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Mario and Rosalinda Tejada are moving their Mexican restaurant to Haste Street.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Mario and Rosalinda Tejada are moving their Mexican restaurant to Haste Street.


Office Vacancies Climb, But Retail Remains Solid

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 17, 2009 - 05:58:00 PM

If housing is a bust, offices and commercial rentals aren’t far behind. 

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Jeffrey Weil, an executive with Colliers International who runs the East Bay Almost-Daily Commercial Real Estate Blog [jeffreyweil.blogspot.com]. 

Weil, who got his MBA from UC Berkeley in 1973, has been in commercial real estate in the East Bay for 33 years. 

“I’ve been through real bad downcycles before,” he said, but the current downturn differs significantly from others—like the dotcom bust—which were limited to certain sectors of the economy. 

“This one is across the board,” he said. “This time, there are very few companies that are not affected.” 

For Berkeley, office vacancies edged up to 15.14 percent at the end of the year, up from 13.35 at the end of September, said city Economic Development Manager Michael Caplan. 

“That’s the highest it’s been since 2004, when it was about 16 percent,” Caplan said. 

Weil said there’s one bright spot in the otherwise gloomy picture. “For a tenant it’s an awesome time, one of the best tenant markets for the last 30 or 40 years. If you have a viable business and you need space, it’s a great time,” he said. “But if you’re an owner and your loan is coming due, it’s a terrible time.” 

The economic meltdown has been so dramatic that “it’s like before the Berlin Wall and after the Berlin Wall,” Weil said, referring to one of the defining moments of the Cold War era. 

While Berkeley is impacted by the same factors as elsewhere, he said the local economy has several bright spots, including the Theater District, Weil said, which is expanding with the move of Freight & Salvage up from the San Pablo corridor, and the university. 

Caplan agreed that the university’s space needs were a stabilizing force on the local office market. “We tend to be more stable, because there’s a relatively small inventory,” he said. At the same time, fluctuations in the few large spaces can have a significant impact on the statistical picture. 

But even green technology, which East Bay cities are counting on to keep the local economies thriving, have been struggling, Weil said. 

“Solar companies are laying off now when just six months ago they were hiring,” he said, “because the world revolves around finance, and to get any now, you have to pledge not only your first-born but your second-born as well. It’s scary.” 

The office market collapse is global, and California has been hard hit, with major brokerage houses reporting soaring vacancies throughout the state, along with plunging rents and a slowdown in new office construction. 

Caplan said Berkeley’s retail vacancy rates were generally good, either stable or improved in three of four key areas. 

Downtown commercial property vacancies were listed at 15.11 percent at the start of the year, down from 16.2 percent a year earlier. Fourth Street vacancies dropped from 8.6 percent in the third quarter of last year to 5.8 percent at the start of this year, while vacancies on Telegraph Avenue declined from 17.19 percent to 14.09 percent in the same period. 

The one area reporting a major increase in vacancies was North Shattuck, where the closing of Elephant Pharm sent the vacancy rate soaring from 4.05 percent to 10.14 percent.  

But even with the good news on the retail front, Caplan said, “It’s a frightening time, though Berkeley’s bottom won’t be as bad as Oakland’s or as bad as Stockton’s.” 

The city’s unemployment rate is also on the rise, with the loss of about 500 workers in current weeks with layoffs at Xoma, the closing of Scharfen-Berger Chocolates and the bankruptcy of Elephant Pharm. 

There’s one bright spot for some of those who lost jobs at Elephant, however. Caplan said they’ll have slots waiting when the new Berkeley Bowl opens in West Berkeley. 



Commission Expands Downtown Area for High Rise Construction

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday February 17, 2009 - 01:46:00 PM

A proposal to dramatically expand the section of downtown Berkeley where high rises could soar hit a rough spot last week. 

Four commissioners, including Chair James Samuels, had written their own revised Land Use chapter, which would remove the 220-foot maximum building height as well as open most of the city center to a soaring skyline. 

But city Planning and Development Director Dan Marks said at the Feb. 11 meeting that the expanded boundaries, especially north of University Avenue, could force a new environmental review. 

He said redrafting and recirculating the plan’s Draft Environmental Impact Report would delay City Council action well past the May 26 signing date set by the agreement that ended a city lawsuit against UC Berkeley. 

Nonetheless, Marks said, staff might be able to work around the sticking points. “I continue to urge the commission to move forward,” he said. 

Four commissioners, all with livelihoods derived from development, had pushed the proposal, backed by Livable Berkeley and Berkeley Design Advocates, the city’s leading “Smart Growth” interest groups. 

The other three, in addition to Samuels, are: 

• Harry Pollack, an attorney whose clients include developers John Gordon and Avi Nevo; 

• David Stoloff, a professional planner; and 

• Teresa Clarke, a construction project manager for Affordable Housing Associates, formerly headed by now-private developer Ali Kashani. 

Also speaking in favor of the project during the public comment session was Erin Rhoades, Livable Berkeley executive director and spouse of Kashani’s partner and former Berkeley city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. 

The commission has been steadily rewriting the plan prepared by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), and will present its own version to the City Council alongside the original. 

The commission’s revisions are far more developer-friendly than the original. 

Two powerful external forces are shaping the plan. First is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a regional government body that parcels out an array of state and federal revenues to local governments. The second is UC Berkeley. 

Chaning or not 

At the start of the meeting, Samuels insisted the commission isn’t changing the downtown plan, “In my mind, what we’ve been doing are marking recommendations. But we are not changing the DAPAC plan.” 

Nonetheless, the environmental impact review now underway was based on commission-specified development standards, not the more restrictive limits set in the DAPAC version. 

The EIR will determine growth limits and ease construction of projects within those limits—although the eventual implementation of measures mandated by new state legislation (SB 375) would eliminate the need for further EIRs on many new projects in the planning area, 

One commissioner who had raised questions about some of the commission majority’s earlier revisions—Roia Ferrazares—was fired by City Councilmember Darryl Moore, and replaced with Clarke, who helped draft the greatly expanded proposal now before the panel. 

That move left only architect James Novosel as a swing vote. It was Novosel who had first proposed the inner and outer core designations which the commission majority initially sought to eliminate. 

While the DAPAC plan allowed for two 220-foot hotel towers and a limited number of 180-foot buildings in the inner, the four commissioners want to dump height limits for any high rise that helps the downtown gain an additional 5,000 residents. 

They also, at least initially, sought to expand the no-height-limit zone south along Shattuck Avenue from the inner core to the outer all the way to the southern planning district boundary at Dwight Way, with a minimum six-story height for new buildings in the district’s expanded core. 

Dacey warned that the expanded boundaries for high-rises would “guarantee a lot more opposition if huge buildings start getting close to the neighborhoods.” 

But the biggest technical problems posed by the “gang of four” proposal—Commissioner Gene Poschman’s nickname—arose from pushing the area for unlimited height all the way north to Berkeley Way, where Matt Taecker, the planner hired with the help of university funds to guide the downtown planning process, said 180-foot buildings would shadow “a couple of homes” on Hearst Avenue in mid-winter. 

Because the shadowing and aesthetic impacts of high rises in the expanded core weren’t considered in the draft EIR, Marks said, a new review might be needed, depending on what consultants had to say on the question. 


Commissioners spent the first two hours of the meeting parsing the district’s internal boundaries. 

Dacey’s strong insistence that pushing the inner core all the way to the southern boundary would spark resistance from neighbors worried that huge towers might be sprouting up along Shattuck did lead to a compromise, with the retention of a much-reduced outer core in the south, starting midblock between Durant Avenue and Channing Way and extending south to Dwight. 

That, in turn, would scrap DAPAC’s decision to allow at taller building at the Durant/Shattuck intersection only in exchange for a grocery store on the ground floor. 

While only Dacey and Poschman opposed the new boundaries, Novosel joined them on the losing end of a majority to raise the outer core maximum height from 65 feet to 85. 

A 7-2 vote also expanded the inner core boundaries to Oxford/Fulton street on the east. 

ABAG has given Berkeley a quota of 2,712 new housing units by 2014. While the quotas don’t mean the housing will actually be built, the city must grant permits up to that number if developers request them—and they fit city zoning requirements—or risk losing much-needed funds. 

But the four commissioners added a new twist by calling for population rather than housing units, with the 5,000 figure calculated by multiplying the 3,100 new units in the draft EIR by 1.75 residents per unit—which yields a total of 5,425. 

Commissioner James Novosel said the actual figure would be higher, because downtown apartments are typically rented by students, giving a population per unit closer to 2.7 than 1.75. 

“I still believe the DEIR is far in excess of what we are likely to achieve,” said Marks. 

Samuels said his group had picked the 5,000 figure “as a way of getting across that we want a lot more people downtown.” 

Taecker, the planner guiding the process, described the commissioners’ proposal “a dramatic expansion of the inner core.” 

“This puts us on steroids,” quipped Patti Dacey, one of the two remaining commissioners who has been consistently critical of the commission revisions. 

She and fellow holdout Poschman both served on DAPAC, as did Samuels—where their roles were reversed, with Samuels on the losing end of key votes. 

Council choice 

Although both the DAPAC original and the Planning Commission versions of the plan will go to the City Council, the decision by Councilmember Moore—who typically votes with the council majority—could be a sign of which way the final vote might go. 

The council has the option of preparing its own draft, but councilmembers will have minimal time, a completed EIR and the strong support of development interests for the version nearing completion by the planning commission. 

Commissioners also sped through the plan’s Land Use chapter, the document that will set out policies governing what can be built and where. 

Again, commissioners hacked away at the DAPAC draft, removing restrictions. In some cases, Marks said, the restrictions were removed from the staff’s own suggested rewrite because the numbers involved couldn’t be sustained without further analysis. 

The draft that slowly emerged would be filled out later by staff with the charts and numbers. 

Samuels tried to restrict discussion to a rewritten version that lacked the stricken sections of the DAPAC draft, but relented when Dacey and Poschman sharply objected. 

Novosel said he wanted to add a statement about parking, reflecting a policy of restricting ground floor parking in new buildings in order to open space for more retail businesses. 

Marks said the rewrite would include parking. 


When Novosel asked why staff had removed DAPAC requirements for open space accompanying each building, Marks said specifics couldn’t be included without extensive analysis to determine what they should be or their consequences. 

Otherwise, he said, “huge, unintended consequences” might ensue.  

“That phrase is reserved for when you don’t have a very good argument,” Poschman said. “The great philosophical question is ‘unintended consequences’,” which he said was frequently invoked “by neocons and right-wingers.” 

“And left-wingers,” Marks shot back. 

Another quandary commissioners couldn’t resolve was how to create family housing in a downtown where apartments are usually gobbled up by students of a university which has a policy of not building its own housing. 

Commissioners briefly returned to the issue of minimum heights when they realized some of downtown’s newest or newly planned projects wouldn’t meet their newly promulgated minimums, including the planned UC Berkeley Art Museum and the now-in-construction Freight & Salvage Co. performance venue. 

And when it came to defining community benefits that would allow a high-rise to scrap the height limits, Pollack said that any fees to pay for benefits should be set so the project would be financially successful and the city would get the hoped-for public benefits. 

Novosel said factors could include open space creation, restoring historic resources, improving downtown infrastructure and/or public works, green building certification and aesthetics. 

“I would like a set of options a developer could chose from,” said Clarke, so builders “would have to do three, four or five of those things.” 

“What if they did one thing really well?” Marks asked. And any policy the city adopted would have to be uniform, since the council has never told the Zoning Adjustments Board they can decide on projects on a case-by-case basis. 

Poschman said the staff’s proposed revision of the chapter’s section on benefits exchanged for height would effectively decouple the tradeoffs from the assurance that benefits would result. 

Stoloff said one solution might be a calculation to determine the value of benefits a developer received from the additional height. “I don’t know what percentage to say, but at least there’s a metric there.” 

“I like this direction,” said Pollack. 

Poschman smiled and shook his head. 

The meeting ended. 



More Bad News For The News Biz

By Richard Brenneman
Sunday February 15, 2009 - 04:49:00 PM

The California newspaper business continued its precipitous descent into an ever-growing pool of red ink last week, beginning with news of further layoffs. 

Sacramento-based McClatchy Co., publisher of the Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto Bees and other papers ranging from Florida to Alaska, advised the Media Workers Guild at its flagship paper that “massive layoffs” were coming. 

Word also leaked that more layoffs were also due at the Los Angeles Times, the biggest publication in the Tribune Co. chain. 

And both McClatchy and MediaNews, which publishes most of the newspapers distributed in the Bay Area were reported in danger of default on their bonds, with McClatchy’s downgraded to junk status. 

In a federally required warning to the Media Workers Guild, Sacramento Bee Human Resources Director Linda Brooks warned, “We need to reduce very quickly ... the number is going to be big.” 

In the same announcement McClatchy attorney Bob Ford dropped the “d” word: “The newspaper industry is in a depression, and this company is part of it.” 

The bad news came eight days after the company notified the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it was no longer in conformity with the New York Stock Exchange’s listing conditions. 

That notice had been triggered the same day when share prices hit 98 cents, two pennies below the dollar minimum for listing. The company has until Thursday to consolidate existing shares if it hopes to keep its listing on the nation’s premiere stock market. 

Bond rating service Morningstar notified its clients that ongoing cutbacks at McClatchy papers “will inevitably compromise the quality and content of its publications, placing its iconic mastheads at risk of a further acceleration in the erosion of readers and advertisers.” 

McClatchy stock hit an all-time low of 55 cents a share Friday, a week after ratings companies Standard & Poor and Fitch had downgraded the stock into CCC range, deep into “junk” territory. 

Shares had peaked on March 22, 2005 at $76.05. 

McClatchy has announced a freeze on employee pensions, warning the union that efforts to fight the freeze could result in more layoffs. 

One apparent bright spot came from the Guild’s negotiations with the Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB), a subsidiary of Denver media tycoon Dean Singleton’s MediaNews. 

When Singleton bought the McClatchy-owned Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News, he carved off his east Bay holdings, which include the Oakland Tribune, Fremont Argus and other unionized papers and merged them into a group with non-union papers dominated by the CoCo Times. 

His union-busting move failed, when the new group’s newsrooms voted to the Media Workers Guild. 

Union representatives announced this week that they hope to have their first contract with the group by the end of the month. 




ZAB Allows Berkeley Thai Temple To Continue Sunday Brunch

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 13, 2009 - 05:40:00 PM

Mango sticky rice and pad Thai aficionados in the Bay Area can finally breathe a sigh of relief. 

In a 8-to-1 nod to Sunday brunch at the Berkeley Thai Temple, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board voted Thursday to keep the almost two-decade long tradition alive, despite heavy criticism from a group of neighbors who argued that the outdoor food fair violated the city’s use permit by operating as a commercial kitchen, bringing large crowds, traffic, trash and odor to a residential neighborhood. 

Bob Allen, the board’s vice chair, was the only member to vote against the project, explaining that the temple, Wat Mongkolratanaram, at 1911 Russell St., had failed to comply with the law since 1993. 

Last April, when the temple’s members approached the zoning board to request a permit to build a Buddha sanctuary, a group of individuals criticized the expansion and complained that the Sunday picnics were breaking the law, prompting zoning officials to investigate the temple’s original use permit, which restricted festivities to only three times a year. 

The board recommended mediation, but six sessions later, the opposing groups were yet to arrive at any kind of resolution. 

Temple supporters gathered more than 2,700 signatures on a petition, and won the support of UC Berkeley’s student body, the Associated Students of the University of California, who passed a bill in its favor. 

At Thursday’s meeting, Siwaraya Rochanahusdin, who teaches at the temple school, described the Sunday food offerings as a religious practice, or tum-boon, under Theravada Buddhism, during which Buddhist monks build goodwill for later on in life or the next life which is not defined by monetary value. 

Similar to earlier public hearings about the project, several dozen people called the temple a “good neighbor,” and local gourmands labeled its food as the best in the Bay Area. 

“Their yellow curry is delicious,” said Josh Hug, drawing laughter from the audience. “What scares me is that if this place goes away, I will lose the source of this delicious curry made from highly addictive and hopefully legal additives.” 

Debbie Sheen of the Asian Law Caucus reminded the board about the importance of preserving ethnic institutions, calling the temple “quintessentially Berkeley.”  

Wat Mongkolratanaram’s members told the board that a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton protected "religious exercise in land use,” arguing that the loss of donations would stop cultural activities and Thai language classes at the temple. 

Tom Rough, a neighbor whose property abuts the Thai temple, told the board that the neighbors were not trying to shut it down. 

“This is not a clash of cultures,” he said. “It’s a zoning issue. The temple has changed this into a culture attack, contradicting its message of peace and coexistence.” 

Rough told the Planet that he was frustrated by the lack of progress on the part of the Thai temple to address the neighbors’ concerns during the mediations, especially with respect to the frequency of the weekend activities and the proposed scale of expansion. 

The modified use permit approved by the zoning board will allow the temple to sell food weekly instead of only three times annually, but limits the crowd to 200 individuals at one time, something at least two zoning board members said would be difficult if not impossible to enforce. 

“Sometimes people take the food and sit down on the lawns next door or the sidewalk,” said board member Sara Shumer. “So I do think we have to think about how to enforce the 200.” 

Volunteers will be able to start preparing the food at 8 a.m. only and food sales will be limited to between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the last patron out by 2 p.m.  

The food service which took place on Oregon Street will be relocated to Martin Luther King. Jr. Way, project planner Greg Powell said, making way for a Buddha garden. 

“I am doubtful what they propose can be carried out,” Rough told the Planet, adding that he was still open to negotiations. 

Dina Tasani, a neighbor who spoke against the Sunday brunch, told the Planet after the meeting that she was concerned that the real issue had got swallowed in the nearly three hour-long discussion preceding the board’s decision. 

“A residential zone is not an appropriate place to have outdoor eating and congregating 52 weeks a year where seating for 200 is permitted and approximately 600 people visit the site during a three hour period,” she said. “What neighbor would tolerate a party in their backyard every weekend ? We feel that we were not heard and wasted time in mediation in hopes that our requests to reduce the number of events would be considered.” 

Tasani said she was disappointed that only one zoning board member had stood up for the neighbors and the city’s land use law. 

“The fact that this is a religious or cultural activity is not and was not the issue, the issue before the zoning board was: 'Is this type of use compatible with the neighborhood and does it have a significant impact on the environment?',” she said. 

Board member Jesse Anthony said the temple was an asset to the city. 

“We shouldn’t get too worried about the meals, and if some odors come out that might be good—better than some of the odors I get when I walk down the street,” he said. 

Allen strongly condemned the actions of the Thai temple. 

“I am just really puzzled and stunned that we seem to be heading down the road ignoring zoning code and letting the neighbors bear the brunt of this,” he said, adding that the city had warned the temple against holding barbecues in 1991. 

“Our city enforcement process has let us down and now the neighbors are being called racist,” he said. “I don’t think anyone questions Buddhist values, but they question the validity of the group managing the temple because they have been going against the zoning code. There’s no give—it’s all or none. Our choice is 52 days a year, because this has been going on for 20 years. What other organization would be allowed to do that?” 

Board chair Deborah Matthews praised the temple for being a positive influence in a neighborhood often blighted by drugs and gang violence. 

“I am not sure of what happened in 1993 or 1994, but we have arrived at this now,” she said. “Their contribution provides another option. I am fearful of what this community might become without this being there.” 

The board will vote on a final version once city officials make the revised conditions on the temple’s use permit available to them. 



Chaotic BART Board Meeting Ends With Little Movement On Police Issues

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday February 13, 2009 - 05:39:00 PM

In a chaotic, unruly, and frequently disrupted special meeting held in part to move forward on the Oscar Grant controversy, members of the BART Board of Directors took virtually no action Wednesday on the controversy itself, instead spending most of their time answering immediate audience concerns and, in some cases, responding to repeated audience participation. 

Grant, 22, was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day on the Fruitvale BART platform. Mehserle, who has since resigned from the BART police force, has been arrested and charged with murder in Grant’s death.  

A coalition of Bay Area organizations have called for further action by BART and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, including the firing and arrest of other officers involved in the New Year’s Day events on the Fruitvale BART platform as well as the firing of BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger and BART Police Chief Gary Gee. Two BART board members, Lynette Sweet and Tom Radulovich, have also called for the removal of Dugger and Gee. In addition, the BART board has authorized an internal investigation of all of the events on the Fruitvale BART platform on the night Grant died, as well as a more comprehensive look at the BART police department as a whole, including its training and its practices. 

It was with this background that the BART board called its special Wednesday morning meeting to update board members and the public on its various responses. 

At one point during the meeting, members of the Committee To End Police Executions (CAPE) and black-bereted members of the Bay Area Black Panther Coalition took over the board meeting, ceding themselves a half-hour presentation time, taking control of the front portion of the BART meeting room immediately in front of the staff and board dais, unfurling a 20-foot banner, and peppering board members to make individual commitments on a list of organization demands. 

At another point, the meeting grew so volatile that one audience member rushed the dais to argue directly in the face of board member Joel Keller after Keller and Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks had engaged in a series of sometimes heated exchanges. CAPE co-founder Dereca Blackmon intervened and drew the man away before BART police officers moved in. Audience members frequently interrupted the meeting with shouts and chants, and at several points, members of the audience came to the public speakers' podium during board deliberations, lecturing, chastising, or instructing board members on certain actions while the board members themselves meekly listened. 

Midway in the meeting, some audience members were heard in what appeared to be shouting at BART police officers in the hallway just outside the meeting room. BART police officers were pointedly restrained in the meeting and when they began to move in on some audience members inside the meeting room at one particularly chaotic point, they backed off after board member Keller repeatedly told them “it’s not a problem.”  

And board member Carole Ward Allen, chairing the special BART Police Department Review Committee set up to coordinate the agency’s response to the Oscar Grant crisis, disappeared without explanation from the dais in the middle of the meeting, missing her scheduled presentation of the committee’s recent activities, amidst confused speculation as to the meaning of her absence. 

In what appeared to be the only action taken in a special meeting—preceding the regular board meeting—that lasted from 9 a.m. until 1:45 p.m., without a break, board members approved a process for the hiring of a consultant to manage the district’s upcoming comprehensive review of the BART Police Department and stipulated that the consultant would report directly to the special board committee itself, not to BART General Manager Dugger. 

At least one board member—Lynette Sweet—contended that the BART Board of Directors is not controlling the agency’s response to the aftermath of the New Years Day shooting of Hayward resident Oscar Grant, but instead is allowing the response to be “staff-driven.” 

The meeting got off to a rocky start when the board members attempted to go through the regular meeting consent calendar agenda before switching over to the special meeting, which had scheduled a report from the BART Police Department Review Committee and a discussion of the consultant for the comprehensive BART police review. Midway through the consent calendar discussion—which contained the general transportation agency items of property leases and fund management—many members of the packed meeting room audience began chanting “Oscar Grant was lying down. We want justice for this town” while CAPE co-founder Blackmon and several Black Panther Party members strode to the podium. 

Interrupting the board discussion, Blackmon took the speakers mic saying, “This is a sham. You know that all of these people came out here to discuss the Oscar Grant situation. Why are you making people wait while you discuss these other things? This is disrespectful to the community.” 

One black-jacketed man identifying himself as a member of the Black Panther Coalition shouted at board members, “Do you want to listen to us now or listen to us shutting down BART?” 

In response, BART board president Thomas Blalock put off the remaining part of the regular meeting and moved forward with the special meeting, and the board never fully controlled its own board meeting after that. 

In a letter signed by several local public officials, including Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, Oakland City Councilmembers Desley Brooks, Nancy Nadel, and Rebecca Kaplan and Berkeley City Councilmembers Darryl Moore and Max Anderson, members of the Black Elected Officials released a letter to the BART board at Wednesday’s meeting calling, among other things, for a California Attorney General and United States Attorney’s investigation of the death of Oscar Grant. The letter said that “the community does not have confidence that the BART Police Department or Organization has the ability or objectivity to investigate itself.” 

BART had moved to quell that concern by announcing on the day before the Wednesday meeting that the agency had “turned over its internal affairs investigation to the Oakland-based law firm of Meyers Nave … [to] investigate the actions of all the officers present during the events leading up to the shooting death of Oscar Grant on January 1, 2009, on the Fruitvale Station platform.”  

The Meyers Nave lead attorney is Jayne Williams, the former Oakland City Attorney. (Details on the appointment are listed on the BART website at http://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2009/news20090211.aspx.] 

BART officials said this internal affairs investigation, which could lead to possible sanctions or firings of BART personnel if violations are found, is separate from the investigation by the BART Police Department of possible criminal wrongdoing by BART personnel in the Oscar Grant incident. The criminal investigation is expected to be completed in two weeks, while the internal affairs investigation is scheduled to last three weeks. If any criminal wrongdoing by BART personnel is found, that information is expected to be turned over to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office for possible criminal prosecution. The internal affairs investigation results are expected to be reported back to the board for any possible action, as well as to the public. 

But Oakland Councilmember Brooks, speaking for the Black Elected Officials organization, criticized the internal affairs investigation, said, “It is now 43 days since Oscar Grant was killed, and you have now hired a consultant who will take three more months to see if there was police misconduct. You have known for a long time that there were problems with your police department. You’ve been more concerned about the image of BART than you have been with the death of Oscar Grant.”  

Brooks said that she was “not pleased with the selection of Myers Nave without a public process. We expect much more of you. We expect it sooner. We are not going away.” 

BART Board member Gail Murray assured Brooks and other audience members that the board had scheduled a vote on the Myers Nave contract for later in that meeting, and the public would have a chance both to weigh in on the contract and to hear the board deliberations. But several minutes later, after many audience members had left, Murray had to correct herself when she was advised by BART staff that the Myers Nave contract had already been signed. 

That led to a further eruption in the meeting that the public was being misled “even in this meeting,” and further confusion over the details over how the Myers Nave contract came about. Dugger said that she had entered into the contract under broad authority granted to her by the board, but board president Blalock said that Dugger had consulted with him on the contract individually and he had given his approval, and board member Keller, Vice Chair of the BART Police Department Review Committee, said that he had talked with Dugger frequently over the days before the contract’s signing, urging her to move forward rapidly with the internal investigation. 

What was clear was that at least some of the members of the board’s special police review committee had been kept out of the loop, leading to Sweet’s comments on the process. 

“Going forward, this can’t be staff-driven, it has to be board-driven,” Sweet said. “Staff should not have been the sole interviewers of candidates for this contract. The [police department review] committee should have been doing the interviews. This board needs to be on top of this. I refuse to continue to sit on this committee and have staff run this process.” 

Later, at Radulovich’s suggestion, the board agreed to bring Myers Nave to a public board meeting in the near future to discuss their expertise in the field, and for a public airing of the scope of their work. 

That may not be nearly enough, however, to forestall further community action on the growing controversy over the Oscar Grant shooting death. Several audience members mentioned that a possible next step in the Grant protests—if organizations and the community are not satisfied with the BART response or actions within the criminal justice process—could be a BART boycott. And at least one speaker threatened more serious disruptions. 

Christopher Kantor, who said he was a member of the organizing committee of a group called No Justice No BART, said, “We’re here to threaten you, not with violence, but with reality. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and the Oakland Police Department are in the hot seat now [in the BART demonstrations]. We’ve been costing the City of Oakland millions of dollars while [BART] has been sitting back. But we’re bringing it to your turf next. To your platforms. To your BART cars. And to your tracks.” 

Kantor distributed a leaflet calling for direct action against BART beginning on an unspecified date, including “potential disruptions in service” during peak evening commute hours. 


School Board Approves Berkeley High Redesign Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 13, 2009 - 08:49:00 AM

The Berkeley Board of Education voted 4-to-1 at a public meeting late Wednesday evening to approve the Berkeley High School redesign plan, as recommended by Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett and Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp, which aims to help close the achievement gap. 

Board director Shirley Issel voted against the proposal, citing the current economic crisis and the lack of substantial research to support the idea of advisory programs and other changes. 

Berkeley High senior Eve Shames, the student representative on the school board, voted in favor of the plan. Her votes are only advisory and do not count, as mandated by State Education Code. 

The board’s decision came after almost two hours of deliberation on the proposal, which has received mixed reactions from Berkeley High parents, students and teachers.  

Even as a large group of parents and teachers lauded the plan for offering a more intimate learning environment, there were those who complained that the proposal lacked community input and sufficient data to prove that it would work. 

One Berkeley High parent told the board: “I am all for change but I am not for change that’s not well thought through—that’s like George Bush going into Iraq.” 

Kate Trimlett, a science teacher at Berkeley High’s School of Social Justice and Ecology, said that she supported incorporating science labs into science periods—a subject of contention for many parents and educators at the high school—because it would mean increased attendance. 

Trimlett said that she was concerned that her current science lab class in advanced biology failed to attract students. 

Peggy Scott, another parent, criticized the lack of transparency of the Berkeley High School Governance Council, which approved the redesign in December, explaining that the very fact that the council was chaired by the school’s principal could prove to be a conflict of interest. 

Issel also questioned the constitution of the Governance Council during a subsequent board discussion, at the end of which board president Nancy Riddle asked district administrators to conduct a review of the council. 

Berkeley High math teacher Jessica Quindel read out a statement from one of her former professors at UC Berkeley, Pedro Noguera, who is now a professor and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University. 

In his statement, Noguera recalled leading a study at Berkeley High called the Diversity Project from 1996-2000, which identified the underlying causes of the achievement gap and recommended changes which might help to reduce it. He said that relatively few of the recommendations were implemented by the district or the high school, largely because the school already worked well for some students, particularly high achieving white and Asian students from affluent backgrounds. 

“Too often, the parents of these successful students have regarded any reform aimed at furthering equity at BHS as a threat to their student’s interest, and because they are more powerful, their interests have determined the direction of the school,” he said, urging the board to approve the superintendent’s recommendations, explaining that the changes proposed were “sound and supported by a wide body of educational research.” 

Mark Van Kriekan, chair of the Berkeley High Parent Teacher Student Association, said that although the group endorsed the recommendations, the process of formulating the plan had left a lot to be desired. 

Slemp reminded the audience, as he has done several times in the past, that the redesign was not a “wild haired strategy pulled out of something,” but had instead been around for almost six years. 

“We certainly have been listening to the community—clearly the more we can tie this to research and case study the more stronger the case for it will become,” Huyett said. 

The changes recommended by Huyett and Slemp to the board to the original redesign approved by the School Governance Council include the implementation of late-start Mondays for professional development of teachers in the fall of 2009, “regularly scheduled” advisory programs in the fall of 2010, development of a new schedule which will provide benefits such as “additional offerings, academic support, personalization and better student and teacher working conditions,” and the development of a new small school which would start in the fall of 2010 or 2011. 

Huyett’s recommendations came after a study session with the Berkeley High administration and board members on Feb. 4 and a public forum hosted jointly by the high school and the Berkeley High Parent Teacher Student Association last week. 

At Wednesday’s meeting, Huyett asked the board to approve the plan with some exceptions, and to delay its implementation until the 2010-11 school year due to the crisis in the state education budget. 

Huyett told the Planet that postponing the implementation would give the district more time to engage the district staff and the public in the process.  

Huyett recommended that instead of adopting a block schedule, the board should endorse the concept of starting a different schedule from the current six-period model, which would provide opportunity for more courses during the span of a year and time on a regularly scheduled basis for advisory programs and academic support. 

The board voted to approve the recommendation, which also asks that the new schedule not be in place until the 2010-11 school year. 

The high school and the district will be working together over the next six months to figure out a schedule and a funding model, as well as to settle any contract issues with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers before Feb. 1, 2010. 

The union is currently on its 196th day without a contract renewal. 

Board vice president Karen Hemphill recalled the vandalism and arson Berkeley High had been subject to six years ago, placing it in danger of losing its accreditation. She said the creation of small schools has helped many of the students, particularly those of color, who felt alienated at school and added that the redesign would help to further personalize the high school experience for students. 

Issel objected to breaking Academic Choice into smaller groups under a core system, arguing that it was something each small school should be given the freedom to decide on its own. 

She said that she was against forming a new small school before getting more information about the district’s budget situation and she opposed late-start Mondays, explaining that they could lead to tardiness and increased drug use among students. 

Issel said that she was not convinced that advisory programs would close the achievement gap, reminding the board that she had been the only director to vote against the federal Smaller Learning Community grant last August, which aims to expand small school programs, provide students with a personalized college prep education and work on closing the achievement gap. 

“You say it has gone on for six years but mercifully I can only remember it being around for the last year and I don’t want next year to be absorbed with this,” she said of the advisory program, addressing Slemp. 

The lack of research to back the redesign, Issel told Slemp, had made her “cranky” and “grumpy.” 

“I am troubled and I lack confidence,” she said. “I have lost trust.” 

The school board also requested Slemp to brief them regularly about the progress of the redesign plan.  


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City Council Passes on Parking Meter Decision

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:15:00 PM

Caught between the need to find new sources of revenue because of the failing economy and state cutbacks and the overwhelming opposition of Berkeley neighbors and business owners, the Berkeley City Council postponed on Tuesday an ambitious project to add parking meters along long stretches of San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Street, one block areas of 9th, 10th, and Camelia streets in West Berkeley, and along Adeline Avenue and Shattuck Avenue in the vicinity of the Ashby BART Station and Berkeley Bowl. 

No date has yet been set for continuation of the city’s discussion of the proposal. 

City staff had proposed a two-phase project ending in mid-summer that would have placed in new areas some 832 single-space parking meters that were re-placed when the city installed Pay and Display meter stations in the downtown commercial zone. 

But Mayor Tom Bates suggested that the council “think about this” after councilmembers received a flurry of e-mails in opposition, as well some 20 residents and business owners who came out to Tuesday’s meeting to oppose the project. 

Many residents and business owners complained that they did not receive the city notifications of the proposed meter additions until after the listed cutoff date for comments. 

Many of the comments dated after the Jan. 20 comment cutoff date were included in either the regular or the supplemental packet for Tuesday’s meeting. 

Typical of the written comments received came from the operaters of Chater Camera on Ninth Street, who wrote, “There is already restricted parking on Camelia Street between Ninth & Tenth for shoppers in that area that overflow from the parking lots, why are parking meters needed? Also, many of the businesses along Gilman have parking lots for their customers. Adding parking meters to that main street will just push more traffic into the nearby neighborhood as people look for free spots. It would increase traffic on already busy Gilman as people move cars more often and block traffic to wait for parking spaces due to shorter time limits on parking meters. Adding parking meters to our nearby streets would raise the cost for us (and our neighbors) doing business in Berkeley.” 

Wayne Rasmussen, who operates a six-employee business at Gilman and 6th, told councilmembers that the proposed parking meter expansion would be a “short-term [financial] gain for the city but a detriment to businesses and the residents.” 

Kay Ledger, who operates an architectural business on Adeline between Oregon and Stuart, said that the city “should talk to people in the neighborhood first before imposing it on us.”  

One resident living near Berkeley Bowl called the plan an “environmental disaster for people in our neighborhood,” and a West Berkeley automotive repair shop owner said it would be “a neighborhood nightmare if you don’t talk to neighbors first. You should have allowed us to give input.”  

Another West Berkeley business owner said, if asked he could have provided alternative locations for parking meters in the area of his business that might have made more sense. 

Overwhelmingly, the councilmembers agreed on sending the issue back to the council’s Agenda Committee for scheduling, while requesting further community input and suggestions on the proposed plan, including a possible special council workshop where residents would have more time to present their concerns. 

Councilmember Gordon Wozniak said he got 70 responses from a mass e-mailing he sent out on the proposal, “overwhelmingly against. That’s not surprising. Parking meters aren’t going to win any contests.”  

Wozniak said that because of the possible extensive economic and environmental impact of the proposed new meters, he felt a formal Environmental Impact Report (EIR) “is appropriate,” and suggested that if and when the new meters are installed “the neighborhoods should get something back,” including a possible one-fourth to one-third of the added revenues going to specific improvements in the neighborhoods affected. 

The issue also brought some of the back-and-forth between Bates and Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who sit next to each other on the council dais, and whose repartee so often characterizes council meetings. 

After Mayor Bates said that while the city “obviously doesn’t want to impose these things” on the community, he suggested that one of the reasons for the widespread community opposition was simply a reluctance to change: 

“My experience in six years being mayor of this city is that a lot of times people are afraid of change. And a lot of times, that change is positive.” 

A few minutes later, Worthington rejoined, “I, for one, am not afraid to change. Every week of my life I’m fighting for social change. I just want to make sure it’s change for the better, and not change for the worse.” 

Worthington said that while he could support the meter expansion program in some of the areas proposed, he understood that its purpose was supposed to be to keep open spots for retail customers, “I don’t see how parking meters on Gilman make sense,” Worthington said. “That’s not a retail section.” 

Worthington suggested that the city review its overall policies on citizen notification “so that we don’t continue to have situations where people come to meetings saying ‘I didn’t know about this.’” 

And Councilmember Max Anderson said that, despite the fact that staff members appeared to have done more than required by city ordinance to inform residents and business owners about the proposed changes, “We still have a situation where people didn’t have an opportunity to give suggestions, and the city didn’t have the benefit of the wisdom of people who have lived in the area, know the streets, and appreciate the interaction between residential and commercial areas.”  

Calling the parking meter proposal “sort of lurching towards piecemeal approaches” to city planning, Moore added that “we all know” that “this country, this state, this county, and this city are suffering from tremendous pressure, economically. I would venture to say we wouldn’t be even having this discussion if there weren’t economic pressures pushing the city towards addressing its fiscal needs. But on the other hand, it even becomes more important that we communicate with people, that we create general consensus, that we create an environment where ideas can emerge and where people’s input can be incorporated into the plans.” 

DA Moving Ahead With Charges in BART Shooting Protests

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:21:00 PM

A volunteer attorney with the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild says that, while charges have been dropped for many of the individuals arrested in recent Oakland protests over the shooting death of Hayward resident Oscar Grant by a BART patrol officer, the Alameda County District Attor-ney’s Office is moving forward with between six and seven cases, at least three of them felonies. 

Attorney John Viola, who operates a San Francisco law practice, spoke by telephone this week after two “mass arraignment” days for Oscar Grant protesters were held in Alameda County Superior Court last Friday and the following Monday. Viola said he believes at least two more mass arraignment days have been scheduled within the next several days. 

“The overwhelming majority have been discharged, but the legal landscape is still solidifying, and we’re still waiting for the dust to clear on who will actually be charged,” Viola said. 

The District Attorney’s Office itself has been less than helpful in giving out information to the media about the status of the cases. A reporter asking at the office about the Oscar Grant cases on the afternoon of Feb. 6, the day that many of the cases were dropped at the morning arraignment, was only told, We don’t have a lot of information on the cases; only a few people showed up today.” 

Viola said he believes something in the neighborhood of 130 people have been arrested in Oakland Oscar Grant protests, including arrests made following protest marches on Jan. 7 and 14, a January protest walkout at several high schools, and following the Jan. 30 bail hearing for Johannes Mehserle, the former BART officer who has been charged with murder in Grant’s New Year’s Day shooting death. He said that about 70 of those cases were arraigned on February 6 and 9, with most of those charges being dropped. 

National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Chapter Executive Director Carlos Villarreal said that, while the District Attorney’s Office has a year to file the charges, “typically when they don’t charge on the first day’s hearing, they don’t come back and dig it up. So we’re cautiously optimistic, but we’ll still monitor the cases.” He said that even though the DA is not moving forward with many of the charges, some of the individuals whose cases have been dropped are complaining that authorities “still have their cell phones or their cameras,” many of which were confiscated by police during the various demonstrations. Villarreal said that approximately eight attorneys are actively working on the Oscar Grant protest cases, that “others have indicated they will help if the charges stick and go to court,” and that his office is actively consulting with other NLG attorney members as well. 

While the next major day of Oscar Grant arraignments in Alameda County Superior Court is scheduled for Feb. 17, where some of the individuals arrested in the student walkout are expected to appear, Villarreal said that none of the future arraignment dates are expected to have as large a number of potential cases as those on Feb. 6 and 9. 

Meanwhile, Viola said that “probably one of the most serious cases still being charged” is that of Cleveland Valrey Jr., the San Francisco Bay View newspaper reporter and KPFA radio show host who goes by the name J.R., who has been accused of setting fire to a trash can during the night of downtown Oakland vandalism following the Jan. 7 protest march.  

The District Attorney’s Office has charged Valrey with violation of California Penal Code Section 451, felony arson, which carries a possible sentence of between 16 months and three years in state prison, and is a strike under the state’s “three strikes” law. 

“It’s an incredibly serious charge for someone expressing outrage at a time when they should have been outraged,” Viola said, adding that “the people who really should be held accountable” are the BART officers whose actions led to Oscar Grant’s death.  

The attorney said that Valrey was innocent of the charges, and that anyone actually guilty of the act for which he is being accused—setting fire to a trash can—should have been charged only with felony vandalism at the most, a lesser offense. Valrey was present in downtown Oakland during the Jan. 7 protest and vandalism, but has said he was there only in his capacity as a reporter, and that his camera was confiscated by Oakland police officers. 

BART officials announced Wednesday evening that they had picked Oakland law firm Meyers Nave to conduct an independent, third-party internal affairs investigation of the actions of all the officers present during the shooting death of Oscar Grant III on the Fruitvale Station platform. 

“Meyers Nave has strong ties to this community and extensive experience in conducting internal affairs investigations,” said BART boardmember Carole Ward Allen, who chairs the board of directors’ newly formed BART Police Department Review Committee. “All of us on the committee felt it was essential for the public to have complete confidence in the findings of this internal investigation—and that the best way to guarantee that confidence was to bring someone in from the outside with an impeccable record to conduct the investigation independently.” 

According to the statement released by BART, Meyers Nave has a “20-year history of producing independent, objective reports that have led to the discipline and termination of officers in other jurisdictions as well as changes in the policies and procedures of other law enforcement agencies.” 

Additionally, the board committee announced Wednesday that it had retained the services of Reginald Lyles to support the committee in its work. 

A long-term member of the Oakland faith community, Lyles has spent over 20 years with the Berkeley Police Department, and he retired from law enforcement as a Novato police captain in 2003. 

of lurching towards piecemeal approaches” to city planning, Moore added that “we all know” that “this country, this state, this county, and this city are suffering from tremendous pressure, economically. I would venture to say we wouldn’t be even having this discussion if there weren’t economic pressures pushing the city towards addressing its fiscal needs. But on the other hand, it even becomes more important that we communicate with people, that we create general consensus, that we create an environment where ideas can emerge and where people’s input can be incorporated into the plans.” 

Mario’s La Fiesta Restaurant Leaves Telegraph After 50 Years

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:24:00 PM
Mario and Rosalinda Tejada are moving their Mexican restaurant to Haste Street.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Mario and Rosalinda Tejada are moving their Mexican restaurant to Haste Street.

For half a century, Mario and Rosalinda Tejada have brought a little bit of Mexico to Telegraph Avenue by serving authentic, inexpensive meals to more than three generations at their restaurant, Mario’s La Fiesta. 

But in April, this cheery taqueria, along with its Spanish revival furniture, Diego Rivera reproductions and lively Latin music, will move to the Tejadas’ small house next to People’s Park to cut costs during tough times. 

Fans of Mario’s chicken and cheese flautas and chile verde might be sad to see this bargain leave Telegraph’s main strip but are thankful that it didn’t suffer the same fate as that of many other small businesses in the city, which closed down completely due to the tightening of the credit market and economic slump. 

Peter Tannenbaum, who lives nearby, said that he would miss the restaurant. 

“I am so used to this place that it’s sad to see it go,” he said. “It’s another indication of what our economy is going through, especially Telegraph Avenue. Cody’s was a big loss—there seems to be a change in student buying habits. They don’t frequent the locally owned stores anymore. I can see that businesses are struggling to stay alive.” 

Tejada, himself, at 79, is not sure of what to make of the economy. He points at the only three occupied tables in the restaurant and looks at his watch, shaking his head. 

“It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday—we should have more people here for dinner, right?” he asks. “But it’s slow. Slow, slow, slow. Maybe it will get better, maybe it won’t, who knows?” 

Tejada, who lost a restaurant in Montclair during the recession in 1980, said that the current recession was making it difficult for him to support two locations—the restaurant on Telegraph and the Banquet Room at 2506 Haste St. 

“We are paying rent here and our mortgage there; in this economic situation we have to cut down on our expenses,” he said. “We wanted to consolidate our business. Our landlord, bless him, hasn’t raised our rent in years, but we just can’t afford to maintain two places anymore.” 

The Telegraph Business Association, he said, was concerned about the faltering state of business on the avenue, with shops and restaurants reporting low sales every day. 

The Tejadas will announce plans to move to the Banquet Room, a 4,000-square-foot space constructed in the Spanish colonial style with wrought iron gates, during Mario’s 50th anniversary party on Sunday. 

Spanish voices resonate from the kitchen as Tejada supervises the big plates of steaming huevos rancheros and other Mexican entrees, something he has been doing every day for the last five decades. 

An immigrant from Irapuato, Guanajuato, in Mexico, Tejada came to the United States 55 years ago when his uncle, a restaurant owner in San Francisco, sponsored his green card. 

Right after arriving in Berkeley, he was immediately drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Korean War, after which he returned to Mexico in 1956 to marry Rosalinda. 

The newlyweds were employed as construction workers by Burnham Construction in the East Bay for two years, an occupation much in demand at that time, and Tejada remembers working on the Oakland Tribune Tower project as well as several new restaurants on Telegraph. 

In 1958, the Doors coffee shop at 2444 Telegraph went up for sale, and the couple seized the opportunity to turn the space into a Mexican restaurant, making use of Tejada’s knowledge of architecture to build a Mission style facade, one of the restaurant’s highlights. 

“There was one more Mexican restaurant on Telegraph then, Don Paquin, but we wanted to make ours the best,” Tejada said. 

Today Don Paquin is long gone but Mario’s has competition in the form of a popular chain, Chipotle’s Mexican Grill, which Tejada insists is no competition at all. 

“When we took over the store, it had a long counter and five tables from the coffee shop, and we painted them and made it into a Mexican restaurant and started selling Mexican food, the way we remembered it when we ate with family,” he said. “It was real Mexican food as opposed to American Mexican food. Instead of our genuine hot sauce—which we make from jalapenos, serranos or habaneros—the chains sell a watered- down version. The students who were going to Mexico understood the difference.” 

In the beginning Mario’s struggled to make more than $18 a day, with crowds still flocking to older, more trusted names in the neighborhood. But word started spreading. 

“I came in here for the first time April of 1971, and I have been coming here since then,” said Lee Palmer, who was eating at Mario’s Monday night with his wife Claudia. “We live in Walnut Creek, but sometimes we come here four or five times a week. Can’t beat the taste or the prices, and you get to eat among friends.” 

The couple, who buy supplies locally, said the restaurant’s signature dish was flautas—a six-inch-long, rolled-up, crisp-fried taco filled with chicken or cheese and topped with guacamole and tomatoes, with a choice of red or green enchiladas. 

Rosalinda, Mario’s first cook and waiter, said that all the recipes were hand-me-downs from her mother, who inherited them from her great-grandmother, as is the case with recipes in most big families. 

“Her mother was a pretty good cook,” Tejada said looking at his wife, and quickly changed it to “a very good cook.” 

Looking back, the Tejadas describe the 1960s as an important time for the restaurant—the decade saw Rosalinda give birth to their three children and saw their business withstand the riots springing from People’s Park. 

“The Free Speech Movement in 1964 was not that bad,” Tejada said, “but 1969 was the worst of it. As soon as we opened the restaurant there would be tear gas all around, and we would have to close it immediately. I had to send my workers home, sometimes the rioters broke all my windows. It was a war zone—people didn’t want to come to eat, people didn’t want to come to Telegraph.” 

The ’70s took a turn for the better, Tejada said, but supplanted the rioters with hippies, who snuck into his restaurant to steal food and sometimes the tips. 

“Today we don’t have hippies, but we have people getting drunk and causing a problem on Telegraph,” he said. “The homeless are not the problem, they are our friends. They stay where they are.” 

The Tejadas often donate food and money to the homeless in Berkeley and their love for the community has won them many friends, including most of the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley mayor Tom Bates. 

In the ’80s and ’90s, Mario’s flourished, with lines snaking around the corner and catering orders flooding the restaurant to a point where the owners had to ultimately buy the house on Haste Street that became their banquet hall, to meet the demand. 

“We will miss being on Telegraph, but we know our customers will follow us to the sidestreet,” Tejada said, looking around the restaurant before sitting down to dinner with his wife. “I don’t know what will come in here when we leave, hopefully not a Mexican restaurant.”

Obama Justice Dept. Moves to Keep Moth Spray Secret

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:22:00 PM

For one prominent Bay Area attorney, the bloom is already off the Obama rose.  

Stephan Volker is the lead attorney in a case that pits a group of plaintiffs, including the North Coast Rivers Alliance, an Air Force major and his son, a Santa Cruz city councilmember, the mayors of Richmond and Albany, and others, against the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  

The action for declaratory relief, filed Nov. 25, seeks to overturn the EPA’s approval of the pesticide CheckMate for use against the Light Brown Apple Moth—LBAM for short.  

Volker, a Richmond resident with his law office in Oakland, said he had hoped the administration of President Barack Obama would open up a new era of openness at the EPA—a federal agency that had frequently sided with corporate interests during the George W. Bush years.  

When it comes to disclosing the ingredients in the controversial pesticide, “This new administration is just like the old one,” he said. “When you peel off the cover, it’s the same book underneath.”  

On Feb. 2, the U.S. Department of Justice, acting on behalf of the EPA, filed a motion with U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong asking her to seal that part of the government’s response that details the ingredients in two compounds used in a spraying program that aims to break the moth reproductive cycle by rendering the males sexually confused.  

If granted, the court would bar disclosure of the ingredients as “claimed trade secret and confidential information,” according to the motion filed by San Francisco federal attorney Rochelle Russell and John Cruden, acting assistant attorney general in charge of the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.  

Questions about the alleged dangers of both the pest and CheckMate versions OLR-F and LBAM-F, the state’s pesticides of choice, have dogged the spraying from its inception.  

Further clouding the already murky waters of fact and science is a question of political calculus raised by the $144,600 donation from Stewart and Lynda Resnick to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.  

The Resnicks co-chair Roll International, a Los Angeles holding company with subsidiaries that include Paramount Agribusiness, Fiji Water and Suterra Inc., the Oregon company that manufactures the pesticides.  

Several of Volker’s clients contend they have been injured by the pesticide, which combines a synthetic version of the female insect’s sexual attractant (pheromone) in a cocktail of supposedly “inert” ingredients designed to confuse the males.  

Volker’s lawsuit charges that the inert ingredients are actually harmful to humans and wildlife, especially given the way the compound has been sprayed. Two clients, an infant and a 9-year-old girl, sustained serious medical injuries as a result of the spraying, he contends.  

In addition, the suit alleges, hundreds of seabirds were killed when one of the ingredients in the spray stripped their feather of the water repellent that allows the birds to float.  

In their filing with the San Francisco court, the federal attorneys said that even if Judge Armstrong allows the plaintiffs to see the ingredients, they will seek a protective order to bar broader disclosure to the public.  

Volker said the motion to seal the ingredients is pointless, since the state Department of Food and Agriculture revealed the ingredients in one of the sprays, CheckMate LBAM-F, in an Oct. 20, 2007, press release.  

In the November lawsuit, the plaintiffs sought to bar further use of the pesticides in part because, during the 2007 spraying campaign, the spray was spread by winds outside the targeted zones and onto waterways and populated areas.  

While the state contends the spray is harmless, the plaintiffs cite research they say proves that one ingredient in particular among those listed by the state causes severe lung damage.  

New State Law Strikes at Heart of Berkeley Development Fights

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:32:00 PM

(Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles on major changes in California development law.) 


If any single class of project has sparked battles between Berkeley neighborhoods and city officials, it’s infill housing. 

The Gaia Building and the now-rising Trader Joe’s and Berkeley Arpeggio projects sparked lengthy debates and deliberations, as well as lawsuits over the impact of massive new construction on nearby neighborhoods and city streets. 

But under terms of the newly enacted SB 375, such projects would be partly or wholly exempt from one of the key legal tools opponents have used to battle them, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

And the new law’s CEQA exemptions were the price of winning the backing of two of California’s most powerful lobbies, the California Building Industry Association (CBIA) and the California Major Builders Council. 

Only with a set of changes demanded by the CBIA and the builders’ council would they sign on to a list of supporters that includes most of the major environmental organizations. 

The environmentalists were focused on the goal of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and were willing to yield on a law many had fought long and hard to pass.  



For one class of so-called transit priority projects (TPPs), the only limitation is the same focus that has sparked some of Berkeley’s bitterest political and legal battles in recent years: historic resources—buildings and districts of buildings designated under federal and state laws or under Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance (LPO).  

Exempt projects are those with 200 or fewer units, located on lots smaller than eight acres, served by existing utilities, designed to be 15 percent more energy efficient than required by current building codes and with landscaping that uses 25 percent less water. 

The remaining provision requires either five acres of open space for each 1,000 tenants or allocation of units affordable to moderate-, low- or very-low-income tenants—something already mandated under Berkeley law. 

While SB 375 specifies that the affordable limits can be met by reserving 20 percent of units to moderate income or 10 percent and 5 percent respectively to low- or very-low-income tenants, Berkeley already requires a 20 percent inclusionary allocation of units. 

The state law also allows the CEQA exemption for projects that pay in-lieu fees that would create the same number of units. 

Since Berkeley projects would automatically qualify under SB 375 if built within a half mile of a major transit corridor, opponents would be restricted to fighting a development solely on the issue of impact on historic resources. 

With battles over landmarks already the flash point of Berkeley development politics, the wrangles in City Council chambers and at the polls over the city’s LPO and struggles in the courts and before the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission are certain to intensify. 

Other residential and mixed-use residential projects meeting a lesser tier of requirements would be exempted from growth-inducing CEQA impacts, as well as some impacts resulting “from certain vehicle trips,” defined by SB 375 as those resulting from cars and light trucks. 

But Kathleen Cha, spokesperson for the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), the regional government entity that oversees allocation of housing construction quotas in the Bay Area, said projects will still have to clear a checklist that declares that the projects won’t have adverse impacts on many of the points covered by a CEQA review. 

The question remains, will the new law weaken the California Environmental Quality Act? 

The question is more interesting when it becomes clear that the provisions limiting the environmental law’s applicability were the price of critical endorsements—especially those of the CBIA and the major builders council. 

As an Aug. 11 memo from the CBIA to “interested parties” noted, among the “overly restrictive” provisions of earlier drafts of the law was “The absence of incentives for housing (i.e., CEQA reform).” 

CBIA also demanded and won removal of provisions that would have required development in concentric circles, with outlying projects allowed only as the innermost areas were completely filled. 

The changes weren’t enough to win the backing of other powerful organizations, including the state Chamber of Commerce and the California Association of Realtors. 

If a local government refuses a rezoning request to develop an infill housing project that meets SB 375’s formula, the law allows the developer or any interested person to sue “to enforce the builder’s remedy.” 

Giving the action even bigger teeth, the law mandates that, when fighting such a challenge, the burden of proof will now rest with the plaintiff, not the defending local agency—which is, in effect, guilty until proven innocent. 


Plan roles 

Regional transportation plans (RTPs) are a requirement set down in federal law, and SB 375 requires California’s RTPs to include a “sustainable communities strategy” (SCS), which will focus anticipated growth in a way that produces the least possible GHGs. 

And the new legislation explicitly links two key planning processes: the regional transportation plan—prepared locally by the MTC—and the Regional Housing Needs Assessment—created regionally by ABAG. 

Under the new law, both plans must now be prepared in coordination with each other and in the same timeframe. 

A second significant change requires that ABAG and similar organizations change their housing needs assessment criteria. 

Currently, ABAG assigns quotas of new housing construction permits that must be allowed under a “fair share” system of quotas for each city. Under SB 375, allocations must comply with the regional SCS. 

The new law requires the transportation and the housing needs plans to be synchronized, and MTC analyst Long said that since her organization has already prepared its draft of their plan covering the next four years, the new coordinated document would first be prepared for the 2013 planning cycle. 

The plans are critical to the environmental streamlining process, since the EIRs prepared for the new consolidated plans will count as the traffic and growth-reducing impacts of the streamlined CEQA process for the TPP projects exempt from traffic and growth analysis. 


Changes ahead  

Long said a key figure in shaping the law has been Tom Adams, president of the California League of Conservation Voters. 

A retired attorney who lives in Burlingame, Adams said the basic goal of the law is “to encourage future development patterns that will reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled, to help the state achieve” its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. 

A key step in achieving that goal was the bill’s synchronization of three previously separate legal realms: regional transportation planning, regional housing needs assessments and CEQA. 

“In California, all land use decisions are the prerogative of local government,” he said, but SB 375 is designed to create a process that encourages some developments while discouraging others. “The idea is that not all residential and mixed use projects should be treated equally.” 

And while local governments have final say over projects, compliance with the law is the one sure way to receive critically needed state funding for transportation and other projects. 

Though one class of projects would be exempt from the EIR process, Adams said, exemption comes only after a developer has satisfied a long checklist that includes both environmental and land use criteria. 

“For example, no project would qualify if the site is on the state’s list of contaminated sites,” he said. 

Long said that some supporters of the policies embodied in SB 375 would like to see larger projects qualify than are covered by the current 200 unit maximum. “We expect we’ll see some changes once it’s been in place for a while,” she said. 

But the CEQA exemptions worry attorneys like Stephan Volker, who has battled projects endorsed by both the City of Berkeley and the University of California. 

“I haven’t had any cases, yet,” he said, given the law’s impacts won’t be felt immediately. “I looked through it, and the language seems pretty confused. But it sounds dreadful, and it looks like it gives the upper hand to developers.” 


And Berkeley? 

So what does it all mean for Berkeley? 

“It’s going to be several years before we really known,” said Dan Marks, the city’s planning and development director. 

And while Adams said the consolidated plan will be ready early in 2013, Marks said, “It’s a two-year process for CARB [California Air Resources Board] just to give the target numbers to each of the affected regions,” and after that “there’s still a lot to be done at the local level, and everyone is scrambling to deal with this.” 

Marks described the measure as “the most important piece of land use legislation that’s come down in California in years. The fact that it will take a while to react to it is a good thing. But the downside is that climate action is urgent now. 

“Land use changes happen over many years, even decades,” he said.  

Still, Marks said, he had recently attended a smart growth conference in Albuquerque, N.M., “and everyone there was talking about SB 375.” 

Berkeley’s population density is even greater than the two most tightly-packed conurbations in the United States, Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland. While the 2000 census figures showed the two West Coast cities as the nation’s densest—with 7,068 metropolitan Los Angelenos and 7,004 SF-Oaklanders per square mile—Berkeley’s population density that same year was 9,822. 

Los Angeles that same year had a 25 percent greater density than metropolitan New York, while Berkeley, in turn, was 39 percent more dense than Los Angeles. 

And in a memo to planning commissioners Dec. 10, Marks said, “Because of Berkeley’s high quality transit and its existing and projected jobs/housing imbalance, this city is very likely to be assigned a progressively larger share of the region’s growth.” 

The question remains: Will even greater density bring the downtown vitality that density boosters promise? 


Café Provides a Fresh Start For County Foster Youth

By Kristin McFarland
Thursday February 12, 2009 - 11:22:00 AM

For 19-year-old Tony Montoya, working in Oakland’s Fresh Start Café is more than just serving coffee and sandwiches. It’s an opportunity to get a boost out of state-funded foster care and into an independent life. 

The café, located inside the Alameda County Clerk-Recorder’s Office, is a partnership between the county and Aramark, food service provider for many county buildings, designed to help 18-year-olds transition from foster care into the community. 

“It’s an opportunity in this economic climate to give youth job skills that will benefit them when they are released from county supervision,” County Administrator Susan Muranishi said. 

In promoting the program, the county cites a study by the Children’s Advocacy Institute which said that 65 percent of youth transition out of California’s foster care system without a place to live and that 51 percent are unemployed. 

“This is one small local effort to chip away at a national problem,” said Randy Morris, director of the Division of Placement and Emancipation Services for the Alameda County Social Services Agency. “It’s a way to fight the homelessness and joblessness that these kids often fall into.” 

Youth employees work in the café under the supervision of an Aramark employee, earning $8.25 an hour, for 10 weeks, during which they learn about food safety techniques, product presentation, and most important, customer service. After completing a training course and their sojourn in the café, the employees receive a food service certificate, a mark of distinction that will help the young people in finding a permanent position. 

Gwendolyn Johnson, the Aramark supervisor at the Fresh Start Café, was offered the position in return for excellent customer service when she worked in the Sheriff’s Office dining room. 

“It’s great to help students learn to do just what I do,” she said. “I’m thankful to be working with foster kids because I have had family fall into foster care. It’s an opportunity to learn what is in themselves and how to go forward.” 

The employees are hired by Pivotal Point Youth Services, the county’s youth employment provider, after expressing interest in food services and passing a rigorous interview process. Once the current three employees have graduated, the county will rotate in three more kids with a desire to learn. 

“They have an advantage here that they can make mistakes under guidance,” Morris said. “And after they complete the program, we can position them to interview for other similar positions or positions with Aramark.” 

The flagship café, which opened at the Juvenile Justice Center in San Leandro in May 2008, was conceived by Muranishi as a public-private partnership that would allow kids to earn money and develop professional skills that will help them stand out in the job market. 

“It’s a really innovative partnership between the County and Aramark that benefits our young people,” Muranishi said. 

Youth employees work in a county-run and subsidized program under the supervision of an Aramark employee, in an Aramark-stocked café located in county buildings. 

“We were very happy to be asked to partner with Susan and to make a contribution to the community,” said Cardell Moore, general manager of the correctional services facilities for Aramark. “It provides an outlet for youth to get the job skills they need to get jobs. They get hands-on work with an Aramark employee and the guidance they need when they’re just starting out.” 

For Aramark, the café is an extension of other outreach programs the company has in jails and other locations. 

For the county, however, the program is a positive addition to youth and family services, and a model that could be branded and replicated other places, Muranishi said. 

For the kids involved, it’s a practical and emotional boost at a pivotal point in their lives. For Tony Montoya, who hopes to one day own his own, family-run café, the program is a life-changing experience. 

“I like that they’re providing more opportunities for foster kids,” he said. “It gives back to the community, but it helps me as well.” 

Elephant Pharm Transfers Prescriptions to Longs Drugs

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:08:00 PM

Elephant Pharm, which closed stores in Berkeley, San Rafael and Walnut Creek on Feb. 3 and filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy, has transferred all its prescriptions to Longs Drugs, which was recently acquired by CVS Caremark. 

Elephant’s customers—some of whom arrived at the North Berkeley store to pick up their medicine right after the store went out of business last week—had expressed concern about the fate of their prescriptions since a notice on the company’s website simply asked them to contact their doctor for refills. 

On Feb. 6, Kathi Lentzsch, Elephant’s CEO, released a statement explaining that the company had transferred all the prescription records to Longs Drugs. 

Mike DeAngelis, a spokesperson for CVS Caremark, told the Planet Wednesday that the transfer had been completed. 

“Customers don’t need to take any action,” he said. “It was all automatic and we were able to make arrangements to take possession of those records.” 

Virginia Herold, executive director of the California Pharmacy Board, said that state law requires pharmacies which have closed down to transfer prescriptions to a licensed pharmacy. 

Herold said that the transferred records have to be with a licensed pharmacy for at least three years so that the board can have access to them in case of a problem. 

“Our patients and customers have always come first,” Lentzsch said. “It was heart wrenching when we determined late Monday night that we would have to close our doors immediately. On Tuesday morning, several of our pharmacists volunteered their time to contact patients and doctors with serious or life threatening conditions.” 

Longs received prescription records from all Elephant Pharm locations on Saturday. 

Lentzsch said that when patients called the Elephant Pharm telephone number, their calls would be routed to the local Longs pharmacy that had their prescription. 

She said that emails had also been sent to Elephant Pharm customers to inform them about the transfer. Longs is also contacting former Elephant customers to let them know where their records were being held. 

DeAngelis said he was not allowed to disclose how many prescriptions had been transferred over to Longs. 

Although Longs will be converted to CVS/pharmacy later this year, CVS will continue to handle the prescriptions from Elephant. 

Patients in Berkeley who require a refill should contact the Longs Drug Store at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Rose Street. It is located at 1451 Shattuck Ave., phone number: 849-0484. 

Stadium Gym Moves Ahead; New Athletic Site Proposed

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:05:00 PM

While work on the new gym at Memorial Stadium moves ahead, UC Berkeley is calling for an architect to design another athletic project.  

Steel to shore up excavations for the Student Athlete High Performance Center is already on the stadium site, and construction may be completed earlier than planned, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof. 

The gym, a four-level partially subterranean structure, is being built at the site of the now-vanished grove which had been the site of the nation’s longest urban tree-sit. 

And while crews are preparing that site, university planners are working out the final details for renovation of the western half of the stadium itself. 

“We will be going to the regents sometime soon,” Mogulof said. 

The regents gave their approval earlier this month to a revised budget for the high tech gym project, with the budget now set at $153 million, a boost of $25 million. 

Mogulof said the additional funds were needed to cover increased construction costs, particularly labor. 

Originally, the regents had approved $100 million in external funding (borrowing) for the project, but on Feb. 5 they upped the total to $136 million. Funds anticipated from gifts were reduced by $448,000 to an even $17 million. 

Loans will be paid on an interest-only basis during construction, and the regents directed repayment to be the top priority for revenues earned from the campus football program. 

At the same meeting, the regents also approved an increase of $7.3 million in borrowing for the Biomedical and Health Sciences Building now rising along Oxford Street at the site of the old Earl Warren Hall.  

The increase in borrowing for the $266 million building was needed to cover a $4.9 million decrease in projected donations and a $2.6 million shortfall in anticipated grants from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, money raised by the statewide stem cell funding initiative. 


Indoor courts 

Meanwhile, the university’s capital projects staff has issued a call for architects to study three sites for construction of a new Intercollegiate Athletics Indoor Practice Facility. 

According to a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued by the university, the project would focus on men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, to relieve pressures on Haas Pavilion and the attached Recreational Sports Facility—facilities that between them accommodate 232,000 square feet of space dedicated to athletic uses. 

According to the RFQ, the study will “explore options for a new practice facility to accommodate” programs now housed in the other two facilities. If implemented, this new space will provide flexible gym space that meets the needs of Athletics but also benefits Recreational program by freeing up RSF space during hours of heavy use.” 

One of the three sites up for consideration is the Tang Medical Building parking lot, which faces downtown Berkeley across Fulton Street between Bancroft Way and Durant Avenue. 

The lot had been designated by a subcommittee of the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee as a possible site for faculty housing, but the city has no formal say in how the university develops its property. 

UC Berkeley officials told DAPAC that the lot had been designated as a site where the university planned to erect a “surge building,” an office complex to house staff and functions displaced during mandated seismic retrofits of campus buildings. 

But in the RFQ, the university specifically called for the lot’s evaluation “in connection with potential aquatics facility.” 

The other two sites to be evaluated are the parking lot immediately north of Haas Pavilion and the eastern bleachers of Edwards Stadium, a landmark facility just across Bancroft from the Tang lot. 

Ultimately, the architect selected for the project will examine the sites, then prepare alternatives, selecting one as the preferred option, and finally prepare a presentation, study booklet and cost estimates. 

The entire study is to be completed by May. 

“It’s just an idea right now,” said Christine Shaff, communications manager for UC Berkeley’s Capital Projects staff. “The athletic department has an idea about something they might want to do. It will be a study to get more information.”

James Schevill, 1920-2009

By Dorothy Bryant Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:03:00 PM
James Schevill and his golden retriever Emily Dickinson, circa 1980.
James Schevill and his golden retriever Emily Dickinson, circa 1980.

Jim Schevill—poet, playwright (stage and radio), biographer, novelist, critic, editor, teacher, producer, administrator, and loyal friend to many—was born in Berkeley.  

His father Rudolph created and chaired the department of romance languages at UC; his mother Margaret was an artist and a scholar of Navaho culture and mythology. Jim married music teacher Helen Shaner, in 1942. That marriage produced two daughters, Deborah and Susanna, before it ended in 1965. In 1966 Jim married singer/anthropologist Margot Blum, who survives him. 

Jim often said he found his vocation at age 17, in Freiburg, Germany, where he happened to be on “Kristallnacht,” the infamous riots against Jews, which ushered in the Holocaust. The following morning, sick with horror and disgust, he wrote his first poem. He always called it a “bad poem,” but it set the direction of his concerns, the lifelong inspiration for his work—addressing the cruelties of power, the suffering of victims, and the necessity to resist evil. 

Throughout the following seven decades, Jim wrote hundreds of poems, 30-odd plays, biographies of author Sherwood Anderson and publisher Bern Porter, one novel, and numerous critical essays. He edited an anthology of essays on experimental theater performed in unusual venues; a collection of Navajo myths collected by his mother; essays and translations written by his father. 

His 37-year teaching career took him from CCAC in Oakland (1951-1957), to SF State (1958-1968), to Brown University (1968-1985). He was a central pillar of the Actors Workshop, (1955-1967) the first giant step in establishing the Bay Area as a serious center for theater. (The Actors Workshop produced the world premiere of Jim’s play, The Bloody Tenet, as well as that of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, and Pinter’s The Birthday Party.) 

Actors Workshop actors also did the first reading (1965) of Jim’s Stalingrad Elegies, on KPFA fm radio. This series of poems was based on actual letters written by dying German soldiers stuck in the winter snow outside Stalingrad after Hitler’s insane orders not to retreat, not to surrender, but to die for Germany’s honor. The letters were never delivered to addressees, but someone, somehow, had taken them back to Germany where they lay in a file for over a decade.  

As head of the SF State Poetry Center, Jim played a central role in what is now called the San Francisco Renaissance, producing and arranging public readings by poets from all the contending “schools” of poetry at the time. While at Brown (1968-1985), in addition to having his own plays produced, he helped to found and administer Wastepaper Theatre—dedicated to presenting shorter plays usually neglected as “minor.”  

He extended his friendship to hundreds whose lives touched his—including former students of his, like me, and was not only kindly but practical. He steered writers toward jobs and put in a word for them; opened his house as temporary quarters for some of the post-war influx of writers to California; in my case, even during his years at Brown, he wrote encouraging letters and offered useful critiques on my manuscripts. 

After World War II, Jim earned a B.S. at Harvard, then returned to Berkeley. At UC Extension, where he first applied for a teaching job, he was handed the loyalty oath then required for employment in all public educational institutions. Jim refused to sign it, instead sending a blistering letter to Robert Sproul. The experience inspired his first play The Bloody Tenet, based on the persecution of Roger Williams for holding to his beliefs. 

That was how Jim landed at (private) California College of Arts and Crafts, where he taught humanities for six years (“Best thing that ever happened. I met great artists there.”) When cold-war blacklisting eased he went to SF State, where a new campus was rising and creative writing classes were attracting distinguished teachers. Colleagues there had started the Poetry Center and opened the Actors Workshop in downtown SF.  

Jim and Margot’s move eastward to Brown University in 1968 set off another outpouring of poems and plays. A high point was the 1970 production by Trinity Repertory Company of Lovecraft’s Follies, “a hilarious extravaganza (that) attempts to come to grips with the guilts and terrors of the Age of Technology.” (New York Times)  

While at Brown he also wrote his one novel The Arena of Ants (1976) inspired by a horrifically surreal period during his WWII army service. At age 24, Jim was one of several officers assigned to “re-education and de-nazification” at a German POW camp in Colorado. Shown films of Nazi atrocities, some German prisoners vomited, yet remained beyond reach. What gradually emerged was that the fanatic and well-organized Nazi prisoners terrorized and dominated the ordinary German prisoners, wielding more power over the camp than their ignorant captors. This fact of the persistence of evil, Jim believed, called for documentation in cool, detailed prose: a novel. 

In 1991 Jim and Margot returned to Berkeley, where Jim continued to write poetry and plays. The Last Romantics (about his mother and step-father) was produced as part of Berkeley Arts Festival (1995). He edited Black Swallow Press’ editions of his collected poems and collected plays (1993), and reissued editions of other books like his biography of Bern Porter, which he read at local bookstores. 

In 1999 Jim suffered a massive stroke that left him permanently confined to a wheelchair. He continued to write, to read, and, when energy and accessibility allowed, to attend some plays and concerts. In 2003 he did a well-attended solo reading at the Berkeley Art Center, and he was part of a group reading, at Moe’s Books in 2008. He died of pneumonia on Jan. 30. 

A poem from his most recently published book Winter Channels (1994) seems a fitting farewell from Jim 


On his stand, the conductor leans  


Into the music, as a tree bends to the wind. 

His hands command, his gestures implore: 

Subdue your proud sound to our com-munal sound, 

The cry for community condemns conceit. 

You cannot be alone to be holy. 

You are not alone when you are born. 


Contributions in memory of James Schevill may be made to: 

Poetry Flash, 1450 Fourth St., #4,  

Berkeley, CA 94710  


Injured Child Will Receive Temporary Home Schooling

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:06:00 PM

The Malcolm X Elementary School kindergartner hit by a truck on Jan. 30 on her way to school in South Berkeley was released from Children’s Hospital in Oakland last week and will be home-schooled for at least two weeks starting this past Tuesday, said Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan.  

The 6-year-old was on the north side of Ashby at the intersection with Ellis Street, preparing to cross, when the school bell rang, according to authorities.  

The girl, who was walking a little ahead of her brother, looked back and dashed from the sidewalk into the crosswalk, when she was struck by a Toyota 4 Runner making a left turn onto Ashby Avenue.  

She later underwent surgery for two hours for a fractured skull and a fractured clavicle.  

Doctors spent a good deal of that time performing cosmetic surgery on cuts on her face.  

Berkeley police and eyewitnesses described the driver as being “distraught,” and he later told investigators that he had not seen the girl come onto the crosswalk while driving.  

Officer Andrew Frankel, spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, said that investigations had revealed that the little girl, and not the driver, was at fault.  

“She did not exercise due care and caution while crossing and just stepped out into the traffic,” Frankel said, citing the California Vehicle Code, which states that “no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate danger.” The driver had the right of way, he said.  

Coplan said that the girl would be evaluated by a doctor this week to determine how soon she could go back to school.  

“She really has to be careful right now,” he said. “The district decided that home school would be best for her. It’s a part of independent study, something like short-term intervention, where teachers are assigned to work with kids who are just out of the hospital.”  

Coplan said that the accident had raised some safety issues, including suggestions by community members to have parents stand on either side of the crosswalk, which has been called dangerous by many Malcolm X parents and neighbors.  

“It’s a good idea, but the question remains who would take liability,” he said.  

The Malcolm X PTA hosted a forum on Wednesday to discuss traffic safety in light of the tragic accident, which will include speakers such as Farid Javandel, the city’s transportation manager, Amy Manta-Ranger, the city’s injury prevention program manager, and Susan Silber, education coordinator for Safe Routes to Schools, an international movement designed to increase the number of children biking and walking nationwide.  

Cheryl Eccles, Malcolm X PTA president, said that parents hoped to discuss proposed Safe Routes to School applications, the school’s traffic-calming program, prevention programs offered by the city and other traffic safety issues.  

“Families at Malcolm X and area residents are concerned about the traffic situation at Ellis and Ashby in particular,” she said. “A lot of parents and children use that crosswalk to get to school. The accident was deeply disturbing to our community. We want to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.  

Eccles said that finding a solution for that particular intersection would be tricky since Caltrans had jurisdiction over Ashby Avenue while the city was responsible for Ellis Street.  

Javandel said that he was still waiting for the Berkeley Police Department’s internal review of the incident, following which, he said, the city would evaluate the current traffic conditions at the Ashby and Ellis intersection to see if any steps could be taken to alleviate future risks.  

“We will definitely be looking at whether anything physical can be done,” he said. “We tend to monitor locations that have a high risk of collisions in the city to understand what the causes may be and how they can be corrected—whether it is poor visibility, overgrown vegetation or the question of painting a crosswalk. One accident alone wouldn’t make us install a traffic signal.”  

Manta-Ranger said that she would inform parents about the different resources as part of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Project.  

“It’s important for parents to remember that they can teach safe pedestrian practices to their kids every day,” she said. “It could be as simple as stopping at the curb, and looking left and right, and then left again.”  

Silber, who has worked for Safe Routes to School—which works with six elementary schools in Berkeley and has been at Malcolm X for the last two years—said that she would be discussing engineering options that would make the intersection safer at the meeting.  

“It would be excellent if we could have a crossing guard at that intersection but unfortunately there’s no funding,” she said. “There may be an option of bringing a crossing guard from one of the other intersections near the school to this one. We are also looking at walking school buses for Malcolm X, where kids will be chaperoned by adults who walk them to school.”  

To view the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Project, see www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=11242. 

Police Blotter

By Ali Winston
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:07:00 PM

Prostitution sting 

Six women were arrested in South Berkeley during a prostitution sting last Thursday evening. The arrests were made by the Berkeley Police Department’s Special Enforcement Unit between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. along San Pablo Avenue, between Oregon Street and 64th Street. Arrested were Elma Emery, 61, of Berkeley, Ivory Nelson, 24, of Stockton, Erica Spinks, 23, of Sacramento, and a 17-year old girl from Sacramento. Two other women were arrested in West and South Berkeley. The police department conducts periodic prostitution sweeps around San Pablo Avenue: in October, six women were arrested in a similar operation.  


Witness tampering 

An Oakland resident involved in a previous assault case in Berkeley was physically accosted by two masked men who told him not to testify at the upcoming trial. The 54-year-old man was approached on San Pablo Avenue near University by two young men wearing black pants, black sweatshirts and ski masks. The pair shoved the older man around and verbally threatened him.  

Police are treating the incident as a witness tampering incident. Though such incidents are common in high-crime neighborhoods across the United States, the phenomenon is relatively new to Berkeley. “I can only think of maybe one other time when I’ve seen it,” said Officer Andrew Frankel. “You just don’t see it happening.” 

However, police have noticed a reluctance on the part of some residents to speak with police, which is considered “snitching.” Officer Frankel recalled a 2008 instance where a man had been shot by his acquaintances and was the sole witness to the incident. Cooperating with a police investigation, Frankel said, “would make him a snitch.”

Fire Dept. Log

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:07:00 PM

Berkeley firefighters haven’t had any serious flames to battle in recent days, but several beneficiaries of their services were on hand Friday when badges were pinned on three newly promoted members of Berkeley’s bravest. 

Chris Pinto, a 28-year veteran of the department, was raised to assistant fire chief, said Deputy Chief Gil Dong. 

Pinto, who will head the department’s training and emergency medical services division, is the scion of a firefighting family. 

His father and two brothers are firefighters, serving with the Oakland, Livermore-Pleasanton and Alameda County departments. 

Chuck Wong, a 13-year BFD veteran, received his captain’s badge. There’s another Wong promotion ahead, said Deputy Chief Dong. Capt. Wong’s black Labrador, Kino, will soon be certified as a rescue dog. 

Kellie East-Bratt received a lieutenant’s badge. An eight-year Berkeley firefighter, she served as training coordinator for the last two classes to graduate from the department’s academy. 

Also on hand Friday were members of two families who presented certificates of appreciation to firefighters who had helped save their lives. 

A 31-year-old woman presented the honor to firefighters who saved her after she collapsed of a heart attack at the restaurant where she worked. Also on hand was her 2-year-old son. 

The second presentation was made to firefighters who assisted a severely ill patient to a helicopter life flight from Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to the hospital at Stanford University.

17 Candidates to Vie for AC Transit Board Seat

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:06:00 PM

The AC Transit Board of Directors has begun the process of filling the remaining two years of the term of former At Large Board member Rebecca Kaplan, who resigned from the board after her election last November to the At Large Oakland City Council seat.  

A whopping 17 candidates have filed for the seat, including:  

• Oakland engineer and transportation planner Gerald Cauthen,  

• Oakland attorney and campaign field director for State Senator Loni Hancock Joel B. Young, 

• Oakland auditor and finance manager Ronald V. Tuzon,  

• Oakland AC Transit Rider Advisory Committee member Bruce De Benedictis,  

• Hayward small business owner Steven Oiwa,  

• Oakland environmental policy consultant Bob Feinbaum,  

• Obama-Biden presidential transition team member and former Google executive Elizabeth Echols of Oakland,  

• San Pablo community organization program developer/coordinator U. Joyce Harry, 

• Oakland assistant United States attorney and former environmental attorney Drew Caputo,  

• retired City of Vallejo General Manager of Public Transit Pamela Belchamber, of Berkeley, 

• former AC Transit and BART board member Roy Nakadegawa of Berkeley,  

• retired AC Transit and Key System bus driver and Street Academy High School Board of Directors Vice President Al D. Miller of Oakland,  

• Alameda County Central Labor Council, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, and East Bay Community Law Center consultant and Mills Grove Christian Church senior pastor Clarence L. Johnson of Oakland,  

• former U.S. Postal Service administrative assistant and delivery supervisor and Lake Merritt Business Association member Susan G. Wilson of Oakland,  

• retired Oakland architect, former unsuccessful AC Transit board candidate and transportation advocate Joyce Roy of Oakland,  

• Albany Traffic and Safety Commissioner Raymond Anderson, and  

• Disability Rights California volunteer Lisle Boomer of Berkeley. 

Applications and resumés of the board candidates are available online at the AC Transit website. 

Board members held five-minute public interviews of the 17 candidates on Wednesday. The board has not yet settled on a final schedule for its decision. 



Berkeley Teachers Protest Lack of Contract

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:09:00 PM

Berkeley public school teachers took to the streets after class Tuesday to protest what they said was the 194th day that their union, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, has been without a contract with the Berkeley Unified School District. 

They also spoke out against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed education budget cuts, which could take $9 million away from Berkeley Unified over the next two years and lead to teacher layoffs. 

Calls to district officials for comment were not returned immediately.  

Clusters of teachers distributed flyers at Berkeley Bowl, the two Andronico’s locations on Shattuck Avenue and Telegraph Avenue and Monterey Market among other places to draw attention to their situation. 

They urged community members to lobby district superintendent Bill Huyett and the Berkeley Board of Education to arrive at a resolution over the contract. 

At Berkeley Bowl, a group of 15 teachers from Longfellow Middle School and LeConte Elementary School urged Berkeley residents to put up signs on their windows saying that they supported a prompt contract renewal. 

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said that the current economic crisis made it crucial to recruit and retain good teachers. 

The union sent out a statement Tuesday saying that the governor’s budget would slash funds for public education, making negotiations even more difficult than before. 

The statement said that the Berkeley Federation of Teachers believed that the district and the union would be able to negotiate a good contract and preserve necessary state programs if the governor and the legislature agreed to restore California's top income tax brackets and close corporate tax loopholes.  

Awilda Logan and Maria Carriedo, who teach a dual immersion program at LeConte just down the street from where they were rallying at Berkeley Bowl, said a contract was important to protect the current class size in the district. 

“Right now we have 20 students in each class for K-3 and we want to make sure it is protected,” said Logan.  

Union vice president Cynthia Allman said the union also wanted a three-year fair-share formula that showed a commitment to teachers when funding was restored to the schools. 

“We know that we will share the pain of tough times,” she said. “Pink slips, larger class sizes and decreased take-home pay are virtually inevitable for next year. But we are optimistic that the economy will recover and our state and federal government will provide education with the funds it needs to work. We fully understand that the district doesn’t have the revenue right now, but we want them to provide us with increased salary when there is increased revenue.” 

Allman said that it was likely that the proposed cuts would lay off at least100 teachers. 

“Many of them will be invited back but it’s just terribly demoralizing to be laid off,” she said. “It distracts us from our teaching.” 



New Deal Civil Works Project Remembered in Berkeley

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:54:00 PM
Harry Brill stands next to the stone carvings proclaiming the work of the Federal Civil Works Administration inset in a low wall adjoining the Codornices Park tennis courts, just north of the Berkeley Rose Garden.
By Richard Brenneman
Harry Brill stands next to the stone carvings proclaiming the work of the Federal Civil Works Administration inset in a low wall adjoining the Codornices Park tennis courts, just north of the Berkeley Rose Garden.
UC Berkeley scholar Gray Brechin, part of California’s Living New Deal Project, spoke at the ceremony.
By Richard Brenneman
UC Berkeley scholar Gray Brechin, part of California’s Living New Deal Project, spoke at the ceremony.

In 1934, during the Great Depression, a group of Berkeley’s unemployed left a poignant message to the future in a local park.  

Last Friday, Feb. 6, a group of locals gathered briefly during the lunch hour to honor that gift and contemplate what it means for past, present, and future, especially in our era that now echoes the mid-1930s with national recession, widening economic woe, and an energetic new president. 

The message took the form of two small blocks of black stone, carved with “CWA” and “1934” and inset in a low wall adjoining the Codornices Park tennis courts, just north of the Berkeley Rose Garden. 

Those who hand built the tennis courts during the winter of 1933-34 commissioned the simple memorial. Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) workers pooled their “meagre income,” said the Berkeley Daily Gazette, to pay an unemployed stone carver to sandblast the inscription. 

“CWA workers will be remembered for many years through the medium of a cornerstone laid today,” the Berkeley Daily Gazette reported Feb. 6, 1934, 75 years to the day before last week’s gathering. 

Berkeley Mayor Edward Ament attended the 1934 dedication along with Berkeley Park and Recreation commissioners and Alameda County CWA officials and “school children who will use the tennis courts.”  

The foreman of the work crew, Harry Askham, “stated that the men working under him wanted to leave some memento to the City and the Federal Government for the efforts that had been made to secure work for them.” 

“This cornerstone we believed would become a part of the project itself, and at the same time would remain forever a symbol of the CWA,” Askham said. 

The CWA is a largely forgotten New Deal program being researched by, among others, UC Berkeley scholar Gray Brechin as part of California’s Living New Deal Project. The project is endeavoring “for the first time to fully map the physical remains of the New Deal in a single state,” says Brechin. (He will speak in Oakland today, Thursday, about the New Deal, see box).  

Brechin spoke at the Codornices gathering last week. In winter, 1933-34, he said, the purpose of Franklin Roosevelt’s CWA “was to get people immediately to work so they wouldn’t starve and freeze the way they had the previous winter under a different president.” 

President Roosevelt put social worker Harry Hopkins—“an absolutely amazing guy” Brechin added—in charge of the nationwide project, which employed millions within weeks of its establishment in fall, 1933, and eventually gave temporary work to 4,260,000 Americans. 

“80 percent of the budget was for salaries and wages. Only 20 percent was for material,” said retired sociologist Harry Brill who attended the event and wrote about the CWA in the Jan. 15 Daily Planet. “The program was to create jobs.” 

CWA workers were paid the prevailing wage in their communities and there was no means testing when hiring; the workers were considered government employees, not charity labor. “There was, not surprisingly, tremendous business pressure to get rid of the CWA,” Brill explained.  

The program had an abbreviated existence of just a few months, and was eliminated at the end of March 1934. By 1935 the much longer lived, and better remembered, Works Progress Administration (WPA) had been established. It was the WPA that would build Berkeley’s Rose Garden, adjacent to the tennis courts, a few years later. 

Through its short life, however, CWA “legions of laborers built or repaired more than 800 airports, 3,700 athletic fields and 255,000 miles of roads,” Brechin wrote in 2005.  

“Demonstrating a commitment to public education characteristic of subsequent New Deal programs, the CWA built or modernized 4,000 school buildings, hired 50,000 teachers for rural schools, and controversially employed about 3,000 artists and writers who, Hopkins insisted, “had to eat, too.” 

Brechin observed that one of the side effects of the CWA and other New Deal programs was to bring facilities for many types of recreation, like tennis, within reach of the general public. “Things which were only for the elite now became for the masses.” 

Friday’s simple commemorative gathering numbered about 15, informally recruited by word of mouth from Brechin (and this author). Attendees included journalists, architects Helene and John Vilett—she designed the current entrance, overlook to the Rose Garden—local creeks activist Carole Schemmerling, Civic Arts commissioner David Snippen, and several of Brechin’s research and academic colleagues. Community activist and City Council aide Linda Perry came on behalf of City Councilmember Susan Wengraf, whose district includes Codornices Park. 

“This is the only plaque I’ve run into on the Civil Works projects,” Brechin says. The program typically didn’t mark its accomplishments, although they included such high profile results as the expansive murals inside San Francisco’s Coit Tower and the stone amphitheatre in Berkeley’s John Hinkel Park.  

A light misting of rain on Friday meant the usual complement of tennis regulars was absent from the courts, leaving room for the gathering. The two inscribed stones are set into the wall at the north end of the central court. 

“To the dignity of the workers who gave us these tennis courts, the Rose Garden, and so much else,” Brechin said in a toast, as the participants raised their glasses of sparking cider. 

In the winter of 1933-34, counties—then the government resource of last resort—were running out of money, private charities were exhausted, and even in places like Berkeley which had a more stable economic base with institutions like the University, there was widespread distress and unemployment.  

Into that situation came New Deal programs like the CWA, which was very active in Berkeley, despite the fact that it had voted for Hoover in 1932 and many locals still maintained private enterprise was the only way to end the Depression. 

More than 10,000 CWA workers were busy in Alameda County communities by early 1934. In December 1933, the Berkeley City Council approved a CWA plan to have 1,800 working in the City, using some $300,000 in funding from the Federal Government. 

City proposals for projects included “grading streets, constructing storm sewers, painting City Hall, and repairing park equipment and buildings,” according to the Gazette in December 1933.  

Berkeley’s City Engineer would later report in January 1935, “25 CWA projects were supervised by (the) Bureau of Streets, using 27,000 man days of CWA labor, with no extra increase in regular personnel. CWA projects including grading 25 blocks of unimproved streets, widening 6 blocks of improved streets, constructing 775 feet of storm sewers, and repairs to 45,830 square feet of cement sidewalk.” 

Some old damaged sidewalk probably ended up at the Codornices Park tennis courts where, Brechin pointed out, the walls are a matrix of stone and salvaged materials. 

The local CWA workers, most drawn directly from the ranks of Berkeley unemployed also planted thousands of street trees and set to work on the construction of the East Shore Highway, a four lane road that would bypass Berkeley on the west. 

By early January 1934, CWA crews were reported planting up to 300 new street trees a day in Berkeley, with a goal of getting 8,000 in the ground.  

The same month artists from the CWA were working at two locations—1836 Euclid Ave. and 2229 College Ave.—on projects that ranged from preparing educational materials for the National Parks to building a scale topographical model of the East Bay that later ended up on display in Berkeley City Hall. CWA white-collar workers also worked in City administrative offices. 

When the Berkeley Unified School District had to abruptly close numerous school buildings that winter, due to earthquake hazards, CWA crews stepped to help repair or replace the structures. 

The CWA’s California administrator reported the March 29, 1934, Gazette said, “the American people can know today that when their Government is committed to a given purpose in their interest, it will carry through.” 

At Friday’s gathering, Brechin read a quote from Harry Hopkins.  

“Long after the workers of the CWA are dead and gone and these hard times are forgotten, their effort will be remembered by permanent useful works in every county of every state. People will ride over bridges they made, travel on their highways, attend schools they built, navigate waterways they improved, do their public business in courthouses and state capitols which workers from CWA rescued from disrepair.” 

“Unfortunately we’ve forgotten these people—the veterans of a peacetime army people don’t know ever existed,” said Brechin. 

He added that whenever there’s an article published about the contributions of the Roosevelt era, letters to the editor and reader comments repeat the same “ignorant hate” of the New Deal. “The same tired old trope that the New Deal didn’t get us out of the Depression. That’s completely wrong.” 

The day after the gathering, for instance, a letter writer in the February 7, 2009 Oakland Tribune said the WPA “did nothing to provide a lasting stimulus for the economy.”  

Brechin makes the case that not only did the economy improve through sustained New Deal investments—call them a 1930s “stimulus package”—but for the past three quarters of a century Americans have been benefitting from that legacy, that includes everything from schools, to scenic roads and buildings in national parks, to municipal sewer systems, bridges, and tunnels. 

He wrote a few years ago, “The evidence of intelligent design is everywhere; it bears the name of Roosevelt, and it points to the future we could have if we but remembered we once had it.” 

As the short gathering last Friday broke up and participants headed back to work or home, the wet tennis courts were uncharacteristically vacant. In dry weather they’re busy with regulars, many of whom have been playing there for decades. There is even been a book (Everybody’s Backyard, Philip M. Evans, 1998) about the social culture of the Codornices tennis courts. 

Linda Perry, who had come with a basket of glasses for the cider and good wishes from Councilmember Wengraf, looked out over the rain-misted scene. 

“What a gem for all of Berkeley,” she said. “What a gift for the whole city those brave, fine, people gave us.”

In Light of State Budget Mess, School Board Says ‘Prepare for the Worst

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:08:00 PM

With the Berkeley Unified School District facing nearly $9 million in cuts over the next two years from California’s worsening economic crisis, the Berkeley Board of Education cautioned the public last week that the time has come “to prepare for the worst.”  

Speaking at the school board meeting last Wednesday, district superintendent Bill Huyett, who completed his first year with the district on Feb. 4, stressed that if things continued the same way, teacher layoffs would be unavoidable this year.  

However, Huyett also acknowledged that Berkeley Unified was in much better shape than some of its neighboring school districts, which have stopped construction mid-way or increased class sizes.  

Budget updates provided earlier this week by Jack O’Connell, the state schools chief, and Sheila Jordan, Alameda County superintendent of schools, projected a grim picture for school districts statewide, with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposing nearly $10 billion in mid-year reductions and cuts for 2009-10.  

In a presentation outlining the governor’s proposed budget for the new school year, Javetta Cleveland, Berkeley deputy superintendent, informed the board that a 0.68 percent cost of living increase had been eliminated.  

The proposed budget also adds a deficit of 9.7 percent for 2008-09 and brings the overall reduction to Prop. 98—a voter-approved statute that establishes a minimum level of funding for California schools—for 2008-09 to $6.3 billion.  

The governor's proposal includes an unfunded cost of living increase of about 5 percent and proposes some amount of flexibility to help school districts address the loss of funding, including reducing required reserves for economic uncertainty, reducing the Routine Restricted Maintenance reserve from 3 percent to 1 percent and using prior-year restricted fund reserves, with certain limitations.  

Cleveland said that these proposals had not been finalized. 

“The governor’s proposal has many flexibility opportunities, however, caution should be used in adding back expenditures before the state budget is adopted,” she said.  

A list of guidelines provided by the Alameda County Office of Education to help school districts prepare their budget advises them against reducing the reserve for economic uncertainties by half because they would have to be restored in the fiscal year 2010-11.  

Instead, county administrators have asked districts to adopt a more conservative approach and try to build their budgets without flexibility.  

For the district, the net result of losing the cost of living increase and the deficit factor would mean a $2.6 million reduction for 2008-09. In the next fiscal year, it would mean a loss of $3.8 million.  

“We will be reducing our revenue and we have to balance our budget according to those reductions,” Cleveland said.  

As for coping with increased costs and additional loss of revenue in the current school year, the district would have to cover increased contribution to special education and food services, unrealized indirect cost revenue and projected loss in lottery revenue estimated to be $720,000.  

It would also have to cover other costs—including health benefits—in 2009-10, estimated to be $1.8 million.  

Although state law mandates that a balanced budget must be adopted by the district before June 30, 2009, Cleveland said that it was unlikely that the state budget would be approved by then.  

The district is required to make adjustments to its budget within 45 days of when the state budget is adopted.  

“It’s huge what we have to prepare for today,” Hywett said. “Maybe it will improve later but right now it’s pretty bad.”  

Board President Nancy Riddle and board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler warned the Berkeley Unified community to get ready for the worst.  

Huyett said that the approximately $4 million set aside for Berkeley Unified under President Barack Obama’s proposed stimulus package would do nothing to eliminate the district’s budget problems, since out of the total money, $1.2 million was earmarked for construction, leaving the district with $3 million to address special education and other needs.  

At his annual State of Education address Tuesday, O’Connell called for school-funding reform, saying, "Beyond the immediate crisis and even more alarming to me is the long-term future of our common education system—if we continue down the road we are on, our public schools and our state itself face certain, perhaps irreparable, damage.”  

He announced that in an effort to cut costs, he had ordered the state Department of Education to immediately suspend all non-mandated on-site district monitoring visits and to use the time and resources saved to conduct a “top-to-bottom review of the compliance monitoring system.”  

O’Connell also suspended the California School Technology Survey, which he said would save teachers and administrators many hours of work, adding that he had directed his staff to make some data elements optional for the first year of reporting under the state’s new longitudinal data system known as CALPADS, to help alleviate the burden on school districts during “these days of fiscal crisis.”  

Landmarks Commission: Secretary Bids Adieu; New Elmwood Marquee Approved

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:10:00 PM

Terry Blount, the first person to be hired by the city to be exclusively the secretary of the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission, left his position Friday to become the new planning manager for Martinez in Contra Costa County.  

Blount, who joined the commission in August 2007, was praised by Dan Marks, the city’s planning director, and members of the Landmarks Preservation Commission at a public meeting Thursday as an asset to the city during his nearly year and a half long tenure in Berkeley.  

Marks said that although the implementation of a full-time landmarks commission secretary had been a huge success, the current economic crisis made it difficult for the city’s Planning and Development department—which is in charge of the landmarks commission—to replace Blount.  

“I really love this job and working here, but I just wanted to take my career to the next level,” Blount told the Planet after the meeting. “I am happy I was able to bring in a new level of professionalism and help in historic preservation.”  

Blount has been a city planner for more than a dozen years, and worked as planner-in-charge and secretary of West Hollywood’s Historic Preservation Commission—where he managed the city’s historic preservation program—before moving to the Bay Area. He is a native of Los Angeles.  

A member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, Blount holds a master’s degree in planning from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and has taken numerous classes, seminars and workshops on historic preservation.  

With new projects dwindling, the planning department is facing challenges financially and has reduced Zoning Adjustments Board meetings to once a month. The zoning board, responsible for issuing use permits, formerly met twice a month.  

City officials said that the land use planning division saw a 10 percent decrease in the number of use permit applications last year, calling it a matter of concern, since the majority of the planning department’s $13 million budget comes from development fees.  

“There are severe financial issues for the city and we don’t have the ability to refill the position with someone of Terry’s ability,” Marks said at the meeting. “That is the situation now, and when it gets better—and it will get better—we will fill the position. Terry has been a tremendous gift to the city. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job. He chose to leave his position to go to Martinez, management is always a challenge but he is up to it.”  

Martinez is in the process of drawing up a new general plan.  

Debbie Sanderson, the city’s planning manager, commended Blount for setting a standard for the rest of the department.  

“Thank you for being a diligent advocate for preservation,” said Gary Parsons, vice-chair to the landmarks commission. “This is the first time we have had a full time secretary and we have been able to actively search for funds for the downtown historic preservation survey and organize Mills Act seminars and historic preservation training. It would be great to carry on with a full-time secretary, though it’s not possible right away.”  

Alex Amoroso, the city’s principal planner, will take over Blount’s responsibilities until city officials find a replacement for him.  

During his tenure, Blount worked to create awareness about Mills Act contracts—a state economic incentive program offered to owners of historic buildings for restoration and preservation.  

In October the commission approved Mills Act contracts for two historic Berkeley landmarks, the Durant Hotel and the Charles Keeler House, for the amount of $3 million and $106,800 respectively, for renovations that will take place over a 10-year period.  


Elmwood Theater marquee  

The Landmarks Preservation Commission approved a new marquee for the landmarked Strand—also known as Elmwood—Theater at 2966 College Ave.  

However, they were not too pleased with its owner’s proposal to inscribe “Welcome to Elmwood—Berkeley’s Best Neighborhood” on its northern wall, explaining that it might seem offensive to other neighborhoods in the city.  

Built in 1914, the Elmwood Theater was designed by Albert W. Cornelius in the Viennese Secessionist style, and the building’s exterior, including its marquee and entrance, were renovated in the late 1940s.  

The building’s owners, The Elmwood Theater Association, along with Rialto Cinemas Elmwood, the Santa Rosa-based company that manages the theater, told the board that the design for the marquee would be representative of the theater in the early 1920s.  

The theater is in the process of revamping its interiors, including its projector, sound system and carpeting.  

The owners said that the “Berkeley’s Best Neighborhood” painted mural, estimated to be less than 150 square feet, would help promote local businesses in the area.  

Board members acknowledged that although legally they could not dictate whether the sign could go up or not, they would prefer if it were removed from the proposal.  

“Elmwood doesn’t need that,” said local historian Steve Finacom. “It stands by itself.”  

Judge: Oakland Must Repay Measure Y Money

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:09:00 PM

An Alameda County Superior Court judge tentatively ruled this week that Mayor Ron Dellums “Augmented Recruitment Program of 2008” was an “impermissible use” of Measure Y violence prevention funds, and that the money spent on that program must be paid back.  

Oakland city officials are saying unofficially that the ruling will have no practical effect on the either the total number of police officers on Oakland streets or on the number of Measure Y Problem Solving Officers (PSO’s) on staff, and that the money to be paid back to the Measure Y fund amounts to some $3.8 million.  

The tentative ruling by Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch on a Petition for Writ of Mandate came in a lawsuit filed by Oakland attorney Marleen L. Sacks filed against the City of Oakland last April. A final ruling is expected sometime after the judge hears further arguments on the case.  

The judge also tentatively ruled that the City of Oakland has never conducted yearly audits of Measure Y funds required by state law, and must immediately begin to do so once the tentative ruling is made final. Both the City of Oakland and Sacks will have an opportunity to contest portions of the tentative ruling before it is finalized.  

Representatives of the Oakland City Attorney’s office have yet to issue a public statement on the ruling.  

Sacks, who represented herself in the lawsuit, called the mayor’s augmented recruitment program “a sham from the get-go.” Saying that Oakland’s Measure Y, passed by voters in November of 2004, did not authorize recruitment or initial training of rookie officers but only the salaries of 63 problem solving officers and specific training for their community policing role, Sacks said by telephone today that “no Measure Y officers were ever going to be directly hired under [the mayor’s augmented recruitment] program. Only veteran officers were going to be put into the community policing positions. The rookies hired under the program were then put in to replace those veteran officers.” While Sacks said she agreed with Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker’s decision only to hire veteran officers for the Measure Y PSO positions, she said the money for the recruitment and training of their replacements should have come out of the general fund, and not the Measure Y funds. “You can’t use special tax money as a piggybank,” Sacks said.  

Sacks said she believed the judge’s ruling would not mean reductions in the ranks of the Measure Y community policing officers. “I don’t see the city turning down the $20 million in Measure Y tax money each year” Sacks said, a situation that would happen if the city did not have the money to both reimburse the Measure Y fund as the judge ordered and keep the total police ranks above the minimum staffing needed to continue imposing the Measure Y tax.  

“If that means making cuts in other areas, that’s what they are going to have to do,” Sacks said.  

Measure Y was a $19 million per year, ten year tax measure passed by Oakland voters in 2004 in part to add 63 community policing “problem solving officers” to the city’s police ranks. But hiring of the 63 PSO’s languished for several years in part because the city could not hire and train police officers fast enough to keep up with retirements and attrition and keep the non-community policing ranks at full force. To break this logjam, Mayor Ron Dellums pledged in his 2008 State of the City address to bring both the regular police department and the Measure Y community policing officers up to full staffing levels by the end of the year.  

The City Council later approved the mayor’s proposal for an accelerated police recruitment and training program for 2008, and by the end of the year, In November, the city reached a record-high 837 regular patrol officers, exceeding the authorized staffing levels of 803, and had fully staffed the 630 Measure Y community policing officer positions.  

Planners Give Thumbs Down to Closed Center Street

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:10:00 PM

Planning commissioners sailed through two sections of the downtown plan last week, in the process diluting a call for a Center Street pedestrian plaza.  

The notion of creating a pedestrian plaza on Center Street had proved controversial since it first emerged as a public issue five years ago during discussions by a city task force of options for the so-called UC Hotel project.  

UC Berkeley wants a hotel and conference center downtown to accommodate guests at meetings and public events, and had picked a site at the northeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street.  

Planning commissioners picked a citizen task force to come up with proposals, and the first recommendation in the group’s final 13-page report was “Create a public pedestrian-oriented open space or Plaza on Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street.”  

The proposal called for closing the street to through traffic.  

When the City Council named the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) to create a new downtown plan to accommodate UC Berkeley’s desire to build 850,000 square feet of new off-campus construction in the city center, the committee came up with essentially the same recommendation.  

The key difference between the two was DAPAC’s decision to allow some access for deliveries and after-hours traffic. The two groups also differed on what to do with Strawberry Creek, with the task force calling for a full open channel with landscaping and DAPAC settling for a vaguely defined “water feature.”  

Through both public processes, the Downtown Berkeley Association fought closure of the street, maintaining that the plan would adversely affect restaurants and merchants along the street’s southern side.  

When DBA President Mark McLeod and Deborah Badhia, the organization’s executive director, brought their arguments to planning commissioners, they found a noticeably friendlier audience.  

Planning commissioners have been steadily chipping away at the DAPAC plan, diluting many of the plan’s “greenest” elements on the grounds they would make it too hard for developers to build new housing.  

Driving the plan is a combination of Berkeley political realities, “smart growth” policies of developers and the dictates of the Association of the Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which tells local governments how many new housing units they must allow in their jurisdictions.  

Berkeley Planning and Development Director Dan Marks told DAPAC that the city wants to concentrate growth downtown because of political resistance to larger buildings in other neighborhoods.  


DBA worries  

“We remain opposed to the closure of Center Street,” Badhia said, urging the commission to add language saying the action “should be considered rather than mandated.”  

She said the DAPAC plan for the plaza amounted to “a harsh experiment” because it proposed reconsidering the traffic closure only “if the businesses failed.”  

“We’re generally happy with the way it’s going,” she said of the planning commission’s rewrites, but she urged commissioners to include discussions with downtown businesses before making final decisions about the shape of the city center.  

“Whatever is planned for Center Street should be considered in the context of the entire plan,” she said, including impacts on traffic on surrounding streets.  

She said a privately funded design project for Center Street, which has brought in UC Berkeley landscape architectural instructor Walter Hood, was aimed at meeting the needs of “a private client with an agenda,” Ecocity Builders.  

McLeod said DBA members were especially concerned about plans for the area near downtown’s BART Plaza, and with winning improved streetlights through the city center. Existing lighting, he said, “doesn’t make a lot of people feel comfortable walking around the area at night.”  

Commission chair James Samuels said Hood’s planning was almost complete, and he had asked his sponsors to make a presentation to the commission at an upcoming meeting.  

But whatever plan Hood completes “is being developed by a non-profit and it is in no way associated with the city,” said Matt Taecker, the planner hired with city and university funds to steer the planning process.  

His designs are available online at www.ecocitybuilders.org/center.html  

Badhia said DBA also opposed DAPAC’s call to build affordable housing at the city’s Berkeley Way parking lot if it would result in the loss of public parking spaces at the site, adding that adding all the plan’s elements together would result in a loss of downtown parking spaces. “It makes for a big squeeze,” she said.  


Two actions  

When it came time for commissioners to tell Marks and Taecker what they wanted, it was commissioner and architect James Novosel who made the first suggestion: drop the word closure, but create a space that would allow concerts, festivals and other public events, while allowing “limited auto access” for businesses.  

Then Harry Pollack suggested dropping the “limited” as the price for his support.  

“Take the word out,” said Novosel. “It doesn’t matter to me.”  

“I can live with that,” said Pollack.  

“So there’s no discussion of closing Center Street any more?” asked Victoria Eisen, one of the commission’s two newest members. While she supporting bringing merchants in on the discussion, Eisen said, “to do away with the idea of closing the street altogether feels like a lost opportunity.”  

As for the Walter Hood project, “It’s not going to happen,” said Novosel.  

“I just don’t understand how we can create a Center Street plaza that allows for auto access,” Eisen said.  

“Take the word out,” said commissioner David Stoloff. “It implies something we’re not doing here.”  

But a majority of his colleagues liked the word, so Stoloff said, “I take it all back. I’m going to go with the flow.”  

And with that, the name was back, but the idea of a plaza closed to traffic was gone.  

Commissioners whipped through two plan chapters, “Access” plus “Streets and Open Space,” as Marks stood before them, fielding questions and making clear that it was past time for detailed comments and grammatical fixes.  


Marina ferry option  

In their press to finish with the plan in a few weeks in order to give the City Council time to make its own fixes and then pass a final version in May, commissioners also rejected a plea to meet with Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) officials later this month.  

WETA is pushing the city to name a preferred site of a new transbay ferry terminal at the Berkeley Marina.  

If a local site isn’t finalized by the end of the year, Marks said, the project automatically moves to Richmond. The two Marina sites the board picked would have major impacts on the waterfront, Marks noted in a letter to WETA officials, written after discussions with city commissioners.  

Merchants Unhappy With ‘Riots’ at Gaia Building

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:11:00 PM

Downtown Berkeley merchants are tired of the Gaia Building—or at least the series of disturbances stemming from wild parties held there by the business owned by the building’s former owner and a partner.  

Downtown Berkeley Association President Mark McLeod made his sentiments clear to planning commissioners during last week’s meeting.  

At least three disturbances—dubbed riots by Commissioner Patti Dacey—have resulted in massive police turnouts to the building.  

The latest, on Jan. 30, was punctuated by gunshots, forced a temporary Friday night closure of the downtown BART station and blocked traffic on Shattuck Avenue.  

“That is without question a disaster for the downtown,” said McLeod. “Unfortunately it is not the first time. It’s not even the second time. Someone has to step up to the plate so that something like that is not allowed to happen again.”  

The Gaia Building, the tallest structure built in the city for years, has been a focus of controversy since before the first shovel pierced the dirt.  

Patrick Kennedy and partner David Teece, a multimillionaire UC Berkeley business professor who is currently fighting a tax battle with the IRS over his business ventures, won the city’s approval to add an extra story to the building under the downtown’s cultural density bonus.  

Gaia tenant Anna De Leon sued Kennedy and the city in an effort to bar the private parties that constitute much of the activities in the space. While De Leon won her lawsuit, so far she hasn’t been able to force the city to keep private parties out of the building.  

Dacey said that the city contends that its enforcement of conditions placed on the Gaia management’s use permit for the building is not required by law but is discretionary. The Jan. 30 disturbance broke out after more than 100 gate-crashers climbed fences and forced their way in, and it took police about an hour to clear the scene.  

Fighting broke out, and as many as eight gunshots were fired during the fracas as it spread to Shattuck Avenue. No one was injured by the bullets.  

At least 22 police officers were involved in quelling the melee.  

“It's not good for business when you have that kind of disturbance,” said McLeod.  

While Kennedy sold the building to Chicago real estate baron Sam Zell’s Equity Residential, Kennedy leased the cultural space in partnership with a local caterer.  

The Cancun Taqueria restaurant, adjacent to the Gaia Building at 2134 Allston Way, was forced to close during the disturbance, and De Leon reported that customers had called to say they couldn’t get into her jazz club, Anna’s Jazz Island, which shares an entrance at 2120 Allston Way with the space Kennedy has leased.  

McLeod is an owner of the Downtown Restaurant, located at 2102 Shattuck Ave.  

Thai Temple Brunch Dispute Returns to Zoning Board

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:12:00 PM

The nearly year-long zoning battle over Sunday brunch at the Berkeley Thai Temple may finally come to an end Thursday when members request a permit modification from the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board that would allow the temple to sell food weekly instead of only three times annually. This proposal has sparked much opposition from a group of neighbors.  

Last April, when members of Wat Mangolakaratam—as the temple is formally known—approached city officials to construct a Buddhist pagoda on its premises at 1911 Russell St., some neighbors criticized the institution for running a commercial restaurant in the guise of a religious assembly.  

Complaining that the Sunday festivities, which sometimes started as early as 5 a.m. but have now been pushed back to 8 a.m., were hampering their quality of life by bringing noise, trash, odor and congestion to the area, the neighbor group demanded that the event be shut down or at least moved to an alternative location.  

Temple supporters defended the brunch service by explaining that taking donations from the public in exchange for food was an ancient custom in Thai culture—one that helped Buddhist monks to earn their living and funded Sunday school and performing arts on the building’s premises for those who otherwise would never be able to afford them.  

However, an inquiry by the city’s Planning Department into the Thai temple’s original use permit, dating back to 1993, revealed that the temple had violated its permit repeatedly, prompting the zoning board to turn to the Seeds Community Resolution Center to carry out mediation between the two parties to settle the dispute.  

The temple’s supporters rallied neighbors, community members and organizations in an effort to save the popular Sunday brunch, creating a website, www.savethethaitemple.com, and a Facebook group that lists more than 1,300 supporters as of Monday.  

A report from city officials to the zoning board includes the results of the most recent mediation sessions, which took place on Jan. 10 and 29 and Feb. 4. The report says that representatives from the temple and three neighbors representing 16 households on Oregon Street were unable to come to any kind of resolution about the frequency of the Sunday brunch and the size of the crowds it attracts.  

The mediation report notes that although the temple indicated that it would be cooking food inside a kitchen and installing an odor-absorption ventilation system and rubber matting to absorb the noise of pots and pans clanging, the neighbors were skeptical that these steps would do anything to alleviate the problem.  

City officials said in their report that the proposed project would relocate the Sunday brunch from the rear of the property to a pavilion that would replace the current Buddha room adjacent to the South Berkeley Public Library, moving the activities farther away from the houses on Oregon Street.  

It would also restrict the number of visitors to 200, who would be able to come in and buy food between 10 a.m and 1 p.m., and the temple would post additional signs around the block discouraging people from parking in driveways.  

The temple also plans to build a “green wall” between the brunch spot and the neighboring houses, which they hope will act as a buffer on Sundays. 




Oakland’s Example for Berkeley

By Becky O’Malley
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:15:00 PM

The first writing I did for publication after we moved back to California in the early ‘70s was a little article for a four-page pickup paper whose name now escapes me. 

I remember the story as a shameless puff piece extolling the virtues of the Fox Oakland theater, at that time a boarded-up shell, reputed to be burned out on the inside, which had been closed for a decade. I also remember that a good bit of the hard information I had about it turned out to be wrong, including the name of the architect, but I got its place in history right. I had managed to cajole someone to let me look around inside, and when I saw the gilt glory that still remained I knew it needed a press agent to write it up, so I volunteered. I like old buildings. 

The history of the Fox Oakland, outlined now on a website maintained by the Friends of the Oakland Fox, is an object lesson in the potential urban planning has for utter stupidity. The purpose of my piece, probably written in late 1974, had been to head off a foolish plan to tear down the Fox and replace it with a parking lot. At that point in history, city fathers (there were few city mothers then) believed that the decline of downtown Oakland was caused by lack of parking, even though right across from the Fox there was already a huge parking lot.  

According to the web account, in 1975 “There was serious talk of tearing the Fox down to create a parking lot. The City’s Public Works Department and the Off-Street Parking Commission, with support from local retailers, presented a plan for the City to purchase the property, demolish the building, and provide parking for 218 vehicles. Sheldon Milenbach of Milens Jewelry was quoted in the Montclarion saying that the Fox Oakland building is ‘the largest outdoor urinal in the world’ and Planning Commissioner Clyde Gibbs said ‘The City should acquire and demolish this blighted building. It’s been a blight for years.’ Fortunately the proposal foundered, and once again, the theater with nine lives somehow averted disaster.” 

The Oakland Theater was a late-blooming monument to the successes and excesses of the 1920s, a gilded frame for the products of the new and growing motion picture industry. In style, it has been called Hindu-Moorish, but really, it was pure Hollywood, no more authentically “Oriental” as Rudolph Valentino. It opened in October of 1928, just about a year to the day before the stock market silenced the Roaring Twenties. 

It’s ironic, therefore, that last week a gala party celebrated the re-opening of the lavishly refurbished theater, completed just as the latest big boom has come crashing to a halt. During the Great Depression, movies continued to be good business, providing an escape from the travails of dealing with a collapsed economy. The business plan for the new Fox Oakland seems to be mostly pop concerts produced by Another Planet, an offspring of the old Bill Graham Presents, which just might bring enough foot traffic back to downtown Oakland to float it through the current crash. 

It will certainly be more useful than another parking lot would have been, or at least we hope so. Parking lots are so out these days in planning circles. The big lot across the street from the Fox Oakland is being replaced by what looks like another pricey condo city, though condomania has abated and condos are almost as out as giant parking lots. There’s no hard evidence on the actual number of vacant condos in downtown Oakland, but it looks huge. 

I joined the press tour of the theater which preceded the grand opening last Thursday. Jerry Brown, the godfather of the theory that building apartments downtown is the remedy for all urban woes, showed up to take bows at a press conference before the main event, his arrival cannily timed to precede that of his successor as Oakland mayor. In typical Brown fashion, his spiel was a mixture of authentic-sounding factoids and paranoia directed at questioners.  

He asked me what paper I worked for, and when I said the Planet his brow furrowed in a clear attempt to remember why that worried him. He told the few newsies gathered around him that the restoration had cost $75 million, with $9 million of the total supplied by the Oakland School of the Arts, which is paying, he said proudly, “commercial rent." I asked how a public charter school could afford commercial rent when the Oakland Unified School District is still broke, still in receivership, and his brow furrowed some more.  

“I raised that money myself!” he said defensively, and then, finally able to place the Planet, he muttered something about “your Mr. Taylor.” Well, it’s the job of our Mr. Taylor (Planet reporter J. Douglas Allen-Taylor) to sort such things out, so he’ll just have be the one to figure out where the $9 million came from, and exactly how Jerry Brown raised it.  

However it came about, the resplendent new Fox Oakland should be considered a triumph just in terms of what it’s already done for the neighborhood. There’s a chi-chi new restaurant, Flora, across the street in the gorgeous Art Deco Oakland Floral Depot building, as well as a new space crammed full of old books for Bibliomania on the opposite corner. (The mid-century-sullen Milens Jewelry building down the block, however, is now boarded up, offering nothing of interest to would-be restorers.) 

Seeing the Fox Oakland’s renaissance reminds me to ask whatever became of Berkeley’s UC Theater. Once upon a time it was supposed to become a jazz club, but not much has been heard of that project of late. The UC, like the Fox Oakland, had a bulls-eye painted on it in development maps—a big flat space ideal for a high-rise, if you believed the planners.  

Eagle-eyed preservationists landmarked the UC just in time to keep it from being turned into yet another unnecessary and now un-rentable condo scheme. This is probably one of the reasons Mayor Bates and his developer buddies have been trying so hard for so long to gut Berkeley’s Landmark Preservation Ordinance. 

In the meantime, the urban East Bay still needs a mid-sized auditorium. Zellerbach, the Paramount and now the Fox Oakland are all too big, and too expensive to operate, to meet the needs of our mid-size performing arts groups like the Berkeley Symphony, which could handily sell out a 600-seat house like the UC. And University Avenue in Berkeley, like Telegraph in Oakland, could use some sprucing up. A busy concert venue might just be the right answer to the doldrums it’s fallen into of late. It’s not quite shovel-ready, but reviving the UC would be a good way to stimulate the local economy. Does Berkeley have any visionaries like the Friends of the Oakland Fox to get the ball rolling?


"Lucky Phil" Kamlarz and Other Recession-Era Berkeleyans

By Justin DeFreitas
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:20:00 PM

Meg Whitman for Governor

By Justin DeFreitas
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:23:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Tuesday February 17, 2009 - 11:40:00 AM



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Neighbors of the Thai Temple in South Berkeley never sought to shut it down or even end its Sunday fundraising restaurant. The Temple’s extensive campaign, therefore, to “save” the Temple and protect it from “religious intolerance” and “racism” was irrelevant to the actual issues. Indeed, the Temple had never before sought a permit to sell food every week, so its security was perhaps undermined by its own failure to operate legally. However, neighbors were only seeking mitigations for the usual impacts associated with any large-scale operation—noise, crowds, cooking odors, and parking. The Temple’s campaign only impeded constructive communications about issues far more mundane than “religious intolerance.”  

Even the majority members of the Zoning Adjustments Board joined in to proclaim at their Feb. 12 public meeting they were “protecting religious freedom” by voting to approve the Temple’s use permit without examining the need for mitigation beyond what the Temple itself proposed. Did ZAB believe that the new Congregation Beth El synagogue in north Berkeley needed to be saved from “anti-Semitism” because neighbors sought a reduction in parking and traffic impacts? The Temple and ZAB’s behavior was simply theater with no foundation in zoning matters.  

The Temple shares a backyard fence with residential homeowners who are heavily impacted every weekend of their lives by a fundraising restaurant serving hundreds of people who come for lunch, not religious purposes. The Temple missed an opportunity for true neighborly communications, and ZAB ignored its basic civic responsibilities.  

Carolyn Shoulders 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In “Melee at the Gaia Building,” Dorothy Bryant asks, “what has changed in the definition of fun?” The answer is absolutely nothing. Teenagers still, as in “the good old days,” attend dances to see and be seen, meet and make friends and enjoy themselves. But it’s well known to public safety personnel that certain types of dances are likely to end in mob violence. And when police and city administrators allow those dances and mob violence results, those public safety personnel as well as dance promoters and the rioters themselves are fully responsible for any resulting deaths, injuries and or property damage. It is clear that Berkeley municipality stupidity, negligence and or incompetence is allowing these dangerous dances to take place downtown at the Gaia Building. Will we have to wait until we have deaths on our downtown streets before the municipality does its job which need they be reminded is to protect the safety of the public? 

Nathaniel Hardin 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The classroom is a place for children to dream in. Through books and toys they learn about the real world by using their imaginations. Most of all a classroom should remain interesting for children. Instead of stressing discipline and obedience we should fling open the windows and let the curiosity of the children prevail. Once the love of learning has infected them we can teach the children how to be disciplined so that other children can enjoy learning too. Discipline is important but it comes second. Love of learning comes first. 

Romila Khanna 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Really a great picture of Mario and Rosalinda Tejada in your last issue, though the closing of La Fiesta isn't happy news. I was there when they first opened in 1959, having enjoyed Don Paquin's before them and Telegraph's third Mexican restaurant later run by Mario's sister. Incidentally, the name of the location's prior establishment was "The Door" (singular, unlike the band). It's great to know the Tejadas will continue their traditional cooking and atmosphere at 2506 Haste, the former location of several businesses including Barry Olivier's folk music shop The Barrel and Campbell Coe's Campus Music Shop. The late legendary guitar repairman/musician/record collector/raconteur/photographer was Mario's tenant as well as frequent customer who even had a plate unofficially named for him: the "Photo Special," a beef tostada dinner without the tortilla. Campbell preferred his maiz in the form of tostaditas (chips) which he unfailingly added to a steaming bowl of the restorative Tejada chicken soup, still curing what ails you somewhere near the corner of Haste and Telegraph. 

Sandy Rothman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Despite the "In the Other Room" [sic] review (which, unfortunately, I read before seeing the play), I enjoyed In the Next Room (or the vibrator play). The reviewer rambles on about the "dilettantish writing" and "desultory action"— perfect adjectives for his scribbling—and reels off space-filling authors and titles. Some genuinely related titles might include Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) and Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899). In the Next Room continues at the Berkeley Rep through March 15, and Issue 4 of the Berkeley Rep Magazine 2008-2009 is no mere playbill. 

Helen Rippier Wheeler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Peace for Keeps will celebrate the 51st anniversary of the peace symbol at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 at Anna's Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way with an in-progress showing of last year's Berkeley Peace Symbol Golden Jubilee video. Featured in the video are Wavy Gravy, Michael Rossman, Carol Denney, Hali Hammer, Stoney Burke, Gary Lapow, Helen Holt, Peacenik and Arnie Passman. Tickets are $5 and up. 

The peace symbol was created in England in 1958 for the nuclear disarmament campaign, and by the mid 1960s had spread worldwide. This year's celebration will be a benefit for the newly formed United Front Against Made-in-the-USA Overkill—No More War Weapons Development and Experimentation, and survivors of Khan Yunis, Gaza, one of the cruelest civilian bombings in history. 

The event will encourage demonstrations at congressional district offices with the largest military budgets, including California's 8th (Pelosi), and 9th (Lee). For further information, contact Arnie Passman at 845-5481 or pazmopa@yahoo.com.       

Arnie Passman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A long time ago, a friend of mine told me about the idea of citizen’s arrest and my first thought was, “Anyone could arrest anyone else!” I had thought this was a job solely for the police. Well, I didn’t think of it as a realistic measure, being a kid of only 8 or 9 years of age, just kind of a funny idea. You know, arresting your friend.  

Today, I was thinking of a pseudonym that would reflect my ethics and values and the concept jumped into my mind, "Citizens Arrest," and I believe it's time to use this power we possess. We need to show our dissent for the criminals wrapped up in high offices pushing documents and buttons that affect our lives and well-being. We cannot be passive while the Regents argue that they need to raise our tuition fees and cut unnecessary expenses, which mainly include new faculty, student services, and a variety of other non-administrative costs. The media resource center no longer rents out cameras to students, the university photography dark room is closing, the librarians are being paid salaries that are not comparable to their services and the list can go on.  

To add to this misfortune, we continue to buy overly priced coaches and spend increasingly more money on sports and recreation and support corporate and violent science (British Petroleum and nuclear warfare). This is incongruent with the pressing economy. What does it mean when a society stops funding for an educated citizenry? Or starts cutting good investigative reporting for entertaining reality shows and misleading linear commentary on macro politics as self-professed objective news?  

Thomas Jefferson believed that the public needed to be freely educated so it would not be lead blindly by group hegemonies. Too many students trust the staged history that UC Berkeley will fight against injustice whether we do anything about it or not. This is not true, when injustice is present we must stand up and put our time and meat in front of it, or the powers at hand will continue endlessly. We cannot blindly trust what we do not do. Is the machine of the University of California administration becoming so powerful that we no longer hold the reigns to readjust its malfunctions? Now it's time to take our powers as citizens and students at UC Berkeley, and obstruct the overpaid administrative figures that would rather raise our tuition than cut their own salaries. This bureaucracy that binds us to their system must be broken if we expect to have a free and open education served to the public, from the pubic, for the public. 

Sebastian Groot 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In the summer of 1964, I was a Texas transplant, living and working in San Francisco. Cheap and tasty Tex-Mex food 

was what I grew up eating, and on North Beach, where I lived then, the Mexican food was something quite different: weirdly highbrow and very expensive. 

One afternoon, a friend called me at work and asked if I liked Mexican food. I said yes, so he picked me up after 

work, and to my surprise, headed for the Bay Bridge. That was the first time I visited Berkeley and the first time I ate at La Fiesta, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. 

The food was not Tex-Mex, but it was Mexican food, the real article, and absolutely terrific. That fall, after I moved to Berkeley and went to work at UCB, I had flautas at La Fiesta at least once a week, and was never disappointed. 

Times have changed, and most of the old standbys are gone, but I can’t imagine Telegraph Avenue without La Fiesta. 

Shirley Stuart 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Strange things are happening to the law of supply and demand. Along with recession and economic collapse a subplot is unfolding that involves the whacky interplay of prices and profits. Gas prices at the pump rise and fall, rise and fall, and go on rising and falling. The price of crude oil oscillates also but not necessarily in harmony with gasoline. Meanwhile, the profits of big oil companies move only in one direction. Up. 

Marvin Chachere 

San Pablo 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The thought that keeps nagging me, as I listen to the TV pundits and the newspaper columnists and our representatives in Congress, who all speak excitedly about the collapse of the economy and joblessness, and their solutions, is their "well-off-ness." None of them are jobless or worried about losing their job or home! The only person I can think who truly represented the hapless, the homeless and the "main streeters" years ago was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was poor; she knew what it felt like to be downtrodden. She was the last person whom I recall wasn't privileged, who wasn't a lawyer, wasn't rich, wasn't a college grad, who got some attention from the media for representing the "have-nots" in America. Isn't it time for more Fannie Lou Hamers to be on TV; to be in Congress; and to be in our newspapers, who would genuinely represent the almost one third of us who are in serious trouble facing the difficult years ahead? Or am I being naive? 

Robert Blau 

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:15:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read today your article about Elephant Pharmacy closing. Their phone prescription line is still accepting orders for refills! 

This is unconscionable—and potentially dangerous.  

I called the California Board of Pharmacy to ask them to take action today, Thursday, Feb 5, and got a recording saying that they are closed Friday, Feb 6, per the governor's order. OK, but why aren’t they answering the phone today? 

Nancy Van House 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

For years now I’ve been reading about how wonderful it is that the UC campuses set a new record every semester for the total number of enrollments. Can somebody tell me what’s so wonderful about congestion and housing shortages? Can somebody tell me what’s so wonderful about our population exploding out of control from a level of mass immigration that is unprecedented in human history? Can somebody explain this to me? 

Ace Backwords 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Uncivilized by design and management, Santa Rita is a horrible place. So cops raised money for bail, and now Johannes Mehserle walks among us. Police forces can so coldly ignore, even ridicule, civilian calls to bring jails and prisons up to higher ethical standards. But when one of their own gets into the system, all of the sudden there’s a humanitarian crisis. I used to work at a book store that regularly sent items to Santa Rita; the success rate of those books and magazines meeting their intended recipient was dismal. The simple joy of reading, of receiving that small gift from someone, could be hindered by guards for myriad reasons, or no reason at all. Having been inside Santa Rita, I know that having bail posted doesn’t mean that anyone is legally obligated to sign off on it in a reasonable amount of time. Food is a joke, sanitation is questionable, and health care is a myth. Psychologically oppressive, Santa Rita breeds abuse and violence. Cops and guards take pride in sending people to places like Santa Rita. They lobby to build more jails, at the expense of education and social services. Cops say that they cannot relate to the prisons as an industrial complex. They think the accusation is just a gimmick by prisoners and their families to throw the blame off themselves—that the whole problem lies in a lack of personal accountability. But when one of their own is locked up, suddenly there’s a victim of the system. Suddenly the quarters aren’t decent enough, the food isn’t proper, and the overall atmosphere is abysmal.  

I would hope that police, guards, and all who keep the system running, reflect on their chosen profession and their chosen ethics. If Santa Rita was no place for Johannes Mehserle, then why is it appropriate to fill Santa Rita with so many people who have committed offenses that don’t even approach the grievousness of his actions? Will cops bail out an old man who was caught squatting, wanting to escape the cold? What about donations for an activist? Where’s the bail for a guy who got caught with a sack of weed and shrooms? Police cannot continue to argue that the system is fair to the community they allegedly serve, while also believing the system is not right for themselves.  

Nathan Pitts 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Memo to Linda Smith (“Why are they carrying tasers on BART?”, Letters, Feb. 5): They carry guns on BART, dear. Does that ease your discomfort about tasers? 

I have a couple of Why questions, myself. Why is nobody asking the Why question about guns? Guns in BART stations, aboard BART trains, carried by men and women given leave to use them at their personal discretion. I assure you it’s not about post-9/11 armed air marshals in your plane, despite how it feels, Ms. BART commuter, though it’s surely of a piece with the Homeland Securitization of every moment of our lives. 

No, the BART cops with guns issue arose a while ago, but not so long ago that the local media should be oblivious to it. There was a time, not that far back, when BART cops were in fact unarmed, and arming them for lethal action was actually debated. Am I imagining this? There was a shooting incident—at the MacArthur station?—that an enterprising reporter for an actual local paper might want to track down. 

My other Why questions: Why does “He thought he was reaching for his taser” not imply lethal intent? Why has the question of taser lethality—well and horrifyingly documented, easily researched—not been part of the analysis and discussion of BART policies and management culpability? 

M. Hall 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If Republicans just want Obama to fail (Rush Limbaugh) and are so blinded by their failed ideology of tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, why even try to be bipartisan with them by loading down the economic stimulus bill with tax cuts (42 percent in the Senate version—strangely similar to the Republican votes in the Senate) which are much less stimulative than spending? 

To get any compromise with Republicans in the Senate, the Democrats reduced aid to the states and education, both of which are vitally important. And the Republicans are still unwilling to join in. 

I say restore aid to states and education and reduce the less stimulative tax cuts. And, if the Republicans are determined to stay intransigent and resist, let them. Then pass the bill anyway, and reduce the number of votes necessary to prevent filibuster. 

Richard Tamm 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bad Thing: Becky O’Malley did not use her bully pulpit to admit what everybody already knows: that the Berkeley Voice business model worked because it was cheap to operate; and it helped a local sports reporter (yes, I realize the shock the reader may be feeling at this moment), Peter Mentor, to stay in Berkeley and report on prep sports for 14 years before he went to Santa Cruz to be a Waldorf School teacher. 

Good Thing: The hopeful realization that Becky O’Malley didn’t establish the Berkeley Daily Planet Trust and then run for City Council on a Keep the Planet Green ticket in the 2008 election. I can only imagine when I venture her alternating slogans would be a folk song called, “O’Malley’s as Irish as Barack Obama,” and a button for children in all of Berkeley’s schools emblazoned with the words, “Pay for Free Speech with the Dividend of Capitalism.” 

A question I often ask in these situations is: What do you want to achieve with your philanthropy? 

John E. Parman 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I used to live in Puerto Rico and the bedbug problem there was very rare. From what I heard from several people from there, the problem usually was eliminated by just having some small eucalyptus branches put under the bed. This might also help get rid of head lice, fleas and other midnight biters, possibly some carrying diseases. The leaves may need to be bruised a bit to get quick action. Some people may have allergies to eucalyptus sap so some care should be taken by just testing with a few leaves at first. But eucalyptus ingredients are major parts of various additives for vaporizing steam inhalers indicating pretty widespread tolerance.  

James Singmaster 






Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am amazed at the self righteous statements by Bob Brokl, who gloats over the misfortunes of the developers of the Creekside project, as if it was due to their stupidity and greed that the economy and housing market has tanked, and their project has to be put on hold indefinitely. This same project was endlessly modified and changed to meet neighborhood objections and was finally lauded as a reasonable and appropriate development by most of us who cared. Equally important, it would forever get rid of one of the ugliest buildings ever built in Oakland, a true eyesore if there ever was one. Mr. Brokl seems to like it and compares it to some equally ugly building in Nebraska; what a terrific recommendation. 

I do agree that the owners need to secure the building immediately, better yet, demolish it. Its rental value is minimal and there are too many vacant or marginally occupied retail premises in the Temescal to justify the costs of rehabilitating this building. I, for one, cannot wait to see it demolished. 

Michael Yovino-Young 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Thanks so much to all the community members who came to, or donated items to, “The Colors of Love” Valentine’s Yard Sale, a fundraising event for the neighborhood organization Friends of Kenney Cottage Garden! 

And a big thank you also to the Daily Planet for helping to publicize this event. Many people said they’d seen it in the Planet, either in the Community Calendar section or in the excellent and informative piece on the Kenney Cottage’s history by Steven Finacom.  

There will be lots more opportunities for community members to get involved in the effort to restore and bring the Kenney Cottage, along with a community garden, to a vacant lot in a West Berkeley neighborhood. Stay tuned! 

Patty Marcks 

Friends of Kenney Cottage 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Becky O’Malley, in her Jan. 29 editorial, justifiably bemoans the difficulties of sustaining a print publication. However, if Ms. O’Malley could figure out what she is trying to produce, and be honest about it, she may get more sympathy for her plight. She even sites Victor Navasky, former editor and publisher of The Nation magazine, but doesn’t seem to understand that he is talking about “journals of opinion,” not newspapers in his book titled, A Matter of Opinion. 

Ms. O’Malley describes the Planet as “professionally reported news,” but is it? Maybe if she described the Planet as “professionally created opinion” she might actually receive more than 50 or 60 responses to her appeal for support. 

Let’s just look at one article as an example from this same edition of the Planet, “Zoning Board Approves Kashani’s Ashby Ave. Condos.” This project was approved by the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) by a 7-1 vote. So what should a “professional journalist,” working for a “newspaper” write? What is the story that the readers would welcome as “news”? (Full disclosure: I am one of the seven board members voting yes, and am a retired journalism teacher). 

I would think, as a “news story,” that the overwhelming vote by ZAB should be in the article. It was not. I would also think that the reasons ZAB approved this project should be in the article, but not one ZAB member was quoted or cited. And I would think the public would be interested in knowing how this project effects Berkeley, being one of the largest residential structures proposed for West Berkeley in recent history. What was at this site before this project, how does it fit into Berkeley’s General Plan, San Pablo Avenue Plan, Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, or help or hurt the housing needs of Berkeley? None of this was in the article. 

Instead, the few critics, supported by one ZAB member in the end, were highlighted in the first two paragraphs of the article and the bulk of the article was devoted to their objections. Again, seven out of eight members supported this project and yet not one thing was mentioned in the article, until the very last paragraph, about “any” benefit to Berkeley when many were discussed at the meeting, by board members and the public. 

So Ms. O’Malley, what is it you are trying to sustain, a “newspaper” or a “journal of opinion”? Your answer may just be the solution to your problem. 

Terry Doran 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Perhaps the Daily Planet should run a column called “Mayor Bates Bloopers.” 

Since we have to live with him for another two years, we might as well have a little fun to ease the hurt of having a mayor who doesn’t seem to have empathy for the poor or disabled. I’m recollecting the mayor who asked the disabled people (and I am one) who support the warm pool not come to the meeting, but instead let our co-chair come and speak for us. What? I mean we all need a reason to chuckle these days. 

A few weeks I wrote what I called the “So What” blooper. Tonight the mayor referred to tenants (when talking about the condo conversion ordinance ), made the comment that tenants should have the “right” to become an owner and not be just be a tenant? Now wait a minute. Just be a tenant? 

Well, I’m sorry if the majority of us don’t have the income to be an owner, Mr. Mayor, but each day becomes scarier as the number of homeless people grows. Now on to the next blooper. 

Lori Kossowsky 

Who Remembers the Holocaust?

By Annette Herskovits
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:16:00 PM

Three weeks into the Hamas-Israel truce, the Gazans are still imprisoned. The Israeli military, poised on the border, enters and shoots at will, the terrifying sound of jet fighters and helicopters continues, day and night. Truckloads of humanitarian aid are barred from entering.  

The plight of Gaza’s children has particular resonances for me. In 1944, after my parents had been deported to their death in Auschwitz, my brother, 17, and I, almost 5, were hiding in a Paris hotel room. The Allies were bombing a nearby train station, a terminus for Nazi supply lines. I clearly remember once being alone in the room, listening to the sirens’ whine, the roar of the planes, and the explosions. 

Several times during Israel’s 22-day attack on Gaza, I awoke at night, heart beating violently, from dreams of children in the dark under bomber planes. Gaza’s children have endured much worse than I—air strikes hour after hour, tanks on every street, no shelter, scarce water and food. What will become of these massively traumatized children? 

When they withdrew Jan. 18, Israeli forces had killed 700 civilians—including 450 children—and injured several thousands more. Evidence of deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure—war crimes—accumulates. In all, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed, which casts doubt on Israeli claims that Hamas “terrorists” booby trapped every house and hid behind every civilian.  

As a Holocaust survivor, I often receive literature from Jewish organizations calling on memory: “We must never forget.” But Israel’s leaders have forgotten the one important thing there was to remember: never dehumanize/demonize another people.  

There has been much speculation about the goals of Israel’s offensive. But few knowledgeable analysts find the stated objective of stopping Hamas from launching rockets into Israel more than a thin pretext. Israel could simply have accepted Hamas’ offer of a one-year truce in exchange for ending Gaza’s blockade. Hamas scrupulously observed a ceasefire from last June until Nov. 4, when Israel broke it, purportedly to destroy a tunnel dug by Palestinian militants to kidnap Israeli soldiers—difficult to believe in light of a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz’ that Israel had prepared the attacks for months.  

Published photographs show Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barack smiling broadly as they congratulate each other on a job well done. This stunning callousness evokes the words of Moshe Dayan, one of Israel’s “fathers”: “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.” And so it has become, or always was—establishing itself by expelling 750,000 Palestinian Arabs, committing atrocities such as forcing the inhabitants of the cities of Lydda and Ramle onto roads to the east in August. No one knows how many died. 

The crimes of Israel’s birth—the 1948 Nakba, or “catastrophe” to Palestinians—were almost inevitable consequences of the West’s malfeasance: from 2000 years of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, to England giving away land it did not own with characteristic colonialist insouciance. Those Jews who believed collective rebirth demanded a Jewish state bear only part of the blame. 

But the first Israelis bequeathed a terrible legacy. Dayan’s dreadful advice encouraged a society where violence against “Arabs” has become habitual and undiscriminating. Many Israeli Jews remained unmoved by the suffering of Palestinian children—claiming, absurdly, this is what Israel must do to survive. 

Most Israelis have simply erased from awareness the dispossession and destruction inflicted on Palestinians. “What have we done to them?” said a Jewish settler in the West Bank. A young woman clerk in an Israeli Embassy complained to me: “We built such a beautiful country; but the Palestinians will not leave us peace.” 

Yes, “we” had beautiful dreams: we only forgot they involved clearing the land of another people. The Palestinians might in time have forgiven 1948, but the expulsions resumed in 1967 and continue, as settlements grow and multiply in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and 2.3 million Palestinians are treated like intruders on their own land. 

Whether Barack Obama will stand up to Israel’s recklessness is still unclear. Many peace activists now call for cutting military aid to Israel and boycotting Israeli products. Such campaigns would pressure US politicians to listen to those few legislators who condemn Israel’s slaughter, and would also help Israelis who oppose their country’s policies. They have learned the true lesson of the Nazi genocide: we are fully human only when we are able to see the world from the perspective of others and behave with compassion.  


Annette Herskovits became a writer and peace activist after a career as a linguist and college professor. She is the daughter of Holocaust victims. 


Telegraph Ave., Past and Present

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:17:00 PM

Hearing the sad news that La Fiesta Restaurant on Telegraph Avenue will close its doors in a couple of months, my friend Joy and I had dinner there last evening. We were a decidedly morose pair, lamenting the many changes that have occurred in the years we’ve lived in the area. Losing Mario and Rosalinda Trejeda is in itself a great loss, although this wonderful couple will happily still operate their beautiful Banquet Hall on Haste Street. 

Ordering a couple of margaritas to lighten our melancholy spirits, Joy and I began making a list of the fine stores that once graced Telegraph Avenue. For starters, there were those lovely gift shops, Fraser’s and Roger Barber, displaying exquisite crystal, china, silver and oriental objects, all beautifully gift-wrapped. Further along the street was Garard’s Stationery Store, offering fine leather goods, brief cases, fountain pens and monogrammed stationery. 

On the same block was Sather Gate Book Store, to be replaced later by the much loved Cody’s Book Store, where best-selling authors and celebrities spoke to rapt audiences. I still remember standing on a crowded street to see Bill Clinton, who graciously stepped outside to greet the hundreds of people unable to squeeze inside the store. 

For women’s apparel there was Sather Gate Dress Shop, perhaps not high fashion, couture garments, but nonetheless high quality, high priced merchandise. 

Many longtime Berkeley residents will recall a small theater which offered classic and foreign films. This was the theater which launched the career of the nationally acclaimed critic, Pauline Kael, whose movie schedules and witty reviews could be picked up outside the theatre by passersby. 

Just around the corner from Telegraph Avenue, Bancroft Street offered its own popular attractions—most notably The Black Sheep Restaurant, which to my way of thinking has never been excelled for charm, intimacy and a great menu. There were also excellent apparel shops along that street—Roos-Atkins and Joseph Magnin’s. 

In mourning the loss of these departed stores and business enterprises, I hasten to add that present-day Telegraph Avenue still has many first-rate, longtime venues, such as Blake’s Restaurant, the Reprint Mint, Peet’s Coffee, the Berkeley Hat Shop (Remember Aretha’s hat?), and some fine bakeries and ethnic restaurants. Not to be overlooked is the Center for Independent Living, offering valuable assistance to the many disabled people in our community. 

Oh, but we’ll sorely miss La Fiesta, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this Sunday, Feb. 15 at both restaurants. Mind you, this will be a real celebration, with mariachi music, food and drinks, all free! This is an event not to be missed! So do make a date to stop by and offer congratulations and good wishes to our beloved Mario and Rosalinda. 


Dorothy Snodgrass is a Berkeley resident. 

Meleé at the Gaia Building

By Dorothy Bryant
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:17:00 PM

When I read Riya Bhattacharjee’s account of yet another incident at the Gaia Building (Feb. 5-11 edition) I had one of those old-geezer “in-my-day” moments. I was born with the Great Depression, and grew up in San Francisco’s Mission District. My parents, Italian immigrants with strict traditions on the rearing of daughters, did not allow me to date, but I was allowed, at 14 or 15, in the last year of World War II, to attend cheap, well-advertized public dances with half a dozen other girls. We walked about a mile (from Army Street, now Caesar Chavez) and crossed Market Street, to Civic Auditorium, then not much more than a vast barn-like dance floor with a stage filled by whatever “big band” was in town. Hundreds of teenagers from every corner of the city converged on Civic Auditorium. I danced with strangers or stood in the clapping, stomping circles that gathered around the best (usually black or hispanic) jitterbuggers. There were probably some discreetly pocketed pints of whiskey in some boys’ zootsuit pockets, but no noticeable drunkenness. There was probably police presence, but we hardly aware of it in all the noise and excitement. If the place became filled to capacity, I never heard of any problem turning people away. At about ten, as ordered by our parents, our group of girls walked back home together through the Mission’s dark streets, quite assured, as our strict parents were, of our safety in numbers. 

We occasionally crashed one of the huge Italian or Irish wedding receptions held at Slovonian Hall on Potrero Hill. We were tolerated, provided for, almost expected. We danced, sampled the buffet, asked each other “who got married? Do you know him? Neither do I.” Then we congratulated someone who knew someone who knew the bride and went home. 

My first awareness of less benign mass dances or party crashers came in the 1960s (by that time living in the East Bay), when I had to break up my daughter’s birthday party, invaded by rude total strangers. Fortunately, I always stayed home for my teenagers’ parties, and my tearful daughter was glad of it. Even more fortunately, it was still effective for a parent to say “Out!” to intruders and to be obeyed. 

I was already out of touch with these concerns when the magic of Woodstock degenerated into the hell of Altamont. Recently a young parent I know described elaborate precautions and rescue plans he follows when his daughter attends a legitimate, licensed, mass, paid dance/concert. 

What has happened to the concept of “having fun?” Please! Let’s not start by blaming parents. I know from experience that the power of parents to enforce rules has eroded year by year almost to the vanishing point. Blaming parents is always easier than supporting them in any public or official way. And let’s not say we were more “innocent” or “nicer” or “mannerly” in the “good old days.” We were not. I can only say guns and cars were rare, knives carried for show but seldom used, hard drugs unknown to even the tough kids in my group. 

Furthermore, I won’t suggest that wartime San Francisco was an innocent, scenic, bucolic backwater with a couple of beautiful new bridges, as portrayed in the media. It was full of sailors far from home, waiting to be sent to die on some godforsaken South Pacific island; full of war workers of every ethnicity, from every state, and Mexico. The Mission had had gang presence for as far back as anyone could remember. (I was luckily immune from hassle because my best girlfriend’s boyfriend was a gang member—a fact I decided my parents didn’t need to know.) The City’s potential for violence was proven by the lethal riots that “celebrated” the August 1945 surrender of Japan. I was on Market Street on that black day of San Francisco history, and I fled home as fast as I could. 

So, I ask again, what has changed to make Friday night a time when any occasion, public, semi-public, or private can become a target for violent invaders? What has changed the definition of “having fun?” 

I wish some people smarter than I am would put their minds to this question. I think we have to answer it before we can talk about solutions. 


Dorothy Bryant is a Berkeley writer. 


Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:18:00 PM

Feb. 12 marks the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. Darwin’s theory of evolution as set forth in his Origin of Species, published in 1859, and his subsequent writings, is considered the foundation of biology. Darwin’s theory is supported by information that has been tested again and again. The later discovery of DNA further confirmed Darwin’s theory and explained how traits are passed on. Genetics also confirmed the most controversial part of Darwin’s theory: that humans and apes have a common ancestry. Remarkably, today only 40 percent of Americans accept Darwin’s theory of evolution. Here is a bit of background on the issue.  

The Bible (Genesis) tells us that God created heaven and earth and all contained therein in six days. (God rested on the seventh day.) Genesis is treated by most scholars as an allegory, not literally true. Adherents of an “intelligent design” theory of creation believe the Bible is literally true. (“Intelligent design” is “creationism” repackaged.) While most Americans probably agree that God was responsible for the creation of life on earth, many disagree on what happened next. Darwinists believe that humans and other living things evolved over time, while the creationists believe that humans and other living things have stayed the same since creation. 

The courts have ruled that intelligent design and creationism should be taught, if at all, in Sunday school—not in our public schools. An important court decision in this area is the 2005 federal district court case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (Pennsylvania), where the court ordered the school district to refrain from maintaining an Intelligent Design Policy whereby intelligent design had to be offered as an alternative to evolution. The court stated: “Intelligent design cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents” and thus, he ruled, is unconstitutional. The judge also stated: “Intelligent design is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.” (I recommend Nova’s Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial (2007), a documentary about the Kitzmiller case.) 

What is troublesome about creationism/ intelligent design is that it contributes to an anti-intellectualism and anti-rationalism in our public life and in our schools, resulting in a dumbing down of Americans. The ignorance of the average U.S. adult about basic scientific facts has been well documented by surveys finding that fewer than one in five Americans met a minimal standard of scientific literacy. How are we going to keep up with the rest of the world in innovation and scientific discovery when adherents of pseudoscience wield so much influence in our society? What is more troublesome is that there are creationists teaching science in our colleges and universities and even in our high schools. Junk in, junk out. 


Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney. 

Richmond’s School District Bailout: Like Putting a Band-Aid on Gangrene

By Charles Rachlis
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:17:00 PM

A palpable wave of relief passed through the crowd during the Feb. 4 meeting when the representatives of the City of Richmond announced their bailout of four schools potentially slated for closure. While not looking a gift horse in the mouth, however, the community understands that one-time bailouts from the cities won’t put the West Contra Costa County School District (WCCUSD) in the black. Without a commitment for another $2 million from somewhere, prior to Feb. 11, the School Board sees no road to a balanced budget other than closing the doors of a number of our neighborhood schools.  

To make matters worse, California Secretary of Education Jack O’Connell has announced that $10 billion will be cut this year from state payments to the school districts. Because of the state budget stalemate, the governor has threatened to shave five days off the school year, and he plans to lift state restrictions on how school funds are spent, freeing our School Board to use state money to pay debts instead of funding education. So even if the City of Richmond money holds off some of the closures temporarily, we will be back in the same position before long.  

Thirty years following the passage of Proposition 13, the simultaneous impact of a California budget crisis rendered intractable by the two-thirds majority rule, and the worldwide breakdown of financial institutions, has created a perfect storm raining debt and empty promises on our children. This crisis appears to be unrelenting, unstoppable, and beyond the ability of the best and brightest to solve. All the institutions of democratic governance, from the lowly School Board to the state Legislature and the mighty Senate of the United States, are incapable of addressing the concerns of working people and the needs of our children.  

Rather, these august institutions are poised as one to enforce the greatest wealth transfer ever from the working class to the elite. Cutting schools is only one of the ways the working class is being forced to bear the burden of fiscal mismanagement and unrestrained wealth appropriation by the elites. The elderly, the uninsured, the unemployed, subprime mortgage holders, state workers, the disabled, and the indigent have all been abandoned along with the students. Millions have seen their life savings and retirement or pension plans wiped out.  

The safety net has been shredded, and the specter of a full-fledged depression looms over the economic forecasts. The promoters of deregulation, tax breaks for the rich, and unrestrained markets, who during the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush years promised unending prosperity, have been exposed as the self-promoting hucksters that they are.  

The federal government has shown that its first loyalty is to the very bankers, speculators and war profiteers who brought the growing economic crisis to its inevitable head. The bailout of the banks in October 2008 was opposed by the grassroots, who flooded their representative with phone calls and e-mails. Against the better judgment of the American people, the bailout passed in two short weeks with bipartisan support and Obama’s blessing. Four months later, it has been revealed that not only did the bailout not work but in addition millions of bailout dollars were used to pay outrageous bonuses to the very speculators who fueled the economic meltdown. Despite the proof that the bailout was a failure, which will result in lowering the worth of the dollar and incurring debts our grandchildren will be paying for decades to come, the current administration has refused to stop the bank bailout disaster and is poised not only to release the second half of the money to the banks but also to institute a new plan to buy their toxic assets, shifting the risk of loss from the bankers to the taxpayers. In response, working people around the country are asking, “Where is our bailout?” 

When working people lose their jobs, their homes, their health care, and their schools, the economic elite, the pundits, and the government either ignore their plight altogether, blame the victim, or pose and posture but provide no relief. Inversely, when the fat cats of finance destroy the economy, they are quickly bailed out by the average taxpayers, against their will. Rather than nationalizing the failed financial institutions, or letting the “free market” take its course, the elite deem the speculators “too big to fail.” At the same time, our children are deemed too burdensome to teach.  

If cuts in social programs and education are not opposed vigorously, they will be made now, under the guise of the current crisis, and the funds will never be restored even if the economy recovers. Yet finding, printing, or borrowing money is no problem for politicians when their puppet masters in banking and big business deem it necessary. It all comes down to a question of whose priorities do the institutions of governance serve?  

Working people can’t compete with the corporate elite in the effort to buy politicians. Despite the millions in small contributions to the Obama campaign, the biggest contributions were bundled by the corporate elite. Not surprisingly, then, the new administration is loaded down with bankers and speculators, including many of the same players who helped deregulate and bring down the system in the first place.  

The working class has little recourse via the polite civic process of petitioning the government for redress. It will take a social movement unlike anything seen in this country for generations to defend and expand social programs and public education during this crisis.  

However, we are not powerless to force a reordering of priorities. The working class has enormous power. We have the power to build roads, railways, planes, power and steel plants, auto factories, hospitals, and schools, and to teach the workers needed for these projects. We also have the power not to work. When we choose not to work, our real power is felt in the pocketbook of the business elite, as the profits they usually derive from our labor stop flowing. Our power not to work, if used to its fullest, can paralyze the economy and force the ruling class to meet our demands.  

Strike action is the most powerful weapon in the working class arsenal. However, the leaders of our organizations have become too enamored of the corporate model; of their Democratic Party “friends”; and of the irrational and misguided belief that justice can be won in the bosses’ courthouse. Diverted by their illusions from their proper role, our union leaders refuse to prepare their membership for strike actions. Our organizations need to prepare the community for direct action up to and including mass demonstrations, student walk outs, teach ins, teacher strikes and possibly occupation of schools slated for closure.  

Quality public education and an endless war economy are incompatible. Quality public education and a prison economy are incompatible. Quality public education and government dominated by corporations, bankers and speculators are incompatible. Once we recognize the problem and the obstacles, the solution becomes self-evident. When we come together as a community of working people, and forge organizations based on solidarity and democracy, there is no force that can withstand our power.  

Consider the WCCUSD. The school board does not answer to the parents, the teachers, the school staff, the students, and the community. It answers to the trustee, who in turn is an unelected bureaucrat accountable only to the agents of the ruling elite. The school board’s response to the financial pressure has not been to fight for the interests of the students and their teachers and parents, but to close schools and reduce programs, balancing the district’s budget at the expense of our children’s education. If our schools were controlled by the teachers, staff, and parents, who are intimately connected with the students and their educational needs, instead of politicians and bureaucrats, we would be working to find a way to keep the schools open and flourishing rather than trying to con the community into accepting the closures as inevitable.  

No to school closures. No teacher layoffs, no cuts by attrition. Fill vacancies, restore cut programs, reduce class size. Restore quality education; bring back music, art, and sports. Hands off staff and teachers’ wages, benefits and retirement. Place schools under direct teacher, parent, and staff control. 


Charles Rachlis is a Richmond resident. 


AC Transit’s Divide-and-Conquer Strategy

By Russ Tilleman
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:18:00 PM

As the Berkeley City Council prepares to vote on AC Transit’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) proposal, people in the neighborhoods surrounding Telegraph seem to be overwhelmingly against the idea. I live four blocks from Telegraph, and I shop on Telegraph every day and often eat dinner in restaurants on Telegraph. Essentially everyone I talk to in the area hates the idea of losing two driving lanes and two parking lanes on the avenue, and they find it difficult to believe that BRT might actually be approved. It seems like such an obviously bad idea that most people don’t even take it seriously. They are expecting the City Council to make a responsible decision and preserve the neighborhoods for the people who live and work here. I hope their faith in our government is justified. 

The problem is that we are just one small part of Berkeley, and BRT will impact our lives much more than it will impact the average Berkeley resident. AC Transit is using the classic strategy of divide and conquer, hoping that most people in Berkeley won’t care how badly they mess up this part of the city. And their approach might work. The people who live and work here are used to seeing the big articulated AC Transit buses driving up and down Telegraph with hardly any riders. So when we hear that AC Transit wants to take two very important driving lanes and two very important parking lanes away from the public and waste them on these big empty buses, we immediately grasp how ludicrous the idea is. But people who don’t work here or live here don’t always see that. They don’t drive around looking for an elusive parking space every day. They don’t get stuck in traffic on College Avenue. They don’t see bicyclists lying on the pavement on College after being hit by cars. I’ve seen that twice since 2002, and it’s not a pretty sight. They don’t walk past vacant buildings that used to house businesses like Cody’s Books. I do that almost every day. They don’t see three big AC Transit buses tailgating each other up Telegraph, carrying a total of 10 or 20 people out of their combined capacity of 480. 

AC Transit has expended a lot of time and money trying to convince the citizens of Berkeley that BRT will be a good thing. They’ve arbitrarily predicted that bus ridership will skyrocket if the big empty buses get their own lanes. They’ve mistakenly, or dishonestly, claimed that BRT won’t have any negative effect on people like me. They’ve claimed that BRT will reduce greenhouse gases, after previously admitting in print that it will increase greenhouse gases. Basically, they are saying “trust us,” just like they said “trust us” in November when they asked voters to give them more tax money. 

In November, they threatened that, if the voters didn’t approve the increased taxes, AC Transit would have to raise bus fares and reduce service, harming the poor, the elderly, and the disabled. Well, the voters gave them everything they asked for, and guess what? They immediately spent millions of dollars buying new buses from the Van Hool company, whose U.S. distributor bankrolled the taxation campaign. Now they are raising bus fares and reducing bus service. The people who live and work near Telegraph don’t seem to be very interested in trusting AC Transit on BRT, and I don’t blame them. 

I would like to encourage all the members of the Berkeley City Council to visit this side of town before they vote on BRT. Take a walk along Telegraph. See the big empty AC Transit buses. See them moving along at the speed limit, even without their own lane. Walk past the empty storefronts on Telegraph. Talk to the people in the local businesses. Walk or drive up to College Avenue in the late afternoon, and imagine where the vehicles displaced from Telegraph by BRT, 160 cars and trucks per hour, are going to fit into the bumper-to- bumper traffic. Try to find an empty parking space in the residential neighborhoods. AC Transit isn’t mentioning much about these issues when they say “trust us.” 

If the Berkeley City Council cares about our neighborhoods, they’ll take the time to learn the facts, rather than accepting AC Transit’s propaganda at face value. But if they are too busy to find out the truth, I’d encourage them to abstain from voting on the issue, and let the people who know what is going on here make the decision. 


Russ Tilleman is a Berkeley resident. 

The Obamas and Washington, D.C., Statehood

By Jean Damu
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:19:00 PM

News item: In a Feb. 2 press release, President Barack Obama announced the theme of this year’s African American History Month as “The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas.” 


In a recent Washington Post column that focuses on local issues it was noted that, on the Sunday preceding the inauguration, the Obama family, in its search for a new family church, attended services at the 19th Street Baptist Church, the same church of which the mayor of Washington, D.C., Adrian Fenty, is a member. 

Furthermore, the apparently unprecedented outpouring of U.S. public emotion at the swearing-in ceremonies of President Barack Obama has inspired an uncountable number of responses to the event that one syndicated columnist noted exceeded the public display of emotion at the conclusion of World War II. 

How to account for this? Clearly the combination of the departure of the Bush regime and the restoration of hope signaled by the arrival of the first African American president is part of the foundation for the events that transpired during inauguration week. It was, among other things, a clear repudiation of past racisms. 

Perhaps it was more than that. 

In his Inaugural Address, Obama briefly touched on the issue of race, an issue he directly addressed only once during his campaign. He said to the attending multitudes that he was becoming the nation’s first black president in a city where only a few short decades previously his father wouldn’t have been served at a Washington, D.C., restaurant. 

True enough, but perhaps the issue is far greater than Obama acknowledged. Is it possible Obama’s ascendancy represented, in the deep recesses of public subconsciousness, not just the repudiation of racism but also the repudiation of the entire dark side of America’s founding and her founders? 

If that is true, and without attempting to predict what will be the final sum of Obama’s presidency, what is the connection between the Obama family’s search for a black church and the nation’s emotional release? 

Simply everything that has come before—dating all the way back to the founding of Washington, D.C., the only national capital in the world that explicitly and specifically was created to accommodate slavery. 

What passes for popular history informs us that Washington, D.C., was created in the wake of a 1783 insurrection of Revolutionary War veterans. They were angry they had not been paid promised back pay. The vets stormed Congress, which was then located in Philadelphia. When the Pennsylvania governor refused to mobilize the state militia because he supported the demands of the insurrectionists, members of Congress were forced to flee across the Delaware River and take refuge in Princeton, New Jersey. 

It is this event, we are led to believe, that led directly to the establishment of the new capital. 

Though all the above events are true, the fact of the matter is that discussion of building a new capital preceded the veterans’ militant demonstration by a significant period of time. And that discussion had nothing to do with the physical safety of Congress but rather the protection of southern congressmen’s property—slaves. 

The first documented discussion of building a new capital occurred in a New York City restaurant during a dinner table discussion between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Jefferson was complaining to the younger Madison that every time he traveled to Philadelphia to attend sessions of Congress, some of his slaves, who regularly traveled with him, would attempt to escape, as slavery was illegal in Philadelphia. The more we learn about Jefferson the more disagreeable he appears. 

What was particularly galling to Jefferson at that moment was that he had recently spent a small fortune sending one of his slaves to France to learn the art of French cuisine. Now the ungrateful fellow was threatening to run away unless he, Jefferson, acceded to several “unreasonable” demands. It is not recorded what these demands were. 

It was then that Madison suggested creating a new capital, one that would geographically be part of the South but in close proximity to the North—a capital that would allow southerners to safely bring their human property. It was unseemly, for instance, said Madison, for President Washington to be in violation of Pennsylvania law by having his slaves attend him in Philadelphia. 

The northern Congress members went for the deal when southerners agreed to contribute to northern states’ Revolutionary War debt payments, debts that southern states had already eliminated. 

The argument that the war veterans’ rebellion underlined the need for a new capital was simply a ruse—designed to salve the feelings of all those who even then believed slavery was wrong. 

Since the founding of Washington, D.C., in 1790 until 1971, when residents were allowed to elect a local governing structure, the city was run as a ward of Congress, an institution dominated by southern legislators until recent times. To this day Washington, with a black population in excess of 56 percent enjoys only an “observer” status within the federal government. Residents of Washington were not allowed to vote in presidential elections until 1961. 

All of this brings us back to the 19th Street Baptist Church. 

Even should the Obamas decide to join a church other than 19th Street Baptist Church, you can believe whatever church they decide upon, it will be a black oriented church and its membership will include influential and powerful members of Washington’s black communities. 

This is the first time in the nation’s history when African Americans with political power, particularly local politicians, will have some formal and informal access to the chief executive and the first lady. How should that access be utilized? Here is a suggestion that relates to African American History Month and president Obama’s recent declaration that this year’s observances should be dedicated to “The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas.” 

President Obama can begin the quest for black citiznehip just outside the front door of the White House. 

The issue of statehood for Washington, D.C. has been around a long time. It is not necessarily a race specific issue even though it is often framed as such and African Americans have been in the lead formulating the issue. But without a doubt making Washington D.C. a state would go a long way toward extending democracy and at the same time make some recompense for past discriminations; and it directly addresses the issue of black citizenship. 

Perhaps in terms of importance D.C. statehood does not rank very high on most peoples lists of burning issues, especially for those who find it difficult to chew gum and walk at the same time. 

But it is an important issue nonetheless and important voices should promote it at this unique historical juncture because an African American first family will feel the importance of the issue in a way that other first families more than likely could not. 

It remains to be seen, however, if the local politicians in Washington who in fact develop some access to the Obamas are willing and able to frame the issue in a way that on one hand addresses our history of slavery while at the same time arguing for a more complete extension of democracy to include all of Washington, D.C.’s residents.  


Jean Damu is a Berkeley resident. 

Growthzilla Still Ravaging Berkeley—And Everybody Loses

By Gale Garcia
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:19:00 PM

It was the mother of all housing bubbles, fueled by a lending industry gone mad. For years I warned members of the Berkeley City Council and Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB)—in e-mails, hand-delivered letters and colorful flyers—to stop approving every turkey of a housing project that came before them. I was completely ignored. 

The only reply I recall receiving was from former Councilmember Betty Olds about three years ago, asking if any project had gone belly-up so far. I replied that the ones they were currently approving were the ones in danger. 


Belly-up and bank-owned 

Now they are failing. The five-story condo block at 2700 San Pablo Ave. is the first. Its developer, who arrogantly dismissed neighbors’ concerns, has presumably lost her shirt. The bank, it appears, has lost millions, and subcontractors who worked on the project have filed dozens of liens against the property due to nonpayment. 

The neighbors lost enormously. They valiantly opposed approval of this sky-darkening hulk. They beseeched the developer to scale it down. One neighbor warned her about the condo market, but she was determined to build this grim stucco box. 


Condos, condos, everywhere 

Condo projects are failing wherever they have sprouted, locally and across the nation. Nearby Oakland is ahead of us in the failed-edifice trend. A project that has been stalled for over 18 months can be seen at 14th Street and MLK Jr. Way, its half-completed shell moldering in the rain. In late January the Oakland Tribune reported on three condo projects freshly in default, with a total of 297 units among them. 

The spin in Berkeley is that while condos may be dead, the demand for rentals is limitless. Mayor Tom Bates enthused, in his famous (private—only developers were invited) 2008 State of the City address, that the University of California labs were a “job magnet.” I fear that he may be personally encouraging his developer friends to keep building, given his fanatical belief in growth. 

The website for the mayor’s office minces no words: “Berkeley is proud to foster a welcome environment for market development, innovation, creativity and smart growth.” It then touts with enthusiasm several of the dumb-growth projects presently befouling Berkeley. 


Rental banners, the festoon of the future 

Now every single large apartment complex is frantically advertising vacant units. And there are plenty more in the pipeline to provide future competition. Here are some—by no means all—of the projects in progress: 

• The “Trader Joe’s” building at MLK Jr. Way and Berkeley Way (like the  

theaterless “Fine Arts” building, will it become another amenity in name only?): This project will put 148 additional rental units into Berkeley’s surplus. Right before the ZAB voted on the project, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak canned Dean Metzger, the most knowledgeable and neighborhood-friendly ZAB member, to ensure its approval. The approval is under litigation by neighbors, but, sadly, construction is proceeding. 

• 700 University Ave.: The Brennan’s building, Berkeley’s last American Vernacular corner bar, was recently demolished for this big hunk (171 units) of housing in a uniquely ridiculous location—right square next to the railroad tracks. One study for the project’s environmental impact report said that for auditory habitability, there could be no windows facing the tracks (due to the train whistle blasts, at 100-110 decibels). I believe this study was simply ignored by the builders, although future potential renters might not be similarly inclined. 

• 1800 San Pablo Ave.: The owner of this five-story project didn’t have sufficient funds to pay his permit fees in late 2007, so Councilmembers Linda Maio and Laurie Capitelli recommended a fee deferral “until point of sale of the condo units.” Despite warnings about the condo market, and the fact that a lovely 1930s Art-Deco building would be destroyed, the City Council voted to “defer” $315,588 for a project that will probably sell no condos but end up wearing its own rental banners. 

• The “Arpeggio” at 2055 Center St.: This will be nine and a half stories of shockingly dinky units. If you look at the plans, it appears to be mostly one-bedroom apartments with the bedroom somehow embedded in the living room (not exactly most people’s idea of luxury accommodations). The City Council sold city-owned air rights next to the project, originally appraised at $1 million, for $200,000 (what’s a trifling $800,000 between friends?). 


Everyone loses 

Finally, developers are losing money rather than profiting. Foreclosures are rampant. The economy is in deep, deep trouble. And for every big hunk of needless stucco that mushrooms out of Berkeley soil, neighbors lose the chance to see the hills or watch the sun set. 

Mayor Bates and his coterie of council yes-persons have packed city commissions with architects, developers and their wives, all promoting Bates’ goal to “get Berkeley developed.” They seem without shame about the needless destruction they cause. 

The funny-money lending binge is over—it’s downhill for development now. 


For those seeking to understand the tragic aftermath of the biggest bubble in history, see the rich reading material at www. Patrick.net.  


Gale Garcia is a Berkeley resident.

UC Service Workers Examine Settlement Offer

By Hank Chapot
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:19:00 PM

As you read this, low-wage employees at all 10 University of California campuses represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) are voting on a new contract, one close to that given union-represented patient-care workers a few months ago. 

When the previous contract expired a year and a half ago and negotiations stalled, members intensified their fight; they picketed, organized a boycott by celebrities, politicians and commencement speakers, intensified lobbying, sponsored legislation, struck for five days in July 2008, began planning a longer strike for spring 2009, dogged the Regents and even sat in at head Regent Richard Blum’s office, where 20 workers and student supporters were arrested in January. 

Tactics included TV commercials during UC football games and noisy demonstrations with fellow unions. These actions, and the possibility of further escalation may have led to the final offer, more than halfway toward AFSCME’s demands and far beyond any previous proposal. 

The five-year contract offer for nearly 8,500 food-service workers, custodians and landscape gardeners includes a 3 percent across-the-board pay hike each year—plus an additional 1 percent effective in July. AFSCME won on core demands, including wage steps based on longevity and an end to the arbitrary “merit pay” system, benefits protection, caps on health care increases, overtime pay after shift instead of after 40 hours and a minimum wage of $14 dollars an hour (in the fourth year). 

While still earning poverty wages, UC workers won guarantees independent of state funding, which, research proved, were found to be a small part of the overall payroll budget and little more than a cynical ruse repeated ad nauseam by negotiators to stifle discussion. And though this offer, coupled with the security of being a UC employee, is touted as being generous, it barely makes up for 20 years of flat wages and ever increasing fees for health care, pensions and other workplace fees. Even with this new contract, UC workers’ pay remains below comparable public sector jobs. 

Shelley Nielsen, UC’s latest chief negotiator, said in a prepared statement, “We are very pleased to have reached what we believe is a fair agreement…” The irony is not lost on our negotiators, one of whom reacted by asking, “if management thinks this is a fair agreement, then, what in hell were those completely unacceptable and insulting 1 percent offers these past 14 months?” And wouldn’t you know it, last week the Regents voted to restart pension withholding, thereby slashing into any income gains. 

The 15-month delay drove many employees farther into poverty. Some were unable to pay rent or feed their children and lost housing; others were forced to take second and third job or apply for welfare. While negotiations dragged on, UC twice rejected neutral mediators’ good-faith recommendations. 

Considering this latest offer, UC seems to finally understand it can no longer claim to be the greatest public university in the West while exploiting its majority nonwhite, immigrant and female low-wage workforce, 96 percent of whom are eligible for one or more kinds of public assistance. What should we make of the fact that UC included a note in our W-2 envelopes this January that, based on our annual earnings, we may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit? 

When it comes to executive pay, management claims it must attract the best and brightest to compete with other universities and the private sector. The Enronization of Higher Education. But the argument is fallacious: UC is not Stanford or Yale; it is a public university owned by the citizens of California, and these people are supposed to be public servants, not corporate CEOs. Besides, who are these sterling executives, said to be worth six figures, regular bonuses and constant pay raises approaching 10 percent per year? They are supposed to be the best, but I’m not seeing it. Remember Gerald Parsky? 

Considering recent compensation scandals, the top-heavy University of California is populated by a bunch of suits who use circular logic—their high pay justifies their worth. And every problem seems to be solved by hiring another manager, outside consultant or acting vice-chancellor, doing a study or taking a survey, the results of which are often kept hidden when found embarrassing. On top of this, just before newbie President Mark Yudof announced with great fanfare a freeze on salaries for 285 top-level employees, he gave out nearly $15 million in raises and bonuses to these same cocktail-circuit bureaucrats. 

As a line employee, I often complain that we have plenty of people to tell us what to do but not enough people to do it. The plan seems to be to cut staffing so low that the only answer will be outsourcing of core campus services. Solves your union problems maybe, but costs inevitably rise and services fall when privatized profits are in the air. 

AFSCME’s widespread support included letter-writing campaigns, meetings with UC leadership and speaker boycotts. State Senator Leland Yee has been especially helpful. Fellow unions, religious leaders, Clergy and Laity for Economic Justice and many others pushed UC’s leadership for a fair contract for service workers, who, after all, tend the needs of students and staff directly. 

So, thanks to our supporters. Sometimes hard work and hell-raising win out. It is time for UC’s service workers to get back to the job of serving our students, the campus and the wider community. But hold on, many UC labor contracts remain in negotiations, so keep your fingers crossed and picket signs ready. 


Hank Chapot is a gardener at UC Berkeley. 

A New Climate for Our Downtown Plan

By Alan Tobey
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:20:00 PM

In 2005 the city and the university agreed to cooperate on the completion of a new city plan for downtown Berkeley—the Downtown Area Plan (DAP). In pursuance of that plan a 21-member citizen task force—the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee or DAPAC—met more than a hundred times. Its draft plan, completed late in 2007, has since been undergoing review by the Planning Commission; that commission’s comments, potentially including its alternative version of the plan, will go to the City Council in April. The Council must approve a final DAP in May or begin to forfeit significant fees from the university. The university (whose own properties within our downtown district are not constrained by city zoning) must also agree to the completed DAP. 

We should all be proud of and grateful for the work of the DAPAC and for the ongoing work of the Planning Commission. Nearly all of the draft Downtown Area Plan’s chapters have been completed without significant controversy, and the new DAP will now guide future decisions relating to topics as diverse as environmental sustainability, economic development and historic preservation. 

Yet—as has been true in Berkeley for decades—agreement is still elusive on proposed downtown building density and future physical development. Disagreement over parts of the Land Use chapter has particularly focused on the most obvious issue of building height—how many taller (eight stories or more) downtown buildings we should plan to accommodate over the next 20 years. But the underlying question is really more about people than it is about buildings: how many new residents, employees and visitors should the downtown build for, and what services such as improved transit and street-level amenities are needed both to attract and to support these presumed several thousand new people? 

DAPAC members agreed to a general policy stating, “Allow higher-intensity development for housing and for limited commercial/office uses in Downtown's Core Area.” All would accept at least a modest number of taller buildings. All would allow two tall (225 feet) new hotel or hotel/condo buildings; the potential economic benefits of hotels seem to outweigh civic acrophobia in these cases. But consensus has failed when it comes down to approving actual numbers. 

The only divisive final vote by the DAPAC—11 to 10—narrowly passed a version of the Land Use chapter that favored significantly less density and fewer tall buildings than what the minority advocated. The minority view held that buildings in the range of nine to 12 stories are economically infeasible to build, so that only a larger number of taller permitted buildings would be able to generate from developer fees the “green urban amenities” that all DAPAC members thought will be essential to make the denser downtown more vibrant and livable. 

This ongoing disagreement is now also dividing the Planning Commission. But it need not remain an impasse—not if we look at the larger picture. The missing inputs are our recent local and state responses to the climate crisis, which had not begun in 2005 and which the DAPAC was not asked to address. 

Three new climate mandates should now help shape the Downtown Area Plan’s Land Use chapter with less controversy: Berkeley’s own Climate Action Plan and two new California legislative enactments, AB 32 and SB 375. The three compatibly provide new guidance for the question of how much new building is desirable downtown. 

The Climate Action Plan, commissioned by Berkeley’s 81 percent vote for Measure G in 2006, will specify how to reach our goal to reduce Berkeley’s greenhouse gas production 80 percent by 2050. It should be approved by the council no later than April. Though it also includes many other programs and priorities, the current Climate Action Plan draft clearly approves of aggressive community-building development to reduce GHGs from automobiles: “Increased density near transit is the single most effective means for reducing transportation-related GHG emissions. ‘Walkability,’ ‘bikeability’ and ridership of . . . public transit are fundamentally tied to density and a mix of land uses near transit hubs and jobs (such as in Downtown Berkeley) and along transit corridors.” 

AB 32, a California bill passed in 2006, establishes the goal that by 2020 the entire state's greenhouse gas emissions be reduced to 1990 levels, a 25 percent reduction that matches Berkeley’s interim goals. AB32 primarily focuses on stationary sources of GHGs such as power plants; it may introduce a “cap and trade” mechanism to reduce these large-scale emissions. But it did not otherwise specify HOW California will meet our now-official overall goals. 

SB 375, signed by the governor last October, now establishes other means. Its focus is not primarily on discrete pollution sources but on climate-wise land use and transportation policies to reduce future urban sprawl and today’s excessive dependence on the automobile. SB 375 establishes regional GHG-reduction targets and requires all local land use plans (including our DAP) to affirmatively meet or exceed GHG-reduction standards set by the Air Resources Board. Under SB375, as the California League of Conservation Voters described it, “By rewarding local governments who implement regional plans with transportation dollars, the State creates its biggest incentives for smarter growth.” 

We should not fault the DAPAC for failing to include these new climate-protection measures in its own considerations—it was never asked to do so, and it completed its work too soon. But the Planning Commission and the City Council have no such excuse. These three new enactments create a “new climate” for more positive consideration of increased density in our Downtown Area Plan. Our Climate Action Plan and state law now require urban plans such as the DAP to be proactively climate-protective. And taking that step will encourage us to embrace—rather than just reluctantly accept—the significant additional concentrated growth our downtown needs to be both more economically viable and more enjoyably livable as an urban center for the whole town. 


Alan Tobey has lived in Berkeley since 1970. 

Predicting Success

By Marvin Chachere
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:20:00 PM

Malcolm Gladwell is a good writer with a flair for shining lights on smudged but well-worked subjects. In the Dec. 15 New Yorker he takes on a question at the rotten root of our education system: How can we know which teachers are “Most Likely to Succeed”?  

In pursuit of this question, Mr. Gladwell makes several important collateral points almost always ignored by educators, policy wonks and lawmakers. For instance, he declares that “[Y]our child is actually better off in a ‘bad’ school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher.” Mr. Gladwell, however, fails to assert the obvious implication: when it comes to the needs of individual students evaluating schools is totally irrelevant. Thus, rating schools as required by Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislation is a waste of time and dollars. Furthermore, it doesn’t take a genius to see that good teachers often teach poor students and poor teachers may sometimes teach good students.  

Mr. Gladwell introduces the word “withitness” to mean the array of skills invariably mastered by good teachers—to be a good teacher you have to be with-it. Creating a new word, one that is actually only a synonym for intuition, enables Mr. Gladwell, a masterful writer, to focus special attention on the ultimate answer to the initial question: Since there is no consensus as to what constitutes being with-it, it is not possible to distinguish good teachers from inferior teachers in advance of their performance on the job. 

After reading the essay I came away with the impression that Malcolm Gladwell most likely has never taught five classes a day, five days a week for an extended period. I admire and enjoy his writing nevertheless, and although I am sure he knows that students learn a great deal without teachers, I feel compelled to remind him of the defining purpose of all teaching: learning, which of course takes place out of sight or sound in the mind. 

I think Mr. Gladwell will agree that teaching is not a pitch-catch, cause-effect, activity (See Note below). Good teachers inspire, direct and guide; they do not push. More importantly, good teachers know that their efforts are futile if their students are not receptive. Great teachers recognizing this accommodate their lessons to foster first a desire to learn. For students who really want to learn, the quality of teaching is unimportant. 

I recommend Mr. Gladwell’s New Yorker essay to anyone interested in our school system; it contains fascinating excursions into the elaborate and costly process of predicting success playing in the National Football League, and into a bare bones process one company uses for selecting personnel in the financial advisor field.  

In the end, however, his conclusion amounts to little more than the cop-out best expressed, inadvertently I presume, by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in a concurring opinion in Jacobello v. Ohio (1964), a case seeking to prohibit hardcore pornography. Telescoping, emphasizing suitably and replacing “pornography” with “good teaching,” it reads, “I shall not… attempt…to define [good teaching]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…” 


Note: Without contradicting myself, I can assert categorically that teaching does cause learning, not necessarily in the student, but unfailingly in the teacher. I got good grades in math but never knew how little I’d learned until I started teaching it. The third time teaching the curriculum for Algebra II I knew enough to improvise… like, you know, jazz it up. 


Marvin Chacher is a San Pablo resident. 


The Public Eye: The City Manager’s Raise: Fact and Fiction

By Zelda Bronstein
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:12:00 PM

On Feb. 2 Mayor Bates told the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce that “falling real estate transfer taxes and property taxes will force the city to cut about $4.5 million from city services in the next two years…’ The next year scares the bejesus out of me.’”  

—The Berkeley Voice, Feb. 6 


As I predicted (“The Public Eye,” Jan. 22), on Jan. 27 the Berkeley City Council approved Mayor Bates’ request to raise City Manager Phil Kamlarz’s monthly salary from $17,903 to $19,335, or from $214,836 to $232,020 a year, plus benefits. Berkeley staffers’ benefits amount to about 50 percent of their salaries. Kamlarz also receives an annual “Longevity Pay Differential” worth 3 percent of his salary, awarded to him by the council last October, acting on his recommendation. 

Contrary to my prediction, the council split its vote, 6-2-1. The two nays were cast by Kriss Worthington and newcomer Jesse Arreguin, the lone abstention by the other new councilmember, Susan Wengraf.  

Wengraf said that though she admired Kamlarz, she wasn’t competent to vote on the raise for two reasons: She had just arrived on the council, and she wasn’t privy to the the council subcommittee evaluation of the city manager’s performance. Those findings had apparently been communicated by word of mouth in a council meeting closed to the public. 

In fact, Wengraf is no stranger to City Hall, having served for 16 years as council aide to Betty Olds, her immediate predecessor in office. If she had objected to having been left in the dark—as well she should have—her abstention would have come across as a principled stand. Instead, it looked like an opportunistic gesture directed toward her fiscally conservative council district in the north Berkeley hills. 

Worthington and Arreguin did take a principled position, arguing that the subcommittee assessment should have been conveyed in writing. Absent a written report, Worthington contended, it would be “totally irresponsible” for the council to raise Kamlarz’s salary.  

Since the city manager works for the council, challenging him shouldn’t take an act of courage. But it does. Though the city charter gives the council ultimate power over the city’s purse, the Bates council majority has effectively abdicated to Kamlarz in budgetary matters. Cross him, especially when his own pay is at stake, and he may very well nix your pet projects.  

So we should be grateful to Worthington and Arreguin for having the wherewithal to demand some accountability. That said, the public is entitled to far more accountability than they demanded. And to the public’s credit, four citizens speaking at public comment asked the council to reject the proposed raise. All four argued that a severe recession is no time to be handing out raises to any city employee.  

Scandalously, the council’s Agenda Committee had placed the proposed pay raise on the body’s consent calendar, where it would have been approved without a word. But when more than three members of the public address an item that’s “on consent,” the matter automatically moves onto the “action” agenda, where it must be openly discussed and voted upon. The testimony of the four citizens forced the mayor and his allies to defend their support for the city manager’s raise in public. The rationales offered by the Bates majority ranged from the merely counterfactual to the blatantly absurd. 

In the counterfactual category, there was the claim, first made by the mayor and reiterated by Councilmember Maio, that if Kamlarz didn’t get this raise, he would retire, because he would get as much in retirement as he did working as city manager. “He’s working as a volunteer,” said Bates. 

No, he’s not. The retirement pay of non-uniformed City of Berkeley employees is calculated by multiplying the employee’s highest annual City salary times 2.7 percent times the number of years the employee has worked for the City. Kamlarz has been with the City for 32 years. Multiply 32 by 2.7 percent, and you get 86.4 percent. That’s the percentage of his salary that Kamlarz would receive if he retired this year, regardless of his salary’s size.  

To get more in retirement than in your salary, you have to work for the City for 37 years. Given Kamlarz’ public campaign to have his compensation spiked over the past year—the raise he got on Jan. 27 appears to have been his third since last June, and he is due for a cost-of-living raise this coming June—don’t be surprised if he’s retired by early 2010.  

Another fanciful argument, also advanced by the mayor, was that Kamlarz deserved this raise because his skillful management had earned Berkeley “the highest bond rating in the United States.” Echoing this theme, Councilmember Capitelli asserted that “we are in better fiscal shape than any other jurisdiction in the Bay Area.” 

To check out these claims, I called Standard & Poor’s headquarters in New York. In December 2007 Standard & Poor’s raised Berkeley’s rating from AA- to AA. Turns out that AA is the third highest bond rating available to cities. AA+ is higher; AAA is the highest. In an e-mail, the Standard & Poor’s representative stated: “[W]e have numerous ‘AAA’ and ‘AA+ cities in California. If you only need one example, San Jose is rated’AAA.’” So are Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. So much for Berkeley’s superlative fiscal status.  

When it came to absurdity, Capitelli was the hands-down winner with his suggestion “that managing our community is probably one of the most challenging jobs in the state, if not in the country.” Really? More challenging than, say, managing Oakland or Los Angeles, Chicago or New Orleans? 

But the most telling remarks were made by the mayor, as he explained why he waited until 2009 to propose Kamlarz’ latest raise. It would have been “controversial” to have brought the proposal forward last year, he said, because the council was then raising other city employees’ salaries “at much lower rates.” Thanks to the expeditious timing, “none of the unions object” to increasing the city manager’s salary in 2009. Surveying the council chamber, Bates observed with satisfaction that no union representatives were present. 

Nobody on the council had the wit, guts or decency to point out that of course the unions didn’t object to raising Kamlarz’ pay. The more he gets, the more their members do—and vice versa. Nor did any of the electeds note that since City staff work for the C.M. and not for the council, it would be a brave City employee indeed who openly challenged his boss’s request for a raise.  

As for the citizens’ objections to raising City pay during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the closest anyone on the dais came to a reply was the mayor. “The timing is never right to raise somebody’s salary,” said Bates.  

On the contrary, the record shows that in Berkeley City Hall, the timing is never wrong. 


Dispatches From The Edge—Purple Hearts: A Cold-Blooded Decision

By Conn Hallinan
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:13:00 PM

Behind the recent decision by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to deny Purple Heart medals to soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a cold-blooded calculation: it saves money. 

The official rationale for refusing to honor what is widely considered the “signature wound” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that PTSD, according to Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen Lainez, is “an anxiety disorder caused by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event,” not “a wound intentionally caused by the enemy.” 

But a recent study by the Rand Corporation found that up to 320,000 vets returning from the two conflicts suffer from Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI), a condition whose symptoms are almost indistinguishable from PTSD. Virtually all MTBI injuries are the result of roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IED). 

Because the two wars have seriously stretched the U.S. military, it is not uncommon for soldiers to do multiple tours. Out of the 1.6 million troops who have served in both theaters, 525,000 have done more than two combat tours, 70,000 have served three, and 20,000 have done five or more. During their deployments they are constantly exposed to IEDs. 

“The multiple nature of it is unprecedented,” says Maj. Connie Johnmyer of the 332ed Medical group, a unit that deals with psychological problems. “People just get blasted, and blasted, and blasted.” 

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, 31 percent of Veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq to Walter Reed Hospital have MTBI. 

MTBI is a slippery beast, one that Dr. Michael Weiner, Director of the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Disease at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, calls “murky.” Its symptoms range from depression and uncontrolled rages to digestive problems, emotional disengagement, blinding headaches, memory loss, and sexual dysfunction, and is associated with higher suicide rates. 

It also has long-term effects. A Geisinger Health System study found that Vietnam vets suffering from PTSD were twice as likely to die from heart disease as vets without PTSD. 

“It is a complicated injury to the most complicated part of the body,” says Dr, Alisa Glean, chief of Neuroradiology at San Francisco General Hospital, and author of the standard text for imaging MTBI, and who works with wounded soldiers at the Army’s Regional Medical Center at Landstuhl, Germany. 

It doesn’t show up on CAT scans, and its symptoms may not manifest themselves for several months, or even years. There is not even full agreement on exactly what causes it. Some researchers think it is just a concussion on steroids, but others point to injured tissue deep in the brain, which can’t be explained by a simple concussion hypothesis.  

Whatever its origins, the consequences for sufferers can be catastrophic. 

One of the major effects of MTBI is what Dr. Judith Landau, a psychiatrist and president of Linking Human Systems in Boulder, Colorado, who works with veterans’ families, calls “identity ambiguity: people who were decisive become indecisive. People who were charming become withdrawn.” She says she sees soldiers who “left as a good son, a good father, and a good husband” suddenly “start hitting their children, can’t have sex, start drinking too much, talking too loud.” 

Like a stone thrown into a pond, this behavior ripples out to family, friends and co-workers. “There is a 70 percent chance that relationships will break down” after a person suffers from MTBI, says Landau.  

It is possible to recover from MTBI, but the process may be long—sometimes from five to 10 years, according to Landau—and expensive. Estimates are that the costs will reach at least $14 billion over the next 20 years. 

Which is where the Purple Heart comes in. 

Purple Heart awardees are entitled to enhanced benefits, including exemptions from co-payments for hospital and out patient care, and they are fast tracked for getting appointments for medical care and psychological services. 

Soldiers returning home find there are few psychological services and virtually no individual therapy. It is not uncommon to wait several months to see a therapist, and then only once a month. And MTBI sufferers may see as many as seven different therapists. 

The military has made little effort to deal with MTBI and PTSD. Soldiers suffering from PTSD outnumber amputees at Walter Reed Hospital 43 to 1, but there is no PTSD center. Sufferers are generally sent to the hospital’s psych division, where they are housed with bipolar and schizophrenic patients and tanked up with drugs. A study by Veterans For America (VFA) found that some soldiers were taking up to 20 different medications at once, some of which canceled out others. 

The military has lost 22 percent of its psychologists over the past several years, mostly to burn out. Soldiers have difficulty finding private therapists because the Veteran’s Administration (VA) pays below market rates and has even cut those reimbursements in 2007. Upwards of 30 percent of private psychologists won’t take on military patients because they can’t afford to. 

The situation is worse for the National Guard and Reserves, who make up almost 50 percent of the troops deployed in both wars, and who, according to VFA, “are experiencing rates of mental health problems 44 percent higher than their active duty counterparts.” Health care for such troops is generally inferior—and more expensive—than that offered full-time regulars. 

Many soldiers are also reluctant to report their symptoms because they are afraid if they do so it will keep them from getting a promotion or landing a job once they leave the military. Only 53 percent of those diagnosed with MTBI sought help and, according to the Rand Study, “roughly one-half got minimally adequate care.”  

Worse, solders who report they are having behavioral difficulties may find themselves discharged from the service, with the consequent loss of medical care. They may even be billed for their recruitment bonus. 

PTSD and MTBI are both caused by being deployed into combat zones. Large numbers of these soldiers are exposed to IEDs—the number one cause of death and injury in both wars—but many do not suffer visible injuries. To make “shedding blood” the only criterion for being awarded a Purple Heart (and the benefits that go with it) is to deny the nature of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

In contrast, the Canadian Military awards a “Sacrifice Medal” that includes “mental disorders that are, based on a review by a qualified mental health care practitioner, directly attributable to a hostile or perceived hostile action.” 

A recent editorial in the Globe and Mail charged that the Pentagon’s decision applies “19th century medical standards to what constitutes injury,” and that the ruling “will further stigmatize mental illness and fails a group of veterans whose sacrifices can be every bit as great as those with physical injuries.”  

In his recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, the new Veterans’ Administration Director, Gen. Eric Shinseki (ret) said he promised to care for wounded veterans, “bearing scars of battle, some visible and many others invisible” and to “treat our veterans with dignity and respect.” 

They are fine words, but so far the military has stubbornly resisted treating these so-called “unseen damage” injuries that Iraq and Afghanistan is inflicting on U.S. soldiers. “Many soldiers and veterans are waiting months, often years, for mental healthcare and disability benefits,” says Veterans for Common Sense Director Paul Sullivan.  

Fewer than half of those Iraq and Afghanistan vets diagnosed with PTSD or MTBI have received disability benefits. One Veterans Affairs psychologist in Texas even urged VA staff to “refrain from giving a PTSD diagnosis” and consider instead “a diagnosis of maladjustment disorder.” PTSD sufferers receive up to $2527 a month, maladjustment disorders significantly less.  

Terri Tanielian, the co-leader of the Rand Corporation study, says, “There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation. Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.” 

The major barrier is pentagon shaped, and the bottom line is that, given a choice between buying fancy weapons systems and taking care of soldiers damaged by war, the military will always choose the former over the latter.

The Public Eye: Obama’s Foreign Policy

The Public Eye
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:14:00 PM

During his first 100 days in office, the deteriorating economy will occupy most of President Obama’s attention. Nonetheless, he will have to attend to a host of international problems. By May 1, his foreign policy should be apparent. 

The most pressing issue is Iraq. As Obama favors assigning heavyweight representatives to each major international hotspot, his main Iraq representative is likely to be Vice President Joe Biden. While Obama remains committed to a U.S. troop withdrawal within 16 months, his near-term focus will be on strengthening the Iraqi government. Look for Biden to work directly with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to resolve thorny issues like equitable distribution of oil revenues and governance of Kirkuk. The thrust of Obama’s policy is likely to favor partitioning Iraq into three semi-independent states, one for the Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis. 

Next, Obama will focus on Afghanistan-Pakistan, specifically the area lying between Kabul and Peshawar, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have reconstituted their forces. Obama’s representative to the region is the seasoned Richard Holbrooke. He’ll negotiate directly with the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan, encouraging them to pursue terrorists with more vigor. It’s a daunting task, as the sphere of influence of Afghani President Karzai is restricted to Kabul; warlords run most of the country, their power fueled by the lucrative opium trade.  

Meanwhile, the Taliban is resurgent in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan and the central government of Prime Minister Gillani seems powerless to do anything about the situation. As our troops leave Iraq, many will be redeployed o Afghanistan. Look for the US military to be more aggressive carrying the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. 

Peace in Central Asia won’t be possible without a new relationship with Iran. Obama’s representative is likely to be Middle East expert Dennis Ross. Look for Obama to push for high-level negotiations with whoever the new Iranian President will be—their elections will be held on June 12. A recent article in The New York Review of Books proposed a sensible basis for a multilateral diplomatic initiative that includes Iran’s nuclear ambitions, connections with Iraq and Afghanistan, and relationship with Hamas and Israel. 

All these problems contribute to the continuing Israel-Palestine conflict. President Obama’s representative in the Middle East is the experienced George Mitchell. He’s already on the ground conferring with Israelis and Palestinians, as well as leaders in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. On his first day in office, Obama struck a different tone by asking Israel to open up the border between Gaza and Egypt. He needs to follow up by forcing concessions from both the Israelis and Palestinians. 

From Syria to Pakistan, Obama will attempt to cut off support for terrorism. Notably, his first full-length interview was with an Arab television network, Al-Arabiya. Our new President avoided the phrases “war on terror” or “Islamic fascism.” Instead of utilizing pat Bush-era terms, Obama referred to Al Qaeda and the Taliban as extremists, “that will use faith as a justification for violence;” making a distinction between them and Muslims in general. This signals not only a change in tone but also recognition that, because Al Qaeda and the Taliban represent a tiny minority of the Arab world, a carefully constructed diplomatic initiative can align U.S. interests with those of the Middle East and Central Asia. 

Obama plans an early visit to Canada, but his first overseas junket is likely to include Iraq and Afghanistan. Look for our new President to attend a highly visible meeting with Arab leaders to bolster the image of the United States and promote Obama-style diplomacy in the region. 

While US attention was focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, our relationship with Russia deteriorated. This is reflected in the Russian invasion of Georgia and the Bush Administration decision to deploy the anti-missile defense system in Poland. Look for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lead Obama’s initiative to smooth out relations with the former USSR. If the US expects Russia to help resolve issues with Iran, security issues such as the deployment of missiles along the Russian border will have to receive high-priority attention. 

Of course, Obama cannot afford to neglect China and Secretary Clinton’s first overseas junket is likely to include a stop in Beijing to discuss a range of thorny issues including global climate change, valuation of the Yuan, Tibet, and relations with Iran. 

Obama’s foreign policy team also includes Susan Rice, his Ambassador to the United Nations—a position Obama has elevated to cabinet-level status. Dr. Rice was an important foreign policy advisor to the Obama campaign and a former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Look for her to strengthen our reputation at the UN and propose administration policy for Africa. 

Obama has assembled an impressive foreign policy team, which is reassuring given the scope of challenges he’s facing. While the economy will be his primary challenge, all of these international issues will need his attention. We’re fortunate America elected a president who can multi-task.

Undercurrents: Oakland Will Be Judged By Response To Youth’s Cries

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:14:00 PM

In the summer of 1966, I was part of that crowd of angry young African-Americans that exploded into rioting starting on the corner of 82nd and East 14th Street (now International Boulevard) in East Oakland. 

I don’t remember, now, the precipitating event. There was certainly no Oscar Grant. It may have been spillover from a Castlemont High School outing at San Francisco’s Playland At The Beach, which was still open, or from the civil unrest earlier across the bay at Hunters Point and in the Fillmore. In any event, it did not take much to touch off a riot in Oakland in the summer of 1966, or in any other major city in the nation, for that matter. We had reached the point where the tensions could not be capped and the demands could not be put off, and boiled over at the slightest jostle. What I do remember about 1966 was the feeling that comes in the lull just before lightning strikes—the whole world expanding around you and within you and nothing strong enough to contain it—as we faced off against a line of Oakland police officers set across East 14th, I remember a young black man walking out into the street, taking his shirt off and throwing it onto the sidewalk, and then walking back and forth as he threw challenges at the officers several yards away. I do not remember what he said, only his anger that all of us shared. And then it blew, and broke, and we scattered in all directions, carrying our anger like loaded weapons with us. 

The strangest thing happened to me that night. I was with a small crowd running up one of the darkened streets in the 80s between East 14th and Bancroft—the killing fields now at the heart of Oakland’s drug zone, but then a quiet residential black neighborhood—when a car pulled up beside me, and the driver rolled his window down. It was my mother and father, and whether they had driven out to look for me, or just wanted to see for themselves what was happening in their community, I’ll never know. I thought my father would order me into the car, but he did not. Instead he talked with me for a moment, asked what was happening, and then told me “be careful” before driving off. 

I know, now, what my father must have thought and felt that night. To watch a mob out of control in the streets of your city is a frightening thing, even if you share its anger and agree with some of its goals. A mob, by very definition, has no overall leadership, but forms and reforms its leaders and directions as it goes. And from within the mob itself there is no control, only fleeting influence, and it turns and targets at will, fueled almost entirely by emotion, rarely directed by reason or thought. 

In 1966, the paint factory still sat on the corner of 86th, between our house and Highland Elementary, across the street from Allen Temple Church. The factory had vast vats of thinner stored in its basement, along with barrels of finished paint. On the night of the rioting, a group of young men stood outside the factory and tried to figure out a way to set it on fire. Had they done so, it would have been spectacular, a fireball explosion that would have taken out not only the factory but several blocks surrounding, our house included. I am sure, in the frenzy of the moment, such consequences never crossed their minds. But that is the nature of a riot, and of the mob that mans it. 

In the Oscar Grant riots of Jan. 7, I saw a faint echo of that type of thinking—or lack of thinking—in the crowds that trashed the cars along 14th Street from Franklin to Oak, burning the car belonging to reporter/editor Ken Epstein, who was upstairs at the Oakland Post offices at the time, working on a story attacking police brutality. At a town hall meeting at West Oakland’s Black Dot Café some weeks later, I heard a young woman defend the vandalism that night by declaring, “Fuck their property!” I can understand and appreciate and agree with the sentiment, decrying those who put the value of property over the value of a human life, the life of Oscar Grant. But I will always wonder who the “they” the young woman was referring to. Did she think that it is members of the “establishment” who park their cars at 14th and Madison on a Wednesday night? Worse yet was the thought process of those who smashed the windows at the 14th Street McDonalds with patrons still inside. I will never forget the look of fright and panic on the faces of those patrons as I came up moments after the crowd of rioters had passed on, locked in the restaurant and unable to come out, and probably unwilling to do so if they could. Fuck their property. But what about these people, who had no part in the death of Oscar Grant. Do we release “our” pain and fear by transferring it over to them? 

It is one thing to empathize with the anger that rose up in the spontaneous violence of the night of Jan. 7, saying that this is a case of Oakland’s chickens coming home to roost, and the result of what happens when we long ignore the complaints about the treatment of our African-American and Latino youth. You can do that while condemning the violence, whether it be by or against the youth themselves. It is quite another thing to embrace rioting as a tactic, as some organizations are now doing, elevating it to the status of “rebellion” and “the will of the people” and giving it political status and protection. Rebellion chooses its targets, right or wrong, in advance. A riot chooses its targets indiscriminantly, on the whim of the moment, trashing an African hair braiding salon, for example, with political apologists arriving ex post facto to craft some revolutionary justification for what was just done. There is nothing that resembles leadership in such actions, only pandering to mob rule. 

There was another comment of note at the Black Dot Café town hall meeting, either from the same young woman, or from another. Anyway, the young woman criticized those who would criticize the rioting. “On the first night of the riots,” she said, “I was watching CNN and we were the second story, just behind Barack Obama. We got national attention. But then people said that we shouldn’t be rioting, that we were hurting the cause, so we cooled down for the second march. And I watched CNN that night, and there wasn’t nothing about Oakland. Nothing. All their walking up and down 14th Street, they couldn’t get any attention. But when you break shit, you get attention.” (The town hall meeting, by the way, was co-sponsored by Black Dot and the Prisoners of Conscience Committee (POCC) and was called in the aftermath of the Oscar Grant riots. It was an important forum allowing normally voiceless people a chance to stand up and be heard; we need more of that. I say that despite the fact that I disagreed with a number of the things that were said by speakers that night. Perhaps I say that because I disagreed with a number of things that were said that night. It is only in such dialogue that we can come to an understanding of our differences and what divides us, and make the first steps towards resolving what differences are possible to resolve.) 

But back to the young woman’s point. 

There is little can be argued with her contention that rioting will get you noticed. The problem is, once you have gained the nation’s attention—which Oakland did—what comes next? How do you take advantage of the attention to press forward your demands and your programmatic changes? That takes a different set of skills, and almost always a different set of people in the meetings and at the negotiating tables than the ones who have been out on the streets tossing bottles and bricks and scuffling with the police. 

There has been a general contention by the most radical of the Oscar Grant movement supporters that had it not been for the two nights of violence in downtown Oakland, former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle would not have been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Oscar Grant. 

It’s an arguable point. One can argue that because of several aspects of Oscar Grant’s death—the horrific, brutal nature of the shooting itself, the widespread viewing of the cellphone videos, and the character of Mr. Grant himself, a well-known young man who is difficult to demonize—the various engines of this community were moving in the Mehserle arrest direction already. The rioting of Jan. 7—demonstrating such widespread community anger as it did—either speeded up that movement towards Mehserle’s imprisonment, or, in the alternative, caused it altogether. That is the crux of the violence/nonviolence causal debate being waged amongst and between the various organizations in the Oscar Grant struggle right now, but that is not the point. The community—both the political community and the general community—was outraged. The riots broke. Mr. Mehserle was jailed and charged. Historians will have to sort out which was the determinant factor. The question now, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. framed it some 50 years ago, is where do we go from here, chaos or community? 

Oakland’s resurrection from the destruction of Loma Prieta in 1989 has bypassed large sections of the city, particularly the city’s African-American and Latino youth and the outskirts communities they live in. While Oakland in late Elihu Harris years and throughout the Jerry Brown years poured millions of dollars to try to resurrect its ghostly downtown—culminating in this week’s ritzy and expensive revival of uptown’s Fox Oakland Theater—large sections of the rest of the city has suffered neglect of attention. Young African-Americans and Latinos were either indiscriminantly targeted by police for harassment large and small-in the excesses brought out in the Allen v. Oakland “Riders” settlement, for example, or the targeted “Operation Impact” and “sideshow zone” sweeps-or else their complaints and concerns as the most direct victims of the city’s long-term violence were downplayed, overlooked, or outright ignored. A lot of us have been making that point over the past years, but clearly not nearly loudly, nor effectively, enough. Those policies of either marginalizing or outright demonizing of the city’s dark-skinned youth lie buried under Oakland like so many kegs of explosive, primed to blow.  

How we respond will determine the character of Oakland and, almost certainly, the quality its future and its citizens, all and every one of them. 

Wild Neighbors: First Encounters with Charles Darwin

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:52:00 PM

I don’t remember where I read this story, but here’s how I recall it: Charles Darwin, during his years at Down House, becomes obsessed with the behavior of ants. He hasn’t figured out how natural selection works among the social insects, and it bothers him. So he spends a couple of days observing the traffic at an anthill. He in turn is observed by two women from the village, one of whom says: “That poor Mr. Darwin. He really needs a hobby.” 

Today, of course, is the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth, and he’s been all over the media, often in tandem with Abraham Lincoln. 2009 also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his magnum opus, On the Origin of Species. With all the biographies out there, all the magazine articles and web sites, all the lectures and special exhibits, what more is there to say about the man and his ideas? 

Fifty years ago, the old Life magazine ran a Darwin series inspired by the centenary of the Origin. I was about twelve, living in Thomasville, Georgia, which, if not the actual Buckle of the Bible Belt, was close enough. My parents were good Christian creationists. So, as far as I knew, were my teachers, and all of responsible adulthood. I didn’t know Darwin from Wilberforce, and I don’t think I had ever heard of natural selection. 

Then came the Life series. The first installment was innocuous enough: the Beagle voyage, appealing in a boys’-adventure-story kind of way; photos of Darwin’s cluttered study; re-enactments of his experiments with orchids and sundews. The e-word must have been in the text somewhere, but it snuck right past me. 

But the second segment was about the Galapagos Islands. I was going through a reptile phase at the time, and the giant land tortoises and marine iguanas were much cooler than our local box turtles and anole lizards. Then I got into the details. Each island with its own race of tortoise, with a distinctively shaped shell. Each island with its own variety of mockingbird. And the finches! All those variations in bill shape and function, derived from a generalized common ancestor! (I realize that Darwin himself didn’t figure out the finches until much later, but they remain a classic case of adaptive speciation.) 

And it all made sense. (Some years later, the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky would write: “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”) It made sense of things that I hadn’t realized needed to make sense. It was scary and liberating at the same time. 

Further installments set the hook deeper. Darwin goes to Patagonia, excavates the bones of the giant ground sloth, and we get genealogical charts for all those odd lumpy South American mammals, not to mention the eight-foot-tall predatory birds. Heady stuff. 

It was a few more years before I got the classroom version. Even in the Deep South, things had loosened up a bit after Sputnik. My high school biology teacher, Miss Griffin, spent an hour on evolution, although she seemed nervous about it. What I recall is a bare-bones account of natural selection that stopped well short of human origins, the origin of life, or the other topics that school boards still get exercised about. Nothing I found startling or shocking; I was already there. 

Still later I finally read the Origin. What a book; what a piece of argument! I’ve reread it a couple of times since, and remain impressed with the way Darwin builds his case like a stonemason, each fact supporting a half-dozen others.  

Darwin the man has always engaged me in a way that Newton or Einstein never did. It could be the accessibility of his ideas, the breadth of his curiosity, his ability to communicate with working-class pigeon fanciers and the finest scientific minds of Europe and America. How can you not like a guy who has his family perform for earthworms—his wife at the piano, a son on the bassoon—to test their (the worms’) sense of hearing? 

And he found a way of demystifying the natural world without diminishing its wonder. From the Origin: “When we no longer look at an organic being as a savage looks at a ship, as at something wholly beyond his comprehension; when we regard every production of nature as one which has had a history; when we contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, nearly in the same way as when we look at any great mechanical invention as the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason, and even the blunders of numerous workmen; when we thus view each organic being, how far more interesting, I speak from experience, will the study of natural history become!” 

Amen to that. And thanks. 



About the House: Underwater Real Estate and Other Acts Of Faith

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:53:00 PM

Real Estate Owned properties (REOs), which are essentially bank owned properties, are all the rage right now and rage may be the operative word once you’ve taken possession. So take your time, pry open those cavalier jaws and say “Ahhhhh.” 

There are a lot of repossessions or REOs (what happens to a foreclosure when it doesn’t sell at auction) on the market these days and I think we can all expect a lot more of them on the market as the financial crisis worsens and roosts with the lower classes (which may include thee and me) that are losing their jobs all around us.  

While the fledgling Obama administration valiantly attempts to slay the dragon of unemployment (were there actually 600,000 jobs lost in January?) or pray for rain of the mortgage lenders in the U.S., it is clear that in the best of circumstances, there will be hundreds of thousands of homes that are given up to foreclosure or sold off for less than their mortgages (tragically referred to as being under water. I think I’ll name my foreclosure company, Poseidon Real Estate). 

These homes have two features that buyers should be aware of as they sniff around this sort of investment. First is that they tend to be in bad shape. I’ll say a lot more about that. The second is that they tend to come with little to no disclosure of former known problems. Let’s start with this issue. 

Let’s say that the furnace has failed just days before foreclosure and there is a report issued by an HVAC (that’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractor explaining what needs to be done and the cost. This piece of information would not have to be provided to the person the bank is selling to (let’s say … you). The same can apply to engineers’ reports, roofing reports and a range of other data that might display important and financially salient information. There is no requirement for banks to provide any of this information to you once it is in their ownership. 

This might be a good time to write to your Governator (or your state senator. Local Berkeleyites can contact our dear Loni Hancock) and ask that the disclosure laws be extended to subsume the banks so that they are held culpable (just as you would be) for failing to disclose known defects or other issues that can have a material impact on subsequent ownership. These can include known disputes with neighbors regarding fences, failed attempts at obtaining permits for expansion or the presence of fuel tanks on the property. The range of what disclosures can tell us is very wide and their requirement is, a fundamental consumer protection that took years to secure. There is no reason that paperwork should be thrown out just because the bank took possession. Don’t ask don’t tell isn’t a good policy in the military or at the bank. 

Now for that other issue; overall condition. It’s been quite a year looking at REOs, short-sales (those deep sea diving expeditions I mentioned earlier) and foreclosures. The one thing that these properties nearly all have in common is that they are in bad shape. 

Many had leaked internally and had damaged flooring, drywall, mildew and mold. Many needed paint. Many had kitchens and baths that belonged in the ICU and most had a lot of bad workmanship that was going to need to be redone. That last one is what I’d like to focus on for a while. 

When people run out of money or have to get by on very little, they tend to hire inadequately skilled persons to make repairs for them (and sometimes the inadequately skilled person is the owner themselves). Nobody can blame folks for negotiating their hardship in this manner. It’s life. But the end result is pretty sad and when you’re looking at buying a house that has been owned or inhabited by residents forced to make, perhaps, years of these sorts of decisions, you may be looking at a LOT of bad work that will have to be redone.  

I spend an hour or so with my friend Chuck a couple of weeks ago at a house that he and he new wife were looking to adopt. Chuck is a pretty smart fellow and knows more than a little about wiring, plumbing and the rest of that stuff but, between the sticker-lust (many of these properties have been hitting the market at very low prices of late), the speed of the process and the fact that many important features take some time to expose, he had not seen a lot of important elements that ultimately changed his demeanor from excitement to malaise in this short session. 

Now, let’s be clear. These houses can be great deals if you do the math and understand what is and what is not expensive, important, dangerous, etc. However, it is important to do the math. To open Old Paint’s jaws and take a good look at her teeth. It may take hours of looking closely, making financial estimates and planning a year or two of upgrades to decide that the bargain is, in fact, a bargain. Many will be and many will not. 

Lastly, let’s just look at you and the process. Are you a project person? Is this a house you will need to move into right away? That can be a very important question if this is a house that needs major work. It may be that the house will need several months of major rehab and that inhabitation won’t be much fun for any but the person who’s been living in their car. 

If you haven’t done major remodeling, you may not be accustomed to working with contractors. This is whole discussion unto itself but consider it sufficient to say that the cost of making improvements is not equivalent to the difference in value between two houses. A house that is already in good stead and suited to your needs is always a better deal than the one that is not, even if the cost is lower by the amount of the projected repairs. This is because you have to endure the work and because there is a failure factor to work into the equation. All remodeling work does not go well. Some lead to disputes and some come out poorly. Costs nearly always exceed expectations and so do time estimates. 

This is not to say that remodeling and repair cannot be a great experience but as many can attest, it’s complex and sometimes disappointing. So, remember to factor that in. 

REOs are going to make money for some people in the coming years. Some will also get a chance to own homes through this sweet and sour process (let’s not forget those who will be, or have been, tossed out and not so few by having been offered mortgages that they, predictably, could not service).  

My wish for you is that you will take a very close look at the house (perhaps, ahem, with some professional help), at all the financial aspects and feel that you are prepared to walk up to that gift-horse, smile and invite her to say “Ah.”  

Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:56:00 PM



Kirk Waller tells “Tales to Take You Far and Away!” for ages 3 and up at 3:30 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, North Branch. 981-6100. 

“Take a Ride on the Underground Railroad with Harriet Tubman” with storyteller Jamie Myrick at 6 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, Main Children’s Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. 620-6557. 


“Tribute to Cody’s Books” A group show of paintings of the original Cody’s store on Telegraph Ave. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at the Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. 848-1228. 

“Where the Tongue Meets the Eye” mixed media works by Carla Woshawnee Heins. Artist’s reception at 7 p.m. at Far Leaves, 2979 College Ave. 625-0152. 

Works by Berkeley High Students opens with a reception at 6 p.m. at Pueblo Nuevo Art Space, 1828 San Pablo Ave., #1, and runs for two weeks. 452-7363. 


Story Hour in the Library with Judith Freeman at 5 p.m. at 190 Doe Library, UC campus. storyhour@berkeley.edu 

Korina Jocson author of “Youth Poets: Empowering Literacies In and Out of Schools” at 7 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 

Mark Greenside reads from ”I’ll never be French (no matter what I do)” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Mike Skinner & the Final Touch Band at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Elaine Lucia CD Release Event at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Fog Horn Duo, Bill Evans and Megan Lynch, Eric and Suzy Thompson at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Dynamic with Kimiko Joy and Rico Pabon at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Courtney Nicole Creation at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Exit the King” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman, through Feb. 21. Tickets are $12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Aurora Theatre “Betrayed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m., at 2081 Addison St. to March 8. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” at 2015 Addison St., through March 15. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Black Repertory Group “Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” at 3201 Adeline St., through Feb. 22. Tickets are $15-$44. 652-2120 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Nine (The Musical)” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through March 28. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Impact Theatre “A Midsummers Night’s Dream” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 14. Tickets are $10-$17. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Absent Friends” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Feb. 28. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 


“The Art of Living Black” 13th annual group exhibition. Reception at 3 p.m. at Richmond Art Center, 2540 Barrett Ave. at 25th St., Richmond. 620-6772. 

“Generations” Oil and chalk pastels by Hilda Robinson and Minnie Grimes, part of “The Art of Living Black.” Reception at 7 p.m. at Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Runs to March 12. www.wcrc.org 

“Who’s Your Baby” Group show of sculptural dolls and puppets opens at ACCI Gallery, 1625 Shattuck Ave. 843-2527. 

“Formations” Works by Victoria Wagner and Erik Parra. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. Exhibition runs to March 9. 547-6608. www.blankspacegallery.com 


Movie Classics “The Philadelphia Story” at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, Oakland. Tickets are $5. 800-745-3000. 


Andrena Zawinski and Jeanne Wagner read their poetry at 7 p.m. at Nefeli Caffe, 1854 Euclid Ave. 841-6374. 

William Kleinknecht will discuss “The Man Who Stole the World: Ronald Reagan and the Betrayal of Main Street America” at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196.  


Artists’ Vocal Ensemble “The Song of Songs: Music as the Food of Love” at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $10-$20. 848-5107. www.ave-music.org 

Black History Month Concert Series at 7 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Boulevard. 544-8924. 

Operadance Co. “Medea” a quintet for voice and dance, and other works at 7:30 p.m. at at Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., Kensington. Tickets are $15. 526-9146. 

Valentine’s Eve Concert with Betsy Rose and Jennifer Berezan at 7:15 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, Large Assembly Room, 2345 Channing at Dana. Suggested donation $15-20. www.betsyrosemusic.org 

Tito y su son de Cuba at 9 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Bill Bell Trio at 8 p.m. at Utunes Coffeehouse First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$18. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/50941 

Cathi Walkup & Her Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Frankie Manning with Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Tracy Grammer at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Cliff Wagner and the Old Number 7, The Earl Brothers, Ida Viper at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Arise, Thousandswilldie, Destroy the Colassus at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 

2ME at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Pshychokinetics at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low. Cost is $10. 548-1159.  

CV Dub at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Ethan Byxbye & Ryan Feldthouse at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

Pete Escovedo & Family at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square, through Sun. Cost is $26-$30. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Orange Sherbert at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Berkeley Playhouse Youth Company “Willy Wonka, Junior” Sat. at 4 and 8 p.m., and Sun. at 1 and 5 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$15. www.berkeleyplayhouse.org 

Ravioli, clown, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. 


“The Adventures of Prince Achmed” for all ages at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


“Poets, Laureates & Music for Valentine’s Day” with Diane di Prima, Michael McClure, Carol Muske-Dukes, Kay Ryan and Al Young at 8 p.m. at King Middle School Auditorium, 1781 Rose St. at Grant. Tickets are $15-$20. www.kpfa.org 

“14th Annual Love Fest” Aya de Leon’s alternative Valentine’s celebration with spoken word and poetry at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Works in Progress Open mic for women’s poetry and music at 7:30 p.m. at the Home of Truth, 1300 Grand St., Alameda. Cost is $7-$10. Pot-luck at 6:30 p.m.  


Nils Bultmann Valentine’s Day Concert works by Bach for viola at 11 a.m. at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Palache Hall, 2837 Claremont Blvd. Tickets are $7-$10 at the door. www.nilsbultmann.com 

“The Collaboration of the Year” The Oakland Community Chrus and the Friends of Negro Spirituals at 4 p.m. at the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. Free, but RSVP required. 637-0200. 

Anna de Leon & Trio, live recording, at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ.  

Valentine’s Hip Hop Love Fest with Triple Ave, V.E.R.A. Clique and others at 7 p.m. at BFUU Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar St. Cost is $15, no one turned away. 

“Feel the Beat” Tim Mooney Band plus flamenco, tango and belly dance at 7 p.m. at 4th Street Studio, 1717D Fourth St. www.fourthstreetstudio.com 

The Mighty Diamonds, Yellow Wall Dub Squad at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Stompy Jones, Romano Marchetti Orchestra in a Valentine’s Dance at 8 p.m. aboard the USS Hornet, 707 W. Hornet Ave., Pier 3, Alameda. Tickets are $40-$75. 521-8448. 

Leftover Dreams at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, Rockridge, Oakland. Not wheelchair accessible. Cost is $15-$20. Reservations required. info@WisteriaWays.org 

John Reischman & the Jaybirds at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Roger Rocha and the Goldenhearts at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

Greg Pratt and Lawanda Ultan, folk, at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

The California Transit Authority at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $15. 841-2082.  

Fog of War, Zombie Holocaust, Exmortus at 8 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 



The Alphabet Rockers at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054.  


“L.A. Paint” Tour of the exhibition at 2 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 


The Poetry Workshop readings from the Berkeley Adult School program at 2 p.m. at JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut at Rose. 848-0237. 

Brenda Usher-Carpino in a staged reading of “Blood Types” at 4 p.m. at OPC’s Ed Kelly Hall, 1615 Franklin St., Oakland. Tickets are $10. 836-4649. 


“O Sweet Delight” 17th Century English songs and lute solos with Christine Brandes, soprano and David Tayler, lute at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/51032  

Annual Gospel Music with Bobby Hall & Friends at 5 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., corner W. Richmond Ave., Point Richmond. Suggested donation $10. 232-1102. www.pointrichmond.com/methodist 

John Santos, Sandy Perez and others in rememberance of Enrique Carreras at 7 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $15, $7 for ages 12 and under. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Keith Terry’s Hoterryengelcress at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Noche de Amor, flamenco, at 7:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

The Junius Courtney Big Band at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



Aurora Theatre Company “Right?” by Dan Hoyle at 7:30 p.m. at 2081 Addison St. PAr t of the Global Age Project new works initiative. Free. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 


PlayGround, short works from new and emerging playwrights at 8 p.m., pre-show discussion at 7 p.m., at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $15. 415-704-3177. www.PlayGround-sf.org 

Joan Gelfand and Geri Digiorno read at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 


Femi at 8 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $16. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Quack, Gabble, Squawk and Other Animal Tales” with storyteller Kirk Waller, celebration of African American History Month at 6:30 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. For ages 3 and up. 524-3043. 


“Wild Things” Paintings by Rita Sklar. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at Rick and Ann’s Cafe, 2922 Domingo Ave. Exhibition runs to March 29. 531-1404. 


Stephen Paul Miller reads his poetry at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Stephen Hinshaw describes “The Triple Bind: The Hidden Crisis Facing Today’s Teenaged Girls” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. berkeleyarts.org 


Chamber Bridge “Crossing Cultural Bridges” voice and piano at 8 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $20. 525-5211. www. 


Swamp Coolers at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $9. 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 

B’Kol Isha (In A Woman’s Voice) Music and poetry by Rabbi Diane Elliot and Uriela Mitchell at 7:30 p.m. at the JCC of the East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Cost is $10-$20. 528-6725. 

Marco Benevento with Jeff Parker, Devin Hoff and Scott Amendola at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $10-$16. 238-9200.  



Film 50: History of Cinema “Shadow of a Doubt” at 3 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  


Nancy Perry describes “Adults on the Autism Spectrum Leave the Nest: Achieving Supported Independence” at 7 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 

Jonah Lehrer, author of “How We Decide” at 7:30 p.m. at International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 849-2087. 

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


Wednesday Noon Concert, with Kelsey Seymour, flute and Miles Graber, piano, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Rick Recht in concert at 4 p.m. at Cong. Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Tickets are $10, $6 for children 12 and under. 549-9447. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Bill Evans & Megan Lynch, bluegrass, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Michael Coleman Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sol’Jibe, world rock at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $7-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Monpuno Swing at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

Dan Zemelman at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



“Portraits of Buddhist Bhutan” An exhibit of photographer Mark Tuschman’s images of Bhutan opens at IEAS gallery, 2223 Fulton St., 6th floor. 643-5104. http://buddhiststudies.berkeley.edu 


Pulp Writers on Film “Miami Blues” at 6:30 p.m. and “Black Angel” at 8:45 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808.  







June Jordan’s Poetry for the People with Tyehimba Jess and Aya de Leon at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

“Sweet Dreams” Artist talk by Ben Hazard on his exhibition of works spanning four decades at 7 p.m. at Craft & Cultural Arts Gallery, State of California Office Building - Atrium, 1515 Clay St., Oakland. Performance at 5 p.m. 622-8190. www.oaklandculturalarts.org 

David Thomson reads from “Try To Tell the Story: A Memoir” at 7:30 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club. Tickets are $10 at the door. berkeleyarts.org 

Laura Shumaker on “A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Holloway Poetry Series with Rob Fitterman at 7 p.m. in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC campus. http://holloway.english.berkeley.edu 

Don Paul reads from his new book “The World is Turning” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Blair Kilpatrick discusses “Accordion Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music” at 6:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585. www.universitypressbooks.com 


Opera in the Library Highlights from “Tales of Hoffman” with members of Berkeley Opera at 12:15 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

Pablo Moses, Jah Glory Band at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Julian Smedley & Mike Wollenberg at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Absynth Quintet, The Cyndi Harvell Band, The John Howland Trio at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Adrian Gormley’s Jazz Ensemble at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Richard Bona at 8 and 10 p.m., through Sun. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $12-$22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Actors Ensemble of Berkeley “Exit the King” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman, through Feb. 21. Tickets are $12. 649-5999. www.aeofberkeley.org 

Aurora Theatre “Betrayed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m., at 2081 Addison St. to March 8. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Rep “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” at 2015 Addison St., through March 15. Tickets are $33-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Black Repertory Group “Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” at 3201 Adeline St., through Feb. 22. Tickets are $15-$44. 652-2120. 

“Celestial Celebration” in Celebration of Black History Month Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St. Oakland, to March 1. Tickets are $15-$25. 800-848-9809. www.brownpapertickets.com  

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Nine (The Musical)” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through March 28. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Impact Theatre “A Midsummers Night’s Dream” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through March 14. Tickets are $10-$17. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Absent Friends” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Feb. 28. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 


Ernesto Bazan “Photographs-CUBA” Reception at 6 p.m., lecture at 7 p.m. at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, corner of Hearst and Euclid. http://fotovision.org 


“Vertigo” film showing at 7 p.m., followed by discussion at The Dream Institute, 1672 University at McGee. Cost is $15, $25 for two. 845-1767. http://drem-institute.org 


“Art Science Fusion: IDENTITY Genotype-Phenotype” with Gabriele Seethaler, Viennese biochemist and photographer at 1:30 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $20. Part of the Last Friday Ladies Lunch series. RSVP to whoisylvia@aol.com 

Thea Hillman and Alvin Orloff read at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Pratap Chatterjee describes “Halliburton’s Way: The Long, Strange Tale of a Private, Profitable, and Out-of-Control Texas Oil Company” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Tickets are $10 at the door. berkeleyarts.org 

Sara Houghteling reads from her debut novel “Pictures at an Exhibition” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Friday Night Poetry Readings and Open Mic “Love Poems” by the Entrekins at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallery.org 


Dept. of Music Chamber Music Concert at noon at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Harpsichord and Organ Music of the Italian Renaissance at 8 p.m. at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Free, suggested donation $10. 525-1716. 

Holly Near, songs and ideas, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Audrye Sessions at 6 p.m. at Amoeba Records, 2455 Telegraph Ave. 549-1125. 

Black History Month Concert at 7:30 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd. bhm2009@blackwallstreet.org  

Stew at 8:30 p.m. at New Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $12. 763-1146. 

Falso Baiano Choro at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Leon Mobley & Da Lion Antioquia at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Drum workshop at 9 p.m. Cost is $10-$30. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Guitar Summit with Teja Gerken, Scott Nygaard, Mesut Ozgen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

East Bay Twang Party with 77 El Dora, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Zero Boys, Black Fork at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $10. 525-9926. 

Green Machine at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Josh Jones Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Ethan Byxbye & Ryan Feldhouse at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Uncle Eye & the Strange Change Machine at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

African-American Folktales and Music with Muriel Johnson at 11 a.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $7-$8. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Mother Goose, music and tales, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259. www.fairyland.org 

The Bubble Lady at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $8. 526-9888 


Central Works “The Window Age: A Guided Tour of the Unconscious” opens at 8 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $21-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

Eroplay “Reality Playthings” with Frank Moore at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St., Oakland. 526-7858. fmoore@eroplay.com 


“Images of Devotion” Photomontage Studies by Barry Shapiro on Hasidim. Reception at 1:30 p.m. at Kehilla Community Synagogue, 1300 Grand Ave., Piedmont. www.KehillaSynagogue.org 


Pulp Writers on Film “Série Noire” at 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

International Film Festival on Aging at 3 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2, 5 and 7 p.m. at AMC Bay Street Theater, Emeryville. Tickets are $10, $6 for seniors. www.filmfestonaging.org 


“Marysville’s Chinatown” with author Brian Tom at 3:30 p.m. at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, 2066 University Ave. www.asiabookcenter.com 

Carl Djerassi discusses “Four Jews on Parnassus” at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Donation $10. www.hisllsideclub.org 

Eric Maisel describes “The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods” at 7 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 


Pocket Opera “La Belle Helene” at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $20-$37. 415-346-7805. www.pocketopera.org 

Classical Madolin Ensembles Works of Vivaldi and other Baroque masters at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Voices of Music “The Romance of the Rose” with Susan Rode Morris, soprano, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Albans Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Tickets are $20-$25. 236-9808. www.voicesofmusic.org 

Kensington Symphony “Romance and Reformation” at 8 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $12-$15, children free. 524-9912. www.kensingtonsymphonyorchestra.org 

“Music Down Deep in my Soul” with the University Gospel Chorus at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Moment’s Notice improvised music, dance and theater at 8 p.m. at Western Sky Studio, 2525 8th St. between Dwight Way and Parker. Tickets are $8-$15, sliding scale. 992-6295. 

Robin Gregory & Her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sophis & Kalbasskreyol, Afro-Caribbean, Haitian at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is tba. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Kelly Joe Phelps at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Voodooville: Mardi Gras Countdown at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Beep Jazz Trio with Michael Coleman at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

John Bowman’s Jammer Showcase at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 558-0881. 

The Loyd Family Players, Dgiin, Buxter Hoot’n at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Zero Boys, Stitches, Bodies, Nuts and Bolts at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $10. 525-9926. 



Charity Kahn & the Jam Band at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Guy Gash’s Sharp Five Jazz Band at 11:30 a.m. at Habitot, 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $7-$8. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 


Talk Cinema Berkeley Preview of new independent films with discussion afterwards at 10 a.m. at Albany Twin Theater, 1115 Solano Ave., Albany. Cost is $20. http://talkcinema.com 


Mario Garcia Torres, artist talk and reception for the opening of his MATRIX exhibition at 3 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

Dick Stewart will answer car questions and discuss his new book “Car-ma; Why Bad Cars Happen to Good People” at 10 a.m. at The Oakland Center for Spiritual Living, 5000 Clarewood Drive, Oakland. 547-1979. www.oaklandcsl.org 


San Francisco Chamber Orchestra Family Concert “Stories in Music” at noon at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave. Free. www.sfchamberorchestra.org 

Pacific Collegium Chorus and Orchestra “The Motets of J. S. Bach” at 4 p.m. at St. Paul’ss Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$40. 834-4314. 

G.Q. Wang, tenor, at 4 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Suggested donation $20. 526-3805. 

James Tinsley, trumpet, at 2 p.m. at OPC’s Ed Kelly Hall, 1615 Franklin St., Oakland. Tickets are $10-$25. 836-4649. 

Gojogo at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12, $8 students. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Mahealani Uchiyama at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Josh Roseman’s Execution Quintet at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dan Bern at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 


Don Clausen: A Life in Art

By Valerie Gladstone Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:56:00 PM
Whitgul is one of the Clausen paintings on exhibition at Alta Galleria.
Whitgul is one of the Clausen paintings on exhibition at Alta Galleria.

When Don Clausen looks out over the hills from his house in Piedmont, he sees the countryside where he came of age and realized his dream of becoming an artist. Though his life has not been easy, he conveys a sense of contentment only afforded individuals who have lived their passions. “I always search for new ways of seeing things,” he says. “I’m an incurable experimenter. I live for art.”  

Vigorous and ruggedly handsome at 78, he spends every day in front of a canvas or putting together assemblages or collages, creating breathtaking works that continue to be snapped up by collectors all over the country, many of who have been following him for many years. “The more you gaze at his paintings,” says collector Lisa Snow, “the more you see. The last one I bought could be a huge portal. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to leap right into what looks like an alternative universe.”  

In his luminous abstractions, Clausen employs every color of the rainbow, the strong lines forming geometric shapes that appear to fly through space. Nothing is weighed down in his paintings; it’s as if images came to him from outer space or other realms. He turns the physical world into dabs and streaks of color that convey an engulfing sense of motion. 

Whether abstract or representational, his works convey enormous energy and vitality, like masterpieces by Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning. They also are distinctive for their sculptural quality, a result of his thickly layering the paint and then slicing down to the canvas with a palette knife or section of a venetian blind; his choice of tools is as eclectic as his subject matter. “I’ll paint with anything,” he says. “I like sticks because I can carve into the paint with them.” 

Few artists demonstrate Clausen’s versatility, proved by his genius for shifting from one artistic form to another. He shows outstanding talent for portraiture, conveying a profound sense of his subjects’ characters, through sensitive detail, such as the tilt of a head, expression of the mouth or smile lines. For models, he sometimes uses photos from women’s magazines or finds pictures of some of his heroes, like singer Ella Fitzgerald and comedian Lenny Bruce. He usually titles them ‘Tak’ and then their names. Tak means thank you in Danish. Clausen is of Danish background. 

Collector Rebecca Rhine bought two of the Tak paintings. “I’ve known Don for over 30 years and seen his incredible development,” she says. “What I love about his works is how tactile they are and so full of movement. I bought Tak John Singer Sergeant (2003) and Tak Lennie Bruce (2006) They are very different, the former more abstract in brilliant colors—reddish orange and browns like lava. The Lennie Bruce looks like waves crashing to shore.” 

A great admirer of Rembrandt and Vermeer, Clausen has learned how to evoke a psychological state from studying those masters. He also paints landscapes and cityscapes, particularly splendid is a golden-brown San Francisco that he did of the city long ago. He has spent a lot of time studying the broad horizons of French painter Vlaminck. “Everything is abstract more or less,” he says, “as it’s fundamentally composed of shapes and lines.” 

The geometry of his work particularly appeals to collector Mike Bacon. “It’s as if he sees life through a crystal,” he says. “There are all these line and shadings. His paintings are alive and ever changing. They greatly appeal to my emotions.”  

Over the years, Clausen has transformed his spacious three-story studio—two floors are underground—into an oasis, where he neatly stores past work, and carefully prepares his canvases, brushes, palette knives and assorted self-designed tools. For such a brusque man, he is surprisingly orderly, one of the many secrets of his success. But he is definitely not without an engaging sense of humor. Wandering among his paintings, one comes across an impressive collection of memorabilia, including photos of his family members—he married three times and has two children by each wife—stuffed toys that once belonged to his grandchildren, old fashioned alarm clocks, a big picture of Donald Duck—perhaps his namesake—and a well-worn, king size chair, clearly marked, “Artist’s Chair” and on the seat the words, “Golden Hands.” He sits there often to contemplate works in progress. 

Clausen began expressing himself artistically as a child in elementary school in San Francisco, carving sculptures out of bars of Ivory soap. He taught himself to draw and by the time he was in his late teens, he was so good that his friends asked him to do pictures of their girlfriends. In his 20s, he briefly prepared for dentistry at Sacramento Junior College, later transferring to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. To make ends meet, he made children’s toys and sold paintings on the streets of Berkeley. But eventually, he began exhibiting at galleries and word of his beautiful and exciting work quickly spread. 

His son Eric, who is an accomplished iron sculptor, learned a great deal growing up around his him. “He never stopped working,” he says. “He would be painting when I woke up in the morning and when I came home from school. And after dinner, he would go back again, maybe real late, going out for a beer. Day and night like that for years. And there were artists all around. I’d hear them talking, and my father critiquing his own and other people’s work. It’s a great way to learn about art.”  

Given this powerful influence, perhaps it’s not surprising that Eric decided to become an artist himself. For a while they even shared a studio. “I’d make something and then ask for his approval,” he says. “He never said anything was wrong. He taught me nothing in life is perfect. I’ve never seen anyone who so completely lives and breathes art.” 

Don Clausen: Current Work  

Through March 5 at Alta Galleria, 2980 College Ave. Suite #4. 414-4485. 


The Friends of Negro Spiritual Sing Out in Oakland

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:58:00 PM

It’s the “Collaboration of the Year.” The Oakland East Bay Community Chorus, directed by Bill Bell, will perform spirituals, and the Friends of Negro Spirituals will present the African American Museum and Library of Oakland with In Our Own Words, their 10-DVD compilation of oral histories concerning the learning of and preservation for spirituals, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. this Saturday at the museum. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion with some of the “Heritage Keepers” who were recorded for the DVD set. 

“Three organizations that work to preserve the old Negro Spirituals in the Bay Area, coming together for the first time,” said Sam Edwards, co-founder of Friends of Negro Spirituals. “That’s one of the significant features of this collaboration. Friends of Negro Spirituals, the African American Museum and Library—and the Oakland East Bay Community Chorus: of those groups around doing spirituals, the only one left standing that’s dedicated to doing them in more formal style, since the Lucy Kinchen Chorale hasn’t been performing in a while.” 

Bill Bell, noted jazz pianist and educator (formerly of UC Berkeley, Stanford and Alameda College), described the chorus’s program: “It will be a little historical, beginning with ‘God’s Going to Set This World on Fire,’ arranged by Moses Hogan, an amazing young singer who passed away a few years ago, who would travel with his choir from New Orleans. Then ‘Walk in Jerusalem’ and Moses Hogan’s arrangement of ‘Hear My Prayer.’ Then we’ll talk about the importance of the pentatonic scale for spirituals and the West African music which predates them—and for contemporary music as well—with examples. We’ll close out the program with a small tribute to Obama with what is known as the Black National Anthem, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ and B. B. and C. C. Winans’ tribute to Obama, ‘We Need One Another.’” 

The chorus “had our beginnings at Downs Methodist Church [in North Oakland]; we grew out of that experience, a combined chorus of the different choruses in the church,” Bell recollected. “In 1967, we were asked to participate in Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music Concert in what was then still Oakland Auditorium [now Calvin Simmons Memorial Auditorium]. We worked with Max Roach in a performance of his. But we stayed together doing Christmas concerts, mainly, and at Easter—the major Christian holidays.  

“Come 2000,” Bell recalled, “there was a big spirituals festival at Cal Berkeley. We thought we’d be going over the world but had no sponsorship. Since then, we broke out from the Church, got our 501(c)(3) as a nonprofit. We have 45 to 50 members, multicultural, and still perform the two holidays and a number of times, like this, during Black History Month. Our whole purpose, our mission, is to preserve African American Spirituals, performing them at a very high level.” 

Sam Edwards and Lyvonne Chrisman founded Friends of Negro Spirituals in Oakland in 1998, in great part inspired by Moses Hogan’s rendition of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” Chrisman will moderate the panel, discussing “how people learn about spirituals and what’s being done to preserve them,” which will include Edwards, Bell and several of the Heritage Keepers who were recorded on the DVD set being presented to AAMLO. 

Last year, In Our Own Words was first celebrated at Mills College, an event marked by an impressive turnout—and an Oral History Association Award, presented October 16 in Pittsburgh. “Nancy MacKay of Mills and I went back together,” said Chrisman, “and the president of the association said, ‘We want to sing!’ It was a surprise. I’m a historian, not a singer. But I got them singing ‘This Little Light of Mine,’ which repeats. Afterwards, they were all happy, and said, ‘We’ve never had anything like this!’” 

African American Museum and Library of Oakland. 659-14th St. in Downtown Oakland. Free with RSVP to 637-0200.

‘In the Other Room’ at Berkeley Rep

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:59:00 PM

Describing Sarah Ruhl’s play In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, now onstage at Berkeley Rep, directed by Les Waters, it begins to sound like a fairytale or fable, albeit one for adults, perhaps part of its appeal. At the start of the Electrical Age, a female patient of an unconventional doctor, who has been treating her for hysteria, and the doctor’s wife start using the therapeutic equipment on themselves—and discover The Orgasm. 

It’s not that simple, of course, especially as Ruhl’s play meanders over its two-and-a-half-hour course through patches of suggested themes and subplots, some of which get developed a little, or at least mentioned again, others dropped. 

The desultory action takes place on Annie Smart’s set—two rooms, side by side, in a Victorian house with a winter garden outside. In one room, Dr. Givings (Paul Niebanck) stoically applies the juice to his patient (Maria Dizzia as Sabrina Daldry)—unless his assistant, Annie (Stacy Ross), midwife and amateur of Classical Greek, is forced to ply her effective manual treatment when the power fails—while in the next, his eager and frustrated wife Catherine (Hannah Cabell) paces and talks distractedly (or abstractly) to whoever arrives or leaves, all the while wondering what’s going on in the next room. 

So they keep house, which gives them a foot in the door in the modern theater tradition where rooms are shown side by side, or at least with dissociated action in each, comedies by Feydeau and Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata, Maurice Maeterlinck’s groundbreaking Interior, the dressing room scenes in Kiss Me Kate, Alan Ayckbourn’s Connecting Rooms ... Meanwhile, Ruhl’s “nonlinear realism,” as John Lahr refers to it, blocks out a kind of Dissertation on a Roast Pig for Tesla and Edison’s AC/DC wars and their sexual equivalents. Of course, we, the audience, understand the anachronisms, while the charming puppets (and “charming” and “cute” were oft-quoted words of praise opening night) onstage hold to their innocence. Its hand-me-down Victorianisms make In the Next Room seem palely Gorey—Edward Gorey, that is, who knew how to draw the reader or audience into his darkly humorous entertainments, not leaving them cooing at safe remove. 

(What hath Masters and Johnson wrought? Was it then that the old liberal/progressive apologetic cry, “At least we’re not fascists!” got swapped for “At least we’re not Victorians!”?) 

After mentioning Edward Gorey, it’s only right to invoke post-Victorians like Ronald Firbank, whose nonsense makes Ruhl’s whimsy seem puerile, or the tradition of women writers—who certainly affected theater—from Gertrude Stein, Mina Loy, H. D. and Bryher to Djuna Barnes and Jane Bowles, whose shredding of social (and, often enough, sexual) mores revel in real imagination and wit. 

The performers at The Rep—who include Melle Powers as a black wet nurse who has lost her own child, Joaquin Torres as painter Leo Irving (also suffering from hysteria, though it probably would have been referred to as neuraesthenia, and so, as an artist, seen as doubly unmanly) and John Leonard Thompson as Mr. Daldry (who proves rambunctuous with Mrs. Givings, that spirited woman)—all do their job as well as the vagaries of the script allows them.  

It’s a kind of dilettantish writing, once again popular, even admired, that Norman Mailer once put his finger on, talking about a famous contemporary of his: “A lot of writers go to a cocktail party, have a few drinks and talk up an idea—but he’s the only one who goes home and writes it!” 


Through March 15 at the Berkeley Rep, 2015 Addison St. $33-$71. 647-2949. www.berkeleyrep.org. 

CCCT Presents ‘Nine’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:00:00 PM

A famous Italian filmmaker, in the throes of midlife crisis, hides out from the world (and his producer) at a renowned Venetian spa, hoping to rekindle his imagination—and his marriage. But his producer descends on him, he’s recognized everywhere, his wife is hounded by reporters ... and he’s surrounded by women who either fawn on him or impugn him. He decides the movie he needs to make will be the musical his producer demands—but of the adventures of Casanova. 

If it sounds a little familiar, it’s Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston’s gambit off Fellini’s 8 1/2 for Broadway, Nine, now playing at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, directed and choreographed by Amy Nielson, with musical direction by Joe Simiele. 

Derrick Silva plays auteur Guido Contini, Jennifer Stark his long-suffering wife, and not-quite-nine-year-old Trevor Gomez Guido’s boyhood self. In a cast of more than 20 (Contini young and older are the only males), Patricia Pitpitan as Guido’s naughty mistress, Carla, and Sheri Pearl as his mother—the classic Latin female duo—should be mentioned, as should Maggie Tenenbaum as Guido’s leading lady (complaining of always playing the same part, and singing “A Man Like You”), Ali Lane playing hard-nosed producer Liliane La Fleur (who intimidates scriptless Guido into making a musical, then opens up in one of the show’s best production numbers, “Folies Bergères”), Alexis Wong as Stephanie Necrophorus, a Cahiers du Cinema critic with a cigarette holder, and Jessica Magers-Rankin as Sarraghina, the big woman on the beach who teaches little Guido a thing or two—the most Fellini-esque touch, perhaps—in “Ti Volto Bene/Be Italian.” 

Typical of good community theater there is the pleasant surprise of seeing familiar faces—so familiar, in fact, that a nun in the show probably took your ticket reservation—Holly Winter, box office manager. 

Many complain of how a movie cannot capture a book or play they liked. The opposite can be true as well. It takes all of Kopit’s considerable prowess as a playwright—not to mention Yeston’s songwriter savvy—to keep things moving onstage. Even so, the spa mistress (Jennifer Ekman) is enlisted as occasional narrator, halfway through. 

The daydreams, musings, recollections of a filmmaker translated quickly into a montage of sound and image in what probably stands as Fellini’s signature movie, something of a response to the New Wave. The cast at CCCT is good, and there’s much charm in the proceedings, just enough at times to stay ahead of the stasis that can descend like a Sunday afternoon in the middle of nowhere when a stage musical can’t capture the essence of its source’s inspiration. Orson Welles once cannily said that Fellini’s magic lay in his films’ always looking at life through the eyes of a country boy seeing the big city for the first time. There’s no parallel to that perceptiveness in Nine; all we have to go on is everybody’s assertion that Guido’s a genius—Guido included—and a lot of Ragu drenching the pasta fazool. 

Yet CCCT relies, as usual, on the genuine enthusiasm of the cast, who make the play their own, with Nielson and Simiele’s direction, the tuneful octet behind the scenes—and the scenes themselves, designed, as so often, by Matt Flynn with stylish grace. And that’s what it takes—as Carla sings to Guido: “Simple.” 


8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through March 8 at Contra Costa Civic Theatre, 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. $24. $15, age 16 and under. 524-9132. www.ccct.org.

Reading to Benefit KPFA, Poetry Flash

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:01:00 PM

Hearts Gathering: Poetry, Laureates and Music for Valentine’s Day,” a benefit for KPFA and Poetry Flash, with performances by poets Diane Di Prima, Michael McClure, Carol Muske-Duke (California Poet Laureate) and Al Young (former California Poet Laureate, 2005–08), accompanied by Dan Robbins on bass, as well as famed didjeridoo player Stephen Kent and vocalist Eda Maxym, with performance artist, Buddhist teacher and author Wes “Scoop” Nisker as emcee, will be held Saturday at King Middle School Auditorium, co-sponsored by the Daily Planet and Moe’s Books.  

Kay Ryan, Bay Area poet recently named US Poet Laureate, originally on the program, has regretfully canceled her reading. 

Diane Di Prima, author of 43 books of poetry and a number of plays, whom Allen Ginsberg called “heroic in life and poetics,” first came to prominence during the latter part of the Beat movement in the early 1960s.  

Michael McClure at 22 read in the famous 6 Gallery reading, which featured Ginsberg’s premiere reading of “Howl.” McClure has taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and is noted for The Beard and other plays, as well as his collaborations with keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors and saxophonist David Sanborn.  

Carol Muske-Duke established and taught at Free Space in the Women’s House of Detention at Riker’s Island, New York. She founded the Ph.D. Program in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California, where she presently teaches. Her poetry has been praised by Harold Bloom.  

Berkeley resident Al Young has written many books of poetry, novels and essays about jazz and blues. Bill Cosby has said, “When I open up any of his books, I listen.”  

Stephen Kent has five solo albums to his credit, and has played with Tuvan throat singers, Taiko drummers, Brazilian percussionist Airto and famed flute player Paul Horn. He presently plays with Eda Maxym and her band.  

Bob Baldock of KPFA talked about how the annual events—and this one in particular—took shape: “Every year for at least the past 10, I’ve tried to produce an event around Valentine’s Day, coming from love much more than from Hallmark, from whatever comes to people’s minds beyond hand-holding—a place to go at far less cost than going out to a special restaurant. And we’ve always packed the various churches and school auditoriums where we’ve held them.” 

Baldock continued: “This year, I met with Joyce Jenkins of Poetry Flash and Owen Hill of Moe’s, to approach some poets who would work well together on a program like this—and who would be understandable to everyone. 

“The people involved seem natural to me for something like this ... Al, in fact, is a neighbor and longtime friend—and the way he works together with Dan, that great sound I love—a dead-solid natural. Scoop Nisker used to fill in on KPFA for Larry Bensky; out of nowhere he’d ask guests about their favorite books. I was staggered by his literacy. And to get Stephen Kent and Eda, a last-minute thing, relieved me; it really makes it an event with music. We don’t know what’s going to happen on that stage. Most of them have never worked together before. There’re no grants, nothing behind it; it is what it is. And, KPFA willing, it’ll be broadcast at some point.” 

KPFA, Poetry Flash, the Daily Planet and Moe’s Books will have information tables at the event. Owen Hill, who organizes the reading series at Moe’s and stocks the poetry sections, has promised a good selection of books by the readers, including some lesser-known titles. 

Hearts Gathering: Poetry, Laureates and Music For Valentine’s Day 

A benefit for KPFA and Poetry Flash.  

8-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at King Middle School Auditorium, 1781 Rose St.  

$15 admission online or at supportive bookstores; $20 at the door through brownpapertickets. com.  

848-6767 ext. 612. kpfa.org/events. Free parking. Wheelchair accessible. 




Anna Recording Live at Anna’s

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:01:00 PM

For a soulful Valentine’s Day, it’s time for soulful love songs!” reads the calendar listing on the website for the Saturday show at Anna’s Jazz Island. The show, titled “Love in the Lost and Found,” will feature proprietor Anna de Leon recording live songs from the “Soulful American Songbook.” 

“It’s those songs of love never included in the Great American Songbook,” de Leon explained. “Most of that came from Broadway. And not just jazz standards, but more a blues or gospel sound—some Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday, but Joe Tex and Sam Cooke, too; Little Junior Parker and Johnny Taylor; a couple Ray Charles tunes, an Ivory Joe Hunter ... Of course, ‘You Send Me’ and ‘Bring It on Home to Me’—and Al Hibbler’s ‘After the Lights Go Down Low,’ a big hit, but nobody does it anymore. Oh, and a Randy Travis tune, ‘Forever and Ever, Amen.’ But I won’t do it so country.” 

She laughed, recollecting another tune. “‘My Funny Valentine’! I think I’ll have to do that. It was the first song I sang in public, in a bar, though, and I’ll enjoy remembering that.” 

Many know Anna de Leon from her 20 years as a civil rights attorney; others from her stints on the Berkeley School Board. Or as a club owner. Not as many think of her as a singer, a role that’s often taken a backseat to her other tasks. But she was “chick singer” for the Delancey Street Band and was part of a gospel trio.  

Her first CD, released four years ago, The Sweet Bittersweet, featured jazz notable Kenny Barron on piano, Taj Mahal singing on two tracks and a rhythm section that included Peter Barshay on bass and drummer Harold Jones, formerly with Count Basie and once Ella Fitzgerald’s music director. 

The album was produced by jazz radio personality Bud Spangler, and in his liner notes, Nat Hentoff—dean of jazz writers—wrote, “Long ago I would hear musicians asking about some players they hadn’t heard yet: ‘Can they tell a story?’ ... Anna de Leon is one of the more beguiling—and moving—storytellers I’ve heard in a good many years.” 

In any case, she’s never stopped singing, something she’s done all her life. The songs for this show and recording came to her in the most offhanded way, “songs I noticed I was singing when I walked the dog. I never sang them in public—although my neighbors must think I’m crazy, going over and over the same tune, walking on the street!—but I’ve certainly sung them a lot. I noticed they’re all of an era; mostly ’50s, I’d say. They all have a groove, a sweetness—perfect Valentine’s Day songs, though unlikely in a way. Originally there was more jazz. I love all those unusual intervals, but realized it didn’t fit together. I will do a few. ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ fits in.” 

Her band on this outing is a good one, too: “Dee Spencer on piano, who founded the jazz studies program at S.F. State and has worked with [jazz and R&B vocalist] Jimmy Scott; Ruth Davies on bass, who was with [blues singer] Charles Brown; Dave Rokeach, who toured with Ray Charles, on drums ... I think we’ll have to overdub [saxophonist] Jules Broussard, who has a date with Lavay Smith, and Steve Gannon on guitar. And Bruce Koball, from the Hillside Club, will do the sound.” 

“The Soulful American Songbook.” As Hentoff noted on de Leon’s first CD, “[I]t’s the soul thrust of blues and gospel that fuels the spirit in her voice; and the blues and gospel, after all, are at the core of the jazz that endures.” 


8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Reservations: 841-5299 after 5:30 p.m. www.annasjazzisland.com 




MOVING PICTURES: Motion and Emotion in F.W. Murnau’s ‘Sunrise’

By Justin DeFreitas
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:58:00 PM
George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor in F.W. Murnau’s classic Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927).
George O’Brien and Janet Gaynor in F.W. Murnau’s classic Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927).

In its first year—and only in its first year—the Academy Awards split its top honors for best film into two categories: Best Picture and Unique and Artistic Production. And, having made manifest the schism between the commercial and the artistic in American filmmaking, in which the latter so often suffered—and continues to suffer—at the hands of the former, the academy immediately discontinued the practice. 

The 1929 ceremony honored films made in 1927, a watershed year in cinema. Over the preceding three decades, the technology of the moving picture had matured into the dominant art form of the 20th century, growing from nickelodeon novelties to feature-length productions of every style and genre. Cinema, both commercial and artistic, as well as everything between, was reaching its peak. The late 1920s not only produced most of the best films of the silent era, it produced a generous share of the greatest films ever made. And yet the medium was on the brink of dramatic change as the technology of synchronized sound, launched commercially in 1927 with the Warner Bros. gambit The Jazz Singer, would soon bring an end to the silent film.  

The first Best Picture award went to a film called Wings, kicking off Hollywood’s tendency to reward films that are quintessentially American—big, bold, brassy, sentimental, optimistic, and above all, successful at the box office. Wings was a love triangle set during World War I that contained little in the way of originality, but which was big on showmanship, featuring spectacular fighter plane dogfights, shot by cameramen riding in the gunners’ seats. 

The award for artistic excellence went to Sunrise, a Fox production directed by German emigré F.W. Murnau and starring Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien and Margaret Livingston. The film will screen at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 at the Castro Theater as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s day-long winter program. 

F. W. Murnau had made a name for himself as one of Germany’s top directors with work as disparate as the horror masterpiece Nosferatu, the expressionist classic The Last Laugh, and a cinematic reworking of Faust. Hollywood was eager to recruit top European talent in those days and lured Murnau to America, where his varied interests would lead him to further expand his repertoire, directing “women’s pictures” and even documentaries.  

With Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, Murnau brought Germanic technique and a palpable European sensibility to American filmmaking. The film is celebrated for its roaming camerawork, its evocative set design, its emotional range and fable-like qualities. The plot concerns a young country couple whose happy home is threatened when the husband is tempted by a footloose city flapper. Murnau sets up dichotomies that are almost allegorical: between city and country, love and lust, virtue and temptation. It is melodrama raised to the level of poetry, a fable of love, devotion and redemption.  

Murnau’s camera is almost constantly on the move, tracking characters along village paths, through marshlands at dusk, along the busy streets of a bustling city. Sunrise is a whirlwind of motion and emotion, from tense moments wandering in darkness, to a sun-kissed stroll that leaves the couple bewildered in the midst of a traffic jam, to the kaleidoscopic revelry of a nightclub sequence. The sets that contain this choreographic display were vast, yet they appeared even more expansive through clever design, Murnau having continued his European practice of building them in forced perspective: Distant buildings were built very small, and the horizons were peopled not by adult actors but by children, even midgets, and often driving miniature cars.  

This level of craftsmanship was typical of German filmmaking; theirs was a highly architectural cinema, meticulously planned and structured in every detail. The talent of actors, though valued, was subservient to the craft of directors, photographers, writers and set designers. But Murnau’s films allowed a bit more room for his actors to breathe, to improvise and bring a greater range of interpretation to their roles.  

Sunrise is considered one of the finest films of the silent era, and Janet’s Gaynor’s performance is one its greatest virtues. Gaynor was best known for playing something of a waif, a wide-eyed innocent, fragile but with great moral strength. In a sense, she was like the second coming of “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, both of whom were beloved by audiences for their down-to-earth demeanor and pixie-like charm. Gaynor managed to take seemingly limited roles and imbue them with an expressiveness that demonstrated virtue and nobility as well as a delicate vulnerability. The acting awards in those days were given for a body of work, and the restrained naturalism that Gaynor brought to her role in Sunrise, along with her performances in two other films that year, earned her the Best Actress Oscar. It is a subtle and at times profound performance, as Gaynor’s graceful, demure character undergoes dramatic changes, from loving and devoted to wounded and disillusioned, from frightened, endangered and mistrustful to redemptive, forgiving and strong. Her supple face and soulful eyes convey a range of thoughts and emotions that pages of dialogue could only suggest.  

By contrast, Sunrise was something of a departure for George O’Brien, who specialized in action roles. Though his acting is not as restrained as Gaynor’s, he combined a degree of naturalism with elements of expressionism. His performance, combined with the low-key lighting and expressive camerawork of photographers Charles Rosher and Karl Struss, even hints at noir, as it traces the darker twists and turns of a man’s psyche under the influence of a destructive obsession.  

Coming as it did toward the tail end of 1927, Fox released Sunrise in two versions, one silent and one with a synchronized score and sound effects. The latter version is available on DVD, but Saturday’s screening will be accompanied by Dennis James on the Wurlizter. It is one of four films showing at Saturday’s festival: Our Hospitality (1923), one of Buster Keaton’s first full-length features, based on the Civil War-era Hatfield-McCoy feud, shows at noon with piano accompaniment by Philip Carli; a Russian film, A Kiss From Mary Pickford (1927), shows at 2:40 p.m., again with piano accompaniment Carli; Sunrise screens at 6:30 p.m.; and The Cat and the Canary (1927), a comic haunted house film directed by another German emigré, Paul Leni, will show at 9:30 p.m., accompanied by foley artist Mark Goldstein and by Dennis James on the Wurlitzer. 

SUNRISE (1927) 

Showing at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14 as part of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival’s day-long winter program. Castro Theater, 429 Castro St., San Francisco. www.silentfilm.org.

Model Trains in Golden Gate Park

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Thursday February 12, 2009 - 12:38:00 PM
Model trains and miniature San Francisco landmarks create a diverting landscape in the western end of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park through April 19.
Steven Finacom
Model trains and miniature San Francisco landmarks create a diverting landscape in the western end of the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park through April 19.

While the De Young Museum and the new Academy of Sciences building are the star draws in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park these days, a good time can also be had just around the corner in their enduring elegant Victorian cousin, the glass Conservatory of Flowers. 

Through April 19, the exhibit room of the 1870s Conservatory features a model train and building exhibit called “The Golden Gate Express.” 

It’s whimsically creative. Two separate tracks carry model G-gauge Amtrack trains on interlocking figure 8 routes on different levels, while a single cable car runs back and forth on a track extending from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Grant Avenue Gateway to Chinatown. 

Several models of San Francisco landmarks—Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mission Dolores, and so forth—punctuate the living landscape. At first glance they seem somewhat hastily fabricated structures, but look more closely. Each is made up of recycled items.  

The Ferry Building incorporates kitchen-related items, from pieces of wine crates to a tower made out of a cheese grater and forks, with an egg timer as clock face. “Port of San Francisco” is spelled out in Scrabble letters across the top. The TransAmerica pyramid skin is partially assembled from old floppy disks and 600 computer keyboard keys.  

Objects from bicycle reflectors to fire alarm pulls and coffee stirrers compose the Golden Gate Bridge that also, if you look closely, has vivid red toy monkeys and a dinosaur hanging from it. 

Lists on the entrance wall identify the objects used for each landmark, or you can guess at the composition yourself or spin a wheel in the corner of the room to randomly select a recycled component for which to search.  

The surrounding miniaturized landscape has an assortment of dwarf conifers and small shrubs masquerading as trees towering over the tiny trains; jacaranda seedlings double as palms in front of Mission Dolores and flowering begonias simulate tropical trees. 

There is even a good Berkeley connection here. The exhibit designer was Chip Sullivan, an evocative artist who teaches on the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning faculty at UC Berkeley. 

On the exhibit wall area wall are several cartoon-style panels by Sullivan illustrating childhood experiences with trains, along with his drawings for the exhibit layout in a slightly more elaborate format than what was actually constructed. A small shop at the exhibit entrance sells some Conservatory and model railroading knickknacks. 

The rest of the Conservatory—four rooms, each with its own landscape character and climate—remains a pleasant place to stroll and sit in either fair or inclement weather, with shirtsleeve temperatures year round. 

Plantings which seemed a bit thin when the building reopened after repairs and remodeling a few years ago are now fully grown in, and the main dome in particular conveys a credible sense of tropical rainforest. The water lily room is festooned with blooming bromiliads, orchids, and carnivorous plants around two vanishing edge pools. 

The garden railway exhibit is on view through April 19. Conservatory hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; last admission at 4:30 p.m.  

Admission is $5 for adults, less for children, seniors, and students with ID.  

The first Tuesday of each month is a free day, and the structure is wheelchair accessible. 

Take BART, then Muni, to the eastern end of Golden Gate Park. If you drive, there’s parking in front of the Conservatory grounds along Kennedy Drive (except on Sundays) or on other nearby Park roadways. www.conservatoryofflowers.org/ 

For more on local model railways with living landscapes, also see the Bay Area Garden Railway Society at www.bagrs.org/ 


About the House: Underwater Real Estate and Other Acts Of Faith

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 06:53:00 PM

Real Estate Owned properties (REOs), which are essentially bank owned properties, are all the rage right now and rage may be the operative word once you’ve taken possession. So take your time, pry open those cavalier jaws and say “Ahhhhh.” 

There are a lot of repossessions or REOs (what happens to a foreclosure when it doesn’t sell at auction) on the market these days and I think we can all expect a lot more of them on the market as the financial crisis worsens and roosts with the lower classes (which may include thee and me) that are losing their jobs all around us.  

While the fledgling Obama administration valiantly attempts to slay the dragon of unemployment (were there actually 600,000 jobs lost in January?) or pray for rain of the mortgage lenders in the U.S., it is clear that in the best of circumstances, there will be hundreds of thousands of homes that are given up to foreclosure or sold off for less than their mortgages (tragically referred to as being under water. I think I’ll name my foreclosure company, Poseidon Real Estate). 

These homes have two features that buyers should be aware of as they sniff around this sort of investment. First is that they tend to be in bad shape. I’ll say a lot more about that. The second is that they tend to come with little to no disclosure of former known problems. Let’s start with this issue. 

Let’s say that the furnace has failed just days before foreclosure and there is a report issued by an HVAC (that’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning) contractor explaining what needs to be done and the cost. This piece of information would not have to be provided to the person the bank is selling to (let’s say … you). The same can apply to engineers’ reports, roofing reports and a range of other data that might display important and financially salient information. There is no requirement for banks to provide any of this information to you once it is in their ownership. 

This might be a good time to write to your Governator (or your state senator. Local Berkeleyites can contact our dear Loni Hancock) and ask that the disclosure laws be extended to subsume the banks so that they are held culpable (just as you would be) for failing to disclose known defects or other issues that can have a material impact on subsequent ownership. These can include known disputes with neighbors regarding fences, failed attempts at obtaining permits for expansion or the presence of fuel tanks on the property. The range of what disclosures can tell us is very wide and their requirement is, a fundamental consumer protection that took years to secure. There is no reason that paperwork should be thrown out just because the bank took possession. Don’t ask don’t tell isn’t a good policy in the military or at the bank. 

Now for that other issue; overall condition. It’s been quite a year looking at REOs, short-sales (those deep sea diving expeditions I mentioned earlier) and foreclosures. The one thing that these properties nearly all have in common is that they are in bad shape. 

Many had leaked internally and had damaged flooring, drywall, mildew and mold. Many needed paint. Many had kitchens and baths that belonged in the ICU and most had a lot of bad workmanship that was going to need to be redone. That last one is what I’d like to focus on for a while. 

When people run out of money or have to get by on very little, they tend to hire inadequately skilled persons to make repairs for them (and sometimes the inadequately skilled person is the owner themselves). Nobody can blame folks for negotiating their hardship in this manner. It’s life. But the end result is pretty sad and when you’re looking at buying a house that has been owned or inhabited by residents forced to make, perhaps, years of these sorts of decisions, you may be looking at a LOT of bad work that will have to be redone.  

I spend an hour or so with my friend Chuck a couple of weeks ago at a house that he and he new wife were looking to adopt. Chuck is a pretty smart fellow and knows more than a little about wiring, plumbing and the rest of that stuff but, between the sticker-lust (many of these properties have been hitting the market at very low prices of late), the speed of the process and the fact that many important features take some time to expose, he had not seen a lot of important elements that ultimately changed his demeanor from excitement to malaise in this short session. 

Now, let’s be clear. These houses can be great deals if you do the math and understand what is and what is not expensive, important, dangerous, etc. However, it is important to do the math. To open Old Paint’s jaws and take a good look at her teeth. It may take hours of looking closely, making financial estimates and planning a year or two of upgrades to decide that the bargain is, in fact, a bargain. Many will be and many will not. 

Lastly, let’s just look at you and the process. Are you a project person? Is this a house you will need to move into right away? That can be a very important question if this is a house that needs major work. It may be that the house will need several months of major rehab and that inhabitation won’t be much fun for any but the person who’s been living in their car. 

If you haven’t done major remodeling, you may not be accustomed to working with contractors. This is whole discussion unto itself but consider it sufficient to say that the cost of making improvements is not equivalent to the difference in value between two houses. A house that is already in good stead and suited to your needs is always a better deal than the one that is not, even if the cost is lower by the amount of the projected repairs. This is because you have to endure the work and because there is a failure factor to work into the equation. All remodeling work does not go well. Some lead to disputes and some come out poorly. Costs nearly always exceed expectations and so do time estimates. 

This is not to say that remodeling and repair cannot be a great experience but as many can attest, it’s complex and sometimes disappointing. So, remember to factor that in. 

REOs are going to make money for some people in the coming years. Some will also get a chance to own homes through this sweet and sour process (let’s not forget those who will be, or have been, tossed out and not so few by having been offered mortgages that they, predictably, could not service).  

My wish for you is that you will take a very close look at the house (perhaps, ahem, with some professional help), at all the financial aspects and feel that you are prepared to walk up to that gift-horse, smile and invite her to say “Ah.”  

Community Calendar

Wednesday February 11, 2009 - 07:24:00 PM


Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid, And What We Can Do About It with author Kim Bobo at noon at University Lutheran Chapel, 2425 College Ave., at Haste. Sponsored by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), East Bay Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice and University Lutheran Chapel. 642-6371. andreabuffa@berkeley.edu 

21st Annual African American Cultural Celebration at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. 285-9628. 

“The WPA and the Oakland Park System” with Gray Brechin at 7:30 p.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave., Oakland. Cost is $8-$10. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Valentine’s Day Parent’s Night Out Enjoy a night out while your children enjoy an evening of games, stories, crafts, snacks, and fun. For ages 5-12 from 6 to 10 p.m. at the James Kenney Recreation Center, 1720 8th St. Cost is $15 per child. Reservations required. 981-6650. 

Zen and the Art of Mushroom Hunting at 7:30 p.m. in the East Bay, with a field trip on Feb. 15. Cost is $35. To register call Golden Gate Audubon Society at 843-2222. 

“Protecting Lake Baikal, the Pearl of Siberia” A slideshow and discussion of the ecosystem of the lake and what is being done to save it, at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

East Bay Mac Users Group will discuss the digital storytelling application MemoryMiner at 7 p.m. at Expression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. http://ebmug.org 

“Losing Body Fat: Breakthroughs in Metabolic Understanding” with Dr. Jay Sordean at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Claremont Branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave. 981-6280. 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

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 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Wheelchair Yoga Thurs. at noon, Family Yoga on Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at Niroga Center for Healing, 1808 University Ave. between Martin Luther King Way and Grant St. All classes by donation. 704-1330. www.niroga.org 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Prof. David R. Lindberg on “Snails, Birds, Spiders & Flies: How Science Really Works” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

“Road to Roubaix” film screening to benefit the NorCal High School Mountain Bike League at 7:30 p.m. at Florence Schwimley Theater, Berkeley High campus. Cost is $12. www.norcalmtb.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 1 to 5 p.m. at Oakland Military Academy, Multi Purpose Room, 3877 Lusk St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

“Sound Healing for Relationships & Interpersonal Communication” at 7 p.m. at Tian Gong International Foundation, 830 Bancroft Way, Lotus Room 114. Cost is $5-$10, no one turned away for lack of funds. 883-1920. tgif@tiangong.org 

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. 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Predatory Lending Prevention and Foreclosure Intervention Workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Emeryville Senior Center, 4321 Salem St., Emeryville. Sponsored by the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency. 596-4316. 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland “New Era/New Politics” highlights African-American leaders who have made their mark on Oakland. Meet at 10 a.m. and the African American Museum and Library at 659 14th St. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

“Deadlock in California: What’s Behind the Breakdown of CA Government” with Sacramento Bee columnist and author Peter Schrag, at 7 p.m. at the Alameda Free Library, Conference Rooms A & B, 1550 Oak St. at Lincoln, Alameda. Suggested donation $5. www.alamedaforum.org 

transPOP: Korea Vietnam Remix Symposium to examine Korean and Vietnamese historical and contemporary cultural, political, and socio-economic interactions from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Institute of East Asian Studies Conference Room, 2223 Fulton St., 6th Floor. 642-2809. http://ieas.berkeley.edu 

Empowering Women of Color Conference “Revolutionary Love ... Redefining Intimacy and Activism” from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union, UC campus. Cost is $10-$20, free for UCB students. 642-2876. http://ewocc.berkeley.edu 

Darfur Fundraiser with Stewart Florsheim, Jerry Falek and Steve Seskin at 7 p.m. at Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central, Richmond. Tickets are $25 at the door. 741-1931. 

Sushi Basics Learn the natural and cultural history of sushi as you prepare and taste seven types, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center. Parent participation required for children ages 8-10. Cost is $25-$39. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Valentine’s Day Blood Drive from noon to 5 p.m. at the Red Cross Mobile Blood Bank, Colusa Circle, Kensington. 525-6155. 

Origami Valentines with Margot Wecksler at 2 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720 ext. 16. 

Valentine’s Day Family Story Time at 11 a.m. at Richmond Public Library, Main Children’s Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. 620-6557. 

The East Bay Chapter of The Great War Society meets to discuss “Dear Home Folks—Letters From a Doughboy” by Dale Thompson at 10:30 a.m. at the Albany Veterans Bldg., 1325 Portland Ave., Albany. 526-4423. 

“Ancient Tools for Successful Living” Workshops on the lunar cycle. Registration at 11:30 a.m. at ASA Academy, 2811 Adeline St., Oakland. Cost is $10 per workshop. 536-5934. 

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 

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club provides free instruction every Wed. and Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at 2270 Acton St. 841-2174.  

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. 


Family Explorations: Black History with music, cooking and craft activities from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Prepeare Habitat for the California Least Terns from 9 a.m. to noon at the Alameda Wildlife Refuge. Meet at the main refuge gate at the northwest corner of the old Alameda Naval Air Station. jrobinson@goldengateaudubon.org 

Homebrewing Biodiesel Learn the whole process from testing the veggie oil, brewing the biodiesel, washing it, filtering it, and putting it in your vehicle, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Biofuel Oasis, 2465 4th St., at Dwight Way. Cost is $90. To enroll call 665-5509. 

Fireside Stories Join us for a cup of hot chocolate and listen to a few nature stories at 10:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center. 525-2233. 

Reptile Rendezvous Learn about the reptiles that call the nature area home, and meet a few up close, at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden PArk. 525-2233. 

“The Underground Railroad” A film at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Suggested donation $10. 841-4824. 

“Can the State Save Society from Self-destruction? The analysis of state-capitalism and the search for an alternative in Marx’s Humanism and the dialectic” at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 658-1448. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Cathedral of the Ascension, Richmond Room, 4700 Lincoln Ave., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

Darwin Day with Kol Hadash Bagel brunch with Steven Newton, of the National Center for Science Education, from 10 a.m. to noon at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Suggested donation $5. 525-2296. 

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 

Tibetan Buddhism with Santosh Philip on “Inner and Outer Massage of Feeling” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 


“Empowering Ourselves and Our Daughters” with Helen Grieco at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 1606 Bonita Ave. 877-SHE-4447. www.sheinstitute.us 

Black Wall Street District Forum on AIDS/HIV in partnership with the Alameda County Office of AIDS at 6 p.m. at Guice Christian Academy 6925 International Blvd. Free. www.blackwallstreet.org 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Children’s Hospital Oakland, Outpatient Center Basement, 747 52nd St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com 

East Bay Track Club for girls and boys ages 3-15 meets Mon. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley High School track field. Free. 776-7451. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

ASUC Student Legal Clinic Free legal research and case intake. Drop-in hours Mon.Thurs. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fri. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call for information. 642-9986. asuclegalclinic@gmail.com 

Small-Business Counseling Free one-hour one-on-one counseling to help you start and run your small business with a volunteer from Service Core of Retired Executives, Mon. evenings by appointment at Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. For appointment call 981-6134. www.eastbayscore.org 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 


Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Point Isabel Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 525-2233. 

Berkeley Garden Club “The History and Development of the Ruth Bancroft Garden” with Brian Kemble, Director of Horticulture at the Ruth Bancroft Garden at 2 p.m. at United Methodist Church,1953 Hopkins St. 524-7296. 

Tilden Mini-Rangers Hiking, conservation and nature-based activities for ages 8-12. Dress to ramble and get dirty. From 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8, registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“The Housing Crunch: Who’s Hurting? Who’s Helping?” with the League of Women Voters at 12:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 16. 

Birding Classes: North American Owls begins at 7 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland, and runs for two weekends. Call to register. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Wandering the World: Essential Tips for Travelers” at 6:30 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

Nutrition Workshop: Anti-Cancer Foods & Lifestyle with Sandy Der, chef and nutrition consultant, at 7 p.m. at Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Free, but RSVP required. 601-4040 ext. 111. www.wcrc.org 

“The World’s First Temple: Gobekli Tepe” with Don Frew at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, 2304 McKinley Ave. 848-9788. 

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St. near corner of Eunice. MelDancing@aol.com 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

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. 

Qi Gong Meditation 7:30 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, Lotus Room 114. Cost is $5-$10. 883-1920.  

Free Meditation Classes Tues. and Thurs. at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr., 1606 Bonita Ave. 931-7742. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344.  


“Foreclosure Prevention” A seven week class, meets Wed. from 6 to 9 p.m. to April 15 at Unity Council’s HomeOwnership Center, 3301 East 12th St., Suite 201, Oakland. Class is free, but pre-registration required. Call 535-6943. homeownership@unitycouncil.org 

Build/ Plan Healthy Communities A panel discussion on land use patterns and public health at 6 p.m. at AIA East Bay Chapter Office, 1405 Clay St., Oakland. Free, but RSVP required. events@aiaeb.org 

“Freud’s Helplessness” with psychoanalyst and author Adam Phillips at 4 p.m. in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by the Townsend Center for the Humanities. 643-9670.  

“Jerusalem: The East Side Story” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

East Bay Innovation Group “Java SIG: Development in Action” with Walt Schlender at 6 p.m. at Reed Smith Law Firm, 1999 Harrison St., Oakland. Cost is $10-$20, free for eBig members. Register at www.ebig.org  

Simplicity Forum on Finances with Katherine McKay at 6:30 p.m. at the Claremont Library, 2940 Benvenue Ave. 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. 

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. 

Playreaders Program for Adults meets Wed. at noon in the 3rd flr community room, Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. To register call 981-6241. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at 6:30 p.m. at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. www.geocities. 


Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

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.  


“Habitat Rehab: Restoring Bay Area Nature from the Mountains to your Downspout” An illustrated talk with East Bay naturalist Susan Schwartz highlighting the varied efforts that are underway to protect and revitalize our watersheds, at 7 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. www.berkeleypaths.org 

“From Silent Spring to Silent Night: What Have We Learned?” with Tyrone B. Hayes on environmental health and the pesticide atrazine at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“From Wasteland to Wetland: Two Urban Restoration Success Stories” with national Park Service staff at 6 p.m. at Point Richmond Community Center, 139 Washington Ave., Richmond. 665-3597. www.thewatershedproject.org 

“Race in the Age of Obama” with Tim Wise and Eva Paterson at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Cost is $15-$20, $5 for age 17 and under. 601-0182. www.speakoutnow.org 

LiveTalk@CPS with Harry Chotiner “Academy Awards Preview Night” at 7 p.m. at College Prepatory School, Buttner Auditorium, 6100 Broadway. Tickets are $5-$15 at the door. www.college-prep.org/livetalk 

Black History Month Extravaganza at 6 p.m. at Guice Christian Academy, 6925 International Boulevard. www.blackwallstreet.org 

Tilden Nature Area Docent Training from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fee. is $35. For an application or information call 544-3260. www.ebparks.org 

Baby & Toddler Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  





Circle of Concern Vigil meets on West Lawn of UC campus across from Addison and Oxford, Thurs. at noon and Sun. at 1 p.m. to oppose UC weapons labs contracts. 848-8055. 

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 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Free Meditation Classes Tues. and Thurs. at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr., 1606 Bonita Ave. 931-7742. 

Wheelchair Yoga Thurs. at noon, Family Yoga on Sat. at 10:30 a.m. at Niroga Center for Healing, 1808 University Ave. between MLK Way and Grant St. All classes by donation. 704-1330. www.niroga.org 

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 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Robert Baer, retired CIA field officer on “The Nature of Iran’s Threat to our Security.” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $14.50, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

“Art Science Fusion: IDENTITY Genotype-Phenotype” with Gabriele Seethaler, Viennese biochemist and photographer at 1:30 p.m. at Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $20. Part of the Last Friday Ladies Lunch series. RSVP to whoisylvia@aol.com 

Demonstrate for Peace! Bring your signs and determination. Tell Obama to bring our troops home NOW! from 2 to 4 p.m. at Acton and University Ave. 

“The Black Western Frontier” with Wilbert McAllister, President of the Black Cowboy’s Association at 2 p.m. at the West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline St., Oakland. 238-7016. 

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 Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 


Stop Pacific Steel Casting’s Toxic Emissions A community protest with a rally at 11 a.m. at 10th & Gilman. 996-7650. healthyaircoalition@hotmail.com 

Bird Watching Bike Trip: East Shore State Park Meet 8:30 a.m. at the El Cerrito Del Norte BART Station or at 9 a.m. at the end of S. 51st St., Richmond. There is a spur from the SF Bay Trail to this point. We will bird along the SF Bay Trail from Richmond to Emeryville and end at Aquatic Park in Berkeley. Bring bicycle lock, sunscreen, helmet, lunch and liquids. All levels of birders and bicyclists welcome. Rain cancels. 547-1233. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

“Homebuyers Education” A workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Unity Council’s HomeOwnership Center, 3301 East 12th St., Suite 201, Oakland. Class is free, but pre-registration required. Call 535-6943. homeownership@unitycouncil.org 

“Climate Change Workshop: Save Money, Conserve Resources” Learn about easy, effective approaches for saving resources, saving money, and lessening your carbon foot print from 10 a.m. to noon at Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Free, but RSVP required. 601-4040 ext. 111. www.wcrc.org 

Toddler Nature Walk A nature adventure for 2-3 year olds to learn about amphibians, at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Annual Quaker Heritage Day 2009 with Daniel A. Seeger on the contemporary relevance of John Woolman’s witness on the economy in “Commerce, Community, and the Economics of Love” from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church, Sacramento and Cedar. RSVP to 524-4112. www.berkeleyfriendschurch.org 

In Honor of Black History Month A discussion with Regina Jackson, Executive Director, East Oakland Youth Development Center on the work she does with Oakland youth at 2 p.m. at the Rockridge Library, 5366 College Ave., Oakland. 597-5017. 

The Big Read Kick-Off Community reading of “A Lesson Before Dying” by Ernest J. Gaines with performances and and the music of Duke Ellington from 1 to 4 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“The Path to Feedom during the Obama Administration & Beyond” An African American History Month celebration at 3 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $5. 251-1050. 

Celebrate African Cultural Heritage: Nigerian Cooking Workshop Ebun presents a demonstration on making healthy and delicious Nigerian food at 2 p.m. at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 6833 International Boulevard. 615-5728. akokodoko@oaklandlibrary.org  

“Black Holes: Monsters Lurking at the Centers of Galaxies” with Astronomy Professor Eliot Quataert at 11 a.m. at 145 Dwinelle Hall, UC campus.  

“Inspired Expression” Workshop with Holly Near at 2:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10. To register see www.lapena.org 

“Four Jews on Parnassus” with Carl Djerassi at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Donation $10. www.hillsideclub.org 

“Road to Guantanamo” and “Torturing Democracy” films at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Suggested donation $10. 841-4824. 

International Film Festival on Aging at 3 and 7 p.m. and Sun. at 2, 5 and 7 p.m. at AMC Bay Street Theater, Emeryville. Tickets are $10, $6 for seniors. www.filmfestonaging.org 

International Dancing at Festival of the Oaks, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Live Oak Recreation Center, 1301 Shattuck Ave. www.berkeleyfolkdancers.org 

Hospice Volunteer Training at 9:30 a.m. at 333 Hegenberger Road, Suite 700, Oakland. Second training day on Feb. 28. To enroll call 613-2017. 

“Ancient Tools for Successful Living” Workshops on Kamitic Astrology. Registration at 11:30 a.m. at ASA Academy, 2811 Adeline St., Oakland. Cost is $10 per workshop. 536-5934. 

Small Critter Adoption Fair with hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs and rabbits from 1 to 5 pm. at RabbitEARS, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

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. 


Flyway Forays A 2.5 mile walk to discover why thousands of shorebirds and waterfowl overwinter San Francisco Bay, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. 525-2233. 

Family Environment Restoration Day Learn about nature’s interrealtionships and help remove invasive plants at 2 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

A Conversation with Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dorhn “Building a Movement for Peace in our Time” at 2 p.m. at King Middle School, 1781 Rose St. Tickets are $10-$15. Benefit for the Middle East Children’s Alliance, no one turned away. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org 

Egyptology Lecture “The Unification of Egypt: A View from a Backwater Town” with Dr. Pat Podzorski, University of Memphis, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415- 664-4767.  

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to do a safety inspection, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

“Dark Matter and Dark Energy and their Significance for the Apiriual” with David Lingenfelter at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Report on the Zapatista World Festival of Dignified Rage at 6:30 p.m. at the Niebyl Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. www.chiapas-support.org 

“Marxism and Freedom: The Movement from Practice and a New Concept of Theory” at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 658-1448. 

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 

“Cultural yet Jewish: Can Humanistic Judaism be your Home?” with Rabbi Miriam Jerris, Society of Humanistic Judaism, at 2 p.m. in the Edith Stone Room, Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 525-2296. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Rosalyn White on “Symbols in Tibetan Sacred Art” 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  


Community Health Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 12 , at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356.  

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 12, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950.  

Zoning Adjustments Board meets Thurs., Feb. 12, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers. 981-7410.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Tues., Feb. 17, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

City Council Special Work Session Tues., Feb. 17, at 5 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. 

Commission on Labor meets Wed., Feb. 18, at 6:45 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7550.  

Homeless Commission meets Wed., Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5431.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416. 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs., Feb. 19, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Rent Stabilization Board meets Thurs., Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers. 981-7368.  

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 19, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7061.  


Help Low-wage Families with Their Taxes United Way’s Earn it! Keep It! Save It! needs Bay Area volunteers for its 7th annual free tax program. No previous experience necessary. Sign up at www.earnitkeepitsaveit.org