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Flowers surround a photo of Zachary Michael Cruz in front of the UC Berkeley Campanile, one of the 5-year-old's favorite places.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Flowers surround a photo of Zachary Michael Cruz in front of the UC Berkeley Campanile, one of the 5-year-old's favorite places.
 

News

Armed Robbers Accost Oakland Tech Students On Campus

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 24, 2009 - 10:57:00 PM

Oakland Police have arrested two young men who robbed four students at gunpoint at Oakland Technological High School Tuesday morning. 

In a letter e-mailed to the school community, Oakland Tech Principal Sheilagh Andujar said that although the incident had been “extremely disturbing,” nobody was injured and the situation was diffused quickly. 

Located at 4351 Broadway Ave., Oakland Tech is one of six comprehensive public high school campuses in Oakland. Run by the Oakland Unified School District, the school gets students from several neighborhoods, including Oakland Chinatown, Rockridge and Temescal. 

Andujar said in her letter that two young men unaffiliated with Oakland Tech entered the school around 8 a.m.  

One of the men was carrying a gun which was not in plain view. The two suspects later used the weapon to threaten four students to give up their possessions. 

Responding immediately to a distress call from a teacher, campus security was able to track the two men as they left the campus, passing on the information to Oakland police, who were able to arrest both suspects. 

The pair is currently in the custody of the Oakland Police Department.  

Law enforcement officials are investigating the situation along with school and district administration. 

Calls to the Oakland Police Department spokesperson for comment were not returned immediately. 

Andujar said in her e-mail that school staff and police checked on students following the incident.  

"Certainly some people were shaken by the incident, which is only natural, but I was extremely impressed by the composure both students and staff exhibited throughout the day and the cohesive response I witnessed in the Tech community,” said Oakland Unified spokesperson Troy Flint. “There was no real sense of panic, and after the incident was addressed, school continued in relatively normal fashion.” 

Crisis counselors were also available on site throughout the day to provide additional support. 

“We are already working with law enforcement and the Tech community to continue to assess safety threats and promote school safety,” Andujar’s e-mail said. “As you know, we are a community at Oakland Tech and we welcome suggestions and comments with respect to this situation and all opportunities for improvement at our school. In the meantime, please know that my door is open and that we at Oakland Tech take this event and all matters affecting student safety with the utmost seriousness.” 

Flint said that although he did not have ready figures for the number of robberies that have occurred at Oakland Tech or Oakland Unified in the past, “Tech, while not without incident, is generally regarded as a safe campus.” 

“[It’s] a fact that staff members reaffirmed at a faculty meeting today,” he said. “That said, we as a district can certainly do more to improve school security generally and with respect to the specific situation on the Tech campus.” 

Security on campus had been beefed up following the incident, Flint said. 

“There was extra police presence throughout the day and staff was asked to be especially alert,” he said. “In addition, we have begun the process of a threat assessment to determine potential security gaps or flaws in protocol. It’s extremely likely this will result in some changes that constrict campus access to a certain degree, but specific determinations have not been made at this time.” 

Authorities have directed the community to contact OUSD's anonymous Tip Line at 532-4867 with any information that might suggest students or staff may be in danger. 

 


BP Chief Scientist Named Undersecretary of Energy

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday March 24, 2009 - 05:05:00 PM

Berkeley’s Washington ties grew stronger Friday with the announcement in Washington by President Barack Obama that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has picked Steve Koonin as undersecretary for science. 

As chief scientist for British oil giant BP, Koonin had overseen the company’s $500 million research grant headquartered at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). 

Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics who served as lab director at the time Berkeley was successfully applying for and implementing the grant, now oversees the nation’s energy policies, in which plant-derived fuels are expected to play a major role. 

Koonin, an outspoken scientist who came to BP from the California Institute of Technology, oversaw the inauguration of the Berkeley-based, BP-funded Energy Biosciences Institute. 

Chu played a critical role in winning the grant for a consortium consisting of LBNL, UC Berkeley and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

According to the DOE press release announcing the appointment, Koonin, who holds a doctorate from MIT, “has served on numerous advisory bodies for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy and its various national laboratories. Koonin’s research interests have included theoretical and computational physics, as well as global environmental science.” 

A sometimes controversial figure, Koonin had refuted statements by EBI head Chris Somerville that the program was aimed only at developing crops on marginal farmlands east of the Mississippi. 

The BP scientist accompanied EBI scientists to a gathering of the U.S. Energy Association two years ago, where he said, “If you look at a picture of the globe ... it’s pretty easy to see where the green parts are, and those are the places where one would perhaps optimally grow feedstocks.” 


Judge Raises UC Murder Suspect’s Bail to $2.5 Million

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 24, 2009 - 05:14:00 PM

An Alameda County Superior Court judge raised the bail for Andrew Hoeft-Edenfield, charged with murdering UC Berkeley nuclear engineering student Chris Wootton last May, to $2.5 million at a bail motion hearing at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse Tuesday. 

Judge Morris Jacobson had set the original bail amount at $2 million at an earlier hearing on Feb. 1, after acknowledging that Hoeft-Edenfield posed a threat to the community and a flight risk. 

Jacobson had explained that the excessive amount would ensure that the family and friends of Hoeft-Edenfield, who helped to raise it, would see that he showed up at his pre-trial hearing later that month. 

Hoeft-Edenfield’s private attorney, Yolanda Huang, had asked the judge to set the bail at $60,000, indicating that a higher amount would make it impossible for his family to raise the amount. 

Although Hoeft-Edenfield’s pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Monday, March 23, Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Stacie Pettigrew said the judge had canceled the hearing and asked the attorneys to appear for a bail motion hearing Tuesday. 

Pettigrew said that Huang had asked Jacobson to review the $2 million bail amount, explaining that it was too high, but that the judge had increased it by half a million. 

Hoeft-Edenfield’s next court hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 30.


Fifth Home Invasion Suspect Surrenders

Bay City News
Tuesday March 24, 2009 - 05:04:00 PM

A fifth suspect in a Berkeley hills home-invasion robbery and torture case from February turned himself in to Richmond police last week, Berkeley police spokesman Andrew Frankel confirmed today. 

Anthony Ray Douglas, an 18-year-old Richmond resident, surrendered at the Richmond Police Department on Wednesday evening, police said. 

Buk Khansuwong, a 46-year-old Richmond man, Tien Vo, a 29-year-old San Pablo woman, and a 16-year-old boy from Richmond, have also been arrested in connection with the case. 

Police are continuing to search for three outstanding suspects: Chiew Chian Saeturn, 24, Vern Town Saelee, 21, and Vern Sio Saelee, 18, all Fairfield residents, Frankel said. 

The eight suspects are believed to be responsible for the Feb. 24 incident, in which two victims were bound, pistol-whipped and carved on with kitchen knives, Frankel said. 

The victims were taken to a local hospital where they were treated and released, he said. 

Frankel said the suspects still at large should be considered “armed and highly dangerous.” 

Photos of the suspects were published in the March 19 edition of the Daily Planet.  

Bay Area Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to arrests in the case. 

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the suspects should call Berkeley’s robbery detail at 981-5742. 

People who want to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS. 


Zoning Board to Thai Temple: Keep the Noise Down

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Monday March 23, 2009 - 02:57:00 PM

The Zoning Adjustments Board is asking Berkeley’s Thai temple to keep the noise down.  

At its March 12 meeting the zoning board voted 6-3 to formally approve a Buddhist shrine and year-round Sunday food service at Wat Mongkolratanaram, but imposed a number of conditions on its use permit to ensure that the neighborhood is not negatively impacted by traffic, litter and noise. The board had previously put pressure on the temple to reduce its weekend brunch hours and the number of visitors it attracts.  

Neighbors had complained at previous board meetings that the temple’s outdoor food fairs at 1911 Russell St. were interfering with their quality of life, prompting zoning officials to investigate the temple’s original use permit, which restricted festivities to just three times a year.  

Zoning board member Bob Allen, who voted with the minority, said at the meeting that he had come across huge crowds, amplified music and snarled traffic during a recent Sunday afternoon visit to the temple, which he said had been hosting a funeral service at the time.  

“The place was jam-packed at 3 p.m. and had a worse crowd than the food service,” he said. “We are allowing them to build a new temple but are not setting any standards about what kind of public functions may or may not take place there. We have bowed enough to the temple’s wishes ... If you lived right across from it, you couldn’t sit inside your house and do anything without headphones on.”  

Board member Jesse Anthony argued that although adhering to the law was important, the board had to be careful about imposing restrictions that could endanger the temple’s existence.  

“I have lived 74 years and I have never heard of a church, when they have a funeral, deciding how many people can attend the funeral,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go that far. It might be some noise some time, but people can give up a few hours for people who want to visit a shrine.”  

Allen pointed out that the new use permit states that the project would not be detrimental to the peace of the neighborhood.  

“Most funeral services are indoors, and PA systems are indoors, and it doesn’t have any impact on the neighborhood,” Allen said. “Here we are bringing hundreds of people into the neighborhood—how can that not be detrimental to the peace of the neighborhood?”  

Greg Powell, the city’s senior planner for the project, told the board that the temple’s original 1993 use permit prohibited the use of amplified speakers during festivities. The original permit specifically said that the temple would be “responsible for assuring that the noise generated by services and celebrations on site do not exceed decibel levels set by the City of Berkeley’s noise ordinance.”  

“This has been incorporated into the new application,” Powell said, and could be used for future enforcement.  

Board member Michael Alvarez-Cohen, citing the temple’s history of violating its food service permit, asked the city’s Planning Department staff whether it was possible to find out whether the temple’s use of amplified sound was out of compliance with the standards set by the city with respect to religious practices.  

Steve Ross, the city’s principal planner, said Berkeley only allows amplified sound seven times a year with a special use permit.  

“We would have a hard time regulating religious practices, but as for whether it’s a detriment to the surrounding property, we can look at that impact,” Ross said.  

The board approved a motion directing planning staff to send a letter informing the Thai temple about amplification limits in the city by drawing attention to the conditions outlined in the original use permit.  

The letter will also ask the temple to post signs on Martin Luther King Jr. Way informing visitors that parking is available in a lot near the Berkeley Bowl market, so that drivers don’t block neighbors’ driveways.  

 


West Berkeley Zoning Back Before Planners

By Richard Brenneman
Monday March 23, 2009 - 11:44:00 AM

The push to change West Berkeley zoning rules is back before the Planning Commission Wednesday night. 

The session, which begins at 7 p.m., will focus on changes in the city’s master use permit process which developers say are needed to offer the kind of flexibility required by growing companies. 

West Berkeley, which houses the city’s only tracts zoned for industrial and manufacturing uses, is also home to many of the city’s artists and artisans. 

Some members of West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies (WEBAIC) have urged that any revisions be limited to parcels of five or more acres to keep pressures off sites now used for live-work spaces, studios and small manufacturing companies. 

The suggested revisions, prepared by city staff to be discussed at Wednesday’s meeting, call for a three-acre minimum site. 

Commissioners are also scheduled to vote on a tentative tract map for a 51-housing-unit condominium project now under construction at 1800 San Pablo Ave. 

The building features three floors of housing over one ground floor commercial condominium space, with attached parking that includes one ground-level floor and one subterranean floor. 

The project is being developed by Said Adeli of Mill Valley and owned by Berkeley Delaware Court LLC. 

The meeting will be held at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave.


Vigil for Slain Officers Set for Tuesday

Bay City News
Sunday March 22, 2009 - 02:33:00 PM

The Oakland City Council and Mayor Ron Dellums will hold a vigil Tuesday night in honor of the Oakland police officers shot to death Saturday afternoon by a suspect who was also fatally wounded. 

Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35, died Saturday in two separate but related shootings. Officer John Hege, 41, died Sunday. 

The first shooting happened during a routine traffic stop Dunakin and Hege conducted at about 1:08 p.m. Saturday in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard. 

The suspect, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon, shot the officers and then fled to a nearby apartment complex. Police called in a SWAT team and attempted to enter the apartment after several attempts to communicate with Mixon. 

Upon the SWAT team's entry, Mixon fired on police with an assault weapon, killing Romans and Sakai. Mixon was also killed by officers' return fire. 

A fifth officer, who has not been identified, was treated for a gunshot wound and released from the hospital Saturday. 

Saturday was the first time three Oakland police officers have been killed in the line of duty in the same day, according to Thomason. 

The vigil Tuesday will be held at 6 p.m. at 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard where the first shooting took place, City Council President Jane Brunner said. 

In addition, a condolence book will be available in the main lobby at City Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday for members of the community to write their thoughts and pay their respects, according to Brunner.


Fourth Oakland Police Officer Dies

Bay City News
Sunday March 22, 2009 - 09:12:00 AM

Oakland Police Department Officer John Hege, 41, who was shot Saturday along with three police sergeants has died, the Alameda County coroner's bureau confirmed this afternoon. 

His time of death was not immediately available. 

Two separate but related shootings Saturday afternoon resulted in the deaths of a traffic officer, Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and two SWAT team members, Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. 

Hege had been listed in grave condition at Highland Hospital.  

A fifth officer, who has not been identified, was treated for a gunshot wound and released from the hospital Saturday. 


Three Oakland Police Officers Dead, Fourth in 'Grave Condition'

Bay City News
Saturday March 21, 2009 - 10:20:00 PM

Three Oakland police officers are dead and a fourth is in "grave condition" after being shot Saturday afternoon by a wanted Oakland parolee in two separate but related shootings. 

At a news conference Saturday night at police headquarters, it was announced that the three officers who died were Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, Sgt. Ervin Romans, 43, and Sgt. Daniel Sakai, 35. 

A fourth officer, Officer John Hege, 41, is in grave condition at Highland Hospital. 

The first shooting happened after two motorcycle officers, Dunakin and Hege, made a routine traffic stop on a 1995 Buick at 1:08 p.m. in the 7400 block of MacArthur Boulevard, police spokesman Jeff Thomason said. 

The suspect, Lovelle Mixon, 27, of Oakland, apparently shot the officers while they were near their motorcycles, Field Operations Deputy Chief David Kozicki said. 

At 1:16 p.m., authorities got a call that the officers had been shot, and minutes later they received word that the suspect had entered a nearby multi-unit apartment complex. 

The SWAT team was called in, and after repeated attempts to communicate with Mixon, police entered the apartment and were immediately fired upon with an assault weapon. 

Two officers, Romans and Sakai, were immediately killed, while a third officer was grazed in the head by a bullet. Police have not released the third officer's name or condition. 

Other officers immediately returned fire, fatally wounding Mixon. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan said Mixon had an "extensive criminal history", and had a no-bail warrant for his arrest for violating his parole for assault with a deadly weapon. 

Dunakin had been with the Oakland Police Department since 1991, while Romans had been there since 1996, Hege since 1999 and Sakai since 2000. 

Resident Rosa Hernandez, who lives in the 2700 block of 74th Avenue, said the second set of shootings happened at a three-story apartment building behind a pawn shop at the corner of 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard.  

An Oakland resident who wished to be identified as A. Richards was at a friend's house this afternoon on 74th Avenue across the street from where those shootings happened and said she saw one of the officers being shot as she watched from a front window.  

She said the officer was standing outside the apartment building in front of heavy-duty brown double doors when there was a loud "boom" and the officer fell backward.  

Richards said a commotion followed.  

"All I heard was multiple voices, 'Officer down, officer down, officer down,'" she said.  

Richards said two officers grabbed the wounded officer by his armpits and dragged him down the street, leaving behind a pool of blood.  

She spent the afternoon moving back and forth between the front room of her friend's home and a back bedroom where she had taken refuge after seeing swarms of police show up with guns drawn. 

She said police were using her black Ford Contour as a shield. 

"Every once in a while I'd come to the window and check it out, see if it was OK to leave," Richards said.  

Richards said she, her husband and her nephews had been helping their friend move this afternoon and that her 14-year-old nephew had seen a black man wearing a black T-shirt run into the apartment building shortly before police showed up.  

She said her nephew hadn't seen a gun and initially didn't think much of it, but later shared what he had seen with police after learning what had happened.  

This evening, Richards was still grappling with what she had witnessed. 

"Everything that I've experienced in my life, the bad guy is always behind bars, but this is so different," she said.  

Hernandez said around 9:45 p.m. she'd just been let back into her house. She said some of her neighbors who live in the apartment building where the suspect had barricaded himself were still waiting to get back home to see their children.  

"I'm glad I had my ID, they didn't really want me to come in," she said of police.  

She said 74th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard were still blocked off.  

Tonight's news conference was attended by Jordan, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and state Attorney General Jerry Brown. 

Dellums said "It's in these moments that words are extraordinarily inadequate. We come together in shock, in grief, in sorrow." 

Jordan said he had received a call from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who released a statement about the shootings this evening. 

"This is a tragic day for law enforcement everywhere ... Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those lost, the Oakland Police Department and law enforcement officers throughout California during this difficult time," Schwarzenegger said.  

Asked how the department is coping with the deaths, Jordan said, "One thing is clear. These men are very resilient. We're a big family, and we rely on each other for support." 

Thomason said an announcement about funeral arrangements would be made in the coming days. An array of flowers was already set up in the lobby of police headquarters under a wall in tribute to police officers who have given their lives in the line of duty.


Final Curtain for Oakland's Parkway Theater

By Justin DeFreitas
Saturday March 21, 2009 - 12:24:00 PM

The Parkway Theater is going dark once again. Oakland’s beloved neighborhood movie theater will shut its doors Sunday night, possibly for good.  

Already operating on tight margins, the economic downturn has taken its toll on the theater. Rising costs and declining attendance have finally pushed proprietors Catherine and Kyle Fischer over the brink. 

“It’s the economy,” said Catherine. “It’s hard. Vendors are squeezed. There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room to negotiate anymore. They’re no longer in a position to be flexible.” 

The movie business has been in a precarious state for years, of course, as home video and the Internet have steadily eroded ticket sales. But the Parkway managed to keep people coming back, with a blend of food, special events and a family-focused atmosphere.  

But ultimately the recession sealed the theater's fate.  

“What hurts most is [having to leave] the neighborhood," Catherine told the Daily Planet. "All the businesses here—we came up together.” 

The Fischers’ took over the long-dormant theater in 1997 and it quickly developed a loyal clientele, helping to revitalize a neighborhood that had seen more than its share of hard times. Their goal was to establish an inexpensive, twice-a-week entertainment option for working families. They filled the front of the theater’s two screening rooms with deep, comfortable couches, the back with tables and chairs, and began serving pub food and alcohol in addition to the usual concession-stand staples. 

Over the years the Parkway gained a sizable following—from 20-something hipsters to working families and seniors—with a variety of unique programming decisions. The theater screened everything from classics to first-run films, Hollywood blockbusters to small independent fare, B movies and vintage schlock to high-minded art films and documentaries. Frequent midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show attracted a significant following, as did such family-friendly features as the Baby Brigade, a night set aside for families to bring small children along. 

In 2006, the Fischers' company, Speakeasy Theaters, expanded by assuming operation of the newly restored Cerrito Theater, duplicating many of the Parkway’s most notable attributes in that city's quieter, more residential environment. With a more lenient and vested landlord—the city of El Cerrito—and an essentially brand-new building, the costs of running the Cerrito are not nearly so daunting. 

The Fischers had struggled with the Parkway for a couple of years, but the hard times suddenly hit harder, and over the past few months they found themselves struggling to stay afloat from week to week. A decision had to be made, and it had to be made quickly. Raising ticket prices wasn’t an option; the film studios take a percentage of total sales, so it would take a hefty increase to see a meaningful rise in revenue. Besides, such a price hike, Catherine said, would undermine the theater’s ethos.  

“We didn’t want to become a $12-a-ticket movie theater,” Catherine said. 

With food vendors unable to cut prices and landlords unable or unwilling to negotiate, the Fischers felt they had no choice but to close the doors.  

As to be expected considering the theater’s devoted following, there has been an outpouring of sympathy and support. 

“It’s been sad and wonderful,” Catherine said, but she isn’t counting on a final-reel rescue. “We’ve heard from people who say, ‘I’d be willing to pay more,’ but everybody is squeezed. We’re all squeezed ... But if it’s a question between going to a movie and feeding my kids, I’m going to feed my kids. And so should you.” 

The Cerrito Theater will remain open and as many Parkway employees as possible will be transferred there.  

“We’re keeping as many as we can,” Catherine said. “We can’t keep everybody, and that’s awful, but I don’t know what else to do.” 

At 6:45 p.m. Friday, the line outside the theater wound around the corner and into the Kragen parking lot next door. Most were buying tickets for the 7 p.m. showing of Revolutionary Road, but others had shown up early to get tickets for later screenings of The Wrestler and Let the Right One In, certain that the lines would only grow longer. (And they did—by 9 p.m. there were nearly 100 people waiting outside to purchase tickets.) As patrons chattered about the theater's imminent demise, a fire engine returning from a call turned from East 19th onto Park Boulevard. The firefighter at the wheel pumped his fist out the window, picked up the CB and boomed, "Save the Parkway! Save the Parkway!" to the cheering crowd.  

Inside, the theater was as busy as ever, with long lines at the concession stand and harried wait staff rushing from kitchen to theater, delivering food and drinks to moviegoers.  

"I've never seen it so full," said one patron upon slipping into a back-row seat of the theater's balcony screening room. "This is the first time I've sat in the nosebleed seats," said another, "and the last." 

Once the lights dimmed the screen gave way to one of the theater's trademark, low-fi video introductions, with Kyle and Catherine Fischer and their two children sitting before the camera to offer their customers an explanation.  

After briefly recapping their history with the theater, Kyle admitted that though the recession didn't help, the theater has been suffering through tough times for a couple of years. "We probably overextended ourselves a bit and we thought we could weather some of the storms," he said. 

"It hasn't just been a couple of months we've had to withstand," said Catherine. "We've weathered a couple months here, a couple months there before – there's been an ebb and flow. But this has been, as you all know, a lot more than a couple of months." 

Credit got tight, Kyle said. Vendors who would once extend two months worth of credit could now only afford two weeks.  

"We tried to renegotiate with our landlords and they were not interested in renegotiating," he said. "We didn't always have a great relationship with our landlords. Somebody purchased the building about six or seven years ago and we never really got on well." 

"We'll try the best we can to figure out some way to get the Parkway going again," Kyle said. "We're going to do the best that we can, if we can't get back into the Parkway, to help our landlords find somebody who can. Because this community does not need a vacant Parkway Theater. We know what that was like." 

 

 

 


Judge Halts Construction, Site Work at LBNL Lab Site

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 20, 2009 - 01:13:00 PM

A federal judge has ordered a halt to work on a $113 million computer lab at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL), saying UC officials may have tried to evade federal environmental law. 

U.S. District Judge William H. Alsup handed down a 20-page preliminary injunction Wednesday, siding with Save Strawberry Canyon, a Berkeley citizen’s group formed to challenge the university’s building plans along the canyon. 

His action halts any work at the site of the proposed Computational Research and Theory (CRT) building until after a September trial in his San Francisco courtroom. 

“This order enjoins defendants from entering any contract or undertaking any action, without prior approval of the court, that will disturb the land itself pending a determination of the merits,” the judge wrote in his order. 

Alsup said the university could continue with its planning work on the building, which was approved last May by the UC Board of Regents. 

Michael Lozeau, the environmental attorney who represents the citizen group, said he was pleased with the court’s ruling, and for recognizing that “the university was playing it both ways.” 

The key issue for the federal judge was whether or not the university was attempting to skirt the National Environmental Protection Act by conducting only a state-level environmental impact review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

Alsup’s ruling parses the complex relationship between the university and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), a relationship certain to grow more complex with the appointment of Steven Chu as head of the federal agency. Chu headed LBNL before becoming the first science Nobel Laureate to lead the Energy Department,  

Alsup ruled that despite the claims of UC Berkeley officials and the DOE that the lab is “a UC-owned building on UC-owned land,” Lozeau’s clients have “created a substantial question regarding whether the federal government exercised decision-making authority and control over the project.” 

While university and lab officials repeatedly told the public that the building was being built to house the DOE’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), UC attorney John Lynn Smith argued that the supercomputer facility was only a “prospective tenant,” since no agreement committed the feds to locate the facility there. 

The center is currently housed in a leased former bank building in downtown Oakland. 

Alsup ruled that “the record indicates one of the university’s primary purposes for the CRT project was to house DOE’s computation centers,” with the building “designed with consideration of the needs of DOE computer systems,” and with DOE involvement and ongoing “great interest” in the facility. 

“Considering all of this evidence, this order finds that [Save Strawberry Canyon] has identified ‘serious questions’ of whether or not the CRT is a federal action.” Alsup wrote. 

He also rejected a defense argument which contended that National Environmental Protection Act review didn’t matter, since CEQA “is NEPA with teeth.” 

If the project is determined to serve federal needs, NEPA review would be required, since the law was passed by Congress to ensure the federal government would “‘have available and carefully consider’ the information that Congress wished for it to consider in order to appropriately plan and coordinate federal policy,” Alsup wrote. 

Smith argued that the suit was simply a third attempt by the plaintiffs “to force the university to construct the CRT facility far away from LBNL and the UCB campus at UC’s Richmond Field Station.” 

Named as defendants in the action for the DOE were the secretary of Energy, LBNL’s director and the members of the Board of Regents. 

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab is one of three national labs UC Berkeley operates under contract with the DOE, and it receives 77 percent of its funding from the DOE, with another eight percent from the National Institutes of Health, the judge wrote. 

The CRT is part of a major construction program at the lab, with another project also the subject of a lawsuit—the so-called Helios Building, which would house research conducted under the $500 million synthetic-fuels research project funded by British oil giant BP. 

Save Strawberry Canyon has filed a parallel action against the Helios project, represented in that case by Stephan Volker. 

The group includes several well-known Berkeley activists, including Save the Bay co-founder Sylvia McLaughlin, Lesley Emmington, Janice Thomas and former Mayor Shirley Dean.


Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Dismisses CEO

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 20, 2009 - 05:10:00 PM

The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce has removed CEO Ted Garrett from office and is seeking a new candidate for the position, chamber officials said Friday. 

Jonathan DeYoe, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors and head of DeYoe Wealth Management in Berkeley, did not provide any specifics about Garrett’s dismissal except to say that “he was let go.” 

“There were some things he was really really good at and some things he wasn’t so good at, so we needed someone else to carry on the work,” DeYoe said. “He was really good at outreach—one of the things we loved about Ted is that he was able to connect with the community really well. He shook things up a bit. So that was not a problem at all. That was good stuff.” 

Garrett, who lives in Berkeley, directed all queries to DeYoe. 

Rose Garden Inn owner Kevin Allen has been named interim CEO. Allen declined to comment on Garrett’s dismissal. 

In an e-mail sent to chamber members Wednesday, the executive board said the organization’s new mission statement, crafted in 2008, would focus on helping local businesses prosper during a tough economy, making it imperative for the chamber to launch a search for a new CEO who would help meet those goals. 

“The position must be filled with a dynamic and strong candidate,” the e-mail said. “With an enthusiastic and active executive board, rising membership, solid financial strength, and our newly stated roadmap objectives, we must appoint an excellent candidate to lead the chamber as we evolve into a more forceful and active presence.” 

Roland Peterson, a member of the chamber’s executive board and chair of the Telegraph Improvement Business District, said Garrett was hired in July 2007 to bring a much needed boost to the chamber’s flagging membership. 

“The chamber board was looking for someone with a little bit of energy and enthusiasm to build up the membership,” said Peterson. 

Rachel Rupert, who served as CEO of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce for 19 years, retired in 2007, prompting the chamber to search for a new leader. 

Garrett had previously served as the executive director for several downtown associations and business improvement districts in San Diego, Oceanside and Los Altos. 

The hiring of Garrett followed on the heels of a controversy surrounding the chamber’s political action committee (PAC), which filed its November 2006 municipal election contribution statements with Alameda County instead of the City of Berkeley. 

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission had advised the city and the PAC’s attorneys that the committee should file its campaign contribution statements with the city. 

The PAC dissolved in 2007 after spending more than $100,000 in the 2006 election to re-elect Mayor Tom Bates, to defeat Measure J (the Landmark Preservation Ordinance), and to try to unseat councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Dona Spring. 

Garrett focused on improving the membership at the chamber, reaching out to new businesses. 

“He was pretty successful at it the first year—more successful than I thought,” Peterson said. “Things had leveled off to a certain extent, at least that’s what I feel, and I give Ted a certain amount of credit for that.” 

As for meeting the expectations of the chamber’s new goals, Peterson said that the organization was working hard to make its presence more prominent in the city. 

“We would like to become a resource for new businesses to get started,” he said. “Usually they have to jump through a lot of hoops in the city when they first move here. We would like to make things easier for them.” 

DeYoe said the chamber would try to become more involved in the Berkeley City Council meetings and provide advice to business owners, among other things. 

“Three years ago the chamber was kind of quiet,” he said. “We did have a presence in a lot of places, but we want to have an even greater presence. We want to become a positive influence on the community.” 

Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said that the chamber had the potential to become a tremendous resource for businesses all over the city. 

“I look forward to the chamber hiring a new person who will work as an ally for the business community,” she said.  

According to the e-mail sent out by the chamber, a search committee has already been formed to find a new CEO within the next several months who “would act as a diplomatic yet forceful spokesperson for the newly adopted mission statement, identify key strategic partners and communicate clearly with members, partners, businesses, city staff and elected officials to establish a clear dialogue and goals to further accountability and progress.” 

The new CEO will continue to focus on expanding membership, developing fundraising sources and support existing businesses, the letter said.  

“He has to be a spokesperson for the chamber as well as keep everything running—finances as well as staff,” Allen said. “I am really excited to get this chance and hope to serve for two to three months. Once we find the right person, I will hand the reins over to him and teach him the ropes of the job.”


Planners Refine Area for Tallest Downtown Buildings

By Richard Brenneman
Friday March 20, 2009 - 05:11:00 PM

The Planning Commission rejected a suggestion from one of their own that would have scaled down Shattuck Avenue development along the thoroughfare’s southern stretch in the new downtown planning area.  

Teresa Clarke, a commissioner who works for non-profit developer Affordable Housing Associates, urged her colleagues to limit maximum heights along the eastern side of Shattuck midblock between Durant Avenue and Channing Way and the plan’s southern boundary at Dwight Way. 

“The Fine Arts Building is 65 feet, and it feels really good, really appropriate. But 85 feet is too big,” she said during the March 18 meeting. 

But reducing height by two stories from the 85 feet allowed in the commission’s draft Downtown Area Plan wouldn’t be supportive of the city’s Climate Action Plan, said commission chair David Stoloff, himself a retired planner. “We should not overconstrain” density, he said. “That would be going backward.” 

Commissioner and architect Jim Novosel backed Clarke’s proposal, as did two of the commission’s non-development sector members, Patti Dacey and Gene Poschman. But the majority in a straw poll felt otherwise. 

Commissioners did agree to a slight reduction in the southern limits of the plan’s core area where the tallest buildings could rise—a pair of 225-foot hotels and four 180-footers. 

While the area for the highest-rises in the commission’s earlier draft extended from midblock between University Avenue and Addison Street on the north to Kittredge Street along the western side of Shattuck and along the eastern side to a point midblock between Durant and Channing, a commission majority said they would limit the height to 120 feet from a point a half-block south of Kittredge to midway between Durant and Channing. 

Plans to push the taller buildings north of University Avenue have been shelved for the moment, with the commission hamstrung by their adoption of limits that were included in the plan’s draft environmental impact review. 

Commissioners will be voting later on a call for the City Council to approve a study that would expand the tall building zone, provided the city has funding to cover costs of an additional environment review.


Vandals Strike Berkeley Marine Recruiting Center

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday March 19, 2009 - 05:21:00 PM

The United States Marine Corps Officer Selection Office in downtown Berkeley came under attack once again Wednesday night when a group of vandals broke the building’s windows with sledgehammers and splashed them with red paint. 

Officers at the recruiting center at 64 Shattuck Square were not able to say whether the incident was related to protests taking place throughout the rest of the country on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the Iraq war. 

Berkeley Police Department spokesperson Officer Andrew Frankel said the police received a call at 8:54 p.m. Wednesday from an eyewitness who reported that three suspects were breaking the Marine Corps office’s plate-glass windows and splashing them with red paint. 

Eyewitnesses saw the suspects leave the scene immediately after the crime, Frankel said. Berkeley police officers combed the neighborhood for suspects and talked to eyewitnesses but were unable to find the culprits. 

However, an hour later, police officers arrested a man on an unrelated warrant who they consider a “person of interest” in the incident. 

Frankel said the man was a Berkeley resident but declined to release his name and age, as the incident is still under investigation. 

Captain John-Paul Wheatcroft, who has been in charge of the Marine recruiting center since Captain Richard Lund left about a year ago, confirmed that the office had been vandalized but directed all queries to Staff Sergeant Matt Deboard. 

Deboard said that, according to eyewitness accounts, a group of vandals attacked the recruiting station around 8 p.m., hitting its windows with sledgehammers and “slopping gooey thick red paint on them.” 

He said police arrived immediately after they were called. 

“We boarded up the windows as best as we could to prevent further damage,” he said. “The landlord is in the process of cleaning them up. He is paying for it.” 

Deboard said nobody was present at the office when it was vandalized. 

The Berkeley Marine recruiting center was catapulted into the national and international limelight in September 2007, when the anti-war group Code Pink first rallied outside its office in an attempt to drive the recruiters out of town. 

The Marines responded that they would stay in Berkeley as long as they had a valid lease. 

In January 2008, the Berkeley City Council came under heavy criticism when it called the downtown Marines “uninvited and unwelcome intruders.” 

The council rescinded its statement in February, explaining that while it continued to oppose the war in Iraq, it respected the men and women of the U.S. military. 

 


School District Faces $3 Million Shortfall

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:03:00 PM

The Berkeley Board of Educa-tion unanimously approved revisions to the school district’s 2008-09 budget Wednesday, March 18, to offset this year’s $3.1 million shortfall.  

The Berkeley Unified School District faces an $8 million bud-get deficit over the next two years.  

The district was able to meet the reductions in state funds for this year by instituting a freeze on new hires, conferences, travel and consulting expenses, and equipment purchases over $500—measures which added up to more than $1.5 million in savings.  

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said the board was able to save at least $600,000 through the hiring freeze that was put into place last fall.  

Taking advantage of a recent bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger which allows school districts to redirect funds from 40 programs for any “educational purpose” over a five-year period ending July 1, 2013, the district transferred $2 million from its categorical funds to its general funds.  

The move resulted in cuts to art, music and technological programs, textbook purchases, building maintenance, and school discretionary funds, among others.  

The board also looked at recommendations made by district officials to address a $4.9 million deficit in 2009-10, which includes an additional $1.2 million cut in art, music and library programs next year.  

The board will vote on these recommendations at a later date.  

The school district also hopes to receive about $800,000 from federal stimulus money, which it will use to address the shortfall.  

“The stimulus may change things, but we have lobbied our legislators to release the funds as soon as possible,” district superintendent William Huyett said. “We have to plan as if Armageddon is coming our way.”  

A majority of the board members told Huyett that they were against increasing class size, even in these tough economic times.  

Calling the cuts a “downward spiral,” board member John Selawsky expressed concern about the loss of arts programs in the schools.  

Selawsky also criticized the potential layoff notices that were sent out last week to 124 teachers, counselors and at least three administrators.  

“It’s nothing short of criminal to me,” he said. “We have always been underfunded in California, but this is the worst we have seen in decades. We are looking at two, at least three years—I am not sure we are going to be able to weather this. There are programs that we are going to eliminate completely that, in this climate, I am not sure we will ever get back.”  

According to Campbell, the list of possible layoffs included 46 teachers at Berkeley High School and three teachers at Berkeley Technology Academy (B-Tech), a continuation high school that admits a high number of at-risk students.  

“A lot of temporary teachers were released from B-Tech, and they don’t need to be given notices,” she said. “The sad part is, the vast majority of them are people of color.”  

Campbell said that the school was suffering from all the cuts, which will leave only 10 or 12 teachers to manage approximately 150 students.  

Elementary schools that received layoff notices included Berkeley Arts Magnet (nine), Rosa Parks (seven), Oxford (six), Thousand Oaks (six), Emerson (five), Washington (four), Jefferson (three) and Malcolm X (three).  

Cragmont, John Muir and LeConte elementaries received one layoff notice each.  

Additionally, seven district teachers on special assignments received pink slips. 

The number of layoffs more than doubled this year as compared with 2008, when the approximately 55 layoff notices sent out to teachers were rescinded, Campbell said.  

“People who went through this last year and have received layoff notices again can’t believe they are going through this again,” she said. “They are upset, but a little numb. The ones who are experiencing this for the first time are surprised and demoralized. They are unsure what it means for them.”  

Huyett stressed that the district would be working round the clock to reduce the number of layoffs. The list of final layoffs is scheduled to go out in mid-May.  

“This has been like a rotten week,” said Huyett, who helped B-Tech principal Victor Diaz distribute the layoff notices Tuesday. “One principal told me that he had to give layoff notices to everyone he had hired in the last four years. These positions are not positions we can afford to lose. We are not flush with people who can do all the work. I am angry that I have worked so long to make public education better and now we are working to make it worse.”  

Huyett announced Friday, March 13, that the district will be able to rescind roughly 49 layoff notices this week. 


City Says Office Depot Overcharged on Supply Contract

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:05:00 PM

The director of finance of the City of Berkeley says the Office Depot company has overcharged the city by as much as a quarter of a million dollars during the course of a three-year, $550,000-a-year contract to provide miscellaneous office supplies and recycled copy paper to the city. 

Finance Director Robert Hicks made the revelation after being questioned by Councilmember Kriss Worthington on the matter at the Tuesday City Council budget workshop.  

The Office Depot Media Relations office at the company’s corporate headquarters in Boca Raton, Florida, does not provide a direct telephone number to contact. An e-mail message to the office requesting a comment for the story was not answered by press time. 

Hicks’ revelation supported the allegations first made to the City Council last October by Diane Griffin, president of Radston’s Office Plus supply store of Hercules and a member of the board of directors of the Nation-al Office Products Alliance (NOPA). 

According to the conclusion of an analysis of more than 100 pages of the Office Depot-City of Berkeley contract provided to the city by Griffin, Office Depot charged the normal retail price on 135 of what it called “core” office supplies, but promised a 55 percent discount to the city for items not on the “core item” list. Griffin says that in fact, Berkeley received only a 39.7 percent discount on those non-core items, the basis for her estimate of the $250,000 overcharge. 

Radstons, the 101-year-old office supply company that operated in Berkeley for the first 98 years of its existence, was one of five vendors that bid on the Berkeley office supply contract in the summer of 2006. 

Griffin’s analysis only covers the period between July of 2006 and November of 2008 for a contract scheduled to run from July of 2006 through June of this year. 

At Tuesday’s budget hearing, Finance Director Hicks said that his office has “been analyzing beyond [the] period of time” in Griffin’s analysis, leaving the possibility that the city’s estimate of the Office Depot overcharges could run higher than $250,000. 

Griffin herself said she believes the Office Depot overcharges on its City of Berkeley contract are accumulating at a rate of $8,000 a month. 

It is not clear if the city will attempt to collect the money it believes it was overcharged and, if so, if there are any provisions in the contract to do so. Finance Director Hicks did not return a telephone call asking for a comment for this story.  

“The taxpayers of Berkeley are lucky that Diane was willing to go line by line on this contract to see what was actually happening,” Councilmember Worthington said by telephone. “When she first brought up the allegations, she got some ridicule because people thought she was just a disgruntled business owner who lost a city contract. But now the allegation is being made by the city itself.” Worthington also said that it was significant that Finance Director Hicks had backed up the original allegation. “He’s well-known for being meticulous in his research,” Worthington said. The councilmember also called it a “positive sign that Berkeley government is not ignoring these concerns, but is going forward with investigating them.” 

In explaining how she first got involved in investigating the Office Depot contract, Griffin said by telephone that she was “aware of some irregularities” in the Office Depot bid when the City of Berkeley contract was first decided three years ago, but “put it on the back burner” until last summer, when she became aware of allegations of Office Depot overcharges in contracts in Florida and with the State of California. “That’s when I decided to go back to look and see if Berkeley had actually gotten what they paid for. It was mostly just a curiosity.” 

Griffin said that personnel with the city’s Finance Department were “helpful” in providing her with documents relating to the performance of the Office Depot contract, and said that more detailed information was provided after Councilmember Worthington interceded to help with her investigation. 

At this point, she says that now that the city Finance Department has taken up the investigation, her role in it is over “unless they want to call me in to give any technical information. But at this point, the ball is out of my court.” She says her purpose in researching the Office Depot contact was twofold. “I’d like the city to get what they bargained for,” she said. “I want the city to get a check. The Finance Department did a good job in negotiating the contract. They got a wonderful contract. It just hasn’t been followed.” Griffin also said that as a member of the national organization of office supply companies, the allegations surrounding Office Depot “are not giving our industry a good name.”


Court Upholds Decision in Favor of BUSD Student Assignment Plan

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:05:00 PM

Berkeley Unified School District earned another legal victory Tuesday, March 17, for its student placement plan.  

The California Court of Appeal upheld an earlier Alameda County Superior Court ruling that the plan is fair and legal.  

In October 2006, the Pacific Legal Foundation, a conservative Sacramento-based public interest litigation firm, sued Berkeley Unified on behalf of the American Civil Rights Foun-dation for violating California’s Proposition 209 by racially discriminating among students in placing them at elementary schools and in programs at Berkeley High School.  

After the Alameda County Superior Court ruled in favor of the plan in April 2007, the foundation appealed on behalf of the ACRF.  

In March 2008, the foundation asked the California Court of Appeal to review the decision affirming Berkeley’s “use of race as a factor to determine where students are assigned to public schools and to determine whether they gain access to special educational programs.”  

On Tuesday, the Court of Appeal ruled that because the district assigned children to schools based on neighborhood demographics, and not specifically because of any individual student’s race, the school district was not in violation of Prop. 209’s prohibition on the use of race in public education.  

“The challenged policy does not use racial classifications; in fact, it does not consider an individual student’s race at all when assigning the student to a school,” Justice Patricia Sepulveda said in the 3-0 ruling. “Instead, the assignment policy looks at the student’s residential neighborhood, and considers the average household income in the neighborhood, the average education level of adults residing in the neighborhood, and the racial composition of the neighborhood as a whole. Every student within a given neighborhood receives the same treatment, regardless of his or her individual race.” 

The ruling further stated that the appellate court had found that educators who included a “general recognition of the demographics of neighborhoods in student assignments, without classifying a student by his or her race, do not ‘discriminate against, nor grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race.’” 

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said that he was delighted with the news. 

“We are very proud of the system—it has been a long-standing part of Berkeley Unified,” he said. “It’s a fair and equal system for the kids and it serves them well.” 

A statement sent out by Alan Foutz, Pacific Legal Foundation’s lead attorney for the case, said that the “district uses race as a factor in classifying the level of ‘diversity’ in neighborhoods, and uses that classification as a key factor to determine where kids go to school.”  

“The court has carved a big hole in Proposition 209 by permitting school districts to use race as one of the factors that determine where kids will go to school,” Foutz said in his statement. “Prop. 209 is comprehensive and categorical in banning the use of race in student assignment. The court has undermined that mandate for colorblind educational policy, by allowing districts to continue using race in its student assignment decisions.”  

Huyett defended Berkeley Unified’s Elementary School Assignment Plan, explaining that race was one of several factors used by the district to assign students to schools. 

Jory Steele, managing attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the legal advocacy groups that represented parents in support of the district's efforts to ensure integrated schools and classrooms, said that the court’s decision had statewide implication for school districts that wanted to maintain diversity in their schools. 

“We are thrilled by the ruling,” Steele said. “The decision will allow Berkeley Unified to act as a model for other districts in the state who want to maintain voluntary desegregation without violating Prop. 209.” 

Francisco Martinez, the district’s director of human resources who was present at the hearing last week along with the district’s pro-bono attorneys from Keker & Van Nest, said that Berkeley’s commitment to diversity and integration dated back to 1968, when the district had voluntarily desegregated its schools. 

According to historical information recorded by Bruce Wicinas, who helped craft the assignment plan, the passage of Prop. 209 in 1996 prompted then-superintendent Jack McLaughlin to initiate a community process to expand Berkeley Unified’s student assignment plan to protect it from lawsuits. 

However, it wasn’t until Jan. 2004 that the district submitted the final draft of the new student assignment plan to the Berkeley Board of Education. 

“When we crafted this plan, we looked at students who lived in our three geographic attendance zones—whether they have siblings in our schools or have special needs, among other things,” Martinez, who lead the process to revive the student assignment plan, said. “The three main factors used to place students is parent education level, parent income level and student demographics which includes race. This helps to create a diversity category. At no time are individual characteristics taken into account.” 

The Pacific Legal Foundation sued Berkeley Unified in 2003 on behalf of a parent who charged the district with race-based assignment of students in a different and earlier Berkeley program.  

The case was dismissed by Judge James Richman who ruled that voluntary desegregation plans or “race-conscious” school assignment systems were not specifically prohibited by Prop. 209.  

“The Pacific Legal Foundation has tried on three occasions to attack our student assignment plan, but the courts have found the district to be within the protection of the constitution,” Martinez said. 

Fountz said that the Pacific Legal Foundation expected to appeal the ruling, adding that a petition for review to the California Supreme Court will have to be filed by April 27. 

 

 

 

 

 


Community Remembers Zachary Michael Cruz

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:05:00 PM
Flowers surround a photo of Zachary Michael Cruz in front of the UC Berkeley Campanile, one of the 5-year-old's favorite places.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Flowers surround a photo of Zachary Michael Cruz in front of the UC Berkeley Campanile, one of the 5-year-old's favorite places.
Frank Cruz bows his head in prayer during his son’s memorial.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Frank Cruz bows his head in prayer during his son’s memorial.
Frank and Jodie Cruz get hugs fromfriends after the service. Hundreds attended the memorial.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Frank and Jodie Cruz get hugs fromfriends after the service. Hundreds attended the memorial.
Lily Van-Hout looks at pictures of Zachary Cruz, her fellow student at the Clark Kerr Campus after-school program.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Lily Van-Hout looks at pictures of Zachary Cruz, her fellow student at the Clark Kerr Campus after-school program.
Photos of Zachary Cruz and his baby brother Miles adorned a table at the front of the Wheeler Hall classroom where the memorial was held.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Photos of Zachary Cruz and his baby brother Miles adorned a table at the front of the Wheeler Hall classroom where the memorial was held.

Just as his father promised, Zachary Michael Cruz’s memorial was more a party than a funeral.  

Children ate Twizzler-topped cupcakes, painted their faces yellow and blew bubbles during the Sunday afternoon memorial at UC Berkeley Sunday afternoon.  

Frank Cruz, a doctoral student of English at the university, told the several hundred people who had gathered inside a classroom at Wheeler Hall to remember his 5-year-old son, who was killed in a collision while walking to an after-school program Feb. 28, that he wanted the service to be focused around his son’s friends and classmates—more like “birthday party than a funeral.”  

Blue and yellow balloons, crayons, paste-on tattoos, shiny stickers and glitter greeted visitors at the Wheeler lobby, and some of the other highlights included performances by the University of California Marching Band and Cruz reading aloud from the children’s book That Bad, Bad Cat.  

A video and photograph collage of Zach, who would have turned 6 on March 12, provided a glimpse into his favorite people and pastimes: with his mother Jodie in the hospital right after he was born; with his dad at an Oakland A’s game; with his feet up on the couch at his parents’ apartment; cuddling with his grandpa Dave; against the backdrop of Golden Gate Bridge; outside the Campanile; carving a pumpkin for Halloween; playing drums; holding his baby brother Miles; and finally his favorite Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love.”  

“Almost all of Zach’s passions were passions he shared with others,” said Scott Saul, an associate professor of English at UC Berkeley. “His smiles, his hugs, his ability to live in the moment... Since the loss of Zach his family will never be the same again. The loss of someone as precious as Zach has left all of us with a hole that is almost impossible to fill. We keep him alive by holding on to what gifts he left us—the gift of generosity, wonder, curiosity, passion and creativity ... Zach, you are an amazing boy who lived life to the fullest.”  

A video recorded by Cruz plays testimony to the fact that Zach’s knowledge of music went far beyond his five years, something his musician father encouraged from the very beginning.  

“How many shows do you want to play?” Cruz asks in the recording, to which Zach answers, “I want to play at grandma Beverly’s ... I want to play a hundred shows a year and I want Chucky Cheese stamps on everyone’s arms.”  

“My son was not a saint, he was not an angel, but he was sweet and said ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ and had a curiosity about the world,” Cruz told the audience. “While Zach wasn’t perfect and he threw up in my car when he was a little boy, he had a lot of promise and I was his harshest critic. I am thankful for all the time I had with him—what I had with him was incredibly valuable.”  

Cruz thanked parents and teachers at LeConte Elementary School, where Zach was studying, and the community for their support over the past few weeks.  

“I didn’t believe in God or community before Zach died,” he said. “I was OK with the lack of faith. I believed in my English graduate cohorts, my faculty adviser and my family. But someone went and built that memorial where Zach was killed and then went back and cleaned it up, and has been putting fresh flowers there since then. I don’t know most of you in this room, but I can’t thank you enough for what you have done and that is holiness to me—that is holy to me.”


Dinner, Drinks at Shattuck Cinemas

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:08:00 PM
Shattuck Cinemas manager Nancy Klubben opens the doors in time for Tuesday’s matinee.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Shattuck Cinemas manager Nancy Klubben opens the doors in time for Tuesday’s matinee.

Coming soon to a theater near you: Kobe beef sliders, salads and chicken wings, and if you’re 21 or older, cocktails—all of which can be enjoyed while watching your favorite movie from a comfy red loveseat or a leather rocker. 

Landmark Theatres, which has owned Berkeley’s Shattuck Cinemas since 1994, received a permit from the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board last week which will let adults carry their alcoholic beverages from the theater’s soon-to-be-established restaurant and bar into separate screening lounges, making it the only movie theater in the city to have a liquor license. 

The project is part of a nearly million-dollar upgrade for the theater, Ted Mundroff, CEO of Landmark Theatres, told the Planet in a telephone interview from Los Angeles last Saturday. Similar operations are in place at Sundance’s Kabuki Theater in San Francisco and at Speakeasy’s Parkway Theater in Oakland and Cerrito Theater in El Cerrito. 

Landmark hopes to launch the service in late May. The theater will remain open during the remodeling. 

Moviegoers at Shattuck have already had a chance to experience the wide, rocking seats, bean bags and plush couches that were introduced around Christmas time, along with a revamped concession stand and snack bar which serves popcorn, corn dogs and soda. 

The modernization will decrease the number of seats by about 23 percent, from 1,244 seats to 924. But company officials say they hope the viewing experience will keep patrons coming back. 

Landmark, which also owns the California Theatre on Kittredge Street, has 14 theaters across the country, which allow food and drinks inside the cinema, a concept Mundroff said has been wildly successful, prompting them to launch it in Berkeley. 

“The theater hasn’t been revamped since it opened in the late ’80s,” Mundroff said. “So we thought it was time to do something about it.” 

Mundroff said the theater’s landlord, Roy Nee, informed them of a vacancy at the entrance to the cinema—previously part of Mel’s Diner located next door—which turned out to be a perfect spot for a new restaurant. 

Shattuck Cinemas, a 26,000-square-foot, 10-screen theater complex located in the landmarked six-story Hink’s building in downtown Berkeley, shares its ground floor with the revamped Shattuck Hotel and other commercial businesses such as Starbucks, Bowzer’s Pizza and Planet Juice. 

Currently, the Hink’s building has at least three empty storefronts, including those left vacant since Coldstone Creamery and Shoe Pavilion left town. 

Mundroff hopes that the new attractions at the theater would lure more people to downtown Berkeley, bringing a much needed economic vitality to the city. 

According to a report prepared by the city’s Planning Department, Landmark plans to make the theater Berkeley’s premiere venue for art and specialized films. 

The theater has no plans to convert to reserved seating, Mundroff said, or to charge a fee for all the upgrades. 

The document says that theaters across the country are currently operating on a very tight profit margin and that many closed down over the last 10 years, “mainly due to changes in the structure and pricing of film distribution.” 

Landmark, the report says, has been hit by a significant decline in ticket sales in the past several years, forcing them to even consider shuttering the business. At a time when theaters rely primarily on profits from concessions, the report explains that an upscale full-service restaurant and bar will help Shattuck Cinemas survive. 

Designed by local architects Kahn De-sign Associates, the 740-square-foot restau-rant will seat approximately 21 diners. 

Mundroff said that customers will be allowed to take their food and liquor into two auditoriums located right across from the restaurant and bar, and that an ID check will be in place to ensure that minors don’t slip in with alcoholic drinks. 

A couple of theater auditoriums will also be rented out for independent film festivals, private parties and corporate events, Michael Fant, Landmark’s vice president of real estate and marketing, told zoning members at the meeting, and ID checks would be carried out there as well. 

“We are far more covered than any bar,” Fant said, adding that none of the Landmark theaters with bars across the country had run into any kind of problem with authorities so far. 

“This concept is not meant for kids, but for adults,” Mundroff said. “The idea is to create a niche theater experience for grown-ups—a community within a community. Not only will they be able to go into a movie and see things they like, but they will also be able to do it while enjoying a glass of wine in a warm relaxing atmosphere. It will be a place where you will be able to meet friends and talk about the film you just watched without having to rush out immediately.” 

Comfort certainly seems to be the highlight of the brand new Shattuck Cinemas. 

On Tuesday, before the 1 p.m. crowd started trickling into the lobby, manager Nancy Klubben pointed to a wicker basket stacked with plush red pillows. 

“You can take those into any of our auditoriums,” she said smiling, “And our audience loves them—there’s nothing like curling up with a big soft pillow during a movie. I am excited about the changes, and it’s already helping the theater. We are seeing a lot more people come in now.”


Former Tree-Sitter Critically Hurt During West Bank Protest

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:08:00 PM

A one-time Memorial Stadium tree-sitter remained in critical condition in an Israeli hospital, Wednesday, March 18, injured in a clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank. 

Tristan Anderson, 38, was known as “Cricket” during the days he occupied a perch in the branches outside the UC Berkeley football stadium. 

Kate Raphael, a longtime friend who lives in San Francisco, said Anderson had traveled to Israel where his girlfriend was making a free “birthright” trip offered to young American Jews who want to visit the Jewish state. 

According to news accounts from the Associated Press and Ha’aretz, Anderson was struck in the face by a high-velocity tear gas canister fired during a protest against the controversial separation barrier at the village of Niilin, near Ramallah. 

“He’s in critical condition, and he still hasn’t regained consciousness,” Raphael said Friday. 

After he was injured, the Oakland resident was rushed to Tel Hashomer hospital near Tel Aviv, where he underwent surgery for multiple skull fractures, according to published accounts. His condition was further complicated Tuesday when he developed pneumonia, Raphael said. 

“Fortunately they caught it in time,” she said.  

According to Ha’aretz, the media office of the Israel Defense Force said the demonstration site was a closed security zone, off-limits to protests. The military said demonstrators had thrown rocks at soldiers, prompting the use of tear gas. 

Raphael said she has known Anderson for eight years. The activist is an artist, and had been introduced to activism in his youth because of his concern for the environment, she said. “He felt it was very important to support the tree-sit,” she said. 

Raphael said she had first learned of Anderson’s injuries in a phone call from Israel Friday morning.  

“He’s really interested in archaeology and was excited about going,” Raphael said. 

Marcus Kryshka met Anderson 18 years ago when they were both doing homeless advocacy work in Berkeley. 

“He has worked extensively with Food Not Bombs,” Kryshka said. “He was also heavily involved with the tree-sit.” 

Anderson was one of the last six tree-sitters prosecuted by the university, but he won an acquittal at a jury trial. He did acknowledge liability in a second action in civil court for violating a court order barring protesters from living in the trees, and settled by agreeing to do community service, said his attorney, Carol Strickman. 

Kryshka said one of the reasons for his trip to Israel “was to engage in solidarity with the Palestinian protesters.” 

Anderson had called during the first week of March to talk about his trip and share his concerns about the violence of Israeli police and military response to the protests, said Kryshka, an Oakland carpenter. 

Anderson, who grew up in Grass Valley, had been working as a trade convention exhibit installer at the time of his trip. 

Cricket and two fellow tree-sitters wrote an account of their vigil for the Earth First! Journal, available online at www.earthfirstjournal.org. A video of the incident is available online at the website of Anarchists Against the Wall (awall.org). 

The incident has sparked several protests across the United States, including one outside the Israeli consulate in Miami that resulted in the arrest of Cara Jennings, a member of the Lake Worth City Commission, the equivalent of a city council. 

That incident is reported at the Photography Is Not a Crime website (carlosmiller.com).


Golden Gate Fields Auction April 3

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:09:00 PM

Albany’s Golden Gate Fields goes on the auction block April 3 as part of a court-mandated sale of properties owned by ailing Magna Entertainment. 

Magna, the Canadian-based firm that emerged as the world’s largest owner of race tracks, is in bankruptcy actions on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border. Three of its tracks will be auctioned off in the sale. 

But the ultimate winner may well be the company’s parent firm, MI Developments (MID), which holds liens against the company and has entered a so-called “stalking horse bid” for three tracks—Golden Gate, Pimlico and Lone Star—as well as Magna’s odds-processing firm, a betting service and other real estate. 

If MID wins its $195 million bid, it will move immediately to commercially develop the site, a move certain to ignite a political firestorm in Albany. 

In an announcement from corporate headquarters in Aurora, Ontario, MID announced that if it wins the Albany track, “it intends to immediately commence seeking all requisite approvals to develop the property for commercial real estate purposes.” 

But some of the company’s minority investments are alarmed, including New York-based Greenlight Capital, and they will get a hearing in bankruptcycourt March 13. 

Greenlight has been highly critical of Frank Stronach, the Canadian auto parts magnate whose Magna International originally owned the tracks before investors forced him to spin them off into a separate company because of ongoing losses. He controls the bulk of voting shares of both MID and the entertainment company, one of the reasons for the rising investor discontent. 

Another critical shareholder closer to home is Farallon Capital Management of San Francisco, which has been highly critical of MID’s funding of the entertainment company, according to filings at the Securities and Exchange Commission.  

Neither company was willing to comment when reached by a reporter for this story. 

Albany City Councilmember Robert Lieber said Stronach’s development plans sound “horrible.” 

“I hope we can keep racing for at least a couple of years,” he said. The city’s share of the betting revenue contributes about a half-million-dollars annually to the city’s coffers. 

Lieber said he hoped that the East Bay Regional Parks District would be able to obtain at least some of the site with the help of revenue bonds approved last year by voters in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties. 

Calls from Albany officials to Magna haven’t been returned, he said. 

California horse racing, once a highly popular public entertainment, faces severe problems, with the closing of Bay Meadows in North California and the imminent closing Hollywood Park in Southern California and its development as a $2 billion retail and housing complex. 

The race track at the California State Fairgrounds in Sacramento, the state’s last remaining venue for harness racing, may be closed soon, with the National Basketball Association backing the site for a new stadium for the Sacramento Kings. 

Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso, who was rebuffed in his efforts to build an upscale “lifestyle” mall at Golden Gate Fields in partnership with Magna, had better luck at Magna’s Santa Anita track. 

The Los Angeles Times and racing publications have reported that Caruso is seeking to buy Santa Anita outright. 

If all goes as scheduled, the Albany track will be under new ownership when the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce holds its “Day at the Races” there April 22. 

The $32 a ticket event includes a prime rib buffet and a 1:45 p.m. Berkeley Chamber Race.


Survey: Drug and Alcohol Use Among Berkeley Teens Is Double National Average

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:09:00 PM

Drug and alcohol use among Berkeley public school students is twice the national average, according to a survey cited by Berkeley Unified School District officials at a recent Berkeley Board of Education meeting. 

Sponsored by the California Department of Education, the California Healthy Kids Survey is given every two years to fifth, seventh, ninth and 11th graders to reduce risky behaviors and help school districts identify areas for intervention. 

This is the first year that the survey results—which are widely used by many public agencies, including the city’s Public Health Department—were presented to the school board by district officials. 

The 45-minute survey, which focuses on substance abuse, violence and safety, fulfills the requirements of the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools Act and the No Child Left Behind Act. 

Dr. Rebecca Cheung, the district’s director of evaluation and assessment, informed the school board before the presentation that the survey was considered to be most accurate when it had a participation rate of 60 percent or more. 

Berkeley Unified only met that target in ninth grade.  

Cheung expressed the least confidence about data from the fifth-grade sampling since it showed the lowest participation rate (43 percent) compared with the seventh (48 percent), ninth (68 percent) and 11th (52 percent) grades. 

“We have striven to ensure participation since we first started administering the test [in 2002] but we still have some improvements that need to be made,” she said. 

As compared with state and national figures, twice as many Berkeley ninth (31 percent) and 11th graders (54 percent) were drunk or high on school property, according to data self-reported in the spring 2008 survey, and twice as many students in the district reported smoking marijuana in the preceding 30 days. 

The local data also showed that cigarette, drug and alcohol use among students increased from fifth to 11th grades, and there was higher consumption of alcohol, except at the fifth-grade level, than in the rest of the state and the nation . 

According to a Berkeley High School Parent, Teacher and Student Association newsletter sent out by PTSA President Mark Van Kriekan, last year’s survey results for Berkeley High were fairly consistent with those of 2006. 

One bright spot in the survey was that relatively fewer 11th- and ninth-graders—about 10 percent—said that they had smoked a cigarette in the last 30 days, something district officials said correlates with the non-smoking culture encouraged in the city. 

The survey results also show that: 

• 52 percent of 11th-graders and 39 percent of ninth-graders said they had consumed alcohol over the preceding 30 days. 

• 33 percent of 11th-graders and 21 percent of ninth-graders said they had engaged in binge drinking—five or more drinks over a few hours—in the previous 30 days. 

• 46 percent of 11th-graders and 30 percent of ninth-graders reported having used marijuana in the previous 30 days. 

• 5 percent of 11th-graders and 6 percent of ninth-graders reported carrying a gun to school over the previous 12 months. 

• 9 percent of both 11th- and ninth- graders reported that they were members of a gang. 

• 45 percent of 11th-graders and 38 percent of ninth-graders reported that they have a caring relationship with an adult at Berkeley High. 

District Superintendent Bill Huyett and a majority of the school board members expressed concern about the high use of alcohol and drugs by students. 

“The conclusions are not surprising,” said school board member John Selawsky. “We have been hearing about these things for years.” 

He added that the district needed to improve participation rates for the California Healthy Kids Survey, especially since it was administered by teachers during class hours. 

“I think we need to stress the importance of the survey,” said student board member Eve Shames, a Berkeley High senior. “Students have no idea how it’s used. They just do it for fun. If the students know how the state evaluates the data, they will take it seriously.” 

Some school board members said that the high use of alcohol and drugs among students could stem from the fact that the city is more tolerant of drug culture than other places. 

“There’s a certain agreement that drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana is OK,” said board member Shirley Issel. “This is an adult problem that adults have to grapple with. There needs to be a conscious effort on our parts to adopt an approach to deal with it. I know the City of Berkeley is eager to help us, but the high school is going to have to open up to the community and be more frank about who’s using what and when ... A fear of this survey often keeps principals from discussing things openly.” 

Huyett agreed that the survey had raised a red flag for the district, adding that it was time to create a comprehensive plan about how to tackle this issue at the schools. 

“The results might not be a surprise to many of you, but it’s a surprise to me,” said Huyett, who took over from former superintendent Michele Lawrence in February 2008. “Drug and alcohol use is off the charts. This data, I think, is quite valid, frankly. It really couldn’t be that high without acceptance, and by that I mean parental acceptance, and I don’t mean to be critical, but school and teacher acceptance. We become too accepting of this condition.” 

Huyett said that when students come to school stoned, it interferes with their learning abilities. 

“Clearly in our city and our schools we have a drug problem,” he said. “It’s a critical issue for Berkeley Unified. We need to come back with plans and presentations on what we are going to do to change the present culture on drug and alcohol use.” 

To view the California Healthy Kids Survey for Berkeley Unified and other school districts in the state, see www.wested.org. 

To download the Berkeley Unified School District’s assessment and evaluation of specific areas of the survey, see www.berkeley.k12.ca.us 

 


Berkeley Teachers Protest Layoffs; District Rescinds 49 Pink Slips

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:10:00 PM

Pink balloons, pink bow-ties, pink arm bands and even pink toilet seats marked a rally organized by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers Friday, March 13. 

The “Pink Friday” event was part of a statewide protest of teacher layoffs in response to state education budget cuts.  

One hundred and twenty-seven teachers and counselors in the Berkeley Unified School District received preliminary layoff notices last week.  

School districts were required to notify teachers of impending layoffs by March 13, prompting the California Federation of Teachers to label the day “Pink Friday” and don shades of pink in protests across the state.  

Final layoff notices will go out in mid-May.  

District Superintendent William Huyett brought a glimmer of hope to the event, however, when he delivered a piece of good news to the crowd.  

Huyett said the district would rescind 49 layoff notices this week for teachers of biology, social studies and physical education, as well as multi-credentialed teachers.  

This decision came after the Berkeley Board of Education told district officials at a school board meeting last week that the board was against raising class sizes even during the current budget crisis, Huyett said.  

“That means we will have to reduce the number of layoffs,” he said to loud applause and cheering. “We as a school district will do all we can to save jobs. We are in this position today because our legislators could not agree upon a budget in a timely manner last year [and] because decisions about public education were made behind closed doors.”  

According to event organizers, more than 400 parents, teachers, students and elected officials turned up at the rally outside the district’s headquarters at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and councilmembers Laurie Capitelli, Kriss Worthington and Jesse Arreguin.  

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, said she was outraged that the state was laying off teachers at a time when California ranks 47th nationally in per-pupil spending.  

Campbell called on the community to lobby their legislators to release the federal stimulus dollars immediately to prevent further layoffs and cuts to programs.  

Tracey Iglehart, a Berkeley Unified kindergarten teacher who received a layoff notice, quoted President Barack Obama as saying, “America’s future depends on its teachers.”  

“We are once again being asked to do more for less,” she said. “This is not 21st- century thinking and this will not improve our education system.”  

Rosemary Hannon, who teaches dance to students at Cragmont during release periods, said she was laid off from her job because she was on a temporary contract.  

Temporary teachers can be laid off without legal notifications.  

“I have no idea whether I will have a job next year,” said Hannon, who started off in Berkeley Unified as a classified employee and then went on to get teaching credentials last year. “Even if a job exists, I won’t know anything until August or October, and I will have to apply all over again for the same position.”  

Cory Potts, a temporary kindergarten teacher at Cragmont, said that the layoffs were extremely demoralizing for younger teachers just starting out.  

”We are being treated like we are dispensable and unprofessional,” said Potts. “Even though my principal has given me an excellent review of my performance at school, I am being treated like someone who was fired because of doing a poor job. This process is essentially creating a pool of temporary teachers who are losing tenure years due to no fault of their own.”  

A pink toilet seat adorned with the words “Don’t flush our schools down the drain” shared the steps of the Old City Hall with the Brass Liberation Orchestra and a group of union members who performed a “Return of the Super Teachers” skit.  

Anne Scheele, a third-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, was hired in November and has now received a layoff notice.  

“It’s because I joined in the middle of the year,” said Scheele, who came to the rally with her two young daughters, Olivia and Lucy. “I am concerned because I have to take care of my family and I am a single mother. I spent the past year and a half at school getting my credentials. I have so much energy to give—I am worried about what these cuts mean for my students.”  

 

 


AC Transit Raises Fares; More Belt-Tightening to Come

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:10:00 PM

AC Transit District, battered by the economic downturn, raised its regular bus fares by 25 cents and youth, senior and disabled fares by 15 cents last Wednesday night. The new fares go into effect July 1, when regular fares will rise from $1.75 to $2, and youth, senior and disabled fares from 85 cent to $1. 

AC Transit bowed to community concerns that it keep a campaign promise to allow its youth, senior, and disabled monthly passes to remain at their current level. 

Board members said that cuts to some AC Transit bus lines are almost certainly to be implemented sometime later this year. 

The meeting marked the first board appearance of At-Large Board Member Joel B. Young, who was selected by the board to fill out the last two years of the four-year term of former board member Rebecca Kaplan. 

In laying out the economic circumstances that made the fare increase necessary, AC Transit Chief Financial Officer Lewis Clinton Jr. said that even with the $20.4 million in federal stimulus money recently granted to the district through the Metropolitan Transit Commission, the district is currently projecting a $27.6 million operating deficit for the 2008-09 fiscal year ending June 30. That operating loss will be offset by the district’s current $35 million operating reserve, but Clinton said that district reserves will then go down to $7.4 million, leaving the district projecting running out of money sometime in the fiscal year beginning in July unless more money comes in from other sources or the district makes service and job cuts. 

In voting for the compromise fare increase proposal, Ward 1 board member Joe Wallace (Richmond, El Sobrante, San Pablo, El Cerrito, Albany, Kensington and portions of Berkeley) said that he was not in favor of increases for passes for the students, the seniors, or the disabled “because they are the ones that have to live on a monthly income, one check, and they have a lot of things to do with that one check. They’ve got a lot of medicine. They’ve got to travel. And that’s not taking into account their rate going up. I’ll never be in favor of that. That’s not why I’m sitting here. I’m sitting here to serve the public.” 

But Ward 2 board member Greg Harper (Emeryville, Piedmont, and portions of Berkeley and Oakland) said he was opposed to increasing regular fares to $2.00 as well. “Looking at other agencies that charge the fares that we’re proposing, we’re just way out of line,” Harper said. “The agencies charging $2 a ride either give $2 service, they have $2 customers who can essentially afford it, or they are suburban services that have very high costs in comparison. We’re none of those. We don’t have the service that merits a fare increase.” 

Harper added that AC Transit’s passengers were not the cause of the district’s economic problems. “We’re getting plenty of money from our passengers in terms of rides,” he said. “We’re not undercharging, and no one can ever say that we’re not charging enough money. Our fares are not our real problem.” 

Harper was the only one of the seven board members at the March 11 meeting to vote against the increase. 

While the updated fare rate is expected to raise $5.7 million a year for AC, it will not be enough to bring the district out of its financial hole. The district is projecting an operating deficit in excess of $20 million for the current fiscal year. District reserves will is looking at running out of money sometime in the fiscal year beginning in July if it does not institute service cuts or find other sources of revenue. 

The 25-cent fare raise was originally proposed by the district last year, but AC Transit officials held it off through the passage of last November’s Measure VV parcel tax increase. During the VV campaign, AC Transit officials promised voters that if they voted for VV, the district would not raise the rates for monthly passes for youth, seniors, and the disabled. 

In supporting the proposal, Board President Rocky Fernandez (Ward 4: San Leandro, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Ashland, and portions of Hayward) warned that it might not ultimately be enough. 

Board President Fernandez, not to be confused with AC Transit General Manager Rick Fernandez, said that he understood that “times are tough for people. I know that pay hasn’t gone up for the past few years. But [AC Transit is] in a really big hole.”  

General Manager Fernandez said that with state money drying up and many agencies competing over smaller and smaller pots of available money, the money from last November’s Measure VV passage “is not nearly enough to get us out of the giant hole we’re facing. I made a promise to keep the passes for the seniors, disabled and youth where they are. I’m willing to [keep that promise] now. I can’t say that I’m willing to do that in the future.”


Police Chief to Retire

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:11:00 PM

Berkeley City Manager Phil Kamlarz announced Tuesday, March 17, that Berkeley Police Department Chief Douglas Hambleton will retire from his position this summer. 

Hambleton, who was appointed chief of police in March 2005, has worked in the city for over three decades, starting out in 1975 as a trainee. 

He was hired as a patrol officer in 1976, according to a statement sent out by the city manager’s office, and has taken on different roles within the police department since then, including the Hostage Negotiations Team and the Budget Unit. 

“I regret to announce that Police Chief Douglas Hambleton will be retiring from the City of Berkeley this summer,” Kamlarz said in a message to city staff. “For the last 33 years, he has been a great asset to the community, his department, and the city organization as a whole. We will miss him. The chief has been at the city as long as I have, and it’s been a pleasure to work with him.” 

Hambleton, who has a bachelor’s in social welfare and a master’s in management, also served as assistant to the city manager for a year. 

“Chief Hambleton’s depth of experience and his long commitment to our community has been invaluable over the years,” Kamlarz said. “We thank him for all he’s done for the residents of Berkeley, and we look forward to a healthy community process as part of the selection of the future leadership of the department.” 

Kamlarz said in the statement that the city was determined to find a good replacement for Hambleton. 

“The position of chief of police is extremely important, and we will be working hard to make the next selection of chief, hopefully by mid-summer,” he said. “Similar to the search that was conducted when Chief Hambleton was hired, the community, the Police Review Commission and the affected unions will be involved in the selection process. I believe that this process served us well and am confident that another community-based process will help us find a good fit to lead the department in the coming years.” 


Berkeley Liberation Radio Faces Another FCC Action

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:11:00 PM

Berkeley Liberation Radio’s never-ending war with the Federal Communications Commission is heating up again. 

The underground station, which operates with benefit of an FCC license, has been targeted with yet another enforcement letter from the agency’s western regional office in Pleasanton. 

“We found it on the door Thursday (March 12),” said Soul, a veteran activist and one of the station’s three mainstays. 

The notice, left by FCC Agent Glen Phillips, notified the station that they were operating illegally at 104.1 FM and must respond within 10 days or face up to a year in prison and fines of as much as $100,000. 

“We’re responding right now,” said Soul. “We’re on the air.” 

The station broadcasts ‘round-the-clock from a small private studio space on Peralta Street in West Oakland. 

The station has witnessed several FCC raids in the new century, including a Dec. 11, 2002, invasion by more than a dozen armed federal marshals, supported by an Oakland police officer. 

During that raid, Soul told the Daily Planet in 2005, “They shoved a gun into the face of a student who was visiting at the time.” 

The station was back on the air 16 days later, with its transmitter sending out the station’s unique blend of programs until a second action in June 2005, when BLR was forced to abandon its studio on 55th Street. 

“We came back, then too,” said Soul. “And now we’re more together than at any other time in our history.” 

While the FCC notice served on the station in 2005 claimed BLR’s transmissions were interfering with radio signals at Oakland International Airport, the latest notice made no such claim. 

“They didn’t claim we were interfering with anyone else’s signals, and we’ve been getting along peacefully with out neighbors without any complaints,” she said. 

The station first went on the air in the mid-1980s, she said. “We say we have the right of freedom of speech for the voiceless. Berkeley Liberation Radio will continue to stand up because we feel it is our responsibility to take the keys away from the very people who are driving us to Armageddon.” 

BLR was also a target in another federally coordinated raid last year, when a team of UC Berkeley Police, Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputies and the FBI raided the Long Haul Infoshop at 3124 Shattuck Ave. in South Berkeley under the aegis of the federal Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force. 

While the search warrant specified that the officers were seeking the source of e-mail threats to UC Berkeley animal researchers allegedly sent from the Info-shop’s computers, they also seized the radio station’s hard drive—which was eventually returned along with other computers and storage devices after lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electric Frontier Foundation offered their support. 

“Berkeley Liberation Radio is alive and well,” said Soul, in signing off her phone conversation with a reporter. “We will not run like rats.” 


Chronicle Union Accepts Longer Hours, Layoffs

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:12:00 PM

San Francisco Chronicle workers voted Friday to cut their benefits and extend their working hours so that fewer of their colleagues would lose their jobs. 

The agreement followed the Hearst Corporation’s announcement that without worker concessions, the company would sell or close San Francisco’s last metropolitan daily. 

Members of the Media Workers Guild had good reason to fear Hearst’s closure threat, given the company’s announcement that it is shutting down the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, leaving Seattle a one-newspaper town. 

San Francisco guild members voted 333 to 33 in favor of the company offer, according to a statement issued by the union after the vote. 

According to the union, “layoffs and buyouts are expected to claim at least 150 Guild jobs in the weeks ahead.” 

That figure means a further 26 percent reduction in an already severely diminished staff. The Teamsters, the company’s other major union with 420 employees, will vote on a similar pact in the near future. 

Among the concessions from the union were a 2.5-hour increase in the work week to 40 hours, elimination of seniority rights, reductions in vacation and leave time and acceptance of the company’s ability to outsource jobs previously covered by the union. 

In Seattle, Hearst’s Post-Intelligencer will remain a journalism “brand,” though in vastly diminished form on a website the paper reported will employ a total staff of about 40, equally divided between advertising and news. The final edition rolled off the presses Tuesday, March 17. 

Another paper headed for the chopping block won a reprieve this week when the Gannet Co. announced it was granting the Tucson Citizen a day-to-day reprieve while it negotiated with prospective buyers. 

And another Southern California newspaper found a buyer Wednesday, when the famly-owned San Diego Union-Tribune announced its own acquisition by Platinum Equity, a private Beverly Hills firm.  

Those are the two brightest spots in a month that’s otherwise been thoroughly gloomy in halls of the Fourth Estate. 

Paper Cuts, a webslog that tracks newspaper layoffs, had reported on March 2 that 3,166 newspaper folk had been laid off in the year’s first two months. By Wednesday, March 18, the figure had reached 5,626. At that pace, 2009 is certain to soar ahead of the 15,684 jobs lost last year (http://graphicdesignr.net/papercuts/).


Downtown Plan Deliberations Near Completion, Still Heated

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 07:12:00 PM

Berkeley planning commissioners are nearing the end of their rewrite of the Downtown Area Plan (DAP), meeting even as this paper goes to press. 

Their version will go to the City Council along with the separate version prepared by the citizen committee initially charged with creating the new plan that will shape the city center in the next two decades. 

The two drafts are rife with conflicts, with the development-friendly Planning Commission repeatedly revising key sections to make it easier and more profitable to build taller, more massive projects over a wider area of the city’s core. 

Last week’s meeting and this week’s focused on the final tweaks to the most controversial chapter, “Land Use,” and on approving a map that will define the boundaries for high-rises. 

Commissioners eager to expand the area where the tallest permissible structures could be built—the four 180-foot high-rises included in the plan’s draft environmental impact report and a pair of 225-foot hotels—have hit stumbling blocks. During earlier sessions some commissioners also wanted to increase the number of high-rises allowed, but both changes could require a new EIR study to be done. The May 26 deadline for adopting the plan, which was spelled out in the city’s settlement agreement of its lawsuit against UC Berkeley, makes that impossible in the time remaining. 

The agreement was forged as a condition of the city’s dropping the lawsuit, which challenged the university’s plans to add 850,000 square feet of new construction outside the campus boundaries in downtown Berkeley. 

If the City Council fails to meet the deadline, the university could begin cutting back on payments to compensate the city for the impacts of its building on city infrastructure. 

Matt Taecker, the planner hired with the help of university settlement funds to work on the new DAP, told commissioners, “staff proposes adding study areas for a future EIR” that would focus on pushing the high-rise zone north of University Avenue—something commissioners were scheduled to discuss at press time. 

Members of Livable Berkeley, a development advocacy group that includes the author of the university’s EIR for its downtown growth plans, have appeared regularly at the commission to call for taller, more expansive development. 

During last week’s meeting, two of the group’s members, retired UCB development executive Dorothy Walker and Sacha Constantine, called for broadening the study areas.  

Constantine, who identified himself as “an energy expert, if you want to call me that,” said “I really hope we can take advantage of this opportunity.” 

Walker called on commissioners to expand the study area to be “as broad as possible,” so that 180-foot high-rises would be allowed north of University Avenue. 

She also called for the commission to permit the high-rises to be built on the city’s Berkeley Way parking lot, which would plant point towers immediately adjacent to a residential neighborhood—something Taecker said requires an EIR, in part because of the shadows the building would cast on homes. 

Deborah Badhia, executive director of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said that if development occurs on the lot, the building should maintain the same number of public parking spaces to provide for the needs of downtown businesses. 

Barry Luboviski, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Alameda County Building and Trades Council, also added his voice in favor of more development, but asked the commission to include language in the plan calling for builders to pay workers prevailing wages, including health and pension benefits. He also called for a section that would urge contractors to hire young workers from state-approved apprenticeship programs. 

While Walker also called on the commission to allow maximum possible development at the rear of the Golden Bear building at 1995 University Ave.—purchased last month by the university—neighbor Steve Wollmer warned of possible litigation if it does. 

The Golden Bear, which was not included in the university’s previously published expansion plans, directly confronts a residential neighborhood, and building a tall structure above its rear parking lot could provoke litigation as a violation of the city’s voter-passed Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance, commissioner Patti Dacey warned. 

Nothing can violate the ordinance, she said, without another voter initiative. 

When it came time for commissioners to conduct their own discussions, chair David Stoloff said he would allow 15 minutes for discussion of boundaries and height limits, “followed by a couple of straw votes.” 

Gene Poschman and Patti Dacey, two of the three non-development-sector members on the commission, immediately objected, saying they might need more time for discussions, but Stoloff said he would call for votes as planned. 

“I am not going to sit through a year of him trying to dictate what we do,” said Dacey. 

Poschman said commissioners hadn’t even discussed proposed minimum height limits on new projects in the downtown’s central core, one of three main zoning areas in the new plan. 

The board’s resident policy and wording expert, Poschman said he also objected to a staff-proposed section that would mandate that the plan’s two hotel towers would each have to offer a minimum of 200 rooms. 

They also questioned the staff proposal to require the buildings to occupy a lot of at least 13,000-square-feet. 

Dacey, a critic of expanding the number and area of high-rises, has consistently said that the only reason city officials gave for expanding the plan’s boundaries from the previous plan’s area was to provide buffer zones for the taller, denser development at the core. 

She told her colleagues last week that she was also worried that adding height closer to the residential neighborhoods would impact the ability of residents to generate power through solar panels. 

Planning and Development Director Dan Marks said that taller development would more than offset any greenhouse gas emission increases from loss of solar power. 

While chair David Stoloff insisted on limiting discussion on boundary and height issues to 15 minutes, even usual allies wanted more time. 

In the end, commissioners doubled the allotted time with their discussion before narrowly voting to extend the limits for taller builders to Oxford/Fulton Street along most of the plan’s eastern boundaries, and to extend the 85-foot mixed-use building height maximum further south along Shattuck Avenue. 

Staff rebuffed a proposal to give planning commission a direct say in whether or not a new downtown historic district is created, noting that the function is given to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. 

“I don’t want a historic district to prevent a lot of growith,” said commissioner and architect Jim Novosel. 

A voice from the audience offered an enthusiastic “Great!” It was Mark Rhoades, once the city’s land user planning manager and now a developer himself. 

It was commissioner Victoria Eisner, a private sector transportation planner, who said she hoped her commission could have a joint role in any downtown historic district designation, only to have Marks declare that the city’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance reserves that right to the landmarks commission. 

Eisner said design review for new buildings might be a joint decision, and Marks said staff might come up with language about reconsidering the landmarks ordinance. 

“Oh, good,” declared an acerbic Dacey. “We can go through the last six years of controversy all over.” 

A former landmarks commissioner herself, like Novosel and James Samuels, Dacey was referring to the council-directed revision of the landmarks ordinance, which voters eventually blocked in a referendum last year. 

 

 

 

 

 


Bay Trail Backers Sue State, Chevron Over Richmond Wharf

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:25:00 PM

Bay Trail advocates have sued the State Lands Commission (SLC) and Chevron U.S.A., challenging the agency’s decision to renew the lease for Richmond’s Long Wharf Terminal. 

The action, filed in Alameda County Superior Court March 5, seeks to reverse the commission’s Jan. 29 vote to give the oil company a 30-year renewal on its lease for the pier that serves as the entry point for all the oil processed at Chevron’s vast Richmond refinery complex.  

The terminal is central to the operation of the refinery, Richmond’s largest and most controversial industry. 

Oakland attorney Stephan Volker filed the action on behalf of the Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC), Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) and Daniel P. Dollestedt. 

Both CESP and TRAC have been struggling with the oil giant to extend the Bay Trail through the refinery’s property, and Dollestedt is a paraplegic who sustained his injuries on Sept. 24, 2006, while bicycling on a section of the shoulder of Interstate 580 which serves as a section of the trail. 

The action, filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), seeks to invalidate the environmental impact report (EIR) used to justify the lease renewal and asks for a ruling declaring that the commission’s certification of the EIR and approval of the lease were invalid. 

The suit also seeks reimbursement for attorney fees and litigation costs. 

“TRAC has existed for 10 years, all of it trying to complete the Bay Trail through Richmond,” said Bruce Beyaert, the organization’s chair. 

“We’ve never considered litigation before, because we prefer to accomplish our goals through friendly persuasion, working with local governments and private enterprise. It was with very great reluctance that we finally decided to sue.” 

 

Built in 1902 

The Long Wharf Terminal was built in 1902 by Pacific Coast Oil, extending 3,440 feet parallel to the shoreline and connected to the land by a 4,200-foot-long causeway. The massive project was built above and into publicly owned submerged, tidal and shoreline land. 

Standard Oil Company of California bought the wharf and causeway along with the refinery in 1905, with the company becoming Chevron with the breakup of the parent company in 1984. 

The Long Wharf complex operated without a lease from the state until 1947, when the oil company signed a 50-year agreement a year after the original wooden structure was replaced with a concrete construction. 

According to plaintiffs, the SLC, which negotiates contracts for all private uses of public lands, evaded the requirements of CEQA for 12 years after the original lease expired by delaying the start of work on the EIR until 1998 and delaying certification until Jan. 29 of a so-called “finalizing addendum” in a meeting held at the Hotel Mar Monte in Santa Barbara. 

The lease approved by the commission requires the oil company to pay $870,000 a year, plus $5.8 million to cover the 12 years when Chevron operated the pier without an agreement. In addition, the lease was backdated to a start date of July 1, 2006. 

In a subsequent action Feb. 4, the agency approved certification of the entire EIR, according to the complaint. 

The three-member commission is chaired by Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, with the other two positions held by State Controller John Chiang and Director of Finance Michael C. Genest. Garamendi and Chiang both attended the Jan. 29 meeting, while Genest was represented by Tom Sheehy. 

The lawsuit contends the commission’s actions violated the Public Trust Doctrine by either failing to renew the lease or to seek “relevant and adequate mitigation of the resulting harm,” including impacts to resources, navigation and recreational uses. 

 

Incomplete? 

The second cause of action cites a series of the EIR’s alleged violations of CEQA, including a failure to adequately describe the wharf project by omission of the refinery itself from the description. 

The suit also contends that rather than describing the lease as the continuation of an existing project—the legal term for the subject of an EIR—the document should have treated the agreement as an entirely new project, given that there was no lease in place after the existing agreement had expired in 1997. 

The suit also charges that the EIR failed to consider the “numerous inconsistencies between the Project and local and regional plans,” citing five plans that called for extension of “a safe new segment of the Bay Trail around the Long Wharf and its associated facilities.” 

Other allegations include failure to provide adequate alternatives and mitigation measures, failure to consult with the California Coastal Conservancy, “a responsible agency, as required by CEQA,” failure to adequately respond to public comments and failure to adequately address cumulative impacts of the renewal. 

“We think they got some bad legal advice,” said Beyaert. 

Volker said completion of the Bay Trail was critical for the safety of the recreational users. 

Dollestedt and a friend, Dan Weinstein, were biking the Bay Trail to Point Richmond along the dangerous segment which uses the freeway shoulder. Since Chevron owns the land on either side of the freeway and has refused to allow an extension of the trail through the area, claiming refinery security overrides public safety. 

Weinstein was fatally injured and Dollestedt critically injured when a car swerved out of control and struck the two cyclists as they were cycling along the freeway shoulder. 

“The very least Chevron could do is provide for a trail that would prevent similar accidents in the future,” Volker said.  

The attorney said the commissioners had indicated they favored an agreement to allow a trail extension during an earlier session last year, but had reversed course by the time of the January meeting. 

Asked for a comment on the litigation, Chevron spokesperson Brent Tippen said, “Chevron believes the State Lands Commission fully and properly considered Chevron’s request for renewal of the lease and that its decision to approve the issuance of the lease was correct. Period.”


Family Saved From Monoxide Poisoning

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:22:00 PM

Firefighters saved seven members of a West Berkeley family from a Friday the 13th early morning encounter with a silent, deadly killer—carbon monoxide. 

A 911 call from a resident of a home in the 1500 block of Sixth Street reported that one member of the household had fainted and two others were “feeling dizzy.” 

But when firefighters arrived, they found a more alarming scene, with four adults “in extremis,” a fifth unconscious and suffering from head injuries, and a toddler and an infant suffering as well. 

“We evacuated the residence after we realized they were all suffering from the same complaints, said Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong. 

The rescue workers quickly discovered that the family members were all suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, with levels of the odorless gas inside the home nearly three times those at which emergency workers are required to don breathing gear, he said. 

All the poisoning victims were given oxygen, and the unconscious victim, who had struck his head as he fell to the floor, was rushed to the Highland Hospital emergency room. 

Because of the multitude of victims, Berkeley called on other nearby departments to send ambulances to help in transporting the remaining six victims to other hospitals. 

Three other victims showing the worst symptoms were rushed to Castro Valley’s Eden Hospital for treatment in that facility’s hyperbaric chamber, where patients are enclosed in a metal cylinder and administered oxygen under pressure to drive out the carbon monoxide. 

The three others were dispatched to the Alta Bates Summit Medical center emergency room. 

All are expected to recover, said Deputy Chief Dong. 

“We determined that the cause of the poisoning was a charcoal barbecue which had been used earlier in the evening and kept too close to an open window, allowing the carbon monoxide to get into the home,” he said. 

Friday morning’s incident was the city’s second reported carbon monoxide emergency this year, with both occurring on Friday the 13th. 

The earlier incident happened last month in an apartment building in the 2700 block of Durant Avenue. Alerted by the alarm of a carbon monoxide detector, a resident called 911 and firefighters arrived before anyone was affected severely enough to require hospitalization. 

There was no detector in the residence in the latest, more serious incident. 

“Every residence should have one,” said the deputy chief. “They’re available at any hardware store for between $25 and $50.”


BART Incident Draws Heavy Police Response

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:22:00 PM
A Berkeley police officer stands with weapon drawn at the Downtown Berkeley BART station entrance on the west side of Shattuck Avenue.
Riya Bhattacharjee
A Berkeley police officer stands with weapon drawn at the Downtown Berkeley BART station entrance on the west side of Shattuck Avenue.

Berkeley police officers responded with guns drawn to a late-night incident at the downtown Berkeley BART station Wednesday, March 11, cordoning off sections of the station for approximately 30 minutes.  

At least 14 Berkeley police cars pulled up outside the downtown BART station shortly before 11 p.m. Officers with weapons drawn positioned themselves outside the entrances on either side of Shattuck Avenue and stayed on the scene until 11:15 p.m.  

Lt. Gary Cagaanan of the BART police said the train operator reported “some sort of disturbance with a possible gun involved” to the BART control center at 10:51 p.m.  

Although Berkeley police showed up at the scene, BART police investigated the incident, he said.  

According to a report by BART police, three men and one woman wearing black clothes “made contact with the victim” in an incident that resulted in blood on the floor of the car.  

Lt. Cagaanan described the incident as an attempt to rob the victim of his cellphone.  

The victim refused medical treatment. Police were not able to find a weapon at the scene.  

Two suspects were detained on the platform but were released after the victim refused to give a statement or identify the suspects.  

Two young women, who requested the Planet withhold their names for fear of repercussions, told the Planet what they saw inside the BART train.  

The two women said they boarded a Richmond-bound train at the Montgomery Street station in San Francisco. After the train had crossed the bay and passed the Ashby station on the way to the downtown Berkeley station, the man sitting next to them checked his cellphone and said, “Oh, fuck.”  

Seconds later, the women said, four men entered the car from the rear of the train and brutally beat the man, drawing blood.  

Passengers in the car panicked and ran to the back of the train. When the train arrived at the downtown station, the two women disembarked to find police armed and waiting. The victim and his assailants were still on the train.  


Three Home Invasion Suspects Arrested, Five Remain at Large

Bay City News
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:18:00 PM

Berkeley police have arrested three suspects in connection with a brutal home invasion robbery two weeks ago but five suspects remain at large. 

Police spokesman Andrew Frankel said the suspects are believed to be responsible for the incident in the 600 block of Santa Barbara Road Feb. 24 in which two victims were bound, pistol-whipped and carved on with kitchen knives. 

The victims were taken to a local hospital where they were treated and released, he said. 

Berkeley detectives served search warrants at four locations in San Pablo and Richmond early Wednesday morning, Frankel said. 

Information gathered during the warrants led to the execution of a fifth search warrant in Fairfield about 5 p.m. Wednesday that was conducted by that city’s SWAT team, according to Frankel. 

Frankel said a break in the case occurred when a patrol sergeant from the El Cerrito Police Department stopped a car driven by one of the suspects. 

The sergeant recognized the car and driver from a flier El Cerrito police received from Berkeley police last week, Frankel said. 

The flier included photos of the suspects using stolen credit cards and a description of their vehicle. 

The people who have been arrested are Buk Khansuwong, a 46-year-old Richmond man, Tien Vo, a 29-year-old San Pablo woman, and a 16-year-old boy from Richmond. 

Frankel said one suspect was arrested Monday and two suspects were arrested Wednesday. 

Five suspects are still at large: Vern Town Saelee, 21, of Fairfield, Vern Sio Saelee, 18, of Fairfield, Anthony Ray Douglas, 18, of Richmond, Chiew Chian Saeturn of Fairfield, and a 16-year-old juvenile from Richmond. 

Frankel said the suspects still at large should be considered “armed and highly dangerous.” 

He declined to comment about why the suspects targeted the victims in the incident. 

Bay Area Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to their arrest. 

Frankel said people who know the whereabouts of the suspects should call Berkeley’s robbery detail at 981-5742. 

People who want to remain anonymous may call Bay Area Crime Stoppers at  

(800) 222-TIPS.


Police Blotter

By Ali Winston
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:23:00 PM

Second home invasion 

On Monday evening, Berkeley police responded to a home invasion on the 1900 block of Berkeley Way, between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Bonita Avenue.  

Around 8:30 a.m., two men wearing ski masks and black hats burst into the apartment. One of them, who was armed with a hand gun, pointed it at the two occupants and ordered them to the floor. The suspects made away with $9 in cash and a small amount of personal property.  

One suspect is described as a young white or Latino man, standing about 5 feet 6 inches, weighing 150 pounds, and wearing a ski mask. He was armed with a revolver.  

His accomplice was a young white or Latino man, standing about 5 feet 9 inches, weighing 200 pounds and wearing a black trenchcoat.  

The attack is unrelated to an earlier home invasion that took place on Feb. 24. In that instance, seven men and one women entered a home on the 600 block of Santa Barbara road, tortured a mother and her son, and fled with stolen property. Three suspects in the attack were arrested last week. Five more are still at large. 

 

Burglary interrupted 

A 30-year-old resident of Eola Street chased off two young women trying to break into her garage studio last Wednesday. Around 1:20 p.m., the woman returned home and found an 18-year-old girl and a 16-year-old girl in the process of burglarizing her garage. The two girls fled and the 30-year-old gave chase. When she grabbed hold of one of the would-be-burglars, the other girl threatened her with a knife. The woman let go, and the two girls fled. No property was taken. 

 

Bike stolen, man attacked, thief arrested 

A 44-year-old man was attacked and robbed of his bicycle on Thursday evening, only for his assailant to be arrested a short time later. Around 8 p.m., the man was approached by Dwayne Evans, 25, on the 1800 block of University Avenue. Evans, an Oakland resident, punched the 44-year-old twice in the face, took his bicycle, and rode off. The victim called police, who arrested Evans at Addison Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  

 

Attempted armed robbery 

On Sunday evening, Berkeley police arrested two young men involved in a suspicious armed robbery at California and Harmon streets. Martin Gamma, 23, and Christian Bonilla, 24, were arrested outside the home of a 21-year-old man, who accused Gamma and Bonilla of trying to rob him at gunpoint outside his home minutes earlier.  

When officers arrived on the scene, the two assailants were still outside the 21-year-old’s house. According to Officer Andrew Frankel, one suspect was taken into custody on the sidewalk, while his accomplice was detained in the side yard.  

A police investigation is ongoing.


Fire Department Log

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:24:00 PM

Rug burn 

Berkeley firefighters responded to an emergency call in the 3200 block of Roosevelt Avenue, only to discover that a resident had done more damage to himself than the fire had to his home. 

Deputy Fire Chief Gil Dong said the 11:41 a.m. call March 10 reported “people jumping out of the windows on the second floor.” 

They arrived to find one occupant sitting on the ground, nursing a leg injured in his leap from the window. 

Inside the residence they found a mess in the form of a burned piece of carpet and the residue that is left after a dry fire extinguisher is used. 

Deputy Chief Dong said the small carpet fire had caught fire because it had been left on top of a floor heater, a common source of fires in Berkeley when temperatures drop. 

The injured occupant was taken to an emergency room. 

 

Friday the 13th 

The early hours of Friday the 13th kept Berkeley’s bravest hopping. In addition to a dramatic rescue of a West Berkeley family stricken with carbon monoxide poisoning, firefighters simultaneously rescued a fallen hiker in the hills. 

“A call came in at 1:38 a.m. from the area of Dwight Way and Fernwald Road that a hiker had fallen in the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve,” said Deputy Chief Dong. 

UC Police, East Bay Regional Parks District officers and BFD all joined in the search. “Because we didn’t have an exact location, we had to search all the trails in the area,” he said. 

Rescuers eventually located the stricken man, who had fractured his leg in the fall. 

“We packaged the patient up in a Stokes Basket and carried him down to Claremont Avenue,” where an ambulance was waiting to take him to an emergency room.


Opinion

Editorials

An Open Letter to Our Advertisers and Readers

Thursday March 19, 2009 - 06:06:00 PM

In light of recent threats by a Mr. Jim Sinkinson to Daily Planet advertisers, we feel we should clarify the policies of the paper, its overall mission, and the nature of this campaign of intimidation. 

The Daily Planet is first and foremost a city government watchdog. Our three staff reporters cover city government, its meetings and policies. The Planet’s second mission is to provide a public forum for the wide-ranging views of its readers. Berkeley is a vibrant city and its citizens are not short of opinions. 

Consequently, it is only fitting that the community paper for the city that gave rise to the Free Speech Movement should have a lively and cacophonous opinion section. We run more letters and op-eds than most papers. Our policy is to run every signed, coherent letter from locals, whether those letters address local, national or international topics. There are exceptions of course: We do not publish obscene letters, we try not to publish letters that are part of organized letter-writing campaigns, nor can we publish each writer’s every submission. 

The volume and focus of letters we receive fluctuate according to the news. When we receive more letters, we publish more letters, adding more pages to the paper or publishing additional letters on our website. Commentary submissions are another story. Due to their length, we cannot publish all of them. We give priority to local writers writing on local topics, but also publish local writers on national and international topics. Only occasionally do we print letters and op-eds from writers beyond the East Bay. In the end, we publish perhaps 75 percent of our commentary submissions and about 90 percent of the letters we receive. 

The most controversial topic is by far the Israel-Palestine conflict. The vast majority of our submissions on the topic include some criticism of Israel. This leads some, like Mr. Sinkinson—who has been pressuring our advertisers to withdraw their support—to accuse the paper of anti-Semitism. This is an all-too-common technique by Israel’s more conservative partisans to stifle debate on the topic and to marginalize those who express even the mildest criticism of Israel. The Daily Planet is hardly alone in this regard. Newspapers large and small have been subject to these attacks. The Coastal Post, a small monthly newspaper in West Marin County, nearly closed its doors late last year as a result of these threats. Even Jimmy Carter, a man whose primary legacy as president was his tireless attempt to establish peace in the Middle East, earning him the respect of both Israelis and the Palestinians—not to mention the Nobel Peace Prize—has not been immune. Though many could find much to disagree with in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter made clear his belief in the validity of the Jewish state yet also criticized Israel for its role in prolonging the conflict and for its treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. For this he was branded an anti-Semite and even accused of having Nazi sympathies. 

Replace the name of the country involved and the absurdity becomes even more apparent. Is criticism of the United States anti-American? Was criticism of the Bush administration anti-Christian? The tactics of Jim Sinkinson and his partners (tactics that have much in common with McCarthyism and with neo-conservative attempts to brand dissidents as un-American) are attempts to marginalize and demonize valid opinions—opinions that circulate freely within Israel itself, where that nation’s policies enjoy anything but unanimous support. These tactics stem from the most extreme right-wing elements of Israel’s broad political spectrum. 

These attacks also grossly distort long-established newspaper traditions. The opinion section represents the opinions of readers, not of the staff or management of the paper. Newspapers that seek to establish a publication’s official opinion do so with unsigned editorials. The Daily Planet does not ordinarily publish unsigned editorials. Executive Editor Becky O’Malley signs her weekly editorials; they represent her opinion and hers alone. Only on a handful of occasions has she delved into the topic of the Middle East. 

This editorial is the first time all editors and the publisher are joining together to speak for the whole paper with one voice. 

The Planet has also published criticism of Israel in columns and in editorial cartoons. Again, these are signed opinion pieces and do not necessarily reflect the views of the paper. Conn Hallinan, a former journalism lecturer who attends synagogue with his Jewish wife and kids, writes a bi-monthly column on international issues, and his column often examines the Middle East. The paper has also published cartoons by Justin DeFreitas on the topic—only a dozen or so in six years, fewer than half of which criticized Israel or U.S. policies regarding Israel and Palestine. An honest appraisal of his body of work would show as many cartoons critical of Hamas, Fatah and the PLO as of Israel, and more that simply comment on the endless tragedy of it all.  

Needless to say, Mr. Sinkinson and his partners are selective in what they choose to highlight, paying no attention to the countless articles we have run on other Jewish topics, from news stories about anti-Semitic graffiti on the UC Berkeley campus to reviews of Jewish film and music festivals. The Daily Planet has published the work of many Jewish writers—staff, freelancers and contributors—with wide-ranging views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

The fact is that we receive almost no submissions that make a positive, proactive case for Israel. The only letters we receive from Israel supporters are in reaction to critics—letters that accuse those critics of bias and anti-Semitism. And we have printed many of these accusations over the years. In fact, the very people who accuse the paper of not representing their views have been given plenty of space in these pages to make their claims. But apparently it’s not enough. Rather than take advantage of the forum to present civil, reasoned arguments in defense of Israel’s policies, they have instead wielded accusations and threatened advertisers. 

Mr. Sinkinson claims to speak on behalf of Berkeley’s Jewish population. This is a false claim. Every time we print a letter accusing critics of Israel of anti-Semitism, we get a sizable backlash, with letters, phone calls and statements of support from Jews and gentiles alike who are disgusted with such shamelessly cynical tactics. 

The reality is that Mr. Sinkinson speaks for, as best we can tell, three or four locally based extremists who are eager to shut down the debate and the paper. His letter to our advertisers references a website that claims to document the paper’s anti-Semitism. This website is run by local businessman John Gertz, who makes his living by licensing the Zorro trademark. Mr. Gertz has used these pages on many occasions to accuse others of anti-Semitism. When readers, after four or five years worth of such accusations from Mr. Gertz, called him on it, he threatened to sue the paper for libel, though he later backed off after consulting his attorney. Informed that we would no longer publish him under the circumstances, Mr. Gertz launched a website of his own which Mr. Sinkinson is now using in his effort to see that the paper closes.  

When we received the commentary from our advertiser, Mary Lou Van Deventer, which documented what she had been able to discover about Mr. Sinkinson after receiving his threatening letter, we did a little research on our own. We discovered that he is the director of F.L.A.M.E. (Facts and Logic About the Middle East), a notorious organization with offices in West Oakland which speaks for the ultra-right-wing of Israeli politics. On Tuesday he signed a letter on the group’s website which claims full credit for the withdrawal of Charles Freeman, President Obama’s choice for heading the National Intelligence Council. The headline was “Efforts by FLAME and others succeed in rousting Charles Freeman—but now he condemns the ‘pro-Israel lobby’ for undue influence.” 

We have no problem with critics expressing their views of the Planet (or of the president’s appointments), either in our pages or on their own websites. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “the remedy … is more speech, not enforced silence.” But this practice of making false and potentially libelous allegations, of accusing writers, readers and advertisers of the worst kind of prejudice, and of claiming to speak for the greater Jewish population of Berkeley, is dishonest, disingenuous and destructive. 

It is important to point out that although we have heard from several advertisers over the years that they have been subjected to this kind of intimidation, not one has ever reported any consequences. But if that were to happen, you can be sure the Daily Planet would make it known and would do everything it could to rally the community in defense. 

An ad in the Daily Planet merely demonstrates two things: the advertiser’s interest in getting their business before the eyes of readers, and their support for the concept and principles of free speech. We thank the numerous advertisers who have brought to our attention the ongoing effort of a few misguided people to suppress it. 

 

—The Editors and the Publisher 

 


Cartoons

The Dying Daily

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday March 19, 2009 - 03:00:00 PM


The School Cycle

By Justin DeFreitas
Thursday March 19, 2009 - 02:59:00 PM


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:03:00 PM

THE BERKELEY BRAWL 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The rudeness of Berkeley Bowl “aisle hogs,” mentioned by Saul Crypps in his letter, is caused in part by the overly wide carts. The options for Bowl shoppers are either these dangerously huge Hummers or wee hand-held baskets that quickly become overloaded. Either can cause strain or injuries. 

Before the new Bowl opens in West Berkeley on May 15, the owners should invest in medium-sized, narrower carts for use in both stores by “goldilocks shoppers” who buy not too much and not too little at one time. Trader Joe’s carts are the right size and easy to steer. If you agree, please tell the Bowl. 

As for the congestion outside, local customers should be encouraged to “bike to shop” by having bike maps made available at check-out counters of all groceries and holding parking-lot events when bike stores can sell shopping baskets, racks, and panniers and install them on the spot. 

Ninth Street bike lanes lead directly to the new Berkeley Bowl. All my old clunker needs is a back wheel rack to turn it into a shopper bike. Please join me by biking to the new Bowl. Parents at the Ecole Bilingue and Potter Creek residents will be grateful for less car traffic through their neighborhood. 

The “bike to shop” initiative could be a profitable joint enterprise for local groceries, bike stores, and cyclists to undertake. 

Toni Mester 

 

• 

POLICE LOG 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

So, where is the information on the police log about what happened on Santa Barbara on Feb 24, why is it that it is only appearing in the Planet? What good is a police log if they hide the truth? How are we to know what goes on? 

Karen Bianchini 

 

• 

DOWNTOWN PLAN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The draft environmental impact report for our Downtown Area Plan had comments due March 13! But the community copy of this plan has not been available in the Public Library where it is supposed to be, since the Planning Commission delivered it weeks ago! “Someone must have taken it,” I was told. 

These documents are supposed to be kept at the Main Library reserve desk. To see them you need to give your ID to the librarian, and read the draft in the library. 

The weekend before comments were due, the library still had no copy available for the public. So I called the city to insist one be placed in the Main Library reserve, and that the comment deadline be extended. 

I was told they would not likely extend the deadline because many people had received the information already—the city had mailed copies to many organizations. Sure, they mailed free copies to UCB and developer organizations, but skipped community organizations like Berkeleyans for a Livable University Environment (BLUE) which is on their list, and neighborhood organizations like Council of Neighborhood Organizations (CNA). 

I understand that a copy is now available at the Main Library for the citizens of Berkeley, but you would have had only a day to read and comment on the two-inch thick document because the deadline was March 13. 

So Planning Commission needs to extend the deadline for community comments on this draft EIR for the Downtown Area Plan. 

Merrilie Mitchell 

 

• 

SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

First, the City of Berkeley prepared and adopted the 1990 Downtown Area Plan. 

Second, there is a University of California/City of Berkeley Settlement Agreement to the 2020 Long Range Development Plan litigation (May 25, 2005) that grants a veto to the University of California over the City of Berkeley’s Planning authority, which comes under the City of Berkeley’s police powers.  

Third, the university emphasizes their veto power in three different places in the Settlement Agreement: 

1. Section I, subsection A, paragraph 5, “The DAP EIR will not supersede the 2020 LRDP EIR, but rather augment it.” 

2. Section I, subsection B, paragraph 6, “Joint review of DAP and EIR: Because the DAP is a joint Plan, there shall be no release of draft or final DAP or EIR without the concurrence of both parties.” 

3. Section I, subsection B, paragraph 7, “UC Berkeley reserves the right to determine if the DAP or EIR meets the Regent’s needs.” 

Therefore, by approving the Settlement Agreement, the city impermissibly restricted its future land use regulatory discretion and compromised its independent environmental review. The university expansion allowed by LRDP would impose a significant and inadequately mitigated environmental burden on both the City of Berkeley and Berkeley taxpayers. 

Carl Friberg 

 

• 

OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

One thing that’s clear about the economic meltdown is that people were taking unacceptable risks with their own money and with other people’s money. People and companies took gambles based on “irrational exuberance” because the rewards—a bigger house or a whopping profit to be made—influenced them so much that they forgot to look at the risk. 

When your local city government puts together the annual budget, the council chambers are filled with people advocating for the rewards of funding services. Whether it’s smoother streets or more police, faster counter service or spiffier parks, people feel strongly about the importance of programs. In times of budget cuts, resident enthusiasts for each specific program plead with the city council “don’t cut my service—cut something else.” Council and management respond by trying to “share the pain” with across the board cuts, or early retirements and employee furloughs. 

So far, I’ve never seen a local resident step up at a council meeting and ask “please, please don’t cut the support departments; don’t cut the oversight.” All too often, oversight functions such as quality assurance, inspections, performance evaluation, and training are seen as “fat” rather than an essential part of service delivery. And even though the work doesn’t stop for the folks who send out the bills, write the paychecks and safeguard the assets, the resources to do the work are reduced.  

Our California cities and counties are going through tough times, and Bay Area cities are no exception. Local lawmakers and residents fully expect that the city budget documents will disclose how planned budget cuts will impact direct services. What they don’t see is how it impacts our long term operations and, especially, our fiscal health. 

I think it’s time to raise the bar about budget disclosures. When budget cuts are proposed, we need to start examining the risk of each one. If fewer resources are needed because someone has found a way to build a better mousetrap more efficiently, that’s great. But let’s make sure we’re not creating new inefficiencies or putting our assets at risk with our budget decisions. Let’s make sure we consider the long term impact of each decision. And let’s start making that analysis public. 

Questions? Comments? Ideas audit plan? Please contact me at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/auditor , by phone, or via e-mail at Auditor@CityofBerkeley.info. The website now has a link for making requests for audits. You can also weigh in on establishing an employee whistleblower hotline. The city’s home page has links to videos of previous presentations to Council about budgets and oversight under “Council meetings.” 

Ann-Marie Hogan 

City Auditor 

 

• 

ISRAEL AND THE U.S. 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Much has been written and said about the enormous influence of the Israeli lobby, AIPAC. This issue surfaced again because of the substantial bipartisan opposition to the appointment of Charles Freeman, Jr. as chairman of the National Intelligence Council. But to attribute his forced withdrawal to the strength of the Israeli lobby is not any more valid than attributing America’s foreign policy toward Cuba to the influence of Miami’s Cuban population. The federal government and its branches are not simply neutral entities that are completely captive of lobbyists. On issues for which there is widespread agreement among elected officials, they are reflecting political perspectives that favor American ruling class interests. 

For decades, Israel and the United States have enjoyed a very close symbiotic relationship. Israel has often been the proxy for American foreign policy interests. Take for example, Israel’s secret violation of the worldwide embargo of arm shipments to the apartheid South African government. It saved the United States considerable embarrassment. Also, the United States and Israel were complicit in supplying military supplies to Columbia’s ruling circles in its war against insurgents. In fact, when as a result of political pressures that compelled the United States to suspend military shipments to Columbia, Israel took its place as the major exporter of military equipment to that country. 

Although it is well known that Israel is among the major importers of military equipment from the United States, Israel supplies the United States. Among the 55 countries that export military aircraft and parts to the U.S. Israel ranks fourth. Israel’s military industry several years ago gave the U.S. military a big hand in its war against Afghanistan and Iraq. Because bullet manufacturers in the U.S. were not producing bullets fast enough, the U.S. military turned to Israel and got all the bullets it wanted. According to a high ranking army officer, the Israeli firm that supplied the bullets was one of only two worldwide that could meet U.S. technical specifications and delivery needs.  

The point is not that AIPAC doesn’t wield influence. Of course it does. But nevertheless, the decidedly pro-Israel bent of our government is rooted mainly in its foreign policy objectives, which Israel has been most willing to serve. 

Harry Brill 

 

• 

EXAMPLE OF THE  

POSSIBLE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Has anyone speculated on the real reason that Arab and Muslim countries are obsessed with the destruction of Israel? 

Israel is a potential threat to the status of the Middle East. The only democracy, raising the standard of living for its citizens, including Muslim and Christian Israeli citizens. A leading contributor to world technology developments, higher education standards, science, music and art. It would be just a matter of time when the people of other middle eastern states begin to move toward bettering their lives and ousting their rulers, seeing Israel as an example of the possible. 

Harry Gans 

 

• 

JOURNALISTIC  

RESPONSIBILITY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last week’s op-ed from Mary Lou van Deventer about my letter to Daily Planet advertisers contains a major inaccuracy (among many lesser ones), but avoids the main point of my message entirely. Since she attacks me personally, I trust you’ll allow me a few words of rebuttal. 

First, I do not manage the website in question, nor do I have any connection with it. This website was established by Berkeley citizens who also believe the Daily Planet is anti-Semitic and guilty of a range of journalistic malfeasance, and the site offers copious documentation of this. 

Second, I accuse the Daily Planet of obsessively publishing anti-Israel messages, many of which frequently cross the line into anti-Semitism. I never maintained that the messages were written by Daily Planet staff (though the paid contributions of Conn Hallinan and other correspondents often fall into this category). The fact is, if a publication prints hate speech, it’s a purveyor of hate. If a publication prints anti-Semitism, it’s anti-Semitic. That’s why you won’t find this kind of writing in the Chronicle, and you won’t find it in the New York Times. They exercise moral discretion. 

Ms. van Deventer characterizes me as “Captain of the Thought Police.” But this is not an issue of free speech. It’s a matter of journalistic integrity and moral judgment. 

Ms. van Deventer characterizes the sentiment of many of the quotations I cite from the Daily Planet as “unfortunate.” That’s being kind to their writers and to the publishers. If a reader submits a letter to the Daily Planet that asserts, “Shame on all black people who refuse to protest the barbarism of the looters in New Orleans,” that’s blatantly racist. It lumps all black people together and holds them collectively responsible for the actions of people they have no control over, just because of the color of their skin. Yet just a few weeks ago, the Planet printed a letter that asserts, “Shame on all Jews who refuse to protest the butchery against the Palestinians.” That’s anti-Semitic by the very same logic. Yet East Bay citizens are subjected to this kind of hate speech in virtually every issue of the Planet. 

No, this is not a First Amendment issue. The Daily Planet publishers have every right to print anything they want—from sloppy journalism and outrageously one-sided coverage to anti-Semitism. It’s their money—let them waste it as they wish. But does it make good business sense for local merchants to support such reprehensible publishing? Do advertisers really think customers will be attracted to them when they see their ad adrift in a sea of one-sided polemics and hate? I don’t think so. 

Jim Sinkinson 

East Bay Citizens for  

Journalistic Responsibility 

Oakland 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The commentary in question should have said that Mr. Sinkinson “mentioned” the website. It was corrected in our online edition. The website is managed by Berkeley businessman John Gertz, a long-time critic of the Daily Planet who has often been given space in these pages to accuse the paper and some of its readers and contributors of anti-Semitism.  

 

• 

POPULATION GROWTH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her March 11 letter, Jane Powell suggests that God should have added “within reason” to the commandment to be fruitful and multiply. Can anyone explain why there’s nothing in the Ten Commandments that directs us to be fruitful and multiply—either without or within reason? 

Lacking any clear commandment to be fruitful and multiply it’s difficult to understand why we need scientists to tell us how to deal with global warming and all the other alleged horrors that await the human race. Predicting the future is difficult, but many still insist on gambling and putting future generations at risk. Doesn’t it seem ill-mannered to gamble on the life of another person without first getting that person’s permission? 

Art Weber 

El Cerrito 

 

• 

SAVING THE BHA AGAIN 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The Berkeley Housing Authority (BHA) was neglected by the Berkeley City Council for 20 years—it had become the dumping ground for troublesome city employees. BHA meetings were allocated a few minutes before City Council meetings. 

Two years ago, the City Council reconstituted the BHA as a mostly-separate agency, and it has been successful in resolving some of its chronic problems. But it was set it up to fail economically because its employees must be paid expensive City of Berkeley salaries. The BHA’s financial situation has been further compromised by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s cutting funding for Public Housing (in Berkeley administered by the BHA) to 82 percent of its operating costs. 

If the City Council does not provide an ongoing financial subsidy to the BHA and the BHA goes out of existence, the BHA’s Section 8 rental vouchers will be turned over to the Alameda County Housing Authority, whose payment standards (the maximum rent paid to landlords) are substantially less than those of the BHA. The result will be that low-income, elderly and disabled tenants will no longer be able to afford to live in Berkeley and the vouchers will be dispersed into other communities and unincorporated areas of the county. Section 8 individuals and families who choose to remain living in Berkeley will be paying well over 40 percent of their income toward rent. 

By the time the Ed Roberts Campus independent living center (which does not provide housing per se) opens next year, disabled tenants will no longer be able to afford to live in Berkeley if the BHA does not receive a subsidy. The BHA brings in $25,000 of revenue annually to the City of Berkeley through its housing programs. Keeping the reconstituted housing authority in Berkeley makes economic sense and helps preserve the fabric of the community. 

Low-income individuals and families are going to have to fight to keep Berkeley’s Payment Standard competitive with rents in a college town. Contact your City Council member and urge her/him to vote for an ongoing BHA subsidy. Section 8 tenants and interested community members need to show their support by providing public comment at the Housing Advisory Commission (HAC) and at City Council meetings. The next HAC meeting is at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 2, at the South Berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. at Ashby Avenue. Questions? Q7287425@yahoo.com or (510) 842-4266 

Patrick Kehoe 

Member, BHA Resident Advisory Board 

 

• 

CORRECTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Due to a copyediting error, the meaning of my March 12 “Pedestrian Routes” letter was turned on its head. My original letter pointed out the rationale behind the superior route for children from Emerson school to Clark Kerr Campus. This route walks along Piedmont instead of Warring, “...crossing Derby northward a block down from the tragedy. Barricades there mean very little traffic passes through that intersection.” 

It was mistakenly published as “Barricades there mean very little. Traffic passes right through that intersection.” If this were true, it would not be a superior route. 

Kathy Horn 

 

• 

TRANSIT PLANS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Russ Tilleman suggests elevated pedestrian bridges and auto underpasses along Telegraph to “allow cars, trucks, and buses to drive from Dwight Way in Berkeley to Downtown Oakland, Highway 24, or the San Leandro BART station without stopping...” We have such a route already—its called “the freeway.” The effort to improve transit, and in the bargain reduce smog along Telegraph is an alternative to blighting a mixed residential/commercial community with huge structures to divide pedestrians from the streetscape. Lest anyone misunderstand, I do not support AC Transit’s current Bus Rapid Transit plans, which need serious rethinking, but I absolutely do not want to turn Telegraph into an urban expressway like the various San Jose examples. I agree that AC Transit should not get exclusive use of two lanes out of four, but I also want to seriously decrease auto usage by single drivers. A strictly enforced rush hour exclusion of single drivers in the two center lanes would both move the buses and allow the lighter traffic in off hours to flow. The Temescal District renaissance has finally restored a neighborhood destroyed by 1950s freeway thinking; we don’t need to wreck another neighborhood to relearn this lesson. 

David Vartanoff 

North Oakland 

 

• 

EXPRESS LANES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Sorry, but Russ Tilleman’s idea for “express lanes” on Telegraph is a terrible idea. First, creating underpasses for all the major streets that currently have traffic lights would be much more than just “a little more expensive” than Bus Rapid Transit. Second, even if it wasn’t more expensive, it is totally contrary to the purpose of the project, which is to encourage people to use public transit rather than driving. It will actually encourage people to keep driving and thus potentially put more cars on the streets of Berkeley (and Oakland, although obviously Mr. Tilleman and his neighbors have not thought about the impact of his proposal on their neighbors to the south). The traffic flow benefits would soon be outweighed by more cars on the streets. In addition, buses would either have to be consigned to the slower outside lanes (thus defeating the object of making transit faster) or else passengers would be let off at islands on these now faster flowing and more dangerous express lanes, thus endangering pedestrians way more than the BRT proposal. Not to mention the environmental purpose of reducing individual vehicle emissions, which Mr. Tilleman is ignoring entirely. 

I have to say, for a city that so frequently spouts concern for the environment, Berkeleyites don’t seem to like to step up much if they think it might affect their own personal convenience! I lived in Berkeley for about 10 years, and am so glad I no longer do. 

Steve Revell 

Oakland 

 

• 

BETTER CHOICE? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I’m surprised to read the suggestion that the Bus Rapid Transit lane to allow other vehicles in the median lane. The purpose of giving a dedicated lane to BRT buses is to provide an uninterrupted reserved lane for BRT buses to move faster than other vehicles and correct to some extent the imbalance that exists between substantial facilities made for personal vehicles in contrast to buses, because buses can carry many more commuters than personal vehicles. This purpose is defeated by allowing other vehicles to use the priority lane. Experience from around the globe has shown that no amount of road space given to cars can reduce congestion. On the other hand providing a reserved lane for BRT buses can, if other provisions are put in place, reduce road congestion and requirement for parking areas (which are needed for cars but not for BRT buses). A small video on You Tube shows this very effectively: www.youtube.com/watch?v=guodaBkDPP0. 

Sujit Patwardhan, 

Pune, India 

 

• 

SQUANDERING OUR TRANSIT MONEY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

AC Transit has been emboldened by its victories at the polls in November 2008. With a megabucks contribution from the ABC Company (the U.S. distributor of the hated and treacherous VanHool buses), Measure VV was passed, giving AC Transit an additional $14 million per year. People voted for VV because they were promised that its passage would prevent fares from being raised. 

At the first AC Transit Board meeting following the election, the board voted to spend $11 million on ... more VanHool buses. At its most recent meeting, the board broke its Measure VV promise and voted to raise fares, with more increases planned for the future.  

A portion of the tainted campaign contribution from the ABC Company was also used to defeat Measure KK, which would have allowed Berkeley citizens to stop the giveaway of our streets to AC Transit for its boondoggle called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). 

On March 12, a conference was held for contractors applying to design “branding” for BRT—an advertising campaign to snooker people into thinking it would be a good idea. The selected contractor will “develop a strong, distinct and marketable brand identity for the BRT service,” at a cost of up to $250,000. 

It is difficult to imagine a more ridiculous way to squander money than advertising for BRT. To convince anyone that it’s a good idea would necessitate a campaign of lies—exactly the method used to pass Measure VV and to defeat Measure KK. 

Gale Garcia  

 

• 

NEGLECTED  

GUARD DOGS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I have been trying for the past several months to improve the life of a loving old dog in my neighborhood who has been living in his owner’s stairwell for more than a decade—but little has changed. He is not abused but obviously neglected and almost never gets to go out on walks. He is a guard dog for the family and therefore does receives little attention or care from his owners.  

I don’t want to bring negative attention to this particularly family but I want to use this case as a plea for people to take care of their dogs, even if their primary role is just to guard the home. All animals deserve adequate food, water, exercise, shelter and healthcare, if injured or sick. Every time I see this dog, my heart breaks for him and all of the neglected dogs in this town. If you cannot provide this minimal amount of care for your animal, please be open to anyone who offers to help. 

Ky Ngo 

 

• 

MAY ELECTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

My grumpy reaction to the May election is that we need to put a cap on Republicans in the Legislature, not on spending. Either that, or get rid of the two-thirds requirement. 

Seriously, we do need some responsible fiscal constraint. I suggest that for any earmark, have a requirement to cap the expenditure to a fixed percent of a specific revenue source. This way, if the revenue source falls short, the earmarked expenditure takes a cut. To keep the earmark, the source tax or fee would have to be increased. 

Steve Geller 

 

• 

QUEER VALUES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The push to redact Prop. 8 is a push to solidify queer family values. However, there cannot be strong queer families without strong queer communities. Prop. 8 is not a lone barricade; there is a series of obstacles that the queer community must jump. Too many people in our community think that they doing enough simply by taping a jumbo sized Stop Prop. 8 sign to their window.  

Poverty is a queer issue. Only 5 percent of adults aged 18-29 who are in college or are employed identify as being on the LGBTQ spectrum. However, 20 percent of adults aged 18-29 who are not in college nor are employed are LGBTQ; these individuals also do not have stable housing. For the older generations, debt and the potential for poverty are burdens. Studies show that compared to their straight peers, LGBTQ seniors have less savings and have more problems with debt.  

Mental health is a queer issue. According to a Johnson & Johnson study, depression and other mental health issues are the second greatest health concern for the queer community (HIV/AIDS being the greatest concern). A third of queer youth (teens and 20-somethings) attempt suicide; queer youth are four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. Older LGBTQ generations also face increased rates of depression, anxiety, and other emotional health problems, compared to their straight peers.  

While Berkeley has the Pacific Center and gay city councilmembers, these resources are not being put to strong use. The Pacific Center closes it doors to the poor. It has become an elite fortress, even holding community events in affluent settings—such as the regular meet-and-great at Le Bateau Ivre, so poor people cannot join in. The center also turns it back on the disabled; anyone they know to have a mental health clinical diagnosis is not allowed to enter the Pacific Center. Queers with developmental disorders are not allowed inside the Pacific Center. Kriss Worthington, who is vocal on progressive issues at city meetings, is silent on queer issues (except of course Prop. 8).  

Berkeley must have a LGBTQ suitcase clinic, providing food resources, in-depth counseling services for LGBTQ individuals, and shelter from rain. There is no state proposition stopping such a program. Too often, what holds the LGBTQ community back from helping its members in need, is the LGBTQ community’s own apathy and complacency.  

Nathan Pitts 

Both Gay and Autistic 

• 

LINCOLN’S RECORD 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Strolling past curbside coffee drinkers in the Gourmet Ghetto, a patron was overheard badmouthing Abraham Lincoln for being an agent of capitalism and a man who didn’t really like blacks.  

Sure, Abe had faults, but if you look into why he is admired around the world, one finds in his words an integrity and vision of a nation that would take care of those who suffer. For instance, on the movement for immigrant restriction in the 1850s he wrote, “I have some little notoriety for commiserating with the oppressed Negro; and I should be strangely inconsistent if I could favor any project for curtailing the existing rights of white men, even though born in different lands, and speaking different languages from myself.” 

On phobias about “other people” loudly circulating just before the Civil War, he wrote, “Our progress toward degeneracy appears to me to be pretty rapid. As a nation we began by declaring that “all men are created equal.” We now practically read it, “all men are created equal except Negros.” When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read “all men are created equal, except Negros and foreigners and Catholics.” 

On slavery: while Lincoln could be said to care less about the issue than in saving the union, when he spoke on slavery his wit was biting: “Although volume upon volume is written to prove slavery a very good thing, we never hear of the man who wishes to take the good of it by being a slave himself.” 

On labor, Lincoln declared, “I am glad to see that a system of labor exists in New England under which laborers can strike when they want to, where they are not obliged to work under all circumstances... I like the system and wish it might prevail everywhere. One of the reasons I am opposed to slavery is just here.” 

(Quotes extracted from a 1944 booklet of Lincoln sayings distributed to inspire a spirit of democracy for the fight against Hitler and company.) 

Ted Vincent 

 

• 

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The final Saturday night in April used to mark the beginning of Daylight Savings Time. Then it got moved to the first Saturday night in April. Then a Republican Congressman from Texas introduced the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which called for moving the start of daylight savings to the second Sunday in March. This bill gained two co-sponsors—Richard Pombo and William Thomas, both Republicans from California—and it passed. 

The decision to begin daylight savings in the first half of March did not come about as a result of public dialogue. No polls were taken, and for good reason—most people would have opposed it. And yet here we are going along with this decision made without our knowledge, handed down in authoritarian style without any public dialogue. The establishment press simply announced the early time-change, as though reporting the change was all that was wanting—not whether we ought to begin daylight savings so early, but simply that we are. It was more of an order than an announcement. 

This year, after having had a whopping four months of regular time—for the third year in a row—we obligingly set our clocks ahead one hour, starting March 8. For the life of me, I can’t remember any citizens’ groups gathering on the steps of Capitol Hill, clamoring for daylight savings to begin while it is yet winter. But we got it anyway. 

Energy savings? Burning the candle in the morning cancels out any savings of fuel in the evening. Besides, a Congress that voted against raising the mileage standards on America’s automotive fleet is not sincere about saving energy. 

The least we can do is personally boycott the pre-mature time-change by setting our clocks back an hour until April 25, and urge our representatives in Congress to restore the final Saturday night in April as the start of daylight savings. 

Michael Lang 

 

• 

PROP. 2 FOLLOW THROUGH 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Last November, Californians enacted Proposition 2 requiring that animals raised for food be provided sufficient space to turn around and stretch their limbs. 

Unfortunately, the new law does not prevent deprivation, mutilation, suffocation, and other atrocities perpetrated in factory farms and slaughterhouses. 

This is why I have joined Operation Prop. 2 Follow-Through, which advocates a vegan (animal-free) diet (www.LiveVegan.org). The campaign has placed billboards and bus cards and coordinated massive leafleting and tabling in California’s metropolitan areas. Its slogan is “You favored Prop. 2—Now Go Vegan Too!” 

This week, the campaign is getting a boost from the global observance of the Great American Meatout (www.meatout.org). Now in its 25th year, Meatout has grown into the world’s largest annual grassroots diet education campaign. Thousands of grassroots participants ask their friends and neighbors to welcome spring by kicking the meat habit and exploring a wholesome, nonviolent diet of vegetables, fruits, and grains. 

Harold Kunitz 

Walnut Creek


How Easy it Is to Get Scared

By Rinna B. Flohr
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:03:00 PM

Thank you Mary Lou Van Deventer for the time you took to research and write your March 12 commentary. I too am an advertiser with the Daily Planet and received the letter from Jim Sinkinson asking me to drop my ads with the Planet, and if I didn’t that I and my business would be seen as a supporter of what Sinkinson claims are anti-Semitic views published in the paper. Of course, the reason I take out ads is to establish good rapport with the community and to encourage people to come to Expressions Gallery and support its artists and events. I do not want to be in a paper that is viewed as one-sided or biased or losing supporters. I don’t want to be involved in someone else’s problems. There was a form attached to withdraw from advertising for me to fill out. I paused … should I fill this out and send it in? 

I certainly began to worry. How large was this group led by Jim Sinkinson, and why he was out to “sink” the Berkeley Daily Planet, and would his next effort be to sink those who continued to do business with the Planet? Ads are supposed to improve business, not threaten a business’ existence, and it was clear that he was out to get the Planet with a lot of energy and effort that I, for one, would not want directed toward me, given that there are other places to advertise, and advertising is supposed to improve, not damage, advertisers. So it is easy to see how one might just fill out that form and send it in. Of course, one did sign a contract, and a contract is for a period of time and a certain number of issues, and if I withdrew, would the Planet then sue me for breach of contract or just require that I pay the full amount whether or not I continued? That thought gave me a bit of a pause. 

I started to think about the underlying issue of freedom of speech. The Planet states it supports this without censorship and without bias, regardless of their own opinions. If the readers who write in are all on one side, how does the paper remain unbiased? Doesn’t the paper get hundreds of letters each day, and doesn’t someone have to choose which get published? Isn’t there some selection and censorship, and if so, isn’t that by the paper? Maybe Mr. Sinkinson is right—it is not so much what the readers write, but what the paper chooses to publish and how often. I then wanted to have more information about what the original articles said and what was in the paper on the same day, and how many times theses issues were published. But who has time to do all that research? Thanks to Mary Lou Van Deventer, that research was done.  

I started thinking about other papers which publish far fewer letters from its readers. Should a paper select articles from both sides to publish on the same day? If so, isn’t that manipulating free speech? There isn’t always an opposite opinion submitted on the same day. Should a paper be obligated to present the frequency of the letters’ views in the frequency of local opinion or just as the letters are received? What about all the people who have a different view but don’t write in? Should they be writing more? If they did write in their opposing view, would the paper still be considered biased? Why doesn’t Mr. Sinkinson write a letter to the editor and voice his opposite opinion and change the balance instead of spending all this money, energy and effort to sink the paper? Obviously, he doesn’t have faith in freedom of speech and needs a more underhanded approach to get his point across. At this point I wanted everything to just go away. Who needs this extra complication? 

I called my advertising representative at the paper. I wanted to hear what they were doing and thinking about this. I wanted to know why I hadn’t received some letter from them presenting a different view. I wanted to know how big this group of people led by Mr. Sinkinson was, and whether the paper had dealt with him before? I wanted to know if there have been, if there might be, repercussions for advertisers who continued to publish ads. I wanted to know what their lawyer said about this. What protections would advertisers have against repercussions should they continue? I wanted to know how they retained free speech and an unbiased approach to news when they had to select from many letters? 

I learned that they publish about 75 percent of the letters they get, regardless of the subject matter or opinions of the readers. They do not publish unsigned letters and they eliminate obscene language. Other than that, they do not censor letters or select topics. They certainly don’t change what the person wrote, as did Mr. Sinkinson. When space is limited in the paper, they publish more letters online. 

While I do not like some of what I read in the Daily Planet and don’t agree with it, I do like to know that there is that position out there in the community, and I do understand that a reader’s view is not that of the paper. 

My conclusion is that I should not bail out. I like the freedom of speech approach of the paper and I do not like Mr. Sinkinson’s underhanded and threatening way of trying to sink it. I was scared, but I will stand up for freedom and for a paper that supports this right. I want to see the Daily Planet survive. But mostly, I want our freedom of expression to survive, and walking away is not the way to do that. 

 

Rinna B. Flohr is director of Expressions Gallery.


The Looking Glass World of F.L.A.M.E.

By Joanna Graham
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:04:00 PM

Jim Sinkinson, who sent out the misleading packet to Daily Planet advertisers accusing the paper of anti-Semitism and suggesting that they close their accounts, is, among other things, the director of F.L.A.M.E. (“Facts and Logic about the Middle East”), an organization with an address in San Francisco. Perhaps you’ve seen F.L.A.M.E.’s monthly letters in The Nation or in other publications, but whether you have or haven’t, you should check out their website to get a take on where they’re coming from. These folks, however many of them there are (two? three?), are extreme right-wing Zionist ideologues, the pro-Israel version of all those many online crazies who can fill your surfing hours with horror and amusement. 

Here’s a current headline garnered from the site: “Yes! Efforts by F.L.A.M.E. and others succeed in rousting Charles Freeman—but now he condemns the ‘pro-Israel lobby’ for undue influence.” The involuted thinking it takes to produce a headline like this is breathtaking. How can a person congratulate the pro-Israel lobby for taking someone down and accuse the victim of anti-Semitism for saying that that’s what happened—all in the same sentence? Well, actually, it’s a deeply revelatory sentence. In the strange world of F.L.A.M.E. et al., it’s OK to roust Charles Freeman or trash the Daily Planet—in fact, it’s necessary to do so to “protect Israel”—but it’s always anti-Semitic when the victims complain they’ve lost their job, their career, or their newspaper, because, well, then they’re blaming Jews, and since Jews are a priori always blameless, they must be anti-Semites. 

Our problem—and it’s a big one—is that this looking-glass world is the world in which we live. Not only was the highly respected Charles Freeman hounded out of a position for which he was eminently suited and which would have done us all a world of good (honest reporting of intelligence to the White House for the first time in at least eight years), but the orchestrator of the attack is known to have been Steven Rosen, disgraced former head of AIPAC, forced to step down because of espionage charges for which he still faces trial. Despite his own highly questionable position, Rosen succeeded in besmirching Freeman’s name, spreading outright lies which were duly reported by the supine media as the God’s honest truth. And our new president, Barack Obama, for whom so many have had such high hopes, blinked fast, refusing to utter a bleat against the Israel lobby, even when its representative du jour is unsavory and possibly criminal. Israeli journalist and activist Uri Avnery says, “The portrayal of the power of the lobby by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt [in their book, The Israel Lobby] has been fully vindicated.” 

Under these circumstances it may seem strange for me to say that the current situation not only will not last but is actually fragile. But this is self-evident to someone who has been around the block a few times, for reason number one that nothing lasts forever and reason number two that Israel is a completely unstable entity which, I would go so far as to assert, since it has no borders and no citizens is not even quite a real nation but more the world’s biggest utopian experiment gone badly awry. Zionism is an ideology based on obsolete 19th-century race thinking and a wholly discredited vision of the state as the territory of a “volk.” Not to mention rule by rabbinocracy, as if the whole country were a transplanted 18th-century Polish shtetl, a situation which 70 or 80 percent of the Jews of Israel absolutely despise but which they’re stuck with because that was the bargain David ben Gurion made to get the religious folks on board the Zion train. 

Still unknown is what will happen when this slowing top falls over. Guesses include: following worldwide BDS campaign, Zionism ends and Jews accept minority status in Palestine a la South Africa. Or Jews pack up, after a war or not, and go home a la Algeria (from which, by the way, many Jews decamped). Or Israel takes the Sampson route and blows up the Middle East, maybe in the process setting off that nuclear catastrophe for which we’ve all been waiting so long. Or the Palestinians get so PTSD’ed and ethnically cleansed and socially fractured that by the time they’re the clear majority they can’t take advantage of it and the Zionists win. Or a red calf is born at last and the temple is rebuilt and the anti-Christ shows up and all the faithful are raptured off to Heaven. Or, or, or…. The only firm prediction I can make is that 50 years from now, or maybe 10, or maybe two, things there, as well as things here, will be vastly different from what they are now. 

If the ending is bad—or if the process of getting from now to then is bad—there’s always a chance that we Jewish-Americans will be blamed, either because, like Jim Sinkinson, we actively served a foreign state which in the end did harm to America or because we stood by and let others do so without objecting. So far, though, even those who’ve been targeted by the lobby, like Charles Freeman, have refused to take that road. Freeman pointed out on CNN that there are Jewish members of his own family and that, anyway, AIPAC doesn’t represent everyone; some Jews are actively opposing Israeli policies. 

Just as the Cold War required Communists in our washrooms, Zionism needs to find anti-Semitism everywhere, because without it, the state of Israel has no reason for existence. But is anti-Semitism truly the changeless and universal attitude of all gentiles towards the Jews? Do Jews really belong only in the state of Israel and nowhere else? Freeman’s remarks point in a different direction, towards blended Jewish and non-Jewish families; towards full integration of Jews, as of every other minority group, in this nation of immigrants; and towards a multiplicity of opinions among the Jews on every subject, including Israel. In other words, from Freeman’s point of view, we Jews are Americans. As Israel goes down the tubes and that proverbial fan starts to fling that proverbial stuff around the room, we’d better hope that Freeman is right and Sinkinson is wrong. 

 

Joanna Graham is a Berkeley resident.


Real vs. Imagined Anti-Semitism

By Jack Bragen
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:04:00 PM

In high school, there was a kid who would call me “Jack the Jew.” I asked the fellow student how he knew I was Jewish, and he told me he could tell by my looks. 

I’ve run into bigotry against Jews thousands of times. When someone points me out as the “Jew,” and says the word “Jew,“ like it’s an insult and not a compliment, that’s anti-Semitism. Most, not all, of those who are blatantly anti-Semitic seem like less educated persons than the average. 

I went to a lunch with a group of people, several of whom didn’t know me well. A woman in the group in her 20s started to talk about a book she had read by “a Jewish Person,” which was connected with the Holocaust. When I told the woman I was Jewish, she suddenly became very flustered, and acted as though she had said something wrong. I talked more to this person as the luncheon went on, and she told me that the anger of the Palestinians couldn’t be solved until we deal with “the problem.” I asked her, what was “the problem,” and she wouldn’t answer. Then this woman went on to say that the Holocaust didn’t happen. That was my first exposure to someone denying the Holocaust, and I didn’t quite know how to interpret it. 

Later, I received a number of e-mails from this woman promoting Jimmy Carter’s book about “Israeli apartheid.” 

One time, a man intent on starting a fist fight with me employed numerous derogatory slang terms about my being Jewish, such as “kike.” I took him up on his offer, but didn’t “win.” 

One time in a “group therapy” setting, there was a substance abuse counselor who said “Jews are very direct.” She made other remarks that were anti-Semitic, and made remarks that were offensive to an African American woman in the room as well. When the counselor defied the African American woman who was offended to “specify exactly what I said that was racist,” it was hard for her to remember. This is the oldest therapeutic trick in the book: When a consumer is upset, the therapist asks for all the details of the incident that made them unhappy. The consumer is generally on enough medication so that they can’t produce the detailed explanation asked for. 

Knowing all of this, I had deliberately stored memory of the counselor’s racist comments. So, at the time, I was able to repeat back several comments she had made that were both anti-Semitic and prejudiced against African American people. I never saw the counselor work at that center after that. 

The fact is that anti-Semitism is all over the place. It is not the rarity that many people may think it is. 

That said, I don’t perceive the Berkeley Daily Planet as an anti-Semitic paper. 

It doesn’t make a person automatically prejudiced against Jews when they disagree with some of the policies of Israel. There are thousands of Jews who do not agree with everything Israel does. 

I recall seeing one or two articles in the Planet about Israel which I did not completely agree with. It does not automatically qualify as anti-Semitic to express an opinion that differs from one’s own. 

Israel has a right to defend itself. Yet it is the manner in which Israel does that which will show a level of extremism or lack of it. 

Jews are not superior. Those who believe Jews are the only ones who have been persecuted are not correct. Those who believe Jews are not capable of the very same atrocities that have been done to us are wrong. 

That doesn’t take away from the fact that the Jews to this day are subject to some form of persecution nearly everywhere. 

I do not know whether or not Israel is a bit overboard in its zeal to preserve itself. I do not think the truth is clear and obvious about this matter, which is an extremely complex and difficult one. 

I know that there is room to disagree, and doing so in a rational, honest and open minded manner is not bigotry. 

 

Jack Bragen is a Martinez resident. 

 


If You’re Going to Boycott Israel, Do it Properly!

By Raphael Rettner
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:05:00 PM

So there have been people outside Berkeley Bowl urging people to boycott Israeli products. OK. I understand that you are ticked off at Israel and in love with the Palestinians. That’s fine with me, as long as you have truly weighed all the facts. 

So, you want to boycott Israel and Israeli academic institutions? I’ll be sorry to miss you, but, if you are doing it, do it properly. 

Here, let me help you: 

Check all your medications. Make sure that you do not have tablets, drops, lotions made by Abic or Teva. Or any antibiotics, penicillin or non-penicillin. Or Pravachol (pravastatin), 

Zoloft (sertraline) or Zocor (simvastatin) which are among the compounds heading up the product list along with 148 abbreviated new drug applications (ANDA) awaiting final FDA approval that has Teva waiting to slash prices on $84 billion worth of branded drugs by creating generics. Or generic equivalents of Depakote, Actos, AdenoScan, Aciphex, Zofran, Sarafem, Protonix, Cozaar, Hyzaar, Lotrel, Risperdal, Avelox, Focalin and Wellbutrin XL. Sure, it may mean that you will suffer from reflux, chest pain, arthritis pain, cancer, diabetes, suicidal thoughts, depression, infections or bacterial assaults...or just colds and flu next winter...but, hey, that’s a small price for you to pay in your campaign against Israel and Israeli academic institutions, isn’t it? Teva also makes the generics for pet antibiotics, so hopefully you will have healthy domestic animals while you boycott. 

While we are on the subject of your Israeli boycott, and the medical contributions to the world made by Israeli doctors and scientists, how about telling your pals to boycott the following: 

An Israeli company has developed a simple blood test that distinguishes between mild and more severe cases of multiple sclerosis. So, if you know anyone suffering from MS, tell them to ignore the Israeli academic patent that may more accurately diagnose their symptoms. 

An Israeli-made device helps restore the use of paralyzed hands. This device electrically stimulates the muscles, providing hope to millions of stroke sufferers and victims of spinal injuries. 

If you wish to remove this hope of a better quality of life to these people, go ahead and boycott Israel and Israeli academic institutions. 

Young children with breathing problems will soon be sleeping more soundly, thanks to a new Israeli device called the Child Hood. This innovation replaces the inhalation mask with an improved drug delivery system that provides relief for child and parent. Please tell anxious mothers that they shouldn’t use this device because of your passionate cause. 

These are just a few examples of how people have benefited medically from the Israeli know-how you wish to block. Boycotts often affect research. 

A new research center in Israel hopes to shed light on brain disorders such as depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The Joseph Sangol Neuroscience Center in the Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer Hospital aims to bring thousands of scientists and doctors to focus on brain research. 

A researcher at Israel’s Ben Gurion University has succeeded in creating human monoclonal antibodies which can neutralize the highly contagious smallpox virus without inducing the dangerous side effects of the existing vaccine. 

Two Israelis received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Doctors Ciechanover and Hershko’s research and discovery of one of the human cells most important cyclical processes will lead the way to DNA repair, control of newly produced proteins, and immune defense systems. 

The Movement Disorder Surgery program at Israel’s Hadassah Medical Center has successfully eliminated the physical manifestations of Parkinson’s disease in a select group of patients with a deep brain stimulation technique. 

For the thousands of women who undergo hysterectomies each year for the treatment of uterine fibroids, the development, in Israel, of the ExAblate System is a welcome breakthrough, offering a noninvasive alternative to surgery. 

Israel is developing a nose-drop that will provide a five-year flu vaccine. 

These are just a few of the projects that you can help stop with your Israeli boycott. But let’s not get too obsessed with my research, there are other ways you can make a personal sacrifice with your anti-Israel boycott: 

Most of Windows operating systems were developed by Microsoft-Israel. So, set a personal example...throw away your computer! 

Computers should have a sign attached saying Israel Inside. The Pentium NMX Chip technology was designed at Intel in Israel. Both the Pentium 4 microprocessor and the Centrum processor were entirely designed, developed and produced in Israel. 

Voicemail technology was developed in Israel. 

The technology for the AOL Instant Messenger ICQ was developed in 1996 in Israel by four young Israeli whiz kids. 

Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel. 

So, due to your complete boycott of Israel and Israeli academic institutions, you can now have poor health and no computer. 

But your bad news does not end there. be sure to get rid of your cellular phone. Cellphone technology was developed in Israel by Motorola/Israel, which has its biggest development center in Israel. Most of the latest technology in your mobile phone was developed by Israeli scientists. 

Ever feel unsettled? Part of your personal security rests with Israeli inventiveness, borne out of their urgent necessity to protect and defend our lives from the terrorists you support. 

A phone can remotely activate a bomb, or be used for tactical communications by terrorists, bank robbers or hostage-takers. It is vital that official security and law enforcement authorities have access to cellular jamming and detection solutions. Enter Israel’s NetLine Communications Technologies with their security expertise to help the fight against terror. 

A joint nonprofit venture between Israel and the US state of Maryland resulted in a 5-day Business Development and Planning Conference held in March. Selected Israeli companies will partner with Maryland firms to provide innovation to America’s need for homeland security. 

I also want you to know that Israel has the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. 

Israel produces more scientific papers per capita—109 per 10,000—than any other nation. 

Israel has the highest number of startup companies per rata. In absolute terms, the highest numbers, except the U.S., are in Israel, which has a ratio of patents filed. 

Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies outside of Silicon Valley in the U.S.A. Israel is ranked no. 2 in the world for venture capital funds, behind the U.S.A. 

Israel has more museums per capita than any other country. 

Israel has the second highest rate of publication of new books per capita. 

Relative to population, Israel is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. 

These immigrants come in search of democracy, religious freedom or expression, economic opportunity and quality of life. 

Believe it or not, Israel is the only country in the world which had a net gain in the number of trees last year. 

Even Warren Buffet of Berkshire-Hathaway fame has just invested millions with Israeli companies. 

So, you can vilify and demonize the State of Israel and Israeli academic institutions. You can continue your silly boycott, if you wish. But I wish you would consider the consequences, and the truth. 

Think of the massive contribution that Israel is giving to the world, including the Palestinians, in science, medicine, communications, security. 

Pro-rata for population, Israel has always made, and continues to make, a greater contribution to the global state than any other nation on Earth. 

Stop her contributions to all our peril.  

 

Raphael Rettner is a Berkeley poet and an English Jew.


The United States and Cuba After Fidel

By Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:05:00 PM

Recently Raúl Casto reshuffled Cuba’s government, replacing or moving 12 cabinet members a year after assuming the presidency from his brother Fidel. Supposedly, Fidel approved the reshuffle. It would seem that Raúl is now the undisputed Cuban leader, although the shadow of Fidel will linger over Cuba long after his demise. Who will succeed the 77-year old Raúl? And will the U.S. keep its hands off? 

The 82-year old Fidel is reportedly in very poor health. He hasn’t written a newspaper column since December 15 and he failed to appear live or on television on Jan. 1 to mark Cuba’s 50 years of communism.  

I have mixed feelings about Fidel’s legacy. Many Cubans would probably agree, albeit covertly, that Fidel was a welcome guest for dinner, but overstayed his welcome. The revolutionary became a dictator for life. It might have been different. In April 1959, shortly after taking power, Fidel traveled to the U.S. The Eisenhower administration could have embraced Fidel, offering him economic assistance. But remember this was during the Cold War and Castro smacked of socialism/communism. Eisenhower snubbed him. He met instead with Vice President Nixon for a few hours. No economic assistance was offered. The next year Castro turned to Russia for economic assistance and the rest is history. 

Under Raúl’s leadership, we may see a more pragmatic, less doctrinaire Cuba. With new Cuban leadership and with a Barack Obama presidency, perhaps it is time to take a fresh look at the 46-year old economic, trade, and financial sanctions the U.S. imposed on Cuba following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by US-backed Cuban exiles. The rest of the world wants the embargo ended as seen by the October 2008, UN General Assembly overwhelming vote—for the 17th year in a row—in favor of lifting the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba. Some 185 of the assembly’s 192 members approved a resolution, which reiterated a “call upon all states to refrain from promulgating and applying laws and measures (such as those in the U.S. embargo) in conformity with their obligations under the Charter of the United Nations and international law.” The U.S., Israel and Palau voted against the resolution, while Micronesia and the Marshall Islands abstained. 

A modest beginning is passage of the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act”—included in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill recently signed by President Obama—which lifted the Cuba travel restrictions enacted five years ago by former President George W. Bush. This means Cuban-Americans can now visit their relatives on the island once a year for as long as they like. The Act does not change other existing restrictions, but prohibits spending on enforcement. 

My wife and I traveled “legally” to Cuba in November 2003 on one of the last so-called “People-to-People” tours, visiting Havana, Viñales, and Santiago de Cuba. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Treasury Department stopped issuing “people-to people” licenses. As the remaining licenses expired — most in November or December 2003— so did those trips. Hopefully, sometime soon, my wife and I will again be able to visit Cuba legally. 

Finally, Obama signed executive orders directing the CIA to shut down the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year. After Guantánamo is closed why not give Guantánamo Bay back to Cuba, its rightful owners. Why should we continue to have a base in Cuba? The U.S. occupation of Guantánamo dates back to the passage of the Platt amendment to a U.S. Army Appropriations Bill of 1901, which gave the U.S. the right to intervene militarily in Cuban affairs whenever the U.S. decided such intervention was warranted. Cubans were given the choice of accepting the Platt Amendment or remaining under U.S. military occupation indefinitely. The U.S. has intervened militarily in Cuban affairs at least three times. U.S. intervention endowed Cuba with a series of weak, corrupt, dependent governments until the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959. In 1903, the U.S. used it to obtain a perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay, a blatant example of U.S. gunboat diplomacy. The current Cuban government as do I consider the U.S. presence in Guantánamo to be illegal and the Cuban-American Treaty to have been procured by the threat of force in violation of international law.  

 

Ralph E. Stone is a retired Bay Area attorney. 


Will We Miss the San Francisco Chronicle?

By Gray Brechin
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:05:00 PM

We seldom think of oxygen unless it’s absent. You’d think about it a lot if it suddenly exited this room; you’d start gasping and writhing, your eardrums would burst, you and your neighbors would do a lot of bleeding on each other, then you’d die. But if we gradually replaced oxygen with nitrous oxide mixed with just a soupcan of cyanide gas, you might not notice that anything was missing at all; you might feel very content as your brain and body gradually turned off and you lapsed into a sleep without end.  

I’ve frequently criticized the Chronicle for just that—for its lack of the kind of mental oxygen that makes for a healthy democratic polity. In my book Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin, I showed how it and two other leading San Francisco newspapers a century ago served the interests of their owning families—the deYoung, Hearst, and Spreckels clans. All three detested each other to the point of murder, although they could all agree—as do all major newspaper-owning families and corporations to this day—that capitalism is the only acceptable means of arranging human affairs and that the value of land and the structures built upon it must continue to rise. They also agreed that an expanding U.S. empire in the Pacific Basin suited their own interests just fine. As the young William Randolph Hearst advised his father in an 1885 letter, “Every atom of humanity added to the struggling mass means another figure to the landlord’s bank account.” All three media dynasties had very large real estate holdings and bank accounts that were replenished and enlarged by every atom added to the struggling mass far below those families. In addition, the power to shape mass thought by the ownership of print media provided the morally questionable deYoung brothers the opportunity to make themselves arbiters of San Francisco’s ancien regime, and a launching pad from which Mike deYoung hoped to attain the U.S. Senate and William Randolph Hearst the White House.  

San Francisco a century ago had a vastly richer print media environment, like other American cities then and European capitals today. It had four major dailies and many other more specialized papers. Their competition and personal vendettas provided a lot of oxygen for readers of the time, as well as fodder for people like me, doing research decades later for the dissertation that became my book. Whatever scandals one family sought to hide from its readers, the other newspaper families would feature on their front pages. That is, up until Aug. 15, 1913, when Willie Hearst and Mike deYoung colluded to buy John Spreckels’ Call and add it to Hearst’s growing stable of yellow journals. As mining engineer and editor Thomas Rickard commented at the dedication of the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, the University of California spends four years educating young men and women, and the newspapers of Hearst and deYoung then diseducated them for the rest of their lives.  

The Hearst-deYoung murder of San Francisco’s best paper sucked a lot of oxygen out of the room, but Rickard could not have imagined the diseducational potential of television, hate talk radio, and the Internet later in the century. When the deYoungs in 1999 cashed out by selling the Chronicle to the Hearst Corporation after what one executive called some fancy horse trading with the Fang family to provide the illusion that San Francisco was not really about to become a one-newspaper town, New York’s privately-held Hearst Corporation promised the Bay Area the world-class newspaper that it said we deserve. That would be a first for Hearst, I thought, having looked at decades of its inferior product on microfilm. Yes, the Hearst Chronicle is not the U.K.’s Guardian or France’s LeMonde. But then it’s not the Arizona Republic or the Honolulu Advertiser, either. Over the years, it has provided space not only for its once-famous stable of columnists, but for Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City and for Randy Shilts’ superb reportage on the AIDS calamity and recently—however briefly—for Robert Scheer after the Los Angeles Times got rid of him for the crime of being too left of wing. It even occasionally publishes a letter or op-ed by me. But most of all, it has employed reporters who give us some idea of what is going on in our world. Like oxygen, we take them for granted, just as we once took California’s first-rate public education system for granted as we absent-mindedly allowed it to incrementally become the worst. What if those reporters, like public education, were gone? What would replace it? And would we notice after a few days any more than we noticed we’d had a coup d’etat after a partisan Supreme Court put a pretender in the White House with the collusive support of the U.S. media? 

I thought about that a lot as I read through some of the more than 800 comments posted on SFGate after Hearst announced that it might sell or close the paper, whose 144th anniversary it was celebrating, even though a Sacramento Bee reporter once advised me for the sake of my mental health never to read those postings. A majority of posters danced on the Chronicle’s grave saying that they do not read or buy it because of its extreme left-wing bias and because it champions the homosexual agenda. Many rhetorically asked why they should pay for news when they can get it free on the Internet. Ronald Reagan persuaded many that they should not pay taxes for vital public services such as public education, housing, transportation, health, and safety; many today seem to believe that news simply materializes out of thin air, the sort of miraculous spontaneous generation that people in the Middle Ages believed in. We—and I include myself—forget where the raw material for our thought comes from. 

After reading those comments, I could well imagine a future in which news—however imperfect—is replaced by uninformed shouting, much of it the opinions of hate-filled radio gasbags dittoed forever by their nodding listeners. And I wonder what is to happen to reporters—especially to exemplary ones such as Robert Parry who try to do expensive investigative work with little support. I remember all too well what happened to Gary Webb when he was frozen out by his would-be colleagues.  

I confess that I’m conflicted about the disappearance of the Chronicle, though not of the Hearst Corporation itself, as its lifestyle magazine profit centers die along with its newspapers. Both serve wealthy and powerful interests, as they always have. I said in Imperial San Francisco that omission is a far more powerful tool of thought-control than commission, and this becomes even more so when there is only one newspaper, or none at all. Under editor Will Hearst, the old San Francisco Examiner actually did occasional investigations of the local power structure, but the Chronicle almost never does so, except for its fine investigation of upper-level corruption at the University of California. We all have our favorite story ideas that should be looked at, but are not. For me, the elephant in the living room whose presence the Chronicle will not mention is Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s appalling voting record and conflict of interest with her financier and real estate magnate husband Richard Blum, chair of the UC Regents. I am told that both get enormous deference from the Chronicle’s editorial board, as they do in Washington. Instead of investigation, Chronicle stories about Feinstein routinely describe her as California’s most respected centrist politician. The Chronicle has virtually assured her that if she wants to be governor of California next year, the job is hers.  

However imperfectly, the Chronicle provides us with a great deal more oxygen than most of us are willing to acknowledge or know, and I fear for its absence. San Francisco without it will be like an Italian town without a piazza, and that is almost unimaginable.  

 

Gray Brechin is a Berkeley author and historian. 

 

 

 


Postmaster General Earns His Compensation

By Kim R. Fernandez
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:06:00 PM

The Feb. 25 commentary by Allen Sanford, “Mr. Potter and the Postal Service,” lacks any logical cohesion. He faults the very company he dedicated so many years working for by purporting it has a “monopoly” that through his faithful work he helped support. 

Sanford thinks that the postmaster general’s compensation of $800,000 is unjustified. Perhaps some facts will help him understand the fine points of Potter’s compensation. More than $381,000 of that figure is an increase in his Civil Service retirement which he won’t get in a lump sum but will be paid out in monthly increments after he retires. 

The Postal Service Board of Governors did provide Potter with a $135,000 incentive payment in 2008. The actual 2008 salary was $263,575. What does Sanford think should be an adequate salary for the CEO of a $75 billion corporation with 655,000 employees, four unions, and three management associations? 

Perhaps Sanford would find some comparisons helpful. The postmaster general of Australia earns $1.89 million; New Zealand, $733,000; United Kingdom, $1.57 million; and, Canada, $483,000. 

Sanford doesn’t seem to think that Potter warrants such compensation even for the tremendous responsibility he has of managing a company that handles more than 40 percent of the world’s mail volume, none of which could be possible without the “machines” that Sanford cites as doing all of Potter’s work. Ironically, these very machines provided Sanford healthy and steady employment as a maintenance craft employee. 

Compensation comes from making critical management decisions, like reducing work hours by 50 million, the equivalent of 25,000 employees and removing a total of $2 billion in costs from the budget, all the while providing the American consumer with record-breaking service. Anticipating the economic downturn, Postmaster General Potter took other strong measures, like entering into an unprecedented agreement with our second largest union (the National Association of Letter Carriers) to adjust delivery routes to reflect actual workloads; consolidated mail processing plant operation to reduce duplication; reduced hours at mail processing facilities; and suspended new post office construction. And Potter accomplished this without a single lay-off.  

Where other companies were folding or seeking a bailout, the Postal Service made money in 2008. Yes, that’s right because even a cursory review of our finances would reveal a glaring entry that makes our budget stand out from all others. 

As a result of legislation enacted in late 2006, the Postal Service is required to pre-fund its retiree’s health benefits, a pre-funding by the way that benefits retirees like Sanford. The Congress required an annual contribution of $5.6 billion over a 10-year period. Had it not been for that $5.6 billion contribution, the Postal Service would have ended 2008 $2.8 billion in the black. 

The most alarming unsubstantiated accusation Sanford makes, bordering on defamation, is that the Postal Service is a “criminal enterprise,” dealing “with racketeering.” Actually, the United States Postal Service is one of the most trusted companies in America. For the fifth straight year, the Ponemon Institute rated the USPS number one of 74 agencies as the most trusted company for privacy. The Postal Service is the only delivery company to place in the top 10. 

Preposterous opinions without the basis of facts remain just that—preposterous. 

 

Kim R. Fernandez is a district manager for the U.S. Postal Service. 


Columns

Public Eye: California’s Worsening Budget Crisis: The Second Shoe Drops

By Bob Burnett
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:17:00 PM

It’s understandable that Californians breathed a sigh of relief on Feb. 19, when the state Legislature ended months of political gridlock and agreed upon a $144.5 million budget. Given America’s hard times, it’s likely that many Golden State residents turned their attention to pressing financial concerns such as holding onto their job or paying their mortgage. Nonetheless, Californians’ behavior is problematic because the issues that precipitated the fiscal battle have not been resolved and another serious problem has emerged: the possibility of an immutable spending cap. 

The Feb. 19 budget agreement had two components. The first closed the state’s $41 billion deficit through a combination of tax increases, painful service cuts, and $5.4 billion in new borrowing. However, to reach accord with a handful of Republican legislators to get the two-thirds majority required to pass the budget, Democrats were forced to agree to a second component, a May 19 special election where voters will decide on six budget-related propositions. Central to these is Proposition 1A that mandates a permanent spending cap. 

Proponents have labeled the labyrinthian Proposition 1A the “Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund” measure but a more accurate title would be “Proposal to Freeze California State Services at Current Levels.” Proposition 1A prohibits legislators from taking full advantage of additional revenues when California comes out of the recession and, instead, subjects service increases to an impenetrable equation including growth in the Consumer Price Index and state population. 

There are two problems with the notion of restricting service expenditures to a convoluted formula chiseled into the state constitution. The first is that it permanently locks spending to a baseline that is already too low to guarantee provision of adequate service. The second problem is that Proposition 1A shifts responsibility for future budget decisions away from the legislature and onto invisible state employees—primarily accountants—who would have to decipher the proposition’s abstruse language and perform the linear regression analysis required to determine the revenue cap. 

If Proposition 1A passes, most observers expect painful degradation of service. Jean Ross, Executive Director of the California Budget Project (www.cbp.org), notes, “the baseline established by the proposed formula would be $14.2 billion below the amount needed to support the 2010-11 budget based on the governor’s long-term forecast.” Proposition 1A freezes service expenditures at a level that guarantees they will be inadequate in perpetuity. 

To better understand the dire consequences of Proposition 1A, it’s informative to examine the impact upon California education expenditures. The California budget agreement reduced the total 2008-09 funding level to $50.7 billion for K-14 programs, $7.4 billion (12.7 percent) lower than the level assumed by the 2008-09 Budget Act. Parents and teachers complained vociferously because even before these cuts, California schools were not performing. 

A Feb. 23 UCLA study declared, “California Schools Get Failing Grade.” The study went on to say, “California ranks near the bottom of all states in the number of students reaching their educational goals... California students generally have lower test scores than students across the nation... Only two-thirds of those students who started in [the high school class of 2006] went on to graduate. Of these, students prepared for and going on to attend college were abysmally low.” 

Writing in the Los Angles Times, journalist Peter Schrag deplores the “the Mississippification of California’s public services and governmental policy” and cites deterioration of the education system: “California’s college graduation rates are among the lowest in the country, our per-pupil funding of K-12 education is about 34th among the states, and 47th as a percentage of personal income.” Mississippification affects a wide array of California public services ranging from support for the aged to road repair. Passage of Proposition 1A would ensure the continued inadequacy of these services. 

Two steps need to be taken to bring sanity to California’s budget process. The first is for voters to reject Proposition 1A, the proposal to freeze California state services at current levels. The second step is for voters to change the rules governing preparation of the annual budget. California is one of only three states that require a two-thirds vote to pass a state budget. To get the Golden State back on track, the budget rule needs to be changed. It’s likely that subject will be addressed on the ballot for the June 2010 primary election. 

Barack Obama became President because he encouraged Americans to think positively about the responsibility of citizenship and take a strategic perspective that considers the future of our children and grandchildren. Californians must develop a strategic plan that paves the way to a positive future. We can start by agreeing that basic public services—such as education—need adequate funding and unite to defeat Proposition 1A on the May 19 ballot. 

 

 

Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be  

reached at bobburnett@comcast.net. 

 


Express Stumbles When They Borrow From Chronicle

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:16:00 PM

For some time now, I’ve been commenting on the methods used by my good friend, Chris Thompson, in writing items for the Seven Days column and the 92510 blog of the East Bay Express. In case you missed it, I pointed out how Mr. Thompson didn’t actually attend the events or meetings he wrote about in these blogs and columns, but would simply take accounts of these events from other stories posted online, and then write them up as items adding his own interpretive spin. It’s a spectacularly bad form of “journalism,” if it even qualifies to be considered as journalism, even more so when Mr. Thompson made outright errors in fact, as he once in a while did. 

Anyways, I have now been informed that I should probably cease and desist making any more comments about Mr. Thompson’s journalistic practices. But I’ll get to that in a second. 

Last Feb. 18, in a Seven Days column entitled “BART Cop Craziness,” Mr. Thompson wrote, in part, about a chaotic Feb. 12 BART Board of Directors meeting that was taken over, for a time, by protesters upset about BART’s actions, or inactions, following the death of Oscar Grant. Mr. Thompson, who was not at the BART meeting, wrote that “Oakland City Councilwoman and impulse-control-impaired poster child Desley Brooks led a mob into a meeting of the BART board of directors, where they shouted and screamed and generally raised hell over l’affaire Grant.” 

I attended the Feb. 12 meeting and wrote a story on it for the Daily Planet. Rachel Gordon of the Chronicle also attended and wrote a story the following day (“Board Meeting Challenged By Storm Of Protests”) from which Mr. Thompson apparently drew his own story, since many of the phrases and descriptions included in the Gordon and Thompson stories were almost identical. 

With two distinct exceptions. 

Ms. Gordon did not describe the citizens who protested at the meeting a “mob,” but only as a “crowd.” And nowhere in her report did Ms. Gordon say, even directly or by implication, that Ms. Brooks “led” anyone either into or during the meeting. In fact, she did not. The bulk of the protesters were members of the Committee Against Police Executions (CAPE) and the Bay Area Black Panther Alliance. Ms. Brooks attended the BART meeting officially representing the Black Elected Officials and Faith Based Leaders of the East Bay organization, on behalf of whom she spoke and delivered a letter to the BART Board of Directors. 

Why would Mr. Thompson embellish his story about the BART meeting in such a way as to make Ms. Brooks into a mob leader? Damned if I know, other than the fact that Ms. Brooks is a favorite target of many local journalists, and it is part of the pack mentality of so much of our journalism that once one dog takes off after someone, the rest of the pack must go howling and galloping after them, without bothering to first justify why. 

In any event, it would seem that the lack of corroboration in Ms. Gordon’s account of the BART meeting would appear to make Mr. Thompson’s characterization of Ms. Brooks’ actions libelous. Someone at the Express seemed to think so, because on March 11, the paper printed the following correction: “In our Feb. 18 Seven Days column, ‘Bart Cop Craziness,’ and in the Feb. 13 blog post on which it was based, we erroneously wrote that Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks led a mob of angry people as they took over a meeting of the BART board of directors. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, upon whose account our description relied, Brooks attended the meeting and argued with BART director Joel Keller, during which several members of the audience briefly charged Keller. But there is no evidence to suggest that Brooks was responsible for the crowd’s actions.” 

There was no reason given why it took the Express almost a month to make the correction, including any mention that Ms. Brooks currently has a civil lawsuit in California Superior Court against the San Francisco Chronicle and their East Bay columnist, Chip Johnson, over Ms. Brooks’ contention that Mr. Johnson printed libelous statements about her in one of his columns. 

One would hope that this whole affair would have served to make our friends at the Express re-evaluate the manner in which their reporters riff on stories originally printed in other papers. Unfortunately, that would mean giving up one of their most favorite targets, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and in a March 9 article by Bob Gammon called “Dellums Aide Caught Up in Chauncey Bailey Case,” we have the following about the events leading up to the 2007 assassination of the Oakland journalist Mr. Bailey: 

“[A story by San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jaxon Van Derbeken] reveals the role Barbara Lee’s office played in the dispute between [Yusuf] Bey IV and Saleem Bey [over control of Your Black Muslim Bakery],” Mr. Gammon writes. “Lee’s office sided with Bey IV at least twice, thereby allowing him to win the internal battle between to the two factions, and apparently emboldening him to go after Bailey. First, Leslie Littleton, a then aide to Lee, wrote a letter on behalf of Bey IV that was hand delivered to the federal bankruptcy judge overseeing the bakery’s finances and Bey IV’s handling of them. The letter effectively refuted Saleem Bey’s allegations that Bey IV was responsible for the bakery’s problems and should be replaced. Littleton then refused to even listen to Saleem Bey’s complaints about Bey IV, including what turned out to be accurate accounts of Bey IV’s many alleged illegal activities. Because of Littleton, Bey IV’s grip on the bakery tightened and Saleem Bey’s efforts to wrest control were stymied. After the two factions’ last meeting with Littleton, Bey IV came away the winner in the internal bakery war, and Saleem Bey, the loser. Two days later, Bailey was brazenly assassinated in broad daylight on a downtown Oakland street.” 

Mr. Gammon’s recreation of the Chronicle story appears to draw the conclusion that by siding with Mr. Bey IV, Ms. Littleton, who was later hired by Mr. Dellums as his deputy chief of staff, was responsible for the events that led to Mr. Bailey’s death. 

But is that what was said in the original Van Derbeken Chronicle article, from which Mr. Gammon draws his analysis? To put it bluntly, no. 

In the March 8 article “Bakery’s Power Struggle Swept Up Journalist,” Mr. Van Derbeken writes that according to Ms. Littleton, Mr. Bey IV and “an entourage of bakery followers” showed up at Ms. Lee’s the day before a Bankruptcy Court hearing on the Your Black Muslim Bakery case, asking for “a letter of support for the bakery from Lee.” Ms. Littleton wrote the letter over the Congressmember’s signature, not to the bankruptcy judge but to the Internal Revenue Service, a bakery creditor in the bankruptcy action, asking the IRS to delay a demand for $250,000 in back taxes so that Mr. Bey IV could “present a reasonable strategy for fulfilling his financial obligations.” According to the Chronicle story, it was another Lee staffer, Sandra Andrews, not Ms. Littlejohn, who took the Littlejohn letter to the bankruptcy judge and not the IRS, where it was supposed to go. Ms. Andrews is quoted in the Chronicle article as saying that Mr. Bey IV was “like a son” to her. 

Why did Mr. Gammon slough over the way the letter got to the bankruptcy judge, making it look like Ms. Littleton was responsible for interceding with the judge, rather than Ms. Andrews? We’ll get to that in a second. 

According to Mr. Gammon, as you remember from the above account, Saleem Bey and Mr. Bey IV, leaders of opposing factions fighting over control of Your Black Muslim Bakery, met several times with Ms. Littleton after the bankruptcy court letter trying to get Ms. Lee’s support for their respective sides. “Because of Littleton,” Mr. Gammon concluded, basing that conclusion on the Chronicle article, “Bey IV’s grip on the bakery tightened and Saleem Bey’s efforts to wrest control were stymied. After the two factions’ last meeting with Littleton, Bey IV came away the winner in the internal bakery war, and Saleem Bey, the loser.  

But that’s not the conclusion one gets from reading the original article. Mr. Van Derberken wrote that Littleton said that “a couple of days after the [bankruptcy] hearing, Bey IV returned uninvited to Lee’s office asking for another endorsement for the bakery. This time, however, Littleton told him there would be no more letters.” After Saleem Bey saw the Littleton-Lee letter at the bankruptcy hearing and tried to get Ms. Lee’s office to take his side in the dispute, Mr. Van Derberken continued that “over the next two weeks, Saleem Bey continued to call Lee’s office about Bey IV’s alleged wrongdoing, and Bey IV and his entourage showed up at the office several times, creating disruptions each time, Littleton told prosecutors [in the Bailey murder case]. Littleton decided she had had enough. She told prosecutors that she had called a meeting with Bey IV and Saleem Bey, both to try to get them to patch up their differences and to tell them that Lee’s office ‘would no longer be involved in this issue.’” 

While Mr. Van Derberken’s story says that according to Ms. Littleton, Saleem Bey seemed dissatisfied with Ms. Lee’s office’s decision to back out of the power struggle and Mr. Bey IV appeared satisfied, it would not appear to be a fair conclusion based upon the Van Derberken story, as Mr. Gammon concludes, that “because of Littleton, Bey IV’s grip on the bakery tightened and Saleem Bey’s efforts to wrest control were stymied.” Or, further, that because of Ms. Littleton’s actions, Chauncey Bailey was killed. 

But why does Mr. Gammon appear to be weighing the scales so much against Ms. Littleton? The answer appears in the final paragraph of Mr. Gammon’s article, in which he writes “Incredibly, Dellums then hired Littleton to be his deputy chief of staff. Jesus. Any woman who defends a thug like Bey IV, and refuses to even listen to legitimate complaints, has no business being anywhere near public office. Sources have told the Express that Littleton was hired to actually be the de facto chief of staff to the mayor’s wife, Cynthia Dellums, whom many consider Oakland’s second mayor. Nice.” 

And so all of this straining and sifting of the original Van Derberken article by Mr. Gammon—normally such a careful and insightful investigative reporter—appears to be a way of getting at a favorite East Bay Express target, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, giving the impression that Mr. Dellums has somehow got the blood of Chauncey Bailey transferred to his hands. That’s a right pitiful effort on Mr. Gammon’s part, as they say back South, and my good friend can do better than that. 

Oh, and that thing about why I should cease and desist making any more comments about Mr. Thompson’s journalistic practices? That’s because Mr. Thompson doesn’t seem to be practicing journalism at the Express any more. His name no longer appears as a contributor on the masthead, and the Desley Brooks/BART column appears to have been his last entry.  


Wild Neighbors: Restoration at the Berkeley Meadow: Working Around the Hawks

By Joe Eaton
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:15:00 PM
This harrier's owl-like facial disc allows her to detect prey by sound.
Len Blumin
This harrier's owl-like facial disc allows her to detect prey by sound.

Corinne Greenberg has kept an eye on the Berkeley Meadow—the unit of the Eastshore State Park just east of the Marina and north of University Avenue—for a while now, paying particular attention to the northern harriers that have nested in the meadow’s northwest corner since at least 1994. No one knows for sure whether it’s been the same pair of hawks all along, or whether the territory has changed hands.  

Although part of a state park, the meadow is managed by the East Bay Regional Park District. It was during Phase 3 of their restoration project that one of the harriers’ known nest sites was cleared. Greenberg, who had seen the birds in the area earlier, feared that further work would disrupt nesting, either destroying the nest or causing the pair to desert it. She contacted the Park District and the California Department of Fish and Game (the harrier is a state species of special concern), and put out an alert on the East Bird Birding listserv. 

The Park District offered to meet with Greenberg and any other concerned individuals at the Seabreeze Market, across University from the meadow. Environmental Programs Manager Brad Olson and Acting Stewardship Manager Doug Bell represented the district. Greenberg was joined by Katie Winslow, another meadow regular; birders Dave Quady and Rusty Scalf; and a gentleman named Bill who had been passing by on his bicycle and decided to check the gathering out. Ron and I sat in as well. 

With an armful of schematics and aerial photographs, Olson described the meadow’s origin as a city landfill and the district’s plan to make it a “living meadow.” In Phase 1, covering 17 acres along University, the fill was capped, weeds like fennel and pampas grass were removed, and seasonal wetlands were planted with willows, sedges, and rushes. Phase 2, in the northeast corner by the freeway, was reconfigured as water bird habitat. The third phase, just getting underway, would clear out exotic plants in a 114-acre area and grade part of it to create salt pan habitat for shorebirds.  

By the time Greenberg discovered what was happening, a quarter-acre had already been cleared. She said the harriers had been seen mating in the area, a probable sign of intent to nest. Given that, Olson seemed open to modifying the work plan.  

“People are seeing things out here all the time we’re not aware of,” Olson said. “We don’t want to destroy high-value habitat to create restored habitat. If we know the specific location of the high-value habitat, we can establish a buffer around that area.” He added that the Park District already had two staffers out walking a transect to identify signs of nesting. 

Doug Bell, a raptor specialist who studies prairie falcons in the park system, said it was early in the season to find tangible evidence of nesting. He agreed, though, that this is when the ground-nesting harriers were most likely to desert if disturbed. “We’re looking for vegetation laid down in a systematic manner, a bowl-type depression,” Bell said. “To really nail it, it would have to be vegetation interlocked—or birds carrying nesting material. Just seeing copulation doesn’t mean they have a nest. It depends on the pair; some pairs don’t need a long courtship period.” 

The bottom line, according to Olson: “If we have harriers nesting here, then we can’t go in and clear it. That’s the law. But we manage a mosaic of habitats, and there’s no reason we can’t manage for harrier habitat.” 

The district had a short window to get the work done, with a contract expiring March 15. After that, the project will be on hold through the end of September for the recognized nesting season. Then they’ll have another two weeks before Water Board regulations shut the project down for the year. For now, Olson said weed removal would proceed on the eastern side of the Phase 3 area, and the nest search would continue. Greenberg said she’d try to get observers out at dawn and dusk when nest-building activity was most likely. Afterward, the suspected nesting area was fenced off.  

Someone—Bill the bicyclist?—asked why the northwest corner couldn’t be left in fennel for the hawks. “We don’t want this area to be a seed source for reinfesting the whole meadow,” Olson said. “Harriers evolved with native plants,” Bell added. “If you create the same vertical structure with natives, that’s OK.” Sooner or later, the weeds would have to go. The hope is that by then, the harriers would have relocated to similar habitat in the Phase 1 area. 

It’s a perennial dilemma of restoration: native wildlife that have come to rely on non-native plants for shelter or food. Even the despised eucalyptus provides nest sites for raptors and roosts for wintering monarch butterflies. An interim solution may have been reached at the meadow, but the problem isn’t going to go away.


East Bay Then and Now: French Couple Left Two Monuments on Dwight Way

By Daniella Thompson
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:14:00 PM
The Town and Gown Club was designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1899.
Daniella Thompson
The Town and Gown Club was designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1899.
Only the tall core of the Town and Gown Club is the work of Maybeck, but subsequent additions are faithful to the building's original spirit.
Daniella Thompson
Only the tall core of the Town and Gown Club is the work of Maybeck, but subsequent additions are faithful to the building's original spirit.
The Paget House at 2727 Dwight Way was designed in 1891 by Willis Polk.

It’s hard to believe now, but there used to be a time when Berkeley’s Southside was a fashionable place to live, dotted with the residences of professors and society people. 

Precious little remains to remind us of those days. In 2003, a survey conducted by Jerry Sulliger on behalf of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) found that only 6 percent of 138 structures that stood on the Southside a century earlier remain. 

One of the surviving 19th-century structures is a charming house located at 2727 Dwight Way. A large sign in front proclaims it to be the Gorrill House, but it was built for Professor Félicien Victor Paget and his wife, Emmanuel. 

According to his obituary in the University of California Chronicle for 1903, Félicien Paget was born on June 27, 1833, at Petit-Villard, in Franche-Comté, eastern France. His college education was devoted to the classics and to history. In 1862, he received a degree of Bachelier ès Lettres from the University of Strasbourg, followed three years later by a degree of Bachelier ès Sciences from the University of Grenoble. 

In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Paget served as an officer in the Francs-Tireurs. Returning home after the war, he found the family estate in ruins—both the French and the Prussian armies had tramped over the land numerous times, leaving it almost beyond repair. 

Being the family’s only son and having three sisters to support, Paget was obliged to borrow a large sum so that the estate could be restored. This debt haunted him all his life and was fully discharged only after his widow’s death.  

Also in 1870, Paget married Mlle. Emmanuel Marie Jacquet, born in Paris to a Normandy family in 1845. 

Hoping for brighter prospects in the New World, the couple immigrated to the U.S. in 1876. Settling in San Francisco, the Pagets began teaching French (he also taught Spanish) as private tutors. The musically gifted Mme. Paget taught music as well as French. They did very well—Mme. Paget alone often earned as much as $250 a month, which she applied to paying off the debt on the French estate. Following the Pagets’ death it was revealed by the professor’s second-in-command, Marius J. Spinello, that Mme. Paget was the business manager of the household, while her husband loved only his books and did not want the annoyance attendant on business affairs. 

Félicien Paget eventually became an instructor in French at the Urban School of San Francisco. A course of lectures that he delivered attracted the attention of the university, and in 1887 he was invited to Berkeley as instructor in French and Spanish languages. He was made assistant professor in 1889, associate professor in 1892, and attained full professorship of French and Spanish languages in 1894. In 1898 he began teaching literature as well as languages, and two years later the department was reorganized and Paget placed at its head as Professor of the Romanic Languages and Literatures. 

Paget was much revered by his students. One of them, Frederic A. Juilliard, ‘91, gave the University $350 in 1916 for a marble chair in the Greek Theatre in memory of his teacher. The dedication chiseled into the marble reads (translated from the French): “To his former teacher, an honest man of old times through science, honor, courtesy, and a valiant defender of his motherland, Félicien Victor Paget, professor of French literature, who gave himself wholly to his students and left the university all his worldly goods, this chair is dedicated by F.A. Juilliard.” The donor was the nephew and heir of magnate Augustus D. Juilliard, whose will established and endowed the famous New York music school. 

It was in 1891, while Paget was assistant professor, that he and his wife called on San Francisco architect Willis Polk to design a house for them in Berkeley. Polk was a disciple and neighbor of the Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester, an intimate friend of the Pagets. He created for the couple a half-timbered house that they named “Villa des Roses.” 

Several years after the house was built, the Pagets had the front façade shingled in three bands of decorative patterns. The front continues to be clad in scallop-edge, diamond, and irregularly overlapping shingles that lend it a charmingly rustic look. Along the west elevation, the half-timbered wall gives an idea of what the house looked like when built, although the full-length dormers on the roof are a later addition. 

“Villa des Roses” was the first but by no means the only testament left by the Pagets on Dwight Way. Mme. Paget was a prodigious clubwoman. In January 1902, the San Francisco Call devoted a feature to her in its series “The Best-Known Club Women of the Pacific Coast.” The article began: 

It is a queer thing that a French woman who cannot speak our tongue without giving her race away in the first sentence should come to America to teach some of our women of Berkeley the most American thing that they have ever learned. Mme. Paget it is who taught them the art of clubbing. 

This tall, thin, gray, powerful Frenchwoman has led them over there in the college town across the bay. She has said “You shall” and “You shall not,” and they have followed. She found them without a club such as she considered they needed. She told them they must have such a club; she organized it and formed it. She went about raising money that the club might own its house and lot and this she accomplished. All the women of Berkeley obeyed. 

The club was the Town and Gown Club, which Mme. Paget founded in 1898. It was a formidable task, as the San Francisco Call described it: “The driver of a hundred-and-seventy-five-in-hand must have a finger that feels the least twitch on any one of the lines. Somehow Mme. Paget got hold of those whims and complexities and nerves and wove them into a harmonious whole.” 

In its early days, the club held its meetings in members’ homes or in church parlors. But this phase did not last long. On March 15, 1899, the Club Building Association filed articles of incorporation, its purpose being to build and lease all structures that may be required by the Town and Gown Club. The capital stock was stated at $4,000, of which $1,060 had been subscribed. 

By April 13, 1899, the Club Building Association had acquired a lot on the corner of Dwight Way and Dana Street for $1,750. Bernard Maybeck, then instructor in drawing in the University of California, was recruited to draw up the plans for the clubhouse. Although the building budget was limited to $2,500, the architect nevertheless managed to create a stir with his design, in which the outrigger roof bracketing stood out. 

The San Francisco Call writer who reported on its progress on Aug. 9 didn’t know what to make of the building, noting that it was “attracting much interest and curiosity on account of its peculiar oddity and eccentricity of design.” In fact, it was a simple rectangular mass, clad in redwood shingles: 

Its chief characteristic is an almost severe simplicity. Redwood will be used throughout the entire structure, without plastering of any kind. Save for the interior of the roof, which is to be painted in a shade of bluish green, all the finishing for the walls, panels and furniture will be of natural wood. The inside dimensions are 23 by 40 feet. Of the two stories, the lower has a height of but eight feet, the upper of thirty feet. The latter will be used as a meeting hall, the lower floor being left for a library, cloakroom and kitchen. All the furniture has been specially made to order, and, like the rest of the building, will be severely plain. 

The Town and Gown Club took an active role in the life of the community. In 1902, it joined the Hillside Club in promoting the planting of shade trees along Berkeley’s principal streets. As a result of their efforts, all residents of the Northside pledged to plant a redwood tree in every fifty-foot lot. The Town Board of Trustees signed a decree making the first Monday of each December Arbor Day, a town holiday to be observed by the planting of trees. 

The clubwomen were also “trying to arouse on this coast an organized sentiment in favor of the Government preservation of some sequoia grove like the Mariposa forest, which can be permanently protected from ravages of timber cutters,” reported the San Francisco Call on Aug. 10, 1902. 

Professor Paget died on Dec. 23, 1903, after a long and costly illness. His wife, who had worn herself out caring for him, followed thirteen days later. Her lengthy obituary, published in the San Francisco Call on Jan. 6, 1904, revealed that Mme. Paget bequeathed to the university her husband’s library and one-third of her estate, for the founding of the F.V. Paget scholarship fund for the benefit of deserving students in the French department. 

The lion’s share of the estate was earmarked for paying off the old debt in France, which the Pagets never managed to eradicate during their lifetime. 

Within a few years, “Villa des Roses” was acquired by the Pagets’ neighbors, James and Catherine Bunnell. Their eldest daughter, Louise Mapes Bunnell, had married Charles Keeler. Their son, Sterling Bunnell, M.D., revolutionized hand surgery. The younger daughter, Katherine Bunnell, married attorney William H. Gorrill, hence the name on the sign in front of the house. 

As for the Town and Gown Club, it underwent several expansions, some of them constructed and perhaps also designed by A.H. Broad. The tall Maybeck core is now sandwiched between those additions. On the exterior, only the main roof and its outrigger brackets attest to the master’s touch. 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes www.berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 


About the House: Taking a Look at California’s New Building Codes

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:12:00 PM

I’m not a fan of the building codes but I have to admit that they do a lot for us. That may come as a surprise to those of you who know me as a building inspector. “Aren’t the codes what that’s all about?” you may ask. Well, not really. Not for me.  

The codes inform the examination of buildings and they remind us to do certain things, but the problem that I have with them—and it comes up again and again—is that they make for lousy design criteria. They’re a good way to check on our work and, again, to remind us to consider certain dangers and problems—but if your design is nothing more than code compliance, what a boring place you will have constructed. I’d even go further and say that a really wonderful building is more than likely to have conditions that don’t meet code and a really safe and well-built building is going to go far beyond the code in many ways. That’s why there are so many other documents and learned practices that are essential to good construction. 

Building to the codes does not assure good quality construction. The building codes are checklists of safety and quality-assurance items. Nothing more. I’m glad they exist but they bug the bejesus out of me. One of the reasons they bug me so much is that they are open to a great deal of interpretation. They often lack clarity and, ultimately, like the law, they require a judge (in this case, a building official) to make the call. One official says one thing and the next official says another. This drives all builders crazy, especially when dollars are on the line. More than a few fights are apt to break out across the planning office counter. I’ve seen my share. 

Last year, California adopted a new statewide set of codes (e.g. building, electrical, energy) that are referred to as Title 24. The California Building Code of 2007 (or CBC 07) was adopted in 2008. That’s pretty good timing for codes. We’re often adopting them two or three years late. It takes a long time for red tape to come off the reel. 

The CBC represents many small changes and a few larger ones. I thought I’d devote this week’s column to a listing of some of the more notable ones that might just catch your eye as you plan or complete your next building project. 

Here’s one I’m happy about. For years a window has been adequate to meet the ventilation requirement for bathrooms, but now a vent fan is required if the room has a bathtub or shower. We’ve long known that windows didn’t cut it in making sure that the steam got shunted away (saving the paint, the framing and lot of other things from being steamed to death), but now it’s a requirement. I approve. 

Grading. Even though better builders and designers know better, grading the soil away around the building has not been a requirement until now, just an option. Now it’s a requirement. The soil must slope away from the building site at a 5 percent slope (or five inches in 10 feet). There are some alternative ways of meeting the requirement, but it’s really good that they’re making this a requirement. Many buildings (especially around here) suffer from moisture accrual underneath and from foundation failures that could be avoided to some degree through simple grading. 

Damp-proofing is now a requirement. Damp-proofing is the process of installing drainage elements that move water away from the foundation and basement walls to inhibit the intrusion of moisture. Most of our current buildings have no damp-proofing built into them and as a result, many have damp or wet basements and crawlspaces. Like grading, this is not a perfect solution, but when used widely it can greatly decrease the number of houses that have these problems and decrease the intensity of the problem where they do appear. Further, when installing foundations, damp-proofing is cheap and quick. There’s no good argument against it except that too many builders are either poorly informed about these methods or in too much of hurry to get paid. Anyone who claims to be providing waterproofing is either planning to jump out of a plane over the jungle with a lot of cash or is just plain stupid. There ain’t no such thing as waterproofing for foundations. 

Another thing that I’m very happy to see is that span tables (how we choose a 2x6 as opposed to a 2x8) just got easier. Most common species of wood are listed in simple tables for the sizing of floors, ceilings and rafters. A formula (using the dreaded Modulus of Elasticity) is no longer needed for most projects, although this has meant a slightly stricter interpretation (i.e., you may get bumped up to a larger size in some situations). 

Here’s one that I’m sort of thrilled about (because I am a total geek and have no life). Shear wall nailing (that’s the way they nail those seismic panels in your basement to prevent earthquake damage) now has a clearly stated minimum number of nails that will have to be used (and where they must be placed). While this won’t prevent a lot of dumb stuff from being called seismic retrofitting, it will force any job with a permit to meet a moderate standard, and this is good for us. 

An important area in which the code is growing and improving is in demanding that buildings don’t leak. Now this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many buildings leak and how little can be blamed on building codes in these cases. Well, that’s changing. Two new portions of the CBC 07 will require that city inspectors check flashings (those mysterious but oft-mentioned building components that shed water to the exterior in myriad fashions) and for a “weather-resistive wall envelope.” This also sounds mysterious but it’s incredibly important to have this spelled out. What’s being asked of the municipal inspectors now is that they check the building paper, window interface and various exterior elements to make sure that water can’t get inside. A set of adjoining codes will specify that these “weather-resistive barriers” conform to a set of nationally accepted standards and that they be placed over a range of projections and trims. Similarly, another set of adjoining standards applies to our troubled friend stucco. (These are all produced by the American Society for Testing and Materials. These geeks are so pasty-white from hanging around the lab all day, they make me look like George Hamilton.) Stucco is often mis-installed and often leaks, so having a nice rigorous standard for its installation is a darned good and long overdue thing. Good job, CBC. 

I continue to scratch my head over the code’s lack of concern for the matter of falls from windows. The standard for window height (where a window is at least six feet off the outside ground) is two feet from the floor. Now, being a parent, I have known a lot of 3-year-olds, and I haven’t met one who would be impeded by a two-foot climb to a window sill. Decks require 42-inch railings (and that’s 42 inches above a built-in seat!). What’s different about falls from windows? I don’t get it.  

Let’s just cover a couple of others. Handrails are very important and just got a lot more specific. Whatever you have now probably won’t comply. They have to stand off from a surface (no stuck-on mushroom shapes any more) and have to be smaller than what used to pass. The maximum diameter for a round handrail is 2.25 inches and… well, it’s very complicated.  

Stairs are now tougher and that’s a good thing because people fall on stairs. Old people fall, drunk people fall, inattentive people fall and everyone falls when things are slippery. Falls on stairs can be devastating. Now, stairs must be at least 11 inches deep with a 10-inch run from nosing to nosing and no more than a 7.75-inch rise between treads. This is far more comfortable than previous standards and it gets my applause. 

The last item I’ll mention is going to be a mess and I’m not fully clear on the intent. A doorway has threshold that you have to step over, and historically we have relied upon this as one way to we keep water out. It’s a curb of sorts. Well, the new CBC says that a doorway may not have a threshold higher than a half-inch. That’s about half the typical threshold and it’s going to be a bear getting this to keep water out. Also, the threshold for a sliding door will be limited to three quarters of an inch in height. To the best of my knowledge, nobody makes a door like this, so for a while, this will be very complicated. When we do manage to comply, I will be on the lookout for a lot of leaks at these doorways. Oh boy, more work for me.  

I’d like to offer that my knowledge of these obscure matters would be measurably depleted were it not for the Herculean (and extremely geeky) efforts of Mr. Douglas Hansen of the absolutely essential Code Check books. If you don’t own one or more of these easy-to-use, spiral-bound wonders, and you have anything to do with construction, you are seriously missing out. Douglas is also a long-standing member of our local chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors. 

 

Ask Matt: Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:10:00 PM

THURSDAY, MARCH 19 

THEATER 

Sun & Moon Ensemble “Twobird” Benefit at 8 p.m. for South Berkeley Community Church. Fri.-Sun at 8 p.m. through March 29 at the South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview St., at Ellis. Tickets are $10-$25 sliding scale. 800-838-3006.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Dr. Robert Root on “Imagining Istanbul” at 7 p.m. at Black Oak Books. 486-0698. www.blackoakbooks.com 

Poetry Flash with D.A. Powell and Hugh Behm-Steinberg at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

Women’s History Month Showcase A multi-generational poetry conversation featuring Patricia Smith, Emcee Jen Ro, Deema Shehabi and Aya de Leon at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Cost is $5-$10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Elaine Showalter describes “A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx” at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Cost is $10.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Melodians, reggae, at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Todalo Shakers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kelly Park & Friends at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $8. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Sun House, Somori Pointer and the Skinny Guns at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Sheppard’s Krook at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

FRIDAY, MARCH 20 

THEATER 

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 

Berkeley Rep “Crime and Punishment” at 2025 Addison St., through Mar. 29. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

Black Repertory Group “Mrs. Streeter” Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2:30 and 8 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through April 25. Tickets are $15-$20. 925-812-2787. www.blackrepertorygroup.com 

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 

Sun & Moon Ensemble “Twobird” Fri.-Sun at 8 p.m. through March 29 at the South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview St., at Ellis. Tickets are $10-$25 sliding scale. 800- 838-3006. www.sunandmoonensemble.org 

Word for Word “More Stories” by Tobias Wolff. Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $20-$25. www.brownpapertickets.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

“frost, fog, flora” Black and white photographs by Michele Hofherr. Artist reception at 5 p.m. at Photolab, 2235 Fifth St. 644-1400. www.photolaboratory.com 

“Unleaded, Please!” Art auction to benefit West Oakland and the Environmental Movement for Clean Air, with art, documentary showing, live entertainment, and more, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Excel High School, 2607 Myrtle St., Oakland. Suggested donation $3-$20. RSVP to www.mobaganda.com/unleadedplease 

FILM 

“The Big Lebowski” followed by discussion at 7 p.m. at The Dream Institute, 1672 University, at McGee. Cost is $10. 845-1767. dream-institute.org 

“Fruit Fly” with filmmaker H.P. Mendoza at 6:30 p.m. at the Pacific Film Archive. Cost is $5.50-$9.50. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Friday Night Poetry Readings and open mic from 7 to 9 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. 644-4930. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Susan Cohen and Christine Cosgrove describe “Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short boys, and the Medical Industry’s Quest to Manipulate Height” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Oakland East Bay Symphony Concert performance of Verdi’s “Otello” Act 1 at 8 p.m. at Paramount Theater, Oakland. TIckets are $20-$65. 444-0801. www.oebs.org 

Isabel Stover at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Dmitri Metheny Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Trombonga, trombone quartet, at 6:45 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

Wake the Dead at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Patrick Ball at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Country Casinovas, Delilah Monroe and the Tom Cats at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

California Love, Laughing Dog, Maggot Colony at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

Mo’Fone at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 21 

CHILDREN  

East Bay Children’s Theatre “That’s Our Snow White” at 1 and 3 p.m. at The James Moore Theater, Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Tickets are $10. www.childrens-theatre.org 

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Jerry Kennedy at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Lady Emerald 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 

EXHIBITIONS 

Annual Group Show Opening reception at 7 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 655-9019. www.curatorofoddities.com 

“Modality Room” Installation by Renee Gertler. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 547-6608. www.blankspacegallery.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Reflections of Rebirth and Survival from the Clutches of War” Dramatic readings on the wars in Iraq and Palestine at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Annual Poets’ Dinner Awards With Laverne Srith on “Surprise” Luncheon at noon at Francesco’s Restaurant, 8520 Pardee Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $28-$29.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Winds & Waves” at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400. www.philharmonia.org 

“Two Cherries” MaryClare Brzytwa and Annie Lewandowski, original compositions for voice, flute, prepared piano and electronics at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12. 549-3864. www. 

trinitychamberconcerts.com 

Barbara Nissman Benefit Piano Recital at 7:30 p.m. at R. Kassman Piano, 843 Gilman St., Suite B. Tickets are $25. 558-0765. www.rkassman.com  

ChamberMix “Music of Youth” Faculty concert with works from the John Adams Young Composers Program at 7 p.m. in the Dalby Room, Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. 559-6910. 

Kathleen McIntosh at 7 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito, near Grand and Harrison, Oakland. Benefit for Alameda County Community Food Bank and the Friends of Music of St. Paul’s Church. Suggested donation $10-$20. Bring non-perishable food items for the Food Bank. 834-4314. 

Kosher Gospel with Joshua Nelson and Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at 8 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Oakland, 2501 Harrison St., Oakland. Tickets are $24-$28. 800-838-3006. www.jewishmusicfestival.org 

Spring Equinox Concert and Ritual “One Soul Sounding” featuring vocalists Linda Tillery, Eda Maxym, Lisa Rafel, and Evelie Delfino Såles, at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Merritt United Methodist Church, 1330 Lakeshore, Oakland. Tickets are $15-$22. 654-3234. www.lisarafel.com 

Macy Blackman & The Mighty Fines at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Youssoupha Sidibe at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Flowtilla at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Melanie O’Reilly and “Aisling” at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Kalley Price Old Blues & Jazz Band at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Luke Thomas Trio at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Bowman’s Jammer Showcase at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 

SFSC All-Stars perfom The Beatles White Album at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $9. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

In Disgust, Kill the Client, Final Draft at 7 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $5. 525-9926. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 22 

CHILDREN 

Octopretzel at 11 a.m. at Studio Grow, 1235 10th St. Cost is $8. 526-9888. 

EXHIBITIONS 

Asian Folk Art: Balinese Painting and Chinese Paper Cuts. Reception at 1 p.m., lecture at 2 p.m. at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. 848-1228. 

Linda Lorraine and Salma Arastu A exhibition of gloves, paintings, drawings, digital photos, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Jamie Erfurdt Art Gallery, 1966 University Ave. & Milvia, through May 10. 849-1312. 

Miles Karpilow Exhibition of the works of the late master woodworker, with a slide show at 2 p.m. and reception at 3 p.m. at the Berkeley Public Library, Community Room, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6236. 

FILM 

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 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs” Jamaican author Stefhen Bryan will read from his memoir of life in Japan at 3 p.m. at Jamaican Soul Café, 2057 San Pablo Ave., at Addison. 260-4647. www.blackpassenger.com 

Egyptology Lecture “Theban Tomb 16: The Tomb of Two Ramesside Chanters” with Dr. Suzanne Onstine, University of Memphis, at 2:30 p.m. at Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415-664-4767. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra “Winds & Waves” at 3 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $30-$72. 415-392-4400. www.philharmonia.org 

Prometheus Symphony Orchestra at 3 p.m. at Saint Paul's Episcopal Church, 114 Montecito Ave., Oakland. Free, children welcome. www.prometheussymphony.org 

Roy Brown Group at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Still on the Hill at 8 p.m. at Wisteria Ways, Rockridge, Oakland. Not wheelchair accessible. Cost is $15-$20. Reservations required. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Mac Martin & the California Travelers at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Olehole, Dateless, Hudson Falcons, The Albert Square at 5 p.m. at 924 Gilman St., an all-ages, member-run, no alcohol, no drugs, no violence club. Cost is $7. 525-9926. 

MONDAY, MARCH 23 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Touching the Land” Contemporay Aboriginal art from Australia opens at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, 2301 Vine St. and runs through May 22. 707-762-3296. 

FILM 

Monday Afternoon at the Movies: Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “The Decalogue” Segments 9 and 10 at 1:15 p.m. at JCCEB, 1414 Walnut St. Free. Donations accepted. 848-0237.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Jon Carroll and Cynthia Gorney in Conversation at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $25. Benefits Park Day School. 653-0317, ext. 103. www.ParkDaySchool.org 

Thomas Glave and Helen Klonaris at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Downtown Jam Session with Glen Pearson at 7 p.m. at Ed Kelly Hall, Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, 1616 Franklin St., Oakland. Cost is $5. www.opcmucsic.org 

TUESDAY, MARCH 24 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest” read by Stephen Ratcliffe, Garrett Caples, Rena Rosenwasser, Susan Gevirtz, Andrew Joron, and Patricia Dienstfrey, at at 7:30 p.m. at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave. 849-2087. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Aux Cajunals at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

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

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Of Ships and Tugs” Maritime photography of Jan Tiura. Opening reception at 5 p.m. at the EBMUD 2nd flr. gallery, 375 11th St., Oakland. www.phototiura.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

An Evening with Floy Jagoda and Friends Conversation, Memories and Songs at 7:30 p.m. at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $16-$20. 800-838-3006. www.jewishmusicfestival.org 

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

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Music for the Spirit organ music by Bach in celebration of his birthday, at 12:15 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, 2619 Broadway. 444-3555. 

Quake City, jug band, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre, 2629 Telegraph Ave. www.lebateauivre.net 

Bossa Five-O at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Black Crown Stringband, hoedown, with calling by Evie Ladin, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Conjunto Rovira at 9:30 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Salsa dance lessons at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $5-$10. 548-1159.  

THURSDAY, MARCH 26 

FILM 

“Wholphin” A quarterly DVD magazine with short movies, documentaries and uncategorizable films at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320, pdtevents@gmail.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

PEN Oakland “4 X 4 Plays” staged readings of new works by local playwrights, Thurs. and Fri. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Tickets are $7-$10. 681-5652. www.penoakland.org 

Steve Fainaru, Washington Post correspondent and author of “Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq” at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“Di Goldene Pave” Yiddish Muse and Mystery with Lenka Lichtenberg at 1 p.m. at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $12-$15. 800-838-3006. www.jewishmusicfestival.org 

“The Miracle of the Negro Spiritual” An evening of lecture and song with Prof. Lucy Kinchen, soloists and The Lucy Kinchen Chorale at 7 p.m. at Laney College, Room G189. 

Santa Ferenc, Hungarian Gypsy music, at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $15-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Anais Mitchell at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761.  

Alex Calatayud’s Brasil and Farewell Party at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ.  

TAARKA, Elephant Revival at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082.  

The Bluegrass Revolution at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790.  

FRIDAY, MARCH 27 

THEATER 

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 

Berkeley Rep “Crime and Punishment” at 2025 Addison St., through Mar. 29. Tickets are $27-$71. 647-2949. berkeleyrep.org 

 

 

 

Black Repertory Group “Mrs. Streeter” Fri. at 8 p.m., Sat. at 2:30 and 8 p.m. at 3201 Adeline St., through April 25. Tickets are $15-$20. 925-812-2787. www.blackrepertorygroup.com 

Contra Costa Civic Theater “Nine (The Musical)” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito, through March 28. Tickets are $15-$24. 524-9132. www.ccct.org 

Destiny Arts “Dreaming Awake” Movement theater work created by young artists Fri. and Sat. at 7:30 p.m. through April 5, at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon St., Oakland. Cost is $12-$20. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Masquers Playhouse “The Last Five Years” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through May 2. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

“Memories and Dreams of the Twentieth Century: stories and a couple of songs” A one-man show by Michael Brown, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m. at Da Silva Ukulele Co., 2547 8th St., Suite 28, in the Sawtooth Bldg., through April 4. Suggested donation $15. 868-3280. 

Shotgun Players “Skylight” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., though April 26. Tickets are $25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

Sun & Moon Ensemble “Twobird” Fri.-Sun at 8 p.m. through March 29 at the South Berkeley Community Church, 1802 Fairview St., at Ellis. Tickets are $10-$25 sliding scale. 800- 838-3006. www.sunandmoonensemble.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Descent” Photographs by Peter Tonningsen on display until May 1 at A Different Day Gallery, 1233 Solano Ave., Albany. 868-4904. 

FILM 

“Iron Jawed Angels” A fictionalized account of the young activists in the women’s suffrage movement at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Friends Church 1600 Sacramento at Cedar St. 524-4112. www.berkeleyfriendschurch.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

PEN Oakland “4 X 4 Plays” staged readings of new works by local playwrights, at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Tickets are $7-$10. 681-5652. www.penoakland.org 

Blair Kilpatrick reads from “Accordian Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

“Blues & Jazz Benefit” with Rhonda Benin & Company, Dave Matthews Blues Band, Beverly Johnson and others in a benefit for Berkeley Food and Housing Project, at 6 pm. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $30. 649-4965, ext. 312. www.bfhp.org 

Whitworth Symphony Orchestra Performs Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 and other selections at 8 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, 2407 Dana St. Free, donations accepted. 509-777-3280. 

Opera Piccola Youth Performance at 7 p.m. at Oakland Technical High School Auditorium, 4351 Broadway, Oakland. Donations accepted. www.opera-piccola.org 

Que viva el canto/Songs of Chile with Eduardo Peralta at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $13-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Glen Pearson Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Blue Turtle Seduction, Seah Hodge & High Heat at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Escalay, middle-eastern jazz, at 7:30 p.m. at Pro Arts Gallery, 550 Second St., Oakland. Tickets are $12-$18. proartsgallery.org  

Claudia Schmidt at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Botticellis, Winters Fall, Belly of the Whale at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Justin Anchetta at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Terrence Brewer Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Monophonics & Grease Taps at 9 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $6-$8. 548-1159.  

Lynne Smith, Vickie Hopper Claudia Russell at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 28 

CHILDREN  

East Bay Children’s Theatre “That’s Our Snow White” at 1 and 3 p.m. at The James Moore Theater, Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. Tickets are $10. www.childrens-theatre.org 

Los Amiguitos de La Peña with Colibrí at 10:30 a.m. at La Peña. Cost is $5 for adults, $4 for children. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Owen Baker Flynn “Act in a Box” 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 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Go Figure” Works interpreting the human form by Prabin Badhia, Bernice Gross and Gail Machlis. Reception at 7 p.m. at 4th Street Studio, 1717D 4th St. www.fourthstreetstudio.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Representative Barbara Lee will read from her memoir “Renegade for Peace and Justice” and discuss her political career at 3 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. pdtevents@gmail.com 

Rhythm & Muse Young Writers’ Night, with Maurisha and Michelle Williams, Terry Taplin, Anthony Atlas, Poetry Thomas & others, at 7 p.m. at 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice and Rose Sts. 644-6893.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Gamelan Sekar Jaya 30th Anniversay Benefit with auction, Balinese music and performance from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Berkeley City Club, Durant Ave. Cost is $25. 655-1227. 

Los Cenzontles, Mexican-American Roots band, at 2 p.m. at Down Home Music, 10341 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. 525-2129. 

Pellejo Seco, Cuban, at 9:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$13. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Mal Sharpe’s Gumbo Band at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Baba Ken & the Afro-Groove Connexion at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Kenny “Blue” Ray at 8:30 p.m. at Bobby G’s, 2072 University Ave.  

Take the Stage at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $8.50-$9.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mitch Green at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Roger Rocha and the Goldenhearts at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Hali Hammer and Khadejah Waverly at 8 p.m. at Spuds Pizza, 3290 Adeline St. Cost is $7-$10. 597-0795. 

Or, the Whale, The Flagpoles, Strix Vega at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Patrick Wolff Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Dan Potthast, Davenpport Totem 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. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 29 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Congresswoman Barbara Lee on her new book “Renegade for Peace & Justice” at 1 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 98 Broadway, Jack London Square, Oakland. 272-0120. 

Andrea Mock, spoken word performance at 4 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Berkeley Opera 30th Anniversary Celebration Concert with soprano Ruth Ann Swenson, at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Tickets are $48-$58. www.berkeleyopera.org 

Jewish Music Festival Family Day with activities and performances from 11 a.m., dance party at 4 p.m. at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $7-$20. 800-838-3006. www.jewishmusicfestival.org 

Namâd Ensemble, Ossyan (Rebellion), Persian Classical Concert at 7 p.m. at The Julia Morgan Young People’s Performing Arts Center, 2640 College Ave. Tickets are $30. 823-5990. info@namaadensemble.com 

Joshua Moshier & Andre Bush at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Bandworks at 1 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $5. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Mary Jensen at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $12. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Duck Baker at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Spearcracker at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 


Wolff Stories on Stage at Julia Morgan

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:08:00 PM

Word For Word, the San Francisco theater company that stages verbatim versions of classic and contemporary fiction, is producing More Stories By Tobias Wolff at the Julia Morgan Center through Sunday afternoon. Directed by Joel Mullennix and featuring three tales from Our Story Begins (2008), Wolff’s most recent collection, More Stories has just completed an extended San Francisco run and regional tour. It follows Word For Word’s successful 2002 production, Stories By Tobias Wolff. 

The cast features Word For Word charter members Stephanie Hunt and Jen Lynn Cohen, as well as Paul Finocchiaro, Michelle Pava Mills and Anthony Nemirovsky. 

Director Mullinnex talked about the three stories and the manner in which the company stages them: “‘Sanity’ and ‘Down to the Bone’ [first published in the New Yorker] form the first act, with ‘Firelight’ [anthologized in Best American Short Strories] following intermission. There’s a thread of family, specifically of mothers, between the stories, but from different perspectives.” 

Mullennix described the stories: “‘Sanity’ takes place on a walk a teenaged girl takes with her stepmother after they visit the girl’s father in a mental hospital. It’s funny, but poignant, showing the separate needs of each. In ‘Down to the Bone,’ a grown man, whose mother lies dying, goes off to a funeral home—and has a fantasy about a woman. It’s the Sex and Death story. It’s about the role reversal the man goes through with his mother, taking care of her. And she’s too sick to respond to the connection he tries to make with her. In ‘Firelight,’ a boy and his mother, who live in a rooming house, pretend to be interested in renting apartments they can’t really afford so they can visit them. They pretend to shop, to get some satisfaction from a taste of what they can’t have.  

“Tobias Wolff was very close to his own mother,” Mullennix continued, “which informs all three stories. And his stories are often about creating your own identity.” 

He talked about the staging of the stories: “Each piece is very different; they’re all different theatrically. Our method of staging is opposite to what you might think; we’re not narrating a story or doing readers’ theater. We’re really physicalizing the story, figuring out what picture to show to the audience, and to activate the language, to find what in words the audience will see in its imagination.  

“There’s a progression in what the stories look like onstage,” he continued, “the first, a bleak landscape; the second fills in more onstage—and the third, more rich and textured. They grow warmer. Choreographer Andrea Webber has been very helpful. There are certain elements of formalized movement, of dance ... .” 

“The stories are very amusing as well as heartfelt,” Mullennix concluded, “both feelings going on at the same time.” 

Tobias Wolff grew up in the Pacific Northwest (recalled in his memoir,This Boy’s Life), later serving an Army tour of Vietnam (whence his second memoir, In Pharoah’s Army: Memories of the Lost War). Later a Wallace Stegner Fellow, then teacher at Stanford, he directed the Creative Writing Program there, and is Woods Professor in Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences. He has published four collections of short stories, a novella and the novel Old School. 

Word For Word was founded in 1993 by Susan Harloe and JoAnne Winter, and became a program of San Francisco’s Z Space in 1994, staging fiction by over 80 authors. Since 1996, the company has toured France each spring. 

 

 

More Stories By Tobias Wolff 

8 p.m. Thursday, March 19, through Saturday, March 21; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 22. Julia Morgan Center, 2540 College Ave. $20-25. (800) 838-3006. 

www. brownpapertickets.com.


Young Composers Program at Crowden

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:09:00 PM

The John Adams Young Composers Program will present its second annual Faculty Concert, Music of Youth, with premieres of New Music About Youth and Being Young, by Alexis Alrich, Molly Axtmann, Dean Curtis, Clark Suprynowicz and Katrina Wreede, played by ChamberMix (flute, clarinet, cello and piano quartet), this Saturday night at the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley. 

“Youth strikes a different chord with each composer on the program,” as the composers announced their pieces: Alexis Alrich’s Hong Kong Email is “a set of pieces about the sounds of Hong Kong, short messages about daily life ... suitable for the imaginations and fingers of student performers.” Molly Axtmann notes, “Imdugud is a mythological creature from ancient Sumeria, also known as the Anzu Bird ... part eagle, part lion ... a servant of the air god Enlil ... [who] stole the tablets of destiny ... This creature’s music harks back to the beginning of civilization.” Dean Curtis’ Beacon Street Elegey “interweaves life memory, dream memory, ancient chant, ambient music and readings ... an elegy after the death of a long-beloved friend.” Clark Suprynowicz writes that The Magic Shop is “from my own recollections of being 10 years old, and visiting, with my mother, a shop ... that sold magic tricks, silk handkerchiefs, deckes of prepared cards ... this was an enchanting place.” And Katrina Wreede notes that Complementary Supplement (movement number one of a work in progress) “reflects the perverse and conflicted process of growing up at any age.” 

Music of Youth is funded by the American Composers Forum and Crowden Center for Music in the Community.  

 

7 p.m. in the Dalby Room, Crowden Music Center, 1475 Rose St. Free. 559-6910. 


Berkeley Art Museum’s Thought-Provoking ‘Galaxy’

By Peter Selz Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:09:00 PM
Rene Magritte's ≤i≥Duo≤/i≥ (1928), brush and India ink on paper.
Courtesy UC Berkeley Art Museum
Rene Magritte's ≤i≥Duo≤/i≥ (1928), brush and India ink on paper.

Considering that the Berkeley Art Museum is only about 40 years old, it has a remarkable collection spanning the centuries and continents. For too long a time it was largely invisible, but now much has come to light in an exhibition aptly entitled “Galaxy.” As the museum’s founding director I was delighted to re-visit old friends and greet new arrivals. 

Larry Rinder, the museum’s new director, must have enjoyed going through the storage racks, for he has come up with a splendid selection. Avoiding didactic chronology or geography, he uses juxtapositions, congruities and contrasts to make us look anew, with a fresh eye at the work. 

Upon entering Gallery Four, the viewer is presented with two pieces dating back to the museum’s first important exhibition, the International Kinetic Sculputre show of 1966. There is Jean Tinguely’s Black Knight, with its suggestive movement, and Harry Kramer’s agitated chair. An electromagnetic painting by Taxis is installed elsewhere.  

Dominating one wall in this gallery is Gaia, a work of great iconic power by Quattara, an artist born in Ivory Coast and now living in New York. For a long time artists from countries whose native culture was destroyed by colonial power were conflicted as to whether they should adopt the leading art forms of the West or try to re-connnect with their own tradition. Quattara’s painting, first seen in an exhibition organized by Rinder when he was Matrix curator, provides an answer to this quandary by creating a work that fuses both traditions. In this installation it seems to be in discussion with a sculpture called Karuna, by Ibram Lassaw, a New York artist, close to the Abstract Expressionist painters who was also born in Africa (Alexandria). Paul Klee’s etching, Garden of Passion, with it’s writhing organic forms, seems suddenly related to a lithograph by Bruce Connor, with its own profusion of organic wiggly lines. Another Klee in this gallery, showing bending flowers, has an affinity with the eccentric personages by Joan Miró. The solid trees of Forest at Fontainebleau, by Theodore Rousseau, form an amazing contrast to the transparent work of human hair made by D-J Alvarez 130 years later. And the large oil by Jay Defeo, which she called Origin, responds to these pieces as it resembles a forest of grasses.  

On the next floor the visitor first encounters two works, both done in the Bay Area in the late 1960s: the totally abstract sculptures, named Chai (Hebrew for “life”), by Harold Paris and the totally realistic ’60s T-Bird, by Robert Bechtle. The first wall provides an amusing congruity between Dürer’s masterprint, The Great Horse, and a 19th century photograph of a horse’s head. The latter is placed next to Giovanni Caracciolo’s Caravaggesque canvas of St. John the Baptist—one of the finest works in the museum’s collection. Its homo-erotic suggestions are echoed by a French Baroque etching and an Italian drawing placed as its neighbors.  

In the same gallery, a biting comment on ridiculous German burghers by George Grosz is located next to a fat Englishman by Thomas Rowlandson. Rubens’ beautiful oil sketch Road to Calvary, which depicts St. Veronica wiping Christ’s face, is echoed by an etching and aquatint by Georges Rouault of St. Veronica. On this wall are two of the great drawings in the museum’s collection: René Magritte’s Duo, showing two loves whose access to each other is prevented by cloth covering their heads. This 20th century image of total frustration is contrasted to Tiepolo’s freely flying female figure. A painting of human-like figures, produced by Willem De Kooning in 1945, is contrasted with drawings of women by the artist of 1960. The idyllic landscape by the classical French painter Jean Francois Millet is placed in conversation with a classical Chinese landscape by Wen Jia, done about a hundred years earlier: in both paintings an ideal landscape—a serene valley by the French artist, a tower of rocks by the Chinese—is visited by small human figures. There are two very different sculptures of human heads looking at each other in this gallery: Medardo Rosso’s wax portrait Jewish Boy, done in the 1890s, seems to converse with a polychromed wooden head of Christ by a Mexican folk artist done about a hundred years earlier. And Please Touch, Marchel Duchamp’s foam rubber breast, has found a neighbor in a nude with conspicuous breasts in Karl Schmidt-Rottluff’s woodcut. The tour of this gallery concludes with two 19th century California paintings: The organizers of the exhibition detected that Thomas Hill’s The Organ Grinder was hanging in Henry Alexander’s Teete’s House when he painted it in 1886. 

In Gallery Six the viewer will be pleasantly surprised to see the comparison between the Zen Haboku splashed landscapes and Jackson Pollock’s poured 1950 canvas, hanging not far from Mark Tobey’s Zen-inspired aquatint and the freely brushed blue canvas by Sam Francis. There are also two masterpieces of the New York School in this gallery, Mark Rothko’s Number 207, and Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting, No. 3. The Rothko was my first purchase for the museum, acquired at a generous discount in recognition of a retrospective I had curated of the artist’s work at New York Museum of Modern Art a few years earlier. Ad Reinhardt donated his painting to Berkeley. Larry Rinder ingeniously juxtaposed this work, which calls for quiet contemplation and inspiring reflection, with the contemporaneous loud and provocative silk screen called Race Riot by Andy Warhol. Rothko’s altar-like painting, with its profound spiritual content, is contrasted with a depersonalized machine-fabricated wall sculpture by Donald Judd, calling for a contrary response. 

This “Galaxy” evokes much thought, which, of course, is precisely what exhibitions are meant to do. The final work in the top gallery prompts a question of another kind: a panel of Judas Betraying Christ, is designated as Sienese, 14th century, oil on wood. The faces of the soldiers, however, are much too realistic for a 14th century painting, and the late medieval painters in Siena did not paint in oil. The provenance of this work needs to be investigated. But, never mind—the exhibition as a whole is a work of stimulating installation art. 

 

GALAXY 

Through Aug. 30 at Berkeley Art Museum, 2626 Bancroft Way. 642-0808. www.bampfa.berkeley.edu.


Balinese Paintings and Chinese Papercuts at the Giorgi Gallery

By Dorothy Bryant Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:11:00 PM
The Chinese papercut is a highly perishable form of folk art.
The Chinese papercut is a highly perishable form of folk art.

Joe Fischer took his bachelor’s in American Colonial History in the early 1950s, and was leaning toward Middle Eastern Studies for his master’s. Then a combination of circumstances nudged him toward Indonesian studies. Once he had seen Bali, he was hooked. From 1956 until 2004, he made frequent visits to Bali, studying Balinese history and mythology and collecting Balinese textiles, embroideries, and paintings. He has written six books, including Folk Art of Java and Folk Art of Bali (both from Oxford University Press) and, most recently, Story Cloths of Bali (Ten Speed Press, 2006). 

“There are more craftspeople, more creativity on this small island of Bali than you could ever imagine,” says Joe. “Today, what was once a wholly cultural, universal expression, has become a means of sustenance—because what is commonplace to the Balinese is stunning to a visitor,” and even more impressive if the visitor becomes familiar with the Hindu and indigenous mythology of Bali. Not only do prints on cloth relate stories from the Ramayana or the Mahabarata, but the decorated detail of small paintings on paper portray vivid figures from traditional stories.  

The great monkey hero, Hanuman, may be familiar to you, but have you ever heard the complex story of the giant demon Kala Rauh, whom the gods catch drinking the milk of immortality? Vishnu decapitates Kala Rauh, but not before the milk has reached his throat, so that his now-immortal head eternally rolls around the heavens seeking revenge by trying to swallow the sun and the moon-hence, of course, the occasional eclipse (always successfully aborted in the old days by people running out into the streets, beating pots and pans to drive away the voracious head of Kala Rauh.) 

Over the years, along with the Balinese embroideries and paintings, Joe accumulated innumerable Chinese paper cuts. “Papercuts are works of highly perishable folk art you find in few countries: Mexico, Poland, Israel, and China. In the 1950s, during the Cultural Revolution, China was sending thousands of them—some the size of your palm, some as large as a book page—all over the region, as a kind of cultural-diplomatic offering. This is an old craft, practiced by almost every villager, often pasted on window covers, decorative but transitory; people must have been cutting new ones constantly. Stencils were made for easier cutting of popular designs.” We have all seen foot-square colorful Mexican paper cuttings in abstract designs, hanging on strings across the ceiling at our favorite restaurants, but, says Joe, “I don’t think mounted and framed Chinese papercuts are even available in the U. S. No one, to my knowledge, has displayed them or written a book about them.” 

Gingerly drawing examples from envelopes kept in carefully covered boxes, Joe explains how, using a tiny pointed tool and small scissors, people cut astonishingly delicate shapes: symbolic (chrysanthemum means fortitude; lotus, fertility), or mythological (characters from Chinese opera), or political (People’s Army soldiers). These cuttings are so fragile, you can barely touch one to take it out of its envelope, without damaging it. Materials and frames for display could cost hundreds of times the amount paid for a piece acquired from an Asian street stall. Perhaps that is why Joe’s Chinese papercuts, along with the small, vividly colored Balinese paintings on paper, remained carefully packed in storage for so many years.  

A few years ago Joe began frequenting Salvation Army and Goodwill stores for exotic or plain little frames. At the East Bay Depot for Reuse he found a treasure trove of supplies for mounting, say, a delicate, silvery paper “celestial maiden” against a mat of exactly the right shade of sea green. 

Now he is ready to show and tell at the Giorgi Gallery. This may be the only culturally unique folk art show where you’ll ever be able to acquire a Balinese painting of moon goddess Dewi Ratih, for as little as $35 or a framed Chinese papercut of a magical bird in flight for $15. 

Just looking, of course, is free.  

 

Asian Folk Art:  

Balinese Paintings and Chinese Papercuts 

March 22 to April 12 at Giorgi Gallery, 2911 Claremont Ave. 848-1228. Gallery Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 

Opening Reception 1-6 p.m. Sunday, March 22. Light refreshments and Live Balinese Music. 2 p.m. lecture by Joe Fischer. 

 


A ‘Passionate Celebration’ at Oakland’s Paramount Theater

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:12:00 PM

Oakland East Bay Symphony, conducted by musical director Michael Morgan, will perform a Passionate Celebration in concert Friday night, March 20, at Oakland’s Paramount Theater, featuring Act 1 of Verdi’s opera, Otello, with tenor Richard Crawley and soprano Talise Trevigne as The Moor and Desdemona, and the Oakland Symphony Chorus, directed by Lynne Morrow.  

Latvian composer Peteris Vasks’ 2007 Magnum Opus commission, “Sala: Symphonic Elegy for Orchestra,” and Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 49,” La Passione (1768) will also be played. 

Commenting on the reversal of types in the selection of the leads for Otello—an African American Desdemona and Caucasian Otello in a time of either traditional or “colorblind” casting—Michael Morgan said, “It depended on who was available, and with singers like these around to do it ...” then laughed and said, “She’s a spectacular soprano, but who besides me would hire a black Desdemona? At least it’ll give her a chance to say she did part of it.” 

Thematically, there is a connection over the Symphony’s season. For their final season performance May 15, a special concert staging of Kern and Hammerstein’s Showboat will be presented, with a remarkable cast. On Saturday, May 2, at 2 p.m., there will be a special forum on Otello and Showboat, focusing on race, ethnicity and social relations as portrayed in music and theater, at the Veteran’s Memorial Building, 200 Grand Ave., Oakland. Admission will be free. 

“It’ll be about the treatment of racial issues in musical theater—in theater—and the mixing of races, of mixed race people, down to the present day,” Morgan noted. “Every year we hold a forum on issues raised by the American masterwork of musical theater we present. This year we will also talk about the involvement of Paul Robeson in both Showboat and Otello. The local organizations that put together the celebrations of Robeson’s centennial will participate.” 

Morgan will also play harpsichord for the Haydn Symphony, of which he said it was chosen thematically to go with Otello due to its being dubbed La Passione, “the nickname of the minor key”—but that he has wanted to perform it “ever since seeing [Sir Georg] Solti do it with the Chicago Symphony,” when Morgan served as Solti’s assistant conductor in the late 1980s. 

 

OAKLAND EAST BAY SYMPHONY 

8 p.m. Friday, March 20, at the Paramount Theater, 2025 Broadway, Oakland. $20-65. 444-0801. www.oebs.org. 


‘Wind and Waves’ by Philharmonia Baroque

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:12:00 PM

The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, led by violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock, will present Winds and Waves, featuring the “lavish wind scorings of Baroque masters” (including Bach, Telemann, Vivaldi and Rameau) that “evoke the complexities and contradictions of the natural world,” this weekend at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. 

Eight composers are featured, from Veracini’s “Overture No. 6 in G minor,” Dall’Abaco’s “Concerto a piu instrumenti” and Vivaldi’s Concerto in D major, through “A Suite for Zephyr, Greek God of the East Wind” (Marais’ “Tempete,” from Alcione), Rameau’s “Deux Airs pour Zephire,” from Les Indes Galantes), Rebel’s “Ramage ‘L’Air’,” from Les Elemens—and four others by Rameau: “Air Gracieusex pour Zephire et les Graces,” from Les Fetes; “Deux Passepieds pour en Troupe de Zephyrs;” “Gavotte par les Zephirs et les Nymphes,” from Nais; and “Orage,” from Platee)—plus J. S. Bach’s “Brandenberg Concerto No. 2 in F Major” and Telemann’s “Overture in C major ‘Hamburger Ebb und Fluth.’” 

Philharmonia is featuring its woodwinds in the concert, inspired by Telemann’s scoring of the “Hamburger Ebb und Fluth,” also known as his “Water Music,” composed for the centenary of the Hamburg Admiralty in 1723. Elizabeth Blumenstock describes the piece as “wonderfully grand and impishly imaginative.” The wind instruments favored in the High Baroque—recorder, flute, oboe, bassoon and trumpet—also come to the fore in the concertos and dances by Vivaldi, Rameau and Dall’Abaco. 

Bach’s “Second Brandenburg Concerto” follows Philharmonia’s playing of his “First Brandenburg” here last October. 

The program will be repeated the following weekend at concerts in San Francisco and Lafayette. 

 

PHILHARMONIA BAROQUE 

8 p.m. Saturday, March 21 and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 22 (time has been changed from originally published schedule). First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. $30-75 (student and rush tickets, $10). (415) 392-4400. www.philharmonia.org.


East Bay Then and Now: French Couple Left Two Monuments on Dwight Way

By Daniella Thompson
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:14:00 PM
The Town and Gown Club was designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1899.
Daniella Thompson
The Town and Gown Club was designed by Bernard Maybeck in 1899.
Only the tall core of the Town and Gown Club is the work of Maybeck, but subsequent additions are faithful to the building's original spirit.
Daniella Thompson
Only the tall core of the Town and Gown Club is the work of Maybeck, but subsequent additions are faithful to the building's original spirit.
The Paget House at 2727 Dwight Way was designed in 1891 by Willis Polk.

It’s hard to believe now, but there used to be a time when Berkeley’s Southside was a fashionable place to live, dotted with the residences of professors and society people. 

Precious little remains to remind us of those days. In 2003, a survey conducted by Jerry Sulliger on behalf of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) found that only 6 percent of 138 structures that stood on the Southside a century earlier remain. 

One of the surviving 19th-century structures is a charming house located at 2727 Dwight Way. A large sign in front proclaims it to be the Gorrill House, but it was built for Professor Félicien Victor Paget and his wife, Emmanuel. 

According to his obituary in the University of California Chronicle for 1903, Félicien Paget was born on June 27, 1833, at Petit-Villard, in Franche-Comté, eastern France. His college education was devoted to the classics and to history. In 1862, he received a degree of Bachelier ès Lettres from the University of Strasbourg, followed three years later by a degree of Bachelier ès Sciences from the University of Grenoble. 

In the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, Paget served as an officer in the Francs-Tireurs. Returning home after the war, he found the family estate in ruins—both the French and the Prussian armies had tramped over the land numerous times, leaving it almost beyond repair. 

Being the family’s only son and having three sisters to support, Paget was obliged to borrow a large sum so that the estate could be restored. This debt haunted him all his life and was fully discharged only after his widow’s death.  

Also in 1870, Paget married Mlle. Emmanuel Marie Jacquet, born in Paris to a Normandy family in 1845. 

Hoping for brighter prospects in the New World, the couple immigrated to the U.S. in 1876. Settling in San Francisco, the Pagets began teaching French (he also taught Spanish) as private tutors. The musically gifted Mme. Paget taught music as well as French. They did very well—Mme. Paget alone often earned as much as $250 a month, which she applied to paying off the debt on the French estate. Following the Pagets’ death it was revealed by the professor’s second-in-command, Marius J. Spinello, that Mme. Paget was the business manager of the household, while her husband loved only his books and did not want the annoyance attendant on business affairs. 

Félicien Paget eventually became an instructor in French at the Urban School of San Francisco. A course of lectures that he delivered attracted the attention of the university, and in 1887 he was invited to Berkeley as instructor in French and Spanish languages. He was made assistant professor in 1889, associate professor in 1892, and attained full professorship of French and Spanish languages in 1894. In 1898 he began teaching literature as well as languages, and two years later the department was reorganized and Paget placed at its head as Professor of the Romanic Languages and Literatures. 

Paget was much revered by his students. One of them, Frederic A. Juilliard, ‘91, gave the University $350 in 1916 for a marble chair in the Greek Theatre in memory of his teacher. The dedication chiseled into the marble reads (translated from the French): “To his former teacher, an honest man of old times through science, honor, courtesy, and a valiant defender of his motherland, Félicien Victor Paget, professor of French literature, who gave himself wholly to his students and left the university all his worldly goods, this chair is dedicated by F.A. Juilliard.” The donor was the nephew and heir of magnate Augustus D. Juilliard, whose will established and endowed the famous New York music school. 

It was in 1891, while Paget was assistant professor, that he and his wife called on San Francisco architect Willis Polk to design a house for them in Berkeley. Polk was a disciple and neighbor of the Swedenborgian minister Joseph Worcester, an intimate friend of the Pagets. He created for the couple a half-timbered house that they named “Villa des Roses.” 

Several years after the house was built, the Pagets had the front façade shingled in three bands of decorative patterns. The front continues to be clad in scallop-edge, diamond, and irregularly overlapping shingles that lend it a charmingly rustic look. Along the west elevation, the half-timbered wall gives an idea of what the house looked like when built, although the full-length dormers on the roof are a later addition. 

“Villa des Roses” was the first but by no means the only testament left by the Pagets on Dwight Way. Mme. Paget was a prodigious clubwoman. In January 1902, the San Francisco Call devoted a feature to her in its series “The Best-Known Club Women of the Pacific Coast.” The article began: 

It is a queer thing that a French woman who cannot speak our tongue without giving her race away in the first sentence should come to America to teach some of our women of Berkeley the most American thing that they have ever learned. Mme. Paget it is who taught them the art of clubbing. 

This tall, thin, gray, powerful Frenchwoman has led them over there in the college town across the bay. She has said “You shall” and “You shall not,” and they have followed. She found them without a club such as she considered they needed. She told them they must have such a club; she organized it and formed it. She went about raising money that the club might own its house and lot and this she accomplished. All the women of Berkeley obeyed. 

The club was the Town and Gown Club, which Mme. Paget founded in 1898. It was a formidable task, as the San Francisco Call described it: “The driver of a hundred-and-seventy-five-in-hand must have a finger that feels the least twitch on any one of the lines. Somehow Mme. Paget got hold of those whims and complexities and nerves and wove them into a harmonious whole.” 

In its early days, the club held its meetings in members’ homes or in church parlors. But this phase did not last long. On March 15, 1899, the Club Building Association filed articles of incorporation, its purpose being to build and lease all structures that may be required by the Town and Gown Club. The capital stock was stated at $4,000, of which $1,060 had been subscribed. 

By April 13, 1899, the Club Building Association had acquired a lot on the corner of Dwight Way and Dana Street for $1,750. Bernard Maybeck, then instructor in drawing in the University of California, was recruited to draw up the plans for the clubhouse. Although the building budget was limited to $2,500, the architect nevertheless managed to create a stir with his design, in which the outrigger roof bracketing stood out. 

The San Francisco Call writer who reported on its progress on Aug. 9 didn’t know what to make of the building, noting that it was “attracting much interest and curiosity on account of its peculiar oddity and eccentricity of design.” In fact, it was a simple rectangular mass, clad in redwood shingles: 

Its chief characteristic is an almost severe simplicity. Redwood will be used throughout the entire structure, without plastering of any kind. Save for the interior of the roof, which is to be painted in a shade of bluish green, all the finishing for the walls, panels and furniture will be of natural wood. The inside dimensions are 23 by 40 feet. Of the two stories, the lower has a height of but eight feet, the upper of thirty feet. The latter will be used as a meeting hall, the lower floor being left for a library, cloakroom and kitchen. All the furniture has been specially made to order, and, like the rest of the building, will be severely plain. 

The Town and Gown Club took an active role in the life of the community. In 1902, it joined the Hillside Club in promoting the planting of shade trees along Berkeley’s principal streets. As a result of their efforts, all residents of the Northside pledged to plant a redwood tree in every fifty-foot lot. The Town Board of Trustees signed a decree making the first Monday of each December Arbor Day, a town holiday to be observed by the planting of trees. 

The clubwomen were also “trying to arouse on this coast an organized sentiment in favor of the Government preservation of some sequoia grove like the Mariposa forest, which can be permanently protected from ravages of timber cutters,” reported the San Francisco Call on Aug. 10, 1902. 

Professor Paget died on Dec. 23, 1903, after a long and costly illness. His wife, who had worn herself out caring for him, followed thirteen days later. Her lengthy obituary, published in the San Francisco Call on Jan. 6, 1904, revealed that Mme. Paget bequeathed to the university her husband’s library and one-third of her estate, for the founding of the F.V. Paget scholarship fund for the benefit of deserving students in the French department. 

The lion’s share of the estate was earmarked for paying off the old debt in France, which the Pagets never managed to eradicate during their lifetime. 

Within a few years, “Villa des Roses” was acquired by the Pagets’ neighbors, James and Catherine Bunnell. Their eldest daughter, Louise Mapes Bunnell, had married Charles Keeler. Their son, Sterling Bunnell, M.D., revolutionized hand surgery. The younger daughter, Katherine Bunnell, married attorney William H. Gorrill, hence the name on the sign in front of the house. 

As for the Town and Gown Club, it underwent several expansions, some of them constructed and perhaps also designed by A.H. Broad. The tall Maybeck core is now sandwiched between those additions. On the exterior, only the main roof and its outrigger brackets attest to the master’s touch. 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes www.berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 


About the House: Taking a Look at California’s New Building Codes

By Matt Cantor
Wednesday March 18, 2009 - 06:12:00 PM

I’m not a fan of the building codes but I have to admit that they do a lot for us. That may come as a surprise to those of you who know me as a building inspector. “Aren’t the codes what that’s all about?” you may ask. Well, not really. Not for me.  

The codes inform the examination of buildings and they remind us to do certain things, but the problem that I have with them—and it comes up again and again—is that they make for lousy design criteria. They’re a good way to check on our work and, again, to remind us to consider certain dangers and problems—but if your design is nothing more than code compliance, what a boring place you will have constructed. I’d even go further and say that a really wonderful building is more than likely to have conditions that don’t meet code and a really safe and well-built building is going to go far beyond the code in many ways. That’s why there are so many other documents and learned practices that are essential to good construction. 

Building to the codes does not assure good quality construction. The building codes are checklists of safety and quality-assurance items. Nothing more. I’m glad they exist but they bug the bejesus out of me. One of the reasons they bug me so much is that they are open to a great deal of interpretation. They often lack clarity and, ultimately, like the law, they require a judge (in this case, a building official) to make the call. One official says one thing and the next official says another. This drives all builders crazy, especially when dollars are on the line. More than a few fights are apt to break out across the planning office counter. I’ve seen my share. 

Last year, California adopted a new statewide set of codes (e.g. building, electrical, energy) that are referred to as Title 24. The California Building Code of 2007 (or CBC 07) was adopted in 2008. That’s pretty good timing for codes. We’re often adopting them two or three years late. It takes a long time for red tape to come off the reel. 

The CBC represents many small changes and a few larger ones. I thought I’d devote this week’s column to a listing of some of the more notable ones that might just catch your eye as you plan or complete your next building project. 

Here’s one I’m happy about. For years a window has been adequate to meet the ventilation requirement for bathrooms, but now a vent fan is required if the room has a bathtub or shower. We’ve long known that windows didn’t cut it in making sure that the steam got shunted away (saving the paint, the framing and lot of other things from being steamed to death), but now it’s a requirement. I approve. 

Grading. Even though better builders and designers know better, grading the soil away around the building has not been a requirement until now, just an option. Now it’s a requirement. The soil must slope away from the building site at a 5 percent slope (or five inches in 10 feet). There are some alternative ways of meeting the requirement, but it’s really good that they’re making this a requirement. Many buildings (especially around here) suffer from moisture accrual underneath and from foundation failures that could be avoided to some degree through simple grading. 

Damp-proofing is now a requirement. Damp-proofing is the process of installing drainage elements that move water away from the foundation and basement walls to inhibit the intrusion of moisture. Most of our current buildings have no damp-proofing built into them and as a result, many have damp or wet basements and crawlspaces. Like grading, this is not a perfect solution, but when used widely it can greatly decrease the number of houses that have these problems and decrease the intensity of the problem where they do appear. Further, when installing foundations, damp-proofing is cheap and quick. There’s no good argument against it except that too many builders are either poorly informed about these methods or in too much of hurry to get paid. Anyone who claims to be providing waterproofing is either planning to jump out of a plane over the jungle with a lot of cash or is just plain stupid. There ain’t no such thing as waterproofing for foundations. 

Another thing that I’m very happy to see is that span tables (how we choose a 2x6 as opposed to a 2x8) just got easier. Most common species of wood are listed in simple tables for the sizing of floors, ceilings and rafters. A formula (using the dreaded Modulus of Elasticity) is no longer needed for most projects, although this has meant a slightly stricter interpretation (i.e., you may get bumped up to a larger size in some situations). 

Here’s one that I’m sort of thrilled about (because I am a total geek and have no life). Shear wall nailing (that’s the way they nail those seismic panels in your basement to prevent earthquake damage) now has a clearly stated minimum number of nails that will have to be used (and where they must be placed). While this won’t prevent a lot of dumb stuff from being called seismic retrofitting, it will force any job with a permit to meet a moderate standard, and this is good for us. 

An important area in which the code is growing and improving is in demanding that buildings don’t leak. Now this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how many buildings leak and how little can be blamed on building codes in these cases. Well, that’s changing. Two new portions of the CBC 07 will require that city inspectors check flashings (those mysterious but oft-mentioned building components that shed water to the exterior in myriad fashions) and for a “weather-resistive wall envelope.” This also sounds mysterious but it’s incredibly important to have this spelled out. What’s being asked of the municipal inspectors now is that they check the building paper, window interface and various exterior elements to make sure that water can’t get inside. A set of adjoining codes will specify that these “weather-resistive barriers” conform to a set of nationally accepted standards and that they be placed over a range of projections and trims. Similarly, another set of adjoining standards applies to our troubled friend stucco. (These are all produced by the American Society for Testing and Materials. These geeks are so pasty-white from hanging around the lab all day, they make me look like George Hamilton.) Stucco is often mis-installed and often leaks, so having a nice rigorous standard for its installation is a darned good and long overdue thing. Good job, CBC. 

I continue to scratch my head over the code’s lack of concern for the matter of falls from windows. The standard for window height (where a window is at least six feet off the outside ground) is two feet from the floor. Now, being a parent, I have known a lot of 3-year-olds, and I haven’t met one who would be impeded by a two-foot climb to a window sill. Decks require 42-inch railings (and that’s 42 inches above a built-in seat!). What’s different about falls from windows? I don’t get it.  

Let’s just cover a couple of others. Handrails are very important and just got a lot more specific. Whatever you have now probably won’t comply. They have to stand off from a surface (no stuck-on mushroom shapes any more) and have to be smaller than what used to pass. The maximum diameter for a round handrail is 2.25 inches and… well, it’s very complicated.  

Stairs are now tougher and that’s a good thing because people fall on stairs. Old people fall, drunk people fall, inattentive people fall and everyone falls when things are slippery. Falls on stairs can be devastating. Now, stairs must be at least 11 inches deep with a 10-inch run from nosing to nosing and no more than a 7.75-inch rise between treads. This is far more comfortable than previous standards and it gets my applause. 

The last item I’ll mention is going to be a mess and I’m not fully clear on the intent. A doorway has threshold that you have to step over, and historically we have relied upon this as one way to we keep water out. It’s a curb of sorts. Well, the new CBC says that a doorway may not have a threshold higher than a half-inch. That’s about half the typical threshold and it’s going to be a bear getting this to keep water out. Also, the threshold for a sliding door will be limited to three quarters of an inch in height. To the best of my knowledge, nobody makes a door like this, so for a while, this will be very complicated. When we do manage to comply, I will be on the lookout for a lot of leaks at these doorways. Oh boy, more work for me.  

I’d like to offer that my knowledge of these obscure matters would be measurably depleted were it not for the Herculean (and extremely geeky) efforts of Mr. Douglas Hansen of the absolutely essential Code Check books. If you don’t own one or more of these easy-to-use, spiral-bound wonders, and you have anything to do with construction, you are seriously missing out. Douglas is also a long-standing member of our local chapter of the American Society of Home Inspectors. 

 

Ask Matt: Got a question about home repairs and inspections? Send them to Matt Cantor at mgcantor@pacbell.net.


Community Calendar

Friday March 20, 2009 - 11:57:00 AM

THURSDAY, MARCH 19 

“Tracking South Bay Birds” a talk by Stephanie Ellies of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory at 12:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“Common Murre Breeding Ground Restoration” with Peter Kappes of the SC Fish and Wildilfe Service, at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. Sponsored by Golden Gate Audubon Society. 843-2222. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

Tilden Nature Area Docent Training from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fee. is $35. For an application or information call 544-3260. www.ebparks.org 

“Our Life in Gardens” with Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd at 2 p.m. at UC Botanical Gardens. Cost is $12-$15. Reservations required. 643-2755. botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

“Creating Affordable Homes: Challenges and Opportunities” a symposium at 7 p.m. at 112 Wurster Hall, UC campus. Sponsored by Resources for Community Development. 841-4410, ext. 10. 

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum “Surviving and Thriving during the Downturn” at 6:30 p.m. at Andersen Auditorium; Haas School of Business. UC campus. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu 

“Stopping U.S. Wars for Empire” with Larry Everest at 6 p.m. at Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way. 848-1196. 

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. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Free Meditation Class at 7 p.m. every Tues. and Thurs. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr. , 1606 Bonita Ave. at Cedar. 931-7742. 

Buddhist Class on Shikan Meditation at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar at Bonita, through May 28. http://caltendai.org 

“Four Actions to Resolve Conflict Inside & Out” at 7:15 p.m. at Center for Transformative Change, 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way. RSVP to register@transformativechange.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 

FRIDAY, MARCH 20 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll learn about amphibians, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Leigh Robinson on “Hiking to the Mount Everest Base Camp” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, speech at 12:30 p.m., at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant St. For information and reservations call 524-7468. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Demonstrate for Peace! Bring your signs and determination, at 2 p.m. at Acton and University Ave. 

“Unleaded, Please!” Art auction to benefit West Oakland and the Environmental Movement for Clean Air, with art, documentary showing, live entertainment, and more, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Excel High School, 2607 Myrtle St., Oakland. Suggested donation $3-$20. RSVP to www.mobaganda.com/unleadedplease 

“Shutdown: The Rise and Fall of Direct Action to Stop the War” Film Screening at 7 p.m. at the AK Press Warehouse, 674-A 23rd St., Oakland. Free. 208-1700. akpress.org 

Free Yoga Classes with Sofia Diaz March 20-29 at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way, at 6th. 486-8700.  

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.  

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 21 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Field Trip to Arrowhead Marsh, Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the last parking lot. 316-8932. www.goldenagteaudubon.org 

Help Restore the Berkeley Meadow with Friends of Five Creeks by removing invasives and restoring habitat. Meet at 10 a.m. at the north side of University Ave., opposite Sea Breeze market. Tools, gloves and snacks provided. Dress for all weather, in clothes that can get dirty. 848-9358.  

Lakeshore Neighborhood Plant Exchange from noon to 4 p.m. at 3811 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland. Recycle and trade your cuttings and divided plants. Other gardening accessories also available. Open to all. For information see www.plantexchange.wordpress.com 

Green Thumb Workshop for ages 8 and up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the James Kenney Recreation Center garden, 1720 Eighth St. Bring a sack lunch and gardening gloves. 981-6650. 

Youth Spirit Artwork’s Tile Painting and Mosaic Making Day from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the east side of the intersection at Fairview and California sts. We’ll paint tiles on the topic of health and pledge ways to take better care of ourselves in 2009. Free. Rain cancels. 282-0396. 

Spring Equinox Gathering, with a mini-workshop on the seasons, at 6:30 p.m. at Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar at Sesar Chavez Park. Dress warmly. www.ecologycenter.org/chavez 

Friends of the Albany Library Sale of Rare, Vintage and Collectible Books from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Edith Stone Room of the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave., at Masonic. friendsalbany@yahoo.com 

St. Mary’s High School Panther Pride Night Fundraiser with “The Magic of Music” by J’ LaChic, and sports memorabilia auction, at 5:30 p.m. at the high school. Tickets are $65, includes buffet. 521-3256. www.saintmaryschs.org 

Rosie the Riveter Trust Annual Fundraising Dinner in the historic Machine Shop at Shipyard No. 3, a building not usually open to the public. Tickets are $150. 235-1315. www.rosietheriveter.org 

East Bay Baby Fair An event for new and expecting parents from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Albany Veterans Memorial Building, 1325 Portland Ave., Albany. www.eastbaybabyfair.com 

Bees and Backyard Beekeeping with the Kenyan Top Bar System Learn about the life cycles and biology of the honey bee, basic management strategies and equipment needed to get started as a backyard beekeeper from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Institute of Urban Homesteading.Cos tis $50-$75. 927-3252. 

Super Smash Brothers Video Game Legacy Tournament benefit for Berkeley High students’ trip to Washington DC. at 6:30 p.m. at Eudemonia at 2154 University Ave. Cost is $10. 705-3193. 

Princess Project East Bay Dress Giveaway for deserving high school students, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 2201 Broadway, Oakland. CA school ID required. www.princessproject.org 

“How Not To Be Funny at Your Own Expense” with Charlotte Cook at the California Writers Club meeting at 10 a.m. at Barnes & Noble, Jack London Square, 98 Broadway, Oakland. 272-0120. www.berkeleywritersclub.org 

“Science Discovery Theatre: Brainiacs” An interactive neural anatomy lesson through performance at 1 p.m., followed by lecture at 2 p.m. at Hall of Health, 2230 Shattuck Ave. (lower level). www.hallofhealth.org 

Little Farm Rabbit Tales Enjoy some bunny-inspired stories, and learn what makes our fuzzy friends’ noses twitch, at 2:30 p.m. at the Little Farm, Tilden Park 525-2233. 

The Houdini Magic Weekend Mentalists, escape artists, sides show artists, ventriloquists and more perform Sat. and Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach, 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Cost is $10-$15. 592-3002. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Arroyo Viejo Creek Work Day Help clean up the creek at the Oakland Zoo, from 9 a.m. to noon. All ages welcome. 632-9525, ext. 207. 

“Introduction to Greywater Systems” at 10 a.m. at Magic Gardens, 729 Heinz Ave. 644-2351. 

Sustainable Gardening Class for Children ages 4-9 and their parents from 10 a.m. to noon, rain or shine, at East Bay Waldorf School, 3800 Clark Rd., El Sobrante. Cost is $10 per family. Call to reserve a space, 223-3570, ext. 2101. 

Homebuyers Education Workshop from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at The HomeOwnership Center, 3301 East 12th Street, Suite 201, Oakland. To register call 535-6943. homeownership@unitycouncil.org. 

“Is Anybody Out There? Searching for ET with Help from 8 Million Volunteers” Lecture on the possibility of life in the universe, the search for radio and optical signals from other civilizations, and how you can help in the search for ET at 11 a.m. at Genetics and Plant Biology Building Rm 100, UC campus. Free. http://astro.berkeley.edu/~scroft/iya/  

Free Arts Classes for Children A multi-disciplinary series, led by professional artists, for children ages 5 - 10, Sat. from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, Albany. To register, call 525-1716. www.st-albans-albany.org 

Graphic Design for Middle School Students, six Sat. from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts, 6601 Shellmound St., Emeryville. Free, but registration required. 289-1295. www.inneractproject.org 

ZooKids Art: Foil Embossing Explore different art techniques with inspiration from animals, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Oakland Zoo. For ages 9-11. Cost is $20-$25. To register call 632-9525, ext. 200. 

Small Critter Adoption Fair with mice, rats, hamsters, guinea pigs and rabbits from 1 to 4 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave, Kensington. 525-6155. 

Persian New Year with painting “tokhme-morgh” eggs and planting “sabzeh” wheatgrass, and story-telling, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Habitot at 2065 Kittredge St. 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.  

Around the World Tour of Plants at 1:30 p.m., Thurs., Sat. and Sun. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. 643-2755.  

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 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. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 22 

Eco-House Tour A tour of the Ecology Center’s environmental demonstration site to learn about simple improvements you can make to green your home, from 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. Cost is $10-$15. Registration required. 548-2220, ext. 242.  

Golden Gate Audubon Society Field Trip to Berkeley Waterfront to see the last of winter ducks and shorebirds. Meet at 9 a.m. in the last parking lot on the right before University Ave. 549-2839. www.goldenagteaudubon.org 

“Pond, James Pond” Hear aquatic tales of intrigue and use nets to spy on this dymanic habitat, from 10:30 a.m. to noon at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

Gone Trackin’ Study tracks, scat and other signs left behind by critters to learn who is doing what, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Black Passenger, Yellow Cabs” Jamaican author Stefhen Bryan will read from his memoir of life in Japan at 3 p.m. at Jamaican Soul Café, 2057 San Pablo Ave., at Addison. 260-4647. www.blackpassenger.com 

“People’s Park Then and Now” A film by Claire Burch in a benefit for Food Not Bombs at 6 p.m. at Unitarian fellowship, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

“Total Denial” A documentary about Burmese jungle villagers suing an oil company for human rights abuses at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12-$25. 849-2568.  

Super Smash Brothers Video Game Legacy Tournament benefit for Berkeley High students’ trip to Washington DC. at 3:30 p.m. at Eudemonia at 2154 University Ave. Cost is $10. 705-3193. 

Citizen Tribunal: The Murder of Oscar Grant and the Epidemic of Police Brutality from 2 to 6 p.m. at Calvin Simmons Middle School Cafeteria, 2101 35th Ave, Oakland. 725-8754. bayarearevolutionclub@gmail.com 

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, designed by Julia Morgan, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

Michael Harris of San Francisco Voice for Israel at a Temple Beth Hillel Bagel Brunch at 10:15 a.m. at Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central, located off Hilltop Drive at I-80, Richmond. 223-2560. www.templebethhillelrichmond.org 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to do a safety inspection, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Seminar on Estate Jewelry with Elizabeth D’Mitrova from 1 to 3 p.m. at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland. 655-5952. 

Personal Theology Seminars with Lynn Gardner on “Transformation Thoughts from a Seminarian: When in doubt, laugh, love and eat chocolate” 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 

Tibetan Buddhism with Sylvia Gretchen on “Teachings on Death and Change” 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 

MONDAY, MARCH 23 

Community Workshop for Grants from the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund at 4:30 p.m. at University Hall, corner of Addison and Oxford. Enter on Addison. Turn left to Room 150. Please RSVP to calpartnershipfund@berkeley.edu 

Jon Carroll and Cynthia Gorney in Conversation at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison St. Tickets are $25. Benefits Park Day School. 653-0317, ext. 103. www.ParkDaySchool.org 

Kensington Book Club meets to discuss “Jude the Obscure” by Thomas Hardy at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

Community Yoga Class 10 a.m. at James Kenney Parks and Rec. Center at Virginia and 8th. Seniors and beginners welcome. Cost is $6. 207-4501. 

East Bay Track Club for girls and boys ages 3-15 meets Mon. at 6 p.m. at Berkeley High School track field. Free. 776-7451. 

Morning Meditation Every Mon., Wed., and Fri. at 7:45 a.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th. 486-8700. 

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 

Three Beats for Nothing South Mostly ancient part music for fun and practice meets every Mon. at 3 p.m. at the South Berkeley Senior Center, Ellis at Ashby. 655-8863. asiecker@sbcglobal 

World Affairs/Politics Discussion Group, for people 60 years and over, meets at 9:45 a.m. at Albany Senior Center, 846 Masonic Ave, Albany. Cost is $3.  

Berkeley CopWatch organizational meeting at 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. Join us to work on current issues around police misconduct. Volunteers needed. For information call 548-0425. 

Dragonboating Year round classes at the Berkeley Marina, Dock M. Meets Mon, Wed., Thurs. at 6 p.m. Sat. at 10:30 a.m. For details see www.dragonmax.org 

Free Boatbuilding Classes for Youth 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 

TUESDAY, MARCH 24 

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 Heavenly Staging Area, Sobrante Ridge Rgional Preserve. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-3265. 

“Sophie Scholl” film on the trial of a young German Resistance leader in WWII, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

Documentary Film Club “Heart of the Game” about a high school girls’ basketball team, at 6:30 p.m., followed by discussion, at Richmond Public Library, Bayview Branch, 5100 HArnett Ave., Richmond. 620-6566. www.richmondlibrary.org 

“A Triathalon Revolution” with triathelete coach Terri Schneider at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

El Cerrito Democratic Club Moderated discussion of “Propositions 1A through 1F and the Statewide Special Election” chaired by Club President Hilary Crosby at 6:30 p.m. at Fellowship Hall, El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton Ave. at Richmond Ave., El Cerrito. Refreshments and pizza at 6 p.m. for $4. 527-5953. 

Family Storytime at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043.  

 

 

 

 

 

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at 1145 Walnut St., near corner of Eunice. MelDancing@aol.com 

Tuesday Tilden Walkers Join a few slowpoke seniors at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot near the Little Farm for an hour or two walk. 215-7672, 524-9992. 

End the Occupation Vigil every Tues. at noon at Oakland Federal Bldg., 1301 Clay St. www.epicalc.org 

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. 

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. 

Rhythm Tap Exercise Class Tues. at 5 p.m. at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. Donation $2. 548-9840. 

Yarn Wranglers Come knit and crochet at 6:30 p.m. at Nomad Cafe, 6500 Shattuck Ave. 595-5344. www.nomadcafe.net 

Qi Gong Meditation 7:30 p.m. at 830 Bancroft Way, Lotus Room 114. Cost is $5-$10. 883-1920. tgif@tiangong.org 

Bridge for beginners from 1 to 2:15 p.m., all others 1 to 4 p.m. Sing-A-Long at 2:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5190. 

Free Meditation Class at 7 p.m. every Tues. and Thurs. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr. , 1606 Bonita Ave. at Cedar. 931-7742. 

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25 

“Taking Root” A documentary of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai at 6:30 p.m. at Oakland Museum of California, 10th and Oak sts., Oakland. 238-2200. www.museumca.org 

“What Future for Palestine After Gaza 2009?” with Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada at 7 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $10-$15. Benefit for the Middle East Children’s Alliance. 548-0542. www.mecaforpeace.org 

“Sustainable Table: What is on your plate?” a documentary look at American food, at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $5. www.Humanist Hall.org 

Meet the Grantmakers: Funding in West Contra Costa County A panel discussion from 10 a.m. to noon at Richmond Public Library, Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. Free. but RSVP required. 415-397-0902. 

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. 

Byron Katie Inquiry Group at 7 p.m. at Home of Truth, 1300 Grand St., Alameda. Donation $15. 527-9061. 

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.  

THURSDAY, MARCH 26 

Eco-Access An exploratory nature adventure for people with developmental disabilities. Meet at 10 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. 525-2233. 

“Welcome to Yanayo” A documentary about an impoverished village in Bolivia at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. With an art auction and entertainment. Donation $10. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Cesar Chavez Commemoration Film “Immokalee USA” on a migrant farming community in Florida at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-2220, ext. 233. 

“Immigration Reform: Issues & Implications for Our Community” An ACLU presentation at 7 p.m. at Richmond Public Library, Madeline F. Whittlesey Community Room, 325 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond. 620-6561. www.acluberkeley.org 

“Big Boy Rules: America’s Mercenaries Fighting in Iraq” with Steve Fainaru, Washington Post correspondent at 7 p.m. at El Cerrito Library, 6510 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. 526-7512. 

“Rosie and the Railroaders” A celebration of trains for ages 3 and up at 3:30 a.m. at Berkeley Public Library, North Branch and 7 p.m. at West Branch. 981-6100. 

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 

East Bay Assoc. for Women in Science “Finding Work in Tough Times” with Toby Freedman at 7 p.m. at Novartis, Room 4.104, 4560 Horton St., Emeryville. All welcome. Cost is $5-$10. 

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. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

Free Meditation Class at 7 p.m. every Tues. and Thurs. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians, 2nd flr. , 1606 Bonita Ave. at Cedar. 931-7742. 

Buddhist Class on Shikan Meditation at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, Cedar at Bonita, through May 28. http://caltendai.org 

“Four Actions to Resolve Conflict Inside & Out” at 7:15 p.m. at Center for Transformative Change, 2584 Martin Luther King Jr Way. RSVP to register@transformativechange.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 

FRIDAY, MARCH 27 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Allan Solomonow, Jewish Pacifist, AFSC, “The Most Recent Violent Conflict of Israel vs Hama in Gaza” Luncheon at 11:45 a.m. for $15, 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 Food and Housing Poject “Blues & Jazz Benefit” with dinner and entertainment at 6 pm. at Gaia Arts Center, 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $30-$40. 649-4965, ext. 312. www.bfhp.org 

“The New American Olive Oil” profiles of artisan producers with author Fran Gage at 5:30 p.m. at The Pasta Shop, 1786 Fourth St. 250-6004. 

“27 Days of Change: Practice Period” Opening ceremony at 6:30 p.m. at Center for Transformative Change, 2548 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. Register at www.27daysofchange.com 

Jewish Humanist Forum Dr. Joel Crohn talks about “Tom, Dick, or Haim: Jewish Women and Intermarriage” at 8 p.m. at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. at Masonic in Albany. Shabbat service at 7 p.m. 428-1492. www.kolhadash.org 

“Jewish Life: Where Do I Fit?” at 6:15 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St., El Cerrito. Cost is potluck dish or $7. 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. 

SATURDAY, MARCH 28 

Berkeley Historical Society Spring Walking Tour “Mme. Chaing Kai-Shek and her Claremont Elmwood Neighborhood” led by Burl Willis, from 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point call 848-0181. 

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. 

Compost Give-Away from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center St. at MLK. Bring your own container, two large buckets or large garbage bags. 543-3333. 

Vegetarian Cooking Class: Demystifying Tofu and Tempeh 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 

Foreclosure Help, Information and Counselling for Contra Costa County homeowners from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Richmond Recreation Center, 323o Macdonald Ave. Bring your loan documents. For infromation see www.ci.richmond.ca.us/ForeclosureHelp 

“9/11 Blueprint for Truth” with architect Richard Gage at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar St. 841-4824. 

Arts at St. Alban’s: Drama with Patrick Moore A multi-disciplinary series for children, ages 5 to 10, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at St. Alban's Episcopal Church, 1501 Washington Ave., Albany. Free, donations accepted. To register call 525-1716. info@st-albans-albany.org  

Know Your Rights Training Do you know what our rights are if you're questioned by the police? Join Berkeley Copwatch for a free training from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. www.berkeleycopwatch.org 

“Our Oakland: Eastside Stories” Community Storytelling Day from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the shared campus of ACORN Woodland Elementary School and EnCompass Academy, corner of Rusdale St. and 81st. Ave, East Oakland. Pre-registration required. adapinkston@gmail.com, 350-7492. 

Super Smash Brothers Video Game Tournament benefit for Berkeley High students’ trip to Washington DC. at 6:30 p.m. at Eudemonia at 2154 University Ave.  

“Rosie and the Railroaders” A celebration of trains for ages 3 and up at 10:30 a.m. at Berkeley Public Library, Claremont Branch. 981-6100. 

“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. 

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 

Lawn Bowling on the green at the corner of Acton St. and Bancroft Way every Wed. and Sat. at 10 a.m. for ages 12 and up. Wear flat soled shoes, no heels. Free lessons. 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. 

SUNDAY, MARCH 29 

“Miya of the Quiet Strength” Screening of the documentary on the life of Miya Rodolfo-Sioson at 2 p.m. at El Cerrito Speakeasy, 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $6. miyafilm.com 

Jewish Music Festival Family Day with activities and perfromances from 11 a.m., dance party at 4 p.m. at JCC East Bay, 1414 Walnut St. Tickets are $7-$20. 800-838-3006. www.jewishmusicfestival.org 

Garden Chores for Children Lend a hand for some seedin