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Hoeft-Edenfield Denied Bail in UC Stabbing Case

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday August 18, 2008 - 08:02:00 PM

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson denied bail on Monday to Berkeley City College student Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, who has been charged with the stabbing death of UC Berkeley senior Chris Wootton. 

The judge turned down Hoeft-Edenfield’s request for bail, saying that the evidence presented in the case had not convinced him that Hoeft-Edenfield had acted in self defense. 

Nuclear engineering student Wootton, 21, a Sigma Pi fraternity member, was stabbed once in his upper chest, between his ribs, in front of a group of students outside the Chi Omega sorority house on Piedmont Avenue on May 3. 

Hoeft-Edenfield, 20, was arrested later that day. 

Conflicting statements from witnesses present at the murder scene have not yet led to any definite conclusions as to what happened on the night of the fateful incident. 

Hoeft-Edenfield was represented by a private attorney—Yolanda Huang— who took over from Alameda County Deputy Public Defender Tony Cheng last week. 

Huang — an active presence at most of Hoeft-Edenfield’s earlier court proceedings — is a member of the city of Berkeley’s Parks and Recreation Commission and also volunteers at Willard Middle School in Berkeley. 

Hoeft-Edenfield’s mother Ellen — who was accompanied by a small group of people — declined to comment on the case outside a courtroom at the Rene C. Davidson courthouse in Oakland. 

Some of Wootton's friends from UC Berkeley and family members were also present at the hearing. 

Dressed in a yellow jail jumpsuit, Hoeft-Edenfield sat next to his attorney until the judge announced that he had finished reading Huang’s request for bail for Hoeft-Edenfield. 

The judge added that he had received 16 separate letters in support of the application for bail.  

He said that although Huang’s summary of the case was concise and persuasive, he would not be able to make a bail determination without consulting the police report. 

“If it was a self defense case then I am thinking why was he arrested?” the judge said. 

“The DA’s office charged him with murder and not self defense.” 

While reading the police report the judge asked a number of questions of Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Greg Dolge — who will be prosecuting Hoeft-Edenfield – including one about the make of the weapon used on Wootton. 

“Was it [the knife] spring-loaded or could the blade be unfolded?” the judge asked. 

Dolge replied, after consulting the police report, that the weapon was a three-inch pocket knife with a lockable blade. 

Huang emphasized that in one of the statements, a witness described in detail “that only after my [Huang’s] client was surrounded in a semi-circle by a larger group of people he pulled out a knife and my client was using the knife to get people to back off.” 

“I will cut to the chase here since it is a murder case,” Dolge said. 

He said that the incident started off with four guys who were later joined by more people. 

“At some point Hoeft-Edenfield brandished a knife,” he said. 

“Up to that point nobody was armed. Nobody threatened to get a weapon ... Hoeft-Edenfield was the only one with a weapon. [Wootton] calls 911 before he gets stabbed from his friend’s cell phone. He tells the police ‘there are two guys here and one of them has a knife.’ Shortly after that there is physical engagement. Next thing you know the victim has a two and a half inch wound, the knife goes right through the ribs and into the heart ... At the end of the fight there’s only one guy who is dead. Nobody else is hurt except Chris.” 

Dolge said that after the incident Hoeft-Edenfield separated himself from his friends and threw the knife away. 

“He gets a ride to a friend’s place, takes off his bloody clothes and washes,” he said. 

“Then the police take him into custody. Seems to me like a pretty clear cut case of murder.” 

Hoeft-Edenfield started to say something after Dolge finished talking but the judge cut him off by saying “it’s a bad time for you to talk.” 

Huang repeated that statements from some witnesses showed that Hoeft-Edenfield was surrounded by a number of people and that he was trying to get them to back off. 

“I don’t know exactly what happened at this point, as it is disputed,” she said. 

“What is not disputed is that a small number of people was surrounded by a large number of people ... It’s an issue of unreasonable force. It wasn’t premeditated. He [Hoeft-Edenfield] had a pocket knife used to open boxes. It was perfectly legal to use it for his job.” 

The judge replied that the primary consideration in the case was public safety. 

“I have to consider the seriousness of the charge,” he said. 

“There is no offense more serious than murder. The alleged injury is death. There is no injury greater than that. After a cursory reading of this case, it appears to me that a good number of people, either participants or witnesses, were involved.”  

The initial fight had started with five or six people, the judge said, and went on to read the names of six or seven witnesses who had described the defendant as “aggressive” and the person “who first introduced a weapon into the fight before a large group of people got involved” in their statements. 

“Then I reviewed a summary of the statement the defendant gave the police,” the judge said. 

“There are three different versions which are not consistent. The first was total denial ... The police overheard [Hoeft-Edenfield] on the cell phone denying any involvement. When the police presented him with evidence the story changes and he said it was an accidental stabbing. The third version was self defense. If I take the different versions, that by itself would support conviction for murder rather than self defense. The fact that he separated himself from his associates, threw the knife away and washed the blood off, these are further things that would add to it. I am not convinced this is a self defense case. There is substantial proof in the police report that this was a case of murder.” 

The date for Hoeft-Edenfield’s plea to be entered was set for Monday at 2 p.m. 



STAR Test Results Show Steady Gains for BUSD, State

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday August 16, 2008 - 11:27:00 AM

The results for California's 2008 Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program show a higher percentage of students in the Berkeley Unified School District scored proficient or above in reading, writing and mathematics as compared with the state results. 

In English Language Arts, 51.9 percent of the students in Berkeley Unified scored proficient or above, compared with 46 percent in California as a whole, and 46.9 percent students scored proficient or above in math compared with the state’s 43 percent. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett and Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky could not be reached immediately for comment. 

Students taking the California Standardized tests don’t receive scores. 

Instead, their tests are grouped into categories such as advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic. 

The board of education has established the proficient level as the desired achievement goal for all students, which is consistent with school growth targets for state accountability and the federal No Child Left Behind requirements. 

The results—released by the state Department of Education Thursday—show that California public school students continue to make steady gains in English-language arts, math, science, and social science. 

Since 2003, 532,494 more students in the state have become more proficient in English language arts and 415,129 more students have become proficient in math. 

“While we still have a lot of work to do to reach our goal of universal proficiency, this year’s gains are particularly encouraging considering they build upon five years of steady growth,” State Superintendent of Schools Jack O’Connell said. “The results also show significant increases in science and social science. California has some of the highest standards in the nation, and I am exceptionally proud of the hard work and dedication of our students, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents that led to this achievement.” 

In 2008, 46 percent of students in California scored proficient or advanced in English-language arts and 43 percent scored proficient or advanced in math. 

Five years ago the rates of proficient or advanced was 35 percent in English and 35 percent in math. 

However, overall proficiency rates for Latino and African American students were significantly lower than those of white or Asian students. 

“While we celebrate the progress made by all subgroups of students over the last five years, we cannot lose sight of the fact that more than half of our students, and too many students of color, are still not meeting our high standards,” O’Connell said. “It is good news that all students continue to improve. It is imperative that we help those students who have historically struggled the most to accelerate their learning so they may effectively and fully participate in school, the workforce, and in society.” 

African American and Latino students who are not economically disadvantaged continue to score lower in math than white students who are economically disadvantaged. 

“It is a moral and economic imperative that we close the achievement gap. California cannot afford to allow our Latino students and our African American students to continue to lag academically behind their peers,” O’Connell said. “While we must close the gap that exists between all subgroups, I am acutely concerned about our African American students. African American students as a whole scored in English-language arts just one point above Latino students, a subgroup that includes a significant number of English learners. This, coupled with an alarming dropout rate among African Americans, indicates a crisis in the education of black children.” 

O’Connell told reporters during a teleconference Thursday morning that state educators had made recommendations aimed at closing the achievement gap and improving services to African American students, including introducing rigorous curriculum and coursework and a greater access to technology.

Ashby BART Parking Lot To Close Monday for Ed Roberts Construction

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday August 16, 2008 - 10:42:00 AM

Starting Monday the east entrance and parking lot of Ashby BART will be closed for 18 months to allow construction of the $45 million Ed Roberts Campus.  

Described as one-stop shopping for disability services, education and research, the transit-oriented campus will be built on top of the parking lot on the east side of the BART station facing Adeline Street. It will include a dozen non-profits, a child development center, a fitness center and a cafe complete with a spiral ramp up to the second floor, accessible meeting rooms and spacious elevators. 

Groundbreaking is set for Sept. 4 and the project, according to BART and the Ed Roberts management, will be completed by February 2010. 

Although planning for the project has been going on for the last 12 years, some BART commuters who stopped by at the makeshift BART information desk set up inside the turnstiles from 3 to 7 p.m. Wednesday said they were hearing about it for the first time. 

“I didn’t know anything about it,” said Sarah Cone, who takes BART from San Francisco to Berkeley everyday. “But it’s not a big problem. I will just have to walk a little extra to get to my house. I guess.” 

Kevin Hagerty, manager of BART’s Customer Access Department, said BART agents had flyered cars parked at the station since the beginning of August.  

“Most people at the station are not surprised,” Hagerty said. “The project’s been in planning for 10 years. We are here today to answer questions and provide information.” 

Hagerty said that BART—which is funding the project along with the federal government, private foundations, the City of Berkeley and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission—was working closely with the project developer and city officials to minimize the disruption BART customers would face during construction. 

BART will be offering an attendant-assisted parking program in the Ashby stations’s west parking lot—which is home to the flea market every weekend—on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

“After the self-park stalls are filled, we will give people the option to leave their vehicles with a professional parking operator who will park their vehicle in parking lot aisles or behind the self-parked spaces,” Hagerty said. 

“When they come back from work they will give the attendants the claim checks and get their cars back. Since there will be no attendant parking on weekdays and the flea market will continue to operate there will be limited parking then.” 

“What about the shuttle buses?” asked a nurse who works at Alta Bates Summit and Medical Center which offers shuttle services to its employees from Ashby BART. 

Hagerty said that all existing shuttle services, cabs and car-share services which stop at the east side would be relocated to the west side. 

“The whole east side of the parking lot is going to close,” he said, adding that the west entrance and parking lot would not be affected during construction. 

“People who live or work on that side will have to cross Adeline and come in through the other side,” he said 

A few cab drivers who said they currently park in the three city-allocated parking spots on the east side expressed concern about the relocation. 

“There will be three spots on the west side for three taxis but what about the other 10 or 15?” said M. Singh, who parks his cab on the east side. “It’s a very big problem for taxi drivers. I don’t know what to do. Earlier we could park on Woolsey but the city stopped us from doing that two months ago.” 

Mandy Dhillon, another cab driver, said the City of Berkeley had started fining drivers if they parked their cabs on Woolsey. 

“It’s a big problem,” he said waiting for passengers outside the station. “You have a whole lot of cabs but only three can park at the station.” 

Some BART commuters said they were still confused with the new access plans. 

“We have got a game plan on how to accommodate access but we will keep looking at the challenges and address them,” Hagerty said. “A few people are asking us to clarify the parking but most are curious about how the building is going to look. Since the west side is more congested it will take a lot more time for people to adjust. We expect confusion on the first day. But we will have extra BART staff out here to make sure people understand the process.” 

Drivers will continue to pay the current $1 weekday rate for parking and monthly reserved permit holders will keep parking in their existing designated spaces. 

The City of Berkeley will also allow extended-hour parking on the west side of Adeline Street between Ashby Avenue and Woolsey Street. 

“Right now it’s got a one-hour parking limit but the city will be eliminating parking restrictions, except from 1 to 4 a.m., so that people will be able to park all day,” Hagerty said. 

Bike racks will be relocated from the east side of the station to the west side right next to existing bicycle parking. 

“We will allow people to use the curb area adjacent to the station entrance while actively dropping off and picking up other BART riders,” Hagerty said. 

Ed Roberts Campus Project Manager Caleb Dardick said BART patrons had reacted very positively to the news of the construction. 

“They were very supportive,” Dardick said. “Once construction is complete they will be able to access the station through a new elevator and stairs. The building will level with Adeline Street. We will basically be excavating the parking lot.”  

Barbara Richardson, who has been parking her car at the Ashby BART for the last two years, said she would start taking the bus from Monday. 

“Right now I barely get a spot on the east side when I get here,” Richardson said. “There are far less spots on the west side. There’s no way I will find a place to park there.” 

For more information, see www.edrobertscampus.org. 



UC Berkeley Gym Plaintiffs Drop New Trial Bid

By Bay City News
Saturday August 16, 2008 - 10:11:00 AM

Three plaintiff groups who filed suit to try to stop the University of California, Berkeley from building a new sports training center next to its football stadium Friday withdrew their bid to have a judge reverse her most recent ruling in the case. 

The city of Berkeley, the California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association said they're withdrawing their motion for a new trial or a reversal of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller's July 22 ruling "in the interest of the court, the parties and judicial economy." 

In a one-page filing, the plaintiffs said UC Berkeley officials have complied with state law in one aspect of the university's proposed 158,000-square-foot project, which is projected to cost $140 million. 

However, Michael Lozeau, the attorney for the Panoramic Hill Association, which represents homeowners who live near Cal's football stadium, said other important issues remain and Miller will have a show cause hearing on Aug. 25 on whether she should enter an amended judgment in the case. 

"We are very pleased" that the plaintiffs withdrew their motion, UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said. 

A UC Board of Regents committee approved building the sports training center next to the university's football stadium, which sits on the Hayward earthquake fault, on Dec. 5, 2006. 

Shortly afterward, a group of people began living in a grove of oak trees next to the stadium to protest the project because it calls for tearing down most of the trees. Several protesters remain at the site. 

In addition, the three plaintiff groups filed suit against the university in late December 2006. 

Miller issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 29, 2007, which temporarily halted the project. 

But on July 22 she ruled that the university could begin work because it has modified the project to meet her concerns. 

However, Miller kept the injunction in place for another seven days to give the plaintiffs who sued the university time to file an appeal and seek a stay to stop the project during an appeal. 

The California Oak Foundation and the Panoramic Hill Association filed an appeal on July 25, which kept the injunction in place another 20 days. 

On Aug. 7, the state Court of Appeal sent the case back to Miller's courtroom, saying that the injunction should remain in effect for at least two more weeks. 

The appellate court said "the preliminary injunction is not yet dissolved" because final judgment in the case never took effect. 

The court said the injunction "remains in place, subject to future modification by the trial court, as appropriate." 

UC attorney Kelly Drumm said today that the parties in the case have until Tuesday to file legal briefs on the issue of whether Miller should enter an amended judgment. 

Drumm said that if Miller rules in favor of the university again, the plaintiffs will be given an additional seven days to file an appeal and seek a stay. 

Lozeau said the Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation probably will re-file their appeal if Miller rules against them again. 

The Berkeley City Council met on July 24 to consider filing an appeal but couldn't muster enough votes to authorize an appeal. 

Rice University Student Tells Police He Wanted to Come West and Disappear

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 15, 2008 - 11:56:00 AM

Matthew Wilson, the missing Rice University student who was found by UC police on the UC Berkeley campus Wednesday, was transported to a local hospital for medical assessment after being interviewed by a homicide detective from the Berkeley Police Department later that night. 

UC Berkeley police located Wilson in Dwinelle Hall on the UC campus and are investigating him for theft of university property, according to authorities. 

They then handed him over to Berkeley police for psychological evaluation.  

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department (BPD), said in a statement that Matthew had told the homicide detective that he had been “living on the streets” in recent months. 

Kusmiss did not release the nature of Wilson’s medical assessment, saying that it was protected by confidentiality. 

Wilson told the detective during the two-hour interview at the Ron Tsukamoto Public Safety Building that he “wanted to come west and disappear,” police said. 

It took Wilson approximately a week to drive to Berkeley and he “lived in his car off and on until it was towed” by Berkeley police June 10. 

He spent quite a bit of time on the UC Berkeley campus, police said, and slept near some of the buildings in recent months. 

He told the detective that the UC student community had been a “good source of food” and that he did not make any social connections or friends while in Berkeley. 

Kusmiss said in her statement that “as a result of talking with Wilson, BPD would characterize him as having faced, and continues to face personal challenges. He can best speak to what those are.” 

Kusmiss added that the Berkeley Police Department’s participation in the case had essentially come to an end since Wilson was not a suspect in a city crime. 

“BPD (and UCPD) are surprised that we had not had contact with Wilson prior to last night,” Kusmiss said. 

“Wilson blended well into the student/Berkeley community.” 

Wilson, a computer science junior at Rice, was last seen by his roommate in his off-campus apartment building in Houston Dec. 14. His disappearance caught the attention of national media and prompted several non-profit groups to search for him. Wilson’s 2004 silver Dodge Neon was found parked on the street in a West Berkeley neighborhood in June.  

In the car, police discovered clothes, food and identity-change literature on which they found Wilson’s fingerprints.  

Authorities did not rule out the possibility that Wilson, 21, might have left home on his own accord.  

Wilson’s mother flew to the Bay Area recently to conduct a search for him in collaboration with a Pleasanton-based search and recovery group. Although sightings were reported in People’s Park and a few other places in Berkeley, police were not able to locate him.  

Officer Mitch Celaya, spokesperson for the UC Police Department, told the Daily Planet that university police officers had come across Wilson after business hours in a classroom at Dwinelle.  

“We identified him as the missing Texas student and contacted Berkeley police to let them know we had located him,” Celaya said. “We allowed them to interrogate him. They want to hold him for psychological evaluation. As soon as the evaluation is complete we will bring him back and continue our investigation.”  

Celaya said Wilson had been found just before 7 p.m. in the classroom with a laptop hooked to a video utility box.  

“We have a criminal case against him for possession of stolen university utilities,” he said.  

According to a press release from the Berkeley Police Department, Wilson was dressed in a black T-shirt, black jeans and black athletic shoes when he was found. 

He had short hair and no beard and was wearing wire-framed glasses.  

Rice University and Wilson’s family have been notified, police said. 

Power Outage Shuts Down West Berkeley

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 03:40:00 PM

Approximately 1,000 West Berkeley PG&E customers were without power for more than four hours on Thursday. 


According to a PG&E spokeswoman, the power outages were caused by a burnt power line cross-arm. PG&E will investigate the cause of the burnout after power is restored to customers. 


Electricity shut off at approximately 9:30 a.m. and was briefly restored for several short intervals before returning at nearly 2 p.m. 


Both residents and industrial companies scattered through West Berkeley felt the inconvenience of the outage. Many traffic lights in West Berkeley, including some along San Pablo Avenue, were shut off, causing some difficulty in travel.  


Employees of Seeo, Inc., a chemical company in the Aquatic Gardens business complex near Aquatic Park, reportedly considered playing frisbee to pass the time. Other companies, including Bayer, were able to continue operations using back-up generators. 


BART Services Restored After Delay from Cracked Rail

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 03:28:00 PM

BART services to the East Bay were restored around 11 a.m. after a cracked rail north of Lake Merritt Station caused a two-hour disruption earlier this morning. 

The incident began about 9:15 a.m. and special shuttle trains were brought in to help passengers around the affected area while crews worked at the scene. 

Delays of up to 30 minutes were experienced on the Fremont, Dublin Pleasanton, Richmond and Pittsburg Bay Point lines. 

Passengers were directed to transfer at the West Oakland, Bayfair and Oakland City Center/12th Street stations to trains waiting on the opposite platforms. 

BART operators kept passengers updated about the situation with periodic updates but service was slow at some stations even after 11 a.m. 

The cause of the cracked rail is not yet known.

Walker’s Restaurant and Pie Shop to Close Sept. 30

By James Carter Special to the Planet
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:43:00 AM

Solano Avenue, one of the last remnants of Main Street U.S.A., will soon lose a piece of its fabric as American as apple pie.  

Walker’s Restaurant and Pie Shop will close Sept. 30. 

Jorge Sandoval, the owner, sold the family business after “people just stopped coming in.” 

He did everything he could to keep customers coming. “The cost of everything keeps going up, up, up,” he said. “But we didn’t pass the additional costs on, and still they stopped coming. So I have no choice—I’d go broke if we didn’t close.” 

Sandoval stopped serving dinners—his bread and butter—a month ago due to soaring costs and faltering receipts.  

“Less than a year ago, flour, for instance, cost $16 for a fifty-pound bag. Now it’s $28. And that’s nothing compared with other food costs.” 

A vexing confluence of dramatic economic, demographic and cultural changes has dogged many small businesses on Solano Avenue and in other small business districts. Malls with huge advertising budgets and plenty of parking have drawn away customers, as have new trendy spots marketing ambiance and exotic fare. Yet perhaps the most exacting change is that most working people have less expendable income, and what they spend they tend to spend at chain stores.  

Restaurants are particularly vulnerable to such vagaries since margins are thin. It is difficult to foresee how to staff a restaurant from one day to the next, and food is not only expensive but perishable.  

“It used to be you could predict when you would be busy and when things would be slow,” Sandoval said. “Not any more. I guess a lot of it depends on what happens on cable TV these days,” he quipped. 

Doug Walker and his first wife Bonnie opened Walker’s Pie Shop in 1964.  

Gas was 30 cents a gallon, and Albany was a working-class town back then. A postage stamp cost a nickel. A family could buy a house for $12,000 and send the kids to the University of California tuition-free.  

Doug Walker started serving dinner in 1969, taking the menu from his father, Scotty, after he closed his restaurant on the corner of Solano and Ramona a few years before.  

Back then a customer at Walker’s could get a bowl of homemade soup, a salad, a basket of popovers, an entree, vegetables, potatoes, a piece of pie and a cup of coffee for $3.25 plus tax.  

Thirty years later, in 1999, when Walker sold the business to Sandoval, that same meal cost $16.  

Despite skyrocketing costs fueled by soaring gas prices and what had been a housing bonanza, Walker’s continued to serve that same dinner for less than $17. Yet beginning in 2001, more and more tables sat empty. 

“I thought maybe (customers) stopped coming because they wanted a lighter fare,” Sandoval said. “So I added pasta and more fresh fish, things like that. And the regulars complained. ‘What happened to the ham and beef stew?’ So I went back to the tried-and-true menu, keeping some of the new things. Still they stopped coming.” 

Jorge Sandoval came to the United States in 1982. Born and raised in Guatemala, he drove an ambulance for the Red Cross during a part of that nation’s deadly civil war, a reluctant witness to the many atrocities committed by the ruling military junta. 

He came to the United States to escape the violence and “because there were more opportunities here.”  

Sandoval met his wife, Emma, while both studied culinary arts at Contra Costa College. Emma was born and raised in Venezuela.  

Sandoval got a job washing dishes at Walker’s in 1986. Just months later when one of the cooks left suddenly, Sandoval convinced Doug Walker to give him a chance at the grill. Walker was concerned about his lack of experience, but he worked hard and proved to be more than up to the challenge, coming in on his own time to learn new recipes and to hone his craft. 

While a full-time employee at the restaurant, Sandoval worked a second—and sometimes a third—job as well. “He likes to work,” Emma said with a roll of her eyes.  

The two saved every penny, and managed to buy a small house. When Sandoval heard Walker was selling the business in 1999, he jumped on it. “Doug was very good to me,” Sandoval said. “He wanted to sell the business to an employee, he helped me out a lot.” 

Business was good for many years. The couple’s daughter, Emily, now 11 years old, studied at the back table of the restaurant, and the Sandovals bought a new and bigger house. When Jorge wasn’t working at the restaurant, he was busy making improvements at home. “Work, work, work, that’s all he does,” Emma laughed. 

Community groups could always count on Walker’s to donate pies for special events, contribute gift certificates, even donate food for school fund-raising events. 

A few years back, Walker’s “went green,” installing energy-efficient lights, recycling, composting food scraps and all organics, reducing water, gas and electrical use. “I did those things for the future of the planet and my daughter,” Sandoval said. “But I must tell you, it also saved me money.” 

Life was good, though the Sandovals worked long hours and rarely had free time. 

Then the Twin Towers were attacked. And things have not been the same since.  

Families still came in after Little League games, or for dinner with grandma and grandpa. They came for the dinner specials, for homemade pies made of fresh sliced peaches and sweet plump berries, pecans and rhubarb, strawberries and lemon crème, all wrapped up and baked in a light flaky crust.  

But things would not return to normal. “Another problem, to be honest with you, is parking,” Sandoval said. “My clientele, especially seniors, can’t walk here. They have to drive. And if there are no parking spots, they just keep going.”  

Several new restaurants have opened their doors in what previously were retail spots. Some have asked how they got around local ordinances that require new restaurants to provide off-street parking. 

“But what can you do?’ Sandoval said. “What is done is done.” 

Sandoval worries about his employees almost as much as he does about his own family. He knows how hard they work and how hard it is to find a job these days. He knows because he started at Walker’s in the back, washing dishes. He is not one to forget such things.  

Soon Walker’s will go the way of the malt shop, the corner bakery and, well, the local pie shop. Asked if he might bake pies at some other place at some other time in the future, Sandoval was tight-lipped: “I don’t know. We’ll see what happens. I’ve learned one thing, anything is possible.”

No August Issue of Street Spirit

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:44:00 AM

There’s a sudden dearth of homeless people in Berkeley crying out the ever-familiar “Street Spirit, only $1.” 

The word on the street is there’s no paper to sell this month. 

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the organization that has published Street Spirit—Berkeley’s local newspaper for the homeless—for the last 13 years confirmed Wednesday that it had to cancel the paper’s August issue after its editor Terry Messman was admitted to the hospital for surgery. 

“We didn’t have a choice,” said Laura Magnani, regional director of AFSC and supervisor of Street Spirt. 

“It was pretty much a one-person program. This puts a lot of pressure on everyone. Terry kept thinking he would be well enough to do it but found out at the last minute that he was really sick.” 

Magnani declined to comment on Messman’s health, saying it was a personal issue. 

She added that the committee had worked out an arrangement with Street Sheet—the paper’s counterpart in San Francisco—under which it would print more papers for distribution in Berkeley so that Street Spirit’s 100 or so homeless vendors could continue to make a living. 

Financed by AFSC, Street Spirit, which has a circulation of 20,000, provides Berkeley’s homeless with an alternative to panhandling and often provides a leg up to a career and a better life. 

Magnani said the committee had been unable to get a substitute for Messman due to a lack of funding. 

“There are two real tragedies to not being able to publish this month,” she said. 

“The information and contributions we hoped to get out won’t get out anymore. It also puts the vendors in jeopardy. However, Street Sheet has graciously agreed to print more copies to help us. We would like to have more staff, but it’s really expensive to run the program in the first place.” 

Street Sheet has already brought out 1,000 additional newspapers this month to help Street Spirit’s vendors and is scheduled to publish more, Magnani said. 

“It’s a big loss,” said Street Spirit writer and photographer Lydia Gans, who works with Food Not Bombs and sometimes contributes to the Planet. 

“Street Spirit serves a twofold purpose. It has important news on homeless issues, and it allows people to make money. I am happy they have worked out something with Street Sheet because honestly, these people need the income.” 

Contributors to the paper turn in their articles by the 26th of every month, Gans said. 

“Anybody can write for it,” she said. 

“Terry takes all the contributions and edits them. The paper usually comes out on the first of every month. It’s very disappointing that it didn’t happen this month, especially because there’s so much going on and a number of people have written about important things. I am very concerned about Terry. He has been working really hard recently.” 

Besides editing, Messman is also responsible for soliciting articles as well as the design, concept and layout of the newspaper. 

Magnani said Street Spirit’s articles were at times picked up by the mainstream media. 

A July 2005 article about the rise in hate crimes and violence against the homeless was picked up by 60 Minutes, Magnani said. 

Another article, “The Message of Mary Jesus,” which told the story of 33-year-old “Mary Jesus,” who threw herself from the Oakland Tribune Tower on Dec. 10, 2004, after she was evicted, was picked up by the Los Angeles Times six months later, she said. 

“The story of Mary Jesus was the story of heartless landlord policies,” she said. 

“There are important things people bring attention to. Rasputin featured a lot of our artists on its windows recently because their statement about homelessness was so strong. These contributions are more than just stories. These are advocacy pieces and the voices of people whose voices are not heard otherwise.” 

Publishing cost for the paper is around $2,000 every month, Magnani said. 

The paper, which is printed in Marin, has a partnership with the Berkeley-based homeless service BOSS for distribution. 

“We get the papers to them, and they screen the vendors,” Magnani said. 

“The number of vendors are down right now. We have only 50 to 60 people distributing Street Spirit. Earlier it used to be more like 125. It’s something we are looking into right now.” 

Although 20,000 newspapers are published every month, only 18,500 are distributed in the East Bay since the rest are sent to Santa Cruz and Fresno to help homeless people there. 

“The entire $1 goes to the vendor,” Magnani said. 

“It’s a direct economic process.”  

The paper also pays a stipend of $25 for every article to writers who need it. 

“It’s really a pittance, but it adds up in the long run,” Magnani said. 

AFSC, which is based out of Oakland, will soon start accepting advertisements to help boost the paper’s funding, said Kendal Au, program associate for Street Spirit. 

“We have avoided advertisers for a while, but now it seems we need to do it,” Au, who is heading the campaign, said. 

“We are certainly open to accepting financial help if people want to make donations. I am currently working on kicking off our website which will have more information for everyone.” 

For more information on how to help or advertise in Street Spirit, call Kendal at 238-8080 ext. 302 or e-mail her at kau@afsc.org. 

Berkeley High Teacher Dies In Philippines

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:44:00 AM

Kalpna Mistry, a global studies teacher at Berkeley International High School, died from a heart attack Aug. 4 while on a Fulbright Scholarship to the Philippines. 

A website created by Mistry’s family, “In Memory of Kalpna Mistry,” informs visitors that she received immediate medical assistance and was accompanied by close friends from her teaching program when she passed away. 

“She accomplished so much and touched so many lives in the short time she was with us,” a message from her family said. 

“We are so proud of her and will miss her tremendously. She had a gift of connecting with everyone, and was dedicated to making a difference in the world. Kalpna was committed to education for all, and was an exceptional teacher at Berkeley High School, where she inspired hundreds of students. Kalpna’s free spirit, giving nature and unmatched wit will be greatly missed.” 

Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp spoke at Mistry’s funeral services in Los Altos Saturday. 

Mistry, 28, taught freshman global studies in the recently accredited International Bacca-laureate program at Berkeley High. 

The daughter of Amratlal and Ramaben Mistry, Mistry was born in Redwood City, Calif., on June 13, 1980, and grew up in Mountain View with her parents, her grandparents Kunverben and the late Dalpatbhai Mistry, and her two sisters, Raakhee and Priya.  

A graduate of Mountain View High School in June, Kalpana pursued a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and international development studies from UC Berkeley, graduating in 2003. 

She married her best friend and childhood sweetheart Sidarth Khoshoo in 2005. In 2007 she received a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, and started teaching at Berkeley High’s International School later that year.  

After completing her first year at the International School last year, Mistry received the Fulbright-Hays Scholarship to study in the Philippines. 

“Kalpna’s passion for education began in high school,” Mistry’s sister Priya told the Daily Planet in an e-mail. 

“She was a student of the world, and strongly believed in immersing herself into new cultures. Through her experiences with programs such as Amigos Mexico, India Education Abroad, and the Philippines Fulbright-Hays scholarship, she became a force for social justice.” 

In an e-mail to the Berkeley High community, Slemp offered his condolences. 

“Our esteemed colleague Kalpna Mistry passed away this past week and will be sorely missed,” he wrote. “She will be remembered by her dedication to education, her deep love of her students and great intellect.” 

Slemp’s e-mail informed the community that counselors from the Berkeley High School Health Center would be available at 664-6965, and that the school was planning a memorial service after summer break. 

Messages started pouring in from students, family and friends on a Facebook page dedicated to Mistry once the news of her death spread. 

“I was fortunate to teach across the hall from Kalpna at Berkeley High,” wrote Rebecca Emily Martin on Aug. 4. 

“Whether it was bringing in food for her students to teach about a new culture, organizing a class Kiva loan or talking about curriculum with us teachers, Kalpna constantly impressed and inspired me. She was a rock star teacher, highly regarded among her colleagues and students, and a cherished friend. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family.” 

One of Mistry’s students, Scotty Colombo, described her as “kind and reliable.” 

“Well, at one point I was failing that class and she met with me and my mom and set me up with a folder in her classroom where I could put all my work and I pulled my grade up to a C rather quickly,” he told the Planet. 

“She was very creative in how we were to do our assignments. She was also very helpful, and I feel she genuinely made me a better learner.” 

Another Berkeley High student, Sasha Jacobs, wrote that “Ms. Mistry was the only teacher who has ever really believed in me.”  

Liz Farmer, a childhood friend, reminisced on Facebook about “Kupu.” 

“I’m still grappling with this news, as I’m sure you all are,” she wrote. 

“It’s just so hard to believe, it’s devastating. Kalpna was one of my best friends growing up. Kalpna had such a huge influence on me in ways I’m sure she didn’t even know. In sixth grade she convinced me to try out for the volleyball team—a sport I immediately fell in love with and continue to play today. Her kindness, generosity and honest-to-God care for those in need throughout the world showed me what it is to be compassionate. And her unassuming brilliance showed me what it is to be humble yet push myself beyond what I think I’m capable of.” 

The Mistry’s family is requesting donations instead of flowers and have asked people to contribute to the Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund at Berkeley High School Development Group. 

Tax-deductible donations can be addressed to: BHSDG — Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 519, Berkeley, CA 94701. Please write “Kalpna Mistry Memorial Fund” in the purpose field. For more information on BHSDG, call 464-1181 or visit www.bhsdg.org. 

First Person: My Memories of Ms. Mistry

By Lucy Sundelson
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:44:00 AM

One of the most satisfying experiences of my freshman year at Berkeley High was a trip to Sacramento to protest Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposed education budget cuts. There were busloads of students from Berkeley High alone and hundreds of other students from all over California. We spent the day buttonholing members of the Assembly, touring the state capitol building and demonstrating in front of it. The whole energizing experience only happened because of the determination and tireless efforts of my global studies teacher, Ms. Mistry. 

Ms. Mistry did everything to make the trip possible. She raised more money than anyone thought possible and arranged for the buses, parent chaperones, and meetings with individual legislators. She even bought pizzas with her own money for everyone at the organizing meetings.  

Ms. Mistry chose a classmate and me to represent Berkeley High in more formal meetings with members of the California Assembly. This opportunity made me feel, for the first time, that I had an important place in my enormous and somewhat impersonal school and could make a difference there. It also made me feel that I had a place in the world. 

Ms. Mistry’s classroom was always alive with ideas. She encouraged her students to be interested in current events and politics by asking them to read newspaper articles. We talked about what we read in the paper and tried to connect it with whatever we were studying. When our topic was Asia, we read and discussed articles about protests aimed at the Olympic torch because of Chinese repression in Tibet. Later, she had us watch a documentary about other political and social issues in China. Every day, when we walked into class, we would find a question on the board for us to think and write about in our journals. “You are the leader of a country with high fertility rates. What are you going to do about health care, housing, transportation and food?” After we finished writing, we would talk about our answers. Ms. Mistry also tried to connect each topic with what we had studied earlier in the year, so that different topics became part of a larger whole. 

Ms. Mistry created a comfortable atmosphere in the classroom that made for lively discussions. I never worried about coming up with the right or wrong answer, and she helped me overcome my reluctance to raise my hand and speak in front of my classmates. Ms. Mistry never lost her cool when students were disruptive. She would talk to them outside of class and then laugh off the incident and get back to the business of teaching. She had unlimited energy and devotion for her students. She would stay up all night grading papers or preparing for a field trip and come to school the next morning as enthusiastic as ever. She would eat only a bite or two of lunch—once, she told me that her lunch consisted of five almonds—because her students needed to talk to her.  

Ms. Mistry rarely complained. Instead, she always worried that she wasn’t getting through to some of the students and didn’t see that she made a difference just by trying so hard and not giving up. She was always ready with a hug—with a huge one when I told her that I wanted to be a teacher. 

The day before the trip to Sacramento, Ms. Mistry drove a classmate and me to a meeting in Oakland. At the meeting, we practiced talking to legislators and planned the logistics of the trip. She insisted on driving me home, even though it was well out of her way. On the freeway, she missed an exit and got lost. It was late, and I knew she had more planning to do and papers to grade, but she kept laughing and said it didn’t really matter. 

It is hard for me to believe that Ms. Mistry is gone, because she was so full of life. The loss of her warmth and vitality is terrible for me and, I am sure, for everyone who knew her. It will be especially hard to go back to school later this month because I won’t be able to see her or talk to her about my classes and projects, or my worries and hopes. However, her loss makes me determined to become the kind of teacher she was, so that some part of her survives. I can still hear the sound of her voice, and I will go on hearing it for a long time. 


Lucy Sundelson is a sophomore at Berkeley High School.

Four Candidates Dropped from Berkeley Political Races

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:45:00 AM

Four people who did not have 20 valid signatures on their nomination forms, as required by state law, were disqualified from running in Berkeley’s 2008 municipal elections Monday, city officials said. 

The deadline for filing nomination papers for Berkeley’s November 2008 municipal elections expired at 5 p.m. Friday but was extended to Wednesday for three offices whose incumbents are not running for re-election.  

Jesse Arreguin, who is running for the late councilmember Dona Spring’s District 4 seat, will not be running for re-election to the Rent Stabilization Board.  

District 6 councilmember Betty Olds’ seat is also up for grabs since Olds is retiring after serving 15 years on the City Council.  

Three-term incumbent Joaquin Rivera opted out of a bid for re-election to the Berkeley Board of Education this year.  

Mark Numanville, deputy city clerk, told the Planet that several prospective candidates had been disqualified since their nomination papers lacked 20 valid signatures. Tree-sit supporter Zachary RunningWolf and 2008 UC Berkeley graduate Sam Alcabes, both of whom were hoping to run for mayor, and Mary Rose “Redwood Mary” Kaczorowski and Michael McBride, both of whom intended to run for City Council, have had to drop out of the race.  

“When you run for office you circulate a nomination paper on which you collect no more than 30 signatures,” he said. 

“20 of those must be registered voters.” 



RunningWolf had only 18 valid signatures on his nomination form and Alcabes had 19, which disqualified the two of them from the mayoral race. 

Denis McComb also dropped out of the race Friday when he did not turn in his nomination papers, leaving incumbent Mayor Tom Bates and and former mayor Shirley Dean still running. 


District 2  

Two-term incumbent Councilmember Darryl Moore is running for re-election this year against Jon Crowder. 

Michael McBride, who filed nomination papers Friday, was disqualified on Monday when the registrar’s office determined that he had only 18 valid signatures on his nomination form. 


District 3  

Incumbent Councilmember Max Anderson is running unchallenged for his District 3 seat.  


District 4  

Mary Rose “Redwood Mary” Kaczorowski was disqualified from the District 4 race because she had only 17 valid signatures.  

Attorney Jerry Threet dropped out of the District 4 race Friday, leaving current rent board chair and Kriss Worthington aide Jesse Arreguin, former school board president and retiree Terry Doran, local activists LA Wood and Asa Dodsworth, and N’Dji Jockin to battle in a crowded race for the council seat formerly occupied by Dona Spring.  


District 5  

Attorney and King Middle School PTA President Sophie Hahn will be the only person appearing on the ballot to oppose incumbent realtor Laurie Capitelli. Jason Ira Majid dropped out of the race Friday.  


School Board  

Berkeley Unified School District parent Priscilla Myrick joined the race for school board director last week after turning in her nomination papers along with School Board President John Selawsky and Berkeley High parent Beatriz Levya-Cutler Friday.  


The deadline to file nomination forms for District 6, school and rent board candidates was Wednesday, August 13.

Van Hool Bus Survey Comes Too Late

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:46:00 AM

AC Transit says it wants to get community feedback on the re-engineered Van Hool buses soon to go out on local routes, but the timing of the district’s public input process appears to make it unlikely that any suggestions or criticisms will come in time to have much effect on the buses’ manufacture. 

In a controversial deal that was widely reported in the Daily Planet last year, AC Transit is buying 66 modified 30- and 40-foot buses from the Belgian-based Van Hool company, partly in connection with a complicated arrangement in which the district is selling off 16 early-retired buses manufactured by North American Bus Industries (NABI). 

The new buses have several design changes from the current Van Hool buses being operated by the district, put in place after the district received widespread criticism of the Van Hool’s original design. 

A prototype of the new 40-footers was delivered to AC Transit in mid-June, and the district made the new bus available for community inspection and walk-throughs at its June 11 board meeting. But the prototype has been largely invisible invisible since then, with staff members telling reporters in late June that there were no plans in place at the time to display the prototype in other parts of the community, or to put it in service on any of the district’s bus lines so that riders could see the changes. 

The prototype delivery and beginning of bus manufacturing had originally been scheduled for April. 

At Wednesday night’s AC Transit board meeting, staff members said that the prototype 40-foot Van Hool was now being put in operation on the district’s 51 line exclusively. That line runs from downtown Oakland to downtown Berkeley on Broadway and College Avenue. AC Transit Marketing and Communications Director Jamie Levin said that the bus would also be available for public inspection in August at two locations in Berkeley. 

Also on Wednesday night, AC Transit staff introduced a three-page “Rider Survey” brochure on the new 40-foot buses in connection with the prototype public viewing and 51 line operation. The survey asks riders to rate the new Van Hool bus on a 5-1 scale (from “I like it very much” to “I dislike it very much”) on various exterior and interior aspects. 

General Manager Rick Fernandez said that the first five buses could be delivered to AC Transit as early as Aug. 25, with the remainder of the order coming from Belgium in staggered three-week intervals. 

After board members Elsa Ortiz, Rebecca Kaplan, and Rocky Fernandez (not to be confused with General Manager Rick Fernandez) questioned staff on the timing of the bus manufacture and delivery and the district rider surveys, board president Chris Peeples estimated that one-half of the order would be either delivered or in the midst of shipping by the projected mid-September completion of the surveys. 

That raised the question of the purpose of the survey, which was supposed to give the district feedback in time for possible modifications of the new 40-footers while they are still in manufacture. 

General Manager Fernandez defended the timing of the survey, saying that any possible changes could be made by AC Transit itself after delivery, or by Van Hool’s North American distributor, ABC Company of Minnesota. 

Fernandez also minimized the possibility of any possible changes in the buses’ manufacture, saying that “we have already made a lot of changes in the design of this bus in response to community concerns,” and that “when we made the bus buy [last year], we said we’d have a prototype, but very few changes could be made afterwards.” Fernandez also said that the district has already received verbal comments on the new bus, and that “everything has been positive.” 

In the discussions over the contract last year, Fernandez had made it plain to board members that once the prototype was completed, structural changes to the buses would be impossible, and that only a limited modification of seating arrangements or other interior design could be done.  

The board briefly considered delaying the manufacture and delivery until the rider surveys could be completed, but later approved the current delivery schedule on a 6-0-1 vote, with Kaplan abstaining. Kaplan said that she didn’t think it was an issue of how many structural changes to the manufacture the bus makers could do at this late date, but rather “a public participation issue.” 


Sidebar 1:  

When AC Transit put its prototype new 40-foot Van Hool bus on display last June, staff members seemed more intent on blaming changes on the district’s most frequent critic than on explaining the new design to passengers. 

During the June 11 AC Transit Board meeting, residents were allowed to walk through the prototype to review the changes, with staff members available to answer questions. 

But when one older man asked why the fold-down, side-facing seats in the front of the bus were so low, saying that it was difficult for senior riders to get up and down in the seats, AC Marketing and Communications Director Jamie Levin suggested that he should “ask Joyce Roy. She’s responsible for the changes.” 

The staff member continued that “I guarantee she won’t like this bus, either,” adding that “she’s been wrong on everything so far.” 

Roy, a retired architect and local public transit advocate, has been a frequent and persistent critic of the Van Hools at board meetings. In 2004, she lost a race for the AC Transit Board to current Ward 2 Director Greg Harper. She is running against board chair Chris Peeples in the November election for the at-large board seat. 

Several board and staff members have acknowledged at district board meetings that many of the changes in the new 40-foot Van Hools were made at Roy’s suggestion. 


Sidebar 2:  

Some of the major inside changes between the original 40-foot Van Hools and the new buses now in manufacture: 


Original 40-footers: 

33 Seats 

Motor in the back 

All back seats have step-ups to reach them 

10 seats face backwards 


New 40-footers: 

35 Seats 

Motor in the middle 

Final back seats have no step-ups 

7 seats face backwards 


New 40-footers have a wider wheel base than the originals. Drivers had cited the smaller wheel base as a major problem in the originals, making the ride less steady, and making it harder for the bus to go around sharp corners.

Commission Landmarks Brower House

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:47:00 AM

The Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the former home of noted writer and environmentalist David Brower, at 2232-2234 Haste St., as a local landmark at a public meeting last week. 

The meeting opened with a moment of silence to remember Councilmember Dona Spring and her passion for preservation. 

The two buildings on Haste were divided into multiple rental units in the early part of the 20th century and were occupied by three generations of the Brower family through the early 1960s.  

The property was purchased by Brower’s grandmother, Susan Brower, in 1902, and Brower himself lived there from 1916—according to the landmark application—from the age of 4 into his late 20s.  

The commission also landmarked a towering redwood on the front yard of the property, which, according to the application, Brower planted in 1941. 

The property is currently leased out as apartments by Lakireddy B. Reddy of Berkeley-based Reddy Realty.  

Historian and Daily Planet contributor Steve Finacom, who drafted the landmark application along with retired planner John English, said he discovered the house after reading a forward by Brower for Bay Area Wild, a book of photographs of the Bay Area’s natural landscape by Galen Rowell.  

“Brower wrote, ‘I spent my youth on Haste Street in a house now almost hidden by a redwood I planted there in 1941, hoping we could mature together,’” Finacom said. 

“I thought that was remarkable; I had no idea he grew up in the south campus. The fact that his early home and the tree he planted could have survived all the decades of demolition and turmoil in that neighborhood was wonderful. The forward was written by Brower on Nov. 8, 1996, and I read it in the early 2000s—after he died.” 

When Finacom searched for the house, he found it still existed.  

The discovery led to many hours of extensive research by Finacom and English, including interviewing Brower’s family and reading his autobiography, which helped fill in some gaps about the house. 

“We had some long stops and starts, while other things took priority, but the application was finally finished,” Finacom said. 

Brower’s son, John, who was born when Brower was the executive director of the Sierra Club, told the commission he had often heard the story behind how his father had planted the tree. 

“It’s a nice tribute,” he said. 

“The Brower Center is nice, but it is concrete and steel. The house and tree are more appropriate to who my father was. He was pretty dynamic. He tried to save wildness for future generations. Sometimes he would put ads in the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle about saving the environment.” 

Built in 1887 by the renowned builder, artist and civic leader A.H. Broad, the front house is a wooden two-story Queen Anne Victorian with a gabled roof. 

The rear house, a Berkeley brown shingle, was added in 1904. 

It was while living on Haste that Brower developed his love for the outdoors and wrote about making his first “mountain climb” on Founder’s Rock at Hearst and Gayley Road as well as his many explorations of Strawberry Creek. 

“This was a place where a lot of his opinions and ideas were formed,” said Landmarks Commission Chair Steve Winkel. 

“I think it laid the foundation for the rest of his life.” 

A graduate of Willard Junior High and Berkeley High School, Brower delivered papers for the Berkeley Daily Gazette and worked at Western Union for a summer as a teenager.  

In 1929, while working at a valve factory in Emeryville, Brower enrolled at the University of California, dropping out in 1931 after losing interest in “formal classwork.”  

Brower joined the Sierra Club in 1933 and went on to become the first editor of the club’s newsletter, the Yodeler.  

After working for the University of California Press and enlisting in the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, he became the first executive director of the Sierra Club in 1952.  

According to the landmark application, Brower was fired 17 years later “at the climax of a struggle over the direction of the organization.” 

The commission agreed that the property’s significance arose from its association with A.H. Broad and Brower, “arguably Berkeley’s best known ‘native son’” and a visionary who turned environmentalism into a mass movement in the second half of the 20th century.

Specifics of the UC Santa Cruz Agreement with City, County and Citizen Plaintiffs

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 12:36:00 PM

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty said the agreement just signed by his community’s UC campus, Santa Cruz County and citizen litigants “all boils down to housing, water and traffic.” 

One of the major concessions hailed by the city is the university’s agreement to submit its expansion plans to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which looks at regional as well as specific development impacts. 

Details of the pact were spelled out in the text released Wednesday by City Attorney John G. Barisone follow. 



The settlement agreement caps undergraduate enrollment at 17,500, with the total undergraduate enrollment established for planning purposes at 19,480 by the fall 2020, and to immediately begin planning for new housing on the university’s west campus. 

The university agreed to provide 7,125 on-campus beds for enrollment up to 15,000 students, and provide beds for two out of every three students enrolled above that level. Actual housing construction has a four-year permissible lag through 2018 and two years thereafter.  

Housing construction could be suspended if a survey determines Santa Cruz housing is the most expensive in the UC system and exceeds the statewide average by more than 10 percent. The housing obligation would also be suspended in the event construction was stalled by a legal action or failure to act by another public agency.  

The university also agreed to limit construction of new off-campus needs within the city itself to 225, not including the beds the university now leases at two facilities in town. The university could build replacements for the leased housing should it end its agreements with the UCSC Inn and University Town Center. 

The university also agreed to pay the city a $199 housing impact fee for every university-owned or leased bed that results in a tax loss to the city, though the funds must be spent on public services that benefit the university’s off-campus population. 

The university also agreed to consult with the city and provide written notification of any intent to buy property within city limits. The school also agreed to construct any new high density housing within the limits set by the city zoning code. 

The Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE)—a citizen group that participated in the legal action—would retain its right to participate in the LAFCO proceedings and to file litigation challenging the agency’s ultimate decision.  

But the university won the concession that an application to LAFCO isn’t a concession that the university is subject to its jurisdiction, reserving the right to asset exemption or immunity if any terms of a LAFCO decision prove unacceptable. The city, county, CLUE and other litigants reserve their right to charge that the university isn’t exempt. 

Any legal action challenging LAFCO’s decision would result in automatic suspension of the university’s housing commitments until the litigation is resolved, and the university reserved the right to develop the north campus area now outside city limits—though any of the parties could file a legal challenge to the university’s actions. 

The university also reserved the right to assert development rights on the north campus area should any of several eventualities arise, including LAFCO’s denial of the university’s application, imposition of conditions the university declares unacceptable, if LAFCO takes more than 18 months to decide, or if the city fails to amend its sphere of influence. The plaintiffs similarly reserved their right to file legal challenges in the event the university does act unilaterally. 

The university and city also agreed to equally fund two code enforcement officer positions for five years as a pilot program to increase the rental safety and code compliance by landlords within the city. 



In the controversial area of water use—the most limited resource in a coastal region with no ties to the state water system—the university agreed to extend the city’s legal sphere of interest into all of the area encompassed by the 2020 LRDP’s EIR at the moment the universities submits an application to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). The city would simultaneously apply for an extended sphere of influence, with both actions to take place by Oct. 28. 

For every 85,000 gallons a year above the LRDP’s 2005 baseline of 206 million gallons, the university will pay the city its standard system development fee, currently $6,530, to finance construction of public facilities to provide for non-drought-year water needs on the main campus. Should the city declare a water shortage emergency, the university agrees to cap its water use as long as the moratorium exists. 

The university agreed to implement within five years all the high priority water conservation measures proposed by a campus engineering audit conducted last year.  



When traffic levels near target levels set in the agreement, the university agreed to begin a public process to reduce the average daily trip (ADT) number. Each excess trip above target levels would result in payment of a $1,098 traffic impact fee to the city, an amount three times the standard fee of $366. Fees would be used to fund joint town/gown trip reduction programs. 

Main campus average daily trips would be capped at 28,700, 3,900 more than the 2005 total of 24,800 used as a baseline through the plan’s life. The number would rise to 30,000 if the university is blocked from developing the north campus area, with the university paying the standard rather than the tripled fee for new trips below the 30,000 limit.  

The university would also receive an ADT credit to the extent the Santa Cruz Municipal Transit District fails to increase bus or other transit service to levels needed to accommodate at least 25 percent of daily trips to campus.  

The university reserved the right to either pay ADT fees for the 3,900 permitted new trips incrementally or by a one-time $1.4 million payment within 15 days of the final entry of the settlement. ADT funds would be allocated for improvement to a major artery to the campus (Bay Corridor) and intersections identified by the city as impacted by university traffic. 

The university agreed to separate ADT payments for two buildings it now owns in the city amounting to $418,869 for 2007-2008 and would pay more if the buildings are converted to higher density uses. 

The university also agreed to work with the city to implement a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system and other alternative forms of transit aimed at reducing peak-hour car traffic and to work to develop other forms of sustainable transportation. 

The university will pay up to $50,000 a year for three years to inaugurate an off-campus parking permit program, pay additional fees for widening Mission St. and fund all the costs of improvements at two other intersections.

Santa Cruz, UC Settle Development Plan Lawsuit

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:49:00 AM

While Berkeley has been going through a highly public confrontation over expansion of its University of California campus, a similar dispute has ended in Santa Cruz. 

Both disputes featured litigation by outraged citizens, joined by local governments worried about the impacts of growth on city citizens and services. 

And in both cases, tree-sitters took to the branches in protest of specific projects and have vowed to stay aloft, regardless of any real or prospective settlements on the ground below. 

But while city governments have signed off on both settlements—the Berkeley accord resulting in the ongoing downtown planning process still under way—citizen litigants in Berkeley aren’t signing off, unlike their counterparts to the south.  

And all the Santa Cruz plaintiffs aren’t satified with their choice. 

“I’m very unhappy,” said Don Stevens, founder of the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE). “From our standpoint, the settlement falls far short of the goals we were trying to achieve.” (See accompanying story below, “Citizen Group Founder Unhappy with UC/Santa Cruz Settlement.”) 

But UCSC Chancellor George Blumenthal hailed the settlement in a written statement Saturday as a “historic agreement” reached by the campus, the UC Board of Regents, the Santa Cruz city and county governments, the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) and 11 citizens who had signed on as individual litigants.  

Blumenthal said he expected all parties to sign off this week. 

“The agreement is good for the campus and good for Santa Cruz,” he said, allowing the university “to meet its mission of teaching, research and public service ... and includes mutually enforceable measures to address traffic impacts, conserve water and provide housing for new students.” 

Santa Cruz Mayor Ryan Coonerty also hailed the agreement as a major victory for local government and the public, and praised Blumenthal for spending thousands of hours personally in negotiation with the litigants. 

“It all boils down to housing, water and traffic,” said the mayor.  

Among the terms of the settlement are: 

• The university agreed to house two-thirds of all new enrollments on campus, and “if they don’t, they have to stop growing,” Coonerty said, a feature of the settlement that is better than any previous agreement between a UC campus and its host city. “In other agreements, the university merely promises to make its best effort. Here, if they don’t, they have to stop growing.” 

• Water-use and traffic impacts had been major sore points with the city and county, in part because when the university located in the city in 1966, it received contracts that allowed them unlimited water use and no limits on traffic, the mayor said. 

In the settlement, the university agreed to cut back water use by 30 million gallons a year and to pay a water systems development surcharge for every 85,000 gallons above the reduced figure. The city will receive about $12 million in payments for water system infrastructure improvements, and another $4 million in related water-use payments, he said. 

• The university also agreed to pay a traffic impact fee for each additional car trip generated up to 3,900 new trips, with the fee tripling for each new trip above the limit. The university will also pay more than $500,000 for development of alternative transit. 

• Another significant aspect of the agreement is a requirement that the university will have to submit all its applications for sewer and water services for the north campus area to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), and if the university moves against LAFCO’s findings the city, county and citizen litigants are free to take legal action. 

Copies of the agreement were released to the press and public during a media conference Wednesday morning. Details are spelled out in the accompanying articles.  


Tree-sitters wary 

In his statement celebrating the settlement, Blumenthal said the accord would enable the campus to “proceed with construction of the important Biomedical Sciences building.” 

It was plans to build that structure at the site of an existing grove of redwoods that had sparked Santa Cruz tree-sitters to take to the branches last Nov. 7, said Jennifer Charles, media representative for the Santa Cruz tree-sitters. 

But the approach of campus police in that city has been gentler, with one notable exception, than that taken by their counterparts on the Berkeley campus, she said. 

And while the Berkeley campus won a Superior Court injunction legally barring anyone from aiding or joining in the protest in the grove west of Memorial Stadium, in Santa Cruz only six people are barred from the redwood grove, each of them by name. None of those actually occupying the branches was named, thanks to the anonymity they have been able to maintain. 

Charles had been one of those initially named, “but I won my lawsuit against the university and I am allowed to be anywhere” in the grove of redwoods on Science Hill that the protest seeks to protect, she said. 

The southern tree-sit is also of shorter duration, beginning on last Nov. 7 while the Berkeley protest was 619 days old as of Monday. 

The Santa Cruz protests have resulted in far fewer arrests than the ones in Berkeley. “The last one I can recall was in January,” Charles said, when campus officers pepper-sprayed supporters who were trying to re-supply the tree-sitters. In December, campus authorities said individuals with their faces covered by bandanas in Santa Cruz sliced tires of vehicles used by the commercial arborist firm from Watsonville hired by both campuses in their efforts to isolate the protesters. 

In Berkeley, one tree-sit supporter was arrested Thursday after he refused an order by campus police to leave the median strip dividing Piedmont Avenue west of the stadium, said Zachary Running Wolf, who was the first to take to the branches on the day of the Big Game in 2006. 


Berkeley suits 

While the litigation battles in Santa Cruz may be nearing an end, two separate tracks of legal action are under way that target Berkeley’s expansion plans. 

In the highest profile case, lawyers for the Panoramic Hill Association, the California Oak Foundation and a group of Berkeley citizens are waiting to appeal a pending Alameda County Superior Court judgment that could clear the way for construction of the four-level gym and office complex that the university plans for the site now occupied by the stadium grove. 

That lawsuit targets the university’s Southeast Campus Integrated Projects agenda, which includes the gym, renovations and expansion of the stadium itself and an underground parking facility planned for the eastern side of Piedmont, along with other construction projects on the western side. 

(See the accompanying story, “Court: Berkeley Appeals Must Wait for Final Trial Judgment,” Page Two.) 

The second suit targets UC Berkeley’s Long Range Development Plan 2020. 

The city of Berkeley settled its own lawsuit against UC, but citizens who are members of Berkeleyans for a Livable University Environment are appealing their trial court loss in another suit challenging the environmental impact report on the LRDP. 

An argument on that case has been set for Aug. 19. Among the litigants in that action is Anne Wagley, calendar and arts editor at the Daily Planet. 

Median challenge 

Meanwhile campus police are continuing their gradual territorial expansion aimed at reducing the footprint of the Berkeley tree-sit supporters. 

After requests to City of Berkeley police and administrators asking them to evict supporters from the Piedmont Avenue median strip, campus police have begun to force them out, said Running Wolf. 

The supporters initially occupied the grove itself, until the university surrounded the site with first one, and then two, chain-link fences topped with barbed wire. 

The university then extended its perimeter, blocking off the sidewalk on the eastern side of Piedmont between International House and Maxwell Family Field. 

The move against the median follows declarations by university spokesperson Dan Mogulof charging that faculty, students and groundskeepers were tired of cleaning up feces and that police were concerned sleeping protesters might roll over from the sloping median into traffic and be hit by passing cars. 

While Berkeley police said they weren’t interested in enforcing the law that gave them authority to clear the median, they also stated on the record that “we have the authority to do what needed to be done,” Mogulof said Monday. 

But while each perimeter move put supporters farther from the tree-sitters, expanding the perimeter simply makes it easier to breach, said Running Wolf, who added that “we can get in there any time we want.” 


Citizen Group Founder Unhappy with UC/Santa Cruz Settlement

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:50:00 AM

While the mayor of Santa Cruz and the chancellor of the city’s University of California campus say they’re delighted with the settlement of their lawsuit over campus expansion plans, Don Stevens, founder of the Coalition to Limit University Expansion (CLUE) isn’t. 

But CLUE agreed to the settlement because it was the best they thought they could get, he said. At least, it forces the  

university to submit its plans for review  

to another independent state body, the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which will consider the impacts of the university’s expansion plans. 

And while the courtroom battle is over, Stevens said he and other activists will be closely following the university’s growth plans and speaking out when they think it’s necessary. 

Founder of the saxophone band Nuclear Whales, Stevens has lived in Santa Cruz since 1974 and is a graduate—in biology—of the school he sued, as is Stephan Volker, the Oakland attorney who represented CLUE in the lawsuit and who is also challenging Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium area expansion plans. 

“We both love the university,” he said, “but we’re concerned about the direction it’s taking.” 

Stevens said the university has overtaxed both the natural and the built environments, and has adopted growth plans that will threaten endangered species, destroy wetlands and consume the scarce resources of an isolated community that depends entirely on local supplies for all its water needs. 

The inspiration to create CLUE came when the University of California prepared its draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for its latest Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) for the Santa Cruz campus, covering the years 2005-2020. 

“A friend who had been involved with the previous LRDP process and had been very dissatisfied alerted me to the significance of what was happening,” Stevens said. 

A similar group, BLUE—Berkeleyans for a Livable University Environment—was formed while the Berkeley campus was preparing its own LRDP. The organization attempted to retain some city control over impacts on adjacent neighborhoods of UCB expansion. While CLUE members have now opted to settle with UC over the UCSC plan, dissatisfied BLUE members have challenged the city of Berkeley’s settlement of a similar case. They lost at the trial court level, and their lawsuit is now before the state Court of Appeal. 

But Santa Cruz critics of UC, including both CLUE and the city of Santa Cruz, won a major trial court victory in their own case, a ruling that the school and its board of regents had failed to adequately address the impacts of their development plans in the Santa Cruz LRDP Environmental Impact Report. 

And though water, traffic and the need for housing were issues in both cities—and the subjects of the Santa Cruz court ruling—there are significant differences in the growth impacts of the two campuses. 

The 1988 Santa Cruz campus LRDP set goals for the university to house 70 percent of its undergrads, half of its graduate students and 25 percent each of existing and new staff. But the actual figures for the 2003-2004 academic year accounted for less than half of the undergraduates, 15 percent of graduate students, and less than 6 percent of new faculty and staff combined, according to figures compiled in 2006. 

UC Berkeley has ruled out construction of new housing on campus, displacing dorms and apartments into the surrounding city. Unlike the Berkeley campus, which is in the heart of a metropolis with little undeveloped land around it, the Santa Cruz campus has a considerable amount of open land that it has targeted for expansion—a project that includes what Stevens called the largest logging project in Santa Cruz County history. One hundred fifty acres of forest are planned to be cleared for construction of some of the four million square feet of new buildings contemplated by the UC Santa Cruz LRDP. 

“We get no state water,” Stevens said. “We depend on groundwater and runoff, and we’ve already had cutbacks.” New growth at the university, even within the bounds defined in the settlement, will result in serious shortages by 2015, he said. 

“Even with the conservation measures in the settlement, how much growth can you have in a coastal community? The town is largely built out already and has very limited resources. We’re maxed out as a town, but the university keeps growing and growing.” 

Taking water out of the ground isn’t the only issue. Unlike the Berkeley campus, UCSC doesn’t have a groundwater discharge system that runs into the city’s system. 

“The campus is built on a Karst formation,” Stevens said, referring to a limestone topography characterized by sinkholes and caves carved out of the soft stone by acidic runoff. “They divert all their runoff into sinkholes,” he said. 

As for traffic impacts, while the Santa Cruz settlement provides for improvement of intersections and sets fees for increased car trips above set levels, the traffic increase allowed by the agreement will prevent the Santa Cruz basin from meeting the carbon footprint reductions mandated by state law to be achieved by 2020, he said. 

Further, the university can invoke immunity from regulation by the regional air quality district and many other regulatory agencies. This worries Stevens, in part because the university’s plans for building in the upper campus area—where the bulk of new growth is to be concentrated 500 feet above the existing campus—include wetland areas, normally barred if the developer were a private corporation rather than a public university. 

It wouldn’t be the first time the university has built on wetlands, he said, but he vowed to work to make certain that the university at least delineates the boundaries of all campus wetland areas. 

Stevens said the plans also threaten endangered creatures—including what may be a new species of giant blind cave-dwelling salamander—living in and around a canyon that will suffer what the university described as significant unavoidable impacts. The final EIR rejected a plea on their behalf from one of UC Santa Cruz’s own scientists.  

Why then did CLUE settle? 

“It was a very complicated and exhausting mediation process that’s been going on since last September,” he said. “My wife, who is a former editor, said to make sure I said this wasn’t the best deal we could get. It was the only deal.”

Court: Berkeley Appeals Must Wait for Final Trial Judgment

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:50:00 AM

Three state appellate court justices said Thursday that it is too soon for them to hear the plaintiffs’ appeal challenging the trial court decision on UC Berkeley’s plans for Memorial Stadium and the adjacent grove. 

The ruling leaves an injunction barring construction and demolition of the grove in place. 

With a hearing on the trial court judge’s ruling scheduled for Aug. 25, the injunction will probably continue until Sept. 1—the Monday following the first Cal Bears home game at the stadium. 

Presiding Justice William R. McGuiness of Division Three of the court’s First District was joined in the ruling by Associate Justices Peter J. Siggins and Martin J. Jenkins 

Michael Lozeau, attorney for the Panoramic Hill Association, and Stephan Volker for the California Oak Foundation had filed an appeal challenging the July 25 ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Barbara J. Miller. 

The judge ruled largely in favor of the university’s plans, though rejecting the university’s claim that it is exempt from the state law governing construction on earthquake faults and its theory of how the law’s economic limitations on additions and renovations to the stadium should be calculated. 

The appellate ruling said that while Miller issued three rulings and a document she called a “judgment,” she has not yet issued the final judgment that would end her jurisdiction over the case and allow an appeal because she gave the university until Aug. 21 to file a supplemental filing with her court.  

The Aug. 25 hearing in Miller’s court will focus on the judge’s order to all parties to show cause why she shouldn’t issue her final judgment as well a motion by the plaintiffs asking Miller to vacate her decision and grant a new trial. 

That hearing, possibly the last while Miller still exercises jurisdiction over the case, comes just five days before the Cal Bears host their first home game at the stadium against Michigan State University. 

If the judge does issue her judgment then, the existing bar on construction activities at the grove—which includes cutting the trees—would remain in place for seven more days. 

“Between Michael and myself, we will exercise every option to keep it in place,” Volker said. 

The grove itself remains isolated behind a pair of fences and a phalanx of barricades staffed by police officers gathered from across the UC system and backed by private security guards, who will presumably be out in force on game day.  

“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of the campus community, the people at the game and the people in the trees,” said Dan Mogulof, the university’s executive public affairs director.

Berkeley High Newspaper in Financial Straits

By Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:48:00 AM

Staff members of the Berkeley High Jacket, a student-run newspaper, an-nounced last week that they don’t have enough money to produce the paper for the upcoming school year. The Jacket receives no funding from the Berkeley Unified School District—its revenue comes only from subscriptions, advertising and donations. The staff is composed of eighteen student editors and about twenty reporters.  

Stephanie Ratcliff, the Jacket’s current business manager, said that because of the rising costs of printing and mailing, combined with the state of the economy, the newspaper only has enough money to print papers through one-third of the school year. 

“It costs $800 to print a regular issue,” said Ratcliff. “However, when we have extra pages, or run special editions, such as Spirit Week, Senior Pages, or the April Fool’s edition, it can cost as much as $1,000 for an issue. So, for the year, we need between $12,000–$16,000, and as of now, we only have $4,500. So, we are looking to the community to raise between $8,000 and $10,000.” 

The Jacket typically prints 2,600 copies of each issue, 200-250 of which are distributed to subscribers, while the remaining are distributed free-of-cost to students. There are very few advertisers, not more than five or six in an issue. 

Kacey Berry, former business manager for the Jacket, said that she has recommended trying to get more advertising. 

“My advice has been to get more subscribers, more advertisers and to raise prices appropriately,” said Berry, who graduated from BHS in June and plans to take a year off before attending college in Maine. “Before I took over, we didn’t do a lot of advertising, and it wasn’t a great source of revenue. We made a conscious effort. though, and I think they need to continue to use advertising as a source of revenue.” 

Ratcliff said that the Jacket has been employing various fundraising measures, including increasing subscription prices and advertising prices, and beginning a general fundraising drive.  

“I’ve called about seventy local businesses,” Ratcliff said. “We are trying to involve the community as much as we can.” 

Editor-In-Chief Megan Winkleman said that journalism events and auctions to raise money were planned for the next few months. 

“We want to have an event with Berkeley writers and reporters who will donate their time to speak to people in the community at an event benefitting the newspaper,” said Winkleman. “People in the audience can hear them speak, ask questions. It will be a fun event. We are also thinking about holding a silent auction at that event. It will probably happen in mid- to late fall.” 

`Ratcliff also mentioned the possibility of poetry slams. 

When she was asked if the Jacket has plans to solicit the school district for funds, the answer was “hopefully not.” 

“The Jacket has prided itself on being completely financially independent from Berkeley High,” he said. “This is a student-run newspaper and we want to remain independent.” 

Berry said that a variety of things had made financial hardships for the newspaper. 

“I think that I noticed these things even before school started last year,” said Berry. “We were getting less subscribers, since a lot of subscribers were parents whose kids graduated that year. Printing costs also went up two or three times this past year, as well as the price of stamps. So these financial problems came from a variety of factors.”

Court OKs Homeschooling in California

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:48:00 AM

The Second District Court of Appeal reversed itself and ruled Friday that parents in California had the right to homeschool their children even if they lacked teaching credentials under state law. 

The 44-page page ruling declared that “California statutes permit homeschooling as a species of private school education.” 

The court had ruled Feb. 28 that the state’s compulsory education law mandated that parents send their children to a public or private school or have them taught by credentialed teachers at home, alarming thousands of parents who homeschool their children and creating an outcry among homeschooling advocates. 

“I am pleased that the courts have clarified the right of California parents to homeschool their children,” state schools chief Jack O’Connell said in a statement Friday. 

“I have respected the right of parents to make educational decisions they feel are in the best interests of their children. As head of California’s public school system, it would be my wish that all children attend public school, but I understand that a traditional public school environment may not be the right setting for each and every child. I would point out that within California’s education system there are many options available from independent study to charter schools to non-classroom-based programs.” 

O’Connell added that he recognized and understood the consternation that the earlier court ruling caused for many parents and associations involved in homeschooling.  

“It is my hope that today’s ruling will allay many of those fears and resolve much of the confusion,” he said. “I also appreciate the caution and concern taken by the court to protect children when their safety becomes an issue.” 

Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky said he was not surprised by the decision. 

“I expected that’s what the courts would rule,” he said. “That’s all I can say at this point.” 

Selawsky said there were a number of parents in Berkeley who homeschooled their children, and some of them signed up with Berkeley Unified and followed its curriculum. 

Parents can homeschool children by enrolling them in a home-study program through a local school district or charter school which then assigns a teacher to supervise the child.  

Those with credentials can teach their children at home and those without teaching credentials can opt to start their own private school or enroll them in an already established private school.  

Diane Flynn Keith, director of Bay Area-based Homefires, an online resource for parents who homeschool their kids, said she was delighted by the news. 

Keith homeschooled both her sons for 16 years by starting her own private school and now advises parents about how to teach their children at home. 

“I pulled my first son out of first grade to homeschool him because I thought it would be better for him than the school system,” she said. “I was not satisfied by how business was being conducted at his private school. And my younger son never went to regular school.” 

Keith said she was delighted by the ruling. 

“It leaves homeschooling exactly where it belongs—that is, legal in the state of California without any kind of restraint or interference from the government. I am a little disappointed the ruling said there should be some kind of legislation to define homeschooling. In doing that, regulations and restrictions might impede parents from teaching kids in the best possible way.” 

Currently homeschooling is not defined in the California Education Code. 

Keith said there were a number of homeschool groups near Berkeley, such as the Alameda Oakland Home Learners, the Baywood Learning Center in the Oakland Hills and Nurture Explorers of the East Bay. 

Kristen Olmes with the Alameda Oakland Home Learners told the Planet she had homeschooled all three of her children for 10 years. 

“My youngest son is 16 now and is going to community college,” Olmes said.

Design Unveiled for Berkeley High’s Old Gym

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:48:00 AM

Parents, teachers and athletic coaches crowded inside the Berkeley High School library Wednesday for their first look at the Berkeley Unified School District’s new design for classrooms and sports facilities to replace the landmarked Old Gym on Milvia Street. 

The design, district officials said, is consistent with the one outlined in the South of Bancroft Master Plan and mimics certain elements from the Berkeley High campus. 

It is scheduled to go to the Berkeley Board of Education for approval on Aug. 20. 

The district also plans to build a new stadium, which will replace the old bleachers and upgrade the current softball field to regulation size. 

Some parents expressed concern about the proposed bleachers, which they suggested should be built at an adequate height to allow them to view the games properly. 

“We want to bring the south of campus in conformance with the northern part,” said Jose Vilar of Emeryville-based Baker Vilar Architects, the firm hired by the district to design the project. 

Vilar said one of the goals of the project was to build a sports quad that would be used for physical education, basketball, and pre- and post-game activities. 

The new athletic facility will have seating, athletic offices, training rooms, ticket sales, coaches’ offices and replace the old bleachers, he said. 

The three-story classroom building—which will have 15 classrooms—and one-story gym will replace the Old Gym, he said.  

The new gym building will have a 7,100-square-foot regular gym and a 3,238-square-foot “soft” gym.  

The three-story building will have five classrooms on the ground floor—near the entrance—along with the gyms, six classrooms and fitness center equipment on the second floor and four classrooms on the third floor with a view of San Francisco and the bay. 

Some Berkeley High teachers are currently holding classes in portables at Washington Elementary because of a severe space crunch. 

“The school district is adding 10 classrooms as we speak,” said district Superintendent Bill Huyett, referring to the six new portables and four classrooms that were being renovated. “We will also be reviewing classroom needs every year. We want the community to know that we will have enough classrooms between now and when the construction for the new classroom building starts.” 

The building’s windows resemble those of the Old Gym, Vilar said. 

“We are trying to locate the new classrooms as close as possible to the other academic buildings and provide access through the quad,” he said.  

Slemp told parents that the Donahue Gym, which is around 10,000 square feet, would continue to function even after the new gyms were built. 

“The key piece here is a philosophical commitment to have a clean space that is well maintained bringing the whole community to the campus,” Slemp said. 

“The whole project is going to be seismically retrofitted, energy efficient and accessible.” 

Vilar stressed that landscaping inside the campus and along Bancroft Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way is an important part of the project. 

“There will be ornamental fences and trees along Milvia,” he said. “The fences along MLK and Channing Way will have a four- to five-foot setback that will make the streets look better. We want to create a visually pleasing campus setting.” 

Vilar said the new classroom building does not represent any particular architectural style. 

“We are trying to match the way the school looks right now to unify the design,” he said, adding that he had taken the yellow columns from the high school’s swimming pool and used it in the proposed design. 

The new stadium is scheduled to be built between April 2010 and June 2011, Lew Jones, the district’s director of facilities said. 

“Before we tear down the Old Gym, everything in it, with the exception of the warm water pool, will be replaced in the new bleacher building, he added.  

The demolition of the Old Gym would take place between June 2011 and November 2011, followed by the construction of a new classroom building and gymnasium from January 2012 to August 2013.  

The district has no funds to build the new classroom building, Jones said. 

Berkeley Unified passed a resolution recently to work with the city to relocate the warm-water pool from the Old Gym to an appropriate location.  

The master plan includes an opportunity for the district to work out a “property arrangement” with the city so that the city may construct a “replacement warm-water pool.”  

The resolution calls for the city to prepare a ballot measure for the June 2010 election to improve the three community pool centers that are on district property, including the warm pool, and find a new site for the warm pool. 

The new project proposes to take away the current parking inside the campus. 

“There will be a place to drop off students but no parking inside the campus,” said Slemp. “And being downtown, parking will certainly be an issue.”

Students Hit by High Tuition Cost

By Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:49:00 AM

With a 19.4 percent increase in applications for financial aid at UC Berkeley and an expected tuition increase in the fall, students are feeling the effects of the slumping economy. 

However, they may finally get some relief. On July 31, Congress reauthorized H.R. 4137, The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2008, authored by Representative George Miller (D-CA), which would make information on paying for college more accessible and affordable. This bill is designed to rein in price increases, restore integrity to student loan programs, simplify the process to receive financial aid, make textbooks more affordable, increase aid for veterans and military families, and provide equal opportunities for students with disabilities, among other things. 

“This legislation authorizes a study of the inequities of the current need analysis formula that many of us have argued was very unfair to students who live in high-cost areas of the country,” said Cheryl Resh, director of financial aid at UC Berkeley. “A household income of $40,000 simply does not go as far in Oakland as it does in Des Moines, Iowa, and the current formula has never taken that into account—giving families in both areas the same “expected family contribution” for their child’s education.” 

Miller says that the legislation is necessary and that the timing was important.  

“I am delighted that the Senate has joined the House in swiftly passing this landmark legislation,” said Miller in a press release, following the passage of the bill in the Senate. “This legislation will empower America’s college consumers—students and families—by providing them with comprehensive information on tuition and textbook prices and key financial protections when paying for a college degree. For students and parents, who continue to face soaring college costs amidst rough economic times, these reforms could not come soon enough. I hope that the president will join our continuing efforts to make college more affordable and accessible by quickly signing this bill into law.” 

President George Bush has indicated that he will sign the act later this month, after it passed in the House and Senate with large margins.

Berkeley Remembers Dona Spring

By Riya Bhattacharjee and Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:50:00 AM
Anna de Leon shares her memories of Dona Spring at a Sunday memorial service.
Rio Bauce
Anna de Leon shares her memories of Dona Spring at a Sunday memorial service.

More than 100 local activists, city officials and community members—some in wheelchairs—paid homage to Dona Spring, one of Berkeley’s most beloved public figures, at a memorial gathering at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park Sunday. 

Those who spoke at the afternoon event remembered not just Councilmember Spring’s intelligence, compassion and wit but also told stories they had previously not shared with anyone. 

Spring, 55, died due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis on July 13. Her council seat will remain vacant until the November municipal elections. 

Dona’s mother, Paula Althoff, remembered her as an avid skier during her high school days in Grand Lake, Colorado, where the majestic Rockies and the open prairies inspired her life-long love of the outdoors. Spring, her mother said, was an “all-American girl” —a good student and a prize-winning athlete. 

Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio remembered the spunky visionary behind the city’s I-80 pedestrian bridge, her numerous cutting-edge City Council items, her commitment to her constituents and her attention to detail. Spring, they said, was an environmentalist who was “truly green” before it was trendy, a progressive who was “unabashedly spiritual before it was admitted in polite company that progressives could be spiritual.” 

Little-known facts about Spring’s battle with rheumatoid arthritis came to light when her partner, Dennis Walton, recounted the time she almost died in March 2006 and lost the use of one of her eyes. 

“She was hanging on for dear life from then on,” Walton said. “In the theater of pain, Dona was an accomplished actress.” 

Walton’s brief speech brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience, some of whom wore pink—Spring’s favorite color. 

“When Dona was born, I thought she was the cutest little baby,” Althoff said. “She loved animals—the kittens, the dogs, the puppies that we had over the years. Someone once traced our family tree all the way back to mayor Dick Whittington of London, who had a cat. It might benefit anyone in their quest for political office to go to the animal shelter and pick up a cat or a dog.” 

The audience broke into laughter and applause at the last sentence. 

“But most of all she loved the City of Berkeley with its climate of free speech and the political activism,” Althoff said. “I was proud of her five successful campaigns for the District 4 City Council seat. She once took a controversial political stand for which she received a death threat. But I think she was right.” 

Spring was elected to the City Council in 1993. She was re-elected in November 2006 with 71 percent of the vote. 

In a statement honoring Spring, Congresswoman Barbara Lee described her as the epitome of Berkeley’s activism, defending the disabled, the downtrodden and the meek. 

“She was undaunted by big power,” Maio said. “It didn’t matter to her what power it was. We all knew how courageous she was. When Dona started fighting for the I-80 bridge, I thought it would never happen, but she doggedly pursued it until one day I was present at the groundbreaking.” 

Spring’s close friends and acquaintances at the memorial included San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, Berkeley Board of Education President John Selawsky, her campaign treasurer Sara Shumer and the many caregivers without whom she could not have survived every day. 

“For the past 27 years, I have had the great privilege to be Dona’s companion and primary caregiver, but in recent years it would not have been possible without a team of caregivers,” Walton acknowledged. “Dona did not want the public to know of her pain. She was becoming increasingly quadriplegic but could still remember names and faces to an uncanny detail. She would tell me ‘could you call so-and-so and tell them such and such at this number’ even if she hadn’t met the person in 10 years. She loved life to the fullest, and although she had many fears, she refused to let any of those stop her. Of course she was not perfect, no saint is.” 

City Manager Phil Kamlarz announced during the event that Mayor Tom Bates—who was absent—had decided to name Berkeley’s animal shelter after Spring. 

“Dona dreamed big but also dealt with the day-to-day stuff,” said Kamlarz, who spoke on behalf of city staff. 

“She probably had more requests for neighborhood services than any other councilmember in the city, whether it was traffic disputes or taking care of services for the elderly and the disabled. Today we finally have a site for the city’s animal shelter because of her.” 

The ceremony concluded with the rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Spring’s friend Anna de Leon.

Cal-OSHA Files Citation Against AC Transit

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:51:00 AM

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) has filed a citation and notification of penalty against the Alameda–Contra Costa Transit District, charging that the district is not adequately providing bus drivers with protection from heat-related illness, including not providing access to sufficient water. 

AC Transit is challenging the Cal-OSHA citation, and an appeal hearing before a Cal-OSHA administrative judge in the state building in Oakland has been continued to September. 

The Cal-OSHA citation noted that only 20 percent of AC Transit buses are supplied with air conditioning, a situation that bus drivers call a significant problem particularly in the summer months on routes running through southern Alameda County. In addition, while drivers may drink water while the buses are stopped, AC Transit rules do not allow drinking while the buses are in motion. 

AC Transit is currently considering adding air conditioning to some of the new buses being purchased for operation in the district. 

The Cal-OSHA citation, filed by department Industrial Hygienist Garrett Brown, resulted from a complaint made to the state agency by driver Robert Stranahan and a series of inspections by Brown between August and November of last year. 

Some 50 AC Transit drivers showed up to the first appeal hearing session in early July to support Stranahan’s case. 

Under one state statute noted in the Cal-OSHA citation, employers are required to provide at least one quart of water per hour for employees. In another, employers are required to provide access to shade for “employees suffering from heat illness or believing a preventative recovery period is needed.” 

AC Transit Manager of Media Affairs Clarence Johnson said that the district is in part “appealing Cal-OSHA interpretation that AC Transit is covered under state regulations that require employers to provide adequate shade for employees. We believe that is exclusively written for people who work outdoors.” 

Johnson also said that “any illness on duty—including heat-related illness—is treated the same. The drivers can stop the bus and notify dispatch that they are unable to continue, and a replacement driver is immediately sent out. Under these circumstances, drivers are allowed to go out on sick leave until they recover. They are not forced to drive.” 

“We do recognize that heat is a concern” for both drivers and passengers, Johnson said, adding that the district “is putting together several ideas to make drivers and passengers more comfortable.” 

Representatives of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192, which represents AC Transit drivers, could not be reached for comment for this story. 

If the Cal-OSHA hearing officer upholds the citation, penalties for AC Transit would be minimal, resulting in a total penalty of $2,015.

Berkeley Police Report High Recovery Rate of Stolen Cars

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:52:00 AM

Berkeley police report a 96 percent recovery rate for cars stolen in Berkeley. 

In 2006, 1,266 cars were reported stolen, while in 2007 1,154 were reported stolen. In August 2008, 29 cars have been reported stolen and 11 have been recovered. 

“We have a very high recovery rate,” Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, BPD community services bureau supervisor said. “Southern California has more vehicles stolen and chopped up or taken over the border. Here, cars are stolen for gas, joyrides, drug deals or to pick up a prostitute. It’s just a different culture of theft.”  

Stolen cars in Berkeley are most often recovered when they’ve been abandoned in a residential area or along the freeway. Often the cars are recovered when a resident, business owner or police officer notices a car parked strangely or for a long period of time, or a car that has a large number of citations. 

The license number and description of all stolen cars are entered in the national Stolen Vehicle Service database of the National Crime Information Center. When police find a car they suspect has been stolen, they can search the database to confirm. Stolen cars are occasionally recovered when an officer stops the driver for another reason. When the officer reads the license number to the dispatcher, he or she will recognize that car as stolen. 

According to Sgt. Kusmiss, the most frequently stolen makes of cars include Toyota, Honda, Saturn, and Acura. These brands often have similar keys, which are easily filed down to fit into any car’s ignition, making them the easiest to steal. 

Police say the simplest and most effective theft prevention measure is a steering wheel locking device. The Berkeley Police Department Community Services Bureau has several hundred of these devices available, so a community member who calls the bureau can receive one for free, Sgt. Kusmiss said.

Catalytic Converter Thieves Strike Berkeley

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:52:00 AM

Three catalytic converter thefts last week represent an ongoing trend in Berkeley and a nationwide epidemic. 

“We have kind of a constant ebb and flow of catalytic converter thefts,” said Sergeant Mary Kusmiss, BPD community services bureau supervisor. “We attribute that to a suspect or a particular suspect working in Berkeley over a weekend or a brief period of a time.” 

Police report that there were 74 catalytic converter thefts from Jan. 1 to July 31. 

Last week’s thefts were reported on Monday, Aug. 4 in the 2900 block of Pine Avenue; on Tuesday, Aug. 5 in the 2100 block of Prince Street; and on Wednesday, Aug. 6 in the 2400 block of Prince Street. 

Because the theft of a catalytic converter is not immediately obvious, many thefts are not reported for several days. The first two thefts reported are estimated to have occurred between Aug. 1 and Aug. 3. 

The converters, which contain platinum, can be sold to illegal metal recyclers, who will give up to $100 per converter. Truly ingenuous thieves can actually extract the valuable metals from the converter, enabling them to sell the metal without the stolen car part. 

Metal theft generally has increased in the past year as the sale price of all metals has increased dramatically. Police report stolen copper wiring, sheet metal and aluminum every week. 

According to Sgt. Kusmiss, Berkeley has only one suspected metal recycler, so Berkeley thieves are likely taking the converters elsewhere to sell them. 

El Cerrito police recently conducted a raid at the home of an individual suspected of buying catalytic converters. While the police were searching the home, more than 10 people showed up with catalytic converters to sell. 

Thieves steal the auto part by removing bolts that attach it, or by sawing it off of the car. Sgt. Kusmiss said the best way to prevent the theft is by having the converter welded or clamped on rather than secured only by bolts.

Zoning Board Agenda

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:53:00 AM

San Raphael-based Wareham Development will brief the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board Thursday about its plan to demolish the landmarked Copra Warehouse (Durkee Famous Foods) in West Berkeley to make way for the construction of a four-story, 100,000-square-foot research and laboratory building. 

Wareham’s proposal was criticized by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission at a meeting last month. Commissioners described the project as “too big” for the neighborhood. 

Some expressed concern that the height of the planned building—89 feet—would be almost double what zoning currently allows in West Berkeley. 

Although Wareham proposes to preserve a single brick facade, the commission stressed that this alone would not be enough to retain the building’s past glory. 

Wareham company officials contended at the LPC meeting that costs for rehabilitating the warehouse would be prohibitive, and that the need for laboratory space was driven by current market demands. 

Wareham is scheduled to return to the landmarks commission and the zoning board with a formal application for the project at a later date. 


2002 Acton St. 

Verizon Wireless will ask the zoning board to approve a use permit for a new wireless telecommunications facility—including six antennas and related equipment—on top of a five-story mixed-use building at 2002 Acton. 

Zoning staff had not received any objections from neighbors or community members about the project at the time the staff report was written. 


1200 Ashby Ave. 

Berkeley-based developer Ali Kashani of Memar Properties will brief the zoning board on his plans to construct a five-story mixed-use building with 98 residential condo units, 11,900 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 135 parking spaces on a 34, 210 square foot lot at 1200 Ashby. 

Some area residents have raised concerns about parking and traffic at two community meetings held by the developer. 


The meeting is scheduled to be held on August 14, Thursday, at Old City Hall, 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, 7 p.m.

Bomb Scare at Bayer

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:54:00 AM

A bomb scare forced evacuation of Bayer employees in West Berkeley Wednesday morning, ending only after the Berkeley bomb squad blasted a suspicious suitcase with water and found nothing but papers inside. 

Department spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said a Bayer security guard called police at 10:03 a.m. after a report of the case, which was left near the base of a light pole on Seventh and Parker Streets. 

“Bayer security evacuated several buildings closest to the case,” Sgt. Kusmiss said, and Berkeley officers blocked off Seventh Street in both directions while three members of the explosive ordinance detail donned their bomb suits and x-rayed the suitcase. 

Even though the x-rays didn’t indicate the presence of an explosive device, officers used a high-pressure water device to “disrupt” the case and its contents. 

“We don’t like to take any chances, and Bayer has some controversy in its history,” Sgt. Kusmiss said. 

Once the water had done its job, officers “determined there was no explosive material,” she said. 

Traffic was resumed as officers cleared the scene at 1:41 p.m. and Bayer employees were allowed to return to their jobs.

Washington Elementary Goes Solar

By Rio Bauce
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:57:00 AM

Yesterday, construction workers for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) laid down 480 solar panels on the roof of Washington Elementary School as part of a project by Kyoto USA, a climate change group located in Berkeley. 

This project, funded partially by the state of California and partially by BUSD, has been generating wide publicity and support for its money-saving features and contribution to renewable energy at a time when the cost of energy is skyrocketing. 

Tom and Jane Kelly, founders of Kyoto USA, are ecstatic over the project. 

“I am very satisfied with the success of the project,” said Jane Kelly. “Everybody here in Berkeley was very receptive, especially School Board President John Selawsky and former superintendent Michele Lawrence.” 

The project cost about $900,000: $700,000 for the solar panels and $200,000 for the new roof. 

Tom Kelly said, “The cost was divided between the state and the BUSD. The district realized that the school was allowed to collect modernization funds from the state. The state put up 60 percent of the cost and the district put up 40 percent. The district got the money from using their PG&E rebates along with bond money. They didn’t even have to take out any loans.” 

The couple approached Selawsky last summer about the possibility of having the school district run on solar energy. Selawsky, excited about the possibility of the entire district running on solar energy and the benefits associated with it, immediately embraced the idea and passed on his enthusiasm to Lawrence. 

After current superintendent Bill Huyett took over, he continued support for the project, and yesterday it was finally finished. 

“The School Board had an interest in going solar,” said Huyett. “We started this project for several reasons. Firstly, we wanted to set a good example for the students. Renewable energy is good for the planet. Secondly, we wanted to become more green. And lastly, we saw that it had a financial benefit: it reduced our electrical bills.” 

The solar panels system at the Washington School is a 103-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which will reduce greenhouse gases by 721 tons per year. This is the equivalent of taking 119 cars off the road. 

Huyett indicated that other schools might soon see solar panels on their roofs. 

“In the future, not only are we planning to install solar panels on our new district office, we want to do these projects at our other schools,” commented Huyett.  

Jane Kelly revealed the next school on her group’s radar, saying, “We want to get Berkeley High School to have solar panels.”

Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:58:00 AM

Monday proved a busy day for the Berkeley Fire Department, with engines racing to three separate blazes, including one that caused heavy damage to a three-story home. 


Home damaged 

The fire that began in a second-floor room of a home in the 600 block of Euclid Avenue was the last of the three and left its two elderly occupants in the care of neighbors. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the first report came at 9:20 p.m., and when the first engine company arrived moments later, they found flames and smoke pouring from the second floor with exterior wood shingles and a nearby tree ablaze. 

At 9:35 a second alarm was sounded. 

Berkeley Police evacuated the two men who lived there, and firefighters set to work dousing the flames that caused an estimated $200,000 in damage to the home and a $50,000 loss to its contents. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the cause of the blaze was traced to an overloaded extension cord. 

Before the firefighters left, neighbors had volunteered to care for the two displaced residents. 


Lab blaze 

A budding scientist at UC Berkeley made an inadvertent discovery Monday, learning that plastic beakers catch fire when placed in a hot oven. 

City of Berkeley Fire Department Deputy Chief Dong said firefighters were summoned to Koshland Hall at 2:58 p.m., responding to a report of a fire in the building. 

“On arrival, they found a fire in a lab oven,” he said, learning that a plastic—and not Pyrex—beaker had been toasted by the would-be experimenter. 

Berkeley firefighters weren’t able to place a value on the damage, being more used to pricing home ovens than their more expensive lab counterparts. 


Food fire 

At 8:30 Monday evening, firefighters rushed to a two-story apartment complex in the 2200 block of McKinley Avenue, where a caller had reported smoke pouring out of one of the units. 

Firefighters found heavy smoke and fire pouring out from a cabinet over the range. The tenant had walked away from some cooking that eventually ignited. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the flames caused an estimated $5,000 in damage.”

Desley Brooks’ Sister Opts Out of Peralta Race

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:54:00 AM

One of the more anticipated Alameda County special district political races will not take place this year, as Alameda County Department of Social Services Civil Rights Coordinator Darleen Brooks—the sister of Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks—has opted not to run for the seat of incumbent Peralta Area Two Trustee Marcie Hodge. Brooks, who had taken out filing papers and held at least one fund-raising event earlier this year, said only that she has decided not to run for “personal reasons.” 

Hodge, who was first elected to the Peralta trustee board in 2004, ran against Desley Brooks in 2006 for Brooks’ District 6 council seat with the support of Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who was running for Oakland mayor. Early on, the race featured some of the bitterest rhetoric of the campaign season, with Hodge charging Brooks with “unethical” conduct while in office. But after former Congressmember Ron Dellums entered the mayoral race, De La Fuente’s financial support for Hodge By J. waned, and she eventually lost badly to Desley Brooks by a 53-35 margin. The Hodge challenge to Brooks reportedly left bad feelings between the two officeholders, and many observers felt that the expected Darleen Brooks challenge to Hodge this November would serve as part two of the 2006 City Council campaign. 

Despite Brooks’ decision not to run, Hodge will not go unchallenged in the November race, however. Educational consultant Marlon McWilson, a political newcomer, will be running in the election against Hodge, with support from the Brooks family. 

Three other incumbent Peralta trustees up for re-election—Bill Withrow (Area One), Nicky Gonzalez Yuen (Area Four) and Cy Gulassa (Area Six)—will not have opposition in the November race. 

In races for the AC Transit Board, Board President Chris Peeples will have a stiff challenge from retired architect and transportation activist Joyce Roy for his at-large seat, while Ward Two board member Greg Harper of Emeryville has opposition from perennial AC Transit board candidate James Muhammad. Ward One board member Joe Wallace of Richmond, who represents a portion of Berkeley, has no opposition in the November race. 

Other local races include: 


Alameda County Water District (3 seats)  

James Gunther (incumbent), Marty Koller (incumbent), John Weed (incumbent), and Robert Irvin. 


BART Board Ward 3 

Incumbent Bob Franklin has no challenger. 


BART Board Ward 5 

With no incumbent running, the filing deadline for this race has been extended. Candidates currently qualified for the ballot: John McPartland and Linda Jeffery Sailors. 


BART Board Ward 7 

Lynette Sweet (incumbent) and Marshall Walker III. 


EBMUD Board Ward 5 

Doug Linney (incumbent) and Susi Ostlund. 


EBMUD Board Ward 6 

Bill Patterson (incumbent) and Bob Feinbaum. 


East Bay Regional Park District Ward 1 

Whitney Dotson and Norman LaForce. With no incumbent running, the filing period remains open. 


East Bay Regional Park District Ward 2 

Incumbent John Sutter has no opposition. 


East Bay Regional Park District Ward 4 

Incumbent Doug Siden has no opposition. 

Enviro Commission Offers Tough Critique Of Downtown Plan Sustainability Chapter

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:15:00 AM

“It felt much like a dream to me,” said Robert Clear. 

“It’s a laundry list of desires, of things that could happen,” said Richard Harris. 

“It strikes me as lofty pie in the sky to make us feel good about living in Berkeley,” said Jason Kibbey. 

The sharp critiques from three members of Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission targeted the proposed sustainability chapter that compromises one of the centerpieces of the proposed Downtown Area Plan. 

Timothy Burroughs, the planning department staffer who heads the city’s climate action plan program, presented the chapter to the commission to seek their comments before it heads to the Planning Commission next month for review. 

The City Council must adopt a new downtown plan by late May or risk the partial loss of funds from UC Berkeley mandated in the settlement of a lawsuit that challenged the university’s plans to build 800,000 square feet of new off-campus buildings in the city center. 

The Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, appointed by the City Council and including representatives of the Planning Commission, spent nearly two years developing the proposed plan for which the commission is now proposing its own revisions before it goes to the council in late December or early January. 

Clear, a research scientist in building technologies at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said the chapter posed conflicts between the goals of increased density “and a lot of other things that people want,” concluding the chapter represents “a dream which not been thought through.” 

Harris, who manages water conservation programs for the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD), said that while the plan represents “a great start,” it didn’t offer specifics for prioritizing its goals, and included “a lot of redundancies.” 

“I was really looking for city policies,” said Harris. “What is the city going to do? What are different departments going to do? Where are the policies about not irrigating during the day?...It doesn’t even have policies.” 

Commission Chair Kibbey, an activist with a degree in business from the Haas school, said the plan needed “a realistic assessment of specific goals” and “fails to address the elephant in the room, which is Berkeley politics.” 

Nothing in the plans set of proposals “is going to happen in Berkeley unless it’s the law.” 

Any plan to implement sustainability policies needs a monitoring system, Harris said. 

Clear also said that some aspects of the plan, like that suggesting the daylighting of the now-buried Strawberry Creek, “suggest a fair amount of expertise that turns out to be flat-out wrong.” 

Since many of the commissioners hadn’t been able to study the plan in detail, Kibbey urged members to register their critiques in detail, and asked Burroughs to see if the Planning Commission would hold off on discussing the chapter until its Sept. 17 meeting, to give the environmental commission time to adopt a full suit of recommendations at its session earlier in the month. 


Drought issues 

Joshua Bradt, the city’s new watershed resources specialist and a former activist with the Urban Creeks Council, told commissioners he has been charged with drafting a new watershed management plan for the city. 

Harris, who will work with Bradt as liaison for the utility district, said his customers have been coping well with the current drought, though they haven’t reached the 15 percent reduction decreed by the district. 

Through the end of July, he said, the reduction in water use had reached 11 percent. 

The district will be buying 2,200 time slots on the air and on the Internet to present its spots featuring the animated character “Running Water” to encourage conservation, he said. 

Installation of a thousand listening devices on 250 miles of pipe is helping to spot water leaks, and the district is also doing free conservation audits of homes and businesses, he said. 

Consumers are also calling the utility to report extravagant water use, with about a third of the calls targeting public agencies—many involving the City of Berkeley, he said.

Richmond Meeting Addresses Toxic Cleanup Health Concerns

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:19:00 AM

Contra Costa County Public Health Director Wendel Brunner and three state officials will present a draft public health assessment of Richmond’s Campus Bay site during a public meeting Thursday night. 

Brunner and Dr. Rick Kreutzer, chief of Environmental Health Investigations Branch of the California Department of Health Services (DHS) and DHS chemist Dr. Marilyn Underwood will make their presentation to the community group advising the state on toxic sites cleanup in southeast Richmond.  

Campus Bay is the site planned for private development atop a buried mountain of spoils from a century of chemical manufacturing that took place on the site. 

The Community Advisory group advising the state Department of Toxic Substances Control—which is overseeing cleanup operations at the site—will meet starting at 6:30 p.m. in city council chambers at the temporary city hall, 1401 Marina Way South. 

CAG and community members urged the state to look into the adverse health impacts that may have arisen during the plant’s operation and the subsequent and controversial cleanup under the aegis the Regional Water Quality Control Board.



Editorial: When the Personal Becomes Political

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:46:00 AM

The buzz of the week is that John Edwards was carrying on with the cute little blonde videographer wanna-be who was trailing his campaign for a while. Some commentators affected surprise. Not, of course, the irrepressible Alexander Cockburn, who’s been avidly repeating the National Enquirer’s breathless reports about the affair for months. 

Just a sample of his pungent prose on the subject from the latest Counterpunch: “For nearly a year the Enquirer had a serious candidate for the Democrats’ presidential nominee cold as a USDA-rated prime grade rat who did not scruple to betray his ailing wife Elizabeth (while making political capital out of her condition), then to enlist her as a co-conspirator in lying to Edwards’s supporters and to the voters at large.”  

And who does Cockburn blame for this? “The crony mainstream press,” of course, who could have been reporting on l’affaire Rielle since last fall, and chose not to. As usual, Cockburn has a point.  

The New York Times’ “Public Editor” (designated voice of conscience) Clark Hoyt got a couple of choice quotes for his tsk-tsking follow-up on why the Times skipped the story until the last amen minute: 

“Edwards-Hunter was ‘classically not a Times-like story,’ said Craig Whitney, the standards editor.’ And ‘I’m not going to recycle a supermarket tabloid’s anonymously sourced story,’ said Bill Keller, the executive editor.”  

Evidently no one in “the crony mainstream press” (hereinafter CMP) accepted the ’60s dictum that the personal is political. Of course, it’s far from news that many of those who thrust themselves into the spotlight, political or otherwise, are prone to doing a bit of...what shall we call it? The old-fashioned term would be whoring around, but since even women have taken it up in these emancipated days, let’s just say looking for self-esteem in all the wrong places. 

The CMP has always wanted to pretend that this doesn’t happen, even as the gossip circuit is devouring the evidence. When I first moved back to California from the Midwest, my neighbor was a woman who was also a Midwest transplant. One day she came running over to my house to report breathlessly that she’d seen two local politicos, both at the time married to others, necking in the balcony of the Grand Lake Theater. Her Midwest must have been different from my Midwest, where we had a state official in Michigan renowned for looking for fresh meat among the co-eds every time he hit town. But the newspapers, here or there, never reported a word about any of this. 

Berkeley gossips also had a field day way back when with the CMP reporter whose main squeeze (not necessarily adulterous) was a reported-upon official. It happened then, and happens now. All the time. And around here lately it doesn’t even cause much excitement on the gossip circuit, let alone in the press. 

But when the personal becomes political, as it has in the Edwards situation, is when it has the potential to affect outcomes. If John Edwards, flashy local trial attorney, is carrying on with a local lady who’s known for being no better than she should be, no problemo. But when candidate JE, the great white hope of the liberal left, is allowing himself to be set up for being exposed to the less-than-tolerant part of the electorate at exactly the wrong point in the campaign, that’s news.  

It’s the stupidity, stupid. It’s not just doing it, from the political perspective, it’s getting caught. FDR didn’t get caught. (Probably—or did the contemporary CMP just conceal it?) Big Bill Clinton did, and went down in history in the minds of many as a fool. 

This, by the way, goes directly to the center of why many older women, contrary to what the CMP would like you to believe, were not broken-hearted to be spared the necessity of voting for Hillary Clinton. They found Hillary herself to be not a bad choice, but the fact that she is still hooked up with that fool made her look equally stupid to sensible women. Many of them didn’t like the idea of voting for a chump. 

That’s why what former Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson told ABCNews.com is completely backwards. “I believe we would have won Iowa, and Clinton today would therefore have been the nominee” if Edwards’ affair had been reported and he’d dropped out, Wolfson said.  

Oh sure. Actually, if my unscientific exit poll of my politically correct acquaintances is valid, many of them had already voted for Edwards as their alternative to Clinton, by mail in the California primary before he dropped out. They perceived him as the farthest left in the field, with Obama in the middle and Clinton on the right and looking like a willing victim to boot.  

This is the point at which it might be appropriate to ask where’s the morality in all of this. Personal morality, the kind that decides whether you choose to confess to adultery or say you were only playing around, is just that, personal. Some draw a line between doing it and lying about it when you get caught, but that’s sophistry, unless you’ve given the person you were cheating on a blow-by-blow description while the action was going on.  

But it’s not just about personal morality when you ask people with serious political concerns to support you, knowing that you have an Achilles heel that could crush your candidacy at any time. David Bonior is a good liberal who used to be a Democratic congressman from Michigan (though after the time of our notoriously randy state official). He summed up the public morality of Edwards’ deception for an AP reporter over the weekend: 

“Thousands of friends of the senator’s and his supporters have put their faith and confidence in him, and he’s let them down,” said Bonior, who managed Edwards’ 2008 campaign. “They’ve been betrayed by his action...You can’t lie in politics and expect to have people’s confidence.” 


California Test Scores

By Justin DeFreitas
Monday August 18, 2008 - 09:40:00 AM

Berkeley At Its Best

By Justin DeFreitas
Monday August 18, 2008 - 09:41:00 AM
This cartoon originally appeared in the Daily Planet in November 2006.
This cartoon originally appeared in the Daily Planet in November 2006.

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday August 19, 2008 - 10:35:00 AM





Editors, Daily Planet: 

We would like to thank all of the friends of Dona Spring who attended her memorial service Aug. 10 at the Civic Center Plaza and the celebration of her life at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Thank you all who helped setting up and cleaning up, with bringing chairs, to those who participated in and organized the speaking, showed the DVDs of Dona’s life, brought food, flowers, and cards, wrote their names in Dona’s memorial books, and those who gave the heartwarming tributes, both written and spoken. We especially thank the City of Berkeley for letting us use the Civic Center Plaza and the North Berkeley Senior Center for the event. We also thank all those who called and sent cards of condolence and those who wrote so many nice things about Dona in the local papers, especially in the Berkeley Daily Planet. We completely understand why Berkeley was Dona’s favorite place on earth, and Berkeley residents were her dearest and best friends. 

Dona Spring’s family:  

Paula, Chris, Robert and Dennis 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I love that Alan Tobey’s defense of density infill as being no threat to vegetables is in the paper in conjunction with John English’s parsing of the Planning Commission’s wholesale destruction of years of citizen planning. It is such a touching expression of faith. 

Carol Denney 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I was a student of Ms. Mistry’s. She was the only teacher from whom I actually learned something and didn’t forget it two days later. She was so nice and cared for all her students. She was not only a teacher, she was a friend. I sometimes would come after school with my friends just to chill in her room. She was a great person.  

Gabe Rios 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Big Oil, their cronies in Congress, and the Bush administration are exploiting the pain we are feeling at the pump by touting drilling as a solution, even though they know drilling will not lower prices at the pump. 

Big Oil wants you to believe that drilling is a quick fix, when the reality is that Bush’s own Energy Department has said that any new drilling will have no effect on gas prices now, and an “insignificant” effect on gas prices 15-20 years from now. 

The U.S. uses 25 percent of the world’s oil supply, but holds only 2.6 percent of the world’s oil reserves. No matter how much we drill, we could never provide consumers with real relief. 

Big Oil holds leases on almost 70 million acres of land that they are not drilling on. This latest move is just a greedy land grab before their friends in the Bush administration leave office. And, since oil companies are not drilling on the land they have access to now, there is no guarantee that they will drill on newly acquired leases. 

Rather than being feed the false claim that drilling will lower gas prices, Americans need real choices, like cars with better fuel efficiency, tax incentives for riding mass transit and telecommuting, and consumer rebates funded by repealing billions in tax breaks for Big Oil. 

Oklahoma oil man T. Boone Pickens even said “I’ve been an oil man all my life, but this is one emergency we can’t drill our way out of.” 

Jennifer Wilde 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

JC Pence in his/her letter of Aug 14-20 complains about the downtown sidewalks that have numerous black spots on them. He/she holds the local business owners responsible for scrubbing the sidewalks and uses some choice words in demanding this. 

What JC Pence must not know is that this condition is a seasonal one caused by little sap-sucking bugs (aphids or whiteflies) in the street trees. They suck sap from the tree leaves and excrete a sticky solution that falls to the ground. Dirt sticks to the sticky spots and make the black marks that are so unsightly. People that walk through this will soon discover that the soles of their shoes have become sticky and prone to pick up more dirt, leaves, bits of paper, etc. Cars left parked downtown soon acquire a fine coating of little sticky spots that must be washed off with soap and water. 

The trees that Berkeley planted downtown seem to be especially prone to this seasonal problem. The business owners have no control over the situation and should not be required to scrub the sidewalks on top of the sweeping most of them already do. The city scrubs the sidewalks occasionally, though not often enough. 

Several solutions to this problem come to mind. We could cut the trees down. We could strip the trees of their leaves to make them less attractive to the bugs. We could spray chemicals on the trees to kill the bugs. We could forbid people to use the sidewalks or to park downtown until the seasonal problem passes on its own. Or we could do what we are doing now, which is to live with it for the short period of time the bugs are active and ask the city to scrub the sidewalks in the areas where the problem is most visible. 

How about it. Does anyone out there have a better solution to offer?  

Janet Winter 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I strongly agree with Janet Winter, though I’m less certain than she is that the trees downtown are more susceptible than average. 

I’ll also point out that this year appears to be worse than most for aphids and such in Berkeley street trees. I’ve noticed those telltale black sticky swaths under trees on streets that usually don’t have such a visible marking of Bugs at Work. It’s always nasty on west University Avenue, but the tulip trees on Addison near Andronico’s, for example, and the ash trees on Sacramento north of Dwight and even under Chinese elms in a few places are so liberally frosted with, as it’s called, honeydew that I’m surprised we haven’t had reports of pedestrians stuck to the street as to flypaper and getting run over. 

It would be civilized of the city to steam-clean or at least run the sidewalk Zamboni over the downtown sidewalks more often in response to this year’s bug boom. 

Ron Sullivan 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Myself and others started SAVE Berkeley Housing Authority (SAVE BHA), after the BHA failed to make a passing score for a number of years in it’s reviews of the SEMAP reports sent to HUD on an annual basis. 

The annual SEMAP reporting system determines whether or not a housing authority is operating it’s Section 8 and public housing programs properly. 

SAVE BHA placed pressure on Berkeley’s Mayor and City Council to keep the BHA under local control, and the city chipped in around a million dollars to cover some HUD funding shortfalls that threatened the programs. 

The BHA was reorganized, and we managed to keep it from going into receivership. 

Things got real dicey after I discovered a report detailing how the BHA was making rental payments to apartments where the tenants were deceased.  

The members of SAVE BHA, are still around and trying to keep an eye on the BHA, in case it gets itself into trouble again. 

Lynda Carson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the Berkeley High student newspaper is having financial woes, and if their major expenses are printing and postage, they should consider going online only. They could still sell ads—in fact, they might be able to sell more (using Google’s ad service). And because so many kids and parents are online these days, it could potentially reach more readers. Most importantly, because the future of journalism is online, it would be better training for the student journalists. 

Dan Miller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

GOP politics of deception trumps honesty once again as Republicans pick offshore drilling as their wedge issue for the 2008 presidential election. If you fall for this high gas price—offshore drilling scam—you deserve another four years with a Republican in the White House. 

Fifty-one percent of Americans believe that removing restrictions on offshore drilling would reduce gas prices within a year. No less an authority than oil magnet T. Boone Pickens says that offshore drilling will have no appreciable affect on the oil crisis at hand. This is a Republican ploy to confuse voters. And have you noticed how John McCain’s campaign has become a mirror of the two prior Bush campaigns; down and dirty. 

The GOP offshore drilling campaign is about subtle lies and distortion of truth. Will the American electorate be bamboozled by the masters of deceit again? 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Candidate X has done a good job in setting forth an energy policy, both short- and long-term. But one policy/strategy is lacking that can impact our energy use both short- and long-term. Reducing the number of cars being driven will do more to save on energy use than all other alternatives and this can best be accomplished, immediately, by getting more of us to car pool. Car pooling can best be arranged within neighborhoods. Holding neighborhood block parties, exchanging driving schedules with our neighbors is the way to go, especially since most of us seem to be less than amiable to driving with strangers. Car pooling should be encouraged by our elected officials and by transportation authorities limiting highway/bridge access to automobiles carrying three or more persons.  

Irving Gershenberg 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Marie Bowman wrote in her recent commentary “What the District Doesn’t Want You to Know About Berkeley High’s Master Plan,” that there is a false/manufactured need for more classrooms. Perhaps Ms. Bowman is not aware of the fact that BHS students are hiking to Washington Elementary School to attend classes in portables. Maybe she hasn’t heard that students are attending classes in the foyer of the Community Theater and in mold-encrusted rooms in the old gym. It’s possible she hasn’t seen teachers move from classroom to classroom every 50 minutes because there aren’t enough classrooms for every teacher to have a base of operations. Berkeley High lost 26 classrooms when the B Building burned down eight years ago. Those classrooms have not been replaced. Ms. Bowman does not mention this critical fact in her commentary. 

Maureen Burke 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The very idea that it’s necessary to discuss torture is horrifying. Another aspect that’s been haunting me is blowback. There were rumors that the Nazis, at least some of them, enjoyed observing torture—that it was a sexual turn-on. The current interrogators are young, separated from their normal lovers, and likely to get the rush that any extreme activity provides. Is it difficult to think that some few of them will imprint the experience as erotic and try to reproduce it when they return home? 

Unintended consequences happen. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For the first time in years, the City of Berkeley is re-paving some streets. Too bad they’re not the ones that really need it. Bike safety has been a key part of the script for EVERY Berkeley politician since the Free Speech Movement. The problem is that no one seems willing to hold our mayor, council and public works staff accountable when they crow about it, but do nothing.  

If Berkeley politicians were serious about bike safety, they would pave the so-called “Bicycle Boulevards” that are full of ruts, holes, divots, grooves, gravel and pock-marks. They would get rid of the asphalt moguls that decorate intersections around University and Shattuck avenues, and the other side streets that intersect University, such as Berkeley Way and Hearst. If they were REALLY serious, they would act on prior suggestions to place signage in parallel parking areas reminding drivers not to open the door on a cyclist. Instead, they responded by not responding on this one. 

The following streets are favored by bikers to avoid heavy traffic, and are in abominable condition. They flatten tires, bend rims, cause falls, and back injuries from sudden jarring into potholes: 

• Addison, between Oxford and MLK. 

• Milvia Street from MLK to Dwight Way. 

• Virginia Street, from San Pablo to Shattuck. 

• The shoulder of Delaware Street between San Pablo and Sacramento—the car thoroughfare is in good shape, but the “bike lane” is full of big, embedded gravel, ruts, grooves and pock marks. Last time they paved Delaware Street, they left the bike lane untreated; yet they call this a bike-friendly town. 

• Stadium Rim Road, leading to Centennial Drive (steep hill, many pot holes, big curve; God help us!). 

• Bonita Street—the entire street. 

• Ada Street—all of it. 

• Most of the north/south side streets bordered by San Pablo and Sacramento and between University and Marin Street, including Curtis, Belvedere, Kains, Cornell, etc. 

• Most north/south streets south of Dwight Way and north of Ashby Avenue. Oh yeah, the east/west streets in that area are just as bad. 

• Centennial Drive between the Lawrence Hall of Science and Strawberry Canyon has a huge oil slick on a steep curve that has taken down at least one friend of mine. This has been reported multiple times to the city and UC but no action has been taken. 

It’s fine for politicians to crow about bicycle safety. Now we need to challenge the mayor, City Council and Transportation Department to remove hazards and make good on all their “image advertising.” 

A casual inquiry has revealed that street paving in Berkeley is determined by a software program that minimizes human input. Experience makes me skeptical of any traffic management or street improvement plan that relies solely on wonk-formulas and wonk-manuals, while ignoring human input. So, if bikers want to have smoother rides on the so-called “Bicycle Boulevards,” we will have to make more noise than the tree-sitters supporters do at council meetings. That is, after all, the determining dynamic of Berkeley politics—whoever packs the council chambers and makes the most noise wins. 

H. Scott Prosterman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Stunning, mind-bending, spectacular, terrific, multiple wows!  

Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee ought to consider adding gold, silver and bronze non-competitive awards for elevated levels of achievement attained in the opening ceremony. 

In my opinion the gold award should go to the 2,008 drummers who executed a stunning countdown to 8/8/08 at 8:08 Beijing time. 

Give the silver award to the displays centered on a mammoth scroll depicting highlights of high culture and science spanning several dynasties—Tang, Sung, Ming, Yuan.  

And the bronze must go to the complex and inventive figure-making executed by thousands in a variety of colorful costumes with split-second precision uniting the scenes separated by commercials during two hours, primetime, on NBC.  

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 

Letters to the Editor

Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:01:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Every election year, Berkeley’s city government asks its taxpayers to vote for additional taxes. But if Berkeley stopped diverting its income from existing tax revenues to pay for exorbitant employee/staff salaries (many of which exceed $100,000 per year), yearly increases, very generous health benefits, and excessive retirement packages, including pensions of at least 90 percent of salaries (what other employers are so extravagant?), to reasonable levels, what actual new taxes would really be needed? 

Although taxes may be necessary, they should not be assessed to make up for mismanagement of assets. Thus, until Berkeley's city government proves they have dramatically reduced, not increased, employee/staff salaries, benefits, and retirement packages (except for those lowest paid employees) to reasonable levels, Berkeley taxpayers should vote no across the board to all new taxes. 

Steve Mackouse 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The governor's proposal for increasing sales tax should be redirected to increasing taxes on gasoline and other fuels as we have just gone through the dollar-plus per gallon rise in gas prices without being really distressed. So a 10-cent per gallon increase in taxes on fuels would not be felt very much and would be designated to cover all programs associated with roads and public transportation. That would free up for other programs money that is now taken from the general tax revenues to underwrite much of the public transportation costs. The increased fuel tax funds could also be used to speed up road improvements, especially bridge replacements to avoid the Minnesota collapse scenario, which would create jobs for construction workers laid off by the housing downturn. Those workers would no longer be drawing unemployment and would be making money and paying taxes while being involved in work benefiting the state. One cent of the increase might be designated to rehabilitating public housing projects to again generate jobs for construction workers and get some decent housing for low-income families.  

James Singmaster 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Aren’t the similarities ironic? Fortunately there are important differences. 

Back in the last century, the wealthy group of white male UC Regents decided to cut down a grove of old oaks next to a waterfall, dig a large hole, and culvert the stream in order to build a huge stadium. There was much opposition from both the UC community and the Berkeley community. The university paid no attention to complaints, calling them “selfish,” planned the stadium in Strawberry Canyon, and then declared in the 1923 Blue and Gold (Volume 49, page 42): “Surrounded by the natural beaubeauties of Strawberry Canyon, the stadium will be a monument which every Californian will be proud to have a part in the building.” (See Susan Cerny’s two-part Daily Planet article, beginning Sept. 2, 2003.)  

UC had already worked on plans for a stadium at a different site. The stadium was planned for a two-block area located east of Oxford Street between Allston and Bancroft just south of Strawberry Creek, where today the sports facility complex now stands. But the site at the mouth of Strawberry Canyon was chosen. Berkeley architect Robert Ratcliff told me back in the late 1980s that his father, architect Walter Ratcliff, told him that one of the UC Regents had idle mining equipment and that the Strawberry Canyon site would put that equipment to work. Walter Ratcliff had reason to know because he had worked on the plans for the stadium at the site not on top of the Hayward Fault. 

Now, in the 21st century, the UC Regents have decided to cut down a grove of old oaks to dig a large hole in order to build an underground bunker for athletes. I doubt that any of the current UC Regents has idle mining equipment that will be put to work, but it is obvious that profits from televised football games, donations from Bear Backers, and higher priced tickets make money again the motivation. UC does not care if views are ruined. They do not care if the congestion and noise is untolerable to the many who live in the area. They do not care if safety is seriously compromised. After all, they are the largest corporation in the state of California, with their own section of the California Constitution. They have license to do almost anything they want, the public be damned. 

The differences are: the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Alquist-Priolo Act and a community that has continually funded two lawsuits.  

Ann Reid Slaby 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Ms. O’Malley’s Aug. 8 editorial on the apparent inverse relationship between local food and local development projects (one desirable, the other always evil) really reaches an odd conclusion: that continuing to allow future commercial real estate projects in Berkeley is somehow a threat to our food supply. Apparently all our backyards and lawns—undoubtedly the ultimate potential locavore food resource—are going to be made unusable for planting organic veggies because of commercial developments elsewhere in town. 

However, she seems to have forgotten that we have a General Plan and a zoning ordinance—designed to segregate different uses in different parts of Berkeley. Those of us living in residential zones on lots with small plantable spaces are enabled for those uses by residential zoning, while commercial zones have permitted uses that generally don't include urban agriculture. 

That's all to the good. While parts of People’s Park sometimes go in locavore directions, it's unlikely that the nearby long-vacant lot at Haste and Telegraph will ever be designated an official “Farms? In Berkeley?” zone. Its favored use is for mixed-use development, providing retail and some housing for residents who may not need cars to be good consuming locavores. And while we might ape San Francisco and plant a few token veggies on median strips like University or Telegraph, doing so would have only educational value for our local diets. We should indeed be growing more of our own—but the enemy is usually our own inertia rather than somebody who wants to build a four-plex in a zone where it's allowed. 

Yes, there will always be some local issues between neighbors, where one resident’s desired sunlight (or view) is compromised by another’s building or future plans. (The fact that the zoning-district boundaries on some major streets are only half a block deep guarantees more future conflicts than we would have had with more visionary planning decades ago.) But that’s one good reason why we have a Zoning Adjustments Board—so that particular adverse consequences can be identified, and hopefully mitigated, well in advance of building. Even Ms, O’Malley’s poster-boy example of evil encroachment on solar access, the Trader Joe’s building, was modified in the permitting process to lessen its impact (e.g., shadows to the north will not reach across Berkeley Way). 

So never fear, R-1 gardeners selling your super-local produce to Chez Panisse a bag at a time. Your solar access—and pride of locavore production—are both safe from other citizens who merely wish to build commercial buildings where the zoning ordinance allows it. 

Alan Tobey 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

One aspect of Berkeley’s beloved late Green councilmember Dona Spring’s work which so many of us appreciated was her devotion to clean and fair government. Dona also felt that the city was deficient in providing resources for aquatic activities options: swimming pools and the like. I propose to the City of Berkeley that it redouble its up to now fruitless efforts to find the $25 million recently defrauded by Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) employees (a heist seemingly all but forgotten by city “leaders”) and make good use of some of these funds by creating a lasting tribute to Dona that will benefit the people of Berkeley on the many hot days to come as global warming trends take hold. Former City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque referred to the aforementioned BHA fraud as the worst in any city department in 20 years. It would be more than appropriate to utilize recovered BHA embezzlement in the service of financing a Dona Spring Memorial Aquatic Project perhaps? 

Diane Villanueva 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Downtown Berkeley sidewalks are filthy! The black spots look like obscenities spit out by the Free Speech Movement class of ’65! Business owners! Clean up your *$*%* front yards!  

JC Pence 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

OK, so President Clinton will get to play a role at the convention. But what about the other president, the one who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize? What role has been scripted for President Jimmy Carter? If no role, why not? 

Irving Gershenberg 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Readers should know that those claiming judicial “authority” in the UC Memorial Stadium oak grove dispute have been exposed as poseurs; thus, de facto. California’s Constitution does not allow an attorney (member of the State Bar), to retain his or her membership “while holding office as a judge of a court of record.” (Article VI., Section 9.) 

Repeating this prohibition, the state's Business and Professions Code also does not allow members of the State Bar to retain their memberships when holding office as “justices and judges of courts of record during their continuance in office.” (Section 6002.) 

Nevertheless, so-called “Judge” Barbara Jane Miller is clearly listed as a “member” on the website of her labor union (the California State Bar), as “Number 83819.” (!) The website states rather blatantly that: “This person is currently serving as a judge of a court of record and is not considered a member of the State Bar while in office. (See Consti”" 

But, dear Reader: Article VI, Section 9’s “judges” now demand that citizens of California adhere to every jot and tittle of the law, yet "not consider" that the law applies equally to them? (The words "arrogant" and ‘imperious” come to mind.) 

The law is clear. Both so-called “Judge” Richard Overton Keller (Bar “Number 40890,” who issued the “injunction” against the tree sitters and those ‘aiding and abetting them’), and “Judge” Barbara J. Miller (who issued the recent ‘judgment” in favor of the people’s (?) university in opposition to the laws and preferences of the people of Berkeley), are—in defiance of California law—currently "holding office as a judge of a court of record." 

The attorneys ostensibly working toward the preservation of the oak grove should have demanded that the purported “judges” recuse themselves. Their "injunction" and “judgment’ are void, ab initio (from the beginning); the plaintiffs were Coram non Judice (in presence of a person not a judge). This is obvious, from the lawful reasons cited above. 

Conclusion: The university has no lawful authority to proceed with the stadium project. 

Arthur Stopes, III 

Director, Center for Unalienable Rights Education 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The California State Fair begins Aug. 15 and runs through Sept. 1. Some animal welfare issues remain unresolved at CALEXPO. 

At the 2004 State Fair, a rodeo bull suffered a broken back when struck by a mechanical contraption called the "”Cowboy Teeter-totter.” Euthanized? No, the animal was simply trucked off to the Flying U Rodeo's Marysville ranch, where he was shot to death the next day. Not acceptable! Ever since, animal protectionists have been pressuring CALEXPO to adopt an immediate, on-site euthanasia policy for fatally injured rodeo animals, as so determined by the attending veterinarian. Seems little to ask. Reportedly, county and city animal control officers will monitor this year's rodeo, and they have the authority to confiscate injured animals. 

At the 2007 State Fair, two Mexican fighting bulls escaped their pen, knocked a heroic security guard into a coma, broke her ribs, trampled a horse, and nearly trampled a bunch of kids. These animals were to be used in yet another nonsensical event called “Bull Poker,” in which four or five cowboys sit around a card table, and bear the brunt of the charging bull. Last man sitting wins the jackpot. A man was killed in this event at a Kentucky rodeo recently, and his widow and three orphans are suing the fairgrounds for millions. Both of these events should be banned outright, of course, for the protection of animals and cowboys alike. Neither is sanctioned by the PRCA. 

On Aug. 16 and 17, the fair features two nights of “Bull Fest” (6:45-7:45 p.m.), with six bull rides, plus the inane and dangerous “Cowboy Poker” event. Please contact CALEXPO to express your concerns: Norbert Bartosik, CEO (genmgr@calexpo.com); Board of Directors, Marko Mlikotin, Chair (calexpoboard@calexpo.com), (916) 263-3000. 

Eric Mills 

Action for Animals 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have some questions about the group Berkeleyans for Cal. Their official name seems to be Berkeleyans for Cal Athletics—that’s what it says on their website, anyway. But at the last City Council meeting, the representatives of this group used the shorter name. Did they take the word “athletics” off to hide the fact that their organization’s sole purpose is to support building training facilities and rebuilding Memorial Stadium on top of an earthquake fault? That is clear from their website, too. 

Actually, in the interest of full disclosure, rather than truncating the group’s name, they should have lengthened it—to “Berkeleyans for Cal Athletics on Top of Earthquake Faults.” That says it all, don’t you think? 

Doug Buckwald 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am still haunted by the image of a little girl, not over age 6, undoubtedly on her first two-wheeler, peddling frantically and unsteadily in the middle of Colby Street in Oakland, trying to keep up with her family. It was a spring-like Sunday, and luckily no moving cars were in sight, unlike that usually busy street. Her brother, perhaps 8 years old, was on his small bike, a few feet ahead. Mother and father were on their respective bikes ahead of both. I watched in shock as the parents never turned to check on the safety of these two children, even when the adults turned right at the far end of this block!  

I have long been incredulous that children, too young for a driver’s license, are allowed to ride a bike in our streets, competing with automobiles! The lawmakers seem to feel that pedestrians are in more danger from sidewalk bicyclers, than these children are in the streets. 

I am aware that unthinking bike-riders can be a danger on the sidewalks, when they do not alert walkers of their presence, or move too fast. I have been told that warning devices on bikes are not required because it is assumed that the riders will use their voices to warn others! I have come close to such collisions several times, when the bicyclists behind me assumed I would not vary my steps, and gave me no warning. 

In a perfect world, we would have bike lanes everywhere. Until then, we need to change our laws in a few inexpensive ways. Because we apparently can’t trust parents to know when street-riding will endanger the lives of their children, streets must be limited to drivers or bicyclists of legal driving age! Bicycles must have warning devices, preferably a standard sound, identifiable to bikes only. Sidewalk-riders need to be educated and responsible about warning pedestrians and about safe riding limits. 

But I am certain that medical and funeral costs of auto-bike collisions far outweigh that of bike-people accidents! 

Gerta Farber 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The sky’s brilliant glowing at sunset’s end and later 

Seemed to linger beyond reasonable possibility, 

Mirroring Dona’s life 

Celebrated today in the afternoon by friends, lovers, cohorts, and citizens. 


We gathered to acknowledge her accomplishments, achievement and wisdom 

Continuing with more words 

In the attempt to ease our mutual pain from her passing; 

Altogether, unfortunately another equally unlikely occurrence 

Considering the amount of grief we share for the spectacular person she was. 


And so, left now under the fall of night... 

The big dipper in the northwest, rising stars and other constellations, 

Mindful and soulful we remain, awaiting a new day’s arrival, 

Yet further, unending appreciation for a life so precious and full 

With consciousness, activity, kindness and humor. 

Charles A. Pappas 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If all countries in this world were to come together and negotiate peace amongst each other instead of spending billions of dollars on nuclear weaponry and warfare, there would be enough money to feed all human beings on this planet and clean up the ghettos. 

Jonathan Orbiculus 

(Inspired by Food Not Bombs) 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If indeed the landmarks application for the Brower childhood home says he was fired from the Sierra Club 17 years ago (1991), the application is wrong. He was asked to resign as executive director of the Sierra Club by its board in 1969. That would be 39 years ago, I think. He founded Friends of the Earth in that year, and was fired by its board in 1985. He filed a lawsuit, was reinstated briefly, and was fired again in 1986 following a referendum of the membership. (Wikipedia; Autobiography: For Earth’s Sake, DRB, 1990; Brower’s autobiography remembers it a little differently from the Wikipedia entry, saying that a court reached findings, and overturned the firing.) My father, Daniel B. Luten, was president of Friends of the Earth at the time. 

If the application is in fact as the Planet story describes it, then Steven Finacom’s and John English’s application for landmark status for the property ought to be denied for simple illiteracy. I mean, “hours of research”? C’mon. 

Thomas H. Luten 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The online version of the meeting preview article, posted on the Daily Planet website earlier this week, was in error. The article mistakenly reported that David Brower was fired as executive director of the Sierra Club 17 years ago, rather than, as the landmark application stated, 17 years after he became executive director in 1952. The error has been corrected in the meeting report in today’s print edition. 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Regarding the Aug. 7 Undercurrents column “Which Campaign Benefited Most from Racial Flap?”, someone from UC should take a sample of J. Douglas Allen-Taylor’s DNA because he must be from another galaxy. He argues that a “good case could be made that if you wanted to choose images of American figures who would be immediately recognized as “bad” celebrity images, who would you pick besides Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton?” I don’t know—Sean Penn, Hugh Grant, Woody Allen, O.J. Simpson, or Mike Tyson, just to start. What do Britney and Paris have in common? Well, besides being rich and useless Barbie dolls, both showed the world their privates in a most distasteful way. They could have been represented in the ad wearing burkas and most would recognize the subtext. Why not just show Barack interspersed with a clip from Blazing Saddles? The McCain campaign might have made a better case that the “dollar bill” comment was ageist against McCain. After all, what does McCain have in common with the faces on U.S. currency? They’re all old, white, dead guys. Kinda like John. 

Ken Craik 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

People often express their concern about UC Berkeley using a vague “crime scene” statute literally take city land indefinitely as their own property. The school had annexed the sidewalk by near the Memorial Stadium oak grove, and now claims ownership and management of the Piedmont Avenue median strip near the grove.  

UC Administrator Bates...excuse me, I mean to say “Mayor” Bates, and his pet jellyfish Wozniak are just letting the school take snippets of land from the people. And it doesn’t stop there. The school has also commandeered Berkeley City Jail. City government and Berkeley Chief of Police Douglas Hambleton are allowing the school to abuse the city’s detention facility, as if it were the UC’s plaything.  

The city’s police/detention resources have been wasted on detaining community members who have: Used a tap to fill a water bottle; stood on the median; thrown an orange into an unoccupied tree as an symbolic gesture; planted a sapling; snapped a photo of a cop arresting someone; refused to drive an SUV into a crowd (I wish I were joking); used a UC garbage bin without written expressed consent from the Regents; asked Officer Sean Aranas to stop assaulting a disabled protester; held a bunch of suspicious looking balloons; etc. 

To be fair, the UC Berkeley Police Gang were going to arrest people for taking plums from trees on UC property—on the grounds that it would be theft of UC property—but decided that it might look stupid to do so (gee, you think?). 

There are those who think that a missing sidewalk and a vanquished median strip are too trite to worry about. But hopefully people don’t see squandered police/detention resources as too trite. Hopefully people don’t see the annexation of the jail by UC as too silly. People need to challenge Bates, Hambleton and Wozniak (and their gang) to regain control of a fairly substantial piece of city infrastructure.  

People have the right to observe the tree-sitters at the oak grove, and to communicate with them, and to gather together and discuss the issues. The school cannot continue to just wisk people away and detain them—especially when it’s not even on their dime. And that goes double when the arrests are idiotic and illegal—the desperate actions of a police force that has lost control of the situation. 

Nate Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A new 91,000 seat stadium just opened to Olympic pageantry in China. Sky boxes were absent. These special enclosed viewing venues for the rich and powerful have become expected adornments of new stadiums in the United States, and plans for upgrading our Cal football stadium speak of adding such pretentious luxuries. 

And yet, at the Olympic opening, there were Bush, Putin, Sarkozy and other heads of state sitting among the ordinary people. Bush appeared to be at around row 48. Perhaps the Chinese government ran out of funds for boxes after such expenses as a giant scrim/awning circling the stadium and providing 360-degree visual projections. Perhaps the building planners were sidestepped as energy went into prep for an opening show that featured 15,000 performers in military precision doing everything from tai chi to the goose step Then, too, perhaps the absence of special seating for the elites was because China still had a little vestige of Mao’s spirit of class equality. 

Whatever the reason, it was a pleasure seeing George W. Bush having to sit amidst “the people” in a stadium with seats that didn’t appear to have much space between them. The camera occasionally zeroed in on Bush. One shot caught him squirming, and another showed him looking at his watch during the parade of nations. 

Although the head of the Chinese government and a couple officials of the Olympics got to sit on chairs and have a table in front of them, they, too, were in the open. 

Ted Vincent 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Once in a rare while, on public access television, I’m able to catch a local, lovable leftie: Michael Parenti. He makes a devastating point about our economy and politics: “If you think George Bush is stupid, you’re stupid!” He goes on to say passionately, that under eight years of Bush, the 1 percent of Americans who own 95 percent of American wealth, have never had it so good. George is a one-percenter. The abyss between us and them has reached depths and widths heretofore never experienced since the Great Depression. So, if George is stupid, I reckon my grandma sucks eggs, as George would say. And, what’s that phrase about laughing all the way to the bank?  

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Russia calls the attack on Georgia pre-emptive. Where have we heard the term “pre-emptive” before? President Bush calls for an immediate cease-fire and troop withdrawal. This is the same Bush who bombed, invaded, and now occupies Iraq based on his administration’s false statements. Remember, the January study by the Center for Public Integrity which actually quantified the extent of the Bush administration’s dishonesty. The study found that eight members of the Bush administration, including the President himself, made 935 false statements regarding Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, or links to al Qaeda. It is a bit hypocritical now for Bush to mount his moral high horse about Russia’s pre-emptive attack. Bush has squandered his moral authority; the emperor has no clothes. We must look to some other higher moral authority than Bush, such as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, to broker a settlement of the conflict. 

Judi Iranyi 

San Francisco 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Since I am credited/blamed for the new 40-foot Van Hools, here is what a bus really designed by Joyce Roy would be like: 

JR TRUE low-floor 40-footers; 35 Seats (with two wheelchairs, 29 seats); motor and other equipment under a 12-14 inch high mezzanine level behind the rear door; no seats on pedestals; no seats that face backwards.  


No bottleneck at the entry. The 36-inch clearance allows wheelchairs to enter via a ramp at the front. Just beyond the entry, the perimeter (bench) seating on both sides means riders can have shopping carts or service dogs in front of them without hindering the movement of other passengers; people in wheelchairs can have the full width of the bus to maneuver with no motor opposite their location to cramp their movement; view is not cut off by motor. 

But I don’t have to design that bus, because it is already being produced. In addition to AC Transit’s low-floor NABIs, which went in service in 2000, I have been able to check out two newer versions.  

One was a 40-foot bus on the VTA express route between San Jose and Fremont BART. It had a good ride and, of course, air-conditioning. At the end of the run, I asked the driver how he liked the bus. He was very happy with it, even mentioned that it was easy to accommodate wheelchairs. But said there was one problem, it was so quiet that people sometimes didn’t hear it coming! It is a bus that Transbay riders could even be happy with.  

The other was a 35-foot County Connection bus parked at the Martinez Amtrak Station. The driver kindly let me climb aboard. He also gave it a good review. 

Both buses had really c-o-m-f-o-r-t-a-b-l-e seats. Somehow, the Van Hools have AC Transit’s most uncomfortable seats. Even the old plastic seats, in my opinion, are more comfortable. 

And, Gillig made both buses. Not surprising since their manufacturing facility is in our backyard, Hayward. 

I felt jealous of the people who have the pleasure of riding those buses. I think AC Transit riders deserve them and they would attract new riders. 

Joyce Roy 

Reform candidate for the at-large seat on the AC Transit board 



Debate Without Facts Serves No One

By UC Berkeley’s Seismic Review Committee
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:03:00 AM

We, the members of UC Berkeley’s Seismic Review Committee (SRC), write to rebut and fully refute the recent Daily Planet op-ed, “UC Berkeley Ignores New Earthquake Safety Report.” 

The SRC did, in fact, initiate and fully review a new draft report on seismic ground motion as part of our obligation to ensure that new data have no adverse implications for campus construction projects, including the Student Athlete High Performance Center (SAHPC). After the review we took no action related to the SAHPC for one simple, compelling reason: the study’s results found that the expected ground motion during the maximum credible earthquake would actually be less than originally estimated. So, the existing SAHPC design not only meets, but exceeds the new requirements. The article’s statement that “it is unknown whether or not the proposed structure would meet the updated standards” is categorically false. 

The authors’ claims regarding the removal of a grade beam beneath the west wall of the Stadium are also without substance. This change was recommended by David Friedman, the structural engineer of record for the SAHPC, peer-reviewed by Structural Engineer Loring Wyllie, and then, independently reviewed by the SRC’s own structural engineer, Craig Comartin. So, three prominent experts in seismic retrofit agreed that the deletion of the grade beam will not affect seismic safety. Furthermore, at no time did any qualified engineer inform the SRC that inclusion of the grade beam would be “prudent.” 

In their closing paragraph, the authors see fit to remind us of our obligation to act in a responsible manner. It is worth noting that since the adoption of the Seismic Safety Policy UC Berkeley has spent more than $400 million to address campus seismic safety issues. Recent studies show that these measures have cut life safety risk on campus in half. As a result, the UCB seismic program was named one of the top ten seismic projects of the 20th century in the US by Engineering News Record and the Applied Technology Council. 

Debate divorced from fact serves no one’s interests. The SRC’s commitment to safety and its advisory actions in support of that commitment are guided solely by scientific research. This approach is one of the reasons that Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller recently ruled that “the record contains substantial evidence supporting the university’s decision to build the (athletic facility) as currently proposed.” 


The University of California, Berkeley, Seismic Review Committee: 


Filip Filippou, Chair 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Jonathan Bray 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Craig Comartin 

Consultant, CD Comartin, Inc. 


Edward Denton Vice Chancellor—Facilities Services 


Rob Gayle 

Associate Vice Chancellor—Capital Projects 


Jack Moehle 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Director, PEER 


Nicholas Sitar 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Bozidar Stojadinovic 

Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering 


Stephen Tobriner 

Professor, Architecture 


Edward Wilson 

Professor Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering 




Schools Parcel Tax A Cause for Concern

By Sheila Jordan
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:02:00 AM

Teacher quality and effectiveness have a profound impact on the growth and achievement of children, yet securing the talent necessary to maintain consistent improvements is no easy task. To attract and retain the very best teachers, districts not only need the vision of high quality teaching, they need the resources to see it through—to provide competitive salaries and to invest in programs to keep outstanding teachers. This is often a challenge for cash-strapped districts like Oakland. 

The “Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Tax” proposed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell attempts to provide an opportunity for Oakland schools to meet this challenge by raising funds for teacher salaries. It proposes a 10-year, $120 annual parcel tax on the November ballot to boost the district’s recruitment and retention efforts. Of the $12 million the tax levy would raise, 85 percent would go to teacher salaries and 15 percent would be directed to charter schools in the district. 

While it is my administrative duty as superintendent of Alameda County schools to sign the resolution to call for the parcel tax election, I do so reluctantly. The measure lacks input and support from the Oakland educational community and leaves more questions than answers on how the funds will be utilized. 

Rallying the community to support teachers by providing competitive funds is a good idea. Oakland residents have demonstrated time and again that they strongly support their children and their teachers. However, community input is critical for an action of this magnitude. The timing, during summer break, has virtually excluded the voices of key players and has provoked a groundswell of opposition. As a result, this proposal lacks the strength and clarity that healthy community debate provides. 

During a hastily called meeting on Monday, the school board and the community were presented a final version of the proposed text. The salient concerns were expressed by board members and community representatives. There is no clarity on how the money would be distributed to district teachers and the 15 percent allocated to charters is left entirely without direction. There is also no designation for any of the funds to be used to help pay down Oakland’s debt to the state. As a county superintendent with fiscal oversight responsibilities, I need to question whether ongoing increased expenses in the form of higher salaries would be sustainable in the absence of new revenues (paying off the loan would certainly provide additional ongoing revenues). 

We all recognize that the primary goal is to provide a creative, healthy and high-quality learning environment for all students. This is not possible without a healthy fiscal plan and an ongoing dialogue with all the stakeholders. Communication with parents, teachers and students is vital if the community is to have confidence in the district and its fiscal stability. 

The “Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Tax” has the right vision of supporting teachers to improve Oakland schools, but it makes no sense to put forward a flawed plan that, if defeated, will be yet another costly and unnecessary expense for this beleaguered district. 


Sheila Jordan is the Alameda County superintendent of schools.

What the District Doesn’t Want You to Know About Berkeley High’s Master Plan

By Marie Bowman
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:02:00 AM

The Trustees of the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) have hidden behind “the children” in an attempt to convince students, parents and the greater community that the unreasonably idealistic Berkeley High School Master Plan must be implemented. Here’s what you really need to know about the BHS Master Plan: 

• No-expense-too-great framework. There was no discussion on what it would cost to develop the plan or what the price would be to the children when funds are pulled for academics or the burden placed upon the public to pay for the unnecessary and unrealistic plan.  

• False/manufactured need for more classrooms. The Master Plan claims five to 10 more classrooms are needed, based on questionable premises. Seven class periods were routine at BHS until Michelle Lawrence eliminated seventh period. By simply reinstating seventh period, the supposed need for more classrooms would disappear.  

• Classrooms were secondary in the Master Plan. 

• Athletics—not academics or physical education—is being promoted as a worthy but not primary mission of the BHS. The tail is wagging the dog while the dropout rate and achievement gaps are growing. 

The plan calls for thousands of new seats / bleachers and bathrooms. Can our athletes not walk a short distance to the original gym, as do the basketball players? 

Attendance is low at BHS football and track and field events—so why do we need thousands of extra seats? They can’t fill what they have now! 

There is no need to demolish the gym for a baseball field or basketball courts, as the Derby field has meet the needs as defined in the EIR. The Derby field is currently under development. In addition to the BHS baseball field, BHS students have access to the Gilman fields, Tom Bates fields, Harrison fields, West Campus, San Pablo and Charles Joseph Park ball fields.  

What’s so good about being an historic district? 

• Our local, state and federal governments have each recognized the BHS and the original gym as resources worthy of protection. 

• National designation provides for the rebuilding of the historical buildings, including the original gym in the event of a natural disaster. Financially neither the BUSD or the city is in the position to rebuild these facilities. 

• Access to rehabilitation of these buildings with other funding so that the burden is not solely on the Berkeley taxpayer. The City of Richmond received $2 million-plus from the state to rehabilitate its plunge.  

Rehabilitation of the original gym can provide more classrooms, offices, conference rooms and ancillary space, than the Trustees initial desires. 

Rehabilitation of the original gym will help us to build our future through sustainability. 

Rehabilitation of the warm water pool will provide a needed facility for the BHS students with special needs as well as the community. 

Measure Y, an agreement between the BUSD and the residents provides for community use of BUSD facilities in consideration for the community’s investment of BUSD facilities. 

It’s wasteful and disrespectful to the community to demolish two buildings and replace them with two new buildings when everyone benefits educationally, financially, physically and responsibly by the rehabilitation of the original gym. Let’s teach the students the many valuable lessons this opportunity provides— compassion for the physically challenged, architecture, appreciation for the community’s investment in BHS facilities, financial responsibility and building a future through sustainability. 


Marie Bowman is a board member for Friends Protecting Berkeley’s Resources (FPBR) and Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA). 

Candidate X Speaks on Energy Policy

By Brad Belden
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:03:00 AM

A press release from the California headquarters of the fictional Candidate X presents his speech about America’s Energy Policy: 

First of all, may I offer my sincere appreciation to the three other mainstream candidates for President this year: Obama, McCain, and Hilton. Their willingness to discuss the issues that matter most to this country in a substantive and intelligent fashion has made the campaign one of the most valuable and constructive in recent history.  

My Fellow Americans, today we face a real Energy Crisis in our country. Fuel costs are out of control. Our dependence on outside sources for energy only increases. 

Our problem comes not from abroad but from not adapting to our own changing energy reality. 

Years ago, our country was an oil power; American oil was exported to nations around the world. Today we still think as if we have an energy surplus, but in reality we are sorely dependent on the rest of the world for much of our vitally needed energy.  

This dependence on other nations makes us weaker as a country economically, politically, and in security matters. It causes massive pain to us at home as fuel costs rise, pushing up the prices of things we all need in order to live. It is today putting things we need out of reach for some Americans. 

This urgent problem has to be addressed in the short and the long term, by both our people and the government. The government is not able to solve this problem on its own. 

What is needed is a respectful partnership between the government and its citizens to jointly bring our country’s Energy Crisis under control. We suggest:  


Things we all can do right now to save energy and money 

1. Properly inflate your car tires to save gas (warning: over inflation can cause dangerous tire failure). 

2. Have your car tuned up for fuel efficiency (by a reliable, skilled mechanic). 

3. Remove things that don’t need to be in your car or trunk to save weight (but keep a good spare tire, jack, and emergency supplies). 

4. Combine multiple errands into a single trip to drive fewer miles. 

5. Use public transportation when practical. 

6. Use less energy at home and at work by turning off unneeded equipment, by not using cooling and heating more than is needed, by only washing full loads of laundry when possible. 


Things we all can do over time to save energy and money 

1. Make better gas mileage a high priority when buying your next car. 

2. If changing jobs, consider reducing your commute expense and time as an important factor in your choice. 

3. Evaluate ways to make your residence and workplace more energy-efficient, such as, replacing appliances with Energy Star models, adding insulation, installing energy-efficient windows. 

4. Keep low energy use in mind as you make the choices in your life. 

5. Keep close watch on your government to see that they do the things described below. 


Things the government can do right now to make our nation more energy-independent. 

1. Allow some offshore oil drilling with environmental safeguards (this will never be a full solution but it can raise our morale as a nation and encourage a bipartisan approach to the problem). 

2. Release some of the oil in our nation’s emergency oil reserve, temporarily increasing supplies. 

3. Pass well-thought-out legislation that addresses our nation’s short- and long-term energy needs. 


Things the government can do over time to make our nation more energy-independent 

1. Maintain and report an Energy Independence Indicator (similar to the Consumer Price Index), showing the percent of our energy needs we are meeting from our own domestic American sources; also show us this historically (when we were energy suppliers) up to today (energy importers). 

2. Acknowledge energy independence as the economic and national security issue it has always been and shape our national policies accordingly. 

3. Evaluate every bill proposed in Congress for its effect on our energy independence. 

4. Fund productive research aimed at increasing our energy independence. 

5. Reduce subsidies for activities that prevent us from becoming more energy independent. 

6. Find simple, cost-effective ways to encourage the American people to do the things described in the first two sections above. 

7. Realize that the goal is having complete Energy Independence in a way that is consistent with our values as a nation. 

8. Avoid thinking overly much about whose methods we adopt to reach our national goal. 

9. Be bipartisan. 

Energy Independence has always been possible for America and is still possible. We just have to realize how greatly we need it and how much better all our lives will be when we have Energy Independence again. 

Thank you for listening and I hope you will all think even more deeply about Energy Independence. I ask that you please send me your ideas about how we can achieve Energy Independence. We must respectfully work together as a nation, citizens and government as equal partners, to make our nation Energy Independent once again. 

Thank you for you kind attention. 


Brad Belden is a Berkeley resident. 

Barack Obama — Liberal Trojan Horse?

By Liam Frost
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:03:00 AM

There have been many false accusations leveled at Barack Obama during this never-ending campaign season—from the malicious, such as being a Muslim or a follower of black liberation theology, whichever you choose—to the mostly benign, like being derided as an appeaser. But there is one aspersion in particular that has so far struggled to gain momentum, though as he becomes his party’s presumptive nominee it will be very potent indeed. The charge is that Obama is some kind of liberal Trojan Horse, ready to unleash a barrage of leftist measures as soon as he steps into the Oval Office. 

It’s all part of his plan you see: Act a little right of center occasionally, you know, just to get in, and then before you know it he’s tapping the wealthy for a single-payer health-care system, inviting Ahmadinejad over to hammer out peace in the Middle East and then helping illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship while replacing oil companies with government agencies to manage renewable energy just for good measure. And all in his first term no less. 

We have already seen this straw man tested out—so far unsuccessfully—in recent congressional elections, not only because the right feel it is a something of an achilles heal for Obama, and by extension Democrats asscociated with Obama, but mainly because this is the very real fear of many on the right. I’ve lost count of how many times I have read or heard right-wing pundits citing the National Journal’s report calling Obama the most liberal politician in the Senate of 2007. And if you have any means of communication whatsoever, whether it is a Blackberry or a pair of tin cans and some string, you will no doubt be pounded to deafness with that message as we shift gears from intra-party battle of attrition to all out ideological war. 

The irony, of course, is that neither candidate is that ideologically driven. Given the current trends it looks as though they’ll both be running on a platform of patriotism and a bi-partisan record while attacking their rival for being too ideological. This would usually be par for course in any general election but here we have two candidates who are able to make very credible claims for reaching across the aisle, and also for the classic American story (albeit two very different versions). Obama, the son of an African immigrant and a Kansan woman, overcoming the odds to become the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review and now legitimate candidate for the United States Presidency. McCain, on the other hand bestows the more archetypal version, the one of the war hero who suffered stoically for his country whilst serving in the great stain on America’s recent history, Vietnam. 

Although McCain has swapped his mantle of party maverick for opportunist after his recent change of mind on issues such as taxes, abortion, the Iraq war, immigration, torture and pretty much every other issue Americans care about, his image as bipartisan is still largely intact following his love affair with the media back in 2000. 

The problem for Obama though is that while the right-wing of the Republican Party is only too aware of McCain’s flirtation with the so-called center, and have successfully dragged him back over to the right, the leftist element of the Democratic Party seem only too happy to embrace the Trojan Horse logic, and I would wager probably more so than their right-wing counterparts. 

Personally, I would be delighted to see the scenarios mentioned at the top of this article unfold, but it is simply not going to happen. Barack Obama is a true centrist, he believes in consensus, debate and transparency, and throughout his career he has consistently shown that these are his guiding principles. Whether it is because he is black, an opponent of the Iraq War or perhaps because he started his political career as a community organizer—typically seen as very progressive—the secret hope that Obama is the liberal warrior we’ve all been waiting for is cemented more by virtue of who he is rather than what he has done. 

Activist organizations such as NARAL, MoveOn.org and a multitude of unions shunned Hillary Clinton during the primaries in favour of Obama’s ability to mobilize once dormant supporters but this only serves to strengthen the image of liberal in disguise. There is, of course, an element of truth in all this. Obama is a Democrat and is naturally somewhat left of center on many issues, but that’s where it ends because unlike much of Obama’s youth contingent he is measured on all his positions and, more importantly, also willing to give ground. He wants universal health-care, though not through taxes but by making it more affordable; he believes gay and lesbian couples should share the same rights as married couples but not the title; and he is famously not anti war but “anti dumb-wars.” 

But he is also undoubtedly in tune with the zeitgeist of America’s youth and is able to communicate and reassure them through language and demeanor that he empathizes with them and their beliefs. 

Recently, Obama gave the commencement speech at Wesleyan College in the place of Teddy Kennedy (who it would seem according to all the premature obituaries has already died. He just doesn’t seem to know about it yet). 

During his speech Obama asked this of his audience: 

“At a time of war, we need you to work for peace. At a time of inequality, we need you to work for opportunity. At a time of so much cynicism and so much doubt, we need you to make us believe again. That’s your task, Class of 2008.” 

These are not radical positions, and the second is congruent with the bedrock of the Constitution. Obama’s talent is that he is able to invoke the philosophy of the forefathers and refurbish it through the lens of the 21st century. Really, it is an indictment of our political culture, and more specifically the Bush Administration that such cornerstones of democracy are now interpreted as somewhat radical. So as long as Obama continues to frame his candidacy and core values as the antithesis of the status quo and thus appear radical then the perception that he is liberal on issues will naturally follow. This fallacy of extension, which has taken off considerably, bodes dangerously for him in the fall and certainly his first term if he becomes President. 

Two weeks ago we saw a perfect illustration of the more negative side-effects of Obama’s political philosophy play out during an important Senate vote. Tellingly, he voted in favor of the disastrous Farm Bill while John McCain voted against the bill, a bill which the President also has promised to veto because of bloated subsidies for corporations (though it is very unlikely the veto will effect anything). There is little doubt that Farm Bill is the mother of all boondoggles. It is little more than an archaic program that swells the profits of agribusiness while ensuring that markets overseas are swamped with cheap surplus, helping to suppress the faintest hope of emerging local markets. Needless to say such conditions lead to poverty and mass migration, as we have seen in Mexico over the past 10 years. 

Even though this particular bill provides more for regular Americans in the form of food stamps and nutrition than ever before, the funding is paltry compared to what the likes of Monsanto and others will receive. The reasoning behind the Democrats’ votes is two-fold: there are congressional seats in the Mid-West that are dependent on the farm lobby and the other is that this particular Bill demonstrates that the Farm Bill is evolving to where progressives would like to see it. In this case I believe McCain and Bush are absolutely right to excoriate the Bill and that Pelosi and Obama have sacrificed the opportunity for real change for an acceptable compromise. This is the danger of Obama’s guiding principle, namely that in times where a stand needs to be made he has deferred to compromise and consensus. 

Above all, principles of democracy should always trump ideology, but we must also recognize that there are times where there is a choice between just and unjust, irrespective of dominant mood or tradition, as the California Supreme Court made clear recently, with its decision on gay marriage. 

The concern we should be paying attention to, slight as it is, is not only that Obama may compromise in times of crisis, but also that if he wins in November because of a perception generated by hitching personal values to his rising star rather than through Obama’s agenda of unity, then we could witness the cruelest of all hang-overs for a vast swathe of the American electorate. 

For his part Obama has always tried to make clear that he is the conciliator rather than the warrior. In fact he said as much at the commencement speech at Wesleyan, warning students, “We may disagree as Americans on certain issues and positions, but I believe we can be unified in service to a greater good.” It is important for Obama to continue to reiterate this message as much as possible but it is equally important to reassure all Americans that there is a place at the table waiting for them, if they choose to take it, as his core message of unity demands. 


Liam Frost is a San Francisco resident.

The Legacy of President George W. Bush

By Marvin Chachere
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:04:00 AM

Unless the earth reverses its rotation or gravity fails, future historians will look back and see in the Bush II presidency the start of a new America. Or, from the historian Arnold Toynbee’s point of view, America today is in its senescent stage. A simpler view is that the government presided over by the 43rd president has almost nothing in common with the original government. To be sure, the country has never fully realized those ideals on which its government was founded even though from time to time there have been sincere attempts to do so. The experiment launched in 1789 has produced interesting, exciting, unintended and sometimes admirable results as well as tragedies. Congressional representatives, for example, are not representative; “close to half” are millionaires (Associated Press, December 2002). The ship of state, once sturdy, is lost at sea like the “Flying Dutchman.” The American dream, for at least 99 out of 100, has morphed from an aspiration to an inspiration into a hallucination. The links “of,” “by” and “for” between government and people have been permanently severed. 

Dubya himself had little to do with this turn of events but he presided over the legitimizing of what I will call the New United States of America (NUSA).  

Specifically, whereas the USA was once governed by three independent branches with de jure checks and balances, the NUSA has a fourth branch, de facto unchecked and unbalanced, a cartel of corporate entities that has attained sui generis powers broad and strong enough to have its way with the other three.  

On the 215th anniversary of the signing the Constitution of the USA the Bush administration implicitly but officially abandoned it. The NUSA was born on Sept. 17, 2002 when President Bush signed a 31-page document titled “The National Security Strategy” that served notice to the world that this nation would “identify and destroy” perceived threats preemptively and by any means necessary, including nuclear.  

But the seed for replacing the old government with a new one was planted more than a hundred years earlier. 

In 1898 the USA provoked a war with Spain that lasted less than five months. (Hostilities in the Philippines continued for over a decade costing up to 200,000 lives.) It was then that the USA rejected the policy of “no foreign entanglements” urged by Washington in his Second Farwell Address and stepped boldly onto the world stage. In doing so it set in motion a process that led eventually to the abrogation of many hallowed constitutional provisions.  

Ambassador John Hay in reporting to President Roosevelt from Paris wrote that the Spanish American War from start to finish had been “…a splendid little war.” From the sidelines, Rudyard Kipling, the most admired poet of his time, encouraged imperialism “…send forth the best ye breed […] to serve your captives’ need […] sullen people, Half devil and half child” (“Take Up the White Man’s Burden”). Mark Twain vehemently opposed the war in a scathing satirical allegory titled “The War Prayer” and urged immediate military post treaty withdrawal from the Philippines declaring “An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.” As the 20th century dawned the USA found itself in possession of many of Spain’s new world holdings, including a permanent naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ironically connecting then (USA) with now (NUSA). 

Collectively, the ideals abandoned and constitutional provisions abrogated changed this nation; it is not what it once aspired to be. It is not a democracy; it is not a republic; it is something of an oligarchy. Consider a randomly selected unordered litany: 

Congress, out of temerity, no longer exercises its congressional power to declare war (Article 1, Section 8). The Commander in Chief can order a military “rescue mission” (Panama, Grenada) and declare war based on Congressional resolutions he, as president, proposed and justified sometimes by lies (the Tonkin Gulf resolution, the Iraq War Resolution).  

Incarcerating “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay tells the world that the president can, without Congress, reject due process, habeas corpus and humane protocols (Geneva Conventions).  

The executive branch usurped judicial authority and persuaded a sloven self-regarding Congress to legalize the illegal (Patriot Act of 2001, reaffirmed in 2006) and to renew the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) adding an executive requested, judicial-like provision whereby communication companies, AT&T, Verizon and the like, may not be prosecuted for violating the old FISA—warrantless eaves dropping. 

Bush’s ubiquitous use of signing statements tells the nation that he will execute laws passed by Congress as required (Article 2, Section 1), unless he decides not to. 

Similarly, “executive privilege,” another extra constitutional notion, allows the president to neutralize Congressional authority. Thus, executive power goes unchecked and its fabrications unchallenged. 

The Supreme Court assumed a legislative role at the end of 2000 in voting for the 43rd president and again in reducing the amount of fine imposed for the Exxon Valdez oil spill (1989) to 10 cents on the dollar. 

The national energy policy supervised by Vice President Cheney in the first months of his tenure remains secret despite repeated requests from both houses of Congress to be informed of its provisions and the persons who helped develop it. 

Congress gives tax breaks to the rich, fails to control corporate excesses (Savings and Loan crisis of 1980s and 1990s, Enron et al. collapse of 2001 and current home foreclosures), and generally privatizes matters of public interest.  

The Statue of Liberty welcomed immigrants from the east but in the NUSA a border wall keeps our immigrants from the south. 

Finally, I believe the governing system of the NUSA offer my children and theirs as much hospitality (and hostility) as the USA offered me. The NUSA is, nevertheless, infected with a stultifying two-party system that Washington dimly foresaw, also in his Second Farewell Address.  

Glibly expressed: A government caught between two parties is like a fish between two cats. (Thank you, Ben Franklin.) 


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.

Kids, Alcohol and Science: A Warning to Parents

By the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:05:00 AM

Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series from BAPAC. 


Social norms are standards or guides that define correct and incorrect behavior in a given situation. Norms are reflected in our beliefs about what “most people like us do,” and these beliefs have a strong impact on our behavior. Students’ drinking behavior is shaped by their normative beliefs. The pressure to drink is inside the young person’s head, stemming from the pressure to conform to normative beliefs about alcohol use. For instance, the average 6th grader in the United States believes that half of his or her peers drink alcohol—well above the actual figure of 20 percent. 

Studies of UC Berkeley students show that a majority, including half of the underage students, 

consume alcohol at least every month. Almost one in three (31.1 percent) report experiencing some kind of serious personal problems, such as suicidality, being hurt or injured, or sexual assault, at least once during the previous semester as a result of drinking. Forty-one percent reported experiencing a minor personal problem, such as missing class, memory loss, having a hangover, or vomiting, during the previous semester as a result of drinking. Comments on their alcohol experience by students during a 2006 survey by Students for a Safer Southside include “Blacking out in the dorms and not knowing, ever, what happened”; “My roommate and I went to the hospital because of alcohol poisoning”; “My friends and I drink responsibly…I always stay under five shots so I’m not drunk.”  

As a society, we do a fairly poor job of shaping children’s normative beliefs about alcohol. When we fail to make our expectations clear, when we tolerate alcohol sales to minors, when we are indifferent to the media messages children receive about drinking, or when we ourselves use or serve alcohol irresponsibly, we contribute to children’s erroneous beliefs about drinking. If public policy is weak it leaves the establishment of norms to the alcohol industry and to youth culture itself. Marketing by the alcohol industry can have and is having a huge affect on norms; to counteract it we need strong public policy. Adults are targets of marketing as well: we tend to think alcohol is everywhere, normal, and “the legal one.” A result is that more than half of underage drinkers at Berkeley High get their alcohol from their parents, relatives, and friends. It is illegal for any adult to furnish underage youth with alcohol. 

What safety measures do we adults now have in place to protect our young people from severe harm and potential lifelong effects? We pay the taxes to our local government, we determine the regulations, and we pay for enforcement. Berkeley has a very high concentration of both off-sale (i.e. liquor stores in neighborhoods) and on-sale activities (restaurants downtown and south of UC Campus.) In a study of 500 UC Berkeley students conducted by Students for a Safer Southside, 20 percent of those who have been to a bar or restaurant near campus reported that their IDs were not checked the last time they went. Almost one in three (32.4 percent) reported that persons under 21 could obtain alcohol on premises, for example, by drinking from a friend’s cup. 

Many other cities in California are being confronted by this very issue, for example, Pacific Beach and the Gas lamp Quarter in the City of San Diego, the City of Oakland Downtown, the City of Santa Rosa Downtown Redevelopment Area. The response by these cities to address problems associated with this type of development is to enact regulations and enforcement programs. The Comprehensive Proposal presented by Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC) takes this approach. If parents and the alcohol industry have biggest influence on social norms, the solution to changing those norms is to change public policy. A good example of this is the recent history of tobacco regulation. Excluding smoking from public places has led to reduced tolerance of smoking and reduced the number of smokers. 

Policymakers and concerned citizens (especially parents) can help to shape a community environment which supports healthy choices about alcohol use. Rather than focusing on the demand for alcohol by young people, successful programs intervene in the supply of alcohol. This results in 1) less drinking by 18- to 20-year-olds, 2) reduced sale of alcohol to minors, 3) reduced provision of alcohol to younger adolescents by older adolescents, and 4) more identification-checking by alcohol merchants, who also are less likely to sell to minors. 

It has always been BAPAC’s intention to address the entire alcohol environment in Berkeley. This includes retail (bars and restaurants), public (e.g. public nuisances associated with liquor stores and the party scene south of campus) and private (home parties and furnishing alcohol by adults to minors). BAPAC’s Comprehensive Proposal for Alcohol Regulations consists of several elements which combine regulation with inspection and enforcement at points of access. 

The BAPAC proposal is not radical. It is based on evidence from scientific studies and policy changes that have been shown to work in many other municipalities in California and other states. We can reduce the risks from alcohol. BAPAC asks the City of Berkeley to step up to its responsibility to protect us, youth and adults, from the more egregious effects of alcohol. IF we are interested in the safety and welfare of our youth, a good starting place is to change standards of normative behavior not only at home, but also by supporting changes in Berkeley’s alcohol policy. 


Karen Klitz, Laura Menard and Ralph Adams are members of the Berkeley Alcohol Policy Advocacy Coalition (BAPAC), a coalition of individuals from the community, research groups, and public agencies who have been meeting since 2004 to address our concerns regarding alcohol-related problems, to learn what others are doing to address these issues, and to work together to find and implement a solution. A comprehensive, prevention-based proposal was presented by BAPAC to the City Council on April 16, 2006. For more information or a complete version (with citations) of this commentary, contact BAPAC at BAPAC2006@earthlink.net. 


Dispatches From the Edge: Afghanistan: The Good War?

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:59:00 AM

Every war has a story line: World War I was “The war to end all wars.” World Ear II was “The war to defeat fascism.” 

Iraq was sold as a war to halt weapons of mass destruction, then to overthrow Saddam Hussein, then to build democracy. In the end it was a fabrication. Built on a falsehood. Anchored in a fraud.  

But Afghanistan is the “good war,” aimed at “those who attacked us,” in the words of columnist Frank Rich. It is “the war of necessity,” asserts the New York Times, to roll back the “power of al Qaeda and the Taliban.”  

Barack Obama is making the distinction between the “bad war” in Iraq and the “good war” in Afghanistan a centerpiece of his run for the presidency. He proposes ending the war in Iraq and redeploying U.S. military forces in order “to finish the job in Afghanistan.” If elected, he says he would add 10,000 troops to the Afghan war: “This is a war we have to win.” 

There is virtually no one in the United States nor the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) who calls for negotiating with the Taliban. Even the New York Times editorializes that those who want to talk “have deluded themselves.” 

But the Taliban government did not attack the United States, our old ally, Osama bin Laden, did. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are not at all the same organization (if one can really call al Qaeda an “organization”), and no one seems to be listening to what the Afghans themselves are saying.  

We should be. 

A recent poll of Afghan sentiment found that, while the majority dislike the Taliban, 74 percent of them want negotiations and 54 percent would support a coalition government that included the Taliban. 

The Canadian Globe and Mail poll reflects a deeply divided country with the majority sitting on the fence about what they think the final outcome of the war will be—40 percent think the current government of Hamid Karzai, allied with the United States and NATO, will prevail, 19 percent say the Taliban, 40 percent say it is “too early to say.”  

There is also strong ambivalence about the presence of foreign troops. Only 14 percent want them out now, but 38 percent want them out within three to five years. In short, 52 percent of the Afghans don’t want a war to the finish. 

They also have a far more nuanced view of the Taliban and al Qaeda. While the majority oppose both groups—13 percent support the Taliban and 19 percent al Qaeda—only 29 percent see the former organization as “a united political force.” 

But that view doesn’t fit the West’s story line of the enemy as a tightly disciplined band of fanatics. 

In fact, the Taliban appears to be evolving from a creation of the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan intelligence during Afghanistan’s war with the Soviet Union, to a polyglot collection of currents ranging from dedicated Islamists to nationalists. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the Agence France Presse early this year, “We’re fighting to free our country. We are not a threat to the world.” 

Those are words that should give Obama, the New York Times and NATO pause.  

The initial invasion in 2001 was easy because the Taliban had alienated itself from the vast majority of Afghans. But the weight of occupation, the rising number of civilian deaths, and the growing realization that the purpose of the invasion was to destroy al Qaeda and the Taliban, not lift Afghanistan out of its crushing poverty, is shifting the resistance toward a war of national resistance.  

No foreign power has ever won that battle in Afghanistan. 

There is no mystery as to why things have gone increasingly badly for the United States and its allies. As the United States steps up its air war, civilian casualties have climbed steadily over the past two years. Nearly 700 were killed in the first three months of 2008, a major increase over last year. In a recent incident, 47 members of a wedding party were killed in Helmand Province. In a society where clan, tribe and blood feuds are a part of daily life, that single act sowed a generation of enmity. 

Anatol Lieven, a professor of war at King’s College London, says that a major impetus behind the growing resistance is anger over the death of family members and neighbors. 

Civilian casualties appear to have played a role in the recent attack on a U.S. airbase near the Pakistan border that killed nine Americans and wounded 15. The former governor of the province told the New York Times that that local people probably joined the attackers because of their outrage over a July 4 U.S. air attack that killed up to 22 civilians. 

Lieven says it is as if Afghanistan is “becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the United States and NATO breed the very terrorists they then track down.” 

According to Reto Stocken of the Red Cross, “large areas of the south, the southeast, the east and also growing parts of the west” are in an “emergency situation,” which means “continual insecurity and an absence of basic services.” 

Once a population turns against an occupation (or just decides to stay neutral) there are few places in the world where an occupier is going to come out on the winning side. Afghanistan, with its enormous size and daunting geography, is certainly not one of them. 

Writing in Der Spiegel, Ullrich Fichter says that glancing at a map in the International Security Assistance Force’s (ISAF) headquarters outside Kandahar could give one the impression that Afghanistan is under control. “Colorful little flags identify the NATO’s troops presence throughout the country,” Germans in the northeast, Americans in the east, Italians in the West, British and Canadians in the south, with flags from Turkey, the Netherlands, Spain, Lithuania, Australia and Sweden scattered between.  

“But the flags are an illusion,” he says, and underlines the point by recounting his visit to the governor of Helmand province at his residence in Lashkar Gah: two helicopters skim the ground at high speed to land at a soccer field; the journalists don body armor and board armored personal carriers. The governor’s residence is less than 300 yards from the landing zone. 

“The governor reports that half the districts in his province are out of control. Alliances formed by the Taliban and the drug barons rule the villages, and none of the highways are safe against bomb attacks, roadside bandits, and kidnappers,” he says.  

The UN considers one third of the country “inaccessible,” and almost half, “high risk.” The number of roadside bombs has increased fivefold over 2004, and the number of armed attacks have jumped by a factor of 10. In the first three months of 2008, attacks around Kabul have surged by 70 percent. The current national government has little presence outside its capital. President Karzai is routinely referred to as “the mayor of Kabul.”  

According to Der Spiegel, the Taliban are moving north toward Kunduz, just as they did in 1994 when they broke out of their base in Kandahar and started their drive to take over the country. The Asia Times says the insurgents’ strategy is to cut NATO’s supply lines from Pakistan and establish a “strategic corridor” from the border to Kabul. 

The Bush administration recently sent 3,200 Marines into Helmand, and the United States moved an aircraft carrier group into the Gulf of Oman for additional air support. Admiral Michael Mullen, chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is calling for the additional deployment of some 10,000 more troops.  

The United States and NATO currently have about 60,000 troops in Afghanistan. But many NATO troops are primarily concerned with rebuilding and development—the story that was sold to the European public to get them to support the war—and only secondarily with war fighting. 

The Afghan Army adds about 70,000 to that, but only two brigades and one headquarters unit are considered capable of operating on their own. 

According to U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine, however, Afghanistan would require at least 400,000 troops to even have a chance of “winning” the war. Adding another 10,000 U.S. troops will have virtually no effect. 

As the situation continues to deteriorate, there are voices, including those of the Karzai government and both U.S. presidential candidates, that advocate expanding the war into Pakistan in a redux of the invasions of Laos and Cambodia, when the Vietnam War began spinning out of control. Both those invasions were not only a disaster for the invaders, they led directly to the genocide in Cambodia. 

By any measure, a military “victory” in Afghanistan is simply not possible. The only viable alternative is to begin direct negotiations with the Taliban, and to draw in regional powers with a stake in the outcome: Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, China and India.  

But to do so will require abandoning our “story” about the Afghan conflict and recognize that war is increasingly a tactic that has no place in the new millennium.

Undercurrents: Chronicle Freezes Out Brooks, While Columnist Switches Gears

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:01:00 AM

From time to time, people ask me why I periodically highlight Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks’ summertime constituent entertainment events, but rarely, if ever, do the same for other local officeholders. It seems to me that the reasons ought to be obvious, given recent history and the current social situation in East Oakland. But perhaps I need to go over it again. 

Three to four times a summer, for the past several years, Ms. Brooks has been holding free concerts at Arroyo Viejo Park at the far southern end of her council district. Arroyo sits in the middle of one of the roughest areas of Oakland, surrounded by one of the city’s most violent killing fields, the center of one of its drug trafficking hubs and close to the prostitute stroll between 73rd and 98th along International Boulevard. When they began, many people privately predicted that Ms. Brooks’ events would quickly end in violence, as did Mosswood Park’s Carijama some years before. They did not. I’ve gone to about half of the events since they began, and I have yet to hear so much as an argument. At first, the Arroyo Park events had the typically large police contingent roaming through the crowd, but gradually, the police presence has been reduced, until now only one or two police attend, standing inconspicuously under the trees to the side. Instead, the events are patrolled by Fruit of Islam men from Minister Keith Muhammad’s Nation of Islam Oakland mosque. 

Whereas in the beginning, when the Brooks events first started, there was an uneasy anticipation of problems, now people come out with the expectation that they are going to have nothing but a good time, with no violence. That is an important changeover, and the major reason why I continue to talk about the Brooks events. It is the first step in recreating an East Oakland “community,” where residents learn to trust each other and their ability to retake their streets and parks and schools and business districts, reclaiming them for community and family benefit. For those of us who believe that Oakland’s violent neighborhoods must be rehabilitated from within, by their own residents—rather than “pacified” from without—it is a major step, a small, planted seed that has been steadily growing, to bear fruit in later years. 

Usually, the Brooks events are produced by local musical entrepreneur D’wayne Wiggins and highlight singing groups and musical acts, many of them native to Oakland or the Bay Area. On Sunday past, Ms. Brooks took a different turn, sponsoring a “Comedy on the Green” show, emceed by local comedian and television star Mark Curry. I estimated more than 500 in the crowd by the time the show ended at 7, by far the largest I had seen in the Brooks events. For the first time—probably because of the Curry involvement—the Brooks Arroyo Park event got coverage from two local television stations and the Chronicle and the Tribune. But the newspaper coverage was vastly different in at least one aspect. 

Witness the first two paragraphs from the Monday Oakland Tribune story by reporter Sean Maher: “Dozens of East Oakland residents turned out to Arroyo Viejo Park on Sunday afternoon for a day of free stand-up comedy, health programs and a tip of the hat to deceased comedian Bernie Mac. In what Councilwoman Desley Brooks (Eastmont-Seminary) said she hopes will be an annual event, ‘Comedy on the Green’ featured famed comedian Mark Curry as master of ceremonies, promoting the theme, ‘Where there is laughter, there is hope.’” 

Now see how San Francisco Chronicle reporter Chris Cadelago described the same event: “Hundreds of people, many from East Oakland neighborhoods, opened the inaugural Comedy on the Green celebration Sunday at Arroyo Viejo Community Park not with a laugh, but a moment of silence. Oakland comedian Mark Curry, host and master of ceremonies, began the afternoon of stand-up comedy with a quiet moment for comedian Bernie Mac, 50, who died Saturday from what his publicist said were complications from pneumonia.” 

If you noticed that Ms. Brooks was missing from the Chronicle account—conspicuously missing—you win the prize. In fact, Ms. Brooks is not mentioned in the Chronicle article until the next to the last paragraph, when it notes that Curry said he “partnered with Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks on the event to ‘give people a fun day.’”  

Hard to see how the Chronicle reporter missed Ms. Brooks’ major involvement in the event, given the large banner hanging on the bandstand with the councilmember’s name and photograph prominently displayed, or the fact that Congresswoman Barbara Lee—who spoke—praised Ms. Brooks for organizing the event, as did Minister Keith Muhammad during his brief remarks, as did Mr. Curry, repeatedly. 

The Chronicle has been making something of a habit of criticizing Ms. Brooks in recent years, including a recent Chip Johnson column that led to Ms. Brooks suing Mr. Johnson and the Chronicle in Superior Court in Alameda County for defamation. But I would not suggest that any of this had had anything to do with the newspaper downplaying the councilmember’s role in organizing the successful Sunday Arroyo Viejo comedy event. You’re free to do so yourselves, though. 

And while we are on the subject of my good friend, Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson… 

Some of you may recall how last year and earlier this year, Mr. Johnson went on something of a crusade about Oakland’s crime and violence problem, writing a series of columns on the issue and severely criticizing Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums for not moving faster or more effectively on the problem. 

On Aug. 7, 2007, following the assassination of Chauncey Bailey: “The assassination of a well-known journalist, the arrest of members of a local Muslim group—including a man who confessed to the shooting—and seven other shootings over the last few days have left Oakland residents reeling. … For some Oakland residents, especially those living in high-crime areas, the brazen daylight shooting of a public figure underscored that no one can take personal safety for granted on these streets. For others, it signaled the abysmal failure of the city’s elected leaders to come up with a strategy to address the violence.” 

And again on Oct. 16 of that year: “What gets me most about our big-picture mayor is that he continually ignores the big picture. He talks on and on about tackling big ideas and empowering big visions while continually side-stepping Oakland’s biggest issue. Public safety is the big-picture issue, Mr. Mayor. Don’t you get it? For residents of Rockridge, East and West Oakland, Crocker Highlands, Adams Point, Glenview and other neighborhoods where street crime is increasing, the single biggest issue for residents is reducing crime.” 

And on Oct. 30: “Oakland residents are fed up with random crime—from assaults to burglaries to armed robberies—that is being carried out with seeming impunity on the city’s streets. Whether the answer is more cops, a restructured department or something else, businesses and residents across the city want improvements in public safety—and sooner rather than later.” 

And what was the solution to Oakland’s crime and violence problem advocated by Mr. Johnson in his columns? Over and over, it was for Mr. Dellums to hire more police. 

On Oct. 9 of last year: “It’s clear, given both the recent and past problems between the city’s police department and some parts of the black community, that any plan to beef up the department will have to be part of a major restructuring of the agency. Because as it stands now, the department can provide neither the investigative and protection services desired in middle-class neighborhoods and lacks the contacts, reputation and community standing to make inroads in the city’s toughest areas.” 

And on Oct. 16: “But despite Oakland’s soaring crime rate and its sinking arrest rate, Mayor Ron Dellums is being dragged into a public debate about hiring more officers. Late last month, Dellums said he believed Oakland residents didn’t want a force larger than the 803 sworn officers authorized by a public bond measure. But at a town hall meeting in North Oakland on Saturday, he changed that tune, describing the recruitment push as a rock-bottom minimum number of officers. And by the end of the meeting, Dellums was acquiescing to residents who called for a force as large as 1,000 officers… The point brought home again and again by residents who attended the weekend town hall meeting was that public safety and adequate staffing levels for the Police Department should be the mayor’s top priority. Anything short of that, including bans on bottled water and smoking at bus stops, is small potatoes.” 

In those days, it sounded like Mr. Johnson was paraphrasing that old rap song: more po-lice, more po-lice, more po-lice. 

And when Mayor Dellums first announced plans for a parcel tax measure to hire above and beyond the current 804 authorized officers, Mr. Johnson was initially ecstatic, writing on May 20 of this year: “Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums dropped a bombshell on Monday, announcing a plan to sponsor a November ballot measure to boost the police force by an additional 150 officers over the next three years by raising property taxes. It’s the biggest news from Dellums since he took office in January 2007, and if he can pull it off, it would be the best thing that’s happened to the city of Oakland for years.” 

Well, not exactly. 

By the time the actual introduction of the parcel tax measure came about earlier this summer, Mr. Johnson had suddenly switched gears. On July 15, he wrote: “In May, when I supported the mayor’s plan to craft a ballot measure asking voters to approve a parcel tax to hire more police officers, I heard from more than 150 angry readers. Most were residents unwilling to hand over another penny to the city. That was the before City Administrator Deborah Edgerly’s dismissal... The scandal involving the city’s top administrator has further eroded the public’s confidence in Oakland’s leadership.” 

After supporting Council President Ignacio De La Fuente’s call for a cleanup of City Hall finances before asking residents for more money for police or anything else, Mr. Johnson concluded: “I support any reasonable, affordable plan to bring the Oakland Police Department up to speed and provide residents with a full complement of police services, but not under these circumstances.” 

Under these circumstances? 

So where does that leave all those Oakland crime victims Mr. Johnson seemed to be so worried about last year? 

It seems to be getting more and more difficult to figure out what Mr. Johnson actually stands for, but at least we can be sure what he will always be against. Mr. Johnson is becoming as reliable as a compass, except that rather than always pointing north, as the compass does, the Chronicle’s East Bay columnist seems to always be pointing himself in the opposite direction to which Mr. Dellums is currently going. 

Wild Neighbors: Tools of the Trade: A Brief History of Fangs

By Joe Eaton
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:12:00 AM
A juvenile northern Pacific rattlesnake, the only dangerously venomous snake native to the Bay Area.
Ron Sullivan
A juvenile northern Pacific rattlesnake, the only dangerously venomous snake native to the Bay Area.

A while back I wrote about research by University of Melbourne biologist Brian Fry demonstrating that many lizard species, from the cuddly bearded dragon to the not-at-all cuddly Komodo dragon, were venomous. The orthodoxy used to be that there were only two venomous lizard species, the Gila monster and the beaded lizard. Now there were dozens, at least. Venom glands seem to be a shared characteristic of most lizard lineages. It may help to remember that snakes, among which venom is common, are basically just highly specialized lizards. 

Since then, Fry has collaborated with scientists from Australia, the Netherlands, Israel, and Walla Walla on another study, just been published in Nature, on the development of fangs in venomous snakes. (The lead author is Freek J. Vonk of Leiden University.) It’s a nice piece of evo-devo—evolutionary developmental biology—that uses snake embryology to illuminate the evolution of the venom delivery system. My thanks to science blogger P. Z. Myers, proprietor of Pharyngula, for showcasing the article. 

There are three basic kinds of fangs among venomous snakes (and yes, I insist on “venomous” not “poisonous”; rattlesnakes, for instance, are safe to eat, and reputedly tasty.) In the colubrid family, a huge group that includes rat snakes, kingsnakes, and gopher snakes, some species have enlarged teeth in the back of the mouth, with or without grooves that channel the venom from the Duvernoy’s gland. Some rearfanged colubrids are basically harmless; others, like the African boomslang and the Asian yamakagashi, have deadly bites. 

More “advanced” venomous snakes have hollow fangs with internal venom channels, like hypodermic needles. The elapids—cobras, kraits, mambas, coral snakes, sea snakes, and all those notorious Australians—have short front fangs that are fixed in place. The viperids—Old World vipers and adders, rattlesnakes, and other pit vipers—have longer, movable fangs that swing forward and down. A third family, the oddball stiletto snakes of Africa, includes rearfangers, frontfangers with fixed fangs, and frontfangers whose fangs swing sideways. 

The question is whether the fangs of cobras, vipers, and stiletto snakes were derived from the less-sophisticated delivery system of a common rear-fanged ancestor, or whether each group invented the hypodermic fang on its own. Either route seems plausible. Venom-injection systems have evolved independently in wildly diverse groups of animals, including jellyfish, cone snails, and the duck-billed platypus.  

Snake genetics tell us a lot about evolutionary relationships, but not about how the fangs changed as they evolved. For that, Vonk, Fry, and colleagues turned to evo-devo. One key idea among its practitioners (see Sean B. Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful for a good introduction) is that almost all animals share a common toolkit of genes that govern development. To oversimplify, the genes make proteins that turn developmental processes on or off. The Hox genes control the sequencing of body parts; the Pax-6 gene is responsible for eye development. Similar genes do the same kind of work in humans as in fruit flies. 

There there’s Sonic Hedgehog. The original hedgehog gene was discovered by German fruit fly researchers and named because a mutant version gave the fly larvae a spiky look. (Fruit fly people have a tradition of bestowing whimsical names on genes; see home.earthlink.net/~misaak/taxonomy/taxGene.html.) Equivalent genes found in vertebrates were given hedgehog-related names. The Sonic Hedgehog protein is a jack of all trades, involved in the organization of the vertebrate brain, the growth of fingers and toes, and, as it happens, the development of snake jaws. 

So the team looked at the expression of Sonic Hedgehog in the jaws of embryos of eight species of snakes, including colubrid rearfangers, cobras, and vipers. All the embryonic snakes had an odontogenic band, a thin strip of tissue in their mouths from which the teeth developed, with front and rear subdivisions. In rearfangers, the fangs, as well as the venom gland, developed from the rear portion; no surprise there. The front part formed the regular-sized teeth that the snakes use to hold their prey. 

In frontfanged snakes like cobras and rattlers, only the rear portion of the tooth-forming tissue is switched on by Sonic Hedgehog. 

The fangs form back there and then shift forward as the jaw of the developing embryo expands, while the venom gland remains in the back of the skull. It appears, then, that the fang-venom gland complex is the common heritage of all “advanced” snakes, and may be one of the secrets of their remarkable diversification. Cobras, vipers, and stiletto snakes independently evolved front-mounted hypodermic fangs, but not the whole apparatus. 

Fry has pointed out that venom is expensive to manufacture, and some snake lineages that no longer need it to subdue active prey—such as a sea snake that specializes in eating fish eggs, and others that feed on snails—have reduced venom glands. It’s a matter of use it or lose it.  

About the House: Home Inspection Confidential

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:11:00 AM

Everyone has something particularly annoying about their job. I’m sure yours has at least one (I can see the heads nodding). OK, it’s more than one. Me, too. I’ve got a few and one of these serenity-busters that bugs me the most is being asked which building code justifies an item that I’ve called out during an inspection. 

Now, I’ve actually gotten quite a bit better at finding things in the code book in the last year or two, but to be frank, it’s not that relevant to what I do. The building code really doesn’t apply much to looking at old houses. On the face of it, that seems like a reasonable statement, but in the search for something to hang our ideas on, people still keep running down the cognitive ravine when they look to the codes as the root of what’s right or wrong about a house. 

There are a bunch of problems with this thinking and it really messes with my day, if you know what I mean. How do I justify the things I have to say about a house? Does the code tell me what’s wrong or right? Can I say that something is wrong because it didn’t follow the code? No. I can’t. Here’s why—and get ready, because it’s quite an onslaught. 

First, many of the buildings I see were built before the first building code even existed. While building protocols or practices did exist, there was nothing written down as to what a builder could and couldn’t do. The first building code book came out in 1917, and it was no more than a slender pamphlet. The majority of buildings I see—those from the 1920s and ’30s—were built with some codes in force, but their strengths were largely the result of good practices rather than enforced rules. Since everything old we see was “grandfathered”—adopted as acceptable unless changed in some way—there’s almost nothing the code has to say about these much older buildings. 

By contrast, we can talk about a building from 1970 and say that many modern codes would have applied to it. But this too brings up a range of problems. What city was the structure located in at the time of construction? What version of the code was being used on the dates of the inspections? What local additions to the code were being practiced by the city for this type of construction at the time? What were the zoning practices for this site at the time of construction? Who was the site inspector for the inspections? 

This mass of influences makes it virtually impossible to say what rules applied to a particular building at the time of construction over a wide range of issues including set-backs, specific electrical codes, building height, the steepness of stairways and the requirement for smoke detectors. The list is huge.  

One thing that’s very important to realize is not only were the city policies and adopted codes relevant to each condition, but the specific site inspector was and is much like a judge in each case. No matter what the code book may say, the site inspectors have the authority to call things as they see fit. Of course if they wander too far afield, one can appeal to the chief inspector or higher government official—but it usually doesn’t work. So, how can I say that a stairway would have violated the code in 1966, when—for all I know—the city inspector stood there on that day, looked at his 1964 copy of the Uniform Building Code and his local Oakland amendment sheet and decided that these didn’t apply to what he (yes, it was a guy) thought of as a servant’s entrance. You see, there’s just too much “noise” between that event in the past and today to be able to say much of anything about what the right call would have been at the time of construction. 

Even construction from the very recent past has problems of this sort, although this can be more easily sorted out, if you’re serious about it and willing to do a lot of calling around. However, the important thing in my line of work isn’t to say what the site inspector or the plan checker would have said at the time but what I, as an observer, can say based on what I know and see today.  

That’s the nitty gritty of the job. I’m not a code checker and if I were, you can see how woefully hobbled I would be in performing it. I never know, for certain, which code was in force (they’re constantly being revised), what presiding officials would have said at the time and also, how much has changed since that time.  

That’s is one more thing that makes code checking virtually impossible on older buildings: They’re being changed all the time. Many houses I see have been remodeled and remodeled and remodeled. Little thing here, big thing there, tear this out, put this here. By the time I come along, it can be quite a trial to tell, even broadly, what the original building looked like and when each change came to pass. Nevertheless, I’ll confess that I do spend a lot of time looking at this aspect of the houses I see. I do it in part because it’s a puzzle and sort of irresistible. And in part, I do it because it can help to ferret out mistakes that might be important. One oft-seen case in which it’s relevant is the one where a wall or other load-bearing member has been moved or re-moved. If I don’t think about what the building would originally have looked like, it’s easy to miss something of this sort which might be truly vital. So I try. 

Once again, the point I wanted to make has required that you slog through all this stuff—and so, you have my gratitude and apology. And here it is: Home inspectors are not code checkers because the code says so very little about buildings. This may seem nutty to say but it’s really quite true. You can’t design a building using the codes and as code experts are so fond of saying, the code is a minimum standard, not a recommended formula for construction. The code also says almost nothing about the way in which things wear out, decay and fail. Amazingly, there’s no code for seismic retrofitting, so you can’t say that there aren’t enough bolts in your retrofit based on that book.  

The code doesn’t say when the paint job or the leaky window needs fixing and it doesn’t say that you have to have x number of smoke detectors in your old building (unless you are doing a remodel and they make you put some in). The code doesn’t prevent many places where slips and falls occur and also doesn’t point out the myriad improvements and upgrades that time and technology have provided. 

In short, I’d say that the most of what I’m doing in my job has almost nothing to do with the code. It’s there all the time as a reference, lurking just out of sight, and I like to invoke it where it says something of value but that’s very different from “calling something” as a violation.  

As you can see, I just can’t do that, ever. All I can do is to say that some current codes say such and such a thing and that this may be in violation of one of them. However, I can say that something is a problem, that something is dangerous (in my view). That something is a bad idea (all too often…) and might lead to harm or distress. And let me tell you, friend, you can sure fill up a day with that stuff. 

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:08:00 AM



Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. For details of films see www.clubrimshot.com/filmfestival.html 


Dora Sorell, holocaust survivor and author of “Tell the Children” talks at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, North Branch, 1170 the Alameda. 981-6250. 


Marcus Shelby Trio at noon at the downtown Berkeley BART station, Shattuck at Center St. 

David Rovics, radical and progressive songs at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Tickets are $15 at the door. 528-4941. 

JBill at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Loading Zone at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Anna Estrada & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com  

Scott Amendola with the Gyan Riley Trio at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Amanda West at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Spanish Harlem Orchestra at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24-$28. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “The Matchmaker” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave., through Aug. 16. Tickets are $10-$12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org  

Central Works “Midsummer/4” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Aug. 24. Tickets are $20. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

Crowded Fire Theater Company “The Listener” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Aug. 31. Tickets are $15-$25. 415-433-1235. crowdedfire.org 

Woodminster Summer Musicals ”Seussical” a musical based on the works of Dr. Seuss, Fri.-Sun. at 8 p.m., at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland. through Aug. 17. Tickets are $23-$38. 531-9597. www.woodminster.com 


“Kwatro-Kantos” Works by the Filipino Collective on display to Sept. 13 at 21 Grand, 416 25th St., at Broadway, Oakland. 444-7263. www.kwatro-kantos.com 


“Fellini's 8 1/2” View and discuss the archetypal, mythic, and depth psychological dimensions of this film at 7 p.m. at The Dream Institute, 1672 University. Cost is $10-$12. 


Paces “The Tristan Codas” Poetry and dance at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. Donations benefit Berkeley Art Center. 644-6893. www.berkeleysrtcenter.org 


Amigos, Latin rock, at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Pacific Coast Jazz on the Green at 6 p.m. in the gardens of the Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak, Oakland. 238-2022. www.museumca.org  

Conjunto Los Pochos, Conjunto Romero at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Panel discussion at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

E. W. Wainwright’s African Roots of Jazz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. East Coast Swing lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Phil Marsh at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Christmas, Members of Thizz, Thizz Latin, hip-hop benefit for CopWatch at 8 p.m. at 3228 Adeline St. Cost is $5-$10. berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com 

Small Guitarmen, Jessica Rice at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Desario, Whitey on the Moon, Bye Bye Blackbirds, California indie pop, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Ray Cepeda at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Killing the Dream, Risen, Resist the Right 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. 

Rhythm Doctors at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  



Puppet Show “The Adventures of Peer Gynt” Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. and “The Girl Who Lost Her Smile” at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  


Shotgun Players “Ubu for President” An adaptation of the plays of Alfred Jarry, Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave., off the Arlington, through Sept. 14. Free, donations accepted. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Prism Stage “The W. Kamu Bell Curve” Sat. and Sun. at 8 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., through Aug.24. Tickets are $15-$20. 848-0237. 


“Communication Gap” Works by Angie Brown, Crystal Morey, Jake Gabel, Nancy Bach, Patrick Renner and Amanda Jayne Kennedy, opens at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, and runs through Sept. 7. 655-9019. www.thecompoundgallery.com 


Cool Mash-Up Youth Speaks female spoken word artists from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak Sts. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Rhythm & Muse with spoken word performer Paradise and horn player The Ambassador of Trouts at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St. 644-6893.  


Los Boleros, Afro-Cuban Latin band, at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

V-Note at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. 

Barry Melton Band, Nick Gravenites Band at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Mark Fromm, Erika Wright Band at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe. 595-5344.  

Crooked Jades at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Jonathan Stein Experiment at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Fred Frith, Matthias Bossi, Shazad Ismally Duo, improv rock, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Patrick Wolff Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Rich White Males, Regal Beagle, Idiot Box 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. 

Spanish Harlem Orchestra at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24-$28. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



The Men’s Story Project, exploring masculinity through spoken word, monlogues, music and dance, at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $12-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


San Francisco Renaissance Voices at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20 at the door. 684-7563. 

The Edlos at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

In Jazz We Trust at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Ahimsa, Indian fusion, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Pete Madsen at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged: Dark Hollow Band at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Household Items with the Jordan Wardlaw Band at 7 p.m. at Mama Buzz Cafe. 465-4073. www.mamabuzzcafe.com 

Jyoti Kala Mandir, College of Indian Classical Arts, “Devi: Mystic Goddess” at 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $12-$18. 486-9851. www.jyotikalamandir.org  



“Writers of the WPA” A community reading of selected works from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Library Plaza, Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6121. 

“Silhouettes” Writers explore the boundaries between light and shadow with Daphne Gottlieb, Kelly Lydick, Amy Reed and MG Roberts, at 7:30 p.m. at Mama Buzz Café, 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 465-4073. 

Poetry Express with Jan Steckel and Giovanna Capone at 7 p.m. at Priya Restaurant, 2072 San Pablo Ave. 644-3977. 


String Trio at 5:30 p.m. at the West Side Branch Library, 135 Washington Ave., Richmond. 620-6567. 

Trovatore, traditional Italian music, at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Chris O’Brien at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage Coffee House. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Downtown Jam Session with Glen Pearson at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5. www.opcmucsic.org 

Kaz George Quartet at 4:30 p.m., Inspiration Sextet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373.  

Lloyd Gregory at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10. 238-9200.  



Judye Hess, author, in conversation with Dan Wile on “Core Focused Family Therapy: Moving from Chaos to Clarity’ at 6 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Roy Carierre at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $12. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

Blue Moose and the Unbuttoned Zippers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Brian Woods Ensemble at 7 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Frankye Kelly at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Jazzschool Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Latino Film Festival “Hijo de la Guerra” at 6:30 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Free. 620-6561. 


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 . 


Summer Sounds at Oakland City Center with Mucho Axe, Latin jazz, at noon at 12th and Broadway, Oakland.  

Music on the Main with Junction, Richmond PAL, and College Prep Dancers at 5 p.m. in the parking lot at the corner of Macdonald Ave. and Marina Way, next to the Richmond BART station. 236-4049.  

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

Whiskey Brothers, old-time and bluegrass at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Balkan Folkdance at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Dance lessons at 7 p.m. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Ed Neff and Friends at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Latin Dub Stars at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

John Cruz at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Carioca at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$14. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



The Dark Cinema of David Goodis “The Professional Man x Two” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

CineMingle “Sidewalk” by Israeli filmmaker Duki Dror at 7:30 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is $5-$8. 848-0237. 

“The Petrified Forest” A fundraiser for Masquers Playhouse at 9:15 p.m. at El Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, 10070 San Pablo Ave. at Central, El Cerrito. Tickets are $9. www.cerrito 



“Introduction to Fire in California” with author David Carle, part of a summer series of natural history literary events at 5:30 p.m. University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Downtown Berkeley MusicFest feturing jazz, blues, folk r&b at various locations through Sun. www.downtownberkeleymusic.org 

Amendola vs Blades, groove jazz, at noon at the downtown Berkeley BART station, Shattuck at Center St. 

Cataracts, hip-hop, rock, pop, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054.  

Alasdair Fraser’s Fiddle Summit with Natalie Haas, Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill and Bruse Molsky at 8 p.m. at the Roda Theater. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Monte Montgomery, acoustic guitar, at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Speak the Music at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Courtney Niole Trio at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Habib Koite & Bamada at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $24. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 

Divasonic with Diet Snakes at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 



Central Works “Midsummer/4” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Aug. 24. Tickets are $20. 558-1381. www.centralworks.org 

Crowded Fire Theater Company “The Listener” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through Aug. 31. Tickets are $15-$25. 415-433-1235. crowdedfire.org 

“Prisons” by Shanique Scott. Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $15-$18. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Stage Door Conservatory Teens on Stage “The Wiz” Fri.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2460 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20 at the door. 521-6250. 


Alison Wilson-Fried reads from her novel “Outside Child” at 7 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 


Carmen Milagro, Latin pop, at 5 p.m. outdoors at Broadway at Water St., Jack London Square, Oakland.  

Joe Warner Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dee Spencer’s “Jook Joint Jazz” at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Macka B, reggae at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Barbwyre, Amerifolkana, at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. 548-5198.  

Steve Forbert at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $19.50-$20.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Brendan Getzell, Kristin Lagasse at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

The California Honeydrops, The Lloyd Family Players at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Devastator, Virulent Death, Laceration 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 Mundaze at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Amar Khalil, R&B, at 9 p.m. at Maxwell’s, 341 13th St., Oakland. Cost is $10. 839-6169. 

Steven Emerson Band at 8 p.m. Beep Trio at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Martin Luther at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $14-$20. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 








Puppet Show “The Adventures of Peer Gynt” Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m., 2 and 4 p.m. and “Aesop’s Fables” 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 Live Oak Park. Free, donations accepted. 415-285-1717. www.sfmt.org 

Shotgun Players “Ubu for President” An adaptation of the plays of Alfred Jarry, Sat. and Sun. at 4 p.m. at John Hinkel Park, Southampton Ave., off the Arlington, through Sept. 14. Free, donations accepted. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Prism Stage “The W. Kamu Bell Curve” Sat. and Sun. at 8 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St., through Aug.24. Tickets are $15-$20. 848-0237. 


“WhatYouSee Galore” featuring Bay Area artists, fashion designers, and musicians, at 7 p.m. at Autobody Fine Art Gallery, 1517 Park St., Alameda. www.myspace.com/1517artprojects 


The Dark Cinema of David Goodis “Moon in the Gutter” at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


Junius Courtney Big Band at 8 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge at Shattuck, the 2nd floor Reading Room. 981-6241. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

Lady Bianca Blues at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Baba Ken & The Afro-Groove Connexion at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Mike Glendinning, Will Derryberry at 7:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Great Night of Soul Poetry at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Malachi Whitson Trio at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Beep with Michael Coleman at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The Porchsteps, Evil Diane, Xenia Rudycka at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Curtis Bumpy at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Toys That Kill, Off with Their Heads, Nothington at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

Maria Muldaur & The Free Radicals with Holly Near and Linda Tillery at 8 and 10 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



San Francisco Mime Troupe “Red State” at 2 p.m. at Live Oak Park. Free, donations accepted. 415-285-1717. www.sfmt.org 


Berkeley Art Center Annual National Juried Exhibition Opening reception at 2 p.m. at 1275 Walnut St. in Live Oak Park. Exhibition runs through Oct. 12. 644-6893. www.berkeleysrtcenter.org 

“Communication Gap” Works by Angie Brown, Crystal Morey, Jake Gabel, Nancy Bach, Patrick Renner and Amanda Jayne Kennedy. Opening reception from noon to 5 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 655-9019. www.thecompoundgallery.com 


Egyptology Lecture “Excavations at the Amenhotep III Mortuary Temple at Thebes” with Dr. Hourig Sourouzian, German Archaeological Institute, and Dr. Rainer Stadelmann, Director Emeritus, German Institute of Archaeology, Cairo, at 1:30 p.m., Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane at Bancroft Way, UC Campus. 415-664-4767. 

Mama Coatl and Phava Kujchagulia read at 3:30 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. 852-4768. 


West Coast Songwriter’s Playoff Finals at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Alex Pfeifer-Rosenblum at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Pete Yellin Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Tom Huber and Misisipi Mike at 11 a.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Americana Unplugged: Pete Madsen at 5 p.m. and Chad Manning and Friends at 6 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Royal Society Jazz Orchestra at 5 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Karl Tingwald Quintet at 4:30 p.m., Natalie Cressman at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 





Crowded Fire Stages ‘The Listener’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:09:00 AM

In a rush of oft-repeated words, The Listener sits in her studio, a conning tower of junk electronics, and broadcasts: “Calling anyone who is anyone out there, do you read me?” 

Junk City, the earth of the future, is strewn with just that—junk. It is the principal feature of Melpomene Katakalos’ set (lit by Heather Basarab), somewhere between a funk sculpture and a well-landscaped dump, for Crowded Fire’s production of Liz Duffy Adams’ eponymous play, The Listener—which the author and director Kent Nicholson note could have been inspired in part by the weather-beaten farm structures and site-specific artworks “designed to decay” at the Djerassi Foundation retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains where Duffy started writing the play. That, and articles about enormous dumps in the Third World where scavengers live, and the “brutal abandonment” of New Orleans.  

The scavengers in this dump are Smak (Michael Moran) and Jelly (Rami Margron), talking in a street slang without streets that’s momentarily reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, or of the post-Gertrude Stein experiments with naive speech playwright Irene Maria Fornes essayed during the ’80s and ’90s. Their costumes (by Louise Jarmilowicz) are grungy post-Punk, or beach bum, in contrast to the vaguely tribal wear of The Listener (Juliet Tanner) and the hieratic Namer (Lawrence Radecker). 

Into this forlorn scape tumbles John (Cole Alexander Smith), captured by Smak and Jelly when his one-man craft from “Nearth” (the moon, where the more privileged of Humanity have fled) touched down, not in answer to Listener’s faintly-broadcast call, but as part of a Nearth faction that “wants to help,” however patronizingly, versus another clique that would sooner destroy the “backwards” remnants of those left behind in what John identifies as a toxic environment. (For a change, the alien who shows up to help is another human.) 

The couple of scavengers bring John in like an unidentified gadget, and he’s casually brutalized while passed onto Namer, a kind of priest who “names” the unfamiliar and recites the myth of humanity’s great divide and its consequences, which John recognizes as a reworking of the same history he’s familiar with in technocratic terms. 

Namer names, and dictates. Listener listens—and ceaselessly broadcasts, in hope of contacting others, the existence of which Namer discounts, so that the strict routine and hierarchy of Junk City might be diversified by other voices, other presences. 

The metaphor, or simile, is clear and the parallels to the post-apocalyptic sci-fi of the ’50s and ’60s are cited in the program: Bradbury, Delaney, LeGuin (as well as C.J. Cherryh, publishing since the mid-’70s); A Canticle for Leibowitz and A Boy and His Dog also come to mind. 

Shotgun Players produced Duffy’s Dog Act in 2004 (also directed by Nicholson, with Rami Magron in the cast, which the author thought would be her last post-apocalyptic play), somewhat more successful as a low-down futuristic parable. The simplicity of the similes doesn’t carry the weight or suggest the irony of Wells’ struggle of grotesque castes in The Time Machine, or of Chestertonian humor (found more recently in TV’s The Prisoner and the film The Man Who Fell to Earth), both authors who Jose Luis Borges identified as true storytellers for the future. Other examples would include the strange, too familiar but empty world of M. K. Shiel’s 1930s post-apocalyptic The Purple Cloud—and much of Poe, for that matter. 

Crowded Fire emphasizes high production values throughout, including Cliff Caruthers’ music and sound design and the stage movement, coached by Matthew Graham Smith. The cast uniformly supports the tone, quiet amid angst and menace, with good performances, especially Crowded Fire co-founderJuliet Tanner’s in the title role, bringing subtly stated sensitivity and humor to small moments, as she so often does. 



Presented by the Crowded Fire Theater Company at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 31.  

Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $15-$25. (415) 433-1235. crowdedfire.org.

Belasco Theatre Company Presents ‘The Wiz’ at Oakland's Malonga Casquelourd Arts Center

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:08:00 AM

The Wiz isn’t exactly “We’re off to see the Wizard.” Both follow the Yellow Brick Road with high spirits, but The Wiz proceeds to a different, syncopated beat. Both eventually get to the same place: back (or down) home, where it all began. 

Maybe what they have most in common is Harold Arlen. The Wiz brings to the fore, using the storyline of Arlen’s best-known work (if none of his tunes! Charlie Smalls’, instead), what he was encouraging behind the scenes at the Cotton Club and on musicals like House of Flowers and Jamaica: new vehicles and recognition for African-American performers. 

Belasco Theatre Co. opened their production of The Wiz last weekend at Malonga Casquelourd Arts Center Theatre (formerly Alice Arts) in Oakland, running through Aug. 21, featuring many of the young local performers who appeared in the 2000 production. Founder Edward Belasco came out of retirement for this one—and hopes to direct more. 

This is community theater in the deepest sense. Since 1981, Belasco has been training young people to perform at higher levels, and the results are apparent in the lively display of talent on stage, and its impact on the audience, which visibly feeds the performers’ zeal. 

Their stories tell it, too. The show’s stars mostly grew up here; some of them are now cultivating careers, locally and internationally. Kamaria Ousley, who plays Dorothy (she was 15 in the 2000 show), was born in Oakland, went to Skyline and graduated from Berklee School of Music, and just performed at Jazzaar in Switzerland. Jonathan Smothers, The Cowardly Lion, also a Skyline grad, teaches voice in Oakland. Dave Abrams, The Scarecrow, has been with Belasco since age seven; his wild flair for acrobatic dancing shows his sports background. He’s just been accepted to UC Berkeley as a performing arts student. “Tinman” Phillip Harris is a Saint Mary’s High and an alumnus of the Young Musicians’ Program at UC Berkeley who toured in China this year and sang Threepenny Opera with UCLA Opera. Many others in the cast of 16 are students or grads of Skyline, Oakland School for the Arts, Berkeley High, or YMP—and more than a few have been with Belasco for years. 

The nine-member team of chorus and dancers sets up and plays off the leads, rocking especially, in a combination of show and street, to the big numbers, the show-stoppers. There’s “Ease On Down the Road,” The Tinman’s “Slide Some Oil to Me,” “Brand New Day” ... it seems like a song with a production number comes along every other minute in this part quick scan, part vaudeville, of the Oz story. 

Dr. Samuel Lewis (another Berkeley High grad), whose son once performed with Belasco, also came back to produce The Wiz, putting together funding from over 85 donors, corporate and individual. “An acronym in medicine, TNTC, means ‘too numerous to count,’” Dr. Lewis said when thanking the community for its backing. “Pediatrician by day, producer by night,” he’s also the liveliest spectator, with a stream of informative asides. When a little kid cried, frightened by a blackout between scenes, Dr. Lewis quipped, “I’m a pediatrician; they always know where to find me!” 

It’s a gutsy, fun, gratifying show—sensations clearly shared by audience, cast and production staff alike. 



Presented by Belasco Theatre Company at the Malonga Arts Cener, 1428 Alice St., Oakland. $15-$20. (925) 284-9544. www.belasco.org.

Cal Shakes Brings ‘Uncle Vanya’ to Orinda’s Bruns Amphitheater

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:10:00 AM

When a pompous old professor (James Carpenter as Serebryakov) and his alluring young wife (Sarah Grace Wilson as Yelena) take up residence with his relations by marriage on his late wife’s country estate, their extravagant style unsettles the household—and some of its visitors. It’s not just the professor’s pontificating, or the hours they keep, it’s the demands they make that get under everyone’s skin. 

Vanya (Dan Hiatt), brother to the professor’s late wife, and Astrov (Andy Murray), the district doctor (and reforestation enthusiast), both follow Yelena around like lovelorn schoolboys. They joke with her that, since she’s come, everybody has knocked off work, just talks ... is she a witch? No, Vanya proclaims, a siren. A landlocked mermaid who makes others restless. 

When Vanya goes to fetch her some “beautiful, melancholy autumn roses” (a lugubrious line that gets repeated), she sighs and says out loud but to herself, “September, already. How am I going to live through the winter?” 

Such posing for no one on particular, such absurd, self-regarding lines, are the stuff of existence for Chekhov’s gentry, whose lives dissipate in endless circles—the same games played out endlessly, as we see onstage in CalShakes’ production of Uncle Vanya, outdoors in the Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, as September is indeed coming on. 

“The humor of everyday life,” I overheard a spectator say at intermission when Actors Ensemble staged Vanya in Stan Spenger’s production earlier this year. After generations of Stanislavski’s “pathetic” approach to Chekhov as melodrama, an approach Chekhov vociferously opposed, the pendulum seems to be swinging to comic interpretations of this unique playwright, as well as a few other modernists heretofore presented “pathetically”: Strindberg, O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, to name the most obvious. 

(Ironic, as humorous parodies of Chekhov’s eccentrics were so often played, are prominent in certain works by Bernard Shaw and others; the parody was closer to the mark than the “official” version.) 

Director Timothy Near of San Jose Rep presides over the cast, which, in part, reflects this interpretation, as does Emily Mann’s adaptation. Hiatt, Howard Swain (playing the cheerful and pathetic hanger-on, Waffles) and Joan Mankin (as Vanya’s mother, Maria Voynitsky) are all well-known in the Bay Area for their comic interpretations. 

The situation is ripe for humor—almost stretched to the point of soap opera. Vanya, whose endeavors managing the estate—along with his niece Sonya (Annie Purcell), the daughter of the professor and Vanya’s late sister—have supported the professor, whom Vanya has come to despise, as he regrets his own drab, middle-aged existence. Sonya lights up whenever the doctor comes—and the doctor comes for Yelena. Vanya carries on, the professor pontificates and complains, Yelena and Sonya try to patch things up ... in different combinations. They all revolve like the figures around a medieval clock. 

Chekhov’s style was considered strange, suspicious even, from the start. It seemed formless, concerned with little nothings; in the program, he’s compared to Beckett. Chekhov’s plays are modular, progressing less by plot than by vignettes between characters. The great director V. S. Meyerhold, who as an actor with Stanislavski premiered several Chekov plays and grew close to him, said Chekhov’s poetry was in the rhythm of the words, and allowed flashes of figurative poetry: “an old man dancing with a woman [in The Cherry Orchard] is, for a moment, Death—but just for a moment.” 

The cutting for this production has reduced this artful indirectness and cut down the possibilities for several promising performances: Carpenter as the professor, Swain as Waffles, Mankin as the obstreperous mother. What may seem like repetitions in the parts that were cut not only develop the rhythm but show the characters saying or doing similiar things with others—an important humorous mode. 

The choice of comic emphasis, since the “aha” tha Chekhov was a humorist (as he himself maintained), seems superficial. Dan Hiatt, a talented comic actor, puts in an atonally silly performance as Vanya—silly in the sense a sitcom protagonist is silly, plays it silly. His climactic scenes, which read as hysterical, embarrassing and very funny, lose most of their humor, a souffle that collapses after much comic buildup. (The streamlining of Chekhov’s indirection, of his characters’ indirectness as gentry, makes for uneven performances, too—Sarah Grace Wilson, often fine with her expressions and body language, has the languid Yelena speaking like an American college girl. Some of the problem may be in the adapted script.) 

And Chekhov’s most overtly humorous lines don’t get a laugh, aren’t played to get one: the doctor, a self-acknowledged misanthrope and yet one who insists “think global/act local,” constantly showing maps and charts to the uninterested, glances in a claustrophobic moment at a world map, smiles and says: “It must be stifling in Africa right now!”—or best of all, Vanya, blowing his stack: “If I’d led a normal life, I could’ve been a Schopenhauer or a Dostoyevsky!” Not a laugh ... 

(Though a Russian friend remarked that it was hard to tell how much of his humor was of the dark kind of a doctor who is also a patient, his helpless gentry should ring a bell in today’s atmosphere of entropy.)  

Nonetheless, some of the middle scenes work, if only in moments, and the bittersweet quality of summer fading into autumn, in lives and society as well as nature, brings a spark of sentiment—closer to Stanislavski’s noble conception—watching these quiet moments, broken by fits and starts, on Erik Flatmo’s radiant wood interiors exposed under a late summer sky. 



Presented by California Shakespeare Theater Tuesdays-Sundyas through Aug. 31 at Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, 100 Gateway Blvd., Orinda. Times vary. $52–$57.  

548-9666. www.calshakes.org.

Moving Pictures: Tales of Terror and Demagoguery

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:10:00 AM
Juan Guzman besieged by the press in The Judge and the General.
Juan Guzman besieged by the press in The Judge and the General.

Two new films in Berkeley theaters this week depict the dangers of demagoguery from two different perspectives—from the relatively small-scale harassment of the Hollywood 10, to the murderous horrors of Augusto Pinochet’s reign in Chile.  



Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood writers blacklisted after testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He was perhaps the most brashly outspoken of the group, as well as the first to overcome the blacklist.  

Trumbo is a documentary based loosely on the play written by son Christopher Trumbo that starred Brian Dennehy in the title role. The film doesn’t adapt the stage play; instead it’s essentially a standard documentary, with interviews and archival footage, but interspersed with staged readings of Trumbo’s letters to family, friends, colleagues and enemies.  

Many actors are brought in for these readings, and several of them are quite good. The reasoning is obvious and a bit clumsy: By bringing in a range of well-known actors, the film’s box office appeal is increased. Another reason is to likely mirror that moment in Spartacus, written by Trumbo, in which a group of slaves stands up one at a time to cry out “I am Spartacus!” in a showing of solidarity. Here actors ranging in age and persona utter Trumbo’s words as if to say that his words are universal, that they speak to and through all of us.  

Trumbo’s letters were by turns poignant, flashy, bellowing, humorous and ribald, but they all share one thing in common: a delight in the beauty and rhythm and power of language. Some of these actors do a decent job: Joan Allen, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas. One in particular, Josh Lucas, does an absolutely lousy job, reading the dramatic eloquence of Trumbo with the inflections of a moody Gen. X slacker. But when David Strathairn and Dennehy take the role, they bring the power and grace and humor of Trumbo to the fore, and we wonder why the filmmakers couldn’t have simply stuck with these two for the duration. Strathairn handles it with gravity and force, staring down the camera; Dennehy brings out more of the raconteur, delivering the lines with a devil-may-care smile. Though the film has its moments, ultimately it just makes you wish you had seen the stage show.  


The Judge and the General 

When Chilean Judge Juan Guzman was assigned to investigate charges against the 17-year regime of Augusto Pinochet, dissidents had little reason to expect that justice would be served. In a government rife with corruption, and where judges also act as special investigators, it was expected that Guzman—who was not only a conservative, but a Pinochet supporter—would continue the practice covering of up the dictator’s crimes and deferring to the immunity that Pinochet claimed for himself.  

But Guzman proved himself to be a man of great courage and integrity. As documented in a new film, The Judge and the General, Guzman was able to put aside his biases and keep his mind open as he heard testimony and uncovered evidence that told a much different story than the one he had been to led to believe for so many years.  

The investigation “opened the eyes of my soul,” Guzman says, and through him the country itself seemed to be atoning for its sins. “A wounded country needs to know the truth.” 

The film, by Berkeley resident and PBS NewsHour correspondent Elizabeth Farmsworth and Patricio Lanfranco, is showing this week at Rialto Theater Elmwood in Berkeley and will show on PBS Tuesday, Aug. 19. 



Directed by Peter Akin. Featuring Brian Dennehy, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Paul Giamatti, Liam Neeson, Michael Douglas, Donald Sutherland, Josh Lucas, Nathan Lane. 96 minutes. Playing at Shattuck Cinemas. 



Directed by Elizabeth Farmsworth and  

Patricio Lanfranco. 86 minutes. 

Playing at Rialto Theater Elmwood.

San Francisco Triennial at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

By Peter Selz Special to the Planet
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:11:00 AM
Deep Gradient Complex by John Roloff, 2008
Courtesy Gallery Paule Anglim
Deep Gradient Complex by John Roloff, 2008

The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents an important multifaceted exhibition which demonstrates the varieties of directions of art at this juncture. For the past 15 years the center has presented surveys of the visual arts every three years. Unlike the former San Francisco Annuals, which were limited to painting and sculpture, these “Bay Area Now” shows include photographs, films, videos, films, maps, books, sound and many installations.  

A curatorial team of eight professionals under the direction of Kate Eilertsen selected 21 Bay Area artists who addressed issues of the area’s physical geography, history, and, of course, social activism. But space was also left for purely visual presentations.  

Leslie Shows, who in 2007 was given the prestigious SECA Award by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, is represented with large panels in acrylic and collage, which are like avalanches of pigment and paper suggesting organized chaos. In the center of the large gallery, Ian McDonald, who has shown his ceramic works in Holland, Denmark, Italy, as well as in the United States (many of the artists in this triennial have been exhibiting their work globally) displays giant black clay amphorae which suggest the containers that were used to support the troops of the Roman empire before its collapse.  

Close by is Donald Fortescue and Lawrence LaBianca’s Sounding (2008). The artists placed a soundbox on a fragile table whose legs are filled with pebbles and sand from the beach. Over this table is a huge plastic hailing horn that looks like an old gramophone or the horn of a whaling ship. It emits passages from Melville’s Moby Dick, as well as the sound of waves in a storm. The well-known San Franciscan John Roloff, chair of the Sculpture Department at the San Francisco Art Institute, has been making with site-specific works for a long time. At the triennial he exhibits maps of geological facies and sediment studies, as well as the descending black ship, made of steel and green glass, which is a permanent installation at Yerba Buena. 

Iranian-American, Ala Ebtekar, whose pictures were seen recently at the Paule Anglim Gallery, has drawings and paintings of pages of Persian texts with superimposed warriors on horseback, creating narratives which reconstruct and deconstruct time, space and history. There is also a peaceful small deep blue room by Elaine Buckholtz in which viewers, sitting on black benches, view a quietly moving chromatic spectrum. Then, in a specially designed room of its own with a large mirror facing the reader, Moira Roth, art historian and poet, presents a beautiful large book with maps of her peaceful Berkeley neighborhood that make an evocative contrast to maps and enlarged documentary photographs—many of them from the New York Times—of struggle, war and destruction in Guernica, Alabama, Hiroshima and Bagdad. Called Atlas of War and Peace, this is a deeply affecting work.  

So is the room by Brian Conley, whose work has been seen in New York’s Whitney Museum, as well as in Sweden and Switzerland. He has built a large mobile diorama of moving men, who are periodically “taken out” and removed. Called Miniature Iraq War, it is based on real-time reports from Iraqi bloggers. Various, scenarios are enacted. The room also has videos, photos and fliers, one of them, a report of the U.S. “victory” against cult leaders was “massacre.” As in many contemporary works, art has been fused with politics. 

About the House: Home Inspection Confidential

By Matt Cantor
Thursday August 14, 2008 - 09:11:00 AM

Everyone has something particularly annoying about their job. I’m sure yours has at least one (I can see the heads nodding). OK, it’s more than one. Me, too. I’ve got a few and one of these serenity-busters that bugs me the most is being asked which building code justifies an item that I’ve called out during an inspection. 

Now, I’ve actually gotten quite a bit better at finding things in the code book in the last year or two, but to be frank, it’s not that relevant to what I do. The building code really doesn’t apply much to looking at old houses. On the face of it, that seems like a reasonable statement, but in the search for something to hang our ideas on, people still keep running down the cognitive ravine when they look to the codes as the root of what’s right or wrong about a house. 

There are a bunch of problems with this thinking and it really messes with my day, if you know what I mean. How do I justify the things I have to say about a house? Does the code tell me what’s wrong or right? Can I say that something is wrong because it didn’t follow the code? No. I can’t. Here’s why—and get ready, because it’s quite an onslaught. 

First, many of the buildings I see were built before the first building code even existed. While building protocols or practices did exist, there was nothing written down as to what a builder could and couldn’t do. The first building code book came out in 1917, and it was no more than a slender pamphlet. The majority of buildings I see—those from the 1920s and ’30s—were built with some codes in force, but their strengths were largely the result of good practices rather than enforced rules. Since everything old we see was “grandfathered”—adopted as acceptable unless changed in some way—there’s almost nothing the code has to say about these much older buildings. 

By contrast, we can talk about a building from 1970 and say that many modern codes would have applied to it. But this too brings up a range of problems. What city was the structure located in at the time of construction? What version of the code was being used on the dates of the inspections? What local additions to the code were being practiced by the city for this type of construction at the time? What were the zoning practices for this site at the time of construction? Who was the site inspector for the inspections? 

This mass of influences makes it virtually impossible to say what rules applied to a particular building at the time of construction over a wide range of issues including set-backs, specific electrical codes, building height, the steepness of stairways and the requirement for smoke detectors. The list is huge.  

One thing that’s very important to realize is not only were the city policies and adopted codes relevant to each condition, but the specific site inspector was and is much like a judge in each case. No matter what the code book may say, the site inspectors have the authority to call things as they see fit. Of course if they wander too far afield, one can appeal to the chief inspector or higher government official—but it usually doesn’t work. So, how can I say that a stairway would have violated the code in 1966, when—for all I know—the city inspector stood there on that day, looked at his 1964 copy of the Uniform Building Code and his local Oakland amendment sheet and decided that these didn’t apply to what he (yes, it was a guy) thought of as a servant’s entrance. You see, there’s just too much “noise” between that event in the past and today to be able to say much of anything about what the right call would have been at the time of construction. 

Even construction from the very recent past has problems of this sort, although this can be more easily sorted out, if you’re serious about it and willing to do a lot of calling around. However, the important thing in my line of work isn’t to say what the site inspector or the plan checker would have said at the time but what I, as an observer, can say based on what I know and see today.  

That’s the nitty gritty of the job. I’m not a code checker and if I were, you can see how woefully hobbled I would be in performing it. I never know, for certain, which code was in force (they’re constantly being revised), what presiding officials would have said at the time and also, how much has changed since that time.  

That’s is one more thing that makes code checking virtually impossible on older buildings: They’re being changed all the time. Many houses I see have been remodeled and remodeled and remodeled. Little thing here, big thing there, tear this out, put this here. By the time I come along, it can be quite a trial to tell, even broadly, what the original building looked like and when each change came to pass. Nevertheless, I’ll confess that I do spend a lot of time looking at this aspect of the houses I see. I do it in part because it’s a puzzle and sort of irresistible. And in part, I do it because it can help to ferret out mistakes that might be important. One oft-seen case in which it’s relevant is the one where a wall or other load-bearing member has been moved or re-moved. If I don’t think about what the building would originally have looked like, it’s easy to miss something of this sort which might be truly vital. So I try. 

Once again, the point I wanted to make has required that you slog through all this stuff—and so, you have my gratitude and apology. And here it is: Home inspectors are not code checkers because the code says so very little about buildings. This may seem nutty to say but it’s really quite true. You can’t design a building using the codes and as code experts are so fond of saying, the code is a minimum standard, not a recommended formula for construction. The code also says almost nothing about the way in which things wear out, decay and fail. Amazingly, there’s no code for seismic retrofitting, so you can’t say that there aren’t enough bolts in your retrofit based on that book.  

The code doesn’t say when the paint job or the leaky window needs fixing and it doesn’t say that you have to have x number of smoke detectors in your old building (unless you are doing a remodel and they make you put some in). The code doesn’t prevent many places where slips and falls occur and also doesn’t point out the myriad improvements and upgrades that time and technology have provided. 

In short, I’d say that the most of what I’m doing in my job has almost nothing to do with the code. It’s there all the time as a reference, lurking just out of sight, and I like to invoke it where it says something of value but that’s very different from “calling something” as a violation.  

As you can see, I just can’t do that, ever. All I can do is to say that some current codes say such and such a thing and that this may be in violation of one of them. However, I can say that something is a problem, that something is dangerous (in my view). That something is a bad idea (all too often…) and might lead to harm or distress. And let me tell you, friend, you can sure fill up a day with that stuff. 

Community Calendar

Thursday August 14, 2008 - 08:52:00 AM


Introduction to Urban Permaculture A talk by local permaculture designers from the Ecological Division of Merritt College’s Landscape Horticulture Department on what is possible in a city, at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave., near Dwight Way. 548-2220, ext. 233. www.ecologycenter.org 

Photography Night with Harold Davis, author of Photoblog 2.0, at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound Street, Emeryville. http://ebmug.org 

An Afternoon of Board Games for children of all ages at 3 p.m. at the Bayview Branch of the Richmond Public Library, 5100 Harnett Ave. 620-6566. 

Oakland International Black LGBT Film Festival through Sun. at Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. FOr details of films see www.clubrimshot.com/f 


Toastmasters Berkeley Communicators meets at 7:30 a.m. at Au Coquelet, 2000 University Ave. Rob.Flammia@gmail.com 

“Obama: Best Hope or Deadly Trap?” A presentation by Sunsara Taylor at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196.  

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 3 to 5 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Advanced sign-up is required; please call 594-5165.  

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

World of Plants Tours Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 p.m. at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $5. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 


Iraq Moratorium Day and Vigil to Protest the War from 2 to 4 p.m. at the corners of University & Acton. Sponsored by Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenant’s Assoc & Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers. 548-9696. 

“SB 840: The Promise and Politics of Single-Payer Health Care” A discussion with current and future Assemblymembers on how we can help win real health care reform, at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland, between Telegraph and Broadway. 415-695-7891. 

Conscientious Projector Film Series “Swing Kids” A film about young people in Nazi Germany who resisted Hitler and danced the swing at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

Berkeley City College Welcome Back to College Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aone-stop center for registration, financial aid, and counseling for new and returning Berkeley City College students. 981-2858. 

Introduction to Pilates at 10:30 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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. 

Three Beats for Nothing Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Fri. at 10 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, Hearst at MLK. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 


Berkeley Path Wanderers Path-a-thon Meet at Live Oak Park, Shattuck Ave. between Rose and Eunice to explore three different routes, returning to the park for a BYO picnic lunch. The difficult walk departs at 9:45 a.m., the moderate walk departs at 10:15 a.m., and the eassier walk departs at 11:15 a.m.. 528-3246. www.berkeleypaths.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. 

Introduction to Permaculture Design Workshop on ecological landscape design basics, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $10-$15. Registration required. Call 548-2220, ext. 233. erc@ecologycenter.org 

Vegetarian Cooking Class on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Cuisine Learn to make braised figs, muhummara, polenta with mushrooms, falafel burgers and more from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. at Castro. Cost is $50, plus $5 food and material fee. Advance registration required. 531-COOK. www.compassionatecooks.com 

Rail Meets Water: Then and Now A walking tour of Middle Harbor Shoreline Park sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the park, off of 7th St. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

CopWatch Know Your Rights Training from 2 to 5 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. berkeleycopwatch@yahoo.com 

Got a problem in the garden? Want expert advice on watering, plant selection, lawn care, or pest management? Visit the master gardener booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center Street between ML King and Milvia. 639-1275. 

Marsh-kateers! An adventure hike for 6-8 year olds and their caregivers to investigate the native and non-native plants that call the salt marsh their home, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 4901 Breakwater Ave., Hayward. Cost is $6, registration required. 670-7270.  

Family Art Workshop: Fantasy Cityscape Build a model city from a variety of materials from 1 to 4 p.m. at The Museum of Children’s Art, 538 9th St., Oakland. Cost is $7 per child, adults free. 465-8770. www.mocha.org 

Walk the Line & Connect to the Home Front Walk the line of history and the keel of a victory ship, and learn about the men and women who contributed to victory on the home front during World War II, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by optional 45 min. Bay Trail stroll. Meet park ranger at memorial by main parking lot at Rosie the Riveter Memorial, Marina Bay Park, Melville and Regatta, Richmond. 232-5050. www.nps.gov/rori/ 

All Hands on Deck: Building the Ships that Kept Democracy Afloat Learn about the 747 ships built at the Kaiser shipyards and the people that built them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Historic Shipyard No. 3, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. Park outside SS Red Oak Victory gate. 232-5050. Directions to shipyard 237-2933. www.ssredoakvictory.com/contact.htm 

Prevent Back to School Colds and Flu at 10:30 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

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 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Community Labyrinth Peace Walk at 3 p.m. at Willard Middle School, Telegraph Ave. between Derby and Stuart. Everyone welcome. Wheelchair accessible. 526-7377. info@eastbaylabyrinthproject.org  

Creek Care Workday at Wildcat Creek from 10 a.m. to noon. Meet at the parking lot off Richmond Pkwy. between Gertrude Ave. and Pittsburg Ave. Sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society and East Bay Parks. 919-5873, 525-2233. 

Trails Challenge: Landfill Loop Discover life on the urban fringe where Wildcat Canyon meets San Pablo Bay on a 3-mile level hike along the Bay Trail from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Call for meeting place. 525-2233. 

South Prescott & Seventh St. A walking tour of West Oakland’s Bay View Homestead Tract, sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. at the Wesst Oakland BART Station, 5th St. at Center. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Junior Naturalists Discover Amazing Amphibians Explore the mysterious world of salamanders, toads, and frogs from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, 4901 Breakwater Ave., Hayward. Cost is $8, registration required. 670-7270.  

Youth Spirit Artwork’s Silent Auction of “Art Chairs” created by homeless and low-income youth involved in an interfaith urban arts jobs training program, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Lake Merritt Boat House, 568 Bellevue Ave., Lakeside Park along Lake Merritt, Oakland. 282-0396. 

How to Plan and Build a Nanofarm Participants will draw up a simple plot plan of their garden, identify zones for perpetual edibles, learn the basics of soil preparation, and more, from 1 to 4 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr. Cost is $50. 643-2755 ext. 03.  

”Information Warrior: Taking a Stand in an ‘Anti-terrorist’ Climate” Sunday Service with Josh Wolf at 10:30 a.m. at Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St at Bonita. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org  

East Bay Atheists meets to discuss how active Atheists should be about their Atheism, at 1:30 p.m. at Berkeley Main Library, 3rd Floor Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. eastbayatheists.org 

Discussion on the New Constitution of the RCP, USA at 6:30 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. www.revolutionbooks.org 

Yoga and Meditation at 9:15 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

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 Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712.  

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Hugh Joswick on “Knowing Mind” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


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. 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth Mon.-Wed. from 3 to 7 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Tuesday Twighlight: Beaches, Birds & Bay Explore the Berkeley Meadow of the Eastshore State Park at 7 p.m. on an easy 1.5 mile walk. 525-2233. 

Living Graveyard City at noon on the sidewalk in front of the Oakland Federal Building, 1301 Clay St., Oakland. Bring a pad to lie on and a white sheet to cover yourself with. www.epicalc.org 

“Iran Today: Myths, Realities and the Threat of a New U.S. War” A report-back with two Iranian American ANSWER activists just back from Iran at 7 p.m. at 636 9th St. at MLK, Oakland, near 12th St. BART. 415-821-6545 

Henna Workshop for Teens Learn the ancient art of henna design, for students in grades 6-12 at 4:30 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave. Registration required. 526-7512 

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. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

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. 


Tilden Explorers An after-school nature adventure program for 5-7 year olds. We will search for reptiles from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m.. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

Simplicity Forum on Sustainable Consumption at 6:30 p.m. at Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. at Ashby.  

American Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Advanced sign-up is required; please call 594-5165.  

“Teach Your Body New Strategies for Healing & Wellness” A panel discussion for older adults at 4 p.m. at Barbary Lane at Lake Merritt, 1800 Madison St. 903-3600. 

Jump Start Entrepreneurs Network meets at 8 a.m. at Cuppa Tea, 3202 College Ave. at Alcactraz. Cost is $5-$6 includes breakfast. 899-8242. www.jumpstartten.com 

Summer Board Game Days from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 17. 

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Spanish Conversation Classes Wed. and Thurs. at 9:30 a.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst St. 981-5190. 

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.  


Michael Krasney on “Election Year Insights” at the League of Women Voters Luncheon at 11:15 a.m. at Hs Lorships Restaurant, Berkeley Marina. Cost is $75. 843-8824. 

ACCI Seconds Sale Thurs.-Sat. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun. noon to 5 p.m. at 1652 Shattuck Ave. 843-2527. www.accigallery.com 

Art Workshop for ages 5 and up at 3 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043.  

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Thurs. at 10 a.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

“Kneipp Wellness Program for Elders” at 5:30 p.m. at AgeSong at Lakeside Park, 486 Perkins St., Oakland. RSVP to 444-4684. 

“Away With All Gods” Discussion group meets to discuss Part 4 of the book by Bob Avakian at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Avatar Metaphysical Toastmasters at 6:45 p.m. at Spud’s Pizza, 3290 Adeline at Alcatraz. namaste@avatar.freetoasthost. 



Berkeley High School, Class of 1968 40th Reunion at 6 p.m. at the Hilton Garden Hotel, Emeryville, dinner-dance on the 23rd, and picnic in Roberts Park, Oakland on Sun. Cost for the weekend is $90. For information call 867-1389. 

Hurrican Katrina Fundraiser with authors who contributed to “Words Upon The Waters: A Poetic Response by SF Bay Area Artists in Support of Hurricane Katrina Survivors” at 7 p.m. at Rebecca’s Books, 3268 Adeline St. Donation $5. 852-4768. 

Introduction to Pilates at 10:30 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Summer Outdoor Movie Series “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at 8:30 p.m. at Charles Chocolates, 6529 Hollis St, Emeryville. Free. Bring a chair or blanket. 652-4412, ext. 311. 

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. 









Bike Against the Odds Fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Fund from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lakeside Park, Lake Merritt, Oakland. Registration is $50-$75. 866-760-8223. www.breastcancerfund.org/bao 

Michael Parenti on “Capitalism's Apocalypse: Why the Plutocrats Cannot Save Anyone, Not Even Themselves” at 4 p.m. at NoneSuch Space, 2865 Broadway, at 29th St., 2nd flr., Oakland. Donation $10. 625-1600. www.paragon-media.org/nonesuchspace 

Nature’s Pharmacy: Medicine Making Workshop Learn how to make a variety of botanical medicines using native California plants, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Visitor Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $30-$35, with optional $5 materials fee. Bring lunch. To register call 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Raptors from the Ridges Join a strenuous 8-mile hike in search of birds of prey, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Crockett Hills Regional Park. Bring sunscreen, water and a lunch. Call for meeting place. 525-2233. 

Philbrick Boatworks A tour of a business unchanged since 1946, one of the last of the twenty wooden boatbuilders in the Oakland Estuary,sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Tours at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Meet 603 Embarcadero, at Clinton Basin. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Got a problem in the garden? Want expert advice on watering, plant selection, lawn care, or pest management? Visit the master gardener booth from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center Street between ML King and Milvia. 639-1275. 

Walk the Line & Connect to the Home Front Walk the line of history and the keel of a victory ship, and learn about the men and women who contributed to victory on the home front during World War II, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by optional 45 min. Bay Trail stroll. Meet park ranger at memorial by main parking lot at Rosie the Riveter Memorial, Marina Bay Park, Melville and Regatta, Richmond. 232-5050. www.nps.gov/rori/ 

All Hands on Deck: Building the Ships that Kept Democracy Afloat Learn about the 747 ships built at the Kaiser shipyards and the people that built them, from 2 to 3 p.m. at Historic Shipyard No. 3, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond. Park outside SS Red Oak Victory gate. 232-5050. Directions to shipyard 237-2933. www.ssredoakvictory.com/contact.htm 

“Japanese Only/No Foreigners Allowed” A lecture by Debito Arudo on the Otaru Onsen lawsuit over Japanese xenophobia at 4 p.m. at University Village Community Center Gym, 1123 Jackson St., Albany. Suggested donation $7. 

Jewish Literature and Discussion Series meets to discuss “The Little Disturbances of Man” by Grace Paley at 2 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

”Celebration of Praise” Praise dance by Changing Lives Ministry, at 6 p.m. at First Christian Church, 111 Fairmont Ave. Oakland. Cost is $10-$20. 669-1893.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. and Sun. at 2 pm. Regional Parks Botanic Garden, Tilden Park. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755. http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

Oakland Artisans Marketplace Sat. from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Jack London Square. 238-4948. 

Car Wash Benefit for Options Recovery Services of Berkeley, held every Sat. from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lutheran Church, 1744 University Ave. 666-9552. 


Flutter by Butterflies Learn about butterfly life cycles, and the plants that attract them, from 10 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Sprouts Gardening Project Spend the afternoon in the Kids’ Garden doing chores, singing songs, and learining about what it takes to make plants grow, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Tiles and Terra Cotta in Uptaown Oakland A tour of twenty buildings with facades clad in architectural ceramics, all built between 1914 and 1931, sponsored by Oakland Heritage Alliance. Meet at 10 a.m. at southeast corner of 17th and Webster, at the Howden Bldg. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Live Broadcast of the Democratic National Convention at 7 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Social Action Forum with Dr. Stephen Zunes on his work on the Western Sahara at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensigton. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Kensington Library Book Club meets to discuss “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy at 7 p.m. at 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Yoga and Meditation at 9:15 a.m. at Elephant Pharm, 1607 Shattuck Ave. 549-9200. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Jared Baird on “A New Way of Learning” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 4 to 8 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Fri. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


School Backpack Collection Drive Drop off new or gently used backpacks at Spenger’s, 1919 Fourth St.,during August, for a $10 dining certificate. Backpacks will be distributed by the Berkeley Boosters/Police Activities League. 845-7771. 


Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Aug. 14, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board meets Mon., Aug. 18, at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers. 981-7368.  

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Aug. 21, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415. 

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Aug. 21, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950.