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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates talks to Bayer’s Joerg Heidrich as Douglas Hoffner looks on during the announcement Wednesday that Bayer was staying in Berkeley.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates talks to Bayer’s Joerg Heidrich as Douglas Hoffner looks on during the announcement Wednesday that Bayer was staying in Berkeley.
 

News

Planners Take Up Urns Again, Housing Element

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday September 22, 2009 - 10:25:00 PM

Berkeley planning commissioners will try once again Wednesday night to resolve their struggle with a new law that would allow up to 400 urns containing ashes of human remains to be interred on sites in the city. 

Their struggle with the proposed ordinance, sought by City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, ended in confusion two weeks ago, and planning staff announced then that this would be their last try at a revision. 

If the commission doesn’t come up with a solution, Principal Planner Alex Amoroso told the commission, staff will bury it and go on to other pressing issues. 

When commissioners tried their hand last spring, two groups of atheists threatened litigation if the council adopted the ordinance because the first draft restricted inurnment to sites owned by religious groups. 

Commissioners will also provide staff with feedback on their revision of the city housing ordinance, schedule a presentation on the proposed Berkeley ferry terminal and discuss proposed zoning revisions for Panoramic Hill which would take into consideration fire, slide and earthquake danger, as well as very limited access for emergency vehicles. 

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way.


School District Ends Financial Year On a Positive Note

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Saturday September 19, 2009 - 07:25:00 AM

Despite ongoing budget challenges, the Berkeley Unified School District was able to end its 2008-09 financial year on a positive note. 

A report issued to the Berkeley Board of Education at their regular meeting last week by district Deputy Superintendent Javetta Cleveland shows that the district has enough money to begin the 2009-10 school year with the help of reserve funds. 

The report carried information on the district’s 2008-09 “Unaudited Actuals,” financial data on revenues and expenditures for the entire school year ending June 30 as reported by the school district to the state Department of Education prior to its annual audit. 

Berkeley Unified faced an $8 million deficit for fiscal years 2008-09 and 2009-10 in light of state budget cuts, leading district officials to believe they would have to borrow from local parcel taxes. 

Cleveland told board members that the district had been able to close its books without having to rely on parcel taxes. 

“It doesn’t mean we have a lot of money, it means we have a stable budget,” Cleveland told the Planet after the meeting. “But we have to keep monitoring the budget because of the continuing state budget cuts.” 

Cleveland said the district’s revenue had exceeded its expenses. 

“We have made all the cuts and we have a solid budget,” said District Superintendent Bill Huyett. “It’s healthier than other districts, but it’s squeaky tight though.” 

Huyett later joked with board members that his motto this year is “If you are going to add something, what are you going to take away?” 

The district’s General Fund revenue was $110.4 million, of which 44 percent—the biggest chunk—came from student attendance, followed by the Measure A parcel tax at 20 percent. 

Huyett told the Planet that the district had succeeded in lowering expenses by reducing costs in transportation and food services and raising attendance in schools. 

Berkeley Unified’s Nutrition Services department become budget-neutral this year, spending only $28,000 from General Fund money instead of the estimated $300,000. 

The amount the district receives from the state for student attendance went down by a million dollars this year, and there was a decrease in state program funding by 14 percent because of a weak state budget, a fact school board member John Selawsky warned would “play for years to come.” 

The district’s total expenditure during the same period was $110.8 million, out of which salaries and benefits were $88 million, making up 79 percent of the budget. 

Cleveland pointed out that salaries and benefits increased by 4 percent last year because of salary increases due to the higher cost of living. 

The district spent $4 million on books and supplies, a decrease of 7.6 percent over the prior year because of reductions to the state budget. 

Services and operating expenses for the district increased by $1.6 million over 2007-08, of which at least $800,000 went towards special education costs, including lawsuit settlements and placements at external agencies. 

Huyett said that if the district decided to make additional cuts to the budget, it would bring recommendations to the board before January. He said he would reconvene his Budget Advisory Committee, which in prior years has advised him on how to close the budget hole. 

“It doesn’t look we are coming out of the recession very robustly,” he said. “But we have to move forward, educate our kids.” 


Bayer Will Stay in Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates talks to Bayer’s Joerg Heidrich as Douglas Hoffner looks on during the announcement Wednesday that Bayer was staying in Berkeley.
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates talks to Bayer’s Joerg Heidrich as Douglas Hoffner looks on during the announcement Wednesday that Bayer was staying in Berkeley.

Bayer Healthcare announced Wednesday that they will remain in Berkeley, allaying fears of city officials who were alarmed at the prospect of losing the city’s largest private sector employer. 

City officials confirmed a month ago that Bayer was considering whether to relocate or start manufacturing an advanced version of Kogenate, a drug which treats hemophilia, at their 46-acre campus next to Berkeley Aquatic Park.  

Joerg Heidrich, Senior Vice President of Bayer’s Product Supply Biotech in Berkeley, told the Planet Wednesday that the company had been ready to outsource the manufacturing to two firms in Europe and the East Coast instead of doing them internally, but changed its plan when staff and officials of the City of Berkeley offered them attractive incentives through a private-public partnership involving PG&E, the state’s California Business Investment Services, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, and the cities of Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville. 

In particular, Heidrich said, a new enterprise zone designated for West Berkeley and Emeryville offered a chance at creating additional local businesses and attracting new ones as the East Bay expanded the Green Corridor. 

The Oakland City Council approved a motion July 28 to ask the state to include West Berkeley businesses within Oakland’s enterprise zone. 

The Berkeley City Council is scheduled to vote on accepting the expansion of the zone at its Sept. 22 meeting. 

“City staff have been working on this because they feel it will help to keep Bayer here,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.  

Worthington said that critics of enterprise zones believe them to be seriously flawed 

“There have been hearings at the state legislature on how the zones are not working to get low income people jobs,” he said. “But at this point, we will be discussing whether it makes sense to add it to this area.” 

If Berkeley is successful in getting Bayer incorporated within the zone, the company could receive as much as $10 million in tax incentives and reduced electric rates from PG&E, Heidrich said. 

Heidrich said Bayer had made the decision to stay in Berkeley after evaluating the Berkeley site carefully. 

“We had a lot of people here—developers and manufacturing experts, and that was crucial,” he said. “A $100 million investment cannot be taken mildly. We followed our framework of ‘make and buy’ and went out and evaluated external manufacturers. There were attractive bids on the table, but in the end we went with Berkeley.” 

Bayer’s investment is by far the largest the company has made in Berkeley, and will take place over the next four years on facility upgrades, new equipment and state-of-the-art technologies.  

  “Bayer’s decision is a smart investment that will save hundreds of jobs, help those suffering from hemophilia and further both California’s and Bayer’s leadership in the biotech industry,” Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. “This investment is an excellent example of how California’s incentive programs can encourage great companies like Bayer to continue working in our state.” 

Calls to Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, who was present during Heidrich’s announcement at a news conference Wednesday at Bayer, were not returned by press time. 

California State Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Douglas Hoffner, Emeryville citycouncilmember Nora Davis and President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Keith Carson were also present at the conference. 

Prior to the news conference, Bayer officials had been tight-lipped about their plans, which Heidrich said had been unavoidable. 

“For a global organization like us, information around investment decisions such as this needs to be handled with a high level of sensitivity,” he said. “The fact is that the Berkeley site competed to have the entire process established here at the site. The fact is it is expensive to do business in California. We reached out to state and local authorities, we asked them to explore tax and other incentives that would help make the Berkeley proposal as cost  

competitive as possible. And the fact is that these state and local authorities responded quickly. Their solutions were innovative and incorporated into our proposal.” 

Berkeley’s Economic Development Manager Michael Caplan told the Planet that he was very pleased to hear the news. 

“It has a number of implications for Berkeley,” he said. “It will mean that many local jobs that might have been at risk by outsourcing are no longer at risk. It means that Bayer will spend over $100 million on a new facility to produce Kogenate that will create a huge number of construction jobs and related economic benefits to the City. Overall, Bayer's decision is a huge vote of confidence in the Berkeley community, the local workforce, and the East Bay's regional biotech and biopharmaceutical cluster.”  

Caplan said that besides helping Bayer to stay in Berkeley, an enterprise zone would provide “a huge economic benefit for all West Berkeley businesses regardless of size.” 

The zone would provide state tax credits to any business who purchased new machinery and equipment and hire workers who met certain criteria, including veterans, low income people, certain minority groups and others with traditional barriers to employment, Caplan said. 

 


Faculty, Staff Protest UC’s Handling of Budget Crisis

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM

Faculty from every University of California campus, including UC Berkeley, are planning to walk out on Sept. 24 “in solidarity with students and staff to protest the defunding of public education and the UC administration’s mishandling of the budget crisis, which has done disproportionate harm to students and low-paid employees,” according to an ad hoc website ucfacultywalkout.com, which has been set up to gather faculty endorsement signatures, numbering 750 at press time.  

“There is a real budget crisis at the state level. But there is also a crisis of priorities on the part of both the California legislature and UC administration,” says Joshua Clover, associate professor of English at UC Davis, on the website. “The State of California and the UC administration have responded to the budget crisis in ways that fundamentally compromise the mission of the University of California: to provide accessible public education to everyone. We’re walking out on September 24 to defend that mission.”  

At UC Berkeley, faculty members have been holding a series of meetings to plan for the walkout. One of them, Professor of English Lyn Hejinian, told the Planet that many of her colleagues view the current situation as “a political crisis being described as a budget crisis.” Many believe that UC President Joel Yudof and the UC Board of Regents are taking advantage of the economic situation to expand private control over what has historically been a public institution, yielding more and more control of the university’s agenda to corporate funders. 

In a Sept. 8 letter, Shelly Errington, spokesperson for the UC Santa Cruz Faculty Associa-tion and the AAUP Executive Board, characterized the focus of the actions this way: 

“Protests are being organized throughout the UC system by students, staff, and faculty. Are these protests really about furloughs and pay cuts?  

“Not for most faculty, although those are the precipitating causes and rallying points. 

“The underlying and pervasive fear and anger is that the university’s historic mission to provide accessible and affordable public higher education is under attack; and that the trust that the people of California, our students, and our younger colleagues have had in the UC system are being betrayed; and that public higher education in this state could be seriously and irreversibly damaged in a very short period of time.” 

Among the Berkeley faculty who have endorsed the protest are many of UC’s best-known academics, among them Ignacio Chapela, Laura Nader, T.J. Clark and George Lakoff. Lakoff, UC Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and author of several popular and scholarly books on the language of politics, said in a letter to UCB’s Townsend Center that “the privatization issue goes well beyond public education. It is about whether we have a democracy that works for the common good, or a plutocracy that privileges the wealthy and powerful. Privatizing the world’s greatest public university is a giant step away from democracy.”  

Hejinian said that in addition to the walkout,on Sept. 24 what she called a “solidarity alliance” of faculty members, staff, graduate students and undergraduates will sponsor a noon to 2 p.m. rally on Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley Campus. The campus will be surrounded by picket lines, which will part in order to let members of the public and walkout participants attend the rally.


City Council to Address Downtown Plan Issue

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM

With Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates opting to take a slower approach to resolving the issues over the Downtown Area Plan, the possibility has emerged that some of those issues may be worked out though citywide changes to Berkeley policies and ordinances. 

Two of those issues—increasing the percentage of inclusionary housing in the city and beefing up worker protections in city hotels—are on the agenda when the Berkeley City Council meets on Sept. 22 following a two-month summer break. A third issue, beefing up the city’s transit policy, was originally on the Sept. 22 agenda, but has been moved to council’s Sept. 29 meeting because of a full Sept. 22 agenda. 

According to Councilmember Kriss Worthington—who, along with Jesse Arreguín was one of the two Berkeley councilmembers who voted against the plan when it came before the council last July—the three issues to be considered on a citywide basis in the next two council meetings “are, for me, [three of] the four things that were the biggest flaws in the Downtown Area Plan.” 

Worthington’s fourth “flaw” in the plan, the lack of adequate prevailing wage provisions, is tentatively scheduled to be brought before the council in October, also as a citywide issue. 

But probably the most contentious issue in the Downtown Area Plan—the number and height of extra—tall buildings it allows in the downtown area—is not yet being formally addressed by the council. 

The council meets at 7 p.m. on the 22nd at its regular location, in the upstairs council chambers at the Old City Hall Building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way downtown. 

The council passed its version of a comprehensive Downtown Area Plan on a 7-2 vote in July, aimed at setting the direction, goals, and parameters of downtown Berkeley development for the foreseeable future.  

But late in August, opponents of the plan turned in some 9,200 signatures of Berkeley residents calling for a citizen referendum on the council’s Downtown Area Plan, some 3,600 more than were needed to invalidate it. The office of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters is currently reviewing the signatures, and has until October 2 to certify them. If the Registrar’s office certifies that at least 5,528 valid signatures were gathered against the Downtown Area Plan, passage of the plan is negated, and the Berkeley City Council must either bring the plan to the voters or pass a new, amended plan that is significantly different from the last one. 

Shortly after the petition signatures were submitted, Mayor Bates told the Berkeley Daily Planet that he was tentatively planning for a Council discussion of the next steps surrounding the Downtown Area Plan at Council’s Sept. 22 meeting, either in open or closed session. 

But no Council discussion of the issue is on the Sept. 22 agenda, and Bates said following a City Council Agenda Committee meeting this week that he is now looking at February as the deadline for the council to decide on what next steps to take. If a citizen referendum on the plan is to be placed on the June primary ballot it must be submitted by the city in early March, with city staff estimating that a February Council decision is needed to make that date. 

In the meantime, Bates said this week, he is “considering” his options on the best way to proceed. One of those options is for the council to pass a new Downtown Area Plan with enough concessions to the original plan’s opponents to forestall a new successful petition drive. 

Bates said that “some of [Worthington’s] concerns” may be addressed in the decisions on the citywide issues coming before the council in the next two meetings, but conceded that this will not be enough to win agreement for a referendum-free new plan. 

“Negotiations are difficult because there are varied concerns” by the opposition, Bates said. “We could satisfy Kriss’s concerns, but not [Arreguín’s] or [Planning Commission member] Patti Dacey’s.” Dacey spoke out often against the council-passed downtown plan during the council deliberations, and was a key member of the petition drive committee. Bates added that it is “also not clear exactly what concerns drove citizens to sign the petitions.” 

In a telephone interview this week, Worthington agreed that while it would be an important step forward, satisfying his four issues on a citywide basis will not by itself seal the deal for a successful new Downtown Area Plan. 

While Worthington said that the “four key issues” of transit policy, affordable housing, hotel workers rights, and prevailing wage were his top concerns about the Downtown Area Plan and would begin to clear the way towards a possible settlement without a citizen referendum, “many, if not most, of the people who signed the petitions and opposed the plan felt that the super-tall buildings allowed in the plan were at the top of their list.” 


City’s BRT Alternative Plan Released

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:57:00 AM

City of Berkeley Transporta-tion Department staff has released the city’s draft of a Locally Preferred Alternative to AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system, the East Bay bus agency’s ambitious but controversial plan to establish fast-moving, light-rail-like bus service along the current 1 and 1R lines between downtown San Leandro and downtown Berkeley. 

    AC Transit has proposed that most of its Bus Rapid Transit line would run with limited stops along bus-only lanes in the center lanes of the route. That proposal has drawn considerable controversy in Berkeley, where residents and merchants are divided over the proposal to block off the center lanes of Telegraph Avenue for bus-only use. 

In its response to AC Transit’s rapid bus proposal, staff members from Berkeley’s Transportation Department are proposing running center lane bus-only lanes along Telegraph between the Oakland border and Dwight Way, making the current one-way Telegraph between Dwight and Bancroft a two-way street with buses-only in the southbound lane, and setting up bus-only lanes (with limited auto use) in the right-hand lanes of Bancroft and Durant between Telegraph and Shattuck. 

Last November, Berkeley Bus Rapid Transit opponents put a measure on the Berkeley ballot to mandate that any street lane changes such as those being proposed by AC Transit must first go to Berkeley voters. Measure KK lost overwhelmingly, 77 percent to 23 percent. But because the measure would have put in place a cumbersome citizen balloting process for any street lane changes in the city, whether or not it was Bus Rapid Transit-related, it is not clear how much the vote on the measure indicated support for or against the Bus Rapid Transit proposal. 

The Bus Rapid Transit proposal has drawn support from two veteran Berkeley politicians who often find themselves on opposite sides of city issues. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmember Kriss Worthing-ton, who sit on the Policy Steering Committee of local elected officials that is advising AC Transit on the project, are both in favor of Bus Rapid Transit in Berkeley. 

Under the procedures agreed to by AC Transit and the City of Berkeley, Berkeley city staff’s proposed BRT alternative will be voted on by the Berkeley City Council after city officials and the Council get input from Berkeley residents. 

City officials have scheduled a Saturday, October 17 public workshop at the city’s main library on Kitteridge Street to discuss Berkeley’s BRT proposal. The meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The purpose of the workshop is to present the proposal to Berkeley citizens, and to receive back public comment. 

A public hearing before the city’s Transportation Commission has been scheduled for Thursday, October 29, with a hearing before the Planning Commission scheduled for Wednesday, November 18. 

Once the Berkeley City Council makes its decision on the Bus Rapid Transit proposal alternative, the AC Transit Board of Directors will vote on final approval of the project. Because cities such as Berkeley have control over the passageway of its streets, AC Transit cannot change the use of city streets-including dedicating bus-only lanes or altering one-way or two-way configurations-without city approval. 

AC Transit is currently projecting final design completion and beginning of construction on its proposed Bus Rapid Transit system by mid-2012, with the opening of the new system scheduled for 2015. 

Highlights of Berkeley’s Locally Preferred Alternative include: 

• Establishing bus-only center lanes, northbound and southbound, on Telegraph Avenue south of Dwight Way. 

• Turning the current two-lane, one way, northbound-only portion north of Dwight Way into a two-way, northbound and southbound street. The southbound lane would be bus, delivery and emergency vehicle, and bike-only. Private autos and trucks would be banned in the southbound lane. 

• Allow bus-only use of the right-hand lanes on Bancroft and Durant between Telegraph and Shattuck, with Bancroft continuing to run one-way east to west (Telegraph to Shattuck) and Durant one-way in the opposite direction. Curbside parking to be maintained on Bancroft and Durant, with non-bus vehicles allowed to enter the bus-only lanes for the sole purpose of either entering parking spaces or making right-hand turns. 

   The complete draft of Berkeley’s BRT proposal, including breakdowns of individual segments along Telegraph Avenue, has been posted on the city’s website at www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=43568.


Marin County Detectives Pay Visit to San Pablo Ave. Marijuana Clinic

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM
Berkeley’s Marijuana Clinic on San Pablo Avenue.
Richard Brenneman
Berkeley’s Marijuana Clinic on San Pablo Avenue.

A half-dozen Marin County Sheriff’s deputies and a court-appointed Special Master armed with a search warrant hit a Berkeley marijuana clinic Tuesday but left empty-handed. 

The officers weren’t looking for money or pot. Instead, they wanted any evidence—electronic or on paper—that would show the clinic had been buying marijuana from six suspects named in a search warrant. 

“They never entered the building,” said Brad Senesac, who had just started his first week as public relations director for the Berkeley Patients Group clinic, which is located at 2747 San Pablo Ave. 

When Senesac and clinic community liaison Becky DeKeuster told the officers they kept no records, on paper or computerized, about their suppliers, “they shook our hands, said ‘thank you,’ and left,” Senesac said. 

After hitting the Berkeley clinic, the officers went on to the Harborside Health Center in Oakland, then to The Divinity Tree in San Francisco, encountering a similar lack of information at each location, said Oakland attorney William G. Panzer, who represents the clinics. 

“Most dispensaries don’t keep records,” Senesac said. “It’s all in the brain,” he said, gesturing toward his temple. 

The warrant, issued by Marin County Superior Court Judge Terrence R. Boren, was based on evidence supplied by Detective Kevin Kershaw of the Marin County Major Crimes Task Force.  

Named in the warrant were six men, ranging in age from 38 to 52. No towns of residence were listed on the search warrants. 

Moments after the officers appeared at the clinic, e-mail and text alerts flew to clinic supporters, who began arriving within minutes, DeKeuster said. At least one supporter came from Marin County. 

DeKeuster, who was home when the alert sounded, said she was confused by the initial report, which said officers from Madison County had arrived. Between 25 and 30 supporters arrived with 15 minutes, along with reporters who were on the e-mail alert list. 

“The officers were low key, and they didn’t even enter the building,” DeKeuster said. They left so quickly that supporters didn’t have time to unfurl a protest banner before the detectives had departed. 

The clinic only receives marijuana from its members, who are permitted by state law to grow for their own consumption, Senesac said. 

Pot grown by legitimate patients can’t be sold to clinics under California law, though legally authorized patients are entitled to buy both from clinics and street dealers—a thorny legal issue Panzer says should be clarified. 

“Even if it’s grown specifically for patients, it’s illegal to sell, though it’s lawful for dispensaries to buy for the use of patients,” he said. 

Law enforcement officers have grown more sophisticated about enforcement of cannabis laws, Panzer said.  

The attorney criticized the investigators for appearing at the clinic, instead of serving a subpoena, the usual way law enforcement officers go after records. 

Still, he said, he appreciated that Marin County Deputy District Attorney Karen E. Lamb did ask the court to appoint a Special Master to take charge of any records that might have been seized. 

A Special Master reviews sensitive records to prevent disclosure of sensitive or privileged information, such a patient medical records. 

While the Obama administration has promised to end raids on California marijuana clinics, at least one Drug Enforcement Agency raid has targeted a Los Angeles clinic since the inauguration, and Panzer said he’s not overly optimistic that there will be a significant shift in enforcement policies. 

In San Francisco, the key post of U.S. attorney is still held by a George W. Bush appointee, Joseph P. Russoniello. 

The San Pablo Avenue clinic has about 2,000 members from Berkeley and a similar number from North Oakland, DeKeuster said. Other members come from throughout the East Bay. 

The clinic sells marijuana in smokable and edible forms as well as cannabis extracts and concentrates, she said. The clinic is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

While the two clinic officials acknowledged that they were alarmed by what they first thought might have been a raid, both said their first concerns were for patients. But the arrival of the officers didn’t seem to put a crimp in businesses, as patients—a perhaps surprising number of whom were elderly and walking with the aid of crutches and walkers—continued to arrive, leaving, mostly, with smiles on their faces. 

Tuesday morning’s action was the first encountered by the clinic since it opened nearly 10 years ago. Clinic organizers will be holding a 10th anniversary celebration Oct. 31 at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. For more information on the clinic, see their website at berkeleypatientsgroup.com.


H1N1 Swine Flu Cases Hit Berkeley, But UC Doctor Calls Symptoms Mild

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM

Swine flu is alive and well at UC Berkeley, and so are the many students who have contracted the H1N1 influenza virus, reports campus Medical Director Brad Buchman. 

“H1N1 has been widely established in the community for a long time,” he said, but to date, no cases with serious complications have been reported. 

“Our first case was diagnosed in May, and we tested a lot of students early in the course of the pandemic,” Buchman said. “But the state testing facilities were quickly overwhelmed. 

“Over the past summer we’ve been following public health recommendations not to test, since over 98 percent of the tests done on people with flu-like illnesses this summer and fall have turned out to be positive for H1N1.” 

The campus physician said he couldn’t provide an accurate estimate of the prevalence of the virus on campus, and public health agencies are recommending against testing be-cause “this illness is generally mild and most patients will recover” without the need for a doctor visit. 

Students who call in are given advice over the phone or referred to the university’s website posting on the disease at www.uhs.berkeley.edu/ home/news/H1N1.shtml#FAQ. 

Over the summer, University Health Services was seeing an average of 40 to 50 people a day with respiratory symptoms, of whom between 10 and 20 were manifesting influenza-like symptoms, he said. 

There’s been a slight increase in in recent weeks as students have returned to campus for the start of fall classes.  

The campus has been in close touch with the Berkeley public school system; Buchman said neither he nor Berkeley city Public Health Officer Dr. Janet Berryman “felt that the illness was severe enough or widespread enough to warrant class cancellation” at the university.  

The physician said the federal Center for Disease Control has advised against canceling classes. 

For the most part, he said, the campus is focused on a public education campaign to acquaint the community with measures everyone can take to head off the bug. 

In addition to what Buchman called “an aggressive hand-washing campaign” and videos on proper cough etiquette, university officials are “promoting the message that everyone who becomes ill should self-isolate until they become fever-free for at least 24 hours.” 

UCB Provost George Breslauer, in a campus-wide announcement sent out Wednesday, said “The campus’ Pandemic Flu Preparedness Team, led by medical and public health experts at University Health Services (UHS) and School of Public Health, is monitoring the situation with local, state and federal health officials.” 

Buchman said Friday that “UHS is in the process of becoming a ‘sentinel provider’ to assist the City of Berkeley and the State of California Public Health departments in monitoring the outbreak. This involves periodic sampling of specimens from patients with influenza-like illness to have more detailed and in-depth analysis done to better understand the course of the current pandemic. 

“In addition,” he said, “we are providing weekly reports to the UC Office of the President. UHS will continue to be the primary source to contact for information about the extent of H1N1 illness at the UC Berkeley campus.”  

Vaccine for the ailment is currently headed for production, and Buchman expects local delivery by late October or early November. 

Once supplies on hand, depending on how much is available, those most at risk will receive highest priority, including pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions, and students, faculty and staff who are under the age of 2, the physician said. 

Anticipated cost of the shots will be $17. 


Women Who Refused to Join Israeli Army Speak at UC Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM
Maya Wind and Netta Mishly at UC Hastings Monday. The two will be talking at UC Berkeley Wednesday, at an event sponsored by the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine.
Riya Bhattacharjee
Maya Wind and Netta Mishly at UC Hastings Monday. The two will be talking at UC Berkeley Wednesday, at an event sponsored by the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine.

They are not your average teenagers. They have held M-16s as kids, watched suicide bombings from their backyards and grown up hearing the rumblings in the West Bank. 

Maya Wind and Netta Mishly are Shministims (12th graders), Israeli high school seniors who refused to join the Israeli Army after graduation—compulsory for all Israeli high schoolers—because they oppose Israel’s policies toward Palestine and occupation of its territories. 

Wind and Mishly, both 19, are scheduled to speak at the UC Berkeley Student Union Wednesday evening, after the Daily Planet goes to print, as part of a month-long “Why We Refuse” national tour which hit U.S. college campuses this week. 

Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and Codepink, the series hopes to spark debate and discussion on college campuses on one of the most controversial international topics, the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

The tour comes on the heels of a United Nations report issued Sept. 15 which said that it had obtained ample evidence while investigating the three-week war in Gaza last year that both Israel and Palestinian militant groups might be responsible for war crimes, and maybe even crimes against humanity. 

The New York Times reported that while the report “condemned rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups against Israeli civilians, it reserved its harshest language for Israel’s treatment of the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip, both during the war and through the longer-term blockade of the territory.” 

Wind and Mishly kicked off their tour with an appearance at UC Hastings College of the Law Sept. 14, sponsored by the university’s International and Comparative Law Society, where they spoke out against Israel’s treatment of Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, daring anyone in the audience who disagreed with them to challenge their statements. 

“We wanted to raise awareness about the issue,” said Molly Franck, a freshman at Hastings who initiated the sponsorship. “Some of us are Israelis, we love Israel, but can’t support their policies.” 

Franck said that although there was a lot of polarization on this topic at her school, there had been no organized resistance against the event. 

“We are refusing to serve in the Israeli Army because we do not want to contribute to the occupation which we deem immoral,” Wind said to applause from about a hundred students, activists and other community members gathered inside the university’s Classroom B. 

“We are not saying agree with us. We believe it is important to spread information about the Israeli occupation and about all the movements that work against it. It is important to inform the American people, specifically the Jewish community, as to their role in maintaining the occupation. We hope to empower people our age to take responsibility by taking a more active role in the resistance movements.” 

Reading aloud from charts, maps, various peace offerings and negotiations, the two offered a short summary of the conflict raging in their country right now, demonstrating knowledge that went way beyond their nineteen years. 

For someone who was just released after spending 40 days in prison for breaking Israeli law, Wind looked pretty calm, at times behaving like a normal teenager, her solemn expression giving away to giggles and high-pitched laughter. 

Wind, the older of the two young women, grew up in Jerusalem during the second Intifida and attended a religious Jewish school, although her family is very secular, she said. 

“Forty percent of bombings occurred in Jerusalem,” she recalled. “It was very terrifying. My questioning about the violence climaxed when I witnessed a bus explosion.” 

At 15, Wind became involved in conflict resolution through “Face to Face”— a group encouraging dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian youth, and later worked in a number of co-existence initiatives in the West Bank. 

In Dec. 2008, Wind was one of 10 core members who wrote the Shministims letter to the Israeli government and Minister of Defense for which she was detained. 

Since then, 200 Israeli teenagers from all over the country have signed the letter. 

“We object to Israeli defense methods, checkpoints, targeted killing, roads for Jews only, sieges and more which serve the land-seizing policy, annex more occupied territories into Israel and trample on Palestinian human rights,” said Wind, reading aloud from the letter. 

“These actions are perhaps a temporary fix, but it is clear that in the long run it only exacerbates the conflict. It is impossible to harm and imprison in the name of freedom, and thus it is impossible to be moral and serve the occupation.” 

Mishly said that Israeli checkpoints all over the West Bank, like the settlements, were helping to seize more land and control the Palestinian population. 

The checkpoints are manned by soldiers, but are increasingly being handed over to private security companies, she said. 

“Checkpoints make lives for Palestinians very very hard,” Mishly said. “No matter what the weather, Palestinians are made to stand for hours on their way to work, to hospitals and to visit relatives. If you are going to a checkpoint and are being abused every day, you can’t drop off that abuse when you come back home at the end of the day.” 

She said that women, under oppression from a patriarchal society, often found it difficult to get good jobs in the army, often ending up in secretarial or administrative positions. 

Today, Wind works for Rabbis for Human Rights and guides political tours in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, as well as co-leads the Jerusalem-based youth group New Profile, a feminist movement calling for the demilitarization of Israel. 

Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Mishly started demonstrating against the wall in the West Bank at the age of 15, witnessing violent crimes which changed her life forever. 

A year later, she organized an alternative education project which exposed young people to radical activism and laid the groundwork for the Shministims letter, along with two other Israeli teenagers, Sahar Vardi and Raz Bar David-Varon.  

After being jailed for 20 days for refusing to serve in the Israeli Army, Mishly started working with immigrants and refugees in Israel, becoming involved in anti-occupation actions as well. 

“We are not being judged or blamed for refusing to go to the army,” Mishly said. “We are being jailed for refusing an order. We can be tried multiple times for refusing, it’s like a game between us and the Israeli Army like ‘let’s see who breaks first.’” 

Wind said that on draft days, the Shministims often gathered outside the induction base with drums and signs, chanting loudly. 

“Sometimes there would be media coverage, sometimes there would be parties outside the prison with music for whoever was inside as a means of support,” she said.  

Both women said that their decision to desert the army had cost them almost all their friends. 

“We are not so popular, people don’t like us,” Wind said, smiling. “There’s no such thing as not serving in the army.” 


Zoning Board Takes on Pacific Steel

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

The Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board last week hinted that unless Pacific Steel Casting addressed community concerns about odor and emissions effectively, it could be in trouble. 

The West Berkeley steel foundry has been battling community activists, neighbors and government agencies for more than two decades over demands for cleaner air, something the company says it cannot be held solely responsible for given its proximity to a freeway, railroad and other heavy industries. 

The board met Sept. 10 at Old City Hall to review Pacific Steel Casting’s annual performance report, including current compliance levels and staffing changes, as part of a five-year condition on its odor abatement system permit. 

A weak economy and slow housing market have forced Pacific Steel to cut production by 10 percent annually and reduce its work force by 30 percent in recent months. Some, like Ignacio De la Fuente, an Oakland City Councilemember and vice president of the steel plant’s workers union, have also blamed the lagging production on community complaints, which he said forced the plant to spend millions on improvements. 

In 2004, when a drastic increase in steel production at Plant 3—located between Second and Third streets—led to a spike in complaints and violation notices from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for exceeding emission standards and instituting public nuisance, Pacific Steel submitted an odor management plan to the Air District in Nov. 2005, proposing to install a carbon absorption unit, similar to those in plants 2 and 3. 

A month later, the company entered into a settlement agreement with the Air District, agreeing to pay thousands of dollars in penalties, submit an odor management plan and install a carbon absorption unit. 

The zoning board approved the construction of an odor management system in 2006, specifically the carbon absorption units, which, in keeping with the settlement agreement, would control odors “to the maximum extent feasible from Plant 3.” 

A condition on the use permit requires Pacific Steel to submit all notices of violation it receives from the Air District for the first five years. 

In 2008, the Air District issued two notices of violation to Pacific Steel between September and December, the first for allegedly “missing several days of recordkeeping” at a pouring-cooling operation and the second claiming that the foundry had created a public nuisance by allowing “detectable fleeting odors” in the environment for several hours. 

The City of Berkeley’s Planning Manager Deborah Sanderson said that the board had originally received the annual report on June 25 and had raised questions during a discussion, something at least one board member had trouble recollecting 

“I don’t specifically recall discussing it,” said commissioner Bob Allen. “But I don’t feel comfortable having the annual report in our packet and having no discussion scheduled, which to me is a tacit approval of what’s going on and I don’t think that’s the situation.” 

She said that the primary source of particulates in West Berkeley is from the railroad and I-80 traffic as well as traffic along San Pablo and University avenues, the city’s major transit arteries. 

Sanderson said that the board could open nuisance proceedings if it determined that the odor abatement system had not led to any improvements. 

If the board found that Pacific Steel had violated its use permit for the carbon absorption unit, they also had the power to revoke the permit, Sanderson said. 

Sanderson said there was no evidence so far that Pacific Steel had violated the use permit. “It [the odor] is not completely gone, but the problem has reduced significantly,” she said.  

While listening to the often emotional testimony from a group of West Berkeley neighbors, a number of board members expressed frustration at some of the long-standing problems in the area, especially with respect to health. 

“I am a West Berkeley resident and a parent and I have concerns about the high levels of pollution in West Berkeley, the high levels of asthma, and the impact that has on my kids,” said Robin Harley, who carried her baby and broke down in tears while speaking. 

Harley said that although the staff report showed that Pacific Steel’s operation schedule was seven days a week, 24 hours a day, a more detailed schedule would alert parents of children with asthma when there were “high levels of particulate matter in the air”—which she called asthma triggers—“so that kids could come inside or play in a different area.” 

Christopher Kroll of the West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air & Safe Jobs said that although the staff report paints a “very sunny and everything-is-taken-care-of” picture of the situation, the reality is very different. 

Kroll complained that contrary to the claims of planning staff and Mayor Tom Bates that complaints against Pacific Steel have decreased over the years, the complaint system itself was broken because of delayed investigation and a lack of follow-up. 

“You guys have the power to bring PSC in here and to enforce some changes on how they operate and to clean them up,” Kroll said, calling for a public hearing. “We need you to be involved regardless of what your staff and the mayor tell you. The problem is not solved. There continue to be nuisance problems. We need your help.” 

David Schroeder, also from the West Berkeley Alliance, echoed Kroll’s words. 

“We call and we call and we call and we get sick of calling because we can’t get the complaints confirmed, we can’t get the message across to agencies that should be in charge to deal with this issue,” he said. “The take-away message is there’s a public nuisance. It’s up to you to do your best to deal with this problem.” 

Dr. Toni Stein, who has been involved with the issue since 1998, requested that in the absence of an public odor management plan—community activists sued Pacific Steel in April to get the plan after the company withheld it on the grounds that it contained trade secrets—Pacific Steel should release information about its odor control activities in a nonproprietary format, so that the layperson could understand it. 

“We are all really, really tired,” she said. “People have given up on calling and complaining.” 

Allen said he was disappointed that there was nobody from the city was present at the meeting to explain the different reports on Pacific Steel. 

“We owe those citizens everything we can possibly do to get to the bottom of it,” he said, “because only then can we figure out a solution.” 

Matthews said it was important to send Pacific Steel the message that the board was looking at the use permit closely so that they can correct the problems. 

“Sometimes you have to go right in there and say, ‘We’re going to close it down ourselves if you don’t get busy,” said zoning board member Jessie Anthony. “I think the companies understand that they can do something if they are forced to do it. I don’t want to put companies out of business. I don’t think that’s necessary.” 

The board asked planning staff to return with information on the use permit conditions and the procedure for measuring particulates in West Berkeley. 

They also asked for information on the process for responding to complaints, historical data on particulates and on previous work city staff has carried out on this issue, including any obstacles they might have faced. 

Sanderson said that she was bothered by how the zoning board was implying that “nobody in the city cares and nobody has tried to do anything.” 

“You are not the first ones to tackle this, and there are people who spent hours and hours and hours in this city and they have made improvements, and they have hit some walls,” she said. “So I think there are some folks listening to this meeting on the television who are elected officials and other staff people who are probably highly offended right now at the presumption that no one has done anything.” 

Matthews rushed to the board’s defense, saying “It’s not about not doing anything, it’s doing something different.” 

Sanderson advised the board that before trying out a different approach, they should read up on what has already been tried to address the issue. 

“And I don’t hear any interest in this board in understanding of what they have tried to do,” she said. “It has been referred to as philosophical studies. There is a whole action that’s been taken, a whole a lot of efforts made, a lot of changes and it’s not enough. I think to just jump in and say we are going to make it better, you are going to tie yourselves in knots.” 

Matthews apologized to Sanderson, explaining that it had not been the board’s intention to offend anyone, following which the board agreed to also look at previous work carried out by the city on the issue.


Berkeley Student Academic Performance Improves

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM

California’s 2008-09 Accountability Progress Report released Tuesday shows that Berkeley Unified School District received an Academic Performance Index of 769, up 10 points from last year’s score, making steady progress toward the statewide target. 

The APR includes results from the state’s API and the federal Adequate Yearly Progress and Program Improvement. 

The API—which measures year-to-year improvement and provides incentives to educators to focus on students at all performance levels—ranges from a low of 200 to a high of 1,000 with a statewide target of 800. 

The AYP determines whether or not students are proficient or above on state assessments. 

API and AYP scores are based on the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program and the California High School Exit Exam.  

State schools chief Jack O’Connell told reporters during a teleconference Tuesday that 42 percent of all California schools had met or were above the statewide target, a gain of six percentage points from the year before. 

This includes 48 percent of elementary schools, 36 percent of middle schools and 21 percent of high schools. 

“Our accountability report confirms that most California schools are continuing to make solid gains in academic achievement,” O’Connell said. “The API results also show a slight narrowing of the achievement gap that historically has left Hispanic or Latino and African-American students trailing behind their peers who are white or Asian. I am delighted to see this trend of progress continue.”  

This year’s API report shows that all student subgroups statewide demonstrated improvements ranging from 11 to 15 points. African-American, Hispanic or Latino and poor students increased their API by 15 points while white students showed a gain of 14 points. 

O’Connell noted that despite the slight narrowing between subgroups, white and Asian students continue to have higher API scores, a stark reminder of the achievement gap. 

A total of 6,154 Berkeley Unified students were included in the 2009 API, out of which Asian and whites were the only two student subgroups who met and surpassed the state target.  

African-American students showed a growth of only two points from last year, and Hispanic, English learners and students with disabilities showed negative growth, with the last two subgroups showing a decrease of 17 and 19 points, respectively. 

Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett said that although African-Americans showed gains in the elementary and high schools, they recorded a loss in the middle schools. Those numbers, along with an increase in the number of African- American students testing at the high school by 97 reduced the growth overall, he said. 

The district’s Director of Student Evaluation and Achievement Rebecca Cheung said that an increase in the number of English learners—students who have a home language other than English and who are not fluent in English—might have resulted in a low score in that subgroup. 

Data released by the state Department of Education website show seven Berkeley schools met their API growth target, including Berkeley Arts Magnet, Emerson Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, Oxford Elementary, Thousand Oaks Elementary, Washington Elementary and Willard Middle School.  

All six elementary schools, along with John Muir, Cragmont and Malcolm X elementary schools, met the statewide API target. 

Rosa Parks and LeConte did not meet the statewide API target. 

Willard (API 772) was the only middle school in the district which showed a growth in API this year. Although it was required to grow by only 5 points, it blew past it with 21 points. Calls to Willard Principal Robert Ithurburn were not returned by press time, 

Huyett said that Willard was concentrating on student data and working closely with teachers to improve performance. 

“When I walk into the classroom at Willard, students are doing their work diligently and teachers are giving good instruction to their students,” Huyett said. “The principal works together with his team, and that helps.” 

API growth for the other two middle schools, Longfellow (API 784) and Martin Luther King (API 779), dropped by 3 and 12 points, respectively. 

The API for seven Berkeley schools remained the same or declined, all failing to meet their growth targets. 

Berkeley High School for the fourth time in a row did not get an API score because the school failed to test a significant proportion of students for at least one 2009 STAR content area used in the API. 

Huyett said that although there had been a jump in student participation at the high school this year, not enough students tested in 11th grade American history, which led to the school not qualifying for an API score. 

“The principal and I spoke with the staff at the high school and stressed the importance of the tests,” Huyett said. “The staff and students took it seriously—there was a ‘togetherness’ attitude.” 

Only 34 students were included in the 2009 API for Berkeley Technology Academy, a continuation high school, which did not meet its growth target of 10 points this year, and saw its 2008 API score decrease from 596 to 490. 

Cheung attributed this to the fact that the majority of B-Tech’s students enrolled at the school in the 12th grade, when they were not eligible for the STAR test. 

“When you have a very limited number of students participating, the scores swing wildly,” Huyett said.  

The state Department of Education warns that APIs based on as small number of students are less reliable and should be carefully interpreted. 

O’Connell said that under the federal AYP system, the percentage of students required to be proficient had increased significantly this year—about 11 percentage points from last year—with many schools, while still “making real academic gains,” falling short on this measure. 

AYP targets will continue to rise every year to meet the federal No Child Left Behind standards. 

O’Connell acknowledged that the state and federal accountability systems often sent conflicting messages to educators and parents. 

“While we can never abandon the goal of proficiency for all students, I continue to support efforts to create a single accountability system for California that combines the best of the state and federal systems in order to reduce confusion and still push schools to help all students improve,” O’Connell said. “I am hopeful that the Obama administration will be a partner in this effort through the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.” 

Fifty-one percent of schools made AYP this year, a decline of one percentage point from 2008. 

Berkeley Unified did not meet AYP criteria for 2009 because it failed to have enough members in African-American, Latino, socioeconomically disadvantaged and disabled student subgroups who were considered proficient in English-language arts or mathematics.  

Only four schools in Berkeley Unified—Cragmont, Jefferson, LeConte and Oxford elementaries—met both English-language and math criteria for the 2009 AYP.  

School districts, schools and county offices of education who fail to make the AYP criteria for two consecutive years and receive Title I money fall under Program Improvement (PI). 

Berkeley Unified is currently in its third year of Program Improvement. 

Berkeley Arts Magnet is in its fourth year of PI while LeConte Elementary is in its third year. 

Thousand Oaks Elementary entered into Program Improvement for the first time. 

Rosa Parks Environmental Science Magnet and all three middle schools—Longfellow, Martin Luther King and Willard—are in their fifth year of PI. 

Berkeley Technology Academy is also in its fifth year of Program Improvement. 

Program Improvement schools are given a five-year timeline for introducing intervention activities,  

“One of the problems with AYP was the way it was structured,” Huyett said. “We should set high standards, but we ought to set targets that are reachable and doable. Now California has hit the place that is not reachable and doable, at least for the short term. 

Huyett said that Berkeley Unified was introducing a number of interventions, including a new math curriculum in elementary schools, training all teachers in math and English and providing study and homework sessions in all after-school programs.


Homeless Man Arrested in Civic Center Park Shooting Had Prior Record of Violence

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM

Berkeley police arrested a homeless man in connection with a shooting at Martin Luther King Civic Center Park in downtown Berkeley Sept. 9.  

The man, Richard Jacobs, was previously convicted and served an eight-month prison sentence for stabbing two Berkeley residents on Nov. 13, 2008 at the Marina Liquor store at 1265 University Ave.  

At approximately 9:35 p.m. Wednesday, a gunshot was heard in the vicinity of the park next to Berkeley City Hall. Within minutes at least seven Berkeley police cars, sirens blaring, reached the site and handcuffed six people at the park.   

A woman who had been sleeping in the park ran to the safety of the lawn of the Maudelle Shirek building across Martin Luther King JJr. Way, which also serves as headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. 

“I heard gun shots,” said the woman, who refused to give her name for fear of retribution. “I jumped and got down in the dirt. I was just passing through and I heard the shots. I am from Brooklyn—you hear shots, you get down.”   

District spokesperson Mark Coplan said that the Berkeley Board of Education was in the middle of a meeting when they heard the gunshot. 

“It was very unsettling, almost frightening because you didn’t know what was going on,” he said later. “If it had happened at the other side of the park, we’d have to stop the meeting. I don’t think I have seen anything this crazy in my seven years in the building.” 

At the park Berkeley police officers detained and questioned six people—two of them homeless—about the shooting.  

Berkeley Police Department police officer Sgt. Peter Hong told the Daily Planet at the crime scene that a group of homeless men were arguing in the park when one of them pulled out a handgun and fired a shot in the air.  

“I don’t think he was targeting anybody,” Hong said. “Nobody is hurt. We have him in custody and the firearm as well.”   

At least two Berkeley Fire Department rescue trucks arrived at the scene 30 minutes later and paramedics brought a stretcher to the park. Around 10:24 p.m. paramedics carried a handcuffed man—later identified by Berkeley police as Jacobs—into the van on the stretcher.  

BPD spokesperson Sgt. Mary Kusmiss said that at approximately 9:40 p.m., a Berkeley police officer driving eastbound on Allston Way was flagged down by a woman in Civic Center Park who reported a possible fight in progress.  

The officer drove east on Allston Way and saw what “appeared to be several people actively involved in a heated verbal argument.”   

Kusmiss said the officer used his patrol car’s airhorn in hope of discouraging further violence, after which he got out of his car and detained a man who was with his girlfriend.  

The couple told the officer that a suspect, who was in a wheelchair, had fired a handgun in the air and still had it in his possession.  

Both of them pointed to Jacobs standing near a fountain inside the park. The officers formed a small group and after detaining Jacobs, found a Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolver with a six-inch barrel under a blanket on his lap.  

After talking to eye witnesses, the police found out that Jacobs and two other acquaintances were talking in the park when one of them asked Jacobs for a cigarette, at which point the suspect got “enraged” and refused to give him one.  

Jacobs said “Hell no,” and began cursing the acquaintance who asked for a cigarette.  

Jacobs then said, “I got something for you motherfucker,” pulled out the revolver and fired a round into the air.  

“The officers are not certain why he became enraged,” Kusmiss said. Nobody was injured in the shooting, she said.  

Jacobs was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm in a grossly negligent manner, possession of a loaded handgun, possession of a concealed handgun and for being a felon in possession of a handgun. He was booked into Santa Rita jail.  

Last November, Jacobs had become angry at a Marina Liquor clerk when he refused to sell him alcohol because Jacobs already seemed pretty intoxicated.  

When a man intervened, Jacobs stabbed him, after which he stabbed another woman who had tried to calm them down. Both victims survived their wounds. Jacobs was booked into Santa Rita Jail for two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.  

Jacobs, 56, did not offer an address to the officers and refused to give a statement for the Civic Center Park incident. Kusmiss said he grew more belligerent during the course of his conversation with the officers.  

When he was told he was under arrest, Jacobs complained of some medical issues for which he was treated at a local hospital, Kusmiss said.  

The individuals detained by the police were released after questioning. They all said they had been scared when Jacobs pulled out a gun.  

Kusmiss said she could not comment on whether Jacobs was mentally challenged.  

She said that officers had been able to respond to the situation quickly because the park was located right across from the Public Safety Building.  

“It’s a bit of an unusual case,” Kusmiss said. “In the course of their duty, officers consistently stop individuals that have handguns in their possession but it’s very rare to have a suspect in a wheelchair who has a handgun. It sounds like in this case the suspect was trying to solve an argument with a weapon which might have had a critical outcome.”  

Kusmiss said Civic Center Park often draws a diverse group of people because of its proximity to the Men’s Overnight Shelter, the Berkeley City Hall and Berkeley High School.  

She said that police monitor public parks in Berkeley for a number of reasons, especially to control wild or drunken behavior.  

“Discharging guns in parks is very uncommon,” she said. “It’s very serious. When you discharge a gun into the air with people nearby, there is a possibility of the round coming down and striking or even killing someone.”  

Kusmiss said that Berkeley police officers would ask prosecutors to issue a stay-away order from Civic Center Park for Jacobs at his hearing.  

Coplan said the school district is not worried that the incident had happened so close to Berkeley High, which is right across the park, because it seemed to be “the exception, rather than the norm.” 

“Berkeley police do a good job of monitoring the park, and our school staff also keep an eye out,” he said. 

Terrie Light, executive director of the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, which runs the Men’s Overnight Shelter in the basement of the Veteran’s Memorial Building next to the park, said she couldn’t comment on whether Jacobs was one of her clients. 

Light said that most of her clients were well behaved and that fights seldom broke out inside the men’s shelter. 

“People are told coming into the shelter that they can’t bring any weapons in with them,” she said. “If they have them, they keep them well hidden. We don’t search their belongings. But our clients know they have to abide by the rules. That’s why some people won’t come inside.”


Planning Commission

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM

Berkeley organizations shouldn’t get their hopes up about any urned income in the new future. 

Or such was the temper of city staff at Wednesday night’s meeting when it came to the subject of a proposed new law to allow the construction of small columbaria inside city limits. 

What initially looked like a simple issue—a new law that would allow easy construction of repositories for 400 urns or fewer of human ashes—proved almost absurdly complex once city planning commissioners began weighing in on the issue. 

It all started with a Sept. 28, 2008, request from City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli, who asked commissioners to craft a code revision to allow Northbrae Community Church to build a small garden wall that would hold the ashes of up to 400 folks. 

The city attorney’s office and planning staff crafted a proposal, which the commission approved with one dissenting vote and one abstention on Dec. 10.  

Patti Dacey, the lone opponent, was a portent of things to come. 

It wasn’t that she opposed disposing of human ashes in the city, a prohibition dating back to the post-Great San Francisco Earthquake days early in the last century when most Bay Area cities barred burials out of public health fears and San Francisco exhumed its previously interred dead and started a new industry in Colma. 

What bothered Dacey was that only churches—“religious assemblies”—were allowed to house them. 

“It seems a little strange to me that only people who are churched can have their ashes in Berkeley,” she told her fellow commissioners at the time. “That does seem to me to be a problem.” 

A reporters’ call to American Atheists spokesperson David Silverman at the time also elicited a spark of outrage. 

“There are lots of atheists in Berkeley, and now they have fewer rights than people who believe in an invisible man in the sky,” Silverman said. 

Then Americans United for Separation of Church and State—a group which includes believers as well as skeptics and outright nonbelievers in its ranks—weighed in with a lawyer letter threatening action if the City Council enacted the law. 

Citing a Dec. 17, 2008 Daily Planet article on the commission’s action, three attorneys for the group warned the council that “the proposed regulation would run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it fails to afford equal treatment to the religious and nonreligious.” 

Furthermore, the letter noted, “there is no basis to conclude that secular columbaria are any more dangerous than religious ones.”  

Taking discretion for the better part of valor, the council sent the proposed ordinance back to the drawing board, which is why it ended up before the Planning Commission a second time Wednesday night.  

The name “columbarium” comes from the Latin, meaning “dovecote,” because the niches used to house the urned ashes reminded someone long ago of the avian living spaces in a pigeon coop [although American “pigeons,” sometimes referred to as “feathered rats” by New Yorkers, are rock doves and not pigeons at all]. 

But the planning commission’s rerun session brought out the hawk in some commissioners, and by the time the feathers had ceased flying, city planning staffer Alex Amoroso looked like he was ready to fly the coop himself. 

Part of the problems involved conflicting words in the proposed statute, while the others involved the politics of land use, always a hot button issue in Berkeley. 

Commissioner Gene Poschman said he was disturbed that under the proposed ordinance, city planning staff could approve construction of a columbarium without notifying neighbors. At the least, he said, the city should require an accessory use permit, which would mandate notification for those owning nearby property. 

The ordinance would allow any property anywhere in the city to erect an urn repository as long as the property’s primary use wasn’t residential. 

That, Poschman said, would also amount to “amending the West Berkeley Plan to add columbaria” to the city’s only manufacturing and industrially zoned real estate. 

The way the ordinance is worded, said Sophie Hahn, filling in for commissioner Patti Dacey for the night, “anyone with a house in Berkeley that happens to be next to a primary non-residential use could wake up one morning and find themselves next to 400 bodies.” 

The reason, Amoroso said, is because city code permits religious facilities in residential neighborhoods. 

“Properties known to be next to cemeteries are known to have reduced property values,” said Hahn, and the presence of remains could bring large numbers of cars for services and from people wanting to visit their loved ones’ cremains.  

City Land Use Planning Manager Deborah Sanderson said the city is prohibited from barring religious uses in residential neighborhoods.“It’s a big policy shift to allow virtually unlimited disposal of human bodies.”. 

During the public comment period, land use activist Steve Wollmer said the commission should consider amending the proposed statute to limit the mini-crypts to property owned by non-profit organizations. “Otherwise, you really do need to let Patrick Kennedy know there is another occupant for his storage building.” 

Kennedy, Berkeley’s most controversial developer, is owner of University Storage in South Berkeley. 

Chair David Stoloff said he favored Wollmer’s approach, and Sanderson said she was willing to consider Wollmer’s suggestion if the commission so directed. 

“I marvel at how simple it was when it was just a church,” said commissioner Jim Novosel. 

“We could bring it back with three or four minor changes,” Amoroso said. “But if that doesn’t meet the test, we’ll be dropping the issue.” 

“It’s a nice idea to have them throughout the neighborhoods,” said commissioner Teresa Clarke. 

“We may come back with a take-it-or-leave-it situation,” Amoroso replied. 

Commissioners opted to give the idea one more chance at their Sept. 23 session. 

If no answer is reached then, another question will be resolved: Who knows where the bodies are buried? Anywhere but Berkeley. 


Fate of Historic Building and Tenants Hangs in Balance

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

While the struggle over one of Berkeley’s newest landmarks has focused in part on a moment of national shame, for those who live there, a more crucial question is the fate of their rent-controlled apartments. 

“Just as in San Francisco, developers in Berkeley have realized that demolition is the easiest way to get rid of tenants who live in rent-controlled apartments,” Louis Cuneo, who has lived at 2525 Telegraph Ave. for more than two decades, charges. 

But Ali Eslami, the managing member of the limited liability corporation which owns the building, calls his tenants “the heart and soul of the building,” and says he wants to ensure their ability to stay. 

The questions the tenants have relate to specifics, but Eslami will say only that he’ll do everything he can to help them find alternative housing while he rebuilds the structurally ailing edifice. What he says he can’t give is an absolute commitment to funding the difference between their current rents and those of their temporary quarters for the indefinite period that construction will take. 

One key decision may come Tuesday night, Sept. 22, when the Berkeley City Council takes up Eslami’s appeal of the Landmark Preservation Commission’s decision to single out the unique courtyard configuration which separates the small apartments on the second floor as a significant feature when they added the structure to the list of official city landmarks on June 4. 

Eslami wants the City Council to remove the mention, an action he says is necessary if he is to add two new stories to the rear of the building for new apartments which he said are essential to make the property financially viable. 

 

The landmark 

Berkeley’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building a city landmark in part because for three years ending in 1941 it housed the studios of Chiura Obata, a noted painter who was forced to leave the city when he, along with thousands of other Americans of Japanese ancestry, was interned following the attack on Pearl Harbor. 

The LPC declared the Obata Studio building a landmark in June. 

The primary reason for the designation cited by commissioner Austene Hall, was to keep the Obatas’ “humble story alive,” as Daily Planet reporter Riya Bhattacharjee noted at the time. 

What the commission didn’t note nor the new owner discover until after his company had bought 2525 Telegraph was the reality that the new landmark suffered from critical structural flaws that would require lengthy and costly repairs. 

 

The nightmare 

Cuneo and partner Marcia Poole are fighting for the building itself, hoping that they can continue to live in the building they’ve called home for the last two decades. 

Their struggle pits them against Eslami and his Oakland-Berkeley Investment Group, LLC, the legal owner of the building. 

To handle his legal work in the controversy, Eslami has retained Rena Rickles, a formidable legal adversary in Berkeley land use cases, while the tenants had enlisted the support of Southside activists including City Councilmember Kriss Worthington and George Beier, his opponent in the 2006 election. 

Poole and Cuneo live in a small second floor apartment that can only be described as charming, with hardwood floors and one of the building’s unique features, a shared interior courtyard full of plants and gently illuminated on a weekday afternoon by sunlight filtered through a translucent ceiling—a feature that would be sacrificed if Eslami is to make the additions he wants. 

Their small, three-room apartment features Cuneo’s photography and paintings by Poole. 

The two residents are well known in the community, where Poole is active in TelegraphAve.org, where she maintains the community website. She’s also the organizer of the annual Berkeley World Music Festival held at People’s Park. 

In addition to his photography, Cuneo is a published poet who specializes in haiku and he is the founder of Mother’s Hen, a poetry organization, and he is the founder and coordinator of the Berkeley Poetry Festival. 

“Seyoum Kebede, our previous landlord, was a wonderful man,” said Poole. “We all loved him. He bought at the end of the ‘80s because his wife wanted to start a restaurant.” 

The couple created The Blue Nile, a popular Telegraph Avenue eatery, in one of the building’s two commercial spaces fronting on the thoroughfare.  

“He let us choose who would go in next door to our apartment because of the shared courtyard. He used to say, ‘I have to take care of my tenants.’”  

After Kebede took over, the rents went up slightly, “but we didn’t pay a lot of money,” Poole said. In return for the low rents, Poole and Cuneo took it upon themselves to paint their own unit, covering the costs themselves, “I also put in the doors,” Poole said. 

 

New owner 

When the LLC purchased the building, Poole and Cuneo said they were early supporters, in part because Eslami and his partners said they wanted to start an artists’ venue downstairs much like the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco’s Mission district. 

Eslami said Wednesday that the art house project remains his goal for the first floor. 

“We were thrilled that there would finally be an adult venue on Telegraph with art and poetry,” Poole said. 

But when the company’s 2007 proposal to create the Muse Art House and Mint cafe in the ground floor space came to the Zoning AdjustmentS Board, the ZAB approved both uses but denied Eslami’s request to allow beer and wine service—a decision Eslami told the board would kill the project. 

For the tenants, the troubles started with hammering, nine straight months of it, Poole said. 

By the time they’d stopped, the long-time tenants were left with a gutted downstairs, filled with holes, and their floor held up by temporary shoring. Gaps between the floorboards had allowed both dust and noise to filter upstairs into one of the apartments, which is held aloft by a steel beam support until a new foundation can be laid. 

Extensive work will be needed, as a quick tour through the downstairs area revealed. Massive square holes have been punched through the concrete floor, and a pump installed to drain off water that seeps into the holes.  

Eslami says a wall in a building next door is improperly shored, and extensive work will be needed to keep his own wall from collapsing. The building’s so-called “balloon framing” is an antiquated technology no longer used and must be strengthened, another significant cost along with a new foundation. 

Eslami acknowledges that he conducted only a visual inspection before buying the building, though he says even a professional inspector would have missed the major structural defects. 

 

Rent control  

For the tenants, the key issue is money. Because the current residents moved in before 1999, when the state legislature abolished rent control, they remain covered by the old Berkeley rent control law—a protection Poole and Cuneo say they fear could be lost if they’re forced to relocate during the year or more Eslami says construction will take. 

Eslami acknowledges that the lives of his tenants center around the Telegraph Avenue area, and said he hopes they can be housed in the district. 

The odds of finding lower rents than they’re currently paying are long, and higher costs could be financially disastrous, Poole says, because “we’re all either on low or fixed incomes.” 

While George Beier, writing as president of the Willard Neighborhood Association (WNA), said that “Eslami previously agreed to pay for the relocation to and from the building and the difference in the rents for the year or so that they will be required to move out,” his previous assurances had vanished by the time of a later meeting. 

“When pressed on this point in a meeting of the WNA, he pulled back on this issue and said something to the effect of “we’ll agree to whatever the rent board asks us to do.’ This is completely different from two prior conversations with both me and Vincent Casalaina (prior president of the WNA) in which he explicitly stated he would pay for the move-in, move-out, and the difference in rents. Both Vincent and I took notes of the meetings and then sent the notes to Mr. Eslami for his approval. I then sent these notes on to the Mr. Eslami, the City Council, the tenants, and the WNA.  

“Until that WNA meeting, I was ‘on-board’ with Mr. Eslami. I accepted the fact that due to his underestimation of the renovation costs, the building would have to be larger than proposed (four stories instead of two stories). I was willing to not protest when he increased the unit sizes to 5 and 6 bedrooms and reduced the unit sizes for the existing tenants. But his backtracking on his commitment to the tenants both humiliated and infuriated me. We all had a deal, and I felt that Mr. Eslami is/was backing out of the deal.” 

For his own part, Eslami says he is willing to accept mediation by the city’s Rent Stabilization Board, and he has discussed the issue with Jay Kelekian, the board’s executive director.  

Under current Berkeley law, landlords are only obliged to cover the rent differential for a maximum of three months during repairs, city Housing Department staff member Andrew Wicker told the Housing Advisory Commission during their Sept. 3 meeting. 

“There is a consensus for a need to strenghten some of the provisions,” Wicker said, and commissioner Marcia Levenson is urging the board to extend the period. 

One possibility, Wicker said, would be a one-year period, with a flat payment if the construction takes longer. The law also requires landlords to pay tenants up to $200 for moving costs, with the amount doubling if storage is required. 

Changes to the ordinance “need to be hashed out with different stakeholders,” he said.  

 

Another concern 

Cuneo and Poole say they are worried that Eslami’s goal may be to effectively end rent control through the construction process.  

While Eslami has insisted that’s not his intent, tenants’ rights attorney Paul Hogarth of San Francisco said that tactic has been used by San Francisco property owners to end rent control at their buildings. 

Developer Citiapartments AKH, also known as Skyline Realty, “is notorious for doing that in San Francisco,” Hogarth said. 

“They’d buy up buildings and try to get their tenants to leave, and if that didn’t work, they’d turn the buildings into construction zones,” he said. 

Repeatedly sued by the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, the firm is now in a state of collapse, he said, in part because they overpaid for buildings at the height of the real estate boom and were ill-prepared for the ensuing collapse.  

Meanwhile, until the dust settles at 2525 Telegraph, the fate of both a venerable building and its tenants, themselves Avenue institutions, remains in doubt.


Commission Weighs Campaign Contribution Hike Plan

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

Money could play an even more crucial role in Berkeley politics if members of the city’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission (FCPC) approves a proposal to raise contribution limits. 

The proposal will come up for consideration at Thursday night’s FCPC meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. (tonight) in the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. at Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

Currently, donors are limited to a maximum of $250 for any individual candidate, though City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak has been pushing to raise the spending cap. 

The commission will also discuss whether or not to hold a public hearing or workshop to consider raising the contribution limit and to discuss modifications of rules governing so-called independent expenditures. 

Also slated for discussion at the meeting is a proposal to add new pre-election reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees, assessment of late filing penalties for alleged violations of the Berkeley Election Reform Act by BASTA! (Berkeleyans Against Soaring Taxes) and a proposed settlement of an FCPC action against former City Council candidate Barbara Gilbert. 

BASTA was formed in 2004 to oppose four proposed ballot measures that increased property taxes in the city.


Police Blotter

By Richard Brenneman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

Strong-arm robbery 

Albany police arrested one man and are seeking a second suspect in a strong-arm robbery that took place late Monday night at UC Berkeley’s University Village, 600 Gooding Way, Albany. 

According to UC Berkeley Police Chief Mitchell Celaya III, the victim of the 11:55 p.m. robbery was a 34-year-old woman who is not a student at the school. 

The woman was working on her laptop computer near the village’s Building 144 when two men approached and began hitting her in the face.  

After they had beaten her into submission, one grabbed her computer and the pair then fled westbound on Ohlone Avenue. 

Moments later, Albany Police arrested 19-year-old William Larnell Hall in front of the Oceanview School, 1000 Jackson St.  

After a positive identification by the woman, Hall was taken into custody as both UCPD and Albany officers searched without success for the second man. 

Celaya reported that the woman was not seriously injured by her attacker. 

Police ask that anyone with information about the crime to call UCPD’s Criminal Investigation Bureau at 642-0472 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 642-6760 after hours. 

 

Groper 

Though the incident occurred Sept. 4, campus police waited seven days to release a bulletin seeking help in identifying a suspect in the sexual battery of an unidentified woman near the UC Berkeley campus. 

According to the bulletin, the incident began at 2:10 a.m. after the woman spotted a man following her as she was walking west along Dwight Way. 

As she turned onto Dana Street, the man approached her and tried to strike up a conversation, then pulled her clothing and groped her. 

The woman fled on foot, and reaching her home called 911, triggering a search by campus and city police. 

The woman, who was uninjured, described the assailant as a short, possibly intoxicated man in his 30s.


Correction

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

In the Sept. 10 story “Swanson Withdraws BART Oversight Bill,” the story indicates that Assemblymember Sandré Swanson’s AB 1586 BART Police Oversight bill is being carried over by Swanson to next year’s legislative session. The word “withdraws” only referred to withdrawal from consideration this year. However, because the Planet story also referred to several community groups and individuals who were withdrawing their support for the BART Police Oversight bill, the story may have given the mistaken impression that Assemblymember Swanson was withdrawing his support for the bill as well. Assemblymember Swanson continues to support the BART Police Oversight bill. 

In addition, the “Swanson Withdraws BART Oversight Bill” story contained references to two statements during an Aug. 27 BART Board meeting which the story reported were made by BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger, but were actually made by BART Government and Community Relations Department Manager Kerry Hamill. 

The first mistakenly attributed statement in the story was that a provision in the legislation about BART Board involvement in the police review process “had been struck by Swanson.” 

A later portion of the story read that “In a prepared statement, Dugger told board members that BART representatives were told the day before the Aug. 27 meeting ‘by members of Swanson’s staff that he will eliminate one sentence from the amendments given to him by BART in order to quiet some opposition from [the statewide police lobbying group, the Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC)].’” Dugger said that Swanson believed that PORAC “would oppose our bill and successfully kill it this year ... unless it is amended to eliminate the authority given to the BART Board for disciplinary action against police officers.” 

All of the statements in the above two paragraphs were made by Hamill and not by Dugger.


Clarification

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

To clarify Richard Brenneman’s Sept. 10 article, “Agrofuel Lab Appears Twice on Regent’s Slate”:   

The first version of the Helios project produced an EIR that was certified by the Regents. Save Strawberry Canyon sued and before the case went to trial, the regents decertified the EIR.  

The second version of the Helios project came out with an Initial Study Checklist, a public hearing, and a Strawberry Canyon location but a DEIR was never produced so there was no litigation. 

The third version of the Helios project has been broken down into two buildings—Helios East and West—for which there has not yet been an Initial Study or a Draft EIR and so there has been no litigation.   

It seems doubtful that the regents would be discussing the now mooted lawsuit in the closed session. 


Aging in Berkeley: It Takes a Village

By Shirley Haberfeld
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:45:00 AM

Do you remember that first phone call from your eldest sister? “What are we going to do about Mom—she doesn’t want any help and she won’t move out of the house.” That call set the stage for the last years of your widowed mother’s life. She still lived in the house where you grew up, she’d had some recent falls and sometimes was a bit confused on the phone, but she was still involved with her Wednesday bridge club and tried to get out to church occasionally. Four of her friends died in the last three years—and so did your father.  

Well, now I’m the Mom and I don’t want to wait until one of my kids has to make a phone call like that. In February 2006, the New York Times published an article about a community that had formed in Boston—Beacon Hill Village—dedicated to helping residents in the community age in place—that is, stay in their own homes—not in remote institutions. The article sparked a conversation between neighbors who met in an Elmwood living room. Our interest was an outgrowth of our own personal experiences as we’ve cared for or found living arrangements for aging parents or dealt with chronic illness with family or friends. And each story was different yet somehow the same and we wanted our aging to be different. We wanted to find a way to continue to age in the self-sustaining community that we cherish and to plan for our later years now, before a crisis. We wanted to help our friends and neighbors too. Most of all was a deeply held desire to be in charge of those later years and more important—we wanted our kids to know our wishes.  

Since January 2007 a group of seven women have been meeting to discuss ways we could support one another, as we grow older—much like the Boston project but with the innovative spirit we only find in Berkeley. Our personal stories aren’t unique, because senior healthcare and associated conditions are a significant policy issue in the U.S. as the population ages. The 65 and older population is projected to increase to 88.5 million in 2050, more than doubling the number in 2008 (38.7 million). The 85 and older population is expected to more than triple, from 5.4 million to 19 million between 2008 and 2050.  

So, given all the statistics, the Beacon Hill model and our own ideas, we decided to found Ashby Village, a non-profit membership organization to provide the information and access to services that help members remain at home as they age. An Ashby Village member will make one phone call to the Ashby Village office to arrange assistance with a specific problem or to find an activity or event they might be interested in. The small Ashby Village team will not only respond quickly to requests for services or information; they’ll make a follow-up call to make sure everything is going well. A wide range of referral services (paid for by the member) and program benefits (free) are currently being developed. Some services such as home care, household repairs, etc., will be paid directly by the member—however we expect to be able to provide discounted rates. The staff will also research, assess and monitor the “approved” service providers.  

The annual cost of membership is $1,200 per household and $750.00 for an individual. What makes this model unique? The heart of the Village is the grassroots community with its core free and discounted (brokered) services mechanism through which services are delivered—through a grassroots, member-based, one-stop shopping. It’s taking a local partnership building process where local service providers, community institutions, medical providers, philanthropists, and organizers come together to create a menu of services for members wishing to live independent of senior residential homes.  

Critical to this model is the active leadership and participation of the members themselves in every aspect of the programs. The services fall under the headings of Arts and Cultural, Health and Wellness, Community Connections and Daily Living. In addition to reducing the isolation that happens to many seniors, the model enhances communication in many cases, reducing the gaps in services that are provided by others in the community.  

The overall goal of Ashby Village is to create strong, healthy communities in which older adults can remain independent with increased security and quality of life in multi-generational, familiar setting … their own homes and neighborhoods. Our tentative launch date is spring of 2010. We expect to hire an executive director this fall to pull together the organizational structure and relationships. At this time, LifeLong Medical Care—a well regarded group of community health centers in Berkeley and Oakland is acting as the Ashby Village fiscal agent—enabling AV to accept tax deductible donations and apply for grant funding. Since late 2008 we have presented Ashby Village to many Berkeley and North Oakland residents through “living room chats”—a one and a half-hour informal presentation with questions and answers. People are enthusiastic and have joined working committees and some have taken on short-term projects. To schedule an Ashby Village Living Room Chat for you and a group of friends and/or neighbors, email: General information— info@ashbyvillage.org or membership@ashbyvillage.org. The phone number is 510-204-2860—a member of the Board will get back to you within 24 hours. But first, visit our website at www.Ashbyvillage.org for more general information Working together to Provide members with the practical means and the confidence to remain in their own homes, as they grow older.


First Person: Mad as Hell Doctors Fight for Single-Payer Healthcare

By Marc Sapir
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:46:00 AM

On Sept. 14, I joined the Mad as Hell Doctors for single-payer Health Care in Denver, part way into their national tour. I’m writing from one of the Care-a-Vans for single-payer Health Insurance. My partners today are Barbara Matthews from the University of Washington and Bob Seward a retired Oregon internist who worked for the VA and in private practice. We rotated drivers every couple of hours all day on the way to our single-payer event in Des Moines, that drew an incredibly energized crowd. The event in a church was organized by the Des Moines, IA Catholic Worker movement with support from four other churches. Asked to speak up as to why they were mad as hell, a near endless lineup of people from as young as teenagers to the elderly came forward and passionately told their brief stories, all video-recorded and to be found via www.madashelldoctors.com. The panel of docs was as moved by the audience and the Catholic Worker folks who have been arrested fighting the health insurance industry here as the audience was moved by the docs. The youngest arrestee came up and gave a beautiful plea for people to move their concern to a higher level of activism and involvement to protect their grandchildren’s futures. She was 10 or 11 years old and has been to a Washington, D.C. speakout for single-payer. 

With the support and organizing of HealthCare for All Colorado we held two events in Denver, the second a picnic presentation at the Washington Park, and then headed east at 8 p.m. I rode in a different van with other folks. The hot topic of debate and discussion inside the docs group is what to do after the last event across from the White House on September 30. Few of us (maybe none) are convinced that President Obama will heed the petiitions or thousands of e-mails asking that he meet with the Mad as Hell Docs and hear us out on why single-payer has to go back on the table or he should convene a commission of the real players—patients, public advocates, and service providers (not the private profit interests of the insurance industry) to report and provide him with evidence of the best solutions to the healthcare crisis. 

Indeed a White House staffer contacted Mad as Hell Docs staff and asked when we were going to stop telling people to send all those e-mails to the White House telling the President to meet with these docs. The White House admits they are being inundated. I heard that staff (perhaps Adam Klugman) told them we weren’t going to stop and so they blocked e-mails coming off the website. Countermeasures: staff fixed the website so that the e-mails now come from you all, the senders, not from us. Keep it up.  

Of course we don’t take bets on the president meeting with us, but there is some hope that he might call on Kathleen Sieblius or another representative to meet with us. But what to do in either case? We need the administration to at least acknowledge that the nationwide support for single payer is not just the “left” of the Democratic Party, but a question of public need, and public wishes, and that a case can be made that it’s the only viable solution that will bring the changes the president has advocated On the other hand the administration is stymied from even its minimum goals by Montana Senator Max Baucus’ (the greatest recipient of health insurance blood money at $2.4 million) blocking maneuvers in the Senate Committee he chairs. That committee must approve any healthcare reform bill. And so the discussion about the next step after Lafayette Park on Sept. 30, goes on. Keep tuned and get involved.  


Erling Horn, 1905–2009

By Dorothy Snodgrass
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:44:00 AM

Little more than a month after the Berkeley Daily Planet ran a front-page article on Erling Horn on the occasion of his 104th birthday, the miraculous life of this admirable man came to an end. After falling in his apartment and suffering a stroke, he was taken to Kaiser Hospital, never to return to the Berkeley Town House, where he had happily resided for many years, though missing his adored wife, Margaret, who passed away at age 91 in 2000. Fortunately, he had an adoring family who looked in on him frequently. His grandson, Jacques, lived across the hall and faithfully attended to his needs, as did his daughter, Maggie, when visiting from Canada. His son, Erling, Jr., former mayor of Lafayette, visited him regularly. 

Erling’s birthday party, held in the Berkeley Town House Lounge, was a celebration to end all celebrations, attended by family, friends and colleagues, some coming from as far as Thunder Bay, Canada. A White House party could not have equalled this one. No expense was spared—it was a catered affair, with scrumptious food and drinks and a birthday cake as big as a football field (almost). After being serenaded with a rousing “Happy Birthday,” accompanied by violin, the guest of honor blew out candles and made a gracious speech. From then on, it was pure pandemonium, small children racing around the room, the rest of us gorging shamelessly on all that food and offering congratulations to Erling, who was prevailed upon to play a few tunes on the large grand piano in the lounge. Looking back on this happy occasion, we’re all so grateful that his life ended on this wonderful note. 

In the Aug. 13 Planet article, we learned of Erling’s early years in Seattle, where he was orphaned at birth and raised by his Norwegian grandmother and four uncles. Attending the University of Washington, serving as a captain in the Coast Guard in World War II, and then, in the l930s, working for Oakland’s planning department, he designed and installed the city’s first parking meters, traffic signs and freeway interfaces. 

After retiring from the City of Oakland in 1961, the Horns settled in the Montclair district, where they raised four children. They then moved to the Berkeley Town House, where Erling served on the Board of Directors. All of us who were his neighbors remember him with great affection—for his hearty laugh, his deep religious faith, his shock of sandy-colored hair that would be the envy of younger men, and his tinkling on the piano in the lounge. Almost to the very end of his life, he would walk to the Berkeley Bowl, toting back heavy grocery bags. 

There can be no question that it was his Norwegian heritage that contributed to this wonderful man’s amazing strength and determination. How we will miss him! 


Opinion

Editorials

Good for Berkeley, Good for Business

By Becky O'Malley
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:46:00 AM

The publisher and I were invited to attend the meeting of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs Committee meeting on Monday as executives of a Chamber member business, so we went. The meeting was originally billed as a chance to get to know the Chamber’s newly hired CEO, and each Chamber member attending was asked “to come prepared to give [the new CEO] a three-minute summary of what each sees as the one or two most critical features of the Berkeley political landscape. Once these summaries have been delivered, we will have a lively Q&A.” Unfortunately, that never happened, because the new guy didn’t take the job after all, for reasons undisclosed.  

Local community papers like the Planet traditionally depend on local businesses for the bulk of their advertising support. The increasingly moribund nature of the local small business community is therefore a matter of great concern for us, as we watch one advertiser after another first cancel their ads because they’re short of money, and soon thereafter go out of business altogether. They’re the canaries in the coal mine—it’s possible that if we’d understood this two years ago as we do now, we could have predicted the current slump. 

If we’d had the chance to tell the new CEO what the most critical features of the recent political landscape were, we’d have said that the appearance of a glossy flyer featuring three core apparatchiks in what some sarcastically call “the machine”, with the notation that it was paid for by the “Chamber of Commerce PAC” was, to put it politely, a public relations disaster. For the local chamber of commerce to be perceived as coming out flat-footed against what proved to be a very popular referendum movement (9,200 signatures) is just not what you learn in Marketing 101. All of those 9,200 consumers will now probably think twice before shopping with local merchants. And the saddest thing is that most local merchants probably didn’t even know that the Chamber was linked to the campaign against the petitions.  

Yes, yes, we’re aware that the Government Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Commerce is not exactly the same thing as the Chamber of Commerce PAC, and that neither one speaks for all chamber members. We’re also aware that the Chamber’s last PAC (Political Action Committee) attempt, which was called disingenuously “Business for Better Government,” had to be disbanded after running afoul of campaign financing laws. And we’ve even discovered that there’s a new chamber PAC in the works with a new and equally disingenuous name (but it’s not called the “Chamber of Commerce PAC”). 

We do wonder, therefore, exactly what the Chamber of Commerce PAC is. Whom does it represent? Space in these pages is available for a complete explanation. 

It’s not Berkeley’s struggling small businesses, that’s for sure. About 80 percent of the Chamber’s members are small businesses, but its board is dominated by big businesses like Bayer, major property owners, banks and representatives of the University of California. The current board president’s business is “wealth management”, not exactly a problem for most chamber members these days. 

A clue as to whom the chamber represents can be found in the Government Affairs Committee’s revised agenda for the meeting we attended: 

“Topic: How the Chamber can work to Promote and Implement Smart Growth in Berkeley.” 

The description of the panelists offered more clues: 

“John Gooding, a Political Consultant in Emeryville and Board President of the Emeryville Chamber.” His talk was devoted to telling the group (10 or 15 attendees) how Berkeley could be more like Emeryville. Seriously. 

“Mark Rhoades, a principal in CityCentric Investments, former Principal Planner for the City of Berkeley, and a member of the Berkeley Chamber Board.” And, along with his wife, a major and vocal opponent of the referendum petition. 

“Michael Goldin, a Designer/Architect, a Principal in the Berkeley Design Company, Swerve, and a member of the Berkeley Chamber Board”. And a major property owner and developer in West Berkeley, which is the building industry’s newest target of opportunity.  

There was no one on the panel from, for example, WEBAIC, West Berkeley Artisans and Industrial Companies, who speak for the small businesses threatened by proposals to re-zone West Berkeley to accommodate UC Berkeley’s biofuel pipedreams. A couple of the few attendees were small business people who expressed their frustration at the Chamber’s long-time domination by big business interests. The new chair of the Chamber’s small business committee, Lisa Bullwinkel, was there, and she at least has high hopes of improving Chamber performance for its smaller members.  

As a small business owners ourselves, we would be delighted to see the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee take a leadership position to make sure that the Chamber speaks for all its members, not just a few wealthy players. We would be overjoyed to see its Small Business Committee develop concrete proposals for improving the business climate for everyone doing business here—without turning Berkeley into Emeryville.  

In order to put our money where our mouth is, we’ve decided to work on a “No Business Left Behind” program to be offered exclusively to the Chamber’s small business members. We want to give each one a realistic opportunity to advertise on a sustained basis at whatever price they can afford, everything from a simple listing to full pages as is appropriate.  

We do believe what our sales representatives tell potential customers: that on-going advertising in the local paper is the best way for local businesses to attract local customers. Our 40,000 or more readers represent a very desirable locally-aware demographic, and they patronize our current advertisers faithfully. If we work together as partners, everyone involved will thrive, we’re sure. 


Public Comment

Letters to the Editor

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

PEDESTRIAN SAFETY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Pedestrians in Berkeley must be cautious because the annual crop of out-of-state drivers has arrived. They know nothing about yielding to pedestrians, and they’re already running late and in too much of a hurry. UC apparently does little or nothing o educate them about California traffic laws. Those who got California drivers licenses have bad habits and reflexes, and those who don’t get California licenses don’t even know our laws. UC might not even warn in-state new students from pedestrian-friendly towns to be super cautious because they’re now in an unsafe area where anarchy is the norm.  

Perhaps the city and/or campus can post signs, especially at the new stairs across Hearst into LeRoy, where the Hearst ave. fence obscures drivers’ vision. Let’s all be safe! 

Mitch Cohen 

 

• 

BIKE SAFETY 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I laughed at the letter about bike safety in the Sept. 10 edition written by Susan Tripp. She said, “I almost killed my son by opening my car door there in front of him because I had not noticed the few and faded bile logos.” Ms. Tripp obviously failed to follow the law which requires motorists to look before opening their doors. Attempting to blame it on the city for failure to have sufficiently marked bike lanes is a lame attempt to avoid responsibility. Not to mention nobody believes she would have looked if there had been bike logos painted in bright neon colors every five feet. 

This reminds me of a driver who nearly doored me a while back. She apologized saying “I didn’t see you!” I happened to have been watching her, which is why I wasn’t doored, and she neither turned her head nor looked in the mirror before opening her door. Of course she didn’t see me. She didn’t look!  

Most cyclists in Amsterdam don’t wear helmets. Instead they’re taught in school how to ride safely and responsibility. Students in driver ed classes there are taught to respect cyclists. And it works. They have enormously fewer car/bike and bike/bike accidents there vs here in the United States. 

Bob Muzzy 

 

• 

UCB AND AC TRANSIT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Given that the UCB student body’s become a financial anchor for AC Transit, it behooves the agency to provide more effective bus routes for this bulk of its Berkeley ridership, especially when it’s also proposing to cut the frequencies of the most crowded student-serving routes. One method of accomplishing this goal would be to circumnavigate the campus with the 1R, thus also encouraging an adequate “off-peak” ridership for what was proposed as a flagship route. 

Jeff Jordan 

 

• 

SMOKEFREE AIR 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Kristy West’s comment about non-smokers being put in a windowless room for one hour being capable of walking out alive, as opposed to those trapped in the same room with a running car, is an internet-driven canard surfacing all over the country in town halls and council meetings—anywhere where people are trying to recover their right to smokefree air. It was reported in four public comment periods last week alone. It’s amazing that anyone thinks this is a powerful argument. 

Cancer and heart disease may not kill as immediately as carbon monoxide poisoning, but they kill just as clearly. Equally clear are the statistics documenting the reduction in disease accompanying smokefree laws protecting the public from deadly secondhand smoke. 

Kristy West is neglecting to consider that some of the people being systematically poisoned by second-hand smoke are cancer survivors and/or have lung conditions which may manifest serious, even fatal symptoms after an hour of heavy exposure. 

I share Ms. West’s concern about auto emissions, but, especially as a cancer survivor, I know that such concerns do not excuse the distribution of pure fallacy. 

Carol Denney 

 

• 

REZA VALIYEE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Some people called me voicing their concern about what they felt I was doing which is what they thought regarding me protecting Reza Valiyee. 

One woman, who was very distressed, is homeless and now living on the streets. She told me Reza forced her out of her room illegally.  

I never meant to defend or protect Reza Valiyee. I have heard that he didn’t like to use building permits. My landlord corporation does not like to use permits either. In fact, he hired a subcontractor who picked up day laborers at Home Depot and the workers were locked up on a roof. I called a union organizer from the roofers union and he came right over. We tried to speak to the workers and many did not speak English. We were concerned because they were not allowed to speak to us.  

There was no permit and there was no workers compensation for the day laborers. Eventually we were chased off the property by the contractor and we left because we did not want to get arrested. There must have been at least 12 day laborers carrying the tar off the roof. Some of my neighbors on my block noticed what was going on.  

My point in my last letter to the Planet about Reza Valiyee was true: he did not harm me. I did not know the extent of how much he had gotten away with. I know that there are landlords like mine who do not like to use permits. As a daughter of a licensed contractor I knew my father always obeyed the housing laws. My father was an immigrant from Iran. Sometimes he paid apprentices journeyman wages.  

Indeed there are still some Robin Hoods in the world. My father was a socialist who believed in the teachings of Christ. My feeling is that to do unto others as you would have them do unto you is vital and one can even be a business person and do the right thing. I’m almost sorry to have written the letter about Reza defending him, but I would say that many people were being truthful about his actions. 

Diane Arsanis 

 

• 

KPFA ELECTION 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a KPFA listener working to publicize neutral events prepared around the bay area for listeners to meet all candidates for KPFA’s Local Station Board, it is extremely frustrating that few announcements are being made on-air of the carefully-prepared forums. Most “Concerned Listeners” (CL) have chosen not to attend most of them. One reason may be their use or misuse of inside access to thousands of listener/members through other means.  

One of their members in a key administrative position on the Alameda County Central Labor Council has access to the email of thousands of union members and currently unemployed union affiliates. Many KPFA listener/members have received the email quoted in part below. 

It implies that non “Concerned Listener” candidates want to fire all paid staff at KPFA. This is a complete fabrication, and in fact board members, former board members and others running have worked hard to find financial solutions for the station and network that do not involve firing paid staff. 

The first half of the email details “Concerned Listener” labor support. (And of course there is strong labor support for other candidates, none of whom were given an audience at key Central Labor Council events where “Concerned Listeners” were invited to present their case).  

The 2nd half of the email sent to thousands, reads: “They’re [Concerned Listeners] also strong supporters of KPFA’s professional staff, who are members of CWA Local 9415—unfortunately, other elements of KPFA’s board have attacked the station’s unionized staff, and called for replacing them with volunteers.  

Listener/members should consider to what lengths, including fabricating stories, “Concerned Listeners” will go to see their own candidates elected. It may be understandable that a slate who have voted consistently for policies nationally and locally which have endangered the financial well-being of the entire network are using such tactics to get elected rather than honest debate of issues. 

Mara Rivera 

San Francisco 

 

• 

KPFA FUND DRIVE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

It now appears that the September 15 KPFA fund drive date was planned back in January by the CL management group. This was after the Bylaws amendment that changed the election to September. So they were trying to interfere with the election when they planned the Fund Drive back in January, since the Fall fund drive had traditionally been in October. At least when the election was in October in 2006 and 2007.  

So the new twist is that do to financial necessity the Fund Drive needs to stay in September. So if you haven’t read my expose “Pacifica Financial Crisis-Who is Responsible” please do and you will see that the same folks that have been messing with the elections are the same folks that but Pacifica in the financial hole that it is in by letting WBAI bleed red ink for so many years. You can find the article in the Indybay archives, the Berkeley dailly Planet archives , May 14, 2009 or at http://www. 

peoplesradio.net  

Please contact KPFA management and demand that they continue the election coverage during the fund drive so that the voters can get as much information as possible to guide their votes. Thank you. 

Richard Phelps  

 

• 

KPFA PROGRAMMING 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

In her Planet commentary of Sept. 10-16, Sasha Futran accuses Concerned Listeners (CL) of everything from being responsible for the current fiscal crisis at KPFA to being, well, “old.” I don’t intend to get down in the mud with Ms. Futran, but suffice it to say that CL, since its inception, has fought for financial transparency and responsibility for the past three years. When a resolution was passed at the last Station Board meeting calling for full transparency and fiscal responsibility from the Pacifica National Board, Ms. Futran voted against it. Listeners to KPFA might ask her why. 

Yes, some of us are “old.” We like to think experience is not a negative attribute. 

Our opponents attack us for virtually everything (no, we are not responsible for global warming), but they never say what they want or anything positive about the station. CL thinks KPFA is a treasure, a source for news you get nowhere else, and a reservoir of culture and music you won’t find on Clear Channel. We salute the hard-working staff that turns out quality radio week after week, and the volunteers who produce a huge part of the programming. A few examples: 

Letters to Washington, hosted and produced by Mitch Jeserich, is a program now picked up by Pacifica stations and affiliates around the country, covering everything from the fight for single payer health care to the escalation of the war in Afghanistan. 

KPFA’s news programs consistently cover stories that the mainstream ignores, or gives our listeners new and fresh angles on the story of the day. New programs on the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, Central Asia and other areas of the world are due to start up in the next several months. 

And nobody comes close to our music and cultural programs. 

Yes, KPFA has serious financial problems, but we beat our goals in the last two fund drives, and we also brought in more donors. Unfortunately, times are hard for everyone, so donors gave us less money. The up side is even in times of difficulty, our listeners like what they hear on KPFA. 

This election boils down to one very simple question: Who is our audience? CL thinks we need to reach out to new audiences and not just talk to ourselves. We think this can be done without dulling KPFA’s edge. Our opponents want to talk to other activists. We have no problem with that, but we need to connect with everyday people. And quality, professional programming with a radical edge can do that. By increasing our audience, we build a firmer financial base for KPFA. If you think this is a good vision, please vote for the Concerned Listener slate. 

Donald Goldmacher, Producer 

 

• 

OBAMA AND HEALTH CARE 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As a physician who sees first hand the damaging effects of America's anti-health deny-care non-system, I can’t believe Obama’s stance. People are dying and he is doing nothing—in fact he is doing worse, because this debacle he is leading will set back the cause of health care reform for years to come. Much as I thought he might have the interests of the people in mind, it is clear that he does not. Please stand up and tell him that health care reform without any discussion of single payer, which is clearly the only system that will really change health care in America for the better and is supported by more Americans than any other proposal, is not reform at all. 

Robert Kevess 

Oakland 

 

• 

GOLDSTONE REPORT 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

As an American and, yes, as a Jew, in light of the UN Report by its fact finding commission, chaired by Justice Michael Goldstone, an investigatory mission with which the Israeli government refused to cooperate, and the continued refusal by the Netanyahu government to cease all building of settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, I call upon Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Congresswoman Lee, I implore Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Congresswoman Lee to publicly condemn current Israeli policy and to introduce legislation and/or employ both political and moral force to immediately stop all American economic and military assistance to Israel. 

   For those who are conversant with Yiddish, what the Israeli government has been and continues to do is, in transliterated form, ‘A Shanda Na-Happa!’ 

   Please note too that the Goldstone report faults both the Israelis and the Palestinians. 

Irving Gershenberg 

 

• 

PARKING TICKETS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

Eric Rhodes (Letters, Sept. 10) was ticketed for overtime parking, not for failing to see the chalk on his tire. The chalk is to tell the meter maid that the car is in violation—it’s the driver’s job not to exceed the time limit, chalk or no chalk. 

Jerry Landis 

 

• 

POSITIVE NEWS 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I often wish news agencies would publish more hopeful, positive articles in this era of, more often than not, bad news. So I thought I’d give a shout out to those folk who quietly make the world a better place. I cook lunch every week a women’s shelter (Women’s Day-time Drop in Center in Berkeley). This center is located in a small house next door to a playground and staffed by some of the kindest and dedicated folks. Here’s a snapshot of my Mondays. As I peel carrots or slice bread in preparation for lunch I’m in awe of all the folks who make that possible. My kitchen partner, Sandy, who’s showed me the ropes with her 15 years of weekly volunteer experience at the shelter.  

Then there’s the 91 year-old gent who picks up leftover bread from local bakeries and drops it off. We smile when we see him as he’s spry and in his vision of a perfect society he’d like to “put us out of business” as he hopes there would be no need for homeless shelters. Amy stops by each week with produce from her garden so I can put fresh chard in a frittata and than there’s Victor who bring us extras—pasta from Chez Panisse or tomatoes from the Farmers’ Market. Paul, a general contractor showed up yesterday to rebuild the bookcases and put shelves in the storage shed and Wendy leads a craft session each week with the ladies.  

I love the smiles on the clients’ faces as they show off a necklace or earrings they just made. Lisa and Rachel show up with diapers, toiletries and school supplies as they are running a back-to-school drive through a website they have created (helpamotherout.org)  

So when the world news gets me I look forward to my Mondays. 

Carolyn Weil 

 

• 

ACTRANSIT ROUTE 51 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I am writing on behalf of commuters who will face great difficulty if ACTransit alters the existing route of the 51 bus which runs from Berkeley Marina to downtown Oakland every day. 

This bus route helps commuters get to schools and doctors in Oakland, as well as to get to work. 

If this bus route is divided into two as planned it will hurt poor and needy students who ride the 51 to schools. It will also hurt the elderly and the sick who ride the 51 to Kaiser Hospital daily. It will also hurt thos working people who ride the 51 all the way to downtown Oakland to reach their workplaces. 

I am requesting the transit department to rethink their decision. I would value input from other working people like me who will be greatly inconvenienced if an additional change of buses is required to reach downtown Oakland from the Berkeley Marina. 

Romila Khanna 

Albany 

 

• 

VAN JONES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I do not know Van Jones, have never met him. When I was an active Gray Panther in the late seventies working for rent control, I believe I first heard his name in Oakland tenant advocate activities. 

What I am disturbed about may seem trivial, but nevertheless it discomforts me to have what is essentially gossip concerning Mr. Jones’s temperament discussed as the possible and possibly justified reason why our president and his staffers did not try to defend and retain Van Jones. 

What it reminds me of is the manner in which former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird was treated by some other female activists. Even diva advocates in the Gray Panther establishment speculated that because Ms. Bird’s temperament was supposedly not easy, therefore not coming to her defense was understandable. 

I have never been involved with any advocacy organization that did not have persons in leadership that I would not like to live with. The point is we are not asked to live with them, or even like them. We are  

 

 

 

asked to appreciate their gifts and try to hang in with them long enough to make use of their gifts for the greater purpose that we are supposedly involved with them in the first place. 

So I think the second-hand rumors regarding Mr. Jones’s arrogance and uncooperativeness are petty and beneath the usual standard of commentary of the Daily Planet and its Editor. 

Marilyn Talcott  

 

• 

OBAMA THE LIBERAL? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The new conventional wisdom is that Obama is losing the independent voters that helped elect him. The polls show he’s too liberal, we are told. Well, then. Show Me The Liberal! What’s Obama done that’s liberal? Afghanistan? A Bush-style buildup that couldn’t have sounded more Republican if Obama’d announced it with a Southern accent. Nothing liberal there. So is the President too cozy with the ACLU and civil liberty folks? Show me. Obama has kept in place almost all the Bush-era detention apparatus. He’s retained almost all the laws that Bush enacted to interrogate potential terrorists. Is his healthcare plan too liberal?  

Last time I checked, the private insurance companies were set to make huge profits because of Obama’s plan to require every citizen to have health insurance. And it looks like the “public option” is gone, largely because Obama didn’t push for it. So has Obama been the much-promised scourge of the pharmaceutical industry? Not really. For months now, Obama’s been consulting with the drug companies in private about his health care proposals. So where’s this Obama the Populist? Show Me The Liberal! I certainly don’t see it.  

Mike Platz no location given 

 

• 

SUICIDES 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

The article on the epidemiology of suicides on GG was very good. The profile provided—residence in particiular—does not fit the urban myths about who uses the bridge to commit suicide. I can comment on this because as a Beach Watch Volunteer I survey a beach directly NW of the bridge every fortnight and I hear many stories about the flowers that wash up on the beach and various “stats” about jumpers. 

Keep up the good work and present data about our community’s public heath issues 

JM Fitzpatrick, PhD 

 

 

• 

DAVID SWANSON 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

I wonder if readers know of David Swanson, the director of Afterdowningstreet.org and author of the new best-selling book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union (Seven Stories Press, 2009). David, who lives near DC, is on the board of Progressive Democrats of America, has a radio program, is a founder of prosecutebushcheney.org, and is a leading voice for the prosecution of Bush and Cheney for war crimes. Swanson is appearing in Berkeley at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists on November 22 to talk about his book, which I recommend highly, partly because it’s excellent, and partly because it fits so well with plans I’m making to “daylight” Dick Cheney on his own fishing grounds.  

I’ve only been fishing once. Took a fly fishing lesson in Sedona, Arizona at daybreak, and caught a pretty little trout which I promptly released and watched swim swiftly away to safety. But the daybreak I see coming soon and am talking about now requires another fishing expedition—this time for the high-ranking individuals who have deliberately altered our 3-branch system of government into a imperial, unitary executive which can ignore Congress and the expressed desire of the people for justice, peace and well-being. Congress has become a spineless group of politicians constantly running for re-election and kow-towing to party leadership, working as a political machine for the highest corporate paymasters. We can’t accept this meltdown of our democratic experiment, and David Swanson is one of our best, constant, and intelligent town criers letting us know that we need to step up and turn this situation around. As an activist, I depend on Swanson for information and analysis. Daybreak is a hard-hitting history of greed, corruption, stupidity and malfeasance, but it offers hope, and that’s why I’m recommending it highly. Like others I admire and follow, David is a hope junkie. If he weren’t, he’d have given up fighting the corruption long ago. So buy Daybreak. Take action now by telling Holder to prosecute Cheney: simply phone and Email the Office of the Attorney General at 202-514-2001 AskDOJ@usdoj.gov. Then notice how good it feels to take action.  

Cynthia Papermaster 

 

• 

SOCIALISM 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

This would be a great time for a presentation on, “What is socialism, anyway?” 

I haven’t heard many words tossed around with so little content behind them, at least no coherent and commonly accepted meaning. 

We probably have many experts in our well-informed and educated area.  

Ruth Bird 

 

• 

BACKGROUND MUSIC 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

There are enough distractions in today’s world without having to be bombarded with mindless, relentless pop music at virtually every eating establishment in the Bay Area. From restaurants offering $45 entrees to the local Pizza Parlors, it’s a non-stop stream of “yeah, yeah, yeah, and blah blah blah.” Frankly, I’d prefer to hear my own yeah-yeah-yeah’s and blah-blah-blahs, as well as those of the person I’m trying to speak with. 

Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly impossible, as is simply reading the daily newspaper amidst a sonic smorgasbord of techno-tripe that insists on assaulting our senses whether we’re grabbing a quick meal or dining out on a Sunday evening. 

No wonder we can’t get a coherent health care bill. We’re ensconced in an environment of cacophonous incoherence. By the way, we’re going to need more and more medical attention as a result of this violation of our senses. Stress, hypertension, and depression can all be, in part, attributed to the collapse of communication. It’s time to face the music, and turn it down...or better yet, just turn it off! 

Marc Winokur 

Oakland 

 

• 

SECTION 8 IN OAKLAND 

Editors, Daily Planet:  

Will the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA) have to raise the rents on all Section 8 tenants in Oakland once they start using Section 8 vouchers to fund public housing? The Oakland Tribune mentions that Oakland will use Section 8 vouchers for funding public housing, but does not mention if HUD has increased the budget for Oakland’s Section 8 voucher program. 

The Oakland Tribune also fails to address how tenants in Oakland’s Section 8 voucher program waiting list will be affected by the proposals to give Section 8 vouchers to public housing tenants. Will those on the waiting list have to wait longer as a result, to receive a Section 8 voucher? 

Once the OHA starts using Section 8 vouchers to fund Oakland’s public housing program while there is still a major funding shortfall occurring in the Section 8 voucher program in 15 percent of the nation’s Public Housing Authorities, will the Oakland Housing Authority have to raise the rents on all other Section 8 tenants, because of the proposals to divert Section 8 funding to public housing? 

The Tribune article raises more questions than it answers. 

Lynda Carson 

 

• 

CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN? 

Editors, Daily Planet: 

What happened to the “change we can believe in” candidate? Afghanistan, Single payer off the table,bank bailouts without Wall St. reform, continuation of the “war on drugs.” I’ll be looking for a real change candidate in 2012. 

Charles Robins 

Oakland


Commentary: The Downtown Area Plan 

By Laurie Capitelli
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:47:00 AM

It’s déjà vu all over again. Or back to the drawing board. Or how I like to refer to Berkeley process: governing by the last person standing.  

What makes this town great—the diversity of viewpoints and the passion of its citizenry—can sometimes cripple its progress. Our most recent experience with the Downtown Area Plan is a perfect example. The plan was overwhelmingly approved by seven out of the nine members of the City Council. It was opposed by Councilmember Kriss Worthington and newly elected Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. Subsequently, paid signature gatherers, armed with enhanced photos and misleading information about both the number of tall buildings that would be permitted and the requirements for affordable housing and green buildings, convinced enough voters that three years of public process is not adequate. We have to wait another year at least, and spend another huge chunk of money to rehash the plan one more time. Heck, if I had only the information presented by the signature gatherers I might have signed the petition.  

No compromise plan is perfect. The Downtown Area Plan is a compromise plan, taken mostly from the hard work of a 20 member citizen advisory committee working with city staff, then modified by both the Planning Commission and finally the City Council. This series of checks and balances, from citizen input to council approval, is how our local government works.   

Let’s remember that the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee was just that: advisory to the City Council. The Council adopted the lion’s share of the DAPAC work and made amendments where we deemed necessary to make the plan a viable, living document. (Before my election to the City Council, I served on several citizen commissions, task forces and ad hoc committees, all advisory to the City Council. Every group referred heart-felt and well-research planning recommendations to the City Council. Not a single plan was adopted in total, and one was scrapped completely due to the concerns of a single Councilperson.)  

In my perfect Downtown Plan, I would have included  

1. Provisions to double or triple the amount of affordable housing derived from new development.  

2. Strong project labor agreements (PLAs) required for new developments.  

3. Environmental requirements that would avoid potential issues that have arisen (in San Francisco most recently) concerning the effectiveness of the LEED standards.  

4. Insurances that the city receive a significant portion of the increased revenues generated by new development.  

I understood that I couldn’t get everything I wanted in the plan, so I supported the compromise crafted by a super majority on the Council.  

As I traveled through our north Berkeley neighborhoods during last year’s election, countless people lamented about the downtown, and yearned for a vibrant, attractive civic center of which they could be proud. Last spring our Open Town Hall survey of Berkeley residents highlighted a shared vision of a European style, pedestrian rich downtown, with residents, shops, cultural attractions and cafes.  

These improvements will not happen unless and until we can successfully encourage investment in the downtown. This plan was the next step in that process, a step that would build on the recent progress we’ve seen with the new Freight and Salvage, the Shattuck Plaza Hotel, the Brower Center and Oxford Plaza.  

So in the coming months, the council will have three options to consider:  

1. Rescind the plan entirely  

2. Rescind the Downtown Area Plan and adopt a significantly modified plan  

3. Put the Downtown Area Plan on the Ballot in June 2010  

None of these options continue the hard work of improving the downtown. None of the options hold UC Berkeley to an agreed upon limit of expansion into the city core. All of the options sustain a years-long public process that costs time, money and the energy of weary citizens who just want a downtown that attracts them and makes them proud.  

 

Laurie Capitelli represents District 5 on Berkeley City Council. 

 


Commentary: Downsize the Downtown

By Fred Dodsworth
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:48:00 AM

The Berkeley Downtown Plan our City Council recently tried to foist on us was turned back by direct citizen-action with an astounding 9,200 signatures, nearly twice the number required to place this highly controversial proposal on the ballot. Clearly the city’s Downtown Plan isn’t the downtown the citizens of Berkeley want, nor is it the fatally-compromised downtown plan the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC) approved. 

While seven of our council-folk were willing to compromise our community for developer profits, clearly the citizens are adamantly opposed to a bigger, uglier, denser, less livable downtown. The good folks of Berkeley want a livable downtown rather than a developer-friendly piggybank with oversized monstrosities that blot out the sun. The folks who live here and vote here want to keep our downtown to Berkeley scale. 

One of the factors which drove the city council’s plan over the cliff was the claim that developers couldn’t profitably build anything in the downtown over four stories, unless they were allowed to build substantially over ten stories! (This excuse has to do with construction methods.) Rather than giving the developers whatever they want, the city should have down-zoned the whole damn downtown to four stories so developers could continue to make profits while we kept the downtown we want! Everyone knows that developers will find some way around the restrictions and build seven story buildings if they have a four-story limit, but at least those buildings won’t be San Francisco high. If we let developers have 20-story buildings they’ll demand we let them build 30-story buildings, because developers always push the limits for higher profits. 

The claim that folks want a better downtown is correct but it’s not because downtown isn’t big enough or dense enough. It is because our downtown lacks vitality. Despite the plethora of new five-story buildings up and down Shattuck and University avenues, there are a lot of empty storefronts—still rents haven’t come down to meet the market. The people and businesses of Berkeley suffer with each empty storefront. What strangles our commercial districts are parasitic rental rates. No neighborhood-serving store can afford $3.50 to $5 per square-foot rents! Black Oak Books was paying $17,000 a month in rent before it went out of business! Radston’s Office Supply, a business that had employed folks, contributed services and paid taxes (as much as $400,000 a year) for 60 years, was forced out of Berkeley when the landlord raised their rent! Now that building sits empty contributing nothing. Similarly the 25,000 square-foot former Tower Records store on Durant has been empty for almost 10 years. Obscene commercial rents are the undoing of Berkeley’s much vaunted economic stability, not lack of density.  

Look at the excitement and growth of our ‘Arts District’ where two- and three-story buildings are the norm. What makes our ‘Arts District’ sustainable is that these cultural treasures owns their buildings, like La Peña, like Ashkenaz, like Shotgun Players, like Chez Pannise. When they’re successful, they reap the benefits, not a rapacious landlord who would squeeze the life out of our treasured, local institutions. One of the reasons Berkeley wasn’t hurt more profoundly by the current economic downturn is that we have so few mainstream corporate chain stores. Locally-owned stores are flexible and capable of meeting local needs. 

It’s time for the citizens of Berkeley to talk to their neighbors about more traffic, more speeding cars, more people, and more giant ugly buildings and whether that’s the future they want. Write letters and make phone calls: Tell your council member to ‘Downzone the whole damn Downtown.’ Let San Franciso or Oakland be Manhattan. Let Berkeley be Paris. 

 

Fred Dodsworth is a Berkeley resident. 


Commentary: Railroad Horns, Invitations to Suicide

By Earl Williamson
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

This evening, Sept. 10, the railroad horns are unusually loud. This nuisance increases often when cold foggy air comes into the bay through the Golden Gate, moving underneath the warm summer air. Since the speed of sound is proportional to the absolute temperature, the upper warm air conducts the sound faster than the cold air near the surface. Thus the sound that would have dispersed upwards bends downward toward the surface focusing the sound like an acoustical lens. This amplifies the railroad horn sound pollution sound in our hill areas. On hot days, we can tell when the cool ocean air is coming in by its sound. 

I can understand that the railroad companies and the various civil agencies continue this abuse and contempt for those who live on the flats near the railroad noise pollution but when this sound pollution bothers us hill folks, they’ve gone too far. The authorities may ignore the pleas and complaints from the poor folks who live nearest the tracks on the flats, but they had better wake up to more serious adversaries. 

This sound pollution causes considerable harm to all who are exposed to it. Surely some babies and children are disturbed and distressed. Some insomniacs, especially the elders, suffer being awakened many times during the night and are disturbed during the day. Furthermore, some adults, wakened by these horns, probably tend to increasing the birthrate in our overcrowded world. 

Presumably the horns are necessary to clear the tracks and prevent “accidents.” However, if the public relations agencies would objectively and scientifically investigate, they would probably disclose that the accidents that do occur, are actually suicides. Though most people are adequately warned away from the advancing trains by the roar of the engines, the bright lights, and the gates, some distressed citizens are driven to suicide. Noise polluting horns are redundant and unnecessary, they are cruel and unkind. 

    But to those sad citizens prone to suicide, the drama of these powerful machines provides an enticement comparable to our Golden Gate Bridge, but closer and quicker. Worse yet, these irregular and incessant train horns not only invite but even enduce those so distressed to take that tragic course. 

    Solutions abound. Either change or ignore the horn warning regulations, or implement them with less malice. Anger therapy for the trainmen is recommended, but deeper therapy is inappropriate because disclosing what people are really doing, such as enticing suicides, is unnecessarily distressing. 

    Unfortunately, given the compulsions of our institutions and the underlying conflict between railroad and citizens, a more acceptable solution might be for the railroad corporations to engage a team of attorneys to jog before trains, an activity they often indulge for their better health. The lawyers could provide the suicidals an affidavit absolving the firms and the local governments from liability for their demise. In the unlikely event that these sad people refuse to sign, the attorneys could simply phone the train to wait for further discussion and resolution. 

    Quo usque tandem abutare patientia nostra?! 


Commentary: Making the UC Campus Safer

By Benjamin Freedman
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:49:00 AM

We are all very impressed with the action of two UC police officers, who apprehended kidnapper Philip Garrido. Nevertheless, the recent murder of Yale pharmacology graduate student Annie Le inside her own lab building reminds us that danger never stops. The case strikes a cord with me because Annie reminds me of many of the excellent students here at Berkeley, close to her hometown of Placerville. 

According to police, the body “was found behind the wall in something called a chase, which is a space that carries utilities from one floor to another.” The fact that the body was so cleverly hidden suggests some prior knowledge of the building. As a researcher in lab on Berkeley campus, I do not find this surprising at all. Our building, Life Science Addition, is routinely infiltrated by criminals, who wander the halls looking for laptops to swipe. Many of these enter during daylight hours, when the building is open to the public, and wait around until after hours to commit their crime. In Annie’s case, the perpetrator may have cased the building during the day, noticed the chase at some point, then returned to stash the body there after the murder. In our building, students and staff routinely encounter and occasionally confront laptop thieves who come in off the street. These confrontations arise because it is not easy to identify a suspicious individual without questioning. 

I would like to share with you a conversation I had by e-mail with former Chief Victoria Harrison. I was moved to write her after she e-mailed everyone on campus regarding the police response to the tree sitters. I wrote her (verbatim) that a distracting tree-sitter seems somewhat miniscule in light of the approximately 20 laptops that have been stolen out of our building (Life Science Addition) over the past two years. She replied rather blithely that the police were limited and it was our responsibility as a building community to identify criminals and call the police. One month later, I wrote back to her describing a recent incident: “A large black man with a scar was seen walking through the laboratories on our floor at approximately 9:30 a.m. He was rifeling through some drawers in a lab in plain view. A labmate of mine—a young woman graduate student, who was practically alone—asked him who he was looking for. He cited a name, which she did not recognize. She was suspicious, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. The suspect then proceeded to have the labmate show him to the second floor, where she left him knocking on a door and quickly ran to call the police.” 

This time, I also convinced the Daily Californian to put a reporter on the case. Chief Harrison replied in greater detail: “There are a variety of ways to minimize this kind of intrusion, such as by keeping interior doors closed and locked, arranging furniture so that someone inside the room can always see the door, and locking the doors and windows when everyone’s away. Other options include alarms, video systems, custom locks and hardware (such as key-card access points), or even dedicated guards. But there is a delicate balance between the implementation of security measures and our goal of maintaining an open academic environment free from unnecessary inconvenience...Our goals to install and enforce measures that are appropriate for the level of risk and type of activity at the site, in a way that does not interfere with normal operations and purposes such as deliveries, visitors, lectures, maintenance, research activities, administrative work, and so on. Whatever the measures taken, and even in the most strictly controlled environments, the police department ultimately must rely on those who know their workspace to identify persons who do not belong. We do not expect or want legitimate building occupants to put themselves in potentially unsafe situations by confronting trespassers and prowlers, but we do need your assistance in contacting our department to report suspicious behavior or situations, so we can respond and investigate for you... I will ask our Crime Prevention Unit to review LSA's security measures, and to recommend any changes that might be appropriate given current building uses, criminal trends and occupant concerns. We will work with the LSA building coordinator during our analysis.” 

After continued prodding, building administrators called a building meeting and the building was restricted to keycard access only after dark (no security guard). Nevertheless, we have had several incidents since then. Not long ago, I ran into a suspicious person after hours, posing as a scientist. I confronted him, asked what he was doing, requested an ID, and told him to leave when he refused to produce one. On his way out I called the police from my cell phone and he was arrested as he fled the building. A similar confrontation occurred on Aug. 21, also leading to an arrest. Although we have made progress, these prowlers were only caught after potentially dangerous confrontations. This is the problem with the current system—it is too difficult to know whether an individual is suspicious without confronting him. It is possible that Annie Le ran into a similar confrontation situation but was not so lucky. 

Few classes take place in our building. We should have keycard-restricted access all day long. A security guard would also be a good investment. If funds are short, the UC might appeal to the Federal Department of Homeland security to sponsor the creation of security guard positions (an easy way for Obama to create jobs). I hope police and administrators at universities everywhere take note of the Annie Le case, as well as the largely-forgotten Virginia Tech massacre, and take the time to reassess their security priorities. There are more dangerous things out there in this world than tree-sitters. 

 

 

Benjamin Freedman is a UC Berkeley PhD '09


Commentary: What is Traffic Safety Fodder for?

By Dave Campbell
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:50:00 AM

Last week’s Berkeley Daily Planet generated a good stir of thought on bicycle safety, but most of it misses the point, kind of like the guy who wrote the letter railing against new pavement at North Berkeley BART. Arguing for helmets, for parking fees for bicyclists, for us all to ride like Lance Armstrong, or against traffic circles all loses us in the forest. The focus on traffic safety should first and foremost be on creating great streets in Berkeley where everyone can safely use the roadway. Think about Fourth Street in Berkeley—the shopping district part. You don’t need a helmet when riding this street, you don’t have to be an experienced bicyclist to ride there, pedestrians can safely walk around and cross the street with no traffic lights, and no amount of bicycle parking fees will accomplish anything. The street works for everyone, it’s a great street. All streets in Berkeley should be like this. But as long as traffic engineers are required to move more cars along the street, we’ll never have streets like this, streets that are safe. 

As for fodder, bicyclists should be happy we are good fodder for politicians—given the progress we have made in making Berkeley a bicycle-friendly town. I wish traffic safety were as lucky. No doubt, Berkeley is generally a good town for walking and bicycling and the numbers show it. Far more people walk and bicycle in this city than any other city in the East Bay and our numbers rival many of the neighborhoods of San Francisco. But with greater numbers comes greater responsibility and Berkeley most certainly has a responsibility to continue to create better streets, in fact world class streets—that’s the goal. 

A quick recap: 

1. Berkeley has been working for years to implement its 1998 Bicycle Plan; 

2. Berkeley is about to adopt it’s first formal Pedestrian Plan, 

3. Berkeley continues to earn Safe Routes to School and Safe Routes to Transit grants to make it safer to walk and bicycle to school and transit. Good news—the city just received a $900,000 grant for ped/bike safety improvements for Thousand Oaks, Berkeley Arts Magnet, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks schools, and the city is busy implementing a $500,000 Safe Routes to Transit grant to bring the Berkeley Bikestation above ground and greatly expand its capacity of secure bike parking for downtown; and 

4. Traffic calming of its neighborhoods is something for which Berkeley is famous. Some may not like traffic circles, but most bicyclists do and neighbors love them because they slow traffic and they look good—especially with a variety of plants growing in them. 

A lot of people have played a significant role in all of this good work—the City Council, the Transportation Commission, the Public Works Department and the Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition. 

Yet with all this progress, it is safety education that has been one of the best stories. There is still a lot of work to do to redesign streets like Ashby ave. to make crossing safer, but pedestrian and bicycle safety education is in full swing. The bicycle coalition offers free urban bicycle safety classes this Fall. Transform has taken on the Safe Routes to School Program started by the bicycle coalition years ago and is teaching ped/bike safety to thousands of kids. Berkeley’s Health Department offers kids bike rodeos both after school and every Spring at San Pablo Park, which include free bicycle helmets, and the bicycle coalition will soon be adding more kids bike rodeos, family cycling clinics, and how-to-ride-a-bike classes in Berkeley and beyond. As a result, thousands of pedestrians, bicyclists and kids are safer. 

The group that needs to step up more is not the city but rather UC Berkeley. The university draws too much daily traffic into the city. Over 50 percent of university staff and visitors drive alone to campus every day, clogging our streets with traffic and making a simple task like crossing the intersection of University and Shattuck unnecessarily dangerous. And the numbers are getting worse, not better. The university, as well as all employers in Berkeley, needs to acknowledge this problem and I’m confident the university will step up their efforts. Senator Steinberg’s SB 375 Redesigning Communities to Reduce Greenhouse Gases requires adoption of sustainable transportation plans by all state agencies and specifically requires a reduction in vehicle miles traveled—i.e. less traffic. For a university that sits right next to a BART station and has 15 bus lines traversing it’s campus, much more can be done to encourage transit, walking and bicycling. 

Often, our first instinct is to keep putting bandaids on problems—a traffic signal here, a left turn pocket there, a helmet, etc. While the Bicycle Plan and the new Pedestrian Plan will go a long way to improve things and bicyclists should wear helmets at least until all streets are truly safe to ride on, we really have a great opportunity to address the problem at its source thanks to both state legislation SB 375 and Berkeley’s own locally adopted Climate Action Plan, which places a strong emphasis on reducing drive alone traffic. As part of this effort, UC Berkeley and all large employers in town need to provide transit passes to employees, like the bus passes the university provides for its students and the city provides for its staff. And we need to quit building parking garages and paving over tennis courts for parking spaces. Imagine if the university, Alameda County’s largest employer, could eliminate 10,000 car trips every day in Berkeley. Imagine if new downtown housing included a transit pass for every resident or was car-free. Imagine if the goal was not to move more traffic but to reduce the amount of traffic on our streets. Well, that goal is right around the corner and the bicycle coalition looks forward to working with the city and the Uiversity to keep their eyes on the prize—world class streets. 

 

Dave Campbell is president of Bicycle-Friendly Berkeley Coalition  

www.bfbc.org  


Commentary: Confessions of a Failed Role Model

By George Rose
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:51:00 AM

It appears that the fair citizens of Berkeley are considering a proposed law requiring all bicyclists to wear helmets. Even Carol Denny, usually so level headed and reliably libertarian when it comes to legislating the behavior of our citizenry, seems to have climbed on board this bandwagon. She writes in her letter to the editor that it will force us all to become better role models for our children.  

I honestly don’t understand where all this helmet hysteria comes from. Otherwise reasonable and rational people, good old fashioned liberals most of them, become almost indistinguishable from those town hall screamers when they see bicycle riders without a helmet. Recently a friend cruised by me in her sedan as I rode slowly down an empty street, safely enclosed in a spacious bike lane. “Where’s your helmet!” she screamed at me as she passed. She leaned across the passenger seat to roll down the window, to make sure that I heard her. In the process she completely missed the stop sign and nearly took out a pedestrian. I would like to point out that the pedestrian was not wearing a helmet. 

This fear of the unhelmeted bicyclist seems to be infecting the body politic like a new flu. Several times I have heard acquaintances complain about the reckless and inconsiderate behavior of bicyclists, and they always seem to cap it off with, “And he wasn’t even wearing a helmet!” I’m not sure how wearing a helmet while we bike makes us more responsible, but it seems that nothing can upset the law abiding citizens of Berkeley more than the sight of a cyclist, reckless or not, with a bare head.  

But Ms. Denny’s point about role models, now that got to me a little. I was thinking for a moment that she might be on to something. I mean, we do want to make sure that our children inherit our growing obsession with safety. In fact, since head injuries are so common and undeniably dangerous, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be a good idea to require everyone to wear a helmet at all times. People slip in the bathtub all the time. People fall out of bed and hit their heads routinely, it seems. Shouldn’t we insist that people protect themselves against these common dangers by wearing helmets when they shower and even while sleeping? Head injuries are quite common in car accidents, so perhaps we should require all passengers in moving vehicles (even buses) to wear helmets. Let the children see and emulate our fierce determination to keep ourselves safe at any cost, and to make sure that everyone else feels the same way. So what if helmets cost fifty bucks a pop, and so what if the instructions tell you to throw them out and buy a new one if you so much as drop them on the ground. Our kids are worth every penny. 

Well, maybe not. Call me a dangerous nuisance to society if you like, call me a failed role model for our nation’s children even, but I like riding my bike the way I always have—slowly, cautiously, in my street clothes, helmet free. And yes, I am prepared to face the consequences of my actions. If Ms. Denny and her fellow helmet police get their way, I’ll just have to dust off my old civil disobedience pamphlets and budget a few extra dollars each year toward helmet fines. If I like to feel the wind in my hair as I pedal slowly down the empty back streets of my native town, it’s worth a few extra bucks. Maybe they can use the money to make the streets safer for bicyclists, so that we won’t need helmets. That’s something the kids could relate to, I’m sure. 

 

George Rose is a Berkeley resident. 

 


Commentary: We Love the ZAB

By Janice and David Schroeder
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:53:00 AM

Pacific Steel Casting Company (PSC) was the topic at the Sept. 10 Zoning Adjustment Board’s meeting at which PSC’s current performance review was presented as an information item. The staff report stated that everything is fine, but this preposterous claim only served to provoke community members and the ZAB to question what dowe actually know, think we know, and need to know about PSC.  

The powers that be evidently did not expect concerned community members to attend this ZAB meeting, because they were elsewhere that night. Without their interference, current members of the ZAB listened to our concerns, treated us respectfully, and most importantly said they needed more information than the City staff included in the staff report.   

In 2007, the ZAB issued a use permit for PSC to finally outfit its Plant 3 with a pollution control device. At that time ZAB required only one substantive condition in the use permit: performance reviews. The 2007 ZAB required no further cleanup of PSC, no guarantee of transparency and no community collaboration; in short, no toxic use reduction. Every step of the 2007 ZAB hearing on PSC’s use permit was heavily influenced by the mayor’s staff and Dion Aroner, PSC’s Public Relations flack, who ultimately called the shots. Aroner effectively directed city staff to have ZAB push through PSC’s bidding in the wee hours of the morning and directed the ZAB to reverse its earlier vote when the vote displeased her.  

To make matters worse, the performance reviews were based in part on Notices of Violation issued to PSC by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD). A Notice of Violation can be issued when BAAQMD inspectors respond to five or more community members’ odor complaints within a 24-hour period, smell the odor with each complainant, and trace the odor (block by block) to the source. Complaints are practically impossible to confirm when BAAQMD inspectors do not respond to complaints the same day, or when atmospheric conditions prevent the odor from sitting stationary all along the city blocks so it can be traced back to the polluter.  

Although they had not been provided with all of the information they needed, ZAB members were asked to sign off on PSC’s performance report based on a biased and woefully inadequate staff report. One ZAB member stated that they kept getting PSC’s performance reports, but they did not have adequate background, context and time to discuss and understand the reports.   

The city has stood behind PSC’s Health Risk Assessment (HRA) results despite the city-paid review by Tetra Tech EM Inc in March 2008. Tetra Tech leveled criticisms of PSC's HRA's assumptions, methodology, and results, along with specific recommendations that were not applied to the final HRA by PSC. To mention just two, Tetra Tech was concerned by the HRA’s lack of evaluation of cumulative impact of emissions, and the HRA’s use of 1989 source test data along with data from 2005-2006. Why did the city not release Tetra Tech’s 2008 review to the public until last Thursday in a ZAB agenda attachment? A letter from the State Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, which was included as an attachment to the ZAB report, indicates that science does not yet have the ability to predict how dangerous and noxious the cumulative impact of PSC’s pollution is. 

The city adopted the Precautionary Principle several years ago. Why is it not being applied here?    

Another piece of new information no one from the community knew was casually dropped at the ZAB meeting by Debbie Sanderson, city staffer in Planning, when she mentioned an environmental impact report (EIR) being prepared by city staff studying West Berkeley air quality, noise and traffic. Why didn’t District 1 Councilmember Linda Maio or Mayor Bates make West Berkeley residents aware of this EIR? And so it goes …Will the ZAB do the right thing and use its powers over PSC’s use permit to address the on-going toxic emissions from PSC, or will it just be more of the same inaction by the city. Stay tuned for the next ZAB meeting; everyone will be there.    

 

 

Janice and David Schroeder are members of West Berkeley Alliance for Clean Air and Safe Jobs. www.westberkeleyalliance.org


Commentary: Community Radio at the Crossroads: The Significance of the KPFA Board

By Joe Wanzala, Shahram Aghamir, Tracy Rosenberg and Anthony Fest
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:52:00 AM

KPFA listeners know that the Local Station Board elections tend to be acrimonious. What many listeners might not realize is that the controversy of the LSB elections actually reflects a historical issue about the nature of community radio itself. The four of us founded the Independents for Community Radio affinity group of LSB candidates with the goal of ensuring that KPFA remains rooted in the communities it serves. In October 2008, nearly 90 KPFA staff members issued a statement articulating their goals for leadership at the station. They called for management committed to fulfilling the historic Transformation Proposal made during the 1999 KPFA Lockout. They also called for leaders who support the unpaid staff, maintain a respectful and collaborative approach to station operations, and understand that KPFA should include community representatives on its decision making bodies. These aspirations remain largely unfulfilled or have been undermined by the current management and its Concerned Listener allies.  

Jon Bekken, writing in “Community Radio at the Crossroads: Federal Policy and the Professionalization of a Grassroots Medium” (in Ron Sakolosky and Steve Dunifer, eds., Seizing the Airwaves, A Free Radio Handbook, 1998) defines community radio as being characterized by “access, public participation in production and decision making and, predominantly, by listener-financing. The intention is that management of the station is in the hands of those who use and listen to it.” He acknowledges that operating a station on such a model is difficult, but vital, as it is ensures accountability to the audience and wider community in a way that commercial stations do not. The alternative is what happened at KQED in San Francisco, where the board marginalized progressive activists such as Henry Kroll, Sasha Futran and others. Eventually, in 2006 KQED sent out a ballot asking its members to relinquish their voting powers. They voted by 2 to 1 to do so. 

This change at KQED was part of a trend that has placed community radio stations around the country under pressure to conform with the National Public Radio model. The two main groups running in the KFPA election, Independents for Community Radio and Concerned Listeners, represent sharply divergent visions of the station. The Concerned Listener slate in many ways represents a return of the Healthy Station Project (HSP) initiative that led to the Pacifica wars of the 1990s. HSP (which former KPFA General Manager Lynn Chadwick was involved in developing) was designed to move community stations toward commercialization and "professionalization," and supported the use of more paid staff and a reduced role for volunteer community programmers and listener-members in decision-making. The ensuing battle to save Pacifica was an expression of the community’s rejection of the HSP paradigm. 

The Concerned Listeners’ platform reflects key aspects of the HSP. They tout “professionalism” and since taking control of the board in 2007, have supported efforts by management to marginalize the volunteer staff and reverse the post-1999 lock-out victories for listener democracy. They have shut down the Program Council, a body composed of staff, board members and community representatives which represented a successful system for making collaborative programming decisions. The CL also support an authoritarian management style, eschewing conflict resolution, one result being the tragic arrest of and injury caused to a young African American volunteer programmer Nadra Foster, after a manager summoned the police. 

Independents for Community Radio are not opposed to ‘professionalism,’ in the sense of high-quality radio. Equally important, however, is preserving the “alternative” culture of dissent within which KPFA operates. Jerry Starr, executive director of Citizens for Independent Public Broadcasting, has observed that “What is called the ‘professional’ model is really the commercial model, built on the unexamined assumption that professionalism precludes the participation of volunteers. Unfortunately, some stations have been plunged into the red by ditching their volunteers and pursuing the chimera of big time radio.” The tension between the participatory democracy, community radio model and the “professional,” pro-management model favored by the Concerned Listeners is perhaps best expressed by John Whiting in his essay, “Pacifica in Vincula: The Life and Death of Great American Radio” in which he observed that an inexpensive, accessible, grassroots structure is incompatible with a “self-justifying hierarchy in which the preservation of personal and professional lifestyles must necessarily take precedence over all other priorities.” By following the latter path, he noted, “KPFA has changed from the station many people listened to but didn’t support to the station some people still support but don’t listen to.”  

For the present KPFA management, good programming has become synonymous with “programming that raises money” and listeners are viewed as a revenue stream. KPFA now struggles to extract financial support from the listeners to cover spiraling operating costs, while simultaneously closing off meaningful avenues for community participation. 

We believe that, instead of building a more costly infrastructure, KPFA can and should leverage its existing platforms and partner with independent media and community organizations. KPFA should be a “convener of community,” create meaningful roles for community leaders and contribute to civic leadership. The station should promote interactive journalism by bringing listeners into the newsmaking process - as the resurgent ethos of citizen journalism in the blogosphere is changing the role of the consumer of media from passive to engaged. The preservation of listener democracy is fundamental to the success of this vision. 

Please vote for the Independents for Community Radio (ICR) candidates. In alphabetical order, they are: Banafsheh Akhlaghi, Shara Esbenshade, Sasha Futran (incumbent), Ann Hallatt, Adam Hudson, Laura Kiswani, Rahman Jamaal McCreadie, Henry Norr (incumbent), Andrea Pritchett, Evelyn Sanchez, and Akio Tanaka (incumbent). Read more at www.indyradio2009.org 

 

 

Tracy Rosenberg and Joe Wanzala are long-time KPFA listener-activists; Shahram Aghamir and Anthony Fest are unpaid KPFA staff members. All four also serve on the KPFA Local Station Board. 


Commentary: Concerned Listeners’ Solutions for KPFA

By Brian Edwards-Tiekert
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:53:00 AM

If you’re a KPFA member, you should gotten a ballot by now from the Pacifica Foundation that asks you to rank 29 candidates for nine seats on KPFA’s Local Station Board. Here are the people I’m endorsing (I’ll explain why below). You can read more about them at ww.concernedlisteners.org. In no particular order: Conn Hallinan, Dan Siegel, Andrea j. Turner, Mike Smith, John Van Eyck, Jack Kurzweil, Virginia Rodriguez, Pamela Drake, Donald Goldmacher, Mark Hernandez. 

Here’s the situation: KPFA, and Pacifica (the nonprofit network that owns KPFA) are on the brink. Literally. When the economy tanked, it decimated fundraising across the network. That compounded long-term trends in Pacifica—stagnant audiences, rising costs—and has rapidly drained the network’s cash reserve. 

  Our only hope is to rejuvenate Pacifica’s programming, bring more listeners into the fold, and start to re-build. 

So the question is: whither KPFA? There’s a group on KPFA’s board—they run under a different banner every year—that is hostile to the station’s professional staff, enamored of conspiracy theories, doctrinaire in their approach to public affairs, and sectarian in their approach to internal politics–they’d rather attack KPFA than improve it. They have sucked up a tremendous amount of the station’s time and energy, when it really doesn’t have any to spare. They’ve bogged the station down in petty infighting, and tried to blame most of the station’s problems on the people who’ve been fending them off as they try to improve things.  

  Then there’s the slate I’m endorsing: “Concerned Listeners for KPFA.” They stand for professionalism, unity, inclusiveness, and diversity at KPFA—and bring an impressive range of professional and movement credentials to the table: Here’s what KPFA’s accomplished under the slate’s stewardship: 

 

Programming 

Special Broadcasts. KPFA organized the ground-breaking Winter Soldier broadcasts, which filled a national media vacuum, won a Project Censored Award, and helped point the way forward for online multimedia synergy during Pacifica broadcasts. 

New Programs. KPFA brought to the airwaves some of the best programs from its sister stations: KPFK’s Uprising, and WBAI’s Behind the News—a left economics program much needed during this turbulent economic time. 

Political Coverage. KPFA led the rest of the network in organizing national coverage of the 2008 election, from the primaries through the conventions. 

Special Series. KPFA organized the nationally-distributed series “Letters to Washington”—just back this week—bringing to the air much-needed critical perspectives on the beginnings of the Obama administration. 

Expanded News Operations. KPFA and KPFK (its sister station in Los Angeles) have integrated their news rooms into a statewide newsgathering operation—one soon joined by KFCF in Fresno, a direct outgrowth of an LSB meeting in Fresno organized by Concerned Listeners members. 

Rejuvenated local programming. KPFA’s given its morning show a complete makeover, increasing its audience and fundraising. 

Infrastructure. KPFA has undertaken the first serious upgrades in years to its physical and technical infrastructure. Thanks to drainage improvements made last summer, KPFA’s studios no longer flood during heavy rain. Structural retrofits have made the building more stable. Retrofit work on KPFA’s entrance has mechanized the doors for better wheelchair access. A new booster in Oakley has expanded the reach of KPFA’s signal. And an air-chain upgrade currently underway will improve the sound of KPFA’s signal. 

Finances. Under Concerned Listeners leadership, KPFA has produced the most-detailed budgets in the Pacifica network, amassed the largest cash reserves in the network, and—even in the current economic crisis—kept more money in its bank accounts than any of the other Pacifica stations. 

KPFA’s gotten there because its board majority has supported professional management, realistic budgeting, and accountability from Pacifica National. Specifically, the Concerned Listeners have:  

Raised thousands of dollars to help KPFA expand its signal 

Brought a much-needed breath of civility to KPFA’s often-rancorous board meetings 

Brought an unprecedented level of transparency and detail to the budgeting process.  

Taken strong stands in support of financial accountability at Pacifica, the nonprofit that owns KPFA 

Completed the hire of a permanent general manager after years of interim management 

We’re not out of the woods. KPFA is currently running a deficit, and facing some hard choices ahead. The rest of the Pacifica network is in still-worse circumstances, and giving indications they may raid KPFA’s accounts to pay some of their bills. 

  KPFA needs a board that can support it (rather than attack it) through hard times, and stand up for their station in national Pacifica politics. That’s why I’m endorsing the Concerned Listeners for KPFA. I know the candidates, and they will be good for KPFA. Check them out at concernedlisteners.org. 

  No doubt there are other worthy candidates in the mix—I don’t know everyone who’s running, and I won’t endorse someone I don’t know. I’ve seen too many people cloak personal vendettas and hidden agendas in reasonable-sounding candidate statements to do otherwise. 

  It is vitally important that you educate yourself about the election and vote. Your ballot is due October 14th—turn it in now so you don’t forget.  

  

  

Brian Edwards-Tiekert is KPFA Environmental Justice Beat Reporter Free Speech Radio News collective member and Staff representative and treasurer, KPFA Local Station Board


Columns

Dispatches From the Edge: Afghanistan: What Are These People Thinking?

By Conn Hallinan
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM

One of the oddest—indeed, surreal—encounters around the war in Afghanistan has to be a telephone call this past July 27. On one end of the line was historian Stanley Karnow, author of Vietnam: A History. On the other, State Department special envoy Richard Holbrooke and the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal. The question: How does Washington avoid defeat like it suffered in Southeast Asia 40 years ago? 

Karnow did not divulge what he said to the two men, but he told Associated Press that the “lesson” of Vietnam “was that we shouldn’t have been there,” and that, while “Obama and everybody else seems to want to be in Afghanistan,” he, Karnow, was opposed to the war. 

It is hardly surprising that Washington should see parallels to the Vietnam debacle: an elusive enemy, a neutral, if not hostile, local population, and a corrupt governing regime with virtually no support outside of the nation’s capital.  

But in many ways Afghanistan is worse than Vietnam, and it is increasingly hard to fathom why a seemingly intelligent American administration seems determined to hitch itself to this disaster in the making. It is almost as if there is something about that hard-edged Central Asian country that deranges its occupiers. 

 

Delusion one: This war is necessary. 

In his address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Obama characterized Afghanistan as “a war of necessity” against international terrorism. But the reality is that the Taliban is a polyglot collection of conflicting political currents whose goals are local, not universal jihad. 

“The insurgency is far from monolithic,” says Anand Gopal, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor based in Afghanistan. “There are shadowy, kohl-eyed mullahs and head-bobbing religious students, of course, but there are also erudite university students, poor illiterate farmers, and veteran anti-Soviet commanders. The movement is a mélange of nationalists, Islamists, and bandits…made up of competing commanders and differing ideologies and strategies who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners.” 

Taliban spokesman Yousef Ahmadi told Gopal, “We are fighting to free our country from foreign domination,” adding, “Even the Americans once waged an insurgency to free their country.” 

Besides the Taliban, there are at least two other insurgent groups; Hizb-I-Islam, led by former U.S. ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyer, and the Haqqani group, which has close ties to al Qaeda. 

The White House’s rationale of “international terrorism” does parallel the Southeast Asian tragedy. The U.S. characterized Vietnam as part of an international Communist conspiracy, while the conflict was essentially a homegrown war of national liberation. 

 

Delusion two: A new military strategy will turn things around. 

One casualty of Vietnam was the doctrine of counterinsurgency, the theory that an asymmetrical war against guerrillas can be won by capturing the “hearts and minds” of the people. Of course “hearts and minds” was a pipe dream, obliterated by massive civilian casualties, the widespread use of defoliants, and the creation of “strategic hamlets” that had more in common with concentration camps than villages. 

In Vietnam’s aftermath, “counterinsurgency” fell out of favor, to be replaced by the “Powell Doctrine” of relying on massive firepower to win wars. Behind that strategy the U.S. crushed the Iraqi army in the first Gulf War, and even though the doctrine was downsized for the invasion of Iraq a decade later, it was still at the heart of the attack.  

However, within weeks of taking Baghdad, U.S. soldiers were besieged by an insurgency that wasn’t in the lesson plan. The Gods of War rarely pay attention to the Pentagon curriculum. Ambushes and roadside bombs took a steady toll on U.S. and British troops, and aggressive countermeasures predictably turned the population against the occupation. 

After four years of getting hammered by insurgents, the Pentagon rediscovered counterinsurgency, and its prophet was General David Petraeus, now commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia. “Hearts and minds” was dusted off, and the watchwords became “clear, hold, and build.” Troops were to hang out with the locals, dig wells, construct schools, and measure success not by body counts of the enemy, but by the “security” of the civilian population. 

It is this theory that impelled the Obama administration to “surge” 21,000 troops into Afghanistan, and to consider adding another 20,000 in the near future. The idea is that a surge will reduce the violence, as a similar surge of 30,000 troops had done in Iraq. 

 

Delusion three: The “surge” worked in Iraq. 

As Patrick Cockburn of the Independent discovered, it didn’t. 

With the possible exception of Baghdad, it wasn’t U.S. troops that reduced the violence in Iraq, but the decision by Sunni insurgents that they could no longer fight a two-front war against the Iraqi government and the United States. The ceasefire by Shiite cleric Madhi Army leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, also helped calm things down. In any case, as recent events have demonstrated, the “peace” was largely illusory. 

Not only is a similar “surge” in Afghanistan likely to be unsuccessful, the formula behind counterinsurgency doctrine predicts the Obama administration is headed for a train wreck. 

According to investigative journalist Jordan Michael Smith, the “U.S/ Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual”—co-authored by Petraeus—recommends “a minimum of 20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents. In Afghanistan, with its population estimated at 33 million, that would mean at least 660,000 troops.” And this requires not just any soldiers, but soldiers trained in counterinsurgency doctrine.  

The numbers don’t add up. 

The United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies currently have about 64,000 troops in Afghanistan, and that figure would rise to almost 100,000 when the current surge is completed. Some 68,000 of those will be American. There is also a possibility that Obama will add another 20,000, bringing the total to 120,000, larger than the Soviet Army that occupied Afghanistan. 

According to the counterinsurgency manual, the strategy “demands considerable expenditures of time and money.” So far the United States has spent $223 billion on the war, and according to former Assistant Secretary of State Bing West, it will cost about $800 billion to fund the Afghan Army and a civilian development program. U.S. military expenditures will likely run about $4 billion a month on top of that. 

NATO is in the process of building up the Afghan Army, but those numbers are not expected to go much above 134,000, plus about 97,000 police. Some want to expand the army to 240,000, although the British think that is impossible. There are just not enough non-commissioned officers to support an army of that size. 

How Afghanistan, with the highest infant mortality rate in the world, is going to afford such a force is by no means clear. 

However, the American public is increasingly disillusioned with the war. According to a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, 54 percent of Americans oppose the war, a jump of 9 percent since May. Among Obama supporters the opposition is overwhelming: nearly two-thirds of “committed” Democrats feel “strongly” the war was not worth fighting.  

 

Delusion four: This isn’t like Iraq. NATO is behind us. Way behind us. 

The British—whose troops actually fight, as opposed to doing “reconstruction” like most of the other 16 NATO nations— have lost the home crowd. Polls show deep opposition to the war, a sentiment that is echoed all over Europe. Indeed, the German Defense Minister Franz-Joseph Jung has yet to use the word “war” in relation to Afghanistan. 

That little piece of fiction went aglimmering in June when three Bundeswehr soldiers were killed near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Indeed, as U.S. Marines go on the offensive in the country’s south, the Taliban are pulling up stakes and moving east and north to target the Germans. The tactic is as old as guerrilla warfare: “Where the enemy is strong, disperse. Where the enemy is weak, concentrate.” 

While Berlin’s current ruling coalition of Social Democrats and conservatives quietly back the war, the Free Democrats—who are likely to join Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government after the next election—are calling for bringing Germany’s 4,500 troops home. 

The opposition Left Party has long opposed the war, and that opposition gave it a boost in recent state elections. 

The United States and NATO can’t—or won’t—supply the necessary troops, and the Afghan army is small, corrupt and incompetent. No matter how one adds up the numbers, the task is impossible. So why is the administration following an unsupportable course of action?  

There is that oil pipeline from the Caspian that no one wants to talk about. Strategic control of energy is certainly a major factor in Central Asia. Then, too, there is the fear that a defeat for NATO in its first “out of area” war, might fatally damage the alliance.  

But when all is said and done, there also seems to be is a certain studied derangement about the whole matter, a derangement that was on display July 12 when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told parliament that the war was showing “signs of success.”  

British forces had just suffered 15 deaths in a little more than a week, eight of them in a 24-hour period. It has now lost more soldiers that it did in Iraq. This is Britain’s fourth war in Afghanistan. 

The Karzai government has stolen the election. The war has spilled over to help destabilize and impoverish nuclear-armed Pakistan. The American and European public is increasingly opposed to the war. July was the deadliest month ever for the United States and the Obama administration is looking at a $9 trillion deficit.  

What are these people thinking? 


Undercurrents: Making Changes in ‘God-Forsaken Richmond’

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:44:00 AM

My uncle, Charlie Reid, moved to Richmond in the early 1930s, and my mother often told the story of how my grandmother, Jennie Reid, first went to visit Uncle Charlie out there on the bus. When Grandma Reid got back home, she was sobbing, asking “Why did Charlie move to that God-forsaken place?” 

It is easy to see why my grandmother felt that way. Richmond in the 1930s was still a decade away from the enormous population explosion of the war years, must have appeared as a backwater West Texas town set down on the bleakest and most blustery point of the East Bay shoreline, the damp Pacific winds sweeping over the drainageways and marshlands like the desolation of the English moors, the flat bay plains far from the cool shade-green of the eastern foothills, the smoke from the many refineries sending hellish plumes of smoke out over the constantly overcast skies. For a woman born and raised in the roaring, bustling 19th-century San Francisco, Depression-era Richmond must, indeed, have been a depressing scene to Grandma Reid. 

But nature is nothing if not perpetually in balance. As the old folks say, the same thing make you laugh, make you cry. The same weather patterns that created Richmond’s bleak and windswept flatlands also gave it some of the most spectacular bayfront views of the east or west bay. And these days, the Contra Costa city is seeking to capitalize on its extensive shoreline to lead the city into an economic and social revival. 

First and foremost on that revival agenda has been what is now called the Ford Point Building, the half-a-million-square-foot behemoth that was once the old Richmond Ford Assembly Building, and was later used to build military vehicles during World War II. The enormous building closed for industrial use more than half a century ago, and was severely rocked and damaged by Loma Prieta. Because of that, the City of Richmond came close to either demolishing or gutting the structure, as well as considered proposals that would have turned it—or its property—into a standard office park or—sigh—condominium housing. 

The city did none of those, instead opting to move forward with a historic preservation project that kept the building intact and centered its uses around a convention center and the housing of green businesses. A waterfront-view restaurant has its tables set intertwined with the original boilers and piping that once served the auto assembly plant, but the real gem of the building is the convention space. Called the Craneway, the huge convention hall preserves the auto plant’s old glass-pane west wall that opens up onto the bay, giving convention-goers an unrestricted view of islands and bridges and deep water stretching over to the San Francisco shoreline. In one interesting innovation, the center’s developers use tables irregularly sliced from unfinished trees, the knot-patterns clearly visible on the surface, so that each individual table has its own pattern. 

At night, the old assembly plant smokestack that once belched pollutants into the Richmond air is now a proud monument illuminated by colored lights that can be seen far out on the bay waters, the appropriate symbol of Richmond rising. 

In 2008, the city’s renovation and preservation work on the old Ford Building won it a national award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. 

But Richmond’s revival has not been limited to its 32 miles of shoreline. Quite the contrary. 

For years Richmond City Hall was relocated to not far from the Ford Building while its old downtown headquarters was being renovated, and for a while there was some talk in city circles about the seat of city government remaining permanently down near the waterfront. Instead, City Hall has moved back to MacDonald Avenue, part of a general rehabilitation effort along the city’s main downtown street. In fact, someone who—like myself—had not driven in downtown Richmond for a couple of years would hardly recognize MacDonald these days. The city has done major work along the street, tearing down many buildings and renovating others, as well as restriping and reconfiguring the street surface itself. The lower end, where the old blues and jazz clubs used to rock during the World War II glory years, catering to thousands of sailors and shipyard workers, is being primed as Richmond’s historic district. 

But that is not surprising, as Richmond has learned that part of the way to ensure its future is by trading on its past. Three years ago, I reported on how members of the Iron Triangle Players—a group of Richmond youth working out of the city’s East Bay Center for the Performing Arts—put together a presentation of a video and live monologue sketches called “Memories of MacDonald.” 

“The monologue sketches and video presentation,” I wrote in a Daily Planet article, “were part of Memories of Macdonald, a six-month project sponsored by several Richmond-based agencies and organizations which are in the midst of a six-month-long project to reclaim the city’s past. The groups have been collecting oral and visual history of the city’s once-bustling main drive, using a corps of local youth volunteers to help do the gathering … The project will culminate with a series of historical markers to be placed along Macdonald. The markers will contain historical photographs and quotes from residents who lived through Macdonald’s glory times, and will be similar to the widely acclaimed markers along the city’s waterfront.” 

The grandmother of Richmond’s development-through-history effort, of course, is the Rosie the Riveter World War II Homefront National Historical Park, the Richmond-based national park that centers around preserving the history of the World War II Kaiser shipyards. This is a unique national park, based not upon a specific set-aside land acreage, but upon historical sites of homefront support-the-war activities scattered around Richmond. The old shipyard sites are still there and some major artifacts—like the Ford Building that manufactured tanks, the enormous Whirlycrane that was used to move steel slabs from dock to building ships, and the World War II era ship the Red Oak Victory—are available for visitors and easily identifiable as monuments from the world’s last major war. But other historical sites—housing projects where shipyard workers lived or buildings that housed USO recreation sites for military personnel—are identifiable only by reference in park documents and bus tours or by newly erected park signage. Bus tours of these sites long ago became so popular that the Rosie the Riveter Park stopped advertising them because they could not handle the crowds, and the waiting list to get on the tours still remains long. 

Locally, practically the only media attention Richmond gets is when one of its young residents shoots at another one. Within the Bay Area, the city suffers from a reputation of violence. But in large part because of the publicity generated by the national park site, the city’s national reputation may be slowly changing, with potential visitors seeing it as a convention destination of breathtaking waterfront views, a less-expensive spot within quick-traveling distance of the San Francisco tourist magnets, the Marin County shoreline, and the California wine country. As that national vision grows, Richmond’s nagging violence will become less of a factor in keeping tourist dollars away. After all, there are few countries in the world not involved in actual warfare that are more violent than Jamaica, or cities in the country more violent than New Orleans, yet tourists pack those destinations month after month, year after year. 

That violence must be reduced and the reasons for it solved, of course, but part of that will be helped—to some degree—by bringing more jobs and activities into a city that is somewhat short of both, particularly for its dark-skinned youth population. 

And Richmond’s reputation will only be enhanced once the city decides what to do with the old Winehaven winery property at Point Molate. City officials and residents are still divided over plans to turn the winery into a casino, or to restore the winery and preserve the area as open space. It’s one of those decisions that any city would envy. The old Winehaven building is a castle-like structure that is still intact, and, when restored, will be even more spectacular than the Ford Building. In addition, situated on a wooded bluff just at the side of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge toll plaza, the property’s views are more breathtaking than the waterfront on which the Ford Building sits. Either way the city decides, by continuing to keep so much of its waterfront available for public use and enjoyment, Richmond will prosper.  

Meanwhile, it has to be noted that nearby Oakland had the chance to cash in on the Rosie phenomenon, but has ignored the opportunity. My cousin Betty Reid Soskin—a U.S. Parks Ranger based at the Rosie the Riveter Park—has sought for several years to interest Oakland politicians in expanding the park sites into that city. None of them—and I emphasize none—has taken up the opportunity which seems odd, since Oakland could benefit from a better national reputation as well. But maybe Oakland leaders think that Richmond, being such a God-forsaken place, could not possibly generate ideas from which Oakland could benefit. 

That is clearly a mistake. God—in whatever form you wish to characterize God—did not forsake Richmond. God simply gave Richmond wonderful attributes that Richmond leaders are moving forward to take advantage of, the rest of the world is beginning to rediscover. 

 


Green Neighbors: Something Old, Something New at Flowerland

By Ron Sullivan
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:40:00 AM
Glory be to Odd for dappled things, like these on display at Flowerland.
Ron Sullivan
Glory be to Odd for dappled things, like these on display at Flowerland.

I’ll take the weekend’s set of rainstorms as the starting gun for fall planting season this year. As some might have noticed, I’ve been personally less than productive lately, and quite slow. (Blame the damned fruitless mulberries that shut my lungs down way back in spring. Plus, I Blame the Patriarchy, but then I always do.) As a result, I’m seriously impatient with limitations like energy and stamina and time itself. I want to plant! 

What I really want to do is dig out half the flowering ginger and revise the front garden patch, which is mostly weird variegated stuff and semitropicals. Imagine my delight when I found the old Flowerland Nursery on Solano Avenue had been taken over by an old friend and favorite plant lover, and is slowly being revised itself.  

Katherine Zapata used to be half of what I called The Pot Girlz, who ran Clay of the Land back in the day. They sold pots (Surprise!) large and small, and water plants and assorted bamboos and, well, you never knew what you’d find, out of a lot on Seventh Street and then a larger one on San Pablo Avenue.  

The business folded when that lot became a construction site. I was happy to see at least half of The Pot Girlz is back in the business.  

She and her new biz partner Carly Dennett bought Flowerland from the esteemed Bob, who’d run it for some 30 years. They’re making some changes that reflect their own eclectic taste in plants, and keeping some of what they inherited. 

Right now they’re gearing up for the Christmas tree rush. They’ve kept Flowerland’s relationship with a family-owned tree grower, Holiday Tree Farms. This Oregon company raises its trees without a lot of pesticides and other nasty inputs, Katherine told me.  

Also, bit by bit, the new owners are working to restore the 1947 nursery office building to its original mid-century modern look. This won’t take much (easy for me to say, as I’m not up there on the scaffold myself after closing hours, scraping away layers of paint) because the bones of the place are still intact and pretty much visible.  

Some of what’s new is old, too: a pie safe and turkey feeders and other such gardenworthy objects from the Alameda Antiques Fair; handbuilt shelves and bulb crates used as displays; heirloom food plants like a beet mix, ‘Getti di Napoli’ cut-and-come-again broccoli, ‘Violetto pugliese Francescino’ artichokes, and ‘Fava di Carpino’ beans, part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste.  

Most herbs and edibles are from Flatland Flower Farm (and hooray for that); lots of ornamentals hail from Annie’s Annuals. But what I like best is that Flowerland is doing some propagation of its own. We grabbed a 4-incher of a great impatiens we hadn’t seen before, a woody little shrub with brilliant yellow-and-red blooms on it now and into Fall. The mother plant is on display, a longtime pet of Carly’s.  

Brian Whyte, one of the staff, also does garden design and consultation. He’s smart, enthusiastic, and fairly ornamental himself.  

 

FLOWERLAND 

1330 Solano Ave., Albany 

Weekdays 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. (closed Tuesdays); Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. 

526-3550 

flowerlandca@att.net (under construction) 

 

BRIAN WHYTE DESIGNS 

388-4006 

thunderslug@gmail.com  

 


East Bay Then and Now: The Circuitous Career of Berkeley’s Favorite Undertaker

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM
The Hull & Durgin mortuary building at 3051 Adeline St. was designed in 1923 by Hutchinson & Mills.
BAHA Archives
The Hull & Durgin mortuary building at 3051 Adeline St. was designed in 1923 by Hutchinson & Mills.

On the morning of Feb. 1, 1895, a Berkeley carpenter by the name of A.E. Spaulding entered Stricker’s cigar store at 2132 Shattuck Ave. Laying a bundle of medications on the counter, he announced that he wished to leave it there. Then he walked to the rear of Durgin & Bleakley, a furniture and undertaking establishment at 2129 Center St. Leaning against a barn, Spaulding shot himself through the heart with a 38-caliber revolver. 

While the county’s deputy coroner and the city’s health officer were wrangling about the disposition of the body, it came to light that Spaulding had been afflicted for some time with kidney and gastrointestinal ailments that compelled him to go without food for many days. Letters found in his pocket attested to his deranged state of mind. 

Not long before his suicide, Spaulding had made arrangements for a burial casket, but contrary to his own preference, Spaulding’s body was carried down to West Berkeley and back before being taken to an Oakland funeral parlor. 

In December 1895, Durgin & Bleakley had another disagreement with the coroner, this time over the body of Charles Starr, whose family wanted him embalmed by the Berkeley undertakers, while the coroner prevailed, sending the corpse to the Albert Brown funeral parlor in Oakland. 

Forty-seven years later, the 1943 telephone directory carried a full-page ad for Hull & Sons, Pioneer Funeral Directors and The Little Chapel of the Flowers, 3051 Adeline St. The headline promised “A Reference Built on 50 Years of Service, 1892-1942,” and the tagline signed off, “Serving You for Half a Century.” 

The Hull mortuary on Adeline Street had been in business only since 1923, but it was building on its circuitous connection to the original Pioneer Funeral Directors, a name Durgin & Bleakley adopted circa 1900. The exact date of the mortuary’s establishment has yet to be documented, as Durgin & Bleakley did not make an appearance in the city directory until 1895. 

Initially, both partners lived on the premises. Within a year, the enterprise had grown sufficiently to separate furniture store from mortuary and residence from business. Frank W. Durgin managed the undertaking half, while Robert Bleakley ran the furniture store. 

By 1901, the business had moved down the block to the very heart of downtown Berkeley. An ad in Sunset magazine placed them in the Library Building, 2158-2160 Shattuck Ave. 

Bleakley never made much of a mark on Berkeley’s public life. Durgin (1860-1933), on the other hand, plunged into civic affairs with gusto. He was a leader in the local State of Maine Association, a member of the executive committee of the Funeral Directors of Alameda County, Grand Pursuivant of the Berkeley Masonic Lodge, and active in the Board of Trade. 

Around 1906, Bleakley went his own way, opening a furniture store at 2484 Shattuck Ave. Durgin replaced him with Walter A. Gompertz (1873-1965), who until then had worked as a cashier in San Francisco. The younger man was even more socially active than Durgin, holding high offices in the Masonic order and the Knights Templar, besides being a Shriner and an Elk. Gompertz would serve on Berkeley’s board of town trustees in 1909, works as the city’s commissioner of finance in the mid-1910s, and join the school board in 1915. 

The Durgin-Gompertz Co. premises were located at 2178-2180 Shattuck Ave. An advertorial in the Jan. 25, 1911 issue of the Oakland Tribune called the business Berkeley’s largest furniture store. “The quarters occupied comprise over 11,000 feet of floor space and are stocked to their utmost capacity with furnishings for the parlor, library, hall, sleeping chamber, dining room, and the kitchen, whether it be a cosy cottage or a more pretentious structure,” rhapsodized the anonymous Tribune writer. 

Less than two years into the new partnership, Durgin founded a second mortuary under the name Berkeley Undertaking Co., Inc. This business was located at 2133 Allston Way, and its telephone number, Bkly 1111, differed from that of the Durgin-Gompertz Co. number (Bkly 1110) by a single digit. 

By 1911, the presidency of the Berkeley Undertaking Co. had been taken over by William B. Ward. Gompertz continued as officer of both companies until 1915 or so, when Durgin changed the name of the earlier business to F.W. Durgin Undertaking Company. 

For several years, the two mortuaries founded by Durgin continued their separate operations, Durgin conducting business and maintaining a residence at 2174 University Ave., Ward working out of premises at 2201 Bancroft Way. 

In 1922, a new player entered the scene. William Mark Hull (1887-1967), a Napa man who had come to Oakland a few years earlier, acquired the Berkeley Undertaking Co. from William Ward. Without wasting time, he purchased land on the corner of Adeline and Essex streets and engaged the Oakland architectural firm of Hutchinson & Mills to design a two-story building to house the undertaking parlor on the ground floor and the owner’s residence above. 

The Hull mortuary building, which cost $28,000 and opened in February 1924, is a strange amalgam of English country vernacular and Mediterranean-influenced architecture. The curved roof, once covered in wood shakes, is meant to resemble thatch. The second-floor walls incorporates pseudo half-timbering in the Tudor Revival style, while the ground floor boasts large arched windows with mock stained glass. The arched windows originally illuminated the Conservatory Chapel within. 

While Hull was building his new mortuary, Frank Durgin was running into a land-use obstacle on University Avenue, where property owners successfully petitioned City Hall to zone funeral parlors off the street. Durgin needed a new location for his mortuary. Coming full circle, he sealed a partnership with Hull and rejoined the business he had founded two decades earlier, now renamed Hull & Durgin. 

The partners ushered a new era for the firm and for Berkeley in 1928, when they hired the Oakland architects Slocombe & Tuttle to design a new chapel next to the mortuary. Legend has it that Hull’s mother showed Francis Harvey Slocombe (1893-1947) a picture of the chapel from her home village in England and asked him to copy it. Whether she influenced the design or not, Slocombe produced one of Berkeley’s most charming Storybook-style buildings: thick walled, curve-roofed, and thrusting aloft a quaint bell tower. 

Christened The Little Chapel of the Flowers, the building was flooded with natural light through large arched dormers on its long sides. Below the dormers, stained-glass windows were embedded in greenhouse-like niches. The vaulted ceiling was supported by massive struts rising between the dormers. The rough plaster walls were impregnated with terra-cotta pigmentation that cast a warm glow on the interior. An exquisite stained-glass window behind the altar completed the fairytale-like scene. 

So striking was the chapel that it immediately became the centerpiece of the mortuary’s marketing effort. The Great Depression struck shortly after its opening, and the public may have perceived it as an expensive frill. To counteract such an impression, Hull & Durgin launched an innovative newspaper advertising campaign, in which the point was hammered home that the best funeral service amid beautiful surroundings costs no more than lesser service “in some small, incomplete establishment.” 

The ads carried similar layouts and graphics, but the headline and copy changed regularly. One ad, published on Dec. 28, 1932, gave five reasons why “The Little Chapel of the Flowers can provide funeral services of finer character at lower cost.” The first claimed that “This beautiful establishment was made possible by fortunate real estate investments on the part of Mr. William M. Hull … not by taxing patrons.” The second cited lower overhead brought about by high patron volume. The third asserted that “the beautiful buildings, grounds, equipment and motor fleet are owned outright, not leased … another important economy which is passed along to patrons.” On-site maintenance and volume purchases were pointed out in the fourth. The final reason stated that “the owner of this mortuary participates actively in its management … thus no high salaries for managers, and no profits going to outside capitalists.” 

Non-sectarian, the chapel was made available for weddings as well as for funerals. At the height of its popularity in the 1940s and ’50s, it was the site of over 500 weddings. 

Frank Durgin died in 1933, but the mortuary’s name remained unaltered until 1941, when it was changed to Hull & Sons. Francis Harvey Slocombe went on to design William Hull’s Tudor Revival residence (1930) at 611 Arlington Ave. In 1954, when Hull & Sons expanded their operations to Walnut Creek, their new Ranch-style chapel was built to Slocombe’s design. 

In the 1960s, the Hulls’ Berkeley mortuary was sold to the undertakers McNary & Morgan, who continued at the same location under the same name until opening McNary & Morgan Chapel at 3030 Telegraph Ave. about 1970. The old mortuary was acquired by a real estate developer who remodeled it into offices and shops. 

Since 1976, the former Little Chapel of the Flower has been home to Marmot Mountain Works. Much of the original interior is still intact and visible amid the outdoor equipment and camping gear. 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 


About the House: Mother Nature and Our Best Laid Plans

By Matt Cantor
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:40:00 AM

It always amazes me how nature manages to foil our best laid plans. Nothing is predictable, even the ground we build our houses on. And I’m not just talking about faults or landslides. 

Soils can be troublesome. Especially the ones that expand all by themselves. That’s right, some soils are like carnival rides, tossing you up here and dropping you down there and when they get done with you (and the house you rode in on) they don’t even give you a paper bag. 

What we’re talking about is expansive clay and it’s all around the United States, including plenty in our own East Bay. Clays are hard enough to build on successfully due to properties that we all take for granted, the most notorious being that they don’t drain particularly well.  

Soils that don’t drain well can cause a wide range of problems including a tendency to hold water around the beneath our building. This increases settlement over time since the soils sit wet long enough to allow the natural weight of the building to push into the soft smooshy stuff below, while houses that sit on well draining soils will be far less apt to do this. Of course, the constitution of the soils plays a role in this as well. A house that sits on perennially damp soils that are stiff and rocky will be far less likely to destabilize and settle but, interesting, that’s far more rare since harder materials are usually ones that drain better. 

Clays are, after all, what we make water vessels out of and have for at least 12,000 years. It’s a natural because even when damp, it holds water (actually, we later learn that when damp, certain clays are one of our world’s more stalwart moisture barriers). 

When we hold water below our houses there are other problems, though they needn’t be overwhelming. When water sits in a sufficiently warm environment, it evaporates and evaporation is a transport mechanism that puts it inside our houses if we lack a means to prevent it. This is, in fact, the way in which I am most apt to see molds and mildews growing in houses, far more often than actual leakage through ceilings and walls. 

Though it’s off topic, I would like to say that, for most situations, the means of prevention is a vapor barrier laid upon the soil (never on the framing above) and complimented by improved ventilation (usually passive, though powered ventilation is justified in some cases). 

So clay beneath our homes does this doubly nasty duty of becoming soft, when wet, and causing settlement, while also damping the insides of our homes through evaporation of moisture that cannot percolate downward. What to do? 

But this isn’t the bad news (he said while twisting his mustache). The bad news is that some clays (and you have to guess where they are) are more expansive than others. 

Clay has the potential to be expansive but varies depending on its chemistry (mostly the amount of sodium, but it’s far more complex than that). While some clays tend only to expand slightly when wet, others can expand many times normal volume (I seem to hear ranges anywhere from four to 20 times for highly expansive Sodium Bentonite clays).  

These highly expansive clays are like fields of tiny jacks that can push houses up and down with enormous force and can take weaker foundations and bust them to pieces. In fact, these clays are sometimes used as non-explosive alternatives to bust apart huge sections of rock by inserting them dry into cracks or holes and then adding water. A very slow explosion. 

A funny aside at this point is that many years ago a client of mine at an inspection was listening to me give a description of what was happening to her home when she jumped in any said that she was well are that there was “Clay-Jacking” going on in her home and that it was true all around her neighborhood. I was genuinely flummoxed by her familiarity with the subject and the use of this most apt term (which I had never heard). I asked her where she learned it and she said that many of the “ladies” she knew used it to describe this condition. I assume that a certain amount of neuro-chemistry and linear algebra was also discussed at these knitting bees. Never underestimate anyone. 

I was inspecting a house in Lafayette recently and Lafayette is a place where we find lots of highly expansive clayey (that’s not a typo; it’s how we spell it) soils. 

It was clear from the first walk across the floor that something was not quite right. When I finally got under the house two things were clear. One was that the foundation has been broken in many places and what was once level had been converted into that carnival funhouse ride I mentioned earlier. The other was that the soil was expansive. This showed itself clearly right on the soil surface in the form of surface deformations and deep fissures. 

When soils expand and contract and are protected from the weather (so that their surface chances are not obscured by rain or activity), one can see at least one common effect, and that is deep cracking. This deep cracking is caused by the fact that when soils expand they puff up with water, and when they dry out, they are so full of water that the simple horizontal component of compaction isn’t adequate to address the rate of shrinkage, and they pull into clumps divided by cracks which can, at times, be more than an inch wide. I’ve seen some that were two or three inches wide. 

The other effect that is less common is a sort of ballooning of soils that I see periodically and, in fact, saw that day. The literature that I (the lowly home inspector) have been able to cull isn’t showing me much, but it’s clear that the lumpy or, if you will, “bubbly” soil appears to be a function of expansion so rapid that it forms semi-spheroidal arcs across the tops of clumps. With the help of a geotechnical engineer I could have learned the specific make-up but it’s clear that this was clay soils expansion and likely that these contained significant amounts of Sodium Bentonite. 

Sodium Bentonite is amazing stuff. It’s made mostly of a mineral called Montmorillonite for the French locale of its identification. Sodium Bentonite is so expansive that we use it to seal wells and to create (oddly enough) moisture barriers below houses (though we use it is very thin and uniform layers. When wet, Sodium Bentonite absorbs many times its mass by bonding with water molecules and can form a tight barrier that will keep more water from passing through. We use this to line land-fills where we want to prevent toxins or pollutants from entering ground water and we use it in earthen dams. It’s also used as a desiccant (moisture absorber) for these same qualities. The CV of this stuff goes on and on and curiously includes many medical applications (some of which were know by ancient peoples including treatments from various dyspepsias) as well as a range of mechanical applications. 

It’s important to realize that if your house is being affected by this fascinating (or troubling) phenomenon, it needn’t ruin your day. There are solutions, the first being to control the water that is so essential an element in these equations. Without water, the most expansive clay soils remain essentially static (but for other geological effects), but how do we achieve this. The short answer is through drainage. If your property drains well, and this may involve significant modifications, it should be able to tolerate the presence of, even highly expansive soils. 

Of course, better and more appropriate designed foundations are a big part of our answer today. These often include Mat or Raft style foundations that, as the names indicate, float on top of the soil, disregarding a range of soils behaviors that lesser foundations will tend to get all upset about. 

Now this is all well and good but it you have a 1920s foundation, as many of us in the east bay do, it’s not much help to hear about mat foundations. What you need to do in these cases is to install drainage and keep that clay just as dry as you can. If the foundation has already been damaged, talk to an expert and see what intermediate fixes are available. Low cost “hand-dug” piers or mechanically installed “helical” piers can fix many foundation or, at least, decrease their rates of movement without depriving of you of limbs (well may be one limb) are often an adequate fix. 

I’m not really much for the tilt-o-whirl or the roller-coaster but if you are, go to Great America. Houses make lousy rides and it’s hell on property value. Actually, I like things pretty quiet. You’ll find me with my knitting group. I think we’re discussing particle physics today. 


Arts & Events

Arts Calendar

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:59:00 AM

THURSDAY, SEPT. 17 

EXHIBITIONS 

“I’m A People Person” Images of seniors. Reception at 6 p.m. at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts Annex, 1428 Alice St., off 14th St., Oakland. Exhibit runs through Oct. 22. 

“Metamorphosis” Paintings by Laila Espinoza at Albany Community Center, 1249 Marin Ave. Exhibition runs to Oct. 4. 524-2943. 

“Somewhere in Between” New works by Laura Borchet. Opening reception at 7 p.m. at Eclectix Gallery, 10082 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Also “The Tattoon Show” tattoo and cartoon art. Exhibitions run to Oct. 4. www.eclectix.com 

“Isaura: A Life in Focus” Photographs on the Afro-Brazilian dancer, at Berkeley Pubic Library, 2090 Kittredge St. Exhibit runs to Sept. 30. 981-6240. 

“Up Against the Wall: Berkeley Posters from the 1960s” at the Berkeley Historical Society, Veterans Memorial Building, 1931 Center St. Exhibit runs to Sept. 26. 848-0181. 

“10,000 Steps” An exhibition of stewardship in and around Oakland’s historic downtown parks. Artists reception at 6 p.m. at Pro Arts, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza, Oakland. Entrance on Kahn’s Alley. www.proartsgallery.org 

Robert Rickard, metal wall art, at Christensen Heller Gallery, 5829 College Ave., Oakland, through Nov. 1. 655-5952. www.christensenheller.com 

THEATER 

PEN Oakland Writers Theatre “A Night of Short Plays” at Thurs. and Fri. at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Tickets are $7-$10 at the door. 681-5652. 

FILM 

Berkeley Filmmakers Screening Series “Have you Heard From Johannesburg?” Six documentaries on the anti-apartheid movement, at 7 p.m. at Zaentz Media Center, 2600 Tenth St. Free, but reservations advised. reservations@berkeleyfilmscreening.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Rebecca Solnit “A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster” at 7:30 p.m. at The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $12-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/77388 

Rachael Brownell reads from her memoir, “Mommy Doesn’t Drink Here Anymore” at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Patrick Radden Keefe reads from “The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Laura Love & Harpers Ferry at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Sylvia Cuenca’s Organ Trio, featuring Jared Gold at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Reggae Showcase at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is TBA. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

7 Orange ABC, Sun Hop Fat at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $7. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Rico Pabon hip hop jam session at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $5. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

The Attracted at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 18 

THEATER 

Alameda Civic Light Opera “Hair” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Kofman Theater, 2200 Central Ave., Alameda, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $30-$34. 864-2256. www.aclo.com 

Altarena Playhouse “The Nerd” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Oct. 25. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre “Awake and Sing!” through Sept. 27, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.  

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 1. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Central Works “Machiavelli’s The Prince” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant Ave., through Sept. 19. Tickets are $14-$25. www.centralworks.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Harvey” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Oct. 11 at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. www.cct.org 

Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. on board the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $15-$20. Rosies, WW2 Veterans and uniformed soldiers, free. 925-676-5705. galateanplayers.com 

Impact Theatre “See How We Are” A contemporary adaptation of “Antigone.” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Oct. 17. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Loot” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Sept. 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

PEN Oakland Writers Theatre “A Night of Short Plays” at 8 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. at Berryman. Tickets are $7-$10 at the door. 681-5652. 

Shotgun Players “This World In A Woman’s Hands” The story of the WWII Victory warships and the African-American women who built them, with live acoustic bass by Marcus Shelby. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage. 1901 Ashby Ave., through Oct. 18. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Rumbache, salsa, at noon at the Kaiser Center Roof Garden, on top of the parking garage, 300 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Free. www.KaiserCenterRoofGarden.com 

Dancing Under the Stars Disco with GTS Band at 8:30 p.m. at Jack London Square. Dance exhibition and lessons at 7:30 p.m. www.lindendance.com 

Los Cojolites from Veracruz, Mexico, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $3-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

SoVoSo at 8 p.m. at UTunes Coffee House, First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St., Oakland. Cost is $14-$18, $5 for children 6-15. www.utunescoffeehouse.org 

ESP at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Sandy Cressman Quartet “Sombra y Luz” at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Moonalice at 9:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Cheryl Wheeler with Kenny White at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $22.50-$23.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Mukti in Concert, featuring guest artists David Balakrishnan and Ben Leinbach, at 8 p.m. at Rudramandir, 830 Bancroft Way at 6th St. Tickets are $12-$15. 486-8700. www.muktimusic.net 

Full on Flyhead, Blackstone Heist, Armada at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

The Icarus Jones Collective at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Oggi Beat at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Don Villa’s Birthday Bash at 8 p..m. at Art House Gallery and Cultural Center, 2905 Shattuck. Donation $5-$7. 472-3170. 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19 

CHILDREN  

Active Arts Theatre “Strega Nona” Sat. and Sun. at various times at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave, through Oct. 4. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

Babes in Toyland Puppet Show at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 296-4433.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Susan Dunlap reads from her mystery novel “Civil Twilight” at 6:30 p.m. at Nefeli Caffé, 1854 Euclid Ave. 841-6374. 

Patricia Edith reads her poetry from “8 Student Nurses & Other Dead Girls” in conjunction with the exhibition “In Memorium” at 7:30 p.m. at Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru St., Alameda. 523-6957. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

London Players, piano, clarinet, cello and voice at 7 p.m. at Crowden School, 1475 Rose St. TIckets are $10. 409-2416. 

Betsy Rose, Eve Decker, and Andrea Pritchett, music of peace and social justice, at 8 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. Tickets are $5-$20. 548-2153. 

Stairwell Sisters and Voco at 1 and 4 p.m. outdoors at Wisteria Ways, 383 61st St., Oakland. Bring something to sit on. Donations $15-$20. Reservations strongly recommended. info@WisteriaWays.org 

Rhythm & Muse spoken word/music open mic with Boundless Gratitude, at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut St., between Eunice and Rose. 644-6893.  

Araucaria, celebrate Chile’s Independence Day with traditional music at 8:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Yancie Taylor Jazztet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Motordude Zydeco at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco dance lesson at 8 p.m. Cost is $10-$13. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com  

Pocket Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Lost Cats at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

House Jacks, at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $20.50-$21.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Dahveed Behroozi Trio, American songbook standards, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Zarate Pollace Project at 9:30 p.m. at Albatross, 1822 San Pablo Ave. Cost is $3. 843-2473. www.albatrosspub.com 

Nine Wives at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Borden Prince, Acacia Collective at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $8. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

SUNDAY, SEPT. 20 

CHILDREN 

Four Shillings Short at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

“This Long Road” Work by Derek Weisberg, Crystal Morey, and Ben Belknap. Afternoon Tea at 3 p.m. at The Compound Gallery, 6604 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 655-9019. thecompoundgallery.com 

“It’s Gonna Be Awesome” New work by Narangkar Glover. Tea at 3 p.m. at Blankspace, 6608 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. 547-6608. www.blankspacegallery.com 

FILM 

Festival of Grassroots Alternatives “Other Worlds Are Possible” Short films from around the world at 6 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12 sliding scale. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Katie Ann McCarty “The American Dream” organ recital at 4 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets are $10-$20. 684-7563. www.brownpapertickets.com 

“Traveler Unknown” with Dan Damon, piano, Kurt Ribak, bass, Lincoln Adler, saxophone, and Randy Odell, drums at 7 p.m. at United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Pt. Richmond. 236-0527. 

Jazz on the Vine featuring Pete Escovedo from noon to 5 p.m. at the Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour Way South, Marina Bay District, Richmond. Tickets are $25-$40. 868-0619. www.richmondmainstreet.org  

Folkin Blues Festival with Mark O’Harps and others at 5 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. Donation $7-$10. www.humanisthall.net 

E.W. Wainwright Group at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Americana Unplugged: Pete Madsen & Craig Ventresco at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Mark Levine & the Latin Tinge at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15-$18. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Robbie Fulks at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

La Tigresa and the Tongues of Flame Jazz and spoken word at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Suggested donation $5-$10. 472-3170. 

MONDAY, SEPT. 21 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Through the looking glass” Artists Bruce Tamberelli, Darwin Price and Yvette M. Buigues interpret wonderland, though Oct. 31 at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit 116, Oakland. thefloatcenter.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Aurora Script Club examines Odets and Shepard at 7:30pm at Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St. 843-4822.  

Joe Fischer on “Chldren’s Art, Childrens Words” a Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph Ave.649-0477. 

TUESDAY, SEPT. 22 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

“Books Outside the Library” Readings and cross-genre performance at 8 p.m. on the front steps of the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St. 981-6241. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Gator Beat at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cajun/Zydeco 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 

Peggy Seeger at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 23 

EXHIBITIONS 

Oil Paintings by Kaziah Hancock on display from noon to 4 p.m. through Sept. 27 at the Subterranean Art House, 2179 Bancroft. www.kaziahthegoatwoman.com 

FILM 

Cine Cubano Film Fest “Guantanamera” at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $17-$10 sliding scale. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

John Curl reads from “For All the People” on cooperative movements for social change, at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

Michael Sandel discusses “Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?” at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. Tickets are $6-$12 in advance. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Fond Farewell Series Poetry Reading with Laura Glen Louis and requiem choral performance by Cantus Magnus at 7 p.m. at Grace North Church, 2138 Cedar St. www.gracenorthchurch.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 

Wednesday Noon Concert Shakespeare’s Sonnets and Song with Susan Gundunas, soprano, at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Free. 642-4864.  

Frank Jaffe, flamenco, at 7 p.m. at Le Bateau Ivre Resturant, 2629 Telegraph Ave. 

Dr. K’s Home Grown Roots Revue at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage. Cost is $15.50-$16.50. 548-1761.  

Kelly Park Trio and special guests at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ.  

Indian Ocean at 8:30 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $18-$20. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

Planet Loop at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Celu’s Silver Kittens at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

THURSDAY, SEPT. 24 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Robert Scheer and Peter Richardson in conversation about “A Bomb in Every Issue: How the Short, Unruly Life of Ramparts MagazineChanged America” at 7:30 p.m. at FCCB, in the sanctuary at 2345 Channing Way at Dana. Enter from courtyard. Tickets are $6-$15. www.brownpapertickets.com 

Carolina De Robertis reads from her novel “The Invisible Mountain” at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

Music in the Redwood Grove at 5:30 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$15. For reservations call 643-2755.  

Luminaries, Souleye, DC at 8 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $13-$10. 525-5054.  

Ellis Paul & Antje Duvekot at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Modesto Brisenio Septet, featuring Bob Kenmotsu at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $12. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Guitar vs Gravity, Spidermeow at 9 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $6. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Tian Gong Celestial Music at 7:30 p.m. at D. King Gallery, 2284 Fulton St. Cost is $20. 883-1920.  

The Sacred Profanities at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 25 

THEATER 

Alameda Civic Light Opera “Hair” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Kofman Theater, 2200 Central Ave., Alameda, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $30-$34. 864-2256. www.aclo.com 

Altarena Playhouse “The Nerd” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. at Altarena Playhouse, 1409 High St., Alameda, through Oct. 25. Tickets are $17-$20. 523-1553. www.altarena.org 

Aurora Theatre “Awake and Sing!” through Sept. 27, at 2081 Addison St. Tickets are $15-$55. 843-4822 or visit auroratheatre.org.  

Belleherst Productions “See Me! Hear Me!” Fri. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 7 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club. Discussion follows. Tickets are $7.50-$10. www.belleherst.com 

Berkeley Rep “American Idiot” at 2025 Addison St., through Nov. 1. Tickets are $32-$86. www.berkeleyrep.org 

Contra Costa Civic Theatre “Harvey” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 p.m. through Oct. 11 at 951 Pomona Ave., El Cerrito. Tickets are $18, $11 for 16 and under. 524-9132. www.cct.org 

Galatean Players Ensemble Theatre “Rivets” A musical based on Rosie the Riveter and Richmond’s Kaiser Shipyards, Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. on board the SS Red Oak Victory, 1337 Canal Blvd., Berth 6A, Richmond, through Sept. 27. Tickets are $15-$20. Rosies, WW2 Veterans and uniformed soldiers, free. 925-676-5705. galateanplayers.com 

Impact Theatre “See How We Are” A contemporary adaptation of “Antigone.” Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave., through Oct. 17. Tickets are $12-$20. impacttheatre.com 

Masquers Playhouse “Loot” Fri. and Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at 105 Park Place, Point Richmond, and runs through Sept. 26. Tickets are $18. 232-4031. www.masquers.org 

Shotgun Players “This World In A Woman’s Hands” The story of the WWII Victory warships and the African-American women who built them, with live acoustic bass by Marcus Shelby. Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 5 p.m. at The Ashby Stage. 1901 Ashby Ave., through Oct. 18. Tickets are $18-$25. 841-6500. www.shotgunplayers.org 

“The Apple of Nobody’s Eye” On teaching in inner-city schools at 7 p.m., and Sun. at 2:30 p.m. at Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5701 Thornhill Drive, Oakland. Tickets are $10. www.mpcfamily.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Bobbin Lace: The Taming of Multitudes of Threads” Opening reception at 6 p.m. at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline St. Exhibition runs to Feb. 1. LacisMuseum.org 

FILM 

Berkeley Video and Film Festival Fri. and Sat. at the Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org 

 

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” at 6:30 p.m. at Charles Chocolates, 6529 Hollis St., Emeryville. 652-4412, ext. 311.  

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Friday Night Poetry at 7 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. www.expressionsgallery.org 

West Marin Review, readings by contributors, at 7:30 p.m. at Mrs. Dalloways, 2904 College Ave. 704-8222. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Point Richmond Summer Concert with Lava, latin, at 5:30 p.m. and Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band, at 6:45 p.m. at Park Place at Washington Ave. in downtown Point Richmond. www.pointrichmond.com 

Dancing Under the Stars Salsa with Salsa Caliente at 8:30 p.m. at Jack London Square. Dance exhibition and lessons at 7:30 p.m. www.lindendance.com 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” Thurs.-Sat. at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

University Symphony Orchestra with Michelle Choo, violin, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. tickets.berkeley.edu 

“Con Serrat en el Corazón” Homage to singer and composer Joan Manuel Serrat at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $16. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Joel Dorham Latin Jazz Octet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Kugelplex at 9 p.m. at Ashkenaz. Cost is $12-$15. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

GO Ensemble , world jazz, at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

John Gorka & Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

Lucas Ohio at 8 p.m. at Art House Gallery, 2905 Shattuck Ave. Donation $5-$10. 

The Dead Guise at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

The P-PL at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Oggi Beat at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 26 

CHILDREN  

Active Arts Theatre “Strega Nona” Sat. and Sun. at various times at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College Ave, through Oct. 4. Tickets are $14-$18. 296-4433. activeartstheatre.org 

Babes in Toyland Puppet Show at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m. at at Children’s Fairyland, 699 Bellevue Ave., Oakland. 296-4433. activeartsttheatre.org 

FILM 

Berkeley Video and Film Festival from noon at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas, 2230 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $10-$13. www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org 

EXHIBITIONS 

“Through the looking glass” Artists Bruce Tamberelli, Darwin Price and Yvette M. Buigues interpret wonderland. Reception with a Mad Tea Party at 6 p.m. at Float Gallery, 1091 Calcot Place, Unit 116, Oakland. thefloatcenter.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival with Robert Hass, David Mas Masumoto, Arthur Sze, Carol Moldaw and many others, from noon to 4 p.m. at Civic Center Park. Traditonal Strawberry Creek Walk at 10 a.m. just inside the UC campus at Oxford and Center Sts. 526-9105.  

MUSIC AND DANCE 

Diana Rowan “Tales from the Harp” at 8 p.m. at Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. Tickets are $8-$12, no one turned away. 549-3864. 

University Symphony Orchestra with Michelle Choo, violin, at 8 p.m. at Hertz Hall, UC campus. Tickets are $5-$15. tickets.berkeley.edu 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” at 7:30 p.m., Sun. at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

Golden Gate Boys Choir 20th Anniversary Fundraiser and CD release, from 9 to 11 a.m. at C’era Una Volta, 1332 Park St., Alameda $12 admission, includes continental breakfast plus performance. Children 6 and under free admission . For reservations call 887-4311. ggbc.org 

Sister I-Live, Sidewinders, Zulu Spear and others in a dance-Thon from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 8 p.m. at Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck Ave. Cost is $20. 548-1159. www.shattuckdownlow.com 

Gabriela Lena Frank, Latin American classical music, at 8 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. Cost is $10-$12. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Robin Gregory & Her Quartet at 8 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $14. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

John Gorka & Lucy Kaplansky at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $24.50-$25.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

The Best Kept Secret at 8 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $10-$20. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

The ZaZous at 10 p.m. at Beckett’s Irish Pub, 2271 Shattuck Ave. 647-1790. www.beckettsirishpub.com 

Straggler, The Butlers, The Drowsy Holler at 9:30 p.m. at The Starry Plough. Cost is $10. 841-2082. www.starryploughpub.com 

Strange Angel Blues Band at 7 p.m. at Chester’s Bay View Cafe, 1508 Walnut St. 849-9995. 

Pocket Trio at 8 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

SUNDAY, SEPT. 27 

CHILDREN 

Charity Kahn & the Jamband at Ashkenaz at 3 p.m. Cost is $4-$6. 525-5054. www.ashkenaz.com 

EXHIBITIONS 

“In My View” Photographs by David Belove. Reception at 2 p.m. at the Jazzschool. 845-5373. 

THEATER 

Belleherst Productions “See Me! Hear Me!”at 7 p.m. at The Berkeley City Club. Discussion follows. Tickets are $7.50-$10. www.belleherst.com 

READINGS AND LECTURES 

Egyptology Lecture: Ancient Nubia: A New View from the Fourth Cataract” Presented by Dr. Brenda Baker, Arizona State University at 2:30 p.m. in Barrows Hall, Room 20, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC campus. 415-664-4767. 

MUSIC AND DANCE 

LastSundaysFest with music and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on telegraph Ave., between Dwight and Bancroft. 

Chamber Music Sundaes A program of string chamber music at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. Tickets at the door are $20-$25. 415-753-2792. www.chambermusicsundaes.org 

Nanette McGuinness and Megan McQuillan at 3 p.m. at the Christian Science Student Organization, 2601 Durant, donation at the door. 

Greek National Opera “Le Nozze di Figaro” at 3 p.m. at Oakland Metro Operahouse, 630 3rd St., Oakland. Tickets are $25-$35.Free for children 12 and under. www.bayareaBACH.org 

San Francisco Cabaret Opera “Solidarity” at 7 p.m., gala reception at 6 p.m. at Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck Ave. Tickets are $15-$20. 415-289-6877. www.goathall.org  

The ReSisters, satire and solidarity with Pat Wynne, Liliana Herrera and Hali Hammer at 7:30 p.m. at La Peña. Cost is $10-$15. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Erik Jekabson & “Bay Area Composers’ Big Band” at 7 p.m. at Anna’s Jazz Island, 2120 Allston Way. Cost is $10. 841-JAZZ. www.AnnasJazzIsland.com 

Americana Unplugged: Corbin Pagter & Friends at 5 p.m. at Jupiter. 843-8277. 

Teslim, Greek, Sephardic and Turkish traditionals, at 4:30 p.m. at the Jazzschool. Cost is $15. 845-5373. www.jazzschool.com 

Bill Tapia and his Hawaiian Jazz Quartet at 8 p.m. at Freight and Salvage, 2020 Addison. Cost is $18.50-$19.50. 548-1761. www.freightandsalvage.org 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Impact Theater’s ‘See How We Are’ at La Val’s

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:55:00 AM

The basement theater at La Val’s on the north side of campus is stark white, chairs painted white stand or hang at most of the corners, and a big white table is planted on its side, facing out, at another. Two white uniformed young men lie dead against the upended tabletop, while a disconsolate young woman in white sits nearby.  

An armed figure in gas mask—also in white, everything white—emerges to the muddy sound of heavy bombardment, hands the woman a paper, which makes her gasp ... 

See How We Are, Jon Tracy’s adaptation—or play off of—Antigone, opens this way in Impact Theatre’s premiere, which Tracy also directed, designed and lit. After many flashbacks, twists and turns, it also ends here, too, with the beginning of Sophocles’ tragedy.  

See How We Are provides the backstory of the young people in a modern, even futuristic (it has the feel at times of old science fiction films, a double anachronism) Antigone: the three children of a modern Oedipus, a never-seen patrician politico named Banks; the daughter (not son) of another politico named Sullivan (the Creon substitute, audible occasionally in broadcasts to the Theban public), girlfriend to Ari, aka Antigone; and the working class boyfriend of debutantish Izzy (Ismene), for whom there’s no original in tragedy. (Tiresias is rendered as Theresa, a fortuneteller Izzy remembers her father bringing home to dinner.) 

The action turns around—and around—a series of scenes, depicting the uneasy fraternal partnership of managerial James (Ryan Trasker) and impulsive Paul (Seth Tygesen), pairing up to rule the city after their father’s demise; a dinner party at Izzy’s (around the table, right side up) that begins with awkward offerings of bouquets (all spray-painted white) to the hostess and her introduction of her new boyfriend Jud (Rob Dario) to Ari (Kendra Lee Oberhauser) and their brothers—and ends in mayhem, with Ari’s girlfriend Hayl (Jacqueline Hawks) storming through the door, belligerent and suicidal; with Jud picking up Izzy, who he recognizes from the media, in the punk club he books acts for; and the civil war between the brothers, with their bloody reunion in no-man’s-land, somehow playful in a locker-room kind of way. 

The characters’ tart, caustic lines provoked a good deal of the audience’s audible response. Its gaminess has the air of a cocktail party that’s gone on too long, or soap opera played for laughs—or maybe the underbelly of situation comedy.  

Modern adaptations of Greek Tragedy have gone in this direction for a long time: Byron penned a burlesque of the opening of Medea; German Romantic theater took tragedy to the edge of psychological drama, the trend fulfilled later by Cocteau and Anouilh making Antigone into domestic drama—in the second production of Cocteau’s, the characters wore special costumes and fencing masks to resemble “a family of insects.” 

Tracy’s adaptation maybe resonates more with Eugene O’Neill’s post-Civil War version of The Oresteia, Mourning Becomes Electra—another mythic Grecian family, another Freudian complex, this time on the distaff side. 

See How We Are plays with melodrama, something always at least borderline funny, stopping when tragedy is invoked, when the characters are ready to step out of their brawling domestic scene into the civic (and ethical) space of the tragic. What’s been performed is more like a burlesque of that Freudian project, the Family Romance, with a kind of implicit social critique—which seems typical of Tracy’s productions, the latest being his adaptation of Orwell for Shotgun’s The Farm, which just closed at Hinkel Park. 

Like The Farm, there’s stylistic integrity to the production; the performance touching on stylization without committing itself to its rigors. Tracy’s written and directed other plays in different forms, all showing his manner. He has an interest in character, confrontation and dialogue, whatever the specific form. The upshot of a few, like this one, spills back into parody. 

It’s one of the most interesting things Impact has staged—and Melissa Hillman and Cheshire Isaacs, ever-aware of their audience, are always on the look-out for something innovative, attention-grabbing. See How We Are is played energetically, contrasting with the poise of some formal invention. Sometimes it feels like a sketch acted out on the set of an unfinished spectacle, a kind of pantomime of what the audience isn’t seeing. That may be one of Tracy’s intended effects, a social comedy of unfulfilled promises. If so, the humor’s only partly realized. But he deserves credit for the intention, and for the theatricality of the means he plainly intends to work in. 

 

SEE HOW WE ARE 

Presented by Impact Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday through Oct. 17 at La Val’s Subterranean, 1834 Euclid Ave. $12-$20. www.impacttheatre.com.


‘This World in a Woman’s Hand’ At Shotgun Players’ Ashby Theater

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:56:00 AM

Wrapped around three inside walls of the Ashby Stage, once a church fashioned out of a quonset hut, scaffolding becomes a set, stretching beyond the stage, giving the audience a sense of witnessing a spectacle in a shipyard, an industrial pageant—just the tone for Marcus Gardley’s This World in a Woman’s Hands, commisioned and produced by Shotgun Players, a kind of lyrical epic of the women of all colors, from all over the country, who built the Liberty and Victory ships launched from Richmond during the Second World War, Rosie the Riveters of legend.  

Like Gardley’s play set in South Berkeley, Love Is a Dream House in Lorin, something of a watershed for Shotgun a few years ago, This World has the panoramic feel of the Popular Front and WPA murals, inspired by artists like Leger and Diego Rivera, a chromatic, celebratory glance at the changes of a whole period of history, depicted in vignettes that manage to give a sense both of intimacy and the heroic, all at once. 

Both plays were put together by the same team—Gardley, director Aaron Davidman and musical director Molly Holm—and share many similar features. But This World focuses more on a single character (in Dream House, Lorin itself, itself, the neighborhood, was the principal character), though one of an ensemble, and floats like its ships on currents of music and song that are not so incidental, supplied by the voices of the nine women onstage, backed by the solo bass of Marcus Shelby.  

Molly Holm, who wrote some of the music—other tunes include Spirituals and a prison work song contributed by Linda Tillery—used “circle-singing,” an improvisational group method she picked up from her eight years with Bobby McFerrin and Voicestra, for working with the ensembles of both Dream House and This World. This World is suffused with music, replacing the noise of the shipyard: the melisma of women chanting, singing wordlessly, into and out of which dialogue and action melt and arise. 

The story follows the arrival of Gloria B. Cutting from Louisiana at the shipyards, husband overseas fighting and little girl placed with a neighbor, dreaming of becoming a welder. Margot Hall plays Gloria, modulating chords of humor and genuine pathos, showing the heart Gloria says is all she’s made of.  

Gloria’s determined to work, to send for her daughter, and becomes the loner of the yard, considered stand-offish, even a snitch. The others (Laura Evans, Rebecca Frank, dena Martinez, Gwen Loeb, Liz T. Rogers-Beckley, Dawn L. Troupe, Beth Wilmurt, Kathryn Zdan) express their own characters and the collective one of the workers very well, with two unusual performances by Dena Martinez—as hot-blooded “goddess of love” union organizer Maria, who reads letters to the alphabetically challenged, improvising romantic passages from Garcia Lorca to tickle her affection-starved workmates—and Kathryn Zdan, playing at one point the brash young boyfriend of a married coworker with panache.  

Gloria is galvanized into solidarity with her fellows after being snubbed in a nightclub where her coworker Cleo (Rebecca Frank) is singing—and they’re rocked by the monstrous explosion at Port Chicago, leading to the “mutiny” of black workers over hazardous conditions and harsh judicial reprisals. 

The second part of the play flashes forward to killings in the Richmond of today, Gloria the last of her crew still in situ, visited by her grown daughter (who “drove all the way from Danville"), intent on putting her in a home in Berkeley. She visits the local non-violent tent city protest with herapple fritters, a familiar face, though one woman remarks that Gloria talks as though she’s Malcolm X and Julia Child, rolled up in one. 

In fact, her daughter (played by Dawn L. Troupe) questions Gloria’s version of events. This time shift, and questioning of the veracity of the character who’s focal point in the panoramic action is one of the most interesting facets of This World—and one that could use a little dramatic counterbalance. 

(The WPA Federal Theater Project helped bring in radio techniques to live theater, which became a complement to the historic panorama of the murals. So it’s only fitting that the first half of This World should features a male voice only by an unseen “broadcaster” (Chris Kuckenbaker, voice over), the second half switch to the present signaled by a female reporter on the scene for KTVU—standing in front of bright graffiti now affixed to the steel plate that had signified the ship: Lisa Clark’s excellent set, added to by Richard olmstead’s lighting and Chris Paulina’s sound design, plus Valera Cobble’s costumes—and Baruch Porras-Hernandez’s choreography..) 

Maybe the enduring image of a play filled with images isn’t so much the techno-industrial work milieu, its work objects and activities, but one from a folk tale, a kind of living parable Gloria’s shown by a coworker whose ancestor came west: the Wisdom Tree, represented by the ensemble. Gloria shows it to her daughter, surrounded by cement in a shopping center parking lot. Gloria’s daughter finds herself alone before the tree, its branches many arms unfolding with apples of knowledge to be shared. 

 

THIS WORLD IN A  

WOMAN’S HANDS 

Presented by Shotgun Players at 8 p.m. Thursday–Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 5 p.m. at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. $18-$25. 841-6500.


Alumni Celebrate Antioch College Independence

By Ken Bullock, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:58:00 AM

Bay Area alumni of Antioch College and those concerned with Antioch’s future will celebrate this Saturday evening at the Brower Center in downtown Berkeley last week’s signing of documents separating the College from Antioch University, creating a newly independent college on the original campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio, which was closed in June 2008. 

There are about 17,000 Antioch alumni nationally, roughly 2000 in the Bay Area—more than a thousand of those in the East Bay. 

“The alumni have actually managed to take the campus back, in these bad financial times,” said one Berkeley Antiochian, Dr. Karen Folger Jacobs, in response to the news. Jacobs mentioned another Antioch alum, her old roommate, state senator (and former Berkeley mayor) Loni Hancock. 

“It’s like a messy divorce,” said alumna Barrie Grennell of the alumni celebration committee. “There’s lots of property—and the endowments. Everybody will have to be asked what they intend to do. Accreditation, everything has to be redone. It’s a daunting task—but we’re up for it. And the Alumni Association is the key.”  

Grennell explained that Antioch College, founded in 1853, had been closed down for financial reasons several times in its history. The present situation came about as a result of the creation in the 1970s of outlying campuses—“ike extension campuses, that UC Berkeley and many other schools have created”—to help fund the historic core campus. About the same time, Antioch College became Antioch University. 

“As many as 30 extensions were developed,” Grennell said, “though in the past few years, it’s down to five. It was less expensive, obviously, to have adult schools with adult learners not living on campus. But bit by bit, the mother campus wasn’t sustained in the way it needed to be. A lot of alumni were distrustful of the farflung university campuses, and donations dwindled. In June, 2007, the University announced it would close the Yellow Springs campus. At the reunion just after, about 250 alum’s were expected—and over 600 showed up, some who drove across country.” 

Some of the alumni camped out in tents. A Tent Revival Meeting was held, raising almost a half million dollars to try to save the campus.  

A year later, the campus was closed, but the alumni and the University Board of Trustees had come to an agreement to set up a task force to restore an independent Antioch College. On Friday, Sept. 4, the papers were signed. “Ten or 20 pounds of keys for all the buildings had to be delivered!” Grennell noted.  

The alumni hope to restore the unusual combination of work, academic and college community programs that made Antioch unique. “‘Classroom, Co-Op and Community,’” Grennell said, “that’s what defined and will continue to define Antioch College. The community involvement means faculty and students participating in governing and tenure decisions. The co-op work programs were adopted by other schools, but usually as internships. We had to hold real jobs. Almost everyone mentions the co-op plan when alumni are asked what made them want to go to Antioch.” 

One Antiochian who’s stated the co-op plan led to his enrollment is longtime Bay Area independent filmmaker John Korty, class of 1959. Korty’s latest film, Miracle in a Box! about “the bequest of a grand piano, a student competition to win it, and the artisans of an unusual workshop who make it sing again,” will be shown at 5 p.m. at the celebration. 

“John Korty is emblematic of Antioch,” said Jacobs, longtime Berkeley writer and filmmaker. He’s representative of both Antioch and of Northern California filmmakers. A terrific filmmaker, very different in his style, personality and the films he does, from L.A. I knew him slightly at Antioch. He hasn’t lost his pleasantness, his approachability.”  

Korty, perhaps best-known for the television film, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974 Emmy for Outstanding Direction in a Dramatic Series and a Directors Guild Award), Who Are the Debolts? And Where Did They Get Nineteen Kids? (1977 Academy Award, Best Documentary—and another Emmy and a Humanitas Prize) and animated films that have been shown on Sesame Street and, as features, in movie theaters, has been hailed by Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, among others, as a pioneering Bay Area independent filmmaker, with studios in Stinson Beach (from 1964), San Francisco and, now, Point Reyes Station. 

Korty, who went to high school in Missouri, had been offered scholarships to college, one to Oberlin, but decided he wanted to go to Antioch instead, having heard of the co-op program. “I wanted a good college education, but wanted to get out in the world, too.” Alternating academic and work periods, he opted for his own plan—“it was either your own plan or they’d get you a job”—and figured out an apprenticeship with the interracial National Conference of Christians and Jews, whose St. Louis office he’d worked for in high school.  

“Knowing I wanted to get into media,” Korty became an editor for the TV station at Washington University on a co-op program at 19, directing on-the-air public affairs programming wednesday nights “because everybody wanted to go home.” While a student, Korty started up a company with four other young men, “hitchhiking to Columbus and Dayton ad agencies with our 16 millimeter films. We got our motto from Voltaire: ‘Audacity, audacity, audacity!” 

Going from animated 10-second ads for a car dealership to a foundation-funded short animated film about New Math, Korty found he liked working with artists. “One said, Why not cut out paper instead of drawing everything like Dsney? All the Seasame Street stuff, and our animated feature, Twice Upon a Time ( 1984), were cut-outs.” 

Korty’s first documentary came after his college deferment ended. “I’d registered as a conscientious objector; for alternative service, I got assigned to the American Friends Services Committee. I’d gone to Quaker meetings at college. My decisions haven’t been based so much on theories and words as on people.” The Language of Faces was a black-and-white film he shot at a Quaker peace vigil at the Pentagon, cost: $3,000. “Eleven different festival prizes put me on the map.” 

Korty came to the Bay Area in 1963. “One of the three or four people I knew was Ernest Callenbach, editor at UC Press. Id take my sleeping bag and sleep on his floor.”  

His award-winning documentary, Who Are the Debolts? was filmed mostly in Piedmont. 

Miracle in a Box! follows the restoration of a Steinway piano—“My son Jonathan suggested we follow one piano”—by Callahan Piano Service in Oakland, an unusual company of “a wonderfully eccentric group of people, incredibly dedicated to what they do, who have a wonderful time doing it. They not only fix pianos, but give aparty for the rebirth of each instrument. That gave us the structure for our film: 90 percent work, 19 percent celebration. The company has no standard work hours. The people know what’s expected of them, and make their own schedules. That’s wonderful; people operating with a lot of choice, a lot of feeling.” 

The restoration of the piano as the prize for a student competition became part of the film budget. “We had to rearrange the chronology. Originally, the competition came first, but there’d be no tension.if we announced the winner up front. My deitor Jim Oliver came up with the solution: ‘We’ve got all the music; let’s use it’—weaving in and out ...” 

Korty has shown it privately at the Brower Center to “incredibly enthusiastic resonses. Audiences jump to their feet. I want to have it shown through business channels, those that get people talking about things. The response so far has often been, ‘I wish I could get a job there!’” 

Korty said the film illustrated in many ways why he went to Antioch—and what he got from his time there. 

 

Doors will open for the celebration at the Brower Center at 4:30; Miracle in a Box! shows at 5, followed by a discussion. At 6:30, there’ll be acollege update with discussion, then from 8, “eat, socialize, dance up a storm—in the neighborhood.” David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way (between Shattuck and Oxford); $20 per person, “no friend of Antioch turned away!” RSVP to: Barrie Grennell, sercle@sbcglobal.net or (415) 652-1038. 


The World as You Have Not Yet Seen It

By Celeste Connor, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 10:01:00 AM

If you’ve been lamenting the crummy prizes in your crackerjack boxes lately, I’m sending you immediately to see Bedri Baykam’s show at Alphonse Berber Gallery on Bancroft Avenue in Berkeley. Here you’ll see the very latest cool gimmick in art. And imagine! It’s not even Made-in-the-USA! Artists have complained since the dawn of Modernism that “everyone’s looking for a gimmick.” Baykam has rediscovered the hook and charm of the original crackerjack-box mini 4-D images that, in the 1940s (a much less visually overstimulated age) fascinated the recipient of the delightful prize inside. 

Through the use of lenticular technology (textured, see-through plastic, surface-plane layers) that makes images appear 3-D and mobile, the artist deploys his penchant for collage, impressive appreciation of art historical knowledge and compositional savvy to great advantage. When you walk a path parallel to one of these large-scale painting-like objects, you perceive each word and image from a variety of positions, since the multiple layers create illusions of motion and shape-shifting. As you amble to and fro, you are intrigued by the apparent unfurling of textual quotations. As if by magic, phrases grow and shrink while recognizable characters from familiar artworks of the past reveal their multiple “sides.” This newly refined, enlarged, and still powerful crowd-pleasing technology renews our faith that visual arts other than time-based media (film or video) can prolong our attention and deepen our encounters with individual works. 

Baykam’s most recent works refresh the meaning of traditional concepts of “depth” in art. And their impact derives not only from neotech wizardry but also from their size, which provides viewers a chance to enjoy the illusive planes and movements on a scale as grand as European history paintings of the 18th century.  

If you had followed Baykam’s trajectory from his native Turkey to Paris‚ Sorbonne to the Bay Area’s CCA, his latest moves would not surprise you. Since childhood he has demonstrated a proclivity for both technical precociousness and exploration. Studies from the CCA years reveal early developments that align him with the international Neo-Expressionist reaction to the constraints of Minimalism.  

Baykam’s current experiments embed him once again in a rich vein of technical and formal innovations of a kind that can broaden the horizons of content as well. He’s begun to develop a model that delivers real advances in the field. I hope that before others exploit these ideas Baykam himself will further explore the opportunities that selective re-purposing of cultural symbols offers, focus on more nuanced appropriation, and use his considerable sensitivities to color to even better advantage. Welcome back to the Bay Area, Bedri! Don’t stay away so long next time!  

 

Celeste Connor is an art historian, critic, theorist, visual artist and professor of visual studies at the California College of the Arts.


SoVoSo: The East Bay’s Winning A Cappella Group At First Unitarian

By Ken Bullock, Special to The Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:59:00 AM

SunshineBecker, a 14-year veteran of SoVoSo, talked about the group and its new lineup for Friday’s show. 

“SoVoSo started as a spin-off of Bobby McFerrin’s Voicestra a cappella ensemble. In ’91 or ’92, Bobby wanted to go off in other directions. So members of Voicestra started up with a new name. A year later, a couple of members left, they called auditions, and I joined. In the time since, the group has grown, become an a cappella tour band. It’s been a Harmony Sweeps champion in the Bay Area; we’re the only yearly a cappella headliner at Yoshi’s. We have five albums now.” 

The difference between SoVoSo and Voicestra? “Voicestra goes out onstage without a set list. When we go out, we do a lot of improv, but we have arrangements, tunes to attack, as it were, audience favorites. We have songs that have been written for the group. But the commonality lies within; both are not just about singing songs about the moon or about two people in love—beautiful things, but not about the description! We’re singing about the vibes, instead. What’s positive, lifegiving. Nothing preachy. We go out to do a show, aiming to enlighten, to show we all have a voice. The voices are a full band, with the sound of the instruments, but not just imitative. Anybody can do this; we made it a career.” 

With a repertoire of styles that spans jazz, rhythm ’n’ blues, Latin, funk and original compositions, “we’re all over the place; especially in the music business, everything’s labeled. If it’s not in the bin or online.... We ask our audiences to come out on the net with us!” 

This show will see a new face in SoVoSo, though one familiar to many listeners. “Vernon Bush will be in our new lineup Friday. He was with the Glide Memorial Choir for many years. an outstanding soloist and an inspirational guy. The group did a show at Esalen in Big Sur over the Fourth of July weekend--while I was having a baby!—and Vernon debuted with us then. We have more personnel changes now, more of a come-and-go policy, pulling whatever voice goes with the music we’ll do, to fit with our different shows.” 

The four core members of SoVoSo include founding member David Worm (a current Voicestra member), Bryan Dyer, Zoe Ellis and Becker. Becker also mentioned their upcoming 8th Annual SoVoSo Holiday Seasoning Family Gathering at Yoshi’s, Monday December 14 at 8 and 10 p.m., which will feature special guests, including past SoVoSo (and Voicestra) members, like Berkeley’s Nicholas Bearde. 

Becker said the group was looking forward to “kicking off Utunes’ second year, with new and old material and a little improvisation thrown in, a very diverse lineup.” In addition, it’ll be a celebration of David Worm’s daughter, Ella, on her birthday. “It’s her third! We’ve had her singing in group rehearsals. She’s just a doll!” 

 

SoVoSo—“from the Soul to the Voice to the Song”—the East Bay’s eclectic a cappella vocal ensemble, will perform Friday at 8 p.m. at UTunes Coffee House at the First Unitarian Church, 685-14th St. in Oakland. $14 advance, $16 at the door. www.utunescoffeehouse.org; 292-6574. 

www.sovoso.com


No-Impact Man: A Review and an Experiment

By Gar Smith, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 10:01:00 AM

Like cyber-chef Julie Powell in the movie Julie and Julia, Colin Beavan has followed the blog-book-flick path to fame. His blog about trying to live a “no Impact” lifestyle in the midst of Manhattan spawned a book, a website (NoImpactMan.com) and a documentary. (No Impact Man, opens in the Bay Area on Sept. 18.) 

Unlike Julie, who cooked her way to fandom, Colin encountered a fair amount of criticism from readers ticked off by his eco-superior airs. In the United States, it seems, you don’t touch a man’s handgun and you better keep your hands off Middle America’s air-conditioning and HDTVs. Nonetheless, Beavan, his wife Michelle and their 2-year-old daughter Isabella can lay claim to being modern-day eco-heroes for managing to live without electricity for six months. (They elected to go off-grid during a Big Apple winter rather than the notorious summer swelter.) 

After catching a press screening of No Impact Man, I wondered: What would it be like to go “no-impact” (or, at least, “low-impact”) for a week? Unlike Manhattanites, most Berkeleyans, already practice low-impact lifestyles. After all, Berkeley is home to the country’s first Ecology Center. We kickstarted urban recycling, biodiesel fuels, and bans on paper bags. The cloth shopping bag has been a standard part of Berkeley apparel for decades. 

The energy bill for our house runs around $40 a month. Our weekly trash weighs a couple of pounds. We compost and recycle. We’ve turned off the pilot lights on our gas oven and stove. (Pilot lights are the equivalent of a TV set’s “stand-by” mode.) Now we only light the oven when we need to bake something. We use an electric spark-gun to light the stovetop burners. Our hot water tank is always turned to “vacation.” When someone wants to take a shower, the heater is fired up for 10 minutes. So here was the test: How much greener could I be? Herewith are notes from my Low-Impact Diary. 

 

Day One: Friday 

Walked a mile to Solano Avenue. Free Bagel day at Noah’s. Refused paper bagel bag. Felt guilty about scoring free bagel; ordered large coffee. Grabbed paper cup collar from back pocket. (Why use new collar when one will last all year?) Feel smug. Walking home, I’m stuck with empty paper coffee cup. Feel stupid. (Next time, vow to bring reusable mug.) Drop cup in “mixed paper” recycling bin outside local store. Low-impact achieved. No more coffee for a week. (Only local coffee I’m aware of is growing on potted coffee tree in friend’s North Berkeley home. She’s not about to sacrifice her three ripe beans for anyone’s java-jones.) 

 

Day Two: Saturday 

Try cold shower. Shiver so badly ears nearly fall off. Turn on heat; admit no-impact failure. Walk to Monterey Market. Honor Berkeley Slow Food Guru Michael Pollan’s mantra: “Eat Food. Not a Lot. Mostly Plants.” Gather pesticide-free organic beans, apples and salad mix. Buy six long-lasting candles from Ecology Center (beeswax from West Coast bees). Staffer suggests two no-impact books, Plenty and Farewell My Subaru. Walk a mile to downtown. Visit Farmers’ Market for lunch. At night, use candles for ambience. Solar-powered lamp proves better for nighttime reading. 

 

Day Three: Sunday 

Instead of microwaving morning tea, pull solar box cooker from garage. Pop cup into the cooker. Wait five minutes. Burn fingers on mug. Return armed with oven mitt. Instead of driving to Berkeley Marina for morning run, start running at front porch. Approaching Aquatic Park pedestrian overpass, nearly creamed by speeding cyclist. Fortunately, No Impact. Halfway through 12-mile run, stop at Seabreeze for cold drink. No locally grown beverages. Sympathetic worker offers free glass of tap water. Buy and devour one California plum. Impact on Earth: negligible. Impact on legs: crippling. 

 

Day Four: Monday 

No more long showers (while singing Broadway show tunes). Replace ten-minute scrub-down with “Navy Shower.” Turn water off after initial rinse. Lather up. Turn the water back on. Out of tub in two minutes, delighted at extra eight minutes added to workday. (Housemate delighted at lack of Broadway show tunes.) Spot small leak in toilet. Buy new plastic flapper at Ace Hardware. Four bucks: no leaks. 

 

Day Five: Tuesday 

Bicycle to downtown Berkeley office. Bad start. Tires flat. Crash. Pant leg catches in chain; shoelace catches in pedal. Crash; crash. Pedaling uphill hard work. Almost post-marked by mail truck. Cars like predators. Feel like prey. Bike lanes feel like wildlife corridors. Reach office. For once, no parking problem! Emergency: Forgot lunch bag. How will I eat? Notice neighbor’s fence covered with blackberries. Harvest a cup. No impact! 

 

Day Six: Wednesday 

Walk to Berkeley Horticultural in search of stevia plant —nature’s natural sweetener. Instead of bottled fruit drink, harvest Meyer lemons from a backyard tree to make week’s worth of lemonade. Walk to BART for mid-day lecture at UC. Use solar cooker to fix rice and beans for dinner. Advantage: Can’t burn rice with solar cooker. Walk 14 blocks to press screening of Earth Days. Inspiring. Catered food. Eat Point Reyes cheese spread on local toast. 

 

Day Seven: Thursday 

Celebrate Foundation for Deep Ecology wisdom: “Less and Local.” Breakfast on fresh-baked cookies from local bakery. Bike to Green Motors to check out electric cars, scooters, bikes. Walk to cheeseboard for lunch. Decide not to celebrate end of Low-impact Week with a coffee latte. 

 

Final Impact 

I managed to live a week without buying gas or anything than comes in a box. Avoided elevators and escalators. No AC. I used little electricity. I ingested and imbibed locally (thank you, Napa Valley). Living a no-impact life takes more time and work but left me feeling more grounded and alive. 

Because Colin Beavan was a stay-at-home writer, his wife emerges as the real star of his experiment. This No-Impact Woman not only gave up caffeine, she ditched her car for a scooter and foot-pedaled to her job at Business Week for a year. For me, a special joy of the documentary was watching little Isabella growing up and gaining verbal skills. One of the doc’s sweetest moments comes when Colin takes Isabella to a community garden and shows her a jar filled with fireflies. When one of the bugs blinks, her response is absolutely magical: It defines what it means to be human. 


Downhome Music at Its Best: Freight & Salvage

By Jane Stillwater, Special to the Planet
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 10:02:00 AM

“I’m about to go off to the grand opening of the fancy new Freight and Salvage folk music coffee house,” I told my son Joe, “but I seriously doubt that it will be as good as the original old funky Freight was back in 1972.” Remember the old Freight and Salvage? Legendary!  

“Remember that time when I almost gave birth to you right there on the Freight’s kitchen table?” You don’t? Oh. 

“I loved the old F&S!” I exclaimed. But to my delight and surprise, the new Freight and Salvage turned out to be equally as awesome as the original Freight and Salvage—and perhaps even more so. 

For eight long years back in the 1970s, my life totally revolved around Berkeley’s Freight & Salavage Coffeehouse. I worked in the kitchen baking cookies, listened avidly to the music, took money at the door, painted and cleaned the place up during the day and kept the musicians [very] happy at night. Our boss, Nancy Owens, had started the Freight in a former storage facility on San Pablo Avenue, across from the Albatross bar. I started working there in 1972. I’d make the coffee and my daughter Ruby would fall asleep under the kitchen table or in the musicians’ room. All of us lived on bluegrass, coffee laced with smuggled-in Jack Daniel’s, home-made brownies and handfuls of raw cookie dough. 

So today when I went to the grand opening of the new uptown Freight and Salvage, I wasn’t really expecting too much. But I thought that I’d stop by anyway, re-live some old times and see all the people I used to know back in the good old days. But you can’t go home again. I didn’t know anybody at the new Freight. And the place was upscale, high-tech and didn’t even have a kitchen table any more. I asked one docent if I could take a photo of my granddaughter Mena next to a snack table, the closest thing to the old table I could find. 

“No, you cannot,” replied the docent. “Liability insurance won’t allow it.” Humph. The old Freight and Salvage never had no stinkin’ liability insurance. And all of the staff’s kids practically lived in the place. The old Freight ran on fiddle music and the laughter of children. 

At the new Freight grand opening, when my granddaughter Mena and I went over to listen to a singing demonstration, Mena started to sing along—and a patron actually came up to me and said, “If you want, I can take your granddaughter out in the lobby to prevent the other patrons from being disturbed. They hate being disturbed.” Times have certainly changed. 

The closest I had come to experiencing anything like that at the old Freight and Salvage was when the lead singer for “Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen” came up to me after he saw that I was pregnant and said, “It’s not mine and good-bye!” 

Then, like I said, there was the time that I almost gave birth to Joe right there in the kitchen rather than miss out on a night of good fiddle music. And baby Joe also spent time sleeping under the table at the Freight. 

But the main focus at the Freight and Salvage was always the music. We featured some of the best bluegrass, folk and old-time music in the world. Lightning Hopkins, Doc Watson, Elizabeth Cotten, Ralph Stanley, the Joy of Cooking, U. Utah Phillips, Rosalie Sorrels and High Country. I remember when I was going out with the main singer for High Country, Pat Enright, and he said that he wanted to move to Nashville and try to make it in the big-time. I can’t believe that I actually told Pat Enright that he would never make it in Nashville, that he should stay here in Berkeley and that Nashville would only break his heart. Ha! Two Emmies, something like ten CDs and a world tour as a singer in the Nashville Bluegrass Band later... 

Anyway, Nancy Owens got tired of running the Freight, and we workers then tried to buy it. “Let’s form the Berkeley Society for the Preservation of Traditional Music,” I said. And we did. And we ran the Freight until some other people came along who offered to run it better. But good grief! Eight years of my life went into that place. I had music coming out of my ears! And now I go off to the freaking Grand Opening of the New Freight and Salvage and nobody even recognizes me—and nobody even cares. 

And then Mena and I went into the main stage concert hall and a Hawaiian guy named Patrick Landeza started playing slack-key guitar over the best sound equipment I have ever heard. EVER. And suddenly the old Freight and Salvage magic that had made the original F&S a magical place that I just loved was there right in the room with me again. And the new Freight and Salvage was suddenly as good as or better than the old one. And Mena started dancing. And nobody stopped her. 

Plus on the way out afterwards, one of the new managers spotted my antique “Freight and Salvage” T-shirt, came over to me, said hello and actually volunteered to listen to all my old stories about the old F&S—maybe even the ones that are X-rated... 

Then, on our walk home, Mena and I stopped by Provo Park, where the Freight and Salvage grand opening also had some open-air music going on and Eric and Susie Thompson, who used to play at the Freight 30 years ago, were playing Cajun waltzes and two-steps in the park and there were suddenly little kids everywhere—and them and me and toddler Mena did the two-step and it was suddenly even more like old times. 

P.S. About that fight that Mena had in the park with the 11-month-old over Mena’s stuffed Totoro? Well. Forget what you heard to the contrary. Mena won. I think. I have it on tape. Click here. Take bets. Mena weighed in a few pounds heavier, but that 11-month-old was fierce!


2009 Berkeley Film and Video and Festival

Monday September 21, 2009 - 02:57:00 PM

The annual Berkeley Film and Video and Festival returns this year with yet another eclectic program of independent cinema. 

The 18th annual festival, put on by Berkeley's East Bay Media Center, starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas in downtown Berkeley and continues from noon to midnight Saturday with more than two dozen screenings. 

Though this year’s program emphasizes documentaries, the festival features its usual eclectic blend of wide-ranging fare, from student films to experimental short subjects to feature-length films—all of them truly independent and all of them unlike anything showing at your local megaplex. More than a dozen of this year's entries come from local filmmakers, and the rest from across the country and around the world. 

Below are are few highlights; the complete schedule can be found at www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org. 

 

The Sunfisher 

By Cecil Hirvi aka George Aguilar 

George Aguilar continues his series of virtual films, unleashing his avatar alter ego Cecil Hirvi in Second Life for another installment of “Machinima Poetry.” This episode finds Hirvi finding himself as he gazes into the media mirror, watching old Hollywood footage of a young soldier’s uncertain return from the battlefield to the open fields of Wyoming. 

15 minutes. Screens Friday at 8:10 p.m. 

 

Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs On the Road 

By Lars Movin and Steen M. Rasmussen 

A documentary showing influential experimental artist and writer William Burroughs as few have seen him. Burroughs toured often in his final decades, reading from his work in theaters and clubs, bringing his unique diction and wily humor to bear on his wildly original prose. The prickly aloofness of his image is belied by his bashful charm as he meets and greets his fans, but when the lights dim and the microphone swings into place, the fierce, fiery satirist, sage and starry-eyed dreamer is unleashed, revealing a performer of great wit, drama and strength. 

74 minutes. Screens Saturday at 8:10 p.m. 

 

You Don't Know Jack: The Jack Soo Story 

By Jeff Adachi 

Jeff Adachi, director of the documentary The Slanted Screen, which examined the history of Asian-Americans in Hollywood, takes on the life story of singer and comedic actor Jack Soo. From his childhood in Oakland to his young adulthood in Japanese internment camps during World War II, and finally to his breakthrough roles in the play and film Flower Drum Song and television sitcoms "Valentine’s Day" and "Barney Miller," the erstwhile Goro Suzuki’s brave refusal to comply with America’s “oriental” stereotypes almost single-handedly broke the mold, recasting Asian Americans in a new light in our popular entertainment. 

69 minutes. Screens Saturday at 1:15 p.m. 

 

Oh My God! It's Harrod Blank! 

By David Silberberg 

Harrod Blank’s life is every bit as much a peripatetic work of art as the eccentric, eclectic art cars to which he has devoted his life. Silverberg’s film tracks the farm boy-turned-artist as he passes through UC Santa Cruz and Berkeley in his single-minded—some would say obsessive—pursuit of self-expression, enlisting a series of girlfriends as sidekicks on a rambling journey that is at times maddening but never less than fascinating and endearing. 

75 minutes. Screens Saturday at 5:18 p.m. 

 

Kaziah, the Goat Woman 

By Amy Janes and Kathleen Dolan 

Kaziah Hancock, armed with oils and brushes, celebrates the lives of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq by painting gift portraits for their families. On her remote ranch in Utah, she also raises goats. Born into a polygamist sect, she knows the meaning of freedom, as she’s had to fight for hers. Liberation and discovery of self is joyfully celebrated in her art and in this cinematic document. 

25 minutes. Screens Saturday at 4:25 p.m. 

 

Behind the Wheel 

By Tao Ruspoli and LAFCO 

Director Tao Ruspoli and his band of Los Angeles filmmaker cohorts outfitted an old school bus as a fully equipped portable production studio and set off across the United States in search of art and artists. The journey takes them across the country’s southern states in a quixotic examination of the intersection of the personal and the political. 

84 minutes. Screens Saturday at 9:25 p.m. 

 

Ciuada del Futuro 

By Damian Carnero and Karin Losert 

The critical history of a former socialist model town in the outskirts of Havana, told by the adult children of its first inhabitants. 

20 minutes. Screens Saturday at 3:02 p.m. 

 

Basketball Guru 

By Doug Harris 

An affectionate biography of the legendary basketball coach who started at the University of San Francisco and went on to coach for Cal and the U.S. Olympic team. 

13 minutes. Screens Saturday at 2:25 p.m. 

 

Wall Taps 

By Carol Jacobsen 

Carol Jacobsen’s short documentary roams the perimeter of a women’s prison in what amounts to a sustained traveling shot of fences, gates and barbed wire. Superimposed periodically are the faces of former inmates as they relate their experiences of fear, humiliation, degradation and shame while intermittent glimpses flicker by of life inside the prison gates. 

10 minutes. Screens Saturday at 2:39 p.m. 

 

Karma Calling 

By Sarba Das 

“A fable about hope and love for a family of Hindus from Hoboken,” as the narrator describes it, Sarba Das’s feature takes place at the intersection of two strands of western-influenced easterners. An Indian family living in New Jersey finds itself stretched thin under the cultural and financial strains of American life. Meanwhile, in India, a young man employed as a call-center info peddler for an American corporation also hears the call to go west in the form of an unexpected long-distance romance. 

90 minutes. Screens Friday at 9:35 p.m. 

 

Under My Garden (Sotto Il Mio Giardino) 

By Andrea Lodovichetti 

In Lodovichetti’s evocative and ominous short film, a boy’s interest in the behavior of ants, paired with the disappearance of a neighbor’s wife and his new affair with a young, nearly naked companion, leads the boy to suspect that a body is buried in the yard in a sort of miniature Rear Window told from a child’s perspective. The film won a Golden Globe, the Spike Lee Award and has been an official selection at more than 30 international film festivals. 

19 minutes. Screens Friday at 9:15 p.m. 

 

Curses and Sermons 

By Nic Saunders 

Nic Saunders’ short film is a mystic reimagining of a Michael McClure poem, “Rainbows Reflected on Sheer Black,” that is both expressionistic and eclectic, ranging from rugged Western to Technicolor dream/nightmare. 

15 minutes. Screens Friday at 8:40 p.m. 

 

Scissu 

By Tom Bowilogua and Alex Beier 

A bevy of buzzing lights, visceral electronic noise, pulsing heartbeats and a sort of breathy claustrophobia suffuse this unsettling film of sex, guns, violence and depravity. It is a story told in reverse, constantly stepping backward to fill in the gaps, gradually piecing together a plot consisting of desperate people resorting to desperate means in pursuit of cheap thrills, fleeting pleasures and sensual violence. In German with English subtitles. 

27 minutes. Screens Saturday at 10:50 p.m. 

 

Escape From Oakland 

By Dan K. Harvest 

Dan K Harvest’s guerilla-style music video follows a local rapper’s attempt to escape—by car, by bike, by any means necessary—his evil record company’s plan to cast him in a reality show. The clip takes us on a madcap journey through Berkeley and Oakland as the beleaguered hip-hopper tries to buck the corporate hacks and keep it real in the East Bay’s urban jungle. 7 minutes. Screens Saturday at 6:35 p.m. 

 

 

Berkeley Video and Film Festival 

Friday and Saturday, Sept. 25 and 26 

Shattuck Cinemas 

2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. 

Festival passes cost just $13 ($10 for students and seniors). 

Festival info: www.berkeleyvideofilmfest.org or (510) 843-3699 

 

East Bay Media Center 

www.eastbaymediacenter.com 

1939 Addison St., Berkeley 

(510) 843-3699 

maketv@aol.com 


Pacific Film Archive Celebrates Internat’l Home Movie Day

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:57:00 AM

Got old family footage you’d like to see on the big screen? Once again, Pacific Film Archive is participating in the international celebration of Home Movie Day, inviting patrons to drop off their old films by Sept. 25 for consideration for screening on Oct. 17. Bring in your home movies, in 8mm, Super-8mm and 16mm formats, and PFA will include as many as possible in the screening, where participants are invited to share their films and memories.  

Home Movie Day’s mission is to provide a forum for old footage and to educate the public about film and video care, storage and transfer. For information on International Home Movie Day, see bampfa.edu or homemovieday.com. For home movie conservation tips, see the Home Film Preservation Guide at filmforever.org.


East Bay Then and Now: The Circuitous Career of Berkeley’s Favorite Undertaker

By Daniella Thompson
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:43:00 AM
The Hull & Durgin mortuary building at 3051 Adeline St. was designed in 1923 by Hutchinson & Mills.
BAHA Archives
The Hull & Durgin mortuary building at 3051 Adeline St. was designed in 1923 by Hutchinson & Mills.

On the morning of Feb. 1, 1895, a Berkeley carpenter by the name of A.E. Spaulding entered Stricker’s cigar store at 2132 Shattuck Ave. Laying a bundle of medications on the counter, he announced that he wished to leave it there. Then he walked to the rear of Durgin & Bleakley, a furniture and undertaking establishment at 2129 Center St. Leaning against a barn, Spaulding shot himself through the heart with a 38-caliber revolver. 

While the county’s deputy coroner and the city’s health officer were wrangling about the disposition of the body, it came to light that Spaulding had been afflicted for some time with kidney and gastrointestinal ailments that compelled him to go without food for many days. Letters found in his pocket attested to his deranged state of mind. 

Not long before his suicide, Spaulding had made arrangements for a burial casket, but contrary to his own preference, Spaulding’s body was carried down to West Berkeley and back before being taken to an Oakland funeral parlor. 

In December 1895, Durgin & Bleakley had another disagreement with the coroner, this time over the body of Charles Starr, whose family wanted him embalmed by the Berkeley undertakers, while the coroner prevailed, sending the corpse to the Albert Brown funeral parlor in Oakland. 

Forty-seven years later, the 1943 telephone directory carried a full-page ad for Hull & Sons, Pioneer Funeral Directors and The Little Chapel of the Flowers, 3051 Adeline St. The headline promised “A Reference Built on 50 Years of Service, 1892-1942,” and the tagline signed off, “Serving You for Half a Century.” 

The Hull mortuary on Adeline Street had been in business only since 1923, but it was building on its circuitous connection to the original Pioneer Funeral Directors, a name Durgin & Bleakley adopted circa 1900. The exact date of the mortuary’s establishment has yet to be documented, as Durgin & Bleakley did not make an appearance in the city directory until 1895. 

Initially, both partners lived on the premises. Within a year, the enterprise had grown sufficiently to separate furniture store from mortuary and residence from business. Frank W. Durgin managed the undertaking half, while Robert Bleakley ran the furniture store. 

By 1901, the business had moved down the block to the very heart of downtown Berkeley. An ad in Sunset magazine placed them in the Library Building, 2158-2160 Shattuck Ave. 

Bleakley never made much of a mark on Berkeley’s public life. Durgin (1860-1933), on the other hand, plunged into civic affairs with gusto. He was a leader in the local State of Maine Association, a member of the executive committee of the Funeral Directors of Alameda County, Grand Pursuivant of the Berkeley Masonic Lodge, and active in the Board of Trade. 

Around 1906, Bleakley went his own way, opening a furniture store at 2484 Shattuck Ave. Durgin replaced him with Walter A. Gompertz (1873-1965), who until then had worked as a cashier in San Francisco. The younger man was even more socially active than Durgin, holding high offices in the Masonic order and the Knights Templar, besides being a Shriner and an Elk. Gompertz would serve on Berkeley’s board of town trustees in 1909, works as the city’s commissioner of finance in the mid-1910s, and join the school board in 1915. 

The Durgin-Gompertz Co. premises were located at 2178-2180 Shattuck Ave. An advertorial in the Jan. 25, 1911 issue of the Oakland Tribune called the business Berkeley’s largest furniture store. “The quarters occupied comprise over 11,000 feet of floor space and are stocked to their utmost capacity with furnishings for the parlor, library, hall, sleeping chamber, dining room, and the kitchen, whether it be a cosy cottage or a more pretentious structure,” rhapsodized the anonymous Tribune writer. 

Less than two years into the new partnership, Durgin founded a second mortuary under the name Berkeley Undertaking Co., Inc. This business was located at 2133 Allston Way, and its telephone number, Bkly 1111, differed from that of the Durgin-Gompertz Co. number (Bkly 1110) by a single digit. 

By 1911, the presidency of the Berkeley Undertaking Co. had been taken over by William B. Ward. Gompertz continued as officer of both companies until 1915 or so, when Durgin changed the name of the earlier business to F.W. Durgin Undertaking Company. 

For several years, the two mortuaries founded by Durgin continued their separate operations, Durgin conducting business and maintaining a residence at 2174 University Ave., Ward working out of premises at 2201 Bancroft Way. 

In 1922, a new player entered the scene. William Mark Hull (1887-1967), a Napa man who had come to Oakland a few years earlier, acquired the Berkeley Undertaking Co. from William Ward. Without wasting time, he purchased land on the corner of Adeline and Essex streets and engaged the Oakland architectural firm of Hutchinson & Mills to design a two-story building to house the undertaking parlor on the ground floor and the owner’s residence above. 

The Hull mortuary building, which cost $28,000 and opened in February 1924, is a strange amalgam of English country vernacular and Mediterranean-influenced architecture. The curved roof, once covered in wood shakes, is meant to resemble thatch. The second-floor walls incorporates pseudo half-timbering in the Tudor Revival style, while the ground floor boasts large arched windows with mock stained glass. The arched windows originally illuminated the Conservatory Chapel within. 

While Hull was building his new mortuary, Frank Durgin was running into a land-use obstacle on University Avenue, where property owners successfully petitioned City Hall to zone funeral parlors off the street. Durgin needed a new location for his mortuary. Coming full circle, he sealed a partnership with Hull and rejoined the business he had founded two decades earlier, now renamed Hull & Durgin. 

The partners ushered a new era for the firm and for Berkeley in 1928, when they hired the Oakland architects Slocombe & Tuttle to design a new chapel next to the mortuary. Legend has it that Hull’s mother showed Francis Harvey Slocombe (1893-1947) a picture of the chapel from her home village in England and asked him to copy it. Whether she influenced the design or not, Slocombe produced one of Berkeley’s most charming Storybook-style buildings: thick walled, curve-roofed, and thrusting aloft a quaint bell tower. 

Christened The Little Chapel of the Flowers, the building was flooded with natural light through large arched dormers on its long sides. Below the dormers, stained-glass windows were embedded in greenhouse-like niches. The vaulted ceiling was supported by massive struts rising between the dormers. The rough plaster walls were impregnated with terra-cotta pigmentation that cast a warm glow on the interior. An exquisite stained-glass window behind the altar completed the fairytale-like scene. 

So striking was the chapel that it immediately became the centerpiece of the mortuary’s marketing effort. The Great Depression struck shortly after its opening, and the public may have perceived it as an expensive frill. To counteract such an impression, Hull & Durgin launched an innovative newspaper advertising campaign, in which the point was hammered home that the best funeral service amid beautiful surroundings costs no more than lesser service “in some small, incomplete establishment.” 

The ads carried similar layouts and graphics, but the headline and copy changed regularly. One ad, published on Dec. 28, 1932, gave five reasons why “The Little Chapel of the Flowers can provide funeral services of finer character at lower cost.” The first claimed that “This beautiful establishment was made possible by fortunate real estate investments on the part of Mr. William M. Hull … not by taxing patrons.” The second cited lower overhead brought about by high patron volume. The third asserted that “the beautiful buildings, grounds, equipment and motor fleet are owned outright, not leased … another important economy which is passed along to patrons.” On-site maintenance and volume purchases were pointed out in the fourth. The final reason stated that “the owner of this mortuary participates actively in its management … thus no high salaries for managers, and no profits going to outside capitalists.” 

Non-sectarian, the chapel was made available for weddings as well as for funerals. At the height of its popularity in the 1940s and ’50s, it was the site of over 500 weddings. 

Frank Durgin died in 1933, but the mortuary’s name remained unaltered until 1941, when it was changed to Hull & Sons. Francis Harvey Slocombe went on to design William Hull’s Tudor Revival residence (1930) at 611 Arlington Ave. In 1954, when Hull & Sons expanded their operations to Walnut Creek, their new Ranch-style chapel was built to Slocombe’s design. 

In the 1960s, the Hulls’ Berkeley mortuary was sold to the undertakers McNary & Morgan, who continued at the same location under the same name until opening McNary & Morgan Chapel at 3030 Telegraph Ave. about 1970. The old mortuary was acquired by a real estate developer who remodeled it into offices and shops. 

Since 1976, the former Little Chapel of the Flower has been home to Marmot Mountain Works. Much of the original interior is still intact and visible amid the outdoor equipment and camping gear. 

 

Daniella Thompson publishes berkeleyheritage.com for the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA). 


About the House: Mother Nature and Our Best Laid Plans

By Matt Cantor
Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:40:00 AM

It always amazes me how nature manages to foil our best laid plans. Nothing is predictable, even the ground we build our houses on. And I’m not just talking about faults or landslides. 

Soils can be troublesome. Especially the ones that expand all by themselves. That’s right, some soils are like carnival rides, tossing you up here and dropping you down there and when they get done with you (and the house you rode in on) they don’t even give you a paper bag. 

What we’re talking about is expansive clay and it’s all around the United States, including plenty in our own East Bay. Clays are hard enough to build on successfully due to properties that we all take for granted, the most notorious being that they don’t drain particularly well.  

Soils that don’t drain well can cause a wide range of problems including a tendency to hold water around the beneath our building. This increases settlement over time since the soils sit wet long enough to allow the natural weight of the building to push into the soft smooshy stuff below, while houses that sit on well draining soils will be far less apt to do this. Of course, the constitution of the soils plays a role in this as well. A house that sits on perennially damp soils that are stiff and rocky will be far less likely to destabilize and settle but, interesting, that’s far more rare since harder materials are usually ones that drain better. 

Clays are, after all, what we make water vessels out of and have for at least 12,000 years. It’s a natural because even when damp, it holds water (actually, we later learn that when damp, certain clays are one of our world’s more stalwart moisture barriers). 

When we hold water below our houses there are other problems, though they needn’t be overwhelming. When water sits in a sufficiently warm environment, it evaporates and evaporation is a transport mechanism that puts it inside our houses if we lack a means to prevent it. This is, in fact, the way in which I am most apt to see molds and mildews growing in houses, far more often than actual leakage through ceilings and walls. 

Though it’s off topic, I would like to say that, for most situations, the means of prevention is a vapor barrier laid upon the soil (never on the framing above) and complimented by improved ventilation (usually passive, though powered ventilation is justified in some cases). 

So clay beneath our homes does this doubly nasty duty of becoming soft, when wet, and causing settlement, while also damping the insides of our homes through evaporation of moisture that cannot percolate downward. What to do? 

But this isn’t the bad news (he said while twisting his mustache). The bad news is that some clays (and you have to guess where they are) are more expansive than others. 

Clay has the potential to be expansive but varies depending on its chemistry (mostly the amount of sodium, but it’s far more complex than that). While some clays tend only to expand slightly when wet, others can expand many times normal volume (I seem to hear ranges anywhere from four to 20 times for highly expansive Sodium Bentonite clays).  

These highly expansive clays are like fields of tiny jacks that can push houses up and down with enormous force and can take weaker foundations and bust them to pieces. In fact, these clays are sometimes used as non-explosive alternatives to bust apart huge sections of rock by inserting them dry into cracks or holes and then adding water. A very slow explosion. 

A funny aside at this point is that many years ago a client of mine at an inspection was listening to me give a description of what was happening to her home when she jumped in any said that she was well are that there was “Clay-Jacking” going on in her home and that it was true all around her neighborhood. I was genuinely flummoxed by her familiarity with the subject and the use of this most apt term (which I had never heard). I asked her where she learned it and she said that many of the “ladies” she knew used it to describe this condition. I assume that a certain amount of neuro-chemistry and linear algebra was also discussed at these knitting bees. Never underestimate anyone. 

I was inspecting a house in Lafayette recently and Lafayette is a place where we find lots of highly expansive clayey (that’s not a typo; it’s how we spell it) soils. 

It was clear from the first walk across the floor that something was not quite right. When I finally got under the house two things were clear. One was that the foundation has been broken in many places and what was once level had been converted into that carnival funhouse ride I mentioned earlier. The other was that the soil was expansive. This showed itself clearly right on the soil surface in the form of surface deformations and deep fissures. 

When soils expand and contract and are protected from the weather (so that their surface chances are not obscured by rain or activity), one can see at least one common effect, and that is deep cracking. This deep cracking is caused by the fact that when soils expand they puff up with water, and when they dry out, they are so full of water that the simple horizontal component of compaction isn’t adequate to address the rate of shrinkage, and they pull into clumps divided by cracks which can, at times, be more than an inch wide. I’ve seen some that were two or three inches wide. 

The other effect that is less common is a sort of ballooning of soils that I see periodically and, in fact, saw that day. The literature that I (the lowly home inspector) have been able to cull isn’t showing me much, but it’s clear that the lumpy or, if you will, “bubbly” soil appears to be a function of expansion so rapid that it forms semi-spheroidal arcs across the tops of clumps. With the help of a geotechnical engineer I could have learned the specific make-up but it’s clear that this was clay soils expansion and likely that these contained significant amounts of Sodium Bentonite. 

Sodium Bentonite is amazing stuff. It’s made mostly of a mineral called Montmorillonite for the French locale of its identification. Sodium Bentonite is so expansive that we use it to seal wells and to create (oddly enough) moisture barriers below houses (though we use it is very thin and uniform layers. When wet, Sodium Bentonite absorbs many times its mass by bonding with water molecules and can form a tight barrier that will keep more water from passing through. We use this to line land-fills where we want to prevent toxins or pollutants from entering ground water and we use it in earthen dams. It’s also used as a desiccant (moisture absorber) for these same qualities. The CV of this stuff goes on and on and curiously includes many medical applications (some of which were know by ancient peoples including treatments from various dyspepsias) as well as a range of mechanical applications. 

It’s important to realize that if your house is being affected by this fascinating (or troubling) phenomenon, it needn’t ruin your day. There are solutions, the first being to control the water that is so essential an element in these equations. Without water, the most expansive clay soils remain essentially static (but for other geological effects), but how do we achieve this. The short answer is through drainage. If your property drains well, and this may involve significant modifications, it should be able to tolerate the presence of, even highly expansive soils. 

Of course, better and more appropriate designed foundations are a big part of our answer today. These often include Mat or Raft style foundations that, as the names indicate, float on top of the soil, disregarding a range of soils behaviors that lesser foundations will tend to get all upset about. 

Now this is all well and good but it you have a 1920s foundation, as many of us in the east bay do, it’s not much help to hear about mat foundations. What you need to do in these cases is to install drainage and keep that clay just as dry as you can. If the foundation has already been damaged, talk to an expert and see what intermediate fixes are available. Low cost “hand-dug” piers or mechanically installed “helical” piers can fix many foundation or, at least, decrease their rates of movement without depriving of you of limbs (well may be one limb) are often an adequate fix. 

I’m not really much for the tilt-o-whirl or the roller-coaster but if you are, go to Great America. Houses make lousy rides and it’s hell on property value. Actually, I like things pretty quiet. You’ll find me with my knitting group. I think we’re discussing particle physics today. 


Community Calendar

Thursday September 17, 2009 - 09:39:00 AM

THURSDAY, SEPT. 17 

Berkeley Public Library Branch Renovation Program Come share ideas, meet the architects, and learn about the projects’ scopes at 6:30 p.m. at South Branch, 1901 Russell St. at MLK, Jr. Way. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

Home Energy Improvements Workshop Learn how you can save energy and money, improve indoor air quality and take advantage of incentives and rebates, at 7 p.m. at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal, 2024 Ashby Ave. For information call 981-7473. 

The LeConte Neighborhood Association meets at 7:30 p.m. at the LeConte School to discuss latest police report, problem properties, and yield signs on bicycle boulevards. KarlReeh@aol.com 

Tilden Tots Join a nature adventure program for 3 and 4 year olds, each accompanied by an adult (grandparents welcome)! We’ll search for spiders, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at Tilden Nature Center, Tilden Park. Cost is $6-$8. Registration required. 1-888-327-2757. 

Golden Gate Audubon Society “Opics Overview for Birders” a hands-on clinic with Steve White of Scope City, SF at 7:30 p.m. at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

“A Tribute to Justice: 10 Years of Struggles and Victories with Just Cause Oakland” from 6 p.m. to midnight at Historic Sweets Ballroom, 1933 Broadway, Oakland. Cost is $30-$80 sliding scale. 763-5877. www.justcauseoakland.org 

“Death Penalty v. Public Safety Jobs: Where is Your Money Going?” A community forum on the budget, public safety, and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. at Westminster Hills Presbyterian Church, 27287 Patrick Ave., Hayward. Free. 415-293-6321. www.alamedadeathpenalty.org/index.shtml  

Writing for the Children’s and Young Adult Market with novelist Deborah Davis in north Berkeley. Call for location and information. 541-2199. www.deborahdavisauthor.com 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Red Cross Bus, at 1600 Franklin St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

“Cook Food” with author Lisa Jervis at 7 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. 548-3402. 

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. 

The Poetry Workshop, offered by the Berkeley Adult School, meets on Thurs. from 9 a.m. to noon in the library of the North Berkeley Senior Center. Writers of all skill levels are welcome. 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 18 

The 2009 West Coast Convergence for Climate Justice learn about climate change and climate politics, support local communities in their ongoing fights for climate justice. Fri. from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sat. and Sun. from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Mon. from 9 a.m. to noon at 3200 Barrett Ave, Richmond. Free. climateconvergence.org/west 

Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Ron Takaki from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at Chevron Auditorium, International House, 2299 Piedmont Ave at Bancroft Way. Reception follows.  

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from noon to 1 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

Butterfly Walk in Tilden Regional Park with Sally Levinson. Meet at 3 p.m. outside the Nature Center for a walk through the Jewel Lake area. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them. sal.levenson@gmail.com 

Berkeley Juggling and Unicycle Festival with workshops for all skill levels through Sun. at Berkeley High School. berkeleyjuggling.org/festival 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with George Williams, San Francisco Planning Department, Retired, on “The Dramatic Evolving Skyline of San Francisco.” 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 527-2173.  

“Kinshasa's Street Children” a film on the street children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by discussion, at 6:30 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. Donation $5. www.friendsofthecongo.org 

“Under Our Skin” documentary film about Lyme disease, at 7:30 p.m. at the Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St. at Arch. Q&A after the film with Lyme disease specialist MDs. Donation $5. 540-6667. 

Demonstrate for Peace from 2 to 4 p.m. at Acton and University Aves. Sponsored by Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers and Strawberry Creek Lodge Tenants Association. 841-4143. 

Celebrate Jewish New Year Interactive learning at a Rosh Hashanah Seder, Fri. or Sat. at 6 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St. El Cerrito. Cost is $10. RSVP requested. 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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19 

California Coastal Cleanup Day from 9 a.m. to noon. Meet behind the Sea Breeze Market at the foot of University at Frontage Rd. Wear old clothes, sturdy shoes, hat and suncreen. Bring water and gloves. www.cityofberkeley.info/marina For other locations see coast4u.org 

Cerrito Creek Coastal Cleanup and History/Nature Walk Learn about Cerrito Creek’s fascinating human and natural history while you remove trash before rains wash it to the Bay. Meet at 10 a.m. at north end of Cornell St., south edge of El Cerrito Plaza. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org 

Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall Walking Tour Dwight Way Station From 10 a.m. to noon discover a district of Victorian homes, small-scale commercial buildings, and nearly forgotten historic sites. Walk is level and accessible, along sidewalks. Cost is $10-$15, or $40-$50 for the series. Advance registration required. 841-2242. berkeleyheritage.com  

Berkeley’s New Deal History This walk, led by Harvey Smith, from 10 a.m. to noon, will review Berkeley’s 1930s stimulus programs that have left us a lasting utilitarian and beautiful infrastructure. Cost is $8-$10. For reservations and starting point, call 848-0181. 

Walking Tour of Chinatown Meet at 10 a.m. at the fountain of Pacific Renaissance Plaza, Ninth St., between Webster and Franklin. 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Walking Tour of Oakland’s Historic Town Squares Meet at 11 a.m.at the corner of 9th and Jackson, next to Madison Square Park. Sponsored by the Oakland Heritage Alliance. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

“The Bungalow: Tradition and Transformation” A seminar with architect/contractor Barry Wagner, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Building Education Center, 812 Page St. Cost is $50. 525-7610. 

Crisis in Education Among Black Males Film screening of “Bring Your ‘A’ Game” and town hall discussion with Actor-Director Mario Van Peebles from 9 p.m. at 5 p.m. at Oakland Museum, James Moore Theatre, 1000 Oak St., Oakland. 

Fried Chicken Contest from 4 to 6 p.m. at A Taste of Africa, 3015 Shattuck. Cost is $5-$8. 647-9504. 

Asian Health Services 35h Annual Fundraiser on honor of the Family of Steve, Alan, and Larry Yee with guest Congresswoman Barbara Lee, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway, Oakland. Tickets are $125 and up. 986-6830, ext. 268. www.asianhealthservices.org 

California Writers Club, Berkeley Branch meets to discuss “Uniquely Qualified” with Andy Ross, formerly of Cody’s at 10:30 a.m. at Barnes & Nobel Booksellers Event Loft, Jack London Square, 98 Broadway, Oakland. 272-0120. www.cwc-berkeley.com 

Freedom From Tobacco Quit Smoking Class Sat., through Oct. 24, at the South berkeley Senior Center, 2939 Ellis St. Free. to register call 981-5330. QuitNow@ci.berkeley.ca.us 

Lead-Safe Painting & Remodeling Free intro class to learn about lead safe renovations for your older home from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave. Presented by Alameda County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. 567-8280. www.ACLPPP.org 

Berkeley Juggling and Unicycle Festival Sat. and Sun. from 9 a.m. at Berkeley High School, All levels invited to attend. berkeleyjuggling.org 

Berkeley Juggling and Unicycle Variety Show at 7:30 p.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. School, 1781 Rose St. Cost is $10. berkeleyjuggling.org/festival 

Hamsterama! Check out our friendly non-biting onmivoresfrom 1 to 4 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave. Kensington. 525-6155. 

Shimmy Shimmy Kids Dance A ‘60s-style event for the whole family at 7 p.. at Rhythmix Cultural Works, 2513 Blanding Ave., Alameda. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for age 2 and older, 2 and under, free. 865-5060. www.rhythmix.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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.  

Kol Hadash Humanistic Rosh Hashanah at 7:30 p.m. at Albnay Community Center. Registration required. See www.kolhadash.org 

SUNDAY, SEPT. 20 

Little Farm Fair A celebration with live music, crafts, and old-fashioned games including a pie-eating contest and sack races, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Little Farm in Tilden Park. Use of transit encouraged. 544-2233. 

14th Annual Garden Party at the Peralta Community Garden with locally grown foods, information on California native plants and habitat restoration, and music by local artists, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Ohlone Greenway at Peralta St. just north of Hopkins St. 

UNA-USA 5K and 10K Run or Walk to raise funds to end hunger in war-affected areas, followed by peace festival with entertainment and family-friendly activities. Run registration at 8:30 a.m., festival from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. 849-1752. www.unausaeastbay.org 

Butterfly Basics View displays of live specimens, then look for caterpillars and butterflies in the garden, from 2 to 4 p.m. at UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Drive. Cost is $12-$15. For reservations call 643-2755. botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu 

Walking Tour of The Civil War at Mountain View Cemetary Meet at 10 a.m. at Chapel of the Chimes, 4499 Piedmont Ave. Sponsored by the Oakland Heritage Alliance. Cost is $10-$15. 763-9218. www.oaklandheritage.org 

Free Hands-on Bicycle Clinic Learn how to repair a flat, from 10 to 11 a.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. Bring your bike and tools. 527-4140. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall, 1188 12th St., Oakland. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Berkeley Juggling and Unicycle Festival with workshops for all skill levels at Martin Luther King Jr. School, 1781 Rose St. berkeleyjuggling.org/festival 

“The Issues are in the Tissues” Holistic insights on the effects of stress on the body from 2:30 to 4:30 pm. at BFUU, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. www.bfuu.org 

Single Payer Health Care Not War Planning meetings at 4:20 at People Park. for more information call 390-0830. peoplespark.org 

Berkeley Fullpower Self-Defense Workshops from 1 to 4:30 p.m. No one turned away for lack of funds. To register call 800-467-6997. 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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 Robin Caton on “Educating the Heart” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000.  

MONDAY, SEPT. 21 

“Save the Bay” Learn about the biggest threats to San Francisco Bay and how you can help protect and restore this great natural treasure from David Lewis, the Executive Director of Save The Bay for more than a decade at 7 p.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 524-3043. 

Berkeley School Volunteers, New Volunteer Orientation from 3 to 4 p.m. at 1835 Allston Way. Bring a photo ID and two references to the orientation. Returning volunteers do not need to attend. For further information 644-8833. 

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. 

Drop-in Knitting Group for all ages. Basic instruction and materials supplied. From 3 to 5 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. 526-3720, ext. 16. 

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. 

TUESDAY, SEPT. 22 

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 San Francisco Bay Trail, Richmond Marina. Bring water, field guides, binoculars or scopes. Call for meeting place and if you need to borrow binoculars. 544-2233. 

Over the Hills Gang Hikers 55 years and older explore Tilden Park with a vigorous climb of Wildcat Peak from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For details call 544-2233. 

“Never Cry Wolf Rescue Progrqam” Come meet and learn about real wolves and this program to rescue them, at 6:30 p.m. at the Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave. 524-3043. 

“Neoliberal Economics and Cheap Labor from Latin America” with Rev. Philip Wheaton and response by Danny Sheehan at 7:30 p.m. at Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship, 1924 Cedar. 236-1226. 

Autumn Equinox Gathering at 6:15 p.m. at the Solar Calendar in Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley Marina. Led by Rabbi David Cooper. For directions see www.solarcalendar.org 

“If She Can Do It, You Can Too: Inspirational Outdoor Role Models” with Miho Aida at 7 p.m. at REI, 1338 San Pablo Ave. 527-4140. 

“Giving Education Top Priority in Tough Times” with Dr. Bruce Harter, Superintendent of the West Contra Costa County United School District, and Pixie Hayward Schickele, President of the United Teachers of Richmond, at the El Cerrito Democratic Club, at 6:30 p.m. in Fellowship Hall, El Cerrito United Methodist Church, 6830 Stockton Ave., El Cerrito. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and light refreshments will be available, as well as pizza for $4 per person. 527-5953. 

Red Cross Blood Drive from noon. to 6 p.m. at West Pauley Ballroom, MLK Student Union, UC campus. To schedule an appointment go to www.helpsavealife.org 

Red Cross Blood Services Volunteer Orientation from 6 to 8 p.m. at 6230 Claremont Ave., Oakland. Registration required. 594-5165. blackstoneA@usa.redcross.org 

Berkeley PC Users Group meets at 7 p.m. at t 1145 Walnut St. corner of Eunice. meldancing@comcast.ne 

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 

Homework Help at the Albany Library for students in grades 2 - 6, Tues. and Thurs. from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. at the Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Emphasis on math and writing skills. No registration is required. For more information, call 526-3720. 

Homework Help Program at the Richmond Public Library Tues. and Thurs. from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at 325 Civic Center Plaza. For more information or to enroll, call 620-6557. 

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. 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. 845-6830. 

WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 23 

Golden Gate Audubon Society Bird Walk at Lake Merritt and Lakeside Park. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at the large spherical cage near Nature Center at Perkins and Bellevue. www.goldengateaudubon.org 

Walking Tour of Old Oakland Explore the 9th and Washington St. district. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Ratto’s, 821 Washington St. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234.  

“High Rises in Berkeley?” Hear Pros and Cons with Berkeley Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio. At Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers, at 1:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, corner of MLK. 548-9696. 

Berkeley Public Library Branch Renovation Program Come share ideas, meet the architects, and learn about the projects’ scopes at 6:30 p.m. at North Branch,1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org 

Sudden Oak Death Preventative Treatment Training Session Meet at 1 p.m. at Tolman Hall “portico” Hearst Ave. at Arch/Leconte, UC campus for a two hour field session, rain or shine. Pre-registration required. SODtreatment@nature.berkeley.edu 

Square Dancer Program begins at the Montclair Women’s Center, 1650 Mountain Blvd. No partner required. For details call 531-6843. 

 

 

“For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America” with author John Curl at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

“A Convenient Truth: Curitiba” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. www.HumanistHall.org 

“Energy Healing” with Grandmaster Le-Tian at 7:30 p.m. at Tian Gong, 830 Bancroft Way. Donations accepted. For information on this and other programs call 883-1920.  

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www.geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Teen Chess Club from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. at the North Branch Library, 1170 The Alameda at Hopkins. 981-6133. 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

THURSDAY, SEPT. 24 

BRT Locally Preferred Alternative Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at the Willard School Cafeteria. Residents of Willard, LeConte, Bateman, Halcyon and Claremont-Elmwood neighborhoods encouraged to attend. 

Free Speech Open Mic and KPFA Election Forum at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Ashby Village Community Meeting Information on a grassroots organization which provides resources to seniors to enable them to remain in their own homes, at 7 p.m. at West Berkeley Family Practice, 2031 Sixth St. 208-2860. www.ashbyvillage.org 

“Caring for the Dying” Film and discussion with Dr. Michelle Peticolas, filmmaker, student of Sufism and hospice at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. SUggested donation $10. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org  

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum: 2009 Angel & Venture Capital Investment Overview at 6:30 p.m. in Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC campus. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at 7:20 p.m. at 4th St. Yoga, 1809C Fourth St. Free. 524-8833. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 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. 

The Poetry Workshop, offered by the Berkeley Adult School, meets on Thurs. from 9 a.m. to noon in the library of the North Berkeley Senior Center. Writers of all skill levels are welcome. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 25 

“People’s Park Still Blooming” Book release party at 7:30 p.m. at The Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

“The Science of a Meaningful Life: Forgiveness and Gratitude” a seminar with Frederic Luskin and Robert Emmons, sponsored by The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at International House, Chevron Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 643-8965. www.academeca.com 

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Hans R. Gallas, Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas Collector on “Gertrude Stein and Oakland: Debunking the ‘There There’ Myth” 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 527-2173. www.citycommonsclub.org 

Symposium for Independent Arts: A Day of Vision, Community & Action from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. 415-738-4975. 

“The Flu is Coming!” a talk by Harvey Kayman, M.D. and MPH, Public Health Medical Officer for the California Department of Public Health at Friday, September 25, 8:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Pt. Richmond. Free.  

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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

Berkeley Chess Club meets every Fri. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150. 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 26 

Richmond Shoreline Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline with live music, children’s activities and guided walks. 544-2233. 

Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall Walking Tour of West Berkeley Berkeley’s oldest district, once the independent town of Ocean View, abounds in historic relics and early Victorian architecture, retaining its charming village-like character. Walk is level and accessible, along sidewalks. From 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $10-$15, $40-$50 for the series. 841-2242. berkeleyheritage.com 

Help Ready Cerrito Creek for Rains Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All ages welcome, snacks, tools, and gloves provided. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org  

Walking Tour of Old Oakland around Preservation Park to see Victorian architecture. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Preservation Park at 13th St. and MLK, Jr. Way. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234. www.oaklandnet.com/walkingtours 

Festival of Gressroots Economics A bottom-up trade fair showing people working together, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St, Oakland. Free. www.jasecon.org 

Free Car Seat Checks From 10 a.m. to noon officers from the Berkeley Police Department will offer a car seat safety check on the 5th level of the Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way between Milvia and Shattuck. Four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly. Parking will be validated by Habitot. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Floral Design Class with Devon Gaster from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Murder Mystery Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Costs is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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, SEPT. 27 

LastSundaysFest with music and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Telegraph Ave. between Dwight and Bancroft. 

Luke Cole Memorial Birdathon Meet at 9 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, then continue on the Garin Regional Park, ending at Coyote Hills Regional Park. The challenge is to identify 400 species and raise money for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in Luke’s memory. Bring donation of $25, checks made out to Golden Gate Audubon, along with binoculars, field guides, lunch and liquids. RLewis0727@aol.com 

Wildcat Peak Survivors Join a hearty hike to Wildcat Peak to admire the tenacity of climate adapted plants and views from the peak. For meeting place call 544-2233. 

Beatrix Potter’s Life in Town and Country Sister-City kick-off with presentations and readings honoring Kensington’s relationship with Kensington UK, rom 2 to 5 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave. Kensington. 525-6155. 

St. Jerome Church Festival and Street Fair from noon to 5 p.m. at the corner of Carmel and Curry, El Cerrito. with entertainment, games, arts and crafts, food. 525-0876. 

Cycles of Change Benefit with food and entertainment to raise funds for recycled bicycle services, job training, and community repair shop, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 650 W. Ranger Ave., Alameda. 898-7830. www.apcollective.org 

Read Shakespeare Aloud led by Clifford Schwartz, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $20, or $15 with pot-luck. contribution. 644-4930. expressionsgallery@msn.com           

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, the “little castle” designed by Julia Morgan from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

Free Sailboat Rides from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club, Berkeley Marina. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. Children 5 and over welcome with parent or guardian. www.cal-sailing.org 

Kol Hadash Secular Yom Kippur Service at 7:30 p.m. at Albnay Community Center. Registration required. See www.kolhadash.org 

Yom Kippur “Return/Reflect/Remember” Discussion from noon to 3 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St. El Cerrito. Cost is $5. RSVP requested. 559-8140. 

Single Payer Health Care Not War Planning meetings at 4:20 at People Park. for more information call 390-0830. peoplespark.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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 “Joy of Being” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

CITY MEETINGS 

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356. 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs.,Sept. 17 , at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950. 

Medical Cannabis Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at noon at City Hall, Cypress Room, 2180 Milvia. 981-7402. 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7061.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., Sept. 21, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/agenda-committee 

City Council meets Tues., Sept. 22, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Energy Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7439. 

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, 997 Cedar St. 981-5502.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416.  

Police Review Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-4950. 

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217. 

“For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America” with author John Curl at 7:30 p.m. at Pegasus Books Downtown, 2349 Shattuck Ave. 649-1320. 

“A Convenient Truth: Curitiba” at 7:30 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St., Oakland. www.HumanistHall.org 

“Energy Healing” with Grandmaster Le-Tian at 7:30 p.m. at Tian Gong, 830 Bancroft Way. Donations accepted. For information on this and other programs call 883-1920.  

Walk Berkeley for Seniors meets every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Sea Breeze Market, just west of the I-80 overpass. Everyone is welcome, wear comfortable shoes and a warm hat. 548-9840. 

Theraputic Recreation at the Berkeley Warm Pool, Wed. at 3:30 p.m. and Sat. at 10 a.m. at the Berkeley Warm Pool, 2245 Milvia St. Cost is $4-$5. Bring a towel. 632-9369. 

Berkeley Peace Walk and Vigil at the Berkeley BART Station, corner of Shattuck and Center. Sing for Peace at 6:30 p.m. followed by Peace Walk at 7 p.m. www. 

geocities.com/vigil4peace/vigil 

Berkeley CopWatch Drop-in office hours from 6 to 8 p.m. at 2022 Blake St. 548-0425. 

THURSDAY, SEPT. 24 

BRT Locally Preferred Alternative Community Meeting at 7 p.m. at the Willard School Cafeteria. Residents of Willard, LeConte, Bateman, Halcyon and Claremont-Elmwood neighborhoods encouraged to attend. 

Free Speech Open Mic and KPFA Election Forum at 7 p.m. at La Peña Cultural Center. 849-2568. www.lapena.org 

Ashby Village Community Meeting Information on a grassroots organization which provides resources to seniors to enable them to remain in their own homes, at 7 p.m. at West Berkeley Family Practice, 2031 Sixth St. 208-2860. www.ashbyvillage.org 

“Caring for the Dying” Film and discussion with Dr. Michelle Peticolas, filmmaker, student of Sufism and hospice at 7 p.m. at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalist Hall, 1924 Cedar at Bonita. SUggested donation $10. 841-4824. www.bfuu.org  

Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum: 2009 Angel & Venture Capital Investment Overview at 6:30 p.m. in Andersen Auditorium, Haas School of Business, UC campus. Cost is $20-$30. 642-4255. http://entrepreneurship.berkeley.edu 

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at 7:20 p.m. at 4th St. Yoga, 1809C Fourth St. Free. 524-8833. 

Babies & Toddlers Storytime at 10:15 and 11:15 a.m. at Kensington Library, 61 Arlington Ave., Kensington. 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. 

The Poetry Workshop, offered by the Berkeley Adult School, meets on Thurs. from 9 a.m. to noon in the library of the North Berkeley Senior Center. Writers of all skill levels are welcome. 

Fitness Class for 55+ at 9:15 a.m. at Jewish Community Center, 1414 Walnut St. 848-0237. 

FRIDAY, SEPT. 25 

“People’s Park Still Blooming” Book release party at 7:30 p.m. at The Book Zoo, 6395 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. 

“The Science of a Meaningful Life: Forgiveness and Gratitude” a seminar with Frederic Luskin and Robert Emmons, sponsored by The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at International House, Chevron Auditorium, 2299 Piedmont Ave. 643-8965.  

City Commons Club Noon Luncheon with Hans R. Gallas, Gertrude Stein & Alice B. Toklas Collector on “Gertrude Stein and Oakland: Debunking the ‘There There’ Myth” 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 527-2173.  

Symposium for Independent Arts: A Day of Vision, Community & Action from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way. 415-738-4975. 

“The Flu is Coming!” a talk by Harvey Kayman, M.D. and MPH, Public Health Medical Officer for the California Department of Public Health at Friday, September 25, 8:00 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Pt. Richmond. Free.  

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. 

Stand With Us Stand for Peace Stand with Israel vigil every Friday from noon to 1 p.m. at Bancroft and Telegraph. www.sfvoiceforisrael.org 

SATURDAY, SEPT. 26 

Richmond Shoreline Festival from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline with live music, children’s activities and guided walks. 544-2233. 

Berkeley Architectural Heritage Fall Walking Tour of West Berkeley Berkeley’s oldest district, once the independent town of Ocean View, abounds in historic relics and early Victorian architecture, retaining its charming village-like character. Walk is level and accessible, along sidewalks. From 10 a.m. to noon. Cost is $10-$15, $40-$50 for the series. 841-2242. berkeleyheritage.com 

Help Ready Cerrito Creek for Rains Meet at 10 a.m. at Creekside Park, south end of Santa Clara Ave., El Cerrito. All ages welcome, snacks, tools, and gloves provided. 848-9358. www.fivecreeks.org  

Walking Tour of Old Oakland around Preservation Park to see Victorian architecture. Meet at 10 a.m. in front of Preservation Park at 13th St. and MLK, Jr. Way. Tour lasts 90 minutes. Reservations can be made by calling 238-3234.  

Festival of Gressroots Economics A bottom-up trade fair showing people working together, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Humanist Hall, 390 27th St, Oakland. Free. www.jasecon.org 

Free Car Seat Checks From 10 a.m. to noon officers from the Berkeley Police Department will offer a car seat safety check on the 5th level of the Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way between Milvia and Shattuck. Four out of five car seats are installed incorrectly. Parking will be validated by Habitot. 647-1111. www.habitot.org 

Floral Design Class with Devon Gaster from 1 to 3 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $25. www.expressionsgallery.org 

Murder Mystery Weekend at Playland-Not-At-The-Beach Sat. and Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 10979 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. Costs is $10-$15. 932-8966. www.playland-not-at-the-beach.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden Sat. at 2 p.m. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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, SEPT. 27 

LastSundaysFest with music and performances from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Telegraph Ave. between Dwight and Bancroft. 

Luke Cole Memorial Birdathon Meet at 9 a.m. at Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline, then continue on the Garin Regional Park, ending at Coyote Hills Regional Park. The challenge is to identify 400 species and raise money for the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment in Luke’s memory. Bring donation of $25, checks made out to Golden Gate Audubon, along with binoculars, field guides, lunch and liquids. RLewis0727@aol.com 

Wildcat Peak Survivors Join a hearty hike to Wildcat Peak to admire the tenacity of climate adapted plants and views from the peak. For meeting place call 544-2233. 

Beatrix Potter’s Life in Town and Country Sister-City kick-off with presentations and readings honoring Kensington’s relationship with Kensington UK, rom 2 to 5 p.m. at Rabbit Ears, 377 Colusa Ave. Kensington. 525-6155. 

St. Jerome Church Festival and Street Fair from noon to 5 p.m. at the corner of Carmel and Curry, El Cerrito. with entertainment, games, arts and crafts, food. 525-0876. 

Cycles of Change Benefit with food and entertainment to raise funds for recycled bicycle services, job training, and community repair shop, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 650 W. Ranger Ave., Alameda. 898-7830.  

Read Shakespeare Aloud led by Clifford Schwartz, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Expressions Gallery, 2035 Ashby Ave. Cost is $20, or $15 with pot-luck. contribution. 644-4930.            

Tour of the Berkeley City Club, the “little castle” designed by Julia Morgan from 1 to 4 p.m. at 2315 Durant Ave. 848-7800. 

Free Sailboat Rides from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Cal Sailing Club, Berkeley Marina. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and bring a change of clothes in case you get wet. Children 5 and over welcome with parent or guardian. www.cal-sailing.org 

Kol Hadash Secular Yom Kippur Service at 7:30 p.m. at Albnay Community Center. Registration required. See www.kolhadash.org 

Yom Kippur “Return/Reflect/Remember” Discussion from noon to 3 p.m. at Jewish Gateways, 409 Liberty St. El Cerrito. Cost is $5. RSVP requested. 559-8140. 

Single Payer Health Care Not War Planning meetings at 4:20 at People Park. for more information call 390-0830. peoplespark.org 

Free Garden Tours at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park Sat. and Sun. at 11 a.m. and 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 “Joy of Being” at 6 p.m. at the Tibetan Nyingma Institute, 1815 Highland Pl. 809-1000. www.nyingmainstitute.com 

CITY MEETINGS 

Community Health Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-5356. 

Design Review Committee meets Thurs.,Sept. 17 , at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7415.  

Fair Campaign Practices Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 7:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-6950. 

Medical Cannabis Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at noon at City Hall, Cypress Room, 2180 Milvia. 981-7402. 

Transportation Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 17, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7061.  

Council Agenda Committee meets Mon., Sept. 21, at 2:30 p.m., at 2180 Milvia St. 981-6900. 

www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil/agenda-committee 

City Council meets Tues., Sept. 22, at 7 p.m in City Council Chambers. 981-6900. www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/citycouncil 

Civic Arts Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7533.  

Energy Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 6:30 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7439. 

Disaster and Fire Safety Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., at the Emergency Operations Center, 997 Cedar St. 981-5502.  

Planning Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at 7 p.m., at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 981-7416.  

Police Review Commission meets Wed., Sept. 23, at the South Berkeley Senior Center. 981-4950. 

Mental Health Commission meets Thurs., Sept. 24, at 5 p.m. at 2640 MLK Jr. Way, at Derby. 981-5217.