to lay out horse pastures, build barns, and storage areas for horses, buggies, sleighs, winter hay and other related things used back in the mid-19th century for ground transportation. Hay lofts came into vogue again. Farmers in the Midwest gave up growing corn for ethanol production and switched to growing oats for horses. People would say, “And that ain’t hay” and “Get a horse” in their conversations with their neighbors. 

Senator John McCain was riding high on his new found popularity. He realized that if America returned to the ground transportation used in the mid-19th century, that there would be little need for a large imperial U.S. army and navy to steal and secure oil resources abroad. So he renounced militarism, turned his back on his family’s three generations of service in the navy and looked to his 19th century farmer-ancestors for inspiration. McCain became vastly more popular with his renunciation of militarism. 

Kids were demanding cooked rolled oats as their breakfast cereal to be in solidarity with horses. America started a long transformation from a car and truck-based economy to a traditional 19th economy based on horse-drawn vehicles and the reliable iron horse (trains). Our dependence on foreign oil and even domestic oil rapidly declined. As we withdrew our overseas military forces from around the world, terrorist attacks rapidly declined. Senator McCain surpassed the charismatic Barack Obama in popularity and became President. Then Barack knew exactly how Hillary felt when she was passed by him back in the Democratic primary elections  

James K. Sayre 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every gallon of water saved adds up. Here’s a suggestion that, if promoted widely, could save many thousands of gallons of water a day. By family agreement, men should now urinate in the bathroom sink and flush with one cup of cold water. Normally, urine is sterile. Cold water washes out the odor effectively. But could people overcome cultural convention and squeamishness? Would families agree on this? Toilets do not make sense for urine in a water scarce environment. 

Marc Sapir 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

There’s never a shortage of salient advice in Matt Cantor’s columns. I learn something useful and applicable toward my own house every week.  

However, just as one would hire an inspector before buying a house, or putting one on the market, it’s abundantly clear that the “About The House” column needs its own editorial inspection. Problems with grammar, spelling, and sentence construction are evident in nearly every column. These errors detract from the subject matter, and reflect poorly on the author, and the newspaper. 

What can be done to improve the process? Does anyone at the Daily Planet bother to proofread the copy before it’s laid out? 

Andrew Johnson 


A Failed Effort to Feed the Tree-Sitters

By Carol Gesbeck DeWitt
Tuesday July 08, 2008 - 05:09:00 PM


Carol Gesbeck DeWitt 


750 words 


I was among a group of people who tried to bring fresh food to the UC Berkeley tree-sitters. I am a licensed vocational nurse and have spent my life taking care of people. I believe that it is immoral for the UC administration to use starvation as a claimed legitimate method to end a peaceful civil disobedience dispute with the tree-sitters. For the length of this tree-sit-in, Sunday at 2 p.m. has been the time when those in the community who support the goals of these people come together to provide balanced and healthy food. I don’t show up every week as some of the faithful have, but I consider myself to be a regular participant. 

For a number of reasons I believe that UC is wrong in their decision to build on this site: The campus provides other possible locations. The oak grove was not, as UC lies, a stadium-landscaping project; it was a memorial grove planted to honor nearly 100 students, faculty and staff World War I heroes. The last surviving WWI veteran, Frank Buckles, has written, requesting that this site remain. UC promises to replant even more trees. They are known for reneging on similar promises and it would take generations for new trees to reach the mature size of this grove. The proposed site is irrationally too close to the Hayward fault. Extensive construction processes on this site will further destabilize the aging stadium. Infrastructure and parking in this area are inadequate to meet the needs of such substantial building and user needs. Respect for the native Americans who believe that this hill was a sacred burial ground is lacking. When the stadium was built, Indian remains were unearthed and desecrated and it is reasonable to believe that this stadium-adjacent site is part of the burial grounds. UC appears to have an endless building construction agenda that will not stop until all available open campus space is occupied by a multi-storied buildings. UC administrators arrogantly believe that they are immune to local and state building and environmental regulations that the private sector must adhere to. UC has often demonstrated an unwillingness to negotiate openly and fairly with the Berkeley community when contested issues arise. 

Sunday’s failed attempt to deliver fresh food to the remaining tree-sitters was a very upsetting experience. UC deploys nearly two-dozen muscular, uniformed, armed, poorly trained and unprofessional cops to thwart humane attempts by gray haired citizens and slender younger people to deliver nutritious food. Weeks ago, UC installed more fencing and a wide barricade, illegally on public sidewalks, to prevent supporters access to providing food, water and waste removal services. This was also done to prevent supporters and media from having visual access to observe vicious UC attempts to harass and extricate the tree-sitters. Since then UC has been shamed into providing minimal, substandard, low quality, health-endangering food bars and an insufficient supply of water. 

It was very apparent that at least a handful of these bored cops take great pleasure in the opportunity, on Sundays, during food drop attempts, to exert aggressive, unnecessary and brutal force against a peaceful, dedicated, loving, generous, well-intended group of supporters. These frustrated, adrenalin- and testosterone-fueled, under-supervised bullies, vindictively operate meanly and aggressively. They seem to justify horrible actions that are badly misguided and devoid of basic humanity, ethics, integrity, morals, heart and soul. The kindly food drop group formed a circle around sacks of healthy food as one treesitter made repeated attempts to lower a rope from a precarious perch on a power pole. These cops devolved into mob mentality, not the peaceful supporters. They tightened their own circle around the supporters. The cops told citizens not to touch them, but the cops exerted force to crush against supporters when the line was lowered. The cops touched, pushed and knocked much smaller and frail, unarmed supporters down as they fought to grab and cut the rope. The cops’ behavior was a shameful display of inappropriately brutal force against harmless people attempting to provide humanitarian services. I urge more people to show up on Sundays at 2 PM to get involved as providers and witnesses. I urge UC administrators to rethink their hostile, inhumane and shameful ploys to end this peaceful tree-sit. UC is a disgrace to the American tradition of free speech and public discourse. 


Carol Gesbeck DeWitt is a Berkeley resident.

Local Housing Meltdown: It’s the Condos, Stupid

By Gale Garcia
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:05:00 AM

Berkeley City Council members seem to think that there’s an infinite demand for brand new condo bunkers, despite numerous warnings over the years about the housing bubble. 

While Berkeley’s fine old homes on tree-lined streets (part of the reason people desire to live here), are still selling pretty well, new condos seem to have hit a wall. Two massive projects opened around the beginning of this year, both on “transit corridors,” at 1801 Shattuck Ave. and 2700 San Pablo Ave. 

During construction, a large sign announced that 1801 Shattuck would be condominiums. The website for Premium Properties & Development still boasts that it will be “the first major Condo development in the Gourmet Ghetto in over a decade”.  

The project opened without fanfare in early spring—as rentals. The apartments are being advertised with great enthusiasm: “1 Month FREE—HURRY—Rent Special! Hurry Ends Sunday!” (This ad has been running for weeks, so I surmise that the special offer expires on Sunday and is revived on Monday).  

The project at 2700 San Pablo is another story. Newspaper ads for the condos began in December 2007 with a catchy new project name: “Avenue West is just steps away from the shops and restaurants of Berkeley’s exciting Left Bank!” When I attended an open house tour, only two units seemed to be complete.  

In late February 2008, mechanics’ liens against the property began appearing at the Alameda County Recorder’s Office, eventually totaling 49 liens filed. The amount still owed to contractors is approximately $1,036,468.  

The two completed units at 2700 San Pablo, 210 and 406, were advertised vigorously until early May, when advertising ceased. Number of condominium sales recorded: Zero. Property transfer tax added to city coffers: Zero. 

On June 2 a Notice of Default was filed at the Recorder’s Office. The construction loan of approximately $9.5 million appears to be in arrears.  

What will become of “Avenue West”—a featureless stucco box in financial trouble? It’s difficult to imagine someone buying and completing it—there’s no sign of a thriving rental market on San Pablo Avenue, and the market for new condos is dead. 

Despite the condo meltdown, our City Council has been risking city revenue in anticipation of future condo sales. In December 2007, Councilmembers Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli (up for re-election this November) requested a fee deferral for yet another project, at 1800 San Pablo Ave., because the developer was “unable to cover building permit fees until point of sale of the condo units.“ 

The council was warned about deferring the $315,588 in fees, including $99,990 in sewer connection fees (which are not allowed to be deferred according to Berkeley Municipal Code). Obviously, if the condos fail to sell (see 2700 San Pablo), there is a problem.  

City Council went one (unprecedented) step further to benefit the developer of 1800 San Pablo. He was allowed to build the project without any “affordable” units, because he will (in theory) contribute in-lieu fees to the Housing Trust Fund when the condos sell.  

I certainly hope no one is counting on any of those fees to materialize. The fact that a charming building—a part of our pre-World War II Japanese American history—was destroyed for this project renders the Council’s act of fiscal irresponsibility reprehensible. 

Why are the councilmembers so condo-crazed? All I can figure is that they are following their leader, Mayor Bates, whose campaign contributors include a long list of developers (and their wives and employees). It is rumored that the only job Bates has ever held other than politician was—commercial real estate broker.  

By encouraging developers to begin new projects despite a falling market— on the heels of the largest housing/lending bubble in history—the City Council is not doing them any favors. With the mortgage industry in deep trouble, the condo carnage has only begun (I sure hope the banking system survives). 


Gale Garcia has been reading about the housing and mortgage bubble for years, and highly recommends www.patrick.net and www.thehousingbubbleblog.com. 

North Berkeley Trader Joe’s

By Stephen Wollmer
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

Neighbors for a Livable Berkeley Way has appealed the recent Superior Court decision denying our petition challenging the Berkeley City Council’s approval of the Trader Joe’s project at the corner of University and MLK. Although demolition is underway and construction will begin this summer, we believe that the council ignored and flouted City zoning law, CEQA, and state density bonus law in their eagerness to approve a ‘popular’ project.  

We are requesting the appellate court to review and reverse the court’s decision in order to return the city’s permitting process to the straight and narrow letter of the law, to forestall additional ad hoc and capricious planning approvals and to restore citizen’s full protection under law from further ill-advised and detrimental projects in the name of dubious “progress” and sham “affordable housing” projects.  

We contend that the city’s zoning ordinance requires equal protection for all property owners adjacent to a commercial development and that a benefit granted to one owner does should not allow removing protections from other owners. We contend that any developer requesting a density bonuses beyond state law’s maximum bonus should be required to demonstrate that the extra units are necessary for affordable housing rather than some “other public purposes” as Planning Department staff contends in their proposed ex post facto revision to the city’s implementation of state density bonus law.  

We contend that CEQA is designed as a public process where citizen input is considered and valued rather than a empty ritual with only paid “experts” having a voice. We are requesting that the appeals court find that there was substantial evidence that locating a Trader Joe’s at this location with less than fifty parking spaces may very well result in traffic and parking impacts well in excess of what the traffic study found, and therefore should have required a full environmental impact report rather than a mitigated negative declaration. We will further argue that under CEQA nationwide standards for parking can not be waved away by pointing to the city’s extremely low parking requirements as a threshold of significance. We contend that making up new city policy in response to a development proposal is inherently dangerous and that substantial changes in how the city applies state law should be considered by the Planning Commission and passed into law by the council with full CEQA analysis of the effect on all neighborhoods. 

We value the protections offered by city and state law from flawed and corrupt processes in land use planning and our rights to judicial review. We appreciate the support that citizens throughout Berkeley have offered our neighborhood throughout this process and pledge to continue our struggle for a fair and open process where the rule of law prevails. We look forward to making our arguments in the Court of Appeals and welcome Anna DeLeon to our litigation team. For further information about our struggle or to contribute to our legal defense fund please contact berkeleyneighbors@gmail.com. 


Stephen Wollmer is a neighbor of the Trader Joe’s project.

Aftermoth: A Legacy of Pain

By Mike Lynberg
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:06:00 AM

After they made hundreds of people sick on the Central Coast, and nearly killed at least two children, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Secretary A. G. Kawamura of the CDFA are changing tactics and no longer aerial spraying highly populated cities with untested pesticides. For that, residents of Northern and Central California are grateful. 

They were wrong about the public’s willingness to be aerial sprayed with pesticides. Now, if only the governor and secretary would realize that they are also wrong about the threat posed by the light brown apple moth (LBAM). 

To read Kawamura’s statements in the press, you would think that the light brown apple moth is so voracious that New Zealand, where it has been established for 110 years, would be a barren landscape, with no surviving plants. 

Yet New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and parts of the United Kingdom consider the apple moth to be an insignificant pest. The United States’ trade embargo and policies related to LBAM are the only things that do significant damage, and the damage is economic. The crusade against the apple moth is a political charade. 

In his characteristically misleading way, Kawamura likes to say the apple moth was discovered in California in 2007, implying it is a recent arrival. But leading entomologists say there is no way the moth could be spread out from Los Angeles to Napa, over an area of 10,000 square miles, unless it has been here for at least 30-50 years. The moths only fly a short distance in their lifetime. 

Scientists also note that the moth has caused no damage anywhere because it is the same as many other leaf-rolling species already in the state, and is likely being controlled by natural predators. 

Two courts in Monterey and Santa Cruz have ruled that the state’s LBAM eradication campaign was launched under the pretense of a false emergency and therefore has been illegal. Gov. Schwarzenegger and Secretary Kawamura have been willing to defy and break state environmental laws, in the opinion of two judges, who found there is no evidence of any damage caused by the moth in California. 

Therefore, the self-proclaimed “People’s Governor” and his appointee, Kawamura, have been willing to put people at risk while breaking state law. With appalling arrogance and for no good reason, they have rushed to use an untested biochemical mix that included plastic microcapsules that people breathed in and that affected their body systems in a variety of horrifying ways. Children were harmed. Two nearly died. Their suffering—and the unspeakable terror their parents experienced—needs to be remembered. 

The state’s investigation of the hundreds of illnesses was cursory, inconclusive and flawed because it was based on false information provided by the pesticide manufacturer, which claimed the microparticles in the spray were too large to inhale. Thanks to work done by independent scientists, we now know that is not true, and that half of the microparticles in the spray were small enough to become lodged deep in a person’s lungs. 

According to the American Lung Association, “Breathing particle pollution can kill. Deaths can occur on the very day that particle levels are high, or within one to two months afterward. Breathing particle pollution year-round can shorten life by one to three years. It causes many other health effects, premature births to serious respiratory disorders, even when the particle levels are very low. It makes asthma worse and causes wheezing, coughing and respiratory irritation in anyone with sensitive airways. It also triggers heart attacks, strokes, irregular heartbeat, and premature death.” 

In effect, the aerial spraying was a vast and dangerous experiment on people’s health without their informed consent. No one knew how the spray’s ingredients would impact people’s health, because no inhalation studies were done in advance, even though the pesticide was delivered in the air people breathed. The short-term effects were dire. We still do not know the long-term effects and can only pray they won’t be severe.  

Standards of ethics such as the Nuremberg Code, established after the atrocities of World War II, prohibit such human experimentation. Yet Schwarzenegger and Kawamura don’t think there was anything wrong with their actions. Almost certainly, they would still be aerial spraying pesticides on our homes and schools if there were not so much political, legal and public opposition—and moral outrage. 

Now Schwarzenegger and Kawamura want to continue their reckless, poorly conceived and poorly managed program on the ground, using a variety of techniques to eradicate a moth that experts say is harmless and cannot be eradicated. Will the ground-based measures in densely populated neighborhoods be safe? Based on their legacy of pain, people have a right to be worried about other next steps the governor and secretary might take.  

Before they can even begin to regain the public’s trust, both the governor and the secretary need to issue an apology to the people they have already harmed, and they need to show that they are truly listening to experts who express concerns about whether their program is safe, necessary and effective. These independent experts need to have a stronger voice and be part of the process, beginning now. 


Mike Lynberg of Pacific Grove collected hundreds of complaints of illnesses following aerial spraying in the Monterey and Santa Cruz areas. He sent reports of the illnesses to state agencies and elected officials, including the governor, and the illness complaints have been widely reported in the press. A graduate of UCLA and Harvard, he works as a communications consultant in Silicon Valley, and has written 10 published books. 

Tree Sitters Disgraced the Progressive Movement

By H. Scott Prosterman
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:07:00 AM

The protesters occupying a grove of trees on the UC campus represent a total disgrace to the liberal and progressive movement. Biting people and dumping feces on them is not what Ghandi advocated. Martin Luther King, Jr. is rolling over in his grave.  

Julia Butterfly Hill became a role-model for activists with her brave occupation of a corporate timber farm. She endured great hardship and accomplished something important. The Save The Oaks occupiers tried to equate building an athletic-education facility with the same level of corporate brutality that Weyerhauser has wrecked on the environment. Not even close. They misstated the history of the trees in that grove in their pleadings and public statements. They refuse to acknowledge the environmental mitigating factors of this project, or the valid education agenda. They are egoistic Butterfly wannabees, who have managed to hyperbolize a cause out of nothing!  

There are valid arguments for questioning this development project, not the least of which is seismic concerns. But the Save The Oaks movement has been characterized by a common affliction of the progressive community: that organized sports are bad. Please! Let’s recognize the need for “balance” in people’s lives, and the right for student-athletes to be given an advantage to excel. Berkeley is full of bright people; yet many of them have a limited scope of knowledge. They are condescending and dismissive of anything that does not interest them, including includes college football.  

I happen to enjoy football, as well as basketball, track, swimming and gymnastics. In Berkeley, I like being able to see occasional world-class performances for simply showing up and rooting for the home team. Football and basketball revenue pays for track, swimming and gymnastics, among others. Cross-country and tennis scholarships come from football revenue. You can’t argue with the good that comes from allowing a young person to EARN his/her education by doing something they love. Football revenue makes women’s crew, field hockey and soccer scholarships possible! Sadly, there are people in Berkeley who find this to be objectionable. To them, the physical aspect of education and collegiate competition are bourgeois excesses.  

There is a perverse dilemma in many progressive communities: advocating good health and “moderate” exercise, but discouraging competitive activities. Indeed the YMCA’s and JCC’s have done their children a great dis-service by de-emphasizing competition in their youth sports programs. (“We don’t Johnny to feel bad about himself, so we won’t set him up to lose,” . . . or excel if he happens to have a gift.) Children who have exceptional capabilities in sports are being punished by over-protective parents whose children who don’t have the same blessings. So, collective punishment is another downside of this snooty elitism.  

The tree-sitters debacle encapsulates many problems with the progressive movement that are amplified by the dynamics of Berkeley politics. It all reflects on the ultimate downside of liberalism; protecting the wrong people for the wrong reasons. Berkeley has earned a global reputation for progressive leadership; yet under Mayor Tom Bates, our local government has dispensed with the most basic element of representative government: being responsive to constituents’ communications. 

Mayor Bates, City Manager Kamlarz and the entire City Council have amply demonstrated that being responsive to constituents’ calls and e-mails is a quaint custom of the past. Throughout its history, Berkeley has been a positive leader in the progressive movement: curb cuts for wheelchairs, residential recycling, an innovative police department (at least more thoughtful than most), no-smoking bans and other progressive legislation. Promoting bicycle safety has been part of the script for every Berkeley politician since the Free Speech Movement. Yet, Bates and his City Council have ignored many, many communications about actually improving bicycle safety. They talk green, but their actions are brown.  

The conservative movement has done great damage to this country—it is incalculable and tragic. In many ways the Democratic Party has been shamefully acquiescent to the Bush Jr. agenda, including capitulating to warrant less eavesdropping last week. In many ways, the Democrats have been running scared of the Right since Reagan, and never recovered. As a result, progressive legislation now only comes from the local level, and hopefully works its way up the government food chain. As such, Berkeley needs to set a better example.  

Ms. Dumpster Muffin is a curious case. She placed herself at great risk in an unstable structure 100 feet above the ground. News accounts say that she began moving and swinging wildly when the rescuers approached. So, what if she had fallen and died, God forbid. She would have been a martyr to what? Stupidity. What if a rescuer/arborist had fallen and died? Who would have been charged with what? This occupation has been superfluous and destructive. The Berkeley police and UC Berkeley have expended great resources to protect the tree-sitters ... from themselves.  

So what would King and Ghandi have advised the tree-sitters? Having given considerable study to both, I might project that they would advise: 

“Hold true to your goals; be forceful in stating your ideals, but do not ever lose your dignity. That means no biting rescuers or dumping shit on them. Resist for as long as it is safe and you are making a positive statement. When the authorities come to arrest you or ask you to leave, engage in passive resistance. Allow yourself to be taken with dignity, or vacate the occupation when you can see that losing a particular battle is inevitable. Remember that a lost battle can become a source of strength for the overall goal. Maintain your dignity.” 


H. Scott Prosterman is a Berkeley  


City Must Continue Lawsuit Against UC

By Katlin Moore
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM

At this juncture, with the lawsuit against the university pending, it is a good time to remind everyone as to exactly why such worldwide support exists for the preservation of the oak grove near Memorial Stadium, and why the city must continue the lawsuit against the university. This irreplaceable ecological treasure must be saved. 

The supporters of the grove are a local, national and international coalition of community leaders, government officials, religious leaders, non-profit organizations, environmentalists, native American leaders, UC students, employees, professors and faculty members. We represent tens of thousands of Berkeley citizens. We are supported by the Sierra Club. We are supported by the California Native Plant Society. We are supported by The California Oak Foundation. We are united in our determination to insure that this magnificent Oak Grove is preserved. This determination was reflected in the filing of four separate lawsuits against the University in 2006, to halt it’s planned destruction of the Grove. 

The university intends to cut down 38 perfectly healthy, mature coast live oaks. Five of these oaks predate, the stadium, one of which is over 200 years old. (Ironically, it is against Berkeley city law to cut down mature coast live oaks within city limits.) The grove provides habitat for dozens of bird and wildlife species. According to Ignacio Chapela, a professor of environmental science at UC Berkeley, the grove provides a wildlife corridor between two sections of Strawberry Canyon. Wild red fox have reportedly been seen in the grove. Native oaks support the most complex terrestrial ecosystem in California. The California Native Plant Society has stated that oak grove is a “thriving re-seeding ecosystem.” The society also states that the grove is “an essential gene bank for the coast live oak.” 

Indisputable evidence exists indicating the grove to be the site of an ancient Native American burial ground. Native American community leaders have come together to express that the destruction of the grove should be considered as a desecration and a hate crime. 

All earthquake fault charts clearly indicate that the Memorial Stadium does in fact, sit atop the Hayward fault. Seismologists widely agree that the next “big one” will come soon and that it will certainly be along the Hayward fault. The notion of placing a new structure upon that fault is insane. 

Those advocating the preservation of the grove do not, and have never opposed the construction of a new university sports training facility. We simply insist that construction take place elsewhere. There are many viable proposed alternative sites. We can have both new gyms and old trees. It is not necessary to destroy a beautiful and historical grove. It is not necessary to place students in harms way. We can exercise compassion and wisdom by preserving the oak grove for future generations. 

I urge our local elected officials to continue the lawsuit against the university and to go forward with any necessary appeals as soon as possible. The city must stay the course. This grove must be saved. 


Katlin Moore is a Berkeley resident.

Citizens of West Berkeley: Get Involved!

By Patty Marcks
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:09:00 AM

A unique opportunity currently exists in West Berkeley: an opportunity for public participation. You will not have read about it in the newspapers. Nor will you have heard about it on radio or TV. You will not see signs or notices posted about it. There have been no public hearings about it. In fact, most people in Berkeley are probably completely unaware of it. 

So just what is this unique opportunity, you may be asking? It is a small, rather narrow piece of land on Fifth Street in northwest Berkeley. It has been owned by the City of Berkeley’s Redevelopment Agency for several decades, and has sat vacant for just about as long. It is zoned MU-R, for Mixed-Use Residential, a designation unique to West Berkeley. A few years ago a decision was made to allow the transfer of this property to an organization which would develop and maintain it for the benefit of the community, and in particular the West Berkeley community. This decision, made contrary to the recommendation of the Berkeley city manager, who at that time favored selling it off for private development, represented a small victory for the neighborhood. My husband and I, who live on the same block as this vacant lot, were active in marshalling neighborhood opposition to the sale and support for using the property for a public purpose. 

Now, more than three years later, the Redevelopment Agency has finally, earlier this month, issued a request for proposals for the development of “a community-serving facility or below-market artisan serving housing.” The agency is willing to make the property available at low or no cost to a suitable nonprofit agency or a partnership, including partnerships between nonprofit programs and for-profit entities. A major requirement for a proposal is that it must show “consistency with the West Berkeley Plan vision statement, goals and policies.” 

West Berkeley folks, nonprofits, artists and craftspeople, and their organizations, this is a wonderful opportunity. Take note of it! Opportunities like this don’t come along every day. 

There are so many unmet needs in this part of West Berkeley, from a dearth of affordable housing and artists’ studio space, to the lack of safe, open recreational space for kids and adults both, to the absence of a neighborhood laundromat or conventional grocery store, to the lack of cultural resources such as theaters or enrichment classes for kids. It’s an underserved area in terms of services for its residents, many of whom are persons of color, or low income, often both. Meanwhile, shopping opportunities for the well-heeled abound on nearby Fourth Street. 

Yet as of this writing few proposals for a project had been submitted to the Redevelopment Agency. Perhaps it’s because few were aware of this unique opportunity; perhaps the initial deadline—July 15—struck many as simply not enough time to put together a viable proposal. Perhaps people were put off by the word “development” in the proposal. 

But…there’s still time—and room—for people to get involved if they care to. 

And I urge all citizens of West Berkeley to do just that—to weigh in on the fate of this valuable community resource, whether you’re in a position to co-sponsor a “development” proposal, or just to express your opinion. Visit the Agency website and read about the opportunity (www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=974). Go by and look at the vacant lot—1600 block of Fifth Street. Attend the meetings of the West Berkeley Project Area Committee—second Thursday of every other month—and make your opinion known. It is important that the public be involved in what is a public matter. Otherwise, what ideally should be an open and democratic process will be just another decision made by a relatively tiny group of people. And that, we know, does not always result in the common good.  


Patty Marcks is a resident of northwest Berkeley. Her views do not necessarily coincide with those of the Berkeley Redevelopment Agency.

Peeling the Academic Achievement Onion

By Santiago Casal and Michael Miller
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:08:00 AM

It is a pleasure to report that the Berkeley School Board on June 11, and the Berkeley City Council on June 24, unanimously adopted the 2020 Vision For Berkeley’s Children And Youth. These two resolutions are a commitment to partner with United In Action and our entire community, to make student academic success a community priority and further, to actively engage in eliminating any and all barriers to success. So begins an amazing journey that we should all be very proud of. 

The resolutions are the result of a unique coming together of representatives from the City, BUSD, Berkeley Alliance, United In Action (“UIA”), Berkeley Public Health Department and others, to explicitly eliminate barriers to educational success and to develop ways to institutionalize positive and pro-active support for all our youth.  

The impetus for such a partnership is the 2020 Vision, a working document crafted by UIA that calls for a total community approach to supporting the success of all Berkeley students. Year 2020 is when our students who entered kindergarten in the Fall of ’07 will walk the graduation stage. We will know that we have succeeded when all students, graduating on that day, will have successfully completed their K-12 requirements, and the typical disparities referred to as the “achievement gap” will no longer be a mainstay in the BUSD.  

UIA’s Total Community Approach recognizes that student success is a community value—it is bigger than the school district and requires the participation of all stakeholders actively working to ensure the success of each student. This approach identifies and builds on existing efforts in the district, city, and Berkeley Alliance, and sets the stage for being more strategic about those efforts and the total youth services resources that we have at our disposal.  

This effort, however, begs the question of ownership. Who owns this strategy? Who is in charge? Who is to be held accountable? The more important point is that we all win when we are successful. We all must take ownership for this community-wide effort to gain the level of success that our students deserve. Not one of us holds the entire truth, but each of us comes with a piece of that truth. It is only by working together that we will find the answers we need. Let’s continue to be mindful of that. 


The Academic Achievement Onion 

The analogy of peeling an onion and finding yet another layer is very useful in looking at this work, but it does not capture the depth of work that is required. As we peel back layers, each requires thoughtful reflection and dialogue. There are some root causes of disparities in achievement that need to be named and understood. There are also some fundamental ideas about relationships that are important here. And finally, the institutionalized nature of our education system has to be part of the conversation. The history of the concept of an “achievement gap” is one that places blame at the student’s and family’s feet. One belief is that there is something the student isn’t doing or a level of support the family is not providing that creates this problem.  

We are all part of the problem! We are all culpable! As we peel back this onion, it is important to reflect on what each of us is doing, as individuals or part of organizations or part of a culture that creates the conditions of disparities. As we look at these layers, we see: 

• Institutionalized racism. 

• Cultural deficiencies. 

• Low expectations. 

• Deficit modeling. 

• Peer pressure. 

• Feelings of hopelessness. 

• Alienation and disenfranchisement. 

• Racism and bigotry. 

• Winners and losers mentality. 

• Family dysfunction. 

• Internalized racism. 

Some of this list applies to each of us. Our collective and individual work requires that we unearth these “gatekeeper” ideas and beliefs in our community and in ourselves. This is critical!  

Just as important, we are part of the solution! This is the point at which we are asked to suspend judgment and try, as best we can, to hear what is being said about the nature and history of disparities. It is not an easy conversation, but if we don’t have it, we are not doing the necessary work. This is the conversation that presidential candidate Obama is urging us to have. As we peel these layers and unearth these issues, there will be pain, guilt, anger, shame and resentment; but there will be hope and triumph as well. Our commitment to our children will get us through these conversations. Our children and community are worthy of this journey together. 


Making the vision real 

• Coming together at a common table is the first step. We also need to identify all other community partners who need to be at the table.  

• Next is identifying those who are already doing this work or who have a strategy that has been proven effective. An All City Equity Task Force can take leadership here. 

• Then there will be creating our community vision that encompasses how we work together and what is required of each segment of our community. The greatest level of buy-in will create the most significant results. 

• Then, we work together to turn our vision into measurable actions that net results we want. 

• Finally, we celebrate as we see some amazing changes in our community that will include broader student success; fewer discipline issues, fewer social conflicts, greater participation of communities of color and a healthier and more culturally enriched community. 

Everyone in our community has a stake in the health and well-being of our children. This effort will require the engagement of our best thinking, listening and action. Each of us will need to be mindful of how we can contribute in positive, compassionate and authentic ways.  


Santiago Casal and Michael Miller  

are members of United In Action, representing Latinos Unidos (LU) and  

Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD).

Welcome to the California Hotel

By Lynda Carson
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM

Today (July 1) on KPFA evening news, local attorney John Murcko announced that he plans to file a lawsuit next week in Alameda County Superior Court against the Oakland Community Housing, Inc. (OCHI), an Oakland non-profit housing developer because they are breaking a 30-year requirement to provide housing to 500 very low-income Oakland residents at the California Hotel. 

OCHI recently served eviction notices to all 500 residents of the California Hotel, demanding that they must relocate out of the hotel by July 15. 

According to attorney John Murcko, the owners of the California Hotel (OCHI) are claiming that they ran out of money and can no longer operate the hotel properly. This despite the fact that OCHI has received and been receiving massive amounts of funding from local and state governments to acquire and maintain the California Hotel with low-cost loans that stipulate that OCHI must provide housing to low-income tenants for a 30-year period, in order to even receive the loans. 

The California Hotel and OCHI was sued by 43 tenants in August of 2005 for negligence that resulted in rats, bedbugs, and roach infestations throughout the hotel. 

Since then the hotel and OCHI was sued one more time for failing to operate the hotel properly after ordered to do so by the courts, and this will be the third lawsuit filed since August of 2005. 

Murcko is sending a letter to Congresswoman Barbara Lee to seek more funding for the hotel in an attempt to help the residents remain in their housing. 

Murcko also accused the City of Oakland as being complicit with OCHI in the attempt to evict and displace the 500 current residents of the hotel, because Oakland is offering some funding to OCHI to be used as a relocation funding package to force the renters from the hotel. 

Murcko is demanding that OCHI should sell some of their properties to come up with the money needed to operate the California Hotel properly. 

On KPFA this evening, I was quoted as saying something to the effect that, “I am not surprised that KPFA cannot find any one from the city to comment on the 500 residents facing eviction from the California Hotel. That the nonprofits are protected in Oakland, with counclimembers being involved in pet projects with the nonprofits and that some non-profit housing organizations are actually involved in projects that actually displace the poor in the name of creating so-called affordable housing.” 

I went on to mention how the OHA is planning to sell off or demolish most of its public housing in the near future, and mentioned how nonprofits have been involved in mixed income housing developments at public housing sites, that have displaced poor public housing tenants in Oakland. 


Lynda Carson is a Bay Area  



Dispatches From The Edge: A New Cold War?

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:02:00 AM

Military alliances are always sold as things that produce security. In practice they tend to do the opposite.  

Thus, Germany formed the Triple Alliance with Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to counter the enmity of France following the Franco-Prussian War. In response, France, England and Russia formed the Triple Entente. The outcome was World War I. 

In 1949, the United States and Britain led the campaign to form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a deterrent to a supposed Soviet attack on Western Europe. In response, the Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact. What the world got was not security but the Cold War, dozens of brushfire conflicts across the globe, and enough nuclear weapons to destroy the earth a dozen times over. 

The Cold War may be over, but you would never know it from April’s NATO meeting in Bucharest. The alliance approved membership for Croatia and Albania, and only French and German opposition prevented the Bush Administration from adding the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia.  

“NATO,” President Bush told the gathering, “is no longer a static alliance focused on defending Europe from a Soviet tank invasion. It is now an expeditionary alliance that is sending its forces across the world to help secure a future of freedom and peace for millions.” 

NATO will soon begin deploying in Poland and the Czech Republic anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems that are supposedly aimed at Iran, but which the Russians charge is really targeted at them. The alliance has encircled Russia with allies and bases, is increasingly sidelining the United Nations, added troops to Afghanistan, and is preparing to open shop in the Pacific Basin. 

But politics is much like physics: for every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction: 

In this case the reaction is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), an organization that embraces one quarter of the world’s population, from Eastern Europe to North Asia, from the Arctic to the vast steppes and mountain ranges of Central Asia. Formed in 2001, its members include China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran has observer status, although it has applied for full membership. An application by the United States and Japan for observer status was turned down. 

SCO is, in the words of a Financial Times editorial, “everything that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger—who sought to keep Russia and China apart—tried to prevent.” 

According to Chinese Foreign Minister Yeng Jiechi, last August’s SCO meeting in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek, “mapped out Sino-Russian ties and upgraded bilateral strategic coordination.” The two nations also agreed “to join forces to tackle other major security issues, in a concerted effort to safeguard the strategic interests of both countries.” 

It is useful to remember that it was less than 40 years ago that Chinese and Soviet troops clashed across the Ussuri River north of Vladivostok, and that throughout the ’60s and the ’70’s both nations waged a savage propaganda war against one another.  

According to China’s People’s Daily, SCO discussions included strengthening the United Nations and “the common challenge facing the two countries, emanating out of the U.S. plans to deploy the missile-defense plans targeting Europe and the East.” 

China is deeply concerned about the Bush Administration’s anti-missile system which could cancel out Beijing’s modest Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) force.  

Writing in the official China Daily, Fu Mengzi, vice-president of the institute of Contemporary International Relations, accused NATO of trying to tighten a “noose” around Russia, and charged that the United States is not as worried about terrorism as it is about “major power challenges.” Fu writes “We are watching a rekindling of the Cold War mentality in Washington’s efforts to find allies and partners while beefing up its military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, East Europe and South Asia, apart from occupying Iraq indefinitely.” 

The Bishkek summit adopted a declaration that took direct aim at the Bush administration’s foreign policy, including condemning “unilateralism” and “double standards,” supporting “multilateralism,” and “strict observance of international law,” and underlining the importance of the UN. 

Is SCO evolving into a political alliance with a strong military dimension, like NATO? Not yet, but its member states have carried out joint “anti-terrorist” maneuvers, and the organization is closely tied to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). 

CSTO, established in 2002, includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. It is a military alliance whose members have pledged to come to one another’s support in case of an attack. It is currently developing a rapid-reaction force similar to the one being built by NATO. 

M.K. Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat who served as India’s ambassador to Uzbekistan, says that that the two organizations may eventually merge. “The SCO may focus on the range of so-called ‘new threats’ [terrorism] rather than on the conventional form of military threats, while CSTO would maintain a common air-defense system, training of military personnel, arms procurement, etc.” 

In the same week that SCO met in Bishkek, the Russians announced their response to NATO’s ABM system: a resumption of strategic air patrols, improving Moscow’s anti-missile system, modernizing the Topal-M ICBM, and constructing new missile firing submarines. 

To counter SCO’s growing influence—the organization now has official observer status at the UN, and a working relationship with the Association of South East Asian Nations—the U.S. launched a “Great Central Asia” strategy to try and drive a wedge between Central Asian nations and Russia, and to woo India by playing on New Delhi’s apprehension of China’s growing power. 

But, according to Bhadrakumar, the Central Asian part of the strategy is not likely to be very successful, with the possible exception of Turkmenistan. With the United States deeply mired in Iraq and Afghanistan, he says, “U.S. stock is very low” in the region.  

Washington appears to have had more success with India, but New Delhi is clearly of two minds about SCO. On one hand, many Indians are nervous about the growing power of China. On the other, India desperately needs the energy resources of Central Asia. 

India will probably try to chart a middle course, keeping itself free of political alliances, but making sure it doesn’t do anything that might disrupt the flow of gas and oil to its growing industries. For instance, New Delhi sharply rejected the Bush Administration’s efforts to halt a pipeline deal between India and Iran.  

Whether SCO will turn into an eastern NATO is by no means clear, but the economic side of the alliance is solidly grounded in self-interest. 

NATO, on the other hand, is an alliance in trouble. While the organization has agreed to help bail the United States out of the Afghan quagmire, member nations are hardly enthusiastic about the war. At the April meeting the United States plea for more troops turned up 700 French soldiers. As Anatol Lieven, a professor of War Studies at King’s College London, points out, this comes to one for every 400 square miles of Afghanistan. NATO also agreed to supply 18 new helicopters, “a fraction of the numbers it takes to ferry millionaires to their European ski resorts on any given day,” says Lieven. 

NATO did back the ABM deployment, but no one besides Washington is breaking out the champagne. Some 70 percent of the Czech public opposes it, and the Poles are using the issue to blackmail the United States into modernizing its military. With the Poles suddenly playing hard to get, Washington has opened up talks with Lithuania as a possible back-up site for the ABMs. The Russians—already unhappy about the missiles and the attempt to recruit Georgia and Ukraine into NATO—would react furiously to an ABM system literally in their front yard. 

The Lithuania proposal has made many Europeans uncomfortable as well. “The last thing we need is another conflict with Russia,” Gereon Schuch, a program director at the German Council for Foreign Affiars told the New York Times. 

In spite of NATO’s backing, many in the alliance are hardly enthusiastic about the ABM. As one NATO official cynically remarked to Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman, the ABM is “ a system that won’t work, against a threat that doesn’t exist, paid for by money we don’t have.” 

The U.S. ABM program has run up a bill of over $100 billion and, according to a recent Government Accounting Office report, it hasn’t been successfully tested with “sufficient realism.” 

Translation: the tests are rigged. 

If NATO falls apart, and the SCO never develops into a military alliance, history suggests that we will probably all be better off. Military alliances have a way of making people miscalculate, and miscalculating in a world filled with nuclear weapons is a dangerously bad idea.

Undercurrents: The Measure of Leadership Is Not Running Somewhere Just Because the Crowd Is Going That Way

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:03:00 AM

Some years ago, my brother and I and a friend were in Los Angeles at the opening of Che, the Omar Sharif movie that was considered by some to be favorable to the late Cuban revolutionary leader. L.A. had a large Cuban exile community that was not so sympathetic to Che, and so we had to walk through an angry picket line to get inside the theater. The movie itself went off without a hitch until the climactic battle scene in which Che was killed. During the gunbattle on the screen, someone inside tossed a couple of smoke bombs into the crowded seats. 

There was predictable panic, with almost everybody breaking for the aisles, shouting and smashing themselves up to try to get out the doors. I half stood up in my seat, but then noticed that my brother and his friend were looking around, but otherwise had not moved. I sat back down. Gradually, the smoke cleared, showing that only a handful of people had stayed in the theater, scattered among the seats. Incredibly, the movie had continued without a pause, and we were among the few who stayed to the end to watch. The tossing of the smoke bombs amounted to nothing more than—well—the tossing of some smoke bombs. We heard later, however, that several people had gotten injured in the crush at the doors. When we walked out several minutes later at the end of the movie, unmolested, both the pickets and the movie crowd had dissipated. 

Showing leadership does not mean moving just for the sake of movement, and just because the crowd is running that way. 

It’s a lesson that a good deal of Oakland in these Edgerly Controversy times ought to be paying attention to. 

Some of us seem to be in full-bore panic mode, with frantic calls for somebody to do something—now!—without a clear idea of the nature of the problem, or what, exactly, the something it is that ought to be done to correct it. 

That was reflected in a statement made by our good friend, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, during an appearance last week on the KQED radio talk show Forum. 

Asked by host Michael Kransky why he had been critical about the mayor’s action that week—when he announced that Ms. Edgerly would remain as city administrator until a planned July 31st retirement—Mr. Johnson replied that “the mayor had a chance to be decisive, to make a decision. To lead us. To show by example to Oakland residents that he was the guy running the show at City Hall and making that hard decisions that affect our lives. He didn’t do that. He opted out.” 

(Here’s a minor point that we can’t let pass. In framing his question, Mr. Kransky told Mr. Johnson that “you were at City Hall when the mayor announced that Deborah Edgerly was leaving her office at the end of July.” Mr. Johnson let that assertion go without a comment. Maybe he was at City Hall that day, but was he actually at the Dellums-Edgerly press conference? I don’t remember seeing him, nor did anyone else I spoke with. It doesn’t matter to me if Mr. Johnson was actually at the press conference or not. A columnist can’t be everywhere, and often relies on news reports rather than personal observation. But if he wasn’t there, he shouldn’t leave the impression that he was.) 

In any event Mr. Johnson, in his answer to Mr. Kransky’s question, seems to be confusing the failure to make the decision that Mr. Johnson is advocating with making no decision at all. But in deciding last week to keep Ms. Edgerly in her job until the end of July, the mayor was making a decision. He was deciding that he was going to resist calls for her immediate suspension. One may criticize Mr. Dellums for failing to immediately suspend Ms. Edgerly. One may also criticize the mayor for reversing himself three days later, and announcing that suspension. But to criticize the mayor for doing nothing misses the point, it seems. 

Interestingly, even some of the Oakland City Councilmembers who thought that Ms. Edgerly should be immediately suspended were, at the same time, urging a measured, careful response and criticizing the recent media frenzy over the Edgerly Controversy that was calling for blood, any blood, and quickly. 

In her June 28 newsletter, District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan wrote that “while all persons are presumed innocent until found guilty by our legal process, the charges are so serious that I and many Council members and staff advised the Mayor to put on Edgerly on administrative leave. The City often does this when serious charges are made against personnel; it is not a presumption of guilt.” 

Ms. Quan said she made that recommendation because “it was clear that even if the media was sensationalized or unfair, that the interests of moving the City forward must come first.” The councilmember added that she “would ask our citizens to pursue the truth in possible wrong doings, but to tone down rhetoric that paints all city employees or officials as corrupt.” 

But charges of blanket corruption at Oakland City Hall are exactly what some of our media colleagues are now loudly shouting. In his KQED appearance last week, Mr. Johnson said that Oakland City Hall corruption “should be investigated by an outside law enforcement agency.” In a column this Tuesday entitled “Edgerly Probe Should Focus On Corruption” he was a bit more specific, saying that “Investigators from Oakland and other agencies looking into allegations of corruption in the office of ousted City Administrator Deborah Edgerly should start in 2004, her first year in office... The alleged improprieties and nepotism go back four years, to soon after then-Mayor Jerry Brown permanently appointed Edgerly to the city administrator’s position.” 

But what corruption investigation is Mr. Johnson speaking of? 

In her June 28 newsletter, Ms. Quan wrote that “the main allegation is that Edgerly may have interfered with police operations by giving her nephew, who was arrested, information about police investigations. The police turned their information over to the District Attorney both to avoid any perceived conflict of interest (Edgerly had oversight over all departments including the police) and because the office has jurisdiction over charges of public corruption. The DA in turn has asked the FBI to conduct an investigation.” 

That indicates an FBI investigation into the narrow charges that Ms. Edgerly tipped off her nephew, not about general City Hall corruption, as Mr. Johnson is advocating. 

There is, actually, an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at Oakland City Hall, but Mr. Johnson may not be aware of it, since it never appears that he’s written about it. 

In January of 2005, in an article entitled “Don Perata: Influence, Family And Political Favors,” San Francisco Chronicle reporters Christian Berhelsen, Jim Herron Zamora, and Todd Wallack wrote that the flow of money between State Senator Don Perata and “several close political associates” is “the focus of an FBI investigation into whether Perata has been paid for wielding his influence on public issues-influence that extends throughout the East Bay, where Perata’s fund raising has helped elect or appoint at least a dozen loyalists to the Oakland City Council, BART, the Port of Oakland and other boards that make multimillion dollar decisions.” 

In March of 2006, Bob Gammon and Will Harper of the East Bay Express reported that it had been “nearly eighteen months since a federal grand jury started issuing subpoenas in the sprawling Perata investigation. The probe began when an ex-boyfriend of a former Perata aide, Lily Hu, accused her of facilitating kickbacks. At the time, Hu was a powerful Oakland lobbyist whose client list included many of Perata’s closest friends and largest campaign contributors.” In their story, Mr. Gammon and Mr. Harper wrote that FBI agents had showed up at Oakland City Hall that week to interview several City Councilmembers.  

“While Perata spends most of his time in Sacramento running the state Senate,” Mr. Gammon and Mr. Harper continued, “he has considerable juice to get things done for his developer buddies in Oakland. City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente is his closest political ally, and several other councilmembers count on his support and fund-raising prowess at election time.” 

In December of 2007, Mr. Gammon reported that prosecutors in the Perata Oakland corruption probe had recently contacted former San Francisco Chronicle reporters Robert Salladay and Christian Berthelsen and asked for their notes. The veteran reporters wrote extensively in early 2004 about Perata and his questionable financial dealings with his friend and business partner Timothy Staples.” 

And in April of this year, Philip Matier and Andrew Ross wrote in their San Francisco Chronicle column that “already almost five years in the works, it doesn’t appear the federal corruption probe of state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata will end anytime soon. For the second time this year, the U.S. attorney’s office has asked defense attorneys representing Perata and some other potential defendants for an extension of the legal deadline for filing charges. Additional time would allow prosecutors to wrap up their work, sources close to the case tell us.” 

Why is Mr. Johnson calling for a new Oakland City Hall corruption investigation while, at the same time, seemingly ignoring the one already going on? 

Despite the fact that this longtime, ongoing, and still active Oakland corruption investigation by federal officials has been talked about in every local newspaper, including the San Francisco Chronicle, where Mr. Johnson works, I can find no mention—ever—in a column by Mr. Johnson that specializes in East Bay politics and concentrates, most recently, in talking about allegations of corruption at Oakland City Hall. But perhaps this is because the target of the federal investigation is Mr. Perata—who Mr. Johnson feels would be a “good fit” for the next mayor of Oakland—rather than Mr. Dellums, upon whom Mr. Johnson has been conducting a lively vendetta for the last year and a half, or Ms. Edgerly, who is his most recent target. 

But perhaps I am mistaken in all of this, and this is merely wild speculation and accusation in a time that has already seen too much of both. If so, Mr. Johnson is free to straighten me out, appropriately, either in his column, or in another radio appearance. 

Meanwhile, I don’t have enough facts on hand to properly judge whether Mr. Dellums was correct in first keeping Ms. Edgerly on as city administrator through her planned July 31 retirement, rescinding that decision three days later to suspend her, and then eventually firing her outright. I won’t, therefore, join the yard-dog chorus of howling criticism over the mayor’s actions. I continue to have my own criticisms of the mayor and the Edgerly Affair, however. Regardless of what decisions he took, Mr. Dellums should have come before us—personally—and explained those decisions to Oakland citizens in as much detail as legally possible, answering all the proper and legitimate questions which residents now have about the current state of the operation of our city government. That’s where the mayor fell short on leadership. Fortunately, it’s not too late for Mr. Dellums to correct this particular error. 

Wild Neighbors: Building a New Tree for the Birds

By Joe Eaton
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:18:00 AM

Some people follow soccer; I follow taxonomy. A slower game, but it has its regards. 

Taxonomy is the science of classification of living things. People since Aristotle have been trying to put all the animals and plants and other organisms into some sort of reasonable order. The modern version derives from the 18th-century Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who started with plants and went on to develop a whole Systema Naturae. It owes its longevity to its neat fit with the ideas of Darwin and Wallace about common descent, although Linnaeus himself was a creationist. Every species goes into a box, that box into a bigger box, and so on.  

I will borrow my associate Matt the Cat for illustrative purposes: a member of the species Felis sylvestris, the genus Felis, the family Felidae, the order Carnivora, the class Mammalia, the phylum Chordata, the kingdom Animalia, the domain Eukarya. (And those aren’t the only divisions: Matt is also a placental mammal, a vertebrate, and a craniate, the last meaning that he has a head.) 

Linnaeus never heard of domains, of course; that’s recent. And taxonomists keep changing the basis for classification. It used to depend on physical structures; now it’s mostly genetics, or some combination of genetics and morphology. The most influential figure in the field has to be the German entomologist Willi Henning, founder of cladistic analysis with its forbidding terminology. (A clade is just a lineage, a group of organisms sharing a common ancestor.) 

And every now and then a group of scientists decide to have a go at a fairly large clade: modern birds, say, or flowering plants. Plant taxonomy is wild these days. They’ve broken up the lily family, like a telephone monopoly, into a couple dozen smaller families. Just last fall I learned in a plant taxonomy course that most asters aren’t asters any more. They’re in a new genus with a longer name. 

Now it’s the birds’ turn. In an article just published in Science, a group of scientists—the lead author is Shannon Hackett of the Field Museum, and the group includes Rauri Bowie and John Harshman from UC Berkeley—propose a new phylogenetic tree for this well-studied group. They used a huge data set: 19 loci from 15 different chromosomes in the chicken genome, representing three different kinds of genes, for 171 species. The results, which they justifiably call robust, suggest that it’s time to revise the field guides again. 

The last big avian reshuffle was the work of Charles Sibley (no relation) and Jon Ahlquist in the 1980s, using a technique called DNA-DNA hybridization. That led to some surprises, including the New World vultures and condors being split off from the hawks, eagles, and Old World vultures and grouped with the storks. Later, other taxonomists claimed that ducks and chickens, broadly speaking, diverged early from all other lineages; only ostriches and their kin were more basal. The first edition of the National Geographic bird guide began with grebes and loons, odd clumsy birds with a prehistoric look. For the fifth (current) edition, ducks and chickens come first. 

The Hackett et al. phylogeny keeps that basic divison between ducks and chickens and everything else. There are interesting rearrangements further along the tree, though. New World vultures are reunited with other diurnal raptors, a change already endorsed by the American Ornithological Union, the College of Cardinals of bird taxonomy. Grebes are confirmed as the sister group of flamingoes. Some of the orders are pretty much dismantled. The Gruiformes is down to cranes, rails, and bustards, plus, counterintuitively, cuckoos. A few families stand out as isolates: tropicbirds, sandgrouse, and the very odd South American hoatzin, which had been placed all over the map. 

What interested me most was the top of the tree. I wasn’t surprised to see the passerines, somewhat misleadingly called song birds (not all of them sing, and some non-passerines do) or perching birds (ditto), up there. They’re a recent group in evolutionary terms, and an enormously diverse and successful one. And they include some of the brainiest birds: the crows and ravens. 

But they’re not alone. The parrots are their sister lineage, which makes a kind of sense. And sister to the combined passerine-parrot clade is the falcon family. Falcons? Admirable birds, of course, very good at what they do, but you don’t think of them as having a lot in common with songbirds and parrots. 

That would mean that the raptorial way of life—the killer beak, the gripping talons, the acute vision—evolved twice, on separate branches of the avian tree. More than that, actually, if you consider owls. And then there are the shrikes, songbirds working their way toward raptorhood. 

The new tree is controversial, and I’m sure people are gunning for it already. From one approximation to the next science lurches on. 





When Building, Think Ahead To When Repairs Are Needed

By Jane Powell
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

Recently I have been doing a few repairs to my back porch, which has required taking it apart in places to replace various structural members which are rotting. 

Because I have been doing this carefully in order to reuse some of the visible redwood parts, which are better quality wood than what could be bought now, there has been a good deal of prying, nail-pulling, and judicious use of the reciprocating saw. Oh, and swearing. A great deal of swearing.  

The reason for the swearing is a thing which I have been pondering ever since I first started fixing houses—why do guys (and it’s always guys) use five nails when two would have been sufficient? This leads to further questions, such as: Why is it necessary to toenail a stud on all four sides, making it well-nigh impossible to remove? (Toenailing involves driving nails in at an angle.) If they were going to overbuild the porch, why didn’t they overbuild it with lots of flashing, tar paper, Simpson ties, pressure treated lumber, and sloping so the water would drain off?  

But no, not one of those things are present, just lots of unnecessary nails. Trust me, a six-inch wide cedar shingle does not require three nails. 

I have encountered this phenomenon many times, and have also noted that the uglier the “improvement,” the more likely it is to be overbuilt. Now, I am all in favor of quality workmanship, don’t get me wrong.  

But I am also in favor of thinking ahead to the time when some future person might need to take whatever thing you are building apart, whether to repair it, replace it, or get access to some part of it. Now I realize that often when something is being built, the primary focus is expediency. Time is money and all that rot.  

But how much time would it have taken to turn the bathtub around so that its plumbing could be accessed through the wall in a hallway or closet, instead of leaving the plumbing in an outside wall, where some future owner will be forced to make a choice between removing the ceramic tile inside, or the siding outside, in order to get to the now-leaking plumbing in order to repair it. I’m not even asking for an access panel, just an inside wall.  

And you truly haven’t lived till you’ve pried up a particle board underlayment that has been fastened every four inches all over the entire sheet, not with ring-shank nails, which is bad enough, but with staples. I realize the underlayment isn’t supposed to move, but still. Actually no one has ever offered me a really good explanation as to why the underlayment for resilient flooring has to have so many nails—even underlayment for ceramic tile only has to be fastened every six inches in the field, and I can see why that needs to be rigid.  

Too much thinking ahead must also be why I distrust the new hydronic heating where PEX tubing is embedded in a concrete slab—they can do all the accelerated testing they want, but no one really knows whether or not the tubing will start leaking in 100 years (or less, as the owners of Eichlers with radiant floor heating now know—the metal piping used eventually corroded and now they are having to jackhammer the slabs in order to replace it). So next time you’re building something, give some thought to the poor slob who may have to take it apart someday. Go easy on the nails. 

Explanations of why underlayment requires so damn many nails are welcome at hsedressng@aol.com. 


Jane Powell is the author of several bungalow books and is available for consulting on historic homes, whether or not they have big honkin’ pillars. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com. 

About the House: California is Burning

By Matt Cantor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:17:00 AM

California is burning down. This is the real Shock and Awe. As of this writing, there are over 1,300 fires burning in the state and nearly a third of a million acres have burned. Since I’m not good with acres, I decided to convert this to square miles. At 640 acres to a square mile, this means that close to 500 square miles have burned. Again, I’m not that good with areas so I like to find something to compare this with. The city of Los Angeles is about 500 square miles. San Francisco is less than half that size. Imagine, two San Franciscos have completely burned down in this recent spate of fires. We’ve currently got over 17,000 fire personnel working on fighting these fires, over a thousand engines in the field, three hundred bull dozers cutting fire breaks and 85 helicopters (mostly dropping water on these many blazes). 

When I started collecting data to write about the new fire code in the recently revised California Building Code, I had no idea that my lead would be quite so dramatic but there it is. The Flying Spaghetti monster provides (may its tentically appendages be praised). 

Not a second too soon, California has built a whole new set of standards to apply to the construction of houses situated near wildlands where fire can wander in from the woods and snuff out that largest of our investments. This is pretty smart stuff and while I often take issue with what I find in the building code, I would like to offer high praise to the folks that created the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI portion of the new California Building Code (CBC). 

The new Chapter 7A of the CBC, which deals exclusively with WUI is pretty tough reading but I’ll try to give you basics. Firstly, these are not things that you will be forced to do to your existing home unless you are in the process of doing significant levels of remodeling. They are also not things that you need to do on all properties. They only apply to WUI. To find out if you’re in one of these areas, you can go to http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/fhsz and enter an address in the box. You can also check at http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/fire_prevention_wildland_zones_maps.php if the first one doesn’t work.  

The problem with these maps is that they serve two jurisdictions, the State Responsibility Area or SRA or the Local Responsibility Area or LRA. This is how the state is divvying up all the work of figuring out who oversees these regions. I didn’t have too much trouble finding a map of the Berkeley area and not too surprisingly, most of the Berkeley hills were included at various levels of severity. The CBC says that the highest severity will set a higher standard for certain of the features I’m going to talk about (such as required roofing type) but it’s easiest just to think of the entire area as having similar new requirements.  

I’d also like to say that anyone who takes a bit of this knowledge and uses it on their existing home is worthy of admiration and envy. I was surprised at how simple most of these things were and the degree to which a large body of statistical data has been converted into a very small set of advisories.  

The first thing that will surprise no one is that the old 30 foot perimeter of defensible space has been enlarged to a 100 foot zone of fuel modification. In short, the state is saying that we need to look closely at a larger area to see what shrubs, dry grass, trees and other vulnerable fuel nearby may be. The local fire marshals will have to make the call but, in short, we’re being asked to widen the area of interest with regards to burnable material.  

Locally, and statewide, I have been, for years, appalled at the lax attitude that we have about overgrowth. Fires just happen and the deeper we get in our little hobbit-like dells of trees and grass, the more likely we are to see it all swept away in a few short hours. Many Berkeley residents aren’t aware that just 85 years ago, a fire swept across North Berkeley, destroying roughly 600 homes (not to mention 3000 home lost in ‘91). If we don’t lower our fuel supply (trees, shrubs, grass) it can happen again. Also, most of the fires happening in the state today are the simple result of lightening! Tell that to Smokey the Bear; but as usual, I digress. 

After defensive space, the next area of concern is around ventilation. Most homes today have both attic and foundation vents. Both are an issue in the new WUI code. Vents normally found in the eaves or “soffits” (the undersides of enclosed eaves) are completely eliminated in the new code since we have discovered that these area of the building are particularly vulnerable to sparks, embers and brands (bits of burning wood).  

As fire sweeps up over the building (much like a wind), it is captured under the eaves and induces the penetration of burning matter. By sealing the soffit or eave, we greatly reduce our risk of fire. Roof edges are also requested to include thick fascia (or barge) boards that help to resist burning. 

While crawlspaces can still have air vents, these must now be made to improved specifications. The new code is struggling to find itself in places like this and starts by demanding at least a fourth-of-an-inch mesh to be used; however, this will not stand.  

Steve Quarles, who helps to disseminate (and research) these new standards for the state fire Marshall, says that fourth-of-an-inch mesh can easily allow sparks and embers to shoot into the crawlspace leading to fire. A range of new vents for both crawlspace and roof (now exclusively placed on top of the roof surface in the WUI) are just now arriving from the manufacturing sector.  

The aptly named Brandguard is one such vent. We will also soon see Vulcan, a suitably logical design employing a tight mesh coated with an intumescent paint that puffs up and seals the vent when heated (sort of the puffer fish approach). Fireguard has a fire activated baffle that will physically close when sufficiently heated. 

Roofing materials are also key but this is one of the ways in which we get off easy. Common asphalt shingle is surprisingly fire retardant and is, perhaps, the cheapest roofing material available. Not so obvious is the fact that metal such as aluminum valley flashing is not fire retardant and can easily melt through leading to fire. The good news is that it’s really easy to solve that one too (just put some asphalt roofing below the metal. 

Wood roofs CAN get passable fire ratings but I confess that I’m slow to come to that party. With good cheap choices such as compo (asphalt) shingle and obvious ones like ceramic or concrete tile, why bother with wood shake or shingle. Some communities, such as L.A. are no longer allowing wood products and I suspect that, with time, this argument will open and shut for us all. 

Two more short bits and then we’re done, this being a bit long of wind. Sidings are not a major issue according to Maestro Quarles since fire rarely ventures through the siding (unless there are gaps) and even common wood sidings should be fine. Windows on the other hand are a major issue and recent fire statistic showed that houses with double glazed windows were far less likely to burn than those with single glazing. Apparently, that insulating effect is even more impressive under these nasty circumstances than in the simple matter of keeping your heating bill down.  

If tempering is added to one side of the double glazed panel, the window will meet the WUI requirements. Word is that most window makers will be providing two sheets of tempered glass anyway, since it’s actually easier to make them that way. Tempered double glass windows might really save your house in a fire and if you’re in a heavily wooded canyon, you might just think about this investment. Windows explode as fire approaches and then there’s not much to do but get out the marshmallows. 

Decks are my last item (not that I’ll cover this code completely) and they are no small contributor to major loss during wildfire. Decks have a special vulnerability but may meet the new code in any of several ways. Most areas will meet the requirements by being built of redwood but some jurisdictions may require thicker beams, thicker decking or enclosure of the understructure. Again, it’s that wind-of-fire thing. If you can protect the building against the blowing embers and brands that want to fly up under things, you’re more than halfway there. 

If you own a house that you feel is vulnerable. Start with what’s cheap or easy. Close off gaps and holes. Change vents and close off the eaves. Take a look at your roof. Is it open at edges or covered in a wooden material? Don’t forget to think about double glazed or tempered windows. They might be worth it? (what are you paying for fire insurance?) 

Some local fire marshals are taking a tough approach. Identify properties that lack defensible space, cite them for violation and, after a month or two, do the job themselves and bill the owner through the tax roles. I hope that our local fire officials are listening.  

It’s not cheap, I know but then again, houses aren’t either. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:10:00 AM



“Beverly Trieber and Rosita Pardo: A Retrospective” opens at NIAD, National Institute of Art and Disabilities, 551 23rd St. Richmond, and runs to Sept. 26. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 


Josh Emmons reads from his new novel “Prescription for a Superior Existence” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Poetry Express with Manual Garcia, Jr. at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


Stanley Jordan with Charnett Moffett and Kenwood Dennard at 8 and 10 p.m., through Wed. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Ane Carla Rovetta, storyteller, at 6:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 


United Artists: 90 Years “Stagecoach” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Michael Nicoloff and Alli Warren read from their recent works at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Zach Plague reads from his novel “Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring, Boring” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


Tom Rigney & Flambeau at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Kelly Park at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Benefit Concert for Paul McBride with Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum & Home Run Jethro, Julay Brooks & Friends, and Conspiracy of Venus at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $17.50-$18.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jazzschool Tuesdays, a weekly showcase of up-and-coming ensembles from Berkeley Jazzschool at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



East Bay Women Artists “Summer Artistry” Works by Benny Alba, Norma Anderson Fox, Virginia Dorn, Olivia Eielson, Gwen Halpin, Mei-Yu Lo, and Rita Sklar, through Sept. 6, at Royal Ground Gallery, 2058 Mountain Blvd., Monclair. 841-0441. 


United Artists: 90 Years “The Shanghai Gesture” at 7:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Berkeley Poetry Slam with host Charles Ellik and Three Blind Mice, at 8:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 


Summer Sounds at Oakland City Center with Napata and Her Kisses, motown, R&B, at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Greg Murai “Unveiling a Song” Contemporary music at 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway, Oakland. 444-3555. www.firstchurchoakland.org 

Gillian Harwin & Gotham Groovers at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Cataracs at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Taj Weekes & Adowa at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 



“Out from Under” Oil paintings of George A. Sariot opens at the Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. and runs through July 31. 848-1228. giorgigallery.com 


Hecho por México: The Films of Gabriel Figueroa “Let’s Go with Pancho Villa!” at 6:30 p.m. and “The Pearl” at 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Artist Support Group Speaker Series with Cheryl Haines, owner, Cheryl Haines Gallery, SF, at 7 p.m. at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Cost is $8-$10. 644-6893. 

Adam David Miller discusses “Ticket to Exile” his memoir about growing up in the Jim Crow South at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. www.revolutionbooks.org 

Toni Martin reads from “When the Personal Was Political: Five Women Doctors Look Back” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Nesta Rovina wil resd from her new book “Tree Barking” at 7 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 


The California Honeydrops, New Orleans roots and blues, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dan Schnelle Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

The Dooors Legacy Band, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082.  

The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24-$28. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Beep! Quartet, with pianist Michael Coleman, at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Altarena Playhouse “Hay Fever” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Aug. 9. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

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 

Subterranean Shakespeare “The Merry Wives of Windsor” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at The Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Tickets are $12-$17. For reservations call 276-3871.  

Westminster Summer Musicals “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” Fri. - Sun. at 8 p.m., through July 20 at Woodminster Amphitheater, 3300 Jaoquin Miller Rod, Oakland. Tickets are $23-$38. 531-9597.  

Woman’s Will “The Good Person of Szechuan” at 6 p.m. and Sat. and Sun. at 1 p.m. at John Hinkle Park. Fri. tickets are $25. For additional performances see www.womanswill.org 


United Artists: 90 Years “Paths of Glory” at 7 p.m. and “The Killing” at 8:45 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


Kirk Lumpkin and Erin Elliot read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave. 841-6374. 

Studio One Reading Series with Jack Morgan, Trevor Calvert and Barbara Freeman at 7:30 p.m. at Studio One, 365 45th St. at Broadway, Oakland. Suggested donation $3-$15. 597-5027. 


Billy Dunn and the Ladies Choice Band at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2022.  

Point Richmond Summer Music with Michael O’Neill, jazz, at 5:30 p.m. and Adrian Gormley, jazz, at 6:45 p.m. outdoors at Park Place in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

Caesar’s Empire at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Carla Zilbersmith & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

The Park at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Blank Tapes, Ben Ross Band, Frank Dufay and The Gift Machine at 8 p.m. at Epic Art Studios, 1923 Ashby Ave., across from Ashy BART. Suggested donation $5. 

Ariel Vento/Nick Grinder Quintet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Red Meditation, Blaak Lung, Arkaingelle, Messenger Selah, Malika Madremana at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Dale Miller at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Robustritron, Temple of Roots, TripKnight, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Juke, Rich White Males, Atom Age 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. 

The P-PL at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Foreign Legion, Psyhokinetics, hip hop, at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $12. 548-1159.  

Moped at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Aesop’s Fables Sat. and Sun. at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 


San Francisco Mime Troupe “Red State” at 2 p.m. at Mosswood Park, Oakland. Free, donations accepted. 415-285-1717. www.sfmt.org 


Fiber Art & Textiles From The National Institute of Art & Disabilities at the Addison Street Windows Gallery, 2018 Addison St. through Aug. 28. 981-7546. 

Art of the Cotton Mill Studios Paintings, sculpture, photography and mixed media by Keiko Nelson, Bill Stoneham, Elizabeth Tennant and Susan Tuttle. Closing party at 6 p.m. at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit # 116. 535-1702. www.thefloatcenter.com 

“Beverly Trieber and Rosita Pardo: A Retrospective” Opening reception at 2 p.m. at NIAD, National Institute of Art and Disabilities, 551 23rd St. Richmond. Exhibition runs to Sept. 26. 620-0290. www.niadart.org 




“The Right Kind of Girl” Works by Heidi Forssell examining female identity and experience. Opening Reception at 6 p.m. at Arts and Consciousness Gallery, John F. Kennedy University Berkeley Campus, 2956 San Pablo Ave. 2nd Floor. Exhibition runs through Aug. 2. 649-0499. www.jfku.edu/gallery/ 

“Awakenings” Paintings by Larry Melnick. Reception for the artist at 2 p.m. at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, 2301 Vine St. Exhibition runs to July 29. 845-1208. 

“Art in the Garden” featuring works by Richmond and East Bay artists, on display Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Annie’s Annuals, 740 Market Ave., Richmond. 215-1671. www.anniesannuals.com 


United Artists: 90 Years “The Apartment” at 6:30 p.m. and “Goldfinger” at 8:55 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Lora Jo Foo reads from “Earth Passages: Journey Through Childhood” at 3:30 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. 548-2350. asiabookcenter.com 


Berkeley Opera “Tosca” at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are 16-$44. 925-798-1300. www.berkeleyopera.org 

Bastille Day Ball with Baguette Quartet at 8 p.m. at Lake Merritt Dance Center, 200 Grand Ave., Harrison, Oakland. Dance lesson at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. www.FridayNightWaltz.com 

14th Annual Bay Area Follies, with tap, hula, jaz, and ethnic dance at 7 p.m. at the Roda Theater, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $12-$15 at the door. Presented by Gil Chun. dancegil@sbcglobal.net 

Live Art for Progress Hip Hop and Graffiti art to get youth involved in political ativism, from 1-5 p.m. at Peoples Park. www.wearstrong.org 

Bayside Jazz with Dan Hicks at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Swing dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Wish Inflicted at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

John Keawe at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Summer Youth Program Concert at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Free. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Kally Price Old Blues & Jazz Group at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Todd Shipley Band at 9:30 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Ira Marlowe, Rachel Efron at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Bhi Bhiman, Crooked Roads, 7th Direction at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

“Crust Sin Fronteras” Aghast, Caccion, All Systems Fail, Guida at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8-$10. 525-9926. 

The Rippingtons, featuring Russ Freeman at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24-$28. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Fire & Flora” Hand-built ceramic vessels by Will Johnson and landscape paintings by Karen LeGault on display at the Community Art Gallery, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, 2450 Ashby Ave. through Sept. 4. Open 24/7. Artists’ reception August 10, 2-4 pm. 204-1667.  


United Artists: 90 Years “The Great Escape” at 4 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


“Congregational Song and the Arts: Gifts for Worship and Ministry” A conference of The Hymn Society, Sun.-Thurs. in Berkeley. Free, and open to the public. For details see www.thehymnsociety.org 


Oakland Municipal Band at 1 p.m. at the Lakeside Park Bandstand. Bring your beach chair and picnic. 339-2818.  

14th Annual Bay Area Follies, with tap, hula, jaz, and ethnic dance at 2 p.m. at the Roda Theater, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $12-$15 at the door. Presented by Gil Chun. dancegil@sbcglobal.net 

Creative Voices “Maracaibera” at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Bryan Bowman Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Americana Unplugged, live bluegrass, at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

The Moving Violations with caller Mavis McGaugh in a Queer Contra Dance at 6 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Samora Pinderhughes Trio at 4:30 p.m. Steven Lugerner Sextet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10 for each concert. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 







Magnes Museum Moves Ahead with Downtown Berkeley Relocation Plans

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM

The Judah L. Magnes Museum will ask the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission today (Thursday) to approve a structural alteration permit to rehabilitate the landmarked Armstrong University in downtown Berkeley, where it plans to relocate in spring 2010. 

Armstrong University was designated a City of Berkeley landmark in September 1994 and is especially notable for its many large, arched and rectangular windows located on the second floor of the Kittredge Street and Harold Way facades, its graceful entrance lobbies and main lobby, natural lighting and a 5,000-square-foot auditorium with original maple floors. 

Founded in 1918 by J. Evan Armstrong, the university was originally known as the California School for Private Secretaries and taught students shorthand, typing, English, Spanish and math out of three small rooms in the old First National Bank Building on Shattuck Avenue. 

The school’s rapid growth resulted in its move to the UC Theater Building on University Avenue in 1920. 

Three years later it relocated to a brand new Walter H. Ratcliff-designed Spanish Colonial style building on 2222 Harold Way and changed its name to the Armstrong School of Business, though it was popularly called Armstrong College. 

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. 

After the university vacated the building in 1996, the property was leased to UC Berkeley Extension’s Language Studies department until 2006, at which point it was purchased by the Magnes Museum. 

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

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

“The general exterior of the building itself will remain intact to keep in line with its institutional and historical past,” James Leventhal, the museum’s director of development, told the Planet. 

“There will only be some changes inside. The purpose is to modify one form of an educational institution to another through adaptive reuse.” 

The museum’s basement will serve as an open study center for its permanent collection, Leventhal said, and the first floor will have interactive exhibits. 

Minor upgrades will be made to the second floor auditorium, which will host lectures and public programs. 

The museum’s board of directors hopes to raise $36 million through a rehabilitation campaign, of which $14 million will be a permanent endowment for museum programs, Leventhal said. 

The museum has already raised $11 million with the help of significant contributions from East Bay Jewish Community Foundation leaders and board members, he said. 

Although Leventhal declined to reveal how much the museum had paid for the property, he said it was possible to a great extent because of significant pledges and contributions from the Jewish community. 

“An anonymous donor stepped forward with a major loan to help offset a large part of the purchase price,” he said 

The museum, now located in a historic mansion at 2911 Russell St., has hired Mark Cavagnero Associates—the architects behind the Legion of Honor in San Francisco—for the adaptive reuse of the Armstrong building. 

Of all the interior changes to the building, only one will be visible from the exterior, a report to the commission from the city 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 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. 

Leventhal said Magnes will focus on digitization and off-site programs over the next year, turning the Russell Street facility in Elmwood District into a “Memory Lab,” with computer workstations where users will be able to add their personal histories into the museum’s archives. 

It also hopes to start an installation project by Jonathan Keats entitled “The Atheon: A Temple to Science” in the new building this fall to celebrate defining elements of Berkeley and fuse science and religion by creating a temple for scientific worship—an Atheon. 

“Visitors and passersby will gaze into the large vaulted windows of faux stained glass and see a projection of the universe as they simultaneously listen to an audio accompaniment on their personal cell phone,” Leventhal said.  

Keats’ artwork will be on display from Sept. 27 to Feb. 1, 2009.  

Community members will get an opportunity to visit the downtown building on July 13, as part of Magnes’ celebrations for its move. 


Another LPC Review 

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 today (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.

Virago Alameda Announces Play Reading Series

By Ken Bullock
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:12:00 AM

Virago Theatre Company has announced a July and early August series of staged readings of new plays by Bay Area playwrights, featuring professional actors, on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. in Alameda, featuring venues that include a cafe, a drawing studio and community centers, with some readings staged outdoors, followed by wine and talk-back receptions.  

The plays include: Death in Van Nuys by Dan Pine, directed by Tracey Rhys at Julie’s Coffee & Tea Garden (1223 Park St.) on July 14; William Bivins’ The Afterlife of the Mind, directed by Laura Lundy-Paine, at Monart Drawing Studio (1918 Encinal Ave.), July 21; Shoot O’Malley Twice by Jon Brooks, directed by Robert Lundy-Paine, at Crosstown Community Center (1303 High St.), July 28; and a triple header of Morgan Ludlow’s The Edge and The Scratch with An Hour in Time by V. B. Leghorn, directed by Angela Dant, at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts (1601 Park St.) on August 4. 

Virago, which has been putting intriguing and diverse shows in a variety of Alameda locations since their unusual staging of Three Penny Opera upstairs in the Masonic Hall off Park St. a few years back, started their reading series in the summer of 2006 (then called “Love on the Edge”), with The Death of Ayn Rand by John Byrd and A Bed of My Own by Berkeley’s Robert Hamm, which were premiered in full stagings by Virago last summer. From the same series, Mankind’s Last Hope by Dan Brodnitz and Jeff Green (reviewed in The Planet), was given an innovative TV studio-style live-and-video production last fall, and The Hermit Bird, also by John Byrd, is scheduled for production next spring. 

“The reading series is a very strong component of our program,” said co-artistic director, Laura Lundy-Paine. “And the response has been great. Two years ago, we received 25 scripts. This year, there were 50. We’ve been averaging audiences of about 40 at each staged reading. Equity actors—and we have a few on board for these—have heard about the series and have been contacting us. And Alameda is a strong community. A lot of actors and dancers have moved here.” 

Virago belongs to Theatre Bay Area’s Bay Area Small Theatres program, along with other locally based companies, like Berkeley’s Impact and Crowded Fire. 

Death in Van Nuys is “an intimate comedy” about the healing that takes place after a divorced middle-aged man moves in with his dying father, an unrepentant communist and former stand-up comedian.  

A philosopher’s wife tries to save her husband’s brain after a botched transplant in The Afterlife of the Mind.  

Shoot O’Malley Twice spins the 1957 tale of an odds-even champ in New York with cosmic clairvoyance and his challenger, The Savannah Kid.  

The Edge tells of a returning kidnap victim’s plight after a four-and-a-half-year, nationally covered abduction. The Scratch has three generations of women confronting their demons. An Hour in Time, based on a true story, is the dilemma of a woman driving with her family’s remains in her station wagon when a truck driver becomes lodged in her windshield. 

Admission is $10 (www.brownpapertickets.com or viragotheatre.org, or 865-6237). Reservations must be made by July 7.

Contra Costa Civic Theater Stages ‘Kiss Me Kate’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:13:00 AM

With a musical comedy based on Shakespeare gone south, lyrics and score by Cole Porter, topical humor of the postwar (WW II) era popping up amid the iambs and a couple of gangsters thrown in when the male ingenue goes bust at craps: how could Kiss Me Kate miss? 

And how can a good community theater keep it all in focus? With a cast of 18, a jazz quartet on a backstage set facing the audience, an off-the-cuff attack that runs from urbane romantic to slapstick burlesque, and production numbers of hit songs that stretch a genial ensemble every which way. 

Contra Costa Civic Theater’s got it figured out pretty good, in a production with stage direction by Mary Ann Rodgers, musical direction by Richard Riccardi and choreography by Emily Garcia. The company is composed of several strata of talent and experience, which seem to accent the wild array of theatrics Kiss Me Kate brings off with a nonchalant, semi-screwball brilliance, never stepping on its own toes no matter how much it tap dances around something approaching deliberate self-parody. 

Opening night (of both the musical and the musical-within-the musical) brought up the curtain on the increasingly interchangeable back- and on-stage life of a gaggle of Baltimore show people and those who attach themselves to them, while performing a musical newly cut out of old cloth: “We owe it to Shakespeare—and the three guys up all night rewriting it!” 

There’s a war of nerves between Fred Graham, an old actor-manager type, both directing and playing Petruchio (Ted von Pohle), as well as wooing his ingenue and his diva-esque ex-, Lilli Vanessi (Maggie Gish), who is on board to play Kate the Shrew. Stage and backstage resound periodically with her battlecry—to whit: “Isn’t there a smile in your contract, Miss Vanessi?” 

“Give a Broadway hoofer a chance to play Shakespeare ...” Bill Calhoun, the hoofer in question (played suavely by Robbie Cowan, who really can sing and dance) is in love with his female counterpart, Lois Lane (a perky and recent UC grad, Alicia Bruckman), an “ingenue” who’s been around. They’re playing Lucentio and Bianca—and Bill’s signed a gambling debt with Fred’s name. 

When “The Boys” in fedoras come backstage to “remind” Fred (in leopardskin dressing gown, Anida Weyl’s excellent costume) of his debt, he gleefully confesses another’s sin, seeing in it a way to keep Lilli in the show through someone else’s strong-arm tactics.  

The way is paved for the stage debut of these wiseguys, more like a slangy but erudite vaudeville team. They are beautifully fleshed out by Malcolm Rodgers (who also designed the set) and Eugene DeChristopher, a perfect example of that CCCT “strata” thing. Rodgers is an old trouper hereabouts, an excellent utility man. Their goons’ soft shoe of “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” when stuck out in front of the curtain and literally on (and in) the spot, is a bona fide showstopper. 

Ted von Pohle’s Fred is a likable egotist, and von Pohle plays him particularly well when at cross-purposes in the maelstrom of trying to cut a figure performing the Bard while everything else is coming unglued. 

Maggie Gish is the sole Equity actor in the show, and is every bit the pro, a versatile performer, radiant with feeling and humor, fine when selling a song or walloping her ex- with a barrelhouse. Her “mystery man,” always calling from the White House, finally shows up in full dress, ribbons and all-Gen. Harrison Howell (sly Ron Dritz), top brass with presidential ambitions, ready to rescue his lady love.  

He tells his mink-loving intended to set her eyes on a good Republican cloth coat! They sing and act out “From This Moment On,” with the General jiving to upstage the diva, another great up-tempo, though offbeat, moment. 

There are any number of great tunes, from Lilli’s signature “I Hate Men,” to the sweltering backstage-in-Baltimore production number, “Too Damn Hot,” performed by the chorus of young women (Jordin Bradley, Erica Gardner, Paulette Herring, Aurelia Jordan and Thea Rodgers) raving it up alongside Hortensio (Luke Kiehn-Thilman) and Lucentio in a tune that’s become identified with Ella Fitzgerald. “Tom, Dick and Harry,” “Always True to You in My Fashion” and a lot of great Cole Porter hits surface in this Chinese box-puzzle of a musical. 

Mary Ann Rodgers has a special touch with an ensemble, and this is an ensemble show. Just covering these stronger points in the CCCT production, they serve as markers for what’s surely to follow as the run unfolds this summer in El Cerrito, not, blessedly, in sweaty Baltimore.

Moving Pictures: San Francisco Silent Film Festival Showcases Cinema’s First Golden Era

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:14:00 AM
The Kid Brother (1927) may be Harold Lloyd’s greatest film, bringing a high level of artistry to the bespectacled comedian’s slapstick humor.
The Kid Brother (1927) may be Harold Lloyd’s greatest film, bringing a high level of artistry to the bespectacled comedian’s slapstick humor.
Conrad Veidt and Olga Baclanova in Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), a film that expanded on the sympathetic portrayals of disfigured men that had been so successful on the screen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. The Man Who Laughs gave rise not only to the series of Universal horror films of the 1930s, but inspired the character of The Joker.
Conrad Veidt and Olga Baclanova in Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), a film that expanded on the sympathetic portrayals of disfigured men that had been so successful on the screen in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera. The Man Who Laughs gave rise not only to the series of Universal horror films of the 1930s, but inspired the character of The Joker.

Far from the ragged, blurry, jumpy images in the popular imagination, the silent era of filmmaking was an age of discovery, innovation and supreme achievement in the new medium of cinema. Motion pictures, at first treated as a mere novelty, came into their own between 1910 and 1920, growing from brief, flickering diversions into full-scale narratives. But it was in the 1920s that cinema truly blossomed into the great art form of the 20th century. 

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival, now in its 13th year, showcases the breadth and depth of what was the first golden era of cinema, presenting the full range of film treasures—from slapstick comedy to gothic horror, from experimental animation to stately costume drama—as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen, in a beautiful 1920s movie palace, and with live musical accompaniment.  

This year’s program begins Friday night, July 11, at the Castro Theater with Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother and continues all day Saturday and Sunday with 10 more presentations from the peak of the silent era. 



Harold Lloyd was not an inherently funny presence as a screen persona. Unlike Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, who rank among the most innately charismatic and unique cinematic artists of all time, Lloyd couldn’t command an audience’s attention simply by appearing on the screen. There were many such comedians struggling to climb their way to the top of the field, to challenge Keaton and Chaplin at the summit, but Lloyd was the most diligent and talented of them, and he alone managed to scale those heights. Through grit and determination he overcame his limitations as a screen presence and established himself as one of the most popular and enduring comedians of the silent era. In the 1920s he was second only to Chaplin in popularity. In fact, in box office receipts, the prolific Lloyd surpassed Chaplin, who only released a handful of films in that decade.  

Lloyd took a different and perhaps more pragmatic approach to his comedies than his contemporaries. Chaplin made relatively quiet, character-based narratives, punctuated here and there with explosive bits of slapstick. And Keaton let his films develop slowly, building steadily to dizzying climactic chases and daring stunt work. But Lloyd first and foremost aimed to please, and thus he filled movies with gags from start to finish, rarely allowing the audience much time to breathe. 

With The Kid Brother (1927), however, Lloyd altered his style somewhat, adopting some of the techniques of his competitors in pursuit of a more artistic approach. He put more time and effort into technical details, especially the photography, using warm lighting to capture the pastoral beauty of a life in the woods. And he put greater emphasis on pathos; more screen time was spent developing his character, showing us his hopes, his dreams and his humiliations.  

Lloyd didn’t make a bad film in the 1920s; all of them are good and many of them are great. Others made more money (The Freshman), crammed in more gags per minute (Why Worry?), or have enjoyed more lasting fame (Safety Last), but The Kid Brother may very well represent Lloyd’s crowning achievement, bringing greater artistry and subtlety to his workman-like career. Lloyd himself cited the film as his personal favorite. Friday’s screening of the film will feature live accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. 



Saturday’s screenings include The Soul of Youth (1920), a portrait of the fate of unwanted orphans in early 20th-century America; Les Deux Timides (1928), a comedy by René Clair; and Mikael (1924), a landmark film in the history of gay cinema, directed by the great Carl Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr) and starring German actor Conrad Veidt.  

Veidt also anchors the centerpiece film Saturday night, The Man Who Laughs (1928). Early in the 1920s, German émigré Carl Laemmle, head of Universal, brought Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the screen. Centering an epic film on a grossly disfigured lead character was considered a great risk at the time, but Lon Chaney, who would later become known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces,” used his formidable pantomime skills to create a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal. Laemmle and Chaney then followed Hunchback with The Phantom of the Opera and enjoyed similar success. 

Eager to keep the streak alive, Laemmle turned to his fellow countrymen for The Man Who Laughs (1928), enlisting the talents of Conrad Veidt and director Paul Leni for another Hugo adaptation. Veidt had become the face of German Expressionism with his roles in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and in Leni’s Waxworks, and Leni had recently parlayed his success in Germany into a contract with Universal, bringing the shadowy photography and psychological horror of Expressionism to the States with The Cat and the Canary. These silent classics formed the foundation of what would become a string of classic Universal horror films in the 1930s. Saturday’s screening of The Man Who Laughs will be accompanied by Clark Wilson on the Wurlitzer. 

Following The Man Who Laughs Saturday night is the first in the festival’s new “Director’s Pick” series. Director Guy Maddin will be on hand to introduce and narrate (translating the French intertitles) for Tod Browning’s strange and rarely screened film The Unknown (1927), starring Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford. Live piano accompaniment will be provided by Stephen Horne. 



Sunday’s screenings include The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), the earliest surviving feature-length animated film; Her Wild Oat (1927), one of the few surviving films of Colleen Moore, among the most popular actresses of the 1920s; and Jujiro (1928), an avant-garde Japanese film.  

The festival concludes Sunday night with The Patsy (1928), starring the great comedienne Marion Davies. Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, had spent much of her career weighed down with the dreary costumes of the myriad period dramas that Hearst wanted to see her in. It was director King Vidor who finally freed the effervescent Davies from such stifling solemnity, and in The Patsy he gave her free reign to satirize her contemporaries, offering sharp and hilarious impersonations of such silent-era stalwarts as Lillian Gish and Pola Negri. Clark Wilson will again provide accompaniment on the Wurlitzer. 


The San Francisco  

Silent Film Festival 

July 11-13 at the Castro Theater,  

429 Castro St., San Francisco. 


When Building, Think Ahead To When Repairs Are Needed

By Jane Powell
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:15:00 AM

Recently I have been doing a few repairs to my back porch, which has required taking it apart in places to replace various structural members which are rotting. 

Because I have been doing this carefully in order to reuse some of the visible redwood parts, which are better quality wood than what could be bought now, there has been a good deal of prying, nail-pulling, and judicious use of the reciprocating saw. Oh, and swearing. A great deal of swearing.  

The reason for the swearing is a thing which I have been pondering ever since I first started fixing houses—why do guys (and it’s always guys) use five nails when two would have been sufficient? This leads to further questions, such as: Why is it necessary to toenail a stud on all four sides, making it well-nigh impossible to remove? (Toenailing involves driving nails in at an angle.) If they were going to overbuild the porch, why didn’t they overbuild it with lots of flashing, tar paper, Simpson ties, pressure treated lumber, and sloping so the water would drain off?  

But no, not one of those things are present, just lots of unnecessary nails. Trust me, a six-inch wide cedar shingle does not require three nails. 

I have encountered this phenomenon many times, and have also noted that the uglier the “improvement,” the more likely it is to be overbuilt. Now, I am all in favor of quality workmanship, don’t get me wrong.  

But I am also in favor of thinking ahead to the time when some future person might need to take whatever thing you are building apart, whether to repair it, replace it, or get access to some part of it. Now I realize that often when something is being built, the primary focus is expediency. Time is money and all that rot.  

But how much time would it have taken to turn the bathtub around so that its plumbing could be accessed through the wall in a hallway or closet, instead of leaving the plumbing in an outside wall, where some future owner will be forced to make a choice between removing the ceramic tile inside, or the siding outside, in order to get to the now-leaking plumbing in order to repair it. I’m not even asking for an access panel, just an inside wall.  

And you truly haven’t lived till you’ve pried up a particle board underlayment that has been fastened every four inches all over the entire sheet, not with ring-shank nails, which is bad enough, but with staples. I realize the underlayment isn’t supposed to move, but still. Actually no one has ever offered me a really good explanation as to why the underlayment for resilient flooring has to have so many nails—even underlayment for ceramic tile only has to be fastened every six inches in the field, and I can see why that needs to be rigid.  

Too much thinking ahead must also be why I distrust the new hydronic heating where PEX tubing is embedded in a concrete slab—they can do all the accelerated testing they want, but no one really knows whether or not the tubing will start leaking in 100 years (or less, as the owners of Eichlers with radiant floor heating now know—the metal piping used eventually corroded and now they are having to jackhammer the slabs in order to replace it). So next time you’re building something, give some thought to the poor slob who may have to take it apart someday. Go easy on the nails. 

Explanations of why underlayment requires so damn many nails are welcome at hsedressng@aol.com. 


Jane Powell is the author of several bungalow books and is available for consulting on historic homes, whether or not they have big honkin’ pillars. She can be reached at hsedressng@aol.com. 

About the House: California is Burning

By Matt Cantor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 10:17:00 AM

California is burning down. This is the real Shock and Awe. As of this writing, there are over 1,300 fires burning in the state and nearly a third of a million acres have burned. Since I’m not good with acres, I decided to convert this to square miles. At 640 acres to a square mile, this means that close to 500 square miles have burned. Again, I’m not that good with areas so I like to find something to compare this with. The city of Los Angeles is about 500 square miles. San Francisco is less than half that size. Imagine, two San Franciscos have completely burned down in this recent spate of fires. We’ve currently got over 17,000 fire personnel working on fighting these fires, over a thousand engines in the field, three hundred bull dozers cutting fire breaks and 85 helicopters (mostly dropping water on these many blazes). 

When I started collecting data to write about the new fire code in the recently revised California Building Code, I had no idea that my lead would be quite so dramatic but there it is. The Flying Spaghetti monster provides (may its tentically appendages be praised). 

Not a second too soon, California has built a whole new set of standards to apply to the construction of houses situated near wildlands where fire can wander in from the woods and snuff out that largest of our investments. This is pretty smart stuff and while I often take issue with what I find in the building code, I would like to offer high praise to the folks that created the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI portion of the new California Building Code (CBC). 

The new Chapter 7A of the CBC, which deals exclusively with WUI is pretty tough reading but I’ll try to give you basics. Firstly, these are not things that you will be forced to do to your existing home unless you are in the process of doing significant levels of remodeling. They are also not things that you need to do on all properties. They only apply to WUI. To find out if you’re in one of these areas, you can go to http://firecenter.berkeley.edu/fhsz and enter an address in the box. You can also check at http://www.fire.ca.gov/fire_prevention/fire_prevention_wildland_zones_maps.php if the first one doesn’t work.  

The problem with these maps is that they serve two jurisdictions, the State Responsibility Area or SRA or the Local Responsibility Area or LRA. This is how the state is divvying up all the work of figuring out who oversees these regions. I didn’t have too much trouble finding a map of the Berkeley area and not too surprisingly, most of the Berkeley hills were included at various levels of severity. The CBC says that the highest severity will set a higher standard for certain of the features I’m going to talk about (such as required roofing type) but it’s easiest just to think of the entire area as having similar new requirements.  

I’d also like to say that anyone who takes a bit of this knowledge and uses it on their existing home is worthy of admiration and envy. I was surprised at how simple most of these things were and the degree to which a large body of statistical data has been converted into a very small set of advisories.  

The first thing that will surprise no one is that the old 30 foot perimeter of defensible space has been enlarged to a 100 foot zone of fuel modification. In short, the state is saying that we need to look closely at a larger area to see what shrubs, dry grass, trees and other vulnerable fuel nearby may be. The local fire marshals will have to make the call but, in short, we’re being asked to widen the area of interest with regards to burnable material.  

Locally, and statewide, I have been, for years, appalled at the lax attitude that we have about overgrowth. Fires just happen and the deeper we get in our little hobbit-like dells of trees and grass, the more likely we are to see it all swept away in a few short hours. Many Berkeley residents aren’t aware that just 85 years ago, a fire swept across North Berkeley, destroying roughly 600 homes (not to mention 3000 home lost in ‘91). If we don’t lower our fuel supply (trees, shrubs, grass) it can happen again. Also, most of the fires happening in the state today are the simple result of lightening! Tell that to Smokey the Bear; but as usual, I digress. 

After defensive space, the next area of concern is around ventilation. Most homes today have both attic and foundation vents. Both are an issue in the new WUI code. Vents normally found in the eaves or “soffits” (the undersides of enclosed eaves) are completely eliminated in the new code since we have discovered that these area of the building are particularly vulnerable to sparks, embers and brands (bits of burning wood).  

As fire sweeps up over the building (much like a wind), it is captured under the eaves and induces the penetration of burning matter. By sealing the soffit or eave, we greatly reduce our risk of fire. Roof edges are also requested to include thick fascia (or barge) boards that help to resist burning. 

While crawlspaces can still have air vents, these must now be made to improved specifications. The new code is struggling to find itself in places like this and starts by demanding at least a fourth-of-an-inch mesh to be used; however, this will not stand.  

Steve Quarles, who helps to disseminate (and research) these new standards for the state fire Marshall, says that fourth-of-an-inch mesh can easily allow sparks and embers to shoot into the crawlspace leading to fire. A range of new vents for both crawlspace and roof (now exclusively placed on top of the roof surface in the WUI) are just now arriving from the manufacturing sector.  

The aptly named Brandguard is one such vent. We will also soon see Vulcan, a suitably logical design employing a tight mesh coated with an intumescent paint that puffs up and seals the vent when heated (sort of the puffer fish approach). Fireguard has a fire activated baffle that will physically close when sufficiently heated. 

Roofing materials are also key but this is one of the ways in which we get off easy. Common asphalt shingle is surprisingly fire retardant and is, perhaps, the cheapest roofing material available. Not so obvious is the fact that metal such as aluminum valley flashing is not fire retardant and can easily melt through leading to fire. The good news is that it’s really easy to solve that one too (just put some asphalt roofing below the metal. 

Wood roofs CAN get passable fire ratings but I confess that I’m slow to come to that party. With good cheap choices such as compo (asphalt) shingle and obvious ones like ceramic or concrete tile, why bother with wood shake or shingle. Some communities, such as L.A. are no longer allowing wood products and I suspect that, with time, this argument will open and shut for us all. 

Two more short bits and then we’re done, this being a bit long of wind. Sidings are not a major issue according to Maestro Quarles since fire rarely ventures through the siding (unless there are gaps) and even common wood sidings should be fine. Windows on the other hand are a major issue and recent fire statistic showed that houses with double glazed windows were far less likely to burn than those with single glazing. Apparently, that insulating effect is even more impressive under these nasty circumstances than in the simple matter of keeping your heating bill down.  

If tempering is added to one side of the double glazed panel, the window will meet the WUI requirements. Word is that most window makers will be providing two sheets of tempered glass anyway, since it’s actually easier to make them that way. Tempered double glass windows might really save your house in a fire and if you’re in a heavily wooded canyon, you might just think about this investment. Windows explode as fire approaches and then there’s not much to do but get out the marshmallows. 

Decks are my last item (not that I’ll cover this code completely) and they are no small contributor to major loss during wildfire. Decks have a special vulnerability but may meet the new code in any of several ways. Most areas will meet the requirements by being built of redwood but some jurisdictions may require thicker beams, thicker decking or enclosure of the understructure. Again, it’s that wind-of-fire thing. If you can protect the building against the blowing embers and brands that want to fly up under things, you’re more than halfway there. 

If you own a house that you feel is vulnerable. Start with what’s cheap or easy. Close off gaps and holes. Change vents and close off the eaves. Take a look at your roof. Is it open at edges or covered in a wooden material? Don’t forget to think about double glazed or tempered windows. They might be worth it? (what are you paying for fire insurance?) 

Some local fire marshals are taking a tough approach. Identify properties that lack defensible space, cite them for violation and, after a month or two, do the job themselves and bill the owner through the tax roles. I hope that our local fire officials are listening.  

It’s not cheap, I know but then again, houses aren’t either. 

Community Calendar

Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:57:00 AM


Mel Lavine, author and journalist will speak at the Brown Bag Speaker’s Forum, at 12:30 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

Freedom from Tobacco Quit Smoking Class A free and confidential quit group provided by the City of Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Program, Mon. July 7 to Aug. 11 at South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St., at Ashby Ave To register call 981-5330. QuitNow@ci.berkeley.ca.us  

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 


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 Richmond Marina. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Park A presentation on local history and the latest park development plans, at 10 a.m. at the Richmond Marina, Harbor Master’s Building. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Audubon Nature Studies “Birds & Butterflies: Easy Garden Enchantment” A series of four Tues. eve. classes at 7 p.m. and a field trip, at Albany Adult School, 601 San Gabriel, Albany. Cost is $40. 559-6580. 

Vitamin D Deficiency & Sun Screens at 7:30 p.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 

Fresh Produce Stand at San Pablo Park from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Frances Albrier Community Center. Sponsored by the Ecology Center’s Farm Fresh Choice. 848-1704. www.ecologycenter.org 

Berkeley Camera Club meets at 7:30 p.m., at the Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Share your digital images, slides and prints and learn what other photographers are doing. Monthly field trips. 548-3991. www.berkeleycameraclub.org 

St. John’s Prime Timers meets at 9:30 a.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. We offer ongoing classes in exercise and creative arts, and always welcome new members over 50. 845-6830. 

Sing-A-Long Group from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic. Ave., Albany. 524-9122. 


Nature’s Engineers Learn how creatures in the rain forest make their homes at 12:30 and 2 p.m. at Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive. 642-5132. www.lawrencehallofscience.org 

Sudden Oak Death Preventative Treament Training Session Meet at 1 p.m. at the Tolman Hall portico, Hearst Ave. and Arch/LeConte, UC Campus for a two-hour field session, rain or shine. Pre-registration required. SODtreatment@ 


“Discussion with Oakland CEO’s & Executives” featuring Tim Westergren of Pandora at 11:45 a.m. at Oakland Council Chambers, Oakland City Hall, 14th and Broadway. 238-3627. 

“Growing Up in the Universe” A film by Richard Dawkins at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 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. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

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.  


East Bay Mac Users Group meets to discuss REALbasic & REALSQL at 7:15 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. http://ebmug.org 

Temescal Street Cinema “Runners High” at 8:30 p.m. outdoors at 49th and Telegraph. Bring a chair. www.temescalstreetcolletive.org 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a..m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


LaborFest 2008 International Working Class Film and Video Festival “The International/Beynelmilel” at 7 p.m. at Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. Donation requested. 

Fearless Meditation I The practice of the body from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Center for Urban Peace, 2584 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Cost is $20-$30, no one turned away. RSVP required. 1-866-732-2320. 

“Raising the Rail: Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge” with two different kinds of survivors: David Hull & Kevin Hines at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church, 1640 Addison St. Free, donations accepted. www.bridgerail.org 

Arts & Crafts Lover’s Sale Gala Early Bird Party at 7 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. Cost is $20. 527-6399. www.hillsideclub.org 

Bauman College Open House “Careers in Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts” from 6 to 9 p.m. at 3901 Grayson St. 800-987-7530. www.baumancollege.org 

Summer Outdoor Movie Series “Like Water for Chocolate” at 8:30 p.m. at Charles Chocolates, 6529 Hollis St, Emeryville. Free. Bring a chair or blanket. 652-4412, ext. 311. 

“What is the Jewish Bible?” at 6:15 p.m. at JGate, near El Cerrito Plaza. RSVP to 559-8140. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 


Botanic Art Workshop with Andie Thrams on techniques for working outdoors to capture botanical detail, pattern color, light and shadow. For ages 12 and up. From 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. Cost is $60-$70. Registration required. 238-2365. www.museumca.org 

Walking Tour of Temescal sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. at Genova Delicatessen, 5095 Telegraph Ave., in the shopping center, to explore the commercial district that developed around the Oakland Street Car Barn. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Brooks Island Boat Trip Join a guided boat trip across the Richmond Harbor to Brooks Island to explore the island’s natural and cultural history, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. For experienced boaters who can provide their own kayak and safety gear. Cost is $20-$22. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

“Feast for the Beast” Bring your fresh produce and help feed the elephants, and build enrichment boxes for the lions and tigers. Breaksfast for humans at 9 a.m. For more information 632-9525, ext. 131. 

Arts & Crafts Lover’s Sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. Cost is $5. 527-6399. www.hillsideclub.org 

Live Art for Progress Hip Hop and Graffiti art to get youth involved in political ativism, from 1-5 p.m. at Peoples Park. www.wearstrong.org 

East Bay Baby Fair, with resources for new and expecting parents, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Albany Veterans Memorial Building, 1325 Portland Ave., Albany. 540-7210. 

US-Nepal Technology Development Conference Sat. and Sun. in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC Campus. Detailed information is available at www.can-usa.org/description.php. 

The East Bay Chapter of The Great War Society meets at 10:30 a.m. at the South Branch of the Berkeley Library, Russell at MLK. The speaker will be Robert Denison on “The Role of Topography in the Battles of the Western Front & The First World War-Birth of Modern Style Warfare.” 527-7718. 

Summer Board Game Days from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

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 

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. 


Introduction to Fly-Fishing Learn how to cast at Lake Anza, then learn the details of knots, fly selection, reading the water and more, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Lake Anza, Tilden Regional Park. Cost is $60-$66. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. www.ebparks.org  

Creative Outdoor Fun, in conjunction with the Oakland Museum of California’ exhibit “In Our Own Backyard” for children ages 7 and up from noon to 4 p.m. in a local park. Cost is $15-$35. Registration required. 238-2365. www.museumca.org 

Walking Tour of Mountain View Cemetery sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218.  

The Ponds of Our Lives Learn about life in the ponds, then use nets to investigate this dynamic habitat, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to do a safety inspection, at 10 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

LaborFest 2008 “19th Century Working Pepole of Berkeley” A walking tour with author Richard Schwartz, at 1 p.m. at the north east corner of Shattuck and Haste.  

“Congregational Song and the Arts: Gifts for Worship and Ministry” A conference of The Hymn Society, Sun.-Thurs. in Berkeley. Free, and open to the public. For details see www.thehymnsociety.org 

Magnes Friends and Family Day at the new future home of the Magnes Museum from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2222 Harold Way, across from the Berkeley Public Library. 549-6950. 

Social Action Forum with Marilyn Langlois on “Arbitration in Community Conflict Resolution” 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 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 Jack Petranker “Right Here, Right Now: The Heart of Who You Are” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Ecstatic Dance East Bay, freeform dance and movement every Sun. at 10:30 am. at Historic Sweets Ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $15. www.ecstaticdanceeastbay.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 











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  


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.  

Peace and Justice Commission meets Mon., July 7, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Manuel Hector, 981-5510.  

City Council meets Tues., July 8, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci. 


Commission on Disability meets Wed., July 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6346. TDD: 981-6345.  

Homeless Commission meets Wed., July 9, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5426.  

Police Review Commission meets Wed., July 9, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 981-4950.  

Commission on Early Childhood Education meets Thurs. July 10 , at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5428.  

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., July 10, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356.  

Public Works Commission meets Thurs., July 10, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6406.  

West Berkeley Project Area Commission meets Thurs., July 10, at 7 p.m., at the West Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7520.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., July 10, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.