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Traffic Safety Comes to Forefront for Berkeley Schools and Parents

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 03, 2009 - 10:15:00 PM

The tragic accidents of two Berkeley public school students within less than a month of each other has put the spotlight on traffic safety and improvements for many parents, community members and transportation officials in Berkeley. 

On Jan. 30, a 6-year-old girl was hit by a Toyota 4 Runner when she darted into the crosswalk at Ashby and Ellis streets on her way to Malcolm X Elementary School in the morning. The child, who suffered a fractured skull and clavicle, started school this week after recuperating from her injuries. 

Four weeks later, on Friday, 5-year-old LeConte student Zachary Cruz was killed after being hit by a welder’s truck at Warring and Derby streets while walking to an after-school program at the UC Berkeley Clark Kerr Campus nearby. 

LeConte PTA president Sarah Kayler said that although parents were still recovering from the initial shock of the loss, concerns about traffic safety were at the back of everyone’s mind. 

Farid Javandel, Berkeley’s transportation manager, said that although he had not received a police report about last week’s accident, he was investigating concerns raised about the intersection in the past. 

“People have been worried about the traffic volume and speed in that area,” he said, adding that it was one of the routes drivers took to get to UC Berkeley, especially if they were coming from highway 24.  

Javandel said that the T-intersection at Derby and Warring had all the necessary signage, including stop signs at all the intersections and an island which acted as a pedestrian refuge. 

At a forum held by the Malcolm X PTA on Feb. 11, about 50 parents, neighbors and members of the South Berkeley Senior Center met with representatives from the Safe Routes to School Alameda County Partnership program and city officials to discuss modifications to enhance traffic flow and improve safety on Ellis Street and Ashby Avenue, the broad artery which runs from Berkeley’s bayshore to the hills, connecting with the Warren Freeway and Highway 24 leading to the Caldecott Tunnel. 

Visitors at the senior center told the Planet right after the Jan. 30 incident that they viewed the Ashby and Ellis intersection as “extremely dangerous.” 

In 2003, Fred Lupke, 58, an activist for the disabled community, was killed when his wheelchair was struck by a car on Ashby Avenue near the Ellis Street intersection. 

Ideas put forward by parents present at the meeting included increased enforcement for speeding in a school zone and violating pedestrian right-of-way in crosswalks, additional signage around the school along with pedestrian activated in-street cross lights and adding a crossing guard at Ellis and Ashby. 

After listening to community members, transportation officials proposed a list of improvements to the area surrounding Malcolm X, including barring U-turns on Ellis and installing flashing beacons at Ashby and Ellis to warn drivers about pedestrians. 

Javandel said that the city had applied for $55,000 to complete the projects under the statewide Safe Routes to School funding program, which allots $48.5 million in traffic safety improvements every two years. 

Cheryl Eccles, Malcolm X PTA president, said that the school had formed a traffic committee, comprising of representatives from the school, neighborhood and the senior center, which would help to set up walking school buses—groups of students chaperoned by a parent—and create more awareness about traffic safety at the school. 

“We were concerned that traffic was flying too fast and it was not safe for pedestrians there,” said Susan Silber, education coordinator for Safe Routes to Schools. “We want to make that crosswalk more prominent.” 

Nora Cody, director of the Safe Routes to School Alameda County Partnership, said that Berkeley was one of the more congested cities in the area when it came to traffic. 

“Two accidents is definitely two too many,” she said. “It’s very, very tragic—a parent’s worst nightmare. It could very well be a strange co-incidence but we can’t deny the fact that in both cases, the victims were very young. Many kids are just not getting basic pedestrian safety training. The schools should continue to do safety training.” 

Cody said that she was hopeful that the interest generated about traffic safety following the two accidents would not fade after a few months. 

“The more parents we can get to walk children to school the better,” she said. “The fewer cars we have on the streets, the safer it is for our children. We need to get more people to bike or walk everywhere.” 

According to a report published by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, pedestrian injuries are most common among elementary school children aged 5 through 9. 

The report states that these children “often lack the cognitive skills necessary to safely interact with traffic, and can be inattentive to their surroundings, leading them to engage in high-risk behavior, such as dashing in front of traffic.” 

According to the report, the most common type of child pedestrian injuries involve “midblock dart out and dash behavior,” accounting for 60-70 percent of the total pedestrian injuries for children under the age of 10.  

Data from the California Highway Patrol show that one-third of California’s pedestrian injuries and fatalities for children aged 5 to 17 occurred while they were crossing at a crosswalk. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that pedestrian accidents in the Berkeley Unified School District were extremely rare and the two accidents were an exception, rather than the norm. 



Push For West Berkeley Zone Changes Linked To University, Lab Startup Firms

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 03, 2009 - 10:15:00 PM

UC Berkeley, already the instigator of a new plan for downtown Berkeley, is leading the effort to reshape West Berkeley as well. 

Mayor Tom Bates is pushing Berkeley’s role in the East Bay Green Corridor, a developing alliance of mayors that is pressing for the region to take a leading role in development and manufacturing of so-called “green” technology. 

However, the initial shove came not from Bates nor from his fellow mayors, but from UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who summoned them for a luncheon at his university-owned residence. 

And the university official who heads the marketing effort to commercialize UC Berkeley-generated patents with the private sector was on hand to pitch the virtues of tech-friendly zoning to city planning commissioners last week. Michael Cohen, that UC official, may be better known to Daily Planet readers as Michael Alvarez-Cohen, a member of the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board. 

A speaker who favors Power Point presentations laced with words starting with the same letter, Cohen led the lineup of speakers assembled by Michael Caplan and Dave Fogarty of the city’s Economic Development Department to pitch the planners on the virtues of zoning flexibility. 

“Most communities could only dream of having this kind of opportunity,” said Cohen, acting head of UC Berkeley’s Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances [http://ipira.berkeley.edu/]. 

Every year, he said, UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) sends out 10 to 20 start-ups created to exploit technology developed at the two public institutions, he said.  

Cohen, whose university job responsibility is “New Technology Management and Commercialization,” works out of an office on Shattuck Avenue. He said he had worked on more than 100 start-up companies. Of those which had started in Berkeley, most eventually left, even though they might have preferred to stay in Berkeley, he said —with the screen behind him lit up with logos of university-spawned corporate start-ups. 

“We have to take a look at our core assets and leverage them in ways that other parts of the community cannot,” he said.  

Caplan said that there are signs that Washington may become involved in creating new “innovation zones” to foster emerging clean energy technologies in cities with either universities or national laboratories specializing in the field. 

Then-Sen. Barack Obama praised Pennsylvania’s Keystone Innovation Zones during the presidential primary contests last year and promised $200 million a year in matching funds for state and local governments to develop regional economies.  

Now, with President Obama in the White House and the head of a national lab—LNBL’s Steven Chu—as secretary of energy, both UC Berkeley and LBNL are engaged in just those pursuits Caplan cited. 

For Caplan, the ideal outcome would be “incentivizing what we want and getting what we want” to develop what he called a “cradle to scale technology,” to allow high tech startups to evolve from garage labs to full-scale manufacturing plants. 

The changes, he said, would allow the city to specialize in developing new sources of energy and “green and clean technology that will lead the transformation of our era.” 

The goal of the initiative, according to the presenters at last week’s planning commission meeting, was to revise West Berkeley zoning to make it easier for tech startups to begin and stay in the same city that produced the patents they’ll be using. 


Flexible MUPs? 

The problem, according to the zoning change boosters, is a flaw with the city’s regulations for its master use permit (MUP), a process that allows for sequential development of sites. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman noted that in the last 10 years since the commission looked at zoning for the area, “somehow it’s never come to the planning commission that there’s something screwed up about the MUP.” 

“I can’t tell you why it didn’t happen,” said senior planner Alex Amoroso, the city staffer who has been handling the West Berkeley rezoning. 

“We’ve had no applications for an MUP since then,” said Debra Sanderson, the city’s land use planning manager. “There has to be a five-acre minimum, thus the size problem.” 

Sanderson said the existing MUP regulations wouldn’t allow some of the uses previously allowed. Other concerns include development standards that wouldn’t allow some proposed uses.  

The “size problem” refers to possible moves to reduce the size of allowable master-planned developments, a matter that worries many West Berkeley small businesses and artisans. They say they fear that lowering the size of MUP sites would lead to expansion development which would result in escalating land and lease prices that could drive small operations from their last toehold in the community. 

Amoroso said three primary obstacles to development remain: allowable uses, bans on elimination of manufacturing space and protected uses. 


Flexibility fans 

A procession of developers and landowner representatives summoned by the city staff spoke to the commission, urging changes in the way the development game is played in what Caplan called “the economic development frontier for the city.” 

Steve Goldin, a major property owner and the second speaker in Caplan’s lineup, identified himself as a majority West Berkeley property owner with first-hand experience of zoning issues. 

“You can tinker around with these problems only so much,” he said, urging commissioners to tweak the rules and definitions to ease the way for tech startups to evolve into full-scale manufacturing facilities that would stay in Berkeley. “One source of leverage we have is that the more you can intervene to help a business grow before they make any money, they will be very beholden and grateful.” 

Michael Ziegler, an industrial developer (who is also a rabbi who leads monthly musical services at Berkeley’s Jewish Community Center), said he had helped develop more than five million square feet of development space—including the Temescal Business Center at 7th and Heinz streets, which city staff has held up as a model of the MUP process. 

One site that “effectively could not be developed as flexible space,” he said, was the Flint Ink site, on the 1300 block of Fourth Street. Ziegler also said some tenants chose other locations than in Berkeley because “it takes many, many months just to determine” if their project fits with the city’s list of acceptable uses. 

Jim Morris and Peter Waldt of development consultants Cushman Wakefield are part of the team representing the owners of West Berkeley’s largest potential MUP site, 8.2 acres located adjacent to Aquatic Park. Morris presented his own Power Point pitch, complete with “psychographic” charts of potential workers at high tech companies. The owners hope to develop the site, once the site of American Soil & Stone Products Inc., as an incubator host to startups connected with the university and lab. 

Darrel de Tienne spoke on behalf of Douglas Herst, who is proposing a project called Peerless Greens at the site of the Peerless Lighting plant in West Berkeley, which occupies most of two blocks, all of it currently occupied. 

In addition to attracting conventional tenants, de Tienne said Herst hopes to create separate work and living spaces for artists, with the goal of housing half of the site’s 1,700 project daytime employees. 

“Obviously, we need an MUP for this to take place,” he said. 



Commissioner Patti Dacey was the first critic to sound off, telling staff (alluding to Orwell's Animal Farm) that while she appreciated the information, “I really object to the way we treat some animals as more equal than others.” 

Advocates of the zoning changes “get to actually present cohesive, well-developed thoughts without anyone interrupting,” she said, unlike public comment speakers,. who are strictly timed. “I find that offensive.” 

Dacey said advocates of other views should be allowed to make their pleas in a similar forum. “This needs to be a more open process with us sitting down with different stakeholders,” she said. 

And with that, public comments began. 

George Chittenden runs an existing manufacturing business in West Berkeley, Adams & Chittenden Scientific Glass. He said the exuberance about green tech reminded him of the since-deflated dot-com euphoria, and he urged commissioners not to “throw the baby out with the bath water. Leave space to make things in West Berkeley,” he urged, warning that too many zoning changes could keep similar firms out of the city. 

“We were a start-up in the 90s and relocated to West Berkeley. A lot of the companies presented here tonight are our clients,” he said. 

West Berkeley’s biggest developer wasn’t part of the staff’s list of speakers, but he conveyed the same message. Chris Barlow of Wareham Properties said his company owns 22 buildings in West Berkeley.  

“This is not the dot-com story,” he said, urging rules that would ease mixed-use site development to accommodate changes in the tech world. 

“No one knew what biofuel was two years ago,” he said. “An MUP is an important tool that would allow the developer to work with the city for the benefit of the city as a whole.” 

George Martin, who owns a business that straddles the Berkeley/Emeryville border, urged commissioners to keep the community stakeholders involved in the process of shaping new zoning rules. “Keep us involved, don’t push us out,” he said.” We’ve been here for 60 years.” 

Other speakers who called for restraint in zoning changes included some of the leading figures in West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC), a stakeholder group representing existing businesses and the area’s sizable arts community. 

WEBAIC doesn’t oppose zoning changes to allow for more flexibility in assigning use on parcels, but members have urged restricting major changes to the largest development sites, with five acres often mentioned as the minimum. 


LeConte Remembers Student Killed in Collision

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 02, 2009 - 05:26:00 PM
Flowers, photos and stuffed animals have been placed at the intersection of Derby and Warring streets, where Zachary Cruz was struck and killed by a truck Friday.
By Riya Bhattacharjee
Flowers, photos and stuffed animals have been placed at the intersection of Derby and Warring streets, where Zachary Cruz was struck and killed by a truck Friday.

Even as a winter deluge brought Berkeley to a standstill early Monday, community members continued to place flowers, candles and notes at the intersection of Derby and Warring streets, where 5-year-old Zachary Cruz had been hit and killed by a welder’s truck on Friday, just as they had done all through the weekend. 

A laminated picture of Zach, and his parents, Frank and Jodie, along with his baby brother Miles, taken at his kindergarten classroom at LeConte last year, shared the crosswalk with photographs of him rock climbing and posing on the grass, along with dozens of carnations, roses and a Tigger stuffed toy—all dripping wet from the rain, but serving as a gentle reminder of how much he was loved by friends and family, and had touched the heart of those who had never known him. 

As the rain splattered against the windows of Zach’s classroom—room 109—at LeConte, it was easy to see that the tragedy had effected not just his teacher, Jeannie Gee, and his classmates, who spent the better part of the morning talking about him, but the entire school. 

Teachers stressed the importance of traffic safety rules to their students, parents stopped by to speak with the school staff after almost every period—some insisting on being with their children during a concert rehearsal, and principal Cheryl Wilson dropped everything to prepare to meet with Zach’s parents later that afternoon. 

Wilson, who canceled the school’s black history month celebration Friday night after she heard about the accident, said that the outpouring of support from parents and students had been tremendous. 

“We started with Zach’s classroom today morning and then we went to every class answering questions and clarifying misconceptions about what happened to Zach and what had happened to some of their family members who died in the past,” said Wilson, who has been at LeConte for four years and is dealing with the death of a student for the first time. 

“Some of the kindergartners burst into tears but we told them that Zach’s death had made each of us a stronger person. We have learnt to be a better person from Zach, and the importance of showing love, care and respect to the people we love.” 

Wilson said that the most important thing on her mind right now was to help Zach’s family, who she said lived in student housing because Zach’s father is a graduate student at UC Berkeley. 

“My focus is primarily on how the community can support the family,” she said, adding that friends had already set up a meal calendar and that the Cruz’s had set up a website, www.zacharymichaelcruz.com, where they were asking for donations instead of flowers to help pay for funeral costs. 

The website also lists some of Zach’s favorite bands—the Beatles and the Terrible Twos, and his favorite TV shows—Sponge Bob Square Pants and TLC’s How It’s Made. It tells us that the 5-year-old loved to play with Legos, Ray the Racoon and WALL-E toys and was a fan of the Star Wars Trilogy and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. 

It shows him enjoying eating dinner—the web post lists paneer tikka masala and naan from Berkeley’s House of Curries as his favorite food and vanilla milk as his favorite drink. 

Zach liked visiting the Lawrence Hall of Science and the Chabot Space and Science Center and spent a lot of time listening to records, playing with Miles—whom he called “Mr. M”—and visiting San Francisco. 

He wanted to be a scientist, an astronaut or a doctor when he grew up. 

Wilson said that besides the message board in the school’s hallway, which had a picture of a rocket drawn by him titled “I mad a roccit” and other messages and pictures from his friends and teachers, the school would create a temporary altar in the library and keep a place for Zach in his kindergarten classroom permanently, which would be marked by a giant teddy bear. 

Around 15 kindergartners crowded around their teacher, Ms. Gee, Monday afternoon to hear one of Zach’s friends, Ophelia, talk about him. 

“I miss you Zach and I will miss playing ghostbusters with you,” Ophelia said, handing over a “special box” she had made in his memory to Gee. 

“This box has a picture of Zach and me during halloween—Zach was dressed up as a ghostbuster. You see, he loved being a ghostbuster.” 

Gee also read aloud from The Next Place, a children’s book by Warren Hanson, which she said had helped students get through most of the day. 

“It was tough but we survived the first day,” she said, as she led her class into the school’s auditorium to practice for an upcoming concert with the Berkeley Symphony. 




German Publisher Swallows Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press

By Richard Brenneman
Monday March 02, 2009 - 07:24:00 PM

Berkeley lost a legendary independent publisher Monday when German media giant Bertlesman bought Ten Speed Press through its New York-based publishing unit Random House. 

The one bright light in the sale is news that the company will keep most of its existing operations and staff in Berkeley. 

News of the sale came in a joint announcement by three publishers: Ten Speed founder and president Philip Wood, Random House president and CEO Markus Dohle and Jenny Frost, president of Crown Publishing Group. 

Ten Speed and its label will be operated as part of Crown, a Random House subsidiary. 

The sale includes all four of Ten Sped’s imprints: Ten Speed Press, Tricycle Press, Celestial Arts and Crossing Press. 

Terms of the sale were not included in the announcement. 

Wood, who founded the company in 1971, will assume the title of president emeritus of the company which publishes more than 100 new titles a year and which has an active backlist of more than 1,000 titles, according to the announcement. 

Among the firm’s biggest sellers are What Color is Your Parachute, a job-hunting manual with sales of more than 10 million copies, and the 2 million-seller The Moosewood Cookbook

Distribution of titles will be taken over by Random House effective May 1. 

Lisa Regul, Ten Speed’s publicity manager, said Random House is keeping most of the publishing operations in Berkeley, with the exception of the warehouse, which will be consolidated with the existing Random House facility in Maryland. 

She said she didn’t know how many employees might be affected. 

“But they’re keeping the office here open,” she said, including editorial, production, design, marketing and her own publicity staff. 

In the Random House press release, Dohle hailed the acquisition as “a real opportunity for us to further grow our business with a terrific group of imprints and a great publishing team.” 

In the same announcement, Wood said he was “confident Ten Speed Press, the company I founded and have owned for almost four decades, will thrive under Random House, whose highly professional people are committed to, and fully understand, publishing.” 

The company’s headquarters is at 999 Harrison St. in West Berkeley. 



Group Plans Fruitvale BART Disruption To Protest Grant Death

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Monday March 02, 2009 - 07:25:00 PM

A group calling itself No Justice No BART (NJNB) has called for a disruption of service Thursday during the afternoon rush hour at the Fruitvale BART Station to further its demands for justice in the death of Hayward resident Oscar Grant.  

The 22-year-old Grant was shot and killed by BART police officer Johannes Mehserle as Grant lay unarmed and on his stomach on the Fruitvale BART platform in the early morning hours of New Years Day. Mehserle, who has since resigned from the BART Police Department, has been arrested and charged with murder in the Grant case, and the death has caused a growing protest movement in the East Bay. 

NJNB members have been active in many of the protests and meetings in the aftermath of Grant’s death. 

On its flyer advertising the disruption, NJNB demands the firing of BART Police Chief Gary Gee as well as the firing of BART Police Officer Tony Pirone, who was seen on a widely distributed video punching Grant in the face shortly before Grant was shot and killed. Last month, in a presentation before the BART Board of Directors announcing plans for the disruption, NJNB organizing committee member Christopher Cantor also called for abolishing the BART Police Force, telling board members that “you’re going to have to [do it] in the end.” 

While the group did not specify how it intended the disruption to take place, Cantor told the BART board last month that direct action could take place on the platform, on BART trains, and on the BART tracks. 



Two More Women Assaulted Near UC Berkeley

By Bay City News
Monday March 02, 2009 - 03:53:00 PM

An alleged sexual predator targeting women near the UC Berkeley campus assaulted two more people on Saturday, police said today (Monday). 

The latest attacks happened at about 3:45 a.m. Saturday on Piedmont Avenue near Channing Way, and at 11 p.m. on Dwight Way near College Avenue. 

In both incidents, the suspect walked up to the victims from behind and reached up under their clothing to sexually assault them, police said. 

Witnesses described the suspect as a white man in his 20s about 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 160 to 170 pounds with a medium build and dark, wavy hair. 

He is believed to be responsible for 19 attacks in the South Campus area since September. 

Police are asking for the community's help in catching the suspect. Anyone who can identify him or who has witnessed an attack is asked to call the Berkeley police sex crimes detail at (510) 981-5735. 

Police are also encouraging victims to report attacks immediately to Berkeley police dispatch at (510) 981-5900, or from a cell phone at (510)  


Kindergartner Killed by Truck

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 27, 2009 - 05:32:00 PM
Berkeley police talk with the driver of a construction truck that struck and killed a LeConte Elementary School student at the intersection of Derby and  
                              Warring streets Friday afternoon. The scene was preserved as evidence under the pop-up tent at left.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Berkeley police talk with the driver of a construction truck that struck and killed a LeConte Elementary School student at the intersection of Derby and Warring streets Friday afternoon. The scene was preserved as evidence under the pop-up tent at left.

A LeConte Elementary School kindergartner was struck and killed Friday afternoon by a construction truck at Warring and Derby streets in Berkeley. 

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, a spokesperson for the Berkeley Police Department, said Berkeley police received a 911 call at 1:45 p.m. reporting that a young child had been hit by a truck near the Clark Kerr Campus, a residential complex located about six blocks southeast of the UC Berkeley campus. 

According to Kusmiss, police officers arrived on the scene to find a neighbor performing CPR on 5-year-old Zachary Cruz. Berkeley Fire Department later pronounced the boy dead at the scene, Kusmiss said. 

Though the parents were notified as quickly as possible, the child's identity was withheld until extended family could be contacted. The Alameda County coroner's office released the boy's name Saturday. 

Police enclosed the boy's body inside a pop-up tent, a protocol devised, Kusmiss explained, as a method of preserving evidence when a victim is pronounced dead at the scene. 

Kusmiss said the boy was walking southbound on Warring and that the driver might have made an eastbound turn on Derby, stopping when he realized he had struck the child. 

“The driver shared what his path was,” she said, adding that he had cooperated with police officers and that no drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident. 

“We are trying to re-evaluate the witness statements,” Kusmiss said, adding that so far 15 witnesses had come forward to testify, including other children present at the time who were attending a nearby after-school program. 

Other witnesses included residents of the Clark Kerr Campus who were able to see the last part of the accident from their apartment balconies, and several women who said they saw the truck but not the collision. 

“We have a couple of different accounts but it’s slightly early to announce anything,” Kusmiss said. “The officers are interviewing the students.” 

Officers from the Berkeley Police Department’s Fatal Accident Investigation Team (FAIT), who have undergone extensive training to deal with collision incidents, were at the scene investigating the accident along with homicide detectives. 

Kusmiss said at 4 p.m. that the body of the child would remain at the scene for at least two hours. 

Officials from both Berkeley Unified School District and UC Berkeley—including district Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith, LeConte Principal Cheryl Wilson and UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof—visited the scene of the accident in the afternoon. 

Berkeley Unified School District spokesperson Mark Coplan, who arrived at the scene immediately after he heard the news, said Cruz was crossing the intersection at Derby and Warring on his way to a K-2 after-school program. 

Students from LeConte Elementary School, located at 2241 Russell St. in South Berkeley, are taken by school bus to Emerson Elementary School where they are met by after-school program teachers who escort them the remaining block to the Clark Kerr Campus.  

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof confirmed that Cruz, the son of a UC Berkeley graduate student, was with teachers and students from the after-school program when the accident occurred. 

Mogulof said the staff at the after-school program was really distraught about the incident and that university officials, including counseling staff, were at the scene to offer support and assistance to the parents. 

“Our community is deeply saddened and shaken by this loss,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau in a statement late Friday evening. “The Berkeley community sends our thoughts and prayers to the parents, family members, and others affected by this tragic accident.” 

Around 2:30 p.m., UC Berkeley students and individuals who lived or worked in the neighborhood started to crowd near Derby and Piedmont Avenue, where police had cordoned the area off with yellow crime scene tape. 

Two college students from the Clark Kerr Campus who did not want want their names published complained that Derby and Warring intersection, which is in a residential neighborhood and gets a lot of traffic from the Caldecott Tunnel, is a dangerous one, especially considering the number of small children in the area.  

The driver of the 2.5-ton contractor-style truck was escorted into a police vehicle by two Berkeley police officers around 3:30 p.m.  

In a statement sent out by the Berkeley Unified School District just after midnight Friday, Coplan said the entire school district was “grieving over the loss of the 5-year-old LeConte student. Any loss of life is a tragedy, but the loss of a kindergarten child is so hard to accept,” he wrote, adding that “his teacher Jeannie Gee, his classmates, and his family knew him in a way that none of us will ever be able to experience.” 

Principal Cheryl Wilson wrote to LeConte parents, “This is one of the most difficult letters I have had to write." After breaking the news of the death to the LeConte community, she wrote that, with assistance from Berkeley Mental Health, she would visit every LeConte classroom Monday to “talk to all the children, answer their questions, and provide support.” 

Friday’s incident is the second traffic incident in less than a month involving a Berkeley kindergartner. On Jan. 30, a 6-year-old Malcolm X Elementary School student was hit by a Toyota 4 Runner at the intersection of Ellis Street and Ashby Avenue when she darted into the crosswalk after hearing the school bell ring. The girl, who underwent surgery for a broken clavicle and fractured skull, has recovered from her injuries and will return to school Monday. 

The family has put up a website in Zachary's honor, www.zacharymichaelcruz.com, with a soundtrack consisting of his favorite song, The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love." Visitors to the site can post comments and donate money to help defray funeral costs.  

Neighbors Share Concerns Over West Berkeley Building Proposal

By Richard Brenneman
Friday February 27, 2009 - 05:16:00 PM

The struggle over the size of Wareham Properties’ latest Berkeley project entered a new phase Thursday night with the first public meeting to gather insight for an environmental impact report (EIR). 

The project, at 740 Heinz Ave., would be the tallest building erected in West Berkeley since the Fantasy Building, rising 62 feet, with another 12 feet of screening above that to shield rooftop hardware from public view. 

The existing height limit for the area is 45 feet. 

“That’s a big puppy,” said John Shea, an artist who lives just north of the site in the landmarked, Wareham-owned 800 Heinz Building, a former mayonnaise plant Wareham rents as live/work artists’ quarters. That use was hammered out in a 1985 agreement that allowed Wareham to demolish other landmarked buildings on their property. 

Environmental review consultants LSA Associates are conducting the environmental review and prepared an initial study outlining the proposed parameters of the more detailed study to come. 

The building Wareham proposes is 92,000 square feet and would replace the 10,000-square-foot landmarked Garr Building, but would preserve the Garr’s northern and southern facades. The new building would be constructed as a research and development facility, a Wareham specialty. 

Wednesday night’s meeting was a scoping session, mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act as a forum for gathering comments and concerns to be addressed in the EIR. 

Chris Barlow and Tom Fitzsimmons were on hand for Wareham, as was West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) advocate Rick Auerbach along with nearby neighbors and business owners. 

Aerin Moore of Magic Gardens, the nursery and landscaping services business at 729 Heinz, said the LSA study had erroneously claimed there would be no adverse impact on agriculture resources. 

The existing landmark shaded about 15 percent of his nursery during winter months, he said. “But this is going to be four or five times larger,” he said. “It’s going to kill plants. There’s no doubt about it. We won’t get any daylight until late afternoon.” 

The study found only two areas—cultural resources and transportation and traffic—where impacts would be potentially significant and not easily mitigated. 

But Auerbach said the project could have potentially major impacts on archaeological resources because it is located near a seasonal water source, Potter Creek, near the edge of the historic shoreline, the kind of site he said was often used by native peoples. He said core samples should be collected from the site before construction begins to search for signs of native habitation.  

Neighbors said they were concerned about increased traffic and making the area’s parking problems worse, and Barlow acknowledged traffic problems in the area. The project would eliminate existing parking spaces on the site and provide no replacements. 

Wareham was able to avoid some of the restrictions that would have resulted from locating a new building on a single property because the new building extends past the existing property lines of the Garr Building lot and onto other property owned by Wareham, which allows the structure to be developed under city codes governing integrated developments. 

Greg Powell, the city senior planner assigned to the project, said Wareham would be entitled to integrated development rules even if the building didn’t cross the property line, since the adjacent properties are held by the same owners. 

Shea and other artists at 800 Heinz said they are worried that the new building would limit the light so critical to their work. “It changes our light source,” said painter Corliss Lesser, who said she was also concerned about parking and traffic. 

Wareham is one of the Berkeley’s biggest landlords and owns a large collection of structures in the area, as well as major holdings in Emeryville, Richmond and Marin County. Among their West Berkeley holdings are buildings at 830 Heinz Ave., 2910 and 2929 Seventh St. and 2600 Tenth St. 

Barlow is an advocate of easing zoning regulations in West Berkeley and had appeared at the Planning Commission the night before to argue for new master use permit rules to allow for more flexibility in permissible uses in the city’s only sector zoned for industrial and manufacturing uses. 

Auerbach, who represents a large and diverse community of existing businesses in West Berkeley, said a major concern was the impact of new construction on the area’s existing businesses, including displacement of blue- and green-collar workers by the post-grads who work in Wareham’s lab buildings. 

He said he was also concerned that lab employees, as projected by the developer, would want to live nearby, potentially leading to an inflation in housing costs in the area of the city most affordable to those with modest incomes. 

Other concerns he cited included what he said were conflicts with the West Berkeley Plan, including sections dealing with the scale and appropriateness of developments and impacts on existing buildings. 

Powell said some of Auerbach’s concerns would be more appropriately directed to the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board after Wareham files for permits to build the structure. 

The planner said the project would be presented to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in April or May for review of its impacts on historic resources.  

A draft of the EIR will be ready by “early spring,” said LSA consultant Shannon Allen, when another hearing will gather comments on the document before a final draft is completed.

School District Plans Layoffs in Light of State Budget Cuts

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday February 27, 2009 - 04:34:00 PM

Statewide education cuts have forced the Berkeley Unified School District to consider eliminating at least 118 teaching positions in the 2009-2010 school year, district officials announced Wednesday. 

Administrators and educators in Berkeley acknowledge that although the district annually faces possible layoffs that it usually manages to avoid, this year the situation is more serious, given that the district is estimated to lose $8 million over the next two years, the majority of which would come from the district’s general fund. 

General fund dollars go toward paying teacher salaries, officials said. 

The district lost $2.5 million in the last fiscal year but was still able to rescind layoff notices to teachers at that time after the Legislature voted against scrapping Prop. 98, a voter-approved statute that establishes a minimum level of funding for California schools. 

However, the new budget approved by state lawmakers on Feb. 19 will subtract $8.4 billion from Prop. 98, resulting in teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and fewer programs in arts and music. 

“It’s a pretty serious threat,” said Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. “We are cutting more than twice as much this time." 

In a report to district Superintendent Bill Huyett and the school board, Lisa Udell, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said that budget cuts meant that the district would have to reduce its ability to “provide the same type of services at the same level, and in the same manner as provided in previous years.” 

Udell informed the board that the state education code permitted teacher layoffs, but that it was necessary to notify teachers by March 15 if their jobs were in jeopardy. 

“We recognize that it’s a very painful process and a time of uncertainty, but Berkeley is not unique,” she said, referring to school districts which already laid off teachers and even closed down entire schools. “We will be doing our best to limit the layoffs as we get close to March 4 but unfortunately we feel there will be some serious cuts this year.” 

The board is scheduled to vote on the list of possible reductions Wednesday. District administrators will finalize the list of layoffs after taking into account a teacher’s seniority, credentials and degrees, among other factors. 

Teachers receiving pink slips in March will also have a chance to appear before an administrative law judge to make their case. The final layoff notices are scheduled to go out in mid-May. 

The district is considering reducing positions that include management in administrative areas, vice principals, counselors and coaches across all the elementary, middle and high schools. 

Udell said that jobs like foreign language and early childhood special education teachers would not be eliminated because those positions are harder to fill. 

“Clearly the cuts are large,” said Huyett. “There are more than 100 positions here. We will look to see if we can preserve the positions but we don’t want to give false hopes at this juncture.” 

Huyett said there might be hope in the form of education funds promised through the federal stimulus bill, but that the school district still did not have any definite numbers. 

“The worse part is, that’s not all the cuts,” he said, adding that categorical funds which provide money for arts programs and libraries will be slashed by 20 percent and adult education will face at least a $1 million cut. 

“We are living in a state that is not valuing public education and not using progressive taxation,” said Campbell. “We are probably down to 50th in the nation in per pupil spending. I am ashamed of the failure of the state to prioritize education.”

Berkeley High Investigates Gun Incident on Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 26, 2009 - 10:23:00 PM

Berkeley police and Berkeley High School are investigating a report made by a student on Wednesday afternoon that he had been threatened by another student from the school with a gun or an imitation firearm at the end of the lunch period. 

School administrators investigated the incident after learning about it but were not able to find any weapons on campus. 

According to an e-mail sent out Thursday on the Berkeley High e-tree, an online message board, by Berkeley High Acting Principal Maggie Heredia-Peltz, the school’s safety team worked with the student, the student’s family and the Berkeley Police Department, resulting in the identification and apprehension of the suspect later Wednesday afternoon. 

Berkeley High principal Jim Slemp is on a leave of absence because of a burst appendix. Calls to Heredia-Peltz and the Berkeley Police Department were not returned immediately. 

Mark Coplan, public information officer for the Berkeley Unified School District, told the Planet in an e-mail that the message sent out by Heredia-Peltz was the only available information as of Thursday, and probably the only information that would be released in light of the fact that the investigation and any hearing or action taken against the suspect would be confidential. 

In her e-mail, Heredia-Peltz assured the Berkeley High community that the perpetrator would not be allowed to return to campus unless the investigation conducted by both Berkeley High and the Berkeley police cleared him of any wrongdoing. She said that if the allegations turned out to be true, the student would face expulsion as mandated by state law. 

Addressing parents and students at Berkeley High, the acting principal said, “We appreciate your support in helping us to keep our campus safe by continuing to report any concerns regarding your student’s safety immediately to an administrator, safety officer, counselor, and/or staff member.”  

Members of the Berkeley High School Safety Committee, formed by the school’s Governance Council to update Berkeley High’s safety plan, said they were happy to see that the school had alerted the community after the incident, a policy the committee has been advocating.  

Don Morgan, a parent-member of the safety committee, said that crime alerts helped parents, students and teachers to be aware of what was happening at the school and its surrounding area, helping students avoid similar incidents in the future. 

“If certain incidents are happening regularly then parents could instruct their children to stay away from that place,” he said. “We have heard from parents in the past who complain about the lack of information about crime at the high school. The only way they learn about it is either by word-of-mouth or the newspaper. We hope to make these notices a part of the school safety plan.” 

Berkeley police recovered an air-soft gun from the Berkeley High Gym last May which they said at that time might have been used by a 17-year-old Berkeley High School junior who was arrested for robbing a sophomore at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, which is located right across the street from the school. 


Former Hancock Campaign Aide to Replace Kaplan on AC Transit Board

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday February 26, 2009 - 10:22:00 PM

A divided AC Transit Board chose Oakland corporate attorney and former State Senator Loni Hancock's campaign field organizer Joel B. Young this week to fill the vacancy left when At-Large Board Member Rebecca Kaplan left for the Oakland City Council. 

It took two rounds of voting for the board to make its decision, first deadlocking 3-3 on a motion to choose Obama Transition Team member and former Google executive Elizabeth Echols of Oakland. The board then voted 4-2 to select Young. 

Not selected was the woman who won the most votes when the board winnowed down the original 17 candidates earlier this month, former Vallejo Superintendent of Transportation Pamela Belchamber, a Berkeley resident. 

Belchamber had received six votes to Echols' five and Young's four in that initial round of voting, but had been the subject of some email traffic by public transportation advocates in the intervening week questioning her credentials. 

Young, who said in his application letter that a "significant amount" of his life had been spent riding public transit and that his father was a 19-year San Francisco Muni bus driver, will serve until December of 2010. Voters in the two-county AC Transit area will vote in November 2010 for the full four-year term of the at-large seat that Young now occupies. 


Saturday February 28, 2009 - 02:12:00 PM

Developer Dollars Fell Short in District 4 City Council Race

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:57:00 PM

Development dollars played a powerful but ultimately doomed role in the election to represent a City Council district targeted for the lion’s share of housing and commercial development over the coming two decades. 

Four candidates battled to fill the fourth district seat left vacant by the death earlier in the year of a Berkeley political icon, Dona Spring, who had succumbed to complications from her decades-long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. 

The City Council has designated the district, which encompasses the heart of downtown Berkeley, to receive most of the new housing that regional government demands the city accept. 

City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks has told planning commissioners that the downtown is the only area where dense, high-rise development could be built because of inevitable opposition from neighborhood activists in other parts of the city. 

So it’s no surprise that developer dollars poured into the race, backing the one candidate they knew to be friendly to their cause.  

While three contestants fought from the left, one candidate, retired teacher and serving member of the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) Terry Doran, proved the favorite of both developers and the pro-development City Council majority. 

While Doran reportedly told developers earlier in the campaign to hold off with their contributions to avoid bad publicity, one of Berkeley’s best-connected developers, Ali Kashani, e-mailed fellow developers late in the campaign to start sending in the cash. 

“Please contribute the maximum $250 per person,” the developer urged. 

Kashani, who began on the nonprofit side before switching to the for-profit side of the development business, has partnered with Mark Rhoades, formerly the city’s land use planning manager. 

The timing of Kashani’s e-mail insured that the resulting contributions wouldn’t have to be reported to the city clerk until after the election, avoiding the stigma that he said Doran told him he wanted to avoid. 

Doran has denied the account, but as the filings showed, he didn’t spurn the money that followed, some of it from the city’s best-known real estate industry players. 

Doug Herst, the retired former owner of Peerless Lighting and would-be developer of the former plant site in West Berkeley, came up with Kashani’s maximum, as did his spouse, Carolen. 

The couple has a major interest in the outcome of proposals to ease zoning regulations in West Berkeley now being hashed out by the Planning Commission at the orders of the pro-development council majority. 

John DeClerq, developer of the Library Gardens project, also donated the maximum amount. One development company alone, Hudson McDonald, provided $2,000 of the post-e-mail cash, including: 

• Chris Hudson, co-developer of the so-called Trader Joe’s project on University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

• Hudson’s spouse, Cindy Chang, a physician at UC Berkeley. 

• Evan McDonald, partner in Hudson McDonald development. 

• McDonald’s spouse, Christine, a photographer. 

• Tobias Lieberman, Hudson McDonald project manager. 

• Sean McKinley, another Hudson McDonald employee. 

• McKinley’s spouse, Jessica, a corporate biosciences researcher. 

• Aaron Villaroya, still another Hudson McDonald staffer.  

One of Berkeley’s richest and most secretive sources of development largess also appears, a man who has bankrolled projects for both Hudson McDonald and Patrick Kennedy—the man whose name has become a lightning rod in Berkeley development storms. 

David Teece, a New Zealand native, who has built both Islamic banks and a rugby gear business while battling the IRS over allegations of tax dodging, is a shadowy figure in Berkeley politics. 

A professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he earns millions from LECG, one of the nation’s leading economic consulting firms, of which he is both a founder and a director as well as a paid consultant. 

He has bankrolled both Hudson McDonald and Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests, yet refuses interviews. With the sole of exception of the university, he could well be considered Berkeley’s preeminent developer, a man whose millions have reshaped the face of the city. 

But in this race, his overt effort was limited to the $250 maximum. 

Other Doran contributions from the development sector include several from architects, a professional group that has seen its billings drop during the ongoing economic crisis to the lowest levels ever recorded since the industry began indexing them. 

Architectural contributors include: 

• Rebecca Hayden of Baker, Vilar Architects, $100. 

• David Trachtenberg of Trachtenberg Architects, $100. 

• Erick Mikiten, Mikiten Architecture, $150. 

• Carl Bridgers, Holly Associates, $25. 

Other late Doran contributors from the land-use sector include: 

• The California Real Estate Political Action Committee, $250. 

• Marvin Gardens real estate broker Ronald Egherman, $100. 

• Joe DeStefano, an urban planner for Calthorpe Associates, $100. 

• Publicist Caleb Dardick, who represents developers, $100. 

• Planning commissioner and land use attorney Harry Pollack, $100. 

• Developer David Mayeri of DMM Associates, $250. 

Together, the development-related contributions for Doran’s final reporting period totaled $4,275, or 62 percent of his $6,904 in contributions reported between Oct. 19 and Dec. 31. 

During the previous reporting period, Doran received at least $5,100 from the land-use sector, bringing the total to $9,375, or 42 percent of the $22,323 he took in during the campaign. 

Developer contributions helped Doran recoup the $1,000 he had loaned himself during the campaign. The candidate also received $700 in contributions from family members. 

The ZAB member also brought in contributions from two Berkeley councilmembers during the final reporting period, $50 from Max Anderson (bringing his total to $100) and $100 from Darryl Moore (bring his total to $200). 

Doran had earlier received $250 maximum donations from Mayor Tom Bates, City Councilmember and real estate broker Laurie Capitelli and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. Doran had also taken donations from three planning commissioners, including Chair James Samuels, the leader of the commission’s pro-development majority. 


Jesse Arreguin 

Doran’s closest rival in the fund-raising race was the eventual winner at the polls, Jesse Arreguin, the council’s youngest member and its first Latino. 

As the aide to Councilmember Kriss Worthington and a member of the city’s housing commission, he has been critical of the council majority’s generally laissez-faire approach to development. 

Since his election, Arreguin has observed many of the Planning Commission sessions where members have been drafting revisions to the new downtown plan the council is scheduled to adopt in May. 

Only a small percentage of Arreguin’s contributions came from the land-use sector, including those whose interests stemmed from their membership on related city commissions:  

• Real estate attorney Maryland Cleveland added $20 to the $150 she had already given. 

• Landmarks Commissioner and Design Review Committee member Carrie Olson gave a total of $220. 

• Nonprofit environmental planner and East Bay MUD Director Andrew Katz gave $100. 

• Transportation Commissioner Wendy Alfsen gave a total of $190. 

• Susan Chase, director and former president of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association gave $150. 

• Mary Lou VanDeventer and Daniel Knapp of Urban Ore, which is involved in the struggle over West Berkeley zoning changes, gave a total of $500. 

• Central Labor Council Solidarity Political Action Committee gave $250. 

• Ted Garrett, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO, who had earlier given Doran $250, gave Arreguin $50 after the election. 

Those donations, added to contributions reported earlier, give Arreguin a total of $3,480 from people with interests in land use decisions—almost entirely from interests opposite those of Doran’s donors. 

The total accounts for 20 percent of Arreguin’s campaign contributions for the entire election period of $17,097.77. 


Others candidates 

L A Wood, who reported $4,053.42 in contributions, took in $350 from development-related interests for the entire campaign period, while the fourth candidate, Asa Dosworth, reported no land-use sector donations. 





Florist Battles Whole Foods Market Over Lease Renewal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:58:00 PM
Councilmember Kriss Worthington joins Halcyon Neighborhood Association co-chair Nancy Carleton and Aaron Vance to protest outside Whole Foods Market’s Emeryville headquarters Wednesday.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Councilmember Kriss Worthington joins Halcyon Neighborhood Association co-chair Nancy Carleton and Aaron Vance to protest outside Whole Foods Market’s Emeryville headquarters Wednesday.

Whole Foods Market, the national natural food supermarket chain that represents itself as supporting local communities, found itself under attack Wednesday when a large group of East Bay residents gathered outside its Emeryville headquarters vociferously protesting the company’s decision not to renew the lease of Ashby Flowers, a family-owned business that rents a small building in the corner of the parking lot at the company’s 3000 Telegraph Ave. location in Berkeley. In an interview with the Planet at his company’s regional headquarters Wednesday, Whole Foods Regional President David Lannon said that the company was not renewing the lease since it had plans to open a coffee shop or juice bar there. 

“We have been thinking about this for a long time,” he said. “We are not terminating their lease—their lease is up in July and we will not be renewing it.” 

Demonstrating “flower power,” which included colorful posters and noisy chants, several dozen small business owners, elected officials, neighborhood group leaders and customers of Ashby Flowers—a neighborhood fixture for six decades—criticized Whole Foods’ decision, and called the issue another case of a “big corporation bullying the little guy.” 

They labeled Whole Foods’ proposal to take over the space and turn it into a coffee or juice bar “deplorable,” especially since it would push out a small independent family-owned business, putting its future in jeopardy in a frail economy.  

Founded in Austin, Texas in 1980, Whole Foods opened their second Bay Area store in Berkeley—the first one was in Palo Alto—in 1989, and owns the entire property, including the 27,000-square feet single-story store and the parking lot outside. 

“It’s a small Whole Foods—having that 1,000 square feet gives us some additional space,” Lannon said. 

Whole Foods currently employs 210 people at its Berkeley store and hopes to add 10 more to the proposed coffee or juice shop. 

Lannon said that the company had informed the owners of Ashby Flowers, Iraj Misaghi and Marcy Simon, of their decision last April, giving them plenty of notice. 

“We met with them last year and told them we were not going to renew the lease,” he said. “I made the offer at that time that we would help them relocate to another location in Berkeley but they turned us down. The economic downturn has created a lot of empty spaces in Berkeley and we would have been able to find a nice space for them easily. But they want to stay.” 

However Misaghi and Simon, who are married, told the Planet during a demonstration outside the company’s red brick and glass building that Lannon had spent barely five minutes with them explaining the situation and had not offered any help. 

“We got a letter from them around April or May informing us of their decision,” Simon said. “When we met with them a few months later they told us ‘this is our space, we run it, we will do with it as we choose.’ We told them that if we go anywhere else we will lose our customers. We are Ashby Flowers, we want to stay on Ashby.” 

The couple said that Lannon had not given any specific reason for the company’s decision, and it was only later that Simon found out that the company planned to put a coffee shop there. 

Lannon said that although he hadn’t been specific about the plan since it was still in a planning stage, he had told them what Whole Foods wanted to do with the space. 

“There’s no conspiracy going on, we want to be as transparent as possible,” he said, adding that some of the ideas Whole Foods had for the space included its own coffee brand Allegro, natural fruit juices, raw almond milk and fermented kombucha tea which would help promote the store’s raw food diet philosophy. 

Simon said that her flower shop had received a lot of support from the community—including Berkeley mayor Tom Bates—who wanted to see the store to remain at its current location. 

Berkeley councilmember Kriss Worthington—who wore a poster decorated with white lilies—said that he and Bates were trying to meet with officials at Whole Foods to help them reach some kind of resolution with the flower store. 

“This is holistic hypocrisy,” he said. “Whole Foods claims to be a humanistic and holistic company. They are neither holistic nor humanistic if they kick out a small business—especially in this economy. We spend a lot of time attracting small businesses to the city and this would hurt a lot. We need flowers, not financial foolishness.” 

Nancy Carleton, co-chair of the Halcyon Neighborhood Association—a neighborhood group with members living within a 10-minute walk of the Ashby Whole Foods—said that the association’s members, who very rarely take a position on land use issues, were against the Whole Foods decision and wanted the supermarket to consult with the neighborhood before taking any formal steps. 

“In a tight economy, why would you want to engender negative feelings in the very neighborhood that supports your business by continuing on the current course of replacing Ashby Flowers with an unwanted cafe in the face of such strong community opposition?” she asked. “Ending Ashby Flowers’ lease would break an important trust with your neighbors and undermine the very foundation of being a ‘good neighbor’ that Whole Foods Market has endeavored to practice since 1990.” 

Ashby Flowers, which owns another flower shop, Telegraph Flowers on Telegraph Avenue, supports three families and hires six to eight employees depending on the amount of business they get. 

Aaron Vance, an Oakland resident who shops at both Ashby Flowers and Whole Foods, said that Whole Foods was moving into the flower shop in order to increase their revenue. 

“They say that they are doing well when everybody else is downsizing in this economy,” he said. “How is that possible?” 

Company officials said that despite the slow economy, Whole Foods had reported positive quarterly earnings and was still planning to open new stores in Santa Cruz in March and in San Francisco's Noe Valley in September. 

“It’s tough for everybody, but customers who are committed to health and wellness will still want to eat healthy,” Lannon said. “However, we are slowing down the number of new store openings.” 

Around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, when the rally still hadn’t shown any signs of slowing down, Simon said that she had received a call from the economic development team at Whole Foods who had asked her to meet with them. 

“I will meet with them as long as they allow someone from the neighborhood association to come along with me,” she said. “I am hopeful, but we will see.” 

For more information on Ashby Flowers visit www.ashbyflowers.com

For questions about Whole Foods’ decision, write to questions.berkeley@wholefoods.com. 

Berkeley Council Loosens Downtown Restaurant Rules

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:58:00 PM

In what may prove to be a simple solution following a thoroughly confusing debate, the Berkeley City Council moved to solve what it had originally thought was its University Avenue fast-food moratorium problem by voting Tuesday night to allow “quick service” restaurants on University between Oxford Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, but to continue the prohibition of “carryout service” restaurants in that same area. 

Oh, and contrary to the widely held belief held by the council, city staff, and the public that the council was acting on a moratorium on University Avenue fast-food restaurants, between Oxford and MLK, the council had originally instituted in 1999, Berkeley Economic Development Manager Michael Caplan told councilmembers that the proposed changes were not targeted to fast food restaurants because “the zoning code doesn’t have a definition of fast food,” and Planning and Development Director Dan Marks said that in any event, the 1999 council action was never a moratorium. 

“It was not a moratorium,” Marks said. “We called it a moratorium, but we actually just changed the zoning code. If it had been a moratorium, it would have automatically expired long ago.” 

Still confused? 

While the council may not have been confused, it was sharply divided, voting 5-3-1 to approve Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s substitute motion to allow new quick service on upper University Avenue and continue to disallow new carryout restaurants (councilmembers Arreguin, Linda Maio, Darryl Moore, Max Anderson, and Kriss Worthington yes, councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Susan Wengraf, and Mayor Tom Bates no, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak abstaining).  

The recommendation to lift the quick service/carryout service prohibition came from the city’s Planning Commission. The Downtown Business Association, which had asked for the original prohibition in 1999, is now in favor of its lifting. 

Over Arreguin’s request to delay its decision until he could further study the issue, the Planning Commission decided last December to recommend the zoning changes on a 6-2 vote. Commissioners Roia Ferrazares, Larry Gurley, Jim Novosel, Harry Pollack, James Samuels, and Dorothy Walker voted yes, commissioners Patti Dacey and Gene Poschman voted no. 

The council never voted on Capitelli’s motion to support the staff and Planning Commission recommendation for full lifting of the prohibition, nor on Anderson’s friendly amendment—not accepted by Capitelli—that the prohibition be automatically reinstated in two years if the council did not renew it. 

Capitelli, who called the later lengthy discussion of definitions of various categories of restaurants in the Berkeley zoning code “bizarre,” said that he felt there were enough protections in ordinances to keep unwanted restaurants out, including the requirement of obtaining an administrative use permit (AUP), which requires findings that can be appealed to the City Council. Staff members later pointed out that in both the existing zoning ordinance and the proposed changes, a national fast food chain could bypass the AUP process by simply buying out an existing restaurant in the downtown area. 

If that doesn’t clear up the confusion, here’s the background. What was thought—until Tuesday night—to be a City of Berkeley ban on new fast food restaurants and carryout food stores on University Avenue between Oxford and MLK was first adopted by the council in 1999 at the request of the Downtown Berkeley Association (DBA) and with the support of then-Councilmember Dona Spring, who represented the downtown area on the council, and Councilmember Linda Maio. 

In April 1999, then-Berkeley City Manager James Keene referred to the proposed council action as a “downtown fast food moratorium,” and as late as last September, current Economic Development Manager Caplan informed the Planning Commission in a memo that “in 1999 the City Council adopted a ‘temporary’ moratorium on new fast-food establishments in the downtown area.” By December, however, in another memo to the Planning Commission, Caplan was calling the 1999 action a “prohibition on Carryout Food Stores and Quick Service Restaurants.” 

That’s in part because Berkeley’s zoning ordinance only has three categories for food service establishments, none of them “fast food”: full-service restaurant (with waiters who take orders at tables and bring the food back to the tables), quick service restaurants (food is ordered and immediately paid for at the counter and then either picked up by the customer after preparation or else brought to the customer at a table by restaurant staff), and carryout food store (provides no seating for eating and prepares food for the customers to be taken out in packages or containers). 

During the debate, councilmembers took pains to distinguish quick service restaurants—which they said are often locally owned and operated and are desirable additions—from fast food restaurants, which many equate with national restaurant chains. 

“I can’t understand why quick service should be banned in any part of Berkeley,” Wozniak told fellow councilmembers, adding that instead, “We should look into passing a national anti-chain ordinance. I would support that.” 

But Mayor Tom Bates said he didn’t see the problem with national chains on University. 

“I don’t know what chains we’re worried about that will come in an destroy Berkeley,” the mayor said, noting that national chain restaurants Dominos Pizza, Round Table Pizza, and MacDonald’s are all in the downtown University Avenue-area with no apparent problems. 

And Councilmember Wengraf, who seconded Capitelli’s motion to lift the ban, added, “I’m not afraid that University Avenue is going to be inundated with bad fast food restaurants. I think it’s time to lift [the prohibition].”  

Economic Development Manager Caplan noted during Tuesday’s meeting that “there has been an exodus of fast food from downtown since the moratorium was instituted,” including Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, and Taco Bell (he was still calling it a “moratorium” at that point in the discussion), with some councilmembers indicating that discerning Berkeley eating tastes would continue keep fast food chains out of the downtown area. 

Councilmember Linda Maio said that it was actually the trash dropped by customers on the street after leaving carryout restaurants that was one of the major reasons the 1999 prohibition was put in place, saying, “I am concerned about the trash. I don’t want to encourage carryout foods.” 

Arreguin, who represents the Oxford-to-MLK University Avenue area, said that while he was “not opposed to lifting the moratorium,” he felt that more study needed to be done to fine-tune the proposal and weed out possible bad effects, including the fact that “allowing fast foods may negatively affect existing restaurants. We must address these underlying issues first.” 

But after Maio indicated that it was carryouts that were the main problem, Arreguin put in his motion, Maio seconding, to split the issue and allow new quick service while continuing to ban carryouts in the downtown University Avenue area. 



Mayor Bates Urges Quicker Implementation of Bus Rapid Transit

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:00:00 PM

An enthusiastic Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates wants the AC Transit bus district to dramatically step up its timetable for development, approval, and implementation of the district’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, telling members of the BRT Policy Steering Committee last week that the proposed 2015 end-of-construction date is not nearly soon enough. 

“[The year] 2015 is going to be like never,” Bates said. “Can’t you compress this and get it moving? I think we want this project to either go or not go. I want the timetable for rapid bus to be more rapid.” 

AC Transit is proposing putting in a high-speed bus line along Easy 14th Street, International Boulevard, and Telegraph Avenue to connect the downtown sections of San Leandro, Oakland, and Berkeley along the route currently operated by its 1 and 1R lines. Among the proposed features of the BRT project are dedicated bus-only lanes along much of the route, as well as boarding stations that resemble those of light rail systems. 

Because the BRT proposal requires significant changes to streets owned by the three cities, AC Transit must get each individual city to agree to the final details of BRT before it is finally approved by the AC Transit Board. 

The most significant opposition to BRT has come from the City of Berkeley, where neighbors and merchants along the proposed Telegraph Avenue route have been divided over approval or disapproval of the project. 

Bates is one of two Berkeley representatives on the 12-seat BRT Policy Steering Committee that also includes two elected officials apiece from Oakland and San Leandro, three representatives from the AC Transit Board of Directors, an elected representative from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and a representative from CalTrans. Bates, who is a commissioner on the Metropolitan Transit Commission, also represents that group on the BRT steering committee. 

Councilmember Kriss Worthington, the other Berkeley representative on the BRT steering committee, said that he supported implementation of BRT, but that the district needed to answer questions and concerns about the proposed system before it is put in place. 

“My enthusiasm for doing something in the [Telegraph Avenue] corridor is all about how do we actually make it so that more people will ride the bus,” Worthington said. “In San Leandro and Berkeley and in some parts of Oakland as well, there are concerns about how you connect people to this service. The project as it’s now stated doesn’t link to our Amtrak Station in Berkeley, it doesn’t link to our ferry, and so we’re already writing off a whole bunch of middle-class bus riders because we don’t connect there. We don’t even connect to the San Pablo [AC Transit] Rapid. I’m interested in linking the people in our cities to this service so that they’ll actually use it.”  

Worthington added that he is a “passionate advocate for buses, so I want this bus to work.” 

Both Worthington and Bates were concerned that the $235 million currently set aside by AC Transit to build BRT will not be adequate to put in the things necessary to make the system a success, with Bates saying that he wants to be able to “pay for the things that people want in the system: no traffic delays, adequate parking, and access to the system.”  

AC Transit has let the BRT Policy Steering Committee languish for many months while it worked individually with representatives of each of the three BRT cities to try to address their concerns about the project. But with Bates and Worthington leading the way—Oakland was represented only by council staff because its City Council was meeting in closed session at the same time—the Steering Committee decided on a stepped-up meeting schedule in order to push forward BRT. 

AC Transit is working with the respective cities to develop those cities’ preferred alterations to the BRT proposal. The district is currently projecting final design completion and beginning of construction by mid-2012. 

Downturn Brings Hundreds Looking for Jobs at Shattuck Hotel

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:00:00 PM
Hundreds lined up outside the now-vacant Ross store Wednesday morning to apply for jobs openings at Shattuck Hotel, which opens in April.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Hundreds lined up outside the now-vacant Ross store Wednesday morning to apply for jobs openings at Shattuck Hotel, which opens in April.

The revamped Shattuck Hotel, as expected, drew crowds of people to downtown Berkeley Wednesday, long before its grand opening in April, but all of them were eagerly waiting all morning not to catch a glimpse of the hotel’s swanky interiors but to land a job there. 

Hundreds lined up as early as 8 a.m. outside the former Ross store at 2190 Shattuck Ave., where the interviews were being held, to apply for about 80 job openings at the hotel, a sign of the worsening economy, which is leading to layoffs in almost every industry. 

Officials at BPR Properties—the real estate company that owns Shattuck Hotel—estimated that more than 200 people had interviewed for the jobs, mainly service worker positions, by 10 a.m. They said that they expected the number to rise to 700 if not more by 3 p.m., when the interviews would come to an end. 

The line had snaked all the way up to the Berkeley JazzSchool on Addison by 11 a.m., with more people joining the queue every minute. 

The Shattuck Hotel went through extensive interior renovations in 2007. It is supposed to open in two months, creating an immediate need to fill the new openings. 

Built in 1909, the hotel, located at 2086 Allston Way, was originally designed by Benjamin G. McDougall and is considered one of the “historic jewels” of downtown. 

It tripled in size in the early 1910s when the original building was extended.  

Dennis Hoelle, a job coach, said he had brought a group of seven unemployed people to the interview. 

“On one hand it’s surprising to see so many people here, but on the other hand it’s not surprising at all—because of the economy, of course,” he said, adding that he was expecting 3,000 to 4,000 people to turn up at a job fair in Solano County next week. 

Hoelle said that he had prepared his clients to speak effectively during an interview as part of the CalWorks program, which was associated with the welfare system in the past. 

He said he had driven some of his clients—most of whom were trying for a receptionist’s position—to the interview around 9 a.m., at which point there were already 400 people waiting outside the building.  

“Any time you have a company like this hiring, you know that they are looking for people who will work three shifts, seven days a week,” he said. 

David Issel, vice president of operations for BPR, called the event a “pre-screening” for the positions. 

“We are seeing more people than usual this time,” he said. “I guess it’s a result of the economy.” 

Issel said the positions available were those for the front desk, housekeeping, the restaurant and the banquet hall. 

“We are only interviewing in Berkeley, so we are excited by the prospect of creating more jobs here. We are excited by the turnout today and hope to employ as many people as we can.” 

Efuru, an Oakland resident who did not want to give her last name, said she had interviewed for a front desk position. 

She said she was currently on unemployment and was desperately seeking a new job after getting laid off from her old one. 

“I work part time at a hotel in San Francisco—if you can call working one day a week part time,” she said. “I was pretty confident about getting this job but when I got here I was really surprised to see so many people. I got here at 9 a.m. and I had to wait half an hour in line.” 

The Skyline High School graduate said that her interview had been very brief. 

“They asked me three questions and told me that that would call me back in a couple of weeks,” she said. “I understand that there are a lot of people but hopefully they will take my previous experience into consideration. I am just going to push my head up and hope for the best.” 

Sandra Williams, who works at the Sutter Hotel in Oakland, said she was interviewing because she was not sure how secure her current job was. 

“There are rumors that Sutter might be closed down or sold,” Williams said. “I thought I would get a job as a telephone operator, but after seeing so many people here, I don’t know if I will get hired. The competition is so great that right now I will go anywhere I see an opening.” 










Suspect Arrested in 2006 Berkeley Murder

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:02:00 PM

Berkeley police say they’ve solved the three-year-old murder of an El Cerrito student who was fatally knifed at a North Berkeley party. 

Police Sgt. Mary Kusmiss reported that Justin Michael Johnson, 19, has been arrested in South Carolina, where he is awaiting extradition to face one murder charge and three counts of assault with a deadly weapon. 

Johnson is the suspect in the murder of 18-year-old Juan Carlos Ramos outside a home on the 770 block of Contra Costa Ave. where a party was being held while the owners were absent. 

Ramos was one of four people stabbed in the Friday night confrontation that occurred just before 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2006. 

Partygoers drove three of the stabbing victims to the Albany Police Department, and from there Albany and Berkeley paramedics rushed the injured youths to Highland Hospital, where Ramos was pronounced dead. 

The fourth victim drove himself to Children’s Hospital in Oakland early Saturday morning. 

As the Daily Planet reported at the time, the party was thronged by between 100 and 150 Albany and El Cerrito high school students who had responded to postings on MySpace, the Internet social networking site. 

Following the attacks, El Cerrito High School Principal Vince Rhea said party invitations had apparently been sent to only a few people, but the house was mobbed after notices went up on the Internet site. 

A more sinister turn of events happened when postings went up on the website urging partygoers to refuse to cooperate with police investigators, hampering the search for the killer. 

“Recently, detectives began reaching out again to witnesses and requested to re-interview them,” Sgt. Kusmiss said in the official police statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Although witnesses were still resistant, detectives were able to gain enough cooperation, which led to Johnson being named as the suspect.”

School District Explores Possibility of a Solar Future

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:59:00 PM

The solar project at Washington Elementary School, the first public school in Berkeley to run on renewable energy, has encouraged the Berkeley Unified School District to investigate whether other schools could save on their electricity bills through a similar initiative, district officials said. 

KyotoUSA, the nonprofit that proposed converting Washington to the use of solar power almost two years ago, organized an event at its West Berkeley office Monday to celebrate the school’s energy independence, and Tom Kelly, KyotoUSA’s director, announced that he plans to convert another Berkeley elementary school for the group’s next project. Kelly did not name the school since it has not received approval from the school district yet. 

Lew Jones, the district’s director of facilities, told the Planet after the event that instead of focusing on any one school at the moment, the district was more interested in identifying school sites that could be converted to solar in the future. 

“Rather than doing one school or another, we are doing a more comprehensive study,” Bill Huyett, superintendent of the Berkeley Unified School District, said Tuesday. “The more solar we are the better. It’s a win-win for the school district. It offers financial advantages by lowering costs and also helps us to set a good example for our students in terms of reducing a carbon footprint.” 

Both Huyett and Jones said that funding for future solar projects could come from several different sources, including the recently approved stimulus package, grants and rebates or ballot measures. 

Jones said that the state education budget crisis would not hamper future solar projects at the school. He called the solar panels at Washington a big success, but admitted that it was still too early to give a detailed account of their financial benefits. 

Kelly said that the photovoltaic system—which is estimated to produce 150,000 kilowatt-hours annually—may cover only 70 percent of the school’s electricity needs, but that it might be enough to cover most of the cost. 

“That happens because the school will generate a lot of high-value electricity in the summer, but use lower-value electricity during the winter,” he said. “We will know at the end of a year when PG&E does a ‘true-up’—that is, compares the school's use of electricity against the school's generation. It could be pretty close.” 

Washington consumed approximately 170,560 kilowatt-hours in energy and paid around $25,505 in electricity costs in 2006. 

Most of the $1.17 million that was raised to fund the project—60 percent came from the state Department of School Construction, 20 percent from a PG&E rebate and 20 percent from local school district bonds—has been used up, Jones said, and the remaining amount will go toward paying the architect, contractor and project manager. 

The 480 solar panels laid out on the roof of Washington Elementary last August by Eshone Electric Company have generated more than 31,035 kilowatt-hours of energy so far, according to www.fatspaniel.net, a company that monitors renewable energy. 

“We haven’t got much sun since the panels were installed last fall, but we are hoping that these numbers will accelerate in April,” Kelly said, adding that the 103 kilowatt PV system was expected to reduce 40 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year over the next two decades. 

Kelly said that, since its installation, the system had helped to avoid producing nearly 40,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 11 pounds of nitrous oxide and 0.9 pounds of sulfuric oxide. 

“We found out that the panels get dirty really fast and need to be cleaned regularly,” Kelly said. “Leaves, pollen, dust, birds—it’s amazing how much can get pushed over.” 

KyotoUSA’s HELiOS (Helios Energy Lights Our Schools) project has generated interest at the local and national level, Kelly said, and the organization is scheduled to meet with the U.S. Department of Energy Thursday. 

“I hope they try and shape something that will benefit the schools,” Kelly said. “The Department of Energy is getting around $80 billion from the stimulus plan, and that is money that needs to be used quickly. So they are looking at existing projects.” 

At Monday’s event, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said that KyotoUSA’s efforts were right in step with Measure G, Berkeley’s voter-approved ballot initiative that promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2020. 

KyotoUSA also launched a Community Climate Fund this week—a source of funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for local public schools that would be supported by the community. 

For more information on the HELiOS project and the Community Climate Fund, see www.heliosproject.net.

Chronicle Closure Threat Caps a Bad Week for Newspapers

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:01:00 PM

The San Francisco Chronicle has joined the ranks of potential newspaper casualties as the devastation of the nation’s print media continues to unfold. 

The Hearst Corporation warned Tuesday that closure might follow if unions don’t agree to major concessions, a move that would leave one of the nation’s most famous cities without a daily home-delivery newspaper. 

The privately held company announced Tuesday that absent “significant” staff cuts, “across the entire Chronicle organization, we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle, and, should a buyer not be found, to shut down the newspaper.” 

Journalism blogger, former Chronicle executive and former Daily Planet board member Allen Mutter reports that, if the paper gets the cuts it wants, the move could eliminate up to 47 percent of the paper’s staff, though cuts in other areas would likely mean an even smaller staff total. 

Hearst is already engaged in shedding another link in its media chain, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, vowing to sell or close the award-winning publication next month.  

Should the Chronicle close, San Francisco would become the first major U.S. city without a general circulation subscription paper. 

The past seven days have been traumatic for the print press, already reeling from unprecedented financial and job losses last year. 

The owners of the Philadelphia Daily News announced they were seeing bankruptcy for the paper, once a member of the late Knight-Ridder chain. Sacramento-based McClatchy Newspapers purchased the chain, keeping some of its papers and selling others—including the San Jose Mercury News and the Contra Costa Times—to help cover the costs of the purchase. 

Among the buyers of the Philadephia paper was one of the nation’s leading developers, Bruce Toll of Toll Brothers, a home-builder, which announced last week that it would provide six-month mortgage protection for buyers who lost their jobs. 

Meanwhile, the Bay Area’s other dominant newspaper owner, MediaNews, announced that it was withdrawing its lead Southern California newspaper from head-to-head competition with the Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Daily News will revert to a role it had abandoned three decades ago and retreat to its original home base in the San Fernando Valley, where it had begun as the Valley News and Green Sheet, a free paper, before its sale to a succession of owners, including, for a time, the Chicago-based Tribune Co.—current publishers of the Los Angeles Times. 

At the same time, the Daily News moved its news desk to West Covina, consolidating operations with other editors in the Los Angeles News Group, owner Dean Singleton’s counterpart to his northern California Bay Area News Group. 

Hearst’s fortunes are also partly tied to MediaNews, the owners of the largest single block of newspapers in California, dominating the markets surrounding the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst put up about $300 million to help Singleton buy the two Bay Area papers from McClatchy. 

Rumors have already been floating about a possible sale of the Chronicle to MediaNews, but urban dailies are currently a drag on the market. No one has bought the San Diego Union-Tribune (though Singleton reportedly talked with the owners), Hearst’s Seattle paper remains without a buyer, and there have been no takers for Denver’s ailing Rocky Mountain News. The latter two papers will close unless financial angels intervene. 

In Los Angeles, the Times itself is engaged in its own version of retrenching. Having already gone through a controversial redesign that ended its local news section, it is now going through yet another round of staff reductions, losing 14 writers and editors last Thursday. 

Controlled by Denver media mogul Dean Singleton, MediaNews owns both the Los Angeles News Group (LANG) and BANG, its Bay Area counterpart. 

After buying the two McClatchy papers, Singleton sliced off his East Bay holdings into a separate BANG-EB (East Bay), which enabled the company to end the Media Workers Guild representation in the East Bay, thanks to the majority of non-union workers at the Contra Costa paper. 

But the whole rationale of the move was lost when BANG-EB workers voted last year to unionize. On Wedndesday came an announcement from the guild that the company has agreed to talks aimed at merging the East Bay bargaining unit with the long-unionized Mercury News.  

The week also brought another chain to the shelter of bankruptcy court, the Journal Register Co., which owns 20 dailies in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. 

Another bit of bad news surfaced Tuesday when publisher A.H. Belo announced layoffs of about 100 workers at its Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s largest newspaper. 

Those cuts are part of the 500-job quota the chain had announced in January that it planned to eliminate. 

The print meltdown isn’t restricted to American shores. In England, the venerable Financial Times announced that it planned to cut editorial costs through a voluntary program, offering a three-day workweek and other options for working less over the summer.  

Meanwhile, the Berkeley Daily Planet is losing newsroom positions through attrition. A reporter who resigned in September was not replaced, and Managing Editor Michael Howerton is leaving to become assistant managing editor of the San Francisco Examiner.

Durant Avenue Murder Hearing Postponed

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday February 26, 2009 - 12:27:00 PM

Judge Morris Jacobson of Alameda County Superior Court on Monday postponed until March 4 the pretrial hearing of Nathaniel Freeman of Berkeley, charged with the shooting death of Maceo Smith on Durant Avenue last May. 

Freeman, who turned himself in to the police after the incident, pleaded not guilty on Jan. 30 to one count of murder and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. 

Berkeley Police Department officials said after the incident that the daytime shooting was a result of an argument between the defendant and the two victims, Smith and his brother-in-law Marcus Mosley, following which Freeman took out his gun and shot them several times, injuring Mosley and killing Smith, who died from the gunshot wounds in a private parking lot next to Hotel Durant. 


Witness testimony 

At a preliminary hearing held on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15 at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse in Oakland, Mosley was one of a group of witnesses who testified about the shooting, offering accounts of the incidents leading up to that summer afternoon. 

Ardie Custard, a driver for the R bus line at UC Berkeley, testified that he had been doing his usual loop when, in the area of Channing Way and Bowditch Street, he heard several gunshots. 

Custard said that he had been trying to determine where the shots were coming from when he saw a young man—whom he identified as Freeman in the courtroom—with a backpack and a revolver running in the direction of Durant Avenue. He said the man put the gun in his backpack and disappeared into the underground parking lot across the street. 

Dr. Thomas Rogers, a physician and a forensic pathologist who performs autopsies for the coroner’s office in Alameda and San Mateo counties, told Judge C. Don Clay during the hearing that Smith died from four gunshot wounds, and the most severe gunshot wound was the one that had entered the right side of his neck and passed through the right lung. 

Rogers said that he had recovered two bullets from Smith’s body during the autopsy. 

Mosley started his testimony with an account of a party he attended at Ocean Beach in San Francisco on May 10, where he said he met Freeman. Mosley said that Freeman accused him of stealing a friend’s iPod.  

Mosley said he left the party and on his way back to Berkeley called Smith—whom he had known for the last 15 or 16 years and described as “the closest thing to a big brother”—and told him about the party. 

Mosley said that when he stopped for a slice of pizza at Fat Slice on Telegraph Avenue on May 13 he saw Freeman again. 

He testified that Freeman told him that the events at the party had been a “misunderstanding” and that “some people” had told him to rob Mosley. 

Mosley said that he repeatedly asked Freeman to tell him the names of these individuals, but Freeman refused, at which point Mosley said he called Smith and asked him to meet him near Durant and Telegraph. Mosley started following Freeman down the street, taunting him and demanding the names, when Freeman warned Mosely to “just get the fuck away.” 

“I asked, ‘or what?’ ” Mosley recounted in court. 

After some time, according to Mosley’s testimony, Smith arrived and confronted Freeman, at which point Freeman pulled out a gun and fired. 

Smith died in the parking lot next to Hotel Durant, where he was discovered by several police officers from UC and Berkeley police departments. 



Police Blotter

By Ali Winston
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:03:00 PM

Sexual predator strikes again 

The sexual predator who has attacked at least 11 women south of UC Berkeley's campus struck again early Friday morning, according to Berkeley police.  

Around 1 a.m., officers responded to a report of sexual battery on the 2100 block of Haste Street. A young woman told officers that the suspect approached her from behind and unsuccessfully tried to grab her dress. He fled the scene westbound on Durant, pursued by two witnesses. UCPD officers joined in the pursuit, but were unable to catch him. 

The suspect is described as a white male with short, dark wavy hair in his 20s about 5'10” tall and of medium build. 

Anyone with information about this suspect or wishing to report a similar crime should contact the Berkeley Sex Crimes Detail, at 981-5735. 

To report a crime in progress, call BPD dispatch at 981-5900 or 981-5911 from a cell phone. 


Attacked with a brick 

A Berkeley man was arrested Wednesday morning for attacking a female acquaintance with a brick. Around 9 a.m., police arrested 36-year-old Ronald Kidd on the 1400 block of 66th Street. According to police reports, Kidd and the young woman got into an argument, and when the disagreement escalated, Kidd struck her with a loose brick. Kidd is charged with assault with a deadly weapon. 


Solar panel theft 

On Feb. 19, the Berkeley Montessori School reported the theft of 20 solar panels from the roof of the school. School officials told police that the panels, which measure three by five feet, were taken sometime during the two weeks prior.  


String of robberies 

Four robberies took place across Berkeley on Friday. Shortly before 10 a.m., a middle-aged woman was robbed at gunpoint on the Ohlone Greenway at Franklin Street. The woman told police that she was on her way to the North Berkeley BART station when a teenage boy wearing a gray sweatshirt threatened her with a gun and took her purse. The boy was last seen running north on Acton Street. 

That afternoon, a 16-year-old boy had his iPhone stolen by two teenage boys and a girl at Shattuck Avenue and Delaware Street. Around 5:15 p.m. a 16-year-old girl wearing a pink jacket asked the boy if she could use his iPhone and ran away after he handed it over. When the boy gave chase, one of the teenage boys, who wore a brown jacket, slapped the victim across the side of his head, knocking him into a tree. The three assailants fled eastbound on Delaware Street. 

On the other side of town, a 36-year-old man was attacked and robbed while walking home from work in West Berkeley. Two young men wearing dark blue hooded sweatshirts approached him at 10th Street and Heinz and demanded his bag. One robber punched the man in his face, and his accomplice took his bag.  

Robbery is up throughout Berkeley since the beginning of the year, according to Officer Andrew Frankel. Most of the incidents have occurred near the UC Berkeley campus. 

Supreme Court Ruling Raises Richmond Casino Questions

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:03:00 PM

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down Tuesday raises new questions about the fate of two Richmond area casino projects. 

But Berkeley entrepreneur James D. Levine, backer of the proposal for a $1.5 billion resort at Point Molate, said his lawyers have advised him that the ruling in Carcieri v. Salazar appears to pose no threat to the resort project. 

The case before the court involved the purchase of 31 acres by the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island as a site to build housing. The secretary of the Interior Department, the agency responsible for relations with federally recognized tribes, agreed to take the land into trust for the tribe. 

Rhode Island Gov. Donald L. Carcieri filed a legal challenge, and new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar had become the defendant by the time the decision was reached. 

The Supreme Court overturned the Department of the Interior decision, ruling that the government had no authority for the action because the tribe was not under federal jurisdiction in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act, which grants the interior secretary power to acquire and hold land for Indians, was passed. 

That action is the critical first step before tribes can build casinos on the land. Subsequent steps involve approval by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the negotiation of a gambling compact with the state. 

While the Narragansetts were granted federal recognition in 1983, the court ruled that federal recognition at the time the 1934 law was passed was the critical date, and that the law didn’t apply to tribes recognized later. 

That raises an interesting legal issue and some uncertainty, because while both tribes proposing Richmond casinos had been federally recognized at the key date in 1934, the federal government later stripped them of recognition, restoring it only later.  

Both the Scotts Valley Pomos, would-be developers of the Sugar Bowl casino in North Richmond, and the Guidiville Rancheria Pomos, the tribe that would have its reservation at Point Molate, appear to have been federally recognized at the time of the law’s passage. 

Both tribes lost their recognition after Congress passed the California Rancheria Act in 1958 during an era when the Bureau of Indian Affairs was trying to force Native Americans into cities in an effort to “mainstream” smaller tribes. During the same period, the young of larger tribes were removed to BIA boarding schools with the same goal in mind. 

The Guidivilles lost federal recognition in 1961, “but Guidiville was recognized before 1934,” so the decision would not apply to the tribe, Levine said. The tribe was restored in 1986, and with full recognition in 1992, the group was granted 44 acres near Ukiah, according to the San Diego State University online database of California tribes.  

The two tribes lost all or most of their land after the loss of recognition. 

The Scotts Valley Pomos were restored in 1991, but without a land base, the tribe lost its rancheria status the following year. The tribe is now formally known as the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Sugar Bowl Rancheria, according to the San Diego State database. 

While the Scotts Valley tribe has already finished its initial federal environmental review, it didn’t undertake a state review—an omission that has stalled the project thanks to a court victory by casino foes. 

Stephan Volker, an environmental law attorney, won a courtroom victory when a Contra Costa County Superior Court judge ruled the city had breached the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to conduct a review of environmental impacts of the implications of the November 2006 City Council decision to approve a 20-year agreement with the casino’s developers. 

He was not available for comment by deadline Wednesday. 

The agreement promised the city $335 million over 29 years to provide road improvements and emergency services for the North Richmond casino. 

The city has appealed the decision by Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Barbara Zuniga, who held that the city failed to conduct the legally required review before signing the accord. 

The Point Molate developers had conducted simultaneous federal and state environmental reviews, though the documents have yet to see the light of day. 

“I understand that they’d been completed,” Levine said Wednesday, “and we’re waiting for their release. But the federal government has other priorities right now, like saving the world from the mess these investment bankers have made.” 

Both tribes have been recruiting lobbyists to plead their cause before Congress and the BIA. 

According to federal records, the Guidivilles spent $40,000 on Washington lobbying last year through the firm Hogan & Hartson, Washington’s oldest law firm. (Coincidentally, even white shoe law firms have been hard hit by the economic crisis, with the National Law Journal reporting Feb. 10 that Hogan & Hartson had just offered buyouts to 240 members of its staff.) 

The Scotts Valley tribe shelled out even more, paying $80,000 to Pennsylvania Avenue lobbyists Akermann Senterfitt and $70,000 to Lovetsville, Virginia, lobbyists Franklin Creek Consulting.  

One reason the Guidivilles may have needed to pay less is that one of Levine’s partners in the casino project has his own impeccable political connections. William S. Cohen straddles both sides of the political fence as a former Republican governor of Maine and as secretary of defense to Democrat Bill Clinton. 

Doug Elmets, the Sacramento lobbyist who represents the Lytton Band of Pomos, said the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t affect their already existing facility, Casino San Pablo. That casino offers video bingo and not the more traditional slots that would be featured at the other two still-unbuilt casinos. 

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said she had initially heard that the law might block the casino at Point Molate, but later heard conflicting reports about the ruling’s applicability. 

“I’m still strongly opposed to urban casinos,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “I would rather we spend our efforts building strong and healthy services and working to create a truly sustainable community,” she said. 

Approval of either or both of the two planned casinos would give the East Bay California’s first full-scale metropolitan casino. 

The Supreme Court decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by five other justices. Two jurists wrote a partial dissent, with only one justice, John Paul Stevens, in full dissent in favor of the tribe.

Fate of Golden Gate Fields Uncertain

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:02:00 PM

After failing to raise enough cash to reorganize, the owners of Golden Gate Fields face the threat of liquidation—leaving the future of the Albany race track in doubt. 

Magna Entertainment Corp. (MECA on the stock listings), the company created by Canadian auto parts magnate Frank Stronach after investors in his parts company demanded that he spin off his money-losing racing ventures, issued a warning to investors Feb. 18. 

Magna became the nation’s largest owner of race tracks, acquiring some of the nation’s premier venues. 

The company failed to pull off a joint development at the Albany track with Los Angeles “lifestyle” shopping mall developer Rick Caruso, which would have resulted in an upscale mall topped by condos at the track’s northern parking lot. 

The company hired a law firm specializing in bankruptcy reorganization to help with a corporate restructuring, but the company announced it was abandoning the plan Feb. 18. Company shares plunged on the news, dropping more than 30 percent to an all-time low of 35 cents the next day before closing at 36 cents—a precipitous fall from the stocks’ 52-week high of $20. 

While shares had traded for $154.20 in November 2005, and at $198 in January, 2002, the stock closed at 30 cents Feb. 18, after hitting another all-time low of a quarter of a share two days earlier. 

The share price plunge prompted the Toronto Stock Exchange to announce Thursday that it was reviewing whether or not the company’s Class A subordinate voting shares should be removed from the exchange’s listings. 

“The Company is being review on an expedited basis,” the exchange announced in a formal statement posted in the afternoon. 

Magna had already announced that all its assets were on the table when it announced the planned restructuring in November (see www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-12-04/article/31718). At the time, the company valued its assets at between $100 million and $120 million. 

In addition to Golden Gate Fields, the company owns Santa Anita Park in Southern California, Laurel Park and Pimlico in Maryland, Portland Meadows in Oregon, Lone Star Park in Texas, Remington Park in Oklahoma, The Meadows in Pennsylvania, Gulfstream Park in Florida and the Magna Racino in Stronach’s native Austria.  

Originally created as part of Magna International, Stronach’s car parts firm, the racetracks and associated ventures were spun off into a separate firm, MI Developments (MID), with Magna Entertainment as a subsidiary. 

The goal of the reorganization had been to consolidate the company into Stronach’s hand, with MID arranging the financing. 

But it was that plan which collapsed when MID company found itself unable to renew interim financing arrangement that begin to come due next month. It is those obligations the company announced it may not be able to meet. 

The bad news is merely one in a series of blows that have shaken the company. 

Magna had hoped to win a Maryland state license to install video slot machine at its Laurel Park track, a potential source of ready new cash to supplement the steadily declining revenues from the track. 

But Maryland’s Video Lottery Facility Commission rejected the park’s bid earlier this month. Magna’s local affiliate, the Maryland Jockey Club, has filed a legal challenge. 

Next month Magna faces a series of critical due dates on loans arranged through MID, including $126 million borrowed through an MID subsidiary, another $100 million borrowed for a project at Gulfstream Park, plus a third loan of $48.5 million. 

A new complication was added when a key director and member of the company’s audit committee resigned, leaving the company in violation of a Toronto Stock Exchange requirement that the committee consist of three independent directors. 

Magna has suffered two other major setbacks locally. 

On April 17, 2007, voters in Dixon rejected Magna’s plans for a high tech television-friendly track adjacent to that rural Sacramento Valley community. 

The proposed Dixon Downs would have brought a major racing facility within a half-hour drive of the state capital, featuring what a Magna executive called a “California fair type facility ... together with mixed-use retail.”  

Nine months earlier, LA mall developer Caruso had backed out of his proposal to team with Magna on a $300 million waterfront mall at Golden Gate Fields after the Albany City Council rejected his demand to give his project a full environmental impact review (EIR) even before the council had seen an application describing exactly what the project entailed. 


What next? 

Robert Lieber, the Albany city councilmember who was serving as mayor at the time of the failed mall project, said he doesn’t believe the track is viable any longer. 

With liquidation of Magna’s assets on the table if the company is unable to reach a financing agreement, Lieber said, “I just hope that whoever acquires the track is willing to work with the community.” 

Marge Atkinson, the city’s current mayor, was elected as an opponent of the mall project along with current Vice Mayor Joanne Wile. 

Lieber said a community process now underway is working on alternative visions for the shoreline. 

He said the city hasn’t received any word that a sale might be near, “but we’re always the last to know. We weren’t notified before the sale to the previous two owners either.”  

Rumors are flying about talks between the track’s owners and one possible buyer, but no one was willing to go on the record as of Thursday afternoon.

California State Budget Will Require $6 Million in Cuts for Local Schools

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:00:00 PM

The state budget approved by lawmakers Feb. 19 to close California’s $42 billion budget deficit will impose billions of dollars in cuts on public education, leading to larger class sizes in grades K-12, fewer programs in arts and music, and teacher layoffs, officials said. 

The new budget will slash up to $6 million from Berkeley Unified School District over the next two years, according to Bill Huyett, district superintendent, and takes away 15 to 20 percent in funding from adult education, a major concern for the district. 

State schools chief Jack O’Connell told the Planet in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon that the new budget will reduce $8.4 billion from Prop. 98, a voter-approved statute that establishes a minimum level of funding for California schools, which includes deferrals and the redesignation of funds. 

He said that he was concerned that the state was, in essence, transferring its cash flow problem to local agencies. 

O’Connell said the cuts would translate to fewer librarians and nurses, loss of intervention programs and a significant decrease in textbooks and computers, leaving school districts across the state to grapple with the lack of valuable resources.  

“It’s definitely a step backwards,” he said. “There is relief in Sacramento because there is a budget, that it’s done, but nobody is proud. In my opinion, because of the implosion of the financial situation in the country, I understand tough decisions had to be made. But it’s unfortunate that we are receiving less money at a time when our teachers need to be compensated.” 

Huyett said that the budget approved by the legislation makes the same dollar cuts that the governor proposed, except that instead of taking the money out completely from the general fund, it dips into categorical and the general fund equally. 

“It’s hard to say how this will affect the district, since our categorical funds lead to our general funds,” he said. “In some cases it doesn’t really make a difference. Our general fund will take a half to two-third cut.” 

Berkeley Unified was able to rescind layoff notices to teachers last year when the Legislature voted against cutting Prop. 98 in the last fiscal year, but still lost $2.5 million in funding. 

Huyett said that since Prop. 98 was based on state revenue, the current economical crisis had taken a big toll on it. 

He said that the district would be revealing the list of lay-offs for this year to the school board Friday.  

Under state law, the district is required to notify teachers about possible lay offs by March 15 and pass a budget by the end of June. 

The new budget, which state educators said generates more money, also makes more cuts. 

It seeks to boost categorical education funding by freeing up funding that is tied up “in restrictive Sacramento-prescribed categories,” so that local schools and districts can serve students in the best possible way, a proposal that hopes to benefit schools falling victim to a cash-strapped economy but according to O’Connell, still doesn’t reduce the impact of the cuts. 

“It’s a painful budget, there are no winners,” he said. 





City Alarmed by Impounding of Cars Owned By Illegal Immigrants

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:59:00 PM

Community organizers met with Berkeley city officials Feb. 18 to discuss concerns about the Berkeley police seizing cars of undocumented immigrants, which they said had generated fear among some Latino families.  

Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates, said that, although the mayor was aware of the issue and sympathized with the immigrants, there was little that could be done, since state law authorized the police to tow and impound vehicles for 30 days when driven by people who were unlicensed or who had suspended or revoked licenses.  

“The mayor has been continuously opposed to the state law, which says that immigration status is required to get a driver’s license,” she said. “But we don’t know what local law you could pass that would supersede the state law, except for someone actually changing the state law.”  

At last week’s meeting, Belen Pulido, lead organizer for the Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action, asked Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley’s first Latino councilmember, to help the undocumented immigrants whose cars were being seized by Berkeley police at DUI checkpoints or traffic stops.  

“They are really scared because they feel their cars might be taken away when they are picking up their kids from school or coming home from work,” Pulido said. “And there’s no way they can get a license. So what should they do? Give up driving?” Calls for comment to the Berkeley Police Department were not returned.  

“People are obviously upset,” Arreguin said, adding that he couldn’t understand how the police could do this in Berkeley, a city of refuge for illegal immigrants. “This is a big issue and not in the best interest of the city. It’s been going on for a long time and the city has not been doing anything about it. It raises important legal questions and whether we are discriminating against one group of people.”  

Mark Silverman, an attorney for the Immigration Legal Research Center in San Francisco, said that the police had been towing cars of undocumented immigrants for a long time in Berkeley, but the issue had become a bigger problem in other cities last year where authorities prevented drivers from taking back their seized cars for over a period of 30 days.  

Silverman said that although state law allowed the police to tow a car when the driver did not possess a license, it was unconstitutional and went against the individual’s Fourth Amendment rights.  

“We want people to unite and organize and get the City of Berkeley to change their policy,” he said.  

Silverman, who is working with immigrant groups in seven counties in California who are trying to end the police practice of impounding cars based on the sole reason that the driver is not licensed, said that the Fourth Amendment protects people from “unreasonable seizures.”  

“If the car is causing a danger to public safety then the police can remove and seize the car,” he said. “But it’s unconstitutional to take someone’s property away solely because he doesn’t have a license—it’s not enough reason to justify a seizure. If the driver takes this issue to the court, I am not sure he would win, but I am certain that if the Berkeley Police Department and the City of Berkeley continues to tow cars, they face a big chance of incurring significant financial liability.”  

Pulido said that she had come across seven cases last year and two so far this year in which undocumented Latino immigrants had called her for help on getting their impounded cars released.  

“People will call me when the police take away their cars but I can only help so many,” she said, adding that four months ago she had helped a Latino woman to get her car back after paying $200 to the impoundment center. “And that was only for a day. This other man gave up on his car because he had to pay the impoundment center a four-day fee and the car itself was worth less than $2,000. A lot of people never get their cars back because they can’t afford the fees. Something needs to be done to make the process easier for them.”  

BOCA played a prominent role in supporting the Latino community last May when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained a Berkeley couple who were unable to show the officers their licenses while driving to the BART station, according to Silverman, and subsequently failed to provide documentation to prove their legal immigration status.  

ICE called the detainment routine targeted enforcement action at that time.  

Lori Haley, a spokesperson for ICE, said on Friday she was not aware of local authorities impounding cars belonging to undocumented immigrants in Berkeley.  

Sinai said that the Berkeley City Council had recently received a report from the Berkeley Police Department in response to their concerns about vehicles of undocumented immigrants being towed at DUI checkpoints.  

“There was some concern from city officials because one of the places where you ask for a driver’s license is at a checkpoint,” she said.  

In the report, Doug Hambleton, Berkeley chief of police, said “the department does not seek out undocumented immigrants for enforcement of DUI offenses or any other violation of law.”  


Environmental Review Hearing Moves Downtown Plan Closer

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:58:00 PM

With the struggle to shape the future of downtown Berkeley entering its final months, planning commissioners are moving closer to finalizing their own vision.  

Last Wednesday’s meeting brought one benchmark—a hearing on the Downtown Area Plan’s draft environmental impact report (EIR)—and the penultimate stages of two others—honing zoning boundaries and defining what can be built in each, and how high.  

Commissioners began with the draft EIR hearing, a legally mandated session to gather public concerns to be addressed in the final version.  

While EIR hearings are routine events, last Wednesday’s version ventured beyond the usual confines to feature one angry blast from a commissioner aimed at a member of another commission.  

The hearing opened with John Courtney, traffic consultant and senior planner at Lamphier Gregory, the firm hired to produce the EIR. While the plan evaluated the maximum buildout under a development scenario set by planning commissioners in December, Courtney said, “We don’t know what will actually happen.”  

While Chair James Samuels has said the commission isn’t drafting the final plan and is only making recommendations to the City Council, it was the commission that defined the scale of growth outlined in the EIR.  

And that scale is significantly enlarged from the document drafted by the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), a 21-member citizen panel that spent nearly two years on its creation.  

The commission, with a majority of members drawn from the development community, has been considerably more expansion-friendly in its building allotments than DAPAC. 



Both sides have invoked the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions as a justification for their argument, with the development-friendly side invoking the large percentage of greenhouse gases that comes from transportation, and their opponents the even larger percentage that comes from construction.  

But on a deeper and older level of Berkeley politics, one side features long-time residents who fight for a cause they call neighborhood preservation, a cause their “smart growth” opponents call “nimbyism.”  

While the neighborhood advocates found consistent though sometimes narrow majorities on DAPAC votes, Smart Growth reigns at the commission.  

Smart growth proponents want development concentrated along densely populated transportation corridors, a move they say will halt urban sprawl, get commuters out of air-polluting cars, revitalize the streets and reinvigorate commerce.  

Neighborhood advocates say the development boomers base their claims on a string of dubious assumptions, ignoring impacts on traffic, noise, and the fragile character of neighborhood communities.  

The importance of the EIR is that the document sets the standards for the maximum amount of development that can occur without triggering yet another costly and potentially lengthy individual review.  

After setting up one level of development for the EIR, a commission majority has proposed allowing for even more, a move that would trigger another supplemental review later this year.  

Courtney said the plan’s review found only four areas where impacts would be legally significant and beyond mitigation.  

To approve the plan, the City Council must make an explicit finding that overriding considerations were justification for their approval of the document that will determine what can and can’t be built in the city center through 2030.  

The specific impacts included:  

• Loss of some neighborhood views of the Berkeley hills due to high-rise construction;  

• High-rise shadowing of the university’s crescent at the western entrance to the campus east of Oxford Street;  

• Possible encroachment on Climate Action Plan limits;  

• Demolition of historic buildings to make way for new structures.  

• Traffic noise and congestion, and  

• Noise and vibration resulting from new construction.  

Comments addressed both what is in the plan and what isn’t.  



The leadoff speaker sparked the evening’s sharpest exchange.  

Anne Wagley, Daily Planet arts and calendar editor and member of the city Landmarks Preservation Commission, has sued both entities responsible for the plan—the city and UC Berkeley.  

Wagley was among the plaintiffs who sued over the Board of Regents approval of the Berkeley campus Long Range Development Plan 2020 and its accompanying EIR. That plan called for 850,000 square feet of new off-campus buildings in downtown Berkeley.  

The City of Berkeley, another plaintiff, opted for a settlement that spelled out mitigation payments to the city to help compensate for the impact of development and required the City Council to adopt a plan that allowed for UC’s projects by May 25.  

Wagley said the plan—along with the commission’s proposal to extend the core area where buildings of up to 225 feet would be allowed—” would wipe out the buffer zone and any protections for the neighborhoods.”  

After criticizing the settlement agreement’s provision giving the university veto power over the plan, Wagley said she was concerned about the impact of “studentification” on nearby neighborhoods.  

The hearing’s momentum veered off course when commissioner Patti Dacey asked Wagley what that term meant.  

Wagley said the term was used in the planning community to describe negative impacts on property values caused by increased noise, crime and other factors that resulted from the increased presence of students.  

That’s when commissioner Harry Pollack erupted.  

Pollack, an attorney who often represents developers, asked Wagley (who also holds a law degree), “Do you have a university degree?”  

“Yes,” she said, “we were all students once.”  

While Pollack lashed out at Wagley for what he called labeling and name-calling, Wagley said she was reflecting complaints from residential neighbors south of campus.  


Other comments  

Steve Wollmer, who followed Wagley to the microphone, said he was concerned that the settlement agreement had expanded the downtown plan’s boundaries without public discussion.  

“When the settlement agreement was promulgated, neighbors were quite surprised to learn they had moved downtown without ever leaving their houses,” Wollmer said. “Now we’re talking about 85-foot buildings right across the street.”  

Either city staff had an agenda all along, he said, or the plan “has been hijacked by development interests on the commission.”  

“It’s very important that you consider why the plan’s area was expanded,” said Wollmer. “It was so the transition (to neighborhoods) could be managed and wouldn’t be abrupt.”  

He also called on the commission to reverse its proposal to reject DAPAC’s call to downzone some of the downtown residential neighborhoods—a move commissioners followed after the hearing, with qualifications.  

Daniel Caraco, an Oxford Street resident who said he holds several advanced degrees including one in health policy administration, faulted the plan and planning staff for ignoring what he said were plans to close both Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Herrick Hospital in the city.  

In preparing the plan and the EIR, he said, “staff has specifically refused to acknowledge what it will mean for there to be no emergency facilities in a town of 100,000 people.”  

Planners must consider the additional deaths that would result, he said, “and you or one of your family could be among them.”  

Carl Friberg, a co-plaintiff with Wagley in the UC Berkeley LRDP suit, charged that the settlement agreement violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by giving the university veto power over the plan.  

CEQA is the same law that mandates the EIR process.  

Jim Rusin, an architect and member of the pro-densification Downtown Berkeley Association, said he didn’t believe the EIR adequately addresses impacts of transforming Center Street between Shattuck Avenue and Oxford Street into a pedestrian mall.  

While the DAPAC plan calls for the closure, the Planning Commission revisions leave the issue open.  

Rusin said the EIR also paid short shrift to the impacts of the loss of parking spaces embodied in some of the plan’s proposals, including the possible replacement of the city-owned Berkeley Way lot by housing.  

This time it was the commission chair who questioned a speaker, asking Rusin what businesses would be impacted by closure of Center. In addition to new housing planned for the block, Rusin said some businesses on the block relied on 18-wheel trucks for supplies.  

John English, a retired planner and a preservationist, said the EIR contained “no shortage of mistakes and inconsistencies,” enough so that a detailed written response would be forthcoming.  

He said the commission’s efforts to extend the numbers, heights and potential sites for high-rises could prompt a lawsuit or even a referendum on the plan.  

Dean Metzger, another neighborhood activist, said the increased density and resulting traffic congestion mean that the planners “are making three Berkeleys here,” north, downtown and south.  

With car traffic increasing while AC Transit is cutting service and boosting rates, Metzger asked, “How are you going to make all of Berkeley want to go downtown?”  

Nischit Hedge, representing Local 2859 of the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, said she was speaking for hotel and laundry workers.  

“We can really appreciate hotel growth in downtown Berkeley,” she said, “but we’re just not convinced skyscrapers are the way to do it.”  

Just take away those two giant hotels, she said.  

The skyscrapers she mentioned are the pair of 225-foot hotels included in the EIR, which would include the proposed but currently stalled hotel and condo tower proposed by Carpenter & Co., the Massachusetts hotelier picked by the university to develop the complex at the northeast corner of the Shattuck and Center Street intersection.  

When it came time for commissioners to make their own comments, members had little to add—though Gene Poschman, the commission’s resident policy wonk, said he would have plenty, to be presented later in writing.  

Pollack said he’d read only the document’s executive summary, then questioned the EIR’s figures on current parking in the city’s Center Street garage.  

He said the plan’s assumptions about available parking in 2030 were based on current parking regulations and said a reduction of parking requirements for new construction might lead to inaccurate results.  

Smart growth advocates call for a reduction in parking at new projects as a stimulus to nudge occupants out of their cars and onto public transit.  

Samuels questioned whether shadowing of the university’s entry crescent was really a significant adverse impact, but Courtney said it had been included because the crescent was “one of a limited number of publicly accessible open spaces available” in downtown Berkeley.  

Samuels gently but firmly nudged the consultant to concede his point that “it doesn’t seem unusual to you that we have these kinds of impacts in a city the size of Berkeley.”  

While last Wednesday’s session was the only time for spoken comment, downtown planner Matt Taecker said written comments could be submitted through March 13.  

The draft EIR is available online at www.ci.berkeley,ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id+33630.  

Written comments may be submitted in person at the city’s Permit Services Center, 2120 Milvia St., or by e-mail to Taecker at mtaecker@ci.berkeley.ca.us  

Donate to the White Elephant Sale for a Sneak Peek

By Steven Finacom Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:05:00 PM

It’s White Elephant Sale season again. The huge, weeks-long fundraising event sponsored by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board turns 50 years this year, and is as big, varied, and interesting as ever. 

What’s the White Elephant Sale? If you haven’t heard, or been, it’s essentially a department store-sized garage sale of tens of thousands of donated items, organized into more than 20 sections, from toys to electrical to clothing, furniture, art and bric-a-brac. 

When it began in 1959, the White Elephant Sale grossed $500. Since then it has burgeoned, moved from site to site, and finally settled into a block-square warehouse where volunteers work year-round processing donations for the big February and March sales. 

Whether you’re shopping entirely for fun, or following thrifty impulses in these recessionary times, the White Elephant Sale (WES) is worth a visit. 

A selective shopper could easily furnish an apartment here, from kitchen chopping blocks to bedroom linens, armchairs, art, and alarm clocks. Collectors can indulge their specialty interests, from stuffed animals, to silverware, to vintage Christmas ornaments.  

Last weekend I paused by one wall of shelves containing just coffee mugs in the extensive household wares section. Are you named Marty, Larry, Tony, Chris, Don, Carolyn? There’s a mug waiting at the WES with your name on it. 

While thousands show up at the weekend Preview Sale in early February, and the regular sale—the weekend of March 7 and 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. this year—the ongoing donation period is a good alternative time to go and shop. 

The “donor” shopping days have small crowds in comparison with the big sale days, presenting the opportunity to spot something that has just come in and been priced before anyone else buys it. 

Donation days for the rest of February are just through Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.  

The donation process is simple. You bring at least $50 worth of contributions per person. If your contributions pass muster, you’re issued a gift tag good for a visit.  

While the gatekeepers don’t scrutinize your contributions like suspicious Customs agents, they are looking for reasonable, re-sellable contributions. If you show up with just a couple of tattered paperback books or T-shirts, I suspect you’d be turned away.  

On donation days, instead of paying at each department, you take your selections to its counter, where they’re totaled up, bagged and tagged with your name and the price.  

You can leave those items at a self-serve shelf area near the exits and go on to other sections. When you’re ready to leave central cashiers total all your tags together. You pay once, and a 10 percent premium is added to your total for the privilege of shopping early. 

Ffity years of sales have raised over 13 million dollars that the Oakland Museum Women’s Board has donated for museum programs, exhibits, and facilities. 

Many people go to just browse for interesting things. Others are serious thrift shoppers. Two friends buy many of their clothes for the year at the WES. Others annually augment their book collections. A couple of journalists I know hunt for the ugliest objects. (This year, there’s a fiber optic fairy figure lamp with moving wings that may be the most garish. Last year, my favorite was a ceramic clock dripping with cherubs.) 

Some shopping suggestions: 

• If you have the time, plan at least two visits; the warehouse is so vast and the selection so varied that after a couple of hours of browsing you’ll be weary and glazed.  

• Try to finish and head for the check-out by about 1:30 p.m. on a donation day. After that time the line starts to build, and even though it moves efficiently, if you shop until 2:00, you probably won’t make it out the door until well after the hour. 

• During the big main sale, it’s sensible to “impulse buy,” securing an interesting item that may well be snatched up moments later in the teeming mass of shoppers. During the donation days you can be a little more discriminating; don’t necessarily grab that velvet Elvis painting and have it wrapped up until you check out other departments for more, shall we say, useful items. 

• Eat and use the bathroom before going. There’s no food or drink allowed inside, and only outdoor port-a-potties are provided for shoppers. 

• Bring the largest personal vehicle you have access to. Who knows if you’ll have to try to cram a carpet, chair, or six boxes of books into it on the way home? 

• Try to go in twos, if possible (and remember, at least $50 in donations per person, not per group). You can cover more ground, and one can wait with the purchases while the other gets the car.  

• No children are allowed in on donation days. 

• Finally, when planning your donations, remember there’s a long list of donations the WES doesn’t accept, mainly hazardous items and things they know they couldn’t even give away, like back issues of popular magazines. Check the detailed and lengthy list on their website before you go, so you won’t have to take your debatable treasures back home. For example, TV’s, microwave ovens, TV stands, cell phones, extension cords and non-vintage Christmas lights, and “office furniture of any sort” are not accepted. 

Ammunition and firearms (including toy guns), are forbidden, along with toilet seats, “disassembled looms,” most types of exercise machines, “dining room tables without matching chairs,” “home recorded” video cassettes, Beta video tapes, 8-Track tapes, automobile batteries, tire chains, matches, “paint of any kind,” and everyone’s least favorite garage sale finds like “soiled or torn articles of clothing,” “opened cosmetics,” “used underwear” and “toxic materials.”  

Also, absolutely no shag rugs, even in great condition. It’s good to see there are some tastes even the WES can’t stomach. 

A House of Books in the Elmwood

By Phila Rogers Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:00:00 PM
The Claremont Branch is the largest of the Berkeley Public Library branches.
Phila Rogers
The Claremont Branch is the largest of the Berkeley Public Library branches.

Immediately off busy Ashby Avenue on Benvenue Avenue in the Elmwood district you enter an leafy enclave of Arts and Crafts houses. The Claremont Branch Library, built in 1924 and designed in the same scale and character as the surrounding homes, fits right in. 

The Claremont Branch is the second busiest branch in Berkeley with the largest branch collection and biggest building. 

Karen Joseph-Smith, the branch manager, says: “This is very much a family library. We often see mothers, fathers, and grandparents visiting the library as part of a family outing,” she says. “Claremont Branch is a vital part of the Elmwood community. It’s a place to read a newspaper or magazine, access the Internet, check out a stack of DVDs for a week’s worth of entertainment, pick up an audio book to play on a long trip, to listen to a story, or even watch a puppet show.” (It’s also a short block away from an excellent coffee house and a variety of restaurants). 

Patrons and staff have a special affection for the branch. No wonder. The charming building, with its half-timbered and brick exterior, is sheltered by London plane trees in front and tall redwoods behind. Inside, the library features two alcoves with fireplaces that offer a homey, cozy ambiance, high ceilings throughout, window seats and more alcoves in the children’s area, and lots of fine woodwork.  

“What makes our collection stand apart is the large audio book section which includes a significant number of academic “great courses,” a large DVD section which focuses on “foreign films,” and an extensive travel section,” says Karen. 

The branch also sponsors a non-fiction reading group with a different title read and discussed each month. (The books are available at the circulation desk).  

Karen Joseph-Smith, like most librarians, traces her love of books and libraries back to her childhood and her family of library users. “My grandparents came to California from Louisiana in the 1920 because it offered them a better life—access to good schools and housing, parks, libraries, and they didn’t have to sit in the back of the bus to get to any of these places! Though she had only eight years of schooling, my grandmother read voraciously and was a regular used of the old Green Library in Oakland,” she recalls. 

“Growing up in Oakland, my mother took me each week to the library where she picked out her books while I went to the childrens’ room where I checked out my own stack of books. Though it may sound like a cliché, books opened my eyes to new worlds I could never have imagined growing up in east Oakland,” she says. 

Pursuing her interest in other cultures, Karen did her undergraduate work at Pomona College in anthropology, then graduated from USC library school in 1978. After working at several local libraries she found her home at the Berkeley Public Library in 1991 and has been the Claremont branch manager since 1995. 

Every branch seems to have its ‘old-timer.’ At Claremont Branch it’s Karin Soe-Lai, the supervising library assistant who’s in charge of circulation. She started with the library as a teenager more than 30 years ago. 

Dawn Swanson, the children’s librarian, holds sway over the spacious Childrens’ room which was part of the branch’s major expansion in 1976. On a recent rainy Saturday morning the room was jumping with young children accompanied by many dads. 

One young boy told Dawn that: “I want a book on bombs.” Being unflappable is one of the requirements for being a childrens’ librarian. Dawn determined that he was also interested in submarines and the young patron left pleased with several illustrated books on the subject.  

“We have a variety of programs for toddlers up to through elementary schoolers,” says Dawn. Classes with their teachers visit and we have a number of home-schooling families. The Friends of the Berkeley Public Library sponsors special events like our puppet shows which attract a big crowd,” she adds. 

With the Oakland Public Libraries cutting back on their hours, Claremont branch expects to become even busier. 

Fitting Right In  

The Claremont branch, like the other three branches in the Berkeley Public Library system, occupied several locations before finding a permanent home. Claremont branch first opened its doors in 1909 in the old Emerson School (Piedmont and Garber) and later occupied two rented stores in the neighborhood before moving into its home at 2940 Benvenue on the corner of Ashby Avenue, a block south of College Avenue in 1924. 

The 1920s were a heyday for library construction thanks to Carnegie grants, which built 142 libraries in California. The commission for designing the Central Library and the Claremont, South, and North branches all went to James W. Plachek. Each library was designed in a distinctive style. 

The Claremont branch, designed in the so-called English Gothic domestic style, looks at home in to its neighborhood. The exterior has a base of bricks laid in diamond bond pattern. The half timber wood is held together with wood pegs in the old style. The roof is a copy of an old English slate roof. Carrying out the English theme, the hand-carved letters above one of the fireplaces, quotes Shakespeare: “My Books shall be My Company.” 

The 3,710-square-foot building cost $24,000 and originally housed 6,000 books. Libraries were very different places in those days: Books, all recorded on index cards, made up the libraries circulation.  

By the 1970s, the small building could no longer accommodate the increasing number of patrons and the growing book collection. Expansion to the south seemed like the only feasible solution, but that required the removal of a one-story bungalow. Because of the recently-passed Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance a house in sound condition could not be demolished. The only solution was to move.  

The ad in the SF Chronicle tells the story: “City of Berkeley authorizes the sale of a one-story three-bedroom, one-bath, brown shingled residence, excellent condition for $1. House must be moved by Feb. 15, 1975. City will help pay cost.” For months there were no takers until Dr. Betram Lubin, and his wife Barbara, who lived near by made an offer that was accepted.  

The new addition designed by Ratcliff Architects, doubled the original space allowing for a new Childrens’ Room, a multipurpose area, and increased circulation and work areas. 

More recently, in 2000, the branch was closed for three months to allow for a renovation that provide improved access for the disabled.  




Spring Thoughts From Home

By Becky O’Malley
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:54:00 PM

In the springtime the thoughts of the average aging English major are apt to turn to the poetry studied in youth. Often, this is poetry read in high school, not college, because it was the pleasure of reading in high school, where we had plenty of time to ponder, that deluded many of us into thinking that four more years of literature would be the best way to spend our ever more precious time. A great deal of the poetry about spring is actually about death, ever a popular topic for adolescents. 

Even though I’ve lived in California for most of my adult life, every year it seems odd to me that spring actually comes in February. Except for 13 years in St. Louis and 12 in Ann Arbor, I’ve usually seen the flowers that bloom in the spring (tra-la) in what the poetry universe thinks of as the dead of winter. So now come our daffodils, here today, gone tomorrow, as Robert Herrick noticed way back in 17th century England: 


Fair daffodils, we weep to see 

You haste away so soon; 

As yet the early-rising sun 

Has not attained his noon. 

Stay, stay, 

Until the hasting day 

Has run 

But to the evensong; 

And, having prayed together, we 

Will go with you along. 


We have short time to stay, as you, 

We have as short a spring; 

As quick a growth to meet decay, 

As you, or anything. 

We die 

As your hours do, and dry 


Like to the summer’s rain; 

Or as the pearls of morning’s dew, 

Ne’er to be found again. 


Sobering, right, when you think about it? Particularly in light of yesterday’s news, covered elsewhere in a more serious vein, that the poor old San Francisco Chronicle, already withered to a mere shadow of its former robust and rowdy daffodil self, is threatening to finally expire. There’s just a wee temptation to indulge in schadenfreude, which should be resisted, because really, who wants to live in or near a city without a big newspaper? (Aside to Berkeley’s amateur copy-sharks: nouns borrowed from German should not be capitalized when used in English.) 

Coupled irresistibly in my teenage memory bank with Herrick’s Daffodils is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Spring, though her New England April is the California March: 


To what purpose, April, do you return again? 

Beauty is not enough. 

You can no longer quiet me with the redness 

Of little leaves opening stickily. 

I know what I know. 

The sun is hot on my neck as I observe 

The spikes of the crocus. 

The smell of the earth is good. 

It is apparent that there is no death. 

But what does that signify? 

Not only under ground are the brains of men 

Eaten by maggots. 

Life in itself 

Is nothing, 

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs. 

It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, 


Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers. 


I once saw those last three lines chalked on the sidewalk next to People’s Park, at a time when I myself was firmly situated in stodgy middle age, and it was somehow reassuring to know that undergraduates at least were still pondering the meaning of life. It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it.  

And finally, there’s the French connection. (I ended up majoring in comparative literature because I found Cal’s English department annoyingly pretentious). It’s spring, it rains (if we’re lucky) and along with the daffodils I remember the Verlaine poem I memorized in my high school French class: 


Il pleure dans mon coeur 

Comme il pleut sur la ville. 

Quelle est cette langueur 

Qui pénètre mon coeur? 


That’s to say, “it’s raining in my heart like it’s raining on the city. What’s this langor that penetrates my heart?” And there’s more in the same vein. It’s been set to music by both Debussy and Fauré, because it’s sure to resonate with anyone who has the least attraction to—what? sloppy sentimentality? No, not that bad. 

Most of the above is mostly about Love with a capital L, and/or the loss thereof. Love’s the center of the adolescent universe, Topic A, more important even than sex, which is related but different. How surprising it must be for some, then, later in life, to observe and even experience their worlds collapsing because of what’s happening with banks and the stock market! 

My own childhood reading prepared me for today’s landscape of disaster. I inherited a good number of beautifully printed and illustrated children’s books from the late 19th century, in which a major theme was that “Father” had experienced “reverses” so that the family was forced to find ingenious ways of coping with sudden poverty. Financial panics were a frequent experience of the time, right up through the period lumped together as the Great Depression, which encompassed a succession of collapse events. Regulations were supposed to have put an end to such panics, but presidents from Reagan through Clinton presided over the gradual unravelling of those rules, and now we’re engulfed in failures again.  

Which brings us back round to daffodils. Or at least to spring flowers. Herrick wrote another famous poem in the carpe diem vein:  


Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 

Old Time is still a-flying; 

And this same flower that smiles today, 

To-morrow will be dying. 


It’s true not only of daffodils and rosebuds, but even of newspapers and banks and brokerage firms.  

But the happy ending which you might not glean from simply reading Herrick’s early poems is that the poet himself didn’t perish in his youth like a daffodil, but survived in good cheer for 83 years, his life much more than an empty cup. The good news is that there will probably be roses and daffodils again next spring (if perhaps a bit earlier because of climate change), and we might as well enjoy them, now and then.


Ashby Flowers vs. Whole Foods

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday February 26, 2009 - 07:53:00 PM

Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Monday March 02, 2009 - 03:04:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read with interest "Pancho" McClish's letter about those truly ugly sculptures on the Pedestrian Bridge, and I must disagree—those sculptures actually could never ruin the pedestrian bridge. Yes, they are dreadful, completely without any redeeming aesthetic or artistic qualities and an utter waste of taxpayer money, but they are minor bookends upon a really nice piece of functional public architecture. 

What bothers me most about the "Pedestrian Bridge Experience" is those huge mounds of dirt which completely block what could be a spectacular view of the Golden Gate and Mt. Tamalpais. Is that land not owned by the East Bay Regional Parks District? Why is that property being used by a private, for-profit industrial corporation? It's actually an incredible eyesore, and a completely inappropriate use of that property. The only redeeming feature of those mounds of dirt is that they deflect the traffic noise if you are on the west side of them. I cannot imagine that having such piles of dirt so close to the water could possibly fulfill any environmental concerns regarding the silting up of the bay. Perhaps the sculptures were placed there to divert our attention from the true ugliness. 

Arthur Fonseca 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Whole Foods' intention not to renew Ashy Flowers' lease is very disappointing, and depressing in what it says about the state of corporate governance in this country. They may be a publicly trade corporation, but their brand and entire business model is based on an ethos that sets up very different expectations of community citizenship than what we've had to face from the car companies, banks and other fatally myopic enterprises. Now Whole Foods has corrupted their image, in Berkeley no less! What's next, irradiated genetically modified organic free-range chicken?  

Two points I think your story should have covered: First, Whole Foods is not just Ashby Flowers' landlord, but also a competitor—and not a very successful one in my opinion. Despite a relatively large floral sales area, Whole Foods does not compare well to Ashby Flowers in service, quality or price. About all Whole Foods has in its favor is convenience and longer hours, and I'm not surprised they want to push Ashby Flowers out.  

Second, there does happen to be a vacant retail property of the sort described by Mr. Lannon, just across the intersection on Telegraph, where a camera store used to be. It might not be economically feasible for the flower shop, although it has been vacant for a long time, and of course even a move across the street is a hardship for an existing business. But if Whole Foods wants to do something for the community, and do good while doing well, maybe they should open their cafe over there—it's got its own parking and a drive through, and would give them even more visibility. How about it, Whole Foods?  

Ross Bogen  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is incredible that Mayor Bates and the City Council gave the city manager a pay hike. It is equally amazing that they’ve gotten away with it with very little public outcry. 

The city manager’s salary and benefits are worth over $300,000 a year. The mayor justifies the pay raise by pointing out the city manager could “collect more by retiring.” 

This is not a justification for a pay hike but reason to reevaluate benefit and salary packages. 

At the same time our elected officials were raising fat salaries even higher, Santa Rosa decreased salaries for all public employees earning $100,000 or more. Their city manager earns $65,000 less than ours, even though Santa Rosa is geographically 4.5 times larger with a population 60 percent greater than Berkeley. If Santa Rosa can be fiscally responsibly in these difficult times, why can't Berkeley? 

Mayor Bates was in Sacramento too long spending big bucks, learning the culture of the elite and getting use to fat salaries and obese retirements. Gordon Wozniak, coming out of UC, is likely accustomed to the same gravy train.  

How long will we consent to pay “experts,” “consultants” and bureaucrats salaries that far exceed those of the people they’re supposed to serve? Perhaps less self important “public servants” would do a better job for reasonable pay. There are plenty of talented people looking for work. 

Is our city manager such a genius that he can’t be replaced? As Charles DeGaulle once quipped, “The world's graveyards are filled with indispensable men.” 

John Koenigshofer 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reading your "Spring Thoughts From Home" as a fellow English major, I was moved and delighted by the selections and the editorial thoughts and feelings. Additionally, on a less somber note, I can't help but add that T.S. Eliot's poem in which spring (April) is described as the "cruelest month" (he was such a scamp!) can be construed as mourning the month in which the I.R.S. brings dread to us all. And, there is that old cliché about the inevitability of death and taxes. We may "gather our rosebuds as we may," but the IRS will always charge us for the bouquet. 

Robert Blau 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read the Planet each week (when I can get a printed copy), pretty much from front to back. I skip much of the (tedious, repetitive, or predictable) letters to the editor, but pay attention to much of the rest of it, including the ads and the funnies. I frequently read and appreciate the editorials and opinion pieces. I especially like the house inspection articles by Matt. Cantor, the bird/wildlife/planting articles by Ron Sullivan and Joe Eaton, and the local history. I read the calendars and am frequently better informed because of it. I slog through the news of city business, but need as much as anything else to know when the city manager is making more money because of specious claims about his retirement made to City Council during recommendations for his new raise. 

The Planet has steadily improved in quality over the years and I am certain our community would feel the loss if it should fold up and disappear. I doubt if we've ever had a better paper in this city. It is no more biased than any other paper; perhaps it leans toward the good of the public commons more than Mr. Doran (or others who complain about it) might wish. Que lastima, chicos! 

The Planet is doing a great job. We need this kind of dialog in our community. We need the real news of what is happening, whether the bastions of power want us to have it or not. I need to know what is happening with the toxics battle in West Berkeley as much as I need to know what is happening with the nanotechnology development battle or stadium rehab battles being fought by my Panoramic Hill neighbors. I need it all. 

I could perhaps afford 50 dollars a year for a paper, but would only regularly read the printed version if one existed. I cannot imagine spending even more time in front of the computer, even if to get news. Thus at current rates, I would get the news once a week. I would prefer to put a dollar into a box to get my paper, and would go out of my way to do so, fairly often if not every week, rather than subscribe. Piled up newsprint of any kind is a horrid waste. No news at all is a travesty. 

Keep up the good work, 

Lynda Winslow 

West Berkeley 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’ve found some helpful ways of thinking about the economic and financial challenges facing the world that have brought reassurance and peace in the midst of turmoil and fear. As I work to make God the center of my life, what a friend said has uplifted me: there is, there can be, no deficit of ideas. Of course there needs to be the willingness and determination to try various approaches until ones are found that work to open up the job and credit markets and stabilize financial institutions.   

Knowing that the good flowing from spiritual sources is infinite, like a river, yields an abundant supply of calm, grace and joy, dispelling dismay and anger. Investing in such qualities of thought supplies strength and wisdom from which to draw in the days, months and years ahead. The only deficit occurs in my thinking and this is remedied when I use a spiritual lens on these difficulties and focus thought on higher realms for inspiration and encouragement. 

Marilyn McPherson 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

In Ms. Khanna's latest admonition, she states that young kids in school need to flourish creatively before they learn educational discipline. This sounds good, but it is exactly the kind of mushy thinking growing out of the 1960s that has destroyed our once-proud public schools. When such concepts as "creativity" and "self-esteem" assume more importance than actual learning, students don't learn anything except self-indulgence. We see the results every day: illiteracy, ignorance, nihilism and the need for instant gratification in so many young people that the future of our democratic republic—of our entire society—is seriously threatened. 

I grew up in those dreadful old days when we were forced to learn. Rote memorization and other tried-and-tested educational tools, which fill the souls of people like Ms. Khanna with horror and disgust, actually resulted in kids who could read, write and speak intelligently. And, few things contribute to real self-esteem as well as decent grades and recognition for educational achievement. 

Throughout history, school has been a place where we demanded the best from our youth, and getting there was rarely fun. Most kids would rather not be in school at all, and if their happiness is the main goal, our country will just become dumber and dumber and dumber. 

Our students, and our country, would be much better served if most educational "reforms" of the past 40 years were eliminated, and schools began to teach once again, and to demand that students learn. 

Michael Stephens  

Point Richmond 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am thinking about the importance of networking at this time of economic downturn. Many people have been laid off. Many others have lost hope that they can ever get a paying job. This is the time we can be good neighbors to one another, telling our employer friends about our qualified acquaintances, sharing our resume writing skills, doing job research in the library on behalf of our friends. Even if jobs are slow in coming we will meanwhile be building communities in which people care. 

Romila Khanna 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Today, I wanted to address two letters that were written to the editors of the Berkeley Daily Planet: “Love of Learning Comes First,” by Romila Khanna, and “Fines for the Homeless,” by Autif Kamal. I agree with what Autif suggests when he says that the laws Mayor Tom Bates wants to enforce on the homeless people in the Berkeley streets should not be fines, but instead rehabilitative programs. Charging them fines will only keep them down in the same position of being homeless, and the problem of homelessness would not be solved; it will only get worse. Another solution for homelessness is attacking it at the root of the problem. That is, educating children about life while making their surroundings comfortable and safe. I agree with Romila when she says that we should open the doors to opportunities and let children's curiosity prevail before. In other words, let the children be their own persons while creating an environment that they can easily adapt to. These practices can’t only be applied to children, but also to the people in society who need rehabilitation. If we create an environment that the homeless feel safe in, they may be able to focus on other things. The environment we would want to create would be one where the homeless would not have to worry about food, clothing, and shelter. If the homeless has these basic necessities, they can focus their thoughts to helping themselves to become positively and financially stable. 

Tamar Lee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

My mother, a wise woman, used to tell me,"You can only eat so much food. You can only drive one car at a time. You can only live in one house. What can these rich people buy with so much?" I wondered for years, until I realized the answer: Congress. 

Also privilege. Madoff is confined to his luxury home except for trips to the post office to mail wealth to friends and relatives, while the mugger who steals $40 and a laptop computer (bad) is immediately jailed. 

I have an updated class analysis (sorry, Marx): The MOPs, the OPs, and the Ns. The Members of the Club, the Ordinary People, and the Nobodies. 

Capitalism is collapsing; communism as manifested isn't working. We need a hybrid. Socialism? The opposition to the word may be equating capitalism with God and all other systems with atheism, which is equated with evil. Oooooh. (Helen Caldecott). 

Bill Moyers says that the American Eagle needs two wings: The right to  make the system productive, and the left to make sure that the benefits are distributed fairly. 

Robin Hood had it right, although he lacked details. Details I've noticed: No interest is paid to us for withholding. 

A sales tax is regressive. A yacht tax is not. 

The Daily Planet is a community treasure, well worth a dollar a copy. I'm sending a check for at least part of the year. 

Ruth Bird 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am very disappointed in Elephant Pharm because it is incomprehensible to do business in Berkeley, of all the cities in the world, and not ask for help from the community before closing. I must be idealistic, because I feel we are the one city that would have rallied around Elephant. The store's closure has had a direct impact on us collectively. This was Berkeley's store.  

For some time I had noticed less and less restocking of shelves, which breaks brand loyalty. I heard rumors of bad management that caused many good employees to leave. That was hard to hear. 

I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and learned that management is crucial to the success of any establishment. Perhaps a more stringent eye should have been kept on management in order to retain good employees? 

Becoming a collective might have helped. It worked for San Francisco's Rainbow Grocery. Worker buy-in is a great option as part of a bailout plan. If Elephant closed because of not getting a bank loan, they might have come to us, their public. We here in Berkeley might have taken on the bank, or found a way to save the store. Another option might have been to sell shares to the public. I would have invested at least $100, and I know for a fact there are many of us who would have risen to the occasion, given the option. 

Please pardon me for assuming more about the Elephant story than I know for sure, but the store's downfall was predictable for the past year and a half.  

Needless to say I am disappointed; I disappointed in the traditional route of caving in and not moving towards collective help. 

Thanks to Elephant for being in and enhancing our community. The store's sales pitch at the beginning was fabulous and welcoming; the classes, photography lab, health practitioners, and products were really eye-opening as to what can be done. 

Lisa L. Wetmore 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Republican propagandists, following Sen. Judd Gregg, have been criticizing non-stop Obama's tax reform plan to make the very rich pay a more fair share of the cost of running this nation. They wail about how taxing people who make more than $250,000 will "hurt small business." Hmmm, where were their voices last year when Bush's administration allocated seven hundred thousand million dollars to big business, with virtually no strings attached? Did small business get any of those bailouts? Did Sen. Gregg argue against that huge theft, er, transfer of our national treasure? 

Now, Republicans are squealing like stuck pigs at the prospect of paying more taxes on their unearned incomes. All those golden parachutes, bonuses, and bailouts have been class warfare against working folks. It is due time for war reparations. 

Bruce Joffe 



Letters to the Editor

Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:56:00 PM


Editors, Daily Planet: 

I completely endorse Walter Hood’s Center Street design. I think his closed Center Street plan, with its four “watering holes” as I like to think of them (no offense Dr. Hood—that’s a compliment), allow for ever-changing organic mixes of people to gather at different times, in different places, for different reasons, each and every day. I will not miss a large public space for events, as Jim Novosel says Dr. Hood’s plan lacks, and I think that issue is a red herring and just not true. Those events are infrequent and inherently less democratic and evolving and inclusive than Dr. Hood’s incredibly excellent plan. A space closed to cars is a public space and can be safely adapted to fit large crowds on occasion. It is the day-to-day egalitarian beauty of choice and choice of beauty that Dr. Hood has so brilliantly evoked. 

Of course it is sad that gigantic buildings will create sun-less canyons all around Center Street and only well-to-do-folk who can afford nosebleed condos will be able to appropriate the most sunlight. (By the way, I totally do not buy the density-infill-gets-people-out-of-cars model as appropriate for Berkeley.) 

Nonetheless, the only thing better than Dr. Hood’s plan, and I know it is only a dream, would be to use MORE open space park land to connect Berkeley High, Berkeley City College and UC Berkeley by extending Dr. Hood’s vision and closing all of Center Street, from origin point near Berkeley High and Berkeley City College to the UC campus. This green vision would present an indwelling unified field theory of the audacity of hope—hope that more Berkeley High and Berkeley City College kids are inspired and enabled to wend their way into four-year and graduate degrees from UC Berkeley. Soon the university will become a leader in Van Jones’ vision of green jobs as a way of enfranchising the disadvantaged. Let’s include degrees from our world class public institution of higher learning by way of a green carpet rolled out for all of those who aspire to better themselves. This, I believe we have all agreed, is an essential part of our town-gown vision. 

W. Schlesinger  




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I write to comment on the Zoning Adjustments Board proceedings involving the Thai Temple on Russell Street. The result is a disaster for neighborhood rights and speaks to the fact that in Berkeley it is better to ask for forgiveness—“please bless my unpermitted behavior for the past 15 years”—than permission. But what is most puzzling to me is this: the zoning board obviously wants to encourage the applicant and opposing sides to negotiate and come to an agreement on as many disputed points as possible. From what I saw, the staff report was very thorough and tried to document as much of this as possible, including the concessions made by the applicant to get the new permit. 

Yet during deliberations, the ZAB members apparently found it within their purview to start undoing all the hard work done by the parties over several weeks, by selectively removing or altering conditions apparently already agreed to. Each ZAB member apparently had some little pet peeve or whimsical tweak they wanted to add or change, which quickly distorted the “compromise” reached by the opposing factions, and made it even more lopsided in favor of the applicant by tossing out concessions they had already agreed to. 

Where is the sense in this? Why bother telling parties to negotiate a deal on conditions when the ZAB is merely going to impose its own unilateral whimsy at the last minute and add or remove new conditions that were not even requested by the parties? All this does is send the message that the ZAB is not to be trusted, and that there is no point in going through the mediation route. 

The decision itself is another matter. Why is there any reason to believe the Temple will now comply with the new “52-day” lunch figure, any more than they did for the “three-day” figure in the past? Haven’t they already demonstrated by their flagrant violation of the prior terms that they really don’t care, and can get away with pretty much whatever they want because the enforcement branch is completely ineffectual? 

Again, the message is, don’t trust the ZAB, they don’t really care if you comply and you can always go back and be forgiven. This MO is extremely unproductive for a body that wants to be taken seriously. 

J. Nicholas Gross 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been reading the Planet for a long time. Please, people, don’t let this valuable resource die. The Planet gives real story on local happenings. What else can I say? 

Christopher D. Fuller 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Reacting to “Berkeley Remembered” in the Feb 19-25 issue of the Planet, I Googled Deborah Loreen Foster’s home town of Phelan, Calif., and it seems to be a real place—an intersection in the desert north of Los Angeles, where Sheep Creek Road crosses Phelan Road. In the general vicinity of Victorville, Apple Valley, El Mirage. Out where the Space Shuttles land.  

Now, after reading that odd rant I can’t help but think that Deborah Loreen has a truly strange outlook on life, along with a really objectionable attitude about Berkeley; nonetheless she does have us dead to rights as far as those abominable fiberglass “sculptures” are concerned. (To be fair, I can’t find any depiction of the dog droppings she’s on about, but maybe she’s going by the color of the whole thing?) But, speaking of dogs, recycled Doggie Diner dachsund heads would be an improvement.  

That was a pretty little bridge, useful and decorative and a nice modest ornament to the city. Was, past tense. The addition of those blow-molded plastic eyesores at each end has uglified it thoroughly. Not to mention subjecting us collectively to the justified jeering of people like Deborah Loreen Foster, who by implication compares us unfavorably with her high-desert crossroads. Enough, I say! Tear ‘em down! Haul ‘em off! Break ‘em up! Send ‘em to Phelan, maybe somebody there can figure out something to do with them—somehow, Phelan seems like it might be more of a fiberglass kind of place.  

Disclaimer (for the benefit of the Art Commission): If anybody comes around offering a deal on old Doggie Diner dachsund heads, don’t go for it—that was a wisecrack, not genuine advice. 

Francis X. “Pancho” McClish 




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: 

Thank you to Zelda Bronstein for pointing out the hyperbole trotted out in support of the city manager’s raise. 

While I have no reason not to believe that Mr. Kamlarz does a fine job (save perhaps the pavement on east-bound University Avenue), in a year when workers in the private sector (myself) will be lucky to get a cost of living increase, an 8 percent raise is simply egregious. The timing may never be right to issue raises, but neither did the higher salary of Vallejo’s city manager produce superlative results. 

I’d be very interested in a follow-up article discussing why Berkeley appears to have the highest number of full-time employees per capita of any of the cities listed. The average is seven employees per 1,000 residents, while Berkeley has 16. Is this so? What is the long-term fiscal implication of such a large number of pensions? What do our 1,660 employees do? 

One quibble for Ms. Bronstein: I realize you were proving a point, but if criticism is levied upon the City Council for comparing our city manager’s salary to San Jose’s, neither should our bond rating be compared to San Jose’s. We will never be AAA, but we aren’t Reykjavik by the Bay either. 

John Vinopal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Aggregating laws to enforce fines upon homeless people will not aid in removing homeless people from the streets of Berkeley. According to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle by Matier and Ross, Mayor Tom Bates proposed introducing a new law that would fine homeless people for smoking, drinking alcohol, and using other drugs. The goal of this law was to keep homeless people off of the streets of Berkeley. The problem with fining homeless people is that they have no funds to pay for the fines that are administered to them. According to Heidi Sommer‘s article on Homelessness in Urban America from 2001, 40-50 percent of homeless people abuse alcohol and 15-30 percent of homeless people abuse drugs other than alcohol. Granted, homeless people do not improve their livelihood by abusing drugs and alcohol, but nor does administering fines to them. In fact, it prevents them from improving their livelihood because they keep accumulating fines. When any person is addicted to something, you do not punish them. Instead, the aim should be to rehabilitate them. This principle applies to the homeless people that Mayor Bates has created a law against. Homeless people that abuse drugs and alcohol will be able to remove themselves from the streets of Berkeley only if they are rehabilitated in a way that they gradually improve their livelihood, and afterwards become financially independent. In order to make these results occur, Mayor Bates must create a program rather than creating a law that administers fines to them. 

Autif Kamal 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Terry Doran certainly deserves congratulations for writing a letter that so raised the ire of Becky O’Malley, she needed to use three times as many words to rebut his views as he needed to express them. He suggested that the news reported by the Daily Planet is more often than not editorial opinion. She countered that by revealing the hidden biases of the pro-development dupes on Berkeley’s many boards and commissions, the Daily Planet is providing a much needed community service. 

Ms. O’Malley’s response, along with an article about the Planning Commission in the same edition of the Planet, reveals how this unveiling is accomplished. Knowledgeable planners, architects and attorneys are described as being in the pocket of developers because they are beholden to them for their livelihoods—even if the professionals have retired and are no longer associated in any capacity with the building profession. Others are damned because of the professions or views of their spouses. Anyone who is or has been employed by the University of California in any capacity other than as a member of the faculty is doomed for life as a patsy. If all else fails, guilt by association with the “pro-development agenda advanced by Mayor Bates and the Planning Department staff” will do the trick. 

Instead of painting over the views of everyone with whom the editor disagrees with a broad stereotypical brush, the Daily Planet would better serve the community if it actually presented the nuanced positions of the people engaged in the development and implementation of public policy. Unfortunately, an honest assessment of the merits of the positions advanced by these hard-working individuals is apparently beyond the capability of the Planet’s editor and reporters. All of this would be amusing were it not so much like the unfortunate times in so many places in America where some people were condemned to the fringes of society because they belonged to the wrong church, had parents of the wrong heritage or had a skin tone that was a shade too dark. 

The Daily Planet does provide a community service in reporting on the deliberations of Berkeley’s public bodies. But having been a participant in some of the meetings that were covered by the Planet, I know how inaccurate the reporting can be. The community would lose something if the Planet goes out of business. But perhaps the vacuum left behind will draw in something better. 

If the publisher of the Daily Planet truly wants to generate community financial support for his journal, I have a humble suggestion: fire the editor and bring in a professional who will insist on honest, balanced coverage that is free of bias and based on factual accounts. Try this for six months and then ask for community support. You might be pleasantly surprised at the reaction. 

Will Travis 

Former chair, Downtown Area Plan Adivsory Committee 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

A miniscule segment of the political spectrum held California and its annual budget hostage for 106 days. Year after year, anti-tax Republicans, in their ideological zeal, stymie the budget process. 

Californians can no longer accommodate extremists like the GOP anti-tax activists who game the state’s archaic two-thirds majority requirement needed for the passage of the annual budget. 

This annual sham will continue to happen unless the two-thirds majority requirement is eliminated. 

California is the state of initiatives; let’s get rid of this faulty piece of legislation. 

Ron Lowe 

Nevada City 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the consequences to our country resulting from mass illegal immigration were not so tragic, an article like Riya Bhattacharjee’s Feb. 21 “City Alarmed by Police Impounding Cars of Undocumented Immigrants” would be hilarious. 

Undocumented—aka “illegal” immigrants—violate our laws when they trespass our border, work without permission and drive without licenses or insurance. If their cars are impounded they complain loudly about their constitutional rights! 

Earth to aliens: You have no right to be here. Please take that mythic energy, that talent yearning to breathe free, your newfound insight into community organizing, and return home to create the Mexican Dream, the Guatemalan Dream, the Philippine Dream, etc. I lift my lamp to thee. 

Wanda Gomez-Berger 

El Cerrito 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

Well, this is interesting. We tell people they can’t have a driver’s license, yet they need to drive to be able to work and survive. Then we take their cars, and the lot that impounds them gets big fees before they can take the car back, or just gets to keep the cars—and sell them, one presumes. The article was not clear on whether this extra income goes to the city or a private enterprise, but either way it seems cruel. Meanwhile, people are coming here illegally because we are ripping off their resources in their home country and they can’t survive there. Most of them are sending money back to their families who desperately need it. Is this right? The City of Berkeley needs to find a way to stop this. 

Connie Tyler 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

With today’s economy in a sharp downward spiral, people are feeling the pinch when it comes to entertainment. Forking over $9 for a movie or $30 for a concert or play blows the budget. But, do not despair, friends. For those of us lucky enough to live in Berkeley, there’s no end to the great array of concerts, movies, dramas, etc., out there—absolutely free! To illustrate my point, I list some of the cultural events that were offered last week. 

On Monday evening, the Aurora Theatre, as part of its Global Age Project, presented a one-man show, “Right,” with Dan Hoyle. This was followed by the usual audience discussion. 

On Tuesday afternoon, at the North Berkeley Senior Center, James Keller, an authority on movies and drama, showed a poignant film, “Casa Di Riposo,” filmed in Milan. Funded by composer Verdi in 1902, the “Casa” was established as a residence for elderly opera singers, musicians and composers. One especially moving scene is that of a 90-year-old opera singer wistfully listening to her recording of an aria from “Tosca” on a scratchy record. 

Wednesday was a “double header” day. The Berkeley Public Library offered its “Play Reading for Adults” from noon to 1 p.m. Seated at a round table, participants were given Xerox copies of “Antigone,” with everyone reading one of the roles. But you were faced with a dilemma today. If you attended the play reading, you’d miss a splendid noon concert at Hertz Hall—a program of piano and flute. 

Ah, decisions, decisions! 

Thursday was another “double header.” The Berkeley Public Library presented a noon concert by the Berkeley Opera Company, performing arias from Jacques Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffman.” What better way to spend one’s lunch hour? That evening, the University Book Store on Bancroft Way, sponsored a discussion by Blair Kirkpatrick on her new book, “Accordian Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music.” An added attraction was live music by the Sauce Piquante Duo (the author, on accordian, and her violinist spouse.) As you can imagine, the book store really rocked that evening! 

On Friday afternoon, the UC Department of Music offered a Chamber Music Concert, again at Hertz Hall, featuring gifted young instrumentalists. How blessed we are to enjoy these noon concerts, year after year. 

Given the above roster of free cultural events, I think you’ll agree that Berkeley extends to this community an embarrassment of riches. But, you clearly need the necessary energy and stamina to take in all of these stimulating activities, which, of course, are listed in the Daily Planet’s “Arts Calendar.” 

Dorothy Snodgrass 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The truth is emerging concerning the widely reported bombing of a UN school in Gaza, which was the subject of severe condemnation of Israel and violent protests worldwide. 

Maxwell Gaylord, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Jerusalem, said this week that IDF mortar shells fell in the street near the compound, not on the compound itself. 

UNWRA, an agency whose sole purpose is to work with Palestinian refugees, said that the false claims that Israel had targeted the school originated with a separate branch of the United Nations, whose employeess are mostly Arabs. A teacher in the UNWRA compound at the time of the strike was adamant that no people had been killed inside the compound. The teacher had been instructed by UN authorities not to give his account to the media.  

Senior IDF officials had previously expressed skepticism that the school had been struck, saying that the two mortar shells could not kill 43 people and wound dozens more.  

A few people in the street reported that two militants had left the area with rocket launchers immediately after firing into Israel. 

This is yet another example of Hamas deliberately placing its launchers in the midst of a civilian population, inviting tragic and regrettable results to untargeted people.  

Irving Berger 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have recently read two aricles of two different world events. The first one was about Hamas, the militant Islamic organization avowed to the destruction of Jewish Israel—the organization that has, yet again, revealed its true nature by unlawfully and yes, undemocratically, grabbing international food and other aid for the needy, thereby holding their own population hostage. And the other event: Egypt’s role in protecting the most wanted Nazi criminal, Aribert Ferdinand Heim (“Islamified” to be known as Tarek Hussein Tarik) and having provided him with asylum for some 47 years (instead of extraditing him to Israel, as it supposedly signed a so-called “peace accord” in 1979 with Israel). This inevitably brings to memory an inexplicable, deeply rooted hate for the Jews and a commitment to Israel’s destruction, through the well-documented and photographed Nov. 21, 1941 joint Hitler-“Hajj” Muhammad Amin El Husseini (Jerusalem’s “Grand” Mufti) meeting—this one and others, to devise ways to destroy the Jews, way before the “Nakkbah” (or “the catastrophy,” in Arabic.) pretext of “the nascence of the state of Israel.” If the excuse today is Israel—then, what was it then? The writing’s on the wall. Can you see it, or do you still need to learn how to read? 

Avi Klammer 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

Bob Burnett said in a recent column, “There are two schools of thought about what to do about Bush’s misconduct. One, reflected in the writing of former Bush legal adviser Jack Goldsmith, argues that while war-time decisions sometimes are erroneous, there has been a historical pattern of shielding the decision makers—from Abraham Lincoln through Ronald Reagan. Goldsmith contends that whatever abuses Bush committed have largely been corrected. And to enact harsh judgment on decision makers would curtail their future performance, particularly officials gathering intelligence in the CIA and Justice Department.” 

I’m not arguing with Burnett, I’m just pointing some things out. 

I love neocon reasoning. First, lie to get us into a war, and then excuse all crimes committed “during a time of war.” War was never declared, and we were never “at war”—that’s rhetorical. An invasion is not the same thing as a war. 

I think prosecution of these crimes is easy. The war was invalid and unlawful; let’s start there. The first crime is giving us this war. Then producing the “extreme circumstances” used to justify further crimes cannot be a defense—all the crimes you did after the war started are still your crimes. (You cannot manufacture your own excuse.) 

If the nation is still running dog food commercials while we have “hot wars” going on, they must not be very big or bad wars. The Bush administration pretended that the president was forever under the same moment-to-moment threat crisis that is written for the authoritarian fantasy TV series “24.” In fact, there is no such pressure, and “during time of war” is just an authoritarian excuse. 

Eric Dynamic 





Editors, Daily Planet: 

The political skulduggery surrounding the radio frequency identification fiasco dumped upon the taxpayers by former Library Director Jackie Griffin working at the behest of the Bush Department of Homeland Security has greatly tarnished our credibility in the progressive world. 

It is extremely important to honor the Nuclear Free Berkeley Act and the Oppressive States Resolution, and consequently oppose the Berkeley Public Library’s waiver of the act. Other requests will follow and soon the entire conceptual framework of the act will be gutted. I wouldn’t want it on my record and neither should you. Stand up for Berkeley. 

The library has other options than to contract with 3M, including replacement of its aging system with a new one that does not require obtaining maintenance from 3M. 

Unemployment in California is now at 10 percent and climbing and the Checkpoint storefront operation down on the peninsula and in Atlanta, Ga., seems to be fooling no one except previous city councils here and in Eugene, Ore. The entire Checkpoint system for the library is nothing but espionage. Stop supporting it. It is an intelligence front. 

Michael Jordan 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new administration in Washington has disappointed a lot of folks. But the true believers are still hanging in there and are counting their blessings. What have the last three weeks been for the change of administration? 

Let’s look at the most important things in the first week: 1) Vice President Joseph Biden announced that the U.S. would send 30,000 new troops to Afghanistan to deal with the insurgency. 2) The new president announced that he will not be bound by the 16-month promise to bring the boys home from Iraq but it may take two or three years longer. 3) The White House announced that it will promote $350 billion in tax cuts, mostly for rich to stimulate the economy. 

Then came the second week and there were a lot of surprises: 1) The Defense Department asked permission from the president to bomb a village in Pakistan and Obama agreed. The result was 20 people killed mostly women and children. 2) The White House announced three Republicans would be named to the new cabinet, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, an architect of the Iraq war. They said this is the largest number of Republicans (corporate CEOs) ever named by a Democratic president in the history of the country. 3) The president told minority senators of the Republican Party that he was willing to add another 70 billion to the stimulus package for tax breaks for the rich. 

Then came the third week and some of the true believers said they had enough and were ready to jump ship for the new group in the White House: 1) Since Jan. 20 the number of prisoners at Guantanamo who are on hunger strike has nearly doubled. And the guards have been beating up and brutalizing these hunger strikers since Jan. 20. 2) President Obama sent Sen. George Mitchell to Israel to deal with the Palestinian Israeli conflict. He refuses to meet with Hamas in the negotiations. He refuses to stop aid to Israel including the most sophisticated DIME bombs that sever people’s legs and arms when dropped on civilian areas in cities. 3) The White House appointed an economic consulting council to meet and discuss the depression gripping the country. It is composed of 14 heads of corporations and two union representatives. Obama said that this is fairly representative of the population. 

Well three weeks in office and it seems like very little has changed and we still have the same old corporate agenda in Washington. The only answer is to get out into the streets and force change. 

John Murko

Of Mice and Newsmen

By Brian Frederick
Tuesday March 03, 2009 - 10:29:00 AM

The salt marsh harvest mouse is an endangered rodent that lives in the marshes around the San Francisco Bay. Because of development around the Bay Area, the tiny mouse’s existence as a species is now threatened. 

That’s the story of the salt marsh harvest mouse. 

The story of the story of the salt marsh harvest mouse, however, is much more interesting. It illustrates how the conservative noise machine works—and how some media play a far-too-willing role in abetting that noise machine. 

Republicans have been up in arms in recent weeks about using $30 million from the economic recovery act to save the salt marsh harvest mouse and its habitat. 

There’s just one problem: There is no money in the package for the salt marsh harvest mouse. Or its habitat. 

But that hasn’t stopped numerous media figures and outlets from baselessly asserting that there is. 

The mouse tale began with a House Republican staffer who circulated an e-mail charging that a federal agency said it planned to use stimulus money to save the mouse’s habitat. 

The following day, the conservative Washington Times ran a story headlined, “Pelosi’s mouse slated for $30M slice of cheese,” which reported that “House Republicans are challenging Speaker Nancy Pelosi's claim that the massive stimulus spending bill contains no pet projects after uncovering in the bill more than $30 million for wetlands conservation in her San Francisco Bay Area district, including work she previously championed to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse.” But the bill didn’t include “$30 million for wetlands conservation” in the Bay Area, nor did it say anything about the mouse. 

That night on Fox News’ "Special Report," host Brett Baier cited the Washington Times story, claiming that “the stimulus contains $30 million for wetlands conservation in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's home district.” He added: “Some of that money goes for a past Pelosi project, protecting the salt marsh harvest mouse.” 

On "Fox & Friends," co-host Steve Doocy didn’t mention the wetlands conservation, simply claiming that the bill contained “something like $30 million for a little mouse in Nancy Pelosi's district.” 

In the hands of Glenn Beck on his new Fox News program, the talking point devolved even further into a baseless personal attack. Beck claimed that “Nancy Pelosi put $20 million into the stimulus package to preserve the salt marsh mouse.” 

Meanwhile, Fox Business News was overrun with the different versions of the mouse tale. "Happy Hour" co-host Rebecca Diamond stated that if “you look at the details” of the bill, “there’s millions of dollars there for a wetlands reservation area for a mouse,” and "Bulls & Bears" host Brenda Buttner stated, “[A] little mouse stirring up big controversy. It's getting 30 million in stimulus cash.” And Fox Business News even went through the trouble of finding a video of the salt marsh harvest mouse, but didn’t bother to check out whether or not any of the claims about the mouse were true. 

On the other hand, the day the Times report appeared, Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent contacted the Republican staffer who originally circulated the e-mail that started everything. The staffer conceded, “There is not specific language in the legislation for this project.” San Jose Mercury News writer Paul Rogers also did his job, reporting that the Times story was “incorrect.” 

The mouse made its way onto "Fox News Sunday," where Fox News Washington deputy managing editor Bill Sammon asserted that people look at the stimulus package and object to “some mouse being protected in Pelosi’s district.” Host Chris Wallace did not challenge Sammon. A week later, however, when a former Bush aide mentioned the salt marsh harvest mouse as evidence of a “pet project” in the stimulus bill, Wallace said, “Well, supposedly that’s been debunked.” 

Wallace’s acknowledgment was somewhat encouraging. 

Still, Fox News owes its viewers countless corrections for all of the falsehoods it aired invoking the salt marsh harvest mouse. 

To be fair, Fox News was not alone. The New York Times, The Hill, and CNN also aired various versions of the mouse tale. 

Journalists reporting on the president’s economic recovery act must be diligent when reporting on what it includes and not just regurgitate partisan allegations without checking them for accuracy. It is large and complex and allocates billions of dollars for all sorts of things, including transportation, housing, and energy projects. 

But unfortunately for the little salt marsh harvest mouse, there is no money set aside for him. 


Brian Frederick is a deputy editorial director at Media Matters for America (www.mediamatters.org), a progressive media watchdog, research, and information center in Washington, D.C. He has a PhD in Communications from the University of Colorado.

Don’t Shut Down Ashby Flowers!

By Nancy Carleton and John Steere
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:57:00 PM

We have learned that Whole Foods Market is planning not to renew the lease of Ashby Flowers, the corner shop located at Telegraph and Ashby, on the property of the market. We are writing as co-chairs of Halcyon Neighborhood Association (HNA). The nearly 900 households in HNA’s territory all lie within a 10-minute walk of Whole Foods; they represent some of the store’s most frequent foot traffic. 

HNA, in contrast to many neighborhood associations, rarely takes stands on land-use issues. Our guiding principles state, “HNA provides a sanctuary from partisan politics so that neighbors with diverse viewpoints feel welcome to participate.” Given our commitment to steer clear of controversial issues and instead focus on areas of broad agreement, we take a stand only when we are convinced that there is near unanimity among neighbors. Whole Foods Market’s decision to terminate the lease of a popular locally owned business, Ashby Flowers, is just such an issue. Thus, we are taking the unusual step for us of advocating a position on a land-use issue. 

We acknowledge that in many ways Whole Foods Market has been and remains a good neighbor. We appreciate their partnership in working on neighborhood safety and trash and graffiti clean-up. We also appreciate their support of work parties in our neighborhood-designed park, Halcyon Commons, through generous contributions of food and beverages to fuel volunteers. We hope that Whole Foods Market intends to follow through on the goodwill generated by consulting with neighborhood stakeholders on an issue as important as a change in the use of the corner flower shop. 

In addition to our support for renewal of the Ashby Flowers’ lease, we feel it’s important to point out that any application for a changed use at the current Ashby Flowers’ site is likely to meet with strong neighborhood opposition. We have been told that a café where customers can pick up a quick cup of coffee or a sandwich is the plan once Ashby Flowers is evicted. We think that this change would be bad for our neighborhood. The negative impacts would include additional parking pressure as well as additional trash generated by another quick pick-up food-related use in an already heavily impacted area. 

Neighbors who have lived here since Whole Foods Market moved into the former Co-op site well remember that management promises that overflow parking would not be a problem. In fact, employees on a daily basis are violating the two-hour parking zone around the market by moving cars on their breaks. Since Whole Foods Market is either unable or unwilling to provide team members with on-site parking, it seems likely that this will continue to be an issue. A quick-stop food use would likely generate more car trips than the current use of the site as a flower shop. It is unacceptable for Whole Foods to create more parking impacts on our neighborhood while the ongoing issue of overflow parking remains unresolved. 

Besides the detriments just noted, it would be a big loss to the neighborhood if a popular locally owned business, which has been at the site for over 50 years, were forced to move, especially in this economy. Ashby Flowers has been here to help neighbors celebrate and mourn the key markers of our lives over several generations. In addition, we’re concerned that creating a café on the corner would have a negative impact on another locally owned business, Mokka Café, which is just a block to the south, as well as on local cafes to the north. While we appreciate the community-minded spirit that Whole Foods often embodies, it’s simply not appropriate for its physical plant to expand at the expense of valuable local businesses that contribute so much to our city.  

Whole Foods Market already has a highly successful market at the Telegraph site. Why would they want to create negative feelings in the very neighborhood that supports their business by continuing on a course that faces such strong community opposition? Moreover, why would they wish to jeopardize a cooperative relationship with this neighborhood and its neighborhood association, which we have carefully cultivated together these past 16 years? Ending Ashby Flowers’ lease would break an important trust with neighbors and undermine the very foundation of being a “good neighbor” that Whole Foods Market has endeavored to practice since 1990. 

Our sincere hope is that Whole Foods Market will have a change of heart and renew Ashby Flowers’ lease. We call on store team leaders to organize an in-depth consultation with neighborhood and civic stakeholders, or at the least host a meeting to solicit input from all community stakeholders, before further consideration of a change that affects the use of the corner building that holds Ashby Flowers—and the neighborhood we all share. 


Nancy Carleton and John Steere are co-chairs of Halcyon Neighborhood Association, which represents the area in South Berkeley bordered by Telegraph, Ashby, Adeline, and Woolsey. 

Van Jones, Majora Carter and the Green Jobs Movement

By Paul Rockwell
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:58:00 PM

In February 2006, Majora Carter, co-founder of Green for All, delivered an impassioned address to a gathering of environmentalists. When she presented a poster that read “Green is the new Black,” the audience burst into applause. 

Carter, a close associate of Oakland’s Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy (Harper Collins, 2008), grew up across the street from a crack house in the South Bronx, at a time when whites fled to the suburbs, when landlords torched their own apartment buildings to collect insurance. 

While the South Bronx is the birthplace of rap music, break dancing—Hip Hop’s irrepressible culture—the historic borough is also an environmental calamity, the poorest Congressional district in the United States. New York City transfers 40 percent of its waste into the South Bronx. Dissected by three unwanted thruways, the borough encompasses a sludge plant, four power plants, and has the lowest park-to-people ratio in New York City. Sixty thousand diesel trucks pass through the area each week. 

Carter told CNN, “If power plants, waste handling, chemical plants and transport systems were located in wealthy areas as quickly and easily as in poor areas, we would have had a clean, green economy decades ago.” 

Because of Carter’s innovative social work in recent years, the borough that gave Hip Hop to the world is once again making history. Green history. 

A few years ago Carter leveraged a $10,000 grant into a $3 million 11-mile waterfront park. Carter is executive director of Sustainable South Bronx, an organization that alleviates poverty through environmental projects. Her Stewardship Training program moves the poor, especially youth, into living-wage green-collar jobs. Many of the students have prison records or were previously on public assistance. Therein is the premise of the burgeoning green economy. Nothing is wasted. All human energy is renewable. According to Ms. Carter, 85 percent of trainees and workers in the four-year program land steady green jobs from urban agriculture to green-roof installation and maintenance. 

The South Bronx is not alone. In 2007, without much fanfare, Congress enacted a Green Jobs Act, providing a modest amount of money—$125 million—for workforce training in the clean energy sector. The bill provides training for at-risk youth, ex-prisoners, returning veterans, and families that fall well below the poverty line. Green collar jobs are “career-track jobs,” says Van Jones. They’re family-supporting gigs that contribute to preserving and enhancing the environment. Installation of solar panels, construction and maintenance of wind turbines, urban agriculture, tree planting in cities, weatherization and retrofitting of buildings, remediation of brownfields (cleaning up abandoned, often-contaminated industrial sites), recycling and reuse of materials—these are jobs that generate local revenue, save energy, clean the environment, and cannot be exported. 

Inspired by Van Jones and the Ella Baker Center, the Green Job Corps began in Oakland, California. Olivia Caldwell is a young, single mother who lives in Oakland. Like the South Bronx, her community suffers from high unemployment, foreclosures, and violent crime. Olivia herself served time for petty theft. When she was released from prison, Oakland’s Green Job Corps changed her life. Backed by local trade unions and community colleges, 40 paid students were trained for green construction jobs, primarily in solar panel installation. Because trainees and workers come from low-income communities, the Green Job Corps offers a pathway out of poverty. For the first time in their lives, impoverished youth are gaining a tangible stake in climate solutions. As Mayor Ron Dellums put it: “This is an extraordinary effort. Elegant in its simplicity and embrace. You can fight pollution and poverty simultaneously.” 

And now, at long last, the president is an environmentalist. Obama picked Hilda Solis, a Latina, for secretary of Labor. It was Solis who authored the Green Jobs Act. 

African-Americans (Van Jones, Majora Carter, Jerome Ringo, Michael Gelobter, Anthony Thigpen, to name a few) are playing leading roles in the “greening of America.” The environmental movement today is more inclusive, more economically savvy, than the conservation movements of the past. For many decades the environmental movement in the U.S. lacked a practical economic agenda. Oil and auto industries dominated elections by convincing voters that environmentalism threatens jobs and economic stability. The oil industry even convinced the AFL-CIO to lobby against the Kyoto Protocol. 

Now the tables are turned. Far from threatening jobs, the environmental agenda actually constitutes the only practical, sustainable means for long-term economic revival. 

Jones’ Green Collar Economy may well become the most influential resource for the Obama administration. 

Labor, after all, is a renewable source of energy. And we cannot harness the geothermal energy of the inner earth, or the powers of the wind and sun, until we also harness the untapped creativity and yearnings of the poor, who still (43 years after the promise of the Great Society) languish in ghettos, barrios and reservations of misery and neglect. 

The Green Jobs Corps connects America’s poor to the noblest aim of our generation: the restoration of nature’s ecosystems, the fragile networks of mutuality that sustain all life. 


Paul Rockwell, formerly assistant professor of philosophy at Midwestern University, is a writer who lives in Oakland. 

Extramural Solutions for Intramural Problems

By Marvin Chachere
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:58:00 PM

Everywhere everyday, Americans, except those lucky enough to have spent the past eight years on another planet, are bludgeoned in the dominant media with two questions: How do we withdraw undefeated from Iraq? And how do we achieve victory in Afghanistan? Not one person with access to audiences beyond family and friends has failed to answer these questions mostly in the form of advice to our new president and no two answers are compatible, much less concurring.  

But, like a line encompassing a multitude of dots, those multifarious answers are united by a false assumption, bound together, as it were, by a twisted rope of culpable ignorance. All answers I’m aware of assume that intramural ends can be solved by extramural means. In other words, they take it for granted that political, ethnic and religious divisiveness in the Middle East can be homogenized—neoconservatives say democratized—by our superb military forces, thus enabling a joyous withdrawal from Iraq and cries of “victory” in Afghanistan. More specifically, we can succeed in those benighted countries because our military is the best in the world and our civilian leadership is the most altruistic.  

This is not only nonsense, it is delusional and hallucinatory. It’s as if our government leaders learned nothing from the ignominious British failure after World War I; as if Korea and Vietnam never happened; as if the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan (1970s) was irrelevant. Have the minds of policy makers been so drugged that they cannot remember our past and therefore must repeat it?  

Oceans of blood flowed in India and the United States to demonstrate the simple truth preached by Gandhi and Martin Luther King: Violence begets only violence. We succumbed to madness, ignored the lessons of history and like fools rushed in, invading Iraq on false pretenses, rolling with shock and awe to a sort of climax at the end of 2004 with the annihilation of Fallujah and now we’re as tightly stuck as the proverbial Br’er Rabbit to the Tar-Baby. It would be comic were it not so tragic. Our most recent example of ineptitude occurred when we feigned detachment and stood silent as Israel’s awesome military invaded the Gaza enclosure and, intending to annihilate hostile Hamas, destroyed buildings and killed more women and children than militants. 

You don’t need the brains of a brain surgeon to know that you can’t cut wood with a hammer or that you can’t make a horse drink. You do need objectivity to see that brutality produces brutality, that perpetrators of savagery will be its recipients.  

In matters of such overwhelming barbarity folk-wisdom and mundane metaphors may seem frivolous, irrelevant or weird but actually they are no weirder than trying to solve internal problems with external force. What stupendous death-dealing folly—to sow havoc and reap more havoc. 


Marvin Chachere is a San Pablo resident.

A Community-Owned Daily Planet

By Matthew Taylor
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:59:00 PM

It would be a tragedy to lose the Daily Planet—especially Richard Brenneman’s reporting. 

I propose that the Planet become a KPFA-style, community-owned and operated nonprofit media outlet. If all Berkeleyans felt a sense of ownership, I imagine they’d be more likely to donate. This would not merely be a scheme to increase financial support. It would be a serious overhaul in order to broaden the content, broaden the audience, and involve the entire community in the creation and distribution of the Planet. 

The executive editor told me she sees the Planet as focused primarily on Berkeley’s older crowd; in other words, well-to-do folks who get worked up about land use issues. What the Planet does, it does well. At the same time, I think this focus to the exclusion of other priorities and audiences is a limiting factor in the paper’s viability. I imagine that folks from other backgrounds know there’s little inside the Planet’s pages for them, and they steer clear. 

If it is to survive and thrive, I believe the Planet must serve all Berkeleyans, including younger people, college students, folks who are newer to the area, and those who are diverse in age, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. KPFA offers a diversity of content, so can the Planet. 

Here are a few ideas: 

• Become, at least in part, an alternative to the Daily Cal. The Planet has played that role to an extent, thanks to Brenneman’s thorough and invariably exclusive reportage on major UC issues like the BP deal and the oak grove. The commentary pages have also provided an alternative to the Daily Cal’s pro-administration sycophancy. Still, there’s a lot more that could be done. The progressive student community is disgusted with the conservative Daily Cal’s boot-polishing propaganda. Witness for example the Daily Cal’s editorial board coming out in favor of UC’s development of nuclear weapons! (See “Losing a Legacy,” Feb. 17.) Progressive students have talked about starting an alternative paper to tackle a range of UC issues beyond what the Planet currently covers as well as to provide some level of critique/oversight to the Daily Cal, but that’s an enormous endeavor for overworked, transient students. The Planet could provide space and institutional support for progressive student journalism at UC. If students write the Planet, students will read the Planet. 

• Humor. For years, I picked up the East Bay Express for one thing only: Dan Savage’s column. Not because I wanted advice on my love life, but because Savage’s sex column is hilarious. 

• Design: the Planet is too text heavy. Many of the articles could be edited, and open up room for photos. More images would make the paper more engaging. Certainly the online version—where space is theoretically unlimited—should have lots more photos and images. 

• Coverage of the arts and events that appeal to young people. Yes, the Bay Guardian does this well at times. Why not the Planet? Where’s the coverage on Burning Man parties, dance jams, cultural and social events for those in their 20s and 30s? 

Those are just a few starting ideas. Most important: ask. What do people want? For those who currently don’t read the Planet or don’t really care about it, what content would get you excited? 

On distribution: The more the community is involved in contributing and guiding the direction of the Planet, the more likely people are to e-mail links to Planet stories to their friends, thus driving readership, interest, and financial support. 

In terms of the web/print dilemma, I think the Planet’s future—like much media—is on the web. On a website, space should be no constraint, so adding more content does not necessarily involve sacrificing something else. The print edition should be more balanced between new kinds of content and the Planet’s traditional content, with only the very best in print and the rest on the web. 

Speaking of which, the website needs a serious redesign if it is to appeal to a wider audience. More than that, I think it needs to be completely restructured to become a more dynamic, interactive, community-driven format. Imagine that a community member is at a tense City Council meeting, and something important happens: they jump online, go to the Planet site, and blog about it. Others post comments. An interactive dialogue develops. 

The Planet’s barebones site offers little in the way of Web 2.0 features—like comments/talkbacks, ratings, blogs, videos, podcasts, social networking, etc. Functionally, it’s a 1999 website in a 2009 world. Look at how Daily Kos evolved from a blog created by a handful of writers, to a blog created by its readers. The Planet could take a cue from that approach. 

A community-owned Planet should bring in web gurus to devise a site that would truly meet the needs of a community-owned, community-driven media outlet. That doesn’t mean a community-owned Planet wouldn’t have paid staff news reporters—the average Joe can’t write a Richard Brenneman investigative report. We need both: paid news reporters, and community members who can dash off missives and post their own content. 

A caveat to all of the above: I’m not suggesting the Planet alter or compromise what it does well. The Planet shouldn’t sacrifice its distinctive, progressive voice. The last thing we need is yet another media outlet that kowtows to UC imperialism, Mayor Bates’ collaboration with said imperialism, or the right-wing pro-Israel lobby. 

What’s most important is that the ideas to save and restructure the paper come from the community. If the community is to finance the Planet, it should have oversight and shape the creative and editorial direction. 

Some might say that adopting the KPFA model is pointless, given the KPFA’s dysfunctional board. That would be like saying just because a given nonprofit has a dysfunctional board, being a nonprofit is pointless. The Planet should learn from KPFA’s problems and ensure that the governance structure is designed to maximize productive collaboration while upholding progressive principles and erecting firewalls to prevent disruption or takeover by agents provocateurs. 

If we own the Planet, we can save the Planet. 


Matthew Taylor is writing a book about the Memorial Stadium oak grove tree-sit. 

Mr. Potter and the Postal Service

By Allen Sanford
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:59:00 PM

A few days ago I heard on the radio that Postmaster John Potter was justifying his $800,000 bonus by saying that he gets paid less than most of the C.E.O.s in the country. 

When Mr. Potter comes before Congress, I hope our Representative Barbara Lee points out to him that he is the only C.E.O. in the country that presides over a monopoly. A monopoly that distributes a product that is paid for in advance. A product that is costing the public more every year and they have no input regarding the matter. 

Also remind Mr. Potter that he does less than most C.E.O.s because his business is managed by machines. Take the machines and the prepaid mail away and the Postal Service would not exist. Managers in the Postal Service, at the lower levels are just biding time until the hammer falls. When the public realizes that Mr. Potter and the other postal officials have eliminated all of the full time clerks and carriers, he will be forced to eliminate more managers. Those managers will be the people that were convinced to give up their bargaining unit jobs for jobs in management, in other words, the junior managers will be let go of first. 

If Potter were the C.E.O. of any other company and he lost money for 25 consecutive years, he would have been unemployed long ago. 

Congress should put Mr. Potter and the other postal officials, along with the people who wish to be managers, on the same contract with the postal equipment manufacturers and the mass mailers. Give them three years. If Mr. Potter and the gang can’t show that a profit can be made from the processing and distribution of prepaid mail, terminate the contract and get some new managers. 

The Postal Service derives its primary revenue from the precessing and distribution of prepaid mail. The majority of this mail comes from public institutions such as schools, churches, the utility companies and from the various government agencies. 

The contracts are perpetual and increase as the population increases. The Postal Service does not pay taxes or buy the equipment that is used to process the mail. If they do buy it the the equipment manufacturer is committing income tax evasion. 

Mass mailers must have the same equipment or there would not be any mail flow. If they get it from the Postal Service, and they pay for it, once again we have income tax evasion. 

Let us suppose that Mr. Potter and the boys do make a profit one day. Who gets it? They do. Or it will go to their retirement plan. 

The Postal Service is a service. A public service. The concept of making a profit only came about when Postal Officials, mass mailers and equipment manufacturers, reolized that they could get people to buy into the idea. Now, with the “Forever Stamp,” the public has been even further removed from the decision-making process regarding rate increases. 

As postal rates increase the elderly and the disabled will be disproportionately affected. Mr. Potter could care less as long as he and the rest of his buddies continue to get their bonuses and cost of living increases at the public expense. 

The Postal Service is a criminal enterprise. Were it not for the Hatch Act Amendments, postal officials, equipment manufactures, and the mass mailers would be under indictment for violating the RECO statute which deals with racketeering. 


Berkeley resident Allen Sanford is a retired postal worker and union representative, and was the first maintenance craft director for the American Postal Workers Union, Oakland Local.

The Uncertain Results of Bus Rapid Transit

By Joseph Stubbs
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:59:00 PM

As a Berkeley citizen who lives in the Southside, I would like to express my concerns over proposals to go ahead with a Bus Rapid Transit project on Telegraph. This project has received a lot of press coverage not only here in Berkeley but in San Francisco, too. A disturbing thing to me about the important argument which looks at the actual green benefit predicted for this project and compares it with impacts, is that it just isn’t there. 

Consider that AC Transit’s website officially states that the proposed BRT system will eventually save six tons of carbon dioxide per day. I hope that at least planners are making a benefit analysis which considers that six tons per day is actually a very small amount. As web-based resources such as Nature Conservancy’s “Carbon Footprint Calculator” will show, that figure is equal to the daily carbon dioxide output of about 90 people. Furthermore, this is a figure which aims at 25 years in the future, and is the official prediction for the entire BRT system from San Leandro to downtown Berkeley. Needless to say, this is a neglible benefit. It can be understood as the net balance between predicted emission savings and increases in emissions from autos stuck in congestion created by the same BRT system. Before that target 25 years away, emissions may actually get worse for any BRT which manufactures significant congestion. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of being set up, beat up, pushed around, and mostly just lied to by my public representatives who spin things green for their own reasons. 

I want to be a good person. Does this mean I should sacrifice practical utility and put up with two years of construction so that Telegraph may be reduced to two driveable lanes, like Ashby and College? Am I to endure “calmed” traffic without honking my horn, raising my fist, or screeching out illegally into the bus lanes? Am I to take the bus when I can, and try to enjoy the big-box-residential-over-retail buildings which have “rehabilitated” the neighborhood and replaced the Spanish and Colonial low-rise historical architecture which used to be there? Am I to endure all this and more because this is a thing which is going to work, right? I mean, there is compelling evidence that this is going to work, right? We’re told Bus Rapid Transit will play, perhaps not an enormous, but at least a significant role in tipping the balance between what is essentially a car culture and a public transit culture here in Berkeley. The Joint Commission on Transportation may predict that this won’t occur to a “significant” degree for 35 years, but I can wait, right? Wait a minute, I’ll be dead. 

It’s time to drink some coffee with the Kool-Aid because this isn’t funny any more. Hopes that BRT is going to work for mode shift are just that—hopes, and from what I can see they are not based on much in this case. Certainly some people will shift their travel habits to some degree, but this is Telegraph, not Market Street, and the word “significant” is so subjective, isn’t it? What do we do when it just doesn’t work well at all? What do we do when the money is all spent, the big box new development is struggling, ridership is up only 3 percent and AC Transit’s reputation is starting to take a tail-spin as people realize the real game for our time is going to be WHAT people drive, not shifting to a bus? 

The horrible, unspeakable truth is that we DO live in a car culture, and people who want to seriously consider changing that have to seriously contend with that fact. We are not Europe, we are America. You cannot speed up a bus trip by 10 minutes or whatever it is and compete with the personal benefits of driving a car in most circumstances. Only in some circumstances, and that is the key. If BRT is not implemented carefully, that is to say, in the right circumstances, it will fail. Telegraph is a poster child for the wrong circumstances. A primary freeway access artery without good auto redundancies, little destination appeal between university and currently existing points south (future development not withstanding), and little hub interconnectivity with other forms of transit (a little is not “a lot”). If people must have a BRT in this city, downtown Berkeley to Emeryville shopping/housing/business parks via Shattuck, Adeline, Stanford, San Pablo and then on to downtown Oakland and beyond may be a better bet, and more in keeping with the high density changes that will accompany transportation corridors, now that SB 375 is law. 

When city planners and smart growth advocates tell us that we must do absolutely everything that even might work or have any effect, that is not a responsible statement. It is important to do these things right, and in a way that will work well. These people are so motivated by the prospects of high-density transit corridor development that they underestimate the reality of the car culture we do live in. They believe that people can be made to just abandon their cars in high density living environments. Well, it’s not that easy—and higher density will mean more cars on Berkeley streets, in addition to other impacts to neighborhoods which should be considered carefully. We are in a serious global crisis. We need serious change now—not later. With regard to driving, that change is going to come in the aggressive retirement of the internal combustion engine in favor of electric cars. That is the big show in the immediate picture. Mode shift to public transit is a part of the picture yes, but we have to see it in its proper place. It will play a smaller role in the immediate future and a gradually larger role decades from now, even for BRT systems that are good ideas for their particular locality, which this is not. In the meanwhile, BRT systems which are not well thought out and create significant congestion will actually make matters worse, and harder for us to meet aggressive emission reduction targets. 

Another important issue is that suddenly with SB 375, being a major transit corridor has whole new set of meanings for a boulevard like Telegraph. This aggressive government collaboration with developers gives enormous new incentives to these developers which include substantially weakening CEQA protection for historic resources, and a special “incentive margin” for transit-related infill within half a mile of a route in question. In our case, this the entire neighborhood area between Shattuck and College. So not only would Telegraph be faced with a more radical transformation than imagined before SB 375, but also adjacent neighborhoods would be more threatened than ever. All the more reason to not put a BRT in this location. 

An important core distinction to make here is that policy decisions are being made in Berkeley today based not on intelligence, but on greed. The city must make dollars to function and there is nothing wrong with vigorously trying to make more, but its most important job is to try its best to protect quality of life for its residents. This concept of quality of life should not ever be held hostage by cynicism or a developmental prerogative. The unfortunate fact today is that it is getting harder and harder to distinguish city officials from developers. Often, it appears, they are essentially one and the same. The secondary damage done by this is that Berkeley itself is held hostage from being a truly progressive city. We are heading straight towards government by developers, and that doesn’t work. We’ve just seen that proved by the entire Bush administration. The result is always inevitably an impoverishment of the whole in favor of an enrichment of the few, and the masses be damned. In the face of such forces, meritocracy must be fought for. So it is here in Berkeley, with BRT and other issues, too. 

Finally, the social currency of claiming greenness should not be abused, just as the crying of “wolf” should not be abused. The danger is the same in both cases. When you do finally come to the table with a good green project, not only will there be little love left for you, nobody will even believe you any more. And why should they? You have squandered your credibility. 


Joseph Stubbs is a Berkeley resident. 

If Americans Knew

By Bing Aradanas
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:00:00 PM

Bravo to the Daily Planet for printing Annette Herskovits’ Feb. 12 commentary, “Who Remembers the Holocaust.” It’s ironic that in Israel there is robust and open debate about Israel’s violations of international laws—the 42-year-old illegal occupation, the 42-year-old illegal settlements, the 42-year-old illegal denial of Palestinians’ legal right of return—but in the United States, the national discourse ignores the 42-year criminality and illegality of these actions by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.  

Instead our major feature movies, major news outlets, and the vast majority of our elected national representatives, through their actions, spread the unspoken myths that Israel is above the law due to the Holocaust, that Jews = Zionists = Jews, that anti-Zionism = anti-Semitism, and that Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are born with anti-Semitism in their DNA. In response I offer the following quotations—prominent Jews, in their own words: 


At the end of the day, everyone knows what will be the bottom line: the bottom line will be ’67 lines…[Israel should pull all settlements from the West Bank] tomorrow morning—no, actually yesterday evening, no doubt about it. [The occupation] pollutes our morality and it contaminates our policy. And we became hostages of the messianic eschatological policy of the [Israeli] settlers which actually leads Israel into a de facto one-state solution which discriminates one people over the other people. 

—Avraham Burg, former Knesset speaker, former head of the World Zionist Organization, Feb. 12, 2009 


[Israel] can't work anymore… [Its] law of return [which allows any Jew anywhere in the world to come to live in the Occupied Territories, yet simultaneously refuses Palestinian refugees’ internationally recognized legal right of return] is the mirror image of Hitler. I don't want Hitler to define my identity….There is something so xenophobic about (the West Bank separation fence). So insane.  

—Avraham Burg, June 8, 2007 


We should withdraw from almost all of the territories, including in East Jerusalem and in the Golan Heights…. In exchange for the same territories left in our hands, we will have to give compensation in the form of territories within the state of Israel. 

—Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, Sept. 29, 2008 


[T]he best [thing] for the Jews in Israel is that we abandon the territories and we dismantle settlements.  

—Shlomo Ben Ami, former Israeli foreign minister , Feb. 14, 2006 


We must be very careful to separate questions of anti-Semitism from critique of Israel. I’m critical of Israel as a scholar, and anti-Semitism just doesn’t come into it. And my view is that the blind supporters of Israel—and there are many of them in America in particular—use the charge of “anti-Semitism” to try and silence legitimate criticism of Israeli practices. I regard this as moral blackmail. Israel has no moral immunity to criticism because of the Holocaust. Israel is a sovereign nation-state, and it should be judged by the same standards as any other state. 

—Oxford professor Avi Shlaim, former member of Israeli Defense Forces, May 9, 2007 


I should much rather see reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together in peace than the creation of a Jewish State.  

—Albert Einstein, 1948 (the year he was approached to be Israel’s first head of state, but declined it) 


I support compulsory transfer (of Palestinian Arabs). I do not see in it anything immoral. 

—David Ben-Gurion, future first Israeli head of state, 1938 (10 years before the creation of the state of Israel) 


We shall try to spirit the penniless (Palestinian) population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in Palestine.... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly. 

—Theodor Herzl, founder of the first Zionist Council and the World Zionist Organization, spiritual father of modern Israel, 1895 (at a time when Jews and Arabs lived in peace in what is now Israel, 38 years before Nazi oppression of Jews began in Germany in 1933, and 53 years before the invention of the state of Israel in 1948) 


If I had three wishes, they would be the following: 

1. For senior White House correspondent Helen Thomas to ask President Obama at a high-profile news conference, “Israel’s occupation, settlements, and denial of Palestinian refugees’ right of return are all illegal by international law and have been consistently condemned by the overwhelming majority of United Nations members. True or false?”  

2. For Hollywood to produce at least one feature movie dealing with the Nakba (Palestinian Holocaust) for every ten feature movies that deal with the Jewish Holocaust;  

3. That all our elected lawmakers be required to visit Gaza and the West Bank—hosted by locals—before voting on U.S. policy regarding Israel. 

Of course none of these will ever happen. I therefore urge all tax-paying Americans who don’t believe that Palestinians are born with anti-Semitic DNA to visit www.ifamericansknew.org. It will change your life. 


Bing Aradanas is a Berkeley resident. 


The Public Eye—Discretionary Conditions: How Developers Win

By Patti Dacey
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:04:00 PM

Your neighbor has built her heavily chlorinated hot tub eight feet closer to your kitchen window than allowed by her use permit? Food is being served by the religious organization down the block earlier and later than its permit specifies? A developer is hosting riots downtown instead of the cultural uses commanded by his permit? Good luck in getting the City of Berkeley to enforce any of these use permit conditions, which were put in place, after all, to protect the citizenry’s quality of life. It doesn’t have to. And it probably won’t. 

Turns out the city has complete and utter discretion as to whether or not it will enforce the conditions of a use permit. Any use permit. So all those carefully spelled-out conditions can be considered mere suggestions in terms of the duty of the city to enforce them, sort of like letters to Santa Claus. So argues our acting City Attorney Zach Cowan, and so ruled a local judge recently. 

Who knew? Not the City Council, it appears. Not the director of planning, with whom I discussed this rather startling discovery. Probably not the august members of the Zoning Adjustments Board. Certainly not all those citizens who have been mollified by conditions attached to use permits after lengthy negotiations that they believed protected them from the detriments of noise and traffic and pollution caused by development in their neighborhoods.  

I learned the discretionary nature of conditions on use permits only recently, and much to my chagrin, as it appears a perfect recipe for corruption. All the conditions that have been added to mitigate detriments to a neighborhood or to sweeten density can be totally ignored later on by the city and its favored developers. I was taught this rather startling fact when the acting city attorney vigorously and successfully argued it in my recent lawsuits against the city for not enforcing the Gaia Building use permit. We all know how well that is working out, with mayhem in our streets and gunplay on Shattuck Avenue. (Taxpayers, of course, pick up the tab for the huge amount of police time needed to control the out-of-control private parties that occur regularly at that venue.) 

You don’t have to take my word for this. You can take our acting city attorney’s words. 

“The City Has Discretion With Respect to Enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance” headlines part of Mr. Cowan’s legal argument. “It is equally well settled that the City has discretion as to how and when to use its limited prosecutorial resources,” he continues. Quoting our Zoning Ordinance, BMC Section 23B.64.010, “which provides for enforcement of the Zoning Ordinance against violations,” Mr. Cowan underlines the last sentence of part (E): “Nothing in this section is intended to create a mandatory duty under Government Code Section 815.6.” He continues: “Similarly, BMC Chapter 23B.60, which refers to revocation of Use Permits, is phrased in a permissive manner. . . Under these provisions both the initiation and determination of enforcement proceedings, by the way of revocation or nuisance, are discretionary.” (Emphasis added.) 

Forgive me for quoting the decidedly dull language of law here, but rumor has it that Mr. Cowan is denying that he believes that enforcement of the zoning ordinance is discretionary—in other words, that the City of Berkeley can skip enforcing the law if it wants to. The language is dull, but it’s pretty damned clear. And the judge agreed with him. 

So what does that mean in the present? I think the most interesting consequence is to the goings-on at ZAB. Before projects in residential neighborhoods can be granted a variance from Zoning Ordinance requirements, the Zoning Board must make a finding of non-detriment—that is to say, must vote that the project will do no harm to the neighborhood. That mandate can be found in our Zoning Code, the codification of a particular section of the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, a citizen’s initiative passed in the early ’70s.  

I have long questioned ZAB’s practice of reaching a non-detriment finding by attaching mitigating conditions to a use permit, as such a scheme is not spelled out in our Zoning Code. Now, moreover, I also fail to understand how a mandatory finding of non-detriment can be reached by attaching to a use permit entirely discretionary mitigating conditions that might never be enforced. It seems logically impossible to get to non-detriment by leaning on discretionary mitigations. A non-detriment finding should only be possible for a project that requires mitigating if enforcement is mandatory. We now know, courtesy of the acting city attorney, that it isn’t. ZAB, therefore, can legally come to a non-detriment finding only for projects that actually cause no detriment in and of themselves, without depending on attached conditions. 

My advice to citizens faced with detrimental and inappropriate development in their neighborhoods, festooned by wishful and discretionary conditions that might never be enforced: Lawyer up, friends. Take a writ. You might be lucky enough to argue your case in front of the very judge who agreed with Mr. Cowan’s reasoning. With that kind of luck, you just might win your case.  

Undercurrents: Here Comes Jerry Brown to Push California Over the Brink

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:04:00 PM

California’s recent marathon budget crisis provides our latest and best example of the state’s growing ungovernability. It is not so much that our Republican/conservative friends were willing to risk taking the state into economic collapse in order to force some ideologically driven concessions. It is that for the longest time, there appeared to be no practical, rational, sensible way for the rest of us to stop them. 

But a far more terrible thought for the sober minded is the fact that the widely acknowledged front-runner to be California’s next leader in this era of government-financial-social crisis is California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the man whose actions—or inactions—originally set loose the forces in the state that eventually led us to the current political/budget crisis. 

The two-thirds vote requirement for legislative tax increase measures that Republican legislators used to hold up this year’s California budget passage has been in place since 1933, but that requirement has not led to imminent state government collapse until recent years, following the June 1978 passage of Proposition 13. That proposition—billed by its proponents as a way to ease soaring property tax burdens, but in reality the opening salvo in an increasingly successful conservative attempt to cut the fiscal legs from under government—created the atmosphere in which our Republican and conservative friends could envision the virtual collapse of governmental institutions as a positive thing. 

The success of that conservative effort was not inevitable, but came about in part because the governor of California at the time of Prop. 13’s passage—Jerry Brown—failed in responding responsibly to widespread complaints during his first gubernatorial term about what was perceived as state and local government officials using unrestricted property tax increases to fix budget problems rather than instituting needed belt-tightening and fiscal and programmatic reforms. 

In his 1982 book on the Brown political dynasty (California Dreaming: The Political Odyssey of Pat and Jerry Brown, published by Berkeley’s Nolo Press—a must-read for anyone wishing to understand the Jerry Brown phenomenon), journalist Roger Rapoport wrote at length about the role Jerry Brown’s actions and policies as governor played in the ultimate passage of Prop. 13. 

In the 1970s, Mr. Rapoport wrote, “economy moves at the state level systematically increased local government’s share of ‘partnership programs’ funded jointly by municipalities and Sacramento. By mandating new or improved programs without financing them, [Jerry] Brown and the Legislature forced counties and cities to pick up the tab. … The combined impact of these … factors strained local governments. For instance, in Alameda County, the homeland of [Governor Brown’s] urban strategy, property taxpayers had to make up $4.8 million on [state] underfunding of partnership programs, $2 million in Medi-Cal reimbursement, $2.2 million on county overmatch and pay $1.7 million for state-mandated programs in 1977. … To meet all state costs, many county commissioners were forced to decrease support of local programs, leaving less money for municipalities to meet their minimum daily requirements. Funds siphoned off in this manner contributed to California’s growing state surplus.” 

It was in this atmosphere that tax rebel Howard Jarvis crafted Prop. 13. 

According to Mr. Rapoport, the California Legislature considered three separate property tax reform bills in 1977 in an attempt to head off the Jarvis tax revolt, state bills 1, 12, and 154. Mr. Rapoport quotes the California Tax Reform Association’s legislative advocate Dean Tipps as saying at the time that “of these three, Senate Bill 154 was the most progressive. It was supported by organized labor, senior citizen, community groups, consumer advocates, tax reformers and political groups. But it was opposed by Jerry Brown. Instead, he supported SB 12—the only one of the three bills that failed to close a single tax loophole and provided the least relief to home owners, renters and senior citizens. Along with Jerry, the real estate and business lobbies supported SB 12.” 

Rapoport writes that SB 12 was soundly defeated in the Legislature in 1977, and that Mr. Brown then switched his support to SB 1, which was put on the June, 1978 ballot as Proposition 8 as the alternative to Prop. 13. It was too little, too late. Prop. 13 passed, and California’s slide into possible oblivion began. 

Mr. Rapoport suggested that in California’s government funding crisis on the late 1970s, it was not concern for California’s future that so much concerned Mr. Brown as it was his own. 

The progressive Americans for Democratic Action, Mr. Rapoport wrote, put out a 10-page newspaper on Jerry Brown in 1977 describing their feelings about Mr. Brown’s ambitions. “Within the next few months,” the ADA wrote, “California and the rest of the nation will be inundated with the accomplishments of Governor Jerry Brown. Millions of dollars will be spent to publicize the man who wants to be re-elected governor of California in 1978 and go on to capture the presidency in 1980. Politically, the governor is a combination of Don Juan and Machiavelli. He’s glib, charming and extraordinarily skillful in the handling of the truth, a masterful politician in his use of patronage, public relations and the understanding of power. His commitment to progressive government has weakened as his presidential ambitions have grown. California lags behind many other states in dealing with issues of concern to liberals. Much of Brown’s support among liberals, labor, minorities and environmentalists has been maintained by patronage and rhetoric rather than accomplishments. Buzz words and public relations do not solve state or national problems.” 

That Mr. Brown left California’s problems for others to solve and set the stage for California’s demise should come as no surprise for anyone studying his recent tenure as Oakland mayor. Mr. Brown left Oakland in a shambles, with a capital fund depleted of money for needed neighborhood upgrades, hidden budget debt and underfunded programs that will take city residents years to pay back, a police scandal that leaves Oakland under federal court supervision, a shattered school system that Mr. Brown publicly laughed about and helped bring down. There’s a good bit more, but there are only so many words available in a column. 

And yet, Mr. Brown remains a popular figure in Oakland. Why? 

In large part, the attorney general benefited from compliant media while he was Oakland mayor, media which often treated his failures as lovable eccentricities rather than public disasters, failing themselves to hold Mr. Brown accountable. 

That compliant media treatment of Mr. Brown continues in Oakland to this day. 

Earlier this month, San Francisco Chronicle East Bay columnist Chip Johnson wrote a column in which he criticized the effect of Oakland’s current zoning problems on the city’s economic development (“Oakland Zoning Rules A Minefield For Business,” Feb. 6). 

Lamenting the fact that a “coffee shop pal” of his was having trouble opening up a business in Oakland’s Chinatown in part because city staff was requiring him to pay $1,900 for a “staff internal review to determine whether a conditional use permit should be issued,” Mr. Johnson blamed the problem on Oakland’s Byzantine zoning ordinance. 

“The Oakland City Council approved a new general plan in 1998, but it has taken the city 11 years to implement it,” Mr. Johnson wrote. “The city’s zoning study and recommendations are expected to be presented to the City Council this fall ... With zoning this screwed up, Oakland cannot compete in the marketplace, whether it’s attracting new business development, maintaining long-term retailers or encouraging small business ownership. What remains to be seen is whether [current Oakland Mayor Ron] Dellums can separate public policy from political loyalties long enough to allow the city’s professional staff—and Walter Cohen, the newly appointed director of the city’s Community and Economic Development Agency—to sort out the mess and offer reasonable business opportunities to its citizens and people who want to do business here.” 

There are two things of note in Mr. Johnson’s passage. The first is the passive “it has taken the city 11 years,” the second is the active skepticism that Mr. Dellums, the current mayor, can “sort out the mess.” 

What’s distinctly missing in Mr. Johnson’s analysis? The fact that Oakland’s zoning cleanup was deliberately stopped by former Mayor Brown so that his favored developers could maneuver developments in through the zoning cracks (the indication that the general plan passage was in 1998, the year before Mr. Brown took office as Oakland mayor, ought to have been a clue), and that Mr. Dellums immediately reinstituted the zoning cleanup that Mr. Johnson is calling for when Mr. Dellums took office in 2007. 

But Mr. Brown has ever been the charmer and manipulator. 

In the same year Prop. 13 passed, J.D. Lorenz, a former Cesar Chavez and Ralph Nader associate who had resigned as Jerry Brown’s head of the state’s California Economic Development Department, wrote a first-person analysis of Mr. Brown, The Man On The White Horse. In one passage, he summed up his opinion of Jerry Brown, the politician and political office holder: 

“Jerry was the mirror of the society in the mid-1970s,” Mr. Lorenz wrote. “He was giving us, the voters, what he thought we wanted. And he was usually correct in his estimates. Even in November 1976, almost two years after he had succeeded to the governorship, he was scoring a 78 percent approval rating in the California Poll, a level of popularity unprecedented in California history. If we didn’t like what we saw, we had only ourselves to hold accountable. We were looking at our own reflection in the mirror. If we wanted Jerry to cut out the reliance on symbols, he would oblige. If we wanted him to pay more attention to black people, he would do so. He had no commitment one way or another. He didn’t care. The sole concern he had was expressing the popular will successfully enough to be re-elected governor in 1978 and president in 1984. Jerry was the totally democratic man. Like the proverbial weathervane, he turned in whichever direction the winds blew him.” 

It would seem to be almost bizarre, doesn’t it, that while it was Jerry Brown who helped begin California’s fiscal descent, we are poised to put him back in place to give us the final push over the brink. No wonder the rest of the country considers us weird. 

Green Neighbors: Showdown at Baxter Creek, Part Two

By Ron Sullivan
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:05:00 PM

The meeting at Richmond’s Baxter Creek convened at the scene of the crime.  

In our last chapter, Lisa Owens Viani discovered that her formerly thriving restoration site, a stretch of Baxter Creek running through Richmond’s Booker T. Anderson Park, had been devastated by a city maintenance crew who’d clear-cut everything below about five feet: a carefully planned and functioning understory of native plants providing shelter and sustenance to wild birds and other parts of our lifeweb, and slowing and filtering rain runoff into the creek. 

An experienced rattler of official cages, Owens Viani had persuaded many concerned groups to send representatives. These included people from the California Department of Fish and Game, the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Board, the California Coastal Conservancy, the Urban Creeks Council; Richmond’s Department of Public Works and its Parks Department, and City Councilmember Tom Butt, Mayor Gale McLaughlin, City Manager Bill Lindsay, and several of the park’s neighbors.  

The meeting happened outdoors, as the weather was fair. No big meeting table and hard plastic chairs, but a circle of people in a parking lot. I wondered what passers-by must be thinking about this big ring of adults—one in uniform, sidearm and all—standing around taking turns in such orderly fashion, nobody quite playing dodgeball. It was all much more amiable than one might expect. 

The City of Richmond’s various reps were variously indignant and/or apologetic about the “brush” clearing. Tom Butt in particular carried the figurative ball for Nature, remarking that the accumulation of dumped shopping carts, TVs, mattresses, and other junk into the creek wouldn’t be solved by making dumping easier by clearing the way.  

It was noted and acknowledged by all that the plants that had been whacked weren’t just weeds, but native, essential parts of a functional ecosystem that worked toward local compliance with legal water-quality requirements. In fact, the Water Board (which should change its name already) is having a word with the city about the matter.  

People agreed quickly on the necessity of a written maintenance plan for every project like this, to which every agency involved must agree. Smart landscape architects we know have been incorporating such plans into their contracts; having everything in writing makes continuity possible when owners and managers switch maintenance companies, or when staff turnover inevitably happens.  

Everyone also spoke of the need for community involvement. That’s as factual as gravity, and more complicated. 

There had been community involvement in the original restoration work, especially from local schools, and more all along, with volunteer work, workdays, plantings, classes. On that dismaying January visit we’d met a friendly young woman who approached us to see what we were up to in her park, where she’d worked and studied last year. Maybe there was some disconnect between groups such as hers and the local neighborhood watch, or disagreement about what makes a desirable park. Some want natural growth; some push for surveillance-ready spaces everywhere. 

Butt spoke to that: “You’re not going to change everyone’s thinking on this. Some people object to street trees because they have ‘messy’ leaves that fall sometimes. It’s like people who don’t believe in global warming—or a round Earth. Some people won’t get it.” 

How can this happen? How can normal adults be so unaware of daily natural processes?  

Hypotheses next week. 


“The Richmond Chainsaw Massacre, Part One,” was published last week, in the Feb. 19 issue of the Planet. 



Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:05:00 PM



“PhotoVoice” Documentary photography by the youth of Mumbai, India. Reception at 5 p.m. in the main lobby, Wurster Hall, UC campus. www.hmsindia.org 


Human Rights Watch Film Festival “Behave” (Brazil) at 6:30 p.m. and “Up the Yangtze” (Canada) at 8:30 p.m. at Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. www.hrw.org/en/iff/ 


“The Beatles Revealed” Rare film clips and recordings presented by Richie Unterberger at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 


“Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked Eye” Curator’s talk with Lawrence Rinder at 12:15 p.m. at Berkeley Art Museum. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

“Musings on Modernism” Pierluigi Serrano will discuss “Saarinen’s Quest” a recent book by the late Richard Knight at 7 p.m. at the Alameda Museum, 2324 Alameda Ave., near Park St. Cost is $5 for non-members. 748-0796. alameda-museum.org 

Poetry Flash “The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry” at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Alva Noe reads from “Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness” at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley City Club. Tickets are $10. berkeleyarts.org 


Groundation, Bob Marley Birthday tour, at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $20-$22. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Babshad at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Julie Fowlis at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Parties, The By Bye Blackbirds, B and Not B at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Gregg Cross at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Altarena Playhouse “Gypsy” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through April 5. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.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 Playhouse “Once On This Island” a family musical, Thurs. at 7 p.m., Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. through March 15. Tickets are $22-$28. 665-5565, ext. 397. berkeleyplayhouse.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 

Berkeley Rep “Crime and Punishment” at 2025 Addison St., through Mar. 29. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

“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  

Central Works “The Window Age: A Guided Tour of the Unconscious” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $21-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

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 

Independent Theater Projects Three one-act plays independently directed and produced by Berkeley students, Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., through March 7. Tickets are $12, $5 for students. 292-5058.  

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 

“Whipped: QTPOC recipes for love, sex, and disaster” at 8 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


“New Nature” Group show by contemporary West Coast artists opens with a reception at 6 p.m. at the Alphonse Berber Gallery, 2546 Bancroft Way. Exhibit runs to April 11. 649-9492. alphonseberber.com 

“It’s Time to Build” Black History Art Exhibit Opening and panel discussion at 4 p.m. at Richmond Main Street office, 1000 Macdonald Ave., Suite C, Richmond. www.richmondmainstreet.org  


Human Rights Watch Film Festival “The Sari Soldiers” at 6:30 p.m. “Our Disappeared” with filmmakers Juan Mandelbaum and Kathy Sloan in person at 8:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. www./hrw.org/en/ 



Xinran reads from “China Witness: Voices from a Silent Generation” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley Tickets are $10. berkeleyarts.org 

Daniyal Mueenuddin reads from “In Other Rooms, Other Wonders” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 


Volti “Contemporary Chamber Music for the Human Voice” at 8 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way. Tickets are $18-$30. 415-771-3352. 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Oakland East Bay Symphony “Celebrating Youth” with the Oakland Youth Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $20-$65. 444-0802. www.oebs.org 

Kirk Whalum in Concert Gospel According to Jazz, Black History Month Concert Series, at 7:30 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church, 8501 International Blvd. Tickets are $10-$20, children under 5 free. www.blackwallstreet.org 

Bay Area Classical Harmonies Bernal Hill Players at 7:30 p.m. at Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. 868-0695. www.bayareabach.org 

Jazzschool Studio Bands at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Eric Swinderman’s Straight Out’a Oakland at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Singing Bear, Sean Hodge & High Heat, Old Agoura at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $11-$10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Jill Knight at 8 p.m. at Caffe Trieste, 2500 San Pablo Ave., at Dwight. Donation $10-$15. 548-5198.  

Butterfly Bones, The Aimless Never Miss, Low Red Land at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

DCOI, All or Nothing, For the Win at 7:30 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

The P-PL at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Blue Highway at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Machina Sol at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Country Joe’s Open Mic & Music Hall at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Hall, 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. 841-4824. www.BFUU.org 

Steve MeckFessel & Bob Hahn at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. 597-0795. 

John Nemeth at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $22. 238-9200. www.yoshis.com 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with The Octopretzels at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Owen Baker “Act in a Box” Juggling, fire-eating and surprises, Sat. and Sun. at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. Cost is $6. 452-2259.  


“A Lesson Before Dying” at 2 p.m., followed by discussion at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, 6833 International Boulevard, Oakland. The Big Read of the book by the same title will continue to 4 p.m. 615-5728.  

Pulp Writers on Film “The Woman Chaser” at 8:15 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 


East Bay Women Artists Group show of paintings through March at Dibartolo Café, 3306 Grand Ave., Oakland. 451-0576. 


Rhythm & Muse Young Musicians’ Night, in coordination with Berkeley Art Center’s annual Youth Arts Festival at 7 p.m. at 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice and Rose Sts., behind Live Oak Park. 644-6893.  

Sorelle “At Last” Women’s chamber chorus performs duets by Handel and Brahms; and the world premiere of four songs by Larry London at 8 p.m.at Loper Chapel, First Congregational Church, 2345 Dana. Sugested donation $15. 

“400 Years of History: Black Composers” Learn their history though music and vignettes, at 2 p.m. at African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St., Oakland. Free, but RSVP required. 637-0200. www.oaklandlibrary.org/AAMLO 

Berkeley Opera “Tales of Hoffman” at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $48. 925-798-1300. www.berkeleyopera.org 

University Symphony Orchestra at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. 642-4864. http://music.berkeley.edu 

Sacred & Profane: Mozart’s “Requiem” with full period orchestra at 8 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $15-$20. www.sacredprofane.org 

Women Drummers International “Born to Drum” at 6:30 and 8:45 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $18-$20. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Danceversity Students and guest artists perform Egyptian cane dancing and candelabra balancing, a Moroccan-inspired tray dance, and other Afghan, Haitian and Bollywood inspired dances at 1 p.m. at Ashkenaz Music and Dance Community Center. Donations $10-$20 at the door, children under 10 free. www.danceversity.com 

King Clarentz, alt blues, at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave. El Cerrito. 

Quejerema at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Shlomo Katz at 8:30 p.m. at Beth Jacob Congregation, 3778 Park Blvd., Oakland. Free. 482-1147. 

Dragi Spasovski & The Mehanatones at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Country Joe McDonald at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Inga Swearingen at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Icarus Jones and The Collective at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Solid Air at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 597-0795. 

East Bay Grease, Yard Sale, The Clarences at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Ceremony, Cruel Hand, Skin Like Iron 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. 

Lou Donaldson, at 8 and 10 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $18-$20. 238-9200.  



“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 


African Diaspora Film Society “Merritt College: Home of the Black Panthers” at 2 p.m. at Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $5. 814-2400. 


Phavia Kujichagulia, and musicians from the Troublemakers Union, commemorating Haiti: Five Years After the Coup, at 7 p.m. La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Sundays @ Four: New Esterhazy Quartet at 4 p.m. at Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Tickets at the door are $12. Children under 18 free. 559-6910. www.crowden.org  

Sorelle “At Last” Women’s chamber chorus performs duets by Handel and Brahms; and the world premiere of four songs by Larry London, at 4 p.m. at Loper Chapel, First Congregational Church, 2345 Dana. Sugested donation $15. 

“Music that Woke the World” a sing-along concert of 60s activist songs with Rev. Heng Sure, Betsy Rose, Alan Senauke and Melanie DeMore at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, 2384 McKinely St. Donation $15-$20. 525-7082. 

Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

DJ Edwin at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $3. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Valerie V. Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Michele Rosewoman at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Henry Geller Band at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Monday Afternoon at the Movies: Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue” Segments 3 and 4 at 1:15 p.m. at JCCEB, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. www.jcceastbay.org  


“Elza & Valters 1981-2001” Photography by Sibila Savage of an elderly immigrant couple on display at the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. to May. 1. 981-6240. 

Windows: Naomie Kremer “Ghosts” Video projection animating the memories of the buildings interior life, though May 15, at the Magnes Museum, 222 Harold Way. 549-6950. 


Chris Strachwitz, founder of Arhoolie Records and Down Home Music, longtime KPFA music show host, will talk about how he got hooked on American vernacular music at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. Free. 843-8724. 

“Flickr, Flarfing & Babelfish: The Internet & Art Practice” with Ray Beldner at 7:30 p.m. at 160 Kroeber Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by Berkeley Center for New Media/Art Techonology & Culture. Free. 642-0635. http://bcnm.berkeley.edu  

Peter Singer describes “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $10. 



“Insect Monoprints” by Gail Morrison on display in the lobby of the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane from March 3 to April 29.  


Stephen Mitchell describes “The Second Book of the Tao” at 7:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Cost is $10. 


Motordude Zydeco at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Singers’ Open Mic with Ellen Hoffman at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $5. 841-JAZZ.  

Gateswingers Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. at 33 Revolutions Record Shop and Cafe, 10086 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 898-1836. 

Dayna Stephens, saxophonist, at 8 and 10 p.m. at Yoshi’s at Jack London Square. Cost is $15-$30. 238-9200.  



Evelyn Glenn, Maxine Craig, Joanne Rondilla and Charis Thompson discuss their new book “Shades of Difference: Why Skin Color Matters” at 5:30 p.m. at University Press Books, 2430 Bancroft Way. 548-0585.  

“The Dragon's Gift: Sacred Arts of Bhutan” Colloquium on contemporary Bhutanese culture and Buddhism with John Johnston, Assistant Curator, Jake Dalton, South & Southeast Asian Studies, UCB, and Mark Tuschman, photographer at 5 p.m. at IEAS conference room, 2223 Fulton St., 6th floor. 643-5104. buddhiststudies.berkeley.edu 


Music for the Spirit Ron McKean, organ music, at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Berkeley Opera “Tales of Hoffman” at 7:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $48. 925-798-1300. www.berkeleyopera.org 

Nada Lewis & Jon Schreiber, Eastern European, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 







Jazz Mechanics at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Whiskey Brothers, old-time and bluegrass at 9 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Black Olive Babies at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Balkan dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Lúnasa at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 



“Of Ships and Tugs” Maritime photography of Jan Tiura, opens at the EBMUD 2nd flr. gallery, 375 11th St., Oakland. www.phototiura.com 


Holloway Poetry Series with A.B. Spellman at 6:30 p.m. in the Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall, UC campus. http://holloway.english.berkeley.edu 

Spain Rodriguez, comics artist, discusses his book “Che: A Graphic Biography” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 


Festival of Flamenco Arts & Traditions with guitarist Antonio Reyat 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $20-$40. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Gankmore, Buxter Hoot’n at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Kelly Park Trio & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Rachel Levant, Elevation 32, Jon Perri, in a benefit for the Berkeley Patients Group Hospice Care Center at 6 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082 www.starryploughpub.com 

Raya Nova at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 



Altarena Playhouse “Gypsy” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through April 5. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre “Betrayed” Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 and 7 p.m., at 2081 Addison St. to March 8. Panel discussion with Iraqi refugees following the Fri. performance, and with Kirk Johnson of The List Project following the Sat. performance. Tickets are $40-$42. 843-4822. auroratheatre.org 

Berkeley Playhouse “Once On This Island” a family musical, Thurs. at 7 p.m., Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., through MArch 15. Tickets are $22-$28. 665-5565, ext. 397. berkeleyplayhouse.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 

Berkeley Rep “Crime and Punishment” at 2025 Addison St., through Mar. 29. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “The Window Age: A Guided Tour of the Unconscious” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m., through March 22, at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave. Tickets are $21-$25. 558-1381. centralworks.org 

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 

Independent Theater Projects Three one-act plays independently directed and produced by Berkeley students, Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m. at 7:30PM at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $12 general, $5 students. 292-5058.  

“Phoolan is all of us: In Memory of Phoolan Devi” written and performed by Angelina Llongueras at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

UC TDPS “Sauce for the Goose” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m., at Zellerbach Playhouse, UC campus, through March 15. Tickets are $10-$15. 642-8827. tdps.berkeley.edu 


“A Farewell Kiss” Mark Byron and Bruce Yurgill revisit the Bush era with their political art. Reception at 7 p.m. at Oakopolis, 447 25th St., Oakland. 663-6920. 

“Eric Bohr & Charlie Milgrim: Vexing History” Painting, sculptural installation and video. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Mercury 20 Gallery, 25 Grand Ave., Oakland. 701-4620. www.mercurytwenty.com 

“Intersectionality of Sisters” Group show opening reception at 5:30 p.m. at Joyce Gordon Gallery, 406 14th St., Oakland. 465-8928. 


Luna Fest: Short Films by...For...About Women at 7 p.m. at 155 Dwinelle Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $6 at the door. 


Yu Hua discusses his recently translated epic novel “Brothers” at 7:30 p.m. at Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 654-2665. www.bookzoo.net 


Berkeley Opera “Tales of Hoffman” at 8 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $48. 925-798-1300. ww.berkeleyopera.org 

New Century Chamber Orchestra “The Glory of Russia” with Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, at 8 p.. at First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $32-$54. 415-357-1111. www.ncco.org 

Barron Edwards Mowtown 60s Revue at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Cost is $5-$8. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

Stomp the Stumps Benefit for the Bay Area Coalition for the Headwaters with Quilt, Funky Nixons, and Curly at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave. Donation $10-15 sliding scale. 849-1255. 

Bill Crossman, First Fridays Free Jazz and Improv at 7:30 p.m. at OPC Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5, free for ages 16 and under. 836-4649. 

Copacabana Meets the French Quarter” at 9 p.m. at Cafe Van Kleef, 1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Suggested donation $10.  

Country Joe McDonald’s Tribute to Florence Nightingale & Nursing at 7 p.m. at benefit for the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Cost is $10-$20. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org  

Rova, saxophone quartet, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Terry Disley Experience at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

City Folk at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Steven Strauss and Kurt Stevenson at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 

Mushroom, Feat at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Plan 9 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 Midnight Train at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Friends of the Old Puppy with Steven Strauss at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 



Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Asheba at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

John Weaver, storyteller, 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 

Boswick the Clown at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $8. 526-9888. 


Stone Soup Improv Comedy at 8 p.m. at Temescal Arts Center, 511 48th St. at Telegraph, Oakland. Cost is $7-$10. www.stonesoupimprov.com 


“It Takes All Kinds” Group show of diverse and unconventional arts and artists. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Autobody Fine Art, 1517 Partk St., Alameda. www.autobodyfineart.com 


“Women Rock and Soul Performers” Film clips and discussion in commemoration of International Women’s Day at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Community Meeting Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 


Rae Armantrout & Lisa Robertson at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Bay Area Poets Coalition open reading from 3 to 5 pm. at Strawberry Creek Lodge, 1320 Addison St. Park on the street. 527-9905. 


“The King’s Trumpetts & Shalmes” Renaissance music for winds, at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www.trinitychamberconcerts.com 

The Saturday Afternoon Gallery Acoustic music open mic series at 2 p.m. at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., corner of Lincoln, Alameda. 847-3903. 

Marina La Valle, Afro-Peruvian, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Kenny Washinton & Trio at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $15. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Lakay & Mystic Man at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Bob Franks, folk/rock at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 

Steve Meckfessel at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Ben Stolorow, pianist, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12-$15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Larry Stefl Jazz Quartet at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

The Shark Alley Hobos at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Bob Franks at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7. 597-0795. 

The Asylum Street Spankers at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $15. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 



Wee Poets 25th Anniversary Celebration from 2 to 5 p.m. at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, 98 Broadway Jack London Square, Oakland. Free admission, donations accepted. 848-6905. 


“A Rare Alchemy” Pinhole photography by S. McGrath Ryan, glass sculptures of David Ruth. Opening reception at 6 p.m. at FLOAT Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, #116, Oakland. 535-1702. 


“Meet the Museum” Docent led highlight tour at 1 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. Free. 238-2200. www.museumca.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 


David Bacon on “Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Donations to the Berkeley Daily Planet accepted.  

“What Do the Women Say?” Poetry from the Middle East at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $8-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 


Berkeley Opera “Tales of Hoffman” at 2 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $48. 925-798-1300. ww.berkeleyopera.org 

Kitka Women’s Vocal Ensemble at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Sounds New A concert of contemporary American classic music at 7:30 p.m. at Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. Suggested donation $15-$20. 524-2912. www.SoundsNewUS.org 

In Bocca al Lupo and Canciones, medieval/Renaissance ensemble, at 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Community Church, 52 Arlington Ave., Kensington, Tickets are $15 at the door. 526-9146. 

Larry Vann Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

UC Berkeley Folkdancers Reunion at 2 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $7. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

International Womens’ Day Celebration with Della Grant, Ginger, I-Live at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Montclair Women’s Big Band at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Orfa Root at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Brocus Helm, Havoc, Laceration at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $8. 525-9926. 





Central Works Stages ‘The Window Age’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:02:00 PM

“I respect your privacy—but I would really like to get inside that head of yours.” The triangulation of the endless ways of seeing another—or ourselves through the eyes of another, who is seen by yet another still—are visited and revisited by the interlocked trio of characters in Christopher Chen’s The Window Age, staged by Central Works at the Berkeley City Club, a triumph of their particular style of collaboration between author, actors, director and designers developing a show. 

The Window Age details the start of an evening visit by Simon Floyd (Richard Frederick) to his old Cambridge chum Jeremy Fox (Joel Mullennix), a veteran of the trenches of the First World War, and his novelist wife Valerie (Jan Zvaifler), who suffers from “episodes.” Simon and Valerie, clearly modeled on Freud and Virginia Woolf, admire each other as pioneers in the exploration of the subconscious and in the immediacy of consciousness.  

There are hints at romantic attachment—declarations even—but the shadowy new realm both are exploring makes even these adepts unreliable witnesses to the truth. Going back over the evening’s events to add in subtext between the original lines of dialogue, the play catches up the contradictions of human relationships in a particularly witty, theatrical style, outmaneuvering—or incorporating—its own melancholy. 

“This body could be a hotel for drifting souls.” Each of the three enacts, or reenacts, their own “Vision,” not a soliloquy (there are soliloquies), but interacting with the others, or their projection of the others. Valerie lives out her anxieties and discovery of parallel perspectives and voices, Jeremy his ghastly memories of warfare, and Simon finds himself subject to the emotional and mental complexes he’s hypothesized and named, in a dreamlike proceeding. 

At moments, it’s like some grand pyramid scheme of the emotions—and this is part of its humor, that very grandiousness of modernistic selfconsciousness, set off against the visionary anxiety that comes out of, and seeks to overcome, personal isolation. 

Gary Graves’ direction and ever-changing lighting, and Gregory Scharpen’s engaging yet oblique sound design add to and help articulate the complexities arising from the playfulness—a serious playfulness—of the story as it’s told by the actors, each alone or in combinations, duo and trio. 

Much of the resourcefulness, on every level, seems to reflect particular advances the company has made in one production or another over the past few years, here adding up to be a mobile image, both ambiguously allusive and complete in itself. Similarly, some of the most banal remarks are refracted by the subtly mounting tension, becoming the most leading of statements. 

“I never die in my dreams; it’s a thing of mine.” The Window Age brings up questions of mortality, isolation, intimacy and the attempt to represent, understand, come to grips with it all--and the tangled identity of individuals with their own ways of dealing with it, their own reckoning. The answers its characters seek never emerge, but the way in which their searching and even their misunderstandings mesh together becomes a dance—of life, of death. 




Contemporary Women and Islam

By Helen Rippier Wheeler Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:02:00 PM

Set against the backdrop of Chaharshanbe Suri, the ancient Iranian tradition that in recent years has taken the form of public protest, Fireworks Wednesday focuses on a young woman from a poor Tehran neighborhood who has been assigned to clean an apartment in another part of the city. It was released as a motion picture in 2006; the DVD is in Farsi with English subtitles.  

All of Tehran is preparing to celebrate traditional Persian New Year. Distracted by the constant fireworks, Rouhi (played by Taraneh Alidoosti) struggles on the first day of her new job. As her long, wearisome day concludes, we have encountered five Iranian women whose problems and ideas involve contemporary and perennial affairs not so remote as we might have assumed.  

Sweet and naive Rouhi is engaged to be married, but her innocence is shattered by her employers’ household. Domestic fireworks include violence, depression, gossip, and accusations of infidelity in the dispute between her new boss and his wife, Mozhde (Hedye Tehrani), while their child watches and listens. Mozhde is crazed by her suspicions—not incorrectly as it turns out (don’t assume)—that her husband is cheating with their neighbor-hairdresser, who is about to lose her apartment because of the gossip. There are subtle and not so subtle evidences of cultural and class dilemmas. For example, Mozhde’s husband is able to beat her with impunity and in public … Rouhi wears a full black chador … Mozhde’s upper-middle-class younger sister considers herself au courant in jeans, lipstick and Ugg boots but wears a concessionary small blue scarf around her head.  

My favorite Fireworks Wednesday review is by Sheila O’Malley, following screening at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival. In contrast, alas, is Dennis Grunes’ perception: “Asghar Farhadi’s Chaharshanbe-soori is simplistic and melodramatic—yet another instance of how unrewarding cinema can be when it is plot and character driven. With all the great films coming from Iran, how does this downcast, ‘slice-of-life’ mediocrity about a housemaid’s domestic travails rank a best film festival prize?”  

How, indeed. Complex and valid, Fireworks Wednesday is well worth one’s time and attention.  

Nonie Darwish, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ann Jones, Irshad Manji, Azar Nafisi and Deborah “Debbie” Rodriguez are some of today’s women writing from various perspectives vis-à-vis Islam.  

Upper-class Egyptian-American Nonie Darwish divides her book, Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror, into sections that convey her personal evolution—growing up in Cairo, living in two worlds, marriage and family dynamics, a new beginning in America, after 20 years, Jihad comes to America, Arabs for Israel, and the challenge for America. She is dismayed by the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) albeit less passionately than some, as she describes her mother’s generation in which “all girls at around age seven had to go through tahara … which literally means ‘cleanliness.’ Batta laughed while describing how for days young girls could not walk because of the pain between their legs. It did not seem to me like something to laugh about. Fortunately, my mother and much of her generation and class stopped doing this to their daughters ... However, it is still practiced in many Muslim and African countries.”  

The April 27, 2008, New York Times article, “Muslim Rebel Sisters: At Odds with Islam and Each Other,” described Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an atheist, and Irshad Manji, a practicing Muslim, as two of the most prominent and outspoken critics of what they see as “mainstream Islam.” Firm in their support for the West, feminism, reason and freedom, they have paid a price: both have been targets of death threats and have needed protection. Their approaches to Islam are strikingly different, one working outside the religion and one within. 

Controversial writer and politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s great concern is the rights of women in Islamic countries. She is a prominent critic of Islam, estranged from her father, Somali scholar, politician and revolutionary opposition leader Hirsi Magan Isse. In 2005, when Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, wrote the commentary.  

Although her father had instructed his wife not to circumcise their child, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s grandmother was appalled and took matters into her own hands. Her father married Ayaan off to a cousin living in Canada, but en route in 1992, she sought political asylum in the Netherlands and was later elected to the Dutch parliament. Her screenplay for Theo Van Gogh’s Submission (a short film on the mistreatment of women in Islam shows abused women with Koran texts on their bodies validating their mistreatment) led to death threats.  

Following Van Gogh’s murder by a Muslim in 2004, she lived in seclusion under the protection of Dutch authorities. She considers FGM to be the “cruel ritual [that] does not take place in all Islamic societies. But Islam demands that you enter marriage as a virgin … Female circumcision serves two purposes: the clitoris is removed in order to reduce the woman’s sexuality, and the labia are sewn up in order to guarantee her virginity … ‘Circumcision’ is a term that implies that the practice is acceptable. It is not acceptable. Nor is it culturally ‘excusable.’” 

In 2006 the Free Press published Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam and in 2007, her autobiographical Infidel. She earned the M.A. degree from Leiden University in the Netherlands and is now a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.  

Azar Nafisi’s bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran, published in 2003, has been translated into 32 languages and is available in large print, DVD and spoken CD. Its subtitle—“A memoir in books”—alludes to books of Western literature forbidden by the new regime. Almost as well known as Vladimir Nabokov’s erotic “Lolita” love story and his nymphet hero, both Lolitas have provoked numerous analyses and spin-off titles, for example, The Lolita Effect: Why the Media Sexualize Yung Girls and What You Can Do About It and The Long Island Lolita Story.  

Dr. Nafisi’s mother, Nezhat Nafisi, was among the first women elected to the Iranian parliament, and her father was a former mayor of Tehran. In 1981 she was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the Islamic veil. She resumed teaching in 1987, but resigned her post as an English literature professor in 1995. For the next two years until she left Iran, she gathered seven former students at her house Thursday mornings to read and discuss. In this forum they learned to speak freely, not only about English and American literature but also about the social, political and cultural realities of living under Islamic rule. Unaccustomed to being asked to speak their minds, these young women opened up and conversed about themselves as well as the novels they were reading.  

Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories is her second memoir. Published in 2008, it is illustrated and already available in audio and large print editions. Nafisi is a visiting fellow and lecturer at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. 

I first encountered writer-photographer Ann Jones on C-Span2’s Book-TV. She has been a lifelong activist for civil rights, peace and women’s rights. Her books about her research on these issues in Afghanistan, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast have won awards. Jones grew up in Wisconsin and earned a Ph.D. in literature and history at the University of Wisconsin. Teaching at a black college in the South, she found students getting shortchanged and wrote her first book of advocacy, Uncle Tom’s Campus. She followed with a series of books about women and violence, culminating in Next Time, She’ll Be Dead. 

Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, published in 2006, is Jones’ account of working among impoverished widows, retraining Kabul’s long-silenced English teachers, and investigating the women’s prison. Soon after the bombing ceased, she set out for Kabul to bring help where her own country had brought destruction. She entered a large community of female outcasts: runaway child brides, pariah prostitutes, cast-off wives, rape victims. From what she heard in the streets and markets, the Afghan view of the supposed benefits brought by the fall of the Taliban is that regarding women as less than human is still the norm. 

Her online biography includes a Kabul photo gallery. She is working with the International Rescue Committee on a special project of the Gender-Based Violence Unit, encouraging women through photography to document their lives and speak up for change.  

Michigan mother and beautician Debbie Rodriguez brought a feminine perspective to life in Kabul. In Kabul Beauty School, she reported that she wondered how she could be useful after the fall of the Taliban. The idea of starting a modern beauty academy dawned—students could learn a marketable skill while enjoying social intercourse with other women, and Westerners could get, and pay for, salon-type treatment. 

While not acknowledging the sexism inherent in the requirement that the bride’s virginity be confirmed for everyone, she did find notable removal of all hair of both bride and groom. Her book made the New York Times bestseller list. As Kabul Beauty School concluded, she was the school’s director and owner of the Oasis Salon and a Coffee House, residing in Kabul with her Afghan warlord husband, seemingly unfazed by the discovery that he already had at least one wife. In 2007 National Public Radio reported that Sony Pictures was planning a movie of the book, with Sandra Bullock playing the lead.  

Rodriguez has been referred to variously as a flamboyant beautician and an eccentric mother of two. Initially, the New York Times considered her book “a rollicking story,” but subsequently reported that Rodriguez “used to direct the Kabul Beauty School.” Six women have disputed parts of her book, said to have caused outrage in Afghanistan, where websites have revealed the salon girls’ true identities and they have been denounced as prostitutes who have soiled the reputation of Afghan womanhood. Sisterhood could be powerful. 



Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Rejected Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror,  

by Nonie Darwish. 2006.  


Fireworks Wednesday (videorecording), by Asghar Farhadi and Mani Haghighi. Produced by Jamal Sadatian for Boshra Films and Dreamlab. 104 minutes. 2008. 


The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 2006. 


Submission, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. 10-minute film in English directed by Theo van Gogh, shown on the Dutch public broadcasting network (VPRO) Aug. 29, 2004.  


Kabul in Winter: Life Without Peace in Afghanistan, by Ann Jones. 2006.  


The Trouble with Islam: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in her Faith, by Irshad Manji. 2004. 


Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi. 2003.  


Things I’ve Been Silent About: Memories, by Azar Nafisi. 2008. 


Kabul Beauty School : An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil, by Deborah Rodriguez. 2007.  


These works, with the exception of Submission, are in-print and/or in the collections of the Alameda County and Contra Costa County Libraries. 




Two East Bay Youth Art Events

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:01:00 PM

Two very different events this weekend feature—and celebrate—the musical talents of East Bay young people.  

On Friday night at 8 p.m., the Oakland East Bay Symphony presents “Celebrating Youth” with the Oakland Youth Orchestra at the Paramount Theatre in Uptown Oakland, and on Saturday at 7 p.m., in coordination with the Berkeley Art Center’s annual Youth Arts Festival, Rhythm & Muse Young Musicians’ night will showcase a wide range of styles and performers, including an open mic and combined music and poetry, performed amidst the exhibited visual art at the center, 1275 Walnut St., behind Live Oak Park. 

The Oakland Youth Orchestra will play side-by-side with the Symphony in a double orchestra performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. 

“It’s always great to watch the interaction,” said Michael Morgan, musical director of both the Oakland East Bay Symphony and the Oakland Youth Orchestra. “And it’s a boost to both orchestras. For the older musicians, it reminds them of what they were like, starting out. For the younger, they can watch how professionals do the job—and how quickly. It’s a lesson in real life for musicians—and it inspires them.” 

Of the 1812 Overture, Morgan commented, “When you get this many players together, you may as well do something big and noisy—and the 1812 is a little more difficult than what the Youth Orchestra would do on its own. But the professional players put it over the top.” 

Featured in a performance of Samuel Barber’s “Concerto for Cello and Orchestra” will be the Symphony’s Young Artist Competition winner for 2008, Jeremiah Campbell, 19, who studied for 10 years at Berkeley’s Crowden School and is currently Principal Cellist with the Juilliard Orchestra at the Juilliard School in New York. Campbell also attended the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and served as principal cellist of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra, 2007-08.  

“The Youth Symphony is the top of our music education pyramid,” Morgan commented. “And the annual competition, which comes up in June, yielding some great young players, is limited to Alameda and Contra Costa Counties—which just goes to show the level of musical education around here, what we try to make available.”  

The Youth Orchestra, with almost 70 members, hails from East Bay counties, excepting a half dozen from San Francisco and the North Bay, including 10 players from Oakland, six from Albany, four from Berkeley, three from Piedmont and two each from Kensington and Richmond.  

Rounding out the program will be Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 3, the “Scottish.” All the composers on the program were regarded as young prodigies—and 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn’s birth. 

Morgan has been musical director of the Youth Symphony for more than 10 years. Brian Nies, assistant conductor for OEBS, will conduct the Youth Symphony.  

“As principal conductor, Brian does most of the conducting and preparation,” Morgan said. “It’s a great training resource for young conductors—and not just our assistant conductors, but guest conductors, too.” 

“Rhythm & Muse is the daughter series of Rhyme & Reason,” said Eliza Shefler, producer and co-host. “It was started in 1999 at the Berkeley Art Museum by Joan Gatten, who left the series due to family concerns in January, 2001. Valentine Price and I took over—then went looking for a new home in April, when the museum closed for retrofitting. I remembered an open mic series at the Art Center, and that a piano was there.”  

The event has been held there annually ever since.  

“I loved the setting, the fact that art was always there, and no coffee machines or mindless chatter to drown out poetry.” 

Shifler is herself a singer-songwriter, pianist and poet. Her co-hosts include singer-songwriter and storyteller Boundless Gratitude, as well as Soul of Sparrow—collaborative singer-songwriters Chie and Steve Treagus, who play guitar and piano, respectively. Singer-songwriter and artist Anthony Smith serves as support staff member. There are also monthly open mics, usually the fourth Saturday night at 7 p.m., with sign-up at 6:30. Shifler also serves as piano accompanist for any participant with clearly written charts. 

“A lot of participants say they’ve never performed at open mics before,” Shifler commented, “And many have never improvised before. They can be nervous at first, but they calm down and they’re really good. We do our best to make everybody feel comfortable. Everyone seems inspired by the artwork, and everyone always listens. Some young performers have gone on to become quite well-known. A group of Molly Axton’s students that were featured one year went on to the Monterey Jazz Festival a couple of years later, for instance.” 

Besides open mic, the program will include Crowden school piano student (and John Adams Young Composers Program participant) Dmitri Gaskin with an original piece; students of private teacher Elaine Kreston, including Cindy Won (playing Popper’s Gavotte No. 2 in D Major), Daniel Kang (Handel: Chorus from “Judas Maccabaeus”), Zealin Gall Glick Roman (from Purcell—and ‘Rigadoon’); Uma Nagarajan Swenson (“Song of the Wind”—folk), and Augusta Gordon Baty (“Go Tell aunt Rhody”). Students of Thea Farhadian of UC-Santa Cruz and the Irene Sazar Studio will also play, including an improvisation with wind-up doll by Alma Becerra. Gael Alcock, teacher at Joaquin Miller Elementary School, will improvise on piano and violin with Dale Boyden of San Francisco State, play duets with her student Sophie Staud (a Berkeley Hign freshman), improvise to Shefler’s reading of the story of “Isis and Osiris,” and introduce her classical music students Linnea Gullikson, Marissa Petty and Gabriel Louis-Kayen in solos and trios, finally inviting the whole group to improvise while she reads one of her own stories. 

Suzanne Tan, the new executive director of the Art Center, commented that the visual art, curated by Miriam Stahl, is “a huge, interesting array—a hodge-podge!—of different styles and abilities, from kintergarten through grade 12 ... We’re holding this annual Celebration, at a time when many public school art programs don’t exist, or not to this extent, in our galleries till the end of March. The Center’s been doing it 17 years, inviting students from the school system. Many people don’t know about the center, which really is a hidden gem—a seven-sided gallery space, with good acoustics, where performers are surrounded by art, right by the creek.” Coming up at the Center will be a film festival, and in April, paintings by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. A new website—"with our great new logo!”—will be up in early March at our old address: berkeleyartcenter.org For information, call 644-6893. 



Berkeley’s Modoc Past: ‘A Homesick Indian Girl’

By Richard Schwartz Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:05:00 PM
This 1908 image of an undeveloped area in Berkley’s Thousand Oaks neighborhood reveals a rock with Indian mortars. There were many scores of Indian sites all over Berkeley, more than anyone, including archeologists, anticipated, most having been recorded only in the past decade or so. There is evidence of Indian occupation from at least 5900 years ago in Berkeley. When the Spanish arrived with the mission system in 1769, the Indians of the East Bay were essentially driven from their homes by the forces of the church and Spanish military. When the Americans arrived, he treatment of Indians in California reached a new low. There were many incidents of slavery, including child slavery in the area around Berkeley. Raids were made to the North and Indians, many women and children, were brought to the area against their will to work on local ranches. By the late 1800s the practice had been modified to the use of Indian children as domestics in houses in the area, including Berkeley.
This 1908 image of an undeveloped area in Berkley’s Thousand Oaks neighborhood reveals a rock with Indian mortars. There were many scores of Indian sites all over Berkeley, more than anyone, including archeologists, anticipated, most having been recorded only in the past decade or so. There is evidence of Indian occupation from at least 5900 years ago in Berkeley. When the Spanish arrived with the mission system in 1769, the Indians of the East Bay were essentially driven from their homes by the forces of the church and Spanish military. When the Americans arrived, he treatment of Indians in California reached a new low. There were many incidents of slavery, including child slavery in the area around Berkeley. Raids were made to the North and Indians, many women and children, were brought to the area against their will to work on local ranches. By the late 1800s the practice had been modified to the use of Indian children as domestics in houses in the area, including Berkeley.
A pen and ink drawing representing the unknown artist’s impression of a Huchiun Ohlone woman witnessing the arrival through the Golden Gate of the Spanish in 1769 or adventurers during the gold rush of 1849.
A pen and ink drawing representing the unknown artist’s impression of a Huchiun Ohlone woman witnessing the arrival through the Golden Gate of the Spanish in 1769 or adventurers during the gold rush of 1849.

This article from the Berkeley Daily Gazette of Feb. 17, 1905, gives but a momentary glimpse into the life of a Modoc Indian girl on the threshold of womanhood: 


The old-fashioned complaint of home-sickness, emphasized by a common case of quarrel, inspired little Lizzie McCarey, a full-blooded Indian maiden, to leave the home of her guardians in this town Wednesday night and begin a long tramp back to the reservation. 

Mr. and Mrs. M. Johnson, living at Dana and Derby streets, asked the police today to assist in recovering the little Indian maiden. Marshal Kerns received a description of the girl and wired the details to the police of Oakland and San Francisco, where search will be made for Miss McCarey. She is about 12 years old, slender, black-haired, wearing short skirts and revealing in her features her racial origin. 

Those acquainted with the “child of the forest,” however, say that the police of the big cities may as well spare their efforts in searching for her along the brick or stone pavements for they believe that Lizzy McCarey has been moved by a strong feeling of home-sickness to pick up her belongings and start on a trip back to the spot from which she was taken a little more than a year ago by the Berkeley family in whose home she recently lived. 

Lizzie McCarey, of course, is not the Indian maiden’s original name. She was called “Artmah” when with her people in Modoc County, and received the name savoring of Hiberian origin when she was brought to the university town and domiciled at Dana and Derby streets. Her home life there was happy enough apparently, until recently, when she evinced a distaste for its confining character. This led to friction in the family, resulting in her disappearance.  

Sadly, there were many Artmahs in California at the turn of the last century. Indian children were taken from reservation schools or their families for “training” as domestics in California households. At the time, it was considered to be a good future for them, a proper use of their abilities. Very few townsfolk, even into the 20th century, questioned keeping them away from their families and their culture.  

How many of these children-domestics were there in Berkeley? No one knows, but it was clear that domestics were in big demand in that era. There were large numbers of young Indian children in such situations all over the state. It is not known if Artmah was paid for her services, and it does not appear that this 12-year-old was in school. One can only hope the brave young child, named Artmah by her own people and Lizzy McCarey by her Berkeley “guardians,” safely survived her long trek home. 


Artmah’s Modoc People 

Berkeley’s Artmah was a Modoc. Her people had lived in Northeastern California and Southern Oregon. In the 1850s, settlers began to take root on the Lost River in Modoc country, and soon petitioned the U.S. government to remove the Modocs from their land to help the settlers feel safe. The Modocs were removed to the Klamath Reservation between 1867 and 1869. One problem was that the Klamath people and the Modocs were traditional adversaries. All the while, the Modocs were demanding their own reservation within their Lost River homeland. The settlers made sure this did not happen. But the conflict at the Klamath proved too much for the Modoc, and they returned home. The settlers again convinced authorities that Modoc presence was unacceptable and, in spite of Modoc protests, once again authorities removed them back to the Klamath Reservation. In April of 1869, nearly 400 Modoc people left the reservation and refused to negotiate any more with American authorities. By the end of 1872, settlers’ pressure succeeded in having U.S. troops forcibly remove the Modoc yet again. The troops burned a Modoc village, which the Modoc considered an instigation of war. After a group of Modoc killed 14 male settlers to avenge the burning of their village, the Modoc were forced to flee with their families into the Lava Beds area. This is where in early 1873, Captain Jack, a Modoc leader and 50 Modoc men caused more than 300 troops and volunteers to retreat with heavy casualties. Captain Jack’s band was reinforced by other Modocs. 

President Grant hoped to halt theviolence and formed a peace commission to negotiate an end to the fighting. After many meetings, the government representatives told the Modoc again that they could not have their own reservation. The Modoc felt bitter and betrayed. They retailiated and killed two of the four U.S. representatives sent to meet with them. U.S. reinforcements arrived and cut the Modocs off from their water and soon stormed the lava bed fortress. They found it empty.  

But this small band, now 160 strong, was no match for the U.S. Army. The Modoc suffered a devastating loss after a later attack on the U.S. encampment. One of their most loved men, “Ellen’s Man George,” was killed and the Modoc were thoroughly demoralized. They also took these setbacks as a sign that their shaman’s Ghost Dance spell, protecting them from harm, had failed. Captain Jack surrendered on June 1, 1873, ending the conflict. Captain Jack and other Modoc leaders were hanged.  

Eccentrics, Heroes and Cutthroats of Old Berkeley is sold at local book stores, lumber yards, hardware stores, gift shops, movie theaters, and other local and online merchants. For a list of the locations where the book is available and information about Schwartz and his other books, see www.RichardSchwartz.info.

Berkeley Playhouse Presents ‘Once Upon This Island’

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:04:00 PM

On an unnamed island in the French Antilles, a little girl, found sheltered in the branches of a tree after a storm by a peasant couple, grows up to rescue someone herself, the son of a creole “grand homme” who lives in a great “hotel” on the other side of the mountain, and falls in love with the young man she’s healed—a love everyone says she cannot have. 

In plain words that’s the story, the situation of Ti Moune, the heroine of Once Upon This Island, the Ahrens and Flaherty musical that Berkeley Playhouse is producing at Ashby Stage, directed by Kimberly Dooley.  

It sounds like a fable or a fairytale, and indeed, the play matches the prescription fairytales often make, to follow your dreams so that the small may become great. And it also has a taste of the fabulous, of nature befriending the good-hearted and providing a place of escape even in the face of mortality. 

But there’s so much more to the show than any brief description can indicate. Berkeley Playhouse’s goal is to surpass what most audiences expect when they hear of “children’s theater” or “a family show”: making “family-friendly” professional productions something that can engage spectators of all ages on all levels. (And all ages were represented in the audience at Ashby Stage, including adults not accompanying children or in family groups.) 

This is the goal, naturally, of real theater in any form, and Berkeley Playhouse brings dedication to a sense of detail as well as to what used to be called Total Theater, the overall experience of a play, using all the resources of theatricality to achieve something unique to live performance. 

The colorful set, created from many different materials by Robert Broadfoot, brings the island to life immediately. In the midst of it all is the tree Ti Moune is discovered in, and to which, in a way, she returns. The story is propelled forward on continual waves of song and dance (choreography by Dane Paul Andres) by the cast of 11, dressed in Valera Coble’s costumes, and driven by the East Bay musicians Hamu Yaropa, of Oakland’s Lighthouse Community School, and Nathaniel Hawkes, directed by Phil Gorman from the keyboard. Everyone performs well, adding to the ensemble. In particular, Michael Mohammed (familiar to local operagoers), Melina Meeng, Andrea Brembry—and Zendaya Maree Stoermer-Coleman and Victoria Morgan as little and grown-up Ti Moune—were memorable, as was the whole ensemble.

Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival This Weekend

Monday March 02, 2009 - 05:26:00 PM

Just an hour up the road in Sonoma County, the Sebastopol Center for the Arts presents the second annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival this weekend, March 6-8. 

Culled from more than 300 submissions, this year's program boasts 18 short subjects and 26 features, two of which were reviewed in these pages. Beyond the Call was reviewed in the Dec. 1, 2006 edition of the Daily Planet, and Soldiers of Conscience, made by Berkeley filmmakers Catherine Ryan and Gary Weimberg, was reviewed in both the Aug. 24, 2007 edition and in the Oct. 16, 2008 edition.  

The weekend will also feature question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers and other special presentations. 

The festival begins at 7 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday afternoon at five venues, including the Center for the Arts, Sebastopol Cinemas, French Garden, Viva Culinary Institute and Hopmonk Tavern.  

Tickets can be purchased through the Sebastopol Center for the Arts or through www.brownpapertickets.com.  

Sebastopol Center for the Arts. 6780 Depot St., Sebastopol. (707) 829-4797. www.sebastopolfilmfestival.org


Community Calendar

Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 08:03:00 PM


History in the Making Performances, poetry, music food and dance from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Frances Albrier Community Center, 2800 Park St. 981-6640. 

“The Obama Presidency and the Struggle Ahead” A Black History Month Forum and discussion with Eugene Puryear, Keith Shanklin and Patricia Johnson at 6:30 p.m. at Laney College, Building D, Room 200, 900 Fallon St. at 10th St., Oakland. Sponsored by ANSWER Coalition. 435-0844. 

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 

Birding by Ear Classes begin with four Thurs. eve. classes at 7 p.m. and four Sat. field trips, offered through the Albany Adult School. To register call 559-6580. 

“Persepolis” Excerpts of the film for International Women's Day followed by discussion at 7 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196.  

“Earth, Wind and Fire: The Clean Tech Opportunity Today” A panel discussion at 7:30 p.m. at the Anderson Auditorium, Haas School of Business, 2220 Piedmont Ave. Reception at 6:30 p.m. Sponsored by the UC Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum and Lester Center. 642-4255. 

Josh Holland on the Economy at 7:30 p.m. at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Potluck and business meeting at 6 p.m. www.wellstoneclub.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. 

Free Meditation Classes Tues. and Thurs. at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr., 1606 Bonita Ave. 931-7742. 

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 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. 


City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Gilbert Melese, PhD, Prof. of Nuclear Energy, UC-B (Retired) on “Effective New Energy Strategies.” 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.  

“Just Water? Solving an Environmental Justice Crisis” the Fifth Annual Environmental Justice Symposium at Berkeley Law School from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Hosted by the Environmental Law Society. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Beverly Wright, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. http://sites.google.com/site/ejsymposium 

“Solar Power for Your Home” Lecture by HionSolar, Regrid Power, and Energy Recommerce on solar system productivity, feasibility, project time frame and cost, including the most recent increase in federal rebates at 6:30 p.m. at Crestmont School Friendship Hall, 6226 Arlington Blvd., Richmond. Donation $15 per family. Proceeds benefit Crestmont School. 529-1001. 

Black History Month Celebration Blues ‘N’ Greens Dance with music by by Love Light Blues Band and dinner, at 5 p.m. at West Oakland Senior Center, 1724 Adeline Street, Oakland. Tickets are $15. 238-7016. 

“Building Compassion, Creating Well-Being” A seminar lead by UCB prof. Dacher Keltner from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 866-992-9399. www.ceuregistration.com 

“Wine for a Cause” Wine tasting and silent auction to benefit HomeBase, a Bay Area non-profit advancing solutions to end homelessness at 6 p.m. at a home in the Oakland Hills. Tickets are $30. 415-788-7961, ext. 323. info@homebaseccc.org 

Jewish Wisdom on Finding Hope and Help in Hard Times at 6:15 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. RSVP required. 559-8140. 

Berkeley Women in Black weekly vigil from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. Our focus is human rights in Palestine. 548-6310. 

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. 


African American Quilters of Oakland A demonstration and workshop from noon to 4 p.m. at the West Oakland Branch Library, 1801 Adeline St. All supplies provided and all ages welcome. 238-7352. www.oaklandlibrary.org 

“Afghanistan: The Next Quagmire” with Conn Hallinan, of Foreign Policy In Focus, at 12:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St., at Bonita. Co-sponsored by BFUU Social Justice Committee and Grandmothers Against the War. 

Walden Center & School Annual Benefit for the Arts Live music, auction, at 7 p.m. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $50-$60. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/52872 

“A Critical View of Obama’s Recovery Plan” with economist and author Jack Rasmus, at 7 p.m. at the Alameda Free Library, Conference Rooms A&B, 1550 Oak St. at Lincoln, Alameda. Suggested donation $5; no one is turned away. www.alamedaforum.org 

“Project Peace East Bay’s 6th Quarterly Day of Peace” from 9 a.m. to noon. Choose between two East Bay community-service opportunities: Help clean and beautify Claremont Middle School, 5750 College Ave., Oakland, supervised children of all ages welcome, or help sort and package foodstuffs at the Alameda County Community Food Bank, 7900 Edgewater Dr., Oakland, no children under 10 permitted. Snacks will be provided. Please RSVP at www.projectpeaceeastbay.org 

Mini-Farmers in Tilden A farm exploration program, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for ages 4-6 years, accompanied by an adult. We will explore the Little Farm, care for animals, do crafts and farm chores. Wear boots and dress to get dirty! Fee is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-EBPARKS. 

“Annual Albany Celebration” with a casino, auctions, cocktails, bistro dining, and live music at 7 p.m. at the Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave., Albany. Tickets are $35. 558-1534. http://AlbanyCaRotary.org/party 

Vegetarian Cooking Class: The Joy of Vegan Baking Learn to make Ginger Muffins, Blueberry Orange Bundt Cake, Chocolate Bread Pudding and more from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. at Castro. Cost is $55, plus $5 food and material fee. Advance registration required. 531-COOK. www.compassionatecooks.com 

Black History Celebration with Praise dancers and authors Janet Marie Walker, Thomas Tramble & Wilma Tramble, Edwain Edbeir and Paulette Harper from 1 to 4 p.m. at Richmond Public Library Madeline Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. www.sistaznmotion.com 

Wheat Weaving Introductory Class from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Jack London Inn, 444 Embarcadero W, Oakland. Cost is $25. Straw Art exhibit in the afternoon. To register email phatchel@yahoo.com  

“Alternatives to Demanding Thirsty Lawns” with Gail Yelland, landscape designer, at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

Wildlife Career Day for Teens Learn about wildlife and environmental careers from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Oakland Zoo. Desigend for ages 13-19. Cost is $20. 632-9525, ext. 201. 

Oakland Military Institute College Preparatory Academy Open House, with tours and information sessions for prospective students and their families, at 10 a.m. at 3877 Lusk St., Oakland. 594-3900. www.omiacademy.org 

“Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Anger Management” and “Spiritual Medicine: Secrets to a Healthy and Peaceful life.” An interactive workshop at 6:30 at ICCNC 1433 Madison St. Oakland. www.iccnc.org  

Group Healing Session with Master Gu at 7 p.m. at International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave. Cost is $20. 619-757-7387. 

East Bay Chapter of the Assoc. of Women in Science Workshop with Peggy Klaus from 9 a.m. to noon at Rothwell Center Dining Room, Mills College, 5000 MAcArthur Blvd., Oakland. Cost is $25-$45. RSVP required. www.ebawis.org 

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. 


Berkeley Hiking Club goes to Tennessee Valley & Rodeo Beach. Meet at Shattuck Ave & Berkeley Way at 8:30 a.m. Various trails making a loop to Rodeo Beach and back. Moderate pace. Approx. 7-8 miles. 528-9821. 

Mad Science An entertaining introduction to chemistry’s magical mysteries for ages seven and up, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $5-$7. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

Animal Antics Put your senses to the test looking for signs of animals in the park, for ages 6 and up, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Bridging the Achievement Gap: 20-20 Vision How is It Working?” with BUSD directors Karen Hemphill and John Selawsky and Santiago Casal from United in Action, from 3 to 5 p.m. at North Berkeley Senior Center, MLK at Hearst. Sponsored by BCA. 549-0816. 

“Haiti: Five Years After the Coup” with Nia Imara on her recent trip to Haiti and political analysis by Pierre Labossière at 7 p.m. at La Pena, 3105 Shattuck Ave. Donation $10-$25, no one turned away. www.haitisolidarity.net 

“Toxic Sunsets” A film on the impact of US military bases around the world, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. Suggested donation $10. 841-4824. 

East Bay Tracking Club meets the first Sun. of the month to share tracking, survival, wilderness, nature awareness and naturalist skills. Meet at 8:30 a.m. at Seabreeze Market, University Ave. and Frontage Rd. 594-9089. To subscribe to the group email eastbaytrackers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com 

“Music that Woke the World” a sing-along concert of 60s activist songs with Rev. Heng Sure, Betsy Rose, Alan Senauke and Melanie DeMore at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Buddhist Monastery, 2384 McKinely St. Donation $15-$20. 525-7082. 

A Soulful Sundown on Justice An evening of speakers, music, poetry, and discussion about justice from an interfaith perspective at 6 p.m. at Starr King School for the Ministry, 2441 Le Conte. 704-0648. 

Berkeley Rep Family Series “Art Sampler” from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Nevo Education Center, 2071 Addison St. Free, but bring a book to donate to a school library. 647-2973. 

SF Bay Area Community Exchange Are you interested in starting a local currency and/or bartering network? Meet at 6 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline. madredecleo@yahoo.com 

“The Philosophy of ‘Absolute Idea as New Beginning’: Revolutionary Paths Out of Capitalist Economy” at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 658-1448. 

Square One Yoga Collective Open House from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at 4336-A San Pablo Ave., Emeryville. 547-9700. 

Personal Theology Seminars with Alex Pappas on “The Philosophy, Meaning, Origin and Fundamental Principals of Theosophy” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Erika Rosenberg on “Balancing Emotions through Meditation” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732.  

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712.  

Sew Your Own Open Studio Come learn to use our industrial and domestic machines, or work on your own projects, from 2 to 6 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Thurs. from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577.  


“Black Rainbows: The Color and Self-Images of African American Girls” A documentary and discussion with filmmaker Marie A. Celestin-Young at 12:30 p.m. at Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., Albany. 526-3720, ext. 16. 

Monday Afternoon at the Movies: Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue” Segments 3 and 4 at 1:15 p.m. at JCCEB, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. www.jcceastbay.org  

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon to 6 p.m. at West Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC campus. To schedule an appointment go to www.BeADonor.com  

Dog Training Workshop: Come, Spot, Come! for getting a solid recall at 7:30 p.m. at Finnish Hall, 1970 Chestnut St. Cost is $35. To register call 849-9323.  

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. 

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 981-6148. www.eastbayscore.org 

ASUC Student Legal Clinic provides free legal research and case intake. Drop-in hours Mon.-Thurs. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. anfd Fri. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., UC campus. 642-9986. asuclegalclinic@gmail.com 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. at Berkeley Boathouse, 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Classes cover woodworking, boatbuilding, and boat repair. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Tuesdays for the Birds Tranquil bird walks in local parklands, led by Bethany Facendini, from 7 to 9:30 a.m. Today we will visit Arrowhead Marsh in martin Luther King Regional Shoreline. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-3265. 

Return of the Over-the-Hills Gang for hikers age 55 and older interested in nature, hisotry, fitness and fun. Today we will explore Tilden Nature Area from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. 525-2233. 

Hillside Club Book Lust Salon meets to discuss works by Frederick Busch at 7:30 p.m. at 2286 Cedar St. Non-member donation $5. 845-4870. www.hillsideclub.org/booklust 

“Health Properties of Tea: Red, Green, Black & White” with Sandy Der, chef and certified nutrition consultant at 7 p.m. at Women’s Cancer Resource Center, 5741 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. Free but pre-registration required. 601-4040 ext. 111. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

Lawyer in the Library at 6 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Cosponsored by the Alameda County Bar Association. Advance registration required. 526-3720 ext. 5. 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

Street Level Cycles Community Bike Program Come use our tools as well as receive help with performing repairs free of charge. Youth classes available. Tues., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. from 2 to 6 p.m. at at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.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. 

Rhythm Tap Exercise Class Tues. at 5 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. Donation $2. 548-9840. 

Ceramics Class Learn hand building techniques to make decorative and functional items, Tues. at 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Senior Center, 2727 College Ave. Free, materials and firing charges only. 525-5497. 

Qi Gong Meditation 7:30 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, Lotus Room 114. Cost is $5-$10. 883-1920. tgif@tiangong.org 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 






Berkeley Path Wanderers: UC Campus Outdoor Sculpture Walk A continuation of Alan Kaplan’s art and architecture walks, this moderately-paced tour will focus on the interesting sculpture dotting the UC Berkeley campus. Meet at the UC Campus, North Gate entrance at 10 a.m. 528-3246. www.berkeleypaths.org 

Native Plant Nursery Workday Help plant 8,000 native seedlings including California poppy, western goldenrod, California bee plant and sticky monkey flower that will provide habitat and food resources for pollinators and other animals, from 1 to 3 p.m. in Oakland. RSVP to 452-9261 ext. 119. 

“The Maya Calendar: Heart of the Wisdom of the Maya People” with Dr. Jean Molesky-Poz, Prof., Religious Studies at Santa Clara University at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Free. Optional pasta dinner beforehand with reservations for $6. 526-3805. 

“Great Day Hikes in California’s Desert Parks and Beyond” with Steve Tabor of Desert Survivors at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“The 11th Hour” A documentary on the perilous state of our planet, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

“Pagan & Mystical Roots of the Jewish Calendar” at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Netivot Shalom, 1316 University Ave. Cost is $15. Registration required. 845-6420, ext. 11. 

“How to Work More Effectively with Product Management” at 6 p.m. at RHI, 1999 Harrison St., Suite 1100. Free for East Bay Innovation Group members, other $10. www.ebig.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 10 a.m. to noon 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. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

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.  


Critter Crafts: Fantastic Feathers Learn how feathers help to keep birds warm or to fly. A parent/child class for ages 3-5, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Oakland Zoo. 632-9525, ext. 200. 

Free Skin Cancer Screening from 8 a.m. to noon at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, 3100 Summit St., Oakland. Appointments required. 869-8833. 

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 

“Capitalism Next” Panel discussion on sustainable solutions with speakers from IDEO, Patagonia and Nike Considered at 6:15 p.m. at Lipman Hall, UC campus.  

“Natural Solutions to Digestive Problems” with Dr. Jay Sordean at 12:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. 981-5190. 

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 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 


“Ask Mr.Green” Sierra Magazine’s Mr. Green, aka Bob Schildgen, reads from his recently published compilation of environmental advice columns at 7 p.m. at St. Joseph the Worker Church Chapel, 1640 Addison St. Free. 

“Women’s Rights and Health: Future Outlook and the United Nation’s Role” with Jane Roberts at noon at School of Public Health, UC campus, and at 4:30 p.m. at International House, UC campus. www.unausaeastbay.org 

“Sick Around the World” PBS Frontline documentary and talk by CC Co. Supervisor John Gioia at 7 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. Full day workshop for health care activists on Sat. RSVP to 526-0972. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Jack Steller, Physicist (ret.), Lawrence Livermore Labs on “Fresh Views: The United States and the Middle East Under the Obama Administration” 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 

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. 


Berkeley Path Wanderers: Power Walk A challenging, fast-paced fitness walk through John Hinkel Park, on Acacia Walk, and past Grizzly Peak Blvd. to Vistamont with a return via Easter Way. Meet at the picnic area of Indian Rock Park at 10 a.m. 848-2944.www.berkeleypaths.org 

Historical Pulse of Carquinez Strait A 3-mile saunter around the horn of this large river with James Wilson, naturalist. Meet at 2:30 p.m. at Bull Valley Staging Area. 525-2233. 

Bay Area Seed Library Seed Swap with a pot-luck dinner and information on seed saving at 6:30 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10 or food and seeds to share. 658-9178. 

“Let Worms Eat Your Garbage” A presentation by Bay Friendly Gardening on worm composting from 10 a.m. to noon at Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

“Designing with Native Plants” A workshop to help you recreate your outdoor living space by integrating native plants to create a thriving, drought-tolerant garden, with Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich, from 10 a.m. to noon at Ploughshares Nursery, 2701 Main St., at the old naval base, Alameda. Free. 898-7845. www.ploughsharesnursery.com 

Richmond’s International Women’s Day Celebration with Elaine Brown, former Black Panther leader and criminal justice reform advocate at 10 a.m. at Lovonya DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave., Richmond. Please RSVP to 620-6502. 

Health Care Activist Training from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hillside Community Church, 1422 Navellier St., El Cerrito. Donation $5-$10, no one turned away. RSVP to 526-0972. 

Habitot’s Girl Power Day For children ages 0-6. Interactive storytelling at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 3 p.m. at 2065 Kittredge St. Cost is $7-$8. www.habitot.org 

Youth Ceramics Class begins and runs Sat. at 11 a.m. to April 11 at James Kenney recreation Center. Cost is $52. 981-6650. 

Critter Crafts: Fantastic Feathers Learn how feathers help to keep birds warm or to fly. A parent/child class for ages 3-5, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at the Oakland Zoo. 632-9525, ext. 200. 

“Women’s Rights and Health; Future Outlook and U.N. Role” with activist and author Jane Roberts at 7 p.m. at Home of Truth Spiritual Center, 1300 Grand St., Alameda. Suggested donation $5, no one is turned away. www.alamedaforum.org 

“New Era? New Deal?” The Political Affairs Readers Group of the Communist Party meets at 10 a.m. at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave. For reading materials call 595-7417. www.marxistlibr.org 

Introduction to Meeting Planning Learn how to put on meetings and events for corporations and associations, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St. Class continues on Mar. 14. Registration required. 981-2931. www.peralta.edu 

Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Party from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. For ages 5 and up. Free, but tickets required. 524-3043.  

“Rosie and the Railroaders” A celebration of trains for ages 3 and up at 10:30 a.m. at Berkeley Public Library, 3rd flr community room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6100. 

Artists’ Marketing Workshop “How To Market Yourself as an Artist” from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Frank Bette Center for the Arts ,1601 Paru St., Alameda. Cost is $15 members, $25 non-members 523-6957. info@frankbettecenter.org 

“Rebel Shamans: Indigenous Women Confront Empire” with Max Dashu on how priestesses, diviners and medicine women stand out as leaders of aboriginal liberation movements, at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists. 1924 Cedar St. at Bonita. Cost is $5-$20. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org 

“Bookmaking with Recycled Materials” Learn coptic binding for scrapbooks, blank books and journals. All materials provided. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $10-$15. Advanced registration required. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

White Elephant Sale to benefit the Oakland Museum of CA. Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 333 Lancaster St., in Oakland on the Estuary. Free shuttle to the warehouse available from the Fruitvale BART station. 536-6800. www.whiteelephantsale.org 

Banff Mountain Film Festival Sat. and Sun. at Wheeler Auditorium, UC campus. Tickets are $15-$18. 527-4140. 

Bunny Maintenance 101 with House Rabbit Society educator Carolyn Mosher, at 2 p.m. at RabbitEARS, 377 Colusa Ave., Kensington. 525-6155. 

Girl Power Day at Habitot Children’s Museum with activirties throughout the day. Cost is $7-$8. www.habitot.org 

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. 


2009 Berkeley High Live Fundraising event for BHS Development Group and BHS Athletics, with music by the BHS Jazz Combo, and live and silent auctions, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Berkeley Honda Showroom, 2600 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $25-$75. 464-1181. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Herstory of the Bay Hike Celebrate International Women’s Day on this five mile hike to Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park and back. For ages 10 and up. Bring water and lunch. Meet at 10 a.m. at Rydin Rd, Point Isabel. Bring water and lunch. Registration required. 1-888-EB-PARKS. 

“Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants” with author David Bacon at 7 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Donations to the Berkeley Daily Planet accepted.  

International Women’s Day Celebration with Code Pink Starting at noon with a march across the Golden Gate Bridge and concluding with a celebration and potluck from 4 to 8 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. 540-7007. 

Berkeley Hiking Club goes to Mt. Tamalpais Meet at Shattuck Ave. and Berkeley Way at 8:30 a.m. for a moderate pace 8-mile hike on a variety of trails stopping at West Point Inn for lunch. Rain cancels. 415-383-7069. 

Cute Lil’ Newt Meet the parks’ most famous amphibian from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Not stroller friendly. 525-2233. 

Little Farm Open House Come grind some corn to feed the chickens, pet a bunny, groom a goat or help out in the Kids Garden, from 1:30 to 3 p.m., at the Little Farm, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Celebratory Drum Circle in honor of International Women’s Day. Learn how indigenous cultures connect with nature through the rituals of drumming at 3 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Bring drums and shakers. 525-2233. 

“Socialism for the 21st Century: Marxist-Humanism vs. the legacy of post-Marx Marxism as pejorative” at 6:30 p.m. at Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, 6501 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 658-1448. 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Personal Theology Seminars with Alex Pappas on “The History and Main Characters in Theosophy” at 10 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Rd., Kensington. 525-0302, ext. 306. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m. Call to confirm. 841-8732. www.nativeplants.org 

Lake Merritt Neighbors Organized for Peace Peace walk around the lake every Sun. Meet at 3 p.m. at the colonnade at the NE end of the lake. 763-8712. lmno4p.org 

Jewish Purim Party for Young Children at 10:30 a.m. at Jewish GAteways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. Free, but RSVP required. 559-8140. 

Tibetan Buddhism with Jack Petranker on “No Boundaries” 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 2 to 6 p.m. at 84 Bolivar Dr., Aquatic Park. Also on Thurs. from 2 to 6 p.m. Cost is $5 per hour. 644-2577. www.watersideworkshops.org 


Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Feb. 26 , at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217. 

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., March 2, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 


Commission on the Status of Women meets Wed., March 4, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190.  

Community Environmental Advisory Commission meets Thurs., March 5, at 7 p.m., at 2118 Milvia St. Nabil Al-Hadithy, 981-7460.  

Landmarks Preservation Commission meets Thurs., March 5, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7429. 


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